If high school has taught mathlete Jade Aaron anything, it's that nerds never get the guy.
So when rock star Lennon Pryor starts pursuing her, It's not rocket science. This doesn't add up.
I mean, sure, he's hot.
And a god on the guitar...
But he's also the world's biggest player. Being with him would be a bigger mistake than 2+2=5.
Until graduation night, when a reckless moment leads to a reckless kiss. And now Jade's falling for the one guy destined to break her heart.
Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains one epic party, complete with every high-schoolers-gone-bad shenanigan, and two opposites with nothing in common and nothing to lose...except their hearts.
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
"'Liquid Poetry' or 'Bring on the Night'?" I asked Hendrix as I ran my fingers through his coarse, black fur. He leaned against my right leg as I sat on my bed with my laptop, considering the set list. "Which one should I open with?"
He perked his head up and snort-sighed at my momentary lapse in petting him.
"You're no help at all," I said, scratching his ear.
I'd never agonized over a show this much before, and I'd played my fair share of gigs — from bowling alleys to seedy bars that hosted teen nights. Anywhere that would book us. We'd even done a few sweet-sixteen parties.
This performance would be different.
Rachel, a producer from LockedIn Records, was coming to decide if she wanted to sign us for an album. The tour contract was already signed for a three-month stint, but a record deal depended on how well we performed at tomorrow's grad-night party. And, if we nailed this final show plus landed the record deal, then Rachel would likely extend our tour contract. We could go from being on a small tour to quite possibly a year-long one.
It would change everything.
Plus, it was the last gig my band Ignited Hearts would play together before going on tour as an opening act for the BlackHats. It would be the last time I had control over anything — the song order, the pace, the length of the concert; hell, I wasn't sure I'd be allowed to choose my own threads once we were being directed by the BlackHats' road manager.
Not that I wasn't wicked-thrilled they'd brought us on board, but I'd been doing things my own way since I was two and belted out Queen right alongside my dad while he cleaned up the kitchen.
I shifted against my headboard, the thought of Dad twisting my gut. I hated that I couldn't split myself in half and give him and Mom both equal time, but damn, they hadn't exactly made it easy since they divorced two years ago. Another reason — besides the stellar experience and credit would give my career — I leaped at the chance to be an opening act ... I would be on the road all summer. Plenty of distance between me and the parental units who fought whenever they were within earshot.
That would make for a fun encounter tomorrow — they were bound to run into each other during the graduation ceremony. Not that I was dying to attend, but it was sort of mandatory.
I didn't hate school, I was pretty good at it actually, but I had other aspirations. I never felt as alive as I did with a microphone in my hand, and the rush on stage was something I absolutely lived for. I was born to entertain, to move people with the lyrics I spent months handcrafting, and nailing tomorrow's show and going on tour were the only options for me to get my foot in the business and gain some recognition.
College wouldn't do that for me.
Though that was the only thing Mom and Dad ever agreed on. They both had cornered me numerous times since senior year started, pleading their cases on why after the summer tour I should go to school. Life experience and all that. Well, all the experience I needed was on this tour and I prayed it would lead to another one once it ended.
Hendrix rolled over, exposing his smooth belly for proper rubs.
"You're so pathetic," I said, chuckling as I took a break from wracking my brain over tomorrow night's show — which I intended to make my best performance to date. I could practically taste the record deal, and it would be amazing to have a professionally produced album verses our independent ones. Also, the entire senior class would be there, plus half of the community college that my older sister, Liv, attended.
"Lennon?" my mom called from behind my closed door.
"It's open!" Hendrix groaned when I stopped tickling his belly, so I used both hands on him until his leg twitched. He may have been a goofy lump, but he was mine. The one solid entity I could count on when my family life had crumbled beneath my feet. I'd seen the divorce coming, but thinking it would happen and watching it happen were two very different things.
"Hey," Mom said as she walked into my room. She leaned against my wooden desk covered with records I couldn't resist picking up from every antique shop or garage sale I happened upon. "How's it going?"
I shrugged. "All good here."
"You nervous about tomorrow?" She crossed her arms over her chest, more like she was trying to hold herself together than give her arms a break from hanging there.
"Nah," I said and shut my laptop. "They'll hand me a piece of paper that validates the last four years of my life. No reason to be nervous." I smirked.
She laughed and pushed off the desk to sit on the corner of my bed. She tucked one leg beneath her. "Yeah, I figured that. I was referring to the massive party you're throwing here." She flung her arm out to indicate the entire lake house she'd purchased a couple of months ago. It was twenty times the size of Dad's place, though I always slept better at his home. She'd taken her start-up company public and well, the rest was history. I still hadn't gotten used to living a more luxurious life, but I guess now was as good a time as any — I intended to grow old on the stage like Jagger and Richards.
"Oh that," I finally said. "I want to slay the show."
"You always do. Rachel would be insane not to sign the band." A heavy sigh made her shoulders look like they carried more weight than usual. "But in case she doesn't ... Given any more thought to what we talked about?"
I stopped petting Hendrix, who now snored peacefully with his tongue lopping out of his mouth, and raked my fingers through my own shaggy hair. "I haven't had a lot of time."
"That's weak," she said, playfully pinching my leg.
I laughed, shaking my head. "It's always entertaining when you try to sound chill, Mom."
She dusted her shoulders off. "I'm cool and you know it."
"Rock stars' moms are cool!" she argued, and the joke broke the tension in my chest.
"My stance is the same," I said, pressing my lips together in what I hoped she would take as a silent apology. I wouldn't come out and say I hated disappointing her, but I wasn't going to let my dream die just to appease them both by going to college.
"I assumed." She shrugged, the slight attitude to the gesture one I recognized in myself. "I have a whole summer of text messages and Facetimes to try and convince you, you know?"
"Good luck," I said, smoothing out some of Hendrix's crazy fur. "You need to try and see my side, Mom. What can college offer me? Honestly?"
She huffed, her eyes wide. "An education?"
"Right." I rolled my eyes. "Because Anthropoloy 101 and Intro to British Literature will satisfy my craving for the roar of applause or bringing a show- goer to tears with a song I wrote."
Her eyes closed as she took a deep breath. "Maybe. But you could take arts courses with a focus on music. Enhance your skills. Maybe the experience in general would make you a better song writer. Or business courses with a focus on contracts and things a savvy rock star would know."
"Mom." I groaned. She had a point, but I wasn't going to admit it. We'd had this debate two hundred times. And another hundred occurred between Dad and me. I was beyond done. I wanted the experience on the road, not cooped up in a classroom.
"Fine," she said, raising her hands in defeat. "I just finished the final details on the massive list of food you requested for tomorrow night."
I perked up at the change of subject. "Thanks for doing all that," I said. "I know it was a lot of work."
She smiled. "I liked doing it. Makes me feel like the same Mom I've always been."
"You are." I swallowed hard. "You just happen to be the founder of an amazingly successful company that just went public, too."
I don't see how she could actively want me to stall chasing my dreams for college, when she'd spent her whole life working to build the one that just got us this lake house and more. She'd achieved her goals, and pushed beyond them, too. Couldn't she understand I wanted to do the same in my own way?
"Remind me again why you're the one throwing this thing?" she asked, drawing me away from the idea of voicing my thoughts to her. "Other than my house, that is."
I gaped at her like it was obvious. "Because of all my school spirit."
She laughed so hard Hendrix bolted upright like an alarm blared.
"What kind of honorary Hampton Eagle would I be," I continued, "if I didn't throw the graduating class of 2017 the most epic party of their lives?" And who better to play to for the biggest most important show of my career? Sure, the entire class knew we were going on tour, but they didn't know the stakes behind the show. That if we didn't nail it ... a three-month tour was all we'd be doing.
Mom swiped tears from the corner of her eyes as she caught her breath. The fact that I still held the ability to make her laugh — even with the obvious disappointment I was — made the breath in my lungs deepen. I wanted to make my parents proud, but I'd have to prove my worth on the road.
"Right," she said. "You're a regular cheerleader with how much school spirit you have."
I chuckled. "If the pom-poms fit."
"Whose pom-poms are you fitting into, now?" Liv popped her head in, her dark hair twisted up into a mess of braided knots on her head.
"Funny," I said, rolling my eyes. "When did you get home?" And when did my room become grand central for the lake house?
"A few minutes ago," she said, coming inside to sit next to Mom.
"Naturally, after all the work has been done," I teased, and she nudged me in the side. She was two years older than me and closer to a best friend than some of my bandmates. Not that I'd ever let her know that.
"All right, you two," Mom said, rising from the bed. She leaned over to kiss my forehead and I tried not to cringe at how it made me feel like I was five again. She eyed my dark nail polish and arched a brow at me. "How'd you like Midnight Violet?"
I splayed my fingers, nodding. "Not bad. Should look good when I'm plucking Susie tomorrow." I motioned toward the light purple Fender I had sitting next to three other guitars in the corner of my room.
She walked toward the door, Liv on her heels. "I thought you were going to use Cash."
I eyed the black acoustic. "Changed my mind."
"When you realized there would be more than three hundred people attending your party?"
I snorted. "Is it up to that many?"
"Last time I checked your Snapchat."
"What?" She shrugged. "I'm floating this bill. The least I can do is prepare myself on the odds of the damage."
"Where are they falling?"
A shudder made her tremble. "I'll be lucky if only half my possessions are destroyed."
Liv openly glared at me, and I tried not to laugh.
I shook my head. "It won't be that bad."
"You better hope it isn't." Mom threw her hands in the air. "They'll probably arrest me the minute I fly back for allowing you to have a party when I'm gone."
I was super grateful for how cool she was with me throwing the party. She knew a rager for grad night was inevitable and was more comfortable having it happen under her own roof.
"When do you get home?" I asked.
She rolled her eyes upward like she was mentally counting the days. "I fly out tomorrow right after your ceremony, then I'll be back Monday afternoon."
"Perfect," I said. "I'll have everything cleaned up by then."
"Ha." She grabbed the doorknob. "I'll believe that when I see it."
"Night, Mom!" I called as she walked out, Liv lingering in the entryway.
"Night, love," she hollered back.
"How were finals?" I asked Liv, crossing my arms over my chest.
She shrugged. "Aced them."
"The perfect student as always."
"And you're the perfect rock star. We all excel somewhere." She straightened with her hand on the knob. "You know, Mom would've never let me throw this big of a party. Especially if she was out of town." She shook her head. "The life-long debate of who's the favorite is over. You've totally won."
I chuckled, her own laughter joining in. "Missed you, Liv."
"You too, little brother."
I rolled my eyes. "You coming tomorrow night?"
She nodded. "And some of my friends from school."
"Stop," she said, giggling. "We'll stay out of your hair. I wouldn't dream of stealing your big moment. Besides," she continued. "We'll likely be gone by the middle of it. You know, bars and all."
"Rub it in why don't you."
"You'll get there soon enough."
I huffed. "Yeah, and I'll be playing them instead of drinking in them."
"Sounds pretty phenomenal to me," she said as she stepped out of the entryway.
"Love you, bro!" She closed the door behind her.
I settled back, anxious and restless from the thoughts racing through my brain. The grad ceremony, the party, the show, and Rachel the judging producer, the upcoming tour, they all battled for prime focus, forcing the beginnings of a headache behind my eyes.
Shifting toward my nightstand, I opened my top drawer and pulled out a leather-bound notebook. The one thing that I knew could stop a headache in its tracks. The second I opened it, my muscles relaxed, and the chaos in my mind focused on one thing — the awesome set of drawings I'd collected over the last four years.
They ranged in theme, but all had one amazing consistency — they were Jade Aaron's and they were epic.
The girl had a knack for creating dark, compelling, and incredibly deep images, even if they were simple doodles she did on the back of her math tests. I started swiping them from my dad freshman year, and when he caught me, I had to remind him that I was being the good guy. I wasn't trying to get Jade to be mine ... I simply liked glimpsing pieces of her I knew I couldn't have — these drawings that showed such a different side of her. After that, he always turned a blind eye to my quirky obsession.
It was hard to resist; Jade was a Mathlete, after all. The off-limits Mathlete on my dad's team, and I was totally fascinated by her ability to be both creative and logical — not that she ever outwardly showed her love of art. Which was always a mystery to me, but I assumed if she wanted people to know about her massive secret talent, she'd tell them.
The small conversations we'd have between mathlete practices at my dad's rushed to the front of my mind, uncoiling the tension crowding the breath in my lungs. We talked about nothing, but they became more precious to me over the years — the small glimpses I got into who Jade really was.
With graduation tomorrow, it meant there would be no more secret drawings to collect. And no more nothing conversations, either. Maybe I could ask her to draw an album cover for the band, just so I could keep in touch. But then I'd have to admit I knew her secret.
I shuffled the papers back and forth until I'd compiled my own story with just her images, and it made me feel closer to her than I ever had before. The weight on my chest — the one screaming at me that our small meetings were done — threatened to steal the happy buzz her drawings always offered me.
Forcing the thoughts away, I carefully put them back in the notebook and tucked them in the drawer.
After a few moments of contemplating shutting the lights off and getting some overdue sleep, I popped my laptop back open. The brief escape into Jade's illustrated world had only offered me more to think about rather than less. So my mind circled back to what it had been obsessing over in the first place.
"So," I said, glancing down at Hendrix while I scrolled through our song list. "Any thoughts on what we should open with?"CHAPTER 2
The swirls of black smoothed over the thick canvas paper in my most prized and secret possession — my sketchbook — the motion obliterating the rest of the world in a way that nothing else ever did.
I shifted on my bed, loosening my grip on the charcoal pencil to give the character I drew a lighter shadowing around her jaw. She would be the newest addition to my steampunk graphic novel series — a fierce inventor whose talents were wasted when her parents forbid her from tinkering.
"Jade?" My mother's voice jolted all my senses, slamming me straight back to reality.
I scrambled to shove the sketchpad underneath my pillow, but it was too late. She hadn't bothered knocking.
She never did.
Her shoulders dropped, her hand on the knob and her eyes on the black smudges on my fingers, and the pencil still pinched between them. She swallowed hard. "I wanted to see if you were ready." She glanced down at her watch. "Cutting it a little close, don't you think?"
"It's graduation," I said. "No one will be on time today."
"Of course." I slipped my rainbow socks into my black checkered Vans and stood up. "I've still got half an hour."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Love Beyond Opposites"
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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