Falling for the Wrong Guy

BOOK: Falling for the Wrong Guy
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She had no right to want him. And no way to resist…

Ruby Davis has a crush on her brother’s best friend. At least, he was his bestie until the big betrayal. Now Drew is off limits to everyone, especially Ruby. She can’t stand the way people treat him, or the way he feels about himself. It isn’t right. And those deep green eyes are calling to her.

Drew is scarred and damaged, and he has no business even looking at Ruby. But he can’t help himself. She’s beautiful, but he does his best to stay away. When they are assigned a school project, they become reluctant friends – even though they want so much more.

She’s torn between her feelings for Drew and loyalty to her brother. There’s no way they can ever be together…but love just might find a way.

Table of Contents

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2015 by Sara Hantz. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Entangled Publishing, LLC

2614 South Timberline Road

Suite 109

Fort Collins, CO 80525

Visit our website at
www.entangledpublishing.com
.

Crush is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.

Edited by Tracy Montoya

Cover design by Heather Howland

Cover art from iStock and Shutterstock

ISBN 978-1-63375-393-8

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Edition October 2015

Chapter One

R
uby Davis raced into class just a few seconds ahead of the first bell, feeling her loose ponytail swinging from side to side in time with her steps. She skidded to a stop and scanned the familiar room, the tables in their regimented layout, the paint peeling slightly on the walls. Her breakneck rush had been for nothing—most of the desks had been taken, apart from a couple less than two feet away from the teacher’s desk. Great.

She’d planned on arriving early for the first day of the new school year. But she’d slept right through both of the alarms she’d set. Tomorrow, she would definitely set three.

“Ruby, over here.” She saw her best friend Tiffany waving frantically with one hand and pointing to the seat next to her with the other. Oh, thank God.

A sigh of relief escaped Ruby’s lips, and she returned a grateful wave. She headed to where Tiffany sat, dropping her bag on the desk as she reached her.

“Thanks. I was beginning to panic that the only seat left would be in the front.” She sat down next to her friend and smoothed down her new midnight-blue American Eagle sweater, which she’d bought for the start of school with the money from her job. She took out her books and then leaned back in the chair, folding her arms across her chest and relaxing for the first time since she’d woken up more than half an hour late.

Ruby noticed everything Tiffany was wearing was new. Her dark skinny jeans were gorgeous, and Ruby would’ve loved a pair. Ditto on her filmy new tank, which practically screamed “Nordstrom designer rack.” Tiffany’s mom was always buying her clothes. Luckily for Ruby, she and Tiffany were the same size, and her best friend would always share anything she had. She’d saved Ruby from her low-income closet malfunctions on many occasions.

“So, a bunch of us are going out after dinner tonight. You up for it?” Tiffany said, looking over the top of Ruby’s head—likely keeping watch for their teacher.

“I don’t think so. I’ll have homework to do.” She braced herself for Tiff’s reaction.

“What?” Tiffany’s dainty features scrunched up into a frown, and she tilted her chin downward, causing her blond bangs to fall in front of her eyes.

“I’ll have homework to do,” Ruby repeated. “Sorry.” The corners of her mouth twitched, despite her trying hard to keep a straight face. Tiffany just looked so dejected, it was almost comical.

“I know what you said. I just didn’t think you meant it,” Tiffany said, sounding unhappy.

For Tiffany, studying had always come second to going out and having a good time. And until recently, Ruby had felt like that, too. But now things really had to change. “We’re juniors. I’ve got to look to the future. Which means studying for a scholarship so I can afford a good school.” Ruby elbowed Tiffany and smiled to soften her words. “Not all of us have our lives figured out. You love interior design and can apprentice at your mom’s design studio right after school. I, on the other hand, am going to be stuck slinging scrambled eggs and coffee forever if I don’t earn a scholarship.”

This past summer, apart from when she’d been working, she had spent most of her time helping her mom take care of her disabled dad. Which pretty much sucked. Her dad wasn’t exactly a ray of sunshine, and although she loved him, she could only take his negativity in small doses without going crazy. Their miserable summer had made her more determined than ever to avoid being stuck in a dead-end job—or worse, on welfare like her parents.

Not that she blamed them for their circumstances. Her dad’s face and body had been badly burned in a horrific gas explosion at work when Ruby was young, and he hadn’t been well enough to hold a job since. In constant pain, he was so self-conscious about the scars which trailed down his body and had made one side of his face virtually unrecognisable that he hardly ever managed to leave the house. Ruby’s mom had given up her own career after his accident, and she’d devoted all of her time to him. Her mom worried that if he was left alone for too long, he might do something stupid. By “something stupid,” her mom meant… Actually, Ruby didn’t want to go there. All that needed saying was that they kept an eye on him most of the time. It was a twenty-four-seven task.

But doing well meant a lot more to Ruby than simply escaping the hard times. She wanted, more than anything, to earn enough money to pay for someone to come in and help, so her mom could then have more of a life. Ruby had hoped that her older brother, Blake, would contribute in the future, too, but it wasn’t something she could discuss with him at the moment, as he was far too absorbed in his own life. With good reason.

“What about me?” Tiffany asked, interrupting Ruby’s thoughts. Her bottom lip jutted out in an exaggerated pout. Which usually worked when she used it on the boys in their class, but Ruby was immune to it by now.

“You’re more than welcome to join me. We can have a study-in every weekend.” Ruby tried not to laugh at the look of horror on Tiffany’s face, but she couldn’t stop herself. Soon, her whole body had started to convulse, and she slammed her hand over her mouth to stop the sound of her trademark embarrassing snorts from travelling around the class.

“Stop it,” Tiffany said, giving Ruby a pretend slap around the head. “I thought you were serious.”

The snorts gradually subsided, and Ruby risked removing her hand from her mouth. “I am. Well, not about the study-in, but I am about studying hard.”

Tiffany’s pout turned into a look of genuine disappointment. “Who am I going to go out with? Ben’s having a party on Saturday, and I thought we’d be going together.” She rested her arm on her forehead and sighed in true melodramatic fashion. Ruby rolled her eyes in amusement.

Tiffany had been crushing on Ben, a senior, since she first caught sight of him, the day he moved to their school. The trouble was, he didn’t seem to know that she existed. Ruby could certainly empathize with her on that one. She’d been there, done that, and had the photos of her dateless self at school dances to prove it. Although considering that she’d now resolved to study, the lack of a love life was probably a good thing. And something she intended to stick to, whatever temptation came her way. If she was lucky enough to have any temptation, of course.

“I’m not going to be a total nerd. I’ll be okay to go out on the weekend with you. Apart from when I’m working at Echoes.” Ruby hoped this would satisfy Tiffany. They’d been friends for a long time and had never once fallen out. Well, not counting the time when in sixth grade they both liked the same boy. But seeing as he’d liked someone else entirely, they’d forgotten him and had gone back to being best friends in no time.

“You’re so lucky to be working there,” Tiffany said.

Ruby nodded in agreement. She couldn’t believe when she’d landed the waitstaff job only last week. She planned to take as many shifts as possible and save the money she earned for when she went to college.

“I know. And it beats cleaning at the hotel. If I never have to clean another toilet, it will be too soon, that’s for sure.” And that was an understatement. She’d spent the last two years working in the hotel’s housekeeping department and had hated every moment. But she’d had to stay, or she’d have had no money at all.

“Apart from your own, of course,” Tiffany said, pinching her nose between her thumb and finger and acting like there was an awful smell.

Ruby laughed. “And let’s not forget the tips are better at Echoes,” she added.

“So, does that mean you’ll definitely be coming with me to Ben’s party?” Tiffany’s deep blue eyes were wide with anticipation.

“Yes. Promise,” Ruby replied, making a tiny cross over her heart.

She hoped that they didn’t suddenly change her Saturday shift to a later one. At the moment, her boss had her scheduled from eight until four. She refused to worry about that now because it wasn’t like she could do anything about it.

“That’s okay then, as long as—holy crap,” Tiffany said, dropping the pencil she’d been holding with a clatter, her mouth open so wide, it looked like she was attempting a goldfish impression.

“What?” Ruby swiveled around to catch sight of whatever it was that had blindsided Tiffany so completely.

And within seconds, she saw for herself. Her heart pounded against her rib cage, and she struggled to breathe.

It was Drew Scott.

Who Ruby used to have the hugest crush on. Ever.

Drew. Scott.

She tried not to stare, but her eyes were drawn to him. His face was much thinner than before but still just as striking, with his angular jaw and dimpled chin. And his dark hair was longer than it used to be, so it curled below his ears and onto the back of his dark blue hoodie.

Catching sight of the thick red scars on his neck, Ruby swallowed hard. The pain he must have gone through didn’t bear thinking about. She looked around the room and saw that everyone else was staring at him. Her heart reached out to him.

Until she remembered exactly what he had done, and then she didn’t know what to think.

It was nearly a year ago that she’d come home from work to find her brother sobbing his heart out on the couch, with her mom trying desperately to console him. His girlfriend, Reese, had been killed in a fire at her house. Her parents had gone away for the weekend, leaving her alone. Except it turned out that she hadn’t been alone. Drew, Blake’s best friend, had been with her. As in
been with
her.

Which was why Drew was now her brother’s ex-best friend.

“Look,” the guy in the desk behind Ruby whispered. “Drew Scott. Check out the scars on his neck.”

“Talk about karma in its extreme,” a girl replied.

Ruby fought the urge to turn around and glare at them. She already felt torn between her loyalty toward Blake and sympathy for Drew’s obvious suffering—both physical and emotional. Many of their classmates weren’t even bothering to hide their revulsion, openly throwing curious or even hateful glances his way and gossiping in low voices. It made her sick to the stomach that people could be so openly cruel.

It all reminded her of the day her dad came home from the hospital after his accident. She’d only been five, but the memory had stuck with her—one of her earliest ones. The shock of seeing him had been so bad that she had screamed and screamed until he’d actually left the room. Her mom had told her it had taken a long time before Ruby could even look at him. Even though she’d been too young to understand her actions, she still felt guilty about how much she must have hurt him.

“Are you okay?” The feel of Tiffany’s hand resting on her arm forced Ruby’s attention from Drew and the memories of her childhood.

“Yeah. Sure,” Ruby replied, feeling suddenly light-headed. Probably because she hadn’t taken a breath since catching sight of him.
“I just didn’t expect to see Drew here.”

“What’s he doing in our class?” Tiffany asked. Others in the room were likely wondering the same thing, since Drew had been a year ahead of them.

“I guess he has to repeat his junior year since he missed most of it,” Ruby suggested. “I wonder why he didn’t just take classes at home? I know that’s what I’d do.”

“I don’t know. Then again, you know what his family is like.”

Ruby nodded in agreement. Drew’s friendship with her brother meant she’d heard bits and pieces about his crap home life through the years, which she’d only ever vaguely mentioned to Tiffany in the past.

“More to the point, what the hell is Blake gonna do when he finds out Drew’s back?” Ruby bit down on her bottom lip as she pondered that thought.

D
rew stiffened as he walked into the doorway of his English class. The murmur of the numerous conversations taking place almost felt like physical blows, and he instinctively skidded to a stop, the urge to turn and run almost getting the better of him. It wouldn’t be long before those conversations centered on him, once people grew aware of his presence. But he got it together and forced himself to move forward once more.

He walked unnoticed past a group of guys talking football. Some girls applying lip gloss. Another set poring over a magazine. A few overachievers who already had their books out. It seemed like nothing had changed since he was last in class.

Except it had.

Everything had changed.

And then a sudden silence fell over the room as everyone seemed to notice him at once. Then the inevitable whispers started up. Glancing around the room, Drew felt shocked by how damn bad it felt to have all eyes on him, even though he’d prepared himself for it. The intensity of their collective gaze almost knocked him over.

Yeah, that’s right. Stare at the gross, disfigured burned guy. Stare at the thickened, red, raw skin on his arms and neck. Give him pitying looks until he turns away. And then you can screw up your face like you’re about to vomit. He’s had nearly a year of it, so you won’t break him.

Or would you?

That was anyone’s guess.

He still didn’t know whether returning to school had been the right thing to do. He’d destroyed two lives—you didn’t just go back to normal after that. Three, if you counted his own. But he couldn’t stay at home. Not with his parents. In his worst moments, he doubted that they’d have even noticed if he hadn’t survived the fire, since they were so wrapped up in themselves and their drinking. Unlike Reese’s parents, who must have been devastated at the thought of never seeing her again. Blake would never see her again, either. And it was all Drew’s fault.

Drew felt his face grow clammy as he got sucked into his memories. He’d relived the experience over and over during the past year, while he was in and out of hospital, and during the last few months at home. How he’d tried to rescue Reese from her bedroom but the flames had knocked him back. It ripped his guts out every time he remembered. He hated that he’d agreed when Reese suggested lighting candles all around her bedroom. He hated that he had given in to her insistence that he go to the store and get them some Ben & Jerry’s
.
And once he’d agreed, why the hell hadn’t he blown the candles out before leaving? He knew how drowsy she was. He hadn’t thought that it would matter. But it did matter. It mattered then. It mattered now. And it would matter forever.

BOOK: Falling for the Wrong Guy
9.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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