Authors: Lauren Layne
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #New Adult & College
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
A Loveswept eBook Original
Copyright © 2015 by Lauren LeDonne
by Lauren Layne copyright © 2015 by Lauren LeDonne
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
is a registered trademark and the L
colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.
This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
by Lauren Layne. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.
eBook ISBN 9781101886434
Cover design: © Okay Creations
Cover photograph: © Kotin/Shutterstock
My sophomore year of high school, I had a short-lived friendship with this girl named Korie Hamilton.
She was nice enough.
A little too much purple eyeliner, a few too many
sprinkled throughout her constant chatter, but we had every class together our first semester, so we kind of became friends by default.
Anyway, Korie was forever yammering on and on about how her best friend on the entire planet was Stephen Daniels, a boy she’d known for all of four weeks before promoting him to BFF status.
Apparently it was,
like, ohmigod, like, the best thing ever
to have a guy she could talk to without complicating things with romantic entanglements.
best friends can generally go more than a couple hours without mentioning each other’s name, but Korie found a way to fit Stephen’s name into every other sentence.
they were platonic for a while. Stephen had a girlfriend named Libby Tittles, or something unfortunate like that, and Korie had this on-again-off-again thing with her junior high boyfriend.
But anyone who’s ever seen a movie, or watched TV, or just had basic awareness of human interaction saw exactly where Korie and Stephen were heading: Humpville.
Even though Korie swore up and down that she didn’t like him like
both of their significant others were long gone by Thanksgiving of sophomore year.
By Christmas vacation, Korie wasn’t uttering quite so many
Why? Because Stephen’s tongue was in her mouth before school, after school, and every freaking weekend.
But we all know how this ends, right? Just a few short months later, not only were Korie and Stephen no longer dating, they sure as hell weren’t
Their short-lived romance and ensuing breakup barely even registered a blip on the gossip chain, but I’d like to think it taught some of us high school girls a valuable lesson:
Guys and girls can’t be just friends. Or not
Shit gets too complicated.
But let’s fast-forward a few years, shall we?
I’m now twenty-four, and I have a public service announcement to make: I was wrong.
Guys and girls really
be best friends.
possible to have a platonic relationship with a guy where there are no romantic inklings, no sexual fantasies, and no naïve proclamations of
I don’t like him like that
in a torturous attempt to hide an agonizing unrequited love.
How do I know this? How do I know that a guy and a girl can be best friends without romantic entanglements?
Well, let’s see, I’ve been on the female end of one such platonic relationship for six years now.
Ben Olsen and I met the summer before our first year at University of Oregon during freshman orientation. We were assigned to the same group in one of those terrible ice-breaking activities where you have to put a sticky note on your head and guess what kind of safari animal you are, or something, and we just…
I don’t know why we clicked in the
Hey, you’re cool but I have no interest in boning you
kind of way, but we did.
Maybe it was because I was in stupid insta-love with another guy in our group. Or maybe because my ovaries were hyperaware that Ben’s ridiculous good looks would lead to heartbreak. But whatever the reason, we did the implausible.
We became best friends.
And, yes, every single one of my female friends has given me the exact same warnings I gave Korie Hamilton way back when:
It won’t work.
My friends are split down the middle on how it will actually go down, but they’re all convinced that it
Half think that Ben and I are soulmates who are just biding our time until marriage and babies.
The other half think that we’re going to have too much to drink one night, have awful sex, and never speak again.
Ben and I proved them wrong when freshman year ended and our friendship was still intact. Sophomore year? Repeat.
Junior year, we really upped our game. Not only were we closer than ever, but we became
It happened sort of by accident when one of his housemates backed out at the last minute, and I belatedly realized I couldn’t bear one more year of dorm food, so I moved in. And it
So we did it again senior year.
Here we are, two years after graduation, still living together, although we’ve upgraded from crappy off-campus housing in Eugene to a slightly less crappy two-bedroom house in the Northwest neighborhood of Portland.
And yes. Still platonic as ever, with not so much as a
of change in the air. I’m crazy in love with Lance Myers, my boyfriend of five years, and Ben…
Well, Ben’s on a rather awe-inspiring mission to seduce the entire female population in western Oregon.
“Do you guys have any milk?”
Ah, here we go…case in point. I glance up to see a tall, thin blonde standing in the doorway of my kitchen.
“Milk?” she asks again.
I take another bite of cereal, and it takes all of my self-control not to look pointedly at the bowl of
Of course we have freaking milk.
“In the fridge,” I say with a friendly smile. She smiles back and she’s got deep dimples in each cheek. Cute. I can see why Ben likes this one.
She walks past the table to the fridge, and I cringe when I see the fact that she has airhead monogrammed on the butt of her baby blue sweatpants. Really?
Airhead has apparently forgotten that she wanted milk and instead pulls out one of the cans of Starbucks iced coffee that I keep stocked for Monday mornings when I need an extra pick-me-up, which is
Monday, because, well, Mondays are just the worst, aren’t they?
Airhead pops the tab and takes a sip without asking, which I guess is kind of annoying, but I’ve never really been one of those girls who likes to waste energy getting bitchy about stupid things, so I let it go.
“Hey, so I’m Parker,” I say.
“I’m Liz. Are you dating Ben’s roommate?”
Considering I know for a fact that Liz is the latest in a rather impressive streak of one-night stands,
seems sort of a presumptuous word choice, because how does she know I’m not just a onetime sleepover guest like her?
This, too, I let pass without comment.
I mean, what else is the girl supposed to ask:
Did you get drunk and sleep with a guy you barely know, like I just did?
Plus, I have a fun surprise for her.
the roommate,” I say, keeping my smile friendly. I’m wearing my oldest pajamas and haven’t even pretended to have tried to take off last night’s mascara, which is now all over my face. I’m pretty sure I don’t look threatening.
But I’d be wrong.
Liz pauses halfway in, drinking my precious iced-coffee beverage, and her previously curious expression turns wary.
I mentally shrug. Ben tends to use my unisex name to full advantage by avoiding female pronouns when referring to his roommate while a booty call is in progress. He picked up this approach after several hookups that failed due to the fact that some girls still subscribe to the old girls-and-guys-can’t-be-just-friends axiom.
Ben ambles into the kitchen, his sweatpants matching the style of his girl toy’s, although his are dark UO green, and instead of a tacky phrase on the back, they just have the Oregon Duck, our old college mascot. We graduated a couple years ago, so the frat-boy attire’s a
sad, but I can’t judge him too harshly since my entire workout wardrobe consists of old college shirts.
He yawns and smiles. “Morning. Have you girls met? Liz, Parker, Parker, Liz.”
Ben’s either unaware of the fact that Liz is giving him a dark look or he no longer cares now that he’s gotten laid.
Here’s the other reason I don’t exactly get my rocks off thinking about Ben in a romantic light: He’s kind of a player. As a friend, I can love him for it, but on the romantic front? Never. Ever. Not even with every possible STD test.
“Hey, what happened to the must-wear-shirts-in-the-kitchen rule?” I ask, shoveling another bite of increasingly soggy Wheat Chex into my mouth.
“No such rule exists,” he says, with a wink for Liz-slash-Airhead. Her expression softens lightly, and I resist the urge to slap a little sense into the poor girl. I want to tell her that his winks are a dime a dozen, but what’s the point? She has airhead printed on her sweatpants for God’s sake.
a rule about shirts in the kitchen,” I insist. “House rule number fourteen. Speaking of which, where
my house rules?”
“Hard to say,” he says, opening the fridge and glancing at its meager offerings before pouring a cup of coffee instead. “But I
have used them to mop up OJ the other day. Or maybe as a coaster for my beer.” He snapped his fingers. “Oh wait, no, I remember. I just plain threw them out the old-fashioned way.”
I point to the doorway. “Shirt. Now.”
He glances at Liz. “She can’t concentrate when my abs are on display. We have to give her anti-swoon pills.”
Liz giggles even as she shoots me a searching look, as though she’s trying to determine whether I really will swoon over Ben’s admittedly impressive upper body. The guy’s like a machine. He misses workouts only on the worst of his hangover days.
“Do you wanna grab some breakfast?” Liz asks Ben.
Aww, poor Airhead. She doesn’t know the name of the game.
Ben’s face is immediately regretful. “I wish I could, but I promised Parker I’d take her to IKEA to get a new bookshelf for her doll collection.”
I’ve just taken an enormous bite of cereal, which prevents me from speaking, so I settle for my best glare. He’s breaking another house rule: No using Parker to blow off your girl toys.
I believe I even recently added a footnote: “And especially not about IKEA.” I hate IKEA.
“Doesn’t she have a boyfriend that can go with her?” Liz asked.
Ooh, badly played, Airhead. Too obvious in your attempt to determine whether I’m competition.
“She does. But he’s quite frail,” Ben says in a loud whisper. “Very petite hands.”
another rule broken: Don’t bash Lance so that you can use Parker to blow off your girl toys.
Lance isn’t frail. I mean, maybe my boyfriend’s not as much of a
as Ben, but he’s lean and fit and he sure as hell doesn’t have small hands.
Still, arguing at this point would probably mean extending Liz’s stay, and I’m more than ready to see Airhead on her way back to her dorm room.
I scoop up the last bite of cereal from my bowl as I stand. “We should probably get going,” I say, still chewing. “IKEA gets crazy on Saturdays, and I don’t want to risk them being out of stock on the extra-large shelves.”
“You have that many dolls?” Liz asks, looking torn between being creeped out and feeling completely sorry for me.
“Fifty-seven and counting,” I say, straight-faced. “And actually, Ben, if you’re going to be a while, I might just run upstairs and brush their hair? I noticed last night Polly was starting to develop a tangle.”
Ben drains his coffee, pushes back from the counter, and shakes his head at me. “You poor, sick weirdo.”
Then he turns to Liz, putting his hands on her skinny waist and pulling her forward with an apologetic smile. “You mind if I take a raincheck on breakfast?”
I barely hide the snort. In Ben’s world,
is a synonym for
I’m going to intentionally lose your phone number.
In under a minute, Ben is nudging Liz out onto the front porch, and, impressively, she doesn’t even look pissed. I follow them out, just to be annoying, watching as he whispers something in her ear. Her eyes go wide and sympathetic and she gives me an
It’s gonna be okay, little buddy
smile. She heads toward the sidewalk with a wave.
“What did you just tell her?” I ask, taking a sip of my coffee as we watch her leave.
“I told her you were an abandoned orphan and that the only thing your birth mother left you with was a doll named Polly. Hence the sad obsession.”
I shake my head. “You know I’m going to have to rewrite the house rules. And
will so be going on there.”
Liz turns back and gives one last wave. Both Ben and I wave back, and I can’t help myself. “Enjoy your walk of shame!” I call after her, my voice sweet as sugar.
Liz’s head snaps back as though trying to determine if she heard me correctly, but Ben puts a hand over my face and shoves me back into the house before closing the front door.
He absently rubs a hand over his abs as he looks me up and down.
“You should change. You can’t wear your ratty booty shorts and that ugly T-shirt to IKEA.”
“First of all, you can
wear your rattiest and ugliest T-shirts to IKEA. That’s pretty much the IKEA dress code. And second, we’re not going to IKEA. Really, are you getting so comfortable with your lies that they become fact in your mind?”
going to IKEA,” he says, running both hands through his short brown hair before heading toward the stairs.
“For what?” I ask.
“I need a new dresser.”
“What’s wrong with your old dresser?”
I wrinkle my nose. “How the hell do you break a dresser?”
He shoots me a look over his shoulder and wiggles his eyebrows.
It takes me only seconds before I put the pieces together. “Airhead?” I hitch a thumb over my shoulder at the departed female. “You banged her against the dresser?”
“Hey, she was unusually tall, which gave me the unusual opportunity and prime angle to—”