I've decided to make my very first book baby, Normal, FREE for the first time EVER next week (May 23-29)!!!
Don't miss this bestselling new adult romance, a raw, angst-filled story of trust and abuse, heartbreak and salvation, and if they're lucky . . . love.
I'll also be running a Signed Paperback Giveaway to celebrate, so keep your eyes open 😉
*This is not a flowery romance--not for the faint of heart.*
It's the kind of situation most people would dread. Starting at a new high school, in the middle of my senior year, in a new town, in a new state. I know no one. No one knows me. That's what I'm counting on . . .
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"Normal is a riveting and magnetic story of abuse, love, and hope. One of the most thought-provoking stories I've ever read." - @bibliobelles
"Gritty, a little dark, beautifully heart-touching with a steamy #hotromance . I recommend Normal as a must, must read!" -I Heart YA Books
"Normal opens your heart and stomps all over it, only to put it back together again, better than before. It's #feels overload!" - Young Adult Book Madness
Check out daniellepearl.com for more info!
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#somethingmore #allthefeels #epiclove #mustread #oneclick #booklove #secondchances #freebooks #freebies
After what feels like a lifetime in the Rewrites Cave, I am finally free! Well, free of In Pieces rewrites, anyway, because Layla is a busy chick, and she wants In Flames written, like, yesterday. But Bits--Beth Caplan--finally has her story locked and loaded and ready to go with my publisher (Forever Romance).
I truly can't wait for you to read Beth and David's story. Like in Normal, Okay, and In Ruins, In Pieces tackles sensitive themes, including depression, social anxiety, and suicide, and, above all, I hope I've done these complicated issues justice.
Beth's is just one story, but teen depression and suicide is more common than you might think. But there is hope and help out there.
If you or someone you know is ever struggling, there are people who care.
In fact, here's a list of resources for people just like Beth, just in case one of you happen to make your way to this blog post...
RESOURCES -- Hotlines and Web Sites for Teens
*According to experts, you should seek help immediately if you or someone you know is thinking about self-harm or suicide. Below is a list of resources:
National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Both toll-free, 24-hour, confidential hotlines which connect you to a trained counselor at the nearest suicide crisis center.
Safe Place: 1-888-290-7233
Project Safe Place provides access to immediate help and supportive resources for young people in crisis through a network of qualified agencies, trained volunteers and businesses in 32 states. Call the hotline to find out if the program operates in your state, or look online.
National Alliance of the Mentally Ill: 1-800-950-6264
Toll-free, confidential hotline operating Mon.-Fri., 10 am- 6 pm (EST). Trained volunteers provide information, referrals, and support to anyone with questions about mental illness.
The Trevor Project: 866-4-U-TREVOR
The Trevor Project operates the only nationwide, around-the-clock crisis and suicide prevention helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. The Trevor Helpline is available as a resource to parents, family members and friends of young people as well. Visit www.TheTrevorProject.org for more information and resources for young people, including “Dear Trevor,” an online Q&A forum for non-time sensitive questions.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The Web site for this 24-hour, confidential hotline offers details about how to call if you need help, how to identify suicide warning signs, and information for veterans experiencing mental distress.
The Jed Foundation
The Jed Foundation works to reduce the stigma students feel about having or seeking treatment for emotional problems. It provides safe, accessible resources for students to help themselves or a friend.
A program of the Jed Foundation, ULifeline is an anonymous, confidential, online resource center, where college students can be comfortable searching for the information they need and want regarding mental health and suicide prevention. The Jed Foundation provides ULifeline to all colleges and universities free of charge, regardless of the size or type of institution. Currently, more than 1,200 colleges and universities participate in the program. If your school does not participate, you can still access information on the Web site including suggestions for helping friends or family members suffering from mental illness and links to other online resources.
The Jason Foundation, Inc.
The Jason Foundation provides information, education programs and resources to help in the fight against the “silent epidemic” of youth suicide.
This Web site provides valuable information/educational resources for teenagers, their parents and educators to understand the signs and symptoms of teenage depression and get help when needed.
The National Association for School Psychologists
Offers extensive information for teens through its NASP Crisis Resources link.
The Suicide Prevention Action Network USA
A suicide prevention organization dedicated to generate grassroots support among suicide survivors.
Families for Depression Awareness
An organization that helps families recognize and cope with depressive disorders, and prevent suicide. Its Web site contains helpful resources, and inspirational stories about recovering from mental illness.
American Association of Suicidology
AAS is a membership organization for all those involved in suicide prevention and intervention, or touched by suicide. Its Web site includes resources for helping those who are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, and inspirational stories from suicide attempt survivors.
Teen Moods is a depression support community created by an adolescent with depression, and is open to all including teens and parents.
A supportive, informative Web site that offers a caring, safe environment for members to talk to their peers about depression, anxiety, mood disorders, medications, therapy and recovery.
This is going to be a long post, but one I truly hope you take the time to read, as it's not only deeply important to me, personally, but to all of us...
I probably should have written this yesterday, but I had family, seders, and a night to eat, recline, and celebrate my freedom from my ancestors' slavery in Egypt, and that's what I did. But it's still Passover today, and while the Jews celebrate our freedom from slavery and oppression, White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, seems to have forgotten that the Jews are not actually thousands of years removed from persecution.
From Spicer, just yesterday (on Assad in Syria):
"Someone as despicable as Hitler who didn't even sink to the--to the--to using chemical weapons... He was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing..."
When asked for clarification by a journalist, and upon (far too slowly for a man of even average intelligence) realizing his error:
"He brought them into the 'Holocaust Centers', I understand that." (No, you clearly fucking don't). "The way Assad used them, where he went into towns, dropped them down, to innocent--into the middle of towns..."
(You can watch his statement here: nytimes.com/2017/04/11/us/politics/sean-spicer-hitler-gas-holocaust-center.html?_r=0
Now you can just write this off as a "gaffe", and ole' Spicey off as an idiot who bumbled words when put on the spot--just an exceptionally incompetent WH Press Secretary...
But I can't do that.
You see, I've had this fear since I was a little girl that with the passing-on of much my grandparents' generation--of the last generation of Holocaust survivors, the entire Shoah would become dulled in the memory of history. That without those walking around with numbers inked into their worn, wrinkled skin, those with scars and stories they were willing to tell--horror stories not one of us could truly imagine, humanity would start to forget just how unbelievably horrific it all really was.
And I do believe that's happening.
I often find myself shocked when I see Holocaust and Hitler analogies used so casually as to mitigate the reality of their horror. I see smart, educated people--people whose intentions are entirely good--unintentionally misstating facts. I've had friends (plural) comment on the "thousands" of people Hitler killed. They were condemning him, and I did politely correct them, but I wasn't upset with them.
But I am upset.
I'm upset with Holocaust education in this country and around the world. I'm upset with those who believe the opposite--that we put too much emphasis on the Holocaust. I'm upset that it matters when someone thinks the man responsible for the slaughter of ten million people (six million of them Jews)--along with tens of millions more who died because of his war--killed just 'thousands' of people. Not because thousands of deaths wouldn't have been awful enough...
But because there is nothing I wouldn't do to go back in time and have that be true.
So, no, Sean Spicer, I do not accept this as just another bumbling of words for Melissa McCarthy to mock on SNL, and this is why...
Not only did Spicer wildly misstate a deeply significant fact of history, but he did so for the purpose of implying that, in using chemical weapons, Assad had crossed a line even Hitler himself never did, and is thus the worse of the two.
When called out, instead of simply admitting his error, Spicer tried to walk back the comment in a way that implied that it was more humane, or better, to load millions of people into cattle cars, and deliver them not to "Holocaust Centers" (which sounds like a fucking museum, by the way, and is language which I can't help but wonder at), but to Death Camps. To Extermination Camps, and, for many, directly into gas chambers, in order to carry out the "The final Solution to the Jewish Problem" (*Spoiler alert, if you missed it in history class, the "problem" was our existence, and the "solution" was literally exterminating all of the Jews in Europe).
In trying to walk back his comment, Spicer also used the word "innocent" to describe Assad's victims, to distinguish them from Hitler's ['non-innocent' is the implication, intended or not] victims, before cutting himself off and making the distinction that Hitler didn't gas indiscriminately "into the middle of towns".
So, Spicey, let me be clear. The Jewish people of Germany--and every country he invaded and thus took responsibility for--were Hitler's "own people". The fact that he--not indiscriminately, but based on religion--gassed millions of his own people, not only including, but especially children (who were often deemed to have little to no work value at concentration camps), means that not only was your entire statement faulty (and, frankly, offensive), but it was dangerous.
"Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it." We know this. We've all heard some form of the old adage, hopefully more than once. And yet I see it happening all around me, and I find it truly terrifying (and I don't scare easily).
It is not only for the Jews of this world that Holocaust education is of the utmost importance. It is for us all.
I thought about including a Holocaust-related image with this post--something shocking, to wake people up. Mass graves? No--too jarring, too...real. But I did consider images of starving Jews (and Roma) in Auschwitz, or skeletally-thin children in striped pajamas. But I chose the photo above instead, taken a few years ago at the The Jewish Heritage Museum in downtown New York City, at a private film screening for the movie Defiance. The film was about my grandfather, Zus Bielski (played by Liev Screiber) and his brothersm Tuvia, and Asael (played by Daniel Craig and Jamie Bell), who led the largest Jewish Partisan group of not only resistance fighters, but of women and children as well, including those they rescued from a ghetto mere days before its "liquidation". By the end of the war, they had saved more than 1,200 Jewish men, women, and children from certain death (including, by the way, Rae and Joseph Kushner--yes, the paternal grandparents of Jared Kushner, husband to Ivanka Trump and advisor to the President). Nearly three quarters of a century later, The Bielski Brigade's descendants--we--number in the tens of thousands. This photo is of the direct descendants/family of the Bielski Partisans who were present that day in New York.
This image is one of hope--one of survival and human triumph in the face of unimaginable horror. But it is also a reminder of how many were lost. How many descendants never got the chance to walk this earth because of innocent lives snuffed out barely 75 years ago. And the horrific ways in which they were snuffed out cannot be forgotten. It can't be forgotten on a facebook post, it can't be forgotten in casual conversation, and it sure as hell can't be forgotten in a statement from the White House Press Secretary while discussing a modern-day dictator who uses chemical weapons on his own people.
What part of "Never Forget" is confusing?
But as the brilliant Elie Wiesel said, “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” So I will never be silent about things like this. Never. And I hope to God Jared Kushner learned the same lesson from our grandparents' stories, and is using his influence for the better, and, today, specifically, for demanding Sean Spicer's fucking resignation.
At the risk of coming across on the heavy-handed side, I'm including below a little more info on this particular Spicer fuck-up from our good friend, Wikipedia:
"In the early years of World War II, the Jews were sent primarily to forced labour camps and ghettoised, but from 1942 onward they were being deported to the extermination camps under the guise of "resettlement". For political and logistical reasons, the most infamous Nazi German killing factories were built in occupied Poland, where most of the intended victims lived; Poland had the greatest Jewish population in Nazi controlled Europe. On top of that, the new death camps outside the prewar borders of the Third Reich proper could be kept secret from the German civil populace.
Pure extermination camps--
During the initial phase of the Final Solution, gas vans producing poisonous exhaust fumes were developed in the occupied Soviet Union (USSR) and at the Chełmno extermination camp in occupied Poland, before being used elsewhere. The killing method was based on experience gained by the SS during the secretive Aktion T4 programme of involuntary euthanasia. There were two types of death chambers operating during the Holocaust.
Unlike at Auschwitz, where the cyanide-based Zyklon-B was used to exterminate trainloads of prisoners under the guise of "relocation", the camps at Treblinka, Bełżec, and Sobibór, built during Operation Reinhard (October 1941 – November 1943), used lethal exhaust fumes produced by the large internal combustion engines. The three killing centres of Einsatz Reinhard were constructed predominantly for the extermination of Poland's Jews trapped in the Nazi ghettos. At first, the victim's bodies were buried with the use of crawler excavators, but they were later exhumed and incinerated in open-air pyres to hide the evidence of genocide.
Whereas the Auschwitz II (Auschwitz–Birkenau) and Majdanek camps were parts of a labor camp complex, the Operation Reinhard camps and the Chełmno camp WERE BUILT EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE QUICK EXTERMINATION OF ENTIRE COMMUNITIES OF PEOPLE (PRIMARILY JEWS) WITHIN HOURS OF THEIR ARRIVAL. All were constructed near branch lines that linked to the Polish railway system. They had almost identical design, including staff members transferring between locations. Selected able-bodied prisoners delivered to death camps were not immediately killed, but pressed into labor units called Sonderkommandos to help with the extermination process by removing corpses from the gas chambers and burning them. The extermination camps were physically small (only several hundred metres long and wide) and equipped with minimal housing and support installations, not meant for the railway transports. The Nazis deceived the victims upon their arrival, telling them that they were at a temporary transit stop, and soon would continue to German Arbeitslagers (work camps) farther east.
At the camps of Operation Reinhard including Bełżec, Sobibór, and Treblinka trainloads of prisoners were destined for immediate death in gas chambers designed exclusively for that purpose. The mass killing facilities were developed at about the same time inside the Auschwitz II-Birkenau subcamp of a forced labour complex, and at the Majdanek concentration camp. In most other camps prisoners were selected for slave labor first; they were kept alive on starvation rations and made available to work as required. Auschwitz, Majdanek, and Jasenovac were retrofitted with Zyklon-B gas chambers and crematoria buildings as the time went on, remaining operational until war's end in 1945. The Maly Trostenets extermination camp in the USSR initially operated as a prison camp. It became an extermination camp later in the war with victims undergoing mass shootings. This was supplemented with gassings in a van by exhaust fumes from October 1943...."
Continue reading here: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extermination_camp
Please enjoy the following deleted scene from In Ruins by Danielle Pearl
*In Ruins was published on October 4th, 2016 by Forever Romance
April, senior year of high school
COLLEGES HAVE THEIR spring breaks earlier than we do, and a bunch of prior graduates are back home tonight. Everyone was at Andy's earlier, but he disappeared upstairs with Tina halfway through his own party, and not long after that, Rory left claiming to be tired, with Cap hot on her heels. He came back a few minutes later saying he was also suddenly tired, and proceeded to bail on us as well. Shocker.
The rest of the boys and I pile into Dave’s SUV, and head to The Diner to get a midnight snack—a regular activity for a town without a a whole lot of options for late-night entertainment—and not because Carl said that’s where she was headed.
The Diner is busier than usual with so many people home for break, and our friends mix with older familiar faces, some friendly, some not so much. Carl is seated next to Kendall, who graduated last year, and they're chatting with a couple of guys from her graduating class. I'm about to head over to say hello when I recognize one of the not-so-friendly faces. One that makes my muscles tense, and the fact that he's standing over Carl, murmuring something to her, makes my hands clench into fists.
Brian Falco, the asshole who broke Bits'—Cap’s little sister’s—heart barely a year ago, has had his sights set on Carl ever since. I know it. Even if Carl doesn't. For such a formidable girl she can sure be naïve. But she never showed an ounce of interest in him, and then he was gone, so it wasn’t an issue. But now, whatever he's saying to her appears to have her utterly enthralled, if a little irritated.
"Dude, no drama tonight. Please," Luke murmurs when he sees who I'm looking at and how I'm looking at him.
"Fuck that. We can't just let him move in on Tuck's girl," Dave replies. He's always had a soft spot for Bits, too—so much so that sometimes I wonder if it’s a little too fucking soft. But Cap and I have been tight with Dave practically since birth, and Bits is practically like a sister to him, too, and though he doesn't know about what happened last summer, he knows the rest. Everyone does. So Dave is all too eager for any opportunity to butt heads with Falco—and throw fists, for that matter. But his words snap me out of my rapturous glare. Because they're all wrong.
"She's not my girl," I mutter coolly. Because what the fuck. We're not in a relationship—I know that—but we've been hooking up for months, and at the very least she's one of my closest friends. And she knows how I feel about Brian fucking Falco. In fact, I thought she shared my opinion.
Well fuck that.
Instead of going to their table, I make my way over to a table halfway across the dining room where a group of older girls are munching on cheese fries. My boys follow me, and I ignore their loaded glances. I don't care if I'm being transparent to them. I'm not fully in control of myself at the moment—in control of my goddamn feelings, and not for the first time I resent Carl for bringing them out of me at all.
Tully is another girl who graduated last year, and I hooked up with her a couple of times when I was a sophomore. I have no interest in her now, of course, but we've always been friendly, so I distract myself by taking a few minutes to catch up with her and her friends. My boys don’t complain—they're an attractive bunch—and Dave is making suggestive comments and spitting game before the waitress even drops by the table to take our drink orders.
I purposely position my back to Carl to remove the temptation of watching her. It's pointless, though. I realize Tully has been telling me some story for the past five minutes and I couldn't tell you a word she’s said. And even now, as I realize this, I still can't bring myself to pay attention. I'm so fucking pathetic.
Finally, I give in, and turn around.
But Carl isn't there.
I notice Falco drop some bills onto the table and then stroll out toward the exit. And I lose it.
What in the fuck is she thinking leaving with him?
Rationally, I know I should just let her do what she wants. I have no claim over her, and if she's stupid enough to want to spend time with that asshole, then what the fuck do I want with her anyway?
But I'm not rational when it comes to Carl. My blood rushes through my veins with urgency and momentum, and I'm up and out of my seat with no plan of action or even words. The only thing I know is that I have to stop this from happening, however necessary, regardless of the consequences.
By the time I get outside, Falco is almost at his car, and I search for Carl, expecting to see her climbing into his passenger seat, but he's alone.
"Falco," I call. I don't shout, but my voice carries well enough through the hushed night and the mostly empty parking lot.
Falco swings around to face me, his freshly lit cigarette illuminating his surprise.
I approach him slowly, but don't bother getting too close. If Carl’s not with him then I have no use for him. I'd prefer not to get into a fight tonight. And I still don't know where the hell Carl is. "Where is Carl?" I demand.
Falco arches a brow and curls his lip in distaste. Yeah, he's not my biggest fan, and I doubt he thinks he should be answering to me. But just because I'd prefer not to get into a fight tonight doesn't mean I won't.
I raise my eyebrows impatiently.
Falco rolls his eyes and shrugs. "How the fuck should I know?"
My nostrils flare with my sharp exhale, though I work to keep my composure. "Don't fuck with me right now, Falco. I'm not in the mood. You were talking to her. Where is she?"
He has the nerve to fucking smirk, and I take a step forward, my hands so desperate to do damage that my nails dig into my own palms, threatening to break skin.
Falco shakes his head and sighs, as if I'm suddenly not worth the trouble. "She's inside as far as I know. We were chatting a bit, she got a little upset, and excused herself to go to the bathroom. Haven't seen her since."
"What the fuck did you say to upset her?" I growl.
"Not my fault," he says simply, reaching for his car door. Part of me wants to throw him right up against it and get a good hit in, but most of me is fixated on hearing that Carl is upset about something, and filled with the inexorable urge to somehow fix it. Whatever it is.
So I turn my back on Falco and jog back inside. I peek my head into the dining room to see if she's back at her table with Kendall. She isn't. So I head back toward the counter, where the bathrooms are located.
I stare at the door to the women's bathroom. What the hell am I supposed to do now? I can't very well just waltz my way into the damned ladies room.
A girl who was sitting at Tully's table a few minutes ago walks out and stares at me with bemused, appraising eyes
"Is Carl Stanger in there?" I ask her before she can question what I'm doing standing outside the women's bathroom like some kind of creep.
She blinks at me a moment. "Uh, no. I don't think so.
I pull out my phone to text her, and also to dismiss this girl whose name I can't remember, and she takes the hint and goes on her way. And then my eyes land on the private family restroom. The one with only one toilet and a changing table meant for parents with young children. I knock on the door.
"Just a minute." It's muffled, but it's her voice.
"It's me, Princess," I call back.
"I said, just a minute." Her tone holds no familiarity and certainly no warmth- as if she wants to make a point that I'm no more welcome than any random stranger. It feels all wrong, and it unleashes a sharp wave of anxiety.
Is she pissed at me? What the hell could I have done to piss her off already? She's the one chatting up people I despise. And I haven't even told her off for it yet.
I bang my fist harder against the door. "Let me in, I want to talk to you!"
She opens the door with a growl. "I'm in the bathroom!"
Yeah, I can see that. I push my way inside, and close and lock the door behind me, ignoring her indignant and decidedly hostile glare. "You've been hiding in here for ten minutes. You're not going to the bathroom," I call her out.
That shuts her pretty, gaping mouth. "I wasn't hiding," she insists. Her shoulders square in challenge, drawing my attention to her chest, and I'm momentarily distracted.
Jade eyes narrow. "What are you doing here, Tucker?"
Right. "Saw you talking with Falco. Thought you left with him." I work to keep my tone nonchalant, as if I'm more curious than anything—as if unaffected by the idea. It’s a masterful act.
Carl’s bottom lip drops again, as if she can't quite believe what she's hearing, and it's validating.
"You thought I left with him?" Her voice rises a full octave.
"Well you were talking to him so long you didn't even notice your actual friends walk into the damned diner!" Yeah, so much for hiding my emotions. My heart pumps faster as I think of him bent down to her ear, murmuring intimately, his breath coming into contact with her delicate skin. Suddenly my own breaths come more harshly.
"He came over to me, not the other way around, in case you didn't notice!” Carl retorts.
"You didn't exactly send him away!" Damn it, Green, calm the fuck down. I want her to want to kiss me, not hit me. At least now that I know she was never considering anything with Falco. But the way she's looking at me right now makes me wonder if I shouldn't run before she skins me alive.
"Well," she lowers her voice. "I was interested in what he had to say. He was telling me a story about my actual friends."
What the fuck is that supposed to mean? "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"
Carl shrugs. "Guess he saw you and some of the guys out at Martine's Bar last night. He was just asking why I didn't go. Said my friends seemed like they were having a good time."
Shit. I feel the blood drain from my face and I will myself to not be so obviously distressed. Because I already know where this is going.
Sarah kissed me last night. Right at the bar. I didn't see it coming, and I stopped it. But I was drunk, and my reaction time was probably a little delayed. Fucking Falco must've seen. By now everyone knows Carl and I have a thing. Smug little shit must have really enjoyed upsetting her. I should have fucking knocked him out in the parking lot, after all.
"Princess, I don't know what that douchebag told you, but it wasn't what you're obviously thinking—"
"I'm not thinking anything. I know. And I don't care, Tucker. You're allowed to hook up with whoever the hell you want," she says pointedly. "And so am I." She sidesteps me and reaches for the door handle.
Oh, hell no. I grab her elbow and spin her back to face me. "Yeah? Except I do hook up with whoever I want, Princess. But that isn't Sarah. I think I've told you that before," I remind her.
She raises her chin, ready to sling some snarky remark, but I cut her off.
"She kissed me, yes. At a crowded bar. And I pushed her off of me." Every word I say gets me more and more pissed. "I can hook up with whoever I want, but do you really think I'm such an asshole that I would hook up with your fucking friends?"
Carl's glare falters.
"You want Falco?" I challenge.
I watch her delicate neck move with her nervous swallow. Because she wants to goad me—it's her nature—but she does not want Brian fucking Falco, and she won't lie and say otherwise just to set me off, I know it.
"I don't want anyone right now," she says instead.
I take a step forward until I'm crowding her. Her scent invades my senses, sweet and heady, and my jeans tighten instantly. Her gaze is unblinking and her breathing quickens and deepens. God, I love the way she reacts to me. "Is that so?"
She doesn't answer in words, but her body tells me everything I need to know. Her mouth opens slightly and she flushes with desire.
It's been too long since I've had her. My mom's been home a lot and Billy’s always around when I’m at Carl’s. And she's not the kind of girl you screw in the back seat of a car. I lift my hand slowly, almost afraid to spook her, just in case she decides to deny me as punishment for that kiss from Sarah I never wanted it in the first place. But she doesn't move. I brace her chin and run the pad of my thumb over that plump little bottom lip. She lets me. She tries to stop me from hearing that small gasp escape her mouth, but I feel it on my thumb, and I lean down for a taste.
Just a small taste. We're in a public bathroom, after all.
But her mouth is utterly intoxicating. The slide of her tongue against mine is torment enough, and the soft sigh she exhales makes me deepen the kiss until it's dangerous to continue. But I can't bring myself to stop. And then her arms are around my neck and her seductive curves are pressed against my body, and I know she can feel how close I am to taking her right here and now. And, God, if she were anyone else, I would—I really would. I never claimed to be a saint. But even I know you don't fuck a princess in a public bathroom.
I wrench my mouth from hers, but I don't let her go. She lets her head fall back against the door and closes her eyes, catching her breath. I love her like this. Completely out of control. I love that I can make her like this.
"I can't wait to have you all to myself in Miami. No parents, no little brothers, just a hotel room, a bed, and you," I tell her, becoming increasingly impatient at the thought. Fuck, I need to calm myself down.
Her eyes flutter open, heated and almost a little vulnerable. A small mischievous smile plays on her lips. "We'll see," she breathes.
"We'll see?" I ask, a mixture of disbelief and desperation. She knows that the threat of withholding herself from me makes me crazy. But then, of course, that's why she does it.
Her shoulder raises in a half-shrug. "Yeah, Tuck. We'll see if you deserve me alone in that hotel room."
I know she's toying with me, but her words hit harder than she intends, and I try to swallow down the spark of unease. Because I don't deserve her. I never did. And if that's a caveat for having her, then I've already lost her. Why does my chest ache at the thought?
I don't realize my jaw is clenched until she grazes it with her fingertips, lightly scratching my stubble, and I turn into it like a fucking pet cat. "I'm looking forward to Miami, too," she whispers, a confession I know costs her.
Every muscle in my body relaxes and I feel myself break out into a lopsided grin.
There's a knock on the door and we both call out at the same time--just a minute/one sec—and Carl grimaces. Neither of us thought the other would answer, and now, whoever is on the other end of that door knows we're in here together.
Well, there's nothing to it now. We open the door and I'm almost ashamed by how satisfied I am by Carl's rare, deep blush. She avoids eye contact with our discoverer—some girl I've seen before, but don't really know. But I throw her a suggestive smirk and wink as I slide my arm around Carl's waist. That’s right, sweetheart, Carl Stanger is fucking mine. Spread the damned word.
Summer Before Ninth Grade
"Come on, man, it will be a good way to stay in shape over the summer," Cap encourages when I whine about joining the summer intramural volleyball league. It's coed, so I can't imagine how competitive it will be. Nothing against female athletes, but now that we're about to enter high school, a lot of the guys have already hit our growth spurts, and I just don't see how girls will be able to compete at the net physically. I’m starting to think Dave had the right idea when he bailed on us to go to the beach.
"Whatever," I give him the same response I did the last time he tried to get me more enthusiastic about the whole thing. With my summer job and now this, I'm finding my time more scheduled than ever. But now that it's just me and my mom, I feel like I need to contribute in some way, especially after everything we've been through.
The league isn't really an official league. It's run by Phil Lohman, an incoming senior and captain of our high school's varsity volleyball team. I've always liked the sport, but it interferes with lacrosse season, so neither Cap nor I have ever had the chance to play in any organized way.
"Damn…" Cap murmurs when we enter the high school gym. There are a lot of people here. I knew the league had gotten popular over the past couple of summers, but I didn't realize quite how many people would be trying out. Phil only makes four teams of ten, so half of the eighty or so people here won't actually get to play.
But that won't be me or Cap. Even if we are only freshmen, we are known athletes, and more than likely Phil will hoard the both of us for his own team.
Open palms smack ball after ball, the sound reverberating in an endless echo through the sprawling gymnasium. The kids who play on one of the school's teams are decked in volleyball sneakers and knee pads, but mostly everyone is in regular gym clothes. There are even a few girls dressed in tiny cotton shorts and tight fitted tank tops, and I doubt they're here for any other reason than to get a little attention. Not that I'm complaining. But my eyes are automatically drawn to one perfectly athletic, slim body, dressed in actual volleyball shorts and a plain white t-shirt that’s being rhythmically whipped by her flying blond ponytail.
My pulse quickens. I knew Carleigh played volleyball. I knew she was on the team in middle school and that she was good. But for some reason I hadn't considered she'd be here. Girls rarely make the league, and I would assume those who do are older, not incoming freshmen like Carleigh. But she's a setter. Her job is to control the plays and set the ball up nice and high so a hitter like me can slam it down onto the opponent's side of the court, so height doesn't really matter as much for her position.
She passes a ball back and forth with an older girl I kind of recognize but don't actually know. They're good. Better than a lot of the guys, actually. The older girl bumps, Carleigh sets it in a beautifully designed arch, and her partner smacks it back in her direction in a perfect forty five degree spike. But Carleigh flies forward and down onto her waiting knee pads and bumps it right back up before it can touch the ground, aiming it perfectly back as if she'd had all the time in the world to calculate the move.
I'm utterly hypnotized. Not just by her skill, but by the way she moves. The way her calves flex and her thighs tighten as she bends into a ready position. The way her ass stretches those shorts.
"Dude, you here to play or watch the show?" Cap laughs.
But I'm glad for the distraction, because I'm already fighting off wood and my gym shorts aren’t exactly hard-on-friendly.
Cap holds up a ball he must have grabbed while I was busy drooling over Carleigh.
We pass and hit back and forth until a bunch of guys form a spiking drill at the net. It isn't formal or anything, but still, no one invites any of the girls. Phil and some other kid who’s probably on the school team with him walk around with clipboards like they're pro scouts or something, observing and taking notes.
I roll my eyes. It's all a little pretentious for a just-for-fun summer league, but whatever.
I’m waiting my turn when I’m attacked from behind without warning, small fingers digging into my sides, where I'm regrettably, exceptionally ticklish. I bark out an insuppressible guffaw and jump around to face my assailant. Carleigh is smiling up at me, green eyes bright and promising like freshly cut grass.
"Well, hi there, Princess," I grin like I didn't already know she was here.
"I didn't know you'd be here," she says, obviously pleased at the development, and every reservation I had about joining this stupid league vanishes instantly.
In fact, it was a great idea—Cap is a freaking genius.
"You're really good," I tell her, gesturing to where she'd been practicing earlier, even though it gives away the fact that I absolutely did notice her before now.
"Thanks. I hope I get to play. There are a lot more people here than I expected. And I don't think they take a lot of girls, if any."
I shrug. "I wouldn't worry about it, Princess. You're better than a lot of the guys, too." It's true. A lot of the guys here have height and bulk, but no skill, and a good, precise setter is more valuable than a bunch of sloppy, powerful hitters. "Why don't you go set for us?" I nod toward the net. That way she can show off to everyone at once.
Carl looks uncertainly over to where the one setter who has been working the drill for the past twenty minutes taps ball after ball up in the air with just the tips of his fingers. The other guy with the clipboard—not Phil—is only a few feet away, so I call out to him. "Hey, you should let Carleigh set for a bit. She's sick," I tell him.
Carleigh doesn't blush at the compliment; she just smiles, owning her talent, and it makes me grin.
Clipboard guy stutters for a moment before glancing over at Phil, who's preoccupied with jotting down notes. "Uh, after Steve, I guess." But he doesn't seem particularly excited by the prospect. In fact, I doubt he has any intention of letting her set for us at all.
Only a few more minutes pass when Phil blows a whistle—an actual whistle—and calls for everyone to line up on either side of the court to serve. Carleigh did not have a chance to set for the drill. But if she's annoyed by it, it doesn't show. She simply grabs a ball, goes to the back of the court, and serves it over the net with a strength her petite body doesn't actually look capable of.
We continue this for a while, and then a few minutes later Phil announces that he's got what he needs, and that he'll post the team lists in an hour or so.
I squeeze Carleigh's shoulder and head to the boys locker room to get some water from my gym bag. A few of the older guys are in there bullshitting, collaborating over the clipboards but not looking at them, including Phil and Clipboard Guy.
Cap goes over to them to talk to a kid we played football with in middle school and I join him.
"You guys don't have to stick around if you don't want," Phil says. "You're both on my team. Team 1."
"Cool," Cap murmurs, no more surprised than I am.
"How do you choose who makes it?" I ask.
"We've been scoring everyone based on skill. Highest scores are in," Clipboard Guy says.
"Well..." Phil says, smirking conspiratorially and it rubs me the wrong way.
Clipboard Guy rolls his eyes. "Right, well then we obviously cross off the girl names, if any of them mistakenly scored high enough to make a team."
"Why is it a mistake if they scored high?" I ask, confused.
Another eye roll, this time from Phil. "Because even if they're good, you know, for a girl, it doesn't mean they can hold their own on our court, and no one wants someone holding their team back."
It’s complete bullshit.
I admit that for some positions that may be true—after all, girls' regulation nets are set lower than guys'—but for a setter it just doesn't fucking matter. Someone with a soft touch and precise aim doesn't necessarily need height.
But what am I going to do? Start a fight about it? I'm an incoming fucking freshman. I can't exactly complain to the athletics board since this isn't even a school league, even if it is being played on school grounds.
I glance at Cap. He doesn't like it either, I can tell, but he doesn't feel like he can do anything about it, either, and neither of us says another word about it.
"We're going to play a scrimmage for a little if you guys want. Just for fun, you know," Phil offers.
I thought this whole thing was supposed to be just for fun.
Cap looks at me.
"Nah," I say. I would like to play, but right now, I don't really want to play with them.
“You want to do a few laps around the track?" Cap asks me instead. Running tends to calm us both down, so I agree.
We run in the hot late-June sun until we're both sweating far more than we were from a few volleyball drills, and though I do feel a little better physically, I'm still feeling irritable.
I know it probably isn’t as big a deal as I’m making it in my head. But I keep picturing Carleigh's pretty mouth curve up into that smile when I said how good she was, and her disappointment when she doubted she'd make a team. And I told her not to worry. But the thing that pisses me off is that she deserves to make a team.
Phil and his lackeys are still playing their scrimmage when we head back inside the empty locker room, and the corrupt clipboards are just sitting there on a bench, taunting me with their injustice.
I decide to take a peek, skimming through the scores. Just as I suspected, Carleigh is in the top forty, and if she were a guy, she'd make a team. But they're just going to cross out her name.
Well, fuck that.
I grab the pencil at the top of the clipboard, thankful these assholes didn't use pen.
"What are you doing?" Cap asks.
"Just righting a wrong." I smile wryly as I carefully erase the l-e-i-g-h from Carleigh’s name, leaving her as Carl Stanger, and then I head to the showers.
When I'm clean and dressed, the volleyball scrimmage is over and the upperclassmen are preparing the team list.
I chew on the inside of my cheek to stifle my smirk when I see that Carl Stanger is on ours.
Phil is going to be pissed as all hell when he realizes that not only did he unwittingly allow a girl into the league, but that he assigned her to his own team. But by then it will be too late. I doubt he's stupid enough to announce his sexist selection methods. Asshole.
Cap looks at me, eyes smiling, and gives me a subtle, approving nod. Belatedly I consider the two other girls who scored high enough to earn a spot—the one’s whose names I didn't masculinize… But then, I never claimed to be a damn saint. The truth of it is, this was never really about trying to correct an injustice—or at least it wasn’t my primary motivation. I was just looking out for my friend, the girl I'd do practically anything for, including risk pissing off a couple of douchey seniors.
Phil posts the lists and people line up to look for their names. There's a mixed chorus of disappointment and enthusiasm, but I just stand by the water fountain and wait. I don't have to listen for her voice to hear her excited squeal. It pierces the air and finds my eardrums all on its own, and then she's standing in front of me with a beautiful, self-satisfied smile. I return it, though she'd never guess the reason for my self-satisfaction. Instead, it just reflects my pride.
"We're on the same team," she gloats.
I grin wider.
"Even though they wrote my name as Carl," she grumbles.
I sigh with mock annoyance. "Damn, so I have to see your face twice a week now? All summer?" I tease.
She smacks me lightly on the bicep. "Shut up." But she's still grinning.
Phil calls for his team to meet in the gym for a minute, so we walk back through the double doors. I catch the moment he sees Carleigh, and his puzzled expression. He consults his stupid clipboard, but finds no answers.
He tells everyone he's going to do a roll call so we can get to know each other's names, and I wonder if this was planned or if he's just doing it to weed out the girl he obviously thinks is a confused interloper.
Name after name is called, hands raise, and guys are accounted for.
"Carl Stanger," Phil calls, and he's definitely not looking at Carleigh, but she raises her hand and smiles confidently.
Phil's brow furrows and he looks at her with bemusement.
"But it's Carleigh, not Carl," she corrects.
Phil's eyes widen, and then they narrow as he realizes he's been played, but his accusatory gaze suggests he suspects Carleigh was behind it herself.
"I can't imagine why it says Carl here, unless you wrote it that way on the sign-in..." Phil wants to say more, but he can't, not without saying: If I knew you were a girl, you'd have been cut.
Carleigh blinks at him for a second. "I—"
"She always goes by Carl," I announce, cutting her off. "Since we were kids."
Carleigh stares at me, but she doesn't ask questions. She's smart enough to get it, and she gets it fast. "Yeah," she agrees. "My full name is Carleigh, but everyone calls me Carl."
Phil's displeasure is obvious to me, but given no other choice, he moves on. Carleigh, or Carl now, I guess, peeks at me out of the corner of her eye. She knows exactly what I did and why, and she's not sure how she feels about it. She's not the kind of girl who appreciates having a guy come to her rescue. She's the kind of girl who can rescue herself. But then, I'm not looking for a thanks. I get as much out of this as she does. Because now I get to see her—in those little shorts—at least twice a week, all summer.
Carl Stanger and Tucker Green. You think you know them, but you've only scratched the surface. Both have secrets, and one will decimate their fragile relationship, leaving them in ruins. Can he forgive? Can she forget? Is their love strong enough to rebuild what they've lost?
Find out in In Ruins, releasing October 4th, 2016
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