Playing Her Secret Crush(5)

By: Casey Griffin

It wasn’t like Katie had never had a boyfriend. She’d totally had one…sort of. But she didn’t like to count him, even if he had been her first kiss.

Back in ninth grade, Kyle Jacobs, the swoonworthiest guy in their grade, had asked her out. But it turned out he was only dating Katie to make her friend Annabelle jealous. And it worked, because after they’d been going out for a couple of weeks, Katie walked in on Kyle making out with Annabelle at a house party.

After Katie ran out, Annabelle—drunk on two wine coolers and showing off her hickey like it was a medal of honor—confided in pretty much everyone at the party that the only reason Kyle had dated Katie was because she was the “warm-up” for the main attraction: Annabelle. By Monday morning, Katie’s new name was Warm-up Warner. The next year, she switched schools.

But she wasn’t a freshman anymore. She was a senior now, and this was going to be the year to put all that behind her. She wouldn’t blend into the pages of the yearbook, forgotten. She’d attract friends like Alex attracted girls, and ten years from now, when her classmates were reminiscing, they’d say “Remember Katie Warner?” And not in a “God, she was so weird” kind of way or a “Remember that time she farted in Biology?” way.

While she waited for Alex to arrive, Katie grabbed another magazine. Just as she flipped to a new article, she heard the familiar chugging of an old Ford truck engine.

Katie jumped up so fast the magazine fell to the floor. Heart leaping, she rushed to the window and spotted Alex’s truck pulling up across the street.

As his tall, muscular frame slid out of the cab, her stomach did a little jig. She knew it wasn’t just because she hadn’t seen him in a while. That reaction to him had never gone away even after two years, despite being “just friends.”

Giving herself one last look, she applied another coat of Bodaciously Bold lipstick. Then she puckered up in the mirror and blew herself a kiss before rushing to the door to meet Alex.

She couldn’t wait to see his face when he got a load of the New Katie. He was going to love it for sure—at least, that was the positive affirmation she was supposed to tell herself.

Chapter Two

The first thing Alex felt when Katie opened her front door was immense guilt. Well, first it was surprise over the dress she was wearing, and how it made her honey eyes pop, and how it hugged her curves. And then he felt guilty for checking out those curves. Alex wasn’t supposed to be checking out Katie’s anything. Katie Warner was off-limits.

“Alex!” She threw her arms around him and he hugged her back.

After a week trapped with his family in San Jose, he relaxed in Katie’s presence. The knots in his back untied, and his muscles softened to mush until he melted against her curves—which he totally wasn’t thinking about.

He might have only been away a week, but it was a week surrounded by family he hadn’t seen in almost two years, since his brother’s funeral. So naturally, it was all they could talk about. All he heard for seven days was “What a waste,” “So much potential,” “He was so alive.”

They didn’t know the half of it.

His arms automatically tightened around Katie. She squeezed back like she could sense how stressful his week had been without him having to say anything at all. But as he held her just a little too long, that guilt squeezed him even harder, and he pulled away. It reminded him of what he’d come to talk to her about.

Grabbing Alex by the arm, Katie tugged him inside. He barely had time to kick off his shoes before she was dragging him up the stairs to her room, which only gave him a whole new angle to check out the dress.

He just wasn’t used to seeing her dressed up. She usually wore clothes that hid her figure like loose T-shirts and jeans, but he’d always thought those looked pretty good on her, too. And he’d certainly never seen her wearing this much makeup.

In Alex’s eyes, that was part of what made his best friend so awesome. She wasn’t obsessed with all that girly stuff—checking her makeup in every reflective surface or refusing to do things because she wasn’t wearing the right shoes for it. He’d thought she was cool with who she was and how she looked. He liked that about her. So what had changed?

He hadn’t realized he was still staring at the curves shifting beneath that dress until he heard her mom’s voice at the bottom of the stairs.

“Hi, Alex!” she called up. “How was your vacation?”

Alex spun around, heat crawling over his face. “I-It was great, thank you.”