Myra goes to Haiti with one goal: take the photograph that will win a scholarship and prove to her uber-traditional family that she has what it takes to be a photographer instead of a doctor. Her camera has always been her shield against getting too close to anyone, but she didn’t expect the hot teen translator who has an ability to see past her walls.
Elias needs his job as a translator to provide for his siblings. He can’t afford to break the rule forbidding him from socializing with a client. Except this girl Myra insists on going outside the city to capture the perfect picture, and he steps in as her guide in order to keep her safe.
The deeper they travel into the country, the harder they fall for each other. Now they’re both taking risks that could cost each other their dreams.
If they get too close—it could ruin both their lives.
Disclaimer: Caution! Reading this book will open your heart and inspire you to take risks. Only those searching for true love should proceed.
About the Author
Stacey Trombley lives in Ohio with her husband and the sweetest Rottweiler you’ll ever meet. She thinks people are fascinating and any chance she has, she’s off doing or learning something new. She went on her first mission trip to Haiti at age twelve and is still dying to go back. Her “places to travel” list is almost as long as her “books to read” list.
Her debut novel NAKED released from Entangled Teen in 2015.
Read an Excerpt
Pushing the boundaries
A Off Limits Novel
By Stacey Trombley, Stephen Morgan
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Stacey Trombley
All rights reserved.
Sweat drips down my forehead the second I take my first step out of the plane. I wipe it quickly. Yeah, that's cute.
I pull at the baggy green T-shirt. Paired with stupid khaki pants, I'm a full-on frump-fest. I guess it doesn't really matter. There isn't anyone to impress here. They dressed us in matching, hellishly bright T-shirts so we wouldn't lose each other in the rush of a new country. Convenient, but ugly.
Hungry eyes watch us as we pass through the crowd, looking for our massive bags. It was only a two-hour flight from Florida, but I feel like we flew straight to Africa. No one speaks English. They shout out in a strange language.
I thought I was prepared for this trip to Haiti, but ten seconds here and I'm already feeling overwhelmed. I grip the camera around my neck. The world is much easier to cope with when you're looking at it through a lens. I snap a picture of the big warehouse-looking room of baggage claim. It's an ugly picture, but I feel better for taking it.
You'd think I'd be used to this feeling, this out-of-place, stands-out, "what's up with that girl" feeling. I've felt that my whole life. A Pakistani girl living in middle-of-nowhere, bumfuck, Middle of America, where, I swear, some people must not have seen a person of color in real life before.
But here, it's a totally different feeling. I'm still an outcast, still getting odd looks, still totally out of place. Only it's not my darker-than-normal skin color, big eyes, and lush black hair that makes me stand out here. It's how light my skin is.
It's the first time in my life I feel white.
But really, it's not the race these people care about. It's my nationality. I'm American. To them, American means rich.
The people at the gates, the workers, the other passengers — all of them with skin black as night. It's beautiful, really. It's just clear I don't belong here.
No one in my group does.
I finally catch sight of my last bag among the remaining luggage. With a huff, I pull my massive green suitcase from the conveyer belt.
"Myra! Get a move on." I suppress an eye roll and heave the stupid heavy bag across the crowded airport. Thick voices bombard me.
A black man in a collared shirt I think was once white approaches me and reaches for the bag in my hands. I rip it from his fingers, taking a panicked step backward but having no idea where I'll go. My stomach leaps to my throat. Oh shit ...
But he doesn't pursue me. He just shakes his head and says something in a language I can't understand. Then reaches for the bag again. I take another step back.
"Mom?" I call out, looking for her in the mass of bodies around me. Dirty, sweaty men everywhere.
"Myra! Let the man have it, he's toting the bags for us," I hear the familiar accent call from somewhere in the huge crowded room, and my head clears. I can't mistake my mother, not anywhere. No one has a Pakistani accent like hers. Not even my father's is as thick.
I blink and find a flash of green through the crowd before me. Okay, maybe the T-shirts were a good idea. I see another man in the same yellowed-white shirt stacking suitcases on a big trolley thing. Oh.
I give the man next to me an awkward smile, and he takes the bag, mumbling under his breath. Like I could understand him in the first place.
Stupid Americans. Yeah, it's probably something like that.CHAPTER 2
The roar of the planes overhead is just another reminder of how insignificant we are in this tiny forgotten country. Stuck. My little brother watches through the chain-link fence, eyes wide, mouth open as they soar over us, so close the air sends ripples through our clothing.
"Kouman rich ou panse yo ye?" he asks without taking his eyes from the huge white plane. How rich do you think they are? I mentally translate to English. I need all the practice I can get. My palms sweat just thinking about it, and my first test is just minutes away.
"Who?" I ask.
He turns to me and blinks his big eyes, his eyebrows high in question. Oh, right.
"Ki moun?" I repeat in Creole so he'll understand me.
My stomach sinks. I can't even get this right with my little brother. The whole double language thing is harder than I expected. I need it to be easy if I'm going to be any good at my job.
"Moun nan avyon yo." The people in the planes!
I shake my head, but he doesn't see. I explain that there are hundreds of people in those planes. Some are probably rich, and some are probably poor.
"Yo ap toujou pi rich pase nou, dwa?" he asks.
I sigh. If they can afford a plane ticket ... "Chans." Yes, they are likely wealthier than us.
Our world is tiny, a country that is only half an island. To people who can afford a plane, the world is limitless.
My pocket buzzes, making me jump. I fumble with the little plastic device and flip it open. "Hello!" I say, pressing the phone against my face.
"Elias! Pull the van around. They just landed."
"Yes, Mr. Rowland."
"Remember that line we talked about? Don't step over it."
My head swims. There's so much for me to remember, but the most important? Don't get too close to the Americans. Mr. Rowland made it very clear that I'm not one of them and I shouldn't expect anything from them. If I make any of them uncomfortable I'll be out of a job faster than one of their huge planes can take off.
There's a click and then silence. I put the foreign technology back in my pocket and hope he doesn't call again.
Luke grabs at my pocket, seeking out the phone, his eyes alight with envy. "Ki jan ou fè jwenn yon telefòn?"
I swat his hand away. The phone is not mine. It's Mr. Rowland's. "E si ou kraze li?" What if you break it?
Luke rolls his eyes but then shuffles his feet.
He may only be eight, but he knows what this job means for us. I'm only eighteen, with a chance for the kind of job that will keep his belly full, permanently. Not to mention our mother and sister.
I point across the parking lot and tell him to get to the van. It's time to work.
Luke's eyes get big again, and I smile. He runs to the parking lot, fast as a bullet, jumping up and down once he reaches the van. I unlock the door, and he climbs in, looking tiny in the massive vehicle.
We pull up to the front of the airport to wait for the Americans, and I try not to let myself get too worked up. The more nervous I am, the harder this will be.
"Ou jwenn yon telefon, yon ti bis, e al rankontre tou Ameriken yo. Pi bon travay pou lavi!" You get a phone, a van, and get to meet all the Americans. Best job ever.
I roll my eyes and tell him to keep working on his English and maybe he can have a job like this someday, too.
I take in a deep breath. To him, this is an adventure.
To me, it's dangerous.CHAPTER 3
I rush up to my group — safety in numbers, right? — and vow not to get left behind again.
My heart is pounding now, and it's not from the heat ... though that's not helping. The thick humidity presses down on me heavier than the stares of the Haitians. I didn't think this was going to be a scary experience. I'm not supposed to fear these people.
I grit my teeth. It really wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the smell. Like someone lit a pile of trash on fire in the corner and no one seems to notice.
Oh, who am I kidding? It's one thing to be out of place because of your skin color and culture. I'm used to other people thinking I don't belong. Here, I really feel like I don't. It's disorienting.
Here, I'm more of a stranger. I'm an alien in a new world.
I'm definitely not in Kansas anymore.
"You look freaked," Hope says.
I shrug and groan inwardly. She's one of those too-earnest-to-be-real girls. With long, stringy hair, and a knee-length skirt she probably chose to wear. I bet she even feels comfortable in the stupid T-shirt. This whole vaccinating children in a third-world country thing would be much easier to handle if I had a friend to commiserate with. But even though there are six other teenagers here, I've known the other kids about ten seconds. Enough to learn their names and not much else.
My mother dragged me along with her charity group to try to get me interested in medicine. Apparently, I'm supposed to be a doctor like her. I grip the camera around my neck and remember that I have other plans.
"Dude, you know there's something wrong when good-girl Hope is calm and you're freaking out," someone whispers to my right.
I turn quickly and smirk at Ava, the girl next to me. "I was just thinking the same thing. What is wrong with me?" I whisper back.
She grins. "It's called culture shock. You'll get used to it."
I take in a deep breath and follow our crowd of totally out-of-place white Americans. Well, mostly white. Ava and her father are Asian, and Mom and I are Pakistani, making us stand out even more than the rest of the group. Though, admittedly, the Haitians don't seem to notice the difference.
We follow the Haitian men pulling the luggage trolley outside, where a big van waits. I try to get a good look at the country now that I'm outside, but all I see are old cars and clouds of dirt hiding the blue sky.
Is there anything beautiful on this island? There are no palm trees, nothing even green within sight. I was expecting something like Jamaica, a poor population but beautiful Caribbean island. Somehow I don't think I'm going to be able to get a good picture here.
This is going to be the biggest epic fail of a trip ever.
Then, the first beautiful thing I've seen since we took off from Florida hops outs of the sixteen-passenger van. I bite my lip and turn away from the Haitian boy around my age who goes to help the men with the luggage without a word to us. At first the men try to stop him from taking their work, but after a deep conversation in that strange, rumbling language, they allow him to help.
"Hi!" a little boy says to me with a thick accent. I blink.
"Hello," I say, looking down at him. He's tiny, arms so thin I feel like they could snap at any second. "What's your name?"
"Hi!" he says again. I look up at Ava and my mother, who both shrug.
"Do you speak English?" I ask.
"Hi!" he says a third time. Now I laugh.
He walks around saying "hi" to everyone in our group. They all smile brightly and say hello back. One of the older boys in our group holds out his hand to him. The boy takes it and gives it a huge shake but then does not let go. Instead, he pulls the visitor's hand up to his face like he's examining it.
I smile, feeling much more comfortable now. These people might not be exactly like us, but that doesn't mean they're dangerous.
I sneak another look at the older Haitian boy and watch as he hauls our huge bags into the back of the vehicle. He looks to be just a tad older than us, skinny but just enough to really show off his muscled arms.
"Didn't think you'd need to impress anyone today, did you?" Ava says, bumping my arm with her elbow. I blink and break my gaze from the Haitian.
"Right?" I allow a sheepish smile and pull at my stupid T-shirt again. "He's definitely cuter than I would have expected."
Hope gasps, and my cheeks grow hot. I said that louder than I meant to. Everyone stops, even the Haitians who couldn't have understood what I said. They must have noticed everyone else's reactions.
After a few seconds, their work resumes, and I take a deep breath.
"What? It's not like he speaks English," I say, defending myself.
My mother gives me a look, and I close my mouth. She won't let this one go, I'm sure.
"You're braver than I thought," Ava says with a laugh.
The back doors are slammed shut, and Dr. Stone, one of my mother's coworkers, presses a few bills into the palms of the Haitian men who helped with the bags.
My mother turns to us. "Everyone, I would like to introduce you all to Elias," she says, gesturing to the young Haitian. "He will be one of our interpreters." My mother's eyes lock on mine with a distinctly unhappy look.
My stomach sinks. "Interpreter?" I whisper. Aka: someone who speaks great English. Aka: someone who definitely understood me when I said he was cute.
One of the American boys whistles, and everyone looks to me. Whoops.
Remember when I said this was going to be an epic fail of a trip? Yeah, I'm thinking that was pretty spot-on.
Never in my whole life have I been so embarrassed. My cheeks are still hot. I stare out the window at this strange country to give myself something else to focus on.
Even though the windows are open for a nice breeze, there are these zigzagging bars over them. They're supposed to make us feel safe, I think, but they only succeed in making us feel even more nervous.
But the bars also succeed in one other thing. They stop me from taking any pictures as we drive through the packed streets.
My mother doesn't look at me now. I'm pretty sure she's pissed, but she won't show it in front of everyone. This nonprofit is her baby, and she's a professional.
I know I'll hear about it later. That's the only time anyone in our family speaks to each other — to argue.
Still, I try to make the most of the ride by getting a good look at this little island country. Maybe I can find the beauty I've been looking for somewhere out here.
All the cars look like they're twenty years old. But then there are these huge bus things, almost like the double-decker buses you see in England, except they're old and have this crazy colorful graffiti all over them.
The cute Haitian boy drives quickly though the city, one hand pressed to the horn, and believe me, he isn't afraid to use it. But he's not the only one. Even inside the sixteen-passenger van, all I hear are the blaring car horns coming from all directions.
"Why do so many people honk their horns?" one of the boys asks Dr. Stone.
"A great question!" he says with a big and bright smile, exposing a single dimple in his right cheek. "There's a law here in Haiti that says if you get in an accident and didn't honk" — he leans forward, talking with his hands — "the accident is your fault because you must not have been paying attention. So now everyone just honks all the time."
I blink, unsure if he's being serious or if it's a joke. Somehow, I don't think he's sure himself.
We slow through a patch of congested traffic, and I finally get a good look at one of the graffitied bus things. "Those are called tap-taps," Dr. Stone explains. "They're like a public bus — you hop on and tap the side when you want to get off."
I watch, amazed, as a woman hops on while the tap-tap is still moving.
Dr. Stone goes on to explain about Haitian culture like a full-on tour guide, and I just stare out the window, watching these strange people. I can't believe places like this really exist.
Ava shifts next to me. "So how you doing?" she asks me. I look at her, my eyebrows raised, but then I give a light smile. "Fine. My mom won't be so happy though."
"I'm sure you'll both pull through. You're going to be her shining-star, doctor daughter. She always talks about you at the local clinic in Kansas City."
I shake my head. "Yeah ... about that."
"About what? You're here at a clinic internship. Surely she'll be proud of that?"
"She sort of forced me here. I mean, I'll help and all, but I have ulterior motives."
"Oh boy, this sounds juicy. Is it that you're here to marry a cute Haitian interpreter?" She winks.
"Ha! Funny." I take a quick peek back at my mother who seems to be deep into whatever it is she's reading, and Dr. Stone's loud voice — as he explains how he gets by without ever learning the native language here (he's a champion charades player!) — will cover any of the secrets I'm about to tell Ava.
"Mom wants me to study premed in college. I have other plans."
"Spill!" she whispers excitedly.
I lean in and let my voice go as low as possible. I don't know if I should trust Ava, I hardly know her, but she makes it sound so exciting. I look around one more time before deciding it's worth the risk. "I've been accepted to a few colleges, all with great premed programs. Except one. One my mother knows nothing about. Problem is, she won't ever pay for me to go to art school. But there is this photography scholarship competition ..."
"Oh! Photography? And Mom's not on board?"
"No way. Art school is a waste of money."
"But if you win the scholarship ..."
"Exactly. But I have to do it without her knowing, or she won't let me take my camera around."
"Well, you've found yourself a great model," Ava says, and at first I think she's talking about herself, but then she looks over at the driver — aka the hot Haitian interpreter.
Excerpted from Pushing the boundaries by Stacey Trombley, Stephen Morgan. Copyright © 2017 Stacey Trombley. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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