No bets. No fake relationships. Just a very real one that has to be kept under wraps.
Seventeen-year-old Melissa wants to dye her hair cotton candy pink and focus on her ukulele instead of Physics. But she can’t. As the daughter of a Catholic school principal, living up to her model student image 24/7 is a must. Something’s about to give under all the pressure. She only hopes it isn’t her.
Getting involved with a troublemaking basketball player is the last possible thing she needs…
Lance is used to getting what he wants. With a pretty face he uses to full advantage and his role as co-captain of the basketball team, the easy way is the only way he’s ever known. Until the day he notices the prim Melissa he’s known forever is actually hot and decides to ask her out. He has no idea he’s about to learn the lesson of a lifetime.
Not getting what he wants might exactly be what he needs…
U and I
An Excerpt from Keeping the Distance
Blinding light filled the world as Lance cracked his eyelids open. Last night’s whiskey-induced binge returned to haunt him in the form of a migraine with the force of a jackhammer and the taste of something unpleasant in the bottom of his throat.
Jace’s face, clean-shaven and freshly scrubbed, hovered above his. His best friend pulled the covers off his alcohol-numbed body. The bastard had pulled the curtains open, letting the sunshine flood into the room, like a promise that the day was going to be bright and wonderful.
“Get up.” Losing his last remaining bit of patience, Jace grabbed his T-shirt collar and tugged.
Lance reached out and weakly attempted to push him away. “No.”
Jace tightened his hold on Lance’s collar, and began to drag him out of bed. “Dude, remember that photo of you wearing a panda onesie when you were five? Julianne sent it to me, and I won’t hesitate to post it if you don’t get up. Now.” When Lance continued to play dead, Jace ran a hand through his hair in frustration. “Come on. We have to go to school.”
Lance wasn’t going to school, not even if his sister dug up every single embarrassing photo from their childhood and started posting them online. Not today. Not tomorrow. Maybe not until next week.
School meant sitting behind Melissa and being unable to rip his eyes away from the Big Dipper moles on the back of her neck, letting the gaping hole she’d carved through his heart grow wider and wider until it threatened to devour him. It also meant seeing her father, the principal, and pretending he didn’t want to punch the man in the esophagus.
He wanted them both to go to hell.
Well, no, not really, which was the problem.
A big, heavy sigh escaped through Lance’s nose. “Remember when I said I wasn’t into Melissa? I was lying.”
Finally, Jace’s fingers loosened around his T-shirt collar, and he landed on the bed with a thud. “Yeah, I figured that out.”
Staring up at the ceiling, he said, “This is going to make me sound like a complete idiot, but I never thought it would hurt this much. Like someone stuffed my heart in a blender and pushed the power button.”
“Then, how about you unplug the blender?” Jace gave him a tiny nudge that was more comforting than he ever expected. “You can start by taking a shower. You smell like the gym after basketball practice.”
This time, Lance complied. Even if he never wanted to get out of bed again, Jace wasn’t going to leave him alone until he did. He kicked the covers off with as much energy as he could muster, grabbed a towel, and headed for the bathroom. Once he was showered and dressed in his uniform, he and Jace met up in the garage.
“You better be right behind me,” Jace warned before getting into his own car, one finger aimed right at Lance’s chest.
“Yes, sir,” Lance replied with a little salute.
The cocky grin on his face faded once Jace’s car peeled out of the driveway. As he walked over to his car, keys in hand, and pulled the door open, the thought of bailing on school and spending the rest of the day in his room with the entire Jason Bourne series began to take over once more. He got in the car before he could change his mind.
On the drive to school, he couldn’t stop thinking about what Jace said, about turning off the blender that was slowly turning his heart into a disgusting organ smoothie.
Maybe Jace had a point. He had his entire life stretching out before him. Maybe Melissa was supposed to be a life lesson, an incredibly painful one but a mere life lesson nonetheless.
The thought hurt like a motherfucker.
Once his car reached the school parking lot, Lance stepped out, backpack slung over one shoulder. The sun was still out in full force, way too bright and cheery for the foul mood he was in. Students scurried through the hallways to get to their first period classes, and he let himself be carried along.
“Hey, Lance.” Lyka nodded at him with a smile as she walked past him.
He turned to get a better look at her, her hair swinging around her shoulders.
“Hey.” He attempted to return her smile.
Why couldn’t he have fallen for someone like Lyka instead? She was beautiful, smart, and most of all, they were on the same page. Their names even began with the same letter.
There was no room for doubt when he was with her, because her feelings for him were as clear as his reflection in the bathroom mirror that morning. Maybe Melissa and the shitstorm he now found himself in was karma for treating all the other girls he’d dated like crap.
Poetic justice and all that jazz.
When he got to first period, Melissa was already in her seat, her hair piled on top of her head in a messy bun. Like the day he discovered the shape her moles made belonged in the night sky. Lance didn’t know whether to laugh bitterly or to groan in frustration.
He let his backpack slip from his shoulder, down his arm, and onto the floor as he took his seat behind her. The school year wasn’t even halfway over, but he couldn’t bear the thought of being this close to her without actually being with her anymore.
He was so lost in thought that it took him five minutes to notice the teddy bear perched precariously on the edge of his desk. It was a little bigger than his fist, and it hugged a wooden cylinder.
Wrapping his fingers around it, Lance pulled the teddy bear closer. He popped the lid off the cylinder and found a rolled piece of paper inside.
Happy Valeintine’s Day! I wish I could rearrange the alphabet, so I could put U and I together. Forgive me? – M
It was Melissa’s use of her initial that threw him, like she couldn’t even own up to her apology. Like she thought someone else might find her note and she didn’t want them to know she’d written it for him. Despite what the note meant, she was still hiding him like dirty laundry under her bed.
He wanted to forgive her, but he couldn’t. Not now. Maybe not ever.
As long as she couldn’t tell her father—hell, the entire world—about them, there wasn’t anything he could do. The thought made him angrier than ever. Knowing she was waiting for his reaction, Lance stuffed the teddy bear inside his backpack.
Let her stew and wonder for a change.
He sat behind her the entire morning without saying anything. Mr. Rodriguez, their psychopathic Physics teacher, even wondered aloud at his apparent lack of dumbass comments during class. When the lunch bell finally rang, he hurried out of the classroom.
“Lance, wait!” Melissa grabbed his arm and pulled him to a stop.
He froze at the sound of her voice and whirled around, his eyes glued to the spot where her fingers were still firmly clutching his arm. Students filed past either side of them on the way to the cafeteria. Eyes wide, his gaze darted around the hallway before he shook off her hold on him. “People can see.”
It was like jumping off a cliff and changing your mind mid-fall. He knew he was being a jerk, but he somehow couldn’t stop himself. It was too late to stop the freefall.
But Melissa only shook her head. “I don’t care. Not anymore.”
He wanted to believe her, but he saw the principal, the father she wanted to please so much, appear near the end of the hallway, hair combed over his head and black leather shoes shining. Every part of Lance that wanted to give what they had another shot turned sour.
“Yeah?” Lance said, his voice crueler than he’d ever heard it. “It’s a little too late for that.”