Authors: Nicole Williams
College sophomore Bryn Dawson is a self-proclaimed poster child for normal. However, the day William Hayward enters her life, normalcy is the last thing Bryn will be able to count on if she wants to be with him. Too mysterious and appealing to be good for a girl, Bryn feels drawn to him in a way that seems out of her control—as if fate is orchestrating it.
Despite every red flag and warning siren going off in her head telling her not to, Bryn falls hard for William, knowing he’s categorically different from anyone she’s ever met. She never imagined how right she was. When William takes her deeper into the rabbit hole of his world, Bryn must decide just how much she is willing to sacrifice to be with him, knowing no matter what, fate always finds a way to have the last laugh.
Spinning a new twist on star-crossed lovers, Eternal Eden will put Bryn through a gauntlet of turmoil, challenging her to find the power within herself to become the heroine in her own story.
That’s what Mom called the star-shaped birthmark on the inside of my left wrist. She said it was destiny’s way of marking me so the world would know to have something big planned for yours truly. I’m sure if she were still here today she would have changed her mind and believed what I did now—my mark of destiny was more like a magnet for tragedy.
Mark or magnet aside,
had led me to Corvallis, Oregon—home of Oregon State University—several days before winter quarter was scheduled to commence. I hovered beside the only remaining companion in my life, unable to muster up the courage to take my first step in this new phase of life.
The monstrosity before me would be serving as “home sweet home” for the next seven months, and if it had a chain-link fence topped with curls of barbed wire, it could have been mistaken for a penitentiary instead of a dorm.
I took a good look at the brick and mortar face of the change I’d selected for myself, and an air of finality settled upon me; confirming what I’d known, but tried so hard to overcome. No matter where I went, I could never leave my past behind. It would always haunt me.
With this cheery thought, I sucked in a deep breath and got after that first step. The next thing I felt was the toe of my sneaker stumble over something—as if a foretelling of what was to come—and I flailed my arms forward, preparing to break my fall.
“Whoa, there.” A set of arms reached out and stopped me before I got up close and personal with the sidewalk. “Curb check.”
I righted myself and brushed aside the mess of hair that had fallen over my face. “Thanks,” I said, blowing aside the final strands. “Those curbs must have some sort-of vendetta against me.”
“Not your first run-in, huh?”
“Not the last either,” I said, finally able to see who was responsible for sparing me a set of scraped palms.
He was the kind of guy who would turn a lot of women’s heads—he had that high-school star of the football team quality—and there was something in his eyes that led me to believe he was fully aware of this.
“Paul Lowe,” he said, extending his hand. “Junior, Captain of the basketball team, and heroic curb slayer.”
I placed my hand in his, attempting to stifle my smile. “Bryn Dawson. Sophomore, Scrabble player extraordinaire, and thankful to the mighty curb slayer,” I said with mock seriousness.
"Nice to meet you, Bryn. So you're new here?"
My smile waned. Great . . . was it that obvious? All I wanted was to fade into the crowd. That’s what I’d managed to do my whole life, why couldn’t I do it now when it actually mattered to me?
I’d always been that girl you could have seen at graduation and wondered if you’d gone to school with her for the past four years. Back then, it was a curse, now I craved anonymity like a socialite craved the limelight.
I cleared my throat. "How did you know?"
He raised his eyebrows. "Several things tipped me off: one—the sweet car,” he began, pointing his turquoise colored eyes in the direction of my vintage Camaro. “Two—the cardboard boxes in the back seat. Three—you look more lost than a
in a study session, and four . . ."—he laughed a few notes and stuffed his hands in the back pockets of his jeans—"actually, I'll keep four to myself. The first three reasons should be convincing enough."
“Another girl throwing herself at you, Paul?” A female student walked up behind him and circled her hands around his arm, giving me a look that had enough firepower behind it to decimate the campus and surrounding community.
“Hey, Amy,” Paul said, his eyes narrowing.
“Who’s your new friend?” she asked him while looking me over top to bottom, no attempt to disguise that she disapproved of every millimeter of my 5 foot 10 inch frame.
“This is Bryn. She’s new here,” he said, winking at me as if sharing some secret, before tilting his head to the girl glommed to his arm. “This is Amy Kirkpatrick.”
She was that girl in school all the girls would have died to look like, and all the boys would have died to go out with. Her legs were as bronze as they were long and the denim skirt that adorned them didn’t leave much leg to the imagination.
“His girlfriend,” she said promptly, the warning in her voice more severe than the look on her face.
Paul raised his eyebrows at her. “I wasn’t aware that’s what we were still calling it.”
She shot him a look that would have crippled me, before glaring back at me. I crossed my arms tight into my stomach, wondering yet again why girls like Amy sought me out as a target for their games of malice. “Always the comedian. You have to watch out for him, Bryn. If you’re not careful he’ll have you hanging on his every word and believing he’s the unofficial prince of OSU.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond, and I didn’t want to get in the middle of some lover’s quarrel on my first day, so I plastered on a smile and turned to retrieve one of the boxes in my car.
“Let me help you get situated,” Paul said, taking a step forward and pushing up his sleeves. He reached for the box I was pulling from the back seat.
“I’ll do it,” Amy said, striding forward and adhering herself to Paul again. I glanced down at the four inch heels on her boots and wondered how she could walk, let alone carry a box that easily weighed half her body weight. “Hey Melanie!” she yelled across the courtyard.
A female who was the brunette equivalent to Amy turned her head from the group of girls who looked like they were dressed for some high-fashion magazine photo shoot. Wasn’t I in Oregon, home of Birkenstocks and polar fleece? My jeans, sneakers and plainness were clearly going to stick out here as much as they had back home.
“Come help me get the new girl situated. You can catch up on your daily gossip later.”
“Really, I’ll be alright,” I said, dreading being sandwiched in a tiny dorm room with her and her friend.
Amy raised her hand at my face, silencing me, before turning to Paul. “You can’t afford to miss Organic Chem if you want to pass the MCAT’s this spring.”
Paul shrugged his shoulders. “I can skip.”
“Don’t be silly,” Amy interrupted, grabbing the box he had in his hands. She pinched it with the tips of her fingers and curled her nose. “This way Bryn will have a chance to make a couple new girlfriends.”
Paul’s eyebrows peaked; mine followed suit.
“Grab a box, Mel,” she instructed, once her friend sauntered her way to us. Amy shoved Paul with her hip. “Off you go.”
“Alright, alright” he said, taking a step back and looking at me as if still undecided. “I’ll catch up with you later, Bryn.”
“Okay,” I said, knowing the only time I’d see him again would be in passing. Guys like Paul didn’t seek me out. They avoided me like ordinary was contagious. “Thanks for saving me from this nasty curb,” I said, stubbing my foot against it.
“Anytime,” he said, making an exaggerated bow. “At your service.”
Amy rolled her eyes, her back now to Paul.
I pretended not to notice and headed over to the passenger side to pull out another box. When I turned around, Amy was right in my face, her eyes sparking with anger. She took a step forward and crossed her arms. “You must think you’re so clever.”
My face contorted with its confusion. I didn’t understand how I’d offended this girl so much just by showing up today. She couldn’t possibly think I was a competitor in the dating arena she traversed. She was a ten, I was a five . . . maybe a six on a good day.
“It takes a heck of a lot more than some lousy damsel in distress act to hook Paul Lowe.”
I was too bewildered to respond, but something told me she wasn’t interested in whatever my response would have been.
“Take a number and get it line,” she sneered, her eyes narrowing into slits before she dropped my box at my feet.
“Like the rest of us.” Melanie giggled. Amy spun on her heel and grabbed her friend’s hand as they marched off together, leaving behind their warm welcome.
“Thanks for the advice,” I whispered, stooping down to pick up the box, reminding myself that I wasn’t here to make friends.
I was here because I’d stood over an atlas of the United States that last night in my Ivy League dorm room, and with my eyes closed, crashed my finger down on some fortuitous location. When I opened my eyes, I found my index finger crushing the state of Oregon, right over the top of Corvallis, home of the OSU Beavers.
I was here to waste away a few years of my life, until I had to go onto something else where I would waste away a few more years. This was all just some crappy cover—I already knew who I was and what I’d done. I didn’t need the whole college experience to better define me.
Professor Roberts slid last week’s quiz facedown and patted my desk, as if trying to ease the shame of the grade circled in red pen. If I was lucky it would be a D, but since I was never lucky, it was likely an F; F for flunking, failure, forget-about-law-school.
I’d squeaked through winter quarter an eighth of a grade point above academic probation, but only two weeks into spring quarter, I doubted I’d make it another two before having my student file tagged with the dreaded term. Wouldn’t be the first time.
“You’re on the Welcome Wagon Committee, right?” Professor Roberts asked, drawing my attention from the quiz where I was still debating if I should turn it over to inspect the damage.
“Yep,” I answered automatically. I was on every and any committee, team, group, or club that would have me. I was desperate to fill every waking second with something to keep my thoughts from wandering to that night nearly six months back, and since my academic aptitude had taken an extended vacation, I’d signed up for three intramural teams with varying degrees of a ball and racket, an outreach program for disadvantaged children at a local elementary school, chess club (I didn’t know how to play and was the only female, but the guys at least didn’t treat me like I was a mutated form of the bubonic plague), and I mucked out stalls twice a week at a local horse rescue shelter.
“I was just assigned a new student who is starting next week and requested a tour of the campus.” Professor Roberts was my academic advisor too, although since he hadn’t even known how many credits it took to graduate when I’d ask him, I’d consider the title
“No problem,” I said, shoving my quiz in my bag without peeking at the grade. If I didn’t look, I could live in a state of denial that I’d outdone myself by earning a C. “I’ve got Monday afternoon open.”
“Actually,”—he cleared his throat—“the student requested the tour for this evening.”
I stood up and swung my bag over my shoulder. “It’s Friday, there’s three dozen parties taking place tonight if the new student wants to get a feel for college life at OSU.” I, however, hadn’t taken part in any of these college rites of passage yet. I was a bonafide freak-of-nature by my college-aged peer’s standards. “I’m sure it’s not that big of a deal if we wait until Monday.” I was irked someone would think they were so important to need a tour on a Friday night with a few hours notice, and even more irked I didn’t have anything planned to have an excuse to fall back on.