RELEASE DATE: JULY 20TH, 2021
It’s a tale as old as time: the bad boy meets the good girl. He makes a daring proposition. Then the boy gets a mysterious head injury and loses a year of his life…
The first time I meet Rickie, I don’t know what to make of him. The second time we meet, he doesn’t remember the six hours we spent together. Or standing me up afterward.
I’m not the same, either. I’ve got secrets. I’ve told lies. Bad boys aren’t my type, anyway. Even the ones with troubled gray eyes.
But now we’re roommates. Cue the awkward moments in the hallway when he’s wearing only a towel and a smile. He’s determined to win me over, and his talented hands weaken my resolve.
It’s all fun and games until my past rears its ugly head and his secrets come to light, shaking our fragile connection, maybe even breaking it…
Note: this is Daphne Shipley’s story. Contents include Vermonty ice cream flavors, nerdy awkwardness, tattoos, and a playboy grandpa.
CREDITS: Photo by Wander Aguiar
Cover design by Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations
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I read all the way to the highway exit, but I only get halfway through the first article. It’s dense and full of statistical analysis that’s over my head.
By the time Rickie rolls down the exit ramp, I feel the onset of a full-blown case of imposter syndrome. Dr. Drummond is expecting me to be sharp. What if they ask me to work on this type of analysis, and I can’t do it?
“I see the ice cream place,” Rickie says. “But there’s no entrance back onto the highway. What the hell?”
“Doesn’t matter,” I mumble. “It’s three miles down a side road to exit 6.” I close the journal with a sigh. I feel so panicky right now. I’ve always tried to be the smartest girl in the room. But it’s all an act. I’m obviously the worst kind of dunce—the kind that can’t see her own mistakes until it’s way too late. (See: the last twelve months of my life.)
Is it normal to have a midlife crisis right before your twenty-first birthday?
Rickie rolls into the gravel parking lot of the Dreamy Creemee and puts the truck in a shady spot. He rolls down the windows before killing the engine. It’s getting toward dinner hour, so there aren’t many people here. Just a couple of moms pushing toddlers on the swing set.
And I’m quietly having a panic attack in the passenger seat.
I take a slow but shaky breath. Do I even want ice cream? Is there a flavor on that signboard that could take me out of my own head? I reach for the door handle, but Rickie stops me.
“Look,” he says. “About that time we shared a ride home from Connecticut…”
“No,” I say forcefully. If he makes me relive that embarrassing experience, I might lose my cool. “Just forget it, okay? So what if you ghosted me?”
His eyes widen. But my rant is only picking up steam.
“None of that matters. I didn’t even blame you. And the only way I’m going to make it through this year is if I put Connecticut behind me, okay? Just leave it alone.”
My voice cracks on that last word, and I realize that I might actually cry. Which is a thing I never do. But Harkness College was my dream, and I blew it. My damn eyes get hot and my throat constricts.
“S-so just forget it,” I squeak. “It’s already in the past. It can just stay there.”
Rickie’s gray eyes are soft now. And they’re moving closer. To my utter surprise, he leans forward and presses a kiss to my lips.
So soft, my brain sputters.
“Shh,” he says against my lips. His kiss is warm and unhurried. Like a ray of sunshine when you’re shivering.
For once, my squirrel brain forgets to scurry. And I just let it happen. He kisses me again. It’s still gentle. His bright eyes measure me. I don’t know what he sees. But whatever it is, he decides he likes it.
Those soft lips brush and press. Again. And I’m only human. Rickie’s surprisingly tender kiss has caught me at a vulnerable moment. I lean in, experimenting with the slide and pressure of his mouth against mine. A sizzle of heat flashes across my skin. It’s the strangest sensation—as if he’s transferred an ounce of that devil-may-care attitude across the steering column and right into my soul. I drink him in, lips parted. Ready for him to take it further.
But then it ends. Rickie sits back, his head cocked to the side, as if in deep contemplation.
I’m bereft. “Wh-what was that for?” I stammer.
I expect a smirk. But his expression remains soft. “You seemed a little freaked. So I brought you to an ice cream place on a hot summer’s day. But that wasn’t enough, apparently. You needed even more distraction. So I gave it to you. And I’m good at that. A real specialist.”
Replying is impossible. All I can do is sit here and try to process that kiss. That lovely kiss.
He really has some nerve.