Aftermath by Denise Grover Swank
March 12th 2013
Scarlet Goodwin’s world is divided into Before and After.
Before she agreed to tutor Tucker price, college junior Scarlett was introvert, struggling with her social anxiety disorder and determined to not end up living in a trailer park like her mother and her younger sister. A mathematics major, she goes to her classes, to her job in the tutoring lab, and then hides in the apartment she shares with her friend, Caroline.
After junior Tucker Price, Southern University’s star soccer player enters the equation, her carefully plotted life is thrown off its axis. Tucker’s failing his required College Algebra class. With his eligibility is at risk, the university chancellor dangles an expensive piece of computer software for the math department if Scarlett agrees to privately tutor him. Tucker’s bad boy, womanizer reputation makes Scarlett wary of any contact, let alone spending several hours a week in close proximity.
But from her first encounter, she realizes Tucker isn’t the person everyone else sees. He carries a mountain of secrets which she suspects hold the reason to his self-destructive behavior. But the deeper she delves into the cause of his pain, the deeper she gets sucked into his chaos. Will Scarlett find the happiness she’s looking for, or will she be caught in Tucker’s aftermath?
“Tucker, what’s your major?”
His face lifts, confusion crinkling his eyes. “History.”
His mouth opens to say something then he unconsciously licks his lower lip. I’m sure most girls would drool over it, but I see a guy who’s suddenly lost his shield of confidence. Still, I can’t ignore the slight stir in my emotions from the movement.
Finally, he shrugs. “I like history.”
His answer is a lie, but I don’t see what good will come from pointing it out. “So what exactly do you like about history? It’s full of dates, which are numbers.” He shakes his head. “Not the numbers. They get scrambled in my head. That’s the hardest part.” He pauses. “I like the stories. People who did extraordinary things and people remember them. They’re not forgotten and lost forever.”
I watch him as he speaks, the pain that flickers in his eyes.
“Do you like soccer?”
My question catches him by surprise. He blinks and sits up slightly. “Yeah. I’m good at it.”
“I know you’re good at it. I asked you if you liked it.”
His gaze turns out the window, and his mouth turns to a slight frown. “Do you know you’re the first person to ever ask me that question?”
I realize he hasn’t answered, and although I’m curious, I refuse to invade Tucker’s personal life any more than necessary. “I’m trying to figure out how you learn. Some people are auditory learners, while others are kinesthetic. Most guys are visual.”
He shoots me a wicked glance, and to my surprise, I’m happy to see his cockiness return. Sad Tucker makes me feel too personally involved.
I lean forward, my forearms on the table. “I think there’s more to learning than just the senses. If we can tie learning to something we love, we can remember it, and it sticks in our heads longer. So then when we retrieve the information later, it’s easier to find. Does that make sense?”
“So what do you love? What excites Tucker Price?” As soon as the words leave my mouth, I realize I’ve set myself up for a raunchy response.
He ignores it. His jaw works, and he leans back against the seat, stretching his hands across the table. I notice the multiple scars on his knuckles and the back of his hand. “No one’s ever asked me that before either.” His gaze returns to the gray sky.
While I wait for an answer that never comes, it occurs to me that he doesn’t know. As he shuffles through his thoughts, I search my own and ask myself the same question that no one has ever asked me.
I press my head into the seat, stretching my hands out on the table top, and close my eyes. I’m surrounded by people every day, yet I always feel alone, no matter how hard I try to connect. It’s as though a veil has been thrown over my heart, and no one has ever been able to tear it down. Until this boy. This unattainable, untouchable, unreliable boy.
My eyelids flutter open, and I see the despair I’ve stirred in him. My fingers flex, millimeters from his hand, his palms splayed on the table.
For the first time, I feel genuinely connected to another human being and just my luck, it turns out to be Tucker Price.
And that’s the saddest fact of all.
About The Author:
Denise Grover Swank lives in Lee's Summit, Missouri. She’s a gypsy who can’t live in one place too long or stay in one genre. She writes contemporary romance, urban fantasies without vampires and werewolves, young adult science fiction, and romantic comedy mysteries set in the south. Denise has six children, three dogs, and an overactive imagination. She can be found dancing in her kitchen with her children, reading, or writing her next book. You will rarely find her cleaning.
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