Reclaiming the Sand by A. Meredith Walters
Bully and victim.
Tormenter and tormented.
Villain and hero.
Ellie Mccallum was the bully. The Tormenter. The Villain. Taking what she wanted, stomping over anyone that got in her way. Feelings, futures, and relationships be damned. She felt no emotional connection to anyone or anything. A sad and lonely existence for a young woman who had come to expect nothing more for herself. Her only happiness coming from making others miserable.
Particularly Freaky Flynn.
Growing up, Flynn Hendrick was known only as “Freaky Flynn.” He lived a life completely disconnected even as he struggled to become something more than that boy with Asperger's. He was taunted and teased, bearing the brunt of systematic and calculated cruelty, ultimately culminating in a catastrophic turn of events that brought Ellie and Flynn’s worlds crashing down.
But then Flynn and Ellie grew up.
And moved on.
Until years later when their paths unexpectedly cross again and the bully and the freak are face to face once more.
When labels come to define you, finding yourself feels impossible. Particularly for two people disconnected from the world who inexplicably find a connection in each other.
And out of the wreckage of their tragic beginnings, an unlikely love story unfolds.
But a painful past doesn’t always want to let go. And old wounds are never truly healed…and sometimes the farther you try to run from yourself the closer you come to who you really are.
“Do you still play the guitar?” Flynn had asked me and it hit me that I hadn’t thought about playing music in years.
Not since I was sixteen. Not since going to juvie.
It was yet another thing I had lost and had made myself forget that I had enjoyed.
So of course the next time I saw Flynn, he handed me a battered guitar case and gave me a shy smile.
“What’s this?” I asked, slowly reaching out to take it.
“Open it,” Flynn grinned and I could only shake my head. I set the case down on his living room floor and bent down to release the clasps. I opened the top and stared down at a very used, but still beautiful, Taylor acoustic guitar.
“Shit, Flynn. This must have cost a fortune. Taylor guitars are expensive,” I exclaimed, hardly able to believe he had done this. He paid attention to absolutely everything. There wasn’t a thing about me that he hadn’t catalogued away and remembered.
Why did he care about me so much? What had I ever done to deserve it?
“Don’t cuss, Ellie,” Flynn reprimanded flatly. I chuckled and apologized.
I ran a finger down the worn neck. It was a lot nicer than the beater I used to have when I was fifteen. That one had a broken neck I had tried to fix with super glue. After my shoddy repair job it would never stay in tune. The frets had been cracked and chipped and it had been missing a couple of tuning pegs.
This one, while obviously second hand, was gorgeous. I carefully picked it up and sat down cross-legged, with the guitar resting in my lap. I wrapped my left hand around the neck, pressing down. I ran my fingers along the strings.
“I used to like listening to you play. I liked it when you taught me. I want you to play again. It made you happy. You used to smile a lot when you played,” Flynn said, sitting down beside me and watching my hands as they fumbled through the few chords I could still remember. It had been a long time, so I was rusty.
“I can’t believe you did this for me, Flynn.” My voice cracked and broke, the emotion strangling me. My tears embarrassed me.
But Flynn had reminded me that it was okay to cry. That tears didn’t make me weak. That letting them fall didn’t have to mean that I was broken. It could mean that I was coming back together.
Flynn placed his hand on my leg. I looked down to where he was touching me and then up at his face. He very rarely initiated touch. Physical and emotional intimacy on any level was a new thing for both of us. He wasn’t used to touching anyone. I wasn’t used to being touched by someone that actually cared about me.
But when he did touch me, my heart would with swell with the force of my feelings for him. To him I was precious and wanted. I had never, in all my life, been adored the way he adored me. Not when I was a child being shuttled from one foster home to the next. Not when I was a teenager and using sex as a means to connect. And certainly not as an adult when I had come to accept my emotional isolation and stopped trying to feel anything at all.
“Play something for me,” Flynn urged, his fingers pressing into my thigh. The warmth of his hand burned me.
I reached up and brushed his hair from his forehead. He stiffened but allowed it.
“Can I kiss you first? To say thank you?” I always asked him if I could kiss him. I was still feeling out his comfort level. And every time I asked, I held my breath until he consented. Waiting for that time he would finally reject me and turn away. I didn’t want to think about what I would do if that ever happened.
A. Meredith Walters Bio:
The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary and Paranormal romance including The Find You in the Dark and Bad Rep series as well as the upcoming stand alone romance, Reclaiming the Sand, and a dark new adult series for Gallery Books.
A. Meredith spent ten years as a counselor for at risk teens and children. First working at a Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault program and then later a program for children with severe emotional and mental health issues. Her former clients and their stories continue to influence every aspect of her writing.
When not writing (or being tortured with all manner of beauty products at the hand of her very imaginative and extremely girly daughter), she is eating chocolate, watching reality television that could rot your brain and reading a smutty novel or two.
A. Meredith is represented by Michelle Johnson with the Inklings Literary Agency.