Wednesday, August 15, 2018


For the longest time (literally decades) I didn’t dare say out loud that I had anxiety issues, because I didn’t want to be labeled as “mentally ill.” 

I’d had mentally ill folks in my life, people who did really worrisome, unsavory things because they weren’t in complete control of themselves, and therefore were seen as crazy or unstable. I didn’t want to be labeled as crazy or unstable, so I kept my burdens to myself.
But anxiety has always, *always* been a problem in my life. Even as a little girl, I remember being so nervous that I would bite myself to feel pain, because pain made sense—nervousness didn’t. I remember that even though I was going to the same school, with the same students I’d known since preschool, I vomited every day before middle school. I remember telling people I had headaches because Of my glasses, to justify inexplicably crying in class. And I remember having a full on meltdown at a school dance when an upperclassman asked me out. I didn’t like being so uneven all the time, or having epic, massive unravelings at school for random reasons that made no sense to folks around me.
I hated the fact that I was different. I hated being viewed as erratic and babyish because I couldn’t control my emotions. I hated that it was viewed as weakness and immaturity. Rather than telling people that it felt like I was having a heart attack, or that I couldn’t breathe or bear my own weight at times, I let folks think I was just a silly, weepy little girl. Too young and immature to care how ridiculous I was being. It was better to be viewed as lame and immature, than crazy. I knew that much.
Over the years, I learned to keep these anxiety attacks to myself. I learned how to turn these meltdowns from tears and sadness to rage—because it’s easier to explain that I’ve got a rotten temper, than to explain that I’m having panic attacks triggered by random, seemingly inconsequential triggers. Rather than being seen as a “crier,” I would be seen as a “rager,” which is equally damning, but slightly less embarrassing. To this day, I am not a “crier,” and I would rather be seen as an epic b*tch than cry in front of most people. 
Over the years I became adept at hiding my anxiety from the world by masking it with humor and a loud voice. If I was laughing, nobody would know that on the inside I was literally spinning out, and that I would over analyze literally every word of every conversation I had that day, while struggling to slow my heart rate back down to a tolerable level. There were always 5 kids in my marriage that I had to manage: my four children, and my anxiety, which was usually the unruliest and most unpredictable of them all.
As far as anyone knew, I was a healthy, happy, functional—albeit high strung—middle aged wife and mother. I showed up for church activities, I had two jobs, I participated fully in raising and rearing my children, and I spent most of my time smiling and laughing while I did it all. My secret was just that: my secret. Nobody was the wiser, and even better, nobody saw me as weak....
I detest being seen as weak.
When we moved abroad, though, that’s when I lost my ability to (mostly) hide my anxiety from the world. We were in a foreign country where we didn’t speak the language, and I was put into circumstances I could not control. See, in an expat situation, you’re given a small handful of folks and told: “here are your friends, play nice.” If you do not mesh with someone, too bad. If someone isn’t your cup of tea, too bad. If someone isn’t kind to you, too bad. 
You don’t get the opportunity to find other people to befriend. There aren’t other people to mesh with. You get who you get and you deal with it, or you accept that you’re going to be lonely and without a social support system, which to me (at the time) felt utterly nonnegotiable. And it takes massive amounts of patience for a person with anxiety to spend time with people who emotionally and mentally drain them. 
This is not just a case of not really digging someone, it’s the difference between seeing and spending time with them, and then having the physical and mental energy to *function* for the rest of the day, and be there for your own family. For a human with anxiety, faking it for four hours can be the difference between spending an evening cooking and eating dinner with their family, or laying in bed crying because they’ve over analyzed a ten second blip of a conversation they had with someone who mentally drains them, to the point where they’ve spun out completely.
Yeah. No bueno. 
Between the move, and the unraveling of my relationship with some family members which caused some panic attacks of epic proportions, followed quickly by the death of my father while we were estranged, and I was suddenly unable to mask my anxiety from the world any more. There I was—live and in color—melting down for all to see. And it sucked, hard.
Panic attacks; meltdowns; temper tantrums; verbal tirades; unexplained illnesses and physical ailments; crippling, mind boggling exhaustion. The list goes on, and now that I’m back in the USA, I’ll likely be able to get help for a lot of these things, but the anxiety is a beast that never, ever lets up. It’s a monster that sits in the corner, growling lowly like my dogs when they dream, grinning at me as if to say, “don’t get too comfortable, Brooke, I’m right here, ready to pounce when you least expect it.”
And so I wait. Praying I don’t fall apart and cry in the line at the grocery store, or at a meeting at church, while simultaneously patting myself on the back because I’ve been wrangling this awful, ugly beast for 42 years, and still managed to show up for life, participate fully, and keep everyone fooled for a good, long while. 
I’ve learned little tricks to maintain my composure. I control the things I’m able to control. I like to be organized. I prefer things to be tidy and predictable. I like order and predictability. Chaos sets me on edge, so I make lists. Dozens of lists. I even list on my lists that I need to make lists. This is how I maintain my calm. It doesn’t always work, but it helps, and my husband appeases me, so I go with it. I also eliminate people from my life if they trigger anxiety in me. Not because I don’t like them (though sometimes I don't,) but because I like myself enough to want to maintain my balance. 
I still don’t like my anxiety being referred to as mental illness. I am not schizophrenic, I do not hurt other people or myself, I hold a job, I have a successful family. I don’t like being lumped into a category with folks who are sicker than me. But I’m learning to relax about it. I’m learning to accept that it’s an umbrella, and I’m on just one end of it, much like the ASD umbrella my son is under. If I fight the stigma associated with his diagnosis, shouldn’t I fight the stigma associated with mine?
Eh, with time, I suppose.
In the meantime, why not celebrate those who, like me, wrangle that beast every single day, and still show up, participate, and function, as if they *didn’t* just collapse on the floor because they couldn’t breathe, or spend the last night of their life laying awake crying because they just couldn’t stop stressing and panicking long enough to doze off....
Maybe we should be high fiving those peeps, because they sure as heck deserve it. I feel like I do. It’s not easy to be me some days. And I would venture it’s not easy to be you, either.
Just a thought. 
Moss out.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Social game.

A year ago this week, I stopped playing the social game.

Most people are smart enough never to get involved in the game in the first place. They never dive head first into the social scene, or seek approval and acceptance from their peers, and wind up living happy, secure, normal lives.

But not me. Because I'm me.

When I moved abroad (I'm home now, thank the lawd!) I convinced myself that without friends, or more specifically, social acceptance, I would be lost, and my time in a foreign country would be utterly awful--borderline intolerable.

I was wrong. More on that later. But...I was convinced that without being a part of the social scene in the wealthy, pretentious, ostentatious town my husband's job had placed us in, I (and more importantly, my kids) would be miserable.

And if you've never lived abroad with a child who is utterly miserable, then pat yourself on the back, because you've dodged a very painful bullet. Living in South Korea with grotesquely unhappy children darn near ended me.

It. Was. Awful.

And our "community" didn't help. If anything, it made things worse. But, I digress...

As I was saying, I moved abroad thinking that the #1 thing I needed to do was find my place in the social scene, make friends with the right people, so that their kids would be nice to my kids, and rub elbows with the right crowds, so that my family would be seen as part of the crowd, the people others wanted to hang with, the people others needed to hang with.

It was all pretty stupid and adolescent, if you ask me. But hindsight is 20/20 and all that. At the time, all I knew, all I could see, was that we'd moved to a foreign country where people were not all that friendly, where myself and my children did not speak the language, and where there was a much, much smaller expat presence than we'd originally been told. Upon landing in this place, it quickly became clear to us that in order to survive abroad, we would need to get in with the expat circle, and that if we didn't, my life--and the lives of my kids--would be very, very lonely.

And what is the one thing a parent who just moved their kids abroad fears most? Loneliness. Nobody wants their kids to feel lonely.

So.........I started jumping through the hoops.

Whenever I was invited somewhere, I went. Whenever someone's children wanted to meet my children, I complied. Whenever I was asked to participate in things, I did. I packed away my hermit tendencies, and became a social butterfly. I went to cocktail parties, despite not being the type whatsoever, and also not being a drinker of any way, shape, or form...and I rubbed elbows. When they needed volunteers at my children's insanely pretentious and overpriced school, I shoved my own workload to the back burner and went. When the women invited me to lunch, which seemed at times like that was the only thing they ever actually did, I accepted. When I was told someone was not acceptable to be allowed in the fold, I agreed. When they "accidentally" forgot to invite others, I went along with it. When they gossiped, I gossiped, too. When they Mean Girl'd those they found unworthy, I participated.

I became a lesser version of myself.

I did not like the person I became.

Sure, my kids had friends, and "seemed" to be enjoying their time abroad (as much as they could between bouts of crippling homesickness) and my place on the social totem pole insured that they would always be smiled at, invited to things, and welcomed (however begrudgingly at times) into the fold.

But at what price?

I'd become a colossal bitch. I was acting like a Regina George. Who in the heck sets out to become a Regina in their 40's? I mean, honestly.

So...during my last year abroad, after having three separate unpleasant experiences with three separate women in this social circle...something inside of my snapped, and I said, "I'm done."

I just walked away. I ended every toxic relationship I had in that town, and I cut them out. Snip, snip, and they were gone. Just like that.

And oddly enough...everything was okay. My children didn't suffer that much. Sure, they got some grief. After all, when her BFF is the daughter of one of what I'd always referred to as "The Holy Trinity," that I'd just divorced myself from, there was inevitably going to be some backlash. But, oddly enough, my daughter maintained herself in a manner above and beyond what a typical 16 year old could do. She came out of the refiners fire a better young woman, stronger, able to stand up for herself, unwilling to be treated like garbage. A true bad a**, if you ask me.

And my son's didn't suffer as much as I'd expected. Some of the playdate invitations waned, but overall, they still maintained friendships that were based on silly boy things like anime, Harry Potter, and potty humor. They did alright, despite how many people disliked their mom! Who knew?

As for me? Well, I actually managed to have a great year. I still had a couple friends. We went out from time to time, but not often. I wrote books, I read books, I enjoyed the peace, and I patiently waited for my time abroad to come to an end. Not having these toxic women in my life didn't effect me nearly as much as I'd originally thought, and if anything, I'd become stronger, more secure, and happier in my newfound independence from the dreaded social game.

At one point, I'd been scolded for not greeting a woman properly (the whole kiss, kiss on both cheeks thing...I'd apparently been rude and thoughtless for waving to a group of women as I passed, chasing my son, while calling, "Gotta go! Hi everyone!" Again...who knew?) and now I was coming and going without having to give another thought to who I was with, who would be seeing me, what I would be wearing when I was seen, and whether or not I'd said or done the right things at the right times, and not embarrassed my uncouth, rednecked self in front of all of the wealthy, well bred socialites. That last year abroad I was free! Truly myself for the first time in a couple years.

Almost alone, yes. But free. And it felt great.

I'm not sure I'll ever understand women who play the social game. Who manage their social lives like a constant game of chess. Who determine each move, each activity, as if their very place in the social infrastructure depended on it. I see it all the time! Even here in rural Washington, amongst my church family. Sure, it's not as evil and toxic as the social scene in Songdo, South Korea, but it's still there. That Social Game, that determines who is at the top of the totem pole, and who is at the bottom. It's like we, as women, cannot get off of this awful treadmill that is the game. We get on when we're my daughter's age, and turn it up to a speed that makes it darn near impossible to hop off and catch our breath!

Well, I got off. I excused myself from the social game a year ago, and I've managed to stay out since. Even here in the USA I don't participate. I am back in my old church family, and while I see some cliques, some friendship groups that I'm on the fringes of, I just don't dig in too deep. I refuse to feed into the idea that if I'm not friends with the right people, or rubbing elbows in the right crowds, that I am not where I am supposed to be--with the people I'm supposed to be with.

I am where I need to be. I am with the people I'm supposed to be with. I don't have to be anything I'm not. I can be me, and either people will dig it, and stick around, or they won't, and they won't.

Either way, I'll be fine.

And for the first time in my 42 years, I'm really, truly okay with that.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Have you checked out my contemporary YA, The Art of Being Indifferent, yet? Drew and Posey's story was a labor of love for me, after a long and painful journey into the world of foster parenting....

I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. It felt like someone had poked a hole in my lungs, and I couldn’t fill them back up. The whole backdrop of the school, and the kids getting into their cars, and the auditorium and trees behind her all blurred. The only thing I could see clearly was my mother.
Right in front of me, after seven years.
“Do you recognize me, baby?” she asked. Her voice was rougher, like she’d been smoking a few packs a day for years. Which she probably had. “It’s me. Mama.”
Drew sucked in a sharp breath, and his grip around my waist tightened. “We should go.”
My mom shot him a narrow-eyed look that toed the line between annoyed and flirtatious. “My girl’s got a boyfriend. Good for you.”
I still didn’t say anything. Words—and reasonable thinking—eluded me.
“Po,” Drew said, his voice more insistent. He took my arm. “I think we should go. Seriously.”
“Wait.” I tugged my arm away and stepped toward my mom. “What... what are you doing here?”
She pulled a pack of cigarettes out of her pocket andshook one out. Her hands shook when she lit it. She caught me staring at them, and turned to blow smoke over her shoulder. “Sorry. I’m nervous to see you.”
“Why are you here?” My voice sounded different. Jagged, like I needed a cough drop, a kick in the head, or something. “How did you find me?”
“It wasn’t that hard to find you. Your high school was listed online.” She sucked on her cigarette, then flicked the ashes on the ground. “And since you blocked me, I decided to come find you for myself.”
Drew eyeballed her belly. “You sure smoking is good for your baby?”
I blinked. “Drew... this is my, um, mom. Celeste.” 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Want a little taste...

...of my contemporary new adult release, Breaking Girl Code?

Aubrey and Preston fall for each other, hard, while on the perfect date. The only hiccup? His real date is Aubrey's best friend, who is passed out in the back seat.

Check out a taste here:

He polished off his drink. “I’m taking you to the best swimming hole on the lake.”
“Okay, that legit sounds like a place where you’re going to murder me.”
“Well, I’ll be hard to surprise. I grew up here. I know every inch of this lake.”
He sighed happily. “I’ll take my chances.”
I finished the last of my drink. “Are you taking me where you were going to take Liza?”
“I told you.” He shook his head and we got off the highway. “I’ve been wanting to ask you out for a while. I came into the shop today to do it, and when you acted so damn annoyed with me, I wrote the card to your friend to get your attention.”
I squinted at him. “How did you know Liza was my friend?”
He shrugged. “When I met Liza at the beach, she mentioned she was waiting for her friend to get off work at the flower shop.”
Snorting, I said, “She could’ve meant my boss, Louise.”
“I took my chances.” We crested over a hill, and the forest grew thicker around us. “I thought maybe it’d make you jealous by putting Liza’s name on the bouquet. And when you didn’t bite, I texted her and asked if I could stop by. I asked her if she wanted to go to Becker’s party with me, and told her it was okay to bring a friend. I was just playing the game.”
I gawked at Preston. “Playing the what?”
He didn’t answer. Instead, we wound our way along the road that led down an incline back toward the lake. The pine trees were fragrant and the last drops of light from the sun sinking behind the trees to the west created a halo effect on the water. My stomach whirled with excitement. This section of lake was mostly comprised of preserved land, and the occasional unofficial campground. Wherever Preston Wallingford was taking me, it was gorgeous.
After turning onto a dirt drive, we maneuvered through a thicket of trees, the quiet between us strangely amicable. After a minute or two, we passed under a low hanging willow tree, exposing a swimming hole that’d been partially blocked off by stacked rocks, but was out of sight from the road a few yards back. The lake was still as glass, reflecting the light of the freshly risen moon.
Preston turned off the car and sang, “Ta da.”
I tried to stifle my grin, not wanting to show him just how impressed I was. “Ta da, indeed.”
“Well, what do you think?”
“I hate to admit it, but I’ve never been here.”
He grinned proudly. “Game, set, match, Snow White.”
Glancing in the back to make sure Liza was still snoring away, I replied, “You need a lesson on what girls like. Lesson one: girls do not like guys who play the game. So stop it. And lesson two: girls will love your secret swimming hole.”

Breaking Girl Code is available NOW as part of the
Once Upon a Summer Anthology!

Grab YOUR copy now--plus seven other stories by seven other talented authors--by clicking HERE!

Friday, July 27, 2018


I visited the rocky shores of Priest Lake this past weekend. This is where Camp Chimalis, in About That Summer, was based, and where I spent much of my childhood.

Utter and total bliss. This is my happy place.


Here are some shots of my favorite place on earth....and the woods where Molly, Rachael, April, and Bree all grew up.

  Ready to grab YOUR copy of About That Summer
Click HERE now...

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Hi everyone. Sorry I've been M.I.A. for the last month and a half, I was (joyfully) moving my children and myself back to the USA from South Korea.

My husband will be joining us in a few more days, and once that has happened, everything will be right as rain. We had a good run in Korea, I made it the FULL 3.5 years and I am super proud of myself for that--because South Korea is NOT an easy place to live as an expat. But we did it. We succeeded. And the reward was... we got to come home, and for that I am extremely grateful.

Alas, despite all of the dozens of awesome, amazing, and great aspects of our return, being home has forced me to face some of my demons head on. Demons that living 5,000 miles away made easier to ignore. Things like dysfunctional relationships that I'd chosen to ignore for 3.5 years, and the feelings of inadequacy and anxiety that being in close proximity to some of my family inevitably churns up inside of me. And now that I am back "home" in the USA, I am finding myself staring some of these uncomfortable relationships in the face, and it's been an uncomfortable wake up call for me. It was easier to avoid some of these feelings living all the way in Asia. Just saying.

 One particular issue that has come up is this: GHOSTING.

You know, I honestly didn't even know what "ghosting" was until several months ago when a crazy woman (the mother of a young man my daughter ever-so-briefly sort of liked/kind of, almost dated) berated me because my daughter had failed to text her son that day. She'd angrily demanded: "Is she GHOSTING him??" To which I quickly answered: "No! Of course not." Then I quickly googled "ghosting" to figure out what my daughter had just been accused of.

(Spoiler alert: she wasn't ghosting him. She just didn't have the need to talk to him constantly.) Another spoiler alert: my daughter's budding relationship with that young man (and his overly attached and alarmingly highs strung mother) never really took off. Neither did my friendship with the mom. Can't imagine why.

BUT...they did give me some food for thought, and I really appreciated their odd, bullish way of introducing me to a word that until six months ago, I'd experienced before, but never really knew the name for...

 Regardless, I did some significant soul searching, and discovered that I have fallen victim to "ghosting" a time or two, and I've even been the perpetrator of "ghosting!" Sometimes it's been because of something simple. For example, a friend and I just didn't find/make the time to hang out anymore, one of us moved away, we grew apart, and the drift between us just happened.

But a few times, it was (or at least felt) extremely deliberate and antagonizing.

See, I am more of a cut and dry person. If I don't like someone anymore, and I don't want to be in their life any longer, chances are, they know exactly why and when I decided to make the cut. I am not afraid to snip the strings and set someone free if the relationship isn't working. However, there have been times when I have just slipped into the shadows, gone radio silent, and hoped that the other person didn't lose their poop and try to burn my house down. Because sometimes people are weird and scary. For the most part, I think that the times when I've slipped silently into the background until I've faded out of someone's life have been met with gratitude.

I am well aware that I am no walk in the park to hang out with at times, and frankly, if I am annoying and upsetting someone, I imagine they want me out of their life as much as I want out of theirs. So in that case, I don't think "ghosting" was such a bad thing. It was more like the quiet and unassuming process of eliminating a toxic relationship.

But... There was, however, one circumstance where I was ghosted by someone of massive and epic significance to me.... and to put it mildly, it crushed me. Utterly crushed me. In fact, it's been years, and it *still* crushes me. Even now, as I am typing this, I feel sweaty, and my heart is beating out of my chest, and I feel all self-conscious and awkward. Even more awkward than usual, which is saying something.

I had a friend, who also happened to be a cousin, who was, to put it mildly, my kindred spirit. (Please tell me I'm not the only one who devoured the Anne of Green Gables series as a kid.) She was my closest confident in adulthood, knew everything there was to know about me, loved me when others couldn't, called me on my BS, celebrated me when I needed a cheerleader, and was my first text in the morning, and my last text at night. She was, second only to my husband, my very, very best friend. Until suddenly she wasn't anymore. Her life changed. Her job changed. She moved a few times. Changed relationships a few times. And before I knew it, she'd changed, along with everything else in her life.

Our daily, sometimes hourly, phone calls faded away. Our texts eventually became short, curt, and abrupt. Often times we didn't talk for days--but not because I wasn't trying. Because my efforts were falling on deaf ears. Before too long, our communication faded to once every few weeks, usually when she needed something from me, but never, ever to laugh, joke, and lament on life with each other. Those days were gone. Often times my communication with this friend went either unanswered, or answered with a "Can't talk right now, call you right back!" text that would inevitably go unreturned.

 After a couple years of this, the relationship faded to nothing. When we would see each other at the rare family get together that I participated in, she would smile, laugh, and act as if nothing had changed. Our brief moments together were always wrapped up with a promise to text, a vow to get together, and "not disappear again," only to have the obvious happen within minutes of pulling out of the driveway. When I moved abroad, she didn't say goodbye. She didn't call or reach out on most of my summers visiting the USA. Despite my having the same phone number for the last decade, there have been no texts, no calls, nothing. It's been radio silence for years.

There was a time when we didn't make a move without consulting each other, where our lives were so intertwined that it felt uncomfortable to have major life events without including her. I lost a daughter. I lost a hundred pounds. I moved abroad. My son graduated and moved to Chile. I lost my father. To this day (something like 6 years later) I don't know what changed. She just faded into the background of my life, and never came back. And instead of feeling like it was a dysfunctional relationship we both needed to get rid of, I felt sick to my stomach. Rejected. Scorned. And inexplicably sad. Our last communication came within minutes of my father's life ending. In a sad, wracked frenzy, five thousand miles away from home, I texted the one person I wanted above everyone else on earth. I told her that I needed her, that I was angry and sad and raw and hysterical, and that I couldn't get through it alone.

Miraculously she replied, saying to keep texting, that she was there, and would get me through this. So I did. I wrote a long message, pouring my guts out for her to help me sort out, and admitting the guilt I felt that my father had died while he and I were estranged, and how filled with rage I was that he'd been an alcoholic....and so on and so forth. I really laid it out there. I wish I hadn't. Hindsight being 20/20 and all that. She never wrote back.

 I waited seven months for her to write back, but she didn't. Then when I traveled to the USA for that summer visit, I waited for her to reach out to me, to ask if we could get together and talk. Hell, my Father had died and she'd ignored me! I honestly thought she would at the very least see me while I was in town. But nope.

 We're not friends anymore. We're cousins, yes, but since I am not close with my family, and she was one of the few relatives I still connected with, I'm not sure that title holds anymore, either. She does not like me, and after all these years, I have finally gotten it. It has sunken in, and I have come to grips with it. I still hurt, and I am still angry, because the one friend I valued above so many others literally ghosted me, even after my father died, BUT... I have made reluctant peace with it.

My current attitude towards the whole situation.....most of the time.

She got married a couple weeks ago. I don't know the man she married, and I was not invited. Frankly, I don't know her, either, but knowing she married without telling me stung. It doesn't mean that I would've gone. Honestly I'm not sure that a wedding would've been the right venue for a heart-to-heart reunion, or if she would've even been open for one, but not being invited or told or.... well, spoken to for the last six years... That's been tricky.

 Ghosting sucks.

Not all the time. Sometimes it's a necessary evil. Sometimes it's a cure for an uncomfortable, unmanageable relationship.

But in certain circumstances, it's a real b*tch. I wish I'd never had this experience. Not a single day of my life has gone by over the last few years where I haven't wished things with that friend had gone differently, and I've spent many a moment crying and praying for a random text that never comes. In the meantime, I remind myself of this:

Thank you, crazy lady whose son my daughter dumped, for teaching me the name of what was done so thoughtlessly to me. At least I know what to call it now.

 xoxo Brooke

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Look what's coming SOON!?

Squeeee! I am so excited to share The Art of Being Indifferent with you all! Drew and Posey's story came to me after a long and arduous journey into the world of foster parenting, and worked as a sort of therapy for me. I'm so pleased and proud that InkSpell Publishing is helping me present this story to a broader audience...I hope you all love it as much as I loved writing it.

Here's what it's all about:

When opposite worlds collide...

Posey Briggs has a chip on her shoulder the size of Whidbey, the island off of the Washington Coast where she's stuck with her annoying foster family, and their band of mismatched, screw up kids. The last thing she needs while she rides out these last few months until she's eighteen and finally free from the system, is to be saddled with some bogus tutoring assignment given by an English teacher with a God complex.

Drew Baxter has the world in the palm of his hands. Best athlete in school, coolest guy on campus, nailing the hottest girl in school whenever he wants. What more could he ask for? Except for his dad to stop making his life a terrorizing game of whose face will get pounded tonight? He'd rather do just about anything other than sitting around listening to the school loser lecture him about Shakespeare every day.

Sometimes the universe has a way of thrusting two people together, even though they'd rather drink poison than sit across a library table from one another. And in this case, the universe knew something Drew and Posey never saw coming: they would become the single most important person in each other's lives, and save each other from completely unraveling.

Will the explosion save them or destroy them?

Ready for an excerpt? Yeah, me you go:

“You need to pass this class to graduate,” Mr. Kingston said gently. “I know you want to graduate. You might act like you don’t care, but I know otherwise. Am I right?”
Sniffing, I shifted my gaze to the window. It was raining. Again.
“Then let’s get the year started off on the right foot. Let’s get this grade up.” When I didn’t say anything, he tucked the charts back into his folder. “I’ve been thinking about how to help you, and I think I’ve come up with a plan.”
I pressed my lips together and sat up straight in my chair, still watching the window. I knew where this was going. This wasn’t my first rodeo. Crossing my legs at the ankles, I pressed my thighs together so tightly they ached. If this sick bastard put one finger on me, I was going to kung fu this desk right into his face.
“I want you to tutor someone for a while,” he said after a very dramatic pause.
Wrinkling up my face, I looked at my teacher through the corner of my eye. “Excuse me?”
Mr. Kingston chuckled. “I knew you could talk.” He leaned back in his seat and folded his arms across his chest. “Listen to me. I am willing to help you earn extra credit by working with a fellow senior. His grade is weak right now, and he could use a real boost to get the scholarship he’s got his eye on. I think a student with a passion for literature is exactly what he needs. That’s where you come in. I would help him myself, but my wife is very pregnant, and I’m needed at home as much as possible. I think this is a way for us all to get what we need.”
My stomach tightened. “Him?”
He nodded. “Uh huh. He’s in this class with you. Drew Baxter. Do you know him?”
I groaned and closed my eyes. Of course, I knew him. We only had five hundred kids in this school, and the popular ones were practically hailed as royalty, by not just the kids, but the adults, too. It was insane to watch. Parents stopped and pointed out the star athlete to their little kids like they were spotting a damned unicorn. And when the son of Twisted Tree’s mayor, Curtis Baxter, came into the one and only convenience store in town, suddenly there was no line to pay for fuel. No charge for a pack of gum. No wait to get to the pump.
It was sickening to watch, really.
“Yes, I know him,” I said through clenched teeth.

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