Author: Kate Givans
Series: Tortured #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Romantic Drama
A contemporary romantic drama about loss, healing, and love's ability to reach beyond scars and secrets, no matter how deep or hidden.
WARNING: This book is intended for 18+ readers ONLY. Potentially triggering content and concepts in books to follow.
More than a year after the death of his best friend, Josh is still tormented by the past. Everything changes when free-spirited Willow barges into his life. She challenges him, helps him feel something other than the overwhelming pain, sadness, and anger.
There’s just one problem.
Underneath that carefree spirit, Willow is elusive and secretive. Josh believes she may be fighting a few demons of her own, but he harder he tries to uncover the truth, the more she pushes him away.
Can Josh get her to open up before it’s too late? Or will he discover that some secrets are better left untold?
Quirky, clumsy, and always a little off-key, Kate Givans has always loved books and the words contained within. Now that she’s writing the stories, she’s filling them with broken characters, angst, and even a few of those happily-ever-afters that seem to evade us in real life.
When not writing, this gypsy-hearted wife and mother of five can be found guzzling coffee, day-dreaming, dancing for no reason at all, playing with the voices in her head, watching her favorite shows (Originals, Grey’s, OUAT, The Following), listening to music, and reminding herself to “breathe.”
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I was still trying to sort out the opening when a knock came at my door. My heart flipped for a few rapid beats. The only person it could be would be appalled by how bad I’d let the mess get.
“Hold on, Mom!” I yelled at the door.
Completely abandoning the trash bag, I started stuffing pizza boxes, empty chip bags, snack cake wrappers, and soda cans into the cabinets and drawers, under the couch, into the entertainment center – basically anywhere they would fit. The pounding was getting louder, most likely because my mom both worried and annoyed about being left out in the cold to wait. “Coming!” I hollered, making my way to the door, glancing around the apartment quickly. I still had a sink full of dishes, but at least the mess was contained t just one area. “I’m okay, Mo---“
The rest of my sentence fell flat when I pulled the door open. If it had been summer, a fly probably would have flown in my mouth. Standing there on my doorstep was the last person I ever would have expected to see.
“Expecting someone else?” Annoyance plagued her furrowed features, but I could tell she was trying to suppress a smile. Satisfaction at surprising me, maybe?
“Uh, no. Not really. I just…”
“Didn’t expect to see me?”
Heat rising in my neck and spreading through my cheeks, I stumbled through my words, racking my brain for any excuse that sounded at least somewhat plausible. “No…I mean, uh—I did, just. I—“
“Forgot?” She lifted one perfectly shaped eyebrow at me.
“Yeah. Forgot.” A lie, but it was better than trying to explain the truth.
Her lips scrunched together and moved back and forth for a second as she chewed it over. Apparently, she’d decided it was sufficient enough; that grin that she’d been suppressing went on full display. I couldn’t help but notice how much her smile magnified the intense sparkling of her eyes.
“Well, no worries! I’m here now!” she exclaimed, stepping through the doorway, not even waiting for me to invite her in. She stopped in the middle of my living/dining area to face me. “You ready?” Still holding the door open, letting the cold air in, I stood there, staring at her like my brain had taken a vacation.
Besides being dumbfounded as to how she’d found me, I was extremely uncomfortable about having her in my apartment. I hadn’t had a girl there in…well, never, unless you counted my mom and Brad’s girlfriend, which I didn’t. And I didn’t even know this girl, which made the entire thing awkward and wrong on so many levels. But somewhere else, somewhere deep inside, it almost felt right, like she somehow belonged there.
Shaking the ridiculous thought from my head, I found my voice. “Uh-sure…just...give me a sec.” She nodded her silent response and then took to looking at the various posters hanging on my walls.
Even in an alternate universe, no good could come from having this mess of a girl in my apartment. But I was going to go with her, it seemed, despite my own best advice to steer clear of all things Willow. I guess it got her out of my place, at least. After that…I’d find a way to get her out of my head and out of my life.
That’s what I told myself, anyway.
“No rush,” she called over her shoulder as I made my way to the bedroom.
Sorting through the pile of clothes on my bed, I tossed half of them on the floor again. They would have ended up there eventually anyway. I eventually decided on a white and navy blue striped long-sleeve polo. After pulling my t-shirt over my head, I tossed it on the floor and then pulled on the polo. I was just fixing the hem when I had the distinct feeling of being watched.
I turned to look at the door, which I’d stupidly left open. Leaning against the frame, Willow stood there, looking at me, a stupid smirk on her face. “Don’t you ever knock?” I asked, heat warming my ears.
“The door was open. I was just going to ask you if you had any water.” She pointed in the direction of the kitchen before crossing her arms over her chest. “I wasn’t expecting a show.” Her eyes swept over me, head to toe, giving me the sense that she’d been trying to undress me with her eyes. I didn’t know if I should be flattered or embarrassed.
This wasn’t a new conflict. Even though I’d only just met her, I always felt this internal struggle when she was around. It was worse when she focused those eyes on me, giving me the sense that she could see right through me. Maybe that was what she wanted me to think. Or maybe I was going crazy. Or maybe two years of not getting laid was starting to really wear on me.
Willow didn’t really seem like my kind of girl – trailer park, too comfortable around guys, always into trouble. And I wasn’t the kind of guy to just use women for sex. In fact, I could count the women I’d been with on one hand – two in high school and one in college, all three former girlfriends that I’d dated for no less than six months. But I couldn’t deny that there was something there with her. I thought about her when she wasn’t around, and whenever she landed in my path, I found myself agreeing to spend time with her, even though I was sure I didn’t want to.
“Um, earth to Josh!”
Great, now I was getting lost in my own head. “Sorry, what?”
“Oh, yeah. In the fridge.”
She disappeared from the doorway. A few seconds later, I heard the fridge door open. In just a few more, she was leaning in the doorway of my bedroom again. At least my body wasn’t on display this time.
“So…just wondering…how did you know where I live?” I asked, shoving my feet into a pair of Doc Martins.
Willow took a big swig of water before answering. “A stalker never reveals her secrets.”