That Summer: A Small Town, Friends-to-lovers Romance
A Top 10 new release in the entire Kindle Store!
Overall top 20 in the entire Kindle Store
That Summer is the first book featuring the next generation of Mackenzie and Diamond families and is a great jumping off point for new readers to the series.
That summer you realize your best friend has gotten really hot.
Devaney Diamond’s summer break was shaping up to be the best one ever. Her longtime crush was finally interested in her, and by the time school rolled around in the fall, she knew he’d be her boyfriend.
Just when their relationship is getting started, she finds out that she’s leaving on a three-week vacation to the Ozarks for some “good old-fashioned fun” with three generations of the Diamond and Mackenzie families. She’s not thrilled about being gone for that long, but she is looking forward to spending time doing nothing but getting a killer tan, finally learning to slalom ski, and hanging out with her best friend.
She and Chase have always been close. He’s cute and sweet. Smart and responsible. He’s always there when she needs him. She loves him dearly, and if it wasn’t for their age, things might be different between them.
But when Chase returns home from football camp with new muscles and a new attitude, she realizes something.
Chase Mackenzie has gotten hot.
And he doesn’t look like her little brother’s best friend anymore.
Will this be the summer that Devaney and Chase fall in love, or will it be the summer that everything falls apart?
Either way, it will be the summer that changes everything.
Set in a small Midwestern town, you'll fall in love with Mackenzie and Diamond families, feel their heartbreaks and happiness, and will be cheering for them like your favorite college football team.
Release date: November 24, 2020
Publisher: Swoonworthy Books
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That Summer: A Small Town, Friends-to-lovers Romance
Saturday, July 11th
We kiss sometimes.
I’m sitting on my window seat, looking across our side yard and over to the house next door.
At a certain boy’s window.
Chase Mackenzie has been my best friend my whole life. And it’s from this perch that I can see into his room. It’s from this spot that I’ve watched him grow into something more than just my childhood friend.
A couple of years ago, when my parents were getting divorced, he stepped up his game.
He became my confidant. My strength. And whether I’ve wanted him to be or not, my protector.
And today, he’s coming home after being gone for the last three weeks.
I take a fleeting look at his window before heading downstairs.
I find my dad—Danny Diamond, retired Kansas City quarterback, who reporters say will surely make the Hall of Fame—in the family room, just finishing up a phone call.
“That was Jay,” he says, referring to Chase’s mom, Jadyn Mackenzie, as he sets down his phone. “Don’t forget that we’re supposed to go next door for dinner tonight. Chase will be back, and I understand there’s an exciting announcement to be made.”
Make no mistake about it. I very much know exactly when Chase is arriving, and I have been counting down the days.
The minutes at this point.
“You guys pregnant again?” I tease.
“It’s a bit too soon for that, Devaney,” Dad says, but his brilliant blue eyes sparkle at my stepmother, the award-winning actress Jennifer Edwards, who is sauntering in our direction.
“Could you hold her for a minute, so I can go freshen up?” she asks.
I’m not sure who her question is directed to, but both Dad and I offer our arms.
Jennifer gives my dad a flirty grin but hands the baby to me.
“Hi, sweet girl,” I coo, my voice going higher and my face lighting up. The second I do, I’m rewarded with a smile from my adorable five-month-old baby sister, Weston.
My unusual first name, Devaney, is the last name of a legendary Nebraska football coach. Weston was named after Westown, the small Nebraska town where my father grew up. We’re not sure who or what my brother, Damon, was named after. Apparently, Mom just liked the name.
Dad leans over and tickles under Weston’s chin, and we both make silly faces at her. I used to have very romantic notions about having a baby with a guy I loved. I certainly don’t want to be a teen mom, but just as I was considering having sex for the first time, Jennifer had Weston. She’s a super-happy baby, but I never had to live with one before. And let me tell you, adorable as she might be, she is a lot of work.
I love her so much though. And I’m really glad that Jennifer came into our lives. She and Dad met years ago, just after I was born. They had an incredible connection but didn’t act on it because, well, my dad was married to my mom. Fifteen years and two failed relationships later, they met again. It’s pretty romantic actually, their story. Especially the part where I took the engagement ring Dad had bought for her to the championship game. He won his third ring that night—after an incredible come-from-behind win—and proposed to Jennifer on the field as confetti rained down on all of us. They were married last June, and baby Weston came wailing into our lives this past March.
And when I say wailing, I mean it. The girl has got a set of lungs. And our whole family will do anything we can to keep her happy.
“She’s totally spoiled,” I say.
“I know,” Dad says happily before his phone starts chirping.
As he gets up to grab it, I can’t help but roll my eyes.
“You have no idea how much you’ve changed our lives, little miss,” I tell the baby.
We all used to have normal ringtones, but Weston screams bloody murder when someone calls. She even cries if the phone vibrates.
After practically going crazy, trying to calm her down, Damon decided to test out ringtones to see if she would react differently to any of them.
All of my friends make fun of me when my phone starts chirping like a cricket, but I’ll take their teasing over this baby’s screaming.
My dad slowly sits back down on the couch, seeming shell-shocked.
“What’s wrong?” I ask him, instantly worried, based on the look on his face.
“That was my agent, Carter Crawford. We just got an offer from a network. They want me to be an announcer.”
“College or professional?” I ask him, not really that surprised.
“Monday nights, so just once a week. What do you think?” he coos to the baby, but I know he’s asking me.
The baby gives my hair a tug while she blows bubbles of spit. It’s one of her new favorite pastimes along with wrapping her chubby, little fingers around a teeny strand of hair and pulling it so hard, it brings tears to your eyes.
“I think you’d be great, Dad.”
“Great at what?” Jennifer says, rejoining us, dressed and ready to go.
“Dad got an offer to be a Monday night announcer. It’s about time he got back to work, don’t you think?” I tease.
My dad has always been great, but he’s home all the freaking time now. Watching my every move. Which is completely different from the autonomy I get when I’m with my mom.
We all live in the Kansas City area, but we’re in a suburb by a lake while my mother and her new husband, the man she was having an affair with before she left my dad, Richard Rash—cue the dick rash jokes—live in the Country Club Plaza area. My mom and I have a slightly strained relationship. Her love always feels like it’s conditional. Which is why my dad paid her more money in the divorce so he would get full custody of my brother and me.
And although, sometimes, I would rather live with my mom, I do love it here.
And that might have a lot to do with the boy who lives next door.
Because of my dad’s high-profile career, my brother and I were told to keep the divorce quiet for months until my parents had a settlement in place. It was really hard to go to school and pretend like everything was okay when my world was falling apart. I can’t tell you the number of nights I snuck over to Chase’s room for comfort. Snuggled up with him. Slept in his bed.
My phone chirps with a text from him, causing me to startle at the thought that he must have known I was thinking of him.
Chase: Hey, I’m in the car, on the way home from the airport. What’s up with the big announcement tonight?
Me: You don’t know?
Chase: I’ve been gone for almost three weeks. I don’t know anything.
Me: Hmm. I figured they were gonna tell us you got drafted already. I can just see the headlines. “Phenom High School QB Gets Drafted in an Unprecedented Move.”
Chase: Give me a break. I’m not that good. And after being at camp, that’s very apparent. I have a lot of work to do.
Me: My dad says you are going to be better than him someday.
I can practically hear Chase rolling his eyes through the phone.
Chase: That is the goal. But so much can happen between now and then. You’ll see.
“I’m going to head over to the Mackenzies’,” I tell Dad and Jennifer as I take Weston to her Exersaucer.
When I set her down, she starts wiggling like she can’t wait. She loves standing up in that thing and batting all the rattles and toys, although, these days, she seems to do so with more intent. She’s also starting to babble random sounds. Dad is already convinced that she says dada, and she does but not toward him. I keep saying Da-ni, hoping that my name will be the first real word she says. I read that babies usually say dada or even doggie first. So, Dani should be easy.
I can’t help but laugh to myself as I walk out on the front porch and take a seat on the steps. Chase is the reason everyone but my parents calls me Dani. He couldn’t say Devaney when he was little, and no matter how hard his parents tried, he’d only say Dani.
In the videos of us when we were young, I couldn’t make the S sound very well, and I called him Chafe, which is kind of funny because although he’s been my best friend my whole life, sometimes, he does rub me the wrong way. Particularly when he thinks it’s his duty to protect me. I’ll never forget how mad I was when he was in eighth grade and I was a freshman, and he showed up at a party to rescue me from a hot senior quarterback who had been flirting with me. Granted, the senior had been drinking, and I was considering letting him drive me home.
Okay, so I might have been a little drunk myself.
Anyway, the senior got upset about Chase wanting to get me out of there, threw a punch at him, missed, and hit the fireplace instead, breaking his throwing hand. Which, crazily enough, meant that Chase got moved up to the high school team. Then, through a series of events where the team’s other quarterback got injured, Chase ended up leading the high school team in the state playoffs. We lost, but Chase’s athletic ability certainly made an impression.
This past school year, he and a junior shared QB duties, but three games into the season, Chase won the starting role. Everyone knows that as long as he stays healthy, he’ll keep that spot for the rest of his high school career.
A car pulls into the driveway next door, which causes me to leap to my feet.
Chase gets out of the car and grins in my direction, which, after three weeks apart, practically devastates me. He dressed up for the flight home, wearing a long-sleeved white linen shirt, which is hanging, untucked, over a pair of navy shorts. His normally short brown hair has gotten bleached out and a little shaggy, highlighting his tan face and blue eyes.
I run over, leap into his arms, and give him a quick peck on the lips.
“I’m going to sound like like my grandmother when I say this, but I swear, Chase, you look like you’ve grown.”
He shoots me a wink, something he’s done since he learned how. In fact, I’m pretty sure he learned how just so he could wink at me.
“They measured us at camp. I’m officially six two and three quarters. And that was in bare feet.”
“Which means you’ll be six-three this season in your cleats, better able to see over the defense.”
If there’s one thing I know, it’s football. I have to admit, I’m jealous of my dad’s offer today. That’s like my dream job. To be on the sidelines or in the booth, interviewing players, breaking down the game for those who don’t understand all its intricacies.
“Exactly,” he says, pulling me back into a hug. “I missed you, Dani.”
I melt into his broad chest.
He kisses the top of my head, and it’s then when I notice it.
“Chase! You’re in a boot! What happened?”
“Just a slight sprain. The doc up there said it’s best to overreact on healing. I’m only supposed to wear it for a few more days and then it will be a distant memory. You want to go inside now, or do you wanna stand out here all night and hug me?” He gives me a sweet smile. “Not that I would mind. I missed you. You barely texted me.”
“That’s because I knew after a long day of working out, you’d shower, eat, and then go to sleep.”
“The camps and training were great, but I was exhausted every single night.”
“Told you,” I say, letting go of him.
“I brought you a present.” He picks his duffel up and slings it over his shoulder. “You can open it in my room.”
I figured the whole family would be inside, waiting to greet him, so I’m pleasantly surprised when we get to go up to his room alone.
He drops the duffel on the floor and pulls something out of a side pouch. “Two things for you,” he says, pulling me down on the bed with him. He’s got a wrapped package in his hand, but he leans over and kisses me first.
We’ve been friends forever, so it’s not like we haven’t kissed before.
But this kiss … it feels a little different.
It lasts a little longer than usual.
Probably because we haven’t seen each other in so long.
We love each other.
And we kiss sometimes.
When he ends the kiss, he does what he always does after he kisses me. He pulls away and just looks at me with a goofy grin on his face. Like he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar but doesn’t care because the cookie was worth it.
“I really did miss you.”
“I really missed you, too, Chase.”
“You know, your brother sends me texts all day and tells me what’s happening. He assumes I will read them all and will reply when I can.”
“That’s because my brother has no problem with carrying on a conversation with himself.”
“So true.” Chase laughs but then his lips flatten into a straight line. “But it means that I, um, have heard you’ve been hanging out with Hunter Lansford, and I was just wondering if he is the reason why we haven’t talked much.”
“I know you don’t like him,” I say because Chase has never really cared for the guys I date. Always says I could do better. The worst part is, in retrospect, he’s usually right.
I dated a guy named Matt over the last year. To say he broke my heart would be an understatement. I’m just grateful that I never slept with him.
Thus the breakup.
“He’s not like Matt,” I argue because he isn’t.
Matt was always getting into trouble. He skipped school. Drank a lot. Smoked. Rode a motorcycle. Totally had that bad-boy thing going on. And when your parents are going through a divorce, starting new relationships, and getting remarried … well, sometimes, you feel the need to rebel.
But Hunter is different. He’s a three-sport athlete—defensive end on our football team, starting point guard in basketball, and holds the school record for the shot put. I’ve thought he was cute since we were kids and had a huge crush on him, but he was dating Taylor Tinsdale since the seventh grade. It was a big shock to everyone when they broke up a month ago.
“He’s a good athlete, but he plays dirty, he slacks off whenever he can, and I just don’t respect him.”
“It’s not like we’re dating. We’ve just been hanging out.”
“Whatever. Anyway,” Chase says, holding out the gift.
“You didn’t have to get me anything.”
“I know, but, well, just open it, and you’ll see.”
I turn the package over and slide my finger under the tape to break the seam apart. Then, I flip it over and remove the wrap. There’s a small box with a card underneath it.
“What’s this?” I ask, realizing Chase’s photo is on it.
He blushes and then shrugs. “I know it’s kind of lame, but they made it for me while I was at camp. Told me that if I kept working hard, things like this were within my reach. That I’d play pro someday. Your dad tells me and Damon that, but I always kind of thought he said it because, you know, dads have to say that sort of thing. It was the first time I’ve heard it from an unbiased source whose job it is to know what the league wants. It is—” His eyes get misty.
“Your dream,” I say, finishing his sentence.
“That’s right. I’ll be playing professional football, and you’ll be on the sidelines, covering the game.”
I can’t help but smile at him.
“And at camp, it started to feel like less of a dream and more of a possibility. Anyway, I want you to have it. My first ever trading card.”
“Shouldn’t you give it to your mom or something?”
“No. It’s yours, Dani.” He gives my hand a squeeze and nods toward the small box. “Then, I saw this and knew I had to get it for you, so you’d know it was possible, too.”
I tilt my head, wondering what could be inside. Wondering if he had a card made for me, but when I lift the lid off, I find a gold ring that spells out dream in a delicate font.
“They’re real diamonds,” Chase says. “I splurged, but it was just so—”
“Perfect,” I say, mesmerized by both the ring and its meaning. Not to mention the fact that Chase is the sweetest, most thoughtful boy I’ve ever known.
I’m about to say more to him when my brother bursts through the door.
“There you guys are. You’re supposed to get your butts downstairs. Everyone is waiting.”
Chase holds my gaze for a moment and then stands up and gives Damon a fist bump.
“It’s good to have you home,” Damon says to him.
I get myself up off the bed, and the three of us travel down the two flights of stairs to the family room.
“Chase!” his siblings yell out and attack him with hugs the second we enter the room.
His parents and my dad and Jennifer aren’t far behind. And neither are the dogs, Angel and Winger—puppy cousins that my dad got when the Mackenzies’ fifteen-year-old yellow Lab, Angel, passed away. Winger is the Mackenzies’ new yellow Lab pup, and Angel, named in honor, is our black Lab.
After the excitement of seeing Chase dies down, he’s hugged everyone and petted the pups, his mom, Jadyn—who I have called Auntie Jay my whole life but who isn’t really my aunt—moves to the front of the room and says, “Sometimes in life, in the midst of what feels like chaos, you are lucky enough to have things fall perfectly into place.”
“Just tell them already,” my dad heckles.
And it’s funny. Because my dad and Jadyn along with Chase’s dad—Uncle Phillip—have been best friends since they were kids.
“All of us here,” Jadyn continues, “plus Papa and Mimi, and Grandma and Grandpa Mac, are going to spend three glorious weeks on vacation together.”
“Where are we going?” her eleven-year-old son, Ryder, asks.
Knowing that Jadyn just finished another hotel remodel and recently sold her company, I’m picturing us all on a gorgeous yacht with an attentive staff of hot college guys, serving me piña coladas with fruit stuck on an umbrella, as we cruise the Caribbean islands—no, wait, Greece. Yes, the Greek islands. And the exotically tan-skinned crew will have sexy European accents …
“The Ozarks!” Phillip blurts out.
He and Jadyn are beaming.
What the heck? The Ozarks? The place my friends and their families drive to? The place old country stars go to put on family shows until they die? The place where there is a hillbilly theme park?
“Sounds glamorous,” I mutter.
“It will be,” Jennifer says seriously. Even she looks excited.
“We’re all staying in a gorgeous new house on the water,” Jadyn says, “and we’ll have the use of three brand-new boats and a bunch of wave runners. The house has every amenity. And if that’s not enough, we will have golf carts available to take us to the nearby resort.”
My dad stands up. He’s wearing a big grin. Clearly, this isn’t the first time he has heard about this because he is already fully on board.
“It’s going to be an old-fashioned summer. Like the kind we used to have when we were kids,” he says, spinning his finger from himself and Jennifer to Jadyn and Phillip. “Swimming in the lake. Waterskiing. Tubing. Roasting marshmallows every night.”
“And the best part of all of it,” Jennifer adds, “is that there will be no cell phones or other electronic devices allowed.”
“Wait. What?” I blurt out in disbelief. Currently, my phone is practically glued to my hand.
My dad nods in agreement. “Yep. We won’t need our phones. We will be too busy having fun.”
“Are we talking, everyone? Even you?” I say, looking pointedly at Jennifer, who is always on her phone, dealing with some sort of business.
“Yes. We are going to completely unplug. All of us.”
I rub my temple and try to wrap my head around this.
Chase sees my distress and says, “But what if there is some kind of emergency?”
“There are walkie-talkies and a GPS communication system on board the boats if we need to call for help. And the house has a landline,” his dad replies.
“What’s that?” Chase’s sister, Haley James, asks, scrunching up her nose.
She’s probably on her phone more than I am. She is a total social butterfly who will start her last year of middle school this fall and seems to have a new boyfriend every week.
“It’s a phone that’s hardwired,” Phillip clarifies.
“But! I’ll die!” Haley says frantically. “I’ll miss everything!”
“You’ll have so much fun, Haley, that you will forget about the boy drama here,” her mother counters. “Besides, it’s only three weeks.”
“I love marshmallows. I can’t wait!” Madden, the youngest Mackenzie son who everyone calls Crusher, adds.
I finally decide to pipe up, “I have cheer practice, and the boys have summer training. And we’re supposed to spend time with Mom.”
“We’ve spoken to your coaches and assured them that you will all continue your workouts during vacation and will return in top form. The house has a beautiful home gym, and there is a more commercial version on the resort property. And when I told your mother about the trip,” Dad says, “she and Dick—Richard decided to holiday in Europe.”
I guess that settles that.
“When do we leave?” Chase asks with a grin.
I look at him, surprised he’s on board.
“Tuesday,” his mom says. “And we have a lot of prep to do before we go.”
“But, Mom, this Tuesday?” Haley pouts. “We can’t. We absolutely can’t. We have to reschedule. It’s Kassie’s birthday party, and I can’t miss—”
“Sorry, honey,” her dad says. “We leave on Tuesday. And to add to the fun, we’ve decided to make it a road trip.”
“Just like we used to do when we were kids,” my dad says proudly.
Baby Weston starts to wail, causing Winger and Angel to howl, too.
I lean over and whisper, “I feel ya, girl. I feel ya.”
Monday, July 13th
“I can’t believe you’re ditching me for a whole month,” Hunter says.
We’re sitting in his car outside my house, saying good night. Well, more like he’s been kissing me and looking to score.
I’ve mostly been fending off his advances. And who could blame me? It hasn’t been that long since he and Taylor broke up. They’ll be seniors this coming fall, and they were expected to be the it couple. Their breakup was such a shock, and the high school rumor mill has been flying ever since. I’ve been getting kept up-to-date on all of it by one of my friends, Shaylie, who is on the cheer squad with me. Her older sister, Meredith, and Taylor are BFFs. She says the breakup was not mutual, regardless of what Hunter is telling everyone. She says that Taylor dumped him for some really hot college guy she’d met at work. Since then, Hunter’s been talking to a senior girl from the dance team who lost the co-captain role to Taylor; the captain of the girls soccer team; and me, who, although I’ll only be a junior this year, was voted head cheerleader.
We’ve been fine with him talking to all of us because, I mean, it makes sense. He hasn’t been single in years. And I assume none of us wants to be just some rebound.
My brother, who hears all boy gossip during summer conditioning, says that Hunter would be a fool to immediately move from one relationship to the next. That he should play the field. So, while Shaylie’s sister thinks that Hunter is only trying to make Taylor jealous so she will want him back, the guys on the football team say he won’t take her back anyway because he’s having too much fun.
And fun with Hunter has been fun.
He has been a longtime crush of mine.
We’ve been hanging out. I’ve kissed him.
Life complete. Right?
At least, I thought it was.
But then, last week, he told me that I was the only girl he wanted to talk to, which is typically a precursor to dating. To a relationship.
And that news spread fast, too.
The football team’s consensus is that he made a good choice. But Shaylie’s sister thinks Hunter thinks if Taylor hears he’s in a relationship, she will be more jealous than if he played the field and, again, that she will want him back.
Which leaves me where I am now.
Fluctuating between worrying if I’m going to get hurt while dreaming about dating the hottest senior guy this year.
In between kisses, Hunter says, “Don’t forget to call me right after conditioning. We’ll talk from eleven to noon every. Single. Day.” He suggestively runs his hand down the front of my shirt. “You’d better not get so wrapped up in all the family fun that you forget.”
“I’m going to go crazy without my phone, and I promise I won’t forget.”
“Just so you know,” he says, sweetly moving his hand across my cheek, “I’m serious about you, Dani. I can’t wait for you to come back home, and I can’t wait to have you cheering for me on the sidelines this fall. I’ll be a team captain, and you’re the head cheerleader. It will be perfect.”
I remember what my friend told me about his and Taylor’s dream. That she would be captain of the dance team, him a football captain, and how they’d be homecoming king and queen their senior year.
And I wonder if he really is doing this just to make Taylor jealous.
But when he kisses me again, I disregard all the gossip.
Tuesday, July 14th
Diamond-Mackenzie Summer Camp.
I throw a duffel on the bed. Even though we are staying for a month, there is supposed to be a big laundry room, so we don’t have to pack for much more than a week. We’re going to be out in the sticks, so I’m just taking a bunch of bikinis, jean shorts, tank tops, sandals, and workout clothes. I carefully fold up a few cute outfits, a couple dresses, toss in a pair of wedges, and call it good.
I peek out the window and see that Chase is doing the same thing as me. And I’m pretty sure he has some sixth sense that tells him when I’m standing at the window because he turns around, winks at me, and then motions for me to come over.
It’s not the first time I’ve wished for a little bridge that connected our rooms together.
I zip up my duffel and carry it downstairs. The front door is open, and I can see my dad hoisting a bag up into a rooftop carrier.
When I get outside, I find three generations of Mackenzie and Diamond families—all wearing stupid matching baseball shirts, like the one I have on. I mean, really, who wants to wear the same shirt as their grandma?—sprawled across our neighboring front yards in an attempt to pack up all our shit.
The grandpas are bitching that their fishing poles are going to get crushed under all the baby gear. The grandmas are chatting away about food they are going to make, obviously disregarding the chaos around them. The dogs, Angel and Winger, are chasing each other, dodging bags. Ryder and Madden are rolling across the lawn, either play-wrestling or fighting for real, and the littlest Mackenzie, baby Emersyn, is holding Haley’s hand and screaming bloody murder as Haley furiously taps something into her phone.
My dad and Phillip along with the grandpas are staring at a growing pile of cargo to determine how it and all of us are going to fit.
I toss my bag on the pile and make my way up to Chase’s room.
“I’m surprised you aren’t out there, helping,” I tell him, coming through his door.
He’s standing by his bed. A duffel is sitting on it, and he’s folding a pile of laundry. I plop down on his bed and watch, amazed at how perfectly he folds his clothes.
“I had to unpack, do laundry, and repack. I’m feeling a little behind schedule.”
That makes me laugh. Chase is always precise in everything he does.
“It sort of amazes me that you and Damon are such good friends. You couldn’t be more different. He’s still in bed, and he probably hasn’t even packed.”
“Actually, he packed last night so that he could roll straight out of bed and into the car.”
I shake my head and laugh. “You need help with anything?”
“Nah. I’m good.” He smiles at me. “I like the shirt.”
“I’m wearing it under protest.”
He moves closer to me. “Diamond-Mackenzie Summer Camp. Ozarks,” he reads aloud. “The peach color of the sleeves looks really pretty with your hair.”
“Yeah, well, on its own, it’s not that bad, but when you match your grandparents and even the dogs, it sort of loses any cool factor. Oh, wait! I know!” I rush over to his desk, open a drawer, grab a pair of scissors, and pull off the shirt.
“What are you doing?” Chase asks, his eyes wide.
I look down at the bra I’m wearing. “Grow up,” I tell him. “It’s just like a bikini top.”
He moves toward me and then runs a finger across the top of it. Which basically means his fingers are grazing the tops of my boobs. It stops me in my tracks, and I find myself wondering why him doing something so innocent doesn’t feel that way at all.
“No, it’s not,” he says. “Your bikinis don’t have this sexy lace.”
“Whatever,” I say, rolling my eyes at him.
I’m kind of dating Hunter. Chase can’t just touch me like that. I consider swatting his hand away, but I can’t bring myself to do it.
Because when Chase touches me anywhere, it always feels good.
I stare at him for a moment, noticing how much differently his shirt fits than mine. How tight it is on his arms. Almost like his mom ordered it a size too small, forgetting how much he’s grown.
I tilt my head at him and say, “Take your shirt off.”
He gives me an adorable grin. “Your wish is my command,” he says, stripping the shirt off.
My breath catches. It’s not like I haven’t seen him shirtless many times before. Maybe it’s because it’s been three long weeks, or maybe it’s that he’s grown, or maybe it’s just that he looks damn good with no shirt on. I’m not sure.
“What?” he says, causing my eyes to move away from his sculpted chest and to his beautiful face.
“Uh, I’m going to fix your shirt,” I tell him, gaining my composure.
I grab it from his hands, lay it flat on his desk, cut the sleeves off, and give it back to him.
When he puts it back on, I’m impressed with myself.
“Much better,” I tell him, noting his buff arms are now fully in view.
“Hopefully, Mom won’t be pissed,” he says.
“Whatever,” I reply, laying out my shirt and cutting a slit down the middle of the neck so that it will highlight my cleavage. Then, I cut off the hem, shortening the length, making it more of a midriff. I mean, I work hard for these abs, so I might as well show them off.
I lay the scissors down and put the shirt back on. “What do you think?”
“Hot,” he says. “Pretty freaking hot.”
He lets out a whistle, and I can’t help but blush. I shouldn’t. I mean, it’s just Chase. But still.
“I like what you did to mine, too. The sleeves were a little too tight. This feels so much better.”
“Do you really think your mom will get mad?”
“She should just be glad we are wearing them. Have you looked up the place we’re going?” he says, interrupting my drooling. “It looks really cool. I’m excited to just relax. I mean, I still have to work out, but other than that, it will be nice. It’s been a crazy busy few weeks, and as soon as we get back, two-a-days will start and then school.”
“This summer has flown by.”
“Well, we have three whole weeks together to slow it down,” he says in a sultry voice, drawing the words out and making them sound almost sexy.
“What I want to know is, why the Ozarks? I could tell our parents were excited about it, and I know they went there as kids—”
“But why not somewhere more exotic, right?” he says. “I was envisioning, like, some private yacht, cruising the Caribbean or something.”
“Ohmigosh! Me, too!”
Chase adds a neatly folded stack of T-shirts to his bag, zips it up, scoots me over, and then pulls me down on the bed next to him. He raises an eyebrow and says, “It’s not all vacation for Mom.”
“What do you mean?”
“Even though she sold her company, she hasn’t completely retired. She’s still going to work with Tripp, renovating hotels, but now, she’s only consulting on the designs. The house we are staying at is new, and Mom says it’s completely over the top. She should know. She designed it so that Tripp would have a private place for his big family reunions. It butts up to the resort property, so we can hang out there too.”
“But if it needs to be renovated, it’s probably not going to be that great.”
“The golf course was just redone by a renowned golfer, and there’s a new lazy river and water park. Mom says the resort’s grounds are amazing; it’s more the lodging itself that needs help. She’s not supposed to work either. Says she’s supposed to soak up the atmosphere, so she can come up with a plan. But since we’re not staying there, we get the best of both worlds, I guess. Didn’t you look it up online?”
“No. I was too busy sulking.”
Chase takes my hand in his and squeezes it, knowing the reason why. “How’d you leave things with Hunter?”
I sigh. “He told me I’d better not get so wrapped up with family fun that I forget to call him every day.”
“Are you dating? Like, is it exclusive?”
“Supposedly, I’m the only girl he’s talking to right now.”
“That’s cool,” Chase says, his finger gliding over the ring he gave me. “It’ll be interesting to see how that all plays out.”
“What do you mean by that?” I ask, bristling.
“Uh, I don’t mean anything by it. I just mean, it will be interesting. Like, he dated Taylor forever. It will be weird, them not being together, you know?”
“Can you imagine dating someone from, like, seventh grade on? The same person your whole life? Wouldn’t that be so incredibly dull and boring?”
Chase lets out a little snort. “Not if you’re in love.”
“So, you believe in high school sweethearts? You think they can work in the real world?”
“Sure. Why wouldn’t they?”
“Well, my dad, for one. He didn’t seem to believe in that. And my brother seems to want the opposite. Date everyone he doesn’t love.”
“And what about you?”
“You know I loved Matt.”
“I know.” His finger stops moving, staying on top of the ring.
Matt is a sore subject with us.
I sigh again, not sure how to word this.
“What?” Chase says, his gaze meeting mine.
There’s something about Chase’s eyes that seem to drill right through me. Maybe it’s because he knows me so well. Maybe it’s because I can tell him anything without judgment.
“Even though I loved him and things, you know, got serious …”
Chase swallows when I say that, and I know why—because he thinks I had sex with Matt. Mostly because I haven’t told him differently.
“I didn’t picture us long-term. I couldn’t imagine being married to him. And I knew even if we made it until I graduated high school, we wouldn’t survive being apart during college.”
Chase must agree with my assessment. He might even like it because his finger starts moving again, tracing each letter on my ring. “You never told me that.”
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