Two years ago, the medical world was shaken by scandal, and Payton Daniels's family was at the center of it. The second she graduated, Payton left everything behind—her high school sweetheart, her family, and the controversy surrounding her mother's death—and hid within the anonymity of college. But Payton's ex, Blake Hiller, hasn't forgiven her for leaving, and when he enrolls in the same medical ethics class, she panics. She can't run the risk of him telling everyone who she really is.
As if being at the same university isn't enough, both Blake and Payton land the same internship. Forced together, their passion for each other reignites, but when Payton is asked to testify in her father's high-profile trial, she must choose between risking her acceptance into medical school to help her father, and losing every connection to her past—including the only guy she's ever loved.
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By Jennifer Blackwood, Nicole Steinhaus
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Jennifer Blackwood
All rights reserved.
What did a homeless man, an AIDS victim, and a man in an orange jumpsuit have in common?
Well, one of them was ruining my life.
I was about to find out how the other two were connected once the professor began his lecture.
The three pictures blazed on the screen at the front of the classroom, my gaze fixating on the image of the clean-shaven man in the orange jumpsuit. My father.
I wiped my hands on my jeans, the BIC logo of my pen engraved into my palm like a fresh tattoo. In order to get through the next six months, I needed to suck it up. This was bound to happen sooner or later, especially with my major. But, as of right now, I would rather repeat gen chem the rest of my life than sit through one minute of this class.
My body tensed. Would the professor notice if I bolted a couple minutes into lecture? Before I had the opportunity to escape, he began speaking.
"Welcome to Medical Ethics 314. I'm Nicholas Centafont. In here, we'll discuss all of the major ethical issues medical professionals have to face on a daily basis."
I blew out a defeated sigh, took a sip of my iced coffee, and let the cold liquid sit in my mouth in an attempt to cool down. I fanned myself with the course syllabus, and my cheeks practically sizzled as the cool air hit my face.
The professor pointed his clicker at the screen, and a red dot appeared on the homeless man's nose. "Some issues include care for the homeless." The red dot moved to the picture of the AIDS victim and hovered over his chest. "Patients not wanting their spouses to know about medical conditions, and—"
A wave of goose bumps cascaded down my arms. What colorful words had the professor saved for my father? My bet was on "murderer" or "family-ruiner"—my two favorites. Like a sniper taking a kill shot, the red dot landed in the middle of my father's forehead.
"Medical professionals, such as Dr. Evan Cooper, who take the law into their own hands."
Metal from the top of the chair dug into the back of my neck as I sank lower in my seat.
Yep, Dad. You really did our family proud. At least no one knew who I was; not even my roommate Jules.
I stared at the clock in the right corner of the room. I'd made it two minutes, only 78 more. In the grand scheme of things, an hour and twenty minutes once a week didn't seem like much. But, as each second ticked away, my anxiety scorched through my veins like I was hooked up to an IV of acid. As if my life had turned into some sick joke, the second hand on the clock stopped.
My knuckles turned an alarming shade of white as I gripped my pen, and I resisted the urge to pull out my phone to check the time.
"You'll have three essays, one debate, and a group project at the end of the term."
A collective groan rumbled down the aisles of the auditorium. As juniors, we didn't have time for so many papers on top of the lab reports in other classes. Another way the system was slowly killing us.
"I was thinking of going costume shopping after class today. Wanna come with?" Jules whispered as Professor Centafont attempted to get the remote for his PowerPoint presentation to work. He smacked it against his palm, and the presentation rapid fired through several slides.
She nudged me. "So what do ya say? You can help me decide between the Satan's Mistress and Too Hot to Handle costumes."
Who came up with these names? And, for the love of God, why did she remember them?
The first week of school at any college meant one thing—the beginning of the themed frat party marathon that continued until school let out. In Drexler's case, Heaven and Hades. I appreciated the offer, since I didn't really know anyone else on campus. I had transferred over the summer from FSU back to Northern California.
"Can't. I have a crap load of anthropology and O chem homework," I said as Professor Centafont mumbled and backtracked through his slides, one hand on the remote, the other raking through his salt-and- pepper hair.
"Fine, but you're still coming with me to Heaven and Hades tonight, right? Hot guys, free drinks, what more could a girl want?" Jules waggled her eyebrows. She was convinced we could flirt our way into the party, but according to the girls stage-whispering behind us, it sounded like a pretty exclusive event with an even more selective guest list.
To stay in or not to stay in; that was the million dollar question. I needed my grades to be at their best when I applied to medical schools in six months.
"Well ..." I doodled hearts in the margin of my paper, weighing the pros and cons of going out on a Friday night.
I had one B minus on my transcript. One more would ruin my chances of getting in to a top-notch school—aka Drexler, the school I had just transferred to. Even though I'd finish my undergrad here, it wouldn't give me any advantage when I applied to their competitive medical program.
On the other hand, my body was as rigid as Kathy Lee's Botoxed face. Fun would be good for me, and it would keep my mind off my dad.
"Pleeeeeeease." Jules batted her baby blues at me. Her palms pressed together as if she was praying to the party gods.
One hour. I could spare one hour. Maybe two, if I finished most of my homework.
"Okay. But just for a little bit."
Jules fist pumped and did a victory dance in her seat, her blond hair swishing across her face. "I'll even let you borrow my angel costume from last year so you don't have to go shopping."
I hadn't known her too long, but I had my suspicions about this supposed angel costume. Hypothesis: minimal fabric and maximum skin.
Zoning out the professor's lecture, I filled in the white space of every letter O on the course syllabus.
Jules looked up from her cell phone, which she had texted on all throughout class. She tapped my desk with her pen and pointed toward the front of the room.
Professor Centafont announced our first assignment. "Your job is to write a three-page essay explaining what ethics means to you as a future health care professional."
Well, I knew what wasn't considered ethical as a medical professional. My father was the poster child of what not to do.
My cell phone showed three more minutes left of class. Three more minutes and sixteen more Fridays filled with oodles of medical ethics fun.
Jules's breath tickled my ear. "I bet at least half the class writes about Dr. Cooper. Seriously, who axes their wife? So cliché."
The tip of my pen ground down the open page of my notebook, and a trail of jagged paper fragments followed in its wake.
It was one thing to hate my own father, but to have other people—especially my roommate—casually berate him erred on the side of completely effed up.
My pulse raced, the vein in my temple painfully throbbing as I shifted my gaze to Jules. What was I supposed to say to that?
"Yep," I said, but couldn't hide the panic in my voice. I busied myself, shoving my notes and textbook into my backpack and praying Jules wasn't observant enough to see I was in meltdown mode.
I jumped at Jules's question like she had slapped me. Pinching the bridge of my nose, I took a deep breath.
Calm the eff down. She doesn't know anything.
I looked at her as she studied me with an arched brow.
"Mmhmm." Jules cocked her head at my trembling response, so I added, "Too much coffee."
She smiled and tucked her bangs behind one ear, revealing seven diamond studs climbing her left lobe. "Caffeine jitters. I know those all too well. Sends you into a completely different dimension."
I wished I was. One where my mom was still alive and my dad wasn't in jail.
Okay. Locking those emotions away.
I had ten minutes to get to anthropology. In typical anal-retentive fashion, I calculated the distance from the Keller Building to the Seus Building. To my on-time-obsessed dismay, it was a twelve-minute walk. This campus was too spread out for short people—me—or as my old boyfriend liked to say, vertically challenged.
"The paper is due next Friday. Class dismissed," announced Professor Centafont.
Thank God it was Friday, but this class sure started my weekend off on a crappy note. At least I had figure drawing at the end of the day to make up for this less-than-stellar morning.
I zipped up my backpack, holding my pencil between my teeth, and turned to Jules. "Ready?" I couldn't get out of that classroom fast enough.
"Yeah." She rubbed the side of her upper thigh and hip. "I think my ass fell asleep."
"Hurry your numb ass up. We're gonna be late." I took the pencil out of my mouth and pretended to stab her in the butt.
She squealed and pushed me away, my right arm swinging behind me, making contact with something hard.
"Shit!" a gravelly voice boomed.
I spun around, my arm still extended, my pencil embedded in this guy's bicep. I quickly pulled away. A piece of lead stuck out of his arm, a trail of blood trickling down his tanned skin.
Crap. I just went all Psycho shower scene on this guy. Cue shrieky violins.
He pulled the lead out from his arm and wiped off the blood with his finger.
"Oh my God. I'm so sorry." I opened my backpack, grabbed a wad of napkins and pressed them against his muscular arm, my gaze wandering over his body. He backed up, and my arm brushed over his steel-plate stomach. Shit, I'd break a finger if I pressed any harder.
My gaze drifted to his hair that was the right combination of bed head and deliberate disheveling, or better known as "frat boy hair." To top off the look, he wore a pair of pink Under Armor socks with black Nikes.
He smiled and said, "No worries; everyone needs a good stabbing to start off their morning." His southern drawl melted my knees down to a gelatinous state.
"I aim to please." I aim to please? Mental face-palm. Big fat F for Flirting 101. It had been a while since I'd flirted with a guy, but, damn, apparently it had been too long.
"Well, I think I should at least get the name of my assailant." His lips parted to reveal perfectly straight teeth, which went along with his rock- hard abs and ripped biceps. The only imperfection on his tanned face was a faint, circular scar above his right eyebrow.
"Payton Daniels." I looked down at my phone. Nine minutes to get to anthropology. I needed to speed walk to be a minute late.
"Nice to meet you, Payton. I'm Andrew."
I winced as shooting pain ran up my radius. Bicep-stabbing injury. That was a new one. I massaged my wrist, digging deep into the tissue.
"You okay?" He jutted his chin toward my arm.
"I'm good." I realized I was still massaging my wrist and slowly moved my hand down to my side. Awkward.
He raised his brows, unconvinced. "Well, just so I can make sure you're all right, you should come to our party tonight." My stomach barrel rolled in response to his slight twang of the word party. "I can put your name on the list—as long as you don't bring any pencils."
Before I could answer, Jules broke in. "She'd love to!" She flashed a smile at Andrew and stuck out her hand. "I'm Jules Carmichael. Pleased to meet you, Andrew."
For a split second, I let jealousy creep out of its little hidey-hole where it lurked deep in the pit of my stomach. Couldn't she find her own cute guy to stab? Obviously, this was irrational. I had no claim on this guy, and she could date whomever she wanted. And from the stories she told me about last summer in Rome, she did.
Jules had this magical ability to make friends instantly, and every guy we had met this week was kissing her feet within two minutes of knowing her. Surprisingly, Andrew kept his stare focused on me instead of her. Two points for Gryffindor.
"Great! I'll put you both on the list. Y'all been to Alpha Sigma Sigma before?"
Alpha Sigma Sigma ... ASS. Seriously? I disguised my laugh in a cough.
Jules said, "No we haven't, but we're looking forward to it. Nice to meet you, Andrew, but we gotta run."
I muttered a quick good-bye as she ushered me down the aisle and through the double doors.
I was going to be spending my Friday night at the ASS house. Classy.
A thick cloud of Axe and perspired beer hovered in the air as Jules and I entered the fraternity. The beat of some rap song vibrated through my ribcage. Cardboard cutouts of clouds and flames lined the walls. Uneven mounds of sand sloped across the floor, which, as far as I knew, had no relation to either place someone supposedly ended up after death.
Water poured out of a hose duct-taped to the ceiling, posing as a makeshift waterfall. This reminded me more of the beach than heaven or hell, but who was I to argue with the half-naked men who decorated the place?
"Want a beer? I'm going to the bar to get one." Jules motioned to the tiki hut in the corner that housed four kegs and an inebriated bartender dishing up something from a massive punch bowl.
"I'm good." Honestly, I could have used a drink, but med schools tended to frown upon applicants sporting an MIP on their record. From what Jules told me, cops in this town passed out Minor in Possession citations faster than a frat guy chugging a beer bong.
She stuck her bottom lip out into a pout. "Fine, I'll be right back." She turned, and her body was sucked into the sea of skin, angels, and devils.
I scanned the room for a familiar face. Two girls from my chemistry class staggered to the bar where Jules stood flirting with the bartender.
I should be embarrassed for how much I looked forward to seeing Pencil Stab Victim Andrew. I wasn't. I had been shut off for so long, relationships being at the bottom of my endless to-do list. But on my flight back to California a few months ago, I had made a pact with myself to live life to the fullest. Yes, grades were still important, but I also needed to live and enjoy life.
Andrew was here somewhere, and I was anxious to see what he was wearing, or not wearing, over those rock-hard abs. Goose bumps emerged from imagining my hands running across his bare chest. As I tugged on the almost-non-existent piece of fabric of my skirt, someone tapped me on the shoulder.
"Hey, sexy." Andrew's southern drawl came out slurred as he drew me in to his chest. My cheek smashed against his wet, bare, sculpted pecs. Wow, who knew those muscles existed anywhere other than the side of an Abercrombie bag? I inhaled and enjoyed the sweet musk of his cologne that lingered in my nostrils.
The temperature suddenly jumped up fifteen degrees, and sweat beaded around my hairline. I unlocked from our embrace, pulled my hair back, and tied it with a black rubber band that I wore on my wrist for this very reason.
"I'm so glad you actually showed up." His lips parted into a smile that warmed regions luckily covered by the barely-there skirt.
"I wouldn't miss it. This party is awesome."
Andrew nodded and scanned the dance floor with the same prideful grin my dad used to give me when I brought home an aced biology test.
Apparently, whatever he'd been drinking impaired his ability to sniff out my bullshit comment.
Beads of water slid down his chest, and the tips of his hair curled across his forehead. He must have been under the hose—er—waterfall.
My body tingled in response to the droplets rolling down each ripple of his abs, and I crossed my arms, combating the urge to reach out and touch him. I'd heard of lick-worthy abs before, but I'd never understood the hype until now. My tongue ran across my lower lip, and a slow burn crept into my cheeks as I realized how ridiculous this must look to him. He was a guy, not a freakin' cupcake.
I couldn't be throwing myself at the first guy who showed interest. I wasn't innocent by any means, but it had definitely been a while.
Another droplet slid down his chest.
Okay, way too long.
Only one other person sent shivers coursing through my body the way Andrew did. But that was forever and a day ago. Before my dad screwed up my life. The only person I'd given everything I had to offer was—
In a devil costume. Here. At this party.
Excerpted from Unethical by Jennifer Blackwood, Nicole Steinhaus. Copyright © 2014 Jennifer Blackwood. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Unethical features a second chance love story between two college students, one with a terrible past experience, and the other willing to make amends for past mistakes. Now, this is one of the few second chance romance reads I've ever come across and I'm starting to take a fancy to the theme. Payton Daniels is trying to live a new life, and is prepping herself for medical school, and everything seems to be starting out alright, now that she's left everything behind. Her father is the center of a medical controversy for commiting assisted suicide on his wife, Payton's mother, and she's tried to hide in anonimity. But she can't seem to shake off the fact that despite him being in jail, his name always seems to pop out everywhere, on television, the papers and even the scapegoat of lecture debates in ethics class. Blake Hiller is not over Payton for leaving him. He's not forgiven her for leaving without a single word, and he's pissed at himself for not being there when she needed him the most. Now that they've crossed paths once more, Blake is convinced he needs to have her back because she's the only girl he's ever loved. I feel like this book took too much of my time, because I had high hopes and thought of the plot as promising with family choices and career dreams being in line. I enjoyed the beginning, with the concept of personal and family angst but despite all that, Payton is trying to strive to get into medical school. But as it turned out, the whole plot of Payton's father being in jail for a medical controversy, alongside with the trial and the internship only turned out to be a huge backdrop for the annoying push and pull between these two. One minute they're fighting over the past and her father's issue and next thing you know, they can't get enough of each other. I seriously believe this story needs a big touch up, because I really liked the plot line, but I just did not like the way it was written. Now, I've always enjoyed books written in different POVs because of the play on both of the main characters' thoughts, but instead there were a lot of monologues that were unecessary and didn't even go well with the plot. Another thing I've also noticed is matters tend to escalate a lot quicker than normal in situations in this story, especially with Payton's roommate/best friend, Jules, and Blake's frat brother, Andrew. Perhaps the only character I actually enjoyed was Jules but that favoritism hit the curb in the near end. This book was okay, but not something I'd even want to go back to. But I do believe in second chances, so if this book were to be re-written, I'd definitely give it a shot and read it again.
Good read. Like this author. Will read more of her works in future. ... r more from this author.
Love this book and how payton and blake come together...want to read more
I just finished reading Unethical and I was very impressed. The storyline was very intriguing taken it was about assisted suicide and drugs with a sweet romantic story about Payton and Blake included. I really enjoyed this read. Look forward to more by J Blackwell.
Really ejoyed it!
One of the best novels i have read in a long time!
I really like the book. Once reviewer was correct in saying the cover is misleading, but the title is really what caught my attention. "Unethical" What would the book really be about. I wanted to keep reading and reading to get to the end and find out the ending. Although I really wish the author had included Payton reading more of her fathers letters and gone more in depth with Jules which could possibly lead in to a connecting book.
You people should just read this novel yourselves and write your own review on this book. I really enjoyed reading this novel very much. ShelleyMA
This book offers a lot of potential subject matter for book club discussions. Yes, I would read other books by this author. I think the cover is rather deceiving.
Loved the book well written enjoyed the characters very much
I enjoyed the story line and character background...just wish the characters had been older. Reading about college teens doesn't enthrall me.
Totally enjoyed book - would definitely want to read more by same author. Very quick read.
This was really a great book and I really enjoyed it! It was a sweet romance book and had a great story as well!! I would really recommend it!!
Good quick read ... overcoming fears and getting second chances that lead leading to a happily ever after.
Was a bit slow in beginning,but still a good read. Liked that auuthor had Payton stnd up to her fears and not run from her fear.
I loved his book. I really liked how the author brought up alot of different ethical issues such as assisted suicide and drug addiction in the second chance love story between Blake and Payton. Glad to see that Payton got over her fears of everyone finding out who she really is and loved hoow Blake continually stood up and showed up for her. First time reading this author but it definitely won't be the last!
I love a second chance. Im hoping for the happily ever after.
After finishing book two in the Drexler University series, I just had to read Payton's story. They were such a cute couple in book two and I wanted to know how they got there. Well, their journey was pretty rough. With a father on trial for assisted suicide, Payton's medical ethics class is hell. Thank god for Jules for helping her to stay sane. But even Jules can't do too much when her ex-boyfriend shows up in the same class - and ex-boyfriend she ran from a few years ago after her father was arrested for helping to kill her mother. Ya - sooooo not fun. Blake and Payton both have reasons for not seeing each other for so long. What I liked best was that both of them made mistakes and both of them had to apologize. I liked that neither of them was perfect - it was so very real life and it was my favorite part of the story. The part I didn't like was Andrew - even knowing that he had an important part to play, he was just too bad of a person. I couldn't find a good reason for the girls to continue having them as part of their group. This was a very emotional story for both Payton and Blake. Payton needs to come to terms with what her father did, and Blake needs to learn to when to let her have her space and when to hold her close. The end was incredibly satisfying. I don't think I could have imagined a better one.
Unethical was a quick read for me. I loved Payton and Blake and found their story to be both tragic and sweet. Payton hasn't had an easy time of things the last couple of years, She's still confused and hurt over what she saw as a betrayal by her parents, one that put her in the hot seat with friends and neighbors so she ran away and put that life behind her. Or so she thought. Unfortunately life has a way of catching up to us, and in this case it catches up in the form of Blake Hiller, Payton's ex-boyfriend. The one she did wrong and hasn't exactly gotten over. Payton and Blake were both intriquing characters that were easy to connect to. They both pulled you into their story, trying to figure out what went wrong and who was really at fault, but also left you rooting for them to work it out and end up together. Unethical brought a second chance romance as the forefront story, but also included forgiving oneself, forgiving others and understanding that a person's family does not show a person's true nature. We are individuals and though sometimes we find ourselves caught in a scandal because of those around us, it doesn't define our personal nature and personality. I loved the way this story brought so many lessons to the reader, but worked it into a fabulously moving storyline.
The blurb for this book, teasing a second-chance romance, along with an ongoing medical-ethics issue sounded interesting and different. I hoped to find a fresh story but unfortunately this book did not work for me. Instead, I found the story quickly dulled by immature characters, sluggish pacing and jumbled development/writing. I was disappointed to find the ethics plot shoved to the side in favor of mostly pointless back and forth drama between the two main characters. The main character, Payton, was under-developed and extremely immature. She would say one thing but do another, constantly. No idea what Blake saw in her. I didn’t care about her or like her. Blake seems decent, and understandably hurt by Payton’s past and current actions. They quickly bogged down in drama with little progression in character growth or story. The writing for both pov’s was filled with excessive, unnecessary detail and oddly placed pop-culture references. Side plots are started, but then poorly developed or never revisited. Several veiled references to the ethics dilemma hinted at deeper theming, but there was little focus on this until the last 15%, where it seemed rushed to wrap up. Scene changes were awkward and felt forced. I found very little to connect with or care about, and I struggled to finish the book. I’m not a fan of the new-adult genre. I think too often authors use silly ridiculous drama to drive the story for younger characters instead of strong plotting and development. I keep sampling the genre every now and then, hoping to find a new-adult book that will change my mind. This was not that book. I think the ethics issue of this book was a solid idea; however the development and execution of that idea did not come together for me. I wish the author had scaled back the unnecessary drama and gone deeper in characterization. I would give this author another shot, but probably not within this genre. *ARC kindly provided by the publisher