The Summer Before Forever by Melissa Chambers
Published by Entangled Teen
To be released August 22nd, 2016
Genre: YA Contemporary
Some boys break your heart. Others teach you how to heal it.
Chloe Stone’s life is a hot mess. Determined to stop being so freaking skittish, she packs up her quasi-famous best friend and heads to Florida. The goal? Complete the summer bucket list to end all bucket lists. The problem? Her hot soon-to-be stepbrother, Landon Jacobs.
Landon’s mom will throttle him if he even looks at his future stepsister the wrong way. Problem is, Chloe is everything he didn’t know he wanted, and that’s…inconvenient. Watching her tear it up on a karaoke stage, stand up to his asshole friend, and rock her first string bikini destroys his sanity.
But there’s more than their future family on the line. Landon is hiding something—something he knows will change how she feels about him—and she’s hiding something from him, too. And when the secrets come out, there’s a good chance neither will look at the other the same way again…
It’s not like I didn’t know better. How many times has it been drilled into my brain—into the brain of every child over the age of three. Don’t get into a car with a stranger. But can the guy you’ve been melting for since the start of sophomore year really be considered a stranger…even if you never officially met him before?
I accidentally gun the gas as I squirm a little. Eight hours in a driver’s seat is hell on any behind.
It’s done. It’s over. In fact, I’m lucky. I got out of the nightmare with all my firsts still intact…well, most of them. Not quite the first kiss I have been waiting for these past sixteen years. But how juvenile is it anyway that a girl on the brink of seventeen would go un-kissed? Sweet sixteen and never been kissed—endearing. Seventeen and never been kissed—circus freak. At least that’s out of the way.
Jenna rouses in the passenger seat, yawning. “Oh my God. There’s the ocean.”
So it is, Captain Obvious. My Honda Civic starts its ascent up a fairly frightening looking bridge over an inlet.
“How long have I been asleep?”
“Couple of hours.”
She grabs her phone and squints at the screen. “Service. Thank God.”
I can’t help but smile. “What would Jenna Quigley do without social media for a day?”
“I have my fans to consider,” she says.
I give her a look.
Oh, but if only she was kidding. It’s amazing what placing eighth in a karaoke contest can do for one’s ego. Okay, so it was the most popular singing competition on any major network, but same difference.
She flips through her phone. “Oooh. I almost forgot. You’re going to love this one.”
Jenna and I are two of the most unlikely best friends in the history of friendships, but one thing that does bring us together is our shared love of music.
Unfortunately, our tastes couldn’t possibly be further apart on the spectrum.
“You’ve said that about the last five songs you played for me,” I say.
She holds up her free hand, the thumb on the other still scrolling. “I swear this is one of your people, not mine.”
She sets her phone down and stares at me with those huge green eyes as the synthpop sounds of St. Lucia fill my car.
I eye her. I wouldn’t call St. Lucia one of my people, but he definitely doesn’t suck. And as far as artists go that break the barrier between her pop roots and my alt rock ones, this is one I can live with. Besides, this song is highly danceable. My upper body moves to the beat without my permission.
She points at me. “See! I told you you’d love it.”
I let a smile through. “I don’t hate it. How did you get into him?”
“Mason,” she says.
And with that name, my shoulders still. Not that there’s anything wrong with Mason. He’s not the one who tried to force himself on me. No, that particular honor goes to his best friend, Trevor. I haven’t told Jenna yet. She’ll be crushed when she finds out—and then murderous. With the summer in front of us, I need to keep her living in blissful ignorance. If I don’t, she’ll blow up to Mason about it, and then it will become this huge deal around school.
As far as she’s concerned, Trevor and I kissed, and there was no spark.
“So this kid who’s going to be your stepbrother—what’s his name?” Jenna asks.
Here we go. I suppose I’ve put this off long enough. “I probably should mention… He’s not really a kid.”
“Great. Is he some pervy preteen who’s going to be peeping through the crack of my bedroom door?”
“Not exactly.” I don’t know if he’s pervy or not, but I do know he’s not a preteen. He’s only a year older than us. It’s stupid, but I’m not ready for Jenna to find out yet. If I’d told her when I found out, she’d have found him on social media and wrapped him around her pinky before we even arrived. I just want a chance to get to know him at the same time rather than the two of them being old buds and best friends before we even arrive…or worse, dating.
I stare past the road out into the sparkling ocean spread in front of us. Secretly, I’m hoping he’s more like me than he is like her. I’ve never had a brother. God, I need that right now. A guy I can trust, who’s got my back. I have these ridiculous fantasies of this guy who immediately takes me under his protective wing as he kickboxes Trevor in the balls for what he tried to make me do…for what he swears we will do someday.
“So? What’s his name?” Jenna repeats.
“I don’t remember,” I lie.
She glares at me. “Well, what has your dad told you about him?”
I hit the blinker, and we turn toward our home for the next two months. “You think my dad and I have actual conversations?”
Jenna sits up and gasps, staring out the window. “No. Freaking. Way.”
A massive stone archway with sleek, aqua letters reading Sea Glass Cove welcomes us into a resort covered in pastel beach bungalows, a crazy big golf course, and a pool that looks like it was hijacked from Atlantis.
“Why didn’t you tell me your dad was loaded?” Jenna asks.
“He’s not,” I say. “This is his fiancée’s house.”
She snickers. “Score, Mr. Stone. Your dad must be hotter than I remember.”
I make a face. “Gross, Jenna.”
“Does he have a huge penis?” She pokes me in the side.
I swerve. “You’re going to get us killed, nasty.”
Jenna stabs a finger across my face. “265, there it is.”
I turn into the driveway of a two-story baby blue house. A black Jeep sits next to a shiny red Porsche SUV in front of my Honda. All this belongs to my future stepmother. Geez. Does my dad have a huge penis?
I open the door, and the salty sea air hits my face like the smell of chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven. Florida, even the humidity that’s so thick I think I might need an asthma inhaler, is my temporary escape for the summer.
I know I have to go back home to Cliff Ridge eventually, but when I do, the evil Trevor will be gone for college. As much as the next two months are going to win the award for most awkward daughter/dad summer ever, it’s better than the alternative of spending it back home looking over my shoulder.
I open the trunk and start gathering our bags.
“Cute,” Jenna says.
I glance at the house next door. “Yeah, you won’t find lavender houses in Cliff Ridge.”
“Not the house,” Jenna says out of the corner of her mouth.
“Let me get that.”
I look up to put a face with the unfamiliar male voice. Holy Zac Efron. Who in the… Oh no. I bet this is—
“Hey.” He grins at Jenna. “Which one of you is my new little sister?”
Jenna’s eyes go wide and she elbows me in the side. “Thank God not me.”
He gives her a mischievous lift of an eyebrow, and then shifts his gaze to me. “Chloe?”
This guy has got the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen and short, shaggy, dark hair that falls all around his face in that totally messy and totally doesn’t care kind of way. Standing at least six feet tall, he towers over me, but I’m used to that. A light sprinkling of freckles decorates his tanned face, whereas I look like I’ve been hiding under a UV protected rock my whole life.
I scratch my eyebrow. “Yeah. Landon, right?”
“I thought you couldn’t remember his name,” Jenna mutters.
I cut my eyes at her in warning. He offers me his hand, and I take it.
“So you’re the new sister. You’re my first.” He gives the slightest hint of a smile and lets go of my hand. We watch as he wrangles our big roller bags out of the trunk and carries them both by the handles into the house.
Jenna rests an elbow on my shoulder. “Who needs to use the rollers when you’ve got muscles like that?”
She looks at me for a reaction, but I turn to the trunk to avoid her.
“So, some kid brother you got there,” she says. “What the hell, Chlo?”
I tug the rest of the bags out of the trunk and load us both down with them. “I said he wasn’t a kid…exactly.”
Jenna points to his backside as he climbs the front porch steps. “Not a kid, exactly? That is a full-fledged man. His boy parts grew up years ago.”
I anchor a canvas bag to her right shoulder. “Don’t be gross.”
I shut the trunk, and we make our way toward the house.
Landon holds the door open for us, and we scoot past him into the foyer. It’s weird stepping into this house that I guess will be my home in a way. My dad lives here after all, but it’s not really his…at least not yet. I glance around at all the white and aqua stuff, including a pristine white couch. God, I hope I don’t spill anything on that.
“This is a beautiful house,” I say.
“My mom’s a real estate agent. She’s into decorating houses and stuff.”
I glance around. “Is my dad here?”
“They just texted. They’ll be here in just a little while. They’re getting dinner stuff.” He smiles. “I think they’re going all out for your first night.”
I suppose that warms my heart a tad. Doesn’t really make up for my dad’s virtual complete absence from my life for the past five months, but who’s keeping score.
“Where will we be sleeping?” Jenna asks with innuendo.
“Upstairs. Follow me.”
As he leads us up the stairs Jenna points at his behind again and gives a thumb’s up. I give my throat a slice in warning, and it just eggs her on.
He hauls our suitcases into a pale yellow room. Jenna tosses her bags on one of the twin beds, and I sit down on the other.
“I’ll let you settle in. Nice to meet you, Jenna…Chloe.”
“Likewise,” Jenna says as he shuts the door to our room behind him.
I glare at her.
She flops onto the bed she claimed. “What’d I do?”
“We’re going to be here two months,” I say pointedly.
“So if you hook up with him now and things go sour next week, it’s going to be a long two months.”
She sighs and sits up. “Point taken. Besides that, he’s just the first one we’ve seen. I bet there are a whole slew of them down at the beach. Let’s go.” She rips into her suitcase and comes up with a hot pink bikini.
“I want to wait for my dad to get home. You go.”
“That’s cool. I’ll wait with you.” She pulls her phone out of her pocket and flips through one of her seven or eight social media apps, I assume.
“Ah, look at my sweetie.”
“Who?” I ask. It could be anyone.
She glowers at me. “Mason.”
I nod. Of course. They hooked up the same night I had my fiasco with Trevor. Jenna never clarifies what she means by hooked up. I’m guessing it’s somewhere between a peck on the cheek and full-on sex.
I hang clothes in one of the two closets, and then pull out the bag with my shower stuff. As I go to set my shampoo down on the corner of the tub, I notice a bottle of men’s body wash. I realize that the door I assumed was to a linen closet is actually too big to be a closet door. I creep toward it and give it a little shove. It leads to another bedroom. A guy’s bedroom.
Gray, t-shirt material sheets pool on the unmade bed. A football poster decorates one wall, while another poster of Kate Upton in a bikini hangs on another. At least sixty or seventy hardbacks line the shelves of a bookcase. I check the door, and then take a few steps closer to read the titles—biographies, many of world leaders or prominent figures in history. I spot one sitting on his desk with a bookmark peeping out of it. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.
He’s redeemed for the Kate Upton poster.
A classic tennis racket in a wooden case sits on a shelf above his bed. A toddler-sized jersey hangs in a frame on one wall next to a shelf housing a single trophy. I come closer and read the plaque. The Mean Green Gorillas, Team Participant. I can’t help but giggle.
“I don’t come in your room and laugh at your stuff.”
I jump a mile and spin around.
Landon lounges against the doorframe.