1. Skinny dip (her idea)
2. Stargaze (his idea)
3. Prank someone (her idea)
4. Go on a date (his idea)
Leo Zimmerman has had a crush on his curvy friend Kylie Jenkins since forever, so when he discovers the girl with a flair for candy making has a newfound plan to rebel against her overbearing parents, he's determined to be the one to help her carry it out. Who better than himself to show her the ropes of letting loose?
Sure, taking her to her first high school party, helping her sneak out of the house, or watching a sunset together isn't exactly a hardship, but much harder is masking his feelings the more time they spend together. And when he suggests adding "a first date" to Kylie's plan and she accepts...suddenly all his dreams seem to be coming true.
But Leo's got a secret that could change everything between them, and it's only a matter of time before it comes to the surface.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.55(d)|
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"Oh my gosh, Kylie, just ask him out already."
I fumbled with the garbage can I'd just walked into, struggling to keep it upright while my gaze darted around Common Grounds. Though my little sister's voice had been a low whisper, I was sure it had echoed through the crowd.
"Allie," I growled.
She innocently blinked her pale-green eyes at me. "What?"
"You know what."
The line moved forward a few steps. Luckily, James Takata — the object of my unrequited affection — had grabbed his mocha frappe and left the building.
"This is the thanks I get for letting you come with me?" I asked.
She huffed and rolled her eyes. "Please. You're not 'letting' me. We both know that Mom and Dad expect you to drive me home from school. If you want to stop here, you need to let me come with."
The line moved again, landing us at the counter. Placing our orders was an ordeal. Apparently the new hire wasn't particularly familiar with the menu or how to use the cash register. I didn't mind the delay. I hoped it would provide enough of a distraction to throw Allie off course.
The girl had a one-track mind. As soon as we stepped to the side, she zoomed the conversation right back around.
"Ask him out," she ordered. "You're a senior and you live like a hermit."
"I do not," I said. "I go out."
"Do you?" Allie cocked her head to the side as she plastered on a comically contemplative look. "Because I could've sworn that was you, locked away in your room, reading sappy romance novels the past few weekends. And by 'the past few weekends,' you know I mean the past few months."
"I like to read," I argued.
"Probably because your own life is so boring," Allie said.
I hadn't thought of it that way before, but now that she pointed it out, it was clear that my sister was not exactly wrong. I had a deep and abiding love for fantasy novels, the more forbidden the romance, the better. I loved getting lost in intricate worlds laden with magic. And if the hero and heroine faced insurmountable odds to be together, it always made my heart pitter-patter.
"What did you do on Valentine's Day?" she demanded. "I'll tell you what you did. Your friends went out with their boyfriends. But you? You ate pizza with your family, then you locked yourself in your room all night and listened to depressing music."
"Thanks for the reminder." I glanced around. Speaking of my two best friends — Francesca Rossini and Meg Matthews — they had gotten here early and grabbed the big corner booth. Meg's boyfriend, Luke, was squeezed in tight next to her, presumably to save room for the rest of us, but more likely simply because he wanted to be.
Though the place was crowded, no one was particularly interested in the Jenkins siblings bickering by the containers of flavored coffee creamers and stir sticks.
Still, when Allie started in again, I bristled.
She patted my shoulder reassuringly. "There's hope. You just need to get out more. If you don't have the guts to ask James, ask someone else."
"Allie," I said through clenched teeth, "drop it. This isn't the time or the place."
She hurled a bratty sigh my way.
To my horror, I realized Leo Zimmerman had been behind us in line. Now, as Allie and I squabbled, he stood at the cash register, struggling to place an order of his own as the college girl behind the counter squinted at the amount on the digital screen.
I had to wonder how much Leo had heard.
Over the last several months, I'd started getting to know Leo pretty well. He was good friends with Luke, so because our best friends were dating, we spent time together by default. Days like today, when we all hung out after school. I could say we had crossed the line from acquaintances to friends. With his order finally placed and a fistful of change in his hand, Leo cast a wary glance our way. I gave him a tentative smile, suddenly convinced he'd heard every word.
"Hey," he said as he sidled over to wait for his order, too. "How's it going?"
His question was directed toward me, but my sister cut me off.
"Good," Allie said with a big grin. To my absolute dismay, she continued to spew her verbal vomit. "So, Leo, you'd date Kylie, wouldn't you? I mean, you two hang out, right?"
An explosion of crimson slammed across Leo's cheeks.
"Uh ..." His eyebrows shot up as he slid a confused glance my way.
I elbowed Allie. Hard.
To Leo I said, "Ignore her. It probably won't work, but it's the best chance we have at getting her to stop."
Allie moved forward, wedging herself between us. "I was joking," she said, and I was foolish enough to feel a flash of relief. Then she continued, "But hey, since the idea is out there, maybe you two should consider it."
I shot her a look that threatened death.
Leo laughed, but he didn't sound particularly amused. More like completely baffled as he flicked his head, tossing his dark hair aside.
"You're not seeing anyone, are you?" Allie pressed. "Because this would be perfect. You two know each other. Your best friends are dating. You think my sister is cute, don't you, Leo? Because she is. She's really cute. She's super nice most of the time," Allie babbled, as if trying to sell me off at an auction. "You could —"
She continued to jabber, though my hand was now clamped over her mouth.
"I don't know what's gotten into her," I said. Perhaps an evil spirit? "I can't get her to stop talking today."
She tugged my hand away. "Come on," she said.
"No," I said.
"Guess not," Leo agreed with a shrug.
"What I'm hearing," Allie said as she forged ahead, "is that you'll think about it?"
Our order was called out. Allie's attention was miraculously diverted elsewhere as her carbtastic, calorific delight slid across the counter. Lava cake, her favorite. I wanted to choke her with it, giving a whole new meaning to "death by chocolate."
Just like that, the little demon wandered off, dessert in hand, headed toward a table filled with other sophomore girls.
I swiped my skinny caramel latte off the counter with one hand and pinched the bridge of my nose with the other.
"I'm so sorry," I said to Leo. I was relieved that if she had to embarrass me in front of someone, at least it was him. Leo always seemed so easygoing. I knew he wouldn't give me a hard time about it.
He shrugged, smiling now instead of laughing. "It's okay. I have three older brothers and a sister. I know what it's like to have murderous thoughts about a sibling."
"She's usually not so bad," I admitted. "The problem is, she has a crush on this guy, Marc, but she's only fifteen. Our parents won't let her date until she's sixteen." I shot a frustrated look over my shoulder, but Allie was busy talking with friends and didn't have the good manners to notice. "Somehow she thinks if I have a boyfriend, it'll pave the way for her and Marc."
It totally wouldn't happen. Our parents had strict, strict rules about dating. Our oldest sister, Maddie, had gotten into a touchy situation her senior year, and because of that, our parents had been strict with the rest of us girls. They weren't going to cave no matter how hard Allie pressed, yet she was convinced she'd have a better chance if I was dating someone. I wasn't going to get into her skewed reasoning, not with Leo. The poor boy had already heard enough.
"What a little conniver," Leo said, his grin back in place.
"You have no idea," I muttered. "She's been pestering me about this for days. I have a feeling she's just getting started."
"So she wasn't serious that we" — his pointer finger swung between us — "should date?"
"Oh no, she was," I confirmed. "I'm sure she was. She wants me dating someone. She's not picky about who it is."
It took me a moment to realize that my dig at my sister might've sounded as if I were insulting him.
"I mean ... I didn't ... That might've come out wrong," I sputtered. "I'm sorry if —"
"It's fine," Leo said.
I was saved from furthering my humiliation when Leo's order was called. He nabbed his gooey mess of giant chocolate chip cookie, smothered in melting vanilla ice cream.
I scurried to the table to join our friends, grateful to be able to move away from the embarrassment of the last five minutes.
"What was that about?" Meg asked, squashing my relief like it was a pesky little bug.
"What was what?" I slid into the booth, making room for Leo and hoping that Meg wasn't asking what I thought she was asking.
"It looked like things were getting kind of intense with you and Allie," Francesca said.
"Allie thinks Kylie needs to date someone," Leo answered, saving me from having to explain. "She said Kylie should date me."
Luke grinned. "That's not a bad idea."
Like I was going to drag Leo into my little sister's craziness? How unfair would that be?
"No way." I shook my head firmly and took a sip of my latte. I wasn't going to let my little sister have her way. I wasn't going to coerce Leo into dating me just so that Allie might have a shot at getting our parents to let her date Marc. "That's a horrible idea."
I swiveled to face Leo and was startled by the cloudy look that had settled across his face.
Had I hurt his feelings?
He dug into his dessert and I fidgeted with my drink. I had a hunch I'd said something wrong, but I wasn't exactly sure what.
* * *
"Do you even understand how incredibly unfair you're being?" Allie said.
Mom shifted the stack of books she was holding and gave her a warning look. "There's nothing unfair about this."
Ignoring them, I carefully lowered a ball of orange-flavored deliciousness into a bowl of melted white chocolate.
"All my friends get to date," my sister continued. "I don't want to end up like Kylie, almost graduating and never having a boyfriend. That's just sad."
"Thanks a lot," I grumbled.
In all fairness, my nonexistent dating life couldn't be blamed entirely on our parents. I wasn't exactly a boy magnet.
"Kylie's been in love with James Takata since like, the beginning of the year," Allie declared.
"I barely know him," I mumbled. The idea of asking him out made my stomach twist into a pretzel.
"If she barely knows him," Mom said to Allie, "I'd have to say I find it hard to believe she's in love. It sounds like a simple case of infatuation."
If infatuation meant obsessively thinking about James's ridiculously sculpted biceps, artfully messy ebony hair, and abnormally straight teeth night and day, then yes, I was surely infatuated.
"Not letting us date is just mean," Allie protested.
"You can date," Mom said as she turned to me. "You just have to follow a few simple rules. If you'd like to date this James boy, invite him over for dinner."
"Right," I grumped. I couldn't work up the nerve to conjure a conversation with James during chemistry. How would I ever invite him to dinner? With my parents?
For just an instant, a vision of a different dark-haired boy tumbled into my mind. I pictured Leo sitting at our dining room table, wearing his easygoing smile. Just as quickly, the image vanished. I knew I had my sister to thank for putting that wayward notion into my head.
Even though our parents argued they'd allow us to date, my sisters and I knew that their simple "have them over for dinner" tactic was nothing but a thinly veiled deterrent.
"That's so archaic," Allie said. "That's not how it's done anymore."
"It should be," Mom argued. "As parents we reserve the right to ask a few straightforward questions."
"That's all?" Allie crossed her arms over her chest. "That's not what Lexie told us."
"We also reserve the right to withhold dating privileges." Mom paused. "And, of course, we consider it our responsibility to let potential dates know they'll be held accountable for their actions."
Allie groaned. We both knew what that meant. Our older sister Lexie had brought home a few potential dates last year. If our sister could be believed, Dad had given them lectures on what he considered appropriate and inappropriate touching. Including blatantly pointing out that anything in the "bikini zone" was entirely off-limits.
Lexie gave up on dating pretty quickly after that.
"So, can I go out with Marc?" Allie pressed. "If I invite him over for dinner?"
"No," Mom said. "You're only fifteen."
"My friends are fifteen and their parents let them date," Allie cried.
"As lovely as this has been," Mom said wryly, "I'm late for my book club." With that, she headed for the door.
"Doesn't it bother you at all?" Allie asked.
"Not having a boyfriend when your friends do."
I went back to my truffle making.
"It would bother me," she pressed, her disapproval clear.
"What am I supposed to do about it?" I asked. "You heard Mom. Not only is dinner with them archaic, it would be torturous. For both my date and me. You know how that ended for Lexie."
"Lexie dated all the time. She just kept it from Mom and Dad."
I blinked at her in stunned surprise. "No, she didn't."
A smirk crept onto my sister's face. "Yes, she did. Why do you think she was in so many after-school activities?"
"Because they looked good on her college applications." I repeated the excuse she'd given our parents countless times.
"Sure," Allie said. "Or maybe it was because it gave her a reason to be gone all the time. Mom and Dad didn't keep track of where she was because they were under the impression she was doing something school related."
"You're making that up." Lexie was only a year ahead of me in school. But we didn't have anything in common, and we'd never been close. I hadn't had any reason to pay attention to what she was up to. Maybe Allie was right. "How do you know this?"
"I caught her sneaking out one night." Her tone held an unmistakable note of reverence. "After that, I started covering for her when I could."
I stared at Allie in disbelief. "Why?"
"It's what sisters do." Her tone implied I was an imbecile for having to ask.
I felt a pang of envy over being left out of their equation. "Why didn't she ever ask me to cover for her?"
"Why bother? You're too much of a goodie-goodie. I know it, and Lexie knew it, too."
With those insulting words, she flounced out of the kitchen.
I stood there, staring after her. I wanted to shout some meaningful words of protest, but the truth was, nothing legitimate came to mind.
I fumed as I cleaned the kitchen. When I finally traipsed up the stairs to my bedroom, I passed my sister's room along the way.
"What are you doing?" I asked as I paused by her open door.
She was lying on her bed, pen in hand as she dashed words across a page that was half the size of a regular notebook.
"What does it look like? I'm writing in my diary."
"You have a diary?" Intrigued, I took a step into her room.
"You don't?" She quirked an eyebrow at me. "Then again, why would you? You wouldn't have anything to put in it. I bet you couldn't even fill up a page. At least not with anything worthwhile." Instead of sounding snarky, she actually sounded disappointed in me.
"What's with you tonight?" I snapped.
She had the decency to look contrite.
"I don't want to end up like you," she muttered.
Her words stung. Not because she was tossing them at me as an insult. No, they hurt because I could tell they were true.
"Mom and Dad are entirely unfair. It's like they're punishing us for Maddie's bad judgment in boys." She frowned. "And you just go along with it. I was hoping you would ..." She hesitated, as if struggling for the right words.
"Rebel a little?" I guessed.
"Yes." She nodded. "That's exactly it. I want you to be on my side. I want you to help me show them how silly their strict rules are. Instead, you go along with everything they say. You're so tediously boring. You never do anything fun or exciting —"
"Allie," I grated out, "enough with the insults." Tearing me apart because I'd never had a boyfriend was bad enough. Hearing that she thought my life was tedious and boring hit me harder than it should have.
Maybe because I now knew just how much she'd looked up to one of her other sisters.
"You don't even have a diary," she said, as if the revelation was such a travesty.
"Maybe I never wanted one."
"Maybe because, like I said, you couldn't even fill a page."
"I could fill a page." I plastered my fists on my hips.
"With something meaningful?" She scoffed. "Not likely. But here." She flipped to the back of her book and tore out a sheet of lined pink paper. "If you think you can, go for it."
Excerpted from "The Rules of Rebellion"
Copyright © 2018 Amity Hope.
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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