I’ll be announcing the release date and revealing the cover of Dangerous Kiss soon! In the meantime, take an exclusive peek at the first chapter.
The manila envelope is thick. It’s Violet Valentine, we are delighted to offer you admission to the New York University master’s degree in mathematics program thick.
For the first time in two months, my stomach isn’t weighed down with dread. It’s light. Airy.
I take a deep breath then exhale slowly. I should call Ethan for this. He can share in the moment. He needs the lift in mood as much as I do.
But my phone is up in my room and he’s at practice. This is the band that is going to launch him to the stratosphere. It’s not a line he uses to get me on board. I love the way he plays guitar.
I love the way Dangerous Noise sounds together.
Fuck it. I tear the envelope open. Shreds of manila flutter to the concrete path that cuts through my parents’ perfectly green lawn.
There’s something with thick, heavy paper in here. It’s got to be a welcome booklet. It’s got to be NYU enticing me to study in the middle of New York City, in a glorious purple sweatshirt, surrounded by life and energy.
It’s three thousand miles away from here, yeah, but the only thing I care about here is Ethan and he’s spending six of the next eight months on tour. What’s it matter if he visits me here or in New York City?
One more deep breath and I can look.
I press my heels against the ground until the concrete is boring into my bare feet.
I’m ready for this.
I pull the papers out.
Ms. Valentine, we are excited to invite you to join our master’s degree in mathematics program starting in the fall. Your financial aid and scholarship information is enclosed.
I’m in and I have a partial scholarship. Between loans and a part-time job, I can make this work.
For the first time in two months, life is full of possibilities. This is everything I want. It’s much better than the actuary job I have lined up. It’s much better than staying at my parents’ house to save money while I commute from Huntington Beach to Irvine for another few years.
It’s the first piece of good news since Asher died.
I need to tell Ethan right away. I need to share my happiness with him. And I need us celebrating properly after.
The front door of Ethan’s place is already open. I knock and step inside.
There’s music coming from the practice room. I listen until I can pick out the sound of Ethan on lead guitar. My smile gets wider.
He has everything he wants. Now, I’ll have everything I want, too.
I listen until I can’t take it anymore. The song is amazing but I need his arms around me. I need him throwing me on the bed, peeling off my clothes, and reminding me how well we fit together.
“Hey.” I knock on the practice room’s open door.
Ethan steps into the hallway, his smile already at his cheeks.
He slides his arms around me to scoop me up then he’s spinning me around.
I squeal, holding onto his strong shoulders as tightly as I can. This is how things are supposed to feel. And I haven’t even told him yet. It can only get better.
Ethan and I are a team. It might be tough doing long distance, but a master’s is only two years. That’s nothing compared to us having the rest of our lives together.
“Let’s go to your room.” I press my lips to his. The peck isn’t enough. My hands go to his dark, wavy hair. I pull him closer and I suck on his lower lip until he’s groaning in my mouth.
“What the fuck did I do to deserve this, Vi?” He sets me down. His eyes are on fire, that look that screams I need you naked immediately. “You look hot as hell in that skirt.”
“You teasing me, honey? I’ll get you back for that.” His blue eyes light up as he smiles. He slides his hands to my ass and pulls me closer.
Then his lips are on mine and his tongue is in my mouth. This is the first time we’ve really kissed since it happened. This is the first time it’s felt like everything really is going to be okay.
I soak in the feeling of his tongue dancing with mine. Then his hands are under my skirt. He presses his palm against my sex, over my panties.
His breath is heavy when he pulls back. “You’re wet.”
“Why do you think I want to go to your room?”
His smile widens. It’s earnest. It’s without defenses. The pain and distance of the last two months is already melting.
It’s all in his eyes. I’m back. Grief isn’t drowning me any longer. It hurts, yeah, but I can feel pleasure too.
God, the pleasure I can feel.
I take his hand and lead him to his room—Ethan lives with his parents too. He has other options, but he prefers it this way. His parents are always out of town. He and his older brother don’t want their teenage sister stuck in the big house all by herself.
His room is clean and bright. With the window open, the whole place smells like the ocean.
Ethan slides his hands to my hips. “How about you come on my face before we talk?”
“How about after?”
“How about you come on my hands then my face after?”
“You drive a hard bargain, Mr. Strong.”
He smiles and presses his crotch into mine, so I can feel his erection. “You have no fucking idea how badly I want you right now.”
“Ethan…” I’m buzzing everywhere. I stare into Ethan’s gorgeous blue eyes. This is an important moment. I want to remember every second of it.
“You gonna tell me or you gonna give me blue balls?” he teases.
He has an excellent point. I need to tell him so we can move on to the celebrating properly part.
“I got in.” I pull my letter from my pocket, unfold it, and offer it to him. “I got into the master’s program at NYU.”
He’s not smiling.
He’s not scooping me into his arms and spinning me again.
He’s not happy. His eyes are turned down and his brow is furrowed.
He takes the paper and reads it slowly. “You’re moving to New York City?”
“It’s only for two years.” I reach for his bicep but he pulls his arm away. “I told you I applied.”
“You said there was no chance you’d get in.”
“I thought there wasn’t.”
“You’re supposed to tour with us all summer. You’re supposed to start that job here in November.” His eyes fill with frustration.
But that doesn’t make any sense.
I reach for him again. This time, he lets me touch him. But he stares at my hand like it’s doing him wrong.
What the fuck? I expect this shit from everyone else. I get that it’s weird that I love math. Everyone acts like it makes me a freak. Everyone except Ethan.
He gets it.
He always has.
Why isn’t he happy for me?
Maybe he’s still surprised. Maybe he doesn’t realize that this is a beginning and not an ending.
“Things will be the same as they are now. Only I’ll be in New York.” I stare into his blue eyes. “You can stay with me when you aren’t touring. I can fly out on weekends.”
His eyes bore into mine. “You already decided?”
What? This is what I want, what I’ve always wanted. He knows that.
“You’re just leaving. Like that?” He takes a step backwards.
“School doesn’t start until late August.” I… I don’t get it. I go to all his shows. I do everything I can to support Ethan’s band.
It’s not an obligation.
We’re a team.
Violet and Ethan against the world. That’s our fucking motto.
He’s still staring at me like I’m betraying him. “If you want to leave, then leave.”
“It’s not like that.”
“What’s it like? You’re leaving cause you’re so crazy in love with me you need to be three thousand miles away? You’ve been pushing me away since Asher… you don’t want to talk, fine. You don’t want to be in the same state as me, fine. Go.”
I grab the paper from his hands. “It’s not like that, Ethan.”
“Then explain what it’s like.”
“We’re a team.”
“Teams don’t make unilateral decisions.” He pulls his door open and takes a step into the hallway. “You’ve already decided to leave. Why drag it out?”
“If you want to walk away, do it.”
His eyes flare with frustration.
This doesn’t make any sense.
We need to talk later. We’ll have cooler heads. He’ll apologize. He’ll realize that this is for us.
I grab the paper from him, crumple it, and shove it back in my pocket. “Fine.”
“That’s it, Vi. You walk out that door, it’s over between us.”
He stares at me with those gorgeous blue eyes of his.
“Things don’t have to change.” I stare back at him. “I can still come on tour with you this summer.”
He shakes his head. “You’ve already decided to leave. Don’t bullshit me about it now.”
But this isn’t bullshit. Things can stay the same. Why can’t he see that?
His expression gets intense. “If you want to leave, do it.”
My brow furrows. I hate to leave things like this. But I don’t see what other choice I have. “Fine. I’m glad your dreams are more important than mine.”
I stare back at him, waiting for a response.
Nothing. He just looks at me like I slapped him and told him I slept with his friend.
I can’t talk to him right now. Not like this.
I walk out the door, sit in my car until I’m calm enough to drive home, and wait for him to apologize.
All night, I wait for him to apologize.
All fucking semester.
He never does.