Authors: Rachel Schieffelbein
Tags: #social issues, #mother daughter relationship, #teen romance, #fairy tale, #love and romance, #Rapunzel, #retelling, #family relationships, #young adult romance, #adolescence
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The author makes no claims to, but instead acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the word marks mentioned in this work of fiction.
Copyright © 2014 by Rachel Schieffelbein
DON’T FALL by Rachel Schieffelbein
All rights reserved. Published in the United States of America by Swoon Romance. Swoon Romance and its related logo are registered trademarks of Georgia McBride Media Group, LLC.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Published by Swoon Romance
Photography by Beth Mitchell
Cover design by: taylor.ink
opyright © 2014 by Swoon Romance
For my daughters, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Margaret.
May you continue to be as brave, as imaginative, and as loving as you are now.
Your mirth is medicine. Your satisfaction is my bed.
Your face is a Shakespeare sonnet,
Your enthusiasm is my best friend.
Your mirth is medicine.
Your mirth is medicine.
Defeat my plight with your delight.
And when you shine you shine the brightest,
and all I can give back is my best.
-Dan Conway, Don’t Catch Me
The nonfiction side of the library was my favorite, not because I liked to read nonfiction, but because it was beautiful and quiet. Just like Anya when I first met her.
I was sitting next to one of the big windows in the back, trying to escape the summer heat, when I heard a click. And then another. I spun around and caught a glimpse of her between the shelves. She tried to duck behind them and hide, but wasn’t quite fast enough. A blur of blond hair and a black camera. How could I not be curious?
I got up and walked around the dusty bookshelves to where she stood, her back pressed against the books, biting her bottom lip.
“I’m so sorry,” she said in a rush. Her left hand flew over her face, and her right one gripped her camera against her stomach. “I’m not a crazy stalker person or anything, I swear.” Slowly she dropped her left hand and looked at me.
Light blond hair fell loosely around her very pink face. Her eyes were so big and so blue, like a princess in a chick flick. “I’m a photographer,” she said. “I mean, an amateur photographer.” She fiddled with the strap of her camera and avoided eye contact. “It was just… the light… from the window.” Her words came out in small bursts. She looked through the books to the window where’d I’d been sitting.
The library was split into two parts, the new addition and the old original. The addition housed the fiction, the children’s section, the computers, and all the noise and distractions. The original structure held the nonfiction, an old couch, a table, and a few desks below the big, open windows.
“It just made a really neat photo.” Her cheeks went from pink to full out red.
I laughed. I couldn’t help it. She was just so embarrassed, so cute. “Can I see the picture?”
She looked up at me then, surprise on her beautiful face. “Um, well, it’s not… I mean, it doesn’t necessarily look like much now. I’ll have to edit it some. That is, if you don’t mind?”
“Yeah, sure. I’m not going to make you delete it or anything.” I laughed again. It’s not like I was some celebrity whose pictures she could sell to a trashy magazine. Even if I was, I couldn’t imagine pictures at a library would sell for much anyway; not a lot of drama there.
I was curious to see them, though, to see what had made her want to take my picture. I wasn’t exactly Mr. Stunning. She’d said it was the light.
“You could, you know. Make me delete them. I should have asked your permission. It’s just that then the pictures wouldn’t have been candid anymore,” she said to the books, running her finger along their spines.
“I tell you what, how about we make a deal. I won’t make you delete them, but you have to come back here and show them to me once they’re edited.”
Her mouth opened, then closed, and her head moved from side to side. Just a little bit, though, more like a tremble than a shake. I felt bad. I’d clearly made her uncomfortable. I was about to tell her never mind, don’t worry about it, but then she nodded. Once.
“Okay.” One side of her mouth turned up in a sexy little half-smile. “I come to the library every Tuesday and Thursday.”
“Same time Thursday then.” I grinned, and her smile grew to match mine. “It’s Zander, by the way.” I held out my hand.
“Anya.” She gave me a firmer-than-expected shake, turned on her heels, and strolled away between the books, her light, yellow-flowered dress moving back and forth with the sway of her hips.
I wanted to turn around and steal one more look at him, but I knew he’d probably sat back down already. It was more fun to stride ahead, pretending he was watching me walk away. I gave a little extra swing to my step.
But as soon as I got out of the library, I practically ran home. I texted Mom the moment I got in the door, like I always do, to let her know I’d gotten home safely. Our town is about the size of a fish bowl, and yet it still took forever to convince her I could walk to the library on my own. Texting her when I leave, and when I reached my destination was part of our deal.
I sat in the window seat in my room, my back to the glass. I adjusted the contrast and the colors in his pictures to make them look just the way I wanted them to. When I finished, I could have moved on to the next photo, but clothes hanging from a line just weren’t nearly as interesting. So I stared at his portrait.
The light from the window lit up his face, which was lined in deep concentration. A book rested on the table in front of him, and he leaned down over it, one hand on the page, holding it open. The button-up shirt he wore was rolled up to reveal his lean forearms. Messy dark hair fell across his forehead. Between the bookshelves, it looked black, but with the light behind it, it was full of dark red highlights.
His eyes were different in the picture than they had been when he confronted me by the books, too. In the shot they’re serious, the scholar deep in thought. But when he stood in front of me, they were light, playful. Laughing at me. At how embarrassed I was. It was better than being yelled at, anyway.
I wished I could have taken a picture of him then, too. His dark brown eyes shining, his mouth curled up in a little smile. A smile just for me. At least, that’s how I would remember it. The truth was, I didn’t need a picture. It was ingrained in my memory.
And in a couple days I would get to see him again. My heart skipped a beat at the thought.
There was a small knock on my door before it swung open, and I quickly clicked to the next picture. My mother, the reason I’d put my back to the window and my face to the door in the first place, swept into my room.
“Hello, dear,” she said, walking to where I sat. “What are you up to?” She peeked over the top of my computer to look at the picture I was working on, her eyes narrowing as she considered it. Little kid clothes, a tiny skirt and three pairs of tights in different patterns and colors, hanging from a clothesline. I planned to change it to black and white, but hadn’t yet. I’d been too busy daydreaming about a boy I didn’t even know.
“That looks…” She paused, rubbing her hand over her chin like she does when she’s struggling for something nice to say. “Cute.”
“It’s not done,” I explained, but she’d already turned to face the mirror on my dresser. She pulled at bobby pins, releasing her beautiful red hair from the bun it was caught up in, and I wished for the millionth time I had hair like hers. Vibrant red like the setting sun. If you looked closely you could see a few strands of gray, but you would never guess my mom was over fifty.
I watched her run her fingers through it, smoothing out the knots, and played with my pale braid. When I was young it had held a hint a red, but now was just boring blond.
“It was a long day. I’m sorry I’m late getting home.” Mom turned and looked at me, dark circles hanging under her eyes. “What do you want for dinner?”
Even when it was a late night, she insisted on making me dinner; we never ordered pizza or Chinese food. She always tried too hard to be the perfect mom. Sometimes pizza would have been nice.
“Whatever you want,” I said with a smile. She patted my cheek like I was still five years old and left me alone again.
I listened to her heels on the hardwood floors to make sure she wasn’t going to swing back in with another question or a suggestion for dinner, then pulled Zander’s pictures back up. I had taken several. Some were full-length shots, showing the curve of his back and the arch of his neck as he leaned over his book, but my favorite was the close up. I ran my hand over the screen, following the line of his jaw, and wondered what he was reading.
Maybe when I saw him on Thursday I’d ask. Or maybe I’d stand in front of him, tongue-tied, like a stupid teenage girl who has no experience being around beautiful men. That was far more likely. It’s what I was, after all. I wasn’t really used to being around anyone, much less guys with dark, sexy eyes that made my head spin.
I hadn’t had a lot of socializing. To say my mother was over-protective would be an understatement. Although, I understood why she didn’t have a lot of trust in the rest of the world.
I went to the library twice a week, walking or riding my bike and looking for cool shots along the way. That was pretty much the extent of my adventures, other than the ones I read about in my favorite books, curled under the covers in my room. Beyond pathetic, I know. So you can’t really blame me for having a wild imagination. Books and the inside of my head were basically the only places I could go for some excitement.
And I made up some pretty great excitement for me and Zander that afternoon in my head, staring at his photograph. I dreamed up a whole relationship, filled with passion, until my mother called me downstairs to eat.