Last year, I had the opportunity to beta read Olivia’s book, This Dread Road. I loved it and jumped at the chance to be a stop on the blog tour.
It’s September 1968, and Howard Knox freshman Annemarie Vanderhorst is happy to be free of her controlling mother’s societal expectations. She vows to spend her time at college wisely in pursuit of her own dreams. But before she can figure out what she wants from life, Henry Eden, the dark and handsome stranger in her philosophy class, takes over every waking thought.
Nearly half a century later, Claire James returns to Bennett after leaving her fiancé, determined to be independent for once in her life. After convincing her father to let her work for the family business, she soon realizes being a responsible adult isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Loathed by her coworkers, neglected by her best friend, and held captive by a terrifying secret, she doesn’t know how much more she can take.</p>
<p>The lives of these two women, decades apart but uncannily similar, finally intersect one fateful night. With broken hearts and hope for the future, will they find the answers they’re looking for?
“Everyone, please take your seats.” The professor glanced at his watch and frowned before letting his arm fall back down to his side. “Class should have begun three and half minutes ago. Apparently, punctuality is no longer a priority at this school.”
As he spoke, Annemarie darted through the door, red—faced and panting. “So sorry,” she mumbled to the professor, who either didn’t hear her apology or refused to accept it.
The weight of fifty—six pairs of eyes bore down on her shoulders as she stared up the stacked rows, hoping to find an unclaimed desk. In her desperation, she started up the nearest set of stairs. There had to be an empty seat near the back, right? Stomach clenched, she grasped the handrail and continued her ascent. What would she do if she couldn’t find one?
Susan. None of this would have happened if it weren’t for Susan.
Annemarie had been happy to grab lunch at the cafeteria after she and Susan left their biology class, but she’d let her roommate talk her into making a quick trip into town instead. She’d sworn up and down they would make it back in time for their one o’clock classes.
“My dad and I ate at this great little deli downtown last summer when he brought me for a visit. It’s just a few streets over.”
But the deli was busier on the first day of class than it had been over the summer. They stood in line for almost half an hour and didn’t receive their food for another fifteen minutes after that. Annemarie didn’t even know what her sandwich had tasted like, she’d had to eat it so quickly. She’d spent the next ten minutes running full tilt back to campus, hoping their professors would be forgiving.
So much for that.
Down below, the professor cleared his throat. Annemarie’s face turned an even brighter shade of red. Maybe her mother was right. Did she really need to take this class? Hurtling down the stairs and running out of the lecture hall seemed more appealing by the second.
But just as she decided to succumb to the temptation, she found what she was searching for: an empty seat. It was farther up than she would have liked, the very last desk in the very top row, but it was available.
With a sigh of relief Annemarie hopped up the last few steps and scooted behind those already seated, ignoring their grumbling about inconsiderate people. When she reached the end of the row, she tapped the shoulder of the boy—no, man—sitting next to the empty desk.
“Excuse me, is this seat taken?”
He looked from her to the seat and back. “Don’t think so.”
She slid behind the desk and tucked herself against the wall, willing herself to be invisible.
The professor heaved an exaggerated sigh and said, “Now that everyone is finally ready, let’s begin. I’m Dr. Liam Craig. Welcome to Introduction to Philosophy. In this course, you will learn to …”
Annemarie leaned over and whispered, “Sorry about that. I’m usually on time, or even early.”
Keeping his eyes on Dr. Craig, the man beside her nodded but said nothing.
“My name’s Annemarie,” she said. “What’s yours?”
He met her eyes with a heavy—lidded stare before returning his attention to the front of the classroom, again saying nothing. His jaw stiffened, and was it her imagination, or was his hand twitching?
When it became obvious this was the only answer she could expect from him, Annemarie leaned back in her chair and tried not to let it bother her. Class had already started, after all—she was the one being rude. Besides, what did it matter? She was there to learn about philosophy, not moon over some guy.
But as Dr. Craig droned on about fallacious reasoning, the nature of reality, and the existence of God, Annemarie couldn’t keep her mind from wandering back to her handsome seatmate.
With ten minutes left, Dr. Craig said, “I think I’ve covered everything necessary for our first full class meeting, so I’ll give you an early dismissal today. Don’t get used to it, though. Take a copy of the syllabus on your way out, and please prepare to discuss chapters one and two of your textbook for Wednesday. And be on time,” he added, glaring up at Annemarie.
Without a word, the man next to her stood, stepped behind her, and slowly made his way down the steps. He took intermittent pauses to allow others to pass him, but he spoke to no one. People parted around him and rejoined on the other side. The guys seemed to size themselves up against him, while the girls ducked their heads and gave him a shy smile, but he didn’t seem to notice any of them. When he reached the bottom of the stairs and released his grip on the railing, he limped across the narrow stretch of floor between the lectern and the first row of seats. She couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to his leg.
Before she knew it had happened, she was the last person in the classroom other than Dr. Craig. She blushed and gathered her books, chiding herself for her distraction. Why should she care about this person she’d only just met? He didn’t care about her—he’d made that abundantly clear. She should just put him out of her mind and focus on school.
Even so, for the rest of the day, she couldn’t shake the memory of his eyes—shielded, mistrustful, and darker than a thundercloud.
About the Author
Olivia started writing creatively at eight years old. During middle and high school, she attended several writing conferences. Her short story “By Its Cover” placed first in its division in the 2008 District III Alabama Penman Creative Writing Contest. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Montevallo in 2012, married in 2013, and published her first novel in 2014. She received a Readers Favorite five-star review for her holiday novella,’Tis the Season, in 2016.
Olivia lives in central Alabama with her husband JD and their cats, Buddy and Lafayette. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys watching quality television, teaching herself how to cook, and playing Pokémon GO.