James Parson has a problem. His military dad is going to yank him out of his expensive boarding school if James doesn’t prove he’s no longer hooking up, pulling pranks, and charming his way out of consequences. What better way to show he’s now responsible than becoming the committed boyfriend of a U.S. diplomat’s daughter?
Level-headed, book-smart Edelweiss may have traveled the world thanks to her dad’s job, but when it comes to friends and boys, she knows exactly nothing. Newly enrolled in boarding school, Edel is now on a mission to learn it all. James says he’ll help her experience the ultimate high school life—if she’ll be his fake girlfriend. And fake is perfect, because he’s exactly the kind of player she’d never date.
Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains red-hot romance, all the feels, and a soul-mate bad boy.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||3 MB|
|Age Range:||12 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
It Had to be You
By Lizzy Charles, Kate Brauning
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Lizzy Charles
All rights reserved.
A proctored exam. The knot in my throat tightens, yet I force myself to lift my chin. "Shouldn't be a problem."
The headmistress shifts back in her leather chair and nods. Hopefully she's impressed I didn't turn my head to glance at my mother, my lifelong teacher, the moment she mentioned testing me. "Just a short mathematics exam for determining your class placement. It's not often we have a previously homeschooled student attend Brockmore. Without being able to research the curriculum used to guide your studies, I need to gauge your current understanding."
Her coral blush glows against her umber skin as she smiles, waiting for my nod of acknowledgment. Once I give it, her attention returns to my parents, who perch in leather armchairs beside me. I rock in my chair, feeling the bump of the small Moleskine notebook in my back pocket, where that exact phrase — a proctored exam — is listed among my "top ten must-have high school experiences" so college doesn't chew me up and spit me out like a bad brussels sprout.
Well, top eleven. When I showed Mom the book, she added her own scribbling to the page, right over my first goal of joining the student government. Fall in love and break up, she'd written down with a wink. "You don't want your first heartbreak to be in an environment where losing yourself could cascade into your future more permanently."
A good point. So I kept it, and then I added about ten more pages of random stuff to the list. Why stop at eleven when preparing for college? I put down everything I could imagine so I could feel accomplished as I scratched things off through the year. Survive cafeteria food is on page two, and I should be able to check that off in a few hours, given I do in fact survive.
A group of guys rushes past Headmistress Creighton's window, throwing a Frisbee. It's still hard to believe I'm here. Of all the places I've studied, from nooks off of throne rooms in Belgium to wandering the Ivory Coast of Abidjan, I never thought I'd end up in a real high school. The dark woodwork hugs the doorframe with detailing that's gained beauty with age. The room creaks with my own excitement for this change as the headmistress slides the final paperwork toward Dad.
Dad hesitates, clutching his pen so hard it might break. He loves to tell its story, how his law firm gifted it to him the day he left with his pregnant wife — enter me — for D.C. to prepare for his new position at the U.S. Embassy in Germany. He claims the stainless steel that houses the ink is unbreakable. Ridiculous. Everything breaks. Still, I humor him with a firm nod anytime he mentions it, which is often, since he always has it tucked into the inside pocket of his sports coat. Finally, in a fluid movement, his cursive uncurls along the black line, his name spelling out my freedom.
After the paperwork is signed, we wander around campus together until our time runs out. All parents have to be off campus before the welcoming banquet.
"Are you sure about this, honey?" Mom presses her palm to my cheek as we wait for their ride on the front steps of Brockmore Academy.
"I need to try something new."
She juts out her lower lip, feigning a pout. "What? Learning German folklore while walking through the Black Forest wasn't interesting enough for you?"
I bump her gently with my shoulder. "You know what I mean, Mom. Anytime I think of college —" The skin over my collarbone prickles, and I have to stop to take a slow breath. How will I ever survive college if I've never stepped foot inside a real school?
Mom takes my hand and gives it a good squeeze. "I understand." She doesn't let go, and for the first time I notice that her palm is now slightly smaller than my own. "Perhaps I should have given you a more traditional education, with workbooks and such. Then again ..." She adjusts my necklace, then lifts her mint-green eyes to mine. "I like how you've turned out, but I understand why you're doing this. You need it. I can tell."
A few feet away, Dad sighs and slips his cell phone into the inside pocket of his suit coat. "Peter's not able to make it," he says, wrapping his arm around Mom.
"Oh no." Mom pats his arm, wiggling into his embrace. I can't even look at them, instead glancing around to make sure no one notices their public display of affection. Thankfully, everyone else has already said their good-byes, and the front drive of Brockmore is empty.
"I was able to fly twelve hours to be here, and he can't catch a train for four. This is why I never went into the military."
"Sorry, Dad. I know you were looking forward to seeing him again." Colonel Peter Parson is one of my parents' oldest friends. One I need to thank immensely for encouraging them to release their clutches and send me to Brockmore.
"Then how is James getting here?" Mom glances over her shoulder, as if she expects Colonel Parson's son, James, to be rushing toward us, excited to meet her.
"Family." Dad glances down at me with a grin. "So are you excited to get rid of your old man?" A black limo curls around the grove of pine trees that borders Brockmore Road all the way down to the town. "Look at that. Right on time."
I nudge him with my elbow. They're flying back to Monaco, and the next time I'll see them will be over winter break. To be honest, I don't know how I feel about it. I'm way overdue to have a few nights to myself, but four months sounds a little overwhelming. "I'll miss you. You know that."
"Still. A whole year without dear old dad being able to frighten boys away."
"Dad. Please." Warmth floods my cheeks. He knows very well I've never been asked on a date. The limo pulls into a smooth, easy stop curbside. Both my parents look frozen, but I start walking down the steps, knowing they'll follow.
Dad skips a step to be even with me. "I thought perhaps I'd be able to have a few words with James. Tell him to look out for you and all that. Unfortunately, Peter says he isn't answering his phone. Looks like you'll have to introduce yourself to him at the banquet tonight."
"If I can manage to find him. There are four hundred students in this school!" My thumb twitches until it unlocks from its joint. Somehow this movement satisfies, in a way I can never explain to anyone else.
Mom laughs. "Honey, there were twelve hundred students in my high school, and I knew every single person in my class of four hundred and twenty. You get used to it. Trust me."
"See, this is why I need a typical high school experience. If four hundred kids freak me out, how in the world will I survive navigating a campus of thousands like Yale or MIT?"
Mom reaches out, patting my hand, her gentle signal she's always given me whenever she catches me popping my thumb joint. Her quest to prevent me from arthritis never ends. "Sorry." When I pull my hand back, the impulse to pop the joint returns fiercely.
Dad speaks with the driver for a moment, and when he returns, he glances up at the stunning stone building hovering over us. He laughs. "I'd hardly call one of the most elite boarding schools in the nation a typical high school, but that's not your fault. It's the only place I can bear sending you." He opens his arms, and I step into his hug. "We're going to miss you, Edelweiss."
"I'm going to miss you, too."
It takes twenty minutes' worth of hugs and tears and "I love yous," but finally they let me go, pulling away in their jet-black limo with Mom's hand waving from the window. A cutting anguish digs into me as I watch them disappear behind the pine trees. I'm the force behind this decision, but God, how I need elbow room after a lifetime of following them around the world.
My hand floats to my back pocket making sure my notebook is still there. It is, of course. After a year of kissing my bum, it wouldn't dare escape the comfortable groove worn into my pants. Still, I shove it back down so it won't creep out. A warm excitement pixelates in my chest when I think about all the scary things I've written down in those pages.
Make the type of friends who will laugh with you until you cry or cry with you until you laugh.
Stay up all night long binging Netflix with my roommate.
Give a speech.
Enter a debate.
Be a math tutor.
Fail at something and pick myself up again.
My heart kicks into overdrive. I gaze up at Brockmore Hall in awe. Its great shadow spreads over the driveway, and age has colored the building's stonework, cracks squiggling through the condensed minerals, yet it still stands, like an unbreakable fortress.
Brockmore is designed to place its students in Ivy League colleges. Launch a teenager on the road to becoming the next president of the United States. Not that I want to be POTUS, but I wouldn't mind a little boost for getting into an Ivy League school. Brockmore's name alone should do wonders for my college application, but I'll need to give more of myself to the school if I want to stand out. I've stared at my college applications for the last year with no answers to questions like, "What life experiences have offered you leadership opportunities?" Brockmore is my chance to find the answers.
A cramp in my wrist travels up the tendons in my arm. Oh. I release my fist, letting blood return. Probably best not to walk into the school this way. I should look like I'm at least open to having some fun before the weight of academia hits my shoulders.
I cycle through pranayama breath just as my yoga instructor in New Delhi taught me, syncing my energy to the fresh-cut grass beneath my ballet flats.
This is it, Edel. It's time to start living.
"Watch out!" A voice jolts me out of my meditation. A red motorbike skids toward me. The screech of the breaks makes my teeth vibrate. The bike jets out from under the rider, and suddenly I'm horizontal, pinned beneath the guy.
A fierce heat stings my cheek.
"Are you all right?" The guy's voice is deep. He flips open the visor of his helmet and gazes down with dark-chocolate eyes. If I look closely, swirling flecks of gold dance within the brown. Absolutely intoxicating.
The guy coughs, and I blink to break free of his pull. "Hey. You okay?" he asks.
Only the searing pain on my cheek brings me back to reality. My fingertips feather over the wound and poke at the hot and mushy mess that used to be my skin. When I pull my fingers back, they're coated in red.
Blood. Who cares about the hot guy? I'm bleeding!
"What is it?" He reaches under me, supporting my head off the ground. "You're going to be okay." His lips part into a blazing Hollywood smile. "It's pizza sauce."
"Are you hurt anywhere else?" He waits until I give him a nice shake of my head. But the answer must not have been good enough. "Is it okay if I check?" He eyes me, waiting for my permission.
My processing feels numb, so I nod. He'll do a better job than me at this point.
The tawny-brown skin of his hand warms my pale arms as he slides his palms over my wrist, my elbow, checking my bones in gentle squeezes. Everything there feels normal. Same with the other arm. A satisfying lack of tingling or numbness results from a quick wiggle of my fingers and toes. The only notable injury is to my clothing — marinara sauce splattered all over me.
"Well, when in Rome ..." He peels a slice off my linen pants, handing it to me.
I hold the fluffy wedge smothered in Colby-Jack. This is nothing like the pizza I'm used to from Rome.
"Get it while it's hot, girl." He laughs, and the energy in his voice cracks me open. "Now, there's a smile."
Not wanting to appear uptight, I take a nibble. The salt is shocking, but then the smooth texture of the cheese melts like butter on my tongue. Whoa.
"Good, right?" The guy takes a seat next to me on the grass, flicking the pizza box open with his shoe to see how many pieces remain.
"Are you the delivery guy?" I ask, setting my piece down on the cardboard. Doesn't make sense to eat before the opening banquet tonight.
"She speaks!" He bites into the crust with a curt nod. "You could say that. What's your name?" "Edelweiss."
A smile spreads across his face, and he tilts his head to the right, looking at me oddly.
"Admittedly, it's a unique name." I shrug. "Most people call me Edel."
"Like the singer, Adele?"
I nod, nudging the smashed pizza box with my toe. It never occurred to me that my name would be too weird for school, but suddenly a wave of doubt washes over me.
"I like it. We don't have any Edels here. It's pretty." He tosses his slice aside and jumps up to assess his motorbike. There's a dent in the front fender where it met the pavement.
Losing transportation could mean losing a job — one of Dad's signature life lessons chimes in my mind. Oh please let it still work. "I'm sorry about your bike."
"I nearly run you over, and you're sorry about the bike?" A dimple, high up on his left cheek, imprints with his grin.
"I'm not messed up like that fender. What if it isn't working?"
He revs the engine, his broad shoulders blocking out the setting orange sun. "Roars like a lion. Don't worry about it."
The bell over the entrance to Brockmore Hall rings. Dinner. My chest fights to expand. Other than my roommate, who I met during my campus tour this morning, I'll know no one at my table.
"So is this for the dinner tonight?" It's a stupid thing to say, because obviously they'd need like forty more boxes to feed the school, but I don't want him to leave. I like his dimple, and I want to see if I can get a peek at it one more time.
"Nope." He looks up at the giant clock above the two oak doors. "Six already? Crap!" He stashes his motorbike in the bushes and plucks the box of pizza off the grass.
"But dinner starts at six? It's six right now." I spin to follow him. What's the issue?
"Yes, but even if we bolt we won't make it until 6:03, and in the headmistress's book, that's as good as failing. Come on." He reaches out, takes my hand, and drags me up the steps. My skin tingles when the warmth of his palm presses against mine.
Inside, he directs me down the main corridor back toward the computer lab. Or, what I think is the computer lab. Maybe it's the student services office. "Why are we going this way?"
"Get caught walking in late? Not wise." His fingers tighten, then we take a right down the hall that leads to the grand stairway. I will my palms not to sweat as every nerve ending that touches his skin dances with the warmth of his hand. A gentle warmth crawls up my chest and up my neck. This is the first time I've ever held hands with a guy who wasn't my father. It can't always be this spectacular, can it?
"Watch out for the step," he warns. When I glance down to take the step up into the adjoining hallway, my marinara-covered pants scream at me to come to my senses. I can't meet everyone at Brockmore like this!
"No, wait. I need to change." I stop near the grand stairway, picking at the red stains. "People are going to think I've been stabbed."
"Trust me. Being stabbed is better than being late, in Creighton's book." He shakes his head and leads me forward, his other hand briefly brushing my back. The pizza box he carries wobbles a bit, yet his hand remains there. He leads me past the grand stairway down the next corridor and then presses a large panel of woodwork along the wall. A deep creak, and the wood reveals a concealed door.
"Is she really that bad?" The headmistress seemed so patient in the office with my parents, far from a strict dictator.
"She's tolerable, but pissing off the headmistress isn't the best way to start the school year." He holds open the door. "Coming?"
Getting in trouble the first day could mark me for the entire semester. He's right. The last thing I need is to piss off administration before the year even starts.
I sigh in defeat as I step up into the small passageway. The space is long, twisty, and dark. He lights the way with his cell phone, and after we take a left turn, we have to shimmy past a butler cart.
"Should we be down here?" I'm forced to jog every few steps to keep up with his athletic pace.
"Absolutely not," he says over his shoulder. "That's part of the fun though, isn't it?" His dimple pops again when he laughs, his step picking up a bounce. He's loving every moment of this, and here I am fearing expulsion with each step. We run twenty more feet before he pauses at a thin, wooden door. He touches a finger to his lips then he pushes it open a crack. I peer in at a sea of students surrounding linen-covered tables.
"How well do you handle pressure?" he whispers.
His eyebrow lifts as he assesses me. I must have done something right, because eventually he nods. "You'll be fine. Just stay quiet." He gives my hand a squeeze before stepping into the dining hall, pulling me behind him before I can bolt back down the corridor.
Excerpted from It Had to be You by Lizzy Charles, Kate Brauning. Copyright © 2017 Lizzy Charles. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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