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Bonus Scene from Unethical!
The first book of the Drexler University series, Unethical, is all about second chances with Blake and Payton. Here is a little peek at what they were like the first time around. This passage is from when B&P were in high school, and the very first time they said those three little words. Enjoy!
Who said “I love you” First?
Junior year of high school…
What the hell was the difference between lavender and mauve? All I wanted was a fucking flower for the corsage. Payton said her dress was purple. Why couldn’t the florist understand I wanted purple not whatever million other names she was throwing at me?
I pleaded with my eyes. C’mon lady, can’t you see I’m a dumbass who doesn’t speak your color-ese? I had never been to a dance before; no one could get me to go unless under duress, that is until I started dating Payton. I knew I loved her the moment she set foot in eighth grade language arts. Mrs. Carson sat her between me and Ryan—a horrible choice on our teacher’s part.
When Ryan tried to hit on her and made some disgusting comment asking if she was a redhead everywhere, she leveled him with a legendary glare and told him his birth certificate was an apology from the condom factory. Most girls became flustered around Ryan. Even at thirteen, he was muscular, unlike the rest of the gangly eighth graders. Not Payton, she didn’t buy into his bullshit. And that’s when I knew I needed this girl.
And now she was my girlfriend. How I got that lucky, I’d never know. Even if it meant going to cheesy Snow Ball with a winter wonderland theme, fifty-fucking-dollar tickets, and buying a corsage that was the right shade of mauve-lavender-purple, whatever.
“Do you want baby’s breath as well?”
“Babies what?” What the hell had I gotten myself into?
The flower lady let out a tsk. “Okay, how about I come up with something and you stop by in a few hours?”
“Thank you.” I wanted to hug her for having mercy on me. As long as it was remotely purple, I’d be set.
I needed everything to be perfect. Tonight I planned to tell Payton I loved her. Even though I’d been in love with her for three years, I’d never said it to her. The words lumped in my throat. How was I supposed to tell her? It felt super cheesy to say it during a slow dance. Plus, she probably wouldn’t hear me over the music, and that’d be embarrassing to have to repeat it if she didn’t hear it the first time.
If I told her before I dropped her off after the dance, then we’d be rushed. I always saw her dad peering out the living room window, making sure I wasn’t defiling his daughter. Like I’d do the defiling in front of her house. Get with the program, Dr. Cooper.
Five hours later, I put on my rented tux, grabbed the corsage from the fridge, and drove over to Payton’s house.
My hands shook as I pressed the doorbell. The Drexler fight song chimed, and Payton’s mom opened the door. She had dark circles under her eyes. She hadn’t been feeling well lately, at least that’s what Payton had said. Maybe it was some bad case of the flu. Her lips parted into a smile, the same dazzling one that Payton inherited.
“Well, don’t you clean up well.”
I smiled and cast my gaze down at the corsage in my hand. “Thanks, Mrs. Daniels.”
“Payton will be down in just a minute. Do you want a cookie while you wait?”
Hell yes. Her cookies were the bomb. I’d live off them if I could, which I pretty much did. She made sure I was well stocked at home. I grabbed a snickerdoodle off a glass dish on the coffee table in the living room and sat on the sofa, looking at the framed pictures that lined the fireplace mantle. Payton winning the science fair. Payton completing her first marathon. Payton working in the soup kitchen. Was there anything this girl didn’t do? My chest constricted. I was a lucky bastard.
Just as I cleared the emotions that climbed up my throat, Payton descended the stairs, and the sight of her in her lavender-purple-whatever gown stole my breath. The cookie that I’d just bit into dropped into my lap, and I quickly picked up the crumbs, turning into a fumbling idiot.
She was radiant—her auburn hair pinned back, a few curls cascading over her shoulders.
Her lips turned down into a frown, and she brushed her hands over the curve-hugging dress. “You don’t like it?”
“No! You look beautiful.” Like a siren. Not that I’d say that within earshot of her dad. I didn’t have a death wish.
Her face eased, a smile painting her pretty features. I liked her with less makeup, but the eye shadow wasn’t a bad touch—it brought out her green eyes, mesmerizing me.
“Picture time!” Mrs. Daniels came out of the kitchen, wielding a camera, already taking pictures.
“Mom,” Payton groaned.
“What? You only have one junior-year Snow Ball.”
“Fine, but can you at least take pictures where we’re smiling?” The flash went off again, sending dots swarming across my vision.
“You’re a fun sucker.” Her mom stuck out her tongue and waited for us to pose.
“Not as much as you, Mom.” Payton stuck her tongue out and another flash went off. “Hey, that’s not fair.”
After another few minutes of blinding photos, we made our way to the car, my hands still trembling. How could something I’ve wanted to say for so long be so terrifying? Because there was a chance she didn’t feel the same way.
I opened the passenger side for her, and she slid in, her dress leaving a trail of glitter on every surface in the process. That was going to be fun to clean up later. She smiled as I closed her door and went over to the driver’s side, starting the ignition.
I had planned it out. Before I took her to dinner at Magenta, the expensive French restaurant she’d been dying to try since it opened in September, I’d take her to Bald Hill. We’d gone running on the hill, and it was secluded, giving me privacy and time to think of how to word it. Damn. How was I being such a pussy over three words?
We wound our way through the hairpin turns up the hill, holding hands across the bench seat of my truck the whole way. She probably thought I was taking her here to make out. What if she didn’t say it back? This was a bad idea. Then I’d be stuck with her all night in some awkward dance with horrible decorations. Maybe I should wait until after the dance.
I put the car in park at the top of the hill, the view of Spring Hill filling the horizon. We were on top of the city, lights flickering on as the sun set over the mountains. I swallowed, pushing down the nerves, gripping the steering wheel for some added support.
She leaned into the seat, smiling at me, and I vaguely wondered if her red lipstick would leave a mark if she went down on me. Shit. Get it together. You’re about to tell her you love her, not ask her for head.
“It’s a beautiful night.”
“Yeah.” The word caught in my throat, my voice cracking. Saying the L-word sent me back to puberty. Awesome.
“Are you okay?” She frowned, studying my face.
I rubbed my sweaty palms along my tux pants, fighting past the nerves to find the right words. “We need to talk…”
She shifted, her whole body tensing, tearing her hand out of our interlocked grip. “Oh my god, are you breaking up with me?”
“What?” Where the hell did that come from? How could she think that when it was the opposite of what I was feeling?
She folded her arms over her chest, tracing over a cluster of freckles on her forearm. “That’s pretty fucked up, Blake.”
I forced down the anger that ripped through me. This was supposed to be a special moment and she thought I was breaking up with her.
A flush splashed across her chest and neck. “You could have at least done it before I paid all this money for a dress.” She motioned to the dress that I honestly would rather have wadded up on the floor of the truck than on her.
That was it, I couldn’t take it anymore. Before she ruined this moment completely, she had to know. Nut up, dipshit.
“Just take me—”
“I love you!” I shouted.
The car was silent. Too silent.
She stared at me for what seemed like ten minutes, but couldn’t have been more than a few seconds, no emotions showing on her face. This was a bad choice. She didn’t love me back, and now I had to go to that stupid-ass Snow Ball and dance to cheesy Boys II Men music and pretend that what I just said didn’t mean anything.
Tears brimmed along her lower lids and her lips quivered. Good god, I made her cry. What the hell was wrong with me?
“I—” I was going to take it back, even though that hurt more than any soccer ball to the junk.
“I love you, too,” she said, her voice shaky.
She nodded, a tear spilling down her cheek. “Yes. I’ve wanted to say it for a long time, but I was too chicken to say it first.”
A rush of breath surged out, and I pulled her into a kiss.