New Book Alert
In Shadow Heart, the first in the Broken Bottles series, we see Nicky Young cowering under the dining room table as the watches her father's alcoholic rage. She learns through this kind of abuse that she is not safe and it's up to her to make her way in life. And make her way is all that is on her mind, as she continually maps out her plan and pursues her education every day, striving hard to get into Stanford.
The Goliaths, a professional baseball team, has accepted Nicky’s proposal to feature a high school “cheer team” at their games, an idea that she has spent many months researching. Impressed by Nicky’s initiative and business sense, the Goliaths’ management has agreed to write her letters of recommendation that will give her an edge with Stanford’s admissions office.
Everything is going exactly according to Nicky’s plan. Until the Goliaths’ star player, Ryan Tilton, sets his sights on her. At 6’2”, with blue eyes, golden brown hair and biceps that are a beacon to women, Ryan appears to have it all.
But very few people know the real Ryan. When he was 14 years old, his father left home to fight in Afghanistan, and in a moment of adolescent anger, refused to say goodbye. Soon after, his father was killed in combat.
The loss forever changed him, and, in college, he worked hard and played hard. Now a Goliath, Ryan has a different woman in his bed every night, but he has never fallen in love. He has kept his heart well protected. Until the smart and very innocent Nicky Young, a woman coming of age, with the alluring curves of a woman, enters his life.
From the moment he spots her, Ryan is convinced that Nicky is the one; the one he has been longing for to fill the emptiness and regret he has carried with him since his father died. And Ryan is a man used to getting what he wants. Determined to win Nicky body and soul, Ryan sets out on a slow and steady plan of seduction.
At first, Nicky resists Ryan’s attentions, certain that he is playing an elaborate joke at her expense: Ryan Tilton could have his choice of any woman—why would he waste his time on a high school girl? Besides, in Nicky’s world, letting someone get close means getting hurt.
Except that Ryan has awakened feelings of desire that Nicky, a virgin, has never felt before. That smile. That chest. Those arms. As the heat rises between them, Ryan disappears with the promise that he will be back again when Nicky turns 18.
Senior year arrives, and Nicky is accepted to Stanford. On the brink of independence, she starts to let loose her wilder side, her “evil” twin, as she calls her. She flirts with her childhood friend, Jerry, and their relationship takes a romantic turn.
Meanwhile, as promised, Ryan returns to Nicky’s life after her eighteenth birthday and wages an all-out campaign to make her his girlfriend. As Ryan reveals himself to Nicky, she becomes increasingly drawn to this complicated and compassionate man. But she also remains wary of letting down her defenses.
As the daughter of an alcoholic, trust does not come easily to her. While Ryan makes her feel out of control in a way that both frightens and excites her, Jerry tempts her with the sweet comfort of familiarity, leaving Nicky deliciously caught between the kisses of a boy and a man, Jerry and Ryan, with each one pushing her to go all the way.
Early lessons: Nicky Young
I always prayed the same way at night:
“Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord
my soul to take. Please bless my mother, father, sister, everyone in the
world, and me. And please make my father quit drinking.”
This is what I know as a child growing up in a family battling
Something bad is coming; it always does.
I can’t ask for help; I’m too ashamed.
I can’t talk about our secrets; no one else understands.
I can’t trust anyone; they always leave.
Fear rolls out before me like a red carpet. It’s stained red with the blood of my family’s secrets.
My name is Nicky Young. My story begins when I am eight and my sister is eleven.
We were only trying to have dinner before he unraveled. Now I’m cowering as I pray under the dining room table that he won’t see my hiding place. My small body shakes as I watch my sister face the wrath of our father’s anger.
It’s as if the desert storms from our mother’s childhood have come to us, their thunder and lightning are crashing.
“Please God,” I beg. “Protect me from the monster in my house.”
As little girls we spend most of our nights, like tonight, trying hard to avoid our dad’s drunkenness and counting down the minutes until our mom comes home from her night shift at the Juvenile Hall in San Francisco.
Jenise and I are being wrapped in our father’s horror as if he’s become a spider and we’re in his web, ready to be harmed, all because of a can of creamed corn and my sister’s defiance.
“Once he’s done with Jenise,” I say only to myself. “When he’s whipped her enough so that her sobs become quiet hurt, I know he’ll turn to find me.
“Once he’s done . . . he’ll look for me. Once he’s done . . .” I say to myself over and over.
The words weave into my prayers as I clench my teeth in fear and shake under the dining room table.
Before my escape here, before he tore his belt from the loops of his pants, before my sister told him what he did wasn’t good enough, we were waiting for dinner. I don’t understand how his daughters, only wanting to eat something we like, made him explode.
As I sit in the blue vinyl booth in our kitchen and my sister in my mother’s chair, even I can hear his silent screams; wretched, twisted, and in such despair.
“How come he’s mad at us?” I whisper to Jenise. “What did we do?”
“Shh,” she says to me, putting her anger to her lips.
It’s as if sparks are igniting around him, irritating his skin. A red, angry, face takes the place of the genius I once admired him to be. Tonight, he paces, walking the floor, back and forth. His silent explosions are loud.
Does he only care about his whiskey now?
Why won’t he choose us over his bottle?
How come he won’t stop?
Sometimes I feel like we’re all pushed to the edge of going crazy. I’m taken over with the thought, “We’re in his way, and he hates us for it! Oh, God, our father hates us.”
Jenise and I make faces when our dad opens a can of creamed corn to serve us for dinner. He doesn’t care that this is the one food my sister and I hate more than anything.
I can see leftovers in the refrigerator and other cans of food stacked in the cupboard we like, but it doesn’t matter. It feels like we could’ve been given garbage to eat if that was the nearest and easiest thing for him to grab.
As the opener tears at the metal of the can, grinding jaggedly and twisting it a circle, we sit and wait, and quietly understand: we’re going to bed hungry.
But we also know tomorrow our mom will reward us with presents for being good girls. It might be a new doll, or maybe she’ll treat us to a movie, or her favorite . . . bringing home a supply of sugary snacks.
I can already taste my favorite candy bar—milk chocolate covering caramel and a cookie. But if she brings me a quart of chocolate chip ice cream, that’s just as nice.
“Yuck,” I say to myself as I take a spoonful of the cold, canned corn, forcing it down so I can please dad and get out of the kitchen as fast as I can. We swallowed everything that way—one spoonful at a time to survive.
Jenise isn’t eating.
“Jenise,” I whisper. “Eat.”
Why won’t she eat? She will not give in. No, my sister isn’t that kind of peacemaker. She doesn’t seem to hear his feet pounding the kitchen door, waiting, angry, as he counts down the minutes to send us to our baths and then to bed.
I watch in dread, afraid for what’s coming as her little body becomes rigid, bracing for what even she knows will be a storm. She’s daring him! Oh no, don’t!
She plants her feet firmly on the black and white squares of linoleum and refuses every kernel.
“We don’t like creamed corn,” my sister says stubbornly.
His night, there’s no protection from the explosion lying just under his surface. It’s ready to boil, ready to burst, ready to—punish.
“Eat it now,” my father warns. His voice is detached and cold.
But my sister, my hero, she will not back down, and now my father’s face is a brilliant red, and his demons, the ones I’ve seen before, take him over.
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