Series: The Freedom Series, Book 1
Author: Michelle K. Pickett
Published: February 10th, 2015
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Genre: YA Mature Contemporary Romance
Content Warning: Abuse, adult language, non-explicit sexual situations, and mild drug use
Recommended Age: 14+
“Breathe. No one will break me. I’m strong. Breathe. Just breathe.”
On the outside, Willow appears to have it all. She’s beautiful, smart, from an influential family, and she dates the most popular guy in school—Jaden. But she would walk away from it all in a second. Willow is tormented by lies and suffocating guilt, not the hearts and flowers people believe her life is full of.
She carries a dark secret. Plagued by nightmares and pain, the secret dominates her life. If she hadn’t walked away. If she had just…but she didn’t. And now she has to live with her choice. But when someone uncovers her family’s past, they use it against her, crushing her spirit little by little. She tells herself she just has to make it to graduation. Then she can leave Middleton, and her secret, far behind.
When Brody transfers to Cassidy High, he turns Willow’s life upside down. He shows her what it feels like to live again, really live. And suddenly, she isn’t satisfied with just surviving until graduation. She wants a normal life—with Brody—and he wants her. But the closer they become, the more it threatens to unravel the secret she’s worked so hard to hide.
Willow finds true love with Brody. Will she let his love save her, or walk away from him to keep her secret safe?
I was lying across my bed, working on my calculus, when my phone chimed. I grabbed the phone off the table next to my bed and smiled.
BRODY: whatcha doing?
ME: calc. you?
BRODY: same. wanna talk?
My phone rang just a few seconds later. “Hello?”
“Hey,” Brody said, his voice sliding over me like velvet rope. It caressed me as it squeezed the air from my lungs.
“Hi.” I cringed when my voice came out all squeaky and breathy. “When you asked if I wanted to talk, I thought you meant texting.”
“Oh. Sorry, we can hang up and just text.”
“No! No, it just surprised me when the phone rang. So, what did you want to talk about?” I asked him.
“What are you wearing?” he whispered.
He laughed loudly into the phone. “I’m kidding, Willow,” he said when his chuckles faded.
“Oh, you were kidding? I was totally gonna to tell you if you told me…” I let my words trail off.
I heard him inhale. “Um, I think we need to move on to safer, more friend appropriate topics.”
I laughed. “Okay, you pick the topic.”
“Do you have a TV in your room with satellite?” Brody asked.
“Good. Turn to channel 235.” I flipped to the channel Brody suggested. “Oh, I’ve wanted to see this movie.” I pulled the blankets back on my bed and slipped under them, bunching the pillows behind my back.
“Good, I haven’t seen it yet either. We can watch it together.”
“Are you in bed?” I asked.
“Yeah.” His voice came out huskier than normal. “This is new. It’s kinda fun. Only, there’s one thing missing,” Brody murmured.
“It is fun. What’s missing?”
“You. I wish you were here, not there.”
“Oh.” I wasn’t sure what to say. I was glad he couldn’t see me because I was grinning like a fool. “Look. That’s just cheesy,” I said.
“It’s a movie about zombie aliens. I think we passed cheesy a long time ago. Oh, look at her. Now we’re getting somewhere.”
“You’re such a perv.”
“What? I’m a guy and she’s hot. If she’s going to walk around naked, I’m gonna look and appreciate the fine job God did assembling her.”
“Ugh. Whatever.” I rolled my eyes.
“Stop rolling your eyes.”
“Yes, you did. I heard it in your voice,” he said with a laugh.
“Oh! What do we have here? It’s the male species joining the bimbo in the shower. Mmm, he’s nice to look at. Great butt.” I sighed.
“Now who’s the perv?”
“Me. I never said I wasn’t.”
Brody laughed. “Good to know.” He cleared his throat, and his voice was a little huskier than normal when he said, “Love scene.”
Our easy teasing ended while the television played a very hot love scene—how it got only an R-rating was a miracle. I watched it on my television, hearing the moans and sighs from Brody’s television echoing through the phone. Awkward.
I could hear every breath Brody took. I could tell when his breathing sped up. I heard the small groan he made and the rustle of blankets and I wondered what was making him uncomfortable, the love scene or watching it with me on the other end of the phone.
I should stop talking now. Shut up! Shut up!
He sighed. “About you? Always.”
“I really do want to know what you’re wearing.” I bit my lip, waiting for him to say something. The sounds of the love scene still filtered through the phone.
“Mm. You’re making it very difficult for me to keep things G-rated between us,” he murmured.
“I know. I feel the same.”
“Fight scene. Ooh, did you see that arm fly across the screen?” Brody asked a little too loudly.
Finally. That love scene was killing me. I never thought I’d be so happy to see arms and legs blown off.
What are 10 weird things about you?
Okay, I only get to pick ten? Seriously, I could probably write a book on my total weirdness—just ask my kids.
- I make it a goal to embarrass my kids at least once a day. It keeps them on their toes and it’s a great discipline tactic. My favorite thing to do is break out in song in the grocery store, or other public place…and I don’t sing. I warble. It’s awful. I think it’s funny. They Do. Not. find the humor in it.
- When I lived in New Mexico I worked at a migrant farmer’s daycare as the toddler teacher. One of the main things we emphasized with the children was cleanliness. When we’d all wash our hands we taught the kids to sing the ‘happy birthday’ song so they’d know how long to wash. When they finished the song, they’d washed their hands long enough and could rinse. Yeah. I still sing the silly song in my head when I wash my hands. At least my hands are clean.
- I name inanimate objects. My slow-cooker is named Betty, you know, after Betty Crocker? My kindle is named Paige, like a page in a book. My Troll dolls that keep me company on my desk are Holly and Jolly. I could keep going but I think I’ve given you a pretty good idea of my need to name things.
- One of my cats is named Cujo after the rabid St. Bernard in the Steven King novel/movie of the same name.
- I cannot start writing a new story if I don’t have a title. I’ll write notes in my journal as they come to me, but I don’t start writing until I have the title. Maybe it goes back to me naming weird objects, I have to name my book, too.
- My nickname when I was a child was Macaroon, like the cookie. I don’t know why. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a macaroon. It was quickly shortened to Mac, by my dad. I suspect this was because he always wanted a son and I was an only child (he emphatically denied that, however). When I was around nine or ten my parents tacked on “motor mouth.” So my childhood nickname became “Motor Mouth Mac.” Thanks, Mom and Dad. I love you, too.
7. My husband says I have the most eclectic taste in music he’s ever heard. If you pick-up my I-Pod and put it on shuffle you might get Marvin Gaye singing “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” and the very next song might be “Down with the Sickness” by Disturbed. Totally random, I know.
8. My husband—I guess I should tell you his name is Larry before you start thinking it’s “my husband”— asked me how I broke my nose right after we started dating. He said it had a little bump on it and it looked like it had been broken. Yeah, um, I’ve never broken my nose. Oops. But that blunder didn’t stop him from telling me the very next week the skirt I was wearing made my calves look fat. When I glared at him he said, “No, I don’t mean fat. I mean robust.” Yeah, that’s a better word. Sure. Yet even after those idiotic remarks I still married him. I guess love isn’t just blind, it’s deaf, too. But before you think he’s a terrible guy, he’s actually the best husband in the world. Don’t believe me? He brings me flowers for no reason, cooks, plus does laundry and irons. ‘Enuf said.
- Garden gnomes freak me out. They’re just plain creepy. I saw a photo of aliens carrying off a gnome. I told Larry I wanted that for my birthday this year. Check it out here.
- I love Koegel’s pickled bologna. It’s made in Flint, Michigan, where I grew up. It’s not available in Texas, where I live now. I really, really miss that bologna. I dream about it. It’s that good.
About the Author:
Michelle is the bestselling author of the young adult novel “PODs.” She was born and raised in Flint, Michigan, but now lives in a sleepy suburb outside Houston with her extremely supportive husband, three school-aged children, a 125 pound “lap dog,” and a very snooty cat.
Red Bull or Monster Khaos are her coffee of choice, and she can’t write without peanut butter M&Ms and a hoodie. A hopeful romantic; she loves a swoon-worthy ending that will give her butterflies for days. She writes across genres in the young adult and new adult age groups. She loves to hear from her readers.
Michelle signed her new young adult contemporary novel— Unspeakable, with Clean Teen Publishing in 2014.
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