Tyson scowled defensively, before leaning his forearms down on the table between them. “Then I guess there really isn’t any story left to tell. Sounds like you know it all.” He was sorry he had offered her a seat, much less his drink.
“I told you, Tyson, I want to try to help you,” she reiterated.
“Because I believe in you,” Ella stated with conviction, as if that was enough to earn his trust. But Tyson Palmer was long past trusting anyone, including himself.
“Why?” he repeated, now angry.
Ella looked down at the table for a moment, then said quietly, “Because I remember the guy I tutored. Who was serious about his game and never had a problem taking no for an answer.”
He wanted to laugh in her naïve face. To mockingly tell her at the time she hadn’t been worth the pursuit, if for no other reason than to get her to leave him alone. He wanted her to stop looking at him in the way she was, like he was not a total disaster. But most of all, he no longer wanted to be reminded of when he was in control and held the world in the palm of his football-throwing hand.
“That kid doesn’t exist anymore. When you graduate and join the real world, you’ll realize that people change, usually not for the better,” he spat out cynically.
“I refuse to believe that.”
Tyson sighed and ran his hand through the shaggy brown hair that had outgrown his clean cut months ago. She was being way too persistent, but her sincerity was admirable, and part of him wanted to believe her.
“Okay. We’re friends, now what?”
She brightened with his acquiescence. And she really did have a pretty smile. “Now you let me be a good friend and help take care of you. You look so tired. ”
This time he didn’t hold back the laugh, and while it wasn’t exactly harsh, it still was hollow. She wasn’t able to help him any more than he could help himself. And she made it sound so easy, like she could perform some sort of exorcism and all his demons would flee. The more likely story was she was trying to get close to him under the misguided impression that he had something left to offer.
“You’re good, Mother Teresa. Why don’t we go someplace quiet where I can confess my sins and you can absolve me? Make sure you turn your phone on to record, so you don’t miss the good stuff.”
“You’re wrong, but I understand you being leery,” she patiently explained. “I . . . I always liked you, Tyson, and you were always so nice to me. You deserve to have someone on your side. I know this is all just your circumstances talking.”
“Sorry, not interested.” Tyson took back his now-empty glass and went back to sucking the last remnants of Gentleman Jack off the ice. Damn his mouth was dry, always so dry. As far as he was concerned, the conversation was closed. He wanted her to get out before he settled back into the dark side.
“What would it take for me to get you interested? For you to consider coming home with me, at least for a decent night’s sleep?”
Maybe it was the way she asked it, completely oblivious to the fact that the question itself made her sound like a hooker. Maybe it was the pity or her dogged insistence that he see himself for something other than he was, which was a lost cause. And then, like a lighthouse shining through the fog in his brain, it dawned on him. His cute little virtuous tutor had joined the ranks of pleasure seekers and was trying to get him into bed. At least that explanation turned the exchange from ludicrous to one that made sense.
“You still a virgin, Ella Bella?” He answered her question with one of his own, accompanied by a smile of complete impropriety.
Finally she blinked. Her grip tightened around the handle of the purse in her lap, and she stared at it before looking back up at him and meeting his gaze head-on.
“Yes.” She spoke her one-word answer unemotionally, even as the flush crept up to her cheeks.
Tyson sat back in his chair, the recesses of his drug-addled mind jarred. Wrong answer. She was supposed to have forsaken her outdated notion of chastity. She was supposed to have been tainted by now, like everyone he knew. As corrupted as he was.
“Hey Ella Bella, what do you say to you and me going someplace to get freaky?” Part of it was said in jest, trying to recover from just how badly she managed to throw him. Another part of him longed to engage in just a little bit of the same harmless banter from the days when she was a sweetheart and he was a hero.
Tyson Palmer and Dani Carr go way back. College was a place where they had a friendship, when she was his tutor. Until things changed, that is. His addiction and anger took their casual hook up to another level.
Now, having to work together, in a way - feels impossible. Dani hates him and goes out of her way to avoid him. After all he has worked for, can he be patient with the one that counts? He wants to be known as the man he is today.
Dani is hiding secrets from the past and being face to face with Tyson only makes this more real. Can she come clean and make everything better? Will it be only a matter of trust? Seems that both of them will have to meet the other halfway.
In a true redemption book, this one has it all. We read all about it, so to speak. I found the characters to be real. The insight and banter made this book a great read. This is an author who always brings her "A" game.
***This ARC was given by Edelweiss and its publisher, in exchange for an honest review.