Read an Excerpt from Mara Miller’s Cheap Guitars (Author Extended Edition) & It’s Free on Kindle!

Read an Excerpt from Mara Miller’s Cheap Guitars (Author Extended Edition) & It’s Free on Kindle!

Elise Abernathy knew she made a mistake the minute she said “I do” to the wrong man. Yet, she did it anyway, willing to chase any excuse she could to escape Brandon Justice.

She left with nothing more than her new husband, Brandon’s old guitar, and a promise to never set foot in Kentucky again.

Now, embarrassment and divorce nip at her heels in the dingy Bourbonsville motel. Elise has convinced herself she wasn’t at fault. She as too mortified to let her family know she moved homes with little money and fewer career options.

Brandon tried to forget the Elise-sized home in her heart. He has a sister and niece to care for and a business to run.

How do often do two people have to make things right?




August 28, 2007

I GLANCE AROUND MY childhood bedroom. My sister is going to kill me for unleashing Hurricane Elise on her side of it.

In my defense, I decided to accept an offer from Purdue University about two weeks ago. I’d crashed in a motel room for three days so I could finish freshman campus stuff without any of my things. There was absolutely no reason to keep pushing back my acceptance into the school. I’d kept my options open for reasons that no longer matter. Dad and my sister, Kat, kept telling me repeatedly not to procrastinate on things like choosing a college. I’d been accepted into schools all over the country. Even my boyfriend told me to make up my mind, and I wouldn’t make up my mind.

Maybe it was because…


Not today.

Nothing can distract me. I’ve made my decision. It is final. Changing my mind is no longer an option. I check the clock hanging on Kat’s side of the bedroom over her computer desk. It’s seven, and I haven’t even gotten any shoes packed yet. Clothing has been tossed in every direction imaginable.

No one else is in the bedroom.

I still blush hard when I yank my underwear off the television.

I truly regret being so messy.

That isn’t me. My sister is going to kill me before my packing ever gets finished.

I only have four hours left to pack.

Somewhere between my sister freaking out about the state of our room at eight-thirty (I survived her wrath), and my brother hugging me because he doesn’t think he can survive his freshman year of high school without me, I manage to halve the pile of clothing I want to take with me to college.

Kat added pumps, a slinky dress, and a pile of jewelry to my mess. She wanted to help more, but she had to be at work for her shift at McDonald’s.

So much for a minimalist college packing experience, right?

But that’s the kind of thing you do when you’re moving to another state for college, isn’t it? Pack up everything in your car since you can’t make a ten-minute drive home for that shirt you can’t sleep without. If you do forget your favorite shirt, you’re screwed. Especially when you have a father like mine, who said to never expect any care packages when he saw my orientation kit for the school.

Because moms do that, right?

Send care packages?

I wouldn’t really know.

My mother abandoned me and my sister when I was five. My parents are still legally married, and Robbie is my half-brother. Dad had a brief affair when I was four. I don’t even remember the woman. Robbie’s mother had full custody of him until Dad stepped in about six months ago when Robbie told him he wanted to move in. So now he’s living here. By moving, I’m cutting down my time with my entire family. Everything in me wants to back out of going to this college, but if I don’t go, I know I’ll feel like a failure.

I can’t second guess this.

Any of it.

I shake my head at myself, then throw more socks into my open suitcase.

I run through my notebook with a long checklist of things I need to do before I leave Kentucky.

Girl stuff? Check.

Toothbrush and toothpaste? Check.

My toothpaste is almost gone, but I can buy more once I settle into my new apartment.

Journals? Check

I pause and study the box crammed full of only journals. I love to collect them, even though I might not always write in them. Dad gave me one that I keep track of religiously since he handmade it. Most of the rest of them are journals my Mamaw bought me, before she took off to live on a beach in California with my Grandpa.

I add six more checks, scratch out a few items I decide I don’t need to bring with me, and kill a bottle of water.


I haven’t placed it with my other things I’m taking with me yet. It’s in my closet, neglected and unloved. Do I bring it? Or do I keep hesitating? Flip back and forth on bringing it, like I’m doing with everything else?

I put down my notebook with my list then make my way to the open closet. Pushing some of Kat’s things over, I reach down once I find the case handle. Yanking hard, my firm grip does nothing. I huff, move more stuff to the side, and pull again. The case gives, things tumble off the top shelf, and I fall on my ass.



Something whacks me on my forehead.

“Shoot,” I mutter under my breath. The guitar case feels heavy on my legs. My forehead screams in pain.

I reach for the thing that walloped me.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Hardback. I think I’ve read this book at least ten times. The dust jacket isn’t in the best shape. A rainbow of ink stains mar J.K. Rowling’s name, since I busted more than one bottle of fountain ink in my backpack.

Thanks, Harry.

I reach for my list.

Harry Potter books—they don’t deserve Kat’s treatment.

I move the guitar off my lap, and then stand up. I’ve always loved the series more than my sister. She didn’t like it when I tried to display any of my books out in the open, because they took up too much space. Kat isn’t much of a reader to begin with. I carefully smooth out the dust jacket. I slide my thumb along the spine, and hug it for a second, because this book is a part of my childhood.

Part of moving out of my Dad’s means I’ll have a great bookshelf, on display, by the time the seventh book is released.

Harry Potter books? Check.

Once that’s done, I turn back to my guitar. I might barely be able to play a C-chord, or do anything more than a hammer-on that buzzes, but I love my Martin. It’s more than just a guitar to me. It doesn’t matter that I can’t play it. I’ll learn. Eventually.

It would be safer shoved in the bottom of the closet.

But I can’t leave it here. I already can’t forgive myself.

I need the guitar.

That thought gives me pause. How do you know you’ve made the right decision? Especially when you’re eighteen?

I scrub my hand over my face.

I am not going down the path of self-pity.

Not today.

Not ever again.

There’s no use in acting negative. It won’t get me anywhere. My new life, in a new state, starts today. It can’t start off with the overpowering sensation of negative thinking.

After I’ve given myself my pep talk, I go back to my list, checking things off, double checking—no, triple checking – to make sure everything is packed.

Out of habit, I play with the silver butterfly ring on my left hand, something I started a few days ago. Richie picked the ring up for me at a head shop. He originally wanted incense, since he didn’t know the next time we could be back in Kentucky. Blue Grass Bay is his favorite place to get that kind of stuff. His incense obsession amuses me. The only kind I can stand is Dragon’s Blood, so Richie bought a ton of it.



I gulp.

Trip over the Martin.

Nearly face-plant into my old dresser. After stumbling and righting myself, I take my hair out of my pony tail, fluffing it. The person at my bedroom door struggles to open it past my pile of “no” clothing.

What the hell is wrong with me?

I pull my hair up into a haphazard bun.

“Um…Hold on…”

I’m killing whoever let him in.


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