Finding love is hard, even when you aren’t a mutant.
Like most seventeen-year-olds, Piper Dunn wants to blend in with the crowd. Having a blowhole is a definite handicap. A product of a lab-engineered mother with dolphin DNA, Piper spends her school days hiding her brilliant ocean-colored eyes and sea siren voice behind baggy clothing and ugly glasses. When Tyler, the new boy in school, zeroes in on her, ignoring every other girl vying for his attention, no one, including Piper, understands why...
Then Piper is captured on one of her secret missions rescuing endangered sea creatures and ends up in the same test center where her mother was engineered. There she discovers she isn’t the only one of her kind. Joel is someone she doesn’t have to hide from, and she finds herself drawn to the dolph-boy who shares her secrets. Talking to him is almost as easy as escaping from the lab. Deciding which boy has captured her heart is another story...
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Love, Lattes and Mutants
By Sandra Cox
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Sandra Cox
All rights reserved.
"Miss Dunn, are we keeping you awake?" Mr. Grumble's sarcastic remark draws titters from the class.
I jerk upright. "No, Mr. Grumble." Heat floods my face.
"Glad to hear it." He turns back to the whiteboard and writes an equation with a red marker.
I slink down in my seat and push my tinted glasses back up on my nose.
The class's attention shifts from my discomfort. Some to the board where Mr. Grumble is still writing the equation, some to flirt outrageously with the new boy in class, some to sneak out their phones and send a text, which most definitely isn't allowed.
Only the new girl — she and the boy are twins — takes time to give me a commiserating smile. I grimace back.
She's always polite and kind in her dealings with me, something that confuses me.
Now her brother, Tyler, although polite, is oblivious. Comes from having girls trip all over him I guess.
The bell rings. I pick up my books. When the room clears, I slide out of my seat. Holly, the new girl, is waiting for me, her entourage grouped around her. She smiles. I glance over my shoulder but the warm smile is for me. She waves her friends on. "I'll catch up."
They move forward like a herd of sheep, perplexed expressions on their faces. Can't blame them, I'm perplexed myself. I don't get a lot of attention. My blonde hair is scraped back into a ponytail and pinned in a wrap-up sponge barrette. My clothes are baggier than a rapper's and as unassuming as I can find. In other words, the total package is boring. I wouldn't go so far as to say that's the way I like it, but it's necessary.
"Hi." Holly shifts her books to her other arm.
"Hi." I clutch my book bag to my chest, not making eye contact.
She falls in step beside me. "Bad luck hitting Grumble's radar. Half the kids in class sleep through his lectures."
"Would you like to grab a latte after school?" is her next conversational gambit.
"Why?" No doubt, I sound like a total jerk, but there's no point in encouraging a friendship. Though the idea of an icy latte and girl talk appeals. A lot. If the situation were different, I'd be a girlie-girl, but it's not and I'm not.
Chatter surrounds us. Juniors and seniors hurry down the hall to their classes. Rosemont is built like a letter U. Freshmen and sophomores on one side, juniors and seniors on the other; the gym and stage merge in the center.
"Because you look like you can use a friend. I know I can."
"I have friends. Everyone has friends." Okay, they're people and creatures I've saved and they don't know who I am, but I'm sure I could count on them in a pinch.
"And a sense of humor." Holly laughs. "Who'd a thought?" She looks me over. Her lips twitch; she tries to hold back a smile.
I grin reluctantly. Then what she tacked on sinks in. "You're the most popular girl in school right now. Why would you possibly need a friend?"
She bites her lips and looks at me.
I cave. "Okay, as a matter of fact, I'd love a latte, but I warn you I'm not noted for my sterling conversation. I'm clueless about the latest trends in hair, clothes, or shoes."
At that moment, her hottie-of-a-brother Tyler lopes by. "Hol," he acknowledges his shorter, fraternal twin. He gives me an absent nod. Not unkind, worse, indifferent. I'm damn sick of fading into the woodwork.
She looks at me as if she's waiting for me to figure it out. I glance from her to her brother. Right. Holly's pretty but hardly drop-dead gorgeous. Though her vivacity makes up for it. And she is the new kid. Still, I get it. The girls are sucking up in the hopes of scoring with her brother.
"Alright, I'll meet you at the Pink Cat Coffee Shop at four o'clock."
She smiles and her pretty features light up. It takes her out of the attractive — but not mega hot — category and puts her in her brother's. "See you at the Pink Cat. Don't stand me up."
"Hey, it's not a date you know." I'm a firm believer in gay rights, but it's so not my thing.
She giggles. "My heart belongs to Ben Henley." She names the football player who was firmly ensconced as the most popular boy at Rosemont until her twin arrived on the scene.
"I'll be there," I promise and head for social studies.
It may not have been smart but having a normal teenage destination to look forward to will certainly make the rest of the day easier to get through. I lied when I said I wasn't interested in hairstyles and shoes. I love girlie stuff. Anyone with a drop of girl DNA loves shoes.
I look at my clothes and sigh. I'll be so glad to get home where I can shuck them like a used cocoon.
For now, I continue the role of uninteresting, blah nerd. I do such a good job even the geeks keep their distance.
With a sigh, I thump my books on my desk and slide into my seat.
For the next forty minutes, I immerse myself in the effects of mob behavior on normal people. As soon as the bell rings, I shoot out of my seat and head for the door.
I hit the hall at a fast pace, not paying as much attention as I should and collide with Edgar the Asshole Fahrenbacher, the most egotistical senior in Rosemont. Although, why anyone with a name like Edgar should be arrogant is beyond me. Maybe he's overcompensating. He calls himself the Stallion. With chestnut hair, tight jeans, and a swagger, he's not bad looking, but his looks don't match his ego.
"Oof." My books go flying and so do his. They hit the floor with a thud.
"Sorry," I mumble, head down, heat shooting through my cheeks.
"Not only are you a mouse, you're a klutz. Pick my books up." Totally humiliated, I bend to comply, hating every minute of it. I would much rather knock him on his swaggering butt and I could do it, too, if I weren't trying to keep a low profile. Well, I could in the water anyway. I can hold my own against anybody in the water.
When I reach for his chemistry book, he kicks it farther down the hall. Embarrassment turns to mad. What a total jerk. Before I totally blow my cover, hands reach out and sweep up the books.
"Which ones are yours?"
I look into piercing blue eyes and forget to breathe — and everything else for that matter.
"Which are yours?" Holly's brother repeats patiently.
Mutely, I point at the top three. He hands them to me before he helps me to my feet. The rest he thrusts at Edgar. "I'm sure you can get the other book yourself," he says easily to Edgar.
Edgar nods, scowling at the interruption of his version of pull-the-wings-off- the-fly.
"Thank you." Breathless, lost in the depths of those deep pools of blue, I forget to disguise my voice. Fortunately — or unfortunately in this case — it doesn't go with my nerd image. Gramps compares it to mermaids' and sirens' songs. For an old guy, he's a romantic. So when I talk, I try to drop toward an unobtrusive alto.
Tyler's head jerks up. He wasn't paying attention to who he was helping, just being kind to one of the lesser beings. For the first time, he really looks at me and frowns, no doubt trying to equate the voice with the nerd.
I get a firm grip on my books and my raging hormones, and walk hastily away. I can feel his gaze boring into my back, probably trying to see past the shapeless clothes. I shudder, pick up my pace and, of course, trip. I keep a firm grip on my books, right myself, and keep going.
Fahrenbacher's hateful laughter rings in my ears. If only there was a convenient hole to crawl into. My sensitive hearing picks up a murmured, "What a voice."
Tyler's comment echoes in my head as I hurry through wide swinging doors escaping toward sunshine and a blue cloudless sky. I breathe in fresh air, yearning for the scent of salt water.
I turn right amid the cluster of excited voices around me — also anxious to escape the strictures of high school — and head for the coffee shop. It's only a block away. I'll come back later and pick up Beulah, my old truck.
When I arrive at the Pink Cat, Holly has already confiscated a booth. Of course, it's filled by a couple of the more popular girls in school. This is so not a good idea. She smiles and motions me over.
I shake my head and straighten my shoulders. I'll at least get my latte. I wait in line and, when I get to the counter, mumble my order.
Ignoring Holly, I grab my latte and head for the door.
"Piper," Holly's voice rings out. I cringe but take another determined step toward the door.
"Piper," Holly bellows again.
I sigh. So much for anonymity. I turn and prepare for twenty minutes of hell. After that, I'll make my escape. This is such a stupid idea.
I drag my feet over to her table.
"There you are." She beams. "Sit down. Piper's going to help me with my chemistry," she explains to the two cheerleaders sitting with her. They rise with alacrity.
"Uh, catch you later, Hol. Cheerleading practice starts in half an hour," the taller one says.
"Give our best to your brother," the other chimes in.
"Of course," Holly responds sweetly.
They grab their drinks, murmur a hello in my direction, and trot out the door.
"You were going to stand me up," she accuses.
I shrug. "I'm lousy at chemistry."
"I'm pretty good at it," she responds with a mischievous smile.
"You're bad. I like it." As always, except for that one slip with her brother, I use my nerd voice. This girl is way too bright.
She gives a modest smile and sips her cappuccino, loaded with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles.
She glances disparagingly at my no-frills iced latte. "That looks very plain."
"It fits me." I take a sip and sigh with pleasure as the bite of espresso and the smooth taste of chocolate coalesce and slide down my throat.
She leans forward, her expression both curious and knowing. "Plain's exactly what you're not, but for some reason you want people to think you are."
Startled, I jerk upright. The cup, slick with condensation, starts to slip from my hands. I set it down hastily.
"What are you talking about?" My stomach jumps.
"You're the only girl in school who hasn't tried to befriend me in order to get to my brother. It piqued my curiosity." She places her elbows on the table, rests chin in hands, and studies me.
I squirm. "He's not my type. I've barely noticed him."
"Oh, you've noticed him all right. Even with those tinted glasses, I've seen you follow his progress down the hall. So why haven't you tried to worm your way into my good graces?"
Why indeed? My brain shuts down. "I'm shy," is all I can think of.
"Maybe." She sips her frothy drink and leans back, her gaze still on me.
"Your brother isn't the complete God's gift to women everyone seems to think he is." Liar. Liar.
"That's telling me," an amused voice speaks over my shoulder.
Crap! Busted.CHAPTER 2
I'm so going to die of embarrassment. And after he chivalrously came to my rescue when I smashed into Edgar the Asshole.
I straighten my shoulders and mumble in a rough alto, "I'm sorry, that was very rude of me after you helped me earlier." When I first decided to change my voice, I should have gone for high and squeaky. It would have been in keeping with Fahrenbacher's mousy image of me, but it's too hard on the voice box.
"What happened?" Holly's eyes widen and she leans forward.
"I collided with Edgar Fahrenbacher. Your brother came to my rescue before Fahrenbacher could turn me into his boot-licking slave," I say with more asperity than I mean to.
I feel a lean hip press against mine as Tyler lowers himself into the booth. The warm thigh squeezing intimately against mine sends a sharp jolt of electricity through me. It takes every ounce of self-control I possess to keep from leaping over him and running for the door. Instead, I nonchalantly ease over to give him room.
Can he hear the erratic thumpity-thump of my racing heart?
"Fahrenbacher's full of himself but harmless." He acknowledges an acquaintance at another table with a lift of his hand.
"I wonder." I'm good at reading people. I can sense more at an elemental level than most folks bogged down by social mores cluttering their perceptions. Beneath Fahrenbacher's social facade of arrogance is meanness and cruelty. He bears watching.
Before Tyler can respond, three girls from my lit class come over and flirt shamelessly with him.
"Take your entourage and go away, bro." Holly waves him off.
He grins and rises. "See you at home. Bye, Piper."
He ambles away, the three girls in his wake.
"Now you've done it." Holly shakes her head and sighs. She throws her voice to be heard above the chatter going on around us.
"Um?" Tyler strides with a loose-legged gait to the counter. I love the way his soft, faded jeans cup his extremely pinchable butt. He and his harem place their order.
I shift and give Holly my attention. "Done what?"
"You've become his latest cause."
My ears tingle. Something's wrong with my hearing. "Excuse me?"
"Tyler's a big believer in accountability. Now that he's come to your rescue, he'll view you as his responsibility."
"I am not his responsibility nor do I desire to be." I jab at the ice in my latte with my straw. Yeah, right. For a moment, I imagine myself as Tyler's responsibility. A second later, sanity returns. "It's entirely unnecessary. I'm equipped to take care of myself." Better than most.
Tyler goes outside. The three girls trail after him. "He seems to have gotten over it." I watch, through the glass wall, as the girls flirt their empty heads off. I immediately feel ashamed. I have no way of knowing whether their heads are empty or not. Mortification surges through me. I'm jealous.
Holly smiles knowingly. "The bro has that effect."
"I don't know what you're talking about." My belly knots. Holly Carlisle sees entirely too much. I suck down the rest of my latte and stand. "Thanks. It's been ..." My voice trails off as I try to figure exactly what it has been.
"Educational," she suggests, eyes twinkling.
"You're a witch," I accuse.
"And you mean that in the nicest possible way." Her shoulders shake with suppressed laughter.
The girl is incorrigible. I shake my head and beat a hasty retreat.
"See you tomorrow," she calls.
I wave a hand over my head and keep walking.
He can't have seen me with his back to the door, but before I can push through it, he reaches behind and pulls it open. Startled, I dart through. My head down, I try for inconspicuous.
"See you, Piper."
His awareness of me catches me off guard. I don't know what to make of it. He's the prince and I'm the frog — or dolph-girl. I nod and pick up my pace. The girls smile in a friendly fashion. Maybe, I've misjudged them, never given them a chance.
Again, I have the uncomfortable feeling that his gaze follows me. As soon as I'm out of sight, I pick up my pace.
"Piper, wait." Footsteps sound behind me.
Why can't he and Holly leave me alone? I want to shake my hair free, lose the nerdy glasses and clothes, and jump into the ocean, free to be myself. What can he possibly want with me? I've gone out of my way to be invisible and he's surrounded by girls.
"Where are you headed?" He catches up with me easily. I'm five-eight and have long legs. He's six-two and has longer.
I stop, muttering sea curses under my breath. He and his sister so unnerve me.
I hunch into my shapeless shirt. I've had way too much human interaction today. It's giving me a headache, all sorts of uncomfortable feelings surface. I desire peace and the sea to counter the raw and edgy.
I shift toward him. "What do you want, Tyler?" I muster what patience I have left. It's time for me to patrol the waters.
He shoves his hands in his pockets and rocks back on his heels. His expression amused. "You're an intriguing little thing. I've never had this effect on a girl before."
Little thing? Maybe to someone six-two.
No one has ever bothered to look beyond my nerdy surface. Now, in a short period of time, both he and his sister are probing.
I know why Holly is. My lack of interest in her brother fascinates her. And I think I know why Tyler is interested, too. It's my own damn fault. I was careless about my voice and it's come back to bite me.
A light breeze ruffles his thick tawny hair. High cheekbones emphasize chiseled bone structure. My gaze drifts to a very kissable mouth before I jerk it back to those oceanic blue eyes that give me a drowning sensation.
His expression goes from amused to thoughtful. "I was wondering if you'd like to go on my boat Saturday."
"You have a boat?" The boy continues to surprise me.
"Yeah. My mom said if she didn't know better she'd swear she and dad spawned a fish." His eyes crinkle with laughter, inviting me to share in the joke.
Mine narrow. The comment hits too close to home.
"Why?" I fist my hands on my hips. "Why do you want to take me on your boat? Is this some sort of joke or locker room bet?"
Excerpted from Love, Lattes and Mutants by Sandra Cox. Copyright © 2014 Sandra Cox. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Interesting flashbacks to WW2 when they used dolphins in research as agents! Nice character development Bongaux
Very Cute! This is a cute book and I enjoyed reading it. This is the first book in the new Mutants series by Sandra Cox. Piper is a teenager and just wants to blend in. She is trying to be a normal teenager who happens to have a blow hole. She is part human and part dolphin, her mother was lab engineered with dolphin DNA, and if the people who did this to her mother find out that Piper is alive then they will come after her. At school she wears glasses, and baggy clothes, but when a new boy Tyler, and his twin sister starts school they zero in on Piper and wants to be her friend. They both know that Piper is hiding beneath her appearance. One night when Piper is trying to help a dolphin she is captured by the same people who created her mother. This book kept me reading until the end. I am looking forward to reading the next book in this series. A Review copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. The free book held no determination on my personal review.
Piper Dunn straddles two worlds in Love, Lattes and Mutants--a page-turning romp through the world of teen romance with expert touches of humor and a dash of life-threatening adventure. In her public life, Piper is a mousy high school student, hiding her astonishing beauty and trying to get through the day unnoticed. But in private, thanks to her dolphin DNA, she is a defender of ocean creatures, rescuing dolphins and other marine animals from danger. Eventually, Tyler, a hunky new boy at school, starts to see through Piper’s disguise and wants to get to her know better. And Piper has difficulty saying no. Author Sandra Cox has created in Piper an immediately likable heroine: fresh, funny, brave, and unrelenting in her convictions. Cox perfectly captures Piper’s watery feats, giving readers the feeling of swimming along with her and hearing the chattering of dolphins. The reader understands Piper’s pull to both worlds, and the conflicts she faces in deciding between Tyler and her secret identity. When Piper is kidnapped by a clandestine laboratory conducting experiments on mutants like her, she must find a way to escape, with the help of Tyler, and decide if it’s time to take him into her confidence. Suspenseful and original, Love, Lattes and Mutants links super-hero abilities to the problems of everyday teens with a result that is unlike any other book I’ve read. Best of all, Piper’s mutant adventures will continue when the sequel to Love, Lattes and Mutants is published this summer. Highly recommended!
It was good but not necessarily fantastic. It moves quickly and jumps in places. Some character development is needed. Different plot, definitely not run of the mill teen.
The first in a YA / Teen Sci-Fi /Romance series from Sandra Cox, Love Lattes and Mutants is a quickly paced romp. From a slightly rushed beginning, where characters are brought in quickly with little introduction or background. With a few clever twists that bring some of the characters some depth beyond a more typical high school stereotype, the initial introductions are rather familiar. In fact, the first chapter is familiar to anyone that reads Teen-skewed romances. Then we get the twists: Piper is an orphan and a mutant, experiments on her mother before she was born have resulted in her being a dolphin/human hybrid with a blow hole, a siren-like effect, irresistible to some boys with a voice that can lure men to her bidding. Tyler is the new kid in town: enigmatic, handsome and chivalrous he is the subject of all the teen girl fantasies. His twin sister Holly is rather the opposite: annoying, meddlesome and a bit of a tag-along, she delights in being in the ‘know’. Tyler is the only one who can ‘see’ Piper’s differences, so he finds her irresistible The moments of Piper where she is free to be herself are well created and intriguing, while most of the ‘in school’ moments are rather familiar in feel, even as the flirtation between Tyler and and Piper heats up. The ‘danger’ and the solution felt thrown together, and more than a bit too conveniently solved: starting the hints of danger from the ones who caused Piper’s mutations would have kept my interest in what happens next. The rest of the story is a cute, if somewhat tame romance with characters that felt to be a bit younger than high school students, even as their interactions felt honest and real. Piper was a solid character with plenty of quirks beyond the blowhole, and while lattes are not necessarily chocolate, the addiction and obsession with the coffee treat adds to her character nicely. With some humor from setting and dialogue as well as a light romance mixed in, this story will please those looking for a lighthearted story. I received an eArc copy from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.