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.
“When I was a kid I would stay in the pool for hours until I wrinkled,” Daniel said. Somehow while we treaded water he’d moved closer to me, and I could feel the moving water beneath the surface pulsing against my own legs. “In fact, in elementary school I wanted to be an Olympic diver. I had no fear.”
“I can just imagine.” A tiny Daniel, diving into the pool, his scrawny body plunging the surface as he practiced relentlessly. “What made you change your mind?”
“I look terrible in Speedos.” His grin widened and he gave a cheeky laugh.
I laughed in response. “I used to pretend I was a mermaid. I’d sit on the bottom of the pool and press my legs together and make believe they were a tail.” How many hours my sister and I had lived in our neighborhood’s pool. She’d refused to go in without her goggles and nose guard, uncaring if it made her look goofy.
I paused my thoughts, waiting for the sting of memory to sweep over me. But here in the quiet lake, with no one else around but Daniel, who smiled patiently at me, there was only a small, bittersweet ping. Maybe I was starting to heal a little. Maybe eventually I could get to the point where I didn’t hurt at all.
You haven’t even told him about her, a tiny voice spoke in the back of my mind. Or about what happened.
That made the smile fall from my face.
Daniel dunked underwater, then popped up only a few inches from me, and I startled backward, jarred out of my melancholy. “Boo.”
“You scared me,” I admitted.
“I know.” His face turned serious. “I really want to kiss you again.”
I swallowed, my pulse buzzing in my veins. Right now I wanted him to kiss me again too. In this place of light and sun and water and warmth and happy things. To ground me in the moment.
He snaked an arm out and brushed the side of my hip, his thumb caressing my naked thigh. My breath panted in response, and I let my leg kicks slow to a leisurely pace, just enough to help me float without sinking. I needed that hand of his on me.
“I want that too.” My voice was so soft, a breath above a whisper, that I almost wondered if I’d said it out loud at all.
Daniel reached a hand over, grasped the side of the boat for stability and wrapped the other one under my ass to press me flush against him. It was instinct to wrap my thighs around his waist, to slide my hands along his damp flesh, tangle my fingers in the locks at his neck.
His body was burning hot between my legs, and I was suddenly very, very aware that the only things separating us right now down there were two thin scraps of fabric. His pupils enlarged, and I could barely see his irises. He swallowed, tilted his head closer to me.
I met him halfway with my mouth. Water throbbed against us, pushed and pulled at our bodies. But Daniel was my anchor, keeping me safe, keeping me floating.
Interview with Rhonda Helms
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—SPARKS 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 rhondahelmsbooks.com to find out more about the other teen romances I have out, too!
Rhonda Helms started writing several years ago and loves writing teen and New Adult romance. 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. Visit her website at http://www.rhondahelmsbooks.com for more information about her and her releases.
- A $25 iTunes gift card (INTL)
- An e-copy of ALL I EVER WANTED (INTL)
- A paperback copy of Scratch (US/Can)