Next week, Tuesday April 30th, is the release date of the paperback version of Pushing the Limits! In celebration I am releasing the deleted epilogue from Lila and Lincoln’s story, Crossing the Line (scroll down to read!).
I’m also giving away a Pushing the Limits prize package! As some of you may know from twitter, a few weeks back my cat scratched up one of my final hardcover copies of Pushing the Limits that I was going to giveaway. Lots of you had said I should still give it away—just as the limited, special cat-scratched edition of PTL.
So guess what? I am! The prize pack includes a signed copy of the paperback version of Pushing the Limits and a cat signed and author signed version of the cat-scratched Pushing the Limits. This contest is only open to US residents.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
In the back of an auditorium lecture hall, my pencil taps repeatedly against my notebook and my eyes flash for the millionth time to my iPhone, willing it to light up. It’s on silent, but I wish it was on fog horn.
A nudge at my foot draws my attention to my right. My friend Jenna nods at the clock and a rush of nervous adrenaline makes the pencil beat faster. Two minutes until class ends and the weekend begins.
Usually, I love Fridays. Lincoln and I Skype before I go out for the night, but I haven’t heard from him—in four days. It’s a record. A horrible, horror show record. I’ve texted him twice. Called and left a message once. Checked the mailbox every day only to find nothing. Willed him telepathically to call me two million times. My pride’s about to take a trip to hell and I’ll call him again if he doesn’t reach out to me soon.
The phone glows to life and the pencil falls out of my hand and drops to the floor, rolling down the step to the row in front of me. I don’t care. My heart thuds as I swipe my finger across the screen and then… I sink in my seat. Crap. Not Lincoln.
Jenna nudges my foot again. “Lincoln?” she mouths.
I shake my head and mouth back, “Echo.”
My best friend is very happy with the twists and turns of her life, but there’s some drama right now with Noah’s foster sister, Beth, and Echo’s been pretty torn up about it. The one thing my relationship with Lincoln has taught me is that distance doesn’t mean a friendship ends. It just means you have to make more of an effort.
I read through the latest news and text Echo back a few encouraging words. Her returned smiley face is enough to warm a small part of my heart. Unfortunately, only an acknowledgement from Lincoln can thaw out the rest.
“Have a great weekend!” Our professor claps his hands once and the auditorium is filled with the sounds of people shifting out of their seats and closing books. Jenna and I gather our stuff and leave.
Florida is hot. Not that Kentucky doesn’t have its fair share of summer weather in October, but there are typically some cool weather days thrown into the mix. Not in Gainesville. It’s hot every single day.
And I love it.
My body shivers when I leave the air conditioned science building and head toward my dorm.
“Dinner tonight?” Jenna pulls out her keys. We shared the same orientation class and the same fear of not knowing a soul. She’s a commuter, but practically lives in my dorm room.
“Sure.” It’s not like I expect to be Skyping with Lincoln or anything. My mind replays our last phone conversation, last Skype, and most recent letters, searching for whatever I said or did that would make him keep his distance.
During a visit here in September, Lincoln took me to the beach and while we lay on a blanket staring at the stars, he told me that me loved me. And I said the words back. My heart swelled to the point of explosion that night. Now my heart feels like it’s going to collapse in on itself in heartbreak.
A thought freezes me in mid-step and Jenna circles back around when she notices I’ve stopped walking. “What?” she asks.
“What if he’s hurt?” My eyes widen to the point I feel like they’ll pop out of my head. “What if he went to go rock climbing and he fell and he’s bleeding and he’s alone and—”
Jenna tilts her head and the pity in her eyes makes me want to smack her. Instead, I begin walking again. Her sandals snap against the sidewalk as she catches up. “Sorry. You know I think he’s great, but you’ve been reaching out for two days and he hasn’t responded at all. I mean, come on, how many long distance relationships really last?”
I pause at the crosswalk where I turn left to head to the dorms and she turns right to head to her car and blow out a rush of air. “I love him.”
Jenna now sports a matching oh-how-sad-she-really-thought-this-was-going-to-work smile to highlight the pity-eyes. “We’ll go out tonight. Have a good time. Make you forget him.”
“It’s only been four days,” I answer. He’ll call. He will. Lincoln loves me and why do I want to cry?
“Hey Lila!” I look behind me and quickly step out of the way to avoid being pummeled by Bryant on his skateboard. He stops less than a foot away from me and in a smooth motion, kicks it up into his hand.
“Bring Melanie to my game tomorrow night.” Bryant’s a sophomore and plays a game only meant for men with over two hundred pounds of muscle: rugby. The big, bad dude has a huge bone-crunching crush on the tiny girl from a small town in Mississippi who shares my dorm room.
Jenna rolls her eyes. “Yeah, that’ll happen. Because Lila has the ability to breathe life into the dead.”
“Stop it or I won’t go out tonight,” I tell her. Melanie’s had a rough time transitioning to life in Florida. Jenna, for all her nerves at the beginning of the semester, doesn’t understand since she still lives at home. Homesickness…it can kill you if you let it and Melanie is seriously close to coding.
Coding over being away from everyone you love—I get it. I came close to packing my bags a week in, but then Lincoln Skyped with me for hours while I hugged a pillow tight and cried hysterically. He told me I could do it and I stayed and he was right. I’m strong enough to live away from home and pursue my dreams.
Jenna backs away, all smiles. “Then I’m leaving before I say something else. See you tonight.”
We both watch her leave and then I watch as Bryant spins a wheel on his board.
“You okay?” I ask.
He shrugs. “I’m scared Melanie’s going to go home.”
I bite the inside of my lip. “Me too.” I like Melanie. A lot. And I really don’t want her to give up because she’ll regret it. Just like I would have regretted staying in Kentucky or heading home after a week.
Bryant drops the board and places one foot on it. “Just bring her to the game, okay?”
I nod and he rolls away. Melanie doesn’t see it and I was also oblivious until I made the decision to stay. Almost everyone on campus feels scared and alone when they move into the dorms. Each and every smile is forced and faked. Yeah, there’s excitement, but there’s fear of the unknown too. I sort of wish I had a paintball gun in my dorm room. Maybe Melanie would feel better if she could pop a couple of paintballs into her fear.
A welcome wind blows through the trees and I wipe at the sweat forming on my forehead. If everything is going to hell for me and Lincoln, at least he gave me some great memories and a lesson to hold onto forever: I’m strong and I’m going to stay strong.
I shove my cell into the back pocket of my shorts and head to the dorms. A plan. I need a plan. Plans make everything better. I’ll go out with Jenna tonight. Maybe drag Melanie. Homework tomorrow, then Bryant’s game, kidnapping Melanie if I have to. Then Sunday, if there’s still nothing from Lincoln…I’ll call his home phone.
I enter my dorm and wave at a couple of girls hanging out in the lobby as I head to the mailboxes. Two I like, one’s a gossip that I hate. Unfortunately, some high school crap doesn’t get left behind.
I stop breathing when I notice an envelope in the slot. My hand pulls at the ends of my hair, creating a little pain. It’s from Lincoln. It has to be. No one else mails me anything.
All of a sudden all the fear and insecurity I’ve fought over the past couple of days slams into me and my hands begin to shake. It could be good news. It could be…or it could be bad.
I unlock the small door and slip the letter out of the slot. It’s his handwriting. I stare at it. Deciding. Open it here or in my room? Here or in my room? Unable to wait, I slide my finger underneath the lid of the envelope, not caring about the stinging paper cut.
The envelope falls from my hand as I yank open the paper. I blink. Several times. And read the two words again: Turn around.
I spin on my toes, the world rotating twice at the normal speed. My heart rockets up to my throat—It’s Lincoln.
With his hands shoved into his jeans pocket and his thumbs sticking out, Lincoln leans his back against the opposite wall and flashes a small, unsure smile. Oh my God…he’s here.
With three leaps, I throw myself at him and because he’s made of solid steel, Lincoln catches me without stumbling back. He wraps his arms around me and lifts me off the floor. I giggle as my feet sway back and forth
“Why didn’t you call?” I don’t bother pulling away when he sets me back on the floor. Instead I cuddle my head into the curve of his neck and inhale to smell his dark scent. He’s here, but then I flinch as if jolted with electricity. What if he’s not here to see me…what if…
“I wanted to tell you in person,” Lincoln says.
A little unsure, I draw back and hold on to him only because he holds on to me. Please don’t let go. Please, please don’t let go. I love you. “Tell me what?”
He lets me go and I wrap a hand around my stomach as nausea overcomes me. Lincoln withdraws a piece of paper from his back pocket and hands it to me. I stare at it and he motions with his chin for me to open it.
I do and the nausea takes a hike when I see the beautiful words addressed to Mr. Turner from the University of Florida. “You were accepted.”
Lincoln flashes this unbelievably beautiful smile. “I knew I’d spill if I talked to you. I got in. As of next semester, I’ll be right here beside you.”
I begin to bounce on my toes. He’s worked hard for this—spending an entire summer in school, then this semester in community college at home. Scholarshipless, he’s worked a second shift, full-time job in a lumberyard to save money to pay Florida’s tuition.
I touch his cheek and he reaches up and grabs my hand, keeping it pressed close to his skin. Yep, Lincoln’s running days are officially over, and as much as I hate that his path has been difficult, I’m sort of grateful. It taught him how to work toward a goal and it taught me how to stand on my own.
“I’m proud of you,” I say.
His grip on my waist tightens as he brings me closer to him. “I told you I’d never let you down again. I love you, Lila.”
“And I love you.”