An all-new enemies-to-lovers, high school romance is out now from author Ilsa Madden-Mills, and I have a little sneak peek for you.
There she is. Damn.
It’s been months since she graced the hallowed halls of Camden with her long, lean legs and big aquamarine eyes.
A suffocating feeling grows in my chest.
My thoughts jumble back to the past. I still remember the day she showed up freshman year, that look of hope on her face, full of optimism that Camden was going to be a new beginning for her. She made me look at her, and I hated it. Even now, I itch to peel the sensation right off my skin.
No feelings allowed in this body.
NOT A SINGLE ONE.
“She’s back,” Dane says, straightening up from the wall, an enigmatic expression on his face, but underneath he’s wary. “Gotta give it to her—she’s got balls.”
“Mmmm,” I say, studying her while she isn’t looking. Gone is the long blonde hair, replaced with jet black. Her mouth is frozen in a smirk with bright red, glittery lipstick on her full lips, accentuating the sensual curves there, the paleness of her skin. Small freckles dot over her nose, same as before, but it’s the tense set of her jaw that tells you she’s not the same. Her skirt is a hair too short by the school guidelines, the hem hitting about three inches above her knee instead of the required two.
Her red blazer with the Camden dragon crest is draped over her arm, her white blouse snug around the fullness of her breasts. On her feet are ragged black Converse. My gaze lingers, taking in the tall white socks on her calves.
“Why are you staring at her like that?” Chance hisses at me, standing on my other side.
Who is she deep down? To walk into this place, eyes lit with a vicious edge.
My hands curl.
“Like you’re fascinated or some shit.” His voice is hushed.
I narrow my eyes at her, not even listening to him, feeling annoyed by the vulnerable hunch in her shoulders that grows, the one she keeps attempting to straighten as she walks closer to us.
I shrug, keeping the movement cool and light. “She’s definitely a spark that just might ignite and catch fire.”
“And burn us all down in the process,” Dane mutters. “I agree with Chance—stop.”
“Can’t do it,” I answer under my breath. I lick my lips, battling internally to drop my gaze from her, feeling baffled by it.
She came back, she came back, she really did it.
She seems rooted to her place in the hall, sweeping her eyes over us. Students jostle past her, giving her a wide berth.
Come on, little Ava.
Come closer to me.
I want to see what you’ll do, pretty girl.
My fingers twitch.
Chance grunts and looks at me, keeping his voice low so she can’t hear us. “Did you know she was coming back? You always know shit.”
I laugh. Oh, if he only knew the information I have—all of it about defiant, charity case Ava. I have so many details about her life it makes my head spin, makes my cock hard—
Stay far, far away.
My gaze lingers on her heart-shaped face, watching as she stumbles, her feet stopping about four feet from us, staring at Chance. Hate flows from her, almost palpable. Hot. Electric.
He pales and his throat bobs, some of that anger leeching out of him and turning into…hmmm, fear? Nothing ruffles him these past months like someone bringing up Ava, and seeing her for the first time since that night—well, he looks as if he’s seen a ghost.
He drops his eyes.
“You over her for real?” I stare at him hard.
Last year, he was totally lost in Ava. I saw it when he gave her puppy dog looks in class, and shit, even I heard angels singing when she gazed back at him. I saw it when he’d throw down his helmet after a game and dash over to pick her up and twirl her around. He talked about her constantly, how he thought she might be the one. He didn’t brag about his sexual conquests with her. No, he kept that under wraps.
Will she stay at Camden when it gets tough?
Because it will. Life is going to be fucking hell for her—
Chance snaps his fingers in my face, and I realize I’d forgotten about him. His eyes have followed mine to the girls several feet away. “You’re a dick. Stay away from Ava,” he says.
“Both of you shut up. We’re all dicks. We’re Sharks,” Dane says just as the bell rings.
We straighten, pick up our backpacks, and head down the hall, cutting through the less fortunate, making our way to class.
I can’t stop my eyes from lingering on Ava’s back as she struggles with the combination on her lock. Her head is tilted down, the strange dark hair draped on either side, exposing the graceful arch of her neck taut with tension. The skin there is creamy and perfect.
She walked in here like she owns the place, but she doesn’t.
The very air around her seems lit with an aura of…expectancy.
Emotion, something unnamed, rare and beautiful, brushes down my spine.
Rein it in.