Kratka zgodba v kateri Ryan opiše njegov prvi poljub z Jamie.
Only three things in the world have ever truly blown my mind.
The first was when my dad explained the truth about Santa Clause. The jolly old guy was my idol. He had been my whole life. He drove the sweetest ride, gave me lots of presents, and lived on a diet of cookies and hot chocolate. Seriously—Coolest. Dude. Ever.
When I was seven my mom was helping me write a letter to him like she did every year. My dad walked in the room, gave my mom a look, took the letter from me, and, with a sigh, said, “Son, you’re practically a man now.” I’d beamed at the praise until he followed it with, “So it’s time we blow this Santa crap out of the water before your momma turns you into a complete sissy.” When my eyes got really big my dad gave me a grim smile and said, “You don’t want the other kids at school to make fun of you, do you?”
I shook my head and proceeded to pay close attention as he explained that Santa was, in fact, not real. While he was at it he also debunked the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and the X-men. Life as I’d known it was changed forever.
The second life-bomb came when my mom met Gene. Her divorce with Dad had come as no surprise, and while it sucked, it was sort of a relief too. My parents’ fighting was exhausting, and I was glad to see it end. But mom was pretty messed up for a while, so two years later when she hadn’t so much as looked at another man—to my knowledge anyway—and she got engaged, I was floored.
Mom explained that she’d met Gene a month before at some self-help seminar, and that they’d been getting to know each other via the internet ever since. She hadn’t wanted to worry me until she was sure things were serious, but they’d fallen in love faster than she’d ever anticipated. It was the first I’d ever even heard of the guy’s existence and he was asking my permission to marry my mother. Unreal.
I don’t lose my temper often, but if Mom hadn’t looked so disgustingly happy I might have decked the guy. Instead I shook his hand and said welcome to the family. Then I nearly peed my pants when he took us back to his “house” and I discovered he was essentially Daddy Warbucks and was flying us all on his private jet to his villa in Tuscany for the summer where they would be married.
After that I never thought anything would surprise me ever again. Then one day I made a random bet with Mike Driscoll and my world wasn’t just changed, it was rocked so hard that I was changed. Sure, I’d survived Santa and a step-dad relatively unscathed, but one encounter with the Ice Queen and I was never the same again.
I guess this story starts with Paige Shultz since she’s really what pushed me to brave the wrath of Rocklin High’s scariest resident. Paige was captain of the cheer squad. She was super outgoing and friendly—as long as she liked you. She was hot too, but it was that generic hot that runs rampant in California. Great body and a nice face, but bottle blond hair, a little too much make-up, and maybe not quite enough clothing. My friends and I call her a dime because girls like her are a dime a dozen.
She hung with my group of friends, and I liked her well enough, I just had no desire to date her. Unfortunately, dating me seemed to be her number one priority lately, so things were a little awkward, and I’d been doing my best to subtly avoid her. It didn’t always work.
I’d just arrived at school and was about to round the administration building into the quad when a hand slammed down on my shoulder. “I wouldn’t go that way if I were you,” my best friend, Mike Driscoll said with a grimace. At my questioning look he pointed to a poster on the wall beside me. “Homecoming committee is hanging a banner in the quad right now, and they’re on the hunt for strapping young volunteers to rope into all their grunt work. I don’t know about you but I am not going to spend the next three weeks as some cheerleader’s go-fer, carrying boxes of glittery crap and honing my paper mache skills.”
“Good call.” I shuddered. He was right. That sounded like a nightmare, and not just because Jess was on the homecoming committee. Mike and I quickly ducked into the admin building. We could cut through here and get to our first classes safely.
“Ryan! Mike! Just the guys I was looking for.”
Crap. Paige was in the front office. The clipboard she was cradling looked awfully foreboding. “Good morning, Paige,” I said carefully.
She laughed at the wariness in my voice. Or maybe it was the look on Mike’s face that had her rolling her eyes. “Relax you guys, we already suckered the JV guys into helping us. I just wanted to tell you the good news.” Mike and I exchanged a confused glance. “You’ve both been nominated for Homecoming King! Isn’t that great?”
“Is that all?” I burst into relieved laughter. My nightmares of being the new co-committee chair evaporated.
Paige’s face fell. “You’re not excited?”
“Sure,” I said quickly. I felt bad for upsetting her. She really did put a lot of effort into the dances at this school. “It’s great news.” I laughed and elbowed Mike as I added, “For me anyway. All it means for Mike is a humiliating defeat in front of the whole school.”
Mike punched me in the arm and muttered some comeback that I didn’t hear over Paige’s laughter. “Oh, Ryan. You are so funny!”
“I wasn’t joking,” I said honestly. “It’s all about positive thinking. My step dad says if you don’t believe you can get what you want, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. You can’t just want it though. You’ve got to know you can get it.” I shrugged. “I know I can win.”
Mike rolled his eyes. He thinks my step dad is a nutcase, but we’d see how crazy Gene is when I was crowned King instead of Mike. Paige, on the other hand, smiled dangerously. “Well if that’s all it takes,” she said, sidling right up next to me. “Did you just want to start calling me your queen now, or should we wait until it’s official?”
She was practically purring. I kicked myself internally. I should have known the second the dance was brought up that she was fishing for a date. I didn’t really want to take her to the dance, but I didn’t want to totally reject her and hurt her feelings either, and I didn’t have a good reason not to ask her.
I forced my best smile. “That’s exactly the attitude I’m talking about. You’ll be queen in no time.” I winked at her and shuffled my backpack onto my other shoulder, making an obvious effort to read the clock on the wall. “Whoa. Better get to class. I’ve been late so many times this year even I couldn’t charm my way out of detention if I get another tardy.”
“Oh, please.” Paige laughed. “You could charm your way out of anything. See you guys at lunch.”
Once we were outside Mike nudged me. “Nice dodge. What’s up? You don’t want to take Paige? Because in case you missed it, that was her practically begging you to ask her.”
“It’s early still,” I said vaguely. “Ask a girl now and it’s three weeks of constant nagging. Dress, tux, limo, dinner, after party… Chicks stress to death about that crap. Especially Paige.”
“True. But don’t wait too long to ask or she’ll get snapped up. I heard Scott was thinking about asking her. You don’t want to be stuck taking Dogface Deidra.”
I tried not to sigh. I needed to figure out what to do, but I couldn’t talk to Mike about it. He’s my boy and all, but he’s got a big mouth. I couldn’t tell him I didn’t like Paige. It’d be all over the school in exaggerated rumors by third period.
No, I have to save all my secrets for Becky. She’s been my best friend since second grade. Besides the fact that I tell her pretty much everything, she’d also know what I should do about Paige. She’s Paige’s close friend and probably the only girl in school that Paige takes orders from. She’d be able to help me out for sure. I made a mental note to talk to her about it at lunch.
My plan didn’t work however, because at lunch the girls were all conspicuously not sitting with us. “Where is everyone?” I asked Mike, plopping my tray of food down next to his.
Without word Mike pointed to the other end of the cafeteria where it looked like the homecoming committee was hard at work doing whatever it was they do. “What do you suppose they’re talking about? It’s just a dance, not rocket science.”
“Who cares?” Mike replied. “Lets use the opportunity to get down to business. I think I’m gonna take Becky to homecoming.”
This was not good news. I’d decided over the course of the morning that I needed to take Becky as my date. It was the only way I could get out of having to take Paige without completely dissing her. “Dude, you took her to junior prom.”
“So it’s my turn,” I insisted. “I’m taking her to homecoming.”
“Over my dead body,” Mike argued. “She’s the hottest girl in school. As captain of the football team it’s my right to have first pick.”
I couldn’t help laughing at this. It was true he was the captain of our team, but it was no mystery who the school favorite was. “Says who? I’m the quarterback. Everyone knows I’m the real star. Besides, I’m better looking than you. I bet if we asked her at the same time, she’d pick me.”
Mike snorted. “Would not.”
“So would not.”
“Should we try it?” I asked. “Right now. Let’s go over there and ask her together. Five bucks says she’ll go with me.”
I pulled out a five-dollar bill and waved it in Mike’s face. I was confident. No way Becky would pick Mike over me if I asked her. In fact, I’m not sure there was a girl in the entire school who would pick Mike over me.
Mike noticed me look around the cafeteria and seemed to read my thoughts. “Oh put your money away idiot. I called dibbs first, so I’m taking Becky. End of story.”
Well, he had a point there. Honor code dictated that I concede to him now since he spoke up first. Oh well. Becky would have fun with him and I was sure there had to be some other way to get Paige off my case. Becky would help me think of something.
“All right, fine,” I said. “I give. She’s all yours. But I call dibs on her right now for senior prom.”
I slipped my money back in my pocket, laughing, until my eyes reached the corner of the cafeteria and fell on a pair of mysterious green eyes half-hidden beneath long, black hair so shiny it screamed, “Touch me.”
My eyes had drifted her direction so many times since she showed up at our school that I’d lost count. I couldn’t help it. She was the opposite of generic hot. She was look-but-don’t-touch hot. Worship-but-be-afraid hot. She was hot personified. No one could deny that, not even Mike.
A plan began to form in my head. “Technically,” I said, elbowing Mike to get his attention again. “Jamie Baker is hotter than Becky. If you want to take the hottest girl in school, then you have to take her.”
Mike followed my gaze and immediately broke into obnoxious laughter. “Yeah, she’s hot all right.” He snorted, leering at Jamie the way we all do. But his smile quickly turned bitter. “For an ice queen. Becky is the hottest normal girl in school. Jamie would never go to the dance with anyone.”
Unfortunately, Mike was right about Jamie. She was most definitely an ice queen. That’s what made this all the more interesting. “Not even the great Mike Driscoll?” I goaded him. “You always say you could get any girl in this school.”
Mike frowned. “Jamie doesn’t count. The chick’s a total loner.”
This was also completely true of Jamie. But honestly, that was part of her appeal. She wasn’t like any of the other girls in school. She wasn’t like any other girl I’d ever met. I think that was the reason for the obsession I’d developed since her arrival. Okay, not obsession, that’s a strong word. It was more like a healthy curiosity.
It’s just that girls are so easy. Give them a smile, say something nice, and the next thing you know they’re planning your wedding and naming your babies. I couldn’t exactly imagine Jamie Baker giggling and doodling “I <3 Ryan” in the spine of her notebooks all the time like all the other girls in this school do.
But there had to be something to her besides ice.
“Maybe she’s just misunderstood,” I said lightly. I didn’t want to sound like I was defending her. I didn’t want Mike to realize that I was honestly interested in the school outcast. I’d never live that down.
“Maybe she’s just a cold-hearted freak.”
I frowned at Mike’s use of the word freak. I didn’t really think Jamie was a freak, but I also understood Mike’s bitterness. He’d been the Ice Queen’s first victim after all. We’d both noticed her the moment she stepped foot on the grounds of Rocklin High, and Mike was just the poor soul who got to her first. He asked her out in front of all our teammates and she’d sized him up with that cold stare of hers and actually laughed in his face. She was unnecessarily cruel with her rejection and made herself a school full of enemies before even reaching the front steps.
I couldn’t understand it. She was the new girl. She should have wanted to make friends. She should have been nervous. And here was Mike, who the ladies don’t hesitated to line up for, being nice and friendly and giving her the chance to be inducted into the top of the high school social food chain. It should have been a relief. His invitation should have been any girl’s dream come true.
I was so confused by her that I’d gone home that day and asked my mom and Gene about it. Gene explained to me in a lot of his self-help psychobabble—most of which I didn’t understand—that essentially it sounded like a self-preservation thing. You know, hurt them before they can hurt you. That made me curious about her and as I watched her after that I’d decided that Gene was right.
“I bet I could get her to go with me,” I blurted suddenly.
“Jamie Baker?” Mike busted up again, laughing so hard his eyes teared up. “I’ll bet you couldn’t even get her to talk to you.”
I looked at Jamie again, considering. “Yeah, I could,” I decided. Sure she was an ice queen, but she had to be lonely. She’d been friendless at this school for over a year now and nobody could hold out forever. Maybe she was over whatever it was that had caused her to exile herself, but she’d already dug her grave and was stuck in it. Nobody had dared talk to her in months and months. Maybe she just needed to be given another chance. I could do that.
“I bet I could go over there, strike up a conversation, and get her number by the end of lunch.”
“You think you could get Jamie’s phone number?” Mike repeated incredulously.
“I just said I could, didn’t I?”
“Okay, how about this. If I can get Jamie’s number by the end of lunch, then I get to take Becky to homecoming. If not, then you get to take her instead.”
This plan had to work. Mike was so jaded against Jamie that he’d be sure I couldn’t do it. He’d also be way too eager to watch me fail to pass up the opportunity.
Mike glanced back at Jamie, intrigued, and then grinned. I so had him. Becky was as good as my date already.
“Make it a kiss, and you’re on,” he said.
A kiss? Crap. There was no way I could get the Ice Queen to kiss me by the end of lunch. Maybe if I had a week, but ten minutes? Not possible. But I’d also talked myself up so much just now that I couldn’t back out either. “I kiss Jamie Baker and I get to take Becky to homecoming?” I clarified. Maybe I could go for a sneak attack of some kind. She’d probably hunt me down and murder me in my sleep for it, but at least I’d win the bet.
“Not exactly,” Mike said, clearly understanding my train of thought. “Anybody can just kiss someone. You have to get her to kiss you, or the deal’s off.”
Great. I was so screwed. “Before lunch is over?” I asked, stalling while I frantically tried to come up with some kind of plan.
Mike heard the uncertainty in my voice and laughed. “Yup!” he chirped victoriously, slapping a hand on my back. “You’ve only got ten minutes, Casanova. Better go make your move.”
Well. And I’d done this to myself. I took a deep breath as I slowly got to my feet. One look at the smug smile on Mike’s face and I became determined. I was freaking Ryan Miller. I could not let Mike win when the stupid bet had been my idea. Think positively, I reminded myself as I made my way across the cafeteria. You’ve got this Ryan. She’s going to kiss you. Never met a girl who’d turned you down yet. Why should she be any different?
And then suddenly I was standing right in front of her. “Hey, Jamie,” I said confidently. “Mind if I sit for a minute?”
I braced myself and waited for her to look up at me, but she didn’t. She didn’t respond at all. She completely ignored me, making my stomach flip from nerves. I glanced back at Mike, who was already laughing and then steeled myself. I could do this. She hadn’t responded, but she hadn’t told me to get lost either.
I pulled out the chair next to her and turned it so that I couldn’t see Mike’s face. I’m sure he was telling the other guys what was going on now and they were probably all waiting for my failure. I took a deep breath and tried to think.
She was just a girl. I knew girls. Some might even say they were my best subject. So what was my best approach? Obviously not a pickup line. Mom always says all girls want is sincerity. She says to compliment them, but you have to mean it or they’ll see right through you. So… compliment Jamie. But how? What could I possibly say? “Excuse me, I know we’ve never spoken before but you’re smoking hot. Will you make out with me?” I don’t think so.
A soft snort snapped me from my thoughts and when I saw the smirk on Jamie’s face I realized I was bouncing my knees. She knew I was nervous. She knew I was nervous and she was laughing at me. Man, for the first time in my life I started to think I was out of my league.
Oh, she was good. She’d almost broken me with one single smirk. No way. She wasn’t going to get the better of me any more than Mike was going to. If she was willing to laugh at my nerves then there was only one approach I could think of. And if she didn’t like it, then too bad for her.
I leaned forward, resting my elbows on my knees so that our faces would only be inches apart. She wasn’t the only one who could be intense. I could tell from the look on her face that she was expecting a player. Well she wasn’t going to get one. I knew the game, but I didn’t play it.
“Here’s the thing,” I said bluntly. “If I can’t kiss you by the end of lunch, then I have to let Mike take Becky Eastman to homecoming, and I already made dinner reservations at her favorite restaurant.”
Chew on that, Ice Queen.
It took her a minute to say anything. “That’s one I’ve never heard before.”
Her voice was dry, but her lips twitched at the corners once. I couldn’t be sure, but it seemed like she’d had to suppress a smile. Maybe my no nonsense approach was working. I shrugged, trying to look indifferent. “A girl as hot as you can’t be a stranger to the game, so I figured honesty might be my only shot.”
She still wouldn’t look at me, but at least she hadn’t freaked out on me. I waited for the inevitable verbal smack down. I waited for the shards of ice to come flying at me. Heaven knows with that line I totally deserved it. But instead she surprised me.
“I’ll admit, it was probably the closest thing you had to a shot.”
The reply wasn’t even sarcastic. She sounded almost… amused. It was shocking really. This wasn’t the Ice Queen sitting in front of me. This was a totally chill girl who didn’t seem to care at all that my friend and I had made her the subject of a completely insulting—not to mention objectifying—bet. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t getting reamed right now.
It was so surprising that I lightened up and couldn’t help the grin on my face. I’d imagined talking to this girl for a year and I’d never pictured it going like this. “Okay, what about bribery?” I offered playfully.
That was still a no, but her lips twitched again and I found it highly encouraging. “Aw, come on, Jamie. It won’t mean anything. I won’t even use tongue,” I joked. I decided to play on her dislike of Mike. Obviously I was the lesser of two evils if she hadn’t gone Ice Queen on me yet when she’d ripped Mike apart in five seconds flat. “You don’t really want Mike to win, do you?”
I held my breath while I waited for her to respond. She sighed, the smallest sigh that I couldn’t decipher, and finally turned to face me. My breath caught in my lungs as I met her brilliant gaze. She’d caught me staring at her once or twice before, but we’d never made eye contact like this. Especially not so close that I could see exactly how vibrant the color was, or how full of expression they were.
I swallowed hard and gave her what I hoped was my most charming, adorable, heartbreaking—and every other convincing adjective I could think of—smile. “I’ll owe you.”
She raked her eyes over me, checking me out without a shred of shame, kicking my hormones up to the point where I thought if she didn’t kiss me right now, I’d start stalking her until she did. So, so, so, so hot.
“Fine,” she said suddenly. “Knock yourself out.”
I was sure I hadn’t heard correctly because it sounded like Jamie Baker, the girl known to all Rocklin High as the Ice Queen, just gave me permission to kiss her in order to win a bet. That was simply not possible.
I stared at her openmouthed like an utter moron while she sat there patiently waiting for me to invade her personal space. I started to lean in and then frowned as I remembered Mike’s condition. She had to kiss me.
“Actually,” I said, praying this bit of news wouldn’t change her mind. “You have to kiss me or it doesn’t count.”
She stared at me a minute, processing this request, and then raised a brow at me.
My composure finally cracked. “You don’t have to pretend to like it,” I said quickly. “Please?” I wanted to kick myself when it came out sounding like a plea.
She tortured me a minute longer with her unreadable expression and glanced behind me toward Mike. Who knew what she saw back there. I couldn’t look. I didn’t want to know what the guys were thinking at this point.
Just when I was sure she was going to finally tell me to get lost she leaned forward and met my lips.
I’m not sure what shocked me more; the fact that she actually went along with this crazy scheme, or the fact that she didn’t just kiss me, but attacked me as if she wanted to devour me completely. For that first split second her touch was light, but then she threw herself into the kiss so forcefully I nearly fell out of my chair.
I gasped in surprise, which only caused her to up the kiss to French status. That’s when my surprise dissolved and, I managed to start kissing back.
I’d never been kissed like this in all my life. It was charged so full of energy that I swear to you there were actual physical sparks. No, not sparks, freaking fireworks. There was a magnetism pulling us together so strongly that we lost control. I grabbed her face in both my hands and then raked my fingers through her hair exactly the way I’d fantasized about doing a million times.
The next thing I knew Jamie was in my lap wrapping her arms around my neck as if she planned on keeping me hostage for eternity. If that were the case, bring on the shackles babe, because no way was I going to be the one to end this epic kiss.
I felt like I was on fire—like warm energy was spilling out of Jamie, washing over me and causing all my hair to stand on end. I started shaking—just a slight tremor in my hands at first, but it quickly progressed to violent, uncontrollable shivers. The energy was filling my body so full I thought I’d literally burst apart at my seams.
Then, when I was ready to combust Jamie finally stilled. She pulled her face back and smiled at me with a cool expression, but I know she was affected as I was. I wasn’t the only one breathing hard and shaking.
“You can keep the gum,” she said, trying to mask her feelings with a smirk. She couldn’t quite manage it though. Her eyes were bright and full of disbelief. She was as surprised as I was.
She climbed off me and with a wink said, “Have fun at the dance.” And then she was gone. She walked out of the cafeteria as if that hadn’t just happened. As if she hadn’t just completely wrecked me.
I had no idea if what I felt meant we were soul mates or something crazy like that, but I knew two things for certain. One: Jamie Baker wasn’t the ice queen she pretended to be. And two: I wanted her more than anything I’d ever wanted in my entire life.
I had a feeling this wasn’t going to be easy, but I knew deep down in my gut it would be worth it. “Game on, Ice Queen,” I muttered as I stumbled back over to Mike to rub my victory in his face. “You’re already mine. You just don’t know it yet.”