When the year started, I had one goal—make my AP classes count and keep my grades up. Both my focus and my grades started wobbling. Dating my best friends came with perks like hugs, kisses, and invitations to dances, but it also came with cons in the form of vindictive posts, hate mail, and vandalism of my car.
I asked if it could get any worse, and I guess I got my answer.
My college essays suck.
My mother and I are racing toward a collision.
My secret admirer might turn out to be a real friend.
My dance partner wants to walk away to preserve our friendship.
My best friend demanded I keep no more secrets.
My first offered to move in with me.
My second… he’s got my back.
They all do.
But what brought us together seems to be tearing us apart and I can’t jeopardize those friendships.
I thought losing them was the worst thing, but losing even one… it might be the change we can’t survive.
The real key here isn’t what do I want… it’s am I willing to fight for it?
P.S. I still need to get a damn dress.
*Please note this is a reverse harem and the author suggests you always read the forward in her books. This is the third in a series and the story will continue through future books.
Lips next to my ear, he said, “I’m sorry.”
Twisting to look at him, I raised my brows. “For what?”
“I thought you were exaggerating,” he said in a tight whisper. “This really is going to take all night.”
He pressed a kiss to my cheek, and I covered his hand on my abdomen. “Yep.” My stomach gurgled. “We will need some major sustenance if I manage to survive this.”
“You will,” he promised. “I’ll be here, every step of the way.”
That made me feel better. “Thanks for coming,” I said, and he grinned before hugging me against him.
“Glad I could be here, now go find your dress, Cinderella.”
I laughed. “That would be shoes.”
“Don’t worry,” Cheryl called. “We’ll go out for shoes after we figure out the dresses.”
I must have looked as stricken as I felt, because Coop put a hand over his mouth but couldn’t quite muffle the snicker. Someday, I was totally getting even for this. It wasn’t Coop’s fault, but he was here, and he was having too much fun at my expense.
In honor of that, I kissed my finger before I flipped him off. Once I was shut back in the changing room, he cracked up for real. Leaning against the door, I stared at the dresses.
This was going to take forever.
Forever, it seemed, lasted about ninety-nine minutes. Not one hundred. Ninety-nine. Yes, I set a timer on my phone. I wanted something to write about in that journal I had to fill out, and as awkward as this was, it was so much better to try and focus on than the fact there’d been no word from Ian.
Not a peep.
I tried on the skater dress, the mermaid one, the dresses with one slit, dresses with two slits. I fit into the lace crop top and satin mini-skirt— Coop was a serious fan of that. The fact he took multiple pictures said as much.
When I walked out in the pale, silvery blue illusion gap dress, however, Coop and Cheryl both went absolutely silent.
“Wow,” he’d exhaled, and leaned forward.
“I’ll say,” Cheryl commented slowly. “Twirl.”
I did, and the skirt had the slightest bit of flare.
“That might be the one.” She’d decided on hers, but we were still trying them all on. It was the principle of the thing. And I had to admit— I loved the dress she’d found for her. It was pink, lacy, and had a sheer lace overlay on a satin skirt. It was stunning. While not my favorite color, it looked amazing on her.
I’d left the red dress for last. I had no idea who picked it out— I hadn’t seen it before we carried all the dresses in. It was simple, spaghetti straps, a curve bodice and the rest just fell straight down. No fitted waist or body-hugging cut. While I couldn’t wear my bra with it, it was the first dress I put on that I actually felt comfortable in.
It clung without being clingy. The skirt moved easily and fell to my calves. The pair of slits played peek-a-boo with my knees but didn’t really gap open unless I moved.
If Coop’s reaction to the illusion gap dress had been anything to go on, the red dress blew it out of the water.
“That one,” he said without preamble as I stepped out. I grinned and glanced down, then rose up on my toes like I had on pretend heels.
I’d actually beaten Cheryl for once, but her door opened as I made a little twirl. She was back in her crop top and shorts. She paused to stare at me and nodded.
“Definitely that one.”
Just like that, I had a dress. I ran my hands over the hips on it and then faced Coop again. He nodded as he snapped a picture. “Yes, Frankie. That one. You look great, you look like you feel great, and it’s perfect.”
Relieved and a little elated, I slipped back into the changing room and took the dress off. As I hung it up, I tugged out the tag and stared at it.
That was two weeks of tips… for a dress.
“Now that you have the colors,” Cheryl said. “We can go get shoes.”
“No,” I answered. “Not tonight.”
“But there’s a great place…”
“I believe you, but I’m toast. I’m starving. And I’ve kept Coop up way past his bedtime.” I crossed my fingers. Please play along.
“Well, she’s not wrong. You know, I’m eighteen on Thursday, it’s all down hill from here.”
I grinned before mouthing Thank you, Coop to myself.
“Well, it is almost ten, and we still need to buy these before they close.”
I snagged my phone from on top of my shorts and stared at it. There were some messages from Archie and from Jake. Both giving me ratings on the various dresses.
But I was grinning.
The red dress won their votes, too.
I glanced at the dress and then the phone. Then I tabbed to Ian’s message thread.
Heather Long. Keys and Kisses (Kindle Locations 204-246). Kindle Edition.