kayla

One More Sneak Peek: Chapter Two of Steady!

Chapter Two

Kayla

“Whose hoodie is that? Where have you been? I thought you were coming home sooner.”

I sigh at my mom. Still living at home instead of on campus means enduring her nosy questions. “It’s a guy’s. I was out, and apparently, my plans changed. I’m going to my room.”

She says something under her breath, but I ignore her and continue to my room. My dad tried to tell her that since I’m in college, I should have more freedom. Mom told him he didn’t live here anymore, so he should stay out of it. It’s been a battle ever since.

I plop onto my bed and take a deep breath. As I relive the afternoon’s events, I try to figure out what exactly happened. I think about all the ways it could’ve gone wrong. How I could be tied up and in a trunk on my way out of the country right now. Logan and his sister seemed nice enough. That’s the first time I’ve met a guy’s family the day I met him. It wasn’t bad, though.

The incessant buzzing of my vibrating phone cuts into my reminiscing with a call from my dad. “Hey, Daddy.”

“Hey. How’s my little girl doing today?” he asks. I may be twenty and his oldest child, but I’m his only girl and therefore, I’ll always be his little girl. I don’t mind at all.

“Good. Just getting home. How was your day?”

“I’ve been at the shop.” My dad is a mechanic. He and my uncles own a shop where they do pretty much anything to cars.

“Are you still there? Have you had dinner yet? You should go home and eat, Dad.” Ever since my parents divorced, my dad spends most of his time working. I waste my breath, trying to get him to go home and rest, but I’m worried about him. He worked crazy hours before, but I feel like he works all the time now. That can’t be good for him.

Dad laughs. “Quit worrying about me. The only one of us who is supposed to do the worrying is me. Now, tell me about your day.”

I roll my eyes. “I still worry. You’re all alone now.”

“I’m fine.” His voice is firm and allows no room for me to continue on that line of thought. I guess my argument is too predictable if he knows just from that one sentence that I was about to start my you-should-be-with-mom lecture. I’ll even admit that part of the reason I want him back with my mom is so he can handle her and keep her off my back.

“Fine. I practiced my guitar.” Code for playing at the coffeehouse since I haven’t told them about that yet. “And I went out with a guy I met.”

Dad grumbles under his breath. “How’d it go?” he asks anyway.

“Good. He won me over enough to get my number. Now, I’m back at home for the night.”

“Why don’t you tell me more about this young man?”

I laugh. They used to be boys, but Dad begrudgingly upgraded them to young men now that I’m in college. “But what if it doesn’t work out? Then I just told you about a boy for nothing.”

“I’m not going to talk to you for a week since you’re in college now, Kayla. Humor your daddy.”

I smile. He says it as if I set the limit, but he did. Since Mom has been so overbearing still, Dad thought he should limit his contact with me to give me more space. He only calls me once a week, but makes sure I know I can call whenever I want.

“Well, his name is Logan.” Dad grumbles when I mention the proposal and again when I bring up how he led me to a house, but otherwise, he quietly listens as I recount the evening.

“He sounds like a jackass.”

I laugh. “That’s what you say every time I tell you about a date.”

“And how often am I right?”

“A lot of the times,” I acknowledge.

“Exactly. Okay, I’m gonna get off here and let you do whatever it is you do now that you’re in college. Study, hopefully. Call if you need me. I’ll talk to you soon. I love you.”

“I love you too, Daddy.”

We hang up and I close my eyes for a moment. I don’t know why my parents’ divorce surprised me so much. My brother, Gregory, says he knew it was coming. I was apparently oblivious to whatever problems my parents were having. I thought they were happy and still in love. They were the high school sweethearts who would grow old together.

Or not, as it turns out.

I was pissed at both of my parents. Mom for asking for it, though Dad swears to this day it was mutual, and Dad for agreeing to it so easily. Mom asked, Dad gave in, they separated, and later, they made it official. Dad even bought himself a present! He bought a new truck. Who the hell does that? And maybe it’s crazy for me to still want them together, but their lame excuse for divorcing was they “grew apart.” Well, grow back together! They put no effort into trying to keep their marriage intact.

That is what pisses me off the most.

My phone beeps with a text from an unfamiliar number.

Unknown: Hey, it’s Logan. Miss me yet? Too soon?

I laugh and save his number before responding.

Me: Yes, it’s too soon.

Logan: Well, what about my marriage proposal?

Me: Having dinner at your sister’s is not a date, so no answer for you yet.

Logan: That’s true. When can I see you again? I’m asking now because you must have so many guys chasing after you that I need you to pencil me into the next available free space in your calendar.

Me: Depends. What are we doing?

Logan: I’ll give you options and you can pick. My brother-in-law plays hockey. Option #1: We can go to a game. Yes or pass to option two?

A hockey game? That might be fun. Dad watches the Rebels so I’ve seen a few pro games on TV before. I don’t know if he’s talking about a pro game or not. They didn’t really talk about Sydney’s husband while we were at her house. Either way, it’ll be fun.

Me: Sounds like fun. When are you thinking?

It takes a few minutes before the next text comes in.

Logan: Thursday night. Will that work?

Me: Yep.

Logan: Can’t wait. Gotta go. Savannah is annoyed Lo-Lo is paying more attention to his phone than her. Talk soon.

I smile. It’s sweet that he went back to his sister’s house to visit with his niece. He obviously loves his family. That’s a good trait to have. I put my phone away, grab my laptop and a textbook, and continue working on one of my first papers of the semester until my phone rings again with a call from a friend I met on campus.

“It’s Saturday! Why aren’t you hitting up parties?” Suzanne asks. “Please tell me you aren’t studying.”

“School first.”

I imagine she’s rolling her eyes right about now as she says, “You’re missing out on so much.” That’s what she always says, but so far, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I still go to parties, meet boys, and have plenty of fun. What’s wrong with staying in here and there to prioritize? Not to mention, the course-load can be freaking ridiculous in college. Schoolwork is all I have time for sometimes. The semester practically just started; I have no plans to get behind any time soon.

“Are you sure you don’t want to come? I could pick you up.”

“I’m good.”

She groans and hangs up without another word. She’s clearly on her way to one of those parties I’m missing out on.

The night is quiet. Mom checks in on me like I’m a five-year-old who needs supervision still. When she opens my door to poke her head in, I simply point to my textbook and go back to work, ignoring her. I love my mom, I do, but ever since she kicked Dad out, she has been way too obsessed with us.

I manage to get the first draft of my paper done around eleven. Perfect time to stop and head to bed. Tomorrow is a new day. I’m playing at the coffeehouse again and then who knows what I’ll get into.


I first learned of the coffeehouse when I was simply walking around one day. I wanted to get away from home and here was a place that wanted people to sing for the customers. Jackpot. Some people in the coffeehouse pay no attention to me. Others like to watch and listen, but very few are as captivated as Logan was yesterday.

Today is a day where no one cares. That’s okay. I play my set, collect the few tips I manage to earn, and head out. The park Logan and I went to is calling my name. The park is my favorite place to go, play, and write new songs. January isn’t the ideal time to go, but I don’t mind. And today, I’m wearing Logan’s hoodie to help keep me warm. Mom eyed me hard when I walked out of the house with it on. She was dying to ask me where I was going, and I was completely prepared to give her a vague answer.

Who cares where I’m going? Who cares if I’m wearing a guy’s hoodie, which smells totally amazing? I could’ve died and gone to heaven when I put it on yesterday. What is it with guys’ hoodies anyway? They always smell so freaking good and wear so much better. At least he isn’t around to see that I’m wearing it again today. I’m not sure if he’d smirk and find it cute or think I’m crazy. You never know with guys.

Sitting at the same bench as yesterday, I bring my legs up to criss-cross them and lay my notebook on the side next to me. There’s one song I’ve been working on for a month. Nothing is flowing well: not the music nor the lyrics. It’s irking me so much. Everything is right there on the tip of my pencil, but it’s like my hand is frozen and can’t write down anything. The signals cross somewhere between my brain and my hand.

Closing my eyes, I breathe in and out for a minute or so before my hands find their place on my guitar. The notes strum out slowly and surely until I reach the part where the song abruptly ends. I start again, this time softly singing to myself. The words die, but the notes manage to continue a little bit longer and I hurry to jot them down before starting from the beginning once again. My process repeats like this over and over, sometimes writing down words, other times notes, until I mold and edit and complete the song. Once done, I grab my notebook and look over my notes and scribbles.

“You are amazing.”

Screaming, I drop the notebook and clutch my guitar to my chest. My heart hammers in my chest as I look up and see Logan.

He grins as he closes the distance between us, picks up my notebook, and sits next to me. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you,” he says as he hands back my notebook. The fact that he doesn’t even look makes me feel good. Why, I don’t know. He was basically spying on me just now, so him not looking doesn’t exactly equate to a respect of privacy. But somehow, it does.

“What are you doing here?”

“I was driving by and I saw you. I drive by this place all the time, but never paid much attention to it before. Savannah and I normally go to one closer to their house, or just stay and play in their backyard.” His eyes drift down to his hoodie and his grin grows, but he doesn’t say anything else. “Should I go? I don’t want to keep you from working.”

“I’m finished, actually.”

“Is that a subtle acceptance for me to stay?”

I smile and nod. “Sure. How was your night with Savannah?”

“Good. Savannah, Andrew, and I all played together while Syd snuck off to relax. I may have let Savannah eat some ice cream since she wasn’t around.” Logan grins at his sneaky accomplishment and I laugh.

“You’re a good uncle.”

“It’s fun. Speaking of which, what do you like to do for fun other than serenade people?”

“Live the college life.”

Logan chuckles and smiles, almost to himself. “Parties, drinking, and all-nighters?”

“Well, I’m not twenty-one yet, so...”

He laughs. “You’re in college, though.”

“That’s very stereotypical thinking, Logan,” I tease.

“If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize.” His brows shoot up while he waits for me to prove him wrong. Since I have drunk at college parties before, I can’t. It’s a true bummer, especially when he gets this cocky grin on his face.

“What do you do for fun?”

Logan shrugs. “Not much anymore. I work, hang with Sydney and the kids, and find pretty girls who sing to hang out with.”

I roll my eyes hard at that last bit. “I think you’re trying too hard to butter me up.”

“It’s not working?”

“Not really.”

He laughs. “Come on then. Let’s get out of here. Trust me enough to ride with me this time?”

Instead of answering, I let him take my hand and pull me up. After putting my guitar and notebook into my car, I lock the doors, grab my purse, and follow Logan to his car. When he heads to his door, I hesitate as I stand next to mine. My dad’s voice filters through my mind.

If they don’t open the door for you, you don’t go, Kayla. You’re a woman, a lady, and too many guys these days forget how to treat one. Don’t let them treat you any less than the absolute best. And that includes opening every door for you.

Dad drilled various versions of that into me from a fairly early age. It still trips me up to this day when a guy doesn’t do it. I always hesitate, hear my daddy’s voice, and wonder what to do. Making a guy open my door for me has ended badly, believe it or not. Dad will always say that proves they aren’t worth it.

The sound of the window rolling down lets me know that I’ve been pondering this for too long. “What are you doing? Having second thoughts?” Logan teases.

Well, only one way to find out how Logan will react. I lean down to look in at him. “I don’t know what your daddy taught you, but mine taught me that if I was with a man, I wouldn’t have to touch a door handle.”

His eyes nearly pop out of his head as he scrambles out of the car. “Shit, Kayla. Sorry. I was too excited about the fact that you’re going somewhere with me,” he says, the words rushing out of his mouth as he rounds the front of the car. “I swear I have manners and chivalry isn’t dead and all that stuff.”

I can’t help but laugh. “It’s okay.”

“Here.” He seems so flustered that he hands me my seatbelt. At least he doesn’t try to buckle me in. With amusement, I watch as he triple-checks that all my limbs are inside the car before he closes the door and jogs around to the other side. “Sorry,” he repeats.

“I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” I tell him seriously. I’m starting to feel bad about his reaction. “My dad is old-fashioned and so serious about those things, I can’t help but think about it.”

Logan reaches over to take my hand as he backs up and then pulls out of the park. “Honestly, it’s fine. You caught me off guard is all. I don’t think any girl has ever demanded it before. They should. I’m normally more on top of my game, but I don’t know what happened. Do you have instances like that often?”

“More than my dad would approve of. They don’t all go so well either.”

“Really?” Logan’s voice hitches a bit with surprise.

“Yeah. One guy left me stranded because I essentially said the same thing to him as I did to you and it pissed him off. Some are miffed and do it, but I never hear from them again. Then, there are guys like you who do it and everything is fine.”

“A guy left you stranded?” he asks incredulously.

“Yeah, my dad was pissed because I called him to come pick me up. I was upset over it and he was the only one I wanted to call.”

“That’s insane. I’m sorry, Kayla. Sounds like you have a good dad, though.”

“Yeah. Where are we going?”

“You’ll see,” he says with a smile.

We’re quiet the rest of the way, but then we arrive and I’m confused. “What is this place?” There are a ton of people out here for it to be as chilly as it is today. There are also at least two dozen trucks lined up.

“It’s like a food truck convention of sorts.” I must wrinkle my nose because he says, “Hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Some of the best food I’ve ever had has come off of a food truck. It’ll be great, I promise. Don’t move.”

I laugh and unbuckle my seatbelt as I wait for him to move around to open my door for me. He takes my hand, tells me to leave my purse if I want, and then leads the way into the rather massive crowd.

“Here’s the game plan. We’ll pick one thing per truck and share. That way we can try as many as possible. I would like to think I’ve gotten good at doing this, so do you give me free rein to choose for us?”

“Go ahead.”

He grins and pulls me along. The line is long for every single truck, which is good. It gives Logan plenty of time to scan the menu. My phone vibrates in my pocket and I take a quick peek.

Mom: When are you coming home?

Me: Don’t know.

Mom: I need to know how much dinner to fix, Kayla.

Me: Count me out.

After eating with him, I won’t be hungry and Mom won’t have to worry about feeding me. I focus on the menu as I slip my phone into my pocket and wonder what Logan will order. This truck is all about burgers with sides like fries and mac and cheese. Logan picks a burger and fries. He’s already breaking his one thing per truck rule. After a couple minutes of searching, we find a place to sit down and eat.

He slides the containers in front of me. “You first,” he says as he steals a fry, causing me to laugh.

I grab the burger and take a big bite. Holy moly. I don’t know what all is on this thing or what seasoning they used, but it might just be the best burger I’ve ever had. I hand it to Logan and grab a fry. Those are pretty good, too.

“This is the best date ever already,” I say when he hands the burger back. “This burger is delicious.”

His grin is cocky. “I told you. Just wait. There are more to try.”

“I’m ready.” There’s a brief lull before I say, “Can I ask you something?”

“Let’s hear it.”

“You’ve mentioned Sydney, your stepmom and your dad, but not your mom. How come? What’s your relationship with her like?” The moment the words leave my mouth, I know I asked the wrong question. Logan tenses ever so slightly, but it’s enough that I notice.

Have I screwed up already?

Preorder on Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo

Sneak Peek: Chapter One of Steady!

Chapter One

Logan

Life sucks. It has ever since I graduated from college last year. My best friend, Carey, has moved in with her boyfriend. My sister, Sydney, has gotten married and given me a nephew to love on, in addition to my niece. Yet, here I am. Single. Struggling to find a job that fits the degree I earned. Bored as fuck with life. I almost want to go back to college when life was more fun. Almost.

Everyone made out as if life after college would be like cruising on a highway. Easygoing and you’d go places. That has not happened for me. I’m still working the sucky job I got while in college because I can’t find one more appropriate. The girls I would see don’t appeal to me anymore. Life has turned into a cycle where I go to work, come home, mope, and sometimes beg Sydney to let her kids come over. I don’t actually have to beg, but it’s sad that a baby and a three-year-old are the highlights of my life right now.

My sigh echoes around my lonely apartment. When Carey left, I decided to move too. A one-bedroom apartment made more sense money-wise and space-wise than a three-bedroom. Sydney told me I could move in with them, but that would make me feel even more pathetic than I already do. Besides, I do not want to be in the Rhett household. I’m over there enough as it is. I can’t see her husband, Ian, being happy with me spending even more time there. I like my own space, too.

Ever since I graduated, it’s like I immediately fell into this rut. A rut which keeps getting deeper and deeper. If something doesn’t happen soon, I’ll be convinced that there’s no way out. I need a new job. I need some excitement. I need something other than the exact life I’m currently living.

My phone rings with a call from Sydney. It’s tempting to ignore it, just because I’m in no mood to pretend like my life is where I want it, but I don’t ignore her calls.

“Hey, Syd.”

“Hey! I haven’t heard from you all week! What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” I answer honestly. Absolutely fucking nothing is happening in my life. That’s the problem.

“Well, what are you up to this weekend?”

“Nothing,” I repeat.

Sydney is quiet for a moment. “What’s going on, Logan? Please don’t say nothing.”

“It’s nothing to worry about, Syd. Just in a mood. How’s my niece and nephew?”

I’m thankful that she lets it go. “I think we’ve finally nipped her jealousy in the bud.” It didn’t take long after baby Andrew was born before Savannah decided while she loved her baby brother, she didn’t like all the attention he was getting. He was born back in October; it’s now January. “Or have a handle on it, at least,” Sydney continues. “Andrew is cute and adorable and a good baby as usual. Except for when he’s not.”

I laugh. “Maybe he has more of Ian in him than we thought.”

“That’s probably it,” she agrees. “Savannah wants to see her Lo-Lo.”

I snort. “Ian must be gone on a trip.” Ever since Ian entered Savannah’s life, she only wants to see me when her daddy’s gone. Well, that’s when she wants to see me the most.

“She asked me yesterday before he left, actually. Want to come over for dinner?”

“Sure. I’ll be over in a bit.”

I pack a bag, just in case Savannah wants me to spend the night. She often does. Before I can deal with an active little kid, I need some coffee. The lack of energy pulsing through my veins is equivalent to the energy in my life. Quite simply, there is none. With my bag all packed, I head out for my favorite coffeehouse.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I mutter under my breath.

They’re closed for remodeling. Great way to lose customers. I pull up the map on my phone and see there’s another one close by. I like to go to non-corporate coffeehouses, so while there may be five that are closer to me than the one I’m going to, they are not for me.

When I walk into the store, my brain acknowledges that music is playing. However, the only thing I clearly focus on is the relief that there is not a line. I step up to the counter and order my coffee. That’s when I hear the most angelic, magnificent, powerful voice. Whirling around, I discover it’s not just music, but live music.

There’s a small stage in the corner by the window. A girl sits on a stool with a guitar in her lap. Her hands move fluently; her eyes are closed. Her lips move with the words of the song.

“Hello? Here’s your coffee.”

I face the cashier and take my drink. My body seemingly moves on its own to find a seat to watch her. Her foot taps. Her body sways as if she’s completely lost in the song. Her hands move with such grace on the guitar. The song reaches its height and man, the girl has a set of lungs on her. I’m completely mesmerized. She’s beautiful, too. Well, from what I can see. The guitar hides some of her. She has ridiculously long, wavy black hair. It looks to be almost to her hips. What color are her eyes? When will she open her eyes?

At some point, I should look away, but I can’t. She’s too lost in her song, and I’m too lost in watching her sing.

The song comes to a close and green eyes flash open, landing right on me. Again, I should look away instead of staring at her, but hell, she’s pretty. Fuck, a slow smile rises. I smile back and mouth marry me before I can think better of it. I’m too swept away to think clearly. She laughs; the mic echoes the sound and intensifies my infatuation. She thanks the clapping crowd as she steps off the stool. Once she collects her tips, she leaves the tiny stage.

With her guitar in hand, she walks over to me. I stand and shake the hand she offers.

“Kayla.” The smile on her face is enough to make me want to drop me to my knees and propose again.

“Logan.”

“Did you propose to me, Logan?” she asks with a giggle.

“Depends on what your answer would be.”

She sweeps her eyes over me. “I deserve a date before I can answer, don’t you think?”

“When are you done here?” I ask.

Her eyebrows rise in surprise. “That was my last song.”

“Then let’s go.” I hold out my hand. It hovers in the air for a solid thirty seconds.

“I’m driving myself.” When I nod in acceptance, she finally takes my hand. Hers is soft and slightly smaller in mine. She waves to the cashier as we walk out. I show her what my car looks like before we walk to her car. I stand silently, enjoy how she glances over at me while she puts her guitar safely away in its case, and then I open the driver’s door for her.

“Just follow me.”

“I will.”

At the second stoplight, my phone lights up with a text from Sydney and the plans I made crash down on me. Damn it. We’ll make a pit stop. She’s likely told Savannah I’m coming. I can’t let that little girl down. I’ll drop in for five minutes and tell Savannah I have to go, but I’ll come back tomorrow. It’ll be easier for me to let her down in person than to let Sydney be the bad guy.

We pull into Sydney’s driveway and I get out to see Kayla rethinking this entire thing. I told her we were going out and we come to a person’s house. I walk to her car. She rolls down the window.

“So, here’s the thing. I forgot I was supposed to come to my sister’s for dinner; I just need five minutes and we can go.”

Skepticism creeps into her eyes. “You couldn’t call her instead?”

“No. This is simpler.” She probably doesn’t understand how, but that’s okay. “Would you like to come in with me?” I’d hate to leave her sitting in the car.

“To meet your sister?” Her head tilts a little bit and the skepticism continues to rise.

I laugh. “I’m starting to think you don’t believe I’m meeting my sister at all. That settles it.” I open her car door. “Come on.” I hold my hand out.

She gets out of the car and takes my hand. “Were you hoping I’d say no? What will your girlfriend think?”

I laugh again. “It’s my sister. Well, technically, she’s my stepsister, but she might as well be my sister.” We walk up to the door and I open it without knocking. “Savannah, Lo-Lo is here!” I shout.

Kayla gives me another one of those brow-raising looks. Little pounding footsteps come and there she is. I release Kayla’s hand to crouch and pick her up.

“How’s my favorite niece?”

“Good. Who’s that?” She points to Kayla.

“That’s my new friend, Kayla. Where’s your mommy?”

She points upstairs. I start walking and motion for Kayla to follow us. We find her in Andrew’s room, changing his diaper. “Oh! You didn’t tell me you were bringing someone. Sorry,” she says to Kayla.

“I can’t stay,” I say, earning a glare from Sydney. “I’m sorry!”

“You told me you were coming for dinner and all I’ve heard since then is how Lo-Lo is coming over. Now, you’re telling me you aren’t staying? Why? Did you just meet her?” She glances at Kayla and smiles. “No offense and I’m not angry at you.”

“You’re leaving?” Savannah pouts.

“See,” Sydney says as she picks Andrew up.

“We can stay.”

Everyone looks at Kayla. “For real?” I ask.

She shrugs with a smile. “You proposed, only makes sense that I meet the family.”

You what?” Sydney exclaims as I grin at Kayla. I think I’m in love already.

“Do you have enough for one more, Syd?” I ask.

“Of course.”

“Then, let’s eat.”

We head back downstairs while Sydney talks to Kayla. She finally introduces herself, learns Kayla’s name, and finds out that I did indeed just meet her. They leave me with the kids while they bring dinner to the table. Kayla doesn’t look like she feels out of place. She looks like she belongs here.

“What’s this proposing mess, Logan?” Sydney asks as we sit down to eat.

“She was singing in the coffeehouse. When she finished, I asked her to marry me. She laughed, but agreed to go out with me first.”

“He didn’t ask. He mouthed it at me,” Kayla corrects.

“And you just said yes?”

“I am a catch, you know,” I say with a roll of my eyes.

“Lo-Lo,” Savannah says, stealing my attention.

The bad thing about having dinner here is that Kayla is free to talk mostly to Sydney. Savannah talks to me too much for me to talk to Kayla. Regardless, it’s nice to hear her voice. I keep imagining her singing. We need to escape. I need to know more about her than Sydney does.

The moment dinner is over, I stand. “I love y’all, but we gotta hit the road.”

“No, Lo-Lo!” Savannah shouts.

“I’ll come back tomorrow or tonight to see you, but you have to be a good girl.” She pouts her lips, which makes me laugh. I lean over to kiss her forehead and then stand to kiss Andrew on the forehead, too. “Thanks for dinner, Syd. I’ll call you later. Call me if you need anything.”

“Have I called you once while Ian is away?”

I snort. “All the time.” It’s an exaggeration, but she does call here and there.

“Thank you for letting me intrude,” Kayla says. Impatiently, I wait while goodbyes are said once and for all. “Where to now, Lo-Lo?” she teases.

“Somewhere we can talk. Ideas?”

“Follow me.”

I’d follow her anywhere. To Antarctica to freeze to death? Done. To the pits of Hell? Done. To Heaven? I’m practically already there with her. But for right now, we get into our respective cars and I follow her to a park. It’s a bit chilly outside, but if this is where she’s comfortable, it works for me. I grab a hoodie from the backseat and an extra in case she needs one. It turns out she doesn’t have one, which makes her smile as I offer one of mine.

“Thanks.”

I shrug and pull mine over my head while we walk over to a picnic table, straddling the bench.

“So, what did you want to talk about?”

“You.”

“What about me?” she asks. She goes to stick her hands in the kangaroo pocket, but I grab them in mine first. Wow. Her hands are soft. I wasn’t imagining it earlier. Kayla flicks her gaze back and forth between our hands and my eyes with pure curiosity.

“How long have you been singing?”

“Since I could talk.”

“Do you know you’re amazing?” I give her a little smirk; that, my question, or both makes her laugh.

“I think I’m decent, but thank you for the compliment.”

My thumbs rub over her knuckles. “Why do you sing in the coffeehouse?”

Kayla shrugs. “It’s a great way to earn extra cash and a way for me to perform, even if it is just in a coffeehouse.”

“What do you normally do, if this is extra cash?”

She frowns for a moment. “Nothing. I’m a sophomore in college.”

I sit upright. “What? For real?”

“You don’t go to Whaley Jones University?” Her eyes fall to the WJU hoodie I’m currently wearing.

“No, I graduated last year.” My gaze falls to our hands. Well, this puts a new spin on things. I hadn’t considered where she’d be in life or her age or anything of the sort. I simply assumed we were in the same place and the same age.

Kayla dips her head and leans forward. “Well, then.” Her voice changes with a tone of conspiracy. “It sounds like I have an older man after my heart.”

I laugh. “Sounds like. Is music your major then?”

Kayla sighs. It’s such a heavy, disappointed sigh. “No. I’m declaring anthropology as my major and music as my minor.”

“How come? It doesn’t sound like you’re thrilled about it.”

“I can’t see my parents approving of it.”

“But music is what you want to do?” She nods. “Do you know what I’ve learned?”

“What?”

“When you grow up, you have to make the decisions you want because guess what? Your parents won’t be living your life and as an adult, they lose control anyway. They’ll get over it. It’s your life; do what you want.”

Kayla chuckles. “Yeah, I’m not that brave yet. Music is what I want to do, but I’m not sure what they would think of it. I would like their approval, whether I technically need it or not. And right now, I do rely on them, so I feel like they have a say.”

“Understandable.”

“Have you always been close to your stepsister?”

I flare my eyes. “Ooh, the girl is becoming interested in me now. About time.” She laughs and I gather my thoughts on my relationship with Sydney. “We didn’t care for one another at first, but we became friends.” I shrug a shoulder. “I don’t know. We just got close and have stayed that way. It’s why I call her my sister instead, because I consider her my sister. Do you have siblings?”

She nods. “A younger brother, but we never get along. Or never as well as you seem to get along with Sydney.” Her mouth opens, but she hesitates. “Can I ask you something personal?”

“Sure.”

“What was it like when your parents divorced? How did you feel about it?”

Out of all the questions she could’ve asked me, I never would’ve thought of those. I try to think back on my parents’ divorce. “I don’t know. It happened when I was seven. My dad didn’t marry my stepmom until way later. All I really remember about it is my dad saying he wasn’t gonna live with us anymore, but he still loved us, and me begging to live with him.”

“Oh.” Kayla seems disappointed in my answer.

“Are your parents together?”

She shakes her head. “They’re officially divorced as of last year.”

“Not taking it so well?”

“Not really,” she admits. With a deep breath, her eyes find mine. “Let’s talk about something else. What was your first impression of me?”

“Well, I heard you before I saw you. I was hooked. And when I saw you, I was swept away because you were so beautiful and I wanted to see what color your eyes were. You?”

She smirks, which gives me a heads-up that something funny is coming. “My exact thought was why is this creepy hot guy staring at me?”

“Hot, huh?” I smile.

“Don’t forget creepy.”

“I think you threw that in there for your own amusement. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here with me now.”

“Maybe. Maybe I like to be a stupid college kid sometimes.” Kayla pulls her hands from mine. “It’s dark out here. I should go.”

I stand with her. “Can I have your number?”

Kayla glances around, stalling. She’ll say no. I don’t know why when nothing has gone wrong, unless she’s here to humor me.

“Yes, you can,” she finally says. I whip out my phone so fast and have it ready before she can take her next breath, making her laugh.

Once she recites it, she goes to take the hoodie off. “Keep it for now,” I say. “I don’t want you to be cold on your way home.”

The smile she gives me is a killer. “Thanks, Logan. I’ll see you later.”

Yes. Yes, you will.

Preorder on Amazon | iBooks | Nook | Kobo