Love Songs & Other Lies

Love Songs & Other Lies

by Jessica Pennington


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It's summer romance and second chances, the songs that stay in your head, and the boy you'll never forget.

Two years after rock-song-worthy heartbreak, Virginia Miller is looking forward to a fun, carefree summer. Her friends just landed a spot on a battling bands reality show, and Vee is joining them for her dream internship on tour. Three months with future rockstars seems like an epic summer plan. Until she learns she’ll also be sharing the bus with Cam. Her first love, and her first heartbreak. Now Vee has more than just cameras to dodge, and Cam’s determination to win her forgiveness is causing TMZ-worthy problems for both of them. With cameras rolling, she’ll have to decide if her favorite breakup anthem deserves a new ending. And if she’s brave enough to expose her own secrets to keep Cam’s under wraps.

Breaking Vee’s heart was never Cam’s plan. All he wanted senior year was a new life, in a new town, uninterrupted by the tragedy he left behind. Then Vee swept him into a whirlwind of friendship, musical adventure, and a love he didn’t expect or want. Now, he has a second chance to make it right. But things get complicated when ratings-crazy producers, cameramen, and fans are involved. Can he rewrite their love song with the whole world watching?

Sometimes the last note is just the beginning. Love Songs & Other Lies is the debut romance from Jessica Pennington that Katie McGarry calls "fun and full of heart with a hero who stole my heart!”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765392275
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 04/24/2018
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 13 - 17 Years

About the Author

JESSICA PENNINGTON is no stranger to the combination of love and drama. She’s a wedding planner, after all. Jessica likes the challenge of finding the humor in a sad situation or highlighting the awkwardness in a romantic one. A serial entrepreneur with a BA in Public Relations, Jessica has a passion for grassroots marketing. She lives in a Michigan beach town suspiciously similar to the one in her novel, where she owns more YA novels than many teens and spends most of her time on a laptop, rather than a beach. Love Songs & Other Lies is her debut novel.

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It's black, almost liquid looking, and gleaming in the LA sun, like a sleek, horizontal skyscraper. I've only ever seen a tour bus on the highway and I can't believe how gigantic it looks, looming over us. Maybe my fears of being cramped with eleven guys were completely unfounded. Maybe it'll be like a rock 'n' roll palace inside, everything studded and rhinestoned and shimmering. I saw a band special once, where the bus even had a crystal chandelier and a hot tub. How did I even get here? I mean, aside from the four-hour plane ride from Chicago and the completely insane cab-ride-from-hell.

"Are you freaking out?" My best friend Logan's voice breaks me out of my thoughts. "I can't wait for you to see it," he says, pushing me out of the car and into the hot afternoon air. "I dropped my bags off already, but I was waiting on you for the big tour."

For the nine hundredth time since Logan called me two weeks ago, I wonder if saying "yes" to this crazy idea was the right choice. Who just up and leaves everything to join a band tour for three months? And on national television. The thought of the cameras that will soon surround me sends a flush across my face. "The cameras ... they're 24/7 or just for interviews and stuff?"

"Dunno," Logan says, hauling one of my bags over his shoulder as I follow him across the parking lot to the last in a row of five identical buses. "But filming doesn't start for a few days, once all the bands are settled in."

I'm positive Logan is sick of my questions, but I just want to know what I'm getting myself into. I bet I know more about this tour than he does. Logan probably packed his bags two minutes before picking me up at the airport this morning. I'd be shocked if he even knows which cities his band, Your Future X, will be competing in. I, on the other hand, have been quizzing him for the last two weeks. It's the most we've talked in the last year, since he left school midsemester and moved to LA. I even looked up bios for the other two bands sharing our bus — the four members of Caustic Underground (a hipster rock band out of Seattle), and a folk-rock trio of brothers from St. Louis called The Phillips. Which is not their last name. Or anyone's first. Go figure. I'm praying they're nice, even though they're technically the competition. I wonder what they'll think about me. Probably that it's weird an intern is buddy-buddy with another band. "So when do I get this surprise you promised?"

Logan taps twice on the glass door of the bus, and it opens with a loud, breathy sigh. "Right now," he says, grabbing my hand. Climbing up the stairs into the bus, he pulls me in behind him. "Get your asses out here," he yells into the empty space. "I've got a surprise."

Before even clearing the last step, the unmistakable shriek of Anders — drummer extraordinaire, childhood friend, and resident loudmouth — assaults me. "The strippers are here!"

Strippers? God, what are they planning to do on this bus? "Sorry to disappoint you," I laugh as his scrawny body comes barreling down the aisle toward me. "No strippers, just me."

Anders's body collides with mine in the front lounge of the bus, almost toppling me over into one of the leather couches. "I can't believe you're here," he says, holding me in a bear hug. My nerves finally start to settle as I'm engulfed in familiarity. I've known Anders and Logan since elementary school — of course this will all be fine. Anders has barely let me out of his grip when I notice someone sitting on the couch next to us, long legs stretched out like he's been here a million times. Eyes that are so brown. And a smile that would probably draw me in, if I didn't know who it belonged to.

"Hey there, Vee." I've never actually met Your Future X's bassist, Reese, but from everything Anders and Logan have told me since he joined the band last year — flirt, player, man-whore — I'm not surprised by the look he's giving me right now. "You're probably exhausted after your flight." He looks at me apologetically. "I saved a seat for you, if you wanted to get off your feet," he says, patting his thighs as he winks at me.

"Seriously?" I say, laughing. "That's just lazy."

"Is that a no?" Reese says, giving me a gigantic grin as he pats his lap once more.

That grin probably would have done something for me once. I bet it does the trick for ninety-nine percent of the girls he meets. Maybe when I was seventeen I would have melted for the teasing look he's giving me right now — or those brown puppy dog eyes. Not today. Seventeen-year-old Vee feels like a different century, even if it was only a year and a half ago. "That's a no."

Behind me, Anders is laughing. Logan lets out an exhausted grunt. "She's like our sister, dude."

"I guess," Reese says, shrugging his shoulders. "If you've made out with your sister before."

"Logan Samuel Hart," I say, turning back to the front of the bus, where my bigmouth best friend is mouthing "sorry."

"I'm never telling you anything," he says to Reese, who looks happy with himself.

"You can make it up to me by giving me my surprise," I say to Logan. "Let's get it over with, already."

"Turn around," Logan says, looping his finger in the air.

Anders is standing between me and the long line of blue-curtained sleeping cubbies stretching out before me, and something about his face changes, like he just remembered something he forgot. "Don't be mad," he mumbles, leaving me confused.

I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be looking for in the back of the bus. Then it all starts happening: I see a pair of long legs hanging over the edge of the bunk. My body freezes as I look into his eyes, seeing my own confusion mirrored there. For the first few seconds it doesn't register. Maybe I'm in denial. Or shock. I hate surprises, but this isn't anything like what I had expected. It's so much worse. His hair is a darker blond now, cropped shorter than before. His shoulders are broader, the lean lines of his muscles visible under his shirt, and a faint line of hair prickles along his defined jawline. He's definitely not the boy I knew.

No. No. No.

I can't breathe. As melodramatic as it might sound, if Logan weren't standing between me and the door, I'm pretty sure I'd be sprinting out of this bus and across the parking lot right now. My arm twitches as I contemplate knocking him down to make my escape. This can't be happening. Logan is looking past me, at him, and I can't even bring myself to think his name. I don't want even that tiny part of him in my head.

"Surprise!" Logan shouts, to no one in particular, and for a moment I have to wonder if my best friend actually hates me. Seeing him — the last person I ever expected to lay eyes on again — wasn't in even the top twenty possible scenarios that crossed my mind when Logan called me three weeks ago, promising me a job that would save me from spending summer break back at home with my parents.

"You know you'll be bored," he said. "Come help us promote the band," he said. "We need you," he said. "It'll be fun," he said.

Right. I can't believe how much fun I'm having right now. As I contemplate what I'm going to do about my dear friend Logan, the guy staring at me from eight feet away is headed my way. Time has run out and I have to figure out what I'm going to do. Just get off the bus. Except the reality is, I don't even have enough money for a ticket home. No, like it or not, I'm going to be trapped on this bus for the next three months. Even if I made it home, there's no way my parents would pay for me to stay in Chicago for the summer. I already moved out of the freshman dorm. And at home, I have zero chance of surviving a small-town summer after a year in the city. Stirring up trouble before this bus even leaves the parking lot is the last thing I want. Because I'm out of options. And this is ancient history, anyway.

All I have to do is act normal. He's just some guy — a friend for a few months, almost two years ago. Two years! I'm not the girl he knew then, and he's definitely not going to affect me the way he used to. I need to fake it and not give him the satisfaction of anything more than that.

My eyes are on his brown leather shoes, my voice soft. "Hey, Cameron." I'm trying my best to smile but it feels like my face might crack.

His voice sounds strained, like I said something wrong. "Hey, Vee."

"Your band's in the tour too?" I'm unsure of what to say but I need to fill the silence. I force myself to look him in the eyes just for a moment as I mutter, "Small world."

And really it is, because what are the odds?

"Uh, Vee —" Anders is looking at me like I've got two weeks to live and he doesn't know how to break it to me. "Cam's in our band?" It's not a question — he's gauging my reaction.

Of course he is. The universe hates me.

I'm unable to form a coherent thought. "Oh." You've got this, Virginia. Slap on a smile and get through this.

Logan moves next to Cameron and throws an arm across his back. "We needed to add a fourth guy. We picked him up a few months ago."

This is the new guy Logan has been mentioning for months?

Logan's smile is still assaulting me. "Just like old times, huh, Vee?"

I want to smile, to be happy, because I need to believe that Logan really did believe me when I told him Cameron and I weren't a serious thing. And he thinks he's reuniting long lost friends; bringing back joy-filled memories. Because if it isn't that, then he lured me onto this bus for three months, knowing I'd be trapped with an ex-whatever. Logan and I have been friends since we were nine. He knows how to push my buttons, but I don't believe he has an actual death wish.

I'm trying to smile, but I'm not sure if my lips are actually cooperating, because my eyes are locked on Cam and my brain is screaming, "Punch that asshole in the face!"

God, it's hard not to notice that face.

All of the lines that used to be soft are hard. His eyes seem greener. Gone are the preppy polo shirts and khaki cargo shorts, replaced by a tailored, dark blue button-down rolled up his taut forearms. A pair of perfectly worn jeans hangs low on his waist. He is stunning. And I want to punch him in his beautiful fucking face. Is it thumb-in when you punch someone or thumbout? Too bad twelve-year-old Vee didn't pay attention to any of Dad's self-defense lectures.

Logan strides toward me. "Aren't you glad you came, Vee?" His eyes glow with excitement. "This is going to be epic." Logan lunges at me, throwing his arms around my waist and hoisting me in the air. Our chests press together as he lifts my feet off the ground and bends backward. He has the biggest grin I've ever seen, and it looks like it may split his face in half. Logan thinks he's making me happy. Poor, delusional Logan.




It hurts to move. The beach is nearly empty, my skin is hot and tight, and the walk back to the apartment is beginning to feel like an epic pilgrimage. My sand-covered surfboard, Lucy, is scraping between my ribs and bicep with every step, slowing me down. I could dump her in the woods along the sidewalk and cover her with some leaves. Maybe no one will notice her. I can just grab her tomorrow on my way back. I hesitate along the trees, but can't bring myself to do it. Lucy feels like the closest thing I have to a friend in this town. Or at the least, the closest I want. It's a dick move to abandon your only friend in the woods.

I've spent the last two months in Riverton doing pretty much nothing. During the day, I walk from my apartment down to the beach that edges the town. A lot of my time has been spent making failed attempts at freshwater surfing. I was sucked in by the bastards who sell the fancy, airbrushed boards downtown. I bought myself Lucy as a belated eighteenth birthday present. "Lake surfing is the next big thing," they'd claimed.

Those assholes are delusional.

The store is covered in pictures of surfers standing on top of rolling waves. Every one of them looks carefree. Like the two guys in my junior-year Trig class who always had weird half smiles and reeked of weed every time they came back from lunch. From what I've personally seen of Lake Michigan, those photos aren't the real deal at all. Despite spending most of my time staring out at that giant blue puddle, I haven't seen anything close to a surfable wave. I should know — I'm from California. I've surfed before, on actual waves. Not freshwater hopes and dreams.

Still, I spent six hundred bucks on the board, so the least I can do is drag it down to the beach with me every day. That way I feel like I'm actually using it. Even if I'm just lying out on the water paddling out of view. If I can't ride a wave, then I figure lying under the sun — feeling the swells roll under me — is as close to happy as I'm going to get. Just me, the board, the waves. Life's a lot less complicated out on the water, away from everything. I can shut my brain off for a little while and I'm normal; I feel almost numb out there. Maybe it's just the chill of the water, but I don't think so.

* * *

My new apartment isn't far from the beach, but by the time I take a shower and change into a fresh pair of board shorts and a polo, it's nearly seven o'clock — hours past my normal visiting time. Lake Terrace Assisted Living is only a few miles away, sitting along Riverton's busiest street. It's a long, curved cluster of gray three-story buildings flanking a kidney bean pond. Tiny evergreen trees line the winding sidewalks. There are small patches of flowers scattered throughout the large yard, and wooden benches are everywhere.

I've come here exactly sixty-three days in a row, and I've never seen anyone outside. Not walking the sidewalks or at the picnic tables. Or sitting in the rowboat that lies suspiciously next to the pond (which I'm pretty sure is just a wooden prop to make it look like people actually go outside). It probably makes families feel better to think their loved ones are wandering around in fresh, colorful gardens, rather than lying in stale, white beds. A wave of cool air engulfs me as I enter the double doors and goosebumps spread across my sunburned arms. Behind the half-moon reception desk, a nurse absentmindedly waves me on. Everyone visits on the weekends. It's always quiet — almost eerie — when I come on weeknights, and it's my favorite time to be here.

A nursing home has become your own personal sanctuary. You're pathetic, Cameron.

Down a long hallway — covered in a flowery red-and-green wallpaper my mother would hate — room 207 smells like eucalyptus, baby powder, and lavender. It's a mixture of the two women who share the room — my Gram, and another elderly woman named Evelyn, who, like Gram, seems to be asleep ninety percent of the time.

I sit at the far end of the room next to the bed, facing the blue fabric curtain that acts as a wall, breaking the room into two halves. Gram has one side of the room, farthest from the door but closest to the window, and Evelyn occupies the other. Gram doesn't talk much, especially in the evenings, but when she does it's usually to call me by my father's name.

She usually wakes up to find me sitting beside her bed, scribbling in a notebook or with earbuds in. "Trevor?" "No, Gram, it's Cameron."

Every time.

"Oh. That's my grandson's name too." Her face lights up whenever she says this, and I just nod, holding her hand. When I first started visiting, I tried to explain to her that I was that same Cameron she seemed so fond of. But as the weeks went by and she never caught on, it got depressing. So I keep quiet. I hold her wrinkled hand in mine, and I nod and smile. Nod and smile. Nod and freaking smile. Like a bobble head.

The reasons I moved to Riverton are simple:

1. Gram is here.

2. Lake Michigan is the closest substitute to the ocean.

3. Anonymity.

I'm in Riverton for a fresh start, and anonymity isn't an issue when it comes to my visits to Lake Terrace. If there's one place I can count on not being recognized — in a town full of people who don't know me — it's in room 207. Even though she doesn't remember me, I still enjoy visiting. I like having this piece of my old life. Knowing Gram was here made Riverton a logical choice, over the thousands of other cities I could have fled to, where I'd be equally anonymous.


Excerpted from "Love Songs & Other Lies"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Jessica Pennington.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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.

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