by Anne Holster
Tanner has always gotten wants from girls-whether it's the co-ed sitting next to him in class or the scantily dressed groupies that follow his band, Hudson Nash. There's only one woman immune to his charms, and that's his mother. Tired of Tanner's hard partying, she's waiting for him to grow up and settle down, preferably with a nice girl. When she refuses to finance his tour with the band, Tanner knows he'll have to find a way to change her mind.
Grace Roberts is not like most college girls. Shy and bookish, she prefers sneakers to stilettos and never quite mastered the art of taming her mane of unmanageable hair. Guys are not exactly throwing themselves at her, so when Tanner Reed, the hottest guy in school (scratch that, the hottest guy anywhere!) takes an interest in her, it seems too good to be true.
Bound by his deception and her girlish hopes, Tanner and Grace will be forced to question everything they believe about each other, and themselves. When these two get together, anything can happen and anyone can get hurt. Anyone can fall in love.
As I watched Tanner play, I thought back to all the times I had been mesmerized by the mere sight of him--in class, at the gym. They seemed so insignificant now, compared with the pure intensity etched on his sweat-drenched face, the emotion in his voice as he belted out the song, the passion with which his fingers flew on the guitar. His sweat-soaked shirt clung tightly to his muscular body as he moved with the music. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. There was a fierceness in his eyes that became even more intense with each passing moment, and it was mesmerizing to watch. This was insane!
By the time he brought the song to a close the crowd was in a complete frenzy. He looked up and out over all the people and then, with his guitar still strapped around him, he put his fists way up and pumped them once in the air before the lights cut out. Oh my God…my boyfriend’s a rock star?!
As a self-diagnosed hopeless romantic, I have always been intrigued by all the things that must align before that “meant-to-be couple” can come together. Most obvious are all the external, societal factors—a person’s looks, status, etc. - that make him/her more or less attractive. Ultimately, of course, it comes down to self-worth. We’ve all heard people talk about that couple where one is more desirable (or at least appears to be) than the other. “How did that girl get that guy?” they say, or vice versa. There are many answers, of course, but if we’re talking about a true, lasting relationship, the “less attractive” person must at some point realize what they truly bring to the table. That said, it still seems that one person always has a bit more power than the other. That was part of what I wanted to convey in my novel, Imaginary Grace. It is the story of Grace and Tanner, two completely different college students with seemingly different needs, desires…and beliefs about what a relationship entails.
Grace: I was doodling on the inside cover when suddenly the air in the room seemed to shift. I knew before I even looked up that Tanner had walked in. I kept my head down, but peeked up through my lashes just as he turned down the row I was in. As he walked toward me, I tried not to notice the snug-fitting ocean-blue t-shirt that perfectly matched his eyes and made them pop. The jeans he was wearing looked like they were made for him, the way they hugged his thighs.
As he got closer, I realized there were only a few seats available and prayed that he didn’t take the one right next to me. He did, tossing his backpack on the floor before easing casually into the seat. I kept my head down, pretending to read over my notes from the last class.
“Hi, Grace,” he said, startling me. I could feel him staring, waiting for me to look up. I wanted to look up, if only to ask how he knew my name, but I just couldn’t look him in the eye. What if I made a fool of myself again?
“Hi,” I said nonchalantly, never looking away from the apparently fascinating notes I had taken.
For the next hour and fifteen minutes, I barely breathed and I certainly didn’t look his way. After what seemed like an eternity, class was finally dismissed. I started to gather my things when I heard him ask – quite sweetly, I might add – “Would you mind if I borrowed your notes from last week’s class? I can’t seem to find mine.”
I looked around for who he could possibly be talking to, but I was the only one around. I felt his beautiful blue eyes boring into me, then he said, “I could make a quick copy of them at the library and give them right back. Do you have another class after this?”
My head was spinning. Quick, answer him! “No,” was all I could get out.
“No, I can’t borrow your notes or no, you don’t have another class after this?”
Somehow, I managed to compose myself. “Sure, you can borrow my notes and no, I don’t have another class after this.” Save!
“Great,” he said, “let’s head over to the library. It’ll only take a minute.”
We walked together in silence to the library, although I did steal several sideways glances at him. When we arrived, he headed straight for one of the large, high-speed copiers, and I handed him my notes. “Thanks, Grace,” he said, after he had copied the pages. “I really appreciate it.” He shoved the notes into his backpack. “Well, I’ll see you around…” Then he turned and walked out of the library, leaving me to stare blankly after him.
Am I dreaming or did that just really happen?
Tanner: I’d been hoping to come to the gym to work off my shitty mood, but the encounter with Gary had only made it worse. There was little doubt that I’d have to put a lot more time into “Project Grace” than I’d previously thought, especially with Gary lurking around. Somehow, I’d have to make sure she had minimal contact with him until this was over.
In between bench presses, I considered my options. Maybe after class on Friday I’d walk her home or something. Oh God, shoot me now!
After my workout I went home and showered, then spent the rest of the day playing my guitar in my room and watching the baseball playoffs. Finally, mercifully, I passed out, exhausted.
On my way to class on Friday, I mentally rehearsed what I was going to say to Grace. I didn’t want to come on too strong and scare her off. I had to take it slow and lure her in. I walked into class and took the seat right next to her. “Hey there,” I smiled, “long time no see.”
She smiled and said hi.
“Did you have a good time the other night?” I asked.
“Um, yeah.” She turned and faced the front of the room.
Goddamn, this was like pulling teeth. I watched her out of the corner of my eye during class, but she didn’t once look my way. When class was over, we walked out together and I asked her if she wanted to stop in the cafeteria. She didn’t say anything, but she nodded, almost eagerly, it seemed.
She was predictably quiet on the way there, then said she didn’t want anything. Shrugging off my annoyance, I grabbed a coffee. “Which dorm are you in?” I asked when we got outside.
“We’re in Dorm C, on the north end.”
“Oh, great,” I said, “I’m heading that way” - not really – “we can walk together.”
“Oh, okay,” was all she said. We walked silently for a while and then I finally asked, “So, how do you know Gary?”
She hesitated for a moment before she replied, “Um…I know him from the gym.”
“The gym?” I questioned. “I didn’t know you went to the gym. I work out there too.”
“I know. I’ve seen you there,” she said.
Uh oh, what did she see? “You have?”
“Yeah,” she said, “I saw you there once when we first signed up. It was early in the morning, but Beth and I usually work out in the afternoon.”
“Oh, I guess that’s why I’ve never seen you there – I usually go in the mornings.” Then I had an idea. “Hey, maybe sometime we can do the treadmill or the bikes together-- after I finish my workout.”
She hesitated a beat, then said, “Um…sure.”
“Okay,” I said, pulling out my phone, “why don’t you give me your number and we can work something out.”
She said the numbers slowly, then repeated them to make sure I got it right. Was she blushing?
“Great, I’ll text you or give you a call next week.” By then I could see her dorm up ahead. “Okay, I’ll guess I’ll see you around then…” Shit, even I felt nervous. She was so awkward!
“Yeah, okay,” she said, then she turned and went inside without a backward look.
I walked back to my car feeling like my head was going to explode. Were there really guys out there who actually put in this kind of effort with girls? It was exhausting. But at least I had solved the mystery of where she knew Gary from. Meeting her at the gym actually killed two birds with one stone—I could talk her up and keep her away from him. I’d text her next week and ask her to meet me there. Oh, brother.
As my characters came to life in my mind, I was curious to find out whether Tanner would always be the self-absorbed player and Grace the self-effacing ‘bookworm’. What would they discover about each other and themselves, and would it be enough to create that magical, forever love? It was exciting for me to find out, and I hope it will be for you as well.
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AUTHOR Bio and Links:
First time author Anne Holster resides in Northern New Jersey with her husband and two children. When she’s not writing she enjoys spending time with her family, playing tennis and reading angsty romance novels. She is currently working on her second novel.
Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/imaginarygracebook
Goodreads link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25271194-imaginary-grace?from_search=true&search_version=service