Page 66

When I arrived at The Silent Bookshop, Jackson was sitting in his corner, and when he looked up, he smiled right away, revealing that left dimple. I hoped that was a new regular thing—him smiling my way.

I smiled back and walked to my corner. When I got there, I saw a book sitting on my table with a Post-it note on it. The novel was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and the note read:

I think you might like this, Princess.


My fingers ran over the cover, and I sat down and read for what felt like hours. The way the words pulled me in and didn’t want to let me go made my heart beat faster and faster. You knew a book was amazing when you missed the transition from the sun shining to the sky fading to black. I sat back there until the store was about to close, and then I walked to the front counter where Josie’s mom, Betty, was working.

She looked just like her daughter with those same loving eyes, and she signed my way as she said, “You’ve been here for quite a while—I’m guessing it’s a good read.”

“Better than good,” I told her, holding the book to my heart as my eyes watered over. “It’s one of those stories that just makes you want to yell and scream all at once.” It was the kind of book that made your chest ache, and even though you want to put it down to take a breath, you’d rather flip the page to know more than worry about such a small thing like breathing.

Jackson was right; I did love the story.

“I saw Jackson leave it back there on the table for you,” she mentioned as she rang me up. “Are you two friends?”

“No,” I answered quickly. “But we aren’t enemies either.”

She signed, “He’s a good man.”

She was the first person I’d ever heard say such a thing about Jackson Emery.

“He’s broken,” she continued, “but good.”

The idea that broken things could still be good was a thought that would stay with me for a while.

“I’m starting to see that in him—the goodness,” I told her.

“His mother was in the same car accident with my husband the night of that huge thunderstorm. Did you know that?”

“Oh my gosh, no…I had no clue.”

“Yeah. He was just a boy when he lost his mother. He adored her, and she adored him. After she passed away, I think a big part of him died, too, which is sad. I watched him go from this quiet boy in town to this bad seed. He loved her more than anything and losing someone that close to you is enough to make a person’s mind go dark. So him coming here to this bookshop means a lot for me. Even though he doesn’t speak my way or let me close, it’s almost as if I can watch over him. I’m sure that’s what his mother would’ve wanted. It’s what I would’ve wanted for Josie if I ever passed away. Someone to look after my loved one.”

“You’re a good woman, Betty.”

She smiled. “And he’s a good man.”

“Is it okay if I leave a book in his corner for him to find tomorrow?” I asked her.

“Of course, honey. I won’t move it.”

Walking back into the bookshop, I went in search of a novel to leave for Jackson. I thought back to books I’d read, and which ones made my heart race, wondering which one might do the same for Jackson.

My fingers landed on Long Way Down by Jason Reynold.

It had been a stay-up-all-night novel for me.

I grabbed it and a Post-it note and wrote:

It’s written in verse,

and you’ll feel each word within it.


We kept it up, too, exchanging notes with different books. It was good to escape my current reality into the world of novels. Plus, Jackson had great taste in books, which made it easier to fall into every single word. Each time I found a Post-it note, I felt as if I was walking into a new adventure. Even though the words we exchanged were only on small pieces of paper, I felt as if I was learning more about the hard man who didn’t let people in.

I was finally zooming in on the town’s black sheep, and he was zooming right back in on me.

* * *

This one will hurt you.

Let it.


* * *

This one will heal you.

Let it.


* * *

This heroine reminds me of you.

She cries on every page.


* * *

This hero’s a total jerk.

Are you related to him?


* * *

The last book you gave me was

fucking sad. Is the town’s good girl

really that dark inside?

I loved it. Now, read this one, which is even darker.


* * *

You always give me books that make me cry.


* * *

I’ve learned it’s not too hard to bring you to tears.