by Lizzy Charles
Series: Effortless With You #2
Publication date: May 27th 2014
by Swoon Romance
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Popularity isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. Justin Marshall knows this better than most. For the captain of the basketball team, small business owner, and son of Minnesota’s next governor, life can get pretty overwhelming. But Justin can handle anything as long as he has Lucy, the girl who fell for the man he’s trying to be.
But for Justin and Lucy, finding time together proves challenging. Stolen kisses and whispered promises just aren’t enough. That is, until scandalous photos of the couple are leaked to a press intent on creating a juicy scandal during Justin’s dad’s gubernatorial campaign. And when Lucy becomes fair play for the tabloids and gossip pages, Justin does the only thing he can to protect her: he breaks her heart.
For Lucy, junior year is everything she hoped it would be: new friends, second chances, and a boyfriend she can’t stop kissing. That is, until the boy she’s pretty sure she loves chooses the life his family wants for him, over her.
Now it’s up to Lucy to teach him what it really means to have everything. Because for Justin, being who everyone needs him to be just might cost him the one person he can’t live without
I really can wait. I have nowhere to go until the party.
I close my eyes and tilt my head back, enjoying the cooler evening sun on my face and praying it will calm my frizz. I hold my cell, waiting for it to vibrate with his response. As the minutes pass, I toy with the idea that maybe he forgot …
But he planned this. He wouldn’t do that.
A light laugh interrupts me. My eyes jolt open and I gasp. I hate how easily I startle.
“Sorry, Lady,” says a deep, smooth voice behind me. “I didn’t mean to scare you. You just look so funny all dressed up but relaxing in the sun.”
“Oh, it’s okay.” Great. I pull at the bottom of my white tank. I look funny.
He clears his throat, waiting for me to do the social thing. Interact.
Not in the mood. Not now. The dent in my phone demands study. If I turn the phone upside down, the dent looks like a cow. I shift, making sure my back faces the voice. Maybe the guy’ll take a hint? My bench creaks with newly added weight.
“So?” he says.
I force myself to glance up. My throat closes. Marissa would freak.
Justin stares back with that fake smile. “Who are you waiting for?”
“My boyfriend, Zach Filman.” Confidence, yes.
Justin nods. “Oh, Zach.” He looks at his watch and snickers. “I bet he’s late, huh?” His eyebrow flicks up with his smile.
“No. I’m a bit early.”
“You’re lying.” He moves closer to me.
Shaking my head, I focus on the lined pavement. The lines aren’t parallel at all. I really suck at lying, but the most popular guy in school doesn’t need to know my boyfriend’s late.
“Well, then,” he continues. “I’ll just wait here with you. You don’t mind.”
He taps his finger on the bench’s armrest. “Shouldn’t be long now.” His voice is thick with sarcasm which he pairs with his flashy, stupid smile. Justin may be gorgeous, but he is super annoying. He clears his throat. “Might as well get to know one another. I’m Justin Marshall.”
“I’m Lucy.” He doesn’t need to know my last name.
“Well, Lucy.” He pulls out his phone. “It’s six fifty-two. When’re you going on that date?”
“For real?” The heat from the sun must’ve fried my brain-to-mouth filter.
He claps his hands together, leaning back, enjoying my outburst. “Well, I’m bored. Jennifer doesn’t get off for another twenty minutes. I need a little fun.”
“Well, in that case, I’m pleased to entertain you.” Sarcasm rolls thick off my tongue.
“Wonderful.” His hands fold behind his head and his muscles twitch. But I’m steady, not a flinch and not even close to his regularly received swoon.
“So, where’re you love birds going?” he continues.
“Right, Italian food. How romantic. Very original, Zach.”
Blood rushes to my face. I don’t care if it is the typical place. This is my first fancy, romantic date and it’s going to be perfect. I glare back, replying with silence.
“Okay, okay.” He throws his hands up. “It’s a good place. Great food, actually.”
I ignore him, glancing back at my phone. An hour late. Maybe he got in an accident?
“Can I ask you two questions?” Justin prods.
“No.” My filter’s gone now. He’s beyond irritating. Just because everyone worships him doesn’t mean he gets to know everyone’s business. Of course, he ignores my answer.
“First, why are you being picked up for a date here?”
I answer without thinking. “Zach thinks my mom’s weird.” My tongue thickens, making it hard to speak. Crap, shouldn’t have said that.
“Oh? Should that matter if he’s dating you? I mean, shouldn’t he want to get to know her if he’s dating you?”
He looks at me with a soft expression, like the ones people use on injured puppies on those Emergency Vet shows.
I press my lips together. He doesn’t know my mom. This time he accepts my silence.
“Secondly, don’t you think you deserve someone who respects you enough to either show up on time or at least call and let you know why he’s late?”
Whoa, who is he to give me relationship advice?
“You’ve got to be kidding, right?”
“No. I’m dead serious. You deserve better.”
“You don’t even know me.”
“No, but I know Zach.”
“So do I. He’s my boyfriend.” I refuse to look at him, instead watching a group of ants pour out of a crack in the pavement. “You know you’re a real jerk, right?” I add.
Justin lets out a long whistle. “Wow. I haven’t been called a jerk since I was, like, eight?”
I don’t care how hot he is. Why Marissa wants him blows my mind.
He pulls out his phone. “Let me show you something.” He dials and flashes me his outgoing call: Zach F.
No. This is not happening.
I launch at his phone but he’s too quick. He jumps off the bench and I eat pavement.
“It doesn’t matter. He isn’t going to answ—” I say as I scramble up off the ground.
“Hello?” a familiar voice booms. Speaker phone. Crap.
“Hey Zach! It’s Justin.”
“Hey Man. What’s up?” My gut relaxes. Zach’s okay.
“Not much. Just waiting to pick up Jennifer.” Justin paces, circling the bench and me.
“Right on, man!” Zach is always so positive. His attitude is contagious. I can’t help but smile when I’m around him.
“What are you up to?”
“Disc golf with Tater.”
My chest squeezes. How can Zach be playing a game with his cousin Tater? An I-Told-You-So expression sits in triumph on Justin’s face.
“Sweet. Awesome day for a game.”
“I know, huh?”
Justin drags his shoe through some sand.
“Will I see you at the party tonight?”
Maybe he didn’t forget? He knows we’re going to the party together. He must have gotten the times mixed up. Assumed he had time to play disc first.
“Sweet. I’ll see you there. Got to run, Jen’s done. We’ve got a great date night planned before the party and all …”
No Justin, don’t do this. I want to die.
“Oh shit, dude. I was supposed to pick up that Lucy chick for a date too.” Zach laughs.
Three skipped heartbeats.
He forgot about me.
My nose begins to itch. Tears are inevitable. But I won’t cry in front of Justin. I focus on my cuticles, trying to hold off tears while Zach’s voice continues to boom from the phone. Justin finishes circling the bench, now standing next to me. So I can hear everything Zach says.
“Eh, she’ll understand. It’s a gorgeous day. I mean, who can remember a date when disc golf calls?”
“Well, good luck with that.” Justin taps my shoulder. I want to break his fingers.
“Right on, man.” Beep.
My eyes are heavy, probably now red and puffy too. I take a deep breath, trying to hold off the emotional impact of the moment. Justin’s moved in front of me, waiting for my reaction. He’s so rude. I glare daggers into his green eyes. Hate him.
My phone finally vibrates.
Zach: hey sorry work’s crazy. Meet u at party L8R.
My gut twists inside out. Zach lied. He forgot about me and lied. Why did he ask me out if he didn’t like me? I grab my bag. I need to get away from Justin before I break down.
“Let me guess,” Justin says, “he lied?”
A ruthless fire burns inside me, made especially for him.
“Can I ask you something?” I don’t wait for an answer. “Why are you so unbearably rude?”
“Listen,” he begins, “you deserved to know.”
“No. That wasn’t your place. Do you think you’re like a god or something? ‘You deserved to know.’ Total bull. Don’t I deserve to be treated with respect?” I pause for effect. His eyes widen and he opens his mouth to speak, but he doesn’t have a word to deliver. “Right. You dish out Hallmark wisdom but don’t follow it yourself. Don’t be a hypocrite.”
The tears are rolling down my cheeks but I don’t care anymore. Now I want him to see it. Staring into his green eyes, I search to see if he understands what he’s done. But his eyes are blank. Not even a hint of remorse. The pool gate jingles and Jennifer steps out. I quickly distance myself from the bench and start the walk of rejection back home.
I don’t look back. I never want to see Justin Marshall again.
~About the Author~
Lizzy Charles lives in the Twin Cities and is a graduate of the University of Minnesota. When she isn’t raising her three children or caring for premature and sick babies as a neonatal intensive care nurse, she’s seeking refuge with her laptop, sparkling water, and dark chocolate. She married her high school sweetheart, a swoon-worthy musician, so it’s no surprise she’s fallen in love with writing contemporary YA romance novels.
Lizzy’s Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
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