Thriver by Julia Joseph

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  • A vicious break up with her high school's quarterback leaves sixteen year-old Alexis Brewer isolated and with no real friends. Even her widowed father, who channeled his grief into a prodigious military career, doesn't notice the bruises on her arms. Or the terror that stalks her. In order to move forward, she makes the only choice she can—hide her abuse from everyone.

    Lex knows her plan is far from foolproof, but she must break free from the violence holding her hostage to find some kind of peace.

    The problem is, she may not remain alive long enough to do it.

    Rating: Sensual
    Page Count: 262
    Word Count: 66065
    978-1-5092-2352-7 Paperback
    978-1-5092-2353-4 Digital


    “Give me back my tray and get the hell out of my life!” The roar of voices and clanging kitchen utensils clattered into a voyeuristic silence.

    My voice had carried a little farther—screeched a little louder—than I’d intended it to. Even Coach Scott cocked his head out from behind the lunch lady at the cash register across the room. One of his eyebrows flew up his face, almost landing in his receding hairline.

    I swallowed hard and ran my eyes over the crowd staring at me. No one bothered to look at Cal. Icicles tunneled their way through my chest and into my gut. I’d sworn never to let him goad me into making a spectacle of myself again. But I’d failed. As usual. Still, I couldn’t let any of them see me so much as blink in further agitation. Especially Cal. It was him I had to keep from seeing me waver.

    Holding out my hand and lowering my voice, I repeated, “Give me my food and leave me alone.”

    He smirked. “Or what?”

    “Or—or I’ll tell someone what you did to me.” My hand shook, but I kept it extended. The skin over my bicep tingled. I didn’t rub it. I would not show him the slightest sign of weakness.

    “Really?” He traced a fingertip down a wisp of hair that had escaped my ponytail. “I don’t believe you. You haven’t told anyone, not even when my mom asked you straight out last summer.”

    “I’ll tell her now. You know how terrified she is you’ll turn out like—”

    “No. You won’t.” Not even a hint of worry flickered across his face. “And you couldn’t if you wanted to. She’s out of town on another one of her tours. Besides, she wouldn’t believe you now.” He shifted toward me the tiniest bit, mouth quirking to one side. “Come back to me, Lexie. I love you more than anyone else ever could. I’ll try to be better for you. And you have nowhere else to go.”

    He was right.

    The icicles in my gut dissolved into molten lead. I was alone. I had no friends. And I’d spent almost two years making everyone believe he was perfect. Not that anyone would have listened to a negative word about Cal. He charmed every adult he spoke to with his pretty use of ma’ams and sirs and his undeniable talent on a football field. All the girls in school thought he was their sexy, blue-eyed dream. I had thought he was a dream.

    Until he became my living nightmare.

    I shook my head. Maybe I should just go back to him. Acid burned in my throat. My hands trembled.

    One. Two. Three, four, five. You’ve gotta fight to stay alive.

    I sucked in a deep breath and let my mom’s words echo in my head again, thinking they’d help. Of course, they hadn’t for my mom. And they certainly hadn’t for—no. I couldn’t think of my mom right now. And I certainly couldn’t think about her. Nope. I had to face the beast in front of me at the moment and, with him, the one thing I knew to be absolutely true—I could never go back to Cal.

    I wouldn’t survive it.

    Needles of anxiety shot down my arms, but I squared my shoulders. I leaned toward Cal with as much bravado as I could muster. There was still one person in my life that might care what happened to me, even if he was the last person I’d ever ask for help. “But I can tell my dad, and he’ll probably kill you.”


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