SUMMARY of the first book: When she was four, a generous couple welcomed orphan Olivia Sophia into their lives. As she grew up, her parents made good decisions for her, raising “Livvy” to be an intelligent and creative young girl. Now sixteen, three people influence many of her choices: her first love, her second father, and a third man who speaks to her through his artwork.
Livvy’s father is practical and steadfast; even-tempered and quietly observant. She’s an artist who acts on her emotions and thrives on praise. Unhappy with their differences– and misunderstanding her father’s methods– Livvy chooses to focus on the similarities she shares with an enigmatic painter from her mother’s past. Her overactive imagination leads her down an obsessive path– one that only stands to hurt everyone around her.
The distraction of a new boyfriend has the potential to end her search and reunite her family, but his involvement in her life could be just as devastating, taking Livvy away from her father for good.
An excerpt follows…
There are times when the paint bleeds through my makeshift smock. The darkest colors are the most noticeable, of course, but it’s the red pigment that takes the most time to scrub off of my skin. I no longer try to wash it off, choosing to leave it as a reminder of a man I never met; a scar that never truly heals.
I stare intensely at my current work, pulling the photo out of the back pocket of my jeans and comparing the two. The black and white picture gives no real hint of his exact hair color or skin tone. I know it was dark blonde, or light brown, and I’ve done my best to match the paint color to what I remember him looking like in other photos I’ve seen. He was more tanned than my mother, but who isn’t? I imagined that my skin coloring very much matched his, and I had depicted it perfectly in the portrait. I made his eyes brown like mine, too. His smile is easy, relaxed; his expression happy, carefree and alive.
Alive. I trace my pinky finger over his smile on the small wallet-sized photo I had stolen– borrowed really– only after making sure there was no paint on that finger. Something is off, but I can’t really figure out what it is. I try to block off the picture in small sections to compare it to the painting. His eyes look perfect. His lashes might be a little too dark. Maybe his cheekbones? I stare at his messy hair, impressed with my work. The highlights look natural, and I imagine how soft his hair must have been, the way it flopped in so many directions. You could tell from his expression that he didn’t care. He just looked like someone who enjoyed life.
“Trey! I’ve told you not to sneak up on me!” I snap at my brother. At five, he has no understanding of the concept of privacy. He had no respect for closed doors, much less for the half of the basement I used as my studio and bedroom.
“You were just standing there,” he says, his voice shaky. I turn around to see his little forehead scrunched, his eyes beginning to water. “I’m sorry.” He juts his bottom lip out, and I can’t help but feel bad for reprimanding him. He’s five.
“It’s okay,” I tell him as I sit in the chair next to him. “I’m sorry I yelled at you.”
“Okay,” he mumbles, making a production out of wiping his eyes. I’m sure he learned that from me. “So who is it?” he repeats his original question.
“I don’t know,” I tell him. “Just some man. He’s handsome, though, right?” I waggle my eyebrows at him. He vehemently shakes his head. “Do you like the painting at least?”
He nods his head, walking toward the artwork with his hand outstretched. He touches the wet paint before I can stop him, smudging some of the pigment on the brown jacket my subject wears.
“Careful, kiddo. It’s wet.” He pulls his hand back and looks at the paint globs on his fingers. “Here.” I pick up the bottom of the smock and rub the ink off of his fingers. When I’m done, he continues to wipe his hand on the black fabric as if I didn’t clean his fingers well enough. His attention span short, he smiles at me before running out of my room and upstairs to the main level of our house.
“Hey, don’t tell Mom and Dad about the painting, ‘kay?”
“‘Kay!” he yells back at me.
I walk over to the mirror to look at my reflection, checking out how the latest paint smudges have changed the black garment I wear when I paint. The smock is worn and threadbare, but it’s been a part of my life since the first time I held a paintbrush when I was four years old.
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