HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! Here is a little sneak peek of DO YOU LOVE ME (Trinity Series Book l). It releases in ONE WEEK. – 2.21.17 Hope you enjoy!
5 months earlier
With only two weeks of summer break remaining, I was teetering on the edge of an emotional breakdown. My Josh was leaving for college at UTN, and I was entering my senior year of high school without him. Josh wasn’t actually “my Josh” per say. He was my best friend and had been since I was nine years old. So, I had dibs on calling him “my Josh,” and everyone within a twenty-mile radius knew it. Except for Josh…
Of course, he knew that he was my best friend, but what he didn’t know was that he was forever mine. He was destined to be my one and only as soon as I worked up the nerve to tell him.
It had only taken me nine years. That’s not bad. Right?
The two of us had been nearly inseparable since the day we met. He moved into town when he was ten because his Dad had to relocate for work. Our parents became fast friends. It was inevitable since our Dads worked in the same office, and shared the same secretary.
You heard me right. They “shared” the same secretary.
Gag me now.
Their love for all things secretarial wasn’t something I had proof of, but Josh proclaimed it to be true. I never questioned Josh, and the less I knew, the better.
Up until a few weeks ago, I was in utter denial of the fact that Josh was heading off to UTN (University of Trinity Northwest). I just assumed he’d never leave me and that we’d be together forever. Naïve I know, but I couldn’t help thinking that we’d go off to college together someday. That the two of us would skip off, hand in hand. Okay, so I was more delusional than naïve. The thought of Josh skipping anywhere was pretty hilarious. Could you imagine, all six foot of him?
“What are you thinking about Lee?” Only Josh could get away with calling me Lee. Honestly, the way the words rolled off his tongue… Damn! He could call me anything.
His elbow nudged me in my waist below the dining room table gaining my attention. I’d completely tuned out the business conversation that Dad had started. It was some kind of stock discussion, which held no ones’ attention. You’d think that Friday night dinners would be more casual since our fathers saw each other all week, but no. The husbands would talk business, the wives would discuss the week’s gossip, and the kids would be left to doze off. It was a real snooze fest.
Cliché, I know.
I glanced over at Josh and his emerald green eyes caught mine leaving a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. It wasn’t fair that he was so beautiful. Those eyelashes of his were longer than mine. He literally rolled out of bed looking that good. It didn’t matter if he hadn’t shaved or brushed his hair. That face of his was gorgeous no matter what he did. I sighed.
I just wanted to reach out my hand and brush it against the trail of hair that ran along his jaw line.
“Lee,” he said my name again.
“What?” I rolled my eyes at him and pretended that I wasn’t just picturing my hands on his face. I looked back towards my plate of barely touched food, and then back up at him.
“I asked what you were thinking about, but I guess I shouldn’t have. Your mind in the gutter, Lee?” His brows rose, and I silently wished I’d gotten that spray tan last week to hide my embarrassment.
At least he didn’t know it was him that I was thinking about. Did he?
He leaned in a little closer. “I’m just messing with you. So, what are we doing after dinner?”
The rest of the table was oblivious to our existence so I didn’t bother hiding our plans. Not that they mattered. As long as I was with Josh, I could pretty much do whatever I wanted, him being my big, bad protector and all. “I heard everyone was meeting at the mill. There’s supposed to be a big bonfire. Want to go?”
I shrugged. “Fine by me. Nothing else to do.”
After finishing off a couple more bites of this week’s unnamable dish, I excused myself from the table to go get ready. Mom smiled at me, which meant that she’d actually heard me, while Dad waved me off because he was too busy talking business. They were so oblivious to everything. A freaking spaceship could land in our backyard, and the only thing Dad would worry about is if he could capitalize on it or not. “Nothing in life was free,” he’d say.
Right on cue, I heard Josh clomping up the stairs behind me, matching me step for step. My parents either thought Josh and I were like brother and sister, or they just didn’t care that their seventeen year old daughter was heading upstairs with a guy. They never cared, and surprisingly, I was well behaved for a girl with little to no parental supervision. Ever since Josh and I became friends years ago, our parents were just “okay” with it. They let us go everywhere and do everything together. I guess they just knew that Josh wasn’t into me sexually, at least not the way that I was into him.
The thought depressed me.
Josh was my protector, my best friend, and my world. He was the one person I went to when I needed to talk about anything, and I mean anything. I knew I was in love with him when I was thirteen, and he let me cry myself to sleep on his shoulder the night Trevor Douglas told our entire class that I was a bad kisser. Two days later, Josh got suspended from school for giving Trevor a black eye. No one ever talked about me again, or if they did, I didn’t know about it.
There was one time that I actually thought that Josh might’ve been developing more feelings for me. When I was fifteen and he was sixteen, he drove me home from school. The two of us were alone in my bedroom studying and my leg rested against his as we sat next to each other on my bed. I remember it like it was yesterday. You don’t forget the first time those butterflies take flight inside your stomach. You don’t forget how nervous you feel when you’re about to be kissed by someone you have a crush on. When his hand reached for mine, and our eyes locked, I knew what he was about to do. Seems silly now, but in that moment he took my breath away. His lips touched mine, and we tangled ourselves in each other’s arms. I was timid, but he wasn’t. His hands knew exactly where they were supposed to be as they moved gently down my sides. The instant his hand reached my boob, it was as if he’d gotten burned. The moment was over before it even started. So many times I wondered if I twitched or made some kind of movement that caused him to back away. Was what we shared experimental? Could we blame it on hormones? Who knew? Afterward he apologized. He ran from the room like I’d totally screwed everything up. The moment was brief and never happened again. For weeks I was devastated. I assumed something had to be wrong with me, but he explained later that he respected our friendship and didn’t want to ruin it. After seeing the girls he sifted through over the years, I finally understood what was wrong with me. Once I filled out my body, I’d have him hooked. There was just a tad more developing left to do, and a few more curves to grow, or at least I was hoping they’d grow.
We’d been the best of friends through it all, and I’ve waited patiently for him to look at me differently. I’ve waited while so many other beautiful girls had their turn. Ewww. That sounded gross. He wasn’t a slut. Don’t get the wrong idea. He was just having fun. All those girls were fun. They weren’t real. Yet, it still hurt me every time I thought about it.
I wanted real.
Two weeks was all I had left with him, and there was no way I’d be able to convince him that I was the one for him. Not with him leaving in a matter of days. He was going to be running off to college having the time of his life, and I was going to be stuck here by myself.
High school… I rolled my eyes.
I looked through my closet, tossing aside every piece of clothing. Throwing them over my shoulders as if they weren’t good enough. My aggravation was obvious because Josh was patronizing me from across my room.
“That shirt didn’t do anything to you,” he teased. “Take it easy, would ya? What’s got you in such a pissy mood?”
“You’re leaving.” I stuck out my trembling lip and I swear he could see it even though I wasn’t facing him.
His warm hands wrapped around my waist, and he leaned in closely to my ear. “Not for two more weeks, Lee. It’ll be okay, I promise.” His warm lips touched my cheek lightly, and I thought my knees were going to buckle under me. He wouldn’t let me fall. “I’m going to call, text, and even email you as often as I can.”
“It won’t be the same.”
“I know.” He spun my hips around in one swift motion so that I was facing him and pulled me in for a hug. “We’ll make it work. You’ll see. And you can come visit me a lot. I’m only forty minutes away.”
Forty minutes seemed like hours. It was a gazillion miles.
I kept my cheek pressed against his chest, enjoying the closeness as he rocked us gently. With my eyes closed, I memorized his smell, that musky cologne that I could pick out from a bottled line up. The thought of losing him was weighing heavily on me, and I hated that I couldn’t see him every day. My life was going to be shifted off its axis, and I had the worst feeling that nothing between us would be the same once he was gone.
“Now come on, pick one of these shirts up off the floor and get your butt in the bathroom. I’m not waiting all night for you to get ready.”
“Some of us can’t naturally be as beautiful as you,” I teased.
“You are right about that. I’m sexy and I know it,” he replied in a singsong voice.
You’re right, I wanted to agree but instead, I gave him an eye roll before picking up my dark blue tank top off the floor. The man had every right to be conceited. He was a head turner. Just lying back on my bed like that, made me want to skip the whole party and curl up next to him. It’s a shame I have to share him with the world. It was also a shame that he was wearing pants.
A girl could dream.
In the bathroom, I slipped on a pair of light colored skinny jeans and my blue tank top, before putting on a little nude lip-gloss. I pulled back my long dark hair into a high ponytail and slid on my silver bangle bracelet that Josh got me for my birthday last year. I rarely left the house without it.
Glancing in the mirror, I frowned a little at my reflection. It wasn’t my best day, but I looked okay. I could’ve stood there picking apart my flaws for days, but Josh would break down the door if I took too long.
“I’m ready stud. Let’s go,” I called out as I walked out of the bathroom.
Two footsteps into the bedroom, and I found him dozed off on my bed. His head leaned over onto my pillow and his mouth was partially open. Some partier he was. I was only in the bathroom maybe ten minutes, and I come out to find him asleep.
Time stood still as I watched him laying there, his hands tucked between his knees. It was a picture of perfection in my eyes. The way his chest moved slowly as he took a breath. He looked so peaceful.
I moved in closer to him and placed my hand lightly on his shoulder. When he didn’t flinch, I knew that he was fully asleep. There was no need to wake him. We’d been to hundreds of bonfires before, and no one would miss us if we didn’t show. Besides, I’d rather keep him in my bedroom anyway.
Reaching for my ponytail, I let my hair fall loosely down my back. I shimmied out of my blue jeans and tossed my tank onto the floor. Inside my dresser, I grabbed an old tee shirt and pulled it on, making sure it was big enough to cover my panties. Mom wouldn’t care that Josh spent the night, but she might’ve cared if I wasn’t completely covered.
I climbed under the thick white blankets of my bed as easily as I could. I didn’t want to wake him. Once I got comfortable, I used the remote from my nightstand to turn off the lamps. I had just shut my eyes when I felt Josh move behind me. Seconds later his arm draped across my waist and he snuggled into my back. It was the position he loved most when we shared a bed and so did I. The warmth of his towering body against mine was all the comfort I needed. I was going to miss it when he left.
Who was going to take care of me once he was gone? I was an only child, and Josh’s only sibling was his brother Eli who lived hundreds of miles away with his fiancée. My only friends at school were the friends that Josh and I had together. Most of which graduated already, and the few that were left only liked me because of him. I was a loner, or a Josher. It was always the two of us, never just me. My mood was sullen, and I hoped after a good night’s sleep I’d feel better.
Cozying into Josh’s arms, I closed my eyes.
Good dreams was what I wished for before falling asleep.
For the last few days, I’d been moping around like a lost puppy. No matter what Josh tried to do, I just couldn’t cheer up. I was so upset, and I knew my mood was wearing on him. I was about as fun as a toothache.
Josh growled in frustration. We’d been sitting in front of the television for the last two hours.
“Get your ass upstairs, put on something that’s not equal to pajamas, and brush your hair. We’re going out?” He said.
I rolled my head to the side, “Where’re we going?”
“Don’t ask questions. I’m sick of sitting here. Now go!”
I didn’t budge. His “I’m the man” attitude wasn’t working on me. Call me stubborn.
He narrowed his eyes at me, just waiting for me to move. I knew that look. He was seconds away from mauling me like a wild animal. Which was exactly why I didn’t budge.
There was a silent staring contest, and I wasn’t about to blink. Two can play his games.
“Ahhh,” I screamed as he snatched me up off the couch. He threw me over his shoulders as if I weighed nothing. I ducked my head down and clenched his shirt in my hands as he headed for the stairs. His fingers were dug into the back of my thigh causing me to squirm. It tickled and I couldn’t stop laughing.
“Dammit Josh,” I yelled out as he slapped my ass.
He slid me down the front of his body until my feet touched the floor. “You’ve got thirty minutes to be ready. I’m going home to change, and I’ll be back. You better be waiting outside, Lee.” He glared and I smiled.
I was waiting on the porch when Josh’s Camaro rolled into my driveway. The clouds were grey and the sun was perched behind them, but it was smoldering hot. It must’ve been at least ninety-five degrees even though the sun wasn’t shining. I slid my favorite shades down over my eyes. Josh hated them because he said I looked bug-eyed which made me want to wear them that much more. They weren’t that big. I just had a small face.
“Let’s go, woman!” Josh yelled out.
Instead of walking down the stairs, I leaped over the porch railing landing in the grassy lawn below.
I nailed that landing. That six days I spent in gymnastics when I was eight must’ve really paid off.
“So,” I closed the car door. “Where are we going?”
“To the docks,” he replied coolly.
“Really?” My insides were like jelly. Those were the three best words I’d heard in days.
I squealed, wrapping my arms around his neck, and playfully tugged at his collar.
There was a storm coming. I could smell it in the air and I couldn’t contain my excitement. Rain was the second best thing in my life. Josh was the first.
“You’re the only girl I know who gets excited about swimming in the rain.”
“I’m special,” I replied.
“Yes you are.” He said, looking ahead towards the road. I tried hard not to overthink his response.
I loved rain, and thunderstorms. There was something about standing in the rain that made me feel alive. Like being struck by lightning, only less painful. A roar of thunder would send me racing outside. Most people would be scared, but not me. I wasn’t most people.
“I didn’t bring my bathing suit.”
“It never stopped you before,” he teased, and he was right. “No one else will be there anyway. No one else is crazy enough to swim in a storm.”
That’s right, no one but me.
A loud crack of thunder rumbled in the sky, and I grinned at the sound of it. I hit the button rolling my window all the way down. “Do you smell that?” I leaned my head over, sticking it out the window so I could feel the wind hitting my face.
“You’re crazy. If it starts raining you better roll up that window. I don’t care for wet leather.”
Okay grumpy pants, we’ll see about that.
I pouted just a little, and batted my eyelashes in his direction.
“Fine. But you’re drying my seats with your new Under Armour hoodie,” he demanded.
Both of us knew that was a lie.
Josh’s phone started to ring, and he answered it using the button on his steering wheel. “Hello.”
“Hey there gorgeous.” Tara’s voice came through the speakers. Gag me! I couldn’t stand that girl. It was no secret either. She was pathetic and as easy as riding a bike.
“What’s up?” Josh asked.
“Just thought you might want to come over tonight?”
I rolled my eyes and shifted in my seat. This was one conversation that I didn’t want to hear.
“Can’t tonight love. I’m hanging with Lee.”
Ugh, he called her LOVE!
“Paislee?” Her voice was bitter. Like she didn’t know who he was talking about.
“Uh, yeah. I’m always with Paislee,” He repeated my name in the same tone.
“Right,” she sounded pissed. “Call me later?” She suggested.
“Maybe tomorrow. I got to go. We’ve got rain.” He hung up the phone, and smiled at me.
The clouds opened up, and the rain poured down. There was nothing in the world that could make me happier. I bounced eagerly in my seat waiting for Josh to park the car.
“Hurry Josh!” I was itching to open that car door.
The car jolted as it came to an abrupt stop in the gravel lot just yards from the docks. I slung the door open and jumped out as fast as I could. My feet had barely hit the gravel before I bolted. I stretched my arms out wide into the air, and tilted my head back so that the rain would hit me directly in the face. It was heavenly. You know that feeling when you have to pee so badly that you can barely hold it, and once you finally get to go it’s like sweet release? This was better. WAY BETTER!
Making my way to the waters edge, I couldn’t contain my laughter. I hadn’t felt this good in weeks. It was euphoric.
“You’re crazy, you know that?” Josh called out to me, but I didn’t care. I was in a zone, as I spun around and around. “I said you’re crazy!” He yelled again.
I stopped spinning and focused on Josh’s face, giving him a smile he couldn’t resist. He was drenched from head to toe, rain dripping down his face.
“If I’m crazy, then so are you,” I reminded him. “Takes one to know one. Let’s go,” I pointed to the lake.
When the rain chances were high or the storm clouds were rolling, no one would come to the lake, no one except me.
It wasn’t an easy task, but I somehow managed to remove the wet shirt from my body. I kicked off my shorts and stood shivering in my bra and panties. When I glanced back at Josh, he was following my lead stripping down to his boxers. Just as he was removing his last sock, I bumped my hip into the side of him making him lose his balance. I laughed and ran straight into the water.
“You’ll pay for that,” He threatened in a shivery voice.
Oh, I hoped so.
I was up to my shoulders in the warm, murky water, waiting for Josh to come closer. He was planning some kind of attack. His eyebrows rose and I squirmed under the water. “Josh no,” I warned, though I didn’t mean it.
He jumped towards me, swooping me up in his arms. “Gotcha. You can’t get away from me Lee.”
I thrashed against him, but it was no use. He was so much stronger. His arms were locked around me and there was no way I was getting free. “Bombs away!” He yelled just before he threw me over his shoulder into the water.
I came up laughing, though water was sputtering from my nose and mouth.
“That’ll teach you.” He said before lowering himself down further into the water.
The two of us swam around until the rain stopped. We were having the best time, and I wasn’t ready to get out. Josh, on the other hand, was more than ready. As soon as he starts wrinkling he wants out. Says it grosses him out or something. He’s just as weird as I am sometimes.
We sat on the south dock letting our feet dangle into the water when the conversation I’d been dreading finally came up. We’d both been avoiding it like the plague for the past forty-eight hours, but we only had two days left before the big departure.
We’d been inseparable since we were kids. In the back of my mind, I knew that we’d one day go our separate ways and I probably should’ve been more prepared for it, but I’d grown used to having him by my side. Just didn’t seem right any other way. We were supposed to be together.
It was a big mistake. Josh leaving was the ultimate mistake. It was going to change everything. It didn’t matter what he had to say. Things wouldn’t be the same, and there was nothing I could do to change it.
I leaned my head over on his bare shoulder. “You’ll come visit me on the weekends when you can, and I’ll call or text you every day,” he proposed.
I could feel the tears welling up threatening to spill over. “Right.”
“And I’ll be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
“You better,” I replied.
“Listen,” he said. “I told Moose that I wanted him to look after you at school and that he should crack some skulls if anyone messed with you.”
Matt Tillman or Moose as we called him was a good buddy of Josh’s. He was captain of the wrestling team and was always pretty nice to me, though I didn’t know him that well.
He stopped me. “I know you and Moose aren’t that close, but he’s my friend. He promised he’d take care of you while I was gone.”
“And what do I have to do in return?” I frowned.
“Only a couple of hand jobs,”he joked.
“Poor me,” I scoffed.
“Seriously though, I don’t want you worrying about anybody at school messing with you while I’m away. It’ll be fine. Just one year is all we have to get through, and then you can pack your bags and join me at UTN.”
I sighed, swallowing the lump in my throat. “A year seems like forever.”
“I know.” He wrapped his arm around my shoulder. “But we’ll make the best of it. Now let’s drink.”
He pulled out a bottle of his Dad’s scotch, and I recognized it right away. That purple label was hard to forget. We had drunk it before. It wouldn’t be my first choice for alcohol (especially when it costs over five hundred dollars a bottle) but I was ready for the burn. I needed something to take away the pain that was lingering in the hollow pit of my stomach.
Boy did I regret those drinks. I was scotch wasted and wishing for my bed before dark. Luckily Josh barely sipped it or else we’d be hitchhiking our way home.
After a day of recuperating otherwise known as lazy Saturday, it was officially moving day. Josh was leaving me and my emotions were all over the place. I’d later document that day as feeling like day two of my period. I was agitated, overly emotional, and my yoga pants were the only things I felt like wearing. The two of us probably should’ve avoided an all night Shrek marathon, and that second tub of ice cream.
But we didn’t.
We wanted our last night together to be the best one of the summer, something unforgettable.
“That’s the last of it.” Josh sighed as he loaded the last box into his trunk.
He was driving to school by himself today. His parents had already said their measly goodbyes and didn’t offer to drive him to the dorms. They’d already visited once this summer so I guess they’d seen enough to know that he’d be fine.
I begged my parents to let me drive separately and follow Josh there, but they wouldn’t go for it. Mom said I’d see him in two weeks. She said it’d be easier to say my goodbyes here.
Nothing about saying goodbye to Josh was easy.
I stuck my lip out, giving him the saddest face ever. He couldn’t resist my pouty face, and well, I wanted his arms around me one last time before he left. Wrapping his arms around my waist he lifted me up off the ground. My feet dangled below as I buried my face in the crook of his neck. I wanted to memorize that smell. “I’m going to miss you so much,” I whispered. I wanted to say that I loved him more than friends. I wanted to tell him that his heart belonged to me. It was our last moment of closeness before he left, and I choked, completely chickened out. We’d been alone together hundreds of times over the summer and I didn’t tell him how I really felt about him.
The tears fell quickly down my cheeks.
“I’ll miss you too, Lee.”
When my feet hit the ground, I couldn’t bear to look up at his face. It was too hard. He was upset too, and I didn’t want to see that beautiful face in turmoil. He leaned down, resting his cheek against mine, and I welcomed the rough stubble from the line of hair that adorned his cheek.
“Remember what I said, Lee,” his silky voice made me shiver.
“And don’t let anyone have my side of the bed,” he joked. He knew as well as I did that no one else had ever been in my bed besides him. I intended for it to stay that way, joke or not.
I sniffled. “I’ll see you in two weeks.”
“Yep,” he kissed my cheek softly. “Love ya.”
“I love you too.”
I love you more than friends, Josh.
Those words were just a figment of my imagination. They never actually left my brain and spewed out of my mouth. Nope. I was the biggest chicken on the planet.
He climbed into the driver’s seat of his Camaro, and I waved to him as he pulled out of the driveway and left me standing behind.
He was gone.
Just like that.
My best friend was moving away, and I had to let him go. I was going to be the pathetic friend he left behind. The one who loves him, but can’t have him. I screwed up. He was just out of my reach now, and I’d never be able to compete with college.