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Underneath the goody two-shoes persona is damaged goods…but can the bad boy across the street save her?

Bailey Followhill is the perfect daughter. Sweet. Charitable. Pretty. Control freak. Not a hair out of place, not an inch out of line, she is everything her troublemaking sister Daria isn’t. But when her A game turns out to be a lukewarm C- at Juilliard, Bailey’s picture-ready life starts fraying faster than the worn satin ribbons of her pointe shoes. She’s becoming a piece of gossip. The Troubled Child. A drug abuser. No longer the girl her best friend once knew.

Lev Cole is so golden, he’s got the Midas Touch. Prized quarterback. Football captain. Hottest guy in SoCal. A textbook cliché. But with a girlfriend he doesn’t love and a career path he doesn’t value, Lev is coasting.
The only two things he cares about, Bailey and becoming a pilot, are out of reach.

But Lev is done being satisfied with the life others have chosen for him. He wants to pick his own cards. To demolish the seamless kingdom of lies his family stitched together on the ruins his mother left behind.

The question is, can he save his best friend and his dream before too much damage is done?


EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Damaged Goods

L.J. Shen

Expected Release Date: 23 January 2024

Book Series: 

We’re only a week away from L.J. Shen’s newest All Saints High novel—an angsty, childhood best friends to lovers romance—and I have a sneak peek for you.

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Excerpt

I follow the trail of warm vanilla and new book scent leading to her room. 

I knock on the ajar door, then remind myself she’s an addict and doesn’t need privacy right now. 

I barge right in. “Bailey?” 

Someone jumps me from behind. Long, muscular legs coil around my back, her arms are circling my shoulders. 

She giggles in my ear, her breath toasted cinnamon and vanilla. 

She’s fucking everywhere, gorgeous and alive and warm as a perfect August day, and for the first time in my life, I want to break her instead of mending her, because FUCK. THIS. SHIT. She broke my heart, then went and almost killed the girl I love. Who does that to a person?

“Levy!” She plasters her lips to my cheek, oblivious to my mood. Her blond hair rains down on my face, an avalanche of yellow and gold. “Holy shrimp. I haven’t seen you in a few months and you’re the size of a town house now.” 

She’s acting like Old Us. Our families labeled us #Bailev sometime before we turned six because we were inseparable. People shipped us. Everyone thought we’d become a couple. 

No dice. 

Slanting my gaze sideways, I ask dryly, “Sorry, do I know you?”

“Brainiac. Knows your darkest secrets. Obsessed with lists. Your best friend. Ring a bell?” She nibbles at my ear, and just like that, my entire bloodstream goes straight to my dick and I get light-headed. 

Still, I play the part of the jaded asshole. “My best friends are mommy issues and a god complex. Try again.” 

“Nope.” She rubs her smooth cheek along my stubbled one. My dick is seriously a second away from unzipping my ripped Amiri jeans and bursting out to say hi. “Those are your therapist’s best friends and the reason she owns a vacation house in Cancun.” 

I don’t have a therapist, though I probably should get one, considering the amount of rage I’m bottling up inside these days. 

“Get off my back, Bailey.” 

“Or else?” She grins, and who the fuck is this girl? 

Feeling like I’m goofing around with one of my fangirls and not my best friend, I reach to tickle her armpits and she falls on her back on the sheepskin carpet, giggling and kicking her legs in the air. 

She’s wearing a pair of white boy shorts and a pink Nirvana hoodie. A Walmart bargain, I bet. 

Her laughter in my ear and her body writhing beneath mine makes me feel like I’ve woken up from a long, lethargic sleep. 

How can people find Bailey and Thalia remotely similar? Thalia is a daisy and Bailey is a rose. 

Thalia is an open book, what-you-see-is-what-you-get kinda girl. I figured her out long before I laid a finger on her. Bailey is a tightly wrapped gift. Her velvet petals are clasped together firmly, each hiding another layer of her. 

Dropping to my knees, I continue tickling her sides, the sensitive spots of her neck, not even cracking the faintest smile. She thrashes and pretends to struggle but really just pulls me deeper in, seeking more contact. 

We pretend-fight. Let loose some of that tension that’s built up the past year. 

Bailey presses her socked feet to my face, laughing breathlessly. 

I’d love to continue this game, but my boner is about to rip through my boxers and run toward her bathroom for a cold shower. Plus, there are some burning topics on my agenda. I stop abruptly. Our eyes lock. Green on blue. I’m on top of her, my weight pinning her down. 

She looks a little thinner than last time I saw her, but she’s still the most beautiful girl on planet earth. I lower my face until we’re an inch from one another. Her hot breath prickles the whiskers on my cheeks. 

“Argh.” She tries to kick me off, but I’m stronger, bigger, and have a zero-bullshit policy. “You have the eyelashes of a giraffe,” she moans. “Boys with long, curly eyelashes should be outlawed.” 

“Heard they’re trying to legislate this in Congress. Visit me in jail?” I lick my lips. 

She shakes her head slowly. “Nah. Play your cards right, though, and I’ll top up your iPay.” 

I can’t help but laugh, pressing my forehead against hers. “You’re a pain in the ass, you know that?” 

She nods but doesn’t say anything. 

She’s sobered up now, and I can tell she wants to ask why I didn’t come to see her in the hospital. But she won’t. Because she knows. It’s written all over my face—I didn’t come because I hate her guts for overdosing and she’s not off the goddamn hook. 

“I’m sorry,” she rasps. 

“I really, really am.” I swipe a lock of blond hair from her forehead. “You okay, Dove?” 

“Yeah,” her voice is husky. Hoarse. “Thank you for…you know.” 

Our mouths are an inch apart.

She licks her lips, her gaze lowering to my mouth. A small, longing sigh escapes her. 

There’s a moment where I wonder if she wants me to kiss her. There were a lot of moments in our past where I thought she wanted me to kiss her. And just like in all the others, her wispy ballerina body slips beneath mine, and she’s up on her feet in a flash, avoiding me. 

She marches into her walk-in closet and examines the rows upon rows of summer dresses, arranged by color to create a wall-to-wall rainbow. “What took you so long?” 

Hopping to my feet, I grumble, “You rolled into town without a text.” 

Bailey makes a surprised face. She might be a great dancer, but she has the acting chops of an eye booger. “Really? I thought I texted you back.”

“No, you didn’t. I can deal with you fucking up, but I won’t put up with lying.” 

She gathers her hair into a long ponytail and drops her gaze to her feet. 

“Sorry. The last few days have been overwhelming. I was building up the courage to call you. Trying to figure out what I wanted to say.” 

Ambling toward her, I ask, “And have you?” 

She bites down on her lower lip, shaking her head. 

“Fine. I’ll do the talking, then. Do you have a drug problem?”

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All Saints High - Recommended Reading Order

(standalone stories with interconnected characters)

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