Love Me(The Keatyn Chronicles #4)

By: Jillian Dodd

Saturday, October 22nd

The best of all of you.

8am



While I’m at rehearsal that literally started before the sun came up, I get a surprise text.



Camden: Call me.



I’m not sure why he’d want me to call him, but my curiosity gets the best of me, so during a break, I do.

“Hey,” he says.

“Um, hi. What do you want?”

He chuckles. “The list is long. But let’s start with my brother.”

“Dawson?”

“Sure. Let’s start there. I hear you’re dating him and Aiden.”

“Uh, kinda.”

“I heard about the panties. That he believes you. But I’m not sure he should.”

“No offense, but I don’t care what you think. Dawson and I have always been honest with each other. Last night, he was brutally honest with me.”

“He wants to get back together with you?”

“He just wants to graduate and go to college.”

“I just don’t want him with Whitney. We can’t let her get her claws back in him.”

“I know what really happened with you two. How you slept with her and dumped her. How she settled for your brother. How he has no idea you were her first.”

The line goes completely silent. I can’t even hear him breathe. I think I lost the connection until he sucks in a breath and says, “You knew all that, but didn’t tell him the truth when she texted him?”

“I couldn’t. I didn’t want to hurt him. Do you know how badly that would’ve hurt him?”

“Most girls would have told him to keep him.”

“I’m not most girls.”

“I’m starting to realize that.” He pauses for a moment. “It’s more than that though. While they were dating, and even now, she texts me. Almost stalks me. Sends me naked pictures. Tells me what I’m missing.”

“Why didn’t you tell Dawson? He’s your brother. How could you let him keep dating her?”

“I wanted to tell him so many times. But I didn’t want to hurt him either. I kept hoping they would break up. That it wouldn’t last. But then, the longer I didn’t tell him, the worse it would’ve been. I kept a file though.”

“A file?”

“Yeah. All her texts. Naked pictures. Stuff she said about him.”

“Why?”

“In case he ever wanted to marry her, I was going to tell him the truth. I needed proof. Here, I just sent you an example.”

“An example! I don’t want to see Whitney naked!”

“Just look at it. You need to know what you’re up against.”

“I’m not up against her. I have no fight with her.”

“She sent me this last night.”



Whitney: You may not have been jealous of Dawson, but I don’t care anymore. There’s a hot new teacher at school. Peyton thinks she’s going to get him, but she can’t have everything. I won’t let her. And he’s so much more of a man than you are. This is what you missed out on. This is where I’m going to do him.



Following is a photo of Whitney, mostly naked, lying on Cooper Steele’s new desk.

“What the hell? How did she get in his office?”

“I don’t know, but she’s losing it. She and Peyton are in some kind of war.”

“Peyton is tired of her shit.”

“I’m sure she is. She’s put up with it for too long, but I’m worried about her.”

“I heard your breakup was really bad.”

“Yeah, I was young and dumb. But we’re friends now. That’s why I’m worried.”

“Have you told her this?”

“Of course. She won’t listen. She has some plan. Thinks she’s going to destroy Whitney and win some stupid contest in the process. What she doesn’t get is that she won’t. Whitney is a devious, scheming bitch, and Peyton is no match for her. She’s too nice.”

“So, I’m supposed to keep Dawson away from Whitney and keep Whitney from destroying Peyton. Anything else I can do for you?” I laugh.

“Actually, yes. I also hear you’re Braxton’s date tonight for a party after curfew. Don’t get the boy kicked out before he even starts.”

“That’s exactly why he’s my date. I’m going to keep an eye on him. You know, he would’ve snuck out anyway. He wants to be just like you.”

“I’m not sure that’s a good thing.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Probably because wanting to be like me already got one brother kicked out of school.”

“Maybe you should reform your bad boy ways. Set a better example.”

He laughs. “Ha! I don’t think so. Not until I find a girl worthy of that. Let’s talk about Riley.”

“When did I become the Johnson brothers’ keeper?”

“I’m not sure, but Riley loves you.”

“I love Riley too. He’s my best friend. I got really drunk after Dawson and I broke up. He took care of me. I don’t remember much, but I think that’s because I knew I was safe with him.”

“You may be the only drunk girl safe with Riley,” he laughs. “He’s pretty protective of you.”

“I know. It’s sweet.”

“I think he has a crush.”

“Naw. He knows I crush on his brother.”

“Me?”

“Nope, Braxton. He’s the best of all of you. He just doesn’t know it yet.”

“Keatyn, if you need anything—seriously, if there’s anything I can ever do for you—let me know.”

“Thanks, Cam. I appreciate that.”



I decide to text Aiden. We’re supposed to hang out today, and I need to find out if he still wants to. I’m also dying to know if he was with Chelsea last night.



Me: Thanks for the advice last night. I went to the sing-a-long with my friends and had fun.



Hottie God: I’m glad. It wasn’t as lame as I thought it would be. We had fun too.



Me: Yeah, I suppose when you’re surrounded by cheerleaders it’s hard not to have fun.



Hottie God: You’re mine today, still, right?



Me: I guess.



Hottie God: I need some luck to win the competition. I also need a partner for the lawn games. You any good at the wheelbarrow race?



Me: Probably not as good as a cheerleader.



Hottie God: I didn’t ask a cheerleader. I asked you. Meet me outside your dorm at eleven.





Now, I’m lazily sprawled out on my stomach across Dallas’ bed. He’s sitting on the floor in front of me, and I’m running my hands through his hair, giving him a scalp massage.

The way he’s groaning, you’d think I was massaging something else.

Riley barrels through the door, laden with bags and a tray of coffee drinks. It smells wonderful, especially since all the boys’ rooms seem to smell like an oddly compelling combination of cologne and dirty socks.

“I’m next in the massage chair,” he says as he sets down the tray.

“I want a massage too,” I say.

Riley raises his eyebrows at me. “Yeah, that’s what we want to hear about. Who’s been massaging you?”

I throw a napkin at him, but it falls shamefully to the floor in front of him. He bounds across the bed on top of me and starts tickling me. Holding my arms down, tickling my sides. I’m laughing and screaming at the same time. “Stop, stop. I give up.”

“If only Ariela were that easy,” he comments as he rolls off me.

Dallas laughs.

“So, Dallas apparently has a secret hot date tonight and everyone knows who you’re dating, seeing as it’s tattooed across your chest.”

“They’re all gone, but I’m thinking about asking her out. What do you think?”

Dallas says, “She’s cute. Seems to be pretty into you. I mean, except for the whole not-getting-any thing. But if you’re going to keep dating her, you might as well. Maybe that will open the gates.”

I swat Dallas’ head. “Stop that. They don’t need to have sex. And, Riley, I think you should ask her out. Are you going to do anything special?”

“Well, I’m competing in the Gods of Olympus competition. I’ll be shirtless all day.” He flexes a bicep at us. “She’ll be impressed.”

I laugh at his confidence. “Yes, she will be impressed. But since her lips have already been all over your chest, I think you might need something more.”

Riley lowers his head slightly. “She kinda has a thing for Hello Kitty, so I got her something to give to her when I ask.”

“Really? Oh my gosh! I love Hello Kitty too! What’d you get?”

“Don’t laugh,” he says, as he pulls a Swarovski crystal box out of his drawer and opens it up.

Inside is an adorable hot pink domed ring with large random crystals on it and a Hello Kitty face.

“Oh. My. Gosh! Why haven’t I seen this before?! I love it. I want it. She’ll love it! She’s going to go crazy with loving it.”

Riley smiles probably the biggest smile I’ve ever seen from him. “You really think she’ll like it?”

“Yeah, Riley, I do. You did really good.”

“So what about you, baby? You into my brother or Aiden today?”

“Both,” Dallas replies for me.

“How’s that working out?”

I eye Dallas.

He gives me a big eye roll back. “I’m sorry about the panties.”

“What panties? What did I miss?” Riley asks.

Dallas reiterates what happened last night in the café.

“Busted,” Riley says with a laugh.

“Nothing happened with Aiden at the Cave. I mean, we kissed.” I roll my eyes. “Still no tongue. Dawson didn’t believe me at first, but we talked and we’re good. Although he also told me that he can’t wait to go to college.”

“Everyone can’t wait to go to college,” Riley says.

“He meant without me.”

“So you’re going to like Aiden?”

I sigh. “I’m pretty sure he hooked up with Chelsea last night. I heard her tell him that she wasn’t taking no for an answer.”

“That doesn’t mean he did,” Riley says. “Most everyone knows I like Ariela, but there are still plenty of girls that tell me we’re going to hook up.”

“Do you want to?”

“No. I forward them to Dallas.”

“And I hook up with them,” Dallas says. “It’s brilliant. And . . . I happen to know that Aiden didn’t hook up with Chelsea last night.”

“How could you know that?”

Dallas smiles broadly. “Because I did.”

I can’t help it. My heart soars. “Do you know why? Did Aiden turn her down?”

“Don’t know. Don’t care. We had fun. She has the most perfect body. As a matter of fact, we’re hanging out today.”

“So, Dallas, you’re supposed to be practically psychic, what’s gonna happen?”

“It doesn’t really matter,” Riley says, wrapping his arm around me. “As long as we stay close. The three of us.”

I think having good friends in your life is an important piece of loving yourself.



It should be illegal.

11am



“Look at you in your bright gold Nikes,” I say to Aiden when I walk out of my dorm to meet him.

“Thanks. I had them sent from home. They’re sort of a collector’s edition. And look at you. Gold shorts, gold gladiator sandals.”

I hold up the gold bracelet with love notes written across it.

“And love on your arm,” he says as he lays his hand across my chest. “Hopefully, eventually, the love will be here and not on your arm.”

Write love on your heart.

Yes. I’m swooning. And I really want to tell him it sorta already is written on my heart.

It’s like a song you’ve always known the words to. A lullaby you’ll never forget.

But I don’t want to sound like I have a crush on a love god.

He looks me over again, taking in my adorable outfit.

He looks puzzled then hooks my hair behind my ear. “You’re wearing just one feather earring, huh?”

I laugh. “Well, I used to have two but now I only have one.”

He reaches in his pocket and pulls out a box. “I found these. Thought you might like them.” He opens the lid and nestled in cotton are golden feather earrings.

“They’re so pretty! Did you get these from Barneys? I’ve seen them there.”

He nods. “Real swan feathers dipped in gold. Made in Paris.”

“They’re beautiful, Aiden. Really. But they were expensive. I can’t . . .”

He interrupts me. “They’re a bribe.”

“A bribe?”

“Yes, I’m hoping I can exchange these for the other feather.”

I gulp. “Why?”

“Let’s just say I’m going to be needing them both.”

“Oh,” I say, taking in his fiery eyes and imaging feathers all over my naked body. “Your mom was right. You’re impossible to say no to.”

What I say hangs there.

Aiden licks his lips.

God, I want that tongue.

Really, he shouldn’t be allowed to lick his lips. It should be illegal.

Like a bait and switch advertisement. They promise you everything but don’t follow through. If he’s not gonna use it, he shouldn’t be allowed to show it.

“The answer is yes. You have a deal,” I agree. Whole-freaking-heartedly.

“There’s more,” he says. “The weekend after the play, you’re going to take me to your loft. I mean, you already invited me.”

“You invited yourself.”

“Do we have a deal?”

I squint my eyes at him. “I have one stipulation.”

“No way. It’s beyond a fair trade.”

“Then I’m keeping my feather. And it’s not like you can’t go buy your own. Feather earrings are cheap.”

“I’ve looked online and can’t find one to match.”

“I have one stipulation or no deal. The feather can only be used on me.”

“Hmm. I can probably agree to that. But what if I wanted to share? One feather for each of us.”

My eyes get big imagining the feather touching Aiden in places I’m dying to see.

“Uh, yeah, I, um, suppose I could agree to that,” I say, fumbling through the words breathlessly as I put on my new feather earrings.

He takes my hand and says, “Let’s go kick some butt in the field games.”



First, we compete in the wheelbarrow race with me doing the handstand part. Turns out, I’m not that good with my hands. And although I can dance, I failed at gymnastics as a child. I’m pretty sure it was an embarrassing moment for my parents when the teacher told them I should be in dance instead. Something about having the attention span of a gnat.

Of course, who wins? Chelsea and Dallas.

Is it bad I hate her? I don’t even know her and I hate her.

And my competitive spirit has gotten the best of me. I want to win. I need for Aiden and I to win.

“You have good hands, right?” I ask Aiden.

“Uh, yeah, I guess.”

“So you be on the ground this time and I’ll hold your legs. I’m strong. Can you do a handstand?”

Instead of answering, he drops to the ground, throws his legs into the air, and then walks around on his hands.

“I hate you.”

He flips back upright and pulls me into his arms. “You sure about that?”

“Actually, yes. But I don’t care. I just want to beat Dallas this next round.”

Aiden glances over at Dallas and Chelsea. Her curvy body is leaned tightly against his and she’s rubbing his arm the same way she did Aiden’s yesterday.

Yes, it’s official. I do hate her.

“Do you want to beat Dallas or Chelsea?” Aiden asks with a smirk.

“I want to beat everyone. So let’s see if this will work.”

He puts his hands onto the ground as I grab his legs and pull them up to my sides. He’s heavier than I expected, but I say, “Go.”

We move quickly for about ten steps and then his leg starts to fall out of my grip. When I try to fix it, I drop the other leg and he goes down, but deftly flips himself over and pulls me on top of him in the process.

I can’t help but laugh. “We suck. I’m better at croquet. We shoulda chosen that.”

“I don’t care if we suck. I’d play anything with you.”

“Maybe I wanna play a kissing game.”

“Like I said, anything,” he says as he kisses me. It’s a powerful lips-touching kiss. I keep thinking the more I’m around him, the more I kiss him, the less power his lips will have on me. But the opposite seems to be true. My kisses seem to be making him stronger. The more my lips touch his, the more powerful the kisses become.

Or, maybe, the more meaningful.

He stares into my eyes for a few seconds before he flips me over, lies on top of me, and kisses me again. I get brave and let my tongue graze the outside of his lips. His lips stay soft but his mouth stays closed.

I’m starting to think his tongue is cursed or something. Like Medusa. If he uses it on me, I might turn to stone.



We compete in a few more games, lose badly, chat with some perspective students, and then I take him to get checked in for today’s big event. The Gods of Olympus competition.

Whitney is sitting at the check-in table with Cooper Steele. She checks Aiden’s name off a list, then hands him his wardrobe. A teeny pair of white shorts, a gold braided rope, and a green laurel wreath.

Aiden holds the shorts up. “Are you serious? No way I’m wearing these.”

Whitney grabs them out of his hands. “Then you won’t be competing.”

He grabs them back from her.

I give her a thumbs up and as we’re walking away I say, “You’re brilliant,” which causes her to give me the biggest smile she’s ever directed my way.

She leans across Cooper to high five me, her boobs landing directly in his face. “Social Committee now officially rocks. I’ve been telling Mr. Steele here how he needs to wear one.” He flinches as she runs a hand across his shoulder. “He’d put these boys to shame. But don’t worry. I’ll have him in one soon.” She gives me a smirk and says, “Or maybe he’d prefer it was later.”

“I don’t think any of the faculty will be wearing them, Miss Clarke,” Cooper replies.

Aiden is still looking at what he’s supposed to wear and muttering. “How did she ever get this approved?”

“I don’t know. But she got one thing wrong.”

“Yeah, half my shorts are missing.”

“No.” I grab the laurel wreath from his hand, place it on his head, and study him. “Definitely wrong. Come on. You can’t compete like this.”

I drag him into the back of the auditorium where all the stage supplies are kept and find some gold spray paint. I grab some newspaper and lay his wreath on it.

When I finish painting it, I stand back up and let it dry. Aiden puts his big hand on my waist, and one of his fingers somehow ends up touching the skin under my shirt.

It’s just one finger. Totally unplanned. Just one finger touching my bare skin that causes my stomach to flip.

“So, why gold?”

“Do you remember that time we went for ice cream and I tried to tell you my dream? About the guy I married and we were—you know—consummating things when he lifted the veil and I saw his face.”

“Yeah,” he says, grinding his teeth together.

“It was you. And you were wearing a gold laurel wreath on your head. That’s why it has to be gold.”

Aiden grins. “Wait? You were dating Dawson. Reliving something the two of you had done and you thought it was him but it was me?”

“Right. I didn't know who it was that I was marrying.”

“Why didn't you tell me it was me?”

“Because you drove off like a maniac and wouldn't talk to me. I even asked if you wanted to know and you were like I decided I don't care.”

“So you've been dreaming about marrying me?”

“Not on purpose. I just thought it was funny that something you said affected my dream like that. Step behind the screen and put your costume on.”

“No freaking way I’m wearing this.”

“Whitney will have you disqualified.”

“I don’t think I want to be a god anymore.”

“If you change, I’ll tell you a little secret.”

“Fine.”

He goes behind the screen, changes, and then walks out in the skimpy costume.

“Wow.” And wow is an understatement. He looks like a real god. His skin looks tan, his muscles tight. He should be shirtless all the time. I place the golden laurel leaf wreath on his head. “That’s perfect. Good luck today.”

He pulls me close to his mostly naked body and says, “Is Dawson competing?”

“No, he said it was lame.”

“So you’ll be cheering for me?”

“Well, you, Jake, and Riley, for sure.”

He puts his lips to my neck. “Who do you want to win?”

“You.”

He smiles at me. “Good answer.”

“You better get going. You don’t want to be late for your first race.”

“You didn’t tell me the secret.”

“When I first met you, before I knew your name, I had a nickname for you.”

He smirks. “Oh, really? What was it?”

“I’m not telling. That was the secret. I had a nickname for you.”

He does that thing. That thing where his lips graze my neck.

“I want to know.”

“Stop talking on my neck. I can’t think.”

“I like when you can’t think,” he replies, his lips staying put. “Tell me.”

I want to pull away, but I can’t.

“The God of all Hotties.”

I feel a smile form on my neck. He doesn’t move. Instead, those amazing lips kiss my neck hard. He sucks his way up to that spot right underneath my ear. Something about that spot makes me squirm. In a good way. His lips continue to move across my cheek and then to my waiting lips.



I smell cotton candy.

2pm



All of the Gods of Olympus competitors are on stage getting introduced by Whitney. Peyton tried to get me to go up there with them, but I wanted to be able to sit with Embry and the girls.

Peyton announces, “It’s said that the Olympics were started to entertain the newborn Zeus. They had wrestling, jumping, and running competitions. Our contestants will do the same. They will all compete in the 100-yard dash and a team relay. Points will be tallied and the field will be narrowed by half for the second round.”

“The second round is the jumping competition. Potential Gods will compete in the long jump and the 100 meter hurdles,” Whitney continues. “After that round, points will be tallied by our new teacher, Mr. Cooper Steele.” She puts on a big grin and claps for Cooper. Cooper flashes his dimples in a way that doesn’t look fake.

Peyton finishes for her. “And the field will be cut in half again. Then we’ll move into the gym for the final wrestling matches. Everyone, be sure to get your goodie bag. In it you will find trinkets for luck and golden coins that you can use to bet on who you think will prevail.” She points to a table set up in the corner. “Shark is our oddsmaker and bet taker. You could win an iPad, a dress down day for your dorm, pizza parties, and other great prizes.”

Whitney clears her voice. “The competitors are warming up now. Place your bets and get some snacks. The competition officially begins at two-thirty. Good luck to all the contestants. We look forward to feasting in your honor tonight!”

Braxton and Dawson wander up.

Braxton throws his arm around my shoulder. “Don’t care about the competition. Odds are that we’re getting it on tonight.”

Dawson punches him in the shoulder. Hard. Brax removes his hand and rubs his shoulder. “Oww.”

“Pussy,” Dawson says with a grin as wraps his own arm around my waist and whispers in my ear. “Speaking of that . . .”

“Dawson! You’re bad.”

“Yeah, I am. Want me to show you just how bad?”

“You know that I’m hanging out with Aiden today.”

“Why do you think I chose not to do the competition?”

“Because you’re over all this high school bullshit?” Braxton replies.

“That, and it means Aiden will be busy. While I’ll be sitting with you.”

Braxton stops smiling and looks at his brother in awe. “I worship you. That’s fucking brilliant.”

“I’m going to get some goodies. You’re welcome to come sit with us.”

“Who’s us?” Braxton asks.

“Um, me, Maggie, Katie, Annie, Pressley, Embry, and Maggie’s student, Alicia.”

“I haven’t met her yet. She a redhead, by chance?”

“Stop with the trio. You’re going to be sitting with the video trio. Consider yourself lucky.”

“I wanna get lucky,” Dawson whispers in my ear. “Brax, go place a bet or something.”

Braxton rolls his eyes but does as he’s told.

“You have to help me watch out for him at the party tonight.”

“You’re going to have to watch out for me tonight,” Dawson says, sliding even closer to me and grabbing my ass.

“Dawson!” I say, pulling away from him.

“Keatyn,” Cooper Steele says loudly behind me. “A word, please?”

I jump slightly, knowing he probably just heard what Dawson said to me. “Uh, sure.”

Dawson doesn’t let go of me right away though. He kisses my cheek and gives me a meaningful, “Later.”

Cooper motions for me to follow him over to the registration table. “What was that all about?”

“What do you mean?”

“Are you sleeping with Dawson and Aiden?”

“Not that it is any of your business, but no. Why? You jealous?”

He rolls his eyes. “Not funny. Keatyn, I know guys.”

“One would assume, since you are one,” I say in a smart-ass tone.

“Trust me. That’s not going to work. You’ll push away the better man and end up with the one who’s willing to settle.”

“There’s no reason I can’t date them both if I want to. Is that seriously what you wanted to talk about? My sex life?”

He cringes. “You should not have a sex life. You’re seventeen. You have your whole life ahead of you.”

I stare blankly at him. “You know as well as I do, if Vincent finds me, my life might be very short. I’m going to enjoy it.”

He shakes his head. “We’re getting off track here. Did you think about what you’ll do if you can’t run?”

“Yes.”

“And?”

“I’d have to stay and fight. Can you teach me?”

He smiles. “I was going to suggest that, but I thought you’d argue with me.”

“I can’t start until I’m done with rehearsals.” I study him. “Just so we’re clear, I’ll never argue with you when it comes to my safety. This might be just a job to you, but it’s my life. ”

He grabs my arm and gets in my face. “I understand that probably more than anyone you know. Why do you think I’m here?”

“Because you’re getting paid well and you want a career with Garrett’s company?”

“Those are perks. Garrett has hundreds of specialists on his staff. Why do you think he went out of his way to find and hire me?”

I search his face. His tight, determined expression has turned to a sad, haunted one. “I don’t know.”

“My sister was murdered by her ex-boyfriend turned stalker.”

My heart drops into the pit of my stomach. I cover my mouth with my hand. I leap toward him, throw myself into his arms, and hug him tightly. “I’m so sorry, Cooper. I didn’t know.”

He pushes me gently out of the hug. “I’m not going to let it happen again.”

“What the hell is going on with you two?” Whitney says loudly, startling me, and causing me to react in a way that makes it look like something is going on.

“Nothing,” Cooper says eyeing me carefully. “Miss Monroe twisted her ankle. It’s painful.”

“I didn’t see you fall.”

“I just rolled it,” I lie.

Cooper bends down and pretends to examine my ankle. “It doesn’t look too bad. If it doesn’t loosen up, get some ice and elevate it.”

“I will,” I say, fake hobbling away. I stop, sigh like I’m in pain, and rest my weight on the check-in table. While I’m pretending to check out my ankle again, I notice a green marker on the table and grab it.

I figure I better still limp a little and not look miraculously healed. Like when Gracie says she has a tummy ache. You give her a piece of chocolate and she’s patting her stomach and telling you it’s all better before she’s even swallowed it.

As I limp back to the field, Aiden runs up to me. He’s a little out of breath, and there’s a shimmer of sweat gleaming on his sexy shirtless body.

Which makes my whole body feel a little limp.

“Are you limping?”

“Oh, yeah, tweaked my ankle. I’m fine.”

“I saw you talking to Dawson earlier. Why isn’t he competing?”

“He says he’s sorta over all this high school bullshit.”

Aiden narrows his eyes at me. “You’re mine today. You promised.”

“I know. But I’ll probably be sitting with him to watch. I promised his brother and they’re together.” I smile at him. I mean, how can I not? He looks like a real god.

I hold the marker in front of him.

“What’s that for?”

I smile, pull the lid off, and grab his arm. “Luck, Aiden,” I reply as I draw a four-leaf clover on his bicep.

He catches my neck in his hand, pulls my face close to his, and kisses my forehead. “Now, I can’t lose.”



I go back up in the bleachers, my mind a jumbled mess of thoughts about Aiden’s kisses, Cooper’s sister, and Vincent.

Embry is bouncing in her seat, excitedly waiting for the first race to start. She hands me a goodie bag. “Here, I got you one!”

“Thanks! Are you having fun?”

“Are you kidding? This is the best place ever. I wish I didn’t have to wait until next year. I don’t want to go home.”

“Neither do I,” Pressley says, giving her a hug.

“I don’t want to go home either,” Braxton fake cries from behind the girls, wrapping an arm around each one of their shoulders in a little group hug. “So, there’s this party tonight, ladies.”

“Braxton!” I bug my eyes out at him. “There’s no party.”

Braxton shakes his head. “Obviously, Keatyn doesn’t have this place wired like I do.”

I turn to Dawson and give him a what-the-hell-are-you-going-to-do-with-your-brother look. He shrugs.

Maggie says to the girls, “Keatyn’s right. You can’t go to a party. If you want to come here next year, you shouldn’t jeopardize that.”

Pressley sticks out her bottom lip. “But we like parties.”

Thankfully, the announcer starts calling off the names of the contestants for the first heat in the 100-yard dash.

Riley wins the first heat, beating out Jake and Ace.

Aiden’s heat is next. As he’s getting lined up, Aiden winks at me. How he knows that I’m looking at him from this far away is a little unnerving, but then he flexes his bicep and kisses the clover I drew.

I let out a little sigh. That is wooing.

Maybe there’s hope for us yet.

A hot, godly, tongue-kissing kind of hope.

“Brad’s gonna win this race,” Dawson says from behind me.

“Aiden’s faster than Brad,” Annie says, rolling her eyes at Dawson, while I rub the little glass shamrock that’s in my pocket.

Contestants. On your marks. Get set. Go!

Aiden is the first one out front, but Brad quickly closes the gap.

“That’s the shirtless goalie, isn’t it?” Pressley says reverently. “He’s going to win. He has on gold shoes. Like that god. Was it Hermes? The one that was so fast?”

“He looks like a god too,” Embry snickers under her breath to Pressley. They put their heads together and giggle as Aiden kicks it into high gear and crosses the finish line first.

I don’t care that Dawson is sitting here. I stand up and cheer.



After all the races, there’s a break while the scores get tallied.

“I smell cotton candy,” I say out loud.

“I fucking love cotton candy!” Braxton exclaims.

“Pussy,” Dawson says, hitting him on the shoulder. “You eating pink chick food now?”

Braxton flips him off then stands up, puts his hand to his chest, and yells at the top of his lungs. “To quote Aristophanes, the ancient Greek playwright, ‘ To blurt it out in a word—we want laying!’”

I cover my mouth with my hand, trying not to laugh. I can’t believe he just yelled that from the stands!

He stays in the stands, amidst cheers, while I follow my nose to the cotton candy.

“Hey, wait up,” Maggie yells from behind me. “I’m glad Logan won his heat.”

“Yeah, me too. I heard he’s a really good wrestler.”

She sighs. “He looks really good out there.”

“Why don’t you talk to him?” I ask, while thinking fate needs to figure out a way to get these two back together.

“I tried. I gave up. Part of me feels for Dawson, you know. I know what it feels like to do something and wish more than anything you could take it back.”

Shark bumps Maggie’s shoulder. “You two haven’t bet yet.”

I dig in my bag for some coins and hand them to him. “I’m putting it all on Logan. He needs to win.”

Maggie squints her eyes at me, understanding that I’m not talking about the contest.

He punches my bet into his phone. Then he says, “Oh, here,” and hands me back a temporary tattoo. Of a four-leaf clover.

I shake my head and laugh. “Did everyone get these?”

“A tattoo, yeah,” Shark says, holding out his forearm and showing me a panther with a rose in its mouth.

“Classy,” Maggie laughs.

He reaches in his jacket pocket and hands us his flask. “Ladies?”

“Most definitely,” Maggie says, grabbing it from him and taking a gulp. “In fact, can I have the whole thing?” She pats the other side of his chest. “You always have a spare.”

“You know me too well, Maggie,” Shark flirts.

I shove the tattoo into my pocket and drag Maggie to the cotton candy. We’re holding shots of vodka in our mouth and letting chunks of cotton candy dissolve in it, when Aiden and Logan beeline toward us.

“Shit,” Maggie curses under her breath.

“Congrats!” I tell them both.

Aiden pulls me into his arms. “You look like a goddess and smell like cotton candy. Reminds me of the Ferris wheel.”

“I didn’t look like a goddess then.”

“You always look like one,” he whispers.

I realize that Maggie and Logan are standing there awkwardly.

“Um, so good luck on the rest of the events. We’ll be cheering. Maggie and I have to get back to our students.”

“That’s okay,” Aiden says, patting a tight set of abs. Abs I really want to lick. “We have to go fuel up these bodies.”

I try not to drool but can’t keep from saying, “Yes. Yes, you do.”

“That was awkward,” Maggie says, shoving more cotton candy into her mouth.



We watch the rest of the field competitions. The winners get pared down to just six finalists who must wrestle their way to victory.

After watching all of the wrestling matches, we’re down to Jake and Logan for the championship.

Aiden takes my hand and leads me over to Logan’s side of the mat. It feels odd not being on the same side as Jake and Dawson.

While Aiden fills up Logan’s water bottle, I take the four-leaf clover tattoo out of my pocket and hand it to Logan. “I want you to have this.”

“A tattoo?”

“Yeah. It's for luck.”

“Aiden has been into shamrocks lately,” he says, eyeing me suspiciously, and not taking the tattoo.

“We both want you to have luck.”

“Jake is your friend.”

“Yeah, well, I hope eventually you’ll be my friend too.”

He grins at me.

“I think you should forgive her, Logan.”

“She won’t forgive me.”

“Was she good for you?”

“She was the best thing ever.”

Aiden comes back and hands him the water bottle.

I raise my eyebrows at Logan and shake the tattoo at him. “I’ll even put it on you.”

“Fine,” he says, a little smile playing on his lips.

He stands still while I dump water on a towel, place the tattoo on his arm, and then hold the wet towel against it. After a few seconds, I pull the towel and the paper off and look at the clover now on his arm. “Perfect.”

Logan fist bumps Aiden as he goes out on to the mat. “Wish me luck.”

Aiden puts his hands on my waist and looks straight into my eyes. “Why did you do that?”

“I see how he looks at Maggie.”

“She destroyed him.”

“He said she was the best thing ever.”

Aiden nods. “I was kind of jealous of their relationship last year. They were amazing together. Always happy.”

“Until they weren’t.”

He nods sadly. “Yeah.”

“If they’re meant to be, they’ll get back together, don’t you think?”

“I think he never should’ve let her go in the first place.”

The ref blows the whistle and I go sit on the bleachers to watch the match while Aiden stays to coach Logan.

Maggie takes a seat next to me.

It’s a back and forth battle. One point for Logan. A takedown for Jake.

Then a tied match.

They are grappling and twisting out of each other’s arms, when Logan makes a sweet move, flipping Jake over and pinning his shoulder to the mat.

The ref gets down on his knees and the crowd shouts as he counts by hitting the mat. One. Two. Three.

The ref pulls Logan up and his arm into the sky, proclaiming him the winner.

Maggie forgets who she was supposed to be cheering for and rushes out onto the mat, throws her arms around Logan, and hugs him.

He hugs her back in excitement.

But then he pulls away from her.

Maggie lowers her head just for a minute. Then she straightens up her shoulders and walks tall and confidently over to Jake. Jake grins at her, grabs her around the waist, and kisses her hard as Logan looks on.



Can kisses speak?

10pm



After the banquet, Aiden asks me to go for a walk, leading me down to the gym where we watched the movie on Friday.

“I didn’t get to show you this last night, so I had them leave it up.”

When we get to the door, he says, “Okay, close your eyes.” Then he leads me about ten steps across the gym floor.

I was here watching the movie. What could he possibly want me to see that I didn’t already?

He stands closely behind me, entwines his hands with mine, and rests his chin on my shoulder.

“Open your eyes.” I open them while he continues. “This is the view from a gorgeous hotel in Crete. Someday we’re going to stand on this balcony and watch this sunset together.”

“You had a sunset made for me?”

“I was the liaison between the drama department’s set designers for the gym, like Peyton worked with the art students to do the café.”

“You had a sunset made for me?” I blubber again.

“Yeah. I want to watch a million sunsets with you.”

I can’t speak. I want to stay wrapped in his arms forever and not move.

“We should probably get going before curfew, huh?”

“Yeah,” I say, but I don’t move. I just turn and look into his eyes.

He runs the back of his hand gently across my cheek. We lean towards each other and our lips melt together in a kiss.

Can kisses speak?

I hope so, because I’m trying to tell him everything I’m feeling but am afraid to say.

Aiden’s kisses are so different from any other kiss. Maybe it’s because he’s the God of all Hotties, I’m not sure, but his kisses say so much more.

Did you see the movie, Independence Day? There’s a scene where an alien does some kind of mental telepathy with the President, which allows him to see the alien’s plans.

That’s what it’s like with Aiden. When he kisses me, I feel like I can see our future.

It’s like he has the power to send me mental messages with his mouth.

His mouth. The source of all his power.

I don’t know why this surprises me.

He pulls his lips away from mine. I really wasn’t ready for the kiss to end. I don’t even care that there was no tongue. I’m never ready for it to end.

He moves his mouth to my ear as he slides his hands across the exposed skin on my back. “I’m not quoting Keats this time. Let’s try something else. ‘The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.’”

“That’s beautiful. Who said it?”

“Blaise Pascal. He was a French philosopher in the 1600s.”

“It’s beautiful.”

“You’re beautiful. Like, you take my breath away. Sometimes when you’re tutoring me, I feel like I can’t breathe.”

I feel that way any time he touches me.

And especially when he kisses me, which he does again.

A slow, tender, amazing kiss.

It’s like when Prince Charming kisses Sleeping Beauty. He gives her that single, slow, perfect kiss to wake her up.

That’s how I feel with Aiden. Like he’s waking up something inside of me.

Kissing him is like watching fireworks: a little flash as it goes up in the sky, an explosion of colors, those colors falling and fading in the sky, and then you hear the boom.

Feel the boom. The beat of your heart booming in your chest.

“I’m really glad we’re getting to be friends, Boots,” he says. Then he chuckles. “Well, the kind of friends who kiss.”

What the hell?

Really?

Ohmigawd, I really do not understand him. Why all the wooing if all he wants is a friends with benefits relationship? Why a million sunsets?



You’re like my idol.

1am



Braxton decided he’s going to be the life of the party and, unfortunately, Riley helped him. He’s already tipsy on coconut rum when I meet him at the Cave.

He flirts with everyone and hands out party favor buttons that he had made with Dallas’ pickup line. They say, You Look Magically Delicious in bright colors and have a big green shamrock in the middle of them.

The buttons are a big hit. Everyone wants one.

“What the hell?” Dallas says, coming to stand next to me and looking around. “That’s my line. He stole it from me.”

“Did you make it up or find it on the internet?”

Dallas rolls his bloodshot eyes. It’s obvious that he’s smoked already. “I found it on the internet.”

Braxton interrupts us, giving Dallas a swat on the back. “Dude, you’re like my idol. Girls are loving these buttons. I’m totally getting laid tonight.”

Dallas grins as Chelsea and her boobs bounce toward us. “Me too, dude. Me too.”

“He might be, but you’re not, Brax. You’re my date, meaning you’ll be with me all night.”

“Keatyn, baby. You jealous? Don’t want to share?” He pulls a flask out of his pocket and puts it up to his lips. I slap it away, causing suntan lotion smelling alcohol to miss his mouth and fall to the ground.

“You’re done with this,” I say, grabbing the flask and shoving it in my back pocket.

“There’s plenty more where that came from. And I’m just getting started.”

He wanders off into a pack of junior girls. They fawn over him like he’s the school’s new mascot. Some of them are even petting his hair.

Why did I agree to this?

And what is it about those Johnson brothers that I just can’t say no to?

Aiden comes up behind me, slides his hands down my arms, and holds my hands. “How’s babysitting going?”

“Not well. He’s already past tipsy and people keep giving him more. I’m tempted to just pin a big note to his shirt that says If found, please return to Keatyn’s dorm and leave.”

“Can I put one of those on you? If found, return to Hawthorne 38B?”

“I don’t know. You think I’ll get lost?”

“I think you’ve been lost.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

He turns me around and kisses my nose, which soothes my very ruffled feathers.

“I didn’t mean anything bad. I meant it to be cute. Like you’re lost without me. You know, you say I get mad fast. So do you. You were instantly pissed. I could see it in your face.” He touches the corner of my eye and then the tip of my nose. “You get little crinkles here and you scrunch up your nose.”

I look into his eyes and forget where I am, the party around me disappearing. I lean in to kiss him when I hear Dawson say madly, “I thought you were watching my brother.”

“I have been.”

“Doesn’t look like you’re even paying attention to him. Look.” He points.

All I can see are Braxton’s arms wrapped around two girls, who seem to have him pinned to a tree.

“Shit,” I say, leaving both him and Aiden.

“Sorry, girls, he’s mine,” I say, pulling him away.

“Jeez, you don’t have to try and seduce the entire school your first night here.”

“Oh, I’m not, baby,” he says slurs drunkenly. “I’m just planting seeds.”

“You better have not planted any seeds,” I reply, thinking back to the book my mom read me when I was little. About how the daddy plants a seed in the mommy that turns into a baby. Ick.

Dawson whispers in my ear. “I want to plant my seeds in you. Wanna go back to the dorm and have some fun?”

I turn around. “Ohmigawd. Did your mom read you that book too?”

“Yeah,” he laughs. “I used to tell all the little girls at school that I wanted to plant seeds in them.”

I roll my eyes and laugh. “That’s disgusting, but why am I not surprised? And because your brother opened his big mouth about the party, I’m not only watching him, I’ve got to watch Katie’s and my two future students.”

“Those girls don’t look fourteen.”

“That’s why they have to be watched.”

“Who’s watching them? Because I just saw that blonde one making out with Dallas.”

“Dallas? What the fuck? I thought he was off with Chelsea getting laid. Is no one here responsible?” I start to march off, but then turn around and grab Dawson’s shirt. “Get your brother to Riley’s room, now. I’ll go get the girls.”

I march off in search of them. I find Katie, who is engrossed in a conversation with Bryce. “Where are the girls?”

“What girls?” she says, looking up at me.

“Embry and Pressley. The girls you’re supposed to be watching like a hawk.”

“Oh, they’re together talking to Shark. He’s harmless.”

“Katie! He’s going to give them each a flask and they’ll end up under some asshole like Tyrese. Go. Find. Them.”

“Oh, I didn’t think of that.”

I spy Embry standing off to the edge of the party, Shark’s flask in hand, flirting with Jake.

“Hey, Jake. Embry. How’s it going?”

“Good,” Embry says, placing a hand on Jake’s broad chest. “Jakey here was telling me how great Eastbrooke is. He’s a prefect, you know.”

“I do know. Jake, could I talk to you for a moment?”

I pull him out to where she can’t hear. “She’s fourteen.”

“Calm down, Monroe. I know that. She was talking to Tyrese. She seems kinda drunk and I didn’t want anything to happen to her.”

I give Jake a big hug. “I love you. Thank you.”

“You wanted me to lose today.”

“I know. Jake, do you really like Maggie?”

He shrugs. “She’s fun. Cute.”

“Are you serious about her?”

“I don’t want to be serious about anyone right now. I told you that.”

“But you’ve been hanging out. You kissed her in front of everyone today.”

“She’s still in love with Logan, regardless of what she says. I know that’s why she kissed me today. I don’t want to be anyone’s second choice. Been there. Done that. So, whatever we do will only be in the name of fun.”

“You really are a good prince.”

“You want me to help you get everyone back to the dorms, don’t you?”

“I would love your help. But that’s not why I said you’re a good prince. Any girl would be lucky to have you. Mr. Chameleon.”

“Ha. You’re exactly the same way. Don’t laugh, but I think it would be really cool to be an actor. I kinda want to skip the whole Ivy League thing and go to NYU to study acting. What do you think?”

“I think you should follow your dreams, wherever they take you.”

He wraps an arm around my shoulder, kisses my head, and says, “That’s why I love you, Monroe. Oh, and by the way, you can come with me when I break that news to my parents.”

“I’d be honored,” I tell him as we walk back to Embry, who, thankfully, is talking to Pressley.

Jake wraps an arm around each girl, gives them a princely smile, and says, “Ladies, allow me to escort you back to your dorm.”

The girls visibly swoon and, thankfully, don’t argue about leaving the party.

I find Katie, who has been frantically searching for the girls. “I can’t find them,” she says, panting a little.

“I did. Jake’s walking them back to our dorm. I’m going with them, so you can stay out.”

Her eyes get big. “Really? Thank you.”

“Why are you so excited?”

“Because Bryce is really cute!”

“And you are not drunk. I’m proud of you.”

She smiles. “I’m proud of me too.”



I round up Braxton, noticing along the way that Chelsea has Aiden cornered near a bush. Based on her body language, she’s pissed at him.

I’d really like to walk over there and kiss him.

But screw that. If Aiden wants her, I’d rather know now.

I drag Braxton, practically kicking and screaming, out of the Cave.

“I’m supposed to have the trio,” he cries.

And I mean, he cries.

He’s now drunk and sobbing.

I suck as a chaperone.

Actually, Riley sucks for letting him drink before he ever got here.

“Braxton, honey. You’re not ready for the trio. You have to work up to that.”

“I’m ready. I’m ready. Really, I am.”

“I need you to be quiet while we walk past the dorms, okay? Really quiet.”

“Okay!!” he yells.

I slap my hand across his mouth, shutting him up. Embry, Pressley, and Jake are standing by my window.

Embry immediately rushes toward us. “Is he okay?” she slurs sweetly.

Braxton grabs her hands, smiles big, and then proceeds to puke all over her shirt.

“Oh, gross!” she yells.

“Shh!” I say.

Jake pushes Pressley’s butt through the window and whispers to her, “Grab her a clean shirt.”

She falls into my room with a thud. And I pray that no one hears all this.

Please don’t let us get in trouble.

Braxton looks at the puke all over Embry. “My bad,” he says, trying to wipe it off her shirt.

“There’s no way I’m going to a movie with you now. You need to grow up!” she yells, backing away from him.

Then she gags.

And pukes on him.

An impressive projectile puke that I just manage to dodge.

“That. Was. Awesome,” Jake says to her.

She covers her face in horror, drops to the ground, and starts sobbing. “I wanna go home.”

I get out my phone and call Riley. “Get your ass to my dorm.”

“I’m kind of . . . in the middle . . . of something,” he says. He’s breathing heavily.

“I don’t care what you’re doing. I’m in the middle of a puke fest. Put it back in your pants and get your ass here.”

“Hang on . . . just a little . . . Oh . . .”

I hang up on him.

Fortunately, Dawson strolls through the trees instead.

I grab Braxton and shove him toward Dawson. “Take him to your room.”

“No. He smells.”

“Then take him to Riley’s room and stay with him until Riley’s finished with whatever he’s doing.”

Dawson rolls his eyes at me, grabs his brother by the back of the neck, and drags him away.

“You’re not my favorite girl anymore, Keatyn,” Braxton says, stumbling, his little drunk body no match for Dawson’s strong one.

“One down, one to go,” Jake says.

I bend down next to Embry, tell her everything will be okay, unbutton her puked-on blouse, pull a clean shirt over her head, and then let Jake shove her butt through the window. Fortunately, she lands on Pressley, so there is no thud.

I stand next to my window. “Thanks for your help, Jake. I really appreciate it.”

He looks up at the sky. “Look at us. Standing under the moon just like in the play. I feel like I should give you true love’s kiss.”

I just stare at him, not sure what to say.

“You haven't been into it lately.”

“What do you mean?”

“Since you and Dawson broke up, it’s affecting you on stage. It's like you don't believe in it anymore.”

He grabs my hand and pulls me further into the moonlight.

“Script it,” he says. “I see you writing during rehearsal and during ceramics.”

“Those are just my journals. I used to write scripts. Stories. How I wanted my life to be. But lately, I don't know what to script.”

“That’s the problem. You used to feel it. You need to feel it again. Close your eyes,” he says softly. “You're in the moonlight with your true love. The Good Prince. What does he do to you? How does he make you feel?”

I close my eyes as Jake runs his hands down the sides of my arms. “Safe,” I reply.

He puts his hand in my hair. “How else?”

“Relaxed. Like a day at the beach.”

“You're comfortable with him.”

“Yes.”

“What's he look like?”

I shake my head. “I don't know.”

He touches my chest. “What does he do to your heart?”

“He can calm it down or make it beat fast. He makes it feel like it could be ripped from my chest. Like if I loved him or gave him another chance and it didn’t work, I'd never be the same.”

My eyes are still shut, but tears start rolling down my face.

Jake wraps his arms around me and pulls me into his chest. “Keep going.”

“We're on the beach in the moonlight. I made a wish there.”

“What did you wish for?”

“Him. My good prince. We’re at my house. On my beach. He wraps his arms around me and tells me he wished on the moon too. That even though it hasn't been easy, even though we're not perfect, we’re perfect for each other. That he loves me with his heart, body, and soul.”

“And then they kiss,” he says breathlessly, putting his lips on mine.

I kiss him. My perfect boy.

“Marry me?” he says, waking me from my daze.

I open my eyes. Jake is on his knee finishing the last scene of the play.

I hear Pressley clap.

“Yes,” I say.

He stands up and gives me a big hug. “That was much better. Don’t let your real life get in the way of your dream. Night, Monroe.”

As he walks away, I look up at the moon and can’t help but wonder if he’s looking at it too.

Aiden startles me. “So now you’re kissing Jake too?”

“What? Oh, no. We were practicing for the play. If you saw us kiss, you must have seen him propose.”

“I did. Just didn’t love the kiss.”

I hang my head. “He says since I broke up with Dawson, I’m not as believable. That it’s like I don’t believe in love anymore.”

Aiden cocks his head. “Do you?”

I look back at the moon. “I want to.”



Pressley helps me get Embry cleaned up and they both quickly fall asleep on the floor.

I think about what Jake said about not letting my real life get in the way of my dreams.

I think about Vincent.

About how he’s keeping me away from my family. Away from my life.

As I stare at the stars glowing on my ceiling, Aiden’s quote pops into my head.

“The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.”

The heart has its reasons.

Does my heart have reasons?

And, if so, how can I reason with my heart?

Or is that the point?

Reason and thinking shouldn’t play a part in what your heart feels?

But how can it not? We have to protect ourselves. Protect our hearts.

Don’t we?

Isn’t that what Mom told me? Don’t give away your heart easily.

Although, in that case, I think she was referring to my body more than my heart.

“The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.”

So, reason can’t be a part of love.

You just have to feel it.

Like Jake made me do tonight.

I think.

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