CRUSHED is officially out in the world!!!
To celebrate, I’m giving away a signed copy of Nightingale. All you have to do is tweet about CRUSHED’s Release today and use the #CRUSHED hashtag or post on Facebook and tag me. Super easy!
CRUSHED is officially out in the world!!!
To celebrate, I’m giving away a signed copy of Nightingale. All you have to do is tweet about CRUSHED’s Release today and use the #CRUSHED hashtag or post on Facebook and tag me. Super easy!
YOU GUYS! Crushed comes out tomorrow and I’m so excited to finally have this book out in the world!!! Hope you enjoy this final peek in Fletch’s world.
It’s not uncommon to find a friend or two hanging out in your room when you come back from class.
What I don’t expect is to find Reid and Brady standing on my balcony shooting a Super Soaker at unsuspecting passers-by. But seriously, why am I surprised?
“You have the best room in the school.” Reid pumps up the water gun and drenches some poor freshman. “Hot chicks on The Beach and the ability to terrorize underclassmen. This is awesome.”
I toss my bag on the extra bed near the door. “What the hell you guys? You’re going to have…” I pause, searching my memory for the right name, but come up with nothing. “My RA on my case.”
“Not expellable, Fletch.” Reid lets another stream of water fly. That’s Reid’s governing law: as long as it’s not expellable, it’s okay.
“I don’t care if it’s not expellable. If he’s watching me, because of you two dicks, how am I going to have any fun?”
A blast of ice cold water soaks through my sweater and sprays all over my bed.
“What you get for being such a pisser.” Reid chuckles as he turns his attention back toward The Beach.
I strip off my drenched shirt, throw it into the corner and grab a new one from my drawer. “Thanks for reminding me why I didn’t want to room with either of you.”
“You’re not exactly Mr. Ideal Roommate, either. Ever hear yourself snore?” Reid props the Super Soaker by the door and flops on the bed. “It’s like a fucking freight train.”
“Whatever. At least I don’t keep lotion and Kleenex next to my bed,” I retort. Reid and I roomed together last year. It wasn’t bad. He spent most of his time at Paige’s.
Brady snorts. “Yeah, Reid. Why do you keep that so close to the bed? Paige not servicing you enough?” he says and makes an obscene motion with his fist.
A long groan rumbles out of Reid. “You guys are jealous because I always have a source. You two never know if you’re going to feast or starve.”
“Speaking of starving, you got anything to eat?” Without waiting for my answer, Brady walks back into the room and opens the mini-fridge. “Some Coke, some fruit – why do you have fruit? What’s wrong with you?”
I shove him out of the way. “There’s chips in the closet.”
Brady flings a bag of chips at Reid and takes one for himself.
“Dude! Those are full-sized bags. Share.” I pluck Brady’s from his hand and toss it back into my closet. “I’m not your personal grocery store.”
Brady sits on the floor, below Reid on the bed, and the two of them tear into the chips like they haven’t eaten in years. Crumbs spray out of his mouth. “So whastsgoinonwifcal?”
“What?” I locate my vintage 80’s playlist, the one Brady hates, and click on it. The music pulses out. Hmmm. Maybe I need some new speakers. The bass is too weak.
“Not this crap again. Jesus, Fletch. You need better taste in music.”
I shrug, and for about thirty seconds, relief washes over me because I’ve successfully distracted Brady.
He reaches around me and pauses the music. “You didn’t answer me. What ya do to Calista?”
My stomach drops to my feet. I spent the day successfully avoiding Cal by skipping lunch and eating in my room instead. “She was upset about Hannah.”
“Liar.” Reid throws a fistful of chips at me. “Paige said she was bawling in first period because you did something. So what did you do?”
I spin around in my chair. A lump sits in my throat. “She was?”
Brady swallows and gives me an incredulous look. “Told you.”
I unpause the music and pretend I’m not listening.
“What did you tell him?” Reid asks. He’s picked up the guitar he always carries with him and plucks out a few notes, like he’s testing the strings, before playing along to the music blasting over the speakers. I watch in envy as his fingers move up and down the neck.
Brady tosses the bag of chips at me and I dart my hand out to catch them before they spill all over the floor. “That Calista looooves him.”
I wince and my cheeks growing hot. “No, she doesn’t. Trust me.”
Reid stops playing and shifts forward, like he’s waiting for more details. I pretend not to notice and step onto the balcony. The crisp autumn air cools my face. Beneath me, a few dozen girls hang out in small groups while the guys mostly goof around.
With the water gun in hand, Brady leans over the railing and surveys the girls. Reid, however, keeps his back toward them and his focus on me. “She likes you. Like likes you likes you.”
I shuffle my feet. “She’s just my friend. Ask her.”
Reid rolls his eyes. “You aren’t friends with girls.”
“I can be friends with a girl. Look at Paige and me. I’ve never messed around with her.” I cross my arms. “And she’s my friend.”
Brady pulls himself way from ogling the girls below us. “Doesn’t count. Paige is your friend because of Reid. He acts like your cock block.” He aims another stream of water toward a group of girls on The Beach and narrowly misses them. He waves as they shriek and giggle.
I think back through the past three years, picturing all the girls I’ve been with, spoken to, hooked-up with. I can’t think of one who’s only been my friend. Not one.
Yet, I insist. “I can be friends with a girl.”
Without looking at me, Reid says, “Prove it.”
“Prove you can be friends with a girl.”
I snort. “And how do I do that? Just walk up to a girl and say, ‘Hey, wanna be friends?’”
Wisps of fog drift over the dorm roof and around the corner of the building, but the kids on the Beach don’t seem to mind. Living here, tucked away in the redwoods nine months of the year, you get used to it. A sunny day for us is when the sun makes an appearance between 1:30 and 1:45 on the third Friday of every other month.
Brady sets the water gun against the railing. “What you need is a girl who is completely available. And hot. Someone who tempts you.”
He points across The Beach. Sarah Diaz, and her two friends, Ellie Jacobs and Libby Hausman, float across the lawn. At least it appears that way with the fog rushing in around them. “You have Physics with Sarah.”
At lunch, Brady and I compared our prospects and agreed getting Sarah’s number was the win of the day.
“Yeah.” I draw the word out. I know where he’s going with this. Sarah and I hooked up freshman year. Libby isn’t my type, so I’d have no problem not touching her. But Ellie…
She’s hot. Nice fit body, long brown hair. Cute face. I run my hand through my hair, willing her to look up, but she doesn’t. Instead, she tosses her head back, not overly dramatic or anything, and laughs.
“Ellie Jacobs. You’ve never hooked up with her. And she totally gets you hard. If you can be friends with her, you can be friends with any girl.”
On the sad, little grass oval of The Beach, Sarah and Ellie spread a blanket. The three girls arrange themselves in a lopsided triangle. Sarah and Libby touch knees while Ellie stretches out along the edge. Unlike the clueless freshmen, Ellie wears tight jeans and a sweater that hangs off her shoulder, exposing the soft skin of her neck. Her bare shoulder indicates a lack of bra, and my mind fixates on that small fact for a moment.
“What’s the bet?” I ask.
Brady rubs his chin, like he’s thinking, but I can tell he already knows what he wants. “Your car. You have to last until we get back from spring break. If not, I get your car.”
“And if I do?”
Reid pipes up. “If Fletch can do it, you give up girls until after graduation.”
Brady begins protesting, saying his punishment is way harsher than me giving him my car.
“But you don’t think I can do it, so why worry?” I say.
He scowls. I’ve totally got him, and he knows it. “Fine. Deal.”
As we shake on it, Reid grabs the Super Soaker and points it at me. “Okay. Here’s the thing: I’m going to soak your ass if you don’t go talk to Ellie Jacobs right now.”
“Are you fucking serious?”
His finger twitches on the trigger as he aims at my crotch. “Totally.”
I stare at Brady. “You too?”
“Don’t look at me. I want you to fail miserably.”
“Fine.” I push past Reid into the hallway. He presses the water gun into my back, and trying to be a good sport about how shitty this is going down, I throw my hands over my head and march, like a hostage, to the stairs.
As we walk across the grass, I try to figure out what to say that won’t sound too much like I’m hitting on her. We stop next to their blanket, and the girls look up at us. Reid lowers the gun and leans on it.
Brady, however, sinks down next to Sarah and helps himself to some of the crackers the girls are eating.
“Hey, guys,” I say. How lame.
Sarah smiles at me. “Hey, Fletch.” Confusion seeps into her voice. “What are you guys doing?”
Brady, who isn’t trying to be friends with girls, answers, “Just wanted to see what you were doing.” He pops another cracker into his mouth and drapes his arm around Sarah, who doesn’t seem bothered by it. “How were your summers?”
The girls share glances and all babble about their vacations. In the meantime, Reid sits down with them too, and I’m left looming over the group. What should I do? Sit? Is that what a friend would do?
“Where did you guys get water guns?” Ellie asks. There’s a certain force to her voice – it’s a little husky, like she’s been smoking her whole life. Gravely, maybe? Whatever, it sounds sexy.
Brady plays with the Super Soaker and points it at me. “Town.”
Town is a twenty-minute drive from Harker. And neither of these guys have cars, which means…
“You took my car?”
Reid shrugs. “Don’t leave your keys laying around if you don’t want us to use it.”
“Or how about you guys stay out of my fucking room?”
A stream of water shoots past me and splatters all over Reid’s sweater and face. He eyes Brady lazily, flicks the water off his chin and says, “I’ve been hit.”
The girls giggle. I turn to leave. I don’t need this. Why do I have to prove myself to them? Because of Calista? Ridiculous.
“Fletch?” Sarah says.
I pivot. “Yeah?”
“Do you want to study on Friday? For Physics?”
Brady leans his head toward her, his arm still around her shoulder. I know that look. It means, he’s staking his claim.
“Brady might be a better study partner,” I say.
He nods. “Yeah. Science is my thing. Fletch is more of an English guy.” He laughs. “If you ever need a book read, ask him. He loves that crap.”
“I thought Fletch was the best at everything,” little inconspicuous Libby says.
Brady presses his lips into a thin line and catches my eye “Not everything.”
There’s an edge to Brady’s normally laid-back voice. I lie. “Yeah. I suck at Government.”
Sarah kicks Ellie. “Ellie could help you. Couldn’t you?” She’s talking fast, tripping over her words.
That’s when I realize what’s happening. Sarah likes Brady. And she’s looking for ways to keep him around, even if that means sending her friend off with me. Maybe getting to know Ellie won’t be so hard after all.
I pounce on the opportunity, but try to look disinterested – like I’m not at all still thinking about the fact she’s braless. “That would be great. I could use all the help I can get.”
Ellie pushes Sarah’s foot away from her knee. “I’m busy with my own classes. Lots of AP this year.”
The tiny bit of hope shatters. She’s turning me down. What’s with this girl? My mind races. There is no way I’m walking away from here without having plans with Ellie. Brady and Reid would never let me forget it.
“I could pay you.”
“I’m not a prostitute,” she snaps. A hush falls over the group.
One of my idiot friends coughs, and I study my shoe for a moment. Way to go, Fletch. You can’t be friends with a girl if you insult her. “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Yeah, but hey, don’t worry about it. If you don’t want to, that’s fine.” Time to back peddle or abort mission.
Another long pause. Finally, she says, “No. Of course I’ll tutor you. And you don’t need to pay me.”
“Cool. So Thursday after dinner? Can you come to my room?”
She hesitates. “Not during visiting hours?”
“Naw. Come around seven-thirty.”
As I recite my room number, I notice Brady whispering to Sarah. She grins.
He reluctantly tears himself away from the girls, but only after Reid threatens him with the water gun. I turn around, to say good-bye, and am greeted by a blast of cold water to the face.
“You fucker. You’re dead.” I launch myself at Brady, who has wrenched control of the gun from Reid. He runs across The Beach, laughing like a hyena on crack.
CRUSHED COMES OUT TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2012 on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. iBooks and Kobo coming soon.
CRUSHED is an upper YA/New Adult book with sexual situations and mature language. Please don’t read if these things offend you.
A fist pounds on my door. Over and over again. Beneath me, Hannah Something’s eyes grow wide, and she starts to squirm away. I snap the elastic of her panties back in place and wipe my fingers on the sheets before signaling her to stay quiet. There isn’t a lock on my door. The Harker School doesn’t believe in privacy.
“Fletch, you fucker, open up.” Brady’s fist strikes the door and matches the rhythm of his words. “I’m giving you ‘till the count of five, and then I’m coming in, and I don’t care who I find you in.”
I roll off Hannah, scoop up my underwear, and toss her sweater at her. “You can wait here, or get dressed and at least try to look presentable.”
She pulls her sweater over her head and her soft tits disappear under the scratchy fabric. “I don’t want to get in trouble.”
Like that’s going to happen.
“Five,” Brady shouts from the hallway. “Seriously, if I find you flagrantly abusing yourself, I’m going to kick your ass.”
I yank the door open, and he stumbles forward.
“Yeah, I’m happy to see you too,” I say, shoving him off me.
Brady – my best friend – scans my room, his eyes darting over my half-unpacked duffle bag and cardboard boxes. They rest on Hannah, who’s pulling her jeans over her tight ass. He bobs his head and grins.
“Dude, you’ve been back all of what – two hours, maybe?” He has this way of dragging out his words, of making one syllable two. For being an East Coast guy, he’s done a great job adopting California surfer speak. And since he doesn’t surf – let alone venture into the dark, violent water that makes up the Northern California coast – it’s a habit I find mildly annoying.
I run my hand through my hair and survey the room. There’s a bed shoved against the wall with the door, and another near the windows. A sturdy desk and tall dresser line the third wall. All standard Harker-issue furniture. My shit’s all over the institutional green linoleum floor. I tore through the cardboard boxes searching for sheets. Not that the bed was completely necessary, but most girls prefer a bed. And I give girls what they like.
“Hannah was just, you know, helping me carry my stuff up. Not all of us have parents who deliver them to school like frickin’ kindergarteners.”
Brady snorts. “Some moving service.”
Hannah finishes buttoning her jeans and tries walking past him, but Brady sticks out his hand. “I don’t think we’ve met. Brady Pearson. And you are Hannah…”
He gives her his best sheepish smile – the one girls love. “You’re on the tennis team, right? A junior?”
“Captain,” she retorts. “I’m the captain.” She flips her dark hair over her shoulder, walks past Brady, and stops before me. Her warm hand pats my bare chest. “See you later?”
“Sure. Later,” I say dismissively, but she still smiles that sweet little smile of hers and steps into the hallway.
I kick the door shut. “Way to kill my game, asshole.”
Brady shrugs and flops down on the bare vinyl mattress near the door. It cracks under his weight. “Put some clothes on, will ya? You, wearing only a candy wrapper, is a sight I try to avoid as much as possible.”
I retrieve my jeans and t-shirt from the floor and put them on. “Better?”
“Much.” Brady stares up at the ceiling and folds his hands behind his head. “How was your summer?”
I step through the mess, bend, and heft a box onto the semi-made bed.
“The same as always: San Diego to visit my cousin; bonding with the parents; complete and total boredom. You?”
“No Calista?” He says this like he already knows.
t’s just a question. Relax, Fletch. Relax. Brady doesn’t know.
“Of course I hung out with Cal.”
“And?” He’s curious now.
My stomach drops. “She’s good.”
“Good as in good? Or good as in ‘holy fuck it was the best sex of my life, and I can’t wait to tap that shit again’ good?”
I throw a balled up pair of socks at him. You can do it. Say the words. “Good as in, if you ever come near her, I’ll personally slice your balls off.”
Brady grins at me and jumps off the bed. “Nice.” He crosses his arms, legs spread wide, like a club bouncer.
“Have you forgotten all your manners? This is the part in the program where you say, ‘How many girls did you fuck this summer?’ and I feign embarrassment and modesty.”
Brady is never modest or embarrassed.
“How many girls did you fuck this summer?” I repeat, even though he’s already launched into his monologue.
He holds up his fist and pries one finger up at a time, counting each one. “Five. That’s the magic number today.”
“Five?” I say, a little in awe.
“Not in one day, dumbass. I’m not depraved.” He slides my closet door open, searching for the food I normally keep there, but since it’s move-in day, the cabinet is bare.
“Okay, so five girls all summer?”
He grins. “Yup and you? I mean, is – what’s her name?”
I stare at him, unsure who he means. He can’t mean Calista. He knows her.
“The girl who was just here. What’s her name again?”
“Are you trying to make up for a drought with Haa-nah?” He says her name kinda sing-songy, like a little kid. “Did Cal keep you tied up all summer?”
Yeah. Pretty much. “Jesus, Brady. Try to have a little respect.”
“After you told me about her lacy white knickers, how can I?” He shakes his head. “I’m sorry, but that’s one image I don’t want to get out of my head.”
I don’t want to talk about Calista. It’s bad enough I have to see her at some point.
Unpacking shouldn’t take me long – my entire life currently consists of three cardboard boxes, a mini-fridge, a worn carpet I’ve had since freshman year that smells like stale beer and puke, a skateboard, and a duffle bag full of clothes and school supplies.
“How’d you score this?” Brady waves his hand around my room. “I have to share with Reid and don’t even get a balcony or view to make up for it.”
“Good luck, I guess.” When I toured Harker on a rare sunny day, Dad had made a big point of showing me his old room, which is just a few doors down from where I now stand. He had bribed its resident with a twenty before barging through the room and out to the balcony. “This,” Dad had said, gesturing to the girls below us, “is why you want one of these rooms.”
And every day, for the past three years, I walked past these rooms, waiting for the day when one would belong to me.
On cue, Brady yanks the French doors open and takes a position at the railing. The ever-present fog rushes in, threatening to soak my meager possessions.
I follow him and close the door behind us. The balcony overlooks The Beach, which is just a large grassy oval surrounded on three sides by my u-shaped dorm. It’s the main upper campus hangout, and when there isn’t any fog – which is next to never – the view includes redwood trees and the wild ocean. But normally, the only things worth seeing are the girls who crowd The Beach between classes and during free hours.
From the way Brady’s grinning and nodding, I can tell he’s assessing the hotness of the freshman girls.
“Any good ones?” I ask even though I know his answer. Every girl has some redeeming quality. The dumb ones are typically pretty and the “beer-goggle-only” girls usually have great bodies or personalities or something.
“Definitely more good than bad,” he responds. “Easy targets. Senior year is going to be epic.”
He’s right, of course. This, right here – the awesome room, the girls, senior year – is exactly what I’ve been dreaming of ever since stepping onto the Harker campus three years ago.
“Isn’t it weird?”
It takes me a minute to figure out what the hell he’s talking about. Brady’s brain moves two steps faster than his words, and, in his mind, he’s already made the connection between the girls on The Beach and his question. Sometimes I think he’s a little ADHD.
I bristle before remembering Brady doesn’t know what happened between Cal and me. “It’s fine. Why?”
Brady shrugs. “I don’t know. You guys hook-up during breaks and stuff, and then, you know. I mean, isn’t it kinda like making out with your sister or something?”
“Dude. That’s gross.”
“You know what I mean. She’s the closest thing you’ve had to a girlfriend. Or a sister.”
“But she’s not. And she knows that. And so do I,” I snap, the edge in my voice surprising me.
Brady grimaces. “This isn’t going to end well.”
“It’s fine. It’s always fine.” I try to sound convincing – like Fletch Colson, the guy who supposedly doesn’t give a fuck what girls think. I’m trying. Really. I am.
The fog has lifted a little, and The Beach teems with students – some with their parents, but most of them clustered in tight groups. A bunch of returning girls have brought out blankets and are sitting around watching idiotic junior guys show off their Frisbee skills – because every girl loves a Frisbee player, right?. They’re not obvious at all with the way they keep “accidently” running into girls.
A cute brunette in a yellow t-shirt leans back on her elbows and flashes perfect white teeth at us. Brady gives the standard half-wave – the kind you give when you’re interested but don’t want to look that way.
“Dibs,” he calls.
I nod in acknowledgement.
A worried look crosses Brady’s face. “Problem number one with being a senior: the new girls will be jailbait in a few months.”
The irony isn’t lost on me. When we were freshmen, all we wanted to do was score a hot upper school girl. Mission accomplished when Brady hooked up with a cute senior, and I spent a few fun hours with Grace Voigt, the hottest junior girl ever. But now, we’re seniors, plotting our way through the freshman class.
“You need to get some chairs. And maybe a hammock. Yeah.” He rocks back from the edge of the balcony. “A hammock would be awesome.”
I can’t think of anything less awesome in fog or rain.
“For Christ’s sake, Brady. When did you become an interior decorator?” I shove him, and he catches the railing. “Don’t you have your own room to fix up?”
“I’m done: bed, desk, bar, and video games. What more can a man want?”
When we were freshman, we decided all a guy needed to be happy in life was food, sports, and sex. Since then, our list has expanded as needed.
“Apparently a hammock,” I mutter and stare off toward the ocean or, more correctly where the ocean should be since it’s always obscured by fog.
“Know what else would be great?” he asks.
I shoot Brady an exasperated glance. “Let me guess, a plasma TV?”
“No. But I like how you think.” He taps his finger to his temple. “Water guns.”
“Do I even want to know?”
Mostly, we ignore Harker’s legendary list of rules and regulations. Because really, as long as we’re careful, there are ways to get around the rules. But water guns sound like a recipe for disaster.
“Wanna go find Alex and skate?” Brady asks as we retreat to the relative warmth of my room.
“I need to finish unpacking.” With one hand, I search the inside of a soggy box and retrieve the stack of college applications I received over the summer. I fan them so Brady can get an eyeful. Dartmouth, Bowdoin, Amherst, Stanford – my first pick – and Princeton, my Dad’s alma mater and his first choice for me.
Brady eyes the applications and snorts. “Overachiever.”
“You know it.” I shove the papers into the top drawer of my desk. Brady shouldn’t talk. He’s my main competition for valedictorian – a friendly rivalry we carry over to most things we do.
He hovers, not helping, just taking up space. I can tell I’m not going to get anything done with him here.
“It could be fun,” I say as I pick my crumpled fleece up off the floor and tug it over my head without bothering to unzip it. The tiny school-issued mirror confirms I’m a disheveled mess, but I don’t care.
Brady looks at me quizzically. “What could be fun?”
I sigh. “Water guns, dumbass.”
Brady grins and holds out his fist. I bump it. “Seniors,” he says.
“Seniors,” I repeat, and we both laugh.
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