The first book in The Keatyn Chronicles delivers a breathless fairy-tale romance with swoon-worthy characters, suspense, and a glittering celebrity world. Fans of Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and reality TV will devour this pulse-pounding, sexy teen drama set against the backdrop of Hollywood and an East Coast boarding school.
Keatyn has everything she ever dreamed. Her life is following the script she wrote for the perfect high school experience. She’s popular, goes to the best parties, dates the hottest guy, and sits at the most-coveted lunch table. She’s just not sure she wants it anymore. Because, really, things aren’t all that perfect. Her best friend is threatening to tell everyone her perfect relationship is a scam. Her perfect boyfriend gets drunk at every party they go to. It’s exhausting always trying to look and act perfect. And, deep down, she isn’t sure if she has any true friends.
To add to the drama, her movie star mom has a creepy stalker. A hot, older man flirts with her and tells her they should make a movie together. And she’s crushing on an adorable surfer. Dating him would mean committing social suicide. So she writes a new scrip. One where all the pieces of her life will come together in perfect harmony. But little does she know, there's someone who will do anything to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Release date: January 7, 2014
Publisher: Swoonworthy Books
Print pages: 327
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Listen to a sample
Friday, May 6th
Come play with Cush.
“Keatyn baby, come see The Cushman,” a tipsy Brandon Cushman says to me.
I stay where I am.
He walks over, slings his arm around my shoulder, and surveys the mess that is his house.
“Another epic party delivered. Saw your bff was hooking up in the guest room. Watched a little before they kicked me out.”
“Would that be Vanessa or RiAnne?”
“Vanessa. I don’t know why she got so pissed. It’s not like I haven’t seen it all before.”
I nod my head. Vanessa has been with pretty much everyone.
“So where’s your boyfriend?”
“Bathroom.” I roll my eyes. “Puking.”
“Sander’s the man. You crashing here?”
“No, I’m taking him home. I’m supposed to go surfing in, like, three hours.”
Cush flashes me a grin so sexy it ought to be trademarked. “You looked hot dancing on the bar tonight. When you gonna dump The Sandman? Come play with Cush?”
Cush is a total player, and he doesn’t try to hide it. He’s good looking and popular, so his standard pickup line of Let’s hook up works on most girls. And why wouldn’t it? He’s six feet tall, has a soccer-toned body, and bright blue eyes. During soccer season, his dark blond hair gets buzzed, and he rarely shaves. Tonight there is a fair amount of stubble on his cute face.
He puts his face close to mine, like he’s going to kiss me, but instead he scratches his scruffiness up the side of my cheek and laughs.
I rub my cheek. “Gee, thanks. Now I have Cushburn.”
Cush gently pushes my hair behind my ear and studies my cheek. “It is a little red. Why don’t you come up to my room? I’ll kiss it and make it feel better.”
I roll my eyes at him again and point toward the bathroom. “You wanna make me feel better, go check on The Sandman.”
On cue, Sander, my boyfriend of over a year, stumbles out of the bathroom. He drank too much tonight, as usual.
Cush grabs a bottle of water out of the mini fridge and tosses it to him.
Of course, Sander misses, and it goes skittering across the tile.
Cush and I try to hide our giggles as we watch him drunkenly chase it.
“Fuck you, Cush,” Sander says, after he finally corrals the bottle. The guys do the drunken guy hug but skip the I love you, man. Cush isn’t drunk enough for that.
I survey the room littered with all the popular kids from my school and think back to how I imagined my life just a few years ago. How I begged my mom to let me stay in Malibu. How, for the first time in my life, I was going to put down roots. How I dreamed of being popular. I dreamed high school would be like what I'd seen in the movies. I wanted to live out one big high school musical.
I can honestly say, I never imagined a scene like this.
My best friend, Vanessa, is drunk, high, and hooking up with some guy she just met, but thought was hot.
RiAnne was making out on the couch with a guy from the lacrosse team, but a few minutes ago they headed into one of the bedrooms.
Cush’s parties used to be fun back when there were about ten of us. Spin the bottle, beer pong, movies, some mild hooking up, all of us thinking we were so cool to be topless in the hot tub.
The more fun we had, the more people came, and the more wild the parties got. Tonight there were close to a hundred people.
“When’s your mom back?” I ask Cush.
“Saturday night,” he says with a frown, eyeing the beer bottles strewn all around.
“I’ll come over after surfing to help you clean up. Cleaning ladies come Sunday?”
Cush gives me a hug. “You know it. You’ve got the code. Wake me up when you get here.” He flashes his sexy grin at me again. “Or, better yet, join me in bed.”
I help Sander stagger out to the gaudy purple Lamborghini he bought himself for his eighteenth birthday. He falls asleep the minute I start driving. I look at him, softly snoring in the seat next to me. With his hazel eyes, great smile, and hair that usually has more product in it than mine, the former child star has grown up quite nicely.
After traveling the world while my mom made movies, living in so many different places, and only having tutors, I was so excited to go to a real high school. I used to spend my days writing scripts for my perfect life. Scenes of becoming popular. Magical parties where I’d meet a cute boy, he’d kiss me, and we’d fall in love. Scenes where the captain of the basketball team would ask me to dance; we’d kiss, and fall in love. Scenes where that popular boy would kiss me in the moonlight and ask me to be his girlfriend. Scenes where we’re in the center of a school dance slowly swaying while everyone does a choreographed dance around us. Scenes where he’d shoot the winning basket and be on top of the team’s shoulders, but would find me in the crowd and blow me a kiss.
I wanted two things from my high school experience: I wanted to be the most popular girl and date the most popular boy.
And it all happened.
High school is a lot trickier than I ever imagined, and it sorta sucks sometimes.
It’s hard to juggle what your friends want, what your parents want, and what the guys want, and still get what you want.
Especially when you’re not sure anymore what you want.
And it doesn’t help that I’ve been starting to think that RiAnne and Vanessa only became friends with me because of who my mom is.
My mom is Abby Johnston. Yeah, that Abby, America’s favorite romantic comedy actress. America’s sweetheart.
And really, now that you know who my mom is, you probably don’t need me to tell you about my sort-of stepdad, action film star Tommy Stevens, or their four-year-old triplets (Avery, Emery, and Ivery) and two-year-old daughter (Gracelyn). They are all constantly photographed as they travel around the world making movies.
I’ve been lucky to avoid that the last few years. I’ve lived here in Malibu, gone to school, taken dance classes, played soccer, and surfed.
Sander came to school the middle of my freshman year. He had been a popular child star who decided to take a break and be a normal kid.
And, as one would expect, lots of girls were vying for his affections.
She was popular among our freshman class and lost her virginity to a cute junior boy, but it’s not like she ruled the school. She saw Sander when he was registering and deemed him her ticket to the top. She would date him, and they would become the most popular couple.
Obviously, we had written nearly identical scripts and were both trying out for the same role, but Vanessa was sure she’d get the part. And if she couldn’t win it on her own, she’d buy and scheme her way to the top.
I’ve never seen anyone plan so extensively. She bribed the receptionist into telling her when his first day was. She bought and planned multiple outfits for his first two weeks of school. She even had backup outfits for all the possible dates he might ask her on. She gave the school counselor a spa package she just didn’t have the time to use before it expired, so she could be his new student guide. She had RiAnne and me pore over his old fan sites and quiz her on his favorite food (Mexican), the color of his eyes (hazel), his sign (Sagittarius), and his dogs’ names (James and Dean).
He showed up a day earlier than expected. I was in the office dropping off some Tommy Stevens autographed memorabilia for a school auction when he said hi to me. We hit it off because we had so much in common.
Vanessa was extremely pissed when she found out he’d asked me to show him around. She texted me about my traitorous ways, but she was all smiles and my very best friend in the entire world when I brought him to sit with us at lunch.
Vanessa and I had met at freshman orientation. She and RiAnne had been best friends since grade school, and they were really nice to me. They knew who my mom was, of course, and I was super excited to be part of their group because they were both pretty and popular. As long as RiAnne and I did whatever Vanessa wanted us to do, everyone was happy.
But Sander changed the game. After a few weeks of hanging out, he asked me to be his girlfriend. Vanessa pretended to be happy for me. Or maybe she was; I’m still not sure. But either way, she was going to use our relationship to climb the school’s social ladder.
By the next school year, we were sitting at the popular table with Sander, the hottest senior guys, and the coolest senior girls. Vanessa turned into a bit of a bitch, but I didn’t say anything about it.
How could I? I had written the perfect high school script and was living it.
I didn’t care if she was bossy and always planning our next move, our next party, and our next outfit. I was happy with Sander. He was sweet, a gentleman, and my family loved him.
And I loved the attention and the popularity.
I was exactly where I wanted to be.
I just never pictured him getting drunk at every party we went to.
Saturday, May 7th
Abs to freaking die for.
I sleep for a couple hours, then get up, pull my hair back, brush my teeth, and throw on a bikini. When I step out onto the deck, I feel a cold morning breeze.
I run back inside, grab my full wetsuit, and then run up the beach. Damian is already in front of Brooklyn’s house. Damian Moran is one of my best friends. His dad is the director, Matt Moran, and I’ve known him for as long as I can remember. He’s also the voice and guitar behind Twisted Dreams, the band that recently got signed to a label and is going on tour in Europe. Pretty soon, every girl under fifteen will be squealing when they hear the name Damian because his voice is so dreamy.
“Hey, Keats,” he says. “What’s up?”
“Rough night? You been partying like a rock star?”
“Ha. No. You know I don’t drink much. I was just out until almost four.” I smile at him. “But I couldn’t miss surfing with my two favorite boys.”
“More like one favorite boy,” Damian says under his breath.
“Shut up. I have a boyfriend.” I turn around and see Brooklyn walking out of his garage, carrying my board.
“S’up, Keats,” he says to me. “I just waxed your board to perfection.”
“Thanks.” I smile at the boy who stole my heart the day I met him. He’s eighteen, has shaggy blond hair, and eyes the color of the ocean. He’s tan, almost six feet, and kinda thin, but he has the strong core of a surfer.
As in abs to freaking die for.
“Don’t give me any shit, okay. It’s cold this morning, so I’m definitely wearing my wetsuit.” I roll the full wetsuit up my legs, over my waist, and then struggle with one of the sleeves.
Brooklyn grabs the sleeve, turns it right-side out, and smirks at me. “Helps when it’s not inside out.”
Wetsuits are a pain in the ass to get into because they fit so tight. I turn toward Brooklyn, pull the sleeve on, and do a little shimmy to get it up over my shoulders. Brooklyn tries to help me just as I succeed, and his hand ends up sprawled across my bikini top.
I can barely breathe. I think all the air just got sucked off the beach.
Brooklyn removes his hand from my boob, grabs the big wetsuit zipper from down by my crotch, and slowly zips up the suit. His eyes are glued to the zipper as it snakes its way up my body.
I swear, I think he purposely tries to torture me.
His eyes move upward to my face, and he smiles at me, flashing perfect white teeth that contrast with his bronzed skin. That smile always makes my heart beat just a little faster.
“Now that Keats has her skirt on, we can get out there,” he says to Damian.
Damian looks down at his chest. “I’m nipping out just standing here. I don’t care if you think wearing a wetsuit makes me a girl. I’m cold.” He runs back up to Brooklyn’s house, leaving us alone. It’s safe to say that I may have a teensy crush on the boy.
“You look tired,” he tells me.
“I didn’t get much sleep last night. I was at a party.”
“With your boy-friend?” he drawls, making boyfriend sound like a dirty word. For some reason I’ve yet to determine, Brooklyn doesn’t like Sander.
“Yes, with my boyfriend and all my friends from school. What’d you do?”
“Just hung out with Damian. Played some COD. Chilled. You know he leaves in a week?”
“Yeah, I know. I’m going to the dinner his dad is having for him tomorrow night. You’re going, right?”
“I don’t know. You know I don’t like that ritzy shit.”
“B, you live in a house in Malibu. That’s ritzy shit.”
“You know what I mean. It’s at some pretentious hotel. Damian has to wear a fucking suit. How’s that a party for him?”
“Damian looks good in a suit. You would too. And I got the cutest dress to wear. And the shoes I got—ohmigawd, they’re adorable.”
“Your boyfriend coming?”
“No, I’m going with Mom and Tommy. You could come with me.”
Or you could stalk me.
Or kiss me.
Or date me.
Or love me.
Or take me to your room and attack me.
“Will you help me figure out what to wear?”
I smile at him. “That’s practically my specialty.”
He shakes his head back and forth like it’s a tough decision.
“They’re having a seafood buffet before dinner.” He loves seafood. I figure that will tip the scales in favor of his going.
Brooklyn grins at me and then touches my hand. “Bet it won’t be as good as our spicy shrimp.”
I can’t help but grin back. Spicy shrimp at Buddy’s is kind of our thing. Brooklyn and I hang out a lot, but it’s always just as friends.
All guys want in a girl’s pants.
I come in from the beach to find Mom and Tommy having what appears to be a serious conversation. I overhear the words sex scene and know what they’re talking about. Mom recently filmed some very steamy scenes for the movie she’s shooting. The buzz is that this role will finally win her an Academy Award. She had been wavering back and forth about whether or not she should do the scenes and how they might affect her good-girl image.
“Sit down, honey. Tommy and I were just talking about sex.”
I roll my eyes at them. “I really don’t need to hear any more about your sex scenes. Aren’t you done with them by now?”
“I am, but this is a good lesson for you. I’ve been very careful about my image. Although sex sells, the love scenes I’ve done in the past have been very clean. Practically chaste. But for this film, I felt the sex scenes were necessary for me to immerse myself in the role. Now that it’s over, and I’ve gotten to see how they’ve put the dailies together, I know I made the right decision. The scenes make the film more powerful.”
“Oh gosh. Am I going to be embarrassed by them? Are my friends going to see you naked?!”
“Not completely naked. But the scenes are very graphic, pretty erotic. Although they couldn’t show everything and keep the R rating, it’s still pretty obvious what’s going on. I don’t know what will end up in the final cut, but what I saw showed my boobs.” She stops and laughs. “Well, they were stunt boobs, and then pretty much everything except the actual vajayjay.”
“Ohmigawd, Mom, I am not four. You can say vagina. Hell, someone already taught Gracie that word.”
Tommy laughs and raises his hand. “That was me. She walked in as I was getting out of the shower, and we had to have the whole boy- and girl-parts talk. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t bring myself to call it a vajayjay. Plus, I read in some parenting magazine that it’s best to tell them the proper names.”
“You’ve read a parenting magazine?” I ask.
“There was one left on your mom’s set. I was bored. Flipped through it.”
“Back to the subject at hand,” Mom says. “You may be a little embarrassed by them, Keatyn. Like I said, they’re pretty graphic. There’s even a shot of a penis nearing the backside. Although, once again, it was a stunt penis and a stunt backside; but it doesn’t look that way.”
I cringe. “Oh. God. You better win an award for this is all I’ve got to say.”
“If you decide to act someday, you’ll have to make decisions like this. Tommy says he’ll support me and the kids if everyone hates it.”
“Everyone will love it,” Tommy says.
Mom laughs. “Even that fan of mine has been encouraging.”
“What’d the creeper say this time?” I ask.
“Nothing really. Just that he’d heard I was probably going to win awards for the role. Wished me good luck.”
“I guess that’s kinda sweet,” I say. “So you’re sure it won’t hurt your image?”
Tommy puts his hand on his chest and pretends to be serious. “Honestly, I’m a little worried it might hurt my image.”
Mom and I laugh. Tommy used to be the man in Hollywood who always had a different girl on his arm.
Tommy says, “So how’s your life going, baby? Heard the Lambo rumbling in at four this morning.”
“I had to drive, because Sander got drunk. Again. I’m thinking about breaking up with him, honestly.”
“Really?” Mom says with surprise. “You’ve been together for so long, and you’re just the cutest couple.”
“I know. I mean, I can’t do it now. Prom is next week. I have my dress. We have plans. But after Prom, I think I might. So, hey, good talk. I’m gonna change, go to the dance studio, then run over to Cush’s for a while.”
Mom looks at me with a shrewd eye. “Is there something between you and Brandon? You go over there a lot without Sander.”
“That’s because Sander thinks he’s too good to have to clean up, and I don’t think Cush should have to do it himself. Besides, Cush is a player; not really my type.”
“It’s very sweet of you to help him, honey, but I gotta say, players can be fun.” She gives Tommy her sexy smile and kisses his neck.
“I know all about your love affair and don’t need to see any PDA, thank you very much.” I roll my eyes again as Tommy pulls Mom onto his lap.
I shouldn’t roll my eyes, though. I totally wish someone wanted to play me.
Like maybe my boyfriend?
I start to walk out of the kitchen, but I stop. “So I don’t get it, Mom. You always warned me about players. About how all they want is to get in your pants. About how I should wait until I’m in love. So what do you do when a guy loves you, but he doesn’t want in your pants?”
“What do you mean?” Tommy asks. He looks very confused. “That makes no sense. All guys want in girls’ pants.”
“Not Sander. He wants to wait until he’s married.”
Tommy scrunches up his nose like he just smelled something bad, but Mom clutches her chest and says, “Oh, that’s so sweet. He’s such a sweet boy.”
“Mom, you had sex in high school.”
“Yes, but I told you that as a cautionary tale. A don’t-get-drunk-and-do-it-in-the-backseat-with-some-jerk tale. A don’t-follow-in-my-footsteps tale. Besides, you’re sixteen. You’re so young.”
“You were fifteen, Mom!”
“I was seventeen,” Tommy grins.
“Really? You?” Tommy had the reputation of being quite the ladies’ man. The year before he met my mom, he was named The Sexiest Man Alive. The article adamantly stated that no woman would ever tie him down. Obviously, they were wrong. Now he’s got Mom, me, and four daughters under the age of five.
Tommy shrugs. “I didn’t always look this good.” He flexes a bicep for us.
Mom giggles and kisses his arm.
I decide to leave before I have to see any more PDA.
I’ll lick you all over.
I unlock Cush’s front door and let myself in. The alarm beeps, so I punch in his code. I don’t bother to check the guest bedrooms and the couches downstairs. If the alarm is set, it means everyone is gone. All’s clear.
I drag my tired ass up the stairs to his room. He is sprawled sideways across his king-sized bed, and has one foot sticking out from under the covers. He says his foot has to breathe at night, which cracks me up. His blinds and blackout curtains are tightly shut, and the room feels cool.
I could so go to sleep right now.
I gently sit down on the edge of the bed.
Cush’s arms shoot out from under the covers.
“Ahhhh!!” I scream as he rolls me onto the bed and slowly opens his big blue eyes. “You scared me half to death!”
He laughs out loud. “Ha! I knew I’d get you!”
His arms tangle around me and he throws a leg on top of me to pin me down.
“Admit it. You’ve been dying to get in bed with me.”
My face breaks into a grin, and I sass back, “Thought you didn’t do that stuff in your own bed?” Cush locks his and his Mom’s bedroom doors during parties. When Cush hooks up, even he uses a guest room.
“I might make an exception for you.”
His eyes glisten at me, making my insides feel warm and my stomach feel like it’s just spun itself into a knot.
“Doubtful,” I say, but I don’t think I’m very believable because I can’t help but grin. I know it’s just Cush, but I like the idea of being wanted in bed.
Our eyes meet, and my grin fades as I get lost in his pretty blue eyes.
“You smell salty,” he says. “Like the ocean.” He leans closer to me and licks up the side of my face. “You taste salty too. Maybe I should grab a bottle of tequila and we should have some fun.” He moves his eyebrows up and down. “What do you say? We’ll do some shots and I’ll lick you all over.”
“I’d say I had dance class for an hour after I surfed. The salt isn’t all from the ocean.”
“Gosh, aren’t you tired? I’m tired just hearing about it.”
“I’m running on about two hours’ sleep, so yeah, I’m tired. We should probably go clean while I still have the energy.”
“I think you need a nap.”
“A nap does sound good, but . . .”
His face is still hovering just above mine. “That or I get the tequila out.”
“And lick me?” I say, like it’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard. But I’m so lying. The thought of someone like Cush licking me everywhere makes me feel very hot.
He puts his elbow on the pillow behind my head, props himself up, and looks at me seriously. “Are you happy with Sander?”
“Tell me the truth,” he says.
“Most of the time. He’s sweet, and he treats me well. I just—I don’t know . . . lately, I’ve been thinking maybe we should take a break. But Prom is next week, so it’s not like I can do anything about it right now.”
“You said he treats you well but, from what I can see, you’re always taking care of him. When does he take care of you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Like last night. When you went in the bedroom.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“I probably shouldn’t say this.”
“Cush, just tell me.” I pretend to be calm, but inside I’m panicking. Does he know? Did he figure out that we aren’t doing it? That we never have? Should I tell him? Do I dare tell him the truth I’ve been hiding from everyone?
“You always come out looking just as perfect as when you went in. I mean, everyone knows you’re doing it.”
I blow out a big breath of air. Thank goodness. He doesn’t know.
He continues. “I just wonder if it’s any good.”
“Yeah, shouldn’t your hair be messed up because his hands were in it? Shouldn’t your lips be red from too much kissing? Shouldn’t your mascara be smudged? Shouldn’t your legs be weak because you’ve been thoroughly fucked?”
I swear to God, I think my panties just melted off my body. How can Cush just talking about sex make me hot? Something is seriously wrong with me. I just need to do it. Go to Prom with him. Break up with him. Then tell Brooklyn how I feel.
Except I told Vanessa I was considering it, and she got pissed. Told me I was stupid. How we’re the perfect couple, and how it would adversely affect my status.
I bite my lower lip. “Um . . .”
“He doesn’t do it for you, does he?”
“Do what?” It’s very hard for me to concentrate when he’s this close to me. He’s still leaning over me. Those lips just above mine. Teasing me with their every move.
“He doesn’t make you hot. I’ve never heard any noises.”
I push my head deeper into the pillow to back away from him. “Do you listen at the door?”
The tops of his cheeks turn slightly pink. “No, I just . . . sometimes you hear.”
“You’re right, kinda. He doesn’t really do it for me, so I am going to break up with him after Prom.”
Cush’s eyes sparkle. He has gorgeous eyes. And adorable dimples.
“Yeah, there’s this guy I’ve kinda had a crush on for a while. He’s one of the guys I surf with. It’s probably useless though. I don’t think he’s ever going to think of me as anything more than a friend.”
Cush plops his head down on the pillow and sighs. “Yeah, I know what that feels like. Hey, so I’m going back to sleep.”
He closes his eyes and seems distant all of a sudden.
Is he mad at me? Did I say something wrong?
While I try to figure out the answer, I close my eyes and immediately fall asleep.
I wake up with that feeling. That feeling someone is staring at you. My little sisters do it all the time. I’ll wake up, and their little faces will be four inches away from mine, and I’ll wonder how long they’ve been there.
I open my eyes and see Cush. “Tell me I wasn’t snoring.”
He grins sweetly at me. “No, you looked peaceful. You ready to tackle the cleanup?”
“Not really, but I suppose we better.”
We go down to the laundry room, grab a couple of big, black trash bags, and start cleaning up. We work our way through empty beer bottles, empty pizza boxes, and random half-eaten pieces of pizza.
An hour and half later, I wipe off the bar, throw away a few stray empties, fluff the pillows, and look around.
“We’re a good team,” Cush says.
I smile at him and nod in agreement.
“You have any plans tonight?” he asks.
“Not really. Sander has something going on, and Vanessa and RiAnne are going to some benefit with RiAnne’s parents. The nanny took the girls down to Sea World today, so they’ll go to sleep early. I was just gonna do a little homework, relax. Maybe watch a movie.”
“Any chance you’d wanna hang out with me? I just got a text from my mom. She changed her plans—some fashion emergency—and now she won’t be home until tomorrow night.”
“Cool,” he says. “So, what do you want to do?”
I realize there is something I’d rather do than just hang out, and Cush might be just the guy to do it with.
“Don’t laugh, okay. But would you want to go dancing? The guys I surf with only go to dive bars. Sander took years of dance lessons, but he won’t go to clubs with me. And when we dance, he actually gets pissed at me if I dance too close or like grind on him.”
Cush shakes his head in disbelief. “If it weren’t for the fact that he dates you, I’d think he was gay.” He bows to me like I’m a princess. “Miss Douglas, I would be honored to have you grind up against me all night. You have a club in mind?”
“Actually, yeah. There’s this place I go . . .”
He interrupts me. “Who do you go with?”
“Oh, um, well, this is gonna sound weird, but I sorta go by myself. Every Thursday night. This guy I know, Troy, is the DJ there. He invited me on opening night and I had so much fun I’ve gone back every Thursday since. I just go and dance. You still have your fake ID, don’t you?”
“I don’t think we’ll need it. I always drive Tommy’s black Ferrari, and the valets and the doormen all know me, so I never get carded.”
“I know your parents are cool, but I’m sorta surprised they let you go.”
“They know Troy. He’s in that band with my friend, Damian. Tommy talked to him before he let me go the first time and made him promise to look out for me. They also know that I just go because I like to dance. I don’t get drunk or make bad decisions or anything.”
“Bet you don’t wait in line either.”
“Well, no, but it’s because I had a connection, and now I’m a regular, I guess. Although Troy always gives me shit about not bringing my friends.”
“You seriously go by yourself? Like all by yourself?”
“Yeah. Sometimes it’s nice to get away. To not worry about taking care of Sander or my friends. Who’s drunk? Who’s doing drugs? Who’s leaving with a guy she shouldn’t be? Who’s going to hook up with some random guy in the bathroom?”
“See. Just like I said. Who takes care of you?”
“I guess I do.”
He smiles at me. “Do you drink while you’re there?”
“I have a little routine. As soon as I get there, I down three shots. Then I drink water the rest of the night and dance my ass off.”
“Let’s do it. Where is this place?”
“Most people call it the Side Door, but it doesn’t have an actual name. It’s in a crappy warehouse area, and you enter from this little rusted metal side door. But it’s huge inside. Three levels. Lights. Girls dancing in cages hung from the rafters. Great music. I’ve always heard Saturday nights are insane. I’m so excited to go. But I should warn you, I look different when I go there.”
“Well, I wear lots of makeup and usually put my hair in a high ponytail.”
“I see you in a ponytail at soccer all the time.”
“Yeah, but it’s the makeup. The super short slinky little dresses. The sky high heels.”
Cush gives me the look. The look I’ve seen him give so many girls right before they fall into bed with him. He can be quite charming even when he’s not trying to be.
“You’re making me hard,” he says.
I punch him in the shoulder. “Shut up.”
“So not to sound like a girl, but what am I supposed to wear?”
“I don’t know. Let’s go find something.”
We run up to his bedroom, and I start digging through his closet. Cush dresses pretty much the same way every day. His school wardrobe consists of athletic shorts, fitted t-shirts that show off his toned chest, and brightly colored tennis shoes.
I survey his walk-in closet and notice a pile of boxes in the back. “What’s all this?”
“It’s the stuff my mom brings home from her trips.” Cush’s mom is the president of a large textiles conglomerate. They sell fabric to all the major luxury brands, so she travels the world and is rarely home. “She tries to make herself feel better about being gone all the time.”
I start digging through the pile and quickly realize it’s literally a treasure trove.
“Cush!! Ohmigawd! This is a Prada backpack. Do you know how expensive these are? We’re throwing away the red Nike backpack you’ve had since seventh grade, and you’re gonna start using this.”
He nods his head in a half yes, half no direction. “Fine.”
I continue to open one box after another and get more and more excited. “Oh, cashmere sweaters from Harrods! Ahhh!! Look at these Jimmy Choo loafers! They’re incredible!! And a Louis Vuitton carry on. Gucci. Burberry. Hermes. A Rolex!?” I turn around and hand him a small box. “You’re letting a Rolex sit in here? Are you freaking nuts?”
“None of that stuff looks like me.”
“It does now. Bye, bye, boring basketball shorts. Hello, international Cushman.”
He shrugs. Rolls his eyes at me.
“You’re trying this stuff on. All of it. Like, right now.”
He gives me a sly grin. “You just wanna see me naked.”
“Yes, Cush, that is all I ever dream of. You in a closet with a pile of designer clothes all around you.” I stop. Have a flash of déjà vu and realize that does sort of sound familiar. “Actually, I have had a dream like that, but it was just me in the closet with every designer shoe ever made. And they were all lined up in glass-front cases in this massive two-story closet . . . ”
He raises a hand to halt me. “Fine. Fine. I’ll try them on if you will stop talking about shoes.”
I lie on my stomach across his bed and throw out orders of what to try on with what.
“Do you not wear this stuff because it pisses your mom off?”
He walks out of the closet looking smoking hot. He’s got on an expensive pair of straight-cut, dark-washed jeans, a blue paisley button-up shirt that was custom made by a London tailor, and the Jimmy Choo loafers.
“Holy shit, Cush. You look hot. That’s what you’re wearing tonight. My luck, I’ll take you there and still end up dancing alone.”
He looks in the mirror. “You’re hot for me, aren’t you?”
I grin. “You know it.”
“The answer to your question is yes. I probably don’t wear it because it pisses my mom off. She’ll love you even more after this.”
“You miss her.”
“Yeah. I mean, it gets lonely during the week.”
“Wanna trade? I swear, there is nothing but noise at my house.” I laugh thinking about all that goes on at my house most of the time. “I love my little sisters, though, and I actually miss the noise when they’re gone. So, when I need a break, I’m coming here. When you need noise, you come to the chaos that is my house.” I glance at my watch. “I have to get home for dinner. Tommy’s grilling steaks before they go out. He says he’s tired of eating nothing but appetizers at cocktail parties. Wanna join us?”
Your dirty little secret.
The girls had a bedtime snack, handed out kisses, and were off to bed. Cush and I ate dinner on the deck with Mom and Tommy and then watched the sun go down over the water. Mom excused herself to go get ready, so I snuck off too, leaving Cush to enjoy a cigar with Tommy.
Now, I stand in front of my vanity, pull my hair back into a high, tight ponytail, and put on my makeup. I glue on fake eyelashes, cake my lids with super smoky eye shadow, add thick black liner and mascara. I add a little bronzer to highlight my cheekbones and a soft pink lip gloss, and then walk into my closet.
I love my closet.
Mom and Tommy had it expanded and redone last year for my sixteenth birthday. It looks like a high-end boutique. Black and white brocade wallpaper. Sleek, black cabinetry. Shoes, boots, and bags lined up in perfect, color-coordinated order. Beneath my feet is a fluffy white flokati rug that is so soft it almost feels sensual. I dig my bare toes in it every time I walk on it. I flip the light switch, and the black-lacquered chandelier lights up the center of the room.
I know exactly what I want to wear tonight. A shimmering, silver Alice + Olivia sleeveless, cowl-neck dress that has a skintight skirt, and a pair of silver glitter, double-banded bootie Jimmy Choos.
I check myself in the mirror and am pleased with how I look. I spritz on some perfume and walk out on the deck.
Cush is sitting on the deck by himself, staring out at the ocean.
“So I’m ready.”
He turns around and looks at me, but doesn’t say a word. He just stares.
I worry that he thinks I look silly.
Finally a big grin breaks out across his face, and I get to see his adorable dimples. “Day-umnnn, girl. You got it going on.”
We have so much fun at the club, and he wasn’t lying when he said I could grind on him all night.
It feels amazing.
The way his hands feel on my hips.
How, if I move too far away from him, he grabs my ass and pulls me back close.
How he runs his hands all over my dress in the name of dancing.
If this is how he usually dances with girls, I can see why they fall into bed with him. Everything he does is just plain sexy. Especially when you make him grin big enough to be treated to those dimples.
Sometimes, he looks at me and then down at my mouth. The way guys do when they want to kiss you. And I am so hoping that he won’t. He knows I like Brooklyn, and I don’t want things to be awkward with us. He’s so fun to hang out with.
After closing down the club, we go to an after party at Troy’s, then drive to an all-night diner on the beach, have breakfast, and watch the sunrise.
“So we can’t tell anyone about last night, right?” he asks when I drop him off at home.
“I may have to blackmail you.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, if you don’t take me with you next time you go, I’ll tell everyone your dirty little secret.”
He winks at me, shuts the door, and I drive home with a smile on my face.
Friday, May 13th
I’m way into her.
“We could have a lot of fun together, if you know what I mean,” Vanessa says to Sander.
Yes, we all know exactly what she means.
My supposed best friend is offering my boyfriend sex.
She doesn’t see me walk up behind her. She’s too busy batting her fake eyelashes and tossing around her long, dark curls to notice me.
I watch as she runs her fake red nails across Sander’s forearm. She’s swaying drunkenly back and forth.
“A guy as hot as you shouldn’t have to wait. I wouldn’t make you wait,” she says.
Sander, who was crowned Prom King earlier, looks particularly handsome tonight.
Black Prada tuxedo. Crisp white shirt. Black tie.
I stand frozen to the spot, trying to figure out what to do. Half of me wants to grab her hair and call her a bitch. The other half wants to tell her she can have him.
It’s a gorgeous spring night, and we’re at a prom after-party held on the deck of a yacht.
I know Vanessa probably won’t even remember this in the morning. She was chugging champagne on the limo ride here, then bragging about how she did cocaine with the latest train-wreck pop star, who was at Prom because a nerdy boy from my science class won a date with her.
But still. It’s no excuse.
A drunk senior lacrosse player hit on me earlier. Drunkenly wrapped his arm around my waist and told me I looked like I fell from heaven. Sander walked up behind him and said, Dude, you know she’s my angel. As we walked away, the drunk guy said something to his friend about Sander tapping that ass.
Everyone totally thinks Sander and I have sex all the time. It was just a few months ago when I let it slip to Vanessa that we never have. That I’m still a virgin. At the time, she was sweet and told me she thought it was romantic we were waiting. Not long after, she started making snide little remarks about it. Then she decided to use it against me. She threatened to tell everyone that—and I quote—Your relationship is a sham.
Which isn’t true. Sander is a great boyfriend. He’s super attentive, dresses well, loves to shop, and never even looks at other girls. He’s totally devoted to me.
Now, whenever I disagree with her, she reminds me of what she knows.
And that what she knows would ruin me.
I’m almost to the point of telling everyone myself, just to make the blackmail stop.
But, if I’m being truthful, I am afraid of what people will think. Sander says all the guys at school are jealous of him. That they think he’s so lucky to have me. Of course, they think he is having me. That we’re hooking up. And if you didn’t know the truth, you would think so too. He always has his hands all over me, and he showers me with attention.
But then, when we’re alone.
Nothing really happens.
And I’m starting to wonder if it is a sham.
Sander handles Vanessa like the gentleman that he always is. He removes her hand from his arm like it’s a piece of trash, then says, “No one would believe you. Everyone knows I’m way into her. How could I not be? Just look at her.” He holds his arms out for me to walk into. “Vanessa and I were just saying how gorgeous you look tonight, sweetheart.”
I do look nice tonight. Kym, my mom’s stylist and my sometimes live-in nanny, loves to help me pick out clothes, and I love the dress we chose for tonight. It’s a long, nude halter gown. The fitted bodice is encrusted with crystals that slowly float down the chiffon trumpet skirt. Matching nude Jimmy Choos and a messy curly bun finish off my look.
Sander slides his hand down my fully exposed back. Vanessa sneers at us, then staggers off as the finale fireworks start to shoot across the sky.
I think fireworks are so romantic. Maybe I need to try again.
I turn around and give Sander a deep kiss.
He kisses me back, but just when things start to heat up a little, he says, “Sweetheart, you know the rules.”
No making out in public.
I get it. I do. My mom has to be very careful of what she does in public. She’d die if someone took a photo of her picking her nose or pulling her underwear out of her butt. But Sander hasn’t been in the public eye for the last two years. No one is taking pictures of him anymore.
I turn back around and watch the fireworks light up the sky.
Is it wrong to want some fireworks of my own?
Early on in our relationship, he gave me some speech about his religious beliefs, which would be fine, except he’s not a religious guy. He never goes to church. So, I’m not sure I believe his I-want-to-wait-until-I’m-married excuse. While I appreciate that he respects me, lately I’ve just been feeling very frustrated.
Frustrated with him. Frustrated with my friends.
And I don’t know what to do about it.
I recently tried to seduce him. He came over to watch movies, and I came out in a sexy black nightie. He told me I looked pretty, but that I should get dressed while he made popcorn. I’ve worn sexy bikinis, skimpy tight outfits, and sinful dresses. Still nothing.
I know I’m nothing like my mom. Heck, half the boys I know have beat off to her pictures on more than one occasion.
So I tried the bolder route. Went straight for his pants and tried to unzip them. He got mad at me, gave me a big talking to about respecting each other’s boundaries, and left mad.
I want to break up with him, but I like our life. We’re the perfect couple that everyone wants to be, and I have everything I always thought I wanted.
I’m just not sure if I want it anymore.
My little laid-back surfer girl.
The limo pulls up to my house. Prom was fun; not what I dreamed of, but better than I expected in one way: Sander didn’t get drunk. He’s been particularly high strung this week because he tried out for the part of Danny in the upcoming remake of Grease, and he really wants the role. I can’t imagine him not getting it. He has amazing dance skills, sings like an angel, and morphs into any role he wants to play.
He walks me to my front door, gives me a chaste kiss, and bids me goodnight.
And now I’m feeling a little high strung too.
I want to scream at him. Where are the fireworks? Where is the passion? You are the FUCKING PROM KING! It’s PROM NIGHT!! The night every red-blooded American male is expected to drink too much, take their date to a hotel, and have sex!!!
Instead, I watch the limo pull away.
I let myself into the house quietly, so I don’t wake up the family. I grab a Corona out of the fridge, madly kick off my heels, then walk out the back door and onto the beach.
I’m still wearing my gorgeous dress, but I don’t care about getting it wet and sandy. I never want to wear this stupid dress again.
In all the screenplays I’ve ever written, prom night is always the climax. That pivotal night when everything changes. The night I’m supposed to lose my virginity to my perfect boyfriend. The boy who’s been dying to have sex with me, but who says I’m worth the wait. The boy who would know prom night is the night.
In the limo, he’d wag the hotel key in front of my face and kiss me passionately. He’d tell me I’m beautiful and he can’t wait any longer. At the hotel, there would be rose petals, candles, and champagne. He’d kiss me and tell me I’m beautiful again. Then he wouldn’t wait any longer. He’d slide the straps of my dress off my shoulders and carry me to the bed, where he’d ravish my body.
I plop down into the sand and let out a big sigh.
Obviously, the casting director screwed up. Sander is not willing to do all that is required for his role.
I think it’s time to cut my losses and scrap the project. Start over.
Earlier this week, I mentioned to RiAnne that I was considering breaking up with him. She said, You’re the perfect couple. Why would you do that?
But I know she’s wrong.
The perfect couple would be doing it in a hotel room right now.
I look out at the ocean glittering in the moonlight and wonder where he is.
Where is my perfect boy?
Could he be staring at the moon at this exact moment, wishing for me, too?
Sometimes I swear I can almost feel him.
Oh, for God’s sake, Keatyn. What the hell is wrong with you?
Both of us staring at the moon?
Obviously, I’ve read too many freaking fairy tales to my sisters and watched too many stupid romance movies with my mom.
Or, maybe I’ve heard the story of how Mom and Tommy fell in love at first sight too many times.
But it’s sooooo romantic.
I love hearing Tommy’s version of it the best. He’s so damn dreamy when he tells it. His eyes light up and he lowers his voice, like he’s telling you the world’s best secret. He talks about how their eyes met. About how he felt instantly tongue-tied. How, when he shook her hand, he could see their future. How he knew she was the one.
I was on the same movie set. I’d been being a little brat about Mom dating, and I wanted to hate Tommy.
But I couldn’t.
We were on location in France. Mom’s character was a liaison for the American Ambassador to France, who gets caught up in a murder investigation and falls in love with a French investigator. Tommy had a cameo role as a French businessman who was dealing weapons to anyone with the money to buy them. Their big scene was when they dance together at a benefit. When you watch the movie, you can practically see the sparks flying.
Tommy had been on set for only two days. Both times I had seen him, he was coming out of makeup just as I was coming out of my dance class. Mom had a former French prima donna teaching me ballet. The ballerina insisted I wear a pale pink tutu with a black leotard and matching tights. I didn’t mind the tutu, but thought it was boring. So I got one of the costume designers to help me tie dye it in multiple shades of pink and sew sequins all over it. The ballerina had just chewed me out for my American lack of respect. Tommy told me my tutu was beautiful at the exact moment I needed to hear it.
I’m pretty sure I fell in love with him right then and there.
I walked back in the room, where the ballet teacher was still stretching, and told her that Tommy Stevens liked my tutu, that I was going to keep wearing it, and that if she wanted to teach me, she’d have to learn to appreciate my artistic expression.
Later that afternoon, after my schoolwork was finished, I got to sit very quietly on set next to the director, Matt Moran. Even as a very little girl, the process of making a movie intrigued me, and I wouldn’t make a peep because I wanted to be allowed to watch.
After Matt yelled cut, Tommy walked up to me and asked me if I’d like to go see a real ballet with him.
Then he asked me if it’d be okay to take my mom along.
I remember looking at Mom to see if she wanted to come with us. I still remember the tears in her eyes, the big smile on her face, and her nodding yes at me.
Kym found both Mom and me beautiful dresses to wear, and Tommy took us to Moscow in his private jet.
It was the best first date ever.
For both of us.
I feel a little sorry for the boy that falls in love with me. He’s gonna have really big shoes to fill.
I think about Brooklyn. How he looked walking down the beach the first time I saw him. How cute it was when he swam out and taught me how to surf. It was my fifteenth birthday. We had just moved into Tommy’s Malibu beach house, and I got the present I’d been asking for: Mom and Tommy told me I could stay here, even when they were traveling, and go to high school. Then Tommy told me if I was gonna live on the beach, I needed to learn how to surf. He gave me a bunch of tips, but he told me the best way to learn was to just get out there and try. So I did. Over and over again. I fell so many times, but I wanted to learn so badly. Brooklyn paddled out after a couple hours of my feeble attempts and taught me.
The second our eyes met, I knew.
Knew I was in love with him.
Knew it was love at first sight.
But then I found out that love at first sight doesn’t work out so well when the person you fall for doesn’t fall back.
“S’up, Keats?” I hear Brooklyn call out. I turn to see him walking up the beach toward me. “You just get home?”
I stand up. My beautiful dress is wet and sandy, but I know it still looks pretty blowing in the breeze.
“Yeah, I just came out here to think.”
He walks closer to me. “You look really pretty. What’s wrong? Did Cinderella not have fun at the ball?”
Ohmigawd! Did he just say I look really pretty?
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