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It’s the kind of situation most people would dread. Starting at a new high school, in the middle of my senior year, in a new town, in a new state. I know no one. No one knows me. That’s what I’m counting on.
A year ago, Aurora “Rory” Pine was just a normal teenage girl – just as sweet and naive as the fairy tale princess she was named after.
But this isn’t a year ago.
Rory is broken, and suffering from a new debilitating anxiety disorder, wrought with precarious triggers, she moves across the country to escape the source of her troubles. Her plan is anonymity, but that’s easier said than achieved for the new girl having a panic episode outside of calculus. The worst part? There’s a witness – and a gorgeous one at that.
Sam is a walking trigger for Rory. Incredibly handsome, built like the star athlete he obviously is, and undoubtedly popular, Sam outwardly represents everything Rory despises about high school. But as the fates keep throwing them together, a connection sparks that neither ever expected, and certainly can’t ignore.
But Sam has issues too, and Rory’s past won’t just stay in the damned past. When friendship evolves into something deeper, can a girl utterly destroyed by the worst kind of betrayal and a boy battling demons of his own ever have a normal relationship? Is that even what they want? Find out in NORMAL, a gritty story of trust and abuse, heartbreak and salvation, and if they’re lucky – love. This is not a flowery romance – not for the faint of heart.
Rory and Sam fell in love in NORMAL, and we all fell in love right along with them. Now see it all unfold through Sam’s eyes, and learn just how the new girl with anxiety issues stole the heart of the gorgeous heartthrob, and turned his world upside down.
You already heard the story. The one of how Rory and I fell in love, supposedly, even if she couldn’t handle it in the end. You know how it all went.
Or you think you do.
You only know her side. But I have my own point of view, and even Rory couldn’t know my thoughts in those few months it took for her to go from being a stranger to my whole entire world.
Every moment is permanently ingrained in my memory. In my goddamned soul. From the moment I stumbled upon the girl panicking outside of calculus – the one with the tight little body, the angelic face, and the fierce attitude – to the night she abandoned me in Miami. It was the sum of those moments that changed me irrevocably.
Our story isn’t over. I won’t let it be. But this, this is what happened so far, the way I saw it.
I’m Cap. Or Sam, to Rory. And this is my story.
After the horrors she’s survived over the past year, Rory never expected to find the one thing she certainly wasn’t looking for – love. But after the painful realization that her past has left her a dangerous liability to the person she cares for the most, she finally understands that for her and Sam, love means letting go.
Can two people hopelessly in love ever revert back to just friends? Neither Rory nor Sam knows for sure. But the one thing they do know – it’s the only choice they have.
As Rory recovers from a devastating assault, Sam will do anything to make sure it never happens again. But how far will he go to keep her safe? Their choices will change everything, and they will either bring them back together, or destroy them irrevocably.
Excerpt from Normal (Book 1)
I climb into the passenger seat of Carl’s Audi. She tells me that Tina is already at the party and we’ll meet her there. I look at the clock on her dashboard and estimate that I’ll need to kill about three hours before Mom goes to bed and I can sneak back home.
When we arrive, Tucker hands us both red plastic cups and points us to the keg, but I set mine down on the first flat surface I can find. I haven’t taken a pill today, but I still don’t really like to drink. Tina and Andrew are laughing and talking with a group of people and Carl goes off to join them while I hang back a few feet from the crowd. I watch as a minute later Tuck jogs over, slings his arm around Carl and plants an exaggerated wet kiss on her cheek. She playfully pushes him away, but it’s clear she doesn’t mean it. Everyone looks so happy and carefree… normal.
I don’t belong here.
I startle but catch myself quickly. Somehow I recognize Sam’s voice instantly, and his tone tells me he can tell just how much fun I’m having.
“Didn’t mean to sneak up on you.”
I shrug. “Tons,” I murmur, unenthused. “You?”
“A blast.” He matches my level of excitement. “Can I get you a drink?” he offers.
“I don’t really drink.”
“How about some water?”
He hands me his unopened bottle of Poland Spring, and my lips part to thank him, but for some reason I stay silent.
“You don’t seem to want to be here,” he observes.
I frown. He’s right, I don’t, but it’s rude of him to point it out, isn’t it?
“Neither do you,” I counter. Sam smiles, and it’s an unexpectedly wistful smile. I’m surprised by it. I’d expect something more cocky from such a gorgeous, confident guy.
“Touché… I have a lot on my mind.”
If he expects me to ask him about it, he’s going to be disappointed. Even though I find that I am interested to know what’s plaguing the mind of this beautiful boy, I worry that if I ask about his problems, then he’ll have the right to ask about mine. But he doesn’t give me a chance to ask, and I think maybe he didn’t want me to after all – maybe he didn’t even mean to say it.
“You wanna go for a walk?” he asks, nodding in the direction of the open grassy area that leads to what appears to be a pond.
Is he seriously hitting on me?
He doesn’t even know me, and the one thing he does know is that I obviously have issues. He probably thinks the crazy ones are easy. My eyes narrow. I straighten my shoulders indignantly and square my stance. False confidence all the way.
“No. I don’t want to go for a fucking walk. I’m not gonna fuck you, or hook up with you in any way. Or anyone else for that matter. Spread the fucking word,” I growl. My throat is suddenly desert-dry, so I take a swig from his water bottle to soothe it, praying it doesn’t betray my anxiety.
Sam stares at me like I’ve just grown another head, so I turn and stomp away from the hordes of people, toward the pond, marching in the exact direction I just insisted I did not want to go. My heart pounds mercilessly, but this isn’t panic, this is anger.
Ugh! Guys! They’re all the fucking same.
“Hey!” Sam calls after me.
Can’t he just take no for an answer?
He catches up to me and his unexpected grip scorches the skin of my arm like wildfire.
I don’t think. I wrench out of his hold, turn, and smack him across his face. “Don’t touch me!” I hiss. “Don’t ever touch me!” We’re now far enough away from the crowd that no one notices us, but if I scream, they’ll hear me.
Sam’s fingers caress his cheek where my palm made contact, eyes wide and round.
“What the fuck is your problem, Rory?! I wasn’t fucking hitting on you!” He rubs his reddened cheek again. “Damn it!”
He wasn’t hitting on me?
My boiling blood starts to simmer and shame floods my veins. All of a sudden I can’t for the life of me remember what made me so certain his invitation for a walk was code for a hook-up – what made me think he’d want me that way at all. God, if he didn’t already think I was crazy…
Damn it, Rory, don’t panic.
Sam is glaring at me, but something in my mortified expression must warrant pity, because he sucks in a deep breath and I can sense his anger begin to dissipate.
“I was… you just didn’t seem like you were up for a party. I thought you’d want to get away from all those people.” He gestures to the crowds, now off some distance, and shoves his hand through his messy chocolate locks in frustration. “I wasn’t trying to fuck you. I realize that we don’t know each other very well, but what about me that you know so far, exactly, makes you think I’m the kind of guy who would lure you down to a lake, lay you down on the dirty ground, and have sex with you with a hundred of our friends not fifty yards away?”
I swallow anxiously. I’ve offended him. Moisture pricks the back of my eyes and I will it to stay put. It’s beyond reason how much I’ve humiliated myself in front of this guy in just one week.
“I-” I choke back what threatens to be a sob, close my eyes, and silently count back from ten in double time. When I open them again, I’m greeted by his expectant midnight blue gaze. “I’m so sorry,” I breathe.
Sam exhales sharply, his fingers raking that familiar path through his hair . “Look, I shouldn’t have grabbed your arm like that. I wasn’t thinking,” he murmurs. Now he’s apologizing and I’m more than certain he has nothing to be sorry for.
“Not just for slapping you.” Oh God, I freaking hit him! “God, but I am so sorry for that. But I’m sorry for assuming- I wasn’t thinking. I…” I pause and look away. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” It’s a lie. I know exactly what’s wrong with me.
Sam’s expression warms, and it’s not full of pity either – it’s… compassion. Empathy.
He sighs. “There’s nothing wrong with you, Rory.”
I look away again, anywhere but at the deep blue oceans that unnerve me so. They seem to know more about me than they should. “Sure there isn’t,” I mutter bitterly under my breath.
Sam takes an abrupt step so he’s directly in front of me, silently demanding eye contact. His arm twitches, like he wants to touch me but thinks better of it.
“There’s. Nothing. Wrong. With. You.” He glares at me like he can convince me of this with just a look.
Everything in my gut screams that he’s a good guy. Like Cam. But if there’s anyone whose instincts can’t be trusted when it comes to guys, it’s me. I was even wrong about Cam. I thought I knew everything about him. But he was keeping his secrets, too.
But Sam saw me freak out. He knows I have issues, but no one else here does. Which means he’s kept my secret. Otherwise it would have been all over the school in a heartbeat. That’s got to count for something.
“Sam, you… thank you. I mean it, but you know that’s not true. And I know you didn’t tell anyone what happened my first day. When I…” I trail off and shake my head. He doesn’t need a recap, he was there. “Thank you for that. You’ve been nothin’ but nice to me. There’s nothin’ about you that would make me think anything bad about you,” I say meaningfully, answering his original question. “Except that you’re a guy,” I add quietly.
Sam looks sad for a moment, but offers me a weak smile anyway. “I was just hoping we could be friends. Just friends.” He covers his mouth and whispers conspiratorially, “no public fucking on the grass outside of parties. I promise Not even if you beg.”
I smile, but it’s a wistful smile, because I could never be Sam’s friend, even if something in my bones really wishes otherwise. But I no longer believe that guys and girls can really be just friends, and I’m too attracted to him to even try. I could never fully trust him, not really, and I could never trust myself with him.
“Why would you even want to be my friend?” I ask. Because really, if I were him I’d have fled screaming in the opposite direction.
He considers me a moment. “I don’t know, Ror, you just seem… real.” He shrugs. Something about the way he says “Ror” reminds me of Cam, and the memory of our friendship cuts me so deeply I wince.
“I wish I could be your friend, Sam,” I murmur.
His eyes are full of some unfathomable emotion, and I wonder how this conversation has grown so intimate. We barely know each other. When Sam speaks again his voice is so low it’s practically a whisper. “Who hurt you, Rory?”
I tell him the truth, matching his tone – barely audible. “Everyone.”
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Danielle Pearl is the Amazon and iBooks best selling author of the Something More series. She lives in New Jersey with her husband three delicious chidren. She is a life long book enthusiast who has been writing ever since she could hold a pencil.
Danielle went to Boston University and worked in marketing before self-publishing her debut, Normal, in August of 2014. She writes mature young adult and new adult contemporary romance. She is represented by Erica Silverman of Trident Media Group.
PSA: This is one of the best contemporary series I’ve ever read BUT it does contain serious triggers. For my reviews on Normal and Okay –> NORMAL review + OKAY review