It’s not chemistry between Tinka Foster and Sam Anderson that made them agree to fake date. With her parents trying to set her up with an annoying pro-track golf student, and intentionally single Sam’s family pressuring him to bring a date to his brother’s wedding, they could both use a drama-free summer.
So it’s not his muscular arms and quick wit that makes Tinka suggest they tell everyone they’re both taken. Definitely not. And it’s not butterflies that makes a kiss for appearances during the lake party go on way too long—so long that Sam wishes it were real.
But Tinka keeps people at arm’s length—she’s always been second best, even to her parents. And her relationship-for-show could crush everything when she realizes she’s done with fake, pretend, and second-best.
Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains bikinis at the lake, a lot of making out in dark theaters, and a meet-cute you’ll read twice.
Books in the North Pole, Minnesota series
Any Boy but You
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They look ... different.
That was Tinka Foster's first thought as she entered the baggage claim area and caught sight of her parents at carousel number seven.
They looked like themselves, but slightly off. They looked like aliens attempting to impersonate her mom and dad, but not doing a great job of it.
Her boarding school roommate, Jane Packer, who was staying with Tinka in Minnesota for the next four weeks, stopped next to her. "Are those your parents?"
Tinka snuck a quick glance at Jane, as guilt and regret nagged at her again. This was how it would be for the next month. Their last night at school would haunt her every time she caught a whiff of Jane's rosewater perfume. Shaking away the guilty feelings, she focused on her parents instead. "I ... think that's them." Tinka squinted. "What the hell did they do to themselves?" The people standing next to the baggage carousel were not the same couple she'd seen six months ago during winter break.
"They're adorable!" Jane took off running, rolling her pristine, raspberry Louis Vuitton carry-on behind her. A weight lifted from Tinka's shoulders as Jane left her side.
Tinka trailed Jane, delaying the reunion with her parents by a few seconds. Her dad was wearing shorts and an untucked collared shirt. And sandals. His phone was nowhere to be seen, which was maybe the most alarming part of all. He had his arm around his wife's shoulders and he was, incredibly, 100 percent present in this moment. Tinka had to rub her puffy, bloodshot eyes to make sure she was actually seeing what she thought she saw.
Her mom had dropped a couple clothing sizes over the past few months and had traded her usual polyester Old Navy dress and flip-flops for a perfectly fitted wrap dress and a pair of stylish strappy sandals. Her previously straggly, un-dyed hair was now cut in a chic, long bob and was streaked with highlights, making her now more blond than either brown or gray.
Tinka's parents hugged Jane, then, once her mom finally caught sight of Tinka, she started bouncing on her toes and clapping her hands with glee. Tinka's dad joined in the celebration and full-on waved to his daughter with a gigantic beam of delight and pride on his face. He shouted, "Tinka! Tinka, over here!"
Pretty sure she'd somehow entered The Twilight Zone, Tinka raised her eyebrows and let her aviator sunglasses fall from her forehead onto her nose. Though she'd missed her mom and dad while she was away at school, Tinka was simply too hungover to process their metamorphoses at the moment.
She hunched her shoulders, trying to appear smaller, almost invisible, as she slunk over to her parents. When she was close enough, her mother leaped the chasm of space between them and swept Tinka into a bear hug. Mrs. Foster kissed her daughter's cheek, and when Tinka was finally given room to breathe, she reflexively wiped her face to rid herself of any errant hot pink lipstick. That, too, was one of her mother's new features.
Her dad stood back, observing. He nodded when Tinka looked at him. She gripped the nylon straps of her backpack, waiting for her father to take the first step, not wanting to spook him with any sudden movements. Then he, still smiling like a fool, clutched his daughter to his chest and nearly squeezed the life out of her. "Welcome home, sweetie."
Her eyes watering from this unexpected display of affection, Tinka stiffened under his grip. "Sweetie" was not and never had been in her father's vernacular.
"Your mom and dad have a big surprise for us." Jane hugged Tinka's mom's arm. "I love surprises."
Tinka didn't love surprises, and neither did her parents, usually. They weren't surprise people. They were "we need at least six weeks of notice on absolutely everything" people.
The three Fosters stood in size order at the carousel — mama bear, papa bear, and baby bear, while Jane danced around them, taking in all the sights the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport baggage claim had to offer. "How was your last night at school?" asked her dad.
"Great," Tinka lied. She snuck a peek at Jane, who was chatting with a random three-year-old and his parents. It'd only been one of the worst nights of Tinka's life, no big deal.
Her mom was still doing the thing where she filled Tinka in on gossip no one in their right mind would ever care about, so, at least that hadn't changed. "Tinka, honey, you won't believe what I heard from Mrs. Tucker. She told me that Colleen Sullivan's son Conor is gay." She whispered the last two words.
"I don't know any of those people, and so?" Tinka looked to her father for help, but he was now staring at the baggage carousel like it was his job to do so. The luggage from her flight was starting to emerge. Jane found her massive raspberry suitcase right away. Some middle-aged man helped her hoist it off the conveyor belt.
Tinka's lack of interest in neighborhood gossip did not dissuade her mother. "Sure you do. Karen used to babysit for the Sullivans all the time. Or maybe that was Genevieve Torres. I don't remember ..." Her mother trailed off, trying to mentally reconstruct the tangled web of which of Tinka's childhood friends used to babysit for whom.
"I don't know, Mom," Tinka said.
"But you've heard about Karen's parents, right?" Tinka shook her head.
Ah, now her mom had a bombshell to drop. "They're getting divorced. It's official."
Tinka frowned. "That came out of nowhere."
"They've been separated for months."
A chill snaking up her spine, Tinka stared hard at the baggage carousel. Karen's parents were getting divorced, and this was the first Tinka had heard about it. Once Tinka had started forging a new identity for herself at boarding school, she'd let her relationship with Karen, her oldest and best friend in the world, fizzle out. Tinka'd had no idea Karen's family was going through so much. She should've known. She should've asked.
She was an awful friend. That was a fact. She was literally the worst. And Jane would be here for the next four weeks as a constant reminder.
Tinka's father's eyes were glued to the little door through which piles of luggage were now tumbling out. When he saw what he'd been waiting for, he dove past a family of four blocking his way and heaved Tinka's golf clubs over his head. "Got 'em!" he shouted in triumph, still grinning. "That's all of it, right?"
She shook her head. "I haven't gotten my suitcase yet."
Her dad was no longer paying attention. He'd removed the cover from Tinka's golf bag and was inspecting each club as a jeweler might inspect a diamond. He held up the three wood and squinted into the light. "Are the scratches from you, or are they new? I should've gotten insurance for these before the flight. You can't trust the airlines."
"They're from me." Possibly. Or Jane, who'd been using them in a last-ditch effort to reconnect with her golfer boyfriend, Colin, who had been in the process of dumping her.
Colin. Tinka shuddered involuntarily again. Colin. Tequila. His dorm room ...
Tinka's dad peered into her eyes, and she knew she was in for a shot of Old Dad, Stern Dad. She braced herself for the lecture that was about to come her way: These are Callaways, Christina. Special edition. They cost more than your tuition. She'd welcome his return to form.
But that's not what happened. Instead her father, still beaming, tossed the clubs back into the bag and zipped up the cover. "No big deal. Scratches happen."
Tinka stared at him, open-mouthed. Scratches happen? Not in the world of Tinka's father, Mr. James A. Foster.
He plopped the clubs onto the floor and put his arm around his wife again. Tinka's mom gazed into her husband's eyes like she was seeing him for the first time and it was true love. Jane watched the pair wistfully as if they were the most beautiful sight she'd ever witnessed.
Tinka was about to vomit. She wasn't sure if it was because of her lingering hangover or because the events from last night kept steamrolling through her mind or because of the Karen news or because her parents were being so touchy-feely — it was probably a combination of everything. Out of self-preservation, she kept her focus on the little door at the end of the baggage area, through which bag after bag kept spewing. Brown, green, blue, black ...
Finally, she spotted her own luggage. "My suitcase is here." She nearly took out the family of four herself as she hurled her bag off the carousel and rolled it in the direction of the exit.
In the car, Tinka leaned back and closed her eyes, already regretting inviting Jane home for the month. Tinka had crossed the streams of her life. At Florian's Academy, she was the good time party girl. In Minneapolis, she was the homebody whose parents kept close tabs on her and dragged her to golf lesson after golf lesson. Jane expected her to behave one way, and her parents another. She was going to twist herself into knots juggling her two personae for the next four weeks.
"You seem tired, Tinka." Her mother turned around, practically kneeling on the passenger's seat. They had purchased a new car while Tinka was gone, a silver luxury SUV. ("Liquid Platinum," her dad had called it.)
Though it was late in the evening and the road was pitch-black save for the street lamps and the headlights from other vehicles, Tinka was able to make out her mother's surgically whitened grin in the darkness. So this is what she's been doing instead of calling me every five minutes. Tinka had been replaced by new clothes and cosmetic dentistry.
"Tinka's tired from the dark party last night," Jane said.
Tinka shuddered and rubbed her bare arms. She couldn't tell if the goose bumps were from the air conditioning or the conversation.
"Dark party? What's that?" There was a teasing glint in her mom's eye.
Jane opened her window a crack and flicked a bug off the glass. "At the end of the school year, the students throw this big bash out on the football field, but it has to be completely dark — no lights, no phones — because it happens in the middle of turtle mating season and the lights mess with them."
Mrs. Foster frowned. "What do you do at the party if it's pitch black out?"
"We can still have music going, so there's dancing and stuff." Jane shrugged.
Tinka shivered again. That was a loaded word, "stuff." Everyone needed to get off this topic before she either threw up or had a heart attack. Fortunately, this was when Tinka realized that her dad was driving in the wrong direction.
"Uh, where are we going?" she asked. "Minneapolis is back that way."
"That's the surprise, honey." Tinka's mom blinked, staring at her daughter for a few beats, waiting for some kind of response.
Jane clapped her hands. "Ooh. Yay!"
"I kinda just want to go home," Tinka said, after a moment. "And home is the other way."
Her mom grinned cryptically. "No, honey. Home is this way."
A lump formed in Tinka's throat, a lump of despair she should get used to. This lump, along with the guilt in her gut, would probably stick around for most of the summer.
Her father chimed in. "Maybe you should tell the girls what the surprise is, Eleanor."
"Well, honey, you know how your dad's business has been doing so well lately and how we've always wanted to buy a place in the country?"
"You bought a place in the country," Tinka deadpanned.
"Yay!" squealed Jane. "A country house!"
Tinka blinked back tears that threatened to spill over. This was nothing new. She always had to go along with her parents' whims and wishes — like boarding school and the golf team and absolutely every other thing in her life. She forced a smile. Looking happy was half the battle. The rest of her would catch up eventually. "Exciting. And on Monday we'll go back home."
Mrs. Foster glanced at her husband. "No, we're going for the whole summer. This is where we live now. Your father and I sold the house in Minneapolis. Surprise!" She grinned again at Tinka, but this time her smile didn't seem so sure of itself.
Well, now, this was on-brand for her parents — making huge, life-altering decisions without her input.
She sensed Jane's eyes on her, waiting for her reaction. Tinka widened her grin, really playing up the feigned excitement. She probably looked like a clown. "Wow. You sold our house. That is a big surprise." Tinka pictured the living room, the formal dining room, the entire upstairs all her own. The kitchen. Now someone else was living there. They'd probably ripped down her pastel balloon wallpaper. They'd probably painted over the crayon drawings on the living room wall, the dinosaur she talked to like it was her guardian angel.
There'd be time to mourn later, in private, away from her parents. For now, at least, she had to keep up the appearance of being all right with this situation. This was how things worked. Her parents made the decisions. Tinka went along with them. It was her job to keep them happy, and she took that job very seriously. "Where's my stuff?" she whispered, still smiling like everything was cool.
"At the new place, honey," her mom said. "We think you'll love it. There's a lake and running paths and some great new neighbors."
"And you can golf all summer long." Her dad grinned at her in the rearview mirror.
"But what about Jane?" Tinka asked. "Her parents think she's going to be in Minneapolis this summer, not ... where's the new house?"
"North Pole," her mom said.
"The North Pole?" What the hell was going on?
"No, silly." Her mom patted Tinka's hand. "North Pole, Minnesota. It's a quaint resort town, Christmas-themed, about three hours from the cities."
This did not compute. "A Christmas-themed town ...in the summertime."
"Exactly," her mom said. "Christmas three hundred and sixty five days a year. That's the motto. You're going to love it."
"But Jane —"
"My parents dropped me off at school and left me to fend for myself while they're in Dubai. Minneapolis, North Pole, Cleveland — it's all the same to them."
Jane didn't get it. She'd never get it. Sure, Jane had to scramble to find people to stay with over breaks, and her parents weren't around if she got sick or hurt or whatever (though her grandmother was available in an emergency), but she had so much autonomy. Jane was seventeen years old and her parents saw her as an adult.
Tinka's parents saw her as a baby who happily went along with whatever they wanted.
"So, we won't be going back to Minneapolis at all?" Tinka's voice wavered, but she focused on the back of her mom's chair, trying to distract herself, to find something positive in all this. The negatives were winning out. She was homeless now, basically. She lived in a rented dorm room in South Carolina, and she was about to spend the summer in some strange house her parents had bought without even telling her they were moving.
She pinched the skin between her thumb and forefinger and focused on that physical pain instead of the sadness. Jane reached over and squeezed Tinka's hand, which only made Tinka feel worse. She, of all people, did not deserve Jane's sympathy.
"I don't know if we'll have time, honey," her mom said. "There's a lot to do in the new place. You're going to love it. Trust me. Why don't you lie back and rest and we'll be there before you know it."
Sam Anderson picked a chocolate chip off his muffin and popped it into his mouth.
"What about Marley Ho?" asked Harper. "You like her."
Sam frowned at his sister. "Isn't she dating Kevin Snow?"
"They're just casually dealing with each other." Harper played with the straw in her iced mocha with whipped, her summertime drink of choice at Santabucks, North Pole's resident coffeehouse. The A/C was on full blast, and reindeer wallpaper covered the walls. The baristas wore Santa hats, no matter the season. It was December in here all year round. "Kevin's vile," Harper made sure to add.
"What about your friend Elena?" asked their brother Matthew.
"She has a boyfriend now, duh-doy," said Harper. "How do you not know that? Oliver. Prince." She raised her eyebrows.
So did Matthew. "One of the Prince Princes? You never mentioned that. Were they together when I saw her in Florida over spring break?" Matthew lived in New York and missed out on the most salacious North Pole gossip. Whenever he came back to visit, he relished catching up on all the happenings around town.
Excerpted from "Artificial Sweethearts"
Copyright © 2017 Julie Hammerle.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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