Maggie Young had the market on normal. Normal friends, normal parents, normal grades . . . normal life. Until him. Clayton Reed was running from his past and an army of personal demons that threatened to take him down. He never thought he had a chance at happiness. Until her. Maggie thought their love could overcome anything. Clay thought she was all he needed to fix his messy life. That together, they could face the world. But the darkness is always waiting. Sometimes the greatest obstacle to true love is within yourself.
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A. Meredith Walters is the author of the novels Irresistible Fear and Light in the Shadows and the novella Cloud Walking.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Find You In The Dark
how did I get here? When was it that my life took this insane detour into the gigantic mess that I now saw when I looked in the mirror? Sure, everything had started so simply. A look, a touch, a kiss. Your first love is supposed to be beautiful, right?
And maybe it still is. I don’t know. All I do know is that I’m kneeling on this nasty bathroom floor in a dingy motel room in the middle of nowhere, wiping my boyfriend’s blood off the gritty tiles, the skin of my knees raw from my morbidly methodical task. The sting of tears burns my vision and I feel like I’m about to follow him off the edge.
Wipe, scrub, sweep. That’s what I’m doing. Wiping up the turmoil of our relationship. Sweeping away the anger, the hurt, the fear. Scrubbing it all away as I try to figure out how to piece myself back together.
But then I remember those elusive moments. The tiny slivers of time that help me recognize that it wasn’t all bad. Because I love him. And he loves me, in the only way he can. Perhaps my only failing was not seeing that I wasn’t able to hold it together on my own.
But I’m not one to give up—or forget. No matter how much they wanted me to. Because he had, for a moment in time, been my world. My focus, my entire being. And it’s hard to think I’m now without that. And maybe what we had, for those few blissful months, had truly been beautiful. Crazy beautiful. Or maybe just crazy.
Who knows? I was scared, tired, and alone, and missing that vital part of myself that had once felt whole and complete and now felt sad and empty. Wipe, scrub, sweep.
The holes would close up. The torn seams would come together. But I would never be as I was before. Before him. My crazy beautiful love.|Find You In The Dark
“that’s it! I’m swearing off every member of the female population. Do they still have monasteries? ’Cause a lifetime of praying and bad haircuts sure as hell beats chicks and their freaking drama.” Daniel’s lunch tray came down with a loud clang on the table.
Rachel and I rolled our eyes in unison and turned to the third member of our trio with what we hoped were supportive expressions. “What did Kylie do this time?” Rachel asked, popping a Cheeto into her mouth. Daniel ran his hand over his buzzed blond head. He was clearly very agitated. But, honestly, when wasn’t he agitated? Daniel was as big a drama queen (or king, or whatever) as any girl.
He let out a long, tortured sigh and propped his chin on his hand. Rachel’s eyes went all gooey and I saw the telltale signs of her unrequited crush rearing its ugly head. Looking at our best friend, it was easy for me to understand why she felt the way she did. Daniel was easily one of the best-looking guys at Jackson High School. If he weren’t the closest thing I had to a brother, I would have joined Rachel in Crushland. His puppy-dog eyes and perfect lips were many a girl’s dream and definitely helped in the popularity department. Rachel and I, being his best friends, gained popularity by association. Not that I cared much about all that.
Daniel’s on-and-off relationship with Kylie Good, a perky junior who happened to be co-captain of the girls’ field-hockey team and was so cute you wanted to slap her, was the source of a lot of drama. Honestly, it was exhausting, even as a spectator. Kylie was nice in a fake kind of way but, in my opinion, her insane insecurities and even more insane jealousy made her truly insufferable and a really shitty girlfriend.
Personally, I thought Daniel got off on the craziness of their relationship. Some people were like that—getting some sort of thrill out of constant turmoil. Otherwise I couldn’t wrap my mind around why Daniel had put up with all of that nonsense for the past year and a half.
“I’ve been staying after school getting help in trig from Laura Johnson. Shit, it’s just schoolwork. And it’s fucking Laura ‘Granny Panties’ Johnson! It’s not like I’ve been secretly banging her as she whispers math problems in my ear or something.” Rachel and I each stifled a giggle. Daniel shook his bottle of chocolate milk, his admitted weakness, and opened it roughly. He raised his eyebrows as we tried to stop laughing. I schooled my face into blank attentiveness.
“So Kylie thinks you’re getting it on with Laura? Really? Has she lost what few brains haven’t already gone missing from one too many hockey sticks to the head?” I asked, popping open my can of soda. Daniel frowned and chose to ignore my comment. Rachel jumped in, the epitome of understanding and support.
“So, what happened, Danny? Did you guys have a fight?” Daniel’s expression smoothed out and he sighed again. Yep, total drama queen.
“Yeah, Kylie just went off on me. She says I shouldn’t be spending so much time alone with girls that weren’t her. She is just completely irrational.”
“What about us? You spend tons of time with us. Last time I checked, we fit in the vagina column,” I remarked. Daniel choked on his milk. Rachel snorted.
Daniel cleared his throat. “You guys don’t really count. I mean, you’re Rachel and Mags. Kylie knows that you guys might as well have a penis.” Well, that was more than bordering on offensive. Rachel moved her hands into her lap, clearly hurt by Daniel’s words. He was so dense. How could he not know that saying something like that could hurt someone’s feelings?
When he saw the looks on our faces, his cheeks went red. “No, I didn’t mean it like that. Of course I know you’re girls . . . it’s just you’re my friends and everything . . . and . . . oh, hell, I didn’t mean to be a dick.” Okay, maybe he wasn’t a complete dolt. I shrugged, letting him know he was cool—with me, at least. Rachel wouldn’t look at him. “Rachel, I’m sorry. Don’t be mad at me. You know it’s just my verbal diarrhea brought on by a bad case of Kylie angst. Forgive me, darlin’.” Daniel was laying it on thick and Rachel was defenseless against his evil attack of charm.
Rachel smiled at him. “I understand,” she told him, and I thought I would gag at her simpering. I loved Rachel, don’t get me wrong. But I wished she would grow a pair when it came to Daniel. He unknowingly walked all over her. Daniel was not an asshole by nature, just really self-centered and egocentric. He was a good friend, though, and fiercely protective of Rachel and me, which is why it was so easy to dismiss his moments of jerkiness.
But Rachel had it so bad that I felt horrible for her. She had loved Daniel pretty much since we could formulate words. She held him up as some sort of perfect specimen of man. She never dated, holding out hope for her fairy-tale ending. Poor girl. And Daniel had no flipping clue. Okay, he was a dolt. Because Rachel was stunning. Her brown hair wasn’t mousy like mine; it was lovely and curly in a way I always envied. She was shorter than I but possessed curves that clearly stated “I am Girl, hear me roar.” She and Daniel would have made the most gorgeous couple, if only he could see past his own idiocy.
“I just can’t take her crap anymore,” Daniel moaned, bringing the conversation back to him and Kylie. Rachel, being the total nurturer, rubbed the back of his hand.
“Danny, you are only seventeen. You really don’t need all the hassle.” As if I couldn’t see the true motive behind her words.
Well, I was less diplomatic. I leaned over and grabbed a fry from Daniel’s tray. “Just dump her, Danny. She’s a serious wack job. One day you’ll come home and she’ll have boiled your guinea pig.” Daniel arched that annoying eyebrow in my direction and started eating his less-than-edible hamburger.
Rachel frowned at me, clearly irritated by my lack of sensitivity. Excuse me if I didn’t understand why people wasted so much energy on relationships that made them miserable. I had an awesome example of what functional love was supposed to look like and so much of what I saw around me was anything but that—which, I guess, is why I never bothered with the whole dating thing. Nothing lived up to the standards that I had set for myself.
Sure, kissing was fun, but it was all that other messy stuff that seemed to come with teenage dating that I could do without.
I’d never had a “boyfriend” per se. I’d gone on a handful of dates, made out some, feinted going to second base at the occasional party after a football game (though I was by no means a slut or a tease; my boundaries were firmly in place). That was all fine and dandy, but I just didn’t see the need to pair off with some random the way Daniel and Rachel did.
Rachel was a hopeless romantic, her crush on Daniel a case in point. She longed for her one great love and all that Romeo and Juliet junk. She had told me more than once that my double-X chromosome must be on the fritz because I was unconcerned with all those female trappings. Not that I was a tomboy or anything; I just had a more masculine approach to hooking up and dating.
“You make it sound so easy, Maggie. One day you’ll get it,” Daniel muttered. I just shrugged and focused on my lunch, letting Rachel do the whole advice-and-consoling thing. She was much better at it, anyway.
While my friends ruminated on the disastrous state of Daniel’s love life, my eyes flitted around the cafeteria. Everyone and everything was just as it should be. The population of Jackson High School existed in their perfectly predestined circles. The jocks ate at their table in the middle of the room, making suggestive comments to the cheerleaders and tripping the A/V geeks as they scuttled by. The goth kids sat in the back, writing bad poetry, or applying more eyeliner, or whatever it was they did. The social outcasts sat on the fringes, not making eye contact. Nothing changed. Everything was so predictable and boring I wanted to gouge my eyes out.
Then my eyes landed on him. That familiar black hair and beat-up army jacket. It was the not-so-pleasant guy from this morning. Now, there was someone who was anything but boring, even if he seemed a bit psychotically temperamental.
He was making his way through the lunch line, haphazardly dropping food items on his tray. He obviously couldn’t care less about what he was going to eat and seemed to be doing nothing more than going through the motions.
Even from here, his good looks were startling. He definitely had the attention of most of the kids in the room. The girls whispered to each other as they batted their Maybelline-mascaraed eyes in his direction. The jocks stared him down, feeling the threat of encroaching testosterone in their territory.
What was interesting to watch was this guy clearly not giving a shit about any of it. In fact, his body language practically screamed “Leave me alone!” He stood with his shoulders hunched forward, his chin pointed down toward his chest. His shaggy hair hung in his face, obscuring his eyes. He shuffled along as if he were trying not to draw attention to himself.
Good luck there, buddy. Davidson was a small town, and the arrival of a new student was like a bloody steak dropped into a tank full of sharks. He’d be devoured in no time.
I watched him pay for his food without saying a word to the lunch lady. He picked up his tray and moved quickly toward a table near the back. Into the outcast zone. Interesting. This guy could easily have sat anywhere. He could have carved out any place within the social hierarchy that he wanted. But instead he sat at a table by himself without once making eye contact with anyone. He pulled an MP3 player out of his tattered army-jacket pocket and put the earbuds in. His vibe was loud and clear: don’t approach under fear of death!
“Hello! Earth to Maggie!” Rachel wiggled her fingers in my face, breaking my single-minded focus on Mr. Cute and Gloomy. Rachel followed my line of vision and smirked. “Ah, checking out the new kid, huh?” I grunted noncommittally and turned my back on the lonely boy at the rear of the cafeteria. I looked at Rachel and Daniel, who wore identical grins.
“What?” I asked defensively.
“Aw. Mags has a whittle ol’ cwush.” Daniel obnoxiously ruffled my hair. I swatted his hand away and smoothed the flyaway strands.
“You’re as crazy as your Glenn Close psycho girlfriend. I met him this morning and he’s a total ass. Not remotely crush-worthy,” I lied, stuffing a Snickers bar into my mouth in an attempt to limit conversation.
Rachel laughed. “Well, whatever he is, he is smokin’ hot with a capital H. Though he’s kind of an oddball. He was in my creative-writing class this morning. His name is Clayton Reed and he just moved here last week from Florida. But he’s some kind of social-phobe or something. He wouldn’t talk to anyone and pretty much ignored everyone who tried to talk to him. And Lord knows the girls were trying.”
“Well, he certainly didn’t have any trouble talking when he was chewing me a new one this morning,” I said, glancing over my shoulder at Clayton again.
“What is this? Was he mean to you? Do I need to have a talk with this guy?” Daniel asked, jumping into protective-brother mode. Daniel took his role as pseudosibling very seriously. No one messed with Rachel or me without making a very serious enemy. It was nice to know someone like Daniel had your back. The boy had clout in our little ecosystem and I felt pleasantly protected by Daniel’s friendship. But I recognized the mama-bear glint in his eyes and I had to neutralize it before it led to a confrontation and further humiliation and embarrassment.
“Heel, Danny. I’m a big girl and can fight my own battles. I wasn’t Miss Suzy Sunshine either,” I conceded.
Rachel chuckled. “Now, that sounds more like it. Our Maggie doesn’t take being verbally berated without giving as good as she gets.” I tossed my straw wrapper at my best friend.
“Shut up, Rachel. I’m the nicest person you know,” I told her with mock indignation. Rachel balled up the paper and flicked it back in my direction.
“Yeah, right, Mags. It’s not like you don’t have a reputation for taking people out at the knees or anything,” Daniel joked, jabbing his fork into his fruit cup. Okay, I admit it: I’m not the easiest person to be around sometimes—or maybe even most of the time. I had a habit of speaking my mind without thinking, of telling the absolute truth without any thought of the possible consequences. I had no time for fluff, so I simply didn’t bother.
“I just have a low bullshit tolerance, and I, for one, think that is an admirable trait,” I bit out, a little annoyed with my friends for painting me in such a negative light. Daniel patted my arm, noticing my dark look.
“You’re right. I’d rather be around someone who tells it like it is than have to second-guess everything coming out of their mouth. I think you are a refreshing change from the rest of the sheep at this school.”
Rachel smiled at me. “Ditto,” she said, reaching over and giving me a one-armed hug.
My friends were so cool and great for that needed self-esteem boost. There was a reason I kept them around.
My attention was suddenly pulled back to the table occupied by Clayton Reed. I heard a raised voice and groaned at seeing meathead Paul Delawder holding Clayton’s MP3 player. Paul was a raging douche bag. He made it his mission in life to taunt, terrorize, and humiliate most of the student body. He skipped school at least three days each week and failed...
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Descripción Tantor Media Inc, 2013. CMD. Estado de conservación: Brand New. unabridged edition. 5.30x6.40x1.10 inches. In Stock. Nº de ref. de la librería zk1452613559