Josephine Clark is trapped. A harrowing past haunts her every time she looks in the mirror, and she can’t escape the violence of her everyday life. More and more, her thoughts turn to Evan Salinger, the boy she knew in high school. The boy they called a mental case. A loner. A freak. The boy who seemed to know things no one could know. For a few short weeks, Jo had found perfect solace in Evan’s company, sneaking every night to meet him at the local pool. In the cool of the water and the warmth of Evan’s arms around her, Jo had tasted something close to happiness.
Cruel circumstances tore them apart, and four years later, the sweet memory of their time together is dissolving under the punishing reality of Jo’s life now. Evan seems like a fading dream…until he reappears at the moment she needs him most. Guided by Evan’s strange intuition, they flee her small Louisiana town, on the run from the police, and Jo begins to suspect there is something more to his sudden return than he admits.
Over twelve days across America’s heartland, deep secrets come to light, buried pasts are unearthed, and the line between dreams and reality is blurred as Evan and Jo fight to hold on to their soul-deep love, and discover that there is more than one way to save a life.
How to Save a Life is a complete second-chance STANDALONE novel with shades of the paranormal. It carries the characters from high school through to their early twenties. It is not YA; mature subject matter and sexual situations. TRIGGER WARNING: some domestic violence (on the page) and mentions of sexual abuse (off the page) For readers 18 years and up.
Amazon US: http://goo.gl/pzOgRC
Amazon UK: http://goo.gl/1aQHOf
Amazon AU: http://goo.gl/hWqtBe
I write romances with flawed characters, characters with artistic hearts: builders, poets, and writers of various makes and models. I love to write book lovers; those who have found refuge, companionship, and escape in books, much as we do in real life. I like realism, honesty, authenticity in storytelling. I love to write about enduring love, soul-deep love, in as real a setting as I can make, but with big smooshy HEAs. I believe in diversity, open-mindedness, and inclusion. I like sweetness mixed with steam, love conquering all, and above all, hope.
Love always wins.
His eyes roamed over my scarred face. I didn’t sense a shred of revulsion or disgust or even curiosity. Evan Salinger smiled at my messed up face as if it were a gift he wasn’t expecting.
“This,” I whispered. “How you’re looking at me right now. This is why I’m here. I thought…if you saw me, you wouldn’t care that I’m ugly.” I swallowed hard. “You might not think I was ruined.”
Evan’s smile melted into a pained expression, his brows furrowed. He moved closer to me, facing me. “You’re not ruined,” he said softly. “I already saw your scar. When you dove into the pool to save me. When you came out of the water with me, your hair was back and I saw it.”
“I didn’t save you,” I said, hardly able to breathe and he moved even closer, into my space. I felt the heat of his body across the water that separated us, and felt myself pulled toward it.
“You did, Jo. It might not seem like it, but you did. And God, you are not ugly.”
His hand rose up out of the water and I watched it move to my face. I didn’t stop him. His fingertips touched my cheek and his thumb traced the line of my scar from under my eye down to my jaw.
“You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.”
It was too much. No one looked at me like this. No one told me I was beautiful. And no boy had ever moved to kiss me like Evan did. His face slowly coming toward mine, his eyes gentle, the warmth of his attention like a roaring fire over me.
He covered my mouth with his and inhaled a little while I exhaled. A little sigh that turned to a soft moan as his mouth opened and mine opened with him, letting him in. I let go. The shields guarding my heart lowered. Evan wasn’t taking, he was giving. His kiss gave me those impossible things I’d desperately wanted all my life: tenderness, consideration, reverence.
I took everything in his kiss, turned it around and gave it all back to him. Willingly. Never once wondering what it would cost me later. No price to be paid, only this moment with this boy. The beauty of time and him and his sweet kiss.
I let go.
He caught me and held me up. My arms went around his bruised and beaten body, and I held him up too. Together, we stood upright and unwavering. I was strong in Evan’s arms. And I never wanted it to end. Ever.
My mouth couldn’t get enough of his sweet, clean taste and the scratch of his stubble on my cheek. The scent of his skin in my nose that carried little particles of his life to me: the pool, the auto shop and his own goodness. We kissed forever, the earth ceased rotating to give us more time.
Evan didn’t try to push me past kissing. His hands never stopped moving but they kept to my back or tangled in my hair. They caressed my face and neck while his mouth explored mine. His gentle sweetness broke me down. It was too much.
I broke our kiss and held him tightly around the neck, buried my face against his warm skin, my body trembling against his. It wasn’t safe to let anyone in this close. I fought to find something to say, to dismiss or joke away the kiss before he could.
He kept holding me.
“This doesn’t happen to girls like me,” I whispered against his neck. “Do you know what I mean?”
God, I hoped so. I couldn’t explain it and didn’t want to try. I was beyond words. And because it was Evan, I didn’t need them.
“I know,” he murmured against my neck. “It doesn’t happen to guys like me, either. Believe me.” He held me tighter. “No one touches me.”
No one touches me.
It wasn’t self-pity. Just a simple fact. The pain and cruelty of his life was buried so deep in him, only faint echoes rose up anymore. I held him tighter.
“You’re shivering,” he said after a moment.
“I know, but I’m not cold.”
He pulled away, smiling gently. “Come on. I’ll walk you home.”