TITLE: Rebel Soul
SERIES: Rebel Series Book 1
AUTHOR: J.C. Hannigan
RELEASE DATE: June 1st, 2016
PURCHASE LINK: http://amzn.to/1Ttl4Hk
Tessa Armstrong has one more summer at home before heading off to college with her best friend. She’s been counting down the months, waiting to be free of her overbearing brothers and overprotective father — not to mention getting out of the small, suffocating town she’s grown up in.
The one thing Tessa doesn't count on is falling in love, least of all with Brock Miller. He’s the kind of boy her father has always warned her about. He’s older, mysterious, and a little dangerous. Brock has had a hard past, and the whole town not only knows it, but won’t let him forget.
Brock has come back to take care of his ailing mother and struggling younger siblings. He doesn’t have time to fall in love, especially with one of the town’s darlings, but sometimes, love comes fast and fierce.
Can Tessa and Brock find a way to each other despite their pasts and the obstacles their families present?
I narrowed my eyes, on edge. “Why? It’s just the rodeo, Dad. I’ve been going every year my whole life,” I pointed out, trying to keep the tone of rebellion from my voice. It was true; I had been going since before I could walk, and I even competed every year in show jumping. I was no stranger to the rodeo, or to the type of people it brought in. Still, I had a feeling my father’s warning had very little to do with the rodeo itself.
My dad and I used to be super close, back when I was a tomboy who liked dirt and sports. I was his constant shadow. But then I hit the tender age of sixteen and started developing breasts and curves and crushing on boys. It didn’t matter that I was practically an adult at eighteen years old; my dad still thought of me as his little girl that desperately needed protection from all of the boys. It used to enrage me, how my brothers could go out on dates and stay out late, but I couldn’t.
My older brother, Tommy, used to joke that it was because “Once your boobs grow in, your brain falls out.”
The way my father treated my brothers versus the way he treated me was notable, and it was a source of constant conflict. My brothers weren’t girls, therefore they didn’t need to have the same rules in place. Benjamin, Gordon and Tommy could come and go as they pleased, as long as all their chores got done and they didn’t flunk out of school. I had a strict curfew, and if I didn’t obey, not only did I get seriously grounded, but all three of my brothers would show up wherever I was to “escort me home”. The only exception to this rule was if one of my older brothers tagged along, which meant I wasn’t allowed to drink or kiss any boys or have a life at all.
I knew my dad meant well. I knew he was just trying to protect me from the harshness of the world. I knew that Dad just wanted me to focus on school and get a top education. He expected the boys to work on the farm, but he wanted more for me. Or at least, that’s what Grandpa used to tell me. Dad wasn’t one to talk about his “feelings”. He was a stern man and he was just as stern with my brothers, only in a different way and for different reasons.
“I heard that Miller boy is back in town,” Dad said gravely, as if this should mean something to me. I arched a brow, waiting for him to explain himself. My father scratched at his thick, deep, copper coloured beard, looking extremely uncomfortable. “That boy, he’s trouble, Tessa.”
The Millers weren’t exactly one of the most respected families around here, and the rumor mill was always churning with gossip about them. It was town knowledge that Mr. Miller had been a drunk when he was alive, and had never been able to hold down a job for very long. Mrs. Miller used to work double shifts every day at the water treatment plant, and all three of their kids got in various levels of nuisance over the years. When he was in high school, Braden had gotten into a lot of trouble for fighting. He could be mean and was a total sexist pig, but Elle loved him, and I’d be lying if I said Braden hadn’t changed a little after he started dating her. He was a little softer now, but not by much. Braden had an older sister named Becky, and she had her fair share of troubles too. She was twenty-two years old and the single mother of a three-year-old boy.
Brock was twenty-four, and he’d been close friends with my older brother Gordon growing up. In fact, between the ages of fourteen and sixteen, Brock had spent a lot of time here at the farm – helping out and doing odd jobs for some extra cash. My dad hadn’t thought he was dangerous back then.
In all the years he’d been a staple in our household, I’d never spent any time alone with him or even spoke to him aside from the occasional “Can you pass a dinner roll?” Back then, I was painfully shy. I was also painfully aware of how good looking Brock was. It was impossible for anyone to not notice Brock Miller. Not even my ten-year-old self.
As young as I was, I was enamored by him; I was bewitched by his easy, dimpled smile and the unusual colour of his eyes. Those eyes were like steel and smoke. They were enticing, even from afar. He was the kind of guy that just looked dangerous and he had the reputation to prove it. When he was in high school, he went through girls faster than my horse went through shoes. He had a reckless spirit and he’d loved bull riding. I remember Gordon talking about how nuts he was to climb up on those beasts, but Gordon had also said he was talented. When Brock was seventeen, he’d joined the Ontario Rodeo Association to compete in fairs and rodeos all over Ontario. He had apparently done very well for himself prior to his stint in jail. Brock had won every competition he’d entered.
“Come on, Dad. Don’t tell me you’re buying into that old gossip mill.” I sighed, almost rolling my eyes. “You used to feed ‘that Miller boy’. He’s harmless.”
“Harmless people don’t go to jail, Tessa,” my father pointed out, his eyes serious. I winced, nodding once. My father had a point.
Brock had served time in jail a couple years back after he was charged with aggravated assault. The details on what happened were fuzzy. Despite how often the Millers were gossiped about, they were severely private and nobody actually knew the proper details of anything. Braden refused to talk about his family’s business. The town only knew what the newspaper article had stated.
I don’t remember much about the day that the newspapers broke the news of a local boy arrested for aggravated assault; I only remembered the look of disappointment on my father’s face. My father, for as serious and tough as he was, had a soft heart. He guessed that Brock didn’t have a good home life, so he tried his best to provide a more constructive outlet for him on our farm.
Frankly, I didn’t care. I had no intention of seeing Brock. I barely put up with having Braden around. While my heart had softened marginally towards the youngest Miller boy, I still didn’t particularly like him and I had absolutely zero desire to awaken that old, awkward crush I’d harbored on Brock when I was a gangly ten-year-old.
I sighed, glancing towards our white farmhouse longingly. I was desperate to wash the smell of cow off me, and eager to get to the rodeo and meet up with my friends.
“Dad…” I popped my lips out and huffed with aggravation. My father said that about almost each and every guy that lived within a one-hundred mile radius. Still, I knew he was probably right about that particular Miller boy.
I couldn’t understand why my father was freaking out about his reappearance or what I had to do with it. Even if he’d been friends with Gordon, Brock Miller had never spoken more than three words to me. I wasn’t likely to capture the attention of the notorious Miller boy.
I bit back a sigh and forced myself to relax a little. “I promise I’ll stay away from Brock.”
Dad nodded gruffly, satisfied with my answer. He waited until I’d climbed into the truck, and then slapped the back panel, almost as if he was urging a horse on. I laughed, rolling my eyes.
My dad was a strange man. He was about as country as they got. He raised cattle for a living, just like his father, his grandfather and his great grandfather dating all the way back a hundred years or so. We’d grown up knowing what hard work and dedication looks like, and we were put to work as soon as we were old enough to stand and take a few steps.
I loved my dad, even though we didn’t see eye to eye on anything lately. It had a lot to do with me being a girl, I think. I tried not to allow my gender to affect things, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t stomp my feet around and throw fits at least once a month, ranting and raving about the toilet seat being left up or about how Gordon never remembered to take his boots off in the mud room and ended up tracking mud and manure from the fields throughout our entire kitchen.
It was always my job to clean it up. If I didn’t, it didn’t get done. My brothers and father didn’t exactly see messes the way normal people did, so it was up to me to make sure the house was in fine order. To say I resented that role would be an understatement, but like I said…if I didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done.
I didn’t have a mother. She died when I was two years old; killed by a drunk driver on her way home from a jumping event, leaving dad with three sons and me. Benjamin, Gordon, and Tommy were easy enough because they were boys. But me? I was a whole different kettle of fish, or I was when I hit puberty anyway. It was like my dad suddenly didn’t know what to do with me.
J.C. Hannigan lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, their two sons, and their dog. She writes contemporary new adult romance and suspense. Her novels focus on relationships, mental health, social issues, and other life challenges.