By: Meredith Towbin | Other books by Meredith Towbin
Published By: Etopia Press
Published: Feb 15, 2013
ISBN # 9781939194695
Published By: Etopia Press
Published: Feb 15, 2013
ISBN # 9781939194695
Word Count: 76,450
Available in: Adobe Acrobat, HTML, Mobipocket (.mobi), Epub
Straightjacket by Meredith Towbin - Romance>Young AdultSometimes a match made in heaven begins in hell.
Eighteen-year-old Anna has lived her whole life in shame, losing herself in books to cope with crippling panic attacks triggered by her abusive parents. Forced into a psychiatric hospital, she can’t imagine a future that’s anything but bleak—until she meets Caleb, a gifted, 19-year-old artist who insists he’s an angel.
He swears his mission is to help Anna break free from her parents’ control and fulfill a destiny she can only dream of. The doctors, however, are convinced that Caleb is delusional.
Anna doesn’t want to be that girl who’s in love with the guy “with issues,” but when she sees his stunning portraits of her and the way he risks everything to keep her safe, she can’t help but imagine a new future for the two of them, filled with hope. Then just as it seems they’ve created heaven on earth, Caleb’s past emerges full force, threatening to destroy their tiny, blissful world. And Anna has to decide if she should follow her heart, or if Caleb’s really as troubled as his doctors say…
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Sensuality Rating: Not rated
Excerpt:Chapter OneThey were doing something to his left arm. The skin above his biceps puckered under the pressure. His hand grew numb and bloated. He couldn’t turn his head to look but figured out that they were using the rubber tourniquet again. They spoke to each other, but the sounds were empty. The words held as much meaning as the buzzing of the florescent lights on the ceiling.“When did this episode begin?”“A little over two hours ago.”Something cool swiped the back of his hand, and before his mind could come up with the words alcohol swab, there was a prick. The pain cut deep, stabbing all the way down to the vein.“Hopefully this dose will do it. He should start to come out of it in a half hour or so. Page me when he starts moving.”Suddenly the coolness was on the inside. The drugs were flowing through the IV, their chill rushing through the small veins in the back of his hand. It traveled down his thick, heavy fingers, which rested feebly along the arm of the chair. The coolness took over. It had happened so quickly. There wouldn’t be much time to go back and get the information that he needed. He had to return now.Even though his eyes were still open—he couldn’t close them even if he wanted to—the white walls and the figure of the nurse sitting in front of him blurred. A bright white light swallowed him up, and when it faded, he found himself back in heaven.His studio was just how he had left it, everything in its place. The transition had been so quick that he was jittery. Hoping to ground himself, he walked over to the far wall to take everything in. It was plastered with things that he loved or that changed him—a self-portrait of Andy Warhol, his chin lifted high and two black eyes in the shape of horizontal Ps staring back at him; a Beatles album cover with a psychedelic yellow submarine popping out at him; a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon about lobotomies and the dangers of playing with girls; and in the corner, a Dum Dum wrapper with the words mystery flavor and a bunch of question marks spanning the length of the wrinkled paper.His drawings filled the empty spaces in between. They were all portraits, the faces of angels. Some looked human, with buoyant, untroubled expressions. Other angels were exotic mixtures of animals or crazy alien forms that looked like they’d stepped out of a video game. The rest were just glowing balls of energy.He felt better now, ready to focus. Samuel would call for him soon and lay out the details of his mission. He’d been sent down to Earth on a few short visits already. Being reintroduced to it in small doses would make it less traumatic, or so he was told. Whether that was true or not didn’t really matter. Nothing about this was up to him.He might as well get one or two sketches down on paper while he waited for Samuel. He settled into his habitual posture at the drafting table—rounded back, head hovering over the desk, left hand resting on his temple, his other hand gripping a charcoal pencil. He went to work, forming what seemed like random lines here and there, but soon they would come together to create the image that he could already see in his mind. A pesky section of his dark, wild hair fell over his right eye. He smoothed it away and tucked it behind his ear. When it fell again, he was too focused on his work to move it out of the way. So it hung there, a black wispy curtain that dangled unnoticed in the space between his quick, darting eyes and the drawing spread flat below them.He couldn’t ignore the coolness in his hand as it traveled up his arm. Time was running out. What was taking Samuel so long?Then, as if he’d asked it out loud, the voice popped into his head.“Caleb.”The pencil fell onto the table, the tip leaving a black smudge as it hit the pale wood.“Finally. What took you so long?”“Just finishing up the most stellar golf game ever. Three under par, thank you very much.”“Amazing,” Caleb said dryly. “You ready now?”“Settle down. Once you check that attitude, you can meet me in the commons.”“Great. And how long will I have to wait for you to grace me with your presence this time?”“What did I just say? You can be such a wiseass.”Caleb pictured him rolling his eyes. “And you’re the most foul-mouthed angel I’ve ever met.”Samuel let out his deep, happy laugh. “Just start movin’. See you later.”Caleb was about to step out when he realized he was wearing only a pair of boxer shorts. He could have gone out into the commons like that—nobody would have thought twice about it—but he didn’t want to be half-naked in front of Samuel. After all, their meeting was official business.He walked over to the sleek leather couch in the corner, its collection of square and rectangular cushions forming exact perpendicular lines against one another, and grabbed the gray Henley shirt that had been thrown over the arm. The fabric clung to his lean frame once he’d slipped it on, its shade intensifying the gray specks in his blue eyes. He wiggled into a pair of faded corduroys that were lying nearby on the floor and found his black Converse sneakers underneath his desk. Finally, he slipped a charcoal pencil into his back pocket with the tip poking out and tucked his sketchpad under his arm. They went with him everywhere.He turned to face the windows that covered the entire length of one of the walls. The light streaming in was so bright that he couldn’t see what was outside. It flooded the entire studio as he opened the door. Even so, he didn’t need to squint; there was a strange softness to it. As the light dulled, he found himself in the commons.Bright, vibrant color shone everywhere. When he’d found himself here for the first time, he couldn’t help but be mesmerized by it. He’d always thought that heaven would be bright white. It turned it out that it was bright but bright with color.He strolled along the cobblestoned street, which was lined with three-story buildings. They were made of colorful stone and extended far into the distance, meeting at a point as they touched the horizon. The first level of the buildings held all kinds of shops, which provided angels with anything they could want. The upper levels were their homes.He came upon the fountain that marked the exact center of the commons. With his hand resting on its outer stone circle, which felt as warm as the air around him, he dipped his other hand into the water and cut a winding path through it. The water felt warm too, and it fought off the coolness that lingered in his hand. Streams shot upward and lingered in the air before falling back to the surface and landing without a splash.He decided to sit down on a nearby bench while he waited. He liked to watch the angels making their way past him; he always found inspiration for his drawings in them. A couple who passed by looked like the real thing—white flowing robes, long blond hair, huge wings trailing enormous bodies. A couple of cats, a horse, and an angel that looked exactly like Marilyn Monroe rounded out the bunch.Eventually he spotted Samuel coming toward him. Blond, blue-eyed, tall, and athletic, he could have been on the cover of an admissions pamphlet for a New England prep school. He was sporting a white polo shirt, patchwork madras pants, and crisp white golfing shoes without a hint of a grass stain. A smirk spread across his face as he came up to Caleb.“Good to see you outta that shoe box you call a studio,” Samuel said as he sat down next to him on the bench. “It’s beyond me how you can sit there for eternity all by yourself.”“I like it. I don’t need any of this”—his eyes swept across the commons—“to be happy.”“Oh, come on. You know you like coming here. And you also know that if you didn’t come out to see me once in a while, you’d miss me to pieces.” He raised his deep voice an entire octave higher, creating his best girl impression.Caleb laughed. “You’re crazy.”“I’m just saying. Maybe sometimes you could do something, I don’t know, fun in heaven.”“Uh-huh.”“I’m not saying you have to sit on the beach of a tropical island forever, but maybe it could be something that doesn’t involve being hunched over a table, scribbling madly by yourself.” For effect, he bent over his own imaginary table and scowled.“Oh really? So how should I spend my time? Doing what you do?”Samuel slapped the top of his thigh. “There you go! A little golf would do you some good.”“No thanks.” Caleb laughed. “Last time I checked, we were in heaven, not the town of sucksville.”Just then, an angel sat down on the bench on the other side of the fountain. Caleb grabbed his sketchpad as fast as he could manage and yanked the pencil out of his pocket. He’d never seen an angel like this before. She was nude, but many angels walked around the commons without a stitch of clothing. This angel looked exactly like Botticelli’s Venus. She had the same porcelain skin, gentle features, and hair that fell down to her knees. It blew around and behind her even though the air was still. She stood maybe ten feet tall, enormous compared to the other angels. And she was sipping a coffee.Samuel rolled his eyes as he watched Caleb work. “Hey.”Caleb didn’t answer.“Hey!”Caleb ignored the fact that the coolness had spread into his shoulder. “What? I’m working here.”“And I’m talking here. You rushed me outta my golf game so I could sit here and watch you do this?”Caleb sighed. “Inspiration hits when it hits. I’ve got to sketch this before I go. You can talk while I do this.”“Fine. I guess you’ll just tolerate me while I go over the details.”“Yeah, whatever,” Caleb mumbled as he formed thick strands of hair with long, heavy pencil strokes.“So you think you’re ready? Gotten the lay of the land?”“I’ve been watching her, if that’s what you mean.” Caleb’s eyes stayed glued to the drawing.“Good. This is an important mission, and it’s probably not gonna be easy. Better you than me.”“All right, all right. Just tell me what I have to do already.”“This girl…she’s broken…she’s…”Caleb wasn’t used to hearing Samuel struggle for the right words.“She’s had a hard time. Her parents aren’t good to her, and it’s just about killed her. You gotta do three things. First, get her away from her parents. That’ll be the easy part,” he muttered under his breath.Caleb tried to cut him off and ask him what he meant, but Samuel powered through.“Then you have to convince her that she’s worth something, make her see that she’s important, that she has something to say. And then get her to write the book.”“What book? What’s it about?”“She’s the only one who can know what it’s about. She has to write it. All I know is that it’s a book that’ll change things.”“All right. Parents, special, book. Got it.” The coolness, which had pooled in his shoulder, burst out of the socket and trickled down into his chest. The chill made him shiver. It was almost time to go.“Good luck. Keep your wits about you. Before you know it, we’ll be matching up on the links.”“That’s never gonna happen.” Caleb laughed, forming the dimple above Venus’s lip. The coolness rushed down through his pelvis and then his legs. The drawing in front of him flickered. After a few seconds, it disappeared completely and he was blinded. He blinked, and when his eyes adjusted and he could see again, the drawing of Venus had been replaced by the figure of a middle-aged man.But before he could focus on the face, a flash of light blinded him in his right eye. The tiny veins at the back of his eyeball glowed. Tears pooled in the outer corner as he tried to snap his lid shut, but a finger held it firmly up and in place. Then the light was gone, but in seconds it reappeared in his left eye. Now he realized what was happening, how the penlight was sweeping back and forth in front of his pupils. His hand came up off the arm of the chair, but a painful tug stopped it. He’d forgotten that the IV was buried in his vein. A hand pushed his own down onto his lap.His eyes focused.He knew who the man was.“Looks like we found the right dose. Welcome back, Caleb.”