Star lacrosse player Alex “Kov” Koviak has it all. Or so everyone thinks. He’s real good at pretending his life is perfect...until he meets Bailey. The girl challenges him and pushes him and makes him laugh like he’s never laughed before. Their friendship is their little secret, and he’s happy to keep her to himself.
Between school, two jobs, and trying to get into NYU film school, Bailey Banfield has zero time for a social life. But then she meets Alex in her express lane at the grocery store, and their secret friendship becomes the only place she can breathe. She refuses to complicate that with more. No matter how charming Alex can be.
When Bailey decides to film outrageous promposals for her NYU application, she enlists Alex’s help to plan an over-the-top, epic promposal to someone else. Too bad the only prom date Alex wants anywhere near Bailey is him.
For a guy who seems to have it all, he’s about to lose the only thing he’s ever wanted.
Disclaimer: This Entangled Crush contains a cocky lacrosse player in over his head with his secret best friend, unexpected midnight kisses, swoon-worthy slow dancing, and movie-night cuddling that’ll make you ache. You’re going to want an Alex of your own!
Each book in the First Kiss Hypothesis series is STANDALONE:
* The First Kiss Hypothesis
* Love and Other Secrets
* Stuck With You
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
We're at lunch when the questions begin.
"You get asked to prom yet?" my best friend Eli asks right as I take a huge bite of pastrami sandwich. Nora, his girlfriend, is at his side digging into a slice of pie, and not in any gentle, girly way. More like a linebacker at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
I like that about her.
I swallow and lift a shoulder. "Nope."
With how much everyone talks about it, you'd think prom is a huge deal at our school, but it's really the promposals that get everyone worked up. As in, they usually go viral.
I've never had to plan one because, in three and three quarter years of high school, I haven't asked anyone to prom, or homecoming, or the eighties dance. Not a single dance. It's not that I'm against taking the initiative; the girls just always beat me to it, asking me (in some really bizarre ways) to go with them.
It's only a matter of time before I'm ambushed again, and Eli knows it.
Last year, it was two girls at once in the school cafeteria. One got a bunch of her fellow cheerleaders to bend their bodies into the letters P-R-O-M-?. The other brought in her grandma's parrot that she'd trained to say "Prom, Koviak?"
It was like the battle to the death of promposals. I felt so bad I said yes to both of them and took two dates, because what else could I do? Have you ever seen someone bend themselves into the shape of a question mark?
Eli snorts. "You know, it wouldn't kill you to do the asking for once."
I grunt. I've known Eli forever. He's been my best friend since preschool and thinks he knows everything about me, but he doesn't know that I've been thinking of asking someone.
It's just ... complicated.
Nora stares at me with serious eyes, almost like she knows about my mystery woman, like I knew about her and Eli before they were even a thing.
She can't, though. No one knows about Bailey.
I shake it off. A big reason Nora and Eli are together is because I convinced him to get off his ass and do something. I gave him the "game clock's ticking" speech. Life is short. Take a chance. Ask her out. I knew they should be together. I can't explain it; it's just a feeling I get. A sixth sense or something. It's earned me a reputation at EHS as a kind of matchmaker.
For the last few months, I've been having that feeling about Bailey and me. But do my matchmaking skills work on my own love life? Up to now, I've seen zero evidence of it.
I slump in my seat and stare at the last half of my pastrami sandwich.
I pick up the pickle spear and snap it in half with my teeth. This isn't like me, moping around like a chickenshit, like I don't even know what I want.
I do know what I want.
I just don't know if I can have it.
Nora steals a fry off Eli's plate. He slaps at her thieving fingers and laughs, both of them so damn happy. She leans against him and closes her eyes.
You want that.
No, I tell that stupid voice in my head. I want to go to the prom with Bailey. That's it. We could go as friends if that's all she wants. The problem is lately when I'm around her, I find myself staring at her mouth, wondering what she tastes like, or looking at her profile when she doesn't know it.
I sigh and nudge my sandwich with the other half of my pickle. No matter how hard I deny it, I think I might want more, and I'm totally screwed on that front because I've made it crystal clear to this entire school that I don't want anything serious with anyone. I am Alex Koviak, Player. Both on and off the lacrosse field. It's my reputation, and it is solid at Edinburgh High. I know it. Bailey knows it.
"Kov?" Nora pushes aside her cleaned-off pie plate. "You all right?"
I flash her a grin and push my hair out of my face. Nora's nice like that, caring about others — and everything else, for that matter — while her dick boyfriend, my best friend, cluelessly stuffs his mouth with French fries.
"Yeah, I'm fine," I say. "Totally fine."
She doesn't look convinced. She doesn't even know that Bailey and I are friends. No one does. It's not normal, I know, but it's the way things developed these last few months, and I kind of like it with no one up in our business, spreading rumors or wondering when or if we'll ever be a couple. I like that we're a secret — but I'd be willing to go public at prom if she wanted to.
Does she want to? I perk up at the thought but almost immediately slump back down in the booth.
"No worries," Eli grins, oblivious to what's going on in my head. "Still a month to prom. Someone will ask you. In fact, there's probably someone with a unicorn in the parking lot right now waiting to write 'Prom?' in rainbow farts."
Nora groans and swipes another fry.
God, I hope not. "Now that would be something."
The thing is, he's probably right. Someone will ask me. Shit, someone might ask Bailey. The thought of that happening makes the hair on my arms stand on end and my jaw clench.
Oh, hell no.
I suck down the rest of my Sprite. That's it. Screw it. Seeing her at prom with some other dude is not going to happen. I'm asking her. As soon as possible. Tonight, before I have time to think too much. I'm at my best when I don't think.
I move the crutches leaning against the table out of the way and slide out of the booth. Eli blew out his knee last month during a lacrosse scrimmage. Ruined his season, but at least he got the girl. Maybe it's my turn.
"Where you goin', asshat?" Eli asks.
I pull a twenty out of my back pocket and throw it on the table. "Just remembered I've got something to do."
Eli scowls and pushes the money back toward me. "I got this."
I shake my head and leave the money where it is. "It's on me today, loser."
I walk away before they can argue. At the door, I peek through the glass to make sure there really isn't a girl outside waiting for me with a gassy mythological creature.
It looks safe, but I hurry to my Jeep anyway, just in case. The smell of brand new leather hits me, until it's overtaken by the stink of my lacrosse equipment in the back. I love that smell. It's proof that I've been working my ass off on that field.
I start the engine, my adrenaline pumping. My heart is beating fast, but I force myself to chill. This is no big deal. What's the worst that could happen? She says no? I ... shit, what if she says no? That's never happened to me before. I've never really cared either way.
My hands grip the steering wheel. Come on, Kov. She won't say no.
Before I take off, I quickly send her a text inviting her over after work. It's Saturday, so she could be working at the coffee shop or the grocery store. I'm not sure, and it's hard to keep track.
This is part of what makes our friendship so strange — most of it takes place at my house late at night after she gets off of work. It's kind of perfect.
So she'll come over after her shift and we'll have dinner. Miriam, my family's housekeeper-slash-warden, made her famous gumbo. Bailey loves that stuff. I'll buy her some flowers, and I'll ask her to prom. No big deal. Nothing promposaly. I know her well enough to know she'd hate that.
As usual, we'll have the house to ourselves. My parents are in Africa somewhere, building wells for people who have no water. When they aren't building the wells, they're traveling all over the world trying to raise awareness and money so they can build more. They're never around, and it's not as cool as you'd think. It's not like I can bitch about it, though. It's water. For people who have none. I'd be a real asshole to complain about that.
Whatever. All I'm saying is it would be nice to have someone around to bounce ideas off of. Like, what do you do when you might like a girl and want to ask her to prom? I could use a little help, to be honest.
This is all new to me, and I don't want to blow it.CHAPTER 2
I'm losing my mind. There's a group of five middle schoolers in line, and they all want the same thing — the Psychedeliccino, our best-selling "coffee" drink that doesn't contain any coffee and is mostly made of a powdery, sugar-like substance that resembles cocaine but turns rainbow colored when mixed with milk.
I make them, one at a time, my hand sticking to every surface because the sugar cocaine also gets sticky when wet. Of course, they all want something different on top. No whip. Whip. Whip, no sprinkles. Whip with pink sprinkles, no blue sprinkles. No whip, no sprinkles. Sugar free?
"Look, if you want sugar free, it's pretty much just milk with ice," I tell that kid.
She scoffs and whirls around to complain to her friends.
By the time I'm done, it's clear they don't appreciate the level of stickiness I've endured to make these drinks, and not one of them says thank you. Still, I smile and thank them. Work ethic and all that. Besides, they're giving me plenty of material for the films I'll write and direct someday. I'm going to be the next Spielberg, except better, and with boobs. This time next year, I'll be a few months from graduation and hopefully accepted into the film school at NYU where I will make this dream happen.
There's a lull in customers, so I pull my phone out of my purple apron pocket. Java Infusion loves purple in the same way that place which shall not be named likes green. You don't say the "S" word in here because the assistant manager, Jax, will have an actual shit fit.
There's a text from Mom, but I don't take the time to read it because there's also one from Alex inviting me over later. He promises me gumbo, and who am I to say no to that? Plus, it's Alex. I have a hard time saying no to anything he asks.
Before I can text back, Jax emerges from the office where he's likely been fretting over next week's schedule and/or watching internet porn — it's anyone's guess.
He frowns. "Why are you smiling like that?"
I slip the phone into my pocket. "Like what?"
"Like a lunatic?"
I force my facial muscles to relax. "No reason."
I grab a cleaning rag before the words "move it or lose it" come out of his mouth — it being this job, which I need because I have car insurance and a phone plan, and NYU is crazy expensive. I'll need scholarships, financial aid, and all the savings I can rack up before I go. There are other things I need to buy, too.
Like maybe a prom dress?
I'm going this year. Everyone in my Advanced A/V class has to enter a district- wide short film contest, and the theme is "High School Traditions." I chose prom because it's the iconic high school event. Seriously, there's so much build-up it's ridiculous, starting with the promposals, which can be pretty extreme at EHS.
I know that winning this contest could be my ticket to NYU where, even with all the money in the world, it's hard to get accepted. My filmmaking instincts tell me that to clinch the deal, I need to include a crazy, over-the-top promposal scene.
It's not going to be easy. In fact, it might be impossible.
I can't have a friend do it, mostly because I don't have many. It's not that I'm a social outcast; it's just the way things have worked out. We only moved to Edinburgh a year ago. I work two jobs. I study a lot. I have no time for friends.
Ashley in A/V is the closest thing I have to a girlfriend, and I asked, but she refused to prompose to anyone. So it's all on me. I have to be the prompose-er, which leads me to the bigger problem — who the heck is my prompose-ee? Not Alex. He's my only male friend, and he's probably already going with one of the girls from his group.
Speaking of those girls, they're all at table three right now, hence the shop's nickname for them: the Table Three Girls. They all laugh in unison, about something stupid, no doubt. I'll soon find out. I find out lots of things when they're here because they don't know how to use their inside voices. They're all seniors, and I'm a junior and don't have any classes with them, but since this place opened a few months ago, they claimed that table and come in daily to gossip. Loudly.
"I wonder who will ask him this year?" one of them says as I make a latte. Immediately, I know who and what they're talking about: Alex and prom.
"Not me. I'm not sharing him again," another one chimes in. Last year, he got asked by two girls and said yes to both of them. That's Alex Koviak in a nutshell. "This year I'm the one being asked," she continues. "And it better be good, like viral-on-YouTube good."
I wipe down the front counter, then the back, and one of them declares, "Kov is going to ask me."
As a hush falls on the table, I check to see who spoke those words. It's Devon McGill.
"No, no, no," someone chimes in. "Kov doesn't ask; he gets asked. He knows asking would just lead a girl on, and he's not about that. It's really sweet if you think about it."
I know Alex well, and I don't know if I'd call that sweet. More like lazy.
I glance toward the table. Devon, with her long, honey-colored hair, is pretty. She was in my AP Physics class for a few weeks early in the year. "I don't care," she says. "He's yummy, and he's going to ask me, I promise you."
That. That's what Alex wants: a girl like Devon, who knows what she wants, as long as it's not something serious.
"What?" Devon says to the dumbstruck table. "I've been dropping hints at lunch for a month — laying the groundwork. I expect a promposal soon. Probably this week."
She fluffs out her hair, all shiny and perfect, and lifts one shoulder. "And if he doesn't ask me, whatever, I'll ask him. I mean, Kov in a tux? Yes, please. That boy is too hot to stay home on prom night — or worse, go with someone who isn't me."
The whole table erupts in laughter as her words worm their way through my brain.
"I think that spot is clean."
Jax's words startle me. I look at the counter I've been scrubbing at a little too hard. My jaw tightens. "Right."
I move to a different spot. Alex hasn't said anything about asking Devon, and I don't like how she's talking about him like he's a piece of man candy. Yes, he is good looking, with his shaggy light brown hair that he won't cut while lacrosse season is still going because bad luck, and don't get me started on his body. He's like a teenage Thor except instead of a hammer he wields a lacrosse stick. But he's a human, and there's more to him than his looks. Devon doesn't know that and doesn't care.
The bells ring on the front door, and a group of players from the lacrosse team comes in. Alex isn't with them. The Table Three girls call them over because of course they're all friends. Flirty smiles are exchanged as the boys hover around them like bees at the hive.
"Hi there?" a voice calls from the register.
I smile at the tall boy at the counter. He comes in every once in a while, one of the team, one of Alex's friends — they call him Tex but his name is Caleb. He spends a lot of time in the library at lunch. When I'm not in the A/V room working on a project, I'm usually in there, too, keeping up with homework so that I can work two jobs, write and edit my films, and also hang out with Alex. Alex has mentioned him before — he moved here in January and isn't exactly fitting in.
"Sorry, can I help you?"
He's staring at the pastries. "Yes ma'am, please."
One corner of his mouth lifts. "I keep forgetting no one says ma'am here."
He's sweet. "No, it's okay. I didn't mean to laugh. I don't mind, really."
He pushes a hand through his hair that's growing out of the crew cut he had when he moved here. He's very handsome. Not messy handsome like Alex, but polished, clean-cut. I like it. Plus, he's talking to me like I'm the only girl here. Which is also nice.
"Can I get a regular iced coffee, black? Please?"
"Of course." Oooh, that cowboy accent — I like that, too. Reminds me of this old movie with Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor where he's this Texas cowboy and she's the girl he falls for, which makes sense. She was beautiful with her dark hair, like mine, and her purple eyes, which I don't have. Just a purple apron. Anyway, he reminds me of that movie, and there's nothing more romantic than an old Hollywood sweeping epic.
I make his drink, and that word rolls around in my mind. Epic.
You know what else could be epic? A handsome leading man like him, a girl like me, and a huge promposal. I mean, I don't know him at all, but when I hand over his coffee, I bat my eyelashes and give him the biggest smile I can manage. He hits me again with that chiseled jaw and lips that curve up into a grin. Nice smile. Really nice.
"Thank you so much," he says.
Forget handsome. This guy is drop dead gorgeous — with manners, too, and given that he hangs out in the library as often as I do, I'm guessing he doesn't have a date yet. At least he doesn't seem to be on the Table Three girls' radars.
Alex would know if he's going with anyone.
Lightbulbs go off in my head. Alex Koviak has also been promposed to more times than anyone I know, and he sets friends up all the time.
I hand over the last of the drinks to the lacrosse players, and they all leave, the Table Three girls walking out with them. The shop is instantly quiet.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Love and Other Secrets"
Copyright © 2018 Christina Mandelski.
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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