Join us for the Insatiable Reads Summer 2013 Tour
Today we're hosting Nadia Simonenko and her new novelAn excerpt:
Book 2 in the Lost & Found series
Book 2 in the Lost & Found series
From the blurb:
We’ll find each other somehow. We’re not lost anymore... All it took was one phone call to tear Owen's life apart. His father is dead and his mother is in critical condition. Even though he feared his abusive father and despised his family, losing them hurts in a way he never expected. Just weeks ago, Owen was terrified that he'd have to go home. Now, there is no home. All it took was one phone call to shatter Maria's happily-ever-after and bring her nightmares back to life. Maria's estranged brother is coming up to see her graduation and he isn't coming alone. He's bringing Maria's parents, as she expected, but he's also bringing along an old friend from college—someone who's haunted Maria's nightmares for seven years. Now, she's about to come face to face with the man who ruined her life. Will the love and happiness Maria and Owen found be enough to hold them together as their lives fall apart around them, or will their relationship slip away and be lost forever?
I watch in agony as the clock ticks slowly toward 4:00. The first day back from spring break is always the hardest and today is no exception. I prop my head up and try not to fall asleep again as the professor babbles on and on. I couldn’t care less about enzyme kinetics today; my thoughts are off in the woods above the west campus gorge, waiting to see Owen.
In my mind, he’s leaning against a tree and waiting for me with that gorgeous smile on his face. I haven’t seen him since Saturday and it feels like it’s been forever. I stare desperately at the clock and beg its hands to spin faster as excitement builds up inside me. I can’t wait to see him! The corner of my mouth turns up as I imagine his arms around me, and before I know it, I’m all smiles. The professor draws out a long enzyme activation pattern on the whiteboard and I zone out again. I already know all this—I’ve been doing it in lab since my sophomore year. Can we either do something interesting or end class already?
3:58 PM. Ugh... move, clock!
“Okay class, your homework is on the website. Welcome back, and I’ll see you all on Wednesday,” finishes the professor, and I leap up and race for the door along with thirty other students.
Not long ago, I’d have been terrified to be packed into a crowd like this, jostling and bumping into everyone as I make my way toward the exit. I used to sit and pretend that I was getting started on my homework while the rest of the class emptied out of the room just so I wouldn’t have to be near anyone. I’d wait for everyone else to leave and then sneak out afterward. It’s still nerve-wracking to feel so many people crowded around me and I don’t exactly like it, but at least I can breathe now. I don’t feel like I’m in danger of suffocating anymore.
“When did things start to change?” I wonder as I float out the classroom door in a sea of backpacks.
I interrupt my thoughts to apologize as I accidentally step on a boy’s foot, and then I break free from the crowd and race down the stairs and out into the blinding sunlight. It’s a beautiful spring day and it’s finally warm enough for me to ditch my coat. It’ll get cold again soon enough, knowing Ithaca, so I’m going to enjoy the good weather while it lasts. I shove the overstuffed coat into my backpack and start the long walk away from campus. The spring breeze feels wonderful on my skin. It’s so nice not to feel like everyone’s staring at me.
I know exactly when things started to change. It was when my feelings for Owen overpowered my fear of letting anyone come close to me. My mind flits back to the incredible night after we first danced together, and I blush as my smile grows wider. I’m lying in Owen’s embrace on the couch and I can feel the warmth of his body against mine. I close my eyes and keep on smiling.
What a difference a little time and a lot of love can make.
I follow behind the long line of students making their way back to central campus, but before long, I cut away from the crowd, cross the road, and head down a wide, wooden staircase into the woods. The dirt path is still soft from melted snow and the trees are bare apart from the occasional secretive green bud—a hint of spring among the dying days of winter—but soon my favorite path home will be leafy and beautiful again. Soon, I’ll be looking up at the sunlight filtering through the bright green leaves and smiling like I haven’t a care in the world. The woods have always been one of my favorite places in Ithaca—a place where I could be alone, safe, and happy—but now I can hardly wait to share them with Owen.
The trees give way to concrete at the south bridge out to the bars, restaurants and apartments just south of campus. Students pack like sardines into the crowded bagel place on the corner, milling, laughing and shouting to each other. Owen and I don’t care for the “Collegetown” scene; it’s too chaotic and noisy for us. We’re meeting back in the woods on the other side of Collegetown, at the top of the gorge staircase.
My roommate Tina waves to me as she dodges through the crowd, her blond ponytail bobbing along behind her. She’s not heading toward the bars as I might have expected her to, but instead up toward campus. She’s also inexplicably wearing a black skirt and white blouse. She looks very professional but, apart from the ponytail, completely unlike the Tina I know.
“Hi Maria!” she shouts over the din of the crowd with a huge, excited smile on her face.
I wave back to her and wait for her to catch up to me.
“Are you lost? The beer’s all back that way,” I tease, and she sticks her tongue out at me.
“Umm... hello? My interview?” she answers, waving a black leather portfolio at me. “Vet school, remember?”
“Oh. Sorry, I forgot all about it.”
Tina was so excited when she got the interview invitation. She never expected that anyone would actually want her after graduation, and instead she was offered a chance to get into Cornell’s veterinary school—one of the best in the country—and pursue what she really wants to do with her life.
“Good luck,” I whisper in her ear, and I grab her and hug her tightly. I mean it, too. She’s like a sister to me—a tiny, belligerent older sister who loved me and who took care of me for the last four years when I couldn’t take care of myself. She deserves to have things go her way.
“Hey, don’t wrinkle the suit,” she giggles as she hugs me back, and then she waves goodbye and continues on her way to campus with a huge grin plastered on her face.
I smile after her, cross the street and cut down the alley between two apartment complexes and back into the woods. The trees close in around me and block out the chaotic noise of the bars as I follow along the edge of the gorge. A waist-high safety rope runs along the edge of the gorge and I touch each of its cold, black wrought-iron posts as I pass them. The university administration wants to build ugly chain-link fences along all the gorges, but they’re still caught in legal battles with the city of Ithaca and the National Park Service. Cornell says it’s to stop jumpers—we have a long history of student suicides—but I still hope they lose the fight. The campus is too pretty for fences, and a fence isn’t going to hold back despair anyway.
I’ve been there. You need help to get past depression, not just a fence to block you from ending it. My heart skips a beat as I finally see Owen up ahead. He’s leaning against the tree with his arms crossed just as I imagined he would be, watching me with a smile as I come closer. He looks like he hasn’t combed his scruffy blond hair in a week, but somehow he makes disheveled look gorgeous.
His gray eyes were bright and happy as I come closer, and he pushes off the tree and starts to close the distance between us. My slow, casual walk quickens as if matching my heartbeat, and before I know what’s happening, I’m running to him.
I leap up into his arms and he catches me, pulling me in as my momentum carries me around him in a spin. His arms are strong and warm as he holds me, and I joyfully press my cheek to his. It hasn’t even been two days, but I still missed him as if I hadn’t seen him in months.
His smile melts my heart and full books of emotion pass silently between us as we embrace. There’s plenty of time for words later, but right now, what I want is to kiss him. I lean in and brush my lips lightly against his, inviting him to join me, and he gladly accepts and presses his lips to mine with a passion that steals my breath.
Owen caresses my cheek with his good hand as he pulls me close. I don’t know if it’s my imagination, but as his chest presses against mine, I think I feel his heart pounding, He’s holding me so tightly that I can barely breathe and I don’t care one bit. My legs start to tremble as our kiss runs deeper and deeper. God, I love him. I don’t know how we ended up together, but I’m so glad we did. Being with him is everything I never knew I wanted.
We finally break away from the kiss and gasp for air as we cling to each other. My heart races and I almost feel lightheaded as indescribably beautiful feelings course through my body. Owen nuzzles my cheek as I lay my head on his shoulder. A heavenly euphoria settles in my mind, telling me that everything is going to be okay now. This is how my life should be. No more fears, no more nightmares, just Owen and me.
His love is all I need to grow.
“Hi sweetie,” I whisper, still weak-kneed from the kiss and leaning into him for support. It’s definitely his heartbeat I’m feeling; I know it is.
He runs his fingers softly through my hair and kisses me once more before quietly answering.
“Hi Maria. I missed you.”
So few words and yet so much meaning. I could stand here in his arms forever, savoring his warmth. “I missed you too,” I whisper back, taking his hand in mine and squeezing it gently.
He adjusts the sleeve of his coat to cover his cast, and then hand in hand, we start down the steep, crumbling stone staircase into the gorge. The stairway winds back and forth down to the bottom, and I shiver as the waterfall’s cold mist chills my skin. Owen pulls me close to him to keep me warm as we pass through the mist, and then I stop on the other side to pull my coat out of my backpack.
“Are you ready for the career fair?” he asks after a long silence. It starts in two days and he knows I’ve been worrying about it.
“I’m as ready as I’m going to be, I think,” I answer, staring up at the single, fluffy white cloud floating in the clear blue above us.
Academically speaking, I’m more than ready. That’s never been the problem. The big question mark for me has always how well I’ll hold up during the interviews. A dark terror flickers to life inside me at the thought of faceless men in suits staring at me, evaluating me, dissecting me like I’m their personal science-fair project, but I quickly shove it aside and focus on Owen instead.
“How about you? Are you going to it?” I ask.
“I’ll try to stop by for a little bit at least,” he replies. “I had my first interview for my grad program during lunch today, and if I get picked for a second round interview, it’s probably going to conflict with the career fair.” “Ooh! How’d it go?” I ask excitedly. My mind is all over the place today and I forgot about both his and Tina’s interviews.
“It went well enough,” he answers, and then he releases my hand and hops from stone to stone across the ice-cold stream. I follow behind him, going a little more slowly to make sure my textbooks don’t end up in the water, and he catches me on the other side with strong arms and a warm smile before we continue both our walk and the conversation. “So yeah, it was pretty good,” he continues. “It was just the basic background stuff. Academic goals, talking about my major, my research interests... you know the deal.”
We both drift into silence as we continue along the gray slate path toward our apartment complex, and I wonder if he’s thinking what I’m thinking right now.
“What if I get a job offer somewhere far away? What if he doesn’t get into grad school and I do?”
I don’t want to be apart from him. Now that I’ve found him, I can’t bear the idea of losing him like that. Even thinking about it hurts me, so I can’t imagine how horrible it’ll feel if it actually happens.
“Don’t worry,” he whispers as if reading my mind. “We’re not going to be apart. I know it.”
“How do you know that?” I ask as we reach the staircase leading out of the gorge and up to the back end of our apartment complex. “Hiding psychic powers from me?”
“I just do,” he whispers, flashing me a smile that makes me want to melt into him. God, I hope he’s right.
The staircase ends at the slanted sidewalk running past my apartment, but as I turn toward my front door, Owen grabs my hand.
“Why don’t you let me make us dinner tonight? You fed me for like two weeks straight. It’s about time I started paying it back.”
I smile at him but shake my head.
“I’d love it, but can you afford to be making me dinner?” I ask. “You’re still paying for that arm, right?”
He looks down at the cast on his right arm and then back up at me, grinning.
“One more week,” he says. “The doctor says I’ve got one week left and then I’m rid of this thing.”
“Doesn’t quite answer my question,” I tell him, winking. He laughs and nods.
“Yes, Maria, I can afford it. Honest.”
“Then I accept,” I whisper. I smile warmly at him and let him reel me back in to his side again, and we continue straight past my apartment and up the stairs to his.
Buy this book: Amazon
About the author:
Nadia Simonenko is a scientist and author currently living in Lancaster with her husband, two cats and a dog. When she isn't writing, she works in drug formulation development and dreams about someday getting to take a vacation.
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All materials for this post provided by Nadia Simonenko/Insatiable Reads Tour.
All materials for this post provided by Nadia Simonenko/Insatiable Reads Tour.