Playing Her Secret Crush(8)

By: Casey Griffin


The bedroom door opened, and Katie bounced back in. She stood in the middle of her room and held out her arms. “Okay. So what do you think?”

“Think of what?” he asked, still lost in thought.

“Of this.” She waved a hand over herself. “Of my new look.”

She spun around so he could take it all in. As though they had a mind of their own, his eyes ran over her again, this time more slowly.

She turned to face him, biting her lip. “So?”

He could tell by her pink cheeks (beneath all that makeup) she was nervous, and he knew he had to say something. As beautiful as she was, she never seemed to realize it. If he said nothing, she’d only read into it in a negative way.

He cleared his throat. “It’s…nice.”

Her face fell. “Nice? That’s it? I spent all my birthday and Christmas money on nice?”

“Nice is good.” He took another look at her, and for a moment, saw her as someone else’s, someone those magazines were going to attract. “I thought you looked fine before. Aren’t you always lecturing me about the pretty girls I date? Don’t judge a book by its cover and all that?”

She picked nervously at one of her nails. “So…you’re saying I look pretty?”

“I’m saying you looked pretty before.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Yes, well, what I was doing before wasn’t really working for me. Maybe you can’t judge a book by its cover, but everyone knows it’s the reason people pick it up in the first place. And I just…” She sighed. “I’d like to be that book. I’d like to be—”

He scowled. “Picked up?”

“Well, yeah. Then once they do, they’ll get to see what’s on the inside.”

“When they…open you up?” His frown grew deeper.

“No! I didn’t mean—” She threw her hands up and groaned. “Okay, forget the book analogy. I want a boyfriend. I want to be…wanted.”

He glanced at the magazine on the bed, then at her dress and knew he was only being selfish, jealous of the guy who would get to be with his Katie in a way he never could. He should be happy for her that she was putting herself out there. And it was time he did the same. For real. Not just a date or two. He wanted to find someone else, someone his brother hadn’t liked.

Katie was still waiting for a response. Because he couldn’t say that he wanted her, not as any more than a friend, he said, “I get it. That’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about. I’ve been thinking that I’d like to find someone, too. A girlfriend.”

She sank into her desk chair, her expression unreadable. “You want a girlfriend?”

“Yeah. And I was hoping you could help me.”

Her eye-shadowed eyes went wide. “Me? You’re the player. What do you want my help for?”

“That’s just it.” He stared down at his hands. “I know how to get girls, just not how to keep them. I want something that lasts longer.”

“Longer than a week?”

“Yeah.”

Her eyes dropped to the floor. “What happened to carpe diem? Living life to the fullest? Dating a new girl every week like your brother?”

She sounded kind of sad. Alex wondered if it was because she was thinking of Jason, of all the girls he’d dated. Or maybe because she never got to be one of them.

“You’re always harping on me about how I go through too many girls,” he said. “I thought you’d be happy. I figure living life to the fullest could also mean living it with one person. Taking that relationship to the fullest.”

She stared at him while she considered this. “I’m not exactly an expert,” she said quietly. “I’ve never even had a boyfriend.”

“You have,” he said. “That jerk you told me about. Kyle Jacobs.”

Groaning, she let her head fall back. “Don’t remind me.”

“Besides, you’re a girl,” he said. “Who just so happens to be my best friend, and I trust you to be honest with me. You can give me tips and tell me when I’m being an idiot.”

Her eyes narrowed and she pursed her lips. “I do like doing that.”

“And look at all these magazines.” He waved a hand around her room. “You must be an expert on relationships after reading all this.”

He shuffled through the stack on her nightstand. One title in bold caught his attention. The Relationship Issue. He picked it up. “How about this one?”

Katie swiped it away from him and gave him a dubious look, but after a moment, she began to flip through it. “This is ridiculous,” she muttered. “Learning how to be a boyfriend from magazines.”

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