How to get over a heartbreak:
Step one: Eat your body weight in brownies.
Step two: Throw yourself into your dreams of becoming a famous writer.
Step three: Beg your (hottie) ex-neighbor to act as your fake boyfriend.
Step four: Skip step three unless you’re ready for some serious fallout.
After being dumped and humiliated over the summer, Cat Turner does what any sane girl would do. She asks bad boy Alex Locke to be her fake boyfriend and show the world (and her editor at the school newspaper) that she's fine. Problem is, the more time she spends with Alex, the more she risks getting her heart broken. For real this time.
Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a swoony bad boy who will melt your heart, brownies, and witty banter. One, two, or all three might prove addictive...
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|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||2 MB|
|Age Range:||12 Years|
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Bennet Miller lay on the ground, blood pouring out of the gashing wound in his skull. His cries echoed out around the valley basin, but they were in vain. No one could hear him, which meant he'd die alone and full of pain. Like, really, really full of pain. Perhaps helped along by some killer ants.
"Hey," a voice said, and Cat looked up from the story she was writing as Alex's head appeared over the back fence. He swung one jeans-clad leg over the top and then the other, landing on the lawn with feline grace. It was something he'd done when they were younger, but that he was now seventeen and no longer lived next door were two very good reasons for Cat to be surprised.
"Hey, yourself. We do have a front door, you know." She was still wearing her pajamas and hadn't brushed her hair, but he wouldn't care, and neither did she. In fact, she was never again going to care what she looked like. Caring was for people who wanted to make themselves attractive to someone else. And that was something she had no interest in doing.
She turned back to the gruesome death scene she was writing for Bennet.
Definitely a big old "yes" for the killer ants. With fangs.
"Doors are overrated." Alex shrugged. His lopsided smile highlighted his square jaw and blue eyes. She hadn't seen him all summer, and his dark hair was shorter than she remembered, but he was still a hottie despite the faded denims and plain white T-shirt he favored. "Besides, I did try, but there was no answer, just the sound of David Bowie. I guess your mom's in the studio."
"She's been at it all morning." She shifted, and he slid down next to her, his legs a good foot longer than hers, while traces of soap and grease clung to him. The tension in her chest lessened, a Pavlovian reaction to his presence. One of the things she liked best about Alex was he never expected anything of her, which meant she could relax when he was around. Like being on her own, but with company.
It'd been the same ever since he'd moved in next door when he was thirteen and had first clambered over to see if she owned the rabbit currently eating his grandmother's lettuce. The return of her pet had been the start of the friendship.
"Which explains why you're out here writing about" — he paused and raised an eyebrow — "murder. Okay, that's new. I thought you preferred to write about kissing."
One of Alex worst traits was his ability to notice everything.
She snapped shut the journal and lifted her eyes to the Californian sky. Wispy shades of blue and white mixed together, no doubt trying to lull people into thinking it was a perfect summer's day. Cat wasn't fooled.
"Kissing's even more overrated than using doors," she retorted as a small smile dance around Alex's mouth. "I'm experimenting with genres. It's allowed."
"Hey, no judgment. You're the aspiring author, not me. Write whatever you want." He shrugged. "If you need help disposing of the body, just ask."
"One, I know you're not the bad boy people like to think you are. And two, this is fiction," Cat reminded him and was rewarded with a second smile, this time it reached his eyes, causing them to twinkle. He rarely laughed at anything, which could only mean one thing. He's heard what happened. Her stomach dropped like a roller coaster. Couldn't he just let her enjoy her humiliation in peace? "What do you want, Alex?"
"A large bank account and a Harley." He gave a smart-aleck retort, just like he always did when someone asked him a badly worded question. Normally, she found it cute. Today, not so much.
"Hahaha, you're hilarious. And if you're here to lecture me on why I never should've fallen for Bennet Miller, then you're too late."
Her skin prickled under his steady gaze. With his dark hair and olive skin, he was like a fallen angel, all dark and brooding. Still, at least with Alex, you got what was on the label. Unlike with Bennet, whose choirboy face hid a blackened soul.
And now I sound like a crazy person.
"It's none of my business," he said, confirming it. "I'm only here because Birdie wanted me to drop you off some brownies."
"Oh God. Birdie knows?" She stared at a familiar cake tin. If she opened it, there would be four large brownies, the color of freshly turned soil, nestled within the tissue paper — one for pain, another for hope, a third for wisdom, and the fourth for joy. Birdie referred to them as her heartbreak cure, guaranteed to fix even the most shattered of hearts. The fact that Birdie was eighty-six and had moved out of the house next door into an assisted living place on the other side of town meant news had obviously spread.
It didn't bode well for the email Cat had just received from Mackenzie Withers, the new senior editor of the Franklin High Gazette. It had been terse and to the point, merely saying they needed to speak when school started on Monday.
All morning, as the hazy sunshine had danced around her, accompanied by the last of the cicadas, she'd been trying to convince herself it was about the feature editor spot they'd discussed at their wrap party last semester. Or about whether the paper should comment on state politics. Or what her favorite font was.
Or box number four — she thinks I'm a liability.
Her stomach churned. Last year one of the freshmen on the staff had been involved in a Twitter war with a cheerleader. It had escalated to a defaming article that an overworked editor had let slide. The backlash had cost the previous editor her job. Somehow Cat didn't think Mackenzie — who was a Disney villain in the making — wanted to take any chances.
All because Bennet blinked his baby blues in my direction.
From now on boys are off the agenda.
"Try not to stress." Alex put the tin down on the mossy grass and closed his eyes as if he was going to fall asleep.
"How can I?" Cat demanded, forgetting her earlier promise to never think about the disastrous turn her life had taken in the last week. "It's all over YouTube how Bennet only dated me as part of a stupid summer vacation challenge. Ask out a loser and see how far she'll go with you in one week before you break her heart. Bonus points if she gets a tattoo with your name on it." Worst thing was it hadn't even been the hardest challenge on his list. He'd declared getting kicked out of a nightclub had been more difficult. And he was only eighteen.
"At least you didn't get the tattoo," Alex said in a not particularly helpful voice.
"I'm never going to live this down. You know what this town's like."
"Better than most." His voice was cool, and shame flooded her, digging at her skin with pickaxes.
"Shit. I'm sorry. I didn't mean it," she said, realizing her week of bad decisions was only getting worse. First, she'd hurt herself, and now she'd hurt Alex by reminding him of the most painful night of his life.
And the insensitivity award goes to me.
His eyes were still closed, and there was no sign of tension around his jaw, but his whitened knuckles gave him away.
He'd been sent to live with Birdie after the car accident had killed his mom and his two younger sisters. When he'd first moved in, it seemed like every day there was a new story about how rundown his old house had been. How his mom had been drunk at the time of the accident. That she'd been dealing drugs. That she'd starred in a porn movie. And every day Alex had turned up to school, his face steely and unflinching as gossip and rumors flew at him.
And I just managed to bring it up all over again.
His eyes opened — lapis blue with hints of golden brown running through them — and a faint smile traced the line of his mouth. "Don't be an idiot. I know you didn't mean it. I also know Bennet's an asshat who isn't fit to breathe the same air as you."
"Unfortunately, that's not what everyone's going to be saying when we go back to school next week. This is not how I planned to start my junior year."
Cat leaned against the tree. The bark was rough against her shoulder, but strangely comforting as Alex's arm grazed hers. His calmness enveloped her, leaving her relaxed and less panicked. Why isn't everyone as nice as he is?
They tended not to speak at school because he was determined to keep up his reputation as a lone wolf. But in her backyard, surrounded by the musky scent of earth and wood, they'd always been friends. Even if most of it had been in the silence he preferred.
Is it because we don't talk enough to annoy each other?
"Try not to beat yourself up about this. It'll blow over. It always does," Alex finally said.
"Thanks for not giving me a lecture."
"You're welcome." He got to his feet in one fluid motion, causing the muscles under his T-shirt to ripple. "I've got to go to work."
"Where are you today?" She collected the tin of brownies and stood up, not quite so elegantly. Ever since she'd known him, he'd worked after school and summer jobs, determined to save up for the college education that would give him the one thing he wanted more than anything — to get the hell out of Franklin, California.
"Double shift at the canning factory. Nothing like putting fruit in a tin to make you feel alive. It's peachy."
"As a wise person once said, it'll blow over." She grinned and was rewarded with a smile. "Say hi to Birdie for me."
"Will do. And hey, eat the brownies, finish your murder scene, and don't give that dick any more of your time."
"Okay," she promised as he clambered back over the back fence to the small alleyway behind it, where his car was no doubt parked. The sound of David Bowie was no longer blasting out of the small studio on the ground level of her house, making it safe to venture back inside.
Their house — faded pink and white, the color of frosting and cupcakes — had once served as a tobacco store, with the owners living upstairs. Now it was home to Tail & Sass, the small stationary business her mom had set up almost ten years ago. Industrial shelves were filled with the quirky cards, and prints, ready to be shipped out to stores across the country, while in the middle was a large workbench covered with the bespoke wedding invitations her mom was currently working on.
"Did I hear Alex in the backyard?" Her mom stepped away from her beloved lettering press and pushed her streaky blonde hair back from her forehead.
"Yeah. He would've come in, but he had to go to work. He only came by to drop off these." She held up the tin as she sat down on the threadbare sofa in the old window display of the store. When she was smaller, the sofa had been like magic, and her hand would disappear down the back, returning with lost quarters, paper clips, pencils, and — one glorious day — an entire candy bar.
It was a simpler time.
"Birdie's heard?" Her mom, who'd been the recipient of more than her fair share of heartbreak brownies, wrinkled her nose and joined Cat on the sofa.
"Yup. Talk of the town at the tender age of sixteen. Go me." She tried and failed to muster a smile.
"Honey, all you did was like a boy who was foolish with your heart. Better to find out now, than —"
Her mom paused, obviously thinking of Cat's father, the guy who'd impregnated her at the age of seventeen and then gone off to college without a backward glance at either mother or daughter. Rumor had it he was now married and living in New York.
Men are jerks, and love is for fools.
"Maybe it runs in the family." She sighed and traced her finger around the edge of the tin in her lap. "The Turner women. Bad taste in guys."
"The only thing that runs in this family are our great legs, our wit, and our ability to eat our body weight in ice cream." Her mom folded her arms as her amber eyes reflected her emotions like a mood ring. "I mean it, Cat. Life's a journey, and right now you've got a flat tire. It's not the end of the road trip."
"Seriously, stop testing lines on me," she retorted, well aware of how her mom's creative process worked when it came to developing new cards. She leaned back, the air going out of her like a discarded beach toy. Perhaps she could just stay on the sofa forever.
"No good?" Her mom frowned, not looking very repentant.
"Definitely not your best work."
"So, which job was Alex off to?"
"Canning factory. He said it was 'peachy.'"
"Now, he's a boy who understands greeting cards." Her mom grinned before getting to her feet. "And speaking of cards, I need you to do the booth on Saturday."
"Mom." Cat frowned. Manning the stationery booth her mom had set up at a local craft market wasn't her idea of a good time. She was more than likely to see Franklin High students there.
Not to mention it will interfere with my sofa sitting plans.
"Think of it as a trial run to facing the world." Her mom held up a card. It was starchy white with a small ink-drawn pig trying to operate some cardboard wings. Underneath was her mom's original scrawling font. Practice makes Perfect. "See, it says so right here."
"You're not going to change your mind, are you?" Cat said, already knowing the answer. The card in question was the first one her mom made money on, and she used it as a reminder anything was possible. Like raising a daughter on your own. Like building a business from the ground up. Like manning a card booth on Saturday regardless of how humiliated you were.
"Not so much."
"Fine." Cat picked up the brownie tin and opened it. The aroma of Birdie's kitchen flooded her senses — aromatic spices clinging to the muggy air, full of smiles and singing. Her mood improved as she picked one up. Sugar and cocoa might not help her convince the world — and Mackenzie — that she wasn't heartbroken, but they certainly wouldn't hurt.
"Hey, monkey wrenches don't grow on trees, boy."
"Sorry." Alex bent to retrieve the wrench lying by his feet. It had slipped from his hands as he'd been passing it over.
Get your shit together.
He picked it up and gave it to his boss. Joe was in his mid-thirties, but his gruff exterior made him seem older. Especially on a Monday morning before he'd had a second cup of coffee.
"Thanks." Joe grunted before sliding under the Jeep again while Alex tidied up the tool cart. The smell of grease hung in the air — sharp and metallic like burned steel. He'd worked at Joe's since he was fourteen and was versed in the mechanic's moods. If only the rest of the world could be so simple. His fists tightened at the thought of his latest rejection letter.
Dear Mr. Locke,
Thank you for your application for the Weller Jones Engineering Scholarship at UCLA. We had a large number of applicants, and after our review panel went through them all thoroughly, we regret that you have not been selected for the award.
Yada, yada, yada.
He lifted the small welder, a trail of black smudge grazing his fingers as he carried it to the other end of the workshop. At this rate, he'd be stuck in Franklin for his entire life, working for Joe when he had the hours and at the canning factory when the harvest was in, smelling of fruit, grease, and failure.
No. He slammed the idea down.
No way he was staying in Franklin.
It was a small, well-to-do town in southern Sacramento that made its money from agriculture and a growing tourism trade. But while it looked like a stock image postcard on the outside, on the inside it was a festering can of worms.
Worms like Bennet Miller.
His knuckles tightened around the wrench, his breath sharp.
After he'd left Cat the other day, all he'd wanted to do was hunt down Bennet and smash his face in, making him pay for leaving the sweetest girl in the world heartbroken and humiliated.
He stopped himself. Getting a scholarship was tough at the best of times. A juvie record would hardly increase his chances. Especially considering his history. Which was why he'd leave for school in ten minutes and do what he'd always done — keep to himself and avoid drama, always remembering the plan.
Get out. See the world. Don't screw it up.
It had been Birdie who'd insisted that he should spread his wings and move away from Franklin, the subtext being: if your mom had done that, perhaps things would've been different.
Not that he could blame her. His mom had put Birdie through hell and back, and yet still his grandmother kept smiling. No way was he going to be the one to break her heart.
Excerpted from "The Heartbreak Cure"
Copyright © 2017 Amanda Ashby.
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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