The Boys' Club
It’s only my second week at Kensington School, and things are getting complicated.
I thought my relationship with Harry was finished, but he came over late one night, apologized, and asked me to be his girlfriend. I swooned right there, in the middle of the street.
And we are definitely back together.
He calls me babe, brings me flowers, and is planning our first official date.
Our relationship is growing, and I’m starting to want him in ways I never expected.
I’m falling for him.
But then there’s Noah.
I live in his house and share a bathroom with him, and we’ve had a few intense moments.
But nothing compared to him sauntering into the room, declaring that I want him and that, at some point, he’s going to give in to me.
I’m not sure how I'm going to tell him that I’m dating his best friend again.
Or how I'm going to keep my eyes off his shirtless chest.
With tensions running high between Noah and me, Harry’s ongoing family issues, my new friendship with Naomi, and Mohammad’s party-planning skills, things are getting crazy.
Release date: May 21, 2020
Publisher: Swoonworthy Books
Print pages: 440
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The Boys' Club
Sunday, September 29th
I was in total shock.
My mouth drops open.
For about the tenth time this morning as thoughts race through my mind.
Do I want him?
And he said I would give in?
Does that mean he wants me to?
What is going on?
Noah gives me a half-smile before disconnecting his eyes from mine and putting his toothbrush into his mouth.
I navigate my way around Noah’s towering body, trying to escape the bathroom. I practically fall onto the floor when I get into my room.
Because what was that?
My heart is pounding, and I don’t know what to do. Noah has my head—and my body—completely frazzled.
I search for my phone, immediately hitting Mohammad’s number.
He doesn’t pick up.
I try again, hoping he’ll understand that this is urgent and that he needs to answer.
After five calls, I decide he isn’t ignoring me and probably doesn’t have his phone.
Should I call home?
No. My mom would freak out. I can talk to her about almost everything, but she tends to get too invested in the story and wants constant updates.
My dad … well, he would throw an absolute fit. After all, I am sleeping in the room next door to Noah. I suppose I could talk to Helen, but it would be so awkward because, well, Noah’s her son.
Maybe I’ll call Anna. Talk to her about it. But I’m not sure she would understand. She has no context and doesn’t know any of the people I would be talking to her about. Maybe that’s better though? To get an outsider’s perspective.
But what would I even say?
I decide to open up a new text message, hoping writing it out might make it easier to explain.
Me: Hey, Anna. So, I’m kind of dating this guy, Harry. And his best friend is Noah, who happens to be part of my host family. Noah and I get along—for the most part—but we are always arguing about something. And Harry, he’s kind of a dream. Well, when he isn’t letting me down or having an emotional breakdown of his own. But last night, everything was perfect. After a rough couple of days, Harry came to the door after everyone was asleep and told me he wanted me to be his girlfriend. I said no, only because I think we should date first. I don’t want to rush into anything, and that might be because I’m scared. Scared he’s going to hurt me.
But anyway, everything was perfect. We were all getting along. But then, this morning, Noah had to come in and ruin it all.
Because my life can’t just be simple.
I can’t have a boy like me and have friends.
No, that would be asking too much.
Because Noah decided to declare that he thought I wanted him. He put the moves on me, Anna. He told me he thought I liked him, and I’m pretty sure he told me that he liked me too.
I mean, not too.
That would require me liking him. Ugh! Anyway, he didn’t say he liked me, but he said he would give in if I tried something with him. Such a guy thing to say, first off. And secondly, it was hot, Anna.
I was in total shock. He was flirting with me. He had his finger on my lip and … I thought he was going to kiss me. I’m so confused. Because Noah was sweet to me yesterday when I needed him, but Harry, well, I could probably give him my heart.
The idea settles into my stomach.
I erase the message, realizing I was making no sense, when Mohammad’s name pops up on my screen.
“Where the fuck have you been? I’ve called about a million times,” I shout into the phone.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. I just saw your calls. What’s up?” he asks, obviously not too concerned.
“I have to talk to you about something,” I say, sucking down a gulp of air.
My chest is pounding from me just thinking about telling Mohammad what happened. And I’m not even sure if it’s right to tell him this. I don’t want to mess with their friendships.
“Mallory, what’s going on?” he asks.
“Wait, is Harry with you?” I suddenly realize they might still be together.
“No. Why? What’s going on?” he asks again.
“You have to promise to keep this a secret.” I drop my voice lower and look over to make sure my bedroom door is tightly shut. I also listen for any noise coming from the hallway.
“All right …” he replies, urging me on.
“There was this moment—this incredibly super-intense moment—with Noah, just now in the bathroom,” I whisper.
“A good or bad moment?” Mohammad asks. “Just tell me what happened.”
“Well, nothing actually happened. But Noah was so intense this morning. Instead of being kind of annoying but cute Noah, I got I’ll leave you in a puddle of hot, melted lava Noah.”
“What?” Mohammad asks, his voice rising.
I can tell he’s as confused as I am.
“Like, this was not the Noah we know, Mohammad. This was the determined, I’m going to stare at you until you crack Noah. He was dirty,” I admit, my eyes going wide at the memory.
“Holy shit. He talked dirty to you?” Mohammad almost shrieks, something finally registering. And he sounds the way I feel.
“Yeah, he did. He said that I wanted him, Mohammad. He said that he was going to have me practically begging for him,” I say a little quieter, “before he gave in to me.”
I pause, my heart feeling like it’s going to rip out of my chest as I wait for Mohammad’s response.
“Oh shit. My man is good,” he says fondly.
“Mohammad!” I reply, annoyed. “I need help here!”
“Relax, Miss America,” he starts. “Look, I have to ask because I think it’s what you want to talk about. Does that change things for you with Harry?”
I think about his question. I don’t know how I’m feeling, but Mohammad is right. I wanted him to ask me that question. I wanted him to be the one to bring it up.
“There’s nothing going on with Noah. And Harry is adorable. And sweet. And after last night, well, I feel a lot closer to him. He wanted to be my boyfriend.”
“But …” Mohammad pushes.
“I’m sorry you have to hear this. But Noah was like melt my panties hot. I mean, my whole body freaked out this morning.”
“Okay, okay. Eww. Too much information.”
“Honestly, I think it just took me by surprise though. I’ve never seen that side of him.”
“The I’m intense and going to get exactly what I want side?” Mohammad asks with a sigh, like he understands.
“Well, when you put it like that …” I say, thinking about Noah’s personality. “I guess he’s just been kind to me lately.”
“Oh, come on. Noah’s one of the best-looking guys in school. He’s never had a problem with getting girls,” Mohammad replies.
“He gets girls?” I ask, my eyes going wide.
Mohammad laughs into the phone, and I instantly want to pull him through from the other end and punch him.
“When you first got here, your head was so far up Harry’s bum that you didn’t even notice you’d ended up being friends with the hottest guys in school.”
“First off, rude.” Because honestly! “My head wasn’t up Harry’s bum. Was it?”
“I apologize,” Mohammad concedes. “But seriously, did you not realize that Noah is, like, the shit? Because if you didn’t know before, I’ll tell you now. He is. Which is why I find this whole thing so entertaining.”
“This is ridiculous. I think it’s just a power thing with Noah. It’s probably his attempt at breaking me apart from Harry, so he doesn’t have to be around me as much. I doubt he even cares about me,” I huff.
“You know that’s not true,” Mohammad cuts in.
“I know. But if he likes me, why tell me now? And why in that way?” I ask, feeling desperate. Desperate to know the answer.
“Because he had to get your attention,” Mohammad replies simply.
“I think it’s more likely that he just enjoys taunting me. He wants me to think that I made the wrong decision.”
“And have you made a decision?” Mohammad asks. “Harry was happy when we left last night, but he didn’t really say.”
“I’m not officially his girlfriend yet, but we’re together. I’m with Harry.”
“Noah probably thinks this is his only chance. Harry asked you to be his girlfriend, and you said no. Noah must think you said no for a reason.”
“But I said no because I want to give Harry and me a little time. So much has happened since we met that I know him, but I don’t really know him. Like, what is his favorite color? What does Harry like to do when we aren’t out or dealing with drama? Stuff like that.”
“Well, there’s your answer then. Guys don’t think like that. Noah probably thinks you wouldn’t commit because you aren’t sure. And that’s an in.”
“Would he really risk his friendship with Harry like that though? I mean, this whole time, he’s been concerned about me coming between them. And now, he’s knowingly putting himself into it?”
“I was thinking the same thing,” Mohammad admits. “We’ve been friends forever. He would never jeopardize that. Which can only mean one thing. Noah must really like you. He would never let something come between him and Harry. It’s just not Noah.”
“Oh shit. That’s it,” I reply, my breath catching. I’m overwhelmed, like I can feel the blood pounding through every vein in my body.
“What are you trying to say?”
“I’m saying that we know that Harry and I made up last night. But Noah must not. The last he heard, Harry and I were over. I was pretty upset after seeing Harry and Olivia together at the pub. And after, I made some strong declarations to Noah about how I obviously didn’t mean anything to Harry. That we weren’t anything.” I swallow hard, knowing that I’m really in over my head.
“Oh fuck,” Mohammad breathes out. “This is bad, Mallory. This is really bad.”
“I realize that! But I need your help,” I say, trying to figure out what to do.
“No, no, no. This is on you. You have to tell Noah. Like, immediately. Now.” Mohammad’s voice is stern but laced with concern.
“I’m not sure that’s going to go over well,” I reply.
Because I know I can’t do it. Things are already going to be weird. And I don’t know how to just throw that in there. Like, Oh, hey, by the way, I know you practically had your lips on mine this morning, but in case you don’t know, your best friend was over here last night, and his lips were on mine, and we’re now officially dating. Yeah, right.
“Mallory, you need to tell Noah before he finds out from someone else. And Harry can’t know about this.”
I nod my head in agreement.
“I know,” I admit. “I’m sorry I’ve put you in this situation, Mohammad. Are you okay with, well, keeping it a secret?”
I cross my fingers, hoping his answer is yes. If he isn’t, I could not only lose Noah and Harry, but I could lose Mohammad too.
“I’m not going to tell Harry because I don’t want to hurt him. But you need to decide, Mallory. Noah or Harry. And if you choose Noah, you should understand that you will probably destroy his friendship with Harry in the process. You’re only here for two more weeks. Is it really worth ruining everything, just to leave us?” His words are harsh and cold.
“I won’t do that. I promise.” I let out a shaky breath.
Mohammad’s right. I care about them both too much to ruin their friendship.
“Good,” he states with a sigh of relief. “I’m sorry. I just got worried.”
“I know. They’re your best friends,” I reply, not sure what else to say.
“You’re my friend too, Mallory. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought up you leaving.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I tell him, swallowing hard. “It’s the truth.”
“It won’t change our friendship though. You’ll have to come visit over the holidays. The boys’ club won’t be the same without our main girl,” he says, sounding happier.
I push out a little laugh. I want to be optimistic, but the thought of leaving has my stomach in knots. “Hey, on a side note, have you talked to Sarah at all?”
“Nah,” he says.
“Couldn’t keep your interest?” I ask, thinking back to the party Wednesday night.
“Like I said, I’m not looking for anything but fun,” he replies. And I swear I can hear him grinning through the phone.
“Always on the hunt.” I laugh.
“Exactly. Maybe I need to have a chat with Noah. Sounds like he’s got some good moves on how to get a girl … worked up.”
“I’ll never live this moment down, will I?” I ask, rolling my eyes.
“Well, thanks for the advice anyway. I’ll see you at school tomorrow.”
“Anytime,” he says, hanging up.
I throw myself onto the bed, trying to decide what to do. After talking with Mohammad, I just feel more confused. I can’t do anything about what Noah said, except ignore it. I have to pretend that he never said it and hope that’s the end of it.
I mean, it’s not like he sat me down, took my hands in his, and romantically professed his love for me. He made it a joke, a game even. I’m sure he wasn’t even being serious about it.
I think about what Mohammad said.
About telling Noah.
I probably should. But at the same time, why should I have to? Is it my job to police their friendship? I don’t need to take what he said so literally.
Besides, maybe he was still sleepy.
Or he was just teasing.
Or maybe I’m just telling myself that.
I decide what I need to do is stop thinking, so I get up off the bed and go down for some breakfast. I’ll scope things out and see how Noah acts.
Maybe I will casually slide the fact that I’m dating Harry into a conversation, and Noah won’t blink an eye, sparing us both the awkwardness.
But the idea of telling him sends a pain through my chest. One that I can’t dwell on.
“Morning,” I greet, walking into the kitchen to find Gene making toast.
Helen is sitting at the table, the newspaper held open in her hands.
“Morning,” Gene replies, looking over his shoulder at me.
“How’d you sleep, dear?” Helen asks, smiling at me over the top of the paper.
I flash my eyes at her, hoping she isn’t trying to catch me lying about sneaking out front the night before.
I mean, it’s not like I really went anywhere, but I don’t know if they would be upset about me having a midnight visitor.
“Soundly,” I reply, nodding my head. My lips are pulled into a smile, and I do my best to look convincing.
“Good.” Gene smiles. “A good night’s sleep is always important.”
I nod my head some more.
“You seemed tired last night,” Helen comments. “I’m glad you got some rest.”
The timer on the toaster goes off, and Gene turns, withdrawing his toast.
“Care for some?” he asks, placing jam and butter on the kitchen table.
“That sounds great. Thanks,” I reply, putting water into the kettle. I turn it on to boil and grab the French press. “I’ll make us some coffee.”
Well, more so me coffee, but I know Helen will have a cup. When the kettle rings out, I pour grounds into the press, add in the water, and place it on the table to steep.
“Here’s your toast,” Gene says, setting a plate in front of me.
“Thank you,” I reply, reaching for the jam.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you that I got almond butter and bananas from the shop,” Helen says with excitement.
I drop the spoon back into the jam, turning my head toward her. “Really?” I ask, shocked.
Because she’s either psychic and as powerful as Mohammad previously suggested that moms are or …
“Noah had mentioned it.” She smiles, taking in my surprise.
My mind flits back to our conversation, about how Noah told me I didn’t need to worry about that stuff. To just ask.
“That was really thoughtful of him,” I admit. Because it was. But as the words come out of my mouth, all I can hear in my head is Mohammad’s voice scolding me. I push it away, focusing back on Helen and Gene.
“He’s not always the most obvious in showing he cares. But Noah can be quite thoughtful in his actions.” Helen smiles warmly.
“He’s always been about the small things,” Gene agrees, nodding.
The small things.
“That does sound like Noah,” I admit, trying to stop feeling so uncomfortable. “I think he probably is the most thoughtful person I know.”
“He’s good about figuring out what you need,” Gene replies, buttering his toast as I go to the pantry, pulling out the new jar of almond butter and one of the bananas, taking them back to the table.
“So, what’s on the agenda today?” Helen asks, stealing a bite of Gene’s toast.
The toast reminds me of the night I spent at Harry’s.
Lying in bed with Noah and Harry, eating and talking.
Waking up the next morning, wrapped up in Harry’s arms.
I instantly flush, thankful Helen isn’t as powerful as Mohammad believes and can’t read my mind.
“Well,” I say, clearing my throat, “I have a ton of homework and studying. Tomorrow is my Latin test, and our statistics project is due. And Tuesday, my art project.” I open up the jar of almond butter, sliding a spoonful across my toast.
“Were you taking Latin at your school in New York?” Gene asks.
I shake my head. “No. I was—am in French. So, I’m doing my best to follow along. Mohammad has actually been a big help.”
I cut up the banana, putting it on top of the almond butter, and drizzle some honey on it.
I take my first bite, my eyes practically rolling in pleasure at the deliciousness.
“Mohammad’s never been the most driven student. I’m glad he’s been able to help you,” Helen confides.
“Me too. I was also considering taking your advice. I think I might reach out to Naomi today. See if she might be interested in hanging out.”
“Oh,” Helen coos, rising up from the table, dropping her newspaper. She walks around, pulling me into a hug. “That’s wonderful,” she tells me, obviously having a proud mom moment.
I can’t help but smile and hug her back.
“Thanks,” I whisper, pulling away.
Gene’s looking at us, confused. He just sighs before his eyes land on the French press. He pours two cups of coffee, handing one to Helen and me, before clearing his plate.
“Have you seen Noah this morning?” he asks.
I nod. “Yep, I did.” Unfortunately. “I saw him in the bathroom. He is up and at least has brushed his teeth.”
“Probably playing those video games,” he mutters.
“He deserves a little down time, doesn’t he?” Helen asks, pointing her gaze at Gene.
I sit back, remaining quiet, not wanting to get involved.
“He does,” Gene concedes, his lips pulling into a straight line.
“Don’t worry. After breakfast, I’ll have him start on his homework, so you two can get to the pub this afternoon.” Helen smiles, and Gene’s face softens as he places his hands on her shoulders, kissing her head.
“What was that about?” I ask after Gene’s moved out of the kitchen.
“Oh,” Helen says, swatting her hand through the air, “it’s nothing. I think Gene just misses spending time with Noah. And with Mia gone, he’s probably more aware of it. They typically spend Sunday afternoon watching football at the pub.”
“That’s nice they’re able to spend time together,” I admit, my face softening.
“It’s very important,” Helen agrees. “Family is everything.”
“Helen, can I ask you about Harry?” I say, my mind flicking back to him.
Helen pulls in her cheeks, her gaze slipping down to her coffee in front of her. “What do you want to know?”
“What is going to be done about … it?”
“Did Harry tell you anything yesterday?” She sighs, and I sense she’s not sure what to say. She doesn’t want to betray Harry’s confidence, and I hope that’s not what I’m asking her to do.
“Things after Noah’s game yesterday were terrible, honestly. Harry told everyone he got into a fight. I was so upset about everything. I couldn’t stand to listen to him lie. But then we talked later, and he told me that he was sorry. That he didn’t know what else to do. He said that you two are going to talk to his mom.”
“That about covers it. Harry called last night when Gene and I were out. He called his mom yesterday and asked her to come home. He’s going to let me know when she’s there, so we can all talk.”
I nod, feeling surprised. Why didn’t Harry tell me last night that he had called his mom? Why am I finding out today from Helen?
But I guess the better question is, why am I asking Helen and not Harry?
I let out a heavy breath, realizing this is exactly why I didn’t want to be Harry’s girlfriend yet. We’re close, but there are always things I feel like I don’t know. Things that he hasn’t kept from me but hasn’t shared either.
“I’m glad you two made up. You seemed … worn down last night,” Helen adds, sensing my distress.
“I am too. Harry’s important to me.”
Helen nods, pulling her newspaper back up in front of her, our conversation apparently over.
I clear off my plate and then go upstairs and give Harry a call. But first, I text Mohammad, asking for Naomi’s number. A second later, he replies, so I add her as a contact and open up a new text.
Me: Hey, Naomi. It’s Mallory from school. Look, I really could use a day out of the house and some girl time. I’m down for anything. Any ideas?
I hit Send, hoping that she’ll take pity on me and reply.
While I wait for Naomi to hopefully respond, I decide I’ll call Harry.
I hope he isn’t home alone, dreading the conversation to come with his mom.
“Hello?” Harry answers.
“Hi.” I smile into the phone. “How are you?” I ask, relieved to hear his voice.
“I’m good. Just at the house.”
“Not with Mohammad?” I ask, wanting him to be the one to tell me.
“Nah. Apparently, Mum’s coming home from her trip today. Figured I should be home when she gets here.”
“Do you want me to come by?” I ask, wanting to support him.
I can hear Harry breathe into the phone, but then he responds, “No. I need to do this on my own.”
“All right,” I say, trying not to sound hurt.
“You wanted to be here for me,” he says, and I can hear the happiness in his voice.
“Of course I did. You can depend on me, Harry.”
After last night, I want things to be different with us. I want him to depend on me more, to really let me in.
“I know, babe,” Harry replies. “Your support, it means a lot.”
“Good.” I smile. “If you need anything, just let me know, all right? And I’ll be there.”
“How about I ring you tonight? Let you know how things go?”
I grin, feeling my heart practically burst with his words. “I would really love that.”
“You’re so chuffed,” he says, laughing into the phone.
“Of course I am happy. I’m talking to you. Harry, can I ask you something personal?”
“What?” Harry responds.
“Are you scared?”
I’m hoping he doesn’t take the question the wrong way.
He’s quiet for a moment, but he finally says, “I’m not scared. But I don’t know how things are going to go either.”
“At least Helen will be there with you,” I say, wanting to comfort him.
“Yeah, I’m hoping she does most of the talking. But even if not, I’m sure Mum will put two and two together when she sees my face,” he says, his voice straining.
“It’s going to be hard, Harry. But you can do this. I promise. I-I can’t even imagine what you’re going through right now.” I feel my stomach start to knot up.
“Yeah. Mohammad wasn’t too happy about me leaving his place this morning. Everyone just seems so concerned for me. It’s freaking me out a bit. I wish everyone would just act normal.”
“It’s because we all care, Harry. But how about a new topic? You know, I was thinking the other day, there’s this super-cute boy I’m dating. And you see, I’m starting to wonder if he’s ever going to ask me out for a hot date night or if I’m going to have to ask him out myself.”
I smile to myself, hoping he appreciates the change of conversation.
“Really …” Harry starts, almost sounding taken aback. But I can already tell he’s going along with it. “What a silly man, leaving a woman floundering like that. I can’t believe that he hasn’t taken you out on a proper date yet! What would you say, by chance, if he asked you out for Tuesday night?”
“I think I would probably ask him what he had in mind,” I reply, laughing. And I silently cheer for myself.
Because Helen would be proud that I’m making him work for it. Honestly, I would be happy, sitting and just talking with Harry, but maybe this will give him something else to think about. Something to look forward to.
“Maybe he wants to surprise you,” Harry coos.
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