Heart in a Box by Catherine Stine
Publication Date: December 20, 2015
Publisher: Inkspell Publishing
Each heartbeat leads Joss closer a shocking truth that will change everything.
Joss Olstad wins the fight to switch from her private school to a public high to “find her pieces” she lost when the Indian artist father she never knew died. There, Joss struggles with a slutty friend, who flirts with her new love; Indian Culture Club girls who press her on her past, as well as her stoner mother’s lies back at home. Armed only with her handmade heart boxes that hold private messages, Joss’s search for identity leads her to a scary industrial section of Queens, and a shocking family secret that changes everything.
Excerpts from Heart in a Box
Interesting how the world’s becoming one enormous neighborhood to explore. I sigh, and settle in to history class.
I open my binder and take out a pen, glance up. A tall, slim boy with wavy brown hair weaves toward me, through the rows. A bobcat in boots and black denim. He hesitates a beat, then sits right next to me and grins.
Hot, hot, hot, I stutter silently.
“Hey,” he says, grabbing a bunch of books from his pack. His binder slides down under his elbow. It smacks the floor and careens under my chair. With my foot, I nudge it, lean over to pick it up then begin to straighten up. Speckled eyes the color of rust stare into mine. I’m buzzing. He reaches to take the notebook. The hair on his arm grazes mine, and I smell limes. The room drops away.
The two of us are on some Hollywood set, not a sugary and over-the-top High School Musical one, more of an urban fascination set in a dark club. The set swirls us around to the thrum thrum of Skrillex or Pharrell.
Hey, I don’t know this guy from John Q. But love at first sight? Heck yah! He whispers thanks as we lift the book together.
My deity in the flesh.
I peek at the name scratched on his spiral binder as he pulls it away.
William. William Torres.
“How was your first day, Jösse darling?” Mom pronounces it like an exaggerated ‘you-see’, which can be endearing or annoying, depending on my mood. Right now it’s soothing.
“It’s a labyrinth, um, but it was great, everyone’s brilliant.” I don’t tell her I was hyperventilating and barely found the classes before the bells rang, or that a girl I rammed into had to practically hold my hand and lead me around, or in the morning I felt like a preppy geek-virgin among the urban Brooklyn übercool. I won’t give Mom an I-told-you-so moment.
“Meet anyone nice?” She fusses with the incense holders, clearly trying to hide her expression as she often does when the subject of my friends comes up. Now she’s rearranging the already perfect array of stone-carved pipes.
I think of bobcat-smooth, lime-infused Will. “I met a girl named Katya,” I answer finally, as I refold a scarf a customer left in a heap. “We ate lunch together.”
“That’s nice. Where does she live?”
Who cares? It’ll be more embarrassing when my new classmates find out where I live—over a freaking head shop in the East Village. “Manhattan Beach,” I say finally.
“Manhattan Beach. Is that—?”
I cut Mom off by turning to a pair of skateboarders who stride up to the counter. “May I help you?”
One of the guys points to a pipe. “How much?”
“Ten,” I answer.
His friend points to a marble container. “How much for a stash box?”
“Fifteen. They’re potpourri boxes,” I correct him. Mom insists on catchy names to hide the real purpose of the items, plus she gives the beat cops huge holiday tips—hush money.
In fact, the major premise of the store is a grand illusion. Even the shop’s name—Bodhisattva Beach—supposedly stands for a sanctuary of salt waves and coconut trees and mango mimosas with wisps of hibiscus petals. And Bodhisattva stands for paradise, for the godhead. But I know different.
Bonney forces us sit on the floor again. I’ve gotten used to this and have taken to wearing long pants on Iconography days so desperate guys like Red Hoodie don’t get a free flash. After hanging her silly “Right Brains at Work” sign on the door, Bonney asks who wants to go first. Not me, I’m thinking. I’m stoked at the art on the outside of my heart box, but the inside’s still a sketchy work-in-progress.
Plus, I’m worried about all that junk I told the club girls last night. If only Leela hadn’t poured that vodka in my drink. Though in all honesty—not sure I even know how to be honest anymore—I had a powerful urge to switch it up in the club, to embellish like the curlicues on their mural, even before my drink was spiked.
None of those girls are in this class. Still, there might lurk a bigmouth amongst us who will blurt out an inadvertent detail I let slip about my situation to the wrong person. No wonder I don’t talk about my past—it’s too easy for things to get complicated. I wonder why I’ve been breaking my nondisclosure policy so much lately.
Glancing over at Will, I study how his denims fit in all the right places and how raised veins meander down the soft inner part of his arms. I lift my face to meet his warm smile. He radiates goodness. I don’t deserve him.
In just a few days, I’ve morphed from nice girl into floozy guy magnet. Some guys in my old school said I was pretty but this is extreme. Maybe my new amber perfume contains some pungent pheromone operating on a purely animal level. If encouraged, Trenton would, no doubt, be a wild beast. Eek.
“So, chica? Wake up! Whaddya say?” Trenton musses my hair. The pressure of his hand feels good and bad. His breath on me smells of glazed donuts. How to tell him without hurting him that I don’t like him “that way.”
“There you are.” Another male voice pumps my hormones big-time.
“Will!” I leap away from Trenton. But not before Will notices, because his body curls in on itself, wounded. He strolls in anyway, tries to be blasé. His eyes fix on Trenton, and Trenton stares right back. They’re two male dogs, ready to pounce.
Trenton breaks the stare first. He springs up, shoots an imaginary basket and bounce-steps on over to the CD rack. “Hey, bro’ I was just asking Joss here, to recommend some tunes. I don’t know nothin’ about world music.” Trenton’s tone suddenly shifts to sheepish. He’s caved in to Will, the alpha dog.
“Is that so?” Will takes his time approaching the shop counter.
I have to be the bold one, need to fix it. “Hey, Will.” I come around to the front. “I’m really happy to see you.”
His speckled eyes meet mine, open a door in me and fill it with warmth. I feel the prick of tears. Stupid girl, you almost blew it.
“I’m happy to see you too.” Will takes my hands and squeezes them. Oskar’s touch was creepy-crawly, Trenton’s was what a brother’s might be, Will’s is liquid magic.
Fate is testing me because just before bio, my heart practically blobs out on the floor. Will is halfway down the hall talking to Katya. She’s standing really, really close—girlfriend close.
I freeze, with my books clutched to my chest. Now, the evil slut is touching Will’s cheek. The sight makes me want to run up and yank her over-pampered hair out by the roots. Why’s he letting her do that? I’m ready to slap him next, after I get done with her. So, that’s why he never answered my texts.
Will’s voice inside whispers You need to trust me. That’s what he said to me at Z’s party. Not an easy thing to do. It goes against all of my raging doubts.
I march over and slip my arm around Will, claim every inch of space in front of him, which forces Katya to take a few steps back.
“Oh! Hey.” Will’s surprised tone oozes guilt. Or is that my inner-demon doing the reasoning for me?
Trust me, okay? His voice plays again in my head. It’s the only thing that powers me through this without freaking. He must have a reason for letting her do what she did.
I’ll ask him the why later.
Catherine Stine writes YA and romance. Her novels span the range from futuristic to supernatural to contemporary. Her YA sci-fi thrillers Fireseed One and Ruby’s Fire are Amazon bestsellers and indie award winners. Her YA, Dorianna won Best Horror Book in the Kindle Hub Awards. She also writes romance as Kitsy Clare. Her Art of Love series includes Model Position and Private Internship. She suspects her love of dark fantasy came from her father reading Edgar Allen Poe to her as a child, and her love of contemporary fiction comes from being a jubilant realist. Visit her at catherinestine.com and subscribe to her newsletter for news of releases, workshops and appearances.
This giveaway is provided by the author. The prize pack includes:
A $40 gift card, 2 hand-painted heart-boxes with secret treasure inside, a signed paperback of Dorianna by Catherine Stine, a signed paperback of Heart in a Box by Catherine Stine, a great YA ebook pack of novels: Tiger Lily by Wende Dikec, When Sorrows Come by Katie M John, and Time Runs Away with Her by Christine Potter.