By Tracey Jerald
Behind a podium, I had just finished delivering the words to an emotional speech at a retreat. There was a pregnant pause before the room of people gave me thunderous applause.
My speech was about how I endured bullying for the better part of high school and college, how I came out the other side the person I am, the woman I am, and the love I found through it all.
Above all, I tried to impart upon my audience how I managed to keep the core of my heart whole enough to move on from the daily brutality of bullying to find who I was as an individual. And later, to find love.
That was fourteen years ago this May.
Despite the words I used to encourage others to find bravery within themselves, I have to admit it was an emotional challenge to accept returning to my hometown for my ten-year high school reunion years before. The very last thing I would call it was easy.
Flashforward to last fall. I was approached by Kristen Proby to write in the Boudreaux Universe for Lady Boss Press. My mind immediately played off the word “Easy.” What were some of the things I knew in my heart – aside from love – which weren’t “easy” in my life?
And clear as day, my mind brought me back to the moment when I crossed over the threshold of my high school reunion in a little black dress and heels. My heart began to tremble when I remembered making that first nervous circle around the room.
And that’s how Kelsey Kennedy was born. If you took her at her at face value, you’d imagine she’s a woman who has it all – looks, success, and inner fortitude. What you might not see are the scars she lives with, that she battles every time she looks in a mirror, or worse yet, every time she closes her eyes.
Rierson “Ry” Perrault is someone Kelsey began to trust; he captured her teenage heart when she started tutoring him in creative writing. And in the end, he humiliated her publicly. It’s haunted him, despite the time and distance since the last time he laid eyes on her.
When you first meet Kelsey and Ry, they’ve both arrived at their fifteen-year high school reunion. Each of them is bracing to see the other yet neither of them is ready.
Kelsey is shocked when Ry doesn’t recognize her. But when he doesn’t, she realizes that may be in her favor. She decides to fulfill her girlish fantasies by giving herself one night with the boy she never really got out of her mind before walking away.
The emotional connection between Kelsey and Ry follows them both back to New Orleans, Louisiana which is where they each happen to live. They run into each other a short time later, and with the masks off, a whole new relationship begins.
In a city filled with pure temptation, where all emotions are amplified, the barriers between Kelsey and Ry seem to disappear.
And as their relationship progresses, the lines that separate sinners from saints blur as the truth of what really happened in high school between Kelsey and Ry emerges. It changes the perspective of both of their pasts and directly impacts their present.
When I was done talking fourteen-years ago, I never expected to turn that speech into a book. I never expected my life to take the twists and turns it did. Not all of it has been easy, but every moment of loving has been worth it.
Love is never supposed to be easy. But every moment since that first high school reunion I went to has been worth it.
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