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Authors: Amy Sparling

In Every Way (9 page)

BOOK: In Every Way
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Chapter 16


This is all so crazy. First I gorge on pizza until I hate myself, and then Josh comes in here looking for me. What’s next? Is a clown going to burst through the door and ask me to join their circus?

And although I’m the queen of denial and self-loathing, even I can’t find a way to explain what he was doing here. My stomach aches. I can still see his face perfectly in my mind. He had that look about him—the one guys on movies have. Like when the hero of the movie bumps into the girl in a hallway and all her books scatter to the floor. He helps her pick them up, then he gazes up at her, and their eyes meet, and he realizes she’s his soul mate.

the look Josh Graham had when he was talking to me.

It. Doesn’t. Make. Sense.

I mean, yeah, these new clothes make me look like less of a homeless person and more like a girl. And yeah, I put more of an effort into styling my hair today, but that doesn’t explain anything. Unless there’s some kind of magic sewn into the seams of my Doxy leggings, I’m still the same girl I always was. And guys don’t ever like that girl. Trust me, I have eighteen years of experience in this.

There’s no way Josh Graham likes me. But it really kind of, sort of, feels like it.

When my shift is over, I take my purse out to my car and climb into the driver’s seat. It’s only a little after five and the sun is still up, the beach still sparkling beautiful in the distance. I’m not quite ready to go home and sit alone in my bedroom. I shove my purse under the car seat so passersby won’t see it and attempt to steal it, and then I take my keys and head to the beach for a nice walk on the sand.

My bare feet squish into the warm sand, each step feeling like I’m in a spa that’s exfoliating my heels. I keep to the dry part of the beach, where the water is too far away. I’m not really in the mood to get my feet wet and dirty, which is something Maddie loves doing when we come here. I’ve always declined her beach invites when she wanted to go swimming, (for obvious reasons) but a few times we’ve come to the strip to shop or have dinner, and Maddie always wants to kick off our shoes and walk on the beach before we go.

She’s really become a good friend in the last few weeks, and it sucks that she’s on vacation. Luckily, her trip will be over soon. The other day, Josh mentioned the possibility of seeing me at a Mindy Carmichael party, and even now, I stifle the urge to laugh.

Although Maddie and I are friends, we aren’t friends in that way. The M way. When Mindy Carmichael, the prettiest and most popular girl at RCHS decided to befriend Maddie, she brought her into her group of popular girls called The M’s. They all happen to be beautiful, rich, and have a name that starts with M.

I don’t fit in with those girls at all. In fact, I don’t believe Mindy even knows my name. Maddie and I are friends on the side, and her main group of popular people are basically on an entirely different planet.

Josh has to know that. When he said he might see me at one of Mindy’s parties, he should know that he has never seen me there before. I’ve never been invited, but even if by some miracle I did get an invitation, I wouldn’t go. I don’t need to see what beautiful people do at parties to know I’m not one of them.

When I’ve walked half a mile from where my car is parked, I know I should turn back. This part of the beach is at the edge of the public section, where a little rickety fence separates a line to where the private beach homes start. I gaze beyond the fence, at the beautiful pastel-colored houses, each with their own private slice of beach. What would it be like to own one, to spend summers here, and be a tan goddess by the time fall rolls around?

I draw in a deep breath of ocean air, and walk over to a fluffy section of untouched sand. Even though it’ll get my butt all sandy, and I’ll track it in my car, I don’t really care in this moment. I sit down, pull my knees up to my chest, and gaze out at the ocean.

I close my eyes and let the sound of the waves crashing to shore lull me into a calm I haven’t felt in a while. When I’m here on the sand with the wind in my hair, I can pretend all of this confusing stuff with Josh never happened.

And now that I’m thinking about him, I can smell his cologne and that faint hint of coconut body wash.


I really can smell him.

I open my eyes just in time to see Josh lower himself onto the sand next to me. He gives me a little smile, then pulls his knees up his chest, mirroring my position. He gazes out at the ocean.

“Fancy seeing you here,” he says.

“So this is what it feels like to not get hit with a football.”

I mean it to be funny, but he winces and looks over at me. “I’m really sorry about that.”

I lift my shoulders. “Not a big deal.”

“So,” he says, gazing back out at the ocean. “Does your boyfriend hate me for coming to find you at work today?”

A lump forms in my throat. “I don’t have a boyfriend,” I manage to say.

He gives me this sideways glance, and I can’t read the expression on his face. (Which is gorgeous, by the way.) “Oh. Well—” He holds up his hands like he’s innocent. “Look, I’m not trying to annoy the hell out of you or anything, but I’d just like to ask what I did wrong when I was asking you out, so I can improve in the future.”

I glance over at him, seeing the way his biceps flex, the golden tan of his arms leaning on his knees. His short brown hair is kept neat and tidy even in the summer. Josh Graham didn’t do anything wrong.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I say.

He glances at the sand between his feet, his features more defeated than sad. “When I asked you out earlier. I mean, it’s fine, you don’t like me and that’s totally okay. Trust me, I know what it’s like to deal with someone who won’t take no for an answer, and I’m not trying to pester you or anything. You’re Maddie’s friend and Colby would kick my ass if I did anything to upset you. I just—I dunno, I’m not really used to rejection, so maybe I could learn from whatever I did wrong here? Like, do you have any advice for me? Was I too pushy? Too annoying?”

I just stare at him, letting him talk himself into a rambling mess. I should stop him, tell him he’s wrong on every single level, but I can’t find the words. He was asking me out.

He was asking me out.

Josh Graham asked me out.

I swallow, and hold out a hand, pressing it to his elbow. “Stop,” I say finally. My voice shakes, but he needs to hear it. “You didn’t do anything wrong. Like,

“I did hit you with a football,” he says, deadpan.

“Was that in an attempt to ask me out?” I say, lifting an eyebrow. If so, that takes boys pulling girl’s hair on the playground to a whole new level.

He smirks. “No, definitely not. It was an accident, but I keep wondering if maybe you’d have given me a chance if I didn’t injure you first.”

“I’m sorry,” I say, sitting straighter. “Is this a joke?”

He blanches, then looks over me, letting his feet slide down into the sand. “No.”

My heart pounds. He’s lying. He has to be. The silence stretches on for a while, and then Josh lifts up a finger like he just had a lightbulb of an idea. “Are you, like, the ex of some mafia guy?”

I lift an eyebrow and he continues. “And he put out a notice that no one is allowed to date you and that’s why you think I’m crazy for asking? Because I didn’t get the memo? Is my life on the line here?”

“I have no mafia ex-boyfriends,” I say slowly. “Seriously, is this a joke?”

I can’t exactly read minds, but the look on his face makes me think he’s sincere. “It’s okay, Bess. You don’t have to tell me. I was just wanting to learn how to fix my flirting skills. I’m sick of being single, ya know?”

The way he says my name makes chills tingle up my arms. I want him to say it again, but I can’t be sure all of this is even happening. “Guys don’t ask me out,” I say, my voice coming out much softer than before.

Josh studies me, his dark eyes piercing into mine. “Then they’re just intimidated. Or fucking idiots.”

I can’t help it, I burst out laughing. This entire conversation might as well be in French because I don’t understand any of it. I’m not entirely convinced that I’m even here right now, experiencing this. Maybe I fell and hit my head in the storage room at the back of Aiden Jane and this is all a dream until I regain consciousness.

My laugher makes Josh smile. He takes out his phone, running his thumb over the dark screen. “Maybe we could be friends?”

I hold back another laugh and toss my hands in the air. “Sure. Yeah, whatever. My Instagram name is BessNavarre. Two R’s.”

He quirks an eyebrow, but nods and slides his phone back into his pocket. “I’ll look you up when I’m back in the shop. I can’t see shit on this screen with the sunlight on it.”

I’m not sure if that’s an excuse or what, but right now I don’t really care. I can’t stop smiling, and I’m pretty sure this is all still a joke.

Life is weird as hell.

“Thanks for talking to me, Bess,” Josh says, flashing me another one of those heart-melting smiles.

“Anytime,” I say. I look back out at the ocean, and he stands up, dusts the sand off his backside, and then waves goodbye.

Chapter 17


Girls are such a mind fuck. Let me rephrase that—the girls who don’t throw themselves at me—they’re the ones who mess with my head. I can’t stop thinking about Bess, how adorable she looked on the beach and the way she smiled at me like maybe she was starting to fall for me, too.

But then she gave me her social media contact information, not her phone number. That’s kind of a big slap in the face, but it’s also an olive branch. Because I’m an idiot who can’t take a hint, I hold onto her Instagram username for two days, caught in this war with myself over if I should contact her or not.

Part of me thinks she only gave me that information to make me leave her alone, but the other part, the hopeful part, thinks maybe this girl just wants to take things slow. She wants to see if I’m good enough for her, if I have what it takes to be the kind of guy she wants.

I already know that answer. I’ll work hard to win her affections, no doubt in my mind.

So why am I so scared to look her up on Instagram?

I don’t really use that app very often, but I do have an account. It would be really easy to look her up, add her, and stalk her photos. But it’s been nearly two days and I haven’t done it yet.

Am I scared?


I also don’t want to annoy the girl. I guess I was hoping she’d be more open to talking to me, but she wasn’t. She’d asked if it was a joke, me asking her out. I still can’t wrap my head around that one. Maybe I’m just not good enough for her, and that’s all there is to it.

I think of Jenny, my serial texting bad date. I haven’t heard a single word from her since I had Officer Pearson talk to her.  It’s definitely a relief to be rid of her craziness, but I can’t stop thinking that I may be turning into a form of her with Bess.

I shake my head, staring up at the ceiling in my bedroom. No, I’m not crazy like Jenny.

But in pursuing someone who keeps rejecting me, am I any better?

The feeling weighs me down like a brick in my stomach, like ropes tightening around my heart.

When I can’t stand thinking about it any longer, I take a hot shower and then climb into bed, and stare at my phone. Finally, I pull up Instagram and search for her account.

Her user picture is of her and an older woman who has her same eyes. It makes me smile; Bess’s account is much different from the girls I follow from our high school. There are no half naked poses, no trying to look sexy and slutty. No party pictures or drunken antics. Bess’s account is mostly pictures of a cat, her grandmother, and artistic shots of nature and places she’s traveled.

Number five on my list: Doesn’t have more than 50% selfies. Bess doesn’t have any selfies on her account, and just a handful of photos of her with other people. None of them look like boyfriends, which sets my heart beating a little faster than usual.

This girl is interesting. She’s been to museums and national parks and she’s volunteered to serve snacks for elementary school field day. Number three on my list: she doesn’t rely on me for fun.

Bess Navarre can have fun without a guy by her side.

There’s a few photos of science fairs she’s won and awards she got at a science competition from freshman year. Hey, I’m not proud of how far back I’m scrolling into her account, and I know it borders on stalking, but it tells me another thing.

Number nine on my list: Bess is smart.

My cheeks hurt from how much I’m smiling as I scroll through her photos, reading her witty captions and clever use of emojis. Bess is fun, smart, pretty. She has hobbies and passions and really loves her cat.

She’s not like any other girl I’ve ever known. Her Instagram tells a story of a girl who is sincere, sweet, and fun.

I know more than ever that I want to get to know this girl, to make her a friend, even if that’s all I’ll ever be to her.

Of course, if I somehow manage to win her over along the way, well that’ll just be a bonus.

BOOK: In Every Way
13.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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