We did it, you guys! You all helped spread the word about Picture Perfect and its little sale two weeks ahead of Subject to Change’s release, and now it’s sitting pretty at #82 in the Amazon Kindle store!
I’m awed and so, so grateful! I promised you all a kissing-in-the-rain scene from Subject to Change (Joey’s story, out 6/25) if we made it, so here it is! Thank you, so much, again!!!
“Look, I’m sorry I was late, okay? But since I’m a grown-up, sometimes I have grown-up things to deal with, and I’m late to class. Nothing I could do.” His tone had a condescending edge that made me feel like I was a little kid and he was my preschool teacher, which only multiplied my rage. “But you should be happy. I gave him the idea, and it’ll be fine.” He turned to go again.
“What exactly will be fine about this, Hawk? You can’t just half-ass your way through life. That divey bar is never gonna make any money, and even if it could, being a stupid cook there isn’t going to give you enough business sense to make it happen.” I had no idea where the words were even coming from, hadn’t ever consciously thought those things before, but now, they spilled out. “Besides, nothing gives you the right to fuck over my grade in a class I actually care about.”
“You? Care about this class? You told me you were only taking it to fill a GEC. I’m the one who actually works. At a business.”
My words ripped out in a scream. “Could you pay attention for one frickin’ second? I care about all my grades. I have to. Med school?” I pointed to myself, only realizing after I did it what a douche I must have looked like. Even though at this point I really didn’t give a shit. “And what the hell is that supposed to mean? I work, too, Hawk.”
He snorted. “Okay, sure. But I actually do care about this class. The whole thing — not just the grade. You’re lucky I even put your name on the project since — ”
“Could have fooled me,” I snarled back. “Maybe if you showed up on time for once I’d believe you.”
Hawk’s face fell, and his eyes grew dark. “Seriously? Some of us have to worry about shit other than classes. Don’t be such a princess.”
“Don’t you start with me. You were the one who signed up for a class this early. Set your damn alarm and come in on time.”
His gaze became hard again. “I was late. Big deal. It wasn’t my fault. Not this time anyway.”
I stared at him, waiting for him to say something more. There was no way I was accepting “it’s not my fault” as an excuse.
His stare was colder than the air eddying around is. “It’s none of your business, but it was family shit, okay? I’ll make sure nothing else disturbs your precious project that you don’t give a shit about except sort of do.” He walked over to his bike and swung one leg over.
“Our project! And your idea! You’d better damn well be planning to be awesome.”
“Please,” he said. “I may be running late, but I’m always awesome.”
I rolled my eyes, and he just stood there, smirking. I pulled out my phone and flicked my gaze to him. “Give me your phone number so this doesn’t happen again.”
He hesitated for a second and then motioned for my phone. After a few taps, he handed it back to me.
Even the way he gave me his phone number was assholish.
“God, I just…whatever. Fine.” I mumbled, taking it from him as I avoided his eyes by shoving it back in my bag. “Since I don’t know what your problem actually is and it’s none of my business, please try getting your shit together just a few minutes before the next time we decide to meet.” I spun on my heel and made it five steps before a huge, freezing raindrop splashed on my head, followed in the next two seconds by a dozen more. And then, before my brain could even process it, nearly-frozen rain was slicing through the air. My thin sweater would be soaked through in barely a minute.
And I didn’t even have an umbrella. Of course this day would get worse. Of course.
“Shit!” I dug in my bag for some paper to shield my head, even though I knew it would be useless.
Hawk revved the bike. “Get on!” he called, his voice breaking up through the noise of rain slamming the ground.
“No, I’m fine!” I shouted, waving him off. Shit. I was already soaked, and I had to be at the hospital to shadow Doctor O’Donnell in forty-five minutes. I’d have to get all the way home to change and take care of my dripping hair and melting makeup first.
In a split second, the bike had rolled up on the sidewalk beside me.
“You can’t just drive on the sidewalk, Hawk!”
“Who’s gonna stop me?”
I just stared, swiping at the rain that was covering my face, numbing it from making any expression.
“Obviously, you need to go home and change before you do anything else,” he continued. “Let me take you.”
He unstrapped the helmet from his head and put it on mine. Rain streaked down over the clear plastic face plate in wildly divergent rivulets. “Come on. You don’t want to be a late loser like me.” He rolled his eyes again. It was like blank-faced and eye-rolling were the only two expressions this guy had.
But he had a point. There was no way I could be late to Doctor O’Donnell’s office. Not after last time. I looked down at my shoes, which were well-soaked by now, and nodded. His white t-shirt was soaked with rain, too, and when he leaned forward to grasp the handlebars, I saw at least six distinct muscles in his back flexing and stretching.
More heat crept into my cheeks, and I focused on steadying my breathing.
“Come on,” he motioned, reaching back and catching my hand. At the moment his warm skin touched mine, I was mesmerized. He had to have been some kind of a magician because I swore that, as hard as I hated this guy, in that moment, I would have agreed to stay on that bike with him for the whole afternoon — our warm bodies touching and being drenched in freezing rain — without a second thought. When he gave my arm a tug — not hard, but gentle, patient — I snapped out of it. I swung one leg over the bike almost automatically. The same thrill of my front pressing up against his back rushed through me, except intensified by the rain, by the urgency, by the anger-fueled words we’d just hurled at each other. I was intensely aware of my crotch pressed against his butt, my breasts smooshed up against his muscled back.
I had to snap out of it or lust for this guy whose head I wanted to tear off would make me fall off the bike.
He flipped up the visor of his helmet and half-turned his head toward me. “Scoot forward.”
When he spoke, shivers rattled through my spine. Probably because it was cold. The rain was freezing, so I shivered. Totally normal.
Then, after one second of me not obeying, he grabbed my arm and pulled me forward, then placed my hand on his stomach.
“Hold on tight,” he said against my ear again. More shivers.
He pulled out onto North Broad Street, and as we cruised through University City, my fingers dug into his abs. I didn’t move them and tried not to feel up what was underneath the thin, short-sleeved shirt he wore, but dear Lord in heaven, it was impossible. My unintentional first-sight suspicions about Hawk were right. Not only was he solid muscle, but those muscles were so clearly defined I probably could have drawn them by touch.
The thoughts hit me before I could stop them — how badly I wanted to scoot the shirt up and run my hands over the ridges of abs just underneath. And when I thought that, pictured his face in my head and where his hands would be traveling on me at the same time, I heated up so much that the cold rain didn’t affect me a single bit.
We couldn’t have been on that bike for more than eight minutes, but it was the hottest eight minutes I’d had in years.
Yeah, that was really sad.
When he pulled up in front of the house and the bike stopped vibrating, I tried to move my legs — and couldn’t. They were too shaky for me to even comprehend stepping down and swinging the opposite leg over. Was it the anger or the rain, the fear I’d be late or simply the closeness to Hawk?
What was this guy doing to me? Clearly, I hated him and wanted to jump him at the same time. Which totally made sense.
Even though I didn’t want my hands to leave Hawk’s stomach, I also didn’t want to add any more complexity to this thing than there already was. So I sat up straight, slowly pulling my hands back. I steadied myself with one hand on the seat behind me and hooked the fingers of the other inside the bottom of the helmet, desperate to have something non-weird to do with them.
“You okay?” he asked, looking back, eyebrows raised.
“Yeah, I just…bike legs, maybe. I feel a little shaky.”
Hawk snorted. “Most people don’t have that problem.” He dismounted the bike, kicked out the kickstand, and helped me off.
“I’m not most people.”
Hawk gave a rough, short laugh. “No, you sure aren’t.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I demanded. I had a few minutes until I absolutely had to be inside, and the rain had slowed to a trickle. I was not letting this guy get the last word in this argument, which was strange. Josephine Daly, the one who wore cardigans and flats to class and never said a mean word to anyone, would have let this conversation die long ago.
His eyes softened with a slight smile as he reached up to remove the helmet. “Well, this makes absolutely no sense. I’m pretty sure you’re an entitled little prep, and I shouldn’t like you,” he said, his fingertips brushing under my jaw and then down my neck. “But I kind of do.”
Without warning, without any indication he was going to do it besides a hard look into my eyes, he stepped forward and kissed me. His warm lips were unexpectedly soft, covering mine cautiously, and making an oasis of burning heat in the middle of the freezing rain.
I gasped the slightest bit at my heart dropping into my stomach, at the world starting to spin around me. I should have stepped back, slapped him, and threw the helmet at his feet. That’s what Josephine would have done.
But Hawk wasn’t kissing Josephine — he was kissing Joey. So instead, I pressed in. Not only that, I grabbed both sides of his face, raking my fingertips through his hair. Water poured over both of us, but when my lips parted and our tongues tangled together for two, five, ten seconds, I didn’t give a shit.
Finally, I broke away to stare at him, gasping, dizzy, lost in the insane moment that just passed. My whole body shivered, wishing it could go back and relive the most amazing kiss I’d ever had a thousand times. Hawk’s breaths were heavy and water dripped from his hair, but he just stood there, never breaking eye contact.
The smile growing on his face must have matched mine.
We stood there for two heartbeats longer. Then he said, “See you later, Josephine.”
He pulled the helmet down over his head, was on the bike in a flash, and brought it roaring to life with the flick of his fingers at the ignition.
My hand flew to my cheek. “Oh my God — the project! When?”
“You’re the one who has my number. It’s your move. ” The smile remained, his eyebrows flicked up, and then he was gone.
So much for not making things complicated.