Three Wrongs to Get Wright (A Novel)
Three Wrongs to Get Wright (A Novel)
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He's a wounded swim coach with a history she can't forget. She's a determined CEO seeking a lifeline for her business. Can their reluctant partnership guide them to a love that heals both hearts? Discover a tale of misunderstandings leading to second chances in this captivating sweet romance.
This is a love story featuring Small Town dynamics, a Guaranteed HEA and multi-racial couple (ambw asian man black woman). Includes discussions of faith by main characters who are Christian or are struggling with faith in Christ.
- Small Town
- Collegiate Love-Triangle
- Workplace Romance / Forbidden Love
- Embittered Ultimatum
- Second Chance
- He falls first and he falls for good
There are no sex scenes.
This story is a bit spicier than general Clean & Wholesome.
Content references purposeful instances of strong language.
Dive into a tale of second chances and unbreakable determination in this captivating sweet romance. Naomi's college days were filled with starry-eyed glances at her childhood crush, while Arik stood by as her steadfast confidant. Yet, a series of choices tore them apart, scattering their once-promising connection.
Now, years have passed, and Naomi's resolute spirit remains unshaken. Despite daunting challenges and a high-stakes ultimatum, she stands firm, committed to her Sports Physical Therapy dreams. Even the reappearance of an old frenemy with a tempting partnership offer won't sway her.
As buried feelings surge to the surface, fueled by a bitter challenge, Arik and Naomi embark on a journey to reshape their story – one that was once marred by missed opportunities. Can they defy the odds and rewrite their narrative, or will the hurdles of the past and present prove insurmountable?
Join them as they navigate the winding path of rediscovery, love, and self-discovery, and discover if their enduring connection is enough to conquer the obstacles in their way.
Read Chapter 1
Read Chapter 1
“If you two aren’t careful you might get stuck that way,” the irritatingly deep voice rumbles behind them, disrupting the relative quiet of the college library.
Seconds later, Travis Mill’s hand appears on the back of a chair stationed at the head of their table. “With your heads stuck together like that, I mean,” he clarifies, his finger wagging to and fro between Arik and Naomi.
From his peripheral view, Arik catches the profile of Naomi’s round cheek as she shifts her gaze from the notebook they’d been looking at together in order to regard the intruder.
Is “intruder” a harsh term to use for someone who is, technically, a member of their group project?
But Travis is also late—as always. Which is just fine with Arik. Matter of fact, if Travis had wanted to stay late to the point of disappearing, that’d been just fine with Arik, too.
What’s not fine is the fact that the ever-studious, ever task-oriented, ever punctual Naomi chuckles at the jock’s comment.
No. She giggles!
As though Travis has actually said something funny.
Travis did, in fact, not say anything even remotely witty.
Still, though Arik can’t see Naomi’s eyes, he can easily imagine them: crinkling at the corners, rounded by the rise of her full cheeks. It’s likely that her gaze is nearly glowing like they tend to do as she stares upon her Adonis.
When the hell would she look at Arik like that, huh?
Isn’t Arik the one that’s mangled all but his race-day routines to ensure he’s a worthy partner in this project? Isn’t it Arik who’s been there for late night calls when she’d had some brilliant idea that absolutely had to be included in the project? And isn’t he the one that’s taken time from his other studies to go with her whim of doing off-campus “research” just so she can have an excuse to explore local, cheap, off-campus diners and their, often, less than mediocre fare?
He’s even earned a couple C’s, as proof of his commitment, because—
Well, because he’s the one that’d fallen head over heels for her from the moment he’d spotted her in class—impressing him with the caliber of questions she’d posed when most of their classmates, including himself, had played deaf and mute. And he’d been even more bowled over to learn that the remarkably composed woman is a freshman tackling a sophomore level course during her second semester.
He blinks, his heart coming at a full stop as it slams against his rib cage like a meaty battering ram.
Damn, it’s hard admitting how pitiful he is with this woman, particularly at moments like these.
As surreptitiously as possible, Arik drags in a breath.
Years of training as a swimmer has helped him be vigilant about his body’s responses; and right now, he’s very aware of his nostrils flaring and his lips mashing together. So, he keeps his gaze fixed upon Naomi’s notebook…even as he senses her entire body shift toward her childhood friend.
“Travis! Finally!” she exclaims, the uncharacteristic bounciness in her typically steady voice must surely have carried across the maze of bookshelves surrounding them. “I feel like we’re practically doing this project without you.”
Guess it’s a good thing nobody’s paying one lick of attention to Arik right now; because he can’t hold back the face he makes at the wistful way Travis’ name rolls off her tongue—and at the word “practically”.
Correction, Naomi: we are doing this project without him. And we’re doing great, by the way. We are a great team.
But for a person who’s a stickler for time, Naomi seems all too happy to make concessions for the blonde-headed slacker.
Of course. Like all of Travis’ other fans.
For his part, Arik throws a glance at Travis, jutting his chin upward. “Hey,” Arik grunts, swinging his glare back to the open notebook.
Travis pulls out the chair, the legs shrieking against the linoleum flooring.
He folds his formidable frame into it, leaning forward with beefy forearms leveled upon the table. Shrugging his equally bovine shoulders, the football jock’s gaze travels between Arik and Naomi, explaining, “Yeah, well, practice. You know how it is. I told you both about this when we started.” Travis looks at Naomi. “It’s why I warned you to ask to be assigned to another partner. I’m, like, never around. I always try to warn people about that.”
Naomi shakes her head, one shoulder lifting. “It’s okay, right Arik?” she asks, suddenly recalling that Arik exists.
He feels her gaze on him and he can’t help but turn to meet it. He regrets it as soon as he sees her beautiful mouth stretched into a bright grin that’s not meant for him and meets her dark gaze that’s gone all soft and warm.
Again, not for Arik.
Is it okay with him?
Well, it’d be more okay if Travis would just forget making appearances, at all. What’s the point? After all, Arik’s swimming practice takes up a fair amount of his time, as well, but he isn’t making excuses to bail out on Naomi. But can Arik actually say that?
No. So what can he do but offer a tight-lipped nod?
And that’s exactly what he does.
After directing his stellar display of acting skills toward Naomi, he then even manages to swing that same smile toward Travis.
The jock’s lopsided grin falters. Blinking once, Travis’ brow lowers just a bit and his spine seems to straighten imperceptibly.
Arik’s smile might have slipped into a hint of a smirk.
Just as his training has made him hyper-sensitive to changes in his own body, it’s made him just as aware of his opponents’ body language, as well.
Making Travis uncomfortable on the field isn’t a bad thing, in Arik’s book.
Travis clears his throat, tossing his gaze toward Naomi. “Look, if it’s a problem, I can ask the professor if I can work on the project alone. Although it’s a little late in the game to do that, but, you know…”
Naomi’s attention abruptly whips back to Travis. Reaching over, her hand lands atop Travis’ steepled ones. “Travis,” she says, her voice gentle, calming as if she’s coaxing a skittish bird or something.
The dude’s as big as a house!
“It’s fine,” she insists. “We got this,” she says, her free hand motioning back and forth, encompassing the two-person team her and Arik compose. “I know it’s gotta be tough for you, with work, sports and having to keep up grades for your scholarships, too.” She shrugs. “We got you, Travis.”
Travis’ jaw works, his gaze seeming to anchor itself upon her hand blanketing his. He sits back, gathering his hands into his lap as he does so, causing Naomi’s hand to slip from his and drop to the table’s surface.
Is it possible for a pick ax to form in the middle of one’s chest and begin chipping away at all the soft bits?
Arik’s just wondering…asking for a friend.
“I gotta go to the john,” Arik grumbles, escaping his chair as quickly as possible.
Before he’s out of earshot, he’s unfortunate enough to hear Travis’ ever-humble response:
“Naomi,” he sighs. “I keep telling you not to take on that kind of burden for me. That’s my burden, not yours.”
Arik doubts either of them even notice he’s left.
A few weeks later, as they sit across from one another in her room, Arik doesn’t even mind that Naomi is hopelessly wrong about her opinion about the limitations of biotechnology.
She’s adorable—and maybe a little hot—when she passionately argues a point; and especially so when she has no idea what she’s talking about but refuses to back down because she knows it “in her gut”.
“Okay, wait, hold on,” she says, holding up a finger as she flips pages in their course’s textbook before repeating the process in one of the many books they’ve borrowed from the library.
She’s sitting cross-legged on the floor and Arik, with his arms locked behind him and holding him up like tent poles, is sitting on the lower bunk of her and her roommates’ bed—Naomi’s bunk.
“How is it you are so willing to argue a topic that you have to research…in the middle of the argument?” he asks, the corner of his lips lifting in a smile.
He tilts his head, regarding her, and shakes his head. Putting his weight on one arm he reaches up and removes his glasses, carefully tossing them to land lightly on the comforter just beside him. Shutting his eyelids, Arik rubs his eyes as a low groan lumbers out of him.
“You tired?” Naomi asks.
He looks up to find her regard, edged with concern, directed his way. Dropping his hand to its former position, Arik cocks his head to the side, a soft smile rising upon his lips as inevitably as the sun when morning calls.
He loves moments like this: when it’s just him and her and she seems to see him…she seems to care about him.
“Yeah,” he breathes. His mouth opens, then closes.
What was her question? Oh, yeah.
“Wait, I mean, ‘no’,” he amends. “I’m not tired. Just my eyes get tired after a little while, though. You know how it is.”
Naomi smiles, bobbing her head while removing her own glasses and fitting the arms of the glasses to straddle her thigh, like they’re riding it.
“You’re going to bend your glasses out of shape like that,” he warns.
“For the umpteenth time, these are the bend-y frames. The kind with the springs on the hinges, so they can handle the drama that is my thick-ol’-thighs,” she chuckles softly, her smile warm as she regards him. “So worry about yourself,” she finishes, waving away his concern.
He shrugs. Not his glasses, not his dime.
For Arik, he just knows he has to take care of what he has. Between his part-time job, his educational scholarships and his swimming scholarship, he barely has enough to put away in his savings account for a rainy day. He can’t afford to risk having to splurge on anything as extravagant as a pair of new prescription glasses.
The sound of the door knob turning snatches both of their attention.
Through the opening, Naomi’s roommate bustles through, backpack stuffed full, thudding to the floor as she enters.
“Hey!”” she smiles, swiping at a stray lock of her shoulder-length brown hair. “Sorry to breeze in like this. Didn’t know you two would be here.”
“S’no problem,” Naomi responds, easily. “We decided we wanted a change of scenery.”
“She decided she wanted a change of scenery,” Arik corrects, throwing a smirk in Naomi’s direction.
Naomi catches his gaze, the corner of her lip lifting. “Alright, I needed a change of environment.” She turns back to her roommate. “You know how hard those library chairs can be.”
“And the floor’s better?” her roommate asks, walking over to her desk and rifling through her drawers. “I could have sworn I had a pencil sharpener here. I have a test this afternoon and you know you can’t rely on there being enough pencils for everyone.”
Naomi purses her lips as she looks at her roommate’s back. “I’d let you use mine, but you know how I feel about that.”
“I know, I know. ‘You can’t trust folks to give stuff back,’” her roommate quotes in an adroit tone. Finally, she pivots and throws a pitiful expression Naomi’s way. “Please?”
Naomi holds her roommate’s gaze for several beats. Just as she opens her mouth another voice joins the conversation.
“You can use mine,” comes the irritating voice from the room’s threshold.
Arik nearly groans aloud. He had just unlatched and opened his pencil case to retrieve his own pencil sharpener when Travis had entered.
Great, just what he needs: Prince Neanderthal to show up and save the day for both ladies.
“I know how Naomi can be with her stuff,” Travis says, throwing a wink toward Naomi. “Not that I blame her,” he adds. “Folks can definitely be some time-y when it comes to returning stuff.” He sets his backpack down on the corner of the desk and rummages through the front pocket. Handing the small, square contraption over, Naomi’s roommate takes it with a wide grin, her body leaning forward like the tower of Piza.
“Thank you, Travis,” she replies, breathily.
It takes all of Arik’s strength not to roll his eyes.
You’d think he just gave her his first-born.
“Thanks Travis,” Naomi coos, her head tilted toward him with an equally besotted smile.
Travis lifts one massive shoulder and lets it drop. “I’ve got extra.”
“So you came to study?” Arik hears his voice cut through the cloying atmosphere.
Travis’ attention jerks to where Arik is seated. “Yeah,” he confirms, his backpack dropping from the desk and being held by one hand as Travis strolls over and plops down next to Naomi.
Naomi’s smile only brightens.
“I don’t want to be completely ‘missing in action’ with you guys. Trying my best.”
“I know,” says Naomi.
“Of course you are,” asserts her roommate.
Arik turns and grabs his textbook, pulling it onto his lap.
“Alright, well, we’re on page 462, going over hypotheses of how biotech will impact the future.”
“Cool, yeah, I read that chapter last night, so I should be up to speed.”
“Alright, well,” Naomi’s roommate interjects, picking up her bookbag and heading toward the door, “I’ll leave you all to it,” she croons.
Arik doesn’t miss the way she looks over to Naomi and winks, prompting a smirk to lift Naomi’s cheeks.
The cherry wood tone of Naomi’s skin doesn’t betray anything, but Arik is almost positive he sees the slighted hint of red tinting her brown cheeks.
Well, there goes the plan he’d had to ask Naomi out today.
Not that she’d actually, ever, consider it.
Arik doesn't consider himself a slouch in the looks department, but his straight black hair, cut short for easy care, his midnight colored eyes, his lean figure and forthright nature doesn’t garner the same attention as the unfathomable charms of a blonde, blue-eyed, wavy-haired schmoozing football jock.
Typically, Arik’s fine with that social reality. Just being on a sports team garnered enough attention for him to be fine with his own prospects.
Then he’d met Naomi.
And not long afterwards he’d come to terms with, and had become acquainted with the man Arik had quickly ascertained to have been Naomi’s long-time, childhood crush.
How does one compete with that?
He’d often wondered if Naomi had chosen this school specifically to follow Travis from their hometown. He’d never ask her that, of course. He’s almost positive she doesn’t even suspect how obvious she is to the entire world.
Either way, Arik takes reassurance in the idea that any man would have quite the hill to climb to garner Naomi’s attention—any except the one man that seems to occupy all of it.
“Thanks for joining me for a celebratory lunch, Arik,” Naomi says as she sits across the diner’s table from him. Her smile is wide and Arik allows himself to imagine, just for a moment, that there is more behind it than the appreciation for a friend and stellar project partner.
She grimaces. “Sorry. Looks like it’ll just be you and me. Travis is busy,” she grumbles. “But,” she says, smiling, “Of course that shouldn’t stop us from marking the occasion of our solid ‘A’ minus, right? I’m so proud of us!”
“I agree. We aced a very hard project.”
“That was worth half our grades,” Naomi says, wincing.
“Right,” Arik agrees, mirroring her expression. “You’ve been a really great team member, Naomi,” Arik acknowledges. “Thanks.”
Naomi laughs as if surprised. “Did you expect otherwise?”
“No,” he chuckles. “That’s not what I mean. You never know what you’re going to get with assigned group projects. And I’m all too familiar with being that one person that ends up doing most of the work. So this project was really stressing me out—with the weight of the grade, and all.”
Her head bobs. “Not to mention the fact that you were paired with a freshman?” she asks, a smirk dimpling her cheek.
He opens his mouth to speak, then presses his lips together. He opens his mouth again, only for the quiet space between him and her to be abruptly filled with her laughter.
She directs her forefinger his way. “You should see your face right now. You’re so red.” Her hand floats to her mouth, her fingers loosely covering her lips. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you blush before, Arik. It’s actually really cute.”
“Well, this isn’t exactly how I imagined you saying those last words,” he mutters, rubbing at the side of his neck.
“What?” she asks, peering at him, the hint of a smile still teasing him.
He shakes his head. “Nothing,” he says, shrugging.
She tilts her head, studying him for several heartbeats. Then, mirroring his shrug, she picks up her plastic menu and turns it over.
Then she turns it over again, repeating the process several times.
Arik shakes his head, reaches out and takes her menu, stacking it with his.
Her mouth gapes. “Hey,” she says, rising from her seat and leaning forward, reaching for the oversized menu.
“You do this every time,” he says, sliding the menus to the far end of the table. His reach being much longer than hers, she’d have a hard time getting to them without physically moving.
“You mean look at a menu? Is that not customary where you’re from, Arik?” she accuses, as she inches down the narrow path between her bench seat and the table. Just as she reaches the end of the table and is about to grab her menu, Arik reaches over and slides them back in front of him.
“Are you kidding me?” she harrumphs.
“What’s the first thing you were going to order?”
“What?” she asks, scooting the other direction until she’s able to completely exit the booth. Once she is once again standing in the aisle, she moves toward Arik and reaches for the menu.
He slides it just out of her reach, yet again. “What was the first thing you’d considered ordering?”
“I was considering a lot of things.”
“But what was the first thing?” Arik insists.
Her hands fly up, landing on her waist as she stares at him. “Didn’t anyone ever warn you about getting in between a hungry woman and her food?”
“The first thing, Naomi. What was it?”
“Chicken and Waffles,” she huffs.
“And the second thing?”
“The lasagna. What is this? You holding my dinner hostage?”
“You always order the second thing, Naomi. Every single time, when you’ve talked about what you’re thinking of getting, you get the second thing.”
He slides the menus back toward her. “And I’m hungry,” he adds. “So I figured I’d help us waste a little less time.”
Naomi narrows her eyes. Lips pressed together, she grabs her menu, settles herself back into her seat and ignores Arik until the waitress arrives.
Naomi sniffs and orders the Chicken and Waffles.
Later, when their plates arrive, Arik notes the look of longing she casts toward his meal.
Reaching forward, he grasps her plate and switches her meal for his.
She looks up at him, barely restraining her smirk, though her quarter-moon eyes tell the tale of her state of amusement.
“Whatever,” she huffs. “You’re messing with my process, Man,” she warns, her brow puckering even as she bows her head, extending her hand across the table.
Arik doesn’t restrain his smirk as he places his hand in hers. Bowing his head, as well, he listens to Naomi’s voice as she says grace over their meal.
She squeezes his hand before releasing it.
Looking up, Arik sees her regarding him, her lips curved into a soft smile.
“You want some of my lasagna?” she asks, flatly, eyeing him as she nudges forward the plate of food he’d sacrificed on her behalf.
“Sure, if you’ll take some of my chicken and waffles” he agrees, mirroring her offer by pushing forward his newly acquired meal.
“Deal,” she consents, allowing her full smile to shine through and melt Arik from the inside out.
As she busies herself with sawing off a generous portion of her meal to place upon his plate, she doesn’t notice him melting into a puddle before her.
But then, she never does.