Congratulations to Jennifer Wilck on the re-release of her novel SKIN DEEP!
The last thing Valerie needs, after escaping an abusive marriage to an alcoholic and rebuilding her life, is a broody, secretive, standoffish man. But that’s exactly what she gets when she becomes a makeup artist on the set of a hit sitcom and draws the attention of the series’ star.
John Samuels hides a terrible past—a life of abuse and neglect. A successful acting career and the affection and support of cast, crew and friends, does nothing to convince him that he is anything other than an unlovable monster.
Will he learn that the life he’s been living has been built on a lie or will he be doomed to repeat the sins of his father?
Caravan-style, the family headed to the Meadowlands. They parked next to each other in the lot. In the distance, Giants Stadium rose like a mesa in the industrial wasteland. Beyond the surrounding highways, hotels, outlets and chain stores, marsh grass that somehow survived the toxic swampland swayed. Birds flew overhead, eclipsed by small airplanes headed for Teterboro Airport and larger jets
bound for Newark Liberty International. The setting sun turned the usually monochromatic industrial landscape shades of orange, with deepening blue shadows. Adding to this color contrast, Valerie’s family laughed and jostled each other as they headed inside.
After the cold night air of the parking lot, the blast of heat inside buffeted them and made them pause for a moment to get their bearings. Once acclimated, they picked up racing programs and studied their options. Valerie and her brothers hassled each other over their different betting styles. Ben based his choices on each horse’s statistics — the jockey, how the horse had done in previous races, its odds for today’s races. David had his own formulas, based on mathematics, odds and his own intuition. Valerie picked her favorites strictly on odds, ignoring all else. As the three of them argued over each other’s choices, John tensed. He clenched his large fists around his program and pretended to study the races as he tried to ignore sour bile that rose in his throat.
“They do this every year,” Jessie commented under her breath so only John could hear. “Normally good-natured people turn into lunatics.” She rolled her eyes as the voices rose.
“Yeah, for some reason, they insist on trying to persuade each other to choose horses based on their own peculiar methods,” added Amanda with a laugh. “It never works, but they are persistent.”
“And they enjoy this?” John asked, only slightly relieved by Amanda’s and Jessie’s nonchalance. He still had a lot to learn about family dynamics, and the thought of fighting with each other over something so trivial made him uncomfortable.
“It’s the highlight of their weekend,” Jessie affirmed. “They’ll talk about this for days afterwards.”
John took a deep breath, sat back and watched as the debate continued around him.
“Do any of them win?”
“Actually, they all do about the same,” Amanda said. “You’d think they’d learn, but they never do.”
“So what is your preferred method?” he asked the two women.
Both of them looked up, laughter reflected in their eyes. “Best names,” they said in unison.
John laughed and studied his own racing sheet. About five minutes before the race started, David, Ben and Valerie stopped arguing and everyone placed their bets for the first race. They hurried to find seats and watched out the window as the harness racing began. At the last minute, Ben’s pick scratched.
“Are you kidding me?” He roared, jumped out of his seat and looked around, as if one of the other spectators had caused the scratch.
“Honey, relax,” Jessie soothed, as she tried to minimize the attention he drew.
By the time he calmed down, the race had ended. None of their picks had won, or placed, so they consulted their betting sheets and started again. John looked over Valerie’s shoulder to see which horses she picked.
“I really think this one is going to win,” she said as she pointed excitedly. Her
eyes sparkled as she looked up at him. “Who’d you pick?”
“I like Clem’s Fancy,” he said.
“Really? Are you sure? His odds don’t look that great.”
“Yeah, but I’m a fan of the long shot. Who’d you pick?”
“Teetotaler has the best odds for this one,” she answered. If she recognized the irony, she didn’t let on. “Don’t forget my mom’s bet on the fifth race,” she reminded him.
“I know. I’ve got it in my pocket.”
“How in the world are you ever going to figure out which horse pees last?”
“I’ll figure it out.”
~~FROM THE AUTHOR~~
I recently reacquired my rights to Skin Deep and I’m so grateful to Rebel Ink Press for publishing it! I love the new cover, which better represents the story, and I hope readers will rediscover it. I have to say, my favorite part in the book is the trip to the horse races. My family used to go there every Thanksgiving (I know, we have weird family traditions), and the strategy that Valerie’s mom uses was actually used successfully by my great grandmother!
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