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Despite the Devil

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Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.... Despite the Devil by Shawna James

Synopsis

To Stephanie, Andrew Simmons seemed like the perfect man. He was smart, handsome, tall, and athletic. And best of all, he was interested in her. As their romance begins to blossom, the truth about Andrew’s past comes to light. A misguided choice made many years before, hung over him.
When they start a family together, Andrew tries to move on from the past and enjoy his family life, but the past still haunts him.

What woman doesn't long for love? To love and be loved. That's all the protagonist Stephanie is looking for in Despite the Devil by Shawna James.


Stephanie is a highschool English teacher (I never met an English teacher that I didn't like) and she oversees the Drama department as well. She's described as 5 feet 7 inches and about 130 pounds and she has beautiful auburn hair that cascades midway down her back. She, like most women, is searching for the perfect man.


One day, her best friend Maya is all aglow about recently becoming a member of a coffee shop that allows for free friend passes to a gym. Stephanie eagerly signs up and starts attending. After all, if she wants to attract the attention of the new sports teacher, Andrew Simmons, she has to look her best.


Andrew checks all of Stephanie's boxes. He's handsome, 6 feet tall, muscular, clean shaven, and has dark green eyes. Wait a minute, are these her boxes he's checking or mine? Andrew also has an accent!


One day their world's collide and they run into each other, quite literally. The next time they see each other, Stephanie invites him out to try the new coffee shop that Maya told her about.


I'm a true romantic and I love all things "lovey-dovey." I enjoyed the scene where James has the two future love birds blushing and feeling embarrassed. Just because people are adults doesn't mean they don't get tongue tied and twisted. I also felt sorry for the character Roberta that Stephanie meets at the gym. Some of us are just going to be socially awkward all our lives.


I give Despite the Devil by Shawna James 4 out of 5 stars. Because, I like the way the author creates realistic characters that readers can relate to. Warning, this book does contain explicit language and is best suited for mature audiences.


Will Stephanie and Andrew stand the test of time? Or will skeletons in Andrew's closet come creeping out when they least expect it? Is Andrew a brave knight on a white horse come to sweep her off her feet? Or only a knight with technical difficulties?


Despite the Devil by Shawna James is part of the They Love collection.

Reviewed by

Hi, my name is Wymanette L. Castaneda. I’m a great fit to be a reviewer on Discovery because I love to read more than I love to breathe. Books are like magic carpets that transport you to whole other universes. As a reviewer, I can share this information with others.

Synopsis

To Stephanie, Andrew Simmons seemed like the perfect man. He was smart, handsome, tall, and athletic. And best of all, he was interested in her. As their romance begins to blossom, the truth about Andrew’s past comes to light. A misguided choice made many years before, hung over him.
When they start a family together, Andrew tries to move on from the past and enjoy his family life, but the past still haunts him.

Chapter 1


An Odd Encounter


Stephanie finished class for the day and headed off to the office. It had been a typical day. The students in the secondary classes she taught did not cause much trouble at all. The students liked her, and she liked them back. As an English major, she had more than what was needed to teach English to these high school students. Within months at her new school, she was already becoming a favorite among the students. Stephanie lived such an uncomplicated, pleasant lifestyle, she really didn’t know what trouble was, but she was sure going to learn quickly.

She entered the teachers’ lounge. Only Maya, who had quickly become her new best friend, was there. As she walked in, Maya almost jumped out of the chair.

“Oh, Stephie, I was just about to go looking for you.”

“Why? Any emergency?”

“Nothing like that, Honey. You remember the new coffeeshop I told you about? I became a member of it.”

Although Stephanie was looking at Maya, she appeared somewhat distracted.

“Are you listening to me?” Maya asked.

“Yes, go on.”

“I was saying that I became a member of this coffee shop," Maya bubbled energetically. "And guess what? They offered me a free pass to become a member of the gym on the next block over. It turns out that the gym is under the same management. And you know the relationship I have with gyms.”

“That’s great!" Stephanie affirmed her. "So, you need me to join the gym with you?”

“Oh Stephie, you know I love gyms for all the muscular guys there, but I hate to drag my poor body onto one of those treadmills. I have this fear that I will be tossed off and smash into a wall, and break my skull, and …”

“Yes, yes. I get it,” Stephanie intervened. She could already see where this was going.

“So, as the good friend I am, and the loyal companion I have always been, I wish you to have my membership as a gift of my eternal friendship,” Maya offered graciously.

“Maya!”

“Ok, a little over the top, I know,” Maya chuckled. She reached out to grab Stephanie’s hand. “Sit down, there is something else I have to tell you.” Her voice shifted to a whisper and she looked around to make sure there was no one else in the room.

Once Stephanie was seated beside her, she continued, “Now, don’t tell me that you didn't notice the new sports teacher.”

Of course, she had noticed the new sports teacher. He was a tall, handsome man with a muscular build. He must have been a few years older than her. She had only seen him from a distance. He was most likely well over six feet tall, handsome and, obviously, fit.

“You mean Andrew?” Stephanie clarified innocently.

Maya’s jaw dropped. She seemed at a loss for words. It was such a hilarious sight to watch, Stephanie couldn't help but laugh. It was not often that Maya didn't know what to say.

“You’ve got to tell me how you found his name," Maya demanded.

Stephanie shrugged. “His name was on the notice board. He's forming a new soccer team and is looking for students to come to the training sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

Maya narrowed her eyes. “You even remember the days?” she said suspiciously, grinning slyly.

“It’s the same dates I stay late for my drama class," Stephanie quickly explained. "Besides, it's not like there are many days in a week, there are only five!”

Maya's grin widened. Stephanie knew Maya all too well. She was probably reading a whole story between the lines of this simple fact.

“And as for the gym membership, I will gladly accept it,” Stephanie said, desperately wanting to change the subject before Maya could give any more thought to the matter of the new sports teacher.

“Don’t try to change the subject, Dear,” Maya commanded.

“Are you changing your mind about the gym?” Stephanie joked.

“No! Not at all.” Maya caught Stephanie's outstretched hand and pressed the invitation into it. “You and Andrew will make a perfect couple, I am sure of it! With lots and lots of beautiful kids,” she added with a wink.

Stephanie blushed at the thought of being with Andrew. She didn't know him, not to mention she had never even heard him speak. Even though she felt drawn to him for some unknown reason, she resisted the urge to agree with Maya’s words. Instead, she said, “Don’t tease me! He is just a regular guy, and I’ve got work to do.”

Stephanie squeezed Maya’s hand. “Thank you for this,” she said, holding up the invitation. And without a second thought, she turned around and walked toward the door.


On Wednesday, Stephanie went to the gym during lunch hour. The registration process went smoothly and the trainer assigned to her was friendly and professional. First, the trainer measured Stephanie's weight and height. She was five feet and seven inches and weighed a hundred and thirty pounds.

“Perfect weight,” the trainer told Stephanie after calculating the ideal weight for her height.

Stephanie looked at herself in the mirror. She wore a pink long-sleeved t-shirt and grey baggy pants. Her auburn hair reached halfway down her back. Time for a haircut, Stephie thought. Maybe she would wait to get one at the end of winter.

Stephie was not entirely out of shape. She ran in the summer and did some workouts at home. But winter had caused her to stay indoors and eat more than she wanted. She had already been thinking about going to a gym when Maya offered her the gym membership. Stephanie would love to see Maya in a gym, too, but she was determined to get herself into shape first and then use that as motivation to drag Maya along with her.

The instructor explained the basic setup of the gym to Stephanie, telling her the rules and introducing her to a few other people. Everybody gave her a polite and warm welcome.

The work out the trainer outlined was hard at first, but Stephanie was happy with it. There was nothing that she couldn't grasp.

Stephanie finished her session and walked toward the locker room. She crossed paths with a homely-looking, dark-haired woman. The woman must have been a few years older than Stephanie.

“I don’t think I have seen you around here,” The woman commented bluntly.

“No, I'm new here. It’s my first day,” Stephanie explained.

“Oh, that’s why! I knew I couldn't have missed someone like you!” The woman gushed, grinning. Stephanie smiled politely.

“By the way, I’m Roberta,” the woman introduced herself.

“I’m Stephanie. So nice to meet you.”

Stephanie stepped forward to move toward the locker room, but Roberta had more to say. Roberta moved closer, asking, “are you from around here?”

“Yes, I live a few blocks away,” Stephanie told her. She paused, debating whether to share where she worked with a stranger she had just met.

“What was your previous gym?" Roberta wanted to know.

“This is the first in a long while,” Stephanie admitted.

“That I cannot believe,” Roberta replied, raising her eyebrows. She was still blocking Stephanie's path and did not seem like she was planning to leave anytime soon. “You must be lying. I bet you are a sports cover model in disguise.”

Stephanie laughed at such an odd comment. “No, I am a high school teacher. I teach English.”

“Nice. A teacher with a great figure. I am sure the boys at the school must be fighting each other over you.”

What an inappropriate thing to say! It was getting too awkward to listen to this woman. Before Roberta could say anything else she asked, “so, what about you?” while moving past Roberta.

“I'm a lawyer," Roberta answered. "I've been working in the same old firm for five years now. You heard of Clement and Parker?”

“I haven't heard of them,” Stephanie put in.

“You're lucky," Roberta continued. "We mainly do divorce cases. And you will be fine as long as you don’t need to know us. But if you happen to have one of those abusive or cheating husbands, you now know who to call. Let me give you my number.”

She walked up to her bag and searched frantically. “Shit, I forgot my cards,” Roberta realized

“That’s alright," Stephanie assured her. "I'm not married. It’s not like I'm going to need to hire a divorce lawyer anytime soon.”

“Unless you date a married man,” Roberta laughed. She had a roaring laugh, that was hysterical and unnervingly out of control.

“What?" Stephanie replied, caught off guard. "No, not something I plan on doing anytime soon.”

“Of course, you are!" Roberta responded inappropriately. "Are you looking for or dating one?”

Stephanie had had enough. She turned and walked away thinking, ‘what a strange woman’.


Later that day, Maya asked Stephanie about the gym. They were seated in the coffee shop that Maya had been so excited to get the membership from.

“The gym was good!" Stephanie informed Maya. "The people were so friendly. Too friendly, at times.”

“What about the guys?”

“There were definitely some hotties, although it seemed like there were more women than men when I went there," Stephanie observed. "So, not great odds. I had to focus on my workout anyway, as my trainer is kinda a hard-ass. And there was this strange woman.”

“Strange, you say?” Maya perked up.

“Yes, she had dark hair, short, frumpy but no other distinguishing features," Stephanie remarked thoughtfully. "And she asked me whether I was seeing someone.”

“And what did you say?”

“Nothing. I mean, what kind of stranger asks that kind of question?”

“Stephie, I ask about your love life all the time," Maya reminded Stephanie. "And It seems like you are waiting for your brave knight to come on his white horse and sweep you off your feet!”

“Seriously?” Stephanie rejoined, taken aback.

“I mean, what did you say to that woman? She might have been interested in you.”

“I told you, nothing. I smiled and left. What was I supposed to say?”

“Tell her if you’re interested or not," Maya advised. "Or she may keep asking.”

Stephanie could see that Maya was toying with her. “Why do you think I want a knight on horseback? Last week you said that he would come in on a dragon,” Stephanie teased.

Maya laughed. “I was reading a new fantasy book last week. But now I'm thinking riding a horse is easier than riding a dragon.”

“So, it sounds like you're worrying about my future knight’s technical difficulties more than about knowing his name!” Stephanie assessed, chuckling.

“You already know his name,” Maya insisted.

“What?”

“Andrew.”

“Maya, you better stop!” Stephanie warned.

“I can bet you are thinking of him right now. Look at your blushing face, Honey. It's all red, just like this!” Maya teased, holding a strawberry from her dish. Stephanie blushed even more.


It was Friday when Stephanie went back to the gym. The day before, she had felt terrible. Her whole body ached, and she had to take an ibuprofen to come to work in the morning. But by Friday, Stephanie was feeling normal again. She was excited to visit the gym during her lunch hour.

After a successful workout, Stephanie headed back to the locker room. She tried to hurry, as she had to be back to work in less than half an hour.

In the locker room she met Roberta, who smiled when she saw Stephanie. Roberta was returning from her shower with a towel wrapped around her. She waved at Stephanie, picked up her stuff, and moved to the bench where Stephanie was sitting.

“Hello again," she greeted Stephanie. "It seems like we're on the same schedule.”

“Yes, it does," Stephanie agreed. "You come here on Wednesdays and Fridays?”

“Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Unless I am crushed by the workload back at the office. Some days are terrible.”

Stephanie wanted to remove her sweaty clothes and hit the shower as soon as possible, it was getting late. But she felt uncomfortable around this strange woman, and wanted some space.

 “Did I tell you that you remind me of someone I used to know?” Roberta commented, apparently unaware of Stephanie's dilemma.

Stephanie shook her head. She gathered up her towel and soap for the shower.

“Three years back," Roberta ploughed on, monologuing. "I didn't know who I was. I was going to the gym in the morning, then partying and staying out late. I was just trying to find who I was. And then, I met this wonderful woman, and she changed my life forever.”

Roberta went on speaking as if she had known Stephanie for a long time.

“And she gave me the strength to come out of the closet," Roberta continued. "The strength to open up to my parents. Do you know what my mom said?”

Stephanie shifted uncomfortably. She was running out of patience. She looked at the clock. It was 12:03 already, and she needed to be back at work by 12:15! “I'm sorry, but I'm running a little late. I don't mean to be rude, but I'm not interested.” Stephanie informed her in the most polite tone she could muster.

Roberta turned and glanced at the clock, “Fuck, I too need to get going.”

Roberta took her towel off and she started looking for her clothes. Stephanie sighed with relief and darted for the shower area.

Roberta jumped in front of her. “Anyway, this is too good to wait," she insisted aggressively. "Just listen to what my mom said.” Roberta stood right in front of Stephanie, wide-eyed with excitement and her arms moving in the air. “She said that she had always been afraid I would be straight!” she cried out, starting to laugh hysterically.

Stephanie lost her patience with this obnoxious woman. She couldn't say which was worse: the fact that she had to listen to this stranger’s sexual preferences or the fact that Roberta was interfering with her schedule by blocking her path for a second time.

Stephanie looked around. There were three other women in the room, but none of them seemed to be noticing what is going on. “I…” Stephanie paused and wondered, what was the least offensive way to tell a gay person that you are not interested? ‘I am straight,’ or, 'I am not a lesbian?’ She didn't want to sound homophobic, but she wanted to get out of this awkward conversation. Roberta wasn’t attractive. She was frumpy, harsh-looking, not to mention the large tattoo of a compass you couldn't miss on her right thigh … she was just a rough looking woman with an abrasive manner that Stephanie did not want to meet again. 

“I'm not a lesbian. Sorry for any misunderstanding. I am not interested,” Stephanie stated clearly. She then hurried toward the showers, hoping to get rinsed, dressed and back to class before the bell. Roberta continued to follow her.

Stephanie stopped, turned around, and told the woman in a slightly stern voice, “I am going to take a shower.” She was losing patience with this madwoman.

“So am I.”

Stephanie stopped in her tracks and looked around. The other women were not paying any attention. She couldn't take it anymore! This woman clearly had no sense of personal boundaries. She glanced up at the clock, 12:07. She was going to be late.

Without further thought, Stephanie rushed back to her bench, took her skirt and blouse and put them on over the tight shorts and sports bra she was wearing. She had worn dark blue that day, so it wouldn't show the black undergarments. She hastily sprayed on some deodorant and hoped that would be enough to get her through the day. She grabbed her bag and hurried out of the locker room without even turning back to look at Roberta.

Stephanie ran all the way back to school. She must have been such a funny sight! She ran in her oversized winter jacket, holding her bag in one hand and looking at her watch on the other hand. She didn't slow down until she was inside the gate. It would be embarrassing if any of the students saw their English teacher running at this hour! She glanced at her watch as she entered through the main door, 12:12. Great!

She had just three more minutes to get to the restroom, collect her stuff, and get ready for the class. She walked with strides as long as her tight skirt would allow her.

She passed the principal’s office, instinctively glancing in before heading toward the restroom.

Bang! She smashed into someone.

“I am... so... sorry. Sorry…” she apologized, reaching down to collect the books scattered all over the floor.

She looked up to see a tall, muscular guy peering down at her. Oh no, it was Andrew! Her heart began to beat even more rapidly.

In her rush, she had crashed into Andrew, who was just coming out of the restroom. He was carrying a bunch of books, which were now all over the floor. They had gotten mixed with the stuff she had been carrying to class. Stephanie could feel her heart beating even faster now. Her mouth was completely dry, and her hands shook as she tried to collect the books.

“Are you alright?” Andrew asked in a low and caring voice, as if he was genuinely worried that he had caused some damage by crashing into her.

His scent was so mesmerizing.

He reached down and collected the books himself, while Stephanie made a poor attempt at holding on to them. Her hands were still shaking. To try and hide the shaking, she clasped her hands together, stood up, holding her hands tightly in front of her skirt.

“I was in a hurry and didn't see you,” she explained. Just then, she remembered that she hadn't taken a shower. “Oh! And so sorry that I am all sweaty from the gym,” she apologized sheepishly.

Why Stephanie? Why did you need to say that to him? She regretted saying those words the moment they came out of her mouth.

“I'm a sports teacher; I'm sweaty all the time,” He said with a smile, and then his face turned a little red. His smile disappeared. He must have regretted saying that, too.

Stephanie gazed at Andrew' s clean-shaven, long and slender face. His dark green eyes were captivating. His brown hair was neatly combed to the side. His eyebrows were thick and kind of joined in the middle. And his nose looked even sharper from the angle Stephanie was now looking at him. ‘Girl, he’s handsome!’ Stephanie thought, ‘And that accent!

There they stood, both having embarrassed themselves by saying foolish things and not wanting to say anymore. Their eyes met for another second and then they turned away. Andrew nodded and walked away. Stephanie stood there a moment longer, and then entered the restroom, collecting herself. She might be a bit late for the class that day, or the students may notice her sweaty clothes, but she didn't care.

That afternoon she had walked out of the gym, thinking she would never go back. But after seeing Andrew so close, Stephanie wanted to get in shape even more. She called the gym that evening and changed her training appointments to evenings, to avoid any more unpleasant encounters with Roberta.

About the author

When author Shawna James is not instructing at university or writing in her favorite coffee shop, Shawna spends most of her time reading, hiking, traveling abroad, and catching her favorite football games on Sunday afternoons. view profile

Published on November 11, 2020

Published by Drummond Martin Publishing

50000 words

Genre: Women's Fiction

Reviewed by