Release Date: 11/12/13
Publisher: Swoon Romance
Summary from Goodreads:
Daniel is sick of his wonderfully boring and predictable life. He dutifully gets up every morning, goes to class, goes to work, and it never changes. He does, says and even wears exactly what others expect of him. He’s so predictable that he barely notices just how unhappy he truly is. One afternoon, everything changes when David meets a girl on the run from her own demons. She doesn’t need Daniel’s help, but he offers and she accepts–setting a course for an adventure neither will soon forget. Together, on an impromptu road trip, two strangers become friends and a bit more, all while facing money problems, car problems, and tourist traps and the naked truth: they can’t run forever.
Will they finally stop running long enough to discover true and lasting love?
He chose a seat near the window, and she sat beside him, holding herself and her suitcase just so no part of her was touching any part of him. He had no idea what to make of her behavior. Yeah, they were strangers, but this was weird. She seemed terrified of him, and he had no idea why. Maybe terrified was too strong; it’s not like she was actively edging away from him. But she clearly didn’t want to be with him.
The bus drove through the city, hitting every possible pothole as it went. The driver, like most city bus drivers, was reckless. There were moments when Daniel noticed the girl gripping onto the edge of her seat, her fingers poking into one of the many rips in the vinyl, but he was used to the crazy driving. He trusted the driver not to crash, or at least not to kill them all if he did.
He pulled the cord for his stop. As he maneuvered past the girl, he told her, “The bus is going to make a major stop in about three or four minutes. Always lots of people. You’ll be able to pick it out. Once you’re past that one, pull the cord for the next. You’ll be able to see the library from there, but they close at eight, I think.”
The girl nodded. “Thanks,” she said once more. This time, she just sounded distracted.
He reached into his pocket as a thought struck him and pulled out the button. “And here. Because you were on the tour.”
She took it, and a bemused smile crossed her face. “Uh, okay,” she said with a little laugh. “Thanks.”
Daniel stepped off the bus and watched it drive away. He needed to pick up his car and go home. He had a lot of work to do.
There was a bus that went directly to his apartment, but he drove anyway just because he liked to. Maybe it was that he loved his car too much, an old Mazda 626 that he kept in good condition. He was proud of driving it around. It got him anywhere he needed to go. He could drive this baby across the country and back, and nothing would be wrong with it except it being out of gas.
Daniel checked the time on his phone as he walked, almost ran, to the parking garage. Then he had to pull the phone out of his pocket again when he realized he forgot to look at the time. It wasn’t too late. He’d have time to get his work for the day done. He averted his eyes as he passed a homeless man on the corner, mentally promising to drop a coin in his bucket another day.
He got to his car, paid the parking fee, and started to drive back home. He wasn’t paying attention to the road. He watched for joggers and harried students crossing the street without looking for cars, but he wasn’t thinking of which turn to take or how fast to go. His mind was on the girl at the museum. It was rare that anyone his age went on the tour. She’d seemed out of place there, but she had been paying attention to his speech, which was more than all of the kids and most of the parents did. And she was cute, and she talked about Land Before Time without acting like she was too old for it. In Daniel’s opinion, no one was ever too old for a movie about talking dinosaurs.
If she went on his tour again, instead of just giving her a pin, he’d ask her out. But he saw a lot of kids come through and never come back. Why would a twenty-something girl be any different?
This twenty-something girl made it to the library and was still thinking about that tour guide. Nicole fingered the button in her pocket as she sat in the library, waiting for it to close. She knew there was no use thinking about that guy. He was kind of hot, she wouldn’t deny that, but there was absolutely no point to it. She would be leaving the city tomorrow and never see the tour guide again. She’d made it a point not to do anything that might be even slightly seen as flirting, even carefully making sure no part of her touched any part of him on the bus. Then he gave her that button and she figured she’d failed. But if he’d really been interested, he would have asked for her number or asked her to skip the library and just go to his apartment, some cheap shot like that. There was no use thinking about him, and she wouldn’t waste time worrying that she was disappointing him.
“Attention, library patrons. The library will be closing in five minutes. Please come to the front to check out your books.”
Nicole stood from her beanbag. She’d settled into the children’s section while she waited. She unzipped her suitcase just to make sure, once more, that everything was there. Money, check. Clothes, check. Subway sandwich that would be both dinner and breakfast, check. She zipped the case closed and headed not to the front, but to the restrooms.
She figured she could hide in there, but what if they checked the stalls for people like her? The library must be like the Hilton for those without a bed. Cushy couches all over the place, air conditioning that probably wouldn’t be shut off. She entered a stall. She’d figure out what she was doing as she went.
She hung her suitcase on the coat hook in the stall. It slid off and landed on her foot. Sucking air through her teeth in pain, she gingerly lifted up the suitcase and tried to hang it again. This time, it stayed. She backed up to straddle the toilet and carefully stepped up to stand
on the ceramic seat, crouching down so she wouldn’t be seen over the top.. No one would look under the door and see anything suspicious.
But what if they opened the doors? She couldn’t stay there. Nicole stepped off the toilet and tried to open the door. It swung open about four inches before the suitcase hanging off the back stopped it. There was no way Nicole was getting through that space. With a sigh, she dropped to her knees on the stall floor, then to her stomach, shimmying her legs into the next stall over. If she couldn’t go through the door, she’d go under the wall. There was a good foot between the divider and the floor, and she wasn’t exactly big.
She reached her hands out and started to pull herself forward, using her toes to shove along. Her chest and stomach slid through a puddle of something very wet and cold. Probably just some water. She hoped it was just some water. Whatever it was, it was spreading across the fabric of her shirt and making Nicole shiver in cold and disgust.
She made it through the gap and stood up in the stall. She was in the handicapped one, which afforded her space to stand up with ease. Now she had to figure out just what the heck she was going to do to hide in here. Crouching behind the toilet would be a bad idea, but it looked like the only cover in the open stall.
Nicole sighed and leaned against the bar by the door, trying to figure out what she could do. Her sigh echoed throughout the empty bathroom. She glanced at the door. If she were any lighter, she could just hang off of that hook like her suitcase did. She doubted the suitcase was much heavier than her with all the stuff she’d jammed in it.
But maybe it wasn’t impossible. She stood up straight, held onto the hook to balance herself, and stepped up onto the bar attached to the wall. The door swung towards her, and she hung on with all her might to keep on the bar. Finally, the door stabilized, and she was able to
bring her other foot up on the bar. It was hard to stay there, but she grasped onto that hook and planted her feet onto the bar and waited.
Her arms were close to giving out when she finally heard the door to the bathroom open. Someone walked over to the first stall and hit the door. It swung open with a loud BANG as it hit the wall. The footsteps moved on. The second door hit the wall a little more quietly, with more of a BAM. Nicole held her breath as the footsteps reached the stall with her suitcase. There was no bang or bam, but instead a muffled THUD. This satisfied whoever was out there enough that the footsteps moved to Nicole’s stall.
She grasped the hook tighter and tried not to let her feet slip as she was pushed backwards. There was no sound as her body hit the wall, but apparently the guard wasn’t listening to that. The footsteps were fine enough with the fact that the door opened that they walked out of the bathroom. The lights were shut off, leaving Nicole in darkness.
To make sure she was completely alone, she whispered a song to herself to pass the time as she waited. Once the last bottle of beer was off the wall, Nicole stepped down. She stretched out her arms, finally feeling the cramps that had developed. The wetness on her shirt had mostly dried, but it still grossed her out to think about it. Besides, she had to go back through that puddle to get her suitcase.
Once she’d crawled through the puddle of hopefully water again and retrieved her suitcase, Nicole stripped off her shirt. There was a bit of light in the bathroom, coming from under the door and reflecting off the mirror and sink. It was enough for her to see where the trashcan was and stuff her sopping wet shirt inside it. If she put it in her suitcase, it would get everything else wet, and there was no guarantee she’d have a chance to wash it anytime soon.
She walked over to the sink, grabbed a paper towel, and started to wash off her stomach. She’d showered just that morning in the hotel, but she was ready to take another one now. But that wasn’t likely to happen for a long while, so the paper towel sink bath would have to do.
Suddenly, she realized just how bizarre this was. She was standing in a dark public bathroom in just her bra, wiping at her stomach with the cheapest paper towel known to man. It wasn’t even a good bra, just one she bought because she liked the pattern of smiley faces and butterflies. It was her good luck bra, even though the straps were worn and the bright pattern could be seen through thin shirts. At least it hadn’t gotten wet, and at least no one was around to see her. Life’s little victories. She grinned as she kept wiping herself off. She may have been stuck in a library in a strange city because she couldn’t go home, but at least she could smile about it.
About the Author
Stephanie Mann lives in Massachusetts. Besides writing, she spends her free time working with fan conventions. She loves to travel, and has visited many tourist traps along the way.
READY TO GO is Stephanie Mann’s first novel.
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