Friend Zone

By: Camilla Isley

Just Friends Series Book 2




One


Rose


Now


Inside the Smithson’s country house, Rose followed Ethan up the stairs and down a corridor with too many white doors to count. He stopped in front of one toward the end, pausing with his hand on the handle. “You’re about to have a glimpse into my teenage lifestyle,” he said, and flung open the door.

Sprawled on Ethan’s bed was a bulging middle-aged man, fast asleep and snoring.

“Rose, meet Uncle Frank.” Ethan sighed. “He must’ve decided my room was as good a place as any to fall asleep.”

Rose giggled, taking in what she could of Ethan’s room before he closed the door. As it clicked shut, they tiptoed away, careful not to wake the sleeping man.

“We’ll have to take one of the guest rooms.” Ethan turned on his heel and headed back toward the beginning of the hall.

He opened a random door. Before Rose could peek inside, Ethan roared and rushed into the room. Rose made to follow him but stopped dead on the threshold. She raised a hand to cover her mouth as she stared at the scene before her eyes in shocked silence…





Two


Alice


Seven Months Ago


Jack had beaten her to the library. He was waiting inside the small reading room, head bent over his laptop, and a cute frown on his face. He hadn’t spotted her yet, so Alice paused and studied him through the glass door.

Even seated, it was easy to tell Jack was tall; all basketball players had to be. Not to mention playing varsity sports gave him a lean, flat-muscled body all too visible under his tight t-shirt and faded jeans. Dark eyes and hair, high cheekbones, and a straight nose made her best friend dangerously gorgeous. And his mouth… it was made to keep girls awake at night, which unfortunately it did—too often.

As Alice leaned closer to the glass, a dark lock slipped out from behind her ear, startling her. She still wasn’t used to being a brunette. What would Jack say? Would he like it? Only one way to find out. Alice grasped the door handle and her chest tightened. He would reject her. Telling Jack the truth now was a bad idea; she should wait. Yeah, definitely wait. Today was a regular work-on-your-group-project-and-not-tell-Jack-you-love-him kind of day.

Alice pushed the door open. “Hey,” she greeted Jack.

“Hey, Ice.” Jack looked up from behind his laptop. “Whoa!” His dark eyes widened in shock, and his gaze made Alice’s stomach flip. “What’s up with the hair?”

“Change of style.” She dropped her messenger bag on the floor and sat in the chair next to him. “Ethan dumped me.” Alice pretended the news was trivial as she set up her laptop on the table.

“So you dyed your hair black?” Jack tousled his fringe, perplexed.

It was a habit of his, one that made Alice want to run a hand through his soft curls every time he messed them around. The gesture exposed more of his biceps, too, making Alice wonder what kissing him would feel like if she were free to lock one hand in Jack’s hair, pull his lips to hers, and wrap the other hand around the marble-like smoothness of his arm.

She mentally slapped away her hands, and said, “I was tired of the fake blonde. Like it?” Alice hoped the makeover would stir something in Jack, but he ignored her question point blank.

“What happened with the dude? You’ve been dating him for what… three, four months now?”

“Remember when I told you about the night of Georgiana’s birthday party?”

“Your former sorority big sister?”

“A big sister is for life, even if she graduates and moves on to grad school. But, yes, her.”

“She’s hot.” Jack smirked. “You should introduce me.”

“Can’t do. She’s in Paris with her boyfriend until next semester.” Alice rolled her eyes, and Jack laughed.

“So? What does Georgiana have to do with Ethan dumping you?”

“Well, he’s her brother, for one—”

“Seriously?” Jack made a mind-blown gesture.

“Yeah. We were at that hip sushi restaurant downtown for Georgiana’s birthday and Ethan ditched me at the table to go flirt with this other girl. But then he showed up at my place later and apologized, and I thought we were okay. It was business as usual—and then he ghosted me for a month straight.”

“That’s awful.”

Jack was clearly trying and failing to keep his lips from twitching. Ghosting was his favorite breakup strategy.

Alice ignored his distracting lips, and said, “The radio silence was driving me mad, so last night I confronted him. He didn’t even try to deny it.”

“The ghosting part, or that he’s seeing someone else?”