It's prom season at Smith High School and love is in the air. . .for some people.
Melanie Morris knows she shouldn't keep flirting with her best friend's brother, Dylan Wellesley, even though the last thing she feels is "sisterly" around the cute soon-to-be freshman. But attending prom with somebody else might mean losing him for good. . .
Isobel Peters accepts the fact that she's a huge geek, but she never expected renowned player, Spencer King, would want to get his hands on. . .her reputation. What begins as a bargain could turn into something real--or a Notable disaster!
Corey O'Neal is dating the boy of his dreams, rockstar Timothy Goff. But it isn't easy to trade in anonymity for instant celebrity status, especially now that swarms of protesters want them both banned from prom. Dating Prince Charming in real life is a whole lot harder than it sounds in fairytales.
Happily ever after? Try awkwardly ever after!
"Relatable characters, hot guys, and sassy high school drama!" --Seventeen Magazine on Invisible
"Light and fun. . .Notable captures the essence of today's teen culture." --VOYA on Notable
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Awkwardly Ever After
By Marni Bates
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Marni Bates
All rights reserved.
Love is in the air at Smith High School! Tuxes are being rented. Dresses are being fitted. The magic of prom is only one month away ... and the question on everyone's mind is, will that special somebody ask me to the dance?
—from "Preparing for Prom," by Lisa Anne Montgomery Published by The Smithsonian
There's no good way to tell your friend that you've got a crush on her little brother.
It's not the kind of thing that I could imagine slipping into a casual phone conversation.
"Hey, it's Melanie. Listen, is Dylan around? Because I was kind of hoping the three of us could hang out together. Why would I want to do that? Well, you know how you just see him as your annoying little brother? Yeah, nothing about him seems brotherly to me."
Oh yeah, that wouldn't get weird or anything.
In fact, mentioning Dylan at all seemed downright dangerous for my health. It's generally considered a bad idea to provoke an overly protective person, and beneath the thin layer of insults Mackenzie and Dylan enjoyed slinging at each other, there was an intense sibling loyalty. All it would take for Mackenzie to go into full mother grizzly bear mode was the vaguest rumor that some high school girl was interested in dating her middle school brother.
I doubted she would care that there was only a one-year age gap; that next year he would be a freshman and I'd be a sophomore. Or that the year after that, he would be a sophomore and I'd be a junior.
Except for the whole little brother factor—which I couldn't imagine Mackenzie Wellesley ever overlooking—the two of us would barely raise eyebrows as a couple by next year's prom.
Just over twelve months from now.
"Um, Melanie? You do realize that you're staring at my boyfriend's butt, right?"
Actually, I hadn't. My mind had been wandering and apparently my eyes had made a little side trip of their own. Mackenzie's eyes were glinting with amusement, so instead of trying to deny it, I leaned back in my chair and took another sip of hot chocolate before I gestured to the rink in front of us where the Smith High School hockey team was practicing.
"Not my fault. It's ... wow."
"Yes, it is." Mackenzie's smile only broadened as Logan skated past with a look of pure concentration on his face. "But if he sees you staring, it might get a little awkward and ... oh no!"
I turned just in the nick of time to catch Patrick Bradford checking Logan hard, sending him sprawling across the ice. My nose wrinkled in contempt—the standard expression whenever I was forced to share the same room with Patrick. Thankfully, it didn't happen all that often because he didn't exactly associate with lowly freshmen. He was far too busy trying to climb the Smith High School social ladder to spare a second for someone who wouldn't propel him up a rung.
Patrick's delusions of grandeur wouldn't have bothered me if I hadn't seen Mackenzie's devastated expression when she finally figured out that he was more interested in her sudden rise to YouTube celebrity than he was in her as a person. She had looked absolutely shredded. I still felt a twinge of guilt every time I thought about that night. My first high school party. My first party, period. I was supposed to have been going as moral support for Mackenzie. Instead, I had accidentally let her drink to the point that she couldn't walk in a straight line, because I was too preoccupied flirting with her little brother to notice.
To be fair, he had started flirting with me first.
Although that still didn't make him any less off-limits.
So even now that Mackenzie was obnoxiously happy with Logan Beckett, I still blamed Patrick for the way it had gone down. Maybe I would have tried harder to let bygones be bygones if Patrick would stop taking cheap shots against his own team captain to prove some kind of stupid guy point.
But probably not.
Mackenzie let out a quiet breath of relief as Logan picked himself off the ice and his best friend, Spencer King, skated over and glowered at Patrick. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Spencer was more than ready to throw a few punches if it turned into an outright brawl.
"Okay, all good." She smiled at me. "You were saying?"
I decided to test whether she would actually be able to focus on me with a testosterone-fueled display only a few feet away on the ice. "Um ... that your boyfriend is cute?"
"Right. Yes. That's undeniably—oh, seriously!"
Logan said something to Patrick that had the other boy glaring and moving within striking distance.
"So I take it things are still kind of awkward there."
"Uh-huh ..." Mackenzie nodded absentmindedly. She jerked upright in her seat as Patrick tossed his stick aside and launched himself at Logan. "If he gets a concussion, I'm going to kill him. It's hard enough getting him to concentrate already. "
"You sure that doesn't have something to do with your being more than just his tutor now?" I asked wryly. It wasn't exactly a secret that Logan Beckett hated his AP U.S. History class—something that had actually brought the two of them together before Mackenzie's embarrassing YouTube video launched her into fame. Now that they were dating, though, I had a feeling he was trying to find new ways to distract her from the books.
And judging by the blush that crept up her neck, his efforts weren't entirely unsuccessful either.
"Nope, I'm sure that has nothing to do with it."
I rolled my eyes.
"That's my story and I'm sticking to it."
"Sure, Mackenzie. And that hickey I see peeking out under your shirt is a coincidence, right?"
I laughed until I saw Logan haul off and slug Patrick in the stomach. "Okay, yeah, coincidence. Don't sic your boyfriend on me, please."
She laughed. "We both know that Logan's totally harmless."
It didn't look like Patrick would agree with that statement as the rest of the team rushed over to surround the two boys. I barely caught a glimpse of Spencer grabbing a solid handful of Patrick's jersey and cheerfully pulling him away from his friend. From where Mackenzie and I were sitting, I couldn't be certain if Spencer had tripped Patrick up in the process, but I definitely enjoyed watching the jerk slide five feet across the ice ... on his face.
"Um, okay. That was impressive."
Mackenzie swiveled toward me and it didn't take a genius to figure out that her brain had jumped to the wrong conclusion. "Really? Because I happen to know that Spencer is very single."
"Uh ... good for him."
"And the two of you would make a really cute couple, Melanie. Kind of a Beauty and the Beast thing."
I glanced over at Spencer, who had taken off his helmet and was explaining the situation to the coach while Patrick sulked and Logan scowled. Spencer's blond hair flopped charmingly across his forehead while he gestured animatedly from one boy to the other. It looked like the guy honestly enjoyed breaking up fights. Although I had a feeling he would've enjoyed it even more if he had gotten in a few blows of his own.
"In this scenario, I'm guessing I'm the beast?"
"You're right, Melanie. I took one look at you and thought, Wow, that girl needs a total fashion makeover. Oh wait, nope. That's what you gave me. "
To be fair, it was Mackenzie's friend Corey who had been most adamant about giving her a fashion makeover. I just happened to tag along, the lone freshman on their island of misfit toys.
"I guess technically it would be a beauty and the beauty scenario." Mackenzie rolled her eyes. "I still stand by my earlier statement."
I flipped a page in the textbook that I should've been concentrating on from the very beginning of our "study session" instead of staring out at a rink full of hockey players. Next time I crashed a practice session, I needed to make sure I didn't actually have to accomplish anything. Maybe if I could distract myself long enough with the guys on the hockey team, my feelings for Dylan would just evaporate.
My best friend, Isobel Peters, would've had no trouble poking holes in that plan. Then again, Izzie also wasn't preoccupied deflecting a conversation away from Spencer King.
"So, about this whole Boston Tea Party thing ... did anyone actually drink the tea, Mackenzie? Or make crumpets to go with it? Because that sounds delicious."
"You're using American history to make me shut up about Spencer, aren't you?"
"That's pretty nefarious."
I grinned, willing to bet that a true history nerd like Mackenzie would combust in a matter of minutes if she didn't answer my questions. "Scones, maybe? With, uh ... clotted cream. That was a thing, right?"
Mackenzie's smile widened as the team began filing off the ice, and she closed my textbook with a faint thud before she began packing up. "You're not going to distract me that easily. I think the two of you would be cute together. He might act like he only cares about partying, but he's a really great guy once you get to know him. And he's loyal to a fault."
"Riiight," I snorted. "That's why he gave you all those tequila shots at his party. Because he's such a stand-up guy. "
"He was trying to make my night a little better."
I remembered the panic that had sharpened Dylan's soft brown eyes when he realized how trashed his older sister had become while he was preoccupied dancing with me. And it had gotten worse when Mackenzie started drunkenly rambling about their dad.
That's when his face had turned into a cold, unreadable mask.
Dylan barely spoke another word to me for the rest of the night, even after we'd successfully hauled Mackenzie's drunken butt into Logan's passenger seat. Instead, he had mumbled something about helping Spencer police the party, and disappeared into the crowd.
Leaving me standing alone outside like a loser, until Corey stopped by the party and offered us a ride to the Wellesley house on the way back from a date of his own.
Not that I'd been on a date with Dylan.
It doesn't count as a date if the other person randomly decides to avoid you for hours on end.
"Yeah, Spencer definitely went out of his way to make that night special. If he had 'improved' it any more, your stomach would've been pumped."
"That was my fault," Mackenzie protested. "I'm the one who kept drinking even after he tried to cut me off. And I learned my lesson. Tequila and I will never be on speaking terms again. But that doesn't make him a bad guy. In fact, I'll prove it to you."
I eyed her suspiciously. "Just what do you have in mind for—"
"Nice skating, Spencer. Hey, have you met my friend Melanie?"
Well, I walked right into that one.
My cheeks felt unnaturally warm, as if I had been the one exerting myself on the ice instead of sitting on the sidelines with a cup of hot chocolate. Then again, it was hard to act cool when I had one of the most popular guys in the junior class sizing me up.
"Well, hello again, Pocahontas."
I winced at the nickname. I've always found it annoying when people comment on the fact that my skin happens to be slightly darker than the average Oregonian—not much of a feat in a state where pale is the norm. Back in elementary school, I landed the role of Sacajawea while everyone else got to be part of Lewis and Clark's expedition every single year.
"Hello, arrogant jock."
Mackenzie kicked me under the table again as I smiled innocently.
"What? I thought we were giving each other cute nicknames based purely on first impressions."
Spencer at least had the good sense to meet my eyes directly. "Okay, not my best opening line. Does it help if I admit that I had a thing for Pocahontas as a kid? I mean, that 'Colors of the Wind' stuff was hot." His smile quirked up at the side and I began relaxing in spite of myself.
I shrugged. "Yeah, I'm still not thrilled with the comparison."
"It's the long brown hair," Mackenzie pointed out.
"And your eyes."
"And my skin tone. Not exactly a secret here, guys."
"I think mainly it's your eyes." Spencer leaned closer, as if an intense examination was required to settle the matter. "They're almost the same shade of dark chocolate as your drink."
I blinked up at him. "Okay, I get it. You weren't trying to be a jerk. Message received. You can tone down the flirting now."
He laughed and glanced over at Mackenzie. "Does she give everyone such a hard time?"
Only when I'm not entirely clear what game someone wants to be playing with me. If I think it will prevent a mess in the making, I have no trouble speaking up. Probably because I can't afford to clean up after anyone else—not without crumbling inside. That's why I only truly relax around a handful of people who don't push me too far.
Except that doesn't apply to my feelings for Dylan.
"Um, actually she never has be—"
"Hey, Mack." Logan Beckett interrupted her words with a quick kiss. Not that she appeared to mind, judging by the way her fingers gripped his hockey jersey. "Did you catch the show?"
"Nah, I hardly noticed you at all." The foolish grin plastered all over her face gave her away. "Melanie and I were discussing the Boston Tea Party."
He groaned. "No more history lectures, I beg of you."
"Actually, I was thinking the four of us could get together to watch Pocahontas."
Logan glanced over at his best friend, whose face I now found impossible to read. "Um ... I'm not so sure Spencer enjoys discussing historical accuracy, Mack."
"He was just telling Melanie how much he loved that movie as a kid. Weren't you, Spencer?"
"Great! It's settled. We'll see the two of you at Logan's house for movie night tomorrow. Say ... six o'clock?" She was already pulling on her backpack and entwining her fingers with Logan's. The two of them were so fricking adorable together it was almost nauseating. "See you then!"
And just like that they strolled out of the ice skating rink together.
Leaving me alone with a hockey player who had just been shanghaied into a movie date with me that I didn't even want in the first place.
Because I was still stupidly hung up on someone else altogether.
I was so screwed.CHAPTER 2
The ballots for prom court will soon be passed amongst the student body. And while Smith High School sophomore Samantha "Sam" Wilson has loudly protested this tradition, calling it "nothing more than a popularity contest that only strengthens the patriarchal culture of this country," many people believe this is merely because she isn't in the running....
—from "Preparing for Prom," by Lisa Anne Montgomery Published by The Smithsonian
"So, on a scale of one to ten, how uncomfortable are you right now?"
Spencer's obvious amusement about the whole thing made me grin right back. I mentally began revising my estimation of him. At least he had a solid sense of humor ... something we would both probably be needing with Mackenzie's brain tuned to matchmaking mode.
I shrugged. "Mackenzie means well. I'm not sure about her judgment when it comes to, y'know ..."
He flopped into the seat that Mackenzie had recently vacated. "Fair enough. She has a terrible track record. I mean, that guy she's dating? No good. I don't trust him as far as I can slide him on the ice."
I mentally replayed the way he had hauled Logan away from Patrick, and smiled at the joke. "Yeah, Logan's just the worst."
"That's what I've been saying for years. I'm biding my time now. Waiting for my parents to buy me the captaincy."
His parents could probably do it. Everyone knew that the new wing in the gym was courtesy of the King family fortune. I studied him carefully, searching for even a trace of truth behind his joking words. Spencer's green eyes were bright, but I suspected that it had less to do with hockey and more to do with messing with my head.
"Would you really want to be team captain?"
"Nah, probably not. That would mean I'd have to give all the pep talks." Spencer scoffed. "Show up early. All of that cr—garbage."
Excerpted from Awkwardly Ever After by Marni Bates. Copyright © 2014 Marni Bates. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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