Title: Just Friends
Series: Blue Beech #6
Author: Charity Ferrell
Genre: New Adult Romance
Release Date: February 6, 2020
Someone should have warned me about falling in love with my best friend.
Little did I know when Rex came to my locker attempting to bribe me, that heâd turn into my everything.
Weâd become best friends. Iâd steal his heart. Heâd steal mine.
Nothing has changed in the years of our friendship.
Not our connection, not our feelings, or that we still hold each otherâs hearts.
But his heart isnât the only thing Iâve kept.
The secret Iâm hiding could shatter the only man Iâve ever loved.
Iâve loved Carolina since the day she called my bluff.
Our friendship always came first.
She believed in me when no one else did.
I tucked away my feelings because I couldnât survive a life without her.
We crossed the line once, and I swore itâd never happen again.
As time passes, the harder it becomes to live up to that promise.
Until finally, thereâs no holding back.
High SchoolâSophomore Year
âIâll pay you fifty bucks to write my English paper.â
I slam my locker shut before shifting to face the brave soul who asked that.
I donât cheat.
I donât break rules.
Everyone knows this.
Heâs casually leaning against the locker next to mine. A smirk is spread across his face, as if he expects me to squeal in delight that heâs asking me for a favor.
Not happening, homeboy.
Homeboy is Rex Lane.
Our schoolâs arrogant fuckboy.
A guy Iâm not writing a paper for.
I mock his smile. âIâll charge you fifty bucks not to rat you out for homework bribery.â
âHomework bribery?â He flashes a brighter Iâm a nice guy; do what Iâm asking grin.
I firmly nod. âYes.â I motion down the hallway. âNow, go away. Having this stupid conversation with you is wasting my valuable study time.â
I count on my rudeness to scare him off, but when his eyes brighten in amusement, I know Iâm wrong.
I have two high school goals in life:
Luckily, he caught me after the class bell rang, so no one is around to witness this unfortunate encounter.
âCome on, Carolina,â he pleads. âProve to me the rumors about you arenât true.â
I stiffen. âRumors?â I deliver a stern look. âWhat rumors?â
I mind my business. Donât gossip. Stay in my lane.
All of this to prevent rumors from circulating about me.
He licks his lips, leaning in closer, and lowers his voice. âThe rumors that you have a stick up your ass and lack personality.â
There might be a stick up my ass, but Iâm going to shove my foot up his.
I narrow my eyes, and my response releases in a hiss, âReally? You want to talk about rumors? Maybe I should believe the rumors about you.â
âThe rumors that say Iâm cool as fuck? A terrific lay? Fucking hilarious?â
Our high school halls flood with rumors about him.
The one that he sports an overinflated ego is officially confirmed.
âNegative,â I reply. âThe rumors that youâre a sucky lay with a small penis.â
This is a lieâa rumor Iâve never heardâbut hey, if he wants to talk crap, so can I.
âLies, babe, all lies. Iâm more than happy to present the evidence to back up my claim.â He retreats a step, dropping his hand to the crotch of his jeans, and tugs at his zipper.
I do another quick scan of the hallway before loudly snorting. âYou wonât do it.â
He flinches, that smug smile slipping off his lips. âHuh?â
âYou wonât do it.â I nod toward his crotch. âYou wonât unzip your pants and present your evidence.â I park my hands on my waist and kick my foot out.
He gapes at me, speechless.
âPull it out or go away.â I dismissively wave my hand. âI have a test in ten minutes, and you, standing in front of me with your hand on your junk, arenât helping me ace it. Go beg another girl to write your paper because you lack a brain â¦ and according to the girlsâ locker room gossip, a decent penis size.â
He drops his hand from his crotch, his smile returning. âLooks like Little Miss Innocent might not be as uptight as she leads on. Thereâs some personality hidden underneath those awful, itchy-looking sweaters of yours.â He makes a show of eyeing me up and down.
I opt out of giving him hell over the uptight comment. The faster he goes away, the better.
âNo, she has a low annoyance tolerance.â
He steeples his hands into a praying motion. âSay yes to writing my paper, and then you can go about your studying, sweater-wearing ways.â
âSixty bucks and a bonus of proving Iâm well-endowed when weâre in private.â
I dramatically gag. âGross.â As much as I donât want to deal with him, I could use the cash. âSeventy-five, and Iâll help you write the paper, but youâre doing it yourself. I donât cheat.â I signal to his jeans. âAnd keep your micropenis to yourself. Iâd rather fail every class than have you prove youâre well-endowed.â
âPaying you to help me write the paper defeats the point of paying you.â
âReally? With that brilliance of yours, you shouldnât need me to write your paper.â
âWhy are you even asking me? Youâre in lineâbehind meâto be class valedictorian. You can easily write your own paper.â I reach forward to pat his shoulder. âI have faith in you, petite-penis buddy.â
âNever said I couldnât write the boring-ass paper. Iâd just rather not. Iâm a busy guy who doesnât give two shits about Shakespeare.â
âEighty dollars,â I blurt out.
âEighty? What the fuck? You canât up the ante like that.â
âI can, and the longer you waste my time, the higher the price.â I canât believe Iâm agreeing to this, but hey, money talks. âEighty dollars. Meet me at the library after school.â
âThe library sucks. My house.â
I shake my head. âYouâre high if you think Iâm going to your house.â
âIf Iâm paying eighty dollars, which is fucking insane, at least give a guy the privacy of his own home.â
I thrust my finger toward him. âYouâd better not try any funny business.â
He rubs his palms together. âThis is homework, Carolina. Get your virginal mind out of the gutter.â
My last class of the day is AP English.
Itâs also Rexâs.
This gives him the opportunity to stalk me out of class, to my locker, and out to the parking lot while I ignore him.
Classmates call out his name, give him head nods, and say hi as we pass them. Interest floods their faces when their eyes cut to me. Itâs not that Iâm the class weirdoâalthough, as I learned today, I apparently have a stick up my ass.
High school kids are so original.
Iâm more along the lines of the class do-gooder who aces every test and spends her free time volunteering.
Oh, and Iâm also the preacherâs daughter.
Rex definitely isnât preacherâs daughterâs friend material.
Hell, he doesnât even fit into his role of the mayorâs son.
âWhereâs your car?â he asks, strolling next to me and scanning the parking lot.
I look away, embarrassment striking me. âI donât have one.â
My parents gave me the option of waiting until my sister graduated and passing her car down to me or buying one myself. Considering my cash flow is zilch, waiting for hers it is.
A whiff of fresh soap and citrus hits me when he slings his arm over my shoulders.
âYou ride the bus?â
I shift out of his hold. âI ride with my sister.â
âTell her you donât need a ride today.â He returns his arm to my shoulders and spins us toward the opposite side of the parking lot. âToday is your lucky day, sweetheart. You get to ride with me.â
âHard pass.â Surprisingly, I donât shove him away while he leads me to a newer model black Dodge Challenger.
âCome on, Lina. Itâd be pretty selfish to have your sister drive you when you could ride with me.â
âDonât call me that,â I grumble.
His arm falls, and he ups his pace to turn around and stare at me, walking backward. âWhat?â
âLina. No one calls me that.â I immediately regret telling him this.
He rubs his thumb over his bottom lip. âIâm for fucking sure calling you Lina now. Itâll be our thing, babe.â
âUgh, and donât call me babe either.â
âLina babe, when you tell me not to do something, it only makes me want to do it more.â
âThen, itâs only fair for me to give you a nickname.â I tap my finger against the side of my mouth. âIâm going with â¦ Needle Dick.â Thereâs no stopping my lips from cracking into a smile.
He points at the car. âGet your ridiculous nickname-giving ass into my car and stop insulting my dick before I really do show you.â
âYouâve already proven youâre too chicken in the hallway.â
âOf course, I canât pull my dick out at school. My parents would kill me if I got caught showing off my cock like I was at the schoolâs talent show.â
I snort. âThat would require you to have talent.â
He smirks. âOh, babe, I have plenty of talents. My first trick will be to show you how to pull that stick out of your ass.â
âSo I can stick it up yours?â
âI like this little attitude of yours. Itâs hot.â
He digs out his keys from the pocket of his jeans and unlocks the car. I hop into the passenger seat with no argument. Heâs right. Not only would my sister bitch on the entire drive to Rexâs, but sheâd also charge me gas money for having to go out of her way.
I settle into the leather seat while Rex pulls out of the parking lot. He thrums his fingers on the steering wheel to the beat of a Snoop Dogg song. I use this chance to take in everything that is him.
Whatâs fascinating about Rex is, heâs not your typical popular guyâthe ones you see in movies and read about in books. Heâs not the star athlete or the prom king or the schoolâs notorious bad boy. His personality is what draws people to him. Heâs fun, cocky, and laid-back. Everyone either wants to be his friend or his girlfriend.
That is, everyone except yours truly.
I donât need that kind of distraction in my life.
Rex is also crazy smart. He spends most of his time in the computer programming lab and has even been called into the school office to fix technical issues. Rumor has it, heâs also hacked into the system before.
Heâs tall, at least six feet, and he towered over my small frame when we walked through the parking lot. He might not play sports, but heâs more toned than our quarterback. His hair is a coppery-brown and cut short. Two dimples pop out of his cheeks when he smiles, and the asymmetry of his face is flawless.
Heâs also rich. Iâm reminded of this when he pulls into the driveway of his mansion of a home. Itâs the biggest in their neighborhood, and it has a giant yard and impeccable landscaping. The Lane family is considered the most affluent in our small town of Blue Beech, Iowa.
Rex shifts the car into park and steals my attention from the home when he clears his throat. âThat sure was a fun ride. Iâve never been checked out by a preacherâs daughter before.â
My eyes widen.
Oh dear God.
Was I that obvious?
âThatâs it. Take me home,â I demand. âI donât check out guys. I was simply observing the guy Iâm going to be stuck with for the next few hours.â
âToo late. We have a paper to write, Lina babe.â
He kills the engine to the car, circles it, and opens my door as Iâm debating my next move.
Go in or leave.
I smack away his waiting hand, and he moves out of the way. With a scoff, I follow him into the house. As soon as we make it through the front door, he captures my hand in his, and I nearly fall on my face when he starts pulling me up the stairs.
âMy bedroom is up here,â he says.
I jerk back, causing him to stop. âIâm not going into your bedroom.â
He glances back at me, blinking. âYes, you are.â
Iâm cut off when he grabs my hand again, tightening his grip, and stupidly, I donât fight him this time. He steers us down a long hallway and into a bedroom.
Itâs a spacious room, larger than my parentsâ master, and surprisingly clean. Three of the walls are painted a dark red, and the other is black. Against the black wall is a sleek metal bed with a black comforter on top. Itâs different than any guyâs room Iâve seen before.
Granted, I normally donât hang out in guysâ bedrooms.
Thereâs a mini fridge in the corner, a massive desk with three monitors on top, and a TV above a black console. A collection of gaming devices and games clutter the stand.
I lose his hold when he shuts the door behind us.
âSeriously?â I snap, crossing my arms. âYou have no boundaries.â
He grins, showing off his bright white teeth. âMy mom said that can be a great trait in life.â
âFor who? Serial killers?â
âFor guys asking girls to do their homework.â
He walks around me to the mini fridge, opens it, and peeks up at me. âWhatâs your drink of choice, Lina? Water? Pepsi? Tequila?â
I roll my eyes, pushing my black-rimmed glasses up my nose. âYou donât have tequila in there.â This calling-his-bluff game is fun.
âI beg to differ.â He clicks his tongue against the roof of his mouth. âItâs in a Gatorade bottle, tucked into the very back so no one sees it.â
Today, Iâm feeling gutsy.
âGive me a tequila shot then.â
He squints in my direction. âYouâre fucking with me.â
I shake my head. âIâll need it to get through an afternoon of hanging out with you.â
He grins, pushing his arm into the fridge, and pulls out a bottle.
Maybe calling his bluff wasnât the smartest idea.
Weâre not at school where he can be expelled for doing something like this.
Weâre in his bedroom.
I gulp when I see the bottle, focusing on the amber-tinted liquid inside thatâs most definitely not Gatorade.
Way to call his bluff, Carolina.
Now, heâs calling yours.
Time to gear up and taste tequila for the first time.
The room is quiet as he stands. His eyes are fastened on me while he slowly unscrews the orange cap and holds the bottle out to me.
Iâll be damned if I let him win this â¦ game? Whatever it is.
Nausea cartwheels in my stomach, and I havenât even taken a drink. Lord knows how itâll feel after I do. I inhale a deep, determined breath.
I got this.
Iâve never drunk tequila, but Iâve had wine.
It canât be that different, right?
Deciding itâs done doing gymnastics, my stomach tightens, as if itâs preparing itself, when I snatch the bottle from him. I grip it and drag it to my lips. Right before I do anything drastic, my back stiffens, and I frown at the same time.
âHow many people have taken a drink from this bottle?â I question. âIâm not about to contract some STD.â
He chuckles, signaling to the bottle. âThe only person whoâs drunk from that bottle is me.â He pauses, snaps his fingers, and points at me. âAnd you, in a minute.â
I narrow my eyes at him. âYou better not be lying.â
His hands go to his chest, feigning offense. âLina, my sweet Lina, Iâm heartbroken you donât trust me.â
I gulp again.
Here goes nothing.
I can do this.
Before I chicken out, I take a quick swig of the tequila. My eyes slam shut, blocking me from witnessing his reaction, and my teeth clench as I swallow down the most disgusting thing Iâve ever tasted. Thereâs no stopping my body from shuddering. I hold in a deep breath out of fear of puking it up.
When I open my eyes, I immediately roll them.
A huge grin is spread across Rexâs shocked face.
He whistles and leans back on his heels. âDamn, Lina. Either you have a secret wild side, which Iâd fucking love, or Iâm bringing it out of you, which Iâd also fucking love.â
I shrug. âYouâll never know.â
I inhale a deep breath, dragging up as much nerve as I can, and take another sip to prove myself. My throat burns as if it were on fire, and I smile with pride as soon as I swallow it down.
âItâs your turn, Needle Dick.â I extend the bottle back to him.
âLook at me, corrupting you.â He grabs it, cheers me, and takes a gulp. âI canât wait to do it more.â
Little do I know, walking into Rexâs bedroom will change everything.
Rex Lane will take over my life.
Heâll steal my heart.
Iâll steal his.
Only we wonât know what to do with what weâve taken.
Previously titled Just Her Bodyguard
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Charity Ferrell resides in Indianapolis, Indiana. She grew up riding her bicycle to her library and reading anything she could get her hands on. Angst is her happy place, and she loves writing about flawed people finding love. She loves the basicsâbooks, shoes, and online shopping.