Authors: Sophie Lira
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The author makes no claims to, but instead acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the word marks mentioned in this work of fiction.
Copyright © 2016 by Sophie Lira
SAFE WITH YOU by Sophie Lira
All rights reserved. Published in the United States of America by Swoon Romance. Swoon Romance and its related logo are registered trademarks of Georgia McBride Media Group, LLC.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Published by Swoon Romance, Raleigh, NC 27609
Cover design by Danielle Doolittle
For my amazingly wonderful father, thank you for encouraging me to keep my chin up and to pursue what I love, no matter what. I always know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to you. I miss you more than words can explain.
Whoever said “hitting rock bottom is a part of life” failed to mention how much it would hurt. Starting over is proving to be more painful than I thought.
“Olivia, are you all right?” Helena, the owner of the yoga studio where I work, runs over. Her mouth opens as she squats, untangling my limbs from a once easy
or Scorpion pose. Pushing up into a handstand and then trying to touch my head with my toes was not my brightest idea.
“I’m fine.” The circle forming my personal hell widens, allowing the rest of the class into the already cramped space.
So much for finding inner peace.
“Honey, let me help you.” Helena reaches out and takes my arm.
“No, I’m fine.”
I definitely strained something.
“Really.” The stinging pain in my triceps only masks the throbbing down the left side of my back.
“Come on, dear.” Helena steadies me as she takes my mat. The heavy gazes of judgment from the others in the room are like knives stabbing the back of my head. “Aubrey, please finish up the class.”
The petite girl with long black hair drags her mat to the front of the room. She gives me a small smile laced with encouragement … or pity. I can’t tell. Helena leads me to the hallway and we walk to the locker room in the back of the studio. My pride smarts as much as the throbbing in my back. The thought I might be good enough to teach someone other than old ladies how to perfect downward dog was apparently unwarranted.
“I’m sorry for ruining the class.” I ease onto the wooden bench in front of the cubbyholes and shimmy my feet into flip-flops.
“No big deal, honey.” Helena sits next to me and kneads my back in soft circles as I pick up my bag. She must have done some serious Sun Salutations to the healing gods because my muscles sigh with sweet relief. “We all have our nemesis. After two knee replacements, I can officially say I’ve retired from Lotus.”
“I knew I shouldn’t have tried to go back into teaching harder classes this soon.” I hold back a gasp as she hones in on a giant knot.
“You’ve been blowing the beginners class out of the water for nearly a month. We both know you’re ready.” She wipes the rogue tear falling down my cheek.
“Thank you, that means a lot.” I exhale as she runs her hand over my messy hair, smoothing out the chaos. No one is ever this nice to me, especially random adults who are essentially paying my rent. However, I think there is a giant
coming, which will force me to resort to ramen noodles and recycling paper towels.
“How about you stay on reception for a few days while you recoup? Then, maybe we’ll put you in with Aubrey for dual instruction for the advanced classes until you feel more comfortable.” She smiles, her clear blue eyes sparkle with love, kindness, and wisdom … things I’m severely lacking in my life.
I dart my head up with a smile. “Really?”
“Olivia, I haven’t seen flexibility and strength like yours since I was your age. I’ve told you that about a thousand times in the past month. And don’t worry, I’m not gonna dock your pay for being a little broken.” She laughs, shaking her head.
If you only knew the irony right now, Helena.
I return the smirk, and as I push to stand, rigor mortis-level stiffness seizes my back. “I’m just glad you didn’t can me. So, thank you.”
A deep, hearty laugh bellows out. “I wouldn’t dream of it. C’mon, I have just the thing to help your back.”
“I, uhm … I don’t have a lot of extra money until payday.” In fact, my meticulously budgeted savings are close to running out and life is not going as smoothly as I’d hoped. I’m not sure I can handle moving again. Leaving Shreveport for New Orleans took a lifetime in itself.
All thanks to my sorry excuse of a boyfriend, Braden.
“Nonsense, dear. It’s just some homemade Icy Hot. Chop, chop!” She opens the door and leads me into another small room next to the reception area.
I settle onto the massage table and hang my legs off the side. My entire back seizes as Helena rubs an arctic-cold gel onto my skin, but I relax as the strong smell of eucalyptus fills the air. I cherish these few moments because my brain has been spiraling out of control for eons. I came here to get away from everything, and I have faith this is the start of a new life. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I need something to give me hope.
She nudges my arm and I exhale, thankful for the tension release. She hands me the small container in a Ziploc baggie. “My special mint relaxer. Twice a day, especially before bed.”
“Thanks, Helena. I’ll see you tomorrow?” I hop off the table and take my things, shoving as much as I can into my giant canvas bag.
“Yes. Actually, come in around nine. We have a staff meeting; I forgot to put it on the schedule.” She runs a palm over my hair and smiles. “Now scoot, and take care of your back!”
Even the setting sun does nothing to cut the Southern heat. I groan as it suffocates me the minute I open the door. Mosquitoes and gnats line the sidewalk, glittering against the blinding, colorful lights. New Orleans has always been one of my favorite places, even though I came here to start over, not to party until I couldn’t process feelings anymore.
I would kill to not feel anymore.
The fifteen-minute trek between the yoga studio and the best fried food on the planet is worth every step. Not getting fired is definitely a reason to splurge.
“Olivia? Hey, wait up!” Aubrey yells from behind me.
“Hi!” I stop, waiting for her waifish frame to catch up with me.
“How ya feelin’?” There’s something about Aubrey. She has an incredibly relaxing pull and reminds me a lot of my best friend, Natasha, who goes to school in Lafayette. It sucks because she’s two hours away, and I can’t rely on her like I used to. Even though Aubrey is nine inches shorter than Natasha, she has the same bright blue eyes and dark hair, and a gleaming smile that makes me feel at home for the first time in weeks.
“I’m okay, just a little sore.” I hold my bag closer to my chest as the throngs of people grow. “Where are you off to?”
“I’m actually meeting my boyfriend. You wanna join us?”
My chest constricts at the idea of having dinner in public this soon. I push the thought away and remind myself it’s okay to have new friends. It might be what I need. I open my mouth to respond, but the strained muscle in my back spasms, hurling me over to one side, like Quasimodo.
I guess I need more than holistic Icy Hot.
“Thank you so much for the offer. I was planning on take-out and a long, hot bath with Epsom salts.” I smile through gritted teeth. Declining plans is like crack to people like me. Right now, I feel like I’m on a bender, avoiding the awkwardness of new friendships.
“Totally understand. Maybe another time. Do you live around here?” She sidesteps an ancient woman covered in tacky body paint taking pictures with tourists. The circus of this area barely fazes her. I, on the other hand, only venture out of a quarter-mile radius when I absolutely have to.
“Yeah, sort of. I live a few blocks from the studio, off Magazine Street.” I swallow and glance around. The more I think about it, the more ridiculous it becomes. I have to get over this fear of being kidnapped and tortured like I’m in some third-world country. We broke up. That’s it.
Maybe if I keep telling myself these things I’ll actually start to believe it.
“No shit, me too!” The words are met with a small hop as she clasps her hands together. She might be a little flighty, but I do enjoy being in the company of someone who genuinely enjoys her life. “I live over this little eclectic coffee shop. It was cheaper than the housing on Tulane. I’m a senior there.”