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When it hurts too much to live, how does one find the strength to stay alive and find hope again?
Reiko Nakano has a charmed life. Not only does the twenty-three-old come from a life of luxury because of her celebrity parents and supermodel sister, she’s best friends with the biggest brother and sister pop duo in the world- Gio and Gem Grove. But what the public assumes is wrong different because of what Reiko suffers in private. She feels she’s an outcast in her own family because of her ptosis and her social anxiety. She then makes the biggest mistake of her life and tries to turn her lifelong crush on Gio into something more. His cruel rejection after she lets him take her virginity leaves her heartbroken.
Reiko hides in the least likely of places- the small town of Albee, Pennsylvania. There she enjoys her anonymity and enrolls in summer classes at Maison University. She hopes she can fit in as a student, but life continues to play tricks on her when she’s hit in the face by a football from one of the most popular boys on campus, Will Forest. But this accidental but memorial meeting will help heal her fragile emotions because Will shows her how special she is to those she meets, including him.
She isn’t sure what to make of Will. He’s too nice and sweet, and treats her like gold. She accepts his attempts at romance even though it’s only temporary. But as the summer flies by, she doesn’t want to give Will up, who doesn’t know the truth about her “vacation”. And when Gio arrives in town, and threatens to out Reiko, she has some hard choices to make. Does she come clean to Will so she can decide to finally live on her own terms and embrace the amazing woman Will thinks her to be?
Shirley Anne Edwards has a new book, the third in her YA series Finding the Strength. While the series is YA, this book has slightly older main characters (early twenties).
Enjoy an excerpt and then go grab the book!
The search for an awe-inspiring outfit was a bust. The Dashly Chic was a store I usually didn’t shop at because the dresses they sold were for women who wanted to show off their bodies in ways I couldn’t. I almost chose a strapless black dress but, trying it on, I found it plunged too low, showing off too much skin and boobage, even though my boobage barely filled out the bodice. I left, defeated, but headed down the street in search of another clothing store.
I didn’t get far. On a corner was a bookstore called Readers Opus, and Dad’s latest release stood out among the books in the window. It was pretty cool not only to see his book front and center, but for the store to promote a quantum mechanics title. It had been too long since I’d been inside a store, especially an indie one. To kill time in case I still couldn’t find anything to wear for tonight, I entered the store, loving the library decor and wooden stacks of books with signs above pointing out the genres. I spotted the non-fiction section, and went there to find Dad’s books.
Almost all of his books were there. I took out his first release and turned it over to check out his glamour shot, aka his headshot on the back. He looked so young but still dignified. This was the only picture of him smiling. Must have been his excitement at getting published. I snapped a picture of the book with my cell, and went to do the same with the rest to send to him, but then noticed the magazine section behind me. Aya stared at me on the cover of at least three fashion magazines in the front. I snapped a picture of those magazines but shook my head at the absurdity of it.
“Why would the magazine section be near the non-fiction section?” I said louder than I intended, but there was no one around to hear.
Or I had thought no one heard. A few feet away from me was Will, the football guy from Maison, sipping an iced-coffee-type drink and holding a hardcover book.
“I agree with you100 percent about the magazine and non-fiction section.” He spoke around his straw and then released it from his mouth.
“It’s you again,” I stated the obvious and mentally slapped my forehead.
“I’m surprised you recognized me with my shirt on and no football.” He strode toward me, giving me a good view of his Iron Steam concert shirt—OMG, he liked the same band I did!— and his vintage olive shorts that showed off his muscular thighs and calves. But what made me want to continue staring at him was the burgundy beanie on his head.
“I’m surprised I recognized you with the beanie,” I replied.
As he came closer, I lowered my eyes to the floor, not exactly from shyness but to catch my breath. He really was cute.
“I would recognize you anywhere with your awesome glasses. Also, we have the same taste in music. “I’m a big fan of theirs.”
My love for Iron Steam was well known, but I rarely wore their shirt out since it was my stay-at-home, step-above-wearing-my-pajamas . Now I was glad I’d worn it since it would give me something more to talk about with Will.
“I would have never thought you would be into pop punk. They just started getting popular on the West Coast the last couple of years.” I tugged on the hem of my yellow T-shirt, wishing it wasn’t so faded.
“Why? Because I’m some nerdy dude who accidently hits girls with footballs?” He zoned in on the area of my neck where I had been hit, making my face warm.
I pressed my palm to my shoulder. He thought he was nerdy? “I had a black and blue for a few days, but it’s gone now.”
He winced and, when he lifted his arm to his chest, I got a better look at his book. Dad’s latest release!
“I still feel awful hitting you—” He glanced from his book to me. “Speaking of nerdy, I enjoy the work of Kobe Nakano. Do you know him?”
I sputtered and cleared my throat to stop from releasing a laugh. If only he knew how well I was aware of the author and his work. He’d get a kick out of it for sure.
“You could say I know him.” I could have revealed my connection, but then Will’s reaction would have changed. There would be surprise and then compliments thrown my way because I was Nakano’s daughter. He would know about Aya and Mom, and possibility my connection to the Groves. My cover would be blown.
“You read quantum mechanics for fun?” I was tempted to ask him what he thought of the cover, since I’d created it.
“I first read Nakano in one of my high school physic classes. I’ve read all his books. He’s the reason I’m majoring in computer science. He beamed at the book. “I’m twenty, but I have a mind of a forty-year-old.”
I did laugh then, his humor adorable. And when he turned his smile to me, I almost leaned into the bookshelf to help with my balance. I’d never had a man look at me the way Will did. My eyes had to be playing tricks on me. It sometimes happened with my handicapped right eye.
“I’m twenty-three. I’m not sure what age I would say my mind is, but I have the sight of a sixty-year-old, especially in my funky right eye.” I would just get it out there now instead of ignoring it. Better to be blunt so if I ever did see Will again, I wouldn’t dance around the issue.
“I’m not a fan of wearing contacts.” He took his glasses off and blinked dramatically, making me snicker.
“Contacts irritate me, so I stick to glasses.” I straightened now that I felt steadier again. “I don’t think I ever had a conversation about wearing glasses and my bad eyesight before.”
“There’s a first time for everything.” Again with his engaging smile. “I’m glad I’m your first.”
I burst out laughing and then snorted, which made me cover my mouth in embarrassment. Will joined me, and I eventually controlled myself, but my eyes watered from laughing too hard.
“Here.” He gave me the napkin he’d had wrapped around his drink.
I blotted my eyes, wincing at the sting in my right one. For some reason whenever I cried, my right eye didn’t like it.
“Can I let you in on a secret?” He shifted in closer to me. “I was crossed-eyed until I had surgery around ten to fix it.”
“Is that your way of asking why I haven’t had surgery to correct my issue?” I caught Aya on a magazine cover, staring at me, daring me to be timid.
“It’s my way of wanting to get to know you better. But as much as I would love to keep talking with you, I have an appointment in a few minutes I can’t miss.” He held Dad’s book to his chest again, and, for the first time, his gaze fell to the floor. “Will you take my phone number?”
“You don’t want mine?” I took out my cell, ready to do what he asked.
“Sometimes I can be pushy, which can be a turn off when it comes to the ladies. If I give you my number, you can decide if you want to call or text me.”
Witnessing his vulnerability made me like him more. I hadn’t had many interactions with men who would open themselves up this way, especially with a woman they’d just met.
“Sure. I’ll take it.”
He looked at me, his cheeks glowing pink. As he told me his number, my body warmed all over. My face had to be as pink as his.
“You might not even have to call me because it’s a small town. We’ll bump into one another again, especially if you’re taking summer classes at Maison.” He tossed his empty cup in a garbage can. “If I don’t pay for this book and leave, I never will.”
“It was nice talking to you again and not having worry about getting hit with a football.” I reached out to shake. It was an odd move, but how else would I know what his hand felt like?
“You’re never going to let me live that down, are you?” He took my hand and squeezed, making me a little dizzy. I was tempted to give him my other one in order to feel that zip of energy up my other arm.
He took his time releasing me. When he did, he flexed his fingers. I lowered my arm to my side, letting my tingling hand go limp.
“That was… a nice handshake.” He backed away, still staring at me until he reached the end of the aisle. With a final wave, he left.
I almost texted him goodbye. Instead I found a wingback chair and sat, reviewing everything with Will before it became a memory that would fade away too soon.