Authors: Tiffany Truitt
Tags: #Tiffany Truitt, #Embrace, #Romance, #New Adult, #Entangled, #Best Friends, #road trip, #friends to lovers, #New Adult Romance, #music festival, #music, #photography, #NA, #festival
Seven dares. Seven days. And the road trip of a lifetime.
In the span of seven days, Annabel Lee will lose her heart.
Kennedy Harrison, as reckless with life as Annabel is obsessed with order, never could commit to anything—not to a person, not to a job, not to a path. But he’s got a history with Annabel, and for once Kennedy doesn’t want to run. Determined to spend time with her before she leaves for college, Kennedy dares her to join him on a road trip to a music festival.
And neither of them could ever say no to a dare.
But Annabel’s got a plan. She’ll complete seven dares in seven days—if Kennedy applies for one writing internship per dare. Because Kennedy needs to be pushed just as much as she does.
What follows is a dizzying week of music, shady hotels, comical dares, and a passion neither one knew existed. But when it ends, Annabel and Kennedy will realize the biggest dare of all might just be falling for each other.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 by Tiffany Truitt. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
Visit our website at
Embrace is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
Edited by Stacy Abrams and Alexa May
Cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill
Cover art from 123rf.com
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition July 2016
To Judy: Who always dared me to go for it.
It feels good out the kind of cool that makes your skin tingle with anticipation that odd in-between place neither cold nor hot comfortable peaceful and exhilarating all at once something hard to define contradictory in its very nature breathe you have to remember to breathe why is it that when you focus on breathing it becomes so difficult to do it should come to you naturally your body does it all the time without you coaching it yet there will come a point when you will forget how to do the one thing that’s essential to your survival don’t think about all that right now breathe just breathe damn it run faster harder don’t stop keep going always moving I wish I could never stop
And then the escape I found lost in my inner thoughts during my morning run crumbles. The only moment I claim for myself is gone. The echo of the car horn shatters my protective shell of asphalt and sweat. My peace utterly destroyed by an imbecile.
I glare at Kennedy Harrison. The boy who once dared me twenty bucks to eat five worms, then ran to tattle to my grandmother the moment I let my guard down, half a damn worm dangling out of my mouth. Of course, there were a lot of dares back then, and that one was hardly the worst, but it was the first time my partner in crime ratted me out. It wasn’t the crappiest thing he did to me that year, but something about spoiling the sanctity of the sacred dare still left a bitter taste in my mouth. And I once ate worms, so I know what bitter tastes like.
The Brutus wannabe drives by to some unknown location—some mysterious boy/almost-man adventure that I have no desire to know about. I imagine it involves extensive daydreams about breasts. Size. Feel. Lumpy. Not lumpy. More or less than a handful. Symmetrical. Lopsided. You would be surprised how long and in how many ways boys can talk about boobs.
I like to think Kennedy has more depth, especially since he just turned twenty, but no amount of wishing can stop the millions of years of evolution that have led to the modern man-boy mutants that surround me. Besides, I don’t know grown-up Kennedy. I can only go off the rumors, and those would make the editors of romance novels blush.
Kennedy honks his horn again, clearly not satisfied with my halfhearted acknowledgment of his existence, so I flip him the bird. It’s the closest to
that I can manage. I’ll no doubt get properly berated and mocked for it in the photography class I share with him at the local community college.
I wait until Kennedy’s car turns the corner before I bend over and put my hands on my knees, coughing, damn near hyperventilating, trying to force myself to breathe. I overdid it today, but I always do. Yet I don’t stop; I never stop. I force my trembling legs to move, keep going.
I have things to do.
What should be a five-minute walk to my house takes ten. My side cramps up, but I make it, gritting my teeth when I spot my front yard. Lord knows what my neighbors think of us. My twin siblings, three-year-old spawns of Hades sent to earth to one day claim world domination, have planted their country’s flags in our yard, forever claiming it as their space. Evidence of their colonization? Three deflated beach balls. Two overturned big wheels. A slew of mutilated and limbless Barbie dolls. Who needs to welcome visitors with the Stars and Stripes when the props from
Toy Story 2
will do the job for you?
I can’t help but roll my eyes and internally question my parents’ sanity—a key part of my daily routine. The minute I open the front door, the attack begins. A small demon-child slams into my legs. I nearly fall back on my butt as the greedy little monster’s arms wrap around my beanpole stilts. But as much as I complain, I can’t help but smile down at the grubby little face that peers up at me. Rosy-cheeked. Red hair. Bright green eyes staring back at me with complete and utter trust.
“What shall we feast on this morning?” I ask, ruffling Quinn’s hair.
“Hmmm…marshmallows!” I narrow my eyes, and Quinn goes back to thinking. Clearly I am not going to allow a three-year-old to eat marshmallows for breakfast. I’m not even sure they would fall into a food group. “Candy?” he asks, his voice hitching painfully cute at the end.
I sigh. “Lucky Charms it is,” I reply, feeling like it’s a pretty good compromise. The lords of Sumter Manor have me wrapped around their fingers. Besides, their sugar rush won’t hit till I’m safely in my car on the way to work. It will be someone else’s problem.
Quinn grins, releases my legs, and runs into the kitchen without a second glance back at me. Obviously, his love for sugar outweighs his affection for his older sister, but I’d kill an entire herd of Mormons on bikes for a good cup of coffee, so I can’t judge.
“Quinn, where’s Finn?” I ask as I go to work making his breakfast of champions. That’s right. Quinn and Finn. The worst names my parents could have ever picked. Part of me is sure they were high when they chose the rhyming monikers, or perhaps they did it to get under Grandma’s skin. They picked the names before she got sick. Back when she had enough fire to give Grendel the green-eyed monster a run for her money.
“With Grandma,” Quinn replies, tearing me away from my memories of happier, less complicated times.
My hand stills, dumping almost the entire box of cereal into the bowl. Quinn uses his catlike reflexes to grab it, greedily devouring the contents before I can regain my composure. Sans milk, no less. My eyes dart to Quinn to assess the situation, but he’s in marshmallow heaven, so I figure I can leave him without a major tragedy befalling him. Marshmallows are the boobs of the toddler boy’s world. Heck, they’re how I got Kennedy to do half the dares I proposed to him back in the early days.
I once dared Kennedy to yank down Melinda Daniels’s pants during gym class. Not my proudest feminist moment, some might argue, but I was a real opportunist when it came to revenge, so she was going to get it one way or the other. She had been the meanest, nastiest girl on the playground. She once made John Tillery cry so hard after getting nearly everyone in our class to call him Lardo Farto that he didn’t come back to school for a whole week.
She had to be stopped.
My plan was that while Melinda was doing the rope climb, I would distract our teacher with a fake stomachache (I was the better actor, after all), and Kennedy would pants her. He was so nervous, I thought he was going to pee
pants. I had to offer him five bags of marshmallows as incentive. He had a sweet tooth that made Quinn and Finn look like health freaks.
Kennedy and I ate every last one of those marshmallows in lunch detention.
With a sigh, I shake off thoughts of Kennedy. He ruined my run; he doesn’t get to hijack my morning as well. I spin around from the kitchen counter and beeline it down the hallway. I’m halfway to Grandma’s room when Finn comes bolting my way, nearly knocking me down in the process. My brothers are trying to take out my knees. Seriously. They must stay up late at night planning. There are charts. Timelines. Multiple viewings of the
30 for 30
on Tonya Harding.
I detangle myself, crouching down so I’m eye level with Spawn Number 2. “What did I tell you about bothering…” I smell it before I feel it. The color drains from my cheeks, and I fight the urge to gag. “Finn”—I shudder—“did you piss yourself?”
“Bad word! Bad word! Bad word!” Finn screams at me, pointing in my face. He would have done splendidly during the Salem witch trials. I open my mouth to ask him again, but he cuts me off. “Cursey Word Jar!”
The damn Cursey Word Jar.
Affectionately named by my parents—the same people who decided to call twin boys Finn and Quinn, mind you—the Cursey Word Jar sees more profits in this house than a peddler selling water in the desert. I clench my jaw and stalk to the kitchen, knowing full well I won’t get a word out until Finn sees me put a dollar in. I grab my purse from the hallway table, retrieve a dollar, and place it into the nearly full jar. Considering my parents use the money from the jar to pay me sweatshop wages for babysitting, I let a few more curse words slip out in the process. I figure, assessing the world’s economy, it’s better than opening a savings account. Much safer than a bank. Quinn stares at me wide-eyed, his face covered in marshmallow powder.
“I want marshmallows, too,” Finn whines from behind me.
I slam my hand against the counter. “No, sir! Not until you change.” My pathetic stance of authority results in a code red tantrum complete with tears and snot. Soon he will do his best impression of a fish out of water, throwing himself on the floor and wailing around. Another unfortunate part of my morning routine. “This is so not my job,” I mutter, leaving the wonder twins to fend for themselves, marching upstairs to my parents’ room.
I raise my hand to bang and pound till they get out of bed when I hear the sounds of seventies rock slithering from underneath the door. I groan. Ever since the birth of Thing One and Thing Two, my parents have taken to spending a lot of time in their room. Together. Doing things I don’t want to think about. Things no young adult should have to know their parents do. Ever.
I trudge back downstairs, mentally preparing myself for battle. But all of my resolve to be the villain to their superhero team dissolves when I note the way their whole faces brighten when they see me. I sigh, and all of the tension rushes from my body. I pull up a stool to the table, snatch a marshmallow from Quinn’s bowl, throw it in the air, and catch it in my mouth. Quinn and Finn giggle and applaud.
And I can’t help but smile.
After feeding them, fighting them, and flinging them into the carpool minivan that takes them to preschool, I have ten minutes to shower and get ready for work. Ten minutes because there is someone else I have to check on.
After I throw on some jeans and my Smithsonian T-shirt from my last visit to DC, I manage to get my unruly, wet red hair into what resembles a bun. I grab a multicolored scarf that I managed to find at the thrift store and throw it around my neck. I’m not modest enough to deny that the look works for me. Style in disorder. Sense in opposing forces. I don’t bother to waste time putting on makeup. There isn’t enough concealer in the world to hide the freckles that cover the bridge of my nose like constellations in the night sky.
I take the stairs two steps at a time. I hear my parents rummaging around the kitchen. Mom’s giggling at some joke Dad’s telling. Gone are the uptight lawyers of my childhood, replaced by hippie public defenders who believe in making each and every moment count. I can’t hate them for embracing that life philosophy even though it is entirely different from mine. Besides, how many kids can say for certain that their parents truly love each other? They went through hell and back after the accident. It was a miracle they got through it at all. And still together, at that. Most marriages don’t survive that kind of tragedy.
I shake my head and move down the hall to my grandma’s room. When I try to open her door, it’s locked. I knock gently. “Grandma? We talked about this. You can’t lock the door.”
I can hear her judgment and disapproval through the closed door. It’s the loudest silence I’ve ever heard. She’s seventy years old, and we treat her like a child. Worse, we treat her like a teenager. One of the bad ones—bad in a
she could get her own show on MTV
type of way. No locked doors. Curfews. Drug tests. This woman once ran this town, and now she’s… I don’t hesitate to pull a bobby pin from my hair. It takes less than a minute for me to successfully use it to pick the lock. There isn’t anything you can’t learn to do on the internet.
I push the door open, but I immediately meet resistance. “One second, Annabel Lee. Can’t a woman have any privacy?” It’s a question, but it clearly comes across as a demand. I place my foot between the partially open door and frame, making sure Grandma doesn’t slam it shut the minute I let my guard down. I haven’t been able to let my guard down since the worms. I’ll have to thank Kennedy for that one day. Besides, she’s done it before. One of the perks of living with a cuckoo-for-Cocoa-Puffs ailing grandmother—two smashed toes. But damn if my reflexes aren’t getting quicker.
I wait as I hear my grandma scurry around the room. Drawers open and shut without rhyme or reason. A chair screeches painfully against the wooden floor. I can faintly hear the shuffling of papers.
I’m going to be late. I hate being late. I knock again. “Grandma, I just want to say good-bye before heading to work.”
“You want time to make out with that boy in that death trap of a car, Annabel Lee. That’s what you want,” she sasses back from inside her fortress of solitude.
“Hardly,” I mutter. Jason and I aren’t exactly the make-out-in-the-car type of couple. At least not lately. The dull pain in my chest that I woke up with returns. I sigh and lean against the wall. One of the many problems I tried to outrun this morning.
Grandma’s getting worse. More secretive. Grumpier. And when she is out and about, all she does is stare at me. Like I’m the lab rat and she’s the crazy scientist.
I count to ten before knocking again.
“You go on, sweetie. I’ll make sure she comes out and eats,” my mom’s voice promises from behind me. I twist my body, foot still between the door and frame, to face her and raise an eyebrow. Mom rolls her eyes. Almost as good as I do. It’s how I’m sure we’re related. “I managed to get
breakfast every day. Didn’t I?”
Before I can open my mouth to remind her of the midlife crises both of my parents seem to be suffering from, the sound of wet, ragged coughs fills in the spaces between our words. I don’t hesitate in pushing the door open.
Rushing into the room, I find Grandma doubled over coughing spit and blood onto the wood floor of the house her great-great-grandparents built. She reaches up a skeleton-thin arm and tries to shoo us away. There’s nothing she hates more than someone seeing her in a moment of weakness. She’s survived Vietnam, the Cold War, the War on Terror, so she can beat a little thing like cancer.
Or so she’s told me a million times.