BLURB: Robin wanted to win The Holdout, a cutthroat reality TV show, so she gave it her all, challenge after challenge. Then she fell for Grant, with his irresistible eyes and heartbreaking life story.
But Grant was only using Robin as they competed for a million dollars. Once home, Robin wants to hide from the humiliation as episodes of The Holdout are aired, and she worries her family was right all along; she's not a survivor.
Yet she could surprise everyone, and have the last laugh.
Besides, Robin now has jury duty. And as she forges ahead, confronting her demons about bravery, justice, and romance, Robin will come to decide which is more important: the courage to stand alone, or the strength to love again.
Later that night I’m lying in the dark, alone in my bed, as awake as if I’d indulged in a late afternoon latte. This is when I am most likely to replay my own set of unmet expectations, my own series of disappointments and mistakes, a guilty pleasure movie replayed in an endless loop inside my head. I’m curled up underneath my comforter and I tug on a wad of the acrylic stuffing that escaped from a small rip in the lining. I rub it between my fingers and it reminds me of sand. I close my eyes and I can see myself back on the beach; I feel myself back in his arms.
“You smell like limes,” he whispered into my neck.
I pressed my lips against his forehead. “We should probably get back before anyone notices we’re gone.” I gave him a baby kiss against his hairline. “They’ll vote us out the minute they realize we’re a couple.”
He laughed, and I wanted to swallow that laughter up and keep it in a safe, hidden spot. He planted kisses up and down along the curve of my neck and my bare shoulder. His arms tightened around me, one was grasping my waist and the other was around my thigh. He gently pushed me back so I was lying in the sand. Then he was on top of me.
His t-shirt and the scant fabric of our bathing suits were all that separated us from being skin against skin. Even still, I could feel the heat dispensing from his body, a blanket that could shield us both. His sigh caused his ribcage to raise and lower against my chest and I wanted to reach under his shirt with both hands. I wanted to press every bit of me into every bit of him, and I wanted to make it all last indefinitely.
But I rolled my head to the side and through squinted eyes I saw a camera lens peaking out of the bushes that we had thought were hiding us.
“Grant,” I mumbled, not yet able to find my voice.
He took that as an expression of desire and went in for a deep kiss. His mouth on mine, his lips sucking and caressing, his teeth gently nibbling my bottom lip, his tongue flicking and plunging, in and out and against my tongue, like neither of them has ever been intended for any other purpose. Everything inside of me turned to warm syrup on Sunday morning waffles, and it took some Iron Woman type of strength to push him away and opt for the protein shake instead.
“There are cameras,” I told him. I gestured towards the bushes.
He was adorable, his lips rosy from kissing me and his hair sticking up as a result of my fingers delving through his curls. He looked around and spotted the camera, and then gave the operator a smile and a wave. He turned back to me, his expression joyful. “I don’t care,” he whispered. “Let the world know how I feel about you. That only makes it better.”
He started kissing me again and for a moment I relented. But when I closed my eyes I could see my father watching this scene on television. His feet would be propped up on the coffee table and he’d be nursing his most recent injury and a beer. His face would be full of pride and expectation until Grant climbed on top of me, then quickly Dad’s eyes would lower into slits, his hands would clench into fists, and the skin beneath his beard would turn red. No. It couldn’t happen like this, not with my dad watching.
“Grant,” I said again, and this time I pushed him away with a bit more force. “I can’t. Not in front of a camera. Not on national television. Sorry.”
By then we were both sitting up. He rolled his shoulders and shook his head rapidly, like he was fighting against himself. His mouth was a straight line and he was biting his bottom lip.
But he took a deep breath, and on the exhale everything in him relaxed.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said. And to show me he meant it, he brushed the back of his hand tenderly against my cheek. “You’re right. We should wait.” He scooted closer to me so he could whisper something that the camera’s microphone couldn’t pick up. His breath was hot against my ear as he made his promises. “When the show is over, we’ll go away. We’ll be alone and we’ll finally start living.”
And then he leaned back so he could meet my eyes. “Okay?” He raised his eyebrows in question and my heart dived and danced simultaneously.
“Okay,” I said, and he went in for another kiss.
“Wait,” I said, as I half-heartedly pushed him away. “How can I go away with you? I don’t even know your last name, or where you’re from, or what you want to do with your life.”
He held up a hand and counted off on his fingers. “One, my last name is Hamilton-Leonard.”
“That’s a mouthful.”
He shrugged. “My mom wanted to hyphenate. Two, I’m from Laketown, Connecticut. Three, I plan to save the world, and afterwards I’ll spend all my free time with you.”
I giggled. Yes, giggled like a fifteen-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. But I was sure that this moment, and all the ones with him that would follow, were what I was meant for.
We got up and straightened ourselves out, laughing as we brushed sand and twigs from our hair. He took my hand and led me through the jungle path, telling me to watch out for that branch and don’t trip over that rock. And after weeks of trying to survive on my own, the feeling of being protected was more welcome than the feminist side of me would care to admit.
My eyes were gazing up at him and I was laughing over his impersonation of Joe Pine, Castaways, take your place at the starting line, or, Beth, the tribe has decreed. You’re out, when Grant leaned down for one more kiss. As we pulled away and resumed walking I ran, smack, into Henry carrying a pile of kindling.
Grant and I released our entwined hands, but Henry’s gaze stayed on the space where our clasp had been as if it still remained.
“Hey, Henry,” I squeaked, and I could feel my cheeks growing flush. I bent to
retrieve the sticks I had caused him to drop. He took them from me, wordlessly,
and his silence shouted his disapproval.
“Thanks.” He took the last stick. Henry’s wavy light brown hair was sticking up, and his pink, peeling nose was the same color as his dirty, faded red, button-down dress shirt. Since he originally came from the other tribe he was the only one of us not dressed in green. But Henry didn’t need a clothing difference to establish his outsider status; he was probably born with his outsider-membership card tucked inside the pocket of his oversized brain.
“Gathering firewood?” Grant clapped his wide palm against Henry’s sunburned
shoulder and Henry winced at the contact. “Good man!” Then Grant took my hand again and pulled me away. “Talk to you later!” Grant cried over his shoulder, and we left Henry standing there, like we were walking together towards the dance floor and he was awkward, alone and abandoned - the guy who travels stag on an island full of couples.
How silly was I in that moment? I was the smug cheerleader at the high school
party, proud to be dating the quarterback. I could sense Henry’s discomfort but I figured he was just jealous of our happiness. If only I could return, knowing what I now know. This time I would listen to the smartest kid in the class.
Review Rating: 4 LIGHTNING BOLTS
Review: Robin, the leading lady of The Holdout, is tired being portrayed as a wimp. She's anything but. So she auditions for a Survivor type show and is accepted. Let the adventures begin!
And they certainly do. Without a doubt. Things don't go down as planned.
Okay, fast forward in time- Say what? Yeah, we're moving on. Not what I was expecting, either.
The Holdout is unique, intriguing and well written. The characters are life like. You love some, you hate some. Robin, I really felt for her on so many levels. I've read this author before and have enjoyed her style, but The Holdout really stood out for me. There's so much to it! We get a bit of humor, plenty of emotion, and a strong pace that kept me glued to the pages. I easily recommend this one if you want something to keep your afternoon occupied.
Laurel Osterkamp's award winning novels have been hailed as funny, intelligent, snarky and poignant. She is the author of four novels and two novellas, including the November Surprise series, which, like The Holdout, features the Bricker family.
Connect with Laurel:
Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/970925.Laurel_Osterkamp?from_search=true
Buy the Book!