EXCERPT and GIVEAWAY
by Rhonda Helms
The most painful scars are the ones you never see.
In her DJ booth at a Cleveland dance club, Casey feels a sense of connection that’s the closest she ever gets to normal. On her college campus, she’s reserved, practical – all too aware of the disaster that can result when you trust the wrong person. But inexplicably, Daniel refuses to pay attention to the walls she’s put up. Like Casey, he’s a senior. In every other way, he’s her opposite.
Sexy, open, effortlessly charming, Daniel is willing to take chances and show his feelings. For some reason Casey can’t fathom, he’s intent on drawing her out of her bubble and back into a world that’s messy and unpredictable. He doesn’t know about the deep scars that pucker her stomach – or the deeper secret behind them. Since the violent night when everything changed, Casey has never let anyone get close enough to hurt her again. Now, she might be tempted to try.
“I can’t possibly eat one more bite of potato salad. Oh my God.” Daniel moaned and lay back on the blanket, cupping his hands over his still-flat belly, despite his grumbles. “I’m so full, my pants are literally going to explode off of me.”
“As my English prof would point out, you mean figuratively,” I said in a prim tone. “If your pants literally exploded, we’d be in a world of legal trouble, since this is a public park. And as punishment for your grammar error, I’m making you eat the rest of this potato salad.” I scooped a heaping spoonful out of our bowl and shoved it toward his face.
He sat up and mock glared at me. Dappled sunlight from the setting sun spilled across the dark mop of his head, hit his deep green irises. Before I could react, he grabbed the spoon and flung it, loaded potato salad and all, across the park. “Oh, crap. Sorry, it slipped.”
“Litterer!” I cried out, looking around like I was seeking a police officer. Not that there was anyone else around us except for a couple of young kids playing on the swing set nearby.
Daniel tackled me to the ground and dug his fingers against my right side, where I was super-ticklish. “Narc!” he said, laughing hysterically.
“You jerk!” I swatted up at him and scrambled to get away. I stood and wiped the bottom of my shorts with a huff. “That was a perfectly good spoon.”
He raised an eyebrow. “I’ll buy you another.”
“It was part of a set.” I tugged my tank top down to make sure my abdomen was covered. Thankfully, Daniel had stayed away from my scarred side.
“I’ll buy you six, then.”
“You have an answer for everything, don’t you.” I chuckled.
He stood, peering down at me. His eyes were light and dancing, and my heart hadn’t felt this light in a couple of days— not since my moodiness back in the library. His hand slid along my unscarred side again, but instead of torture-tickling me, his fingers slipped and danced over my tank top. The warmth of his touch still seared me, despite the barrier.
“Not everything,” he murmured, his attention turning to my mouth. His fingers tightened incrementally on my hip. Something shifted then, sexual tension crackling in the air between us.
I automatically licked my lips, and his eyes flared. I stepped closer. I needed to taste his mouth, right now.
“Oooooooooh!” a high-pitched kid’s voice said from behind me. “They’re gonna kiss!”
I closed my eyes as a light flush stole over my cheeks.
Daniel’s mouth hovered close enough to me that I could feel his breath huffing against my skin. “I need to kiss you,” he said, and the raw edge in his tone had my eyes flying open.
Yes, the need was right there, unmasked, unashamed, completely bared to me. I felt my body respond, my core tightening, heart thudding, hands trembling.
I nodded, leaned my face up. My mouth already hungered for his.
He brushed his mouth against mine, a butterfly touch that didn’t satisfy the growing pulse in me. “Not here,” he said, his words barely a whisper. “I want you alone.”
Alone. The ache I heard in that one word sent shivers of anticipation across my skin. My flesh burst into thousands of vibrant tingles. I gave a mute nod. I wanted it too.
Praise for the Book
"A refreshingly strong-willed and flawed heroine makes this layered page-turner memorable, and the soundtrack brings Casey and Daniel’s absorbing courtship to life." ~ Publishers Weekly Starred Review
"NA fans will love this book about a physically and emotionally scarred Casey, whose story speaks louder than words. Her struggle to open up and step out from behind the DJ booth … is necessary in order to fully experience Helms’ touching tale. This one’s for readers everywhere, both on and off campus. An added bonus is the included playlist." ~ RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
"Scratch is at once haunting, hopeful, and heartbreakingly tender. Readers will swoon for Daniel!" ~ Lexi Ryan, New York Times Bestselling Author
Interview With the Author
Music is a strong running element in Scratch, which even includes a playlist at the end. How has music factored in your own life?
I started in music when I was 9 - I played clarinet. Stayed involved in band through high school and college. I sang in a jazz ensemble, was a singer in a cover band, and I even DJ’d for a while. In short, music was a huge part of my life for a long time. I miss performing and have even been considering getting involved in it again!
Where did you get the idea for Scratch?
Part of it came from a real-life incident I’d heard that had stuck with me for many years. I always wondered what had happened to the girl who’d gone through such a traumatic event. How did she cope? How did she move on to love and trust again? This book was my exploration of how a woman who’d gone through hell could move forward and find real happiness.
Which scene in Scratch was the hardest for you to write?
Oh, it had to be the scene where Casey confesses to Daniel about her past. Finally opens up and divulges the painful truth. I sobbed as I wrote it - her pain was so vivid to me that I couldn’t shake it off for a while afterward. That was actually one of the hardest scenes I’ve ever written in my whole publishing career.
What is the follow-up book to Scratch?
The sequel to Scratch is Break Your Heart, which is her roommate Megan’s story. I can’t wait for you guys to read it - this one’s a little sexier, a little scandalous. And Nick is so foxy. ;-) Coming end of July, 2015!
You write young adult novels too - what do you have coming out in teen romance?
Next year I have two teen romances coming out with Simon Pulse - Spark in Scotland, which is a Scotland-set story about a girl who falls for a local Scottish boy while on vacation, and Promposal, which follows a girl and her best guy friend as they navigate love and drama during prom season. You can go to my website to find out more about the other teen romances I have out, too!
About the Author
Rhonda Helms started writing several years ago. She has a Master's degree in English and a Bachelor's degree in Creative Writing. She also freelance edits manuscripts.
When she isn't writing, she likes to do amateur photography, dig her toes into the sand, read for hours at a time, and eat scads of cheese. WAY too much cheese.
Rhonda lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, two kids, a dog and a really loud cat.
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