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Authors: Laura Ward,Christine Manzari

The Color of Us (College Bound Book 2)

BOOK: The Color of Us (College Bound Book 2)
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THE COLOR OF US

College Bound Series #2

 

by

 

Laura Ward & Christine Manzari

The Color of Us

Copyright © 2016 by Laura Ward and Christine Manzari

Cover Design by: Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations

Cover Photo by: Sara + Jason of Concept Photography

Cover Models: Chris and Jacqueline Warner

 

All rights reserved.

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the authors’ imagination or are used fictitiously. The authors acknowledge the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products, brands, and/or restaurants referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

 

License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of these authors.

Dedication

To those who know the pain of losing a loved one.

Sheila and Mom—we lost you, we love you, we miss you.

 

And to Joe and Johnny, the men who held our hands and loved us through our grief. There is no one else we would rather chase rainbows with than you.

Chapter One

One violent, rainy night—that’s all it took to shatter my entire life.

In the aftermath of our tragedy, people tried to comfort me with treasured clichés.

Things happen for a reason. It was her time. She’s in a better place.
And the worst of all:
Every ending means a new beginning.

Nothing but lies.

Sometimes it was just the end. And the truth was, when things ended, there was no promise of a bright, new, shiny beginning. The only guarantee I had was that things would change.

I hated that things had changed.

The rain had stolen my rainbow, and I felt lost in the darkness of my grief. The storm it brought tore my life apart, leaving nothing behind but my broken family. And when my sister’s life ended, so did my rosy view of the future.

My days were now filled with things I didn’t recognize. Unusual silences. Empty places. Unfinished conversations. The pain came in waves, and sometimes I thought I might sink under the weight of losing her.

I always thought the worst part of grief was the moment when tragedy struck, but that’s not true.

The worst part was the collection of tiny moments that came after.

Moments like the night after the funeral when the last casserole was finished, and everyone went home. Or a few weeks later when I realized the consoling phone calls had long gone silent, and the last flower petal had withered away. It never got easier to see the empty chair at the dinner table every single night or to wake up to silence in the mornings—silence that my sister’s teasing voice and beautiful singing used to fill. Even hearing people laugh or seeing them smile, never knowing if I’d be capable of either of those things again, was painful.

The worst part was the finality of it all. Samantha was gone, and everyone just kept on living and breathing and moving as if my heart wasn’t some crushed, mangled mess inside my chest.

You were the best part of me, Sam, and I miss you so damn much.

***

“Time to get up, Alexis.” My mother’s order was quickly followed by a blinding brightness as she threw open the curtains in my bedroom.

“Mom!” The sunlight pierced through my eyelids, and I cringed, hiding my face under the blanket. “I’m sleeping,” I groaned.

Her footsteps echoed across my floor, and then my comforter was torn away. “You’ve spent the past few weeks in bed. You’ve got to get up and get out sometime.” Her voice softened, and my closed eyes stung with unshed tears. “Your father and I want you to try to enjoy what’s left of your break.”

I rolled over and wrapped my head in my pillow. Yeah right. Enjoy my summer. The only thing I enjoyed was losing myself in movies and books. That’s the only time I could stop thinking long enough to find peace.

“Today is your first day of driving school. You don’t want to be late.” Her voice wavered just enough that I peeled the pillow away from my face to brave the light streaming in through my windows to look at her.

My eyes narrowed sleepily as I stared at her. I tried to swallow, but my throat felt like it was clamped shut. Driving school? Was this some kind of sick joke? “What?”

“Come on. You’ve been looking forward to this.” She met my eyes with her patented calmness, but the way she clutched my comforter in her fists betrayed her. She held on to it like it was a lifeline that would keep her from drowning.

“Mom.” I shook my head. “That was before… I don’t… I don’t want to learn how to drive. Not after…”

She sat down on the edge of my bed. Her fingers lifted in my direction, but then she cleared her throat, and her hand fell to the mattress. “We’re all devastated by what happened, Alexis, but you can’t keep avoiding life. Sam wouldn’t want that.”

Avoiding life? I wasn’t avoiding life. I wanted life. Sam was life, and more than anything, I wanted her back. She pushed boundaries and lived on the edge. She was passionate and brave. She was charismatic and adventurous. The limelight craved Sam. Without her, everything just felt… less. Pointless. Lifeless. Colorless.

The only thing I was avoiding was the reminder of what I lost. I couldn’t bear to watch television or read the paper because I knew I would see a story about the accident. I didn’t want to know the details. It didn’t change the result.

“I don’t want to.” I rolled over, facing the wall. If there was one thing I knew, it was that Mom wouldn’t force me to go to driving school. No way. Not now.

“Alexis Marie Sinclair!” The pillow was snatched away from me, and my head crashed into the mattress. “Do not turn your back on me. I know you’re hurting, and so am I, but I’m still your mother. I know what’s best for you.” The mattress rose as my mom stood up. “So you’re going to get out of this bed. You’re going to get dressed. And you’re going to driving school,” she said with finality as the door clicked closed behind her.

Dammit. She took my pillow.

***

I walked into the small dark classroom of EZ Driving School and searched for an empty desk. I spotted one in the back row and went to claim it before I was forced to talk to someone. The desk had just enough room for a notebook and pen, and the top was covered in so much graffiti the wood was barely visible. I dropped into the seat and looked down at the scarred surface.

Right in the middle someone had written, “Speed is a tempestuous lover.” Next to that the words “Jesus Rocks” were carved near fancy script that said, “No Regerts.” I rolled my eyes and tried to ignore the urge to fix the mistake. Thank goodness it wasn’t a tattoo. That would have been truly regrettable.

My eyes roamed the rest of the artwork, which was mostly just a series of names and pointless phrases. I finally noticed that on the edge someone had scribbled a crude drawing of a dick. Nice. At least it was anatomically correct. I shook my head and covered it with my notebook. Out of sight, out of mind.

I took a deep breath and ventured a look around the classroom. Everything was dingy, and the air reeked of stale cigarettes and mildew.

If my mom thought this form of hell was better than my usual method of coping, she was sadly mistaken. I don’t know why she felt the need to drop me off at the curb of this godforsaken building. She left me with nothing but a wish to have a good time. Seriously? If she wanted me to heal and move on with my life, this was the last place I should be. I wasn’t capable of being normal or happy right now. Especially not if a car was involved.

I crossed my legs under my desk and opened my notebook, my hand shaking as I tried to forget where I was and why it bothered me so much.

“This seat taken?” A deep voice pulled me out of my dark thoughts, and I looked up to see… trouble. There was no other way to describe him. He was dressed all in black. Tight black T-shirt, black jeans, black belt, and black boots. Even the studded leather cuff on his wrist was black. His light brown hair was a messy, spiked jumble on his head. I couldn’t tell if he worked to make it look that good or if he just rolled out of bed and left his house without looking in the mirror.

He stared at me, and I finally managed to say, “No.” I watched as he folded his lean tall body into the seat next to me.

“Name’s Liam.” He acknowledged me with a gruff nod of his head, and I smiled politely in return.

There were plenty of guys like Liam at my school. They were usually off sneaking a smoke, cutting class, or causing general mayhem. I didn’t associate with them.

“Don’t have a name?” His head was tilted toward me, and he stared at me intensely. I feared he could see inside me, reading all my deepest, darkest secrets. His green eyes flashed with mischief, and I felt a twinge of guilt for not answering him.

“Sorry. I’m Alexis,” I said quickly. Why did I feel like I was out of breath? “I wasn’t trying to be rude.”

He nodded and bounced his leg restlessly underneath his seat. “Didn’t think you were.” His gaze traveled from my face and down my body in a quick scan. “You look a little old for this class.”

“Yeah, I’m eighteen. Just getting around to it.” I watched my finger as it traced the metal spine of my notebook before I looked up at Liam again. “You look a little old yourself.”

“I’m eighteen too. I already have my license, but I got myself into a little traffic situation.” He grinned and ran his hand through his hair, which only made it look more wild. “Asshat lawyer convinced the dipshit judge that repeating this lame class would put me on the straight and narrow.” He gave me an arrogant wink and sat back in his seat, stretching his legs out in front of him. “I wouldn’t bet on that one.”

I blinked a few times, staring at his cavalier expression. Wow. He was trouble with a capital
T
. My mom would hyperventilate if she knew I was talking to someone with a driving infraction—even if it was settled in traffic court.

Good thing I had no intention of telling her.

“All right people. Quiet down now.” A balding man wearing a short-sleeved button-down shirt and a tie entered the room. Conversations died out as students settled into their seats. “Good morning. I’m Mr. Weinberg, and I’ll be your driver’s education teacher. Let’s get started.”

I turned in my seat to face forward, preparing to take notes. Beside me Liam chuckled, and when I looked at him, I noticed he was staring at me with a smirk on his face. His hands were resting lazily on his desk, and he didn’t have anything with him to take notes.

“You’re taking this seriously, aren’t you?” His eyes were practically laughing at me as he nodded toward my pen and notebook.

My mouth opened to argue with him, but there was no point. Guilty as charged. I took everything seriously. I faced forward again and took down a few notes as Mr. Weinberg spoke.

“Hey, Lex?” The words were a husky whisper, and against my will, I turned toward Liam again. I wanted to tell him that no one ever called me Lex, but then he licked his lips and I almost stopped breathing. I decided then and there he could call me whatever the hell he wanted to as long as it came from that mouth.

“Yes?” I managed to say.

“You ever driven a car before?”

I swallowed and shook my head.

“If you want to learn to drive stick, I’m the guy for the job.” His gaze dropped to my desktop. When I saw where he was looking, I blushed ten thousand shades of red.
Christ on a cracker.
The dick drawing was peeking out from under my arm, and he was staring at it.

Liam chuckled, and I slid my notebook over to hide the drawing. He wasn’t just trouble, he was pure temptation.

What scared me was how much I liked it.

I turned my eyes toward the front of the room, my lips pressed together as I held back a smile. I desperately tried to ignore the guy in black who, strangely, made things feel a little less dark.

The rest of the class passed by as I took notes and avoided looking at Liam. We dismissed two hours later, and I quickly grabbed my things, knowing my mom would be expecting me to come out on time. I walked out of the building, searching the parking lot for her car.

“Need a ride?” Liam stood next to me, lighting up a cigarette and inhaling deeply.

“No, thanks.” I hugged my notebook to my chest and peered sideways at him. Smoking usually disgusted me, but Liam looked so effortlessly cool when he lifted the cigarette to his mouth. All I could do was stare. He was taller than I first thought—probably over six feet. Which, compared to my five-foot, four-inch frame, made me feel almost delicate. The T-shirt Liam wore was tight across his chest, and although he wasn’t bulky, he was muscular. I didn’t get the impression he was the kind of guy who worked out to be fit and in shape. He just… was. I shook my head as I realized what he’d asked me. “Wait, you’re still allowed to
drive
?”

He blew smoke out of the corner of his mouth and flicked the end of the cigarette with his thumb. “Judge didn’t take away my license. Instead, I get to spend my summer learning something I already know how to do. I also got three weeks of community service.” He took another drag. “Picking up trash on the side of the road.” Liam shook his head. “Figures."

“Oh.” That sucked. I couldn’t imagine Liam picking up trash. I cleared my throat. “Where are you going to school in the fall?”

“Cecil Community College.” He ran his tongue along the front of his teeth like he was getting rid of the taste of the words in his mouth. “You?”

“College Park.”

“Your last few weeks of freedom before you head off to the university, and you’re spending them in driver’s ed. Sweet.” Liam grinned and then took another long drag from his cigarette.

Mom’s minivan approached. “That’s my ride. See you tomorrow.” I smiled politely and gave him a small wave as I headed to the car.

“Wait,” he called out, and I turned to face him. “Can I get your number?”

“My number?” I tilted my head in confusion. Why on earth would the hot guy be asking for my number?

He shrugged, the motion causing his T-shirt to pull tight across his chest. My eyes had a mind of their own, dropping to greedily take in the view of his muscles as they flexed under the fabric. “In case I need to borrow your notes,” he said, bringing my attention back to his face. “I forgot to bring a pen and paper today.”

“Oh.” That made sense. I was used to being the designated nerd, the one people went to for study help. “Sure.”

BOOK: The Color of Us (College Bound Book 2)
12.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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