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Waking Olivia by Elizabeth O'Roark

Waking Olivia

by Elizabeth O'Roark


Book 1 in the Waking Olivia Duology

His father's debt, a failing farm and a floundering track team.

College coach Will Langstrom already has too many responsibilities, and the last thing he needs is Olivia, a beautiful new addition to his team with a bad attitude and a troubled past.

Abandoned and broken, Olivia trusts no one -- especially not the cocky track coach the rest of the team adores. But when her past is revealed to Will, she discovers another side to him -- one she could grow to love. Forced together by a secret no one else can know - and breaking university rules to do it - Will and Olivia's connection deepens. As does an attraction that could cost them everything.



Trigger Warnings: Memories of child abuse.


When I'm in the mood for tension, and angst. Elizabeth O'Roark.

In the mood for romance and intense steamy scenes. Elizabeth O'Roark.

Want a good cry, but want to end off with a smile on my face. Again, Elizabeeth O'Roark.


Her work is so good!

There are a lot of things I enjoyed about Waking Olivia.

The storyline encompasses some of my favorite tropes but felt very fresh.

Slight age gap, but only by a few years.

Sports romance, but Olivia is the athlete, AND its running - literally the first romance where I've come across a professional runner.

Enemies to lovers, and tension from the very start.

You know I love forbidden, and a touch taboo, so a coach and athlete (at the university level) is just all kinds of deliciously forbidden.

Trauma, and the consequences of that trauma manifesting not just emotionally, but physically as well. Don't usually see a physical representation of trauma in books, so that was refreshing.

There is just SO much that happens in this book, and it's all just ... heartbreaking and wonderful.

That's a good two words to describe every Elizabeth O'Roark book I've read to date, I think.

It's not just some of my favorite tropes though.

It's the story.

Elizabeth wrote a deeply emotional story here. Take away the romance, and there is still a story here. I loved the romance, but I was also deeply invested in Olivia's past, and her present. I don't say this often, but even without the romance, I would have loved this book.

It was that good.

Is Olivia always likable? No. She is tough as nails, and incredibly stubborn. Which makes it so much sweeter when Will gets her to open up.

Is Will always likable? No. But when he realizes he was wrong, he mans up and fixes it.

I think that is one of the things I really liked about these characters. Not only are they written in such a rich way, but they just felt ... real. Which is a bit of Elizabeth's magic, I think. Elizabeth O'Roark can create some well-thought-out, layered characters.

Even if you are not into the whole coach and player trope, you will still enjoy this. It's done so well - and it's only a 5-year age difference - that it shouldn't ruin the book for you. Sure, it has romance and sex ... but the story is what will get you. I promise you will become invested in Olivia and Will's personal stories, as well as their romance.

She's trouble of the devious, manipulative, too-fucking-hot-for-her-own good variety. Sashaying into Peter's office like a runway model, all long-legged and tan with big green eyes and a knowing smile. She's the kind of girl who causes trouble merely by existing, and then makes sure to cause more. Olivia: "Do you always talk this much?"

She grins, wide-eyed.

Erin: "I do. That's why we're perfect together. You never speak and I never shut up. You're so lucky you found me." Meghan: "Did you see the way his shirt clung to him at yesterday’s practice?"

Nicole: “Wish his shorts had clung too,”

cackles Nicole. I sort of wish that too, but I roll my eyes.

Olivia: "This is like listening to a bunch of horny teenage boys."

Erin: "Welcome to the team.”

Erin grins. There's a small muscle at the corner of his jaw that pops when he's mad. That muscle and I are practically family I know it so well. Will: "Explain,"

he demands. My brain frantically searches for an excuse. I'm not telling him what happened. I doubt he'd believe me anyway.

Olivia: "About this morning?”

I ask, forcing myself to smirk.

Olivia: “You've heard of the walk of shame, right?"

He narrows his eyes.

Will: "Dressed in running clothes?"

he demands.

Will: "No shoes? Drenched in sweat?"

I grin.

Olivia: "You're probably not aware of this, but when sex lasts more than thirty seconds, the girl can get sweaty too." Will: “Did you talk to the counselor?"

My eyes roll again. He seems to bring it out in me.

Olivia: "She was a moron."

I get a small flash of his half-smile, high on one side.

Will: "I'm guessing you say that about most people you meet.”

Olivia: “Well, it's true of most people I meet." Olivia: "Just because a few guys on the team ask me out doesn't make me the team slut,”

I snap. He rubs his eyes.

Will: "I wasn't trying to imply you were,"

he groans.

Olivia: "You're attractive. That's all I was saying."

A tiny warmth weaves its way through me. It shouldn't. I shouldn't care what he thinks.

Olivia: "I'm attractive, huh?"

He walks away.

Will: "Don't worry, your personality ruins it." Will: “What do you mean you don’t date?”

His tone suggests astonishment, as if I just told him I don’t breathe.

Will: “Ever?”

I shrug.

Olivia: "If I want to sleep with someone, I don’t need him texting me all the time and pretending he actually likes me as a person in order to do it.”

His jaw falls open. It’s possible he looks even more dumbfounded than he did the day I told him about the sleep running.

Will: “Jesus, Olivia. Then wait for someone who actually does like you as a person. And how do you know they’re pretending?”

My hands tighten on the reins.

Olivia: “I know my strengths, Will. Likeability isn’t high on the list. You’d be the first to attest to it.”

Will: “I never said you were unlikeable,”

he protests.

Olivia: “You don’t have to. It’s written all over your face every time you look at me.”

I sigh, tiring of this whole conversation. Thank God the ride is ending so I can escape it.

Olivia: “Don’t worry. I’m used to it.”

He grabs my reins and stops us both.

Will: “Olivia, there are guys out there who would actually like you. There are actually men in the world who mean well.”

He’s wrong. There are guys who convince themselves they like the whole package when they actually just like the box it comes in, but even they’d figure it out soon enough.

Olivia: “When I’m looking for someone to hook up with,”

I reply, pulling the reins from him,

Olivia: “the last thing I want is someone who means well. Nothing’s less exciting than a guy who’s too nice.” Dorothy: "There's nothing to be nervous about, honey,"

my mother soothes.

Dorothy: "You go out and run your own race, and what happens, happens."

Olivia: "That's not the way the rest of the team sees it. They’re looking at me like I'm about to cure cancer."

Dorothy: "You don't need to worry about what they think or want. Tell them if they're so desperate to go to regionals, then they should run faster."

I laugh quietly.

Will: "That's awesome, Mom. Just what Olivia needs—advice on standing up for herself. Maybe you can teach her some new fighting techniques next." Dorothy: “Maybe it’s time you told Peter what’s going on with her.”

I lean forward, staring at my hands. It’s the same thing I’ve said to myself so many times I’m tired of saying it, but the answer is always the same.

Will: “I can’t. If Peter knows, then the school is liable if something happens to her. They’ll kick her off the team.”

She nods, but she’s still frowning.

Dorothy: “It just seems like this is too much for you to deal with.”

Will: “I don’t know why you’d say that. I was able to stop her last weekend. I’ll be able to stop her tonight.”

She stands and kisses my cheek.

Dorothy: “Honey,”

she says, turning to go inside,

Dorothy: “I think we both know I’m not talking about the running.” Will: “All of this you’re feeling, it’s like a person running beside you, shouting shit in your ear to tear you down. But it can only change the way you run if you choose to believe it.” She sinks back in her seat.

Olivia: “So what's your grand plan, Will? You gonna tie me to the bed? Because I'll warn you in advance I really, really like that."

Thank God I’m sitting behind a desk right now because there's definitely a part of me that reacts to that as if I'm not her coach and she's not off limits.

Will: "No,"

I say, closing my eyes and trying to push the image from my brain.

Will: "Better. You're going to room with my mom." Will: “What did you think?”

he asks. I let my body splay out over the ground.

Olivia: “I think you need to carry me to the car.”

Will: “But you loved it,”

he says. And then adds something quietly, wistfully, almost to himself:

Will: “I knew you would.” Will: “Want to climb?”

His whole face brightens as he asks, and even if I didn’t want to go, I’d say yes.

Olivia: “Don’t you have to work on the farm?”

He grins at me.

Will: “Yeah.”

Olivia: “Am I finally seeing the naughty side of Will Langstrom?”

He arches a brow.

Will: “This doesn’t even come close to the naughty side, Olivia.”

Gulp. I didn’t think it was possible, but Will just got ten times hotter. Olivia: “Okay.”

His eyes widen.

Will: “You’re giving in, just like that?”

I shrug.

Olivia: “Sure. If it means that much to you, I’ll do it.”

Will: “I guess that’s why it’s so much colder this afternoon,”

he says, opening the door. Brendan and Dorothy stand right on the other side, and I suspect they were listening.

Will: “Hell must’ve frozen over.” Brendan: “It’s so weird that he’s your coach. I mean, isn’t that weird for you?”

I glance at him.

Olivia: “Weird how?”

Brendan: “You’re almost the same age, for one thing. And the two of you just have that vibe. You know, a couple vibe. When you guys argue, the air is just rife with sexual tension the whole time.”

There’s a small, quiet thrill at the suggestion. And I can’t deny that I’ve felt some sexual tension over the past few weeks, but I’m not planning to admit it either. Especially not to Will’s brother.

Olivia: “You’re watching too much porn.”

He smirks.

Brendan: “That’s entirely possible but irrelevant." Brendan: “My brother needs to realize how bored he is by Jessica on his own. And besides, it’s so fun making him jealous.”

I roll my eyes.

Olivia: “He’s here with his girlfriend. The one thing he’s not is jealous.”

Brendan: “Wanna bet? Watch.”

He puts his hand on the small of my back and then slowly lowers it until it’s resting on my ass.

Olivia: “Get your hand off my ass or I’ll snap your wrist.”

He grins at me.

Brendan: “Wait for it…three…two…one.”

Will pushes between us.

Will: “What’s taking so long?”

he snaps, grabbing the pitcher. Brendan leans toward my ear as we follow him to the table.

Brendan: “Told you.” Olivia: “Holy shit,”

I cry.

Olivia: “Where’d you learn to do that?”

Will: “My mom. She taught us all these stupid dances under the impression that they were important skills to have.”

I smile a little, imagining Dorothy forcing a teenage Will to learn to dance. I wonder if she has video.

Olivia: “And did they ever come in handy?”

Will: “They’ve gotten me laid more than once,”

he replies, spinning me, and I’m so shocked that I nearly fly free of his hand, and he looks even more shocked than me.

Will: “I shouldn’t have said that.”

I spin close to him, so close that my chest is pressed to his and our mouths are millimeters apart.

Olivia: “Will, I already knew this could get you laid.” Will: “I would do anything to fix this for you, and it kills me that I can’t. Tell me what to do.”

It takes me a minute to reply.

Olivia: “You already make everything better. And you’re the only one who ever has.” Will: “Well, my mother seems to think you’re the daughter she never had. So like it or not, you are part of a family. Believe me, I’d have chosen someone a little more even-tempered and less quick to lie or throw a punch, but sometimes you don’t get a choice.”

His eyes drop to the ground and his voice gets quieter, less willing.

Will: “We all want you there. You filled a hole we didn’t even know we had and now you’re gone and it’s all any of us can see.” I laugh.

Olivia: “I guess you’re awake, perv.”

He groans.

Will: “That doesn’t make me a perv. Every time I tried to move, you pushed your ass against me again.”

I wiggle and I feel him groan as I much as I hear it. I love, a little too much, having that kind of power over him.

Olivia: “Don’t notice you trying to move now.”

Will: “If you’d get off of me I would. You’re a very hard person to be nice to sometimes.”

I reluctantly sit up, and so does he, bending over to rest his elbows on his knees.

Olivia: “From the feel of it, your girlfriend’s a very lucky woman,”

I offer. Which is both the truth and as close as I want to come to an apology. He remains bent over, mostly ignoring me.

Will: “We broke up.”

My stupid, stupid heart begins beating fast. I know it wasn’t because of me, and I know it won’t change things.

Olivia: “Why?”

He’s still staring at the floor. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s pissed at me or just trying to get his erection to go away.

Will: “I was with her for the wrong reasons and we didn’t want the same thing. But back to the main subject—”

Olivia: “Your dick size?”

He groans and laughs at once. She shrugs.

Dorothy: “I always wanted a little girl to dress up.”

Olivia: “You could probably still have a girl,”

I reply. Maybe it’s just good genes, but Dorothy looks young. Too young to have grown sons, actually. She smiles at me.

Dorothy: “Shop’s closed. And besides, I have you now, don’t I?” Will kissed me. Will kissed me like it was something he couldn’t live without. As if he was suffocating and I was oxygen. He kissed me as if I wasn’t optional. Will: “You did it, Liv,”

he whispers, his breath warm against my ear, his body wrapped around me. Winning a race like this was something I dreamed of my entire life. But this moment with him—it’s the best part. It’s the part I’ll always remember. Reporter: “How does it feel to come within seconds of breaking the world record?”

a reporter asks. I give the answer I’m supposed to, tell her I’m shocked and thrilled, and that it’s the best day of my life. And the whole time I watch Will, knowing I’d give it all up for him—my wins, the team, my future—if he only wanted me enough to take it. Olivia: “That’s just the problem, Will. You can get past it. I can’t. If you wanted me enough, you could have had me. Or you could have asked me to wait until I graduated. But you didn’t, and you won’t, and do you know how hard it is to have to look at you?”

My voice grows raspy and I pause because I refuse to cry over him again.

Olivia: “To look at you and know that you made your choice and you didn’t choose me?” Will: “I’ve wanted this for so fucking long,”

he says, holding still inside me.

Olivia: “Keep going,”

I beg.

Olivia: “Don’t stop.”

Will: “Patience,”

he croons.

Will: “You have no idea how hard it is not to come right now.” Will: “I’ve been far from honorable for a long time. And I’m not being honorable now either. I’m here because I love you. Because I’m so in love with you, I can’t see straight.” Will: “In case you haven’t done this before, this is the part where you tell me you love me too.”

Olivia: “Have you done this part before?”

she asks. I grin.

Will: “Yeah, about five seconds ago. And she didn’t say it back.”

She smiles.

Olivia: “I love you.” I almost feel capable of faking normalcy until we walk inside…and I find Brendan with his arms around my girlfriend. His smile fades when he sees me over her shoulder—possibly related to the fact that I am about to throw a punch. With an exaggerated sigh he releases her.

Brendan: “Chill, dude. I was just saying hello.”

I glare at him.

Will: “Just use words next time.”

Brendan: “But Olivia gives such good hugs,”

he counters, glancing at her chest.

Brendan: “She’s got to be at least, what, a D cup?”

She laughs and crosses the room to me, wrapping her arms around my waist.

Olivia: “That was your last hug, asshole.” Nicole: “I want all the dirt,”

Nicole says, slightly too eager.

Olivia: “You’re not actually saying you want me to talk about, like, physical stuff, right?”

I ask. She looks at me blankly.

Nicole: “Of course I am. You think I want to know what he eats for dinner? You’ve at least got to tell me how big his d—”

Olivia: “I’m sure you can guess,”

I say, cutting her off.

Olivia: “And that’s the very last detail you’ll request, ever. Understand?”

She ignores me entirely, turning to Erin.

Nicole: “I told you he’d be huge, didn’t I?”

she crows. Olivia: “I’ve been on dates.”

Will: “With someone you liked? Someone you planned to keep seeing?”

I roll my eyes, an admission of defeat.

Will: “Then you should probably try it while you have the chance, Olivia,”

he says softly, his mouth pressed to my ear,

Will: “because I’m going to be the first and the last.”

I want to not smile at that but I can’t help myself.

Olivia: “The last, huh? Pretty sure of yourself.”

He rolls us over until I’m on my back and looms over me, clearly no longer sleepy.

Will: “Yes. I’ve never been more sure about anything.” Will: "I’ll pick you up at five thirty for our date.”

Olivia: “Won’t you need to get ready?”

I ask. He sits on the edge of the bed.

Will: “I’ll get ready at my mom’s. If we try getting ready at the same time, we’ll just wind up in bed.”

Olivia: “What’s wrong with that? I like winding up in bed with you.”

He smiles. A sweet, sheepish smile that makes my heart flip over in my chest.

Will: “Because I’m wooing you.”

Olivia: “I’m already wooed. Take off those jeans and I’ll show you just how wooed I am.”

For a single second he glances at me, his resolve faltering a bit, but then he grabs his T-shirt and pulls it over his head.

Will: “Five thirty.” Will: “Just so we’re clear, this is still the best first date I’ve ever had.”

Olivia: “Me too,”

I reply. I rub my leg against his and his eyelids lower ever so slightly, his mouth the tiniest bit slack. I think about how many times I’ve seen that look on his face without realizing what it meant, that it was the look he has when he wants something and is doing his best to restrain himself.

Olivia: “You might even get lucky if you don’t irritate me too much.”

His tongue darts out to tap his lip.

Will: “Olivia,”

he says quietly, picking up the menu,

Will: “I assure you I’m getting lucky no matter how irritating you find me.”


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