One kiss ignites chemistry and passion they can't ignore, but is this only a summer fling?
Neighbors. Best friends. It was only a crush Beth harbored for Jacob until she was eighteen. Until London.
Neighbors. Best friends. That was all Jacob thought of her until London. Until she kissed him and stole his heart.
It's funny what Geometry class and a shared backyard wall can bring about. With a two-year age difference, Beth and Jacob were firmly in the Friend Zone during high school, but a pre-college trip to London will change their lives forever.
Kissed is the first of five books in the My Once and Future Love Revisited series exploring Beth and Jacob's relationship with all its joys, flaws, and heartache.
New Adult Contemporary Romance saga. This story is intended for readers over the age of 18 due to adult language, sexual content, and adult situations.
Mum's latest idea of punishment was public school. The private academy asked him not to come back when the tenth grade term ended and she wasn't going to pay for him to "act like a hooligan" at another school.
Didn't make him miss England less. Why she moved them back to California and away from all his friends and the familiar, he still didn't know. They left Los Angeles when he was ten and after four years in London, he finally felt at home, then yank—right back across the Atlantic and a whole 'nother country again. Felt like a bleedin' yoyo. So he acted up a bit at school—what did she expect?
London gave him his identity. At twelve, he discovered punk and metal and devoured every disc he could get his hands on, much to the Head Boy's chagrin. What better appealed to a teenager than loud music and authority-shunning lyrics? These California prep school brats didn't understand. They thought punk was Green Day. Needed a bath just from thinkin' of it.
So, anyway, here he was at a new school again with no friends or allies and prob'ly stickin' out like a sore thumb.
Jacob snuck in the house, trying to get to his room without being noticed.
"Jacob…how was your first day?"
He sighed and walked into his mother's bedroom. "Every teacher but one had me introduce myself."
She looked up from her needlepoint. "Did you make any friends? You're welcome to have guests provided your homework is done first."
"I had friends. You keep pulling me away from them."
"Don't be melodramatic, Jacob. Your choices put you in your current situation."
He stood his ground. "It wasn't my choice to leave England."
She sighed. "I know, dear. Some day you will understand. Do you have homework tonight?"
"Then I won't take up more of your time."
"Yes, Mum." He turned on his heel and went to his room, shutting the door and cranking up the stereo.
Beth's mother gave her a journal today. "Now that you're going to high school, there are going to be things you don't want to tell me or Daddy, or you're going to want to think them out first."
She wasn't going to use it. Really, she wasn't…but there was Jake Lindsey and…
Most kids in Geometry were sophomores, with a sprinkling of juniors. Dreading the walk into a class of older kids, she got there early and chose a desk in the back on the door side of the room, hoping she could be invisible in the corner. She was a freshman, and not just a freshman, but five feet tall, undeveloped, and stuck in glasses.
With her first day over, she could say Geometry wasn't her worst class of the day, and part of the reason was the boy with the last name called after hers—Lindsey comma Jake. The teacher had Jake introduce himself since he was new to their SoCal district, and that voice had been stuck in Beth's head all day.
Jake Lindsey had an English accent.
Jake Lindsey wore a sleeveless shirt displaying arm definition she'd never seen on a teenage boy before.
Jake Lindsey was a junior, sixteen or seventeen, and way out of her league.
Still…that buttery voice made Beth and every other girl in the room take notice.
She'd been dwelling on this memory to avoid thinking about English class and the boy assigned to the seat next to her—didn't even know her and he already called her names.
Two weeks later, Beth put her pencil down and sighed. Concentrating on homework was impossible with that racket outside. The noise of wailing guitars and raucous drums came from the house behind theirs. Rolling her eyes, she ground her teeth, and stomped off around the corner to give some idiot a piece of her mind. Just because it was September, it didn't mean she could slack on school work.
She pounded on the neighbor's front door, hoping to be heard. After the second time banging her fist on it—ow—the door finally opened. The hottest boy she'd ever seen stood in the doorway, looking at her like she was the biggest inconvenience he'd ever experienced. His brown hair was spiked straight up and was that eyeliner around his baby blues?
"Can you turn the music down?"
"What for?" he yelled back.
"I'm trying to do my math homework!"
Pretty Boy in the Billy Idol t-shirt had the look of a light bulb moment. "Hey! You're in my class, aren't you?" He walked away for a moment and the volume of the music decreased by half.
Class, class…oh God…she knew that voice…and they were having a conversation? She wished she hadn't come over in overalls cut off at the knees and winced as her eyes fell onto her outfit. It was geeky-farmer chic. "Um, maybe? Are you in Geometry?" He could have transferred from her class. She wasn't known for her powers of observation and was there to learn.
"Yeah, it's bloody boring and I think the teacher's a boozer. You know your stuff, always raisin' your hand. Those proofs don' make a bit o' sense to me."
"I-I could help…i-if you want. Just takes memorizing the theorems."
He grinned at her and leaned against the door frame. Oh my god, Jacob Lindsey smiled at me! Her cheeks turned crimson.
"Cool. What do they call you?"
"Well, Beth, your place or mine?"
Oh, God, don't faint, don't faint… "M-my book is still…" She gestured around the corner.
He shrugged, grabbed some books off the coffee table, and came outside. "Lead the way."
Beth turned for home, palms sweating. Oh God, oh God… What would Mom think when she walked in the house with a boy? With an accent? She let him in and told him to wait in the living room while she retrieved her text.
Neighbor Boy—downgraded for touching things without asking—was rummaging in the fridge when she came back. "What are you doing?"
"I'm thirsty." He grabbed one of her Snapple Iced Teas.
"You could ask first. Sit."
He winked at her and sprawled in a chair, his tight jeans looking…well, it wasn't appropriate to think of it.
She sighed and opened the book to today's assignment. "What are you having trouble with?"
"How about I copy yours and get out of here?"
"Look…whatever-your-name-is, I don't cheat. I tutor. If you want to learn, great, but that's all you're getting from me."
He clapped her on the shoulder and laughed. "I like you, kid. Fair enough. If you can make this nonsense make sense, I'll owe ya one."
She smiled. "Deal…"
"Jake. Mum calls me Jacob, but it's so stuffy."
"Open that book, Jacob."
Beth helped him all the way to dinner time.
Mom came out of her darkroom to the kitchen and stopped with the weirdest look on her face when she saw them. Then, she smiled. "Elizabeth, who's your friend?"
"S-someone from Geometry class, Mom. Jacob needed help."
"It's nice to meet you, Jacob. You're welcome to stay for dinner if it's alright with your parents."
Mom! What was she doing? "I-I'm sure Jacob has to go, Mom."
He stuffed notebook paper in his book and stood from the table. "I do. Got a date now my work's done." He mussed Beth's hair. "Thanks, squirt."
"No problem," she said through clenched teeth. Jerk.
He walked out of the house and she fled to her bedroom. Squirt. Squirt! Might as well call me a ten-year-old. Why couldn't I be cool?
Wasn't so bad bein' tutored by the kid. Got his mother off his back, too. The mums had met and seemed to approve of each other, so he was free to go to Bethie's or have her in his living room. No closed doors, of course, blah, blah…like he'd be interested in a freshman. Sure, she had a certain cuteness, but a kid was a kid.
Two years in California and he still wasn't used to the lack of seasons. He missed the chill in the air and leaves changin' color. Wasn't lonely, though…always been a popular chap and this school was no exception. Girls flirted and the guys wanted to be his friend. Soon as Mum stopped watchin' his every move, he could have fun, too.
That day finally came for Halloween week and his first party with the new crowd. He was over at Bethie's to rush through homework so he could leave.
"It's the same time it was thirty seconds ago," she said after he glanced at the clock. "Jacob, focus."
"We've been through the concept three times. I've got it." He stole a Tootsie Roll from her pile.
"Hey!" She slapped his hand. "Mine."
"You have more than me."
"You've eaten more. I counted out an equal amount, Jacob. I'm always fair."
"Let me leave and I'll stop eatin' all your candy." He gave her the grin that usually worked on every female.
"Fine…if you come back tomorrow and prove you retained what I said."
He smiled and gathered his books. "Deal. You're the best, Bethie."
Jacob hurried around the corner to drop his books, change, and grab his guitar. He wished he could drive to the house, but Mum wouldn't let him take the test, yet. Luckily she was out at some thing tonight and couldn't check his work. He checked the mirror, a truly handsome bloke smiling back.
"Hell, yeah. This is gonna rock." The bad-ass look and guitar were guaranteed chick magnets and he'd have to totally put his foot in it to not get a good snog tonight. Maybe reach second base.
Nearing Thanksgiving break, Beth finally had a handle on high school. Jacob showed up at her house whenever they had a test the next day. Honestly, he was smart enough to do the work. He just got bored, and then he got antsy. If she could keep him focused, he usually had the lesson mastered in under an hour.
Despite liking her teacher, she dreaded going to English even more now than the second day of school. Chad Cromlin had been the bane of her existence for two months.
Mom taught her to ignore bullies and they'd stop. Not this jerk. Today's stunt? Poking her with an extending pen wand. She was trying to do the in-class reading and he kept tapping her ribs with the stupid thing—always when the teacher's back was turned, of course. She didn't want to be a tattle-tale, what with her already minimal popularity, but how long would this go on? He had to get bored soon, right?
She stopped at her locker before her last class (Biology) to drop off the books she didn't need tonight.
"Hey, Bethie, see you at Thanksgiving."
She turned to Jacob. "Huh?" He never talked to her at school.
"Your mum invited my mum and me to the feast. Found out this morning."
"Oh. Uh, see you Thursday, then." A holiday with strangers at their table? Well, not strangers, but definitely not family. Mom had never invited outside people before.
The warning bell rang. "Later!" he said.
She watched him jog off, then walked the twenty feet to class.
On Thanksgiving, they weren't the usual Beth and Jake.
Mom put her in a dress, and Jacob arrived in a white collared shirt and tie. He'd even left his ear stud at home. Beth's brother made an excuse not to come again, so it was her parents, Mrs. Lindsey, and them. Daddy ate too much then fell asleep in front of the football game on TV. Their moms, though…you'd think they were BFFs.
"Weird, isn't it?" Jacob said.
"Huh? Oh…yeah, definitely. You know they'll start trading stories about us soon."
He shivered. They watched them wash and dry the dishes in the kitchen. Mom handed Mrs. Lindsey another dish to dry, their heads close together while they gabbed. Then they laughed about something.
"Scary. Gonna eat the last piece of pie?"
Beth pushed the tin to him. "Nah, take it."
Christmas break meant two whole weeks without homework or freshman jerks. She felt like dancing, except she tended to trip over her feet just by walking.
She watched through her window as Jacob hopped over the back fence into her yard. Always gave her a thrill when he did that, dropping to the ground with the grace of a cat. He smiled, seeing she was in her room, and she waved, then opened the window. "Hey."
"Hey. Wanted to wish you Happy Christmas. I'm off to England." He looked happy to go.
"Yep." He pulled a candy cane out of his back pocket and presented it. "Thanks for tutorin' me. Know I'm not the easiest student."
She took the candy and smiled. Her first gift! "You're welcome. Not like I have a busy schedule or anything. Well, it's cold out, so…"
"Right. Can't stay, but I wanted to—"
He nodded and left the way he came, back over the fence. Boy had the cutest butt ever in a pair of jeans.
The two weeks without a friend revealed her crush on Jacob to her. She'd gotten so used to seeing his face every day, it hurt to be without him. Her calendar got an "x" through every day of vacation. She heard Dad ask Mom why she was moping. Had she been? She was lonely, but… Really, did they expect her to go out or something? She was fourteen in Los Angeles, duh.
When the break was over, she looked for Jacob the second she got on campus, knowing his schedule by heart, and finally caught him at his locker between second and third periods. Almost hugged him right in front of everybody.
The urge to roll her eyes came upon her again. It was only a two-year age difference. "Have a good Christmas?"
He shrugged. "It was alright. Got a new amp for my guitar. Sounds wicked."
"Cool." Oh God…her nemesis was coming down the hallway. "Hide me!" She ducked in between Jacob and the lockers.
He blinked down at her. "What?"
"Chad Cromlin three o' clock. Please."
He shielded her from view to her right. She faced his open locker and tried to be invisible.
"Bethie, what was that?" He placed his hand on her shoulder.
She turned around. "Is he gone?"
"The hall's nearly bloody empty. We're going to be late."
"Thanks." She ran to World History.
Chad was talking to his cohorts-in-crime when she got to English later, so she managed to sneak into her chair without the usual torment before the bell.
Jacob started out using Beth's willingness to impart knowledge, but months later it was a friendship he valued. He could tell her things and she wouldn't gab…not that she had many mates he knew of, but still. She didn't have much to gain by ratting out his less popular aspects.
When he wrote new lyrics, he let Bethie critique them.
When he wanted to watch Monty Python or Doctor Who, she'd keep him company.
If he wanted to rant about a teacher or his mother, she would listen, then always have good advice. He'd never say it out loud, but the wisdom a fourteen-year-old could have amazed him. She was way more mature than he was when it came to the brainy stuff.
She was sweet, innocent, not afraid to bust his balls, and the only part of this new school he wouldn't trade. His best friend, and he'd protect what they had with his dying breath.
For two weeks, all Chad did was greet Beth with a stupid name and she thought she'd finally won. Too boring to tease all year. What really happened was the jerk lulled her into a false sense of security.
Semester finals week in late January, she walked into English and found a folded piece of paper on her desk. It was an obscene drawing with her name on it. Chad laughed when she looked at it. She crumpled it into a ball, stuck it in her jacket pocket, and opened her lit book. Always kept layers on in that class even if she was warm. It was finally time to talk to her teacher now she had evidence. Then, he started poking her with the pen wand again under her right arm in the side of her nearly-non-existent boob. Ms. Blake was lecturing, so she turned her back on him and tried not to cry.
"Heh, knew you were frigid," Chad said under his breath.
Frigid? She'd have to look that up later, but it was obvious he meant it as a major insult.
The second the bell rang, she ran out, debating whether to call Mom to get her or try to be a big girl about it. Not looking where she was going, she ran into a male chest.
"Bethie?" Jacob's hands steadied her. "What's wrong?" He guided her into the library. "Did you get a B instead of an A?"
Oh, thank God it was him. She shook her head, lower lip trembling—couldn't cry at school, at least not out in the open. He kept walking and they were soon behind the stacks. She liked the back of the library—it was quiet and left alone.
"Hey, what's up, Beth?" he asked again.
Beth. Not Bethie. The serious use of her name did it and a tear leaked from each eye down her cheeks.
"Aw, Bethie, it can't be that bad…" He tugged her into an awkward hug, patting her back.
"I thought he was done teasing me…" she blubbered into his shirt. God, I was such a baby.
"Boy. English class." She pulled the drawing out of her pocket, handed it to him, and turned away to dry her face.
"Name," he said. He sounded scary. Glancing at him, he looked scary. That expression would be a bad thing to meet in a dark alley. The look in his eyes was hard and his jaw was clenched tight.
"His name, Beth."
She sighed. "Chad Cromlin. Blond hair, long in the back. Sits next to me in English. He's been picking on me since the first day of school."
"He drew this?" He balled the drawing in his fist, his knuckles turning white.
She nodded. "And pokes me with a stick and calls me names. What does 'frigid' mean, besides cold?" His eyes widened for a second to the size of silver dollars. Wow, it must be bad. "On second thought, don't tell me."
He squirmed, shifting his weight from foot-to-foot. "It means, uh, that a girl can't, um…"
"She doesn't respond to sex."
"Oh. Oh. First, eww, and second, he doesn't know that! I don't even know that, but I'm pretty sure I—"
"Bethie, please stop there."
Her cheeks turned red. "Sorry." He still looked pissed. "Please don't get in trouble for me, okay? I was going to show that to Ms. Blake once I got a grip, so please don't do something stupid."
"Beth, this sketch is sexual harassment." He used the English pronunciation of "harassment", with the emphasis on the first syllable. The different way to say things always made her pause and take note.
"Which is why I'm talking to my teacher! I finally have proof."
"'Finally'? What else did he do?"
Okay, never want that angry face directed at me. "Jacob, just leave it alone." Their voices were starting to carry.
"He drew himself raping you!" he whispered.
"You don't know that. That's not necessarily what it is."
"Pffft, please." He started to charge out of the library.
She grabbed his arm. "Promise me you won't get in trouble?"
He met her eyes. "I won't get in trouble."
Beth took the drawing back and went to lunch, what was left of it. When she told Ms. Blake what was going on, she promised Chad wouldn't be sitting near any girls again. He didn't show up for the final day of finals and it soon traveled the grapevine he'd been suspended.
They had Friday off between semesters. Beth went over to Jacob's and listened to him play a song he wrote while it rained all day. It was the first time he played for her and she was mesmerized by the movement of his hands, her fingers itching for her camera. His singing voice was even prettier than his speaking one.
On Monday, she didn't know what to expect when she walked into English. True to her teacher's word, her tormentor was now on the opposite side of the room. For the first time, he didn't stare at her, daring her to hide her eyes. He avoided eye contact with most of the room, actually. Weird.
The bell rang to end the period and freshmen poured out into the hall.
"Did you hear what happened over the weekend?" one boy said.
"There's a rumor Cromlin got jumped."
"No way!" That came from a girl from History class.
"Who did it? Who did it?"
"About time," another girl muttered.
What were they all talking about? Beth didn't see any bruises on the jerk in class, but three-day weekends gave kids time to make stuff up.
Jacob met her at her locker when she grabbed her Geometry book and walked her to their class. He was smiling and had an extra spring in his step. "Jacob…what did you do over the weekend?"
"Hung out with you, silly."
"That was only on Friday. What about the other two days?"
He didn't look at her when he said, "Not much. It rained, remember?"
"Yeah…" She didn't press further. The skin on his knuckles was roughed up. It made her feel safe he protected her honor, and ratcheted her crush up another notch.
Their teacher decided to alphabetize them this semester, so Jacob ended up behind her.
"Perfect. Now I can see over your shoulder," he teased.
"I'll tell your mom if I catch you cheating, Jacob Lindsey."
He placed a hand over his heart. "You wound me, kid."
She rolled her eyes and faced forward. "Yeah, yeah…" It was nice having him close by, though.
Second semester was definitely better than the first. Monday through Thursday afternoons, it was good odds Jacob was over at her house to study, though they went to his sometimes, too. Mom and Mrs. Lindsey were frequently out gardening on weekends and chatted over the back fence until one or the other offered a glass of lemonade or iced tea. Beth kept expecting Dad to wonder what this boy was doing at the house so much, but Jacob was usually gone before he got home for dinner and she guessed Mom hadn't said anything he felt the need to worry about.
Spring Break came along, but not with fun time for her—Jacob and his mom were out of town. Dad didn't have the time off, so Mom dragged her around to her daytime activities when she couldn't escape to the park to practice with her camera. She got her first SLR for her thirteenth birthday, but she'd been shooting since she could hold a camera without dropping it and she had plans to make a career of photography.
With May racing by and the weather heating up, her fifteenth birthday was approaching. Birthdays were a family thing, since she hadn't had enough friends for a party since she was seven, and brought mixed emotions of loneliness and anticipation.
"Don't forget we're going out to dinner tonight," Mom said, setting two sodas on the table.
"Special occasion?" Jacob asked.
"Her birthday," she said with a smile.
"Your birthday's today, Bethie? Mine's in a week. Small world."
"No wonder you get along," Mom said. "The symbol for Gemini is The Twins. Two sides of the same coin."
"Mom…" She knew Beth didn't believe in any of that stuff.
"Fine, I'll let you study." She walked down the hall and they heard a door close.
He bumped Beth's shoulder with his. "Should've said somethin'. I'd at least get Mum to bake."
"It's no big deal." She wrote out an equation from today's assignment. "Just another day."
"Next year, have a party. My sixteenth was awesome."
"Honestly, who'd come?"
His knee nudged hers under the table. "I would."
Two weeks later, finals arrived. The end of the school year filled her with dread.
What if Jacob went away all summer? What if he didn't need her help next year with Algebra? What if he met a girl? Duh, she knew he dated. Anybody with ears at their school knew if Jacob Lindsey had plans Friday night. The junior girls he asked out couldn't keep their mouths shut about it. Summer, though…summer meant pools and beaches and parties she wasn't invited to. Every date was the potential end to their friendship. He was two years older than her, so what else could she expect?
But the last of June was okay and she started to relax. He passed his driver's license test and they celebrated with hamburgers and ice cream. She ordered a chocolate fudge sundae.
When the waitress brought him the check, she said, "You know, I think it's so sweet you took your little sister for lunch."
Beth's face flamed as the server walked away and she excused herself to the ladies' room. Staring at her reflection, she couldn't blame the woman for the assumption. She wore no make-up, her hair was in pigtail braids, she still had frames from eighth grade, and she'd yet to graduate from the double-A training bra Mom bought her a year ago. Might as well have been twelve.
She sulked during the ride home and mumbled an excuse about eating too much and not feeling well. He shrugged and said he'd see her tomorrow. Completely oblivious to my pain.
"Home so soon, honey?" Mom asked.
"My stomach's kinda yucky. I'm going to lie down."
"Okay." She came into Beth's room a few minutes later. "Do you need a Midol, Beth?"
"What? No! Eww, Mom."
"Sorry, sorry…just wanted to check."
God, could this day get more embarrassing?