Authors: Leanne Davis
The Zenith Trilogy, Book One
Table of Contents
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents
are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
COPYRIGHT © 2013 by Leanne Davis
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Publishing History First Edition, 2013 Digital
The Zenith Trilogy Book One
Edited by Teri at The Editing Fairy
Cover Design by Steven Novak
To Kimberly McCann
For 25 years of friendship
For Mr. Robinson’s 6
For 6-hour conversations that are never enough
For the hundreds of private jokes
For Thursdays lattes
For Homecoming ‘96
For epic double dates
For that day, that smile, in EvCC parking lot
For Monday nights at Western
And now for play dates and all the grown up stuff, but still... sometimes escaping it all and being 18 again with nothing better to do than laugh and gossip for a few hours...
The Zenith Trilogy:
Due in Winter, 2014
The Seaclusion Series:
Published by The Wild Rose Press
Due in 2014
The Other Sister
Due in 2014
The Good Sister
The Best Friend
“Joelle? Joelle O’Niel?”
Joelle Williams turned towards the voice
she heard behind her as she neared her car.
She hadn’t been called that in four years. She glanced towards the sidewalk and saw a man standing several feet from her. She couldn’t see his face clearly, as he stood in a shadow. He was tall, wearing a suit, and had nice shoes.
“Yes?” She gripped her keys tighter, like a primitive weapon, before she scoffed and relaxed her fingers
. They were useless if the stranger intended her harm.
The well-dressed man took a step forward. “I thought I recognized you. It’s Nick, Nick Lassiter.”
“Nick Lassiter? Trina’s older brother?”
“Yes.” He took her recognition of his name as permission to approach her.
She hadn’t heard that name in years. Trina and she were friends in high school, but had lost touch years ago. She would have never placed this man as Trina’s brother. Nick was far older than she, and she could only remember him as the smart type: straight As, scholarships, and all honors. In school, he even appeared brainy-looking, with a pale face, wire-rimmed glasses, and being slightly on the nerdy side.
Not so anymore.
Nick stepped into the beam of the streetlight, and towered over her. Most people did. She wasn’t even five feet tall. His long, black trench coat billowed around his charcoal-colored suit. He was quite trim, with a graceful gait and self-confidence, that was evidenced by the way he held his shoulders. He had light brown hair, streaked with blond. His glasses were smallish and added to his look rather than distracted from it. They showed off his light-blue, almost gray eyes. Gorgeous eyes. Joelle didn’t remember
from her visits at the Lassiter house.
Nick caught her coming out of her very first Al-Anon meeting. To be observed doing that by a casual acquaintance was so
okay with her. He needed to vanish. Why couldn’t he pretend he didn’t know her? Why did he come up to her? She was nothing to him, and she sure as hell didn’t want to be recognized. After all, she drove a good half hour out of her way to attend this particular meeting so she wouldn’t run into anyone she knew.
And yet she managed to do just that.
Her lips drew into a tight line, a painful version of her normal smile.
He smiled back, and she liked his smile. It started slowly, showing only the tip of his front teeth, in a crooked, charming, almost boyish grin
, but soon crinkled up to his eyes and made her lower stomach tighten unexpectedly. He stuffed his hands into his long coat while his eyes traveled over her. There was a certain stillness about him, an undeniable ease that came from knowing who he was and feeling confident in whatever he did.
the opposite of her. Joelle was never at ease with herself or inside her skin. Especially being caught
. It was like being caught naked at her high school reunion.
But then again, he must have just come from there too.
“Were you in there?” she asked, waving towards the church.
“How come you’re here?”
“For one of my sisters,” he s
aid quietly. His tone was deeper than she remembered. “How about you?”
His shoulders jerked back and his eyebrows shot up. “You’re married?”
“And you’re already here?”
She shook her head, staring down at her big, black combat boots.
“There was nothing
He bowed his head and smiled, looking chagrin
ned. “You’re right. I apologize, that wasn’t meant how it came out.”
She shrugged and mumbled,
“For all the good this will do me.”
“It’s a start. Come back. Give it a chance.”
That’s what everyone else said at the meeting. She wondered if they were some kind of Al-Anon cult.
, sure. Maybe.”
He stood quietly looking her over. She was anxious to go, and drawing a blank. For the life of her, she couldn’t think of one blessed, banal, conversation opener. She knew nothing of this man, and didn’t want to. Not here, not at this place, probably not ever.
Finally, he took a step back, his black shoe so shiny, it was probably blinding when the sun hit it. “Well, it was nice seeing you.”
He was walking away. She didn’t think she could stand there for another moment of strained looks and awkward silence. There was simply nothing to say. He was as good as a stranger to her. He stopped before a dark-colored, low slung sports car, some kind of luxury thing that purred when he started it up. There was someone in the passenger seat, probably his equally gorgeous, sophisticated, and successful wife. Joelle quit staring, as she turned and got into her own clunker of a car.
Would Nick be her excuse for not returning here next week?
Nick’s car signaled, and he pulled onto the street, where he suddenly took off like a rocket from a launch pad. His red taillights quickly disappeared from sight. She shook her head. Too bad her car didn’t go that fast, even when fully accelerated.
Her car was terrible, really. It was a conglomeration of dents, scrapes, and scratches along with a bad clutch, and very unreliable engine. Their vehicles were a good metaphor for her looks compared to his. Nick was neat and trim, his clothes reeking of upper-class office success. His dark pants were nearly perfectly creased even though it was eight o’clock at night.
She, on the other hand, resembled her car:
worn, tired, poor.
Her jeans were ripped and frayed, a far cry from the suit Nick wore She had on her husband, Rob’s, heavy black jacket, and practically was swimming in it. What Nick stared at most, however, was her hair. It was… well, it was blue. Streaked blue and black, she kept it tied up overhead in tight braids, which she twisted into a thick knot. Her hair was her source of vanity. She wanted to cut it off short and spike it up. But whenever scissors got near her head, she nearly had a convulsion. So she chose to dye it and always wore it up, in order to hide the beauty of what it would be if she let it flow freely. It almost reached her waist, thick and straight, and if she ever bothered to comb and care for it, she could probably be a model for shampoo commercials. It was her shining mane of glory in high school.
Now she practically hid her hair, neatly tying it back off her face. Anything
to keep it controlled, hidden, and not the least bit obvious.
She got attention these days by looking the opposite of pretty. She looked wild as hell, like she partied all the time with her husband, even though she didn’t. Nick’s initial surprise at hearing she had a husband happened to her a lot. She appeared like a blend between gothic vampire and almost hip rock star. Her makeup was dark and heavy, with several piercings visible on her nose, ears and lips. Nothing he saw resembled the teenager Nick Lassiter once knew. Nothing at all. How did Nick recognize her? More importantly, why did he recognize her?
Who cared anyway? There was little chance she would come back to this place, considering it was just a waste of time. She needed to get home. Her excuse for why she was so late, hadn’t been thought of yet. She wasn’t ready yet to say the real reason out loud to her husband that she’d gone to an Al-Anon meeting because of his drinking. She couldn’t tell him that she could barely stomach coming home anymore. She didn’t know what to do, where to go, what to feel, and there was no one, not one person in the world, she could confide in.
Coming from a place of desperation, loneliness, isolation, aching frustration and pain over her husband, she sought out the comfort of strangers, hoping someone, somewhere might understand what she felt, and had to endure.
She only hoped someone could tell her what she was supposed to do about it.