Many might envy Alixandra Quinn. She rubs shoulders with the rich and famous at glitzy society balls and fund-raisers as a photographer for a popular magazine. But, do the envious notice Ali always goes home alone? She has cut herself off from personal relationships and emotional entanglements. It’s a strategy to cope with her past, and for ten years, her strategy has worked.
That is, until she meets Bryce Steede, a young and bold Silicon Valley entrepreneur. When Ali becomes the center of his attention, suddenly her world gets turned upside-down. She may have convinced herself that life is fine the way it is, but he is determined to break down her carefully constructed walls, free her mind and body, and show her pleasures that she couldn't have imagined.
As Ali navigates through this uncharted journey of self-discovery, she must find the balance between her head and her heart. Is Bryce just another heartache waiting to happen? Will a secret from her past come back to haunt her? Or will Ali make peace with her past and find true happiness . . .
I awaken with a jolt, thinking I’ve fallen out of my seat. As usual, when I fly, I end up scrunched all the way down on the seat as far as I can go. If I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt, I’d be on the floor. Did we hit something? Confused, I sit up, trying to assess the situation only to notice we’re in some awful turbulence. Angry, dark, purple to black rain clouds surround us. My heart starts pounding in my chest. The plane rocks side to side, bouncing us all over the sky. I pull out my earbuds hoping to hear the Captain’s voice saying everything’s okay.
Bryce pries my hand off the armrest and interlocks our fingers. I look over at him, my eyes wide with terror. He’s talking to me, trying to give me reassurance. The only thing going through my mind right now is how afraid I am.
“Shhh, it’s going to be okay, Ali.” He has such a soothing voice when he’s not being an ass. I try to say something, but I can’t speak. Nothing will come out of my mouth.
“Focus on me.” His thumb strokes the back of my hand. It’s serene and has an instant calming effect on me until we hit another pocket of air. Images of the Captain fighting for dominance over the weather and control of the plane against the storm flash through my mind. I know he’s doing all he can so we don’t spiral downward.
Other passengers cry out in panic. My head jerks back toward the window. I can barely breathe. I don’t want him to see me like this - raw emotions, so vulnerable. Weak.
He places his hand on my face, turning it towards him. “Don’t cry. I’ve got you. Just keep looking at me, okay?” He’s trying to calm me but the only thing I can do is nod. I tighten my grip on his hand and he lets me know it’s all right.
My heart is beating so fast, so hard, I can feel it in my ears and can hear each beat. Tears roll down my face and he gently wipes them away with his thumb. In this moment, as much as I despise him, I’m glad he’s here with me.
“I need you to take deep breaths. Can you do that? Do what I do, okay?” I watch his mouth and listen. We hit another pocket of air, but not as violent as the others. My eyes grow wider as more tears stream down my face.
“I’m here. I’m not going to let anything happen to you. Keep looking at me. Ali, I need you to focus on me and listen. Breathe with me.” All the while, he’s still stroking my hand.
When my breathing gets under control, he leans over the armrest wrapping me in a blanket of calm in the comfort of his arms. I collapse into him. My cries are silent as he holds me and strokes my hair. He inhales deeply, gripping me tighter.
Natalie Money is a former corporate travel agent, a wife, and a cat wrangler. As far back as she can recall, she has always loved to people watch and make up stories about their lives. After many years of creating and getting to know the characters and their stories in her mind, she has finally decided to bring them to life on paper in her first novel, Closely Guarded Secret.
With her husbands job, they're known to relocate often, so when people ask where she lives, she describes herself as a World Citizen.