An all-new hilarious, second chance romance is coming this week from Katana Collins, and I have a sneak peek for you.
“That first night you spoke to me at our senior kickoff night before school started? It was the best night of my life. That Lainey, the one from senior year, managed to have fun and let loose and still maintain her real self, despite how you remember it.”
She snorted and shook her head, turning to unlock her car door. “You have no idea, Neil.”
“Okay, fine. If you weren’t your real self with me, how would I know that you could write an English paper in a night if you needed to, but you preferred to have at least a week to get it done?” I paused. “The real Lainey read Little Women every year during her Christmas break. The real Lainey cared about a lot of things—including school, but also including her friends and football games and prom.” Elaina’s hand was frozen on the door handle as though she were balancing her body upright. “The real Elaina didn’t get drunk on weeknights but would still come out and have fun with the rest of us. No one was pressuring you. They just enjoyed you being there. Maybe they were both real sides of you, Lainey. You had fun in those days, didn’t you? I remember you and Addy laughing and growing close. And you still maintained your grades and got into an Ivy League school with a scholarship. One doesn’t have to be exclusive of the other. You don’t have to be a hermit in order to be smart and successful. You can enjoy life while also being responsible and intelligent and successful.”
She shook her head, “You don’t get it.” She turned to me, and her eyes were like silver orbs in the moonlight. “You leaving, even though it hurt, was the best thing to happen in my life. It snapped me out of that stupid party girl phase. Yeah, some of it was fun. But most of it was something I felt I had to do to be popular. Once it started, it was like an avalanche. If I stopped partying, if I stopped sneaking out at night, would I lose all these friends I’d finally gotten? Everything I did, I worried that no one would like me if I went back to being smart, studious Elaina. No one thought I deserved to be the girl on Neil Evans’s arm. Hell, they still don’t think that. Look at those girls in there! They cannot even conceive of why you might have liked me once.”
“Who gives a fuck about them, Lainey? I don’t. I haven’t thought about any of those women in years. But you? I’ve thought of you every day for the past decade…even if it was just once a day. One fleeting thought or memory. Not a day passed that you weren’t in my thoughts at least once. Can you honestly tell me that you didn’t think of me during our time apart?”
She sniffled and swiped at her cheek with the back of her hand. In the darkness of night, I couldn’t see the tear that I knew had fallen. “I honestly didn’t. I couldn’t let myself think of you. It hurt too damn much, Neil.” Her jaw ticked. “But I knew…I learned that you leaving was the best thing to happen to me. If you had stayed in Maple Grove, I probably wouldn’t have gone to Harvard. I would have chosen you over my education.” She snorted and shook her head, looking into the navy sky. “I’m not blaming you for that. But don’t stand there and tell me I was better off as that girl. Or that Lainey Dyker was smart. Because no intelligent girl in her right mind would choose a boy over Harvard.”
I was stunned, speechless, as she yanked open her car door, slid into the driver’s seat, and slammed it shut. I stepped forward, wrapping my knuckles gently against the window. She rolled it down and sighed. “What Neil? I’m tired. I’m hungry. My face is itchy, and I think the stupid Benadryl is wearing off. I need to be up tomorrow for a city council meeting—”
I leaned through the window and kissed her. I closed my hands carefully around her jaw, pulling her deeper into the kiss and she parted those lush, full lips for me without a single objection. The steady rhythm of my heart crashed against my breastbone like a drummer keeping beat. Slick heat brushed my bottom lip…a stroke of Lainey’s tongue. There was a sharp twinge of pain at my scalp that melted into a shivery cascade of tingles as I felt her fingers thread through my hair and tug.
With a moan, we parted, but not before I sucked on her bottom lip, laving one last time against her swollen mouth.
I’m not sure what compelled me to do it. We were both broken from our past. Both of us made choices based on the other person. For that moment, I just wanted to feel like my old self. I wanted her to remember who she was.