Opinionated, unconventional Ayla Hawkins isn’t the type to use blackmail, but sometimes a girl has to stand up for what’s right. So when she catches Mr. Perfect Luke Pressler doing something decidedly un-perfect, Ayla’s got the dirt she needs to get Luke on her side—in the form of her new fake boyfriend.
One mistake. All Luke wanted was a night to goof off, to blow off steam. The next thing he knew, he was pretending to date Ayla Hawkins. But his little blackmailer turns out to be kind. Honorable. And just the breath of fresh air he didn’t even realize he was suffocating for. But Luke and Ayla come from different worlds, and once the terms of their agreement end, their fauxmance will, too.
Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book features adult language, sexual situations, and plenty of girl power. Reading may result in swooning, laughing, and looking for a Luke of your own.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||2 MB|
|Age Range:||12 Years|
About the Author
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By Rebekah L. Purdy, Stacy Abrams, Alexa May
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Rebekah L. Purdy
All rights reserved.
"So don't hate me for this."
My best friend, Chloe, plopped down beside me on the stage. Her blond hair was piled on top of her head and held in place by black chopsticks. "I grabbed you a form to run for class president."
"You're joking, right?" I stared at the sheet of paper she held out to me. "I have enough going on with drama club and the newspaper. Besides, I heard Jenna Lee is already running, and there's no way in hell I'd ever beat her."
"Nope. I'm not joking."
"People have no idea I exist. I mean, the sun basically shines out of Jenna's ass. I doubt she's ever even had a pimple." Yeah, I definitely didn't need to face down the embarrassment of running against her. The girl was like a supermodel, and it didn't hurt that she dated one of the stars on the basketball team. Not that there was anything wrong with being pretty, it's just Jenna knew she was and used it to her advantage.
Plus, her dad was the superintendent, so all the teachers pretty much let her do whatever she wanted.
The only thing I had going for me were my grades, which to most people probably wasn't exactly hot. I reached down to fix the laces on my Chucks, blowing wisps of brown hair from my face.
Just then Mrs. Parkins came in, holding a clipboard in one hand and a coffee cup in the other. Her red lipstick was smudged, her long flowy skirt tangled around her legs as she hurried toward us, nearly tripping. "Sorry I'm late, everyone," she said. "Ayla, did you already hand out the list of musicals we have to choose from for the fall production? We'll need to vote on one before the end of today."
"Yeah." And I couldn't help but notice they were ones that'd been recycled from the last couple of years. I didn't want to have to put on High School Musical. Again. I mean, how could you draw in crowds with lame crap like that? We should be performing stuff like Les Misérables or Phantom of the Opera, or, hell, even Grease.
Mrs. Parkins pulled a chair out from behind the curtain and sat down. "Okay, before we discuss the musical, I wanted to talk to you about the finance meeting I had with the board today to see what kind of budget drama club would have for this school year." Her lips pursed as she tapped her pen on her leg. "To make a long story short, they've decided to cut our finances in half."
"What? They can't do that!" I climbed to my feet. My fingers slid my black glasses from my face to the top of my head. "I don't understand. Why?"
"Apparently the basketball team needs new uniforms this year. The board thinks they'll make it to state and doesn't want them having to wear old gear."
"That's bullshit," I said. "They just got new ones two years ago. When was the last time we got anything new, used, or otherwise?"
"Language, Ayla." Mrs. Parkins shot me her best teacher-in-authority look.
"Sorry." My face warmed, and I shifted my gaze to the floor. I normally didn't have outbursts like this. It was just you could only take so much for so long before finally wanting to speak up. I needed to remember that I was Ayla Hawkins, nice girl, not Ayla Hawkins, raging bitch. "Isn't there something we can do?"
She sighed. "I've tried everything I can to keep them from cutting our funding. But I'm only one voice."
"Maybe we can sell candy bars or wash cars or something?" I said.
"We've done that in the past, and you know they don't bring in a lot of extra money. We've already diminished what little was in that fund last spring."
"Doesn't the student council have a say in some of the fund-raising stuff? If we could get someone into the board meeting to speak up for us, it might help," Chloe said. "Someone like Ayla. She could run for class president."
God, I hated it when Chloe got an idea stuck in her head, because she didn't let it go. She probably already had all my campaign posters drawn up.
"Well, it certainly couldn't hurt," Mrs. Parkins said.
"Look, I'm just not sure this is my thing." Actually, I was positive it wasn't my thing. Hell, I'd been fighting for stuff for the last three years at Larkin Ridge High and nothing ever made a difference. The school, the teachers, the board — they always sided with the popular kids or decided to cut arts programs to ensure that sports were top priority.
"You could just think about it, you know," Chloe said.
"Fine. I'll think about it," I said. But even as I took the form from Chloe, I had no plans on following through with it. I mean, I hated confrontation with my classmates, and if I ran for president, that's exactly what it'd turn into. Me against Jenna and all the popular kids. I'd rather be invisible to them. It'd taken me years to get over all the things the jocks had said to me in the halls in middle school. Years to find me. Nope, I didn't want to go back down that road again. I had the newspaper and drama club and didn't need anything else. In fact, I was okay with being the girl no one noticed. Unless of course you counted the principal, but I didn't want to even think about that.
"Now that that's out of the way, what are your thoughts for musicals?" Mrs. Parkins glanced around the stage.
"The only one we haven't done in the last few years is Little Shop of Horrors," Tom Ditwell said.
"Anyone else?" Mrs. Parkins said.
No one answered. I mean, what was there to say? We basically had four choices. Three of which the seniors, like me, had already performed.
"Little Shop of Horrors it is, then. Tomorrow we'll get scripts and music handed out and go over tryout times. So if that's it, you're all free to go."
I grabbed my Star Wars backpack from the floor and followed Chloe out the door. "I wonder if I could con my mom into giving me an advance on my allowance," I said.
"To buy us new scripts or something. I just can't believe this." We headed down the hall toward our lockers. The scent of tacos still lingered in the air from lunch. Couple that with the stench of sweaty teens, and I was ready to vomit.
Luke Pressler rushed past me, nearly knocking my books from my hand. "Sorry," he called over his shoulder.
Sure he was. Him and his stupid basketball team. This was all their fault. Mr. Golden Boy and his shaggy blond hair.
"Ayla, good, I caught you before you left," Mr. Leaver said. "I wanted to let you know that the school wouldn't approve your article on transgender bathrooms. The principal thought the subject was inappropriate and would only cause an uproar."
"You're kidding! Why? I mean, this is a real issue."
"He asked if you could maybe interview Luke Pressler about his basketball scholarship instead." Mr. Leaver ran a hand through his hair.
"Oh. My. God. We might as well just send out a newspaper with pictures of all the sports teams in it. That's all anyone cares about. Not about the environment, or bullying, or transgender rights or anything important."
"I know, Ayla. Your article was phenomenal. But you know we have to have approval on everything before we go to print. Censorship sucks — but if we want to have a paper, we have to do what they say." He adjusted his glasses, refusing to meet my eye. "Look, I'm not happy about this, but the principal doesn't like the fact that you've pushed some articles through that weren't approved. Last week he made us rerun the whole paper after your story on locker room hazing printed."
"But it was the truth. There have been two instances where guys on the football team did things to underclassmen. It's like no one wants to hear the truth — so let's brush everything under the rug and pretend it didn't happen."
He sighed. "Trust me, there are lots of people who want to know about it, but the principal doesn't want to shed a negative light on the school. Plus, with funding cuts coming down, we may be forced to do an online-only newspaper, or worse, we could get canceled. So we need to be cautious."
My mouth gaped open. "Wait, what? They're cutting funds to the paper, too?"
"Yes. I'm fighting a losing battle here. We either do the types of stories Mr. Fairchild wants, or we lose everything, Ayla."
"Everything?" Crap. What about Stacy and Holly? We'd been working on the paper together since freshman year. Stacy was one hell of a photographer and Holly covered all the special interest stories. We'd all worked so hard trying to make a paper people cared about. For three long years we'd been there for one another, giving encouragement when our ideas were shot down or cheering for one another when a story worked out. And they were both depending on the paper for their scholarships for college — the competitions they'd entered to get them had rules about submitting articles they wrote in order to be eligible. So no paper meant no articles, and that meant no way to enter the competitions. Not to mention it might be the end of my own dreams. My application to Columbia University for journalism wouldn't go very far if I was no longer editor in chief of my newspaper. Sure, they looked at my grades, but if I no longer had any extracurriculars that tied in with the application I'd submitted for an early decision, I was done.
"Sorry, but sometimes we've got to bite the bullet."
Wow. Way to stand up for us. That's what I wanted to say, but instead, I nodded as usual. "What's my deadline?"
"I've already chatted with Luke, and he said he could squeeze you in tomorrow afternoon, right after school."
"Great. I'll mark it on my calendar." I spun on my heel and marched out of the school. What choice did I have? This was about more than just my future on the paper ... I needed to worry about everyone else involved as well.
"Are you going to be okay?" Chloe asked as we left the building.
"Yep. Just fine." When I got to my baby-blue Volkswagen Bug, I tossed my stuff onto the passenger seat. "I'm just so tired of this. Can't I get, like, one break?"
"At least this is our last year in this hellhole." Chloe stared off in the distance.
"Yeah, it is." And I knew when we graduated, all the classes after us would have to deal with the same stuff. I'd like to leave behind some legacy for them.
Reaching inside my backpack, I pulled out the nomination form for class president. "So, if I run for president, are you going to help with my campaign?"
Chloe screeched. "Oh my god, are you serious? Yes. Of course I will. We'll make you buttons and bracelets, maybe I'll even get you to wear a dress."
"Don't make me regret this."
"You won't, I promise."
But when I saw Jenna Lee emerge from the school, her shiny black hair swinging in the wind, I was already regretting it. What I needed was a plan — or more like a miracle. I really hoped I was up for this.
Instead of going right home, I decided to stop and grab pizza. Pizza always made me feel better. Which was probably why I wasn't tiny like Jenna. I was a stress eater, and Larkin Ridge High had a way of stressing me out on a daily basis. So I had more burger runs and pizza stops than probably the entire senior class, which Chloe normally joined me for. But tonight I had to figure a few things out on my own.
I swung by Crusty's Pizza and grabbed a small hand-tossed pepperoni and cheese and an order of breadsticks. In the parking lot, I texted my mom and told her I'd be late.
I drove around until after dark, trying to clear my head. I needed to come up with a strategy. If I wanted to appeal to people and get their vote, what did I need to do? I licked tomato sauce from my fingers as I shoved the last breadstick into my mouth.
With a sigh, I parked near Statue Falls Park, aptly named for all the art pieces in it. It was so quiet out here. I pulled a notebook from my bag and rolled down my windows. I did my best brainstorming here.
So I numbered the paper one through ten and labeled the page How to Become Student Class President (without dying or having to sell my soul).
Number one: Make people notice me.
Number two: Find things that appeal to them.
Lame. And more lame. I was horrible at this. I didn't know the first thing about running for an elected office. I mean, drama club and the newspaper were one thing. All I did was make sure people showed up for meetings, made their deadlines, and helped Mrs. Parkins keep costumes and budgets in order.
This was never going to work.
Shouting in the distance broke through the silence. What the hell was going on? I slid from my car, using the flashlight on my phone to maneuver the path near the road.
Damn, I hoped I didn't walk in on some crazy orgy or a murder or something. Because I didn't know any self-defense other than kick 'em in the nards — well, if they were male. Otherwise, I was screwed. As I got closer, I flipped off my light. Partially because I didn't want someone to see me, and partially because I didn't need it due to the bright headlights of Jack Miles's car.
There, standing about thirty feet away from me, was Luke Pressler, and he was raging out on a statue. No way. No fucking way. Golden boy Luke Pressler was getting drunk and destroying public property?
I hit record on my phone and watched as Luke pummeled a replica statue of David, knocking its wiener off. He then took it and put it in another statue's hand like it was holding a staff or something ... Er ... maybe he had some weird statue fetish.
He and his basketball buddies continued to tear things up, tossing back beer as they did it.
This was freaking perfect. Luke Pressler was going down. Tomorrow's interview with him would be classic. I could picture it now.
"So, Luke, tell me, what are your thoughts on artwork? Do you like nude statues? Have you ever chopped the penis off a stone dude?"
Yep. Let's see the school back the basketball team up now. I had proof that they couldn't ignore.
Good-bye new uniforms, hello drama club funding and newspaper headline gold.CHAPTER 2
My head still pounded from the hangover I had from the night before. Luckily, I only had one more class to get through, then an interview with someone from the school paper. Then I could be home for an hour or so before going to work, enough time to get a little homework done.
I rubbed the back of my neck. Some of last night was still a blur — well, other than the part where Jack, Brady, and I destroyed some of the statues in the park, which in hindsight probably wasn't such a good idea. What would happen if someone found out it was us? My stomach tightened with nervousness. Damn it. What had I been thinking?
But it'd felt awesome to let loose. To forget about all the responsibility piled on my shoulders. About having to work to help my mom make rent or keep groceries in the house or whether I could find someone to watch my brother when my mom and I were gone. It was nice to pretend I was someone else for a while. Someone who wasn't the man of the house or worried about having perfect grades or having a deadbeat dad.
My phone buzzed in my pocket, and I took it out. "Hey, Mom," I answered. "What's up?"
"Is there any way you can go get Landon? The nurse at the school called and said he's throwing up. They've got him in the office right now."
I sighed. "Well, I was heading to sixth hour ..."
"I'm sorry, Luke, it's just we have a big client coming in in a few minutes. My boss really needs me here. You know I'd leave if I could. I promise, I'll make it up to you." Mom sounded desperate.
And of course she knew I couldn't say no. "Fine. Call the school and let them know I'm leaving early." With a sigh, I went to my locker, grabbed my books, stopped into my sixth hour long enough to hand in one homework assignment and grab tomorrow's, then I headed out.
When I got to the elementary school, Landon was waiting in the office for me, bucket in hand. His blond hair was sticking to his forehead. His eyes welled with tears, his cheeks paler than normal. Seeing him this way, it tore me up. I hated it when Landon cried or got sick. When I couldn't fix things for him.
"Luke, I got sick."
"I know, buddy. Let's get you home, okay?" I signed him out, then grabbed his hand and led him to my rusted Gremlin — it was maroon with yellow, green, and blue stripes. Not the best-looking car, but Mom had gotten a really good deal on it. And since it got me where I needed to go, I drove it.
Once I got him home, he rushed into the bathroom. "Luke — I'm going to be si —"
I heard him puke and hurried in with him. He cried, and I rubbed his back. "It's okay. I'm right here." Unlike our parents, who were always absent. I loved him. He was the only thing that kept me going sometimes. I wanted him to have a better life. To not be a senior in high school and paying the household bills.
Or be like me, putting on a show for my friends to keep up the facade that we still had money when we were living in one of the shittiest neighborhoods in the city. The only one of my friends who even knew about our fall from grace after my parents' divorce was Brady.
Excerpted from Incriminating Dating by Rebekah L. Purdy, Stacy Abrams, Alexa May. Copyright © 2017 Rebekah L. Purdy. 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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