Seventeen-year-old Julia Wright doesn’t understand her friends’ obsession
with boys. She proudly maintains her composure no matter who is in her
presence – though some annoying and rude boys still manage to grate her
last nerve. Then she is blackmailed into being the manager of the men’s
swim team, and finds herself face to face with the worst of them all.Team Captain Vander Thelxinoe is the typical self-assured jock. He has the
ability to change people’s minds at will, only his charms don’t work on
Julia. Now he’s anxious to figure out why, and the closer he tries to get,
the more desperate she is to stay away – especially when he somehow
awakens a side of her she never knew existed.
Their unexpected friendship puts Julia in the middle of a quest she
doesn’t quite understand. As her familiar world begins to unravel around
her, Julia must partner with the one person who knows how to push her
buttons – and, in doing so, discovers the unbelievable truth about who she
Can Julia and Vander survive the trial set before them, or will they face
the extreme consequences of failure?
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“Who painted that piece above the couch in there?”
He shrugs, not answering me in any concrete way. Then he shifts his weight from one foot to the other and his awkwardness makes it clear to me.
“You did it, didn’t you? You’re a painter.”
He shrugs again. I hop down from my stool to go take another look at the painting. The artist must have signed it, and I will get my answer that way.
I go down the hall, past the bathroom, the stairs, and the front door until I’m standing in the parlor, looking at Vander, who is blocking the painting from my view. He must have gone through the dining room next to the kitchen to end up in here before me. He’s staring at me and chewing on his lip while flexing and balling his hands. He’s more nervous than I have ever seen him—not before a swim meet, not in class when he didn’t know an answer, not when he told me how he felt in the bathroom a little bit ago. This is where his heart lies, in this painting of this island.
I try to look around him, and he leans over.
“Don’t.” He is stern, but gentle. He clears his throat. “Please don’t touch it. You will want to, but don’t.”
He’s right. I do want to touch it; I want to climb inside of it. I’m seeing it, and somehow it’s seeing me, and it’s making me feel pulled apart. I want to dive into the waters, to swim to that far-off land, and I also want to turn the boat around and sail as far and as quickly as I can in the opposite direction. Meanwhile, the light from the sun is dimming, laughing at me for thinking I can have any control here.
I want in!
Vander grabs both of my arms, which are currently outstretched toward the painting. My knees are on the seat of the couch, and I don’t even remember moving forward. His voice startles me. “You can’t.”
I blink hard and turn to look him fully in the face. “I can’t what?”
“You can’t go there, and you can’t go away from there. It’s just a painting.” Was I talking out loud, or can he read my mind? How does he know what I was thinking? I let him lead me through the dining room, back into the kitchen, where the timer is going off. I shake my head to let loose the feelings that painting stirred in me.
“It’s more than that, and you know it. How?” I don’t even have to finish the sentence. He knows exactly what I’m asking.