Zoey Handler is ready to put an end to her decade-long rivalry with Gordon Meyers. They’ve traded top spot between valedictorian and salutatorian for years, but all that’s over now. Right? But after a crazy graduation speech prank gets out of hand, suddenly their rivalry turns into all-out war. Time to make peace with a little friendly payback.
Step one? Make him believe they’re now friends.
Step two? Show him the time of his life at an epic graduation party.
Step three? Don’t fall for his tricks.
Step four? Absolutely, positively, do not kiss him again.
So what if he’s cute? (Okay, hot.) So what if he’s charming? (Heaven help her, tempting.) So what if he apologizes? (That has to be fake.) She knows the real Gordon. And no matter how much her heart begs her to stop, there’s no turning back.
Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains one epic party, complete with every high-schoolers-gone-bad shenanigan, and two rivals who discover maybe they could be something much more...if only they’d stop fighting long enough to notice it.
Each book in the Grad Night series is STANDALONE:
* Love in the Friend Zone
* Love Between Enemies
* Love Beyond Opposites
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The sound of clanking pans and the occasional sizzle drew me to the kitchen. I glanced at my watch, noting I was right on schedule for the day — 5:15 a.m. I cherished this early morning time where the house was usually silent and I was able to enjoy it for ten blissful minutes before having to rush off to my dad's restaurant to help prep before school.
I couldn't wait to get to school today because I'd find out if I got the scholarship my entire future depended on. Dad insisted he'd somehow help pay for whatever I couldn't cover, but if I got this? He wouldn't have to spend a dime.
"Why aren't you at the restaurant?" I asked as I rounded the corner.
My dad froze at the stove, the spatula in his hand stuck in midair as if he was vying for the best mannequin pose award. The non-movement was a rarity — normally you put my dad in front of a burner and it looked like an electric choreographed dance that ended with the best food in a fifty-mile radius.
I sat my bag on the table, the lightness of it throwing me. Today was graduation and I'd handed in all my books before leaving school yesterday.
"Dad?" I urged when the smell of bacon turned this side of burned.
His back was to me so I couldn't see his face, but he jolted and went back to work flipping the bacon and eggs that filled the cast iron skillet. "Morning."
I walked farther into the kitchen, rolling up my sleeves to wash my hands. "You need some help?" I eyed the prep bowls filled with cheese, sliced ham, and green onion beside him.
"No," he said, sliding the over-easy eggs onto one plate and the greasy bacon onto another covered in paper towels.
"Something going on at the shop today? Another pipe leak?" My stomach twisted. The last thing we needed was another plumbing problem. I kept pushing Dad to move into a more modern space, but his partner, Hank, always quashed the idea. And of course he would. He was the most silent of silent partners unless he was voicing his distaste for any kind of change I pressed for at the shop.
Why change something when it's working? he'd say whenever I tried to emphasize the importance of keeping the menu fresh as the seasons changed. We were two years overdue for an updated gas range, but again, Hank hadn't found a thing wrong with the old stove, so we didn't get a new one. I had thought about busting the thing on more than one occasion just so he'd have to give us the funds for updates, but I knew my dad wouldn't approve.
"No, nothing like that." Dad moved slower than usual, as if there was an extra twenty pounds sitting on his shoulders. He pushed past me without making eye contact and set the plate of food on our small kitchen table before taking a seat across from it. "Eat." He pointed to it.
I sank into my designated chair, my heart in my throat. My fingers trembled slightly as I reached for the fork. "Dad, I can't remember a day in the last eight years that you were here when I woke up."
He rubbed his palms back and forth as he chewed on his lip.
Scooping up a bite of egg, I gave him time to sort out whatever was on his mind. As I munched the perfection that was his cooking, I half prayed he wasn't about to launch into some sentimental speech about graduation that would leave us both in tears. Neither of us needed that shit today. Or any day.
After I'd cleaned half the plate, I dropped my fork. "What is it?"
Dad jerked his head up from where it had hung between his shoulders like a scolded dog, his eyes finally locking with mine. Something in the look made me push the plate away, a cold dread filling my gut and threatening to expel the goodness I'd just consumed.
"I wanted to wait until after graduation to tell you this," he said, sucking in a deep breath. "But I can't put it off any longer."
I shifted in my seat, swallowing the acid that bubbled in my throat.
"Son, I ..." He raked his fingers through the hair that was as brown as mine. "I have to close the shop."
I slit my eyes at him, my heart thudding in my chest like I'd just kept pace with Fynn at one of his track meets. "For renovations?" I asked, but I could tell by the twisted way he shaped his face that the idea was a distant dream.
"No. I have to sell it."
The floor dropped beneath my seat. "What?" I asked, sure I'd heard him wrong.
He laid his hands flat on the table, leaning back in his chair as he sighed. "There was a complication with the books and now ... we're out of funding."
A vacuum sucked damn near all the air out of the room. "That doesn't make sense. Our revenue was up twenty percent for the year the last time I ran the figures," I said, rolling my eyes up to my head to pull the date out of my brain. "Four months ago."
"I know," he said. "But that was before Hank ..."
The longer he didn't finish the sentence, the lower my mouth dropped as I stared at him. "What?" I asked again, sharper this time.
"He made some bad calls. Took money from the accounts without me noticing. And I don't have any extra to keep us afloat after what he did." He pinched the bridge of his nose. "I don't have time to find another partner to help with the transition to make up for what Hank took. I either have to sell the restaurant or win the lottery in the next three days." He laughed, but it was too forced.
"Who are you going to sell it to?" I asked, unblinking, unbelieving.
"Look, I don't want to go into all the details with you. This isn't for you to worry about."
I scoffed at him. "Are you joking?" I slammed my fist on the table, unable to contain the building rage roaring in my chest. "I've worked my ass off at that shop since I was ten!"
"I know. I know." He raised his hands, trying to calm me. I took a deep breath, but it wasn't enough to stop the adrenaline from shaking my limbs. "Mr. Handler has been asking me to sell for years. Flipping prime business spaces is a hobby of his. I've already spoken to him. We just have to have a face-to-face."
"What does he want to turn it into?" I growled, thinking of him bulldozing it to make way for a pompous gold member's only club or some shit like that.
"A coffee shop," Dad said. "I think."
"Tell him we'll invest in a damn espresso machine."
"It's not that simple, son. Like I said, Mr. Handler isn't looking for a partner."
No, he was looking for another way to add to his already insanely large bank account. Zoey Handler — the one girl who was capable of beating me in any given academic competition, and did so any chance she got — would likely be able to get through to her father. Maybe if I spoke to her about it ... but we weren't exactly friends.
Sure, we'd had civil conversations after competitions, regardless of who won or lost, but she wasn't exactly a favorite in the contacts on my cell. Besides, I wasn't sure if I wanted the heiress to the Handler fortune to know about my family's financial desperation.
"You're on your way out, anyway," Dad continued, forcing a smile. "Stanford, remember? There is no way you're not getting the scholarship. Right?"
My shoulders sank, my stomach dropping as if the floor had disappeared beneath me. The way he emphasized the word right told me everything I never wanted to know. If I hadn't earned that scholarship, then I wouldn't be attending Stanford. The college I had spent my life working for — studying more than partying, taking all advanced courses, clocking in countless extracurriculars, right alongside plugging in hours at my dad's restaurant to help him.
I blinked, shaking my head. "Right," I finally answered.
"Good. You find out officially this morning?"
I nodded, a shiver running deep from the ice in my veins. I'd done everything and more to earn the full ride. Perfect GPA, high SAT scores, stellar volunteer sheet. I'd even written an essay that fully illustrated a mobile system I'd implemented at my father's shop. It increased productivity in the ordering process, which directly resulted in a higher profit margin.
There is no way they could turn me down, right?
"And the internship?" he asked.
I'd made it to the final stage of the interview process for a summer internship at A&J — one of the city's top market research analyst companies. It was a coveted spot, but if I landed it, the experience would be invaluable because I'd be dealing with economics on a daily basis, which was my chosen major at Stanford.
"A week," I said. "They've narrowed it down to two candidates."
"Any idea who the other one is?"
I shook my head.
"Doesn't matter," he said. "You've earned both. Call me when you get the good news about the scholarship today." He held my bag out in front of me. I hadn't even heard him get up from the table. "I wish I could be there for your speech, kid. I'm sorry I can't make the ceremony."
"Don't be," I said. Dad pushed himself harder than anyone I knew, and I would never fault him for the work ethic he passed down to me. "It's not a big deal."
"Graduation." He grinned at me, pride beaming through his eyes despite the devastating blow he'd delivered. "When did you become a man?"
I forced out a laugh. "The day you taught me that bacon makes everything taste better."
He wagged his finger at me. "Damn straight."
I slung my bag over my shoulder and walked out of the house on autopilot. The sky was still dark as I sunk behind the wheel of my car and turned the ignition. School wouldn't start for another hour and a half, but I couldn't sit in the kitchen with my dad a second longer. He must've felt it, too. The complete unknown of the situation was suffocating.
I popped the top button of my collared shirt and reversed out of the driveway, not knowing where the hell to go other than school.
Somehow I ended up on the path toward the shop, and before I knew it, I was pulling into the lot outside. Maybe it was because my routine revolved around the place, or maybe it was because a hole opened up in my heart when Dad said we were going to lose it. Either way, I got out of my car, slowly walking toward the front door like it was the first — or last — time I ever would.
I stood at the door, frozen. The breath in my lungs was thin, my chest clenching like someone had cinched a chain around it. This wasn't fair. Dad worked his ass off for this place. It was what he lived for, what Mom and he had strived for back when she was alive. It had been their dream, and after we lost her, it became ours and reminded us of everything that had been her. I hated that my brain even went there, but losing this place would be like losing her all over again, and I simply couldn't comprehend it.
"Yo," a familiar voice said behind me, jolting me out of myself. "You okay, cous?"
Jay, my younger cousin by a year, stopped to lean against the brickwork next to the door I couldn't open.
"What are you doing up so early?" I asked him, taking a regular breath for the first time since Dad dropped the bomb. Jay was a junior, a known wildcard on the party circuit, and today was supposed to be a free pass for underclassmen, since the seniors' grad ceremony was later in the day.
"I'm heading home from Julie's," he said. He'd been with Julie — a senior who ran with Zoey's crowd — for over a year, and loved to bring it up anytime someone gave him a bit of attention.
I glanced at my watch, noting it was just now half past six a.m. "Little late, isn't it?"
"Maybe for you, Dad." He faux-punched my shoulder. "I swing by here most days, wait for your dad to show up and open the kitchen."
I laughed, shaking my head as I dug my keys out of my back pocket. "More like clean it out," I said, slipping the key in the lock. Dad had given me the only other set a few years ago so I could open up or close on days he wasn't able to. "Come on," I said, ushering him inside. "I'll feed you."
"Nice!" He followed me, sticking close as I rushed over to the alarm on the wall. I quickly punched in the code, noting Jay's eyes darting everywhere but the keypad.
"Jay?" I eyed him.
His shoulders dropped, and he bit his lip. "Sorry, man. I've seen your dad enter it a hundred times."
"And you're sorry because?"
"The date?" He glanced downward, avoiding looking me in the eye.
The alarm code was my mother's birthday. Even though it'd been six years, people still treated Dad and me like glass whenever she was mentioned. The pain never went away — her loss was one I constantly wore inside my heart — but it had lessened. Dad and I had learned how to live together in a way that we hoped she'd approve of, but that wasn't always easy for people to understand. Even family.
"No worries," I said, jerking my head toward the kitchen. "I have to be at school in an hour, so don't order anything too elaborate."
He snorted, the pity in his eyes disappearing. "Like I would. No offense, dude, but you're not your father. He's twenty times the chef you are."
I cocked an eyebrow at him. "So you want oatmeal instead of pancakes?"
"Nah, man. You're great. I'm just messing." He waved me off as I slipped into the kitchen. "And sausage!" he yelled as the door closed. "The maple kind!"
I laughed, tying an apron around my waist, and set to work. Any other day, I might warm up a thick bowl of oatmeal just to mess with him, but I needed the distraction today, and with the prospect of losing the place, suddenly it was more precious to me than ever before.
I allowed the sounds of butter sizzling on the griddle to fill the cracking voids that continued to open up in my chest the longer I thought about what would happen if I wasn't awarded the scholarship.
A small sliver of relief pooled through the tight coils of my muscles. At least I know Zoey isn't going out for the same one. Our awkward conversation on the first day of school had told me that much.
I mixed the batter and let the motions of making pancakes ease my frayed nerves. Everything would work out. Because it had to.
I stacked a third pancake on the plate. In a little under an hour, I would be awarded that scholarship and then I'd take a look at our savings. Maybe I could move some things around and find enough money to buy us time to figure out how to save this shop.
Resolved for the moment, I took Jay his plate of food. His eyes lit up and I swear a tiny drop of drool dribbled from the corner of his mouth.
"You are the best," he said, instantly digging in.
"Remember that." I laughed.
Jay jerked his thumb toward the door. "Shouldn't you flip the sign?"
I eyed the open/closed sign that hung on the glass door. The tension returned to my chest and I sighed. "Not now. For lunch."
"Whoa," he said. "Is your dad sick? He's always open."
"He's fine," I said, leaning my elbows against the bar opposite of where Jay sat engulfing his breakfast — or dinner. I wasn't sure what he counted it as.
"Busy morning?" he asked, his cheeks bursting.
"Yeah," I lied. I didn't like to make a habit of it, but now was not the time to break it to the other side of the family we might be going down.
There was a solution to this problem. Some way I could work my dad out of the hole Hank had shoved him into. I needed more details, though, and Dad wouldn't spill until after graduation. So, it'd have to wait. I just had to get through today.
Once Jay's plate was clean and stored in the kitchen sink, I locked up the shop. He headed home for the blissful nap that follows overstuffing yourself, and I drove to school.
Students — mostly seniors — filed into the building as I parked. Apprehension shook my gut as I walked toward the building with only one thing on my mind. I bolted straight to the guidance counselor's office. Sweat popped from my brow as I knocked on her door.
I pushed the door open and closed it quickly behind me. I moved my lips to make some sort of greeting but I couldn't breathe. No words came. I could only gape at Mrs. Rollins as she shuffled papers around on her desk.
Finally, she looked up at me.
"Oh, Mr. Meyers," she said, instantly sinking deeper into her leather chair. "How are you this morning?" Her glasses-rimmed eyes fell back to the paperwork in front of her.
"I've had better days," I answered honestly, thankful to have found my voice again.
She took her glasses off and sighed.
I fell backward a step as if she'd kicked me in the gut. She hadn't said a word, but I could read it in the way she pinned me with a look that screamed, Oh, honey I'm so sorry.
Excerpted from "Love Between Enemies"
Copyright © 2018 Molly E. Lee.
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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