Love Me(The Keatyn Chronicles #4)

By: Jillian Dodd

Wednesday, October 19th

A little more disturbing.

7:25am



I’m putting my mascara on, getting ready for class, when my phone buzzes with a text.

I glance down at it.



Garrett: Meet me at that little diner in town in 20 minutes. We need to talk about Miami.



Me: You’re here? In town? What’s wrong?



Garrett: I need to talk to you.



Me: You have bad news? What’s wrong??!!! Is my family okay??



Garrett: They’re fine. We just have a lot to talk about.



Me: Okay.



I sign myself out of school, pretending to have a dentist appointment, and drive to the diner.

Garrett meets me outside my car. The first thing he does is pull me into a hug.

“I swear, you’re going to give me gray hair. I’m glad you’re okay.”

I pull away, pleasantly surprised by his hug.

“Are we going to talk about Tiny? Did you find some clues to connect him with Vincent? Is he going to jail for a very long time? Can I go back home?”

He sighs and shakes his head. “Afraid not. The guy’s like teflon. I can’t get anything to stick.”

“What if we set him up?”

He narrows his eyes at me. “Set him up?”

“Yeah, planted some evidence. Made it look like he killed Tiny. Tip off the cops.”

“I believe in justice, Keatyn. But I won’t discard my morals.”

“So, I guess that means hiring a hit man to take him out isn’t an option?”

Garrett laughs and shakes his head at me. “Very funny,” he says, but then his face gets serious. “There are a few things going on that I want you to know about.”

“I’m about to get the bad news now, right?”

He hands me a tabloid magazine. Sprawled across the front page is a large headline. Tommy’s Affair With Abby’s Best Friend. Below is a photo of Tommy hugging Millie. The photo looks damaging. Millie is getting into a car and it does look like he’s saying goodbye to his lover. He’s hugging her tighter than usual.

“This can’t be true.”

“It’s not. Tommy, Millie, and a producer had dinner together in LA a few nights ago. They’re trying to convince Tommy to guest star in a few episodes of Millie’s prime time soap opera. She was tired, so she asked Tommy to walk her out to the car. The reason he’s hugging her so tightly is she just told him the reason for her being tired.”

My eyes get big. “She’s pregnant, isn’t she? Oh, my gosh! I’m so excited for her and Deron!”

“She is pregnant. But the press is going crazy. Pulling out any old photos of them together without Abby. Or cropping Abby out of the picture. Their publicists expect this to get worse before it gets better. I just wanted to make sure you don’t worry about it.”

“Thanks, Garrett, I appreciate it.”

“Now, for something a little more disturbing.” He hands me another paper. This one has the words Press Release across the top of it.



Vincent Sharpe of A Breath Behind You Films is pleased to announce casting has commenced for the green-lit film, Another Day at the Lake, a remake of the Abby Johnston cult classic. Mr. Sharpe says, “While some roles have been cast, we’re looking for an unknown to play the role Abby Johnston originated. We’ll be doing nationwide open casting calls in many major cities. If you know someone who looks like the main character in the early version of the film, please message us. And be sure to check our website for details, but get ready Miami and New York, we’re coming to you first.”



The paper slips out of my hand and my knees start to give out. “This is brilliant.”

“And scary,” Garrett says quietly, grabbing my elbow so I don’t buckle to the ground. “Basically, he’s doing tryouts all over the country, but what he wants is someone to turn in your picture and tell him where to find you. On the website, it mentions they will do some surprise casting calls. As in, you can nominate someone without their knowing and he will show up, surprise them, and let them audition.”

“The good news is, I don’t really look that much like my mom.”

Garrett shakes his head and holds out a picture of my mom from the movie. She’s in a swimsuit. Her hair is in soft waves. She has a sweetness to her face that I never used to have. But coming here has changed me. Softened me, somehow.

“You do, Keatyn. Has anyone at school mentioned that?”

“My friends went to see one of Mom’s movies. When they came back, they said I remind them of her. Mostly that my voice and gestures are identical.” I start to panic. “What would I do if someone from school sent in my picture without me knowing and he showed up?”

“It’s my job to prepare for that possibility. Let’s go inside and order some breakfast. I have someone I want you to meet.”

I follow Garrett into the diner, my mind still spinning at the lengths Vincent’s going to in order to find me.

Garrett stops at a table, moves out of my line of sight, and says, “Meet your new babysitter, Cooper Steele.”

Cooper Steele stands up to shake my hand.

Holy hell.

Please tell me that babysitting involves him spending every single night in my room.

In my bed.

This guy is the definition of rugged hotness. Muscles on top of muscles, short buzzed hair, tattoos. He’s not quite six feet, but a woman could learn to love flats if her reward was that body.

He's wearing tailored black cargo pants and a tight white thermal shirt that allows me to see the outline of a buff chest and muscular shoulders.

Women in the diner are staring.

I look around. No, they're drooling. Imagining what's bulging where we can't see.

I lean around Garrett, shake his hand, and smile. “Hey, I’m Keatyn.”

He gestures to the seats across from him in the booth, so Garrett and I slide in.

A waitress comes over, filling our cups with steamy coffee and flirting with both Cooper and Garrett.

But the coffee is lukewarm compared to the man staring at me with intensity.

She takes our orders and then Garrett says, “Cooper is your new interim soccer coach and will be teaching Health class.”

Clearly, I’m going to be needing private lessons on drilling the ball into the net.

“We already have a soccer coach.”

“She just got an amazing offer. Seems it’s always been her dream to teach soccer to underprivileged children. A charitable foundation, conveniently, just offered her that dream. Six months of handing out soccer balls in third world countries. The catch was that she has to leave tomorrow. When she hesitated about leaving her girls with no coach, Cooper was recommended. His soccer experience, combined with the urgency of the offer and outstanding references, allowed for a quick hire.”

“You don’t really look like a soccer player,” I say to Cooper Steele.

Cooper gives me a barely perceptible squint of his eyes, but doesn’t respond.

Garrett continues. “He played on the United States Under-20 Men’s National Team, which qualified for the World Cup. Graduated with honors from Brown University, and is an accomplished MMA fighter.”

I look at Cooper. He gives me a teeny smirk. One that is supposed to irritate me, but I’m not sure how it could. The smirk brings out the beginnings of a sexy set of dimples.

“So, I don’t get it.”

“You told me she was smart,” Cooper scoffs.

Garrett turns to me. “With the letter I just showed you, the possibility of Vincent showing up randomly at Eastbrooke has increased exponentially. I want someone on site to help protect you.”

The waitress interrupts us by delivering our food. After she leaves, I say, “So you’re basically my bodyguard? Just how old are you, anyway?”

“He’s twenty-three,” Garrett says. “He’s also the son of a decorated military man and is an expert marksman.”

“So he’ll have a gun with him at all times?”

“Obviously, he can’t.”

“Garrett, if you hired him to protect me, that means I’m paying him to protect me. I’d love to know what I’m getting for my money. A soccer player who knows how to throw a punch and kick the shit out of guy in a ring, and would be a good shot if he had a gun, doesn’t really make me feel all that safe.”

“Fine. I pulled him out of the Farm.”

“The Farm?”

“Yes, he was currently at the top of his class, training to be a CIA agent.”

Damn.

“That makes me feel better.”

“Obviously, what I just shared with you is confidential.”

I nod at Garrett and look at Cooper. “Is this something you want to do? Do you feel this is beneath you?”

He shakes his head. “I’m honored that I was recruited for something of this nature. I hadn’t really considered the commercial side of things.”

I laugh. “In other words, I’m paying him very well?”

“Basically,” Garrett says. “And I’m always on the lookout for people that fit into my organization. The fact that he is young and just a soccer coach means no one will think twice about him.”

“How involved is he going be? How much are we supposed to interact?”

“I know you don’t want a traditional bodyguard and I don’t think one is necessary at this point. Remember when the school office got broken into and you thought Vincent was there?”

“Yes.”

“He’s the cavalry, Keatyn. I want someone on site if something goes down.”

I scrutinize Cooper some more. “Smile for me.”

He looks at me kinda funny, but then the corners of his mouth pull up into a smile, popping out those adorable dimples. I shake my head. “Vincent is going to be the least of your worries. You should be more worried about fending off underage schoolgirls that are used to getting anything they want.”

Garrett looks at his watch. “Okay, you need to get back to school. When Cooper is announced as your new coach, use your acting skills and pretend to be surprised. And be on guard. Always. And pay attention. If you hear anyone talking about Vincent’s announcement, go straight to Cooper. He’ll get you out of there safely.”

“Got it.”



Always hot with you.

Lunch



I get back to school in time to have lunch with Maggie, who talks endlessly about her crush on Jake, all the possible reasons for why he hasn’t texted her yet, and a bunch of gossip that I’m not really paying attention to. My mind keeps running through horrible scenarios involving Vincent showing up here.

And something keeps gnawing at the corner of my mind. Something about the letter is bugging me, but I just can’t quite pinpoint what.

“What happened to the popular table?” Maggie asks, pulling me back into her conversation.

“What do you mean?”

“Look at it. It’s changed.”

I look at the table. It has changed. Whitney and Peyton are there, of course, but they are down to one minion. Tyrese is gone. Dawson, Jake, and Bryce are there, but no one else is.

“Well, after Homecoming, Whitney banished Rachel and most of the minions to a different table. I’m sure they will all make up. Where’s Katie at?”

“Retaking a test. I have to say, I’m hating that you’re in the play. I miss all of us hanging out and studying in your room.”

“Me too. How is Annie doing? She hasn’t really talked to me lately. Is she mad at me?”

“No, she’s freaking out about Ace going to her parents’ anniversary party.”

“Why?”

“He looks like a dumb jock, so she thinks they won’t approve. Her sisters all married skinny, nerdy types.”

“Well, hopefully they give him a chance. I would think as soon as he starts talking, they’ll know he’s smart.”

“I hope so. Regardless, she’s freaking out.”

“I don’t think it’s just that. I think she helped Aiden with the stars. She’s been avoiding me ever since.”

“She’s afraid you’re mad at her.”

“I’m not mad at her. She’s one of my best friends.”

“I think she’s not that used to having friends who stand by her.”

“Well, she better get used to it, right? We’re not going anywhere.”

Maggie smiles at me and nods. “Right. Oh, shit, here comes Dawson.” Then she says, out of the corner of her mouth, “Or are we supposed to be happy about that?”

“I’m not sure.”

She laughs. “Let me guess. It’s complicated?”

We both start giggling. “Do you ever feel like you have no idea what you’re doing with your life?”

“All the time,” she says. “All the time. Hey, I gotta get to class. See ya later.”



As Dawson walks me to French, he says, “I missed sitting by you today. I’m so glad we got back together last night.”

“We didn’t get back together, Dawson.”

“I meant back together. You make me feel so good, Keatie.”

“We shouldn’t have. I mean, I shouldn’t have.”

“But you said you wanted to.”

“I needed to know if things would feel different. Did they feel different to you?”

“No, it was amazing. The way you pulled my hips into you. So hot. It’s always so hot with you.”

“I just, I think, I mean, I’m not sure we should again. Like until we decide what It’s complicated means.”

“It’s really not all that complicated, Keatie. I made a stupid mistake. You forgave me.”

“I know you’re sorry about it. But I’m not over it, Dawson. Not at all,” I say as Annie and Aiden walk by me into class. “Bye.”

I sit in my seat and see that Annie is still ignoring me.

I sneak a glance back at Aiden. As usual, I can’t decipher what the hell he’s thinking.

Miss Praline starts class by handing back the quizzes they took yesterday.

Aiden holds his quiz in front of my face. I see a bright red A on the front of it.

“Congratulations . . .”

“Keatyn, don’t look at his quiz,” Miss Praline chastises. She hands me a blank one. “Go out into the hall and take this.”



I finish my quiz quickly then pull my phone out of my blazer pocket.



Me: I met with Garrett today. I hope you’re doing okay with all that’s going on in the news. And yay for Millie & Deron!!



Mom: I have to go in a second. I just got called on set. But I’m happy for them too.



Me: Gracie’s birthday is coming up. Are you doing anything?



Mom: Her birthday is on a Monday, so we’re all taking the day off. Having a family party at the house. She asked for a bouncy house, a rainbow, chocolate chips, tap shoes, her very own stage, and lots of balloons.



Me: So is that what you’re doing?



Mom: Yes, Tommy is having a stage built for her.



Me: I want to come.



Mom: I wish you could. I’m really worried about Vincent’s press release. Have you thought of dying your hair?



Me: Not really. Do you think I should?



Mom: Well, it might be safer, you know? I have to go. Love you.



Me: Love you too.



I think about Gracie’s birthday. How I’ve never missed the girls’ birthdays. How it’s not fair that I’m missing them growing up. That I’m so afraid they might forget me.

I sigh and decide to message Riley. I don’t feel like going back into class yet.



Me: What did the dean think of the video? Did he love it?



Riley: He was very pleased. Where were you this morning? I called but you didn’t answer.



Me: I had a dentist appointment that I had forgotten about.



Riley: You didn’t sit with Dawson at lunch?



Me: I wanted to talk to Maggie.



Riley: I think Jake has a crush on her.



Me: I think they would be cute together. But it will piss Whitney off. She wants to get back together with him.



Riley: Who cares.



Me: I love you.



Riley: Yes, I know.



I decide to text Maggie next.



Me: Jake doesn’t have rehearsal tonight. Maybe you should suggest meeting up in the library again.



Maggie: You seemed kind of out of it at lunch today. You were nodding at the right times, but it seemed like your mind was somewhere else. Are you doing okay with all of this Dawson stuff? And you never did tell me about the stars. Although Katie filled me in on what happened. What Aiden said. About being friends.



Me: Aiden is confusing. That’s why I liked Dawson. He never confused me. It was easy. It’s still easy. Like it would be so easy to just forgive him and move on.



Maggie: What does it’s complicated mean to you?



Me: It means I slept with him. I know it was dumb, but I had to see if it was different. Like if somehow his hanging out with Whitney ruined him. Ruined his lips or something.



I press send then stop. Read what I just typed. Ruined his lips. Dawson ruined my lips once.

Is that what’s happening again? Am I letting him ruin my chances with Aiden? Do I even have a chance with Aiden? And why does he want to be my freaking friend? Why doesn’t he want to fix my lips forever?



Maggie: Did it?



Me: No. It was as hot as always. Except now I feel a little guilty about it.



Maggie: Why do you feel guilty?



Me: I don’t know exactly.



Maggie: Aiden?



Me: No. Not that long ago, he told me I should date them both him. But then he did the stars and since then, there’s been nothing. He hasn’t asked me to hang out. He hasn’t asked me on a date. I’ve been friend-zoned.



Maggie: Maybe he’s waiting to see. I just texted Jake. He said, “I’d love to.” Is it bad that I’m swooning over the fact that he wrote the word love in a text to me?



Me: No, it’s sweet. Are you and Parker done hooking up?



Maggie: Yeah. Logan texted me the other day. You know we used to date.



Me: You said that you slept with him. What happened?



Maggie: I broke his heart.



Me: How?



Maggie: I got drunk and slept with my ex. Parker and I are kind of like you and Dawson, I think. Sex is good. We have fun together. Like, when we aren’t fighting. I mean, of course, we said I love you and all that, but . . .



Me: But, WHAT??!!



Maggie: I’m not sure it was actual love. I think it was more lust/love.



Me: And you think that about me and Dawson? We never fight.



Maggie: That’s because you’re so laid back about everything with him. Like when he freaked about the Facebook picture. When he sent you the text that he was drunk in some girl’s bed. When he left for the weekend without making damn sure you were going with him. And then, not going home with you because she texted him. He doesn’t respect you like he should Keatyn. I noticed you cleaned up your room. Figured that was a good sign that you’re taking control of things. It’s one thing if you want to sleep with him or have a friends with benefits relationship. I’ll fully support that, if that’s what you want to do. But don’t try to pretend it’s real love. (Don’t hate me.)



Me: Maybe it is a lusty love. But so what? We’re in high school. It’s supposed to be fun.



Maggie: True. And there are some really hot guys here. Maybe you should stay single and have some of that fun.



Me: Fun sounds good. So do you like Jake or would you like to get back together with Logan?



Maggie: I can say with all honesty that I truly loved Logan and completely screwed it up. Even if I wanted another chance, he’ll never forgive me. He told me that. I’ll be looking all my life for someone like him, probably. That’s why I haven’t been in a relationship with anyone since. No one compares.



Me: I get that. I’ll probably compare every guy to my first love too.



Maggie: The guy you lost your virginity to?



Me: No, the surfer guy. I was so in love with him.



Maggie: And you made mistakes with him?



Me: At the time, I didn’t think so. I thought everything that went wrong was his fault. But it wasn’t. I didn’t trust his love. I pushed for a commitment instead of just being happy that he loved me. But back to Logan. You went to homecoming with him and Aiden and Parker. Was that awkward?



Maggie: Since he hates me, there isn’t much I can do about it.



I hear Miss Praline’s shoes clip-clopping toward the door. Shit. I’ve been out here for a while.



Me: Shit. I have to go.



I slip my phone back into my pocket and pretend to just fill in the last answer on the quiz.

“Keatyn, I forgot you were out here. Are you finished?”

“Yes, ma’am, just finished up.”

I hand her my test and go back to my seat. There are only a few minutes left in class so everyone is either working on their homework assignments or speaking to each other in half French-half English.

Aiden leans up and says, “So, it’s complicated?”

I turn around. “Yeah, kinda.”

“So un-complicate it.”

“How am I supposed to do that?”

“You can start by bringing your boots to dinner with me. I heard that you don’t have rehearsal tonight. And I got my first A ever on a quiz. We should celebrate. Do you like French food?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“There’s this little place not too far from here. I thought we could go.”

“Is this, like, a date?”

“No, it’s tutoring with food. Or you could call it a tutoring field trip, whichever you prefer.”

My heart drops. Again.

“Oh, so, nothing special, huh?” I put on a little pout. Is it bad that I wish it was a date? Especially considering what happened with Dawson last night?

He rolls his eyes at me. “Fine. I’d like it to be like a date. I just don’t know what complicated means.”

“It means that my feelings are feeling complicated.”

“Your feelings have feelings?” he asks with a laugh.

“I told you, it’s complicated. But I’m single. Like, I can hang out, date, kiss whoever I want.”

“Can he?”

My heart drops a little again. Because I don’t like the sound of that. I don’t want Dawson dating or kissing anyone else. But I say, “Yes. Yes, he can. Or could. But he says he’s not going to. I don’t know. The whole It’s complicated thing was his idea. He wants to get back together, but I just can’t. I think I need to be single for a while.”

“You act like you’re together. He’s walking you to class. You hung out with him last night. So, is he wooing you?”

“Wooing me?” I think back to what I told my mom when I was complaining about Brooklyn’s lack of commitment. How I wanted a guy who thought I was worth the effort. What is Dawson doing besides wooing me into bed? And does that even count as wooing?

“Yes. Is he taking you out? Being sweet? Making you fall for him?”

I sit there for a second and think about it. “Uh . . .”

The bell rings, so I get up and grab my bag.

Aiden stands next to me, totally invading my personal space. He leans in toward me like he might kiss me, but instead his lips find my ear. “If you have to think about it, the answer is no. I’ll pick you up at 6:30.”



A damn good actress.

Soccer



The locker room is abuzz with gossip about a hot guy that was seen walking into the gym with our soccer coach.

Peyton says to me, “Did you see him?”

“Uh, no. I don’t think so.”

“Trust me. You’d know if you had. He’s got on a tight red Under Armour shirt and has a smoking hot body. I’m hoping he’s a new graduate assistant or something.”

“Are we supposed to be getting a new graduate assistant? Especially in the middle of the year?”

“I don’t know. All I know is he’s young and really, really hot. We’re all drooling.”

I finish tying my shoes and say, “Cool.”

She gives me a funny look then drags me out to the gym. “See?” she says.

I take a quick glance at Cooper. “Yeah, he’s pretty hot,” I say blandly.

She shakes her head at me. “I want to explore all those tattoos. With my mouth.”

“Peyton!”

She grins. “What? I can’t help it. How old do you think he is?”

I shrug my shoulder. “I don’t know. Twenty-two. Twenty-three, maybe.”

Coach clears her voice and asks us all to have a seat.

I plop down on the floor and cross my legs. Cooper Steele looks at me, but I give him a disinterested glance.

I am a damn good actress.

Because my eyes would really, really like to linger on the shirt that is molded tightly to his torso.

“So, girls, I’ve had an interesting couple of days. Most of you know that a few summers ago, I volunteered on a trip delivering soccer balls to children in third-world countries. It was a life-changing experience and I hoped to someday go back. Two days ago, I got invited to do just that, only this time in a paid supervisory role. So I’m taking a leave of absence and embarking on a little adventure. Opportunities like this don’t come every day, so when something like this falls into your lap, you have to embrace it. I’ll be leaving you in extremely capable hands. Meet your new coach, Mr. Cooper Steele. For those of you that have followed the U.S. National team or the Brown soccer team, you might recognize him. Over the next two days, we’re going to acquaint him with your skill levels. So let’s get lined up.”

“I’d like to acquaint him with a few of my bedroom skills,” a girl sitting next to me whispers to her friend, who erupts in giggles.



When we’re in line, Peyton starts gushing to me again. “Did you see those dimples?”

“Yeah, I saw them. He is pretty cute, but, I mean, I would think you would be the last person who’d want to get involved with a teacher.”

She rolls her eyes and waves her hand at me. “I’m legal now.”



Boys are confusing.

4:25pm



After dance practice, Peyton yells, “Hey, Keatyn, come here.” I walk over to her. She lowers her voice slightly and says, “You seemed a little off today with your timing and your kicks. That’s not like you.”

“I’ve just got a lot on my mind,” I say with a sigh. I mean, how much more could I possibly have piled on me in one day? Let’s see: Crazy stalker is doing a nationwide search for me. I have a hot—no, a ridiculously hot—man here to guard my body. Maggie thinks I’m letting Dawson off too easy. And Aiden, who I thought had friend-zoned me, asked me on a date. Well, possibly a date.

“I saw Dawson changed his relationship status. Are you getting back together?”

I sigh again. “Last night, we, um, sorta maybe did some stuff that made him think things were on the right track.”

“You had sex?”

“I’m not sure I should talk to you about this. Whitney is your best friend.”

She rolls her eyes. “Whitney says she told you that she was sorry. Did she?”

“Yes, surprisingly, she did.”

“I think Dawson needed closure. He told her that he loves you. Which was so awesome.”

I ignore her Whitney slam. “Can I ask you a question about them?”

“Sure.”

“This is dumb, really. But your stupid brother said something to me earlier.” I fidget with my locket then say, “Did Dawson woo Whitney?”

“Woo her?”

“Yeah, like cute little gifts or notes or candy? Did he score points for her or make her dance with him? Did he hang lights on his ceiling? Give her four-leaf clovers? Write on a football for her?”

She looks very confused by all this. “Uh, no. She invited him to the movies with a group of us, sat next to him, made out with him, and they were together ever since. But Dawson was a good boyfriend, always thoughtful and sweet. Although . . .” She hesitates for a second. “You already know she wanted his brother and not him. She started hanging out with him hoping to make Cam jealous, but then it didn’t work. It’s a very unromantic story.” She laughs out loud. “But all that stuff you just said. Dawson didn’t do that. My brother did, right?”

“Yeah. He did. And I don’t know how I feel about him because sometimes he acts like he likes me and other times he acts like he doesn’t.”

“And how is Dawson wooing you?”

“That’s just it. He’s not. He’s sweet. We have amazing sex. Like, it’s amazing. And that’s why it’s now complicated. I can’t resist him, even though I’m still mad at him. I’m complicating it. I swore I wouldn’t do it with him until I got things straight in my mind, but then he started kissing me. And now I’m supposed to go on a sort of date with Aiden. I’m babbling. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. Boys are confusing. Tell me all the stuff my brother did.”

So I tell her. Spill my guts, going all the way back to the start of the school year. About the lunch, the four-leaf clover, the dances, the toast, Keats, B, how he was mad at me, tutoring, all of it.”

“So why aren’t you with him?”

“Because it’s even more complicated. When I kicked the soccer ball at his head, it felt like we had this connection. And when he told me he was going to ask me to marry him at the top of the Eiffel Tower at sunset someday, it was too amazing to believe. Especially since I knew his player reputation.”

“Top of the Eiffel Tower, sunset?” She visibly melts and clasps her hands together. “Oh, Keatyn. That’s so romantic! I want that.”

“Well, obviously, it hasn’t worked out so well, so watch what you wish for. Aiden gets mad at me a lot. Gets mad and walks away. Dawson never gets mad at me. Plus I’m pretty sure I’m love-cursed.”

“I think I am too. But we have to keep trying until we get it right.” She hugs me and says, “So where is he taking you for dinner?”

“He said some French place. He said it’s not really a date. That it’s tutoring with food. Then he said it was a date and that we’d celebrate the fact that he got an A on a quiz. But then he said it wasn’t a date because it’s complicated with Dawson. But then he told me to un-complicate it. Which is part of the problem. Clearly, the boy has no idea what he wants. So, I don’t know what it is. Just a dinner, I guess.”

She grins at me. The same stupid grin that her brother gets when he thinks he knows something that I don’t. “The French restaurant is very nice. It’s definitely a date.”

I roll my eyes at her. “Great. Is that where he takes all his girls to woo them?”

She grabs my shoulders and looks me straight in the eyes. “Keatyn, my brother has never had to woo anyone. You saw him at the Cave the other night. They flock to him. Practically line up. I happen to know that he’s only been to that restaurant twice. Both times with our parents.” She looks me over. “You’re all sweaty. You need to go get ready. What are you going to wear?”

“I don’t know.”

She grabs me by the elbow. “Come on. I’m going to help you pick out something perfect.”



I’ve showered, shaved my legs, deep conditioned my hair, and am now curling it into the sexy supermodel curls I wore the night we danced under the twinkle lights.

Peyton is sitting on my bed flipping through a magazine when my phone buzzes.

“Oh shit,” she says, looking at my phone. “It’s Dawson. He wants you to meet him for dinner. What are you going to say?”

“The truth,” I reply, walking over to grab my phone. “We promised to always be honest with each other.”



Me: I can’t. I’m going out for dinner.



Dawson: With who?



Me: Aiden. We’re combining tutoring with some French food tonight.



Dawson: That sounds like a date.



Me: We’re both single now. We can both go out on dates.



Dawson: I only want to date you.



Me: Someone asked me today what you’re doing to try and woo me back. Do you think you’re wooing me?



Dawson: I’m pretty sure I did that last night.



Me: Sex is not wooing.



Dawson: Oh :(



Me: Dawson, I know the sex is good. We have a great friendship. But I just don’t know if you even like me enough to woo me.



Dawson: So you’re gonna date both me and Aiden?



Me: I’m not sure that Aiden wants to date me, but I am going to dinner with him.



Dawson: I hate you right now.



Me: And I love your honesty. If it’s any consolation, I have hated you quite a bit recently too.



Dawson: :(



“He says he hates me,” I tell Peyton.

“He’ll get over it. You have to do what’s best for you. And even though I like Dawson, what he did sucked.”

“Yeah, it did. My mom told me that you have to learn to love yourself before you can love someone else. Do you think that you love yourself?”

She picks up one of my pillows and hugs it. “I think that’s good advice, but it’s hard to love yourself. Especially if you’re like me and have screwed up more times than not.”

“Isn’t that part of loving yourself? Forgiving yourself too?”

“Yeah, probably. Although, I’m having a hard time with that. My mom has cancer.”

“I know. Aiden told me. It’s in remission, right?”

“Yeah, but when we found out, my parents made some big changes in our lives. I was a little bitch about it. We had to make bucket lists. I was mad. Mad she had cancer. Mad they moved me away from my friends. So, on my bucket list I put that I wanted to go to boarding school. So, of course, they sent me.” She shakes her head. “Serves me right. I haven’t really liked myself much since.”

I sit on the bed next to her. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. That was a lot to handle. And I know your parents did what they thought was best, but moving you away from your friends, your support system, would have been awful. I can see why you acted like a little bitch.” I smile at her. “Aiden told me about that time. About how he ended up here. He loves it, though. Do you?”

“I just try to stay busy enough not to think about all my mistakes.”

“My mom says that our pasts, including our mistakes, are what make us who we are. My dad died when I was eight.”

Her eyes get big and she reaches out to touch my forearm. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay. The reason I’m telling you that is because my mom loved my dad, but now she’s with someone else. Someone she met and just knew was right. She says that sometimes life makes you wait for true love until you’re ready for it. Like all of the stupid mistakes you’re making now, when the right guy comes along, you’ll maybe have them all out of your system. If that makes sense. At least, I hope that’s what it means.”

She leans back and looks up at my ceiling, like she’s saying a prayer or making a wish.

“Hey, there are glow-in-the-dark stars all over your ceiling. Did you and Katie do that?”

I laugh. “Actually, your brother put them there.”

“Oh, wow. He is totally wooing you. You should really give the boy a chance. Now, what are you going to wear?”

I walk in my closet and try to stay calm. But it’s hard.

Because I. Am. Nervous.

Crazy, butterflies-in-my-stomach, strung-out, starting-to-sweat nervous.

Nervous that since the second he asked me on a sort-of date to a French restaurant my mind has been going to all those dreamy places. I’ve been writing scripts in my head about how he’ll take me to dinner and tell me I’m the one. That he made a wish on the moon. That it was fate that brought us together. That he wants to marry me. That he wants to grow old with me.

That he wants to kiss me with his tongue.

French restaurants and French kisses should be paired like a lamb chop and a vintage Bordeaux.

They. Belong. Together.

And I could so belong to Aiden.

I should call Maggie. She knows Aiden’s past. Has anyone ever successfully moved out of the friend zone with him?

No.

I can’t do that. I don’t want to know.

I don’t want to be like any other stupid girl.

I can’t even see my clothes. They have all just become a blurry colored background. Like a sunset.

Oh. My. God.

Everything—even my own closet—is plotting against me.

When has my closet ever looked like a sunset? Never. Never, ever. Ever.

Always. Only. Ever. For you.

“Can’t you find anything to wear?” Peyton says, pulling me out of my maniacal thoughts.

I look at my closet again. Take a whiff of it.

It sort of smells like Aiden.

That’s it!

He was in my room putting up the stars. That’s why I can’t think. There must have been love potion still lingering in the air that got trapped in my closet.

I walk out into my room, open my window, and take a deep breath of fresh, cleansing air.

“I think I almost have it figured out,” I lie.

“You aren’t usually so indecisive. Here, I’ll choose one.” She wanders into my closet, flips through the rack, and pulls out a pale pink Marchesa organza ruffle dress with a black bow at the waist. “This is what you should wear. It even looks Parisian.”

Oh, I can’t wear that dress. That’s the dress I’d been saving in my closet at home for the perfect occasion. I brought it here to give me hope. It’s the dress I thought I’d wear when I got my life back.

I’ve even given the dress a little script.

We’ll go to Paris. Stay at the Four Seasons. Shop all the designer boutiques. Stop for tea and macaroons at Ladurée. Then, as I walk into Cartier, an amazingly hot guy—who, unbeknownst to me, is the prince of a small country—holds the door open for me. He whispers to me in a sexy accent. He tells me I’m beautiful, causing me to blush the exact same shade as the dress. He helps me pick out a fabulous piece of jewelry, then insists on buying it for me, telling me that the gorgeous gem pales in comparison to my beauty.

But, in all likelihood, that won’t happen any time soon.

My mind flashes to me wearing this dress in my coffin, instead. After Vincent finds me, rubs his tattoo against me, and makes me film a movie.

I shudder. “You’re right, Peyton. That dress is perfect.”

“You’re acting strange,” she says, scrutinizing my face. Then her face breaks out into a grin. “You’re nervous, aren’t you?”

“I just got dumped by Dawson and then slept with him. Now it’s complicated and I’m going to dinner with your brother. Please, don’t stress me out any more. This dinner is a simple tutoring exercise.”

She smirks. “Whatever you say. How about shoes?”

I pull a pair of black Jimmy Choo high-heeled sandals that have black ostrich feathers gracing the front of them. “These, for sure,” I say, my confidence coming back. I grab a pair of long black feather earrings, a pearled Alexander McQueen clutch, and a rose quartz flower ring for my accessories.

“Love the feather earrings,” Peyton says. “Très chic.”

My phone buzzes.

“It’s my brother,” she says. “He’s just pulling up and says he’ll meet you in the front hall.”



A wonderful sense of powerlessness.

6:30pm



I walk slowly down the hall.

I’m done freaking out. I look good. I’m loving me. I’m doing all the things at school that I wanted to do. I’m proud of the fact that I’m still here. That I came face-to-face with Vincent—not once, not twice, but three times—and managed to get away.

But, at the same time, I feel like my luck is starting to run out.

Maybe I need another four-leaf clover, I think with a grin.

As I turn to walk into the front hall, Aiden’s eyes are on me, making me feel like I’m making a grand entrance at a ball.

Now presenting Miss Keatyn Elizabeth Douglas.

I just need a little dude standing here with a trumpet.

Oh, shoot. Script change.

Now presenting Miss Keatyn Elizabeth Monroe.

Aiden is wearing a charcoal gray suit with chalk-colored pinstripes and a white dress shirt with French cuffs. Very appropriate.

And he looks so very handsome. I know I go on and on about his appearance, but I’ll just say this.

He looks like he walked out of my dreams.

He walks toward me, kisses my hand, and says, “Vous êtes belle, mademoiselle.”

“You look pretty handsome yourself,” I reply. Then I notice his tie. It’s pink with little black Eiffel Towers sketched all over it. “We going a little overboard on this whole French theme?” I ask, pointing at his tie and laughing.

He chuckles and pulls up the tie. “This was my family’s way of giving me shit because I barely passed French last year. I got a 70.2% as my final grade. I told you. Fate.”

He leads me outside to the car that is almost as gorgeous as he is, walks me around to the passenger side, opens the door, and lets me in.

I slide into the leather seat, loving that Aiden has good manners.

Aiden opens his door and slides in next to me.

He reaches over, grabs my hand out of my lap, and holds it on the stick shift under his. “You ready?”

“Yeah. I’m looking forward to seeing if you can read the menu. You have to order. You know that, right?”

He grins at me as he puts the car in gear.

And I may be slightly obsessed with the way his hand feels on top of mine. The way he presses down on it slightly when he shifts. It’s like he’s in control.

And for some strange and surprising reason, I find this oddly comforting.

No, comforting isn’t the right word. I feel like he’s taking care of me. Kind of like the old-fashioned version of how a man is supposed to be. Usually, I have to drive a relationship. I have to know where it’s going.

With Aiden, I have this wonderful sense of powerlessness.

And it’s kinda thrilling.

“I love your dress,” he says. “And we match.”

“Your sister picked it out. I wasn’t planning on wearing it. I was sort of saving it.”

“What for?”

“You know, like a rainy day.”

“That dress is too pretty for a rainy day. You look like you should be in Paris having tea and eating macaroons.”

My eyes practically bug out of my head.

What the hell?

Can he read my freaking mind now, for real?

“I, uh, how did you know that?”

“Know what?”

“That I was saving it for Paris.”

He squints his eyes at me. “I didn’t. I just said that it looks like you should. So, does Dawson know we’re going on a date tonight?”

“I thought it was tutoring with food?”

Aiden pushes his hand down on mine as he shifts. I force myself to breathe normally. I am a normal person.

“No, it’s definitely a date. So, what did you and my sister talk about?”

“You know, clothes, shoes, boys.”

“Boys?”

“Well, yeah. We were talking about wooing. What you said made me think.”

“And what did you decide?”

“So far, Dawson is not wooing me. He’s also not thrilled about our field trip tonight.”

“You told him we were on a field trip?”

I laugh. “Naw, I told him it was tutoring with food at a remote location.”

“So, you lied?”

“Technically, that would not be a lie. And no, I didn’t. I told him it was a date. Even though you were a little unclear about it, your sister says it’s a date because you’re taking me to a nice restaurant. Plus, you’re wearing a suit. It’s totally a date.”

He downshifts, stops at a light, pulls my hand to his lips, and kisses it again. When the light turns green, he pushes it back on the stick shift, revs the motor, and slams through the gears.

And I must admit, it revs my motor too.

“You’re driving awfully fast.”

“I know. It’s fun, huh?”

Okay, so I have to gush.

OH. MY. GOSH.

Is he freaking sexy, or what?

Him, the suit, the tie, the car, the adrenaline rush, all of it.

He is—well, it’s no surprise. He is God of all Hotties, for sure.



We get to the restaurant, where he opens my car door, opens the restaurant door, and pulls out my chair for me. He is quite chivalrous.

But then he flips open the menu, written in French.

French is like his Achilles heel. His one weakness. And it’s adorable. Plus, it’s good to know he has at least one weakness.

“I like that you suck at French,” I tell him.

He slides his chair closer to mine and tries to read the entire menu.

And he doesn’t do half bad.

He figures out what he wants and attempts to order. And I maybe have to correct his pronunciation a few times, but he does well.

And it is the most adorable thing ever when he orders for both of us.

As Grandpa would say, His Momma done raised him right.

Damn, did she ever.

When the waiter takes our menus away, Aiden holds my hand and gazes into my eyes.

I’ve never felt so important or like what I had to say was so important. Like, you know how lots of times you’re talking to a guy and his eyes are looking everywhere but at you? Then he will glance back at your face, to verify that you are still talking; then he’ll look down and stare at your boobs—to make sure they are still intact, I think. And then his eyes sort of get that dazed look, and he continues to stare at your boobs, and you want to scream, Uh, hello, I’m speaking with my mouth, not my cleavage; you wanna just occasionally glance up?

Aiden’s not doing that. I have his full attention.

And he sure freaking has mine.

I also realize that his pull on me is not as shocking.

Maybe it’s like when you go stay up in the mountains and get acclimated to the altitude. I’m sort of being acclimated to his magnetism. I’m not quite as tongue-tied as I usually am around him, and I’m able to think more clearly.

He flashes his smile at me. “Why are you glad I suck at French?

“It makes you more human,” I stupidly say. Oh jeez, I’m an idiot. “I mean, uh, I wouldn’t have gotten to come here for dinner if you, um, didn’t, right?”

Clearly the air is still thin here at the top and is affecting my brain.

He reaches out and pushes my hair behind my ear, like he’s done it a million times. “I just noticed your earrings. Love the feathers and how they match your shoes.”

“Thanks. You look quite handsome tonight yourself. Whoever tailored your suit is quite talented. It fits you meticulously.”

“I wanted to look nice for you. So, I know you and Dawson are complicated, but what about Dallas? You were kissing him in the video.”

“Dallas and I are very not complicated. We’re friends. We smoke together sometimes and then we kiss. It’s no big deal.”

“You don’t think kissing is a big deal? I think our kisses are a pretty big deal.”

He runs his thumb across the palm of my hand, causing me to shiver.

The waiter interrupts our kissing conversation when he sets down our appetizers. A traditional French onion soup and sautéed escargot in a mushroom and red wine sauce.

“It’s too bad we don’t have a nice Bordeaux to go with this,” he says. “When we go to France, we’re drinking wine with every meal.”

“Have you ever been to France?”

“Once, to Paris. Do you like to travel? I love it.”

“Yeah, I do. I like to see the different cultures, experience the foods, see the sights, the countryside. Where all have you been?”

“Hmm. Let’s see. Basic stuff like Disney World. New York. Chicago. Then Venice. London. Hawaii. Berlin. Amelia Island. Cayman Islands, St. Kitts and St. Croix.”

“What did you think of St. Croix?”

“It’s like paradise. I’d love to go back, but my parents are on this kick where they won’t go back to the same place until they have been everywhere on their list. I’d love to go back just to relax, though.”

“Maybe I could arrange that.” I can’t help it. I’m smiling big.

“And how are you going to do that?”

“Good friends of ours have a place there. They don’t go very often, so I can use it whenever I want.”

“Really?”

I nod. “Okay, so, this is way out of left field . . .”

I stop myself.

Keatyn, what are you thinking? You’re not making plans with another boy only to be let down. You’ll go to St. Croix by yourself for Thanksgiving break. You’ll have fun relaxing. You’ll work on loving yourself.

“Um, never mind. So, this week rehearsals start getting serious. I can’t believe in a few weeks we’ll be performing in front of a live audience.”

He holds a spoonful of soup up to my mouth. I’m trying not to swoon over the fact that he’s feeding me.

“Don’t do that,” he says.

“Don’t do what?”

“What you just did. You were going to ask me something. Something that you were excited about, but then it’s like you got scared to ask me.”

I soak an escargot in wine sauce and eat it.

“This is all really good,” I say, avoiding the subject.

“Boots . . .”

“Can you read my mind?”

“No, but I sure wish I could. I’d love to know what you’re thinking. Tell me.”

I bob my head around like an idiot, trying to think up a lie. But, as usual when I’m with Aiden, all that’s in my head is cotton candy.

“I’m going there for Thanksgiving break. I was going to invite you. Like, the place is big. Peyton and your family could come too. But it was a silly idea. I’m sure you have plans and stuff.”

“We’ve always gone to my grandma’s for dinner, but she passed away last year, so I’m not sure what our plans are. Why were you hesitant to ask?”

“Um, well, it’s, like, a month away, and who knows if we’ll even still be friends then.”

He tilts his head and gives me those green eyes. Those eyes that see straight through me. “Boots, we’re gonna be a lot more than friends by then.”

Great. More. As in we’ll be sleeping together.

“I doubt it,” I say disappointedly.

“Yeah, I should probably take into account your track record.”

I can’t believe he just said that!

I look down at the tablecloth, suddenly feeling like I could cry.

He leans his forehead against mine. When I look up, he bats his dark brown eyelashes at me and smiles. “You know I’m just teasing you. Come here.”

I don’t move, so he puts his hand under my chin, pushing it up, straight to his waiting lips.

Once again, our kiss is so simple, so chaste, our lips touching, barely moving.

He kisses me for a few seconds then cruelly pulls his perfectly-formed lips away from me. “I’d really like to know what you’re thinking right now.”

“I’m thinking no one has ever kissed me the way you do,” I answer honestly. And surprisingly. Why the hell did I just say that?!

He stares at me for a few beats of my heart, then says, “So, we have this Greek weekend coming up. You do realize that since we’re on the Social Committee we have an obligation to be together the entire weekend to make sure everything goes as planned?”

I squint my eyes at him, trying to gauge if he’s serious. “I didn’t know that.”

“Oh, yes, I had it written into the bylaws. So Friday night after the game, you have to sit with me at the movie and sing-along. Lame.”

“It will be fun and you know it.”

“I think anything we do together will be fun.”

And I can’t help it. My mind goes to doing things with him. His tongue blazing a trail across my body. The gods only know the things that boy can do with his powerful mouth.

“Uh, yeah, probably,” I manage to sputter out.

“Then, Saturday, you’ll have to cheer me on while I compete—shirtless, apparently—in the Gods of Olympus competition.”

“I think the whole shirtless thing was pretty brilliant. I wonder who came up with that idea?”

“I think I’m going to freeze,” he says with a laugh. “And then there’ll be the feast. Where you will toast in my honor—”

“Only if you actually win.”

“I’m going to win.”

“Just because you danced your way to Mr. Eastbrooke doesn’t mean you can win at wrestling. Do you even know how to wrestle?” I want to add that maybe we should get naked and he could practice, but I don’t.

He puts his chin on his fist and licks his lips. Which means I get to see his tongue. He smirks and raises his eyebrows at me. “Maybe I’ll have to show you.”

I gulp, then nervously grab a curl and wrap it around my finger.

He grabs my hand out of my curl and brings it to his lips. “What? You don’t want to get naked and see which one of us is stronger?”

Um, honestly, I don’t know what I want. Part of me wants him to be like every other guy. Wants him to be a player.

But most of me wants him to be different.

I flash him a fake smile. “That sounds fun,” I say with zero enthusiasm.

What’s wrong with me? The hottie god wants to get naked with me and now I don’t want to?

And to top it all off, I suddenly feel like crying. I can feel little tears prickling my eyes.

Am I about to get my period or something? Why am I feeling so emotional?

Aiden tilts his head at me, looks into my soul, and somehow knows exactly what I’m thinking.

“Boots, I was just teasing you.”

My heart soars and drops all at the same time. “So you don’t want me naked?”

He slowly blinks his eyes. When he opens them, the hunger I saw briefly in his room when he had me pinned against his wall is back. And, once again, it is so. Fucking. Sexy.

“I definitely want you naked. Just not yet. We should take things slow. Be friends.”

I sit here. Not sure what to say to that. Part of me wants to fight him on it. Part of me thinks he’s right. Part of me just wants to see him naked.

“So, back to this weekend,” he says. “We will also be required to kiss and hold hands.”

“You’re trying to create a Greek atmosphere by kissing?”

“Oh, no. That will be because you want to.”

“I want to? No. You’ll want to.”

“What makes you think that?”

My response is interrupted by the waiter bring our entrée. It smells heavenly. He went a little cheesy romantic on the entrée, ordering chateaubriand for two. It’s served with a Béarnaise sauce, roasted fingerling potatoes, and asparagus. He cuts into it and feeds me the first rich morsel.

“Because I’m starting to think that you’re wooing me,” I tell him after I finish chewing.

“Me? Naw.” He grins. “What was your first clue?”

“Honestly, the way things have gone between us, so up and down. Like, one minute you pulled the she-loves-me petal off and the next the she-loves-me-not petal. But today, I was telling your sister about wooing and I realized all that you’ve done.”

“And?”

“I like it.”



We finish dinner, talk over dessert, then head out to his car. Again, he opens the door for me as I slide in.

He gets in the other side, puts the keys in the ignition, but doesn’t start the car.

He leans toward me and pushes my hair behind my ear. “I want this feather. Can I take it off?”

I’m sort of puzzled by this request, but I say, “Uh, sure.”

He glides the hook out of my ear then runs his thumb across it. “It’s a soft as it looks.” He runs the feather lightly down my arm.

“Mhmm,” I groan softly.

He pushes my hair from one side of my neck to the other, so my neck is fully exposed on the side closest to him. Then he runs the feather up the side of my neck.

Which may be the sexiest thing anyone has ever done to me.

My dress has a plunging neckline and when he runs the feather down into my cleavage, I decide it is indeed the sexiest thing anyone has ever done to me.

How does he come up with this shit?

His mother is Aphrodite, that’s how. Durrr.

I lean back into the headrest and close my eyes. Just feel the feather gliding across my skin, leaving me with goosebumps everywhere. He glides it up on my face and slowly across my eyelids.

I swear, I’m taking this feather home and having it bronzed.

He runs it across my lips.

Although having it dipped in gold would probably be more godlike.

I feel his chest touch mine as his lips replace the feather.

I run my fingers into his hair at the nape of his neck, and finally he kisses me more deeply.

Still no freaking tongue, but the kiss is deeper. His lips are pressed tighter to mine. His mouth more forceful. Who was it that said we needed to come up with another word besides amazing?

Oh, I forget.

His hands tangle in my hair then slide down my shoulders. My eyes are shut tightly, taking in every touch. He kisses gently down my neck and then I feel one single finger follow the outline of my dress.

On. My. Naked. Skin.

The finger starts on my collarbone, making a slow descent down the side of one boob, pausing briefly in my cleavage, and then back up the other side.

My back is pressed tightly against the seat, and even though my eyes are closed, I can’t stop smiling.

And making little contented sighs.

He grabs my chin and turns my head toward him.

I half open my eyes.

Did I mention that I am in love with this boy? One hundred percent completely, stupidly in love with him?

But I am an idiot who clearly has no clue what real love is.

But I don’t care right now.

I gaze into his eyes and then kiss him back.



Eventually, sadly, the kissing stops and he drives us back to school. He parks his car in the lot and holds my hand as we wander slowly toward my dorm.

I’m still in a bit of a daze. Must be an aftereffect of kissing a god.

I’m thinking about what’s sure to come next—an amazing goodnight kiss—when I hear a voice say, “Keatie?”

Oh, shit.

It’s Dawson, sitting on the steps in front of my dorm, obviously waiting for me.

I freeze. “Uh, hey, Dawson. What’s up?”

Aiden squeezes my hand, turns me around to face him, and completely ignores the fact that Dawson is here. “I had a great time tonight.” He leans in, kisses me on the cheek, and says quietly, “And I’m keeping the feather.”

Then he turns and walks away.

Dawson says, “You’re really dressed up. So, you got French food?”

“Yes, we did. Aiden was able to read most of the menu. How was your night? What’d you do?”

He grabs my waist like he always does and pulls me in toward him.

I give him a little hug.

But I can’t kiss him.

I just can’t.

“I complained to Bryce the entire time you were gone. He finally told me to shut the fuck up, so I came out here to wait for you.”

I pull away from him. “Oh, I’m sorry, but I have to get in there. Sign in. I don’t want to get in trouble. Just text me or something.”



We’re both ah-mazing.

10:45pm



I’m lying in my bed, listening to Katie breathing deeply and knowing that she’s already asleep.

I close my eyes and rub my finger slowly across my lip, remembering the feel the feather.

It was so amazing.

No, wait. Hang on.

I sound like a group of 12-year-olds at the mall. That skirt is ah-mazing. You look amazing, No, we are both ah-mazing.

Time for a new word. Amazing is so overused.

I pull up the thesaurus on my laptop and look for some new options.



Astonishing, awesome, fascinating, incredible, marvelous, prodigious, shocking, stunning, surprising, unbelievable, wonderful, extraordinary, rare, something hard to put into words, makes your heart beat faster.



Okay, so tonight with Aiden was extraordinarily, unbelievably, stunningly wonderful.

And totally ah-mazing.

My phone buzzes.



Hottie God: Hey :)



Me: Hey :) Tonight was wonderful. I enjoyed it.



Hottie God: Didn’t quite end the way I hoped it would.



Me: I was shocked to see Dawson sitting there. Sorry about that.



Hottie God: Just tell me.



Me: Tell you what?



Hottie God: Did you kiss him?



Me: I did not.



Hottie God: So you’re okay with me keeping the feather?



Me: Actually, I need it back.



Hottie God: Why?



Me: I’m thinking of having it bronzed.



Hottie God: Does that mean you liked it?



Me: Did I look like I liked it?



Hottie God: You looked like you loved it.



Me: You use a feather on all the girls?



Hottie God: Only you.



Me: I did love it.



Hottie God: Good :) Night, Boots.



I shut off my lamp and wait for the glow-in-the-dark stars to start glimmering.



Dawson: Keatie . . .



Me: Dawson . . .



Dawson: You’re killing me.



Me: You killed me first.



Dawson: Do you like him? Did you kiss him? Did you have sex with him?



Me: I don’t know. I did. I did not. And I can’t believe you would think I did!



Dawson: I’m feeling uncontrollably jealous.



Me: Why were you waiting for me? What did you want?



Dawson: To talk.



Me: So talk.



Dawson: This sucks.



Me: Yeah, it does.



Dawson: Do you want wood from me?



Me: Wood? Seriously, Dawson? Is sex ALL you think about? No. Right now, I do not want your wood.



Dawson: That’s not what I meant. I meant woo-ed or however the hell you spell it.



Me: Oh, sorry. What I want is a boyfriend that thinks I am worth some effort. I want a boyfriend who isn’t going to ditch me the second his ex sends him a text. That’s what I want.



Dawson: I can do romantic.



Me: I’m going to sleep now. Night, Dawson.



Dawson: No heart?



Me: </3



I toss and turn, trying to get comfortable, when I realize something. Although I’ve seen him flirting with other girls, and although I know there is some dream girl he crushed on, I haven’t heard anything about Aiden hooking up with any girls this semester. But that can’t be right.

Maybe he’s a stealth player who hooks up with girls under the radar. Or he has a radar-jamming device. Or something. I guess I really don’t exactly know how a stealth player works.



Me: Are you still awake?



My phone immediately buzzes, so I answer it. “I guess you’re still awake.”

“I am. Are the stars glowing?”

“Yes.”

“Do they make you think about me?”

“Maybe.”

“I want to see them sometime. You know, I never had that many on my ceiling. I got a bunch more. I wanted it to look like I was lighting up the sky for you.”

“Isn’t that a song?”

“I don’t know? Is it?”

“I think so. They’re really pretty, Aiden. Wanna hear a secret?”

“Of course.”

“I ordered a whole bunch of them for one of the ceilings in my loft.”

“Your bedroom?”

“No, there’s an upstairs TV room. Sometime soon, when the play is over, I want to go there and relax.”

“Aw, I’d love to come with you. Thanks for asking.”

“I didn’t ask.”

“And still, I knew that’s what you meant. Night, Boots.”

“Night, Aiden.”



Chivalry is officially dead.

1am



I’m still staring at the stars when Dallas calls me. Katie isn’t breathing as deeply and I don’t want to wake her, so I text him back.



Me: Tell me you and Riley are going to the Cave and I will love you both forever. I can’t sleep.



Dallas: I want to be adored forever. Riley just wants some sex. But then, he doesn’t. His indecision is driving me mad. I NEED to smoke. And I am requesting the pleasure of your company so that you can protect me when I make fun of his blue balls.



Me: I went on a date - sort of - with Aiden tonight. Dawson was waiting in front of my dorm when we got back. Awkward much? I NEED to smoke so that I will not go crazy.



Dallas: It’s chilly. Riley says you are not getting his sweatshirt tonight.



Me: Chivalry is officially dead.



I throw on some sweatpants, a big sweatshirt, and Uggs and sneak out of the window.

Dallas has a blanket spread out and he and Riley are already lounging across it.

“So how’d the big date go?” Riley asks.

“It was good. He’s so romantic; very much a gentleman.”

“Dawson’s not a gentleman?”

“He is. Aiden is just, like, chivalrous. And, Riley, regardless of how your balls are doing, I think it’s smart for you and Ariela to wait.”

Dallas rolls his eyes.

“Don’t roll your eyes at me, Dallas. Sex is all fun and new for you. I get that. But at some point, you’re going to get tired of doing it with someone who you mean nothing to. Or you’re going to care about a girl. You’ll be in love with her. You’ll think because the sex is amazing that she loves you back. But then her ex will text her, or she’ll tell you that you’re getting too serious, or that she’s leaving for a year, and it will break your freaking heart. I’m talking break it in two. You’ll be on the ground sobbing.”

Dallas rolls his eyes at me again and passes me the joint he just lit and took a hit off.

“I’m seventeen. I don’t think I’m going to be looking for anything serious for quite some time. And I’m certainly not going to let myself get hurt.”

“Says the romantic who wanted to wait until it was special.”

“So it didn’t work out according to plan. I’m not going to get my panties all in a wad if something doesn’t go the way I expected it to.”

“You wearing panties now?” Riley asks, teasingly.

“I could. I have a whole drawer full of them. It’d save me from doing laundry every week. Look, Kiki, I’m sorry you got hurt. You know that. But sex is fun. I’m having fun. I’m not going to apologize for that.”

“You shouldn’t,” Riley says. “And you shouldn’t make me feel bad because I’m choosing to wait for someone I think I care about.”

“Exactly,” I say, so they will stop arguing. I take a hit, then another, then get brave and say, “Have you either of you ever used a feather on a girl?”

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