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Teen Dream Series 3-Book Bundle: Her Teen Dream, Summer Heartbreak, His Teen Dream

Teen Dream Series 3-Book Bundle: Her Teen Dream, Summer Heartbreak, His Teen Dream

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Teen Dream Series 3-Book Bundle: Her Teen Dream, Summer Heartbreak, His Teen Dream

569 pagine
4 ore
Jun 29, 2014


Teen Dream Series 3-Book Bundle includes the first two complete novels in author Devon Vaughn Archer’s bestselling Her Teen Dream coming of age series, Her Teen Dream and Her Teen Dream: Summer Heartbreak; and the first full length novel in the author’s His Teen Dream series.

In Her Teen Dream, 16-year-old Karin Blanch, a sophomore at Elmwood High in Crescent Heights, California experiences the trials, tribulations, and peer and familial pressures of first love when she becomes involved with senior basketball star, Reese McKenzie. Just when it seems as if Reese is all Karin could ask for in a dream guy, her best friend, Lesley Rochester drops a bombshell by claiming that Reese sexually assaulted her at a party. Karin is stunned and conflicted. She finds herself torn between her best friend and boyfriend as she seeks to get to the truth, while hoping it’s possible to keep both relationships intact. The shocking ending will reveal all to Karin, but at what price to her budding romance?

In Her Teen Dream: Summer Heartbreak, the coming of age story of 16-year-old Karin Blanch continues as she attends summer school at Elmwood High, while experiencing the ups and downs of first love. While boyfriend Reese McKenzie prepares to go to college in LA, Karin continues her strong friendship with next-door neighbor Lesley Rochester, makes new friends, and has to deal with summer heartbreak. Along the way, she finds herself attracted to a new guy at school, gets caught up in a school lockdown where she comes face to face with a bank robber, and catches Reese kissing his ex-girlfriend and the irritating cheerleader, Cheryl Green. Once again, Karin and Lesley will faces challenges surprises as they try to get through the summer and get ready for their junior year.

In His Teen Dream, the first book in a new teen romance series, 16-year-old Lex Haskell moves to Lake Charmanie, California with his mother and stepdad, while still trying to come to terms with his parents' divorce. On his first day at Charmanie Hills High School, Lex is stunned to see Taylor Clawson, his grade school girlfriend, who is now gorgeous. As they reconnect, Lex begins to suspect that Taylor is the victim of dating violence at the hands of her jealous boyfriend, Blake Reed, a school football star. But can he prove it amidst her denials? And, if so, at what price to their friendship and whatever the future might hold for him and the girl he still has feelings for, in spite of the fact he's dating another girl.

All three realistic coming of age tales of teen angst, conflict, school life, and fresh love will resonate with teenage, young adult, and new adult readers.

Jun 29, 2014

Informazioni sull'autore

DEVON VAUGHN ARCHER is the bestselling author of more than a dozen Harlequin romances. He was the first male author to write for Harlequin's Arabesque line with the moving love story Love Once Again. To keep up with his latest news and upcoming books, follow, friend, or connect with Devon Vaughn Archer on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube.     

Correlato a Teen Dream Series 3-Book Bundle

Anteprima del libro

Teen Dream Series 3-Book Bundle - Devon Vaughn Archer


Her Teen Dream

Her Teen Dream: Summer Heartbreak

His Teen Dream

Summer at Paradise Ranch – Bonus Excerpts

About the Author


Copyright 2010 by Devon Vaughn Archer at Smashwords. All rights reserved.

Her Teen Dream is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, business establishments, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Cover Image Copyright R. McKown, 2014

Used under license from

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


Hey, Karin, what's up?

Karin Blanch looked around through eyes that were deep brown like cappuccino before focusing on Reese McKenzie's face. Surely he couldn't be talking to her. Could he? After all, Karin could probably count on one hand the number of times Reese had spoken to her since she started at Elmwood High School a year ago. And, even then, it had always been pretty generic with things like excuse me or sorry, didn't see you standing there or I need to check out this book.

The book part was in reference to her work in the school library, where she sat at the checkout desk once a week as a reward for two other days of collecting books off tables and placing them back on shelves.

But they weren't in the library. And she wasn't on duty. They were in the middle of the hallway with other students passing on either side in a mad rush to answer the call of the bell between classes. It was the first week of January and the school year was well underway.

For a moment, Karin was speechless, a term that was rarely in her vocabulary. Not only was Reese quite possibly the best looking and probably most fit guy in the entire school, but she also had a major secret crush on him. As did half the other sixteen-year-old sophomore girls. But none of them seemed to have a fighting chance with the eighteen-year-old, six-foot-three starting point guard for the school basketball team. At least not while he was dating Cheryl Green, the gorgeous junior cheerleader who seemed to mesmerize every guy she set her sights on.

But that was now a thing of the past, Karin thought of the much-publicized breakup of the former high school sweethearts. She wasn't really sure who broke up with whom. And, frankly, didn't care. Right now, she was only concerned with why Reese had stopped her from continuing on to class.

Or maybe curious was a better word.

Hi, Reese, she made her lips move.

He rubbed his shiny shaved head, as if having second thoughts, before speaking. Can we talk for a moment?

Aren't we already doing that?

Sure. Why not?

Never mind the fact that Karin was due in her English class and Mrs. Roddick had a real problem with students who were late. Of course she had a very good excuse, if only in her own mind.

Though she was five-eight and apparently still growing, Karin still had to tilt her head back to look into Reese's ebony eyes.

Let's talk over here— Reese grabbed her hand and they made their way to the wall, where the congestion was slightly more manageable for talking.

He's actually holding my hand, Karin thought in disbelief. Am I dreaming or what?

Deciding she was very much awake, Karin still had to come to grips with the fact that she and Reese McKenzie were about to have an actual conversation. Or so she assumed. About what, she couldn't imagine. Maybe he wanted to admit to having his own crush on her. Yeah, right. Or that he'd always wanted to hold her hand. She doubted it.

By the look on Reese's face, she decided whatever was on his mind was more serious than that.

Feeling more nervous than she wanted to be, Karin flipped back her shoulder length brown hair. And waited.

Reese hesitated, licking his lips. Look, uh, I need some advice.

She batted her lashes in shock. You need advice from me?

Well, it's not actually me, but a buddy of mine.

Karin suddenly felt disappointed. What kind of advice?

Reese met her gaze. Your Dad's a lawyer, right?

It made no sense to deny it, considering that Karin's father was a well-known criminal defense attorney, handling his fair share of headline cases in Crescent Heights, California. But it was still amazing to Karin that Reese knew of the father-daughter connection.

Yeah, he is, she answered hesitantly.

Thought so. Reese touched the bridge of his broad nose, as if patting himself on the back. He glanced at a group of students huddled together like they were on the basketball court. All seemed to look their way and Karin wondered if this was some kind of prank, with her being the butt of the joke. If so, she wasn't amused at all.

I've gotta get to class, she said unevenly. If we're through here—

Wait, Reese uttered with a sense of urgency. Just ignore them. My friend really does need the help of an attorney.

What has he or she done? Karin wondered who he was talking about. Since she didn't hang out with Reese, she could only imagine who his friends were. Mostly jocks, probably. For all she knew, he considered his ex-girlfriend Cheryl Green a friend.

Reese sighed. There was a party last night at a friend's place. Well, uh, one of my boys got wasted and kind of trashed the place. Now the homeowners want to press charges. My buddy's freaked out about it, since he's afraid it might jeopardize his college scholarship. Not to mention he could possibly end up doing time. He was hoping to make restitution without getting the legal system involved.

I'm not sure that I can—

I thought maybe you could talk to your Dad about it. Reese cut in.

I guess. Karin shrugged, wishing he had been more interested in her rather than just needing her father's help. But it had probably been asking too much to think that Reese McKenzie could really be attracted to her.

He grinned sheepishly. Thanks. I really appreciate it, Karin.

I'll need a name if my Dad's going to be able to help your friend, and I'm not saying he will—

It wasn't every day—how about never?—that she brought a problem to her father as an attorney. The experience should be interesting, if not scary.

Reese looked at the group of students and back. Marcus Payne, he said almost guiltily. He's—

I know who he is, Karin said, recognizing him amongst Reese's friends. Marcus stood head and shoulders above the rest and was easy to spot with his black dreadlocks with blonde highlights. He was a walk-on starting forward on the Elmwood High Spartans basketball team. Any scandals involving him could affect the entire school and the team's chances to play for the state championship.

Reese sighed. Hope your old man doesn't mind taking on a charity case every now and then. Marcus isn't from a rich family and doesn't have a lot of money to burn.

Maybe he should have thought of that before he vandalized the house.

Karin felt unsympathetic for some reason. She knew her father did some pro bono work, but it was usually for clients whose cases he passionately believed in. Whether this one fit the standard remained to be seen.

Can't promise anything, she told Reese honestly. But I'll try.

Reese grinned as though it was a done deal and Karin nearly melted as if under his spell.

I'll relay the message to Marcus. I knew you were cool.

You did? Since when? Karin was learning something new every day.

Yeah. I've seen you around...and noticed.

Embarrassed, she was suddenly short on words again. It was as if she were dreaming that Reese McKenzie was—or could become—her boyfriend and she was afraid to do or say anything that might wake her up to reality.

Reese managed to do just that when he said, Well, I've gotta run. Coach Cleaver hates it when we're late to practice.

Karin resisted a smile. She knew the coach wasn't the only one who had a dislike for tardy students.

Mrs. Roddick is every bit as hard on her English students, she said.

Reese smiled crookedly. I know. Had her last year. Later.

See ya. Karin watched him take looping strides to join his friends, before they all headed off. Marcus Payne gazed at her, and there seemed to be a ray of light in his dark features. Karin swallowed, hoping she could deliver, if only for the sake of a possible new friendship with Reese McKenzie. She didn't dare imagine anything more.

* * *

Karin sat next to Lesley Rochester in English class. Lesley was also sixteen and more developed than Karin's shapeless body. She wore her short black hair in a curly natural style. They had been best friends and next-door neighbors since fifth grade.

I can't believe it! You were two minutes late and Lady Dragon didn't bite your head off, Lesley whispered. She must be sleepwalking today.

Karin suppressed a chuckle. Either that or she's mellowing in her old age.

In fact, Mrs. Roddick was around the same age as Karin's parents. Mid to late thirties was not really that old in her book, but it was definitely getting up there.

Still on cloud nine, Karin leaned towards Lesley. You won't believe who I just had a little chat with.


Reese McKenzie!

Lesley looked at her skeptically. Right. In your dreams, girlfriend.

Karin didn't blame her for being doubtful. She would have been, too, were the situation reversed.

I'm serious. Karin tried to keep her voice low.

And how much did you pay him to give you the time of day?

Nothing. He just walked up to me and started talking.

About what? Lesley raised her voice a bit too much.

It alerted the attention of Mrs. Roddick, who approached them. "Is this a private conversation or something you'd care to share with the entire class?"

It certainly wasn't something Karin wanted to share. She gave Lesley the eye so she got the message.

We were just comparing class notes, Lesley said quickly. Sorry if we were a bit loud.

So what else is new? Jimmy Nolen said from behind them, evoking laugher from everyone else.

Mind your own business, Karin snorted.

That's enough! Mrs. Roddick pushed her glasses back up her nose. The room turned deathly silent as she glared at Karin and Lesley. Perhaps you should do your homework at home and focus more on the class discussion. Is that clear?

Suppressing giggles, both girls said in unison, Yes, Mrs. Roddick.

During the rest of class Karin found she could hardly think about anything, but Reese McKenzie and Marcus Payne. She wondered if Reese would ever talk to her again should her father turn down the request to advise Marcus free of charge.

* * *

Lesley echoed these sentiments after school. And if your father balks about getting Marcus out of his jam, what then? Does Reese McKenzie go back to forgetting that you ever existed?

Karin gave her a sidelong glance. Lesley was behind the wheel of the Subaru Impreza that her mother had bought for her last year shortly after Lesley's father died suddenly from a stroke.

Guess I'll just have to cross that bridge when I come to it, Karin responded testily. It's not like Reese promised to ask me out on dates if my Dad can keep Marcus Payne out of hot water.

Then why even bother? Lesley asked. You certainly don't owe Reese any favors.

I know that. But it took courage for him to ask for my Dad's help, even if it was for someone else. The least I can do is pass on the request. Whatever happens, happens.

And just what do I expect to happen realistically?

Probably nothing too exciting, aside from Marcus possibly being given a second chance after a major screw up. And maybe a Hey, or What's up, Karin, from Reese every now and then. That would be more than she'd gotten from him before.

Lesley turned onto Cloverdale Avenue. Just don't get your hopes up that Reese McKenzie will get off his high horse and sweep you off your feet anytime soon. Not if Cheryl has anything to do with it.

Well, she doesn't, Karin tossed back with annoyance. Even if they hadn't broken up, it doesn't mean Cheryl controls his life. Besides, if I'm not mistaken, aren't you always telling me that we shouldn't sell ourselves short when it comes to guys?

Lesley laughed. Yeah, but that didn't mean I thought you could actually end up dating Reese McKenzie.

I'm sure I won't, Karin uttered, glancing out the window. But there was still a glimmer of hope.

Yeah. I've seen you around...and noticed. Reese's words played over and over in her head.

Do you think your Dad can actually save Marcus's neck? Lesley asked.

I don't know, Karin said honestly.

Take a lucky guess, she persisted.

Karin shrugged. I guess it depends on whether or not he thinks it's worth his time to even try. And that could hinge on my powers of persuasion, she thought.

Lesley pulled into the driveway behind her mother's car. "Well, I think Marcus is hot. So if you happen to start dating Reese and Marcus doesn't end up in jail, maybe you could put in a good word for your best friend."

Karin chuckled. "Yeah, I'll remember that. But, as you told me, don't get your hopes up. I think Marcus has his plate full at the moment."

She thought it wise to keep in mind that Reese's plate was probably also full right now. Meaning there was little, if any, room in his life for her.


Karin lived in a two-story, stone house right across the street from Bell Park, which made it nice when she needed some time to herself or a place to jog. It also came in handy whenever she and Lesley wanted to escape from their parents or meet up with other friends.

She had barely been inside their gourmet kitchen for a snack of crackers and a soda, when Karin's mother arrived home from work. Josephine Blanch was a Pilates instructor who had the advantage of not having to work for a living, but choosing to do so part-time as a means to stay active and in shape.

Everyone told Karin that she looked just like her mother. She didn't agree. Yes, they were both tall and slender, but Karin felt her facial features were more like her father's.

Hi, honey, her mother said routinely. How was school?

Fine. Karin thought about her talk with Reese McKenzie, acting as a go-between for Marcus Payne, but elected not to mention it. Just the usual.

Josephine noted the snack she was eating and frowned. Now you know you should wait till dinner is ready instead of eating that junk food. That's why you're never hungry.

I just had a few crackers, Karin defended herself. "And I'm always hungry. I just choose to control it. There's a difference."

Well, you're making the wrong choices, Ms. Smarty Pants, she contended. And, as your mother, I won't watch you become rail thin, then regret it later.

Karin wisely decided to change the subject. Never mind that her weight had remained steady over the past year and there was no chance of her becoming anorexic.

When's Daddy coming home?

Probably any minute now. He just called me before I drove up and said he was on his way. By the time I get dinner ready, I expect he'll be sitting at the table as usual. Why do you ask?

Karin twisted her lips. No real reason, she lied. I need to talk to him about something that probably wouldn't interest you.

Good. Then why don't you go do your chores and let me cook you some real food.

I can hardly wait, quipped Karin.

She went up to her room and plopped on the bookcase bed. Chores could wait till later. Grabbing her cell phone, she started to text Lesley, but decided she wanted to talk instead.

What're you doing? Karin asked.

Nothing much, Lesley replied. Just listening to my Mom gripe about too many bills and way too little money to pay them.

So welcome to the rat race.

She thinks I should look for a part-time after school job to help out.

Sounds like a really bad idea, Karin said candidly.

I know and I told her that. She says I'm too spoiled and need to grow up and experience more of the real world.

Karin scoffed. So how much more real can it be to lose your father so early in life and be expected to pretend like everything is still normal?

Yeah, groaned Lesley. Speaking of fathers, have you talked to yours about Marcus Payne yet?

Nope. Waiting for him to get home.

Well, let me know what he says as soon you find out. It could be important for my future relationship with Marcus. And yours with Reese.

Karin laughed and rolled over onto her stomach. Now who's jumping the gun a bit?

So maybe I'm a little desperate to date guys that we can look up to for a change. Aren't you?

Karin sighed. Her dating experience up to this point had been fairly limited and that was an understatement. There was Benjy Cooper, who she had a crush on in elementary school. Only their attempt at kissing went awry when his braces got in the way. Then in middle school, Walter Pickford tried to be her boyfriend, but he was more like a brother she couldn't get along with.

Lesley had pretty much experienced the same bad luck when it came to guys, which made Karin empathize with her sense of desperation at this stage of their lives.

But turning dreams into reality was a whole different matter.

Gotta go, Karin said reluctantly. My Momma's yelling for me to come down.

"Are you sure it's not my Mom you're hearing? Lesley kidded. Cause my ears seem to be ringing with the same thing."

Karin laughed, but didn't find it funny. Maybe our Moms are cut from the same cloth, she suggested. It could explain why we and they get along so well. Most of the time anyway.

Karin disconnected at about the same time she heard her father's car in the driveway. Suddenly her heart began to pound, as though she would be pleading her own case to him.

* * *

After dinner, Karin found her father where she often did: in his home office. It was not only where he worked after hours on behalf of his firm's clients, but also served as a place for him to kick back and watch sports and news, or listen to blues and jazz.

Hey, Daddy, Karin uttered tentatively, resting her hands on the other side of his massive desk.

Greer Blanch looked up at her. Hey, baby.

Can I talk to you?

He studied his daughter's face and put his pen down. Of course. What is it, Karin?

She sat down in one of the chairs usually reserved for clients and friends.

Hope this works. An uneasy look crossed her face.

I have a friend—actually, a friend of a friend—who, um, needs some legal help.

Oh? What kind of legal help does this friend of a friend need?

Karin hesitated, wondering just how much she should reveal. She realized that if he were to help Marcus, she needed to be up front about everything and face the consequences later, if there were any.

She swallowed before blurting it out. He drank a little too much and vandalized a house during a party last night. Now the homeowners want to press charges against him.

Greer's brow furrowed. What the hell did he expect—them to throw him another party for doing something so stupid?

I know, and I'm not excusing him for what he did, Daddy, Karin emphasized. She agreed with her father. But people did make mistakes and deserved a second chance. "He's really sorry for it and wants to make restitution without getting wrapped up in the criminal justice system. He's also a member of the school's basketball team," she added as incentive.

Her father cocked a brow. He was a big basketball fan, having played a year at Cal State before a knee injury ended his playing days. He had even gone to an occasional Elmwood High Spartans game, though seemingly mostly to impress clients.

Who are we talking about? Greer asked pointedly. I need a name.

Karin sighed. His name is Marcus Payne. He's—

The kid from Chicago? Yeah, I know about him. He has a deadly jumper, but needs to work on his free throws. And apparently his abuse of alcohol, assuming that's all it was.

Karin shifted in the chair. So will you intervene on his behalf, Daddy? She held her breath hopefully. Please—

I don't come cheap, he warned.

She cast him a worried gaze. Marcus doesn't have a whole lot of money—

But he does have my daughter going to bat for him. Greer eyed her shrewdly. Is there something you aren't telling me, Karin?

No, Daddy. I'm only doing a friend a favor. Nothing more.

Okay, so maybe I'm helping myself, too in hoping that Reese and I can at least come away from this as pretty tight, if nothing else.

Must be a pretty good friend.

Not really, she admitted. Not yet. We see each other in school mostly.

I see. He gave her an understanding look. Well, why don't you tell Mr. Payne and his parents to drop by my office. Maybe we can work something out that will be agreeable to all parties.

Oh, thank you, Daddy. Karin grinned.

Better hold those thanks till we see the outcome, he warned.

Outcome of what? Karin's mother asked as she entered the room.

Karin looked at her father, hoping he would keep this between them.

No such luck.

Karin has a friend of a friend who's made a bit of trouble for himself, Greer told his wife.

You mean a friend of Lesley's? Josephine asked, as if she couldn't imagine it being anyone that Karin knew.

What makes you think that? Karin challenged her mother.

Because, other than you, it's her friends who seem to attract trouble like a magnet.

That's not true, Karin said. Maybe a little, she conceded. But mostly just family and school stuff. Not drunkenness and certainly not destruction of property.

Josephine gazed down at her. So who's this friend? And what does he need your father for?

Karin looked to him and could tell that he was mildly curious about the friend, too, but had been willing to leave it at that for now. Till her mother took the lead, as usual.

If you must know, his name's Reese McKenzie. He's on the school basketball team.

And he's a damn good point guard at that, Greer declared with a grin. It looks like our daughter is moving up in the world with her circle of friends.

Josephine frowned. Since when?

Since today, Karin said tersely. It's no big deal.

It sounds like one to me, if you never bothered to mention it—or him—before now.

Which only proves my point, she shot back.

Josephine dismissed this and turned to her husband. So what's going on, Greer? What type of trouble has this boy dragged your daughter into?

Karin bit her lip, wondering why everything always had to be so difficult when it came to her mother. Her mind drifted to Reese and she smiled dreamily.


The following day, Karin looked for Reese at school to relay the message from her father and was told she would find him in the gym. She went in and saw that the team was practicing and working out. Reese was running in place as if he had run into a brick wall and Marcus was on the other end of the court shooting free throws. Coach Cleaver, a heavy man with a graying horseshoe-shaped hairline, was barking out orders to anyone who would listen.

Maybe I should just wait till later. Wouldn't want to interrupt their practice.

She was about to leave when Reese called out, Hey, Karin, wait up—

He ran up to her, perspiration dripping down his face like running water. Grabbing the towel flung across his sturdy shoulder, he dried his forehead, nose, and mouth.

Did you come to see me?

She nodded. Yeah.

He smiled tentatively. Did you have a chance to talk with your Dad?

That's why I'm here, Karin said. Daddy's willing to meet with Marcus and his parents to see if an out of court settlement can be reached.

Reese gave her a pleased look. Cool. Thanks for doing this, Karin. It means a lot to me and everyone on the team—especially Marcus.

No problem, she said shyly. Anything for you.

He wiped his head with the towel. Hey, you wanna hang out sometime?

Karin could hardly believe he was asking. Like she would ever say, No way! Yeah, sure.

Good. He produced a drop-dead gorgeous smile that made her heart skip a beat.

The moment was disrupted when Coach Cleaver said boisterously, McKenzie, tell your latest girlfriend goodbye and give me five laps—now!

I've gotta go, Reese said, sounding disappointed. See you later.

Is that a promise? She felt wistful. Bye, Reese.

* * *

After third period, Karin applied lip gloss in the girls' bathroom, staring at her reflection in the mirror. She wondered if she was pretty and mature looking enough to attract an older guy like Reese. Or maybe he just wanted to hang out as friends, which wouldn't be so bad either. Except that it might make Lesley jealous if she spent too much time with him over her. Unless, of course, Lesley was preoccupied with Marcus.

Karin nearly jumped out of her skin when she saw the reflection of Cheryl Green behind her.

Just what do you think you're doing? Cheryl demanded.

Karin faced her. Cheryl was actually an inch or two taller and shapelier in a skimpy cheerleading uniform. She had long black box braids and her dun-colored eyes were practically red with fury.

Excuse me? Karin batted her lashes innocently, hiding the fact that she was slightly intimidated by the older girl.

You heard me.

I have no idea what you're talking about.

Cheryl pursed her full lips. Don't play games with me. I know you're hoping to stick your claws into Reese. Well, don't even try!

"Are you saying you're still dating?" The very notion was somehow disheartening to Karin.

No, we're not still dating, Cheryl said, mimicking Karin's tone of voice. But that doesn't mean I want some lowlife sophomore like you trying to use her father's law firm to worm her way through the back door with Reese.

Hey, he came to me, not the other way around! Karin tried to keep her temper in check, which at the moment threatened to overcome her intimidation.

Tell it to someone who cares, Cheryl snapped. If you know what's good for you, you'll stay away from Reese.

With that, Cheryl whipped her head in the other direction, sending braids flying, and stormed out.

A moment later, Lesley came in. What's with Ms. Queen Bitch? She nearly ran me over.

You wouldn't believe me if I told you.

Karin had trouble digesting it herself, trying to calm her nerves. It was clear that Cheryl Green viewed her as a threat. And saw Reese as her own personal possession.

Whereas Karin had no such claim on him. Even if Cheryl refused to believe it.

* * *

That's hilarious, laughed Lesley, as they sat outside having lunch. Who would've thought just two days ago that you and Cheryl Green would be in competition for Reese McKenzie?

"We're not in competition, Karin insisted as she sipped bottled water. As far as I know, Reese and I are barely even friends at this point. And Cheryl is supposed to be his ex."

Right, an ex who's obviously not quite ready to let go of him, especially to a 'lowlife' sophomore who's not part of her clique.

Karin dug her teeth into a chicken sandwich. Admittedly, she had considered herself way out of Cheryl's league when it came to guys. Maybe she still was. Only time would tell. And perhaps how well things went for Marcus and his troubles.

Who cares about Cheryl's insecurity anyway? Karin tossed out brusquely. That's her problem.

I think she's also making it yours, girl, Lesley said. Which, as your best friend, makes it my problem, too. Suddenly life is becoming a whole lot more interesting.

As if part of a stage production, they watched Cheryl and a group of other carbon copy girls, mostly cheerleaders, strut past them. They were carrying trays with hardly anything on them. They all seemed to give Karin the evil eye before piling around two tables.

I don't know about you, but I think I've lost my appetite, muttered Karin.

Yeah, my stomach has begun to act up, echoed Lesley, making a face. Let's get out of here before one of us has to puke.

Karin walked right past Cheryl, refusing to look at her, but feeling the heat of an icy glare. It made Karin wonder if it was even worth it to be interested in someone who just might have no interest in her other than as the daughter of a prominent attorney whose services were needed to, in effect, save the Spartans basketball season.


How do you girls think I look? Shelly Rochester asked.

Karin glanced at Lesley and back to Shelly. Shelly was sporting a new hairdo, a reddish-brown layered bob to go with a sharp new designer outfit. All for her date with a man she'd met on the Internet. It was her first real date since her husband died.

You look great, Shelly, Karin said. Lesley's mother had wanted to be called by her first name ever since they moved next door. It took a while for Karin to get used to it, since all her other friends' mothers were Mrs., Ms., or Miss Something. At least Lesley still referred to her mother as Mom to keep things real.

And what do you think, Lesley? Shelly looked at her daughter curiously. They were in the Rochester's living room.

I think you look fabulous, Mom, she responded.

You're not just saying that? Shelly asked doubtfully, as if needing her sincere approval for this big leap back into the dating market.

I wouldn't lead you astray, even if you are my mother, Lesley promised. Trust me, Mom, he won't be disappointed.

Shelly smiled warily. Guess I'm just really nervous. I mean, I know Edgar and I have exchanged photos online and spoken on the phone, but now it's the real deal for both of us. And I don't want to blow this.

You won't, Mom, Lesley insisted. And Dad would've been the first one to push you out the door. He wouldn't want you to just work, clean, and take care of me without having a life of your own.

Oh, honey, you're going to make me cry and mess up my mascara. She hugged Lesley and kissed the top of her head. Then, because Karin was standing there, she gave her a hug as well.

The doorbell rang and everyone froze for a moment.

Looks like he's here, Karin said.

Better not keep him waiting, Lesley voiced anxiously.

Shelly sucked in a deep breath and smiled at them. All right. I'm ready.

She opened the door and invited the man in. He brought her roses, which Shelly gushed over. Karin felt envious and, for an instant, imagined Reese McKenzie giving her roses. She doubted that would happen anytime soon. Even in the best-case scenario, it wasn't the type of thing most guys thought to do for girls.

This is Edgar Crompton, Shelly introduced him to the girls. My daughter, Lesley, and her friend, Karin.

Karin surveyed the man, who she guessed to be in his late thirties. Wearing a navy suit that seemed too tight for his stocky frame, he had dark, wavy hair with a side part. There was a scar on his chin that she imagined did not come from shaving.

He shook their hands and Karin thought that his hand felt cold and clammy, as if he worked in a fish market. But then Shelly said, Edgar owns a bookstore.

He tilted his head in a self-conscious way. It's not Barnes and Noble, but I do have my loyal customers who make me remember why I decided to get into this business in the first place.

Where's your store? Lesley asked as if for effect.

On Sunnyside Drive, he answered. Not too far from the Melrose Mall.

Oh. She looked to Karin as if for help.

We both love to read, so I guess you can count on some new customers, Karin said.

He smiled. I like your daughter and her friend already, Shelly. Ready to go?

Yes, I am. Shelly looked at Lesley. Remember, I have my cell phone if an emergency comes up.

I'll be fine, Mom, she assured her.

After Shelly left, Lesley and Karin made popcorn and went into the den to watch a video.

So how do you really feel about your Mom dating again? Karin asked, sitting in a beanbag chair.

It's kind of weird, Lesley admitted with a mouthful of popcorn. How would you feel if your Dad died and your Mom started seeing someone else?

I don't know. Karin shrugged. I guess I'd want her to be happy and not alone for the rest of her life.

That's how I feel about my Mom dating. No one can ever take my Dad's place, but he's not here anymore so we both have to move on. Right?

Yeah, Karin agreed, while hoping she did not find herself in the same awkward situation anytime soon.

Anything new on the Marcus situation? asked Lesley.

Haven't heard anything yet. Karin sipped a Diet Coke. Daddy's supposed to meet with all parties tomorrow. Hopefully it'll get Marcus off the hook.

"Yeah, then maybe you can hook up with Reese and I can hook up with Marcus. Then we'd be the envy of all the other sophomores at Elmwood High."

And apparently some of the juniors, too, quipped Karin, in reference to Cheryl Green.

You know, it was Cheryl's friend Jayne Hathaway whose house was trashed after a party she gave, Lesley noted.

No way? Karin raised a brow, though not so much because of the news, but that Lesley seemed to always have the scoop on the juiciest stuff.

Yeah. I heard it contributed to Cheryl and Reese's breakup, as each stuck up for their friend and had a falling out.

Interesting, hummed Karin, grabbing more popcorn and glancing at the movie that neither really seemed to be watching. Now it looks like Cheryl's having second thoughts.

That's because girls are naturally jealous, especially when they sense that the person they gave up has his eye on an even prettier girl, Lesley said.

I'm not sure that's true.

What? The prettier part or that he has his eye on another girl? Lesley gazed at her.

Karin stared at the question. She knew that she was attractive—or at least above average—but unsure if it could measure up to Cheryl's gorgeous looks. She wondered if guys saw girls differently than they saw themselves.

Eye on another girl, she responded. Honestly, I think Reese's eye was more on my Dad and helping out a teammate than me.

But Karin hoped things could change, even if Cheryl Green seemed to think that she wasn't good enough for Reese. It didn't mean he felt the same way.

Let's just wait and see, Lesley stated. Maybe we both need to have a little more faith that guys aren't as dumb as they sometimes seem.

Karin laughed. How about a lot more faith?

Lesley giggled and they high-fived each other. That, too.

Karin looked up at the TV and realized that the movie had ended. Meaning it was time for her to go home. She was already thinking about tomorrow, which could be judgment day for Marcus Payne. And maybe for any possibilities she could have with Reese as well.


Karin sat at the formal dining room table for dinner. Her mother sat at one end and her father the other. It was a routine that never changed, as if doing so would somehow disrupt the family's equilibrium. They were having her mother's famous casserole along with biscuits and turnip greens.

Karin sensed her mother watching her like a hawk, as if she intended to skip out on the meal. She had no intention of doing that, especially when she knew that her father had news on Marcus's predicament.

Greer seemed to read his daughter's mind as he wiped his mouth with a cloth napkin. Looks like your friend's friend won't have to face charges for destruction of property and his otherwise poor behavior.

Karin was elated though, oddly enough, she and Marcus had never even spoken. But at least she had done Reese a favor and felt pretty good about it.

That's great, she said sincerely.

Well, he's not totally out of the woods, her father cautioned. Marcus needs to pay the Hathaways for the damage he caused and attend a substance abuse seminar. Once these are completed successfully, the Hathaways have promised not to pursue formal criminal charges.

Sounds to me like this boy's getting off pretty easy, Josephine tsked while buttering a biscuit.

Maybe he'll live and learn, Greer suggested.

This is what happens when kids drink, her mother said. They get into all types of trouble. I hope you use this as a lesson, Karin.

I don't need to, she said, as if being made the guilty party. I know that drinking—especially getting drunk—is stupid.

It's more than just stupid, it can put you in a hole you can't climb out of. That includes STDs, pregnancy, and worse. Josephine leveled a gaze at her daughter. I hope you understand what I'm saying, Karin.

How can I not? Karin batted her lashes defiantly. "You tell me that all the time."

That's because I don't want you to ever forget, young lady. Your cousin Wanita made such mistakes and now she's paying the price.

Wanita was just seventeen and already had two children. Both were by different guys and neither one was in the picture anymore. Karin had no intention of following in her cousin's footsteps. Even if her mother seemed to think it was only a matter of time before she did.

"Why is this all of a sudden about me? Karin moaned. All I did was try to help someone. Is that so wrong?"

It's not wrong, baby, her father intervened. You did a good thing to help Marcus out of a jam, whatever your reasons. Your mother realizes that, too. We're both proud of you, honey. Isn't that right, Josephine?

Karin watched her mother's pursed lips soften.

Of course we are, she said with

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