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Before I Die
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From Nikki Ash comes a new, contemporary, stand-alone, romance about not only finding love but finding yourself.
Things I want to do before I die:
I’m drowning. Trapped beneath my mother’s expectations. Suffocated by my religious upbringing.
On the outside I play by the rules, but on the inside… I have dreams. A list. A tattered scrap of paper tucked away from the world, only I know about.
Some items were easy to check off. Others, though, will require me to take a huge leap out of my comfort zone.
One night changes everything. While at the club for my birthday, so I could check off another item on my list, I did something I never imagined I would have the guts to do: I got drunk and kissed a stranger.
What I wasn’t prepared for was how that one kiss would change the course of my life, making me realize life is more than a list to be checked off. It’s about living in the moment so you don’t miss the ones not on the list—the ones you didn’t even know you wanted.
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“Come on, Nevaeh,” my best friend whines as she pulls me along. The shoulders bumping into my small frame have me stumbling down the sidewalk as we walk toward The Warehouse. According to Blaire, it’s the happening place in Atlantic City, and everybody who’s anybody comes here.
Blaire swears it’ll be an experience of a lifetime and, even though I gave her a hard time about coming here tonight, secretly her words have my adrenaline pumping. I’m both nervous and excited to be here. On one hand, I can’t wait to experience a club for the first time. I’ve seen them on shows and read about them in books, but I’ve never had the guts to experience one for myself. The bright lights, the thumping music, the sweaty bodies gyrating against one another.
On the other hand, I’m freaking the heck out. Because… the bright lights, the thumping music, the sweaty bodies gyrating against one another isn’t who I am. Well, at least not the me everybody knows, and definitely not the me my mother expects me to be. On the inside, however, that small piece of me that has been hiding away my entire life is dying to get out and shake what my momma gave me. And that scares me to death. Because if my mom knew I was thinking about shaking anything, she’d probably lock me up and douse me in holy water before having the priest perform an exorcism on me.
As we get closer, the bass of the music gets louder, telling me we’re almost to our destination. With every step I take, my heart beats a little harder and a whole lot faster against my chest. Even in the chill of the night, my palms begin to sweat. I’m in a constant battle, torn within myself. Two parts that make up one whole. The first half of me wants to please my parents, live my life according to the Bible and their expectations. The other half wants to be set loose and be let free to live my life according to me.
To most people, this is just a night out. They’ll walk into the club and drink, dance, and have a good time. But for me, it’s more complicated than that. Something in me is screaming that when I walk through the doors of this club, there’ll be no turning back. I’ve lived my entire twenty-four years of life without giving into temptation, and I’m petrified that once I do this, I’ll no longer be able to live my life ignoring my baser instincts.
It’s like when you’re little and you have your first taste of chocolate cake. Until you’ve tried it, you have no idea what you’ve been missing. But once you take that first bite, there’s no going back. You can’t un-try it or un-taste it. Your brain will always recognize and crave that sweet, chocolatey goodness. This newfound freedom is my chocolate cake. I’m already craving it, and I haven’t even tried it yet.
Walking down the sidewalk, hand in hand with Blaire, I glance down at myself once more as I remember what I looked like when I stood in front of my floor-length mirror tonight before we left. Warm brown hair falling in waves around my face and down my back. Makeup done to perfection with just enough mascara to make my brown eyes pop, a pinch of blush to give my naturally tanned skin a soft glow, and a smidge of lip gloss to make my lips shine. Staring back at my reflection, I could see on my body a beautiful white off the shoulder, knee-length dress. The outfit complete with too tall but gorgeous white patent leather Christian Louboutin pumps I can barely walk in.
What couldn’t be seen in that mirror, however, is that behind the flawless makeup my best friend insisted on putting on me, and under the sexy dress and heels she lent me, is a scared and insecure woman who has spent too many years hiding under God, inside the Bible, and behind her parents. What couldn’t be seen is that beyond all the makeup and expensive clothes is a woman fighting a losing battle. And I say losing, because the moment I walk into this club, I’m going to lose a piece of me, the part I have longed to lose but at the same time fear losing. The part my mom holds onto with a firm grip like it’s her lifeline. But to me, it’s a noose slowly tightening around my neck, threatening to choke the life out of me.
“Now listen, Nevaeh,” Blaire says, slowing down to keep pace with me. “Once we get in there, you’re going to let go and enjoy your birthday.” She looks down at me struggling in my heels and throws her head back in laughter.