In this humorous love story from the author of Two-Way Street , an unlikely romance is the best sort of surprise—but the wrong secret can ruin everything.
Kelsey’s not going to let one mistake ruin her life. Sure, she got kicked out of prep school and all her old friends are shutting her out. But Kelsey’s focused on her future, and she’s determined to get back on track at Concordia High. Isaac’s been kicked out of more schools than he can count. Since his father’s a state senator, Isaac’s life is under constant scrutiny—but Concordia High’s his last stop before boarding school, so Isaac’s hoping to fly under the radar and try to stay put for a change. When Kelsey and Isaac meet, it’s anything but love at first sight. She thinks he’s an entitled brat, and he thinks she’s a stuck-up snob. So it surprises them both when they start to fall for each other. Kelsey’s happy for the first time in months, and Isaac’s never felt this way about anyone before….But nothing’s ever completely perfect. Everyone has secrets, and Isaac and Kelsey are no exceptions. These two may have fallen hard, but there’s one thing that can ruin it all: the truth.
I am in so much trouble. So, so, so much trouble. Seriously, I cannot even begin to imagine the kind of trouble I’m in. It’s the kind of trouble you hope you’re never going to be in, the kind of trouble you hear people talk about, and you go, “Wow, what an idiot. I’m glad I’m never going to be in that kind of trouble.”
I’m probably going to get kicked out of school. My second school in three months. What will happen to me then? Where will I even go? The last school I got kicked out of was Concordia Prep, a private school, so of course I got put into public school. But where do you go when you get kicked out of public school? Reform school or something?
God, that would be horrible. I could never last at a reform school. I have a pink Kate Spade purse, for God’s sake. I got it at the Kate Spade outlet, but still. Reform school would eat me alive. I’d be like one of those girls on those shows on Spike TV, where they take the teen troublemakers and put them in jail for a day to show them where they’re headed, and they all break down and start crying and completely lose their shit.
I shift in my chair and look at the clock: 11:27. The meeting with the superintendent, Dr. Ostrander, is supposed to start in three minutes, and Isaac still isn’t here. Not that I’m surprised. Isaac is never on time to anything.
The clock’s hand ticks over to 11:28, and I start to think that maybe he’s not coming. That maybe somehow his dad got him out of it, and that I’m going to be left dealing with this mess on my own.
But then the door to the office opens, and Isaac walks in. His dark eyes scan the room, moving over the secretary, taking in the closed door that leads to Dr. Ostrander’s office, and then finally landing on me. Without even talking to the secretary or telling anyone he’s there, he walks over and plops himself down in the chair two down from me.
He doesn’t say anything, just keeps his gaze facing forward. I sneak a look at him out of the corner of my eye. He’s wearing pressed khaki pants, a light blue button-down shirt, and a red-and-blue tie. His black shoes are perfectly shined, his hair freshly gelled. He looks put together, in control, and, as always, completely gorgeous. There’s a slight scowl on his face, but it only serves to make him look more in charge of the situation, like he can’t believe what a total waste of time this whole thing is.
He turns to look at me, and when he does, he catches me looking at him, and my heart stops.
“Hey,” I say. I’m not sure if we’re talking, but the word is out of my mouth before I can stop it.
“Hey.” His tone is clipped. He’s still mad at me for what happened, still hurt, still upset. Still probably doesn’t want to give me another chance.
“I was starting to think you weren’t going to come,” I say. It’s a lame thing to say, but I’m desperate to keep the conversation going.
“Why wouldn’t I come?” He looks like he thinks I’m crazy for doubting he would show up.
“I don’t know. I thought maybe your dad . . .”
He rolls his eyes and looks away.
“Anyway,” I say, “I’m glad you’re here.”
He doesn’t reply, just pulls his cell phone out of his pocket. His fingers move over the screen, checking his texts, reading something, typing a reply. I wonder who he’s texting with. Marina? Doubtful, but honestly, at this point, nothing would surprise me.
“Mr. Brandano, Ms. Romano?” the secretary says. “Dr. Ostrander will see you now.” I take a deep breath and stand up. I smooth my skirt, a simple black pencil skirt chosen in an effort to make me look mature and trustworthy.
“Here we go,” I say to Isaac, and flash him a smile. It’s an attempt to show that we’re in this together, that we’re both heading into the lion’s den, but that maybe we can be okay if we just depend on each other.
But Isaac doesn’t say anything. He just turns on the heel of his superexpensive, supershiny black shoe and walks toward Dr. Ostrander’s office door. I stand there for a moment, blinking back the tears that are threatening to spill down my cheeks.
I’m upset because Isaac won’t talk to me, but mostly I’m upset because I know that this whole thing is my fault. The reason we might get kicked out of school. The reason everything’s so completely screwed up. And most of all, the reason we broke up. The reason I’ve probably lost him forever.
I’ve spent so many hours thinking about it, going over it again and again in my mind. If I start doing that now, I’ll drive myself crazy, letting my thoughts become a tangled mess. And I need to keep my mind clear for this meeting. So I wipe at my eyes with the back of my hand and then force myself to head into Dr. Ostrander’s office.
Lauren Barnholdt is the author of the teen novels The Thing About the Truth, Sometimes It Happens, One Night That Changes Everything, Two-way Street, Right of Way, and Watch Me. She is also the author of the middle grade novels The Secret Identity of Devon Delaney, Devon Delaney Should Totally Know Better, Four Truths and a Lie, Rules for Secret-Keeping, Fake Me a Match, and the Girl Meets Ghost series. She lives in Waltham, Massachusetts. Visit her at LaurenBarnholdt.com.
"Sharp banter... endearing... [a] well-paced and enjoyable confection." --Publishers Weekly
"Barnholdt's snappy dialogue and deftly woven flashbacks will keep readers turning the pages in comic suspense. Romance fans will find the conclusion satisfying even as it is refreshingly messy. --Kirkus Reviews