Each heartbeat leads Joss closer a shocking truth that will change everything.
Joss Olstad has finally talked her clingy, stoner mom into springing Joss from her stifling private school and into the labyrinth of a prestigious Brooklyn public high. Searching for “a way out, a way in, and something I can’t even put into words, yet” Joss longs to find missing pieces of herself she lost when the father she never met died on a faraway road in India. All she has of him is a painted box he made. Joss is also itching to escape the hippie hell of her mother’s bong shop, and the hypocrisy that is her life. With her honey skin, and long brown hair, she passes for white, even though she’s half Indian. This culturally diverse school will be her chance to find out who she really is.
Day one, and Joss is terrified by how different things are. Has she made a horrible mistake? Before long, she gets into the pace. Her sights are set on her own “Bobcat in black denim”, the tall, handsome Will Torres. She’s met Katya too, a popular glam queen, who’s a blast to hang out with. She’s even joined an Indian Culture Club, who invites her to live music clubs. Life is perfect!
Or is it? Her friend, Katya starts acting like a royal slut, her mom’s flinging insults and lies at her, and the Club girls are pressuring Joss to reveal her sketchy pedigree. Joss finds herself spinning stories about her past to fill in the holes. Even Will becomes leery of her. And the Personal Iconography class that Joss signed on for because kids claimed the teacher was “nuts in a good way” is the toughest class she’s ever taken. In it, Joss starts to make her own, heart-shaped boxes, with private messages in them. They help guide her forward. Not only is she forced to figure out who she is beyond the “nice girl” she always hid behind, her search leads her to the fringes of the outer boroughs, to a scary industrial section of Queens, and a shocking family secret that changes everything.
In just a few days, I’ve morphed from nice girl into floozy guy magnet. Some guys in my old school said I was pretty but this is extreme. Maybe my new amber perfume contains some pungent pheromone operating on a purely animal level. If encouraged, Trenton would, no doubt, be a wild beast. Eek.
“So, chica? Wake up! Whaddya say?” Trenton musses my hair. The pressure of his hand feels good and bad. His breath on me smells of glazed donuts. How to tell him without hurting him that I don’t like him “that way.”
“There you are.” Another male voice pumps my hormones big-time.
“Will!” I leap away from Trenton. But not before Will notices, because his body curls in on itself, wounded. He strolls in anyway, tries to be blasé. His eyes fix on Trenton, and Trenton stares right back. They’re two male dogs, ready to pounce.
Trenton breaks the stare first. He springs up, shoots an imaginary basket and bounce-steps on over to the CD rack. “Hey, bro’ I was just asking Joss here, to recommend some tunes. I don’t know nothin’ about world music.” Trenton’s tone suddenly shifts to sheepish. He’s caved in to Will, the alpha dog.
“Is that so?” Will takes his time approaching the shop counter.
I have to be the bold one, need to fix it. “Hey, Will.” I come around to the front. “I’m really happy to see you.”
His speckled eyes meet mine, open a door in me and fill it with warmth. I feel the prick of tears. Stupid girl, you almost blew it.
“I’m happy to see you too.” Will takes my hands and squeezes them. Oskar’s touch was creepy-crawly, Trenton’s was what a brother’s might be, Will’s is liquid magic.
Catherine Stine writes YA and romance. Her novels span the range from futuristic to supernatural to contemporary. Her YA sci-fi thrillers Fireseed One and Ruby’s Fire are Amazon bestsellers and indie award winners. Her YA, Dorianna won Best Horror Book in the Kindle Hub Awards. She also writes romance as Kitsy Clare. Her Art of Love series includes Model Position and Private Internship. She suspects her love of dark fantasy came from her father reading Edgar Allen Poe to her as a child, and her love of contemporary fiction comes from being a jubilant realist. Visit her at catherinestine.com and subscribe to her newsletter for news of releases, workshops and appearances.
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