Rage to Live (Finding the Strength #1)

Contemporary Lesbian Young Adult/ New Adult

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Can a young woman reveal her traumatic past to the woman who wants her to release the bubbling rage inside… her rage to live?

An act of violence tore Charlie’s existence, and her family, apart. In an effort to reclaim something like the life she enjoyed before, Charlie moves in with relatives in a different state. Charlie might be damaged, but she isn’t going down without a fight. With the help of her cousins, who attend the local college, she steels herself to repeat her final year of high school. On the university campus, she meets Arielle Forest, president of a popular sorority, daughter of the dean, and bisexual. Charlie is drawn to Arielle’s sunny outlook, but she can’t banish her doubts as romance blossoms. Does Arielle know what she’s getting into with Charlie and her unhealed wounds? Will she want to deal with the complications?

When Charlie’s past catches up to her, will she find the strength to keep fighting… or succumb to the call to escape all her pain for good?

 

 

Excerpt:

Once the door closed, I leaned against it to catch my breath. My reactions to things and people, especially strangers, didn’t make any sense. I should be in a better place than this. But then again, I’d been a hermit for the past year, barely leaving the house unless it was to visit some lawyer’s office.

I shut my eyes and tried cooling off. Outside, I heard Nisha speaking and Tris responding, but their voices were muffled. After a few more minutes, I left the bathroom but didn’t go into Tris’s room. If I had some sort of pathetic panic attack now, I would never be able to show my face at AGP again.

Embarrassed by my stupid reaction, I walked down the hall. Maybe I would go downstairs and sit in the foyer. It was big enough that I would have space to breath and hopefully not freak out if I met more AGP sisters. After turning the corner, I spotted a door with an Exit sign above it, along with another sign with an arrow and Roof. My curiosity got the better of me, and I opened the door, showing the stairwell. When silence met me instead of an alarm system, I shut the door and took the stairs up another level until I met a metal door. If it was locked, I would go back down. I turned the doorknob, and it opened.

I walked out on the concrete roof, which was more smooth than rough. There was a ventilation system and some piping near the edge. The ledge came to my waist. I walked toward the back of the building where I had a great view of the surrounding streets, including many trees and tall buildings. The tallest building had an arch with a bell.

The air up here was much crisper and not as warm. I leaned forward, dropping my head over the side of the ledge. Dizzy, I closed my eyes, enjoying the feeling. When the blood rushing to my head became too much, I straightened, and the world tilted to one side. Giggling loudly because no one would hear me and make fun of my horrible hyena laugh, I turned around and spotted a large tarp off to the right a few feet away.

Walking toward it, I noticed bright colors and block wording, a welcome for the incoming freshman class. There were various doodles and interesting symbols; some were Greek letters. I bent down to get a closer look at the drawings, but the sound of the door opening and footsteps scraping made me jump up and twist around.

A girl a few years older than me held paints and other art supplies in her arms. She stared at me, unblinking, making me step back. There wasn’t any judgment from her, only curiosity. While Nisha had stunned me with her flirtation and exotic allure, this one was attractive in a more bubbly way. She was of some ethnicity I couldn’t identify, with an almost golden brown hue and an abundance of honey-toned curly hair brushing her shoulders. She also had luminous brown eyes and lush lashes.

I blinked a few times, thinking I’d imagined her. She stepped closer to me, slowly lowering her supplies to the ground and then rising. I blinked again. She was barefoot, with gold painted toenails and a silver flower toe ring. She wore black running shorts and a matching sports bra, showing off a flat stomach and silver hoop belly-button ring.

“Like what you see?” she asked, her voice higher pitched instead of the smoky timbre I’d expected.

“Yes, you look great,” I said without thinking, then winced. “I mean you’ve done a great job with the sign.”

She laughed and then snorted. The sound tickled the middle of my belly.

“I’ll accept your compliment, whoever you are.”

“I’m Charlotte—I mean Charlie.” I backed up again and pressed against the ledge.

“Charlotte aka Charlie, how did you get up on the roof?” she asked, a pleasant and nonthreatening expression still in place as she continued staring at me.

“I saw the sign for the roof and came up here. I’m visiting one of the sisters,” I said, trying not to become too defensive. She was probably an AGP sister who had the right to question a strange girl on her sorority house’s roof.

“Which sister, Miss Brontë ?” she asked, quirking her lips.

“Brontë? That’s not my last name.” What the hell is she talking about?

“You’re missing my attempt at humor. Charlotte Brontë wrote Jane Eyre,” she said with a more smug expression.

“Oh, yeah. I read it my junior year of high school.” Most of the girls in my class had loved the book, especially the character Rochester . He was a bigamist douche, but I kept that to myself, not even revealing my thoughts to Matilda, who reread Jane Eyre every few months for fun.

“So, you weren’t named after Charlotte Brontë?” The woman spread out her art supplies.

She must have thought I wasn’t dangerous, since she didn’t glare at me. But she did peer up under her long lashes.

“People think I’m named after Charlotte from Sex in the City .” I rolled my eyes. I was the total opposite of the proper and constantly optimistic daydreamer, Charlotte. I was more like Miranda.

“I’ve never seen the show.”

My jaw dropped. “Seriously? I swear every woman over the age of sixteen has seen the show. You haven’t caught at least one episode? Not even repeats?” I’d seen my share of Sex in the City episodes, mainly because Matilda was a big fan. She owned the complete series on DVD. We would spend hours discussing Carrie’ s dates and men in her life, especially her two loves—Mr. Big and Aidan .

She tapped the bristles of her paintbrush under her chin. “I’m not a big television watcher. I prefer to spend my time reading or painting and drawing.”

Oh, she was one of those snooty, pretentious students. I waited for her to start making fun of me and assuming I didn’t have any taste because I watched cheesy television shows, but she just sat back on her heels and concentrated on her banner instead of on me.

Okay, then. Talk about awkward. “The banner looks great. You did it all yourself?” I moved away from the edge.

“It’s quiet up here.” She revealed a smile that made me want to give her one in return.

“You’re an AGP sister, right?” I had moved close enough that my feet touched the side of the banner.

“Yes, I am.” She sat back, rolling her head across her shoulders and holding a hand to her forehead to block the sun as she stared up at me. “I’m Arielle, and no, not like the one from the The Little Mermaid .”

I jerked in surprise. “You’re the president of AGP.”

She nodded and leaned back on her palms. “Now that we’ve shared our names, why don’t you tell me—”

“Charlie, there you are!” Tris stood in the doorway. Jo peered over her shoulder.

“Wow, the view up here is totes!” Jo ran out to look over the edge.

“Hey, Tris,” Arielle threw over her shoulder.

Tris came toward us with way too much concern on her face, all of which was aimed at me. “You had me worried. What made you come up here?”

“Curiosity. You’re not upset, are you? I’m not going to jump,” I said.

She shook her head. “That’s not funny.”

Arielle rose to her feet. “We haven’t had any jumpers yet.”

“Arielle.” Tris glared at her sorority sister.

“Tris, stop it,” I whispered, suddenly feeling smothered even though I was outside. “You better tell Jo to move away from the edge before she slips and falls off. But that would be an accident and not deliberate, right?”

“Whoa, what am I missing here?” Arielle twisted her belly button ring.

Tris started to talk, but I cut her off by lifting my hand. “Tris doesn’t understand my humor.” I shrugged, and with a tight-lipped smile, marched away.

Tris yelled my name, but I didn’t acknowledge her. When I got to the door, I swung it open, catching Arielle watching me with a blank face. I didn’t bother to check Tris’s reaction as I shut the door.

I hurried down the steps, my pulse rushing in my ears and my heart slamming against my chest.

 

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