A Contemporary YA Romance
Published by Lyrical Press (Kensington Publishing Corp.)
A convict’s daughter should never fall for an FBI agent’s son, certainly not a teenager like Julianna Schultz who is furious over her mother’s incarceration and the injustice of it all. But that’s exactly what seventeen-year-old Julianna finds herself doing when Cody Rush, the cocky son of the FBI agent who put her mom behind bars, moves into her hometown of Gilbert, Arizona.
Cody Rush—studious, principled, athletic, good looking and blond to boot—is everything Julianna hates, or so she thinks. Yet a series of ill-fated events one night brings them dangerously close, entangling the futures of two people who were never meant to be.
My heart thrusts with a force that takes me by surprise. Telling me something I don’t understand. A splitting pain, a longing to slip back under. They tell me I was in a hit-and-run, but I can’t remember what happened that night. All I know is that I woke up with pictures in my pocket, a card from one of those photo booths in the mall. And I’m in the pictures. Cody Rush. Me and…
Her brother was there that night, and my dad, the FBI agent, was the one who put her mom behind bars. What’s the connection? And why won’t Julianna talk to me now? Somehow, she holds the key to it all, and getting close–real close—to her for the answers I need will be no hardship at all…
Cody and Julianna
We listen to the monotone voice reel off instructions. Four pictures. A light will flash before each picture is taken. How I ended up in this position I’m not sure.
“Quick,” I say, “what should we do?” A flash of light. Picture one down. Both of our mouths were hanging open, blank stares straight ahead.
We burst into laughter and can’t stop. A second flash. Picture number two: both of us laughing.
Our gazes meet and we pull ourselves together, his eyes never veering from mine. He leans toward me, coming halfway before pausing, his eyes seeking permission. I regard him with equal parts terror and anticipation, the intimacy of the situation whispering a thrill. He closes the distance between us and glides his nose through my hair. My heart rattles around as though this is the first boy I’ve ever been close to.
“Now smile,” he whispers into my ear. My cheeks burn despite myself and I feel the corners of my lips tugging upward. A flash of light signals the third picture and I am totally seduced.
|The FBI agent's son falls for the convicts daughter...|
|Kelly Nelson, author of The Keeper's Calling|
A Dimple-Loaded Smile…and a Challenge.
“Listen”—I cut him off before his flirtatious ways turn me into a puddle of mush at his feet—“for the record, that whole photo booth . . . incident . . . didn’t mean anything, okay?”
He sits up, leaning forward to pull a wallet from his back pocket. He fishes something out and slaps it down on the coffee table.
“Oh, yeah?” he challenges. “What about that?”
I glance down at the pictures—the photo-booth pictures. His index finger taps the third picture, the one of him practically kissing my neck. The nerve! I feel a wave of heat rising up my neck and into my cheeks. Wait, he keeps this in his wallet?
“Pulling out that dimple-loaded smile of yours and doing . . .” I fish for a term to describe what he’s doing in that picture. Smelling my hair? Kissing my ear? It’s too intimate, too personal to articulate. “. . . doing . . . that. . . might win over every other girl who comes your way, but it doesn’t work for me.”
“Oh, yeah?” he asks again and leans in dangerously close, his tone doubtful. His gaze drops from my eyes to my lips. “What does do it for you, Julianna?”
The sound of my name on his lips sinks right to my core, rich and tempting. Like chocolate. Isn’t the admiration of three fourths of the Highland High School female student body enough for him? Why is he toying with me?
“You would like to know, wouldn’t you?” I ask, loading as much spite into that challenge as possible. One side of his lips kicks up, like he’s thoroughly enjoying this.
|Kay Lynn Mangum, author of The Secret Journal of Brett Colton|
Dinner Conversation Gone Wrong
“So, Julianna . . .” I say at the dinner table forty-five minutes later, “the girl who tutors me—”
“She’s purty,” Lizzy says with a mouth full of mashed potatoes. “Can I have some chocolate milk, Mom?”
“You’ve got a tutor?” Dad asks, his forehead gathering up over a confused stare. “Since when do you need a tutor?”
“He needs help in art, honey,” Mom cuts in with a light whack on his arm. “There’s no shame in that. Rachel, take out your earbuds.”
Rachel doesn’t hear. It’s almost six o’clock and Julianna still hasn’t woken up. She’s been asleep upstairs for over an hour and a half. I’ve checked on her several times, wondering if I should wake her. Each time I chicken out.
“Ryan, say something,” Mom whispers, her eyes shifting between Dad and Rachel.
“Rachel. Earbuds. Out,” Dad orders.
Rachel’s eyes snap up to meet his gaze and she yanks the earbuds out.
“Anyway,” I say, “she’s sleeping in my bed.”
Now all eyes are on me.
There’s a real possibility Julianna might walk down any minute, so I figured it was best to get this out in the open. It was either this or wake her up and sneak her out. Now, with everyone staring at me and Lizzy’s mashed-potato-covered mouth hanging open, I wonder if that wasn’t the better option.
Dad drops his silverware and directs a firm hand toward me to emphasize whatever point he’s about to make. “Son, I know we’ve discussed the importance of using protection, but I figured it went without saying that bringing a girl into our home—into your bedroom!—is out of the question.”
“Ryan!” Mom snaps. “Lizzy, cover your ears. Cody, save it for marriage.”
This is the first dinner conversation Rachel has been interested in for months. She snorts back a laugh.
“It’s not like that,” I say, hardly able to hold back a laugh myself as I realize I should have phrased this better.
Dad’s lips form a stern line. “This is not a laughing matter, Cody.”
“She fell asleep in the living room, okay? While I was working on my art project.”
“Your art put someone to sleep?” Rachel says. “What a surprise.”
“Rachel, cut it out,” Dad barks.
Mom simply looks grateful to have Rachel participating at the dinner table.
“How did she end up in your bed?” Mom asks.
Lizzy’s wide eyes ping-pong from Mom to me.
“I carried her.”
“And she didn’t wake up?” Rachel asks.
“She was pretty out of it,” I say. “I think she isn’t feeling good. Had a fever.”
Mom looks at the clock. “Won’t her parents be worried?”
“They—” I say and pause. “Aren’t home.”
A muscle in Dad’s jaw flinches. He picks up his fork and knife and starts cutting into his meat again. An awkward silence with no end in sight falls over the table.
“Can I have my chocolate milk now?” Lizzy asks. I’m not sure how I figured this conversation would go, but this certainly wasn’t it.
|Jennette Green, author of The Commander's Desire|
“You’re a good guy.” There it is, the truth stripped down and in the open. This is the part of Cody that keeps me hooked. He’s not only a handsome face and an athletic body. It would be so much easier to hate him if that was all he was. The past several weeks have shown me how very real he is, a person with pain and weaknesses and mysteries not even he knows about.
|Julianna is determined to feel nothing but hate toward the son of the FBI agent who put her mom in prison...easier said than done.|
Three Momentous Words
I stare at my reflection, trying to steady my uneven breathing.
Giving up, I dash from the bathroom. Decision made. I’m not turning back now.
I pass the drinking fountain, searching the hallways. I fling aside all thoughts of Cody’s dad and my mom, all fears of Vic and my dad warning me against Cody. I turn down a maze of corridors, searching left and right. And then I see him. Alone. Pacing.
“Cody,” I say.
He turns at the sound of my voice but looks away again.
“Cody, look at me.”
Nothing. He rests one hand on his hip, the other hand digging into his hair. Frustration oozes from his rigid stance.
I start toward him, not about to back down. “What’s wrong?”
At last he turns. “You,” he says, his voice reverberating through the empty hall, bringing me to a stop.
“You and me; this is all wrong. It always has been.”
The words cut deep. Sting. “You don’t mean that,” I say, the hitch in my voice betraying me.
“You’re right,” he says. “What I’m trying to say is I love you.”
His words hit me, melting every last barrier around my heart. He loves me. Three momentous words out in the open.
He runs his fingers through his hair again, messing it up. Suddenly, he looks more rugged than put together. Seductive. It reminds me of when he first came to school, a total mess sitting in that wheelchair. I loved that boy, too. As senseless as it is, I’ve always loved him.
Cody shifts his weight from one leg to the other and gives me a look. “What do you want, Jules?”
Somehow I know this question is monumental, my answer pivotal.
I stare at him and falter. No one has asked me this in weeks, months. I think about all the things I’ve had my heart set on, worked to keep together, strived to accomplish. But looking at Cody now, it’s hard to think of anything else.
What do I want? How do you place your heart out in the open like this?
I want you.
The words tangle up, wedged like a knot in the back of my throat.
Cody brushes a curly lock of hair away from my face, his gaze following the motion. “’Cause all I want right now is to kiss you, and I’m sick of trying to think up more reasons why I shouldn’t.”
My breath catches in the back of my throat, my heart hammering with the need to reach out and give him what he wants—what I want.
Cody draws back, his hand falling to his side. Like he’s about to walk away again.
“Then stop trying,” I say.