Authors: Laura DeLuca
By Laura DeLuca
Copyright 2012 Laura Lowe
Published by Bumble Book Press
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Bumble Book Press
Copyright © 2012 by Laura Lowe. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
For Bryan Grant.
Thanks for teaching me that it’s okay to laugh at myself.
Special thanks to Scott Davis for answering numerous emails
about how to realistically harm and/or kill my characters
and to my cyber stalker turned beta reader, Lisa Markson for all her
help and support with all my novels.
Joshua Hanover was sick and tired of trying to juggle four girls at the same time. This was probably why he had to stifle a yawn as he ran some gel through his shaggy black hair. He combed the last of the rebellious strands into place and sang along to the classic Guns N’ Roses tune that was streaming through his MP3 player. He lowered the volume just in time to hear a shrill voice calling from the living room.
“Josh, get your butt in gear! We’re going to be late for school! Again!”
“I’ll be down in a minute!” Josh called back.
If it wasn’t for his best friend and neighbor, Andrea Carpenter, Josh would probably never get to school on time. She was a walking alarm clock. Sometimes he found her punctuality annoying, but he had to admit that without her, he would never make it to graduation.
Josh grabbed his backpack from his computer chair. In his haste, he knocked down a small pile of photographs that had been sitting next to his laptop. He bent down to pick them up, and was greeted by four smiling faces. They were the class photos of the four girls Josh was dating.
Josh had always been something of a player. He enjoyed the attention, and he liked having at least one back-up waiting on the sidelines in case things started to get boring. He never thought much about how the girls felt. He was too busy thinking about their short skirts and low-rise jeans. Yet, while he seldom stayed with the same girl for more than a month, he usually stuck to only one relationship at a time, occasionally two. This was his first time juggling four girlfriends. He was starting to get overwhelmed trying to keep track of who he was picking up and when. As he looked down at the four beautiful faces, each of whom seemed to be glaring at him accusingly, he felt a twinge of guilt. Aside from that reproachful glance, the girls had little in common. Each had their own unique attributes and even more unique personalities.
Elena Huber was the only girl who actually went to school with Josh. She was the stereotypical blonde bombshell, the queen of the in-crowd. Sexy, stylish, smart, and rich—Elena had it all. Every guy wanted to date her. Every girl wanted to be her. It had taken Josh three years to get Elena’s attention. She didn’t notice him until the older guys had graduated, and Josh finally had a driver’s license and a flashy Mustang. As much as he had fantasized about her, Elena was a lot less perfect and a lot more annoying after he began spending time with her. He quickly tired of her snobby, self-centered attitude.
Then there was Jasmine Preston—Jazz, as she liked to be called. She was leather-clad and covered in chains and black makeup even in her school picture. She was the polar opposite of Elena. A lover of the dark side, Jasmine was a full-fledged gothic. From her black lips to her exotic wardrobe, she was a girl who liked to push the limits of social acceptability. She even dabbled in a little witchcraft. Josh swore she put a spell on him to make him so infatuated with her. If that was the case, the spell had quickly worn off.
Josh met Nadine Morris while he was picking up takeout for dinner at a local diner. She was a pretty girl with long black hair and a trim waist. However, it wasn’t those simple attributes that caught Josh’s attention as he watched her bend over to slide a dollar bill into the jukebox. It was the fact that Nadine’s cup size was larger than the circumference of his head that convinced him to sneak up behind her and slip his own dollar into machine. After a month of listening to her high-pitched voiced, he learned something: generous cleavage hardly makes up for intelligent conversation.
Last, but certainly not least, was Lily Cavalier, the little Catholic school junior. Of all the girls he had been dating, Josh liked Lily the best. Her bright blue eyes and heart-shaped face were framed by thick brown hair, and her perky personality made her easy to like. Like, not love. She was more like a little sister than a girlfriend, and so innocent, he couldn’t even think of trying to take advantage of her.
“Josh! Come on!” Andrea called again. “If you aren’t down here in thirty seconds, I’m going to come up there and drag your lazy butt outside whether you’re decent or not.”
“I’m coming!” Josh assured her, and slung his backpack over his shoulder.
Again he looked down at the pictures, this time feeling a distinct pang of guilt. Something had changed in the last few weeks. He didn’t want to be a player anymore. Josh never had a relationship that lasted more than a few months, but for the first time in his life, he wanted something more than just a fling. He wanted love, and he was almost certain he had found it.
Josh dropped the photos down on his desk. He jogged down the steps with even less enthusiasm than usual. He knew Elena wasn’t going to be happy when he broke up with her. None of the girls would be, but it had to be done. His player days were over. And it was all because of Rosa.
Josh was completely baffled. Looking down at his chemistry formulas, he felt like a complete idiot. The symbols and numbers made absolutely no sense. Who really cared what the formula weight of ammonia was anyway? He didn’t. The whole situation was even more frustrating because Josh had always excelled in his studies. He had been a straight-A student all through high school. He was a card-carrying member of the national honor society, and he never struggled to maintain his high average.
In chemistry, Josh had met his Waterloo. Just looking at the book was bringing on one of his frequent migraines. He had gotten a D in the very first test of the year—a fact that threatened to bring down his whole grade point average and minimized his chances of getting into a good college. Things continued their downward spiral until he teamed up with Rosa. She was the only reason why Josh hadn’t failed chemistry.
“Do you need some help?” A familiar voice spoke, startling Josh from his thoughts.
Josh looked up from his notebook and met the dark brown eyes of his lab partner, Rosa McBride. He felt his heart do a triple somersault. He had never felt so strongly about a girl before. Who was he kidding? He had never felt anything for a girl, aside from lust. Every girl he had ever been with had always left him wanting something more. Somehow, Josh knew that Rosa was different.
“I think this stuff is written in another language.” Josh complained and threw his pen onto his desk with a loud huff.
“You’re thinking about it too much. It’s really pretty simple. Look. . .” Rosa lapsed into a careful explanation of the formula, breaking it down step by step. She was right. It wasn’t nearly as complicated once she explained it in layman’s terms. Josh didn’t know what he would have done without her.
Their chemistry teacher, Mr. Watson, had foreseen Josh’s troubles from the beginning. Rosa was a science whiz, so the teacher had paired them up. At first, Josh was annoyed. He wanted to pair up with one of his buddies from the wrestling team. If he had to have a girl as a partner, Rosa wouldn’t have been his first choice. She was a nerd; all that was missing was the pocket protector. She was hardly the sexy cheerleader type that Josh usually lavished his attention on. There was only one thing that Josh had always admired about her and that was her hair. It was a mass of wavy brown curls that cascaded all the way down to her hips. It made her seem like some mythical creature from a fairytale, like a tree nymph or a mermaid. She was almost as untouchable.
Looks aside, Rosa had always seemed unnaturally quiet and shy. In the four years they had gone to school together, Josh hardly heard her speak ten words. When Mr. Watson first announced his decision, he didn’t expect that to change. In fact, Josh decided that he was going to make chemistry class a living hell for both Mr. Watson and Rosa. His resolve lasted all of twenty minutes. He was having a real problem, and Rosa was a big help. He started to see her in a whole new light. After a week, Rosa agreed to come to his house every other day to tutor him. Within two weeks they had become great friends. After four weeks, the chemistry between them had blossomed into something far more potent than any of the formulas in his textbook. He was sure that he was in love for the first time in his life.
“Are you listening to me, Josh?” Rosa asked. “I think I’ve been talking to myself for the last ten minutes. Josh?” She gently bopped him on the head with her notebook when he still didn’t respond. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Huh? What?” Josh stammered and blushed when he realized how obviously he had been staring at her. He tapped his pencil nervously on the edge of the desk, wondering if his mushy thoughts were written all over his face. “What was that?”
Rosa rolled her eyes good-naturedly. “I was saying that we need to concentrate more on your formulas before the test on Friday. But I’m starting to think we should just give up all together since you’re not listening to a word I say.”
“I’m sorry.” Josh flashed his most charming smile. “I promise I’ll pay attention from now on.”
She gave him a playful jab in the side. “You better if you want to graduate.”
“That’s not very nice, Rosa,” Josh replied in mock offense. “I’m not that stupid, am I?”
“That’s still up for debate.”
“You are so mean to me sometimes,” Josh grumbled. “But speaking of me being an idiot… are you coming over tonight for a study session?” He fiddled with his pencil and tried to act nonchalant. “I think you’re right. I really do need some extra work on this stuff.”
“I don’t know,” she said with a mischievous smile. “I’m not sure I can trust someone with your reputation. Oh, and don’t go giving me that baby face of yours either,” she added when Josh began to pout. “It won’t work on me. I know exactly what goes on in that testosterone-driven mind of yours.”