Nic Promises

Book Description:

Nic PromisesAfter being separated by distance for three years, childhood friends Nic and Hanna finally reunite. But Nic can tell that Hanna is hiding something. She’s not the same girl who left two weeks before they were supposed to start high school together, and she’s very good at closing herself off from the world. When Nic finally learns Hanna’s secret, he decides that he will do anything to protect her– even if it means hurting the ones he loves most.

 

***Content Warning***

This book contains mentions of child abuse

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Excerpt:

The breeze picked up and swept through the treehouse, sending Hanna’s hair flying into her face. She instinctively reached to pull her hair back, then reconsidered and quickly threw herself on top of the deck of cards that she and Dominic had been playing with instead.

“I think there’s something on your face,” Dominic said, leaning forward to brush a strand of Hanna’s golden hair out of her lip balm. Hanna laughed and pulled away, straightening up the deck of cards as the wind settled.

“Your hands are dirty,” she shrieked. “Don’t touch my face!”

Dominic picked Hanna’s left hand up off the deck of cards and pointed to her dirt-smudged fingers. The treehouse had always been a little dusty, but the recent late-July winds had swept more dirt onto the wooden floor than usual.

“What about your hands?” he teased. He looked up at Hanna for an answer and saw that she was staring wide-eyed at their hands. “What?”

Hanna’s expression softened a little, replaced with a nervous smile.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” she said quietly. “It’s just…”

She laced her fingers into Dominic’s shyly.

Dominic’s heart quickened its pace. He looked down at their hands and then back up to Hanna’s eyes, sunlight streaming in and bringing out the honey color just around her pupil.

Before he could talk himself out of it, Dominic leaned in. Hanna had always smelled a little like flowers and secondhand smoke, and the familiar smell made Dominic dizzy in an unfamiliar way. Just as he was about to touch his lips to Hanna’s, a voice called up to them.

“Hanna, are you up there?” Dominic’s mom called up. The two moved apart quickly, the moment lost. “Hanna, there’s someone here to see you.”

Hanna peeked out the window of the treehouse. Standing next to Dominic’s mother was Hanna’s aunt Charlene.

‘“Who’s that?” Dominic whispered, his hand brushing against the sliver of exposed skin on Hanna’s hip as he leaned to look out the window too. They both shivered.

“I’ll be down in a minute!” she called, her voice strained. She sunk down against the wall, staring at her feet. “Dominic, I need to tell you something. Please don’t be mad at me.”

“What’s up?” Dominic asked, sitting down next to her. He bumped her knee with his and quickly scooted away.

“I’m moving,” Hanna said, looking up with tears in her eyes. “I’m going to Southern California to live with my Aunt Charlene for a little while. Maybe forever, I’m not really sure.”

“Oh,” Dominic replied, shocked. “When did you find out?”

“Right after school got out,” Hanna said, shifting awkwardly.

“I just didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want you to be mad. Please don’t be mad at me. I really did want to tell you, I guess. But I just sort of hoped it would go away.”

There was an edge of panic in her voice.

“I’m not mad,” Dominic said, standing up and dusting off his shorts. He put a hand out to help Hanna up, and before she had even gained her balance, he pulled her into a tight, awkward hug. “Please don’t leave.”

Hanna hugged him back stiffly and pulled away.

“I have to,” she said, rubbing her eye. Dirt streaked across her face. “I’m sorry.”

“Why?” Dominic pleaded. “Why do you have to leave?”

Hanna was silent.

“Hanna, please, you can tell me anything,” Dominic said, staring at the freckles on her nose instead of into her eyes. He was afraid to really look at her. He couldn’t stand to see her so upset.

“Actually, this is something I can’t tell you,” she said, turning away and opening trap door that led out to the ladder.

They climbed down from the treehouse silently. At the bottom of the ladder, Charlene stood holding Hanna’s overnight bag in one hand and a backpack in the other.

“You ready to go, kiddo?” she dropped the backpack to wrap Hanna in a one-armed hug. “Did you say your goodbyes?”

Hanna nodded, tears streaking the dirt on her cheeks.

Dominic walked Hanna to the car, unable to speak. He had been so caught off guard that, even though he know this was the time he really needed to speak up, he could not think of a single thing to say. It wasn’t until Hanna started to get into the backseat of her aunt’s Honda that Dominic spoke up.

“Wait!” he said, shutting the door before Hanna could climb in. He pulled her into a hug again, and this time she returned the hug with full force. She was just barely shorter than him, so he rested his head on her shoulder and breathed in her lilac shampoo. When Hanna finally pulled away, she was crying again, heavy sobs racking her body.

“You’ll call me?” Dominic asked, opening the door for Hanna. It made him feel like a gentleman.

Hanna shook her head. “I don’t think I’ll get a cell phone while I’m there.”

“So you’ll write, then?” Dominic asked. “Or email?”

“I’ll write,” Hanna said, buckling her seatbelt. “Or I’ll finally make a Facebook. I promise.”

Dominic shut the door and watched them pull away, his best friend peering out the back window at him. He didn’t turn away until long after they’d rounded the corner and were no longer in sight.

 

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