Title: A Braver Version of Me
Author: Cindy Ray Hale
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Is bravery worth the trouble?
I like to play it safe.
But trouble always finds me.
And so do the bullies.
Somehow, the new girl convinced me to sneak out to spy on the boys’ cabins.
And now my life is turned upside down. And my secret crush isn’t so secret anymore. He wanted me to face my biggest fear of all.
I shouldn’t have ever listened to him.
Because the more I face my fears, the more my problems crop up.
A Braver Version of Me is the first book in a nine-book rewrite of a contemporary sweet romance series called The Destiny Trilogy. In this series you can expect flirting, blushing, and kisses in the woods, but you won’t find any swearing, nudity, or sex.
I adjusted my helmet and stepped a shaky leg from the platform onto the rope, suspended high in the trees. Why had I decided this was a good idea? Up ahead Shanice and DeShawn followed Hudson and Hannah, who bantered back and forth like they were taking a leisurely afternoon stroll in the woods.
Miraculously, I made it across the thirty feet to the next platform without hyperventilating. Following Shanice’s lead, I hooked myself into a pulley and zip lined across to another stopping point, the wind whipping loose tendrils of hair around my face as I soared across the greenery below. I unhooked myself and climbed up a ladder to the platform above where I saw more ladders, only these were horizontal and swinging free from each other like broken sections of a swinging bridge. Shanice and DeShawn hopped across them with ease.
I pushed back a wave of nausea and stepped out onto the first ladder. It wobbled, taking my stomach with it. I gripped the overhead rope and crept across two more rungs. When I reached the second ladder, I made a big mistake. I looked down. My head spun, and I tightened my grip on the rope overhead. Shanice and DeShawn had already moved on to the next part of the course and were oblivious to my dilemma.
Another climber approached from the zip line to the platform behind me, but I didn’t look back to see who it was. My arms began to shake, and the longer I stayed frozen, the more afraid I became. Moisture built up on my palms as I clung to the rope, and my legs shook.
Just breathe. You can do this.
The person behind me had to be getting annoyed with me taking so long.
“Destiny, are you okay?” I would have recognized his voice anywhere. I looked over my shoulder, and sure enough, Isaac stood on the platform behind me. “Do you need some help?”
My face burned as I recalled his words from the night before. God has blessed me. But that concern flew from my mind when the rope overhead pulled taut as he traveled onto my ladder. The ladder rocked with his weight. I needed to move forward, but I clung to the rope with my eyes squeezed shut.
“The longer you stay here, the worse it’s going to be,” he said. “Eventually, your muscles are going to weaken. You need to keep going.”
Eyes still closed, I nodded, my head scraping against my vertical arm.
“You got this.”
A little voice in the back of my mind whispered, Why is he being so nice?
Isaac was close now, maybe one rung away. At this point, I wasn’t sure which was worse: being high off the ground or having Isaac close to me. I took a deep breath and released it, gathering the courage to take the step.
Before Isaac could come any closer, I stepped onto the second ladder. Now that I was moving, it was easier to keep going. I crossed four more ladders and finally reached the platform.
“See? That wasn’t so bad,” Isaac said, close behind.
“I guess not.” He was right. Once I’d gotten moving, I’d focused more on the mechanics of moving my body and less on how far away the ground was. My eyes traveled across the rest of the course. My group was way ahead of us now. I took a cleansing breath, determined to keep fear from getting the better of me again. I stepped onto the next portion of the course without hesitation.
“I heard you might try out for Primus,” Isaac said, following close behind.
I reached for the next rope. “I don’t know who told you that, but I’m not trying out.”
“Why not? Not interested?” he asked, keeping his voice light.
“No. I’d love to join. Primus would be incredible. I just heard the competition is pretty tough.” I must have sounded so stupid to Isaac. He was easily the best singer in the choir.
But he didn’t seem to notice. “Well, if you decided to audition, what section would you go for?”
“Good,” he said, maneuvering onto the next platform, “You’ll have a much better shot trying out as an Alto. Altos have to pick out some tough harmonies, and there aren’t as many girls who can do that.”
He was right. Even in the non-audition choir, I’d stretched myself a lot to learn to harmonize as an Alto. But, according to Michael, Primus singers tackled advanced music with dissonant tones and were required to have a sharp ear to be able to match the correct notes.
For the rest of the course, Isaac stayed close, asking me questions. The more he talked, the more he seemed to be genuinely interested in my life and what I had to say. His mixed signals were starting to make my head spin. Last night he was ridiculing me with Will, but now he was acting totally nice?
As I stepped onto the final platform, I looked over the forest canopy, taking in the beauty of Tennessee. A bird of prey soared across a bright blue sky, scattered with white, puffy clouds, and dove into the blanket of green leaves beneath. Beyond the woods the lake sparkled in the afternoon sun. Tree-covered mountains rose up in the distance.
He joined me on the platform, a smelling woodsy with a hint of sweat, a heady combination that set my pulse racing. “Wow, this is breathtaking,” Isaac said. I stole a glance at him. His eyes took in the scene before us like a thirsty man seeing an oasis in the desert.
“Yeah,” I breathed. He looked down at me, his brown eyes crinkling at the corners. Between Isaac’s enticing smell and the way his eyes pulled me in, I was very much in danger of getting my heart broken.
I looked away. Bad Destiny! Don’t fall into his trap. It was one thing to watch him from afar, but a very different thing to be standing alone with him, sharing a moment in nature.
I climbed down the ladder, planting my feet on hard-packed dirt.
“I’m going to give you my honest opinion,” he said once he’d joined me on the ground. “I think you should audition. What do you have to lose? Sure, it’s scary, but you just mastered the high ropes.” He gestured to the course above. “Primus auditions are nowhere near as bad as what you just did.”
“Maybe not for you.”
“And maybe not for you either. You’ll never know if you don’t give it a shot.”
I locked eyes with him, and this time I didn’t turn away. “You’re right,” I said.
His face broke out into a brilliant smile, revealing perfectly straight teeth. “So does this mean you’re trying out?”
I nodded. “It still scares the heck out of me, but yeah.”
“Awesome!” Isaac said. He glanced back at the ropes and shuddered. “Seriously though, I’m glad to be down here for a change,” he said with a chuckle.
“Like you were scared at all,” I scoffed and then immediately blushed, catching myself being more open with Isaac than I’d intended.
He grinned like he’d won a trophy. “I was a lot more scared than you’d realize,” he said.
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From an Amazon reviewer:
“Young love is always so much fun, especially a first love, and I liked watching Destiny navigate the waters of her crush. The flirting and banter are both sweet and butterfly-inducing.”
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