Some call me a party girl. People see me as happy, full of life, with absolutely no cares in the world. They see what I want them to see. But no one knows me – really knows me. Not even Noah Reese. Mr. Perfect is always watching me, most likely judging every single imperfect thing I do. But, if Noah wants to keep an eye on me, that’s just fine. I definitely don’t mind. I just hope he doesn’t have any plans to save me from my new-found life of self-destruction because in order to save me, he will have to see me…
And I’m never going to let that happen.
Perfect. That’s me. That’s the only acceptable way to be, according to my father. Perfect grades. Perfect manners. Perfect athlete. Perfect SAT scores. Perfect college. And recently, I was accepted into the perfect med school. My future has already been mapped out for me and there’s nothing that can change that. Not even Tatum O’Connell. That girl is out of control, yet for some reason, I can’t seem to keep my distance from her. I watch her closely, hoping that one day she’ll let me in, but watching her lead her life down the dangerous path she’s on right now isn’t easy…
I have a feeling I’m about to find myself swept away by the hurricane that is Tatum O’Connell.
“Two fleeting souls,
Too slowly drawn,
Impatient fate calls.
The jolting collide intertwines their lives
And splinters their walls.”
“Catalyst” – Noah Reese
It is no secret that I have a girl crush on L.B. Simmons. She is fan-freakin’-tastic, both as an author and as a human being in general. I stumbled upon the first book in the Mending Hearts series, by chance. Thank the Lord above for the recommendations Amazon gives. It’s though that first book, Running on Empty, that I was introduced to Alex and Blake. *sigh* I have said it once and I’ll say it again, I might even scream it from my roof top, Blake Morgan IS the perfect man. Period. End of sentence. In a very sweet novella entitled Recovery, focused again on Alex and Blake, we’re briefly introduced to Tatum O’Connell and Noah Reese. Running in Place is their story…
Tatum, Tatum, Tatum… What can I say about this girl? At the ripe old age of 6, Tatum loses her father, and in doing so, never fully recovers. She lives a life saturated with fear and pain. Her mother, if you can even call her that, is the worst kind of person. She blames Tatum for her father’s passing, and constantly causes both physical and emotional scars. Tatum’s brother, Trace, left after her father’s death, visiting maybe twice over the years. Tatum tried to tell her brother about the abuse, but he just seems to brush it off; refusing to acknowledge the mistreatment Tatum has endured at their mother’s hand. Her only escape is writing to her father. Keeping his memory alive and clinging to the only person she has left who cares for her. Only he’s not really there, is he? She’s alone…
Noah Reese is Mr. Perfect. He should probably have a crown and a sash – like a beauty pageant winner, proudly displaying his superiority to all those around him. He’s going to Harvard Med. School for god sake. Even his hair is perfect – never a strand out of place. Then, in walks Tatum, and his perfectly placed façade begins to crack. You see, for years, Noah has had to be perfect. He didn’t have a choice. He still doesn’t; at least he doesn’t think he does. Noah wants Tatum, but at what price? Will she be enough to keep him in Waco, or will he leave for Harvard, and the life his father has mapped out for him?
Blake will always be my leading man, but I cannot tell a lie, I’m kind of like Abraham Lincoln in that way, Noah, he comes in as a close second. He’s smart, funny, sweet, and rough around the edges. I mean, come on… He plays the guitar (not to mention writes his own lyrics…). What’s not to love here?
Saying that both Tatum and Noah are broken is like saying that the desert is a little sandy. These two individuals are shattered, beaten, broken, torn apart, and until recently, very much alone. They’ve both suffered through some unimaginable pain and loss; coping through writing in one form or another. Incredibly enough, even with all the torture, torment and abuse, this is the first L.B. Simmons book that I have been able to complete without blubbering like a baby. That’s not to say there aren’t sad parts – there most certainly are, but the story just didn’t hit me as hard as Running on Empty or Recovery did. Those two convinced me that Ms. Simmons has a hidden agenda and must in fact work for Kleenex. It’s the only logical deduction.
Watching both Tatum and Noah come into their own, break off the shackles of their childhood and learn to fly using their own wings? Priceless. Even after years of suffering, they both have such big, beautiful hearts. They may not have been willing or able to give them away prior to meeting one another, but that’s what makes it even more beautiful. They needed one another to grown into the people they were meant to be. Tatum needs to stop hiding behind men who are obviously not worth her time, and copious amounts of alcohol. Noah needs to let down his mask of perfection and live the life HE wants to live, not his father. It’s not easy to change. It’s scary as hell. Watching them take that journey together, and separately, was flat-out fabulous.
We do get little snippets here and there of Alex, Blake and the girls, as well as Harlow and Trace – all of which I love and adore. To be quite honest with you, Trace pissed me off a few times during this read, but lucky for him, Harlow made up for his lack of a heart, and in the end he redeemed himself as I knew he would.
I can’t give L.B. Simmons enough praise. Seriously, I think she may be a Kleenex obsessed super woman. She brings characters to life, making them irresistible to the reader. You can’t help but feel their pain, carry their burdens, and cheer them on in their attempt to find love and happiness. She’s one of my favorites for a reason, and after reading one or all of her books, I’m sure you will love her just as much as I do.
“You’re a worthless excuse for a daughter. I wish I never had you.”
Frantically, my eyes dart around the room for her. She’s here. I know it. I can smell the stench of alcohol in the air. Whipping around, I search for any trace of her, my entire body shaking and the knot in my throat unbearable. Tears fill my eyes as they anxiously race around the kitchen, finally landing on the cabinet where she used to store her liquor.
Memories flood my mind, the immobilizing terror that I would feel every time she approached it. The prayers I would send to no one in particular, just hoping that she wouldn’t open that fucking cabinet for just one night. Prayers that fell on deaf ears. Slowly I make my way to the white doors, crouching down in front of them.
“You killed him and I will make damn sure you spend the rest of your life paying for that. I’ll never again know true happiness because you fucking exist.”
Shaking my head to try to clear her voice from my mind, I set my trembling fingers on the silver knobs and yank the doors open. Nothing.
A sigh of relief escapes my lips as I close them. Rising, I turn to take a step towards the sink when another memory strikes.
“Mama, don’t please.” I cry out loud as she approaches me with the scissors.
“I have to, Tatum. Your beauty does not match the vile, revolting child that you really are on the inside. Everyone should see you for who you are.” I try to run, but she grabs my long dark hair as I pass by her, swiping the blades so close to my neck that I can feel the cool metal against my skin. Laughing she chunks my tresses into the sink. “You’re an ugly person, Tatum. Inside…and out, now.”
“God, Daddy. Please help me,” I say out loud, lifting my shaking hands to my forehead, threading sections of hair through my fingers. “Please, Daddy, I need you.” After a while, calmness spreads throughout my body. I’m no longer shaking, but the voices are still there.
Turning the faucet on, I splash water on my face repeatedly, trying to drown out them out along with the memories. After wiping my face dry with a dishtowel, I hear the crackling of gravel as Noah’s Jeep pulls up into the driveway. Breathing in deeply, I try to regain my composure as I walk to the door, straightening my shirt and running my fingers through my hair before I reach for the knob. Hearing steps in front of the house, I barely crack the door and poke my head out to make sure it’s really him. With all the crazy shit going on in this house I can’t be too sure. But, much to my relief, there he is, standing on my porch in his classic white t-shirt, work jeans and boots, his fist raised about to knock.
And just like that, the voices are gone and my head is clear.
I release a comforted breath and feel the corners of my mouth slightly lift at the sight of him.
“What are you smiling at?” Noah asks, seemingly nervous. Opening the door wider, I gesture for him to enter my house of horrors. The sight of his disheveled hair makes me grin even more.
“Your hair, it’s nice to see it like that. I don’t know why, but it makes me smile.” I clear my throat. His nerves must be contagious, because suddenly I feel that hummingbird feeling in my chest.
With him now inside, I close the door and head towards the kitchen, checking over my shoulder to make sure he’s following me. “Want something to eat?”
Once I see he’s fallen into step, I turn back around and round the corner, making sure to avoid looking at the sink. The memory still lingering on the hinges of my mind, I try to push it as far away as I can. “I don’t have much, but I did manage to make it to the store over the weekend.”
“No, I’m good, Thanks, though.” He shoves his hands in his pockets and rocks onto the balls of his feet.
Thinking about our last night together, I feel the frustration mounting within myself. I should kick my own ass for kissing him. Everything seems so edgy between us now and I hate it.
Running my fingers through my hair, I twist it at the nape of my neck and bring it over my shoulder.
“Well, what’s up? What couldn’t wait until tonight?”
His eyes widen. “Tonight? What’s tonight?”
“I picked up Sadie’s shift.”
He grinds his teeth together as he leans against the wall, crossing his arms over his chest. “I told you to take the entire week off, Tate. You don’t need to work right now. You need to concentrate on healing.”
“No, I don’t. I’m sick and tired of being cooped up in this depressing house. I need to get out, to stay busy. I feel like I’m losing it, honestly.” My hands are still trembling and I’m not sure if it’s the sudden anxiety from being around Noah or the fact that I’m losing my mind. His eyes break from mine and land on them as they continue to shake like a leaf. Pressing himself off the wall, he takes a small, timid step towards me.
I want to tell him to stop. To stay where he is. To tell him to leave this house and forget about me. That I could ruin his perfect life by just being near him.
But I don’t.
I let him continue taking those steps until he’s right in front of me and even breathe out a sigh of contentment when he wraps his arms around me, pulling me into his frame. The tears fall as he lightly traces my back with his fingers, and with each touch, my uneasiness lessens. I know it’s selfish, but I would give anything to stay in this moment forever.
Circling my arms around his waist, I press my forehead against his chest and watch the droplets as they plummet from my face towards his boots, dark spots forming as they strike. After a couple of seconds, I replace my forehead with my chin, daring to look into his muddy brown eyes, full of their usual intensity as he studies me, peering into my soul. In them, I find complete solace and protection, and the sudden desire to share things with him that I swore I’d never share with another living person.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me, Noah. I feel like I’m going fucking crazy. Ever since Friday, I can’t stop them. The voices. My mother’s leading their charge to my insanity.” My throat closes almost completely shut. “I hate this house. I hate being here, alone. So many memories…” I trail off, my strength fading, no longer able to keep from bawling.
I close my eyes as the warm moisture cascades down my cheeks and runs down my neck. Unwrapping his arms, he moves his hands to my face, wiping the tears away, but it’s useless. They’re replaced instantly.
“Tate, open your eyes. Look at me, baby.” I keep them closed, not ready to face the wary expression in front of me.
“Let me in, Tate. Open your eyes.” The heartache in his tone and the tremble of his voice prompts me to open them immediately. As soon as our eyes catch, a breath hitches in my throat.
His eyes shining, he gently wraps his fingers around my shoulders, pressing his thumbs softly into my flesh as he speaks.
“You’re not alone. I’m right here.” A slight smile of relief breaks through the tears on my face.
I watch his mouth tip up in response. “Now, tell the voices to shut the fuck up because it’s my turn.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
L.B. Simmons is a graduate of Texas A&M University and holds a degree in Biomedical Science. She has been a practicing Chemist for the last 11 years. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Texas and writes every chance she gets.
Click HERE to link to the Facebook event page!