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.” I start to offer my hand to shake, but there isn’t enough room at the table to even stretch it out, so in embarrassment I pretend I just meant to grab my latte.“Mind if I sit down?” asks the other boy, balancing three iced teas.He hands one of them to Kevin and takes a sip from one of the other two.Did I say he was hot? That doesn’t begin to describe him.He’s tall, probably over six feet, and very muscular in an athletic sort of way.He keeps running his fingers through his surfer-blond hair, and he’s dressed prep-style— golf shirt, belted khaki shorts, loafers.You know, the clean-cut all-American type.He can’t be that thirsty.I glance around the room to see who else might be joining us.“Everyone shove over again,” Emma orders.“Caryn, this is John, but no one calls him that.”He awkwardly tries to juggle the iced teas in order to shake hands with me, but grins at me endearingly when he realizes he can’t do it.I can feel my heart start to flutter.“Everyone calls me Quince,” he says in a clear, deep voice.He has an easy-going charm, the kind that makes girls fall instantly in love, and I am already sure I’m going to be one of them.Sometimes guys like that are players— they like to play with girls’ hearts for a while and then dump them when they get bored.But my instincts tell me Quince isn’t like that.This guy seems genuine and I like him immediately.“Hi,” I say, looking him directly in the eyes.He has the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen.“So where did you come from?” he asks me, squeezing into the booth.I’m so busy staring I almost forget to answer him.He grins at me expectantly.“Uh, Houston,” I finally reply.“My mom owns a bookstore.” I can’t stop looking at him.He’s just so darned cute.“Cool.You coming to the game Friday?” My heart skips another beat.“Quince here is the star quarterback, number seventeen, and Rosslyn is favored to beat Newton Tech by a whole lot.” Kevin laughs as he playfully elbows Quince.“I’m his favorite receiver.”Usually I’m just a baseball fan, but suddenly football seems very interesting.Just as I’m about to open my mouth and say I’ll be at the game with Megan, the door opens and in walks a girl who looks like she’s just stepped off the cover of a fashion magazine.She’s tall, slender, wearing an impossibly short skirt and extremely high heels, and has cascading brunette hair which she keeps tossing over her shoulder.All eyes turn to watch her as she makes her grand entrance and I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I see the smitten look on Quince’s face and realize this is who he’s waiting for.Quince slides purposefully out of the booth and walks over to greet her with a hug.He casually takes her hand and leads her back to our table, but there’s no way we can squeeze in one more person.“Kensi, this is Caryn,” Quince says, never taking his eyes off her.“Caryn’s new at school,” he says, beaming at her and squeezing her hand.She pushes her hair back with her sunglasses, nods in my direction like a queen barely acknowledging a subject, gives my outfit the once over, and says, “Nice to meet you.”Yeah, right.She turns to Quince and coos, “I don’t think there’s room at this table, hon.Let’s get our own.” Quince happily follows her across the room to a table for two, leaving the rest of us to watch them go.“They’re like the signature couple of the junior class,” Emma sighs.“They’re such a cliche,” snaps Ashleigh.“Varsity cheerleader dating the quarterback.Gimme a break!”“Well, I think they’re cute,” Emma shoots back as she grins up at Kevin.“Almost as cute as us.”“So they’ve been going out since last spring?” I ask half-heartedly.In my misery I forget no one told me that yet.“Wow, you catch on fast,” responds Megan.“Yeah, they started going out after one of Quince’s baseball games last May.Right after he hit that grand slam.”Ashleigh must take my frown for confusion, because she jumps in to clarify.“Oh, yeah, Quince is the star of both the football and baseball teams.”Megan takes a big, loud slurp of her latte and adds, “So what I hear is, Kensi supposedly kept the cheerleaders yelling for an eternity after he crossed home plate, until Quince personally went over and thanked her.But I didn’t go to Rosslyn last year, so I’m just telling you.”“I guess Quince not only won the game that day but Kensi’s heart,” Emma sighs again.My eyes follow Quince and Kensington to their darkened corner of the shop.I don’t know if it’s curiosity or the green-eyed monster that makes me stare, but when I realize I’m being rude, I try glancing around the room like I’m just taking in the ambience or something.Curiosity gets the better of me, though, and my gaze eventually drifts back to the two of them.Kensi is leaning on the table practically in Quince’s face, batting her eyelashes and flipping her hair.Now, honestly, what guy wouldn’t think that kind of behavior was enticing?As I watch them, my heart sinks.How can I compete with HER? I’ve never had a boyfriend, but this feeling in the pit of my stomach tells me it must be a very painful experience.How can I be reacting like this to a guy I just met?I come out of my reverie when I hear bells ringing and wonder if it’s the Universe sending me a wakeup call.Fortunately it’s just someone’s cell phone.“Hi, Mom,” says Megan after she pulls her phone out of her handbag.“Okay, I’ll be right out.” She flips the phone closed.“I’ve gotta go.”“I’ll go out with you,” I tell her.“I’m supposed to go over to my mom’s store and help out after school.”Emma, Ashleigh, and Kevin all have to get up to let us out, but then they sit right back down again, obviously not ready to leave.“Nice meeting you,” I say to all of them as I follow Megan out the door.“Nice to meet you too, Caryn,” Emma calls after me.“Don’t forget about Friday night!”“Don’t worry, I’ll be there,” I call back.Emma smiles at me before turning her attention back to Kevin.Having her repeat Megan’s invitation makes me feel more welcome, like maybe I’ll fit in here after all.“Where’s your mom’s store?” Megan asks as we walk outside in the late afternoon heat.She scans up and down the street looking for her mother’s car.“Do you need a ride?”“It’s only about a block and half that way,” I answer, pointing north.“You should stop by sometime.It’s called Sybil and Starshine’s New Age Bookstore.” Maybe I shouldn’t tell her that— about its being a New Age bookstore.It’s got to sound weird to someone like Megan who seems so, well, normal.“Sybil and Starshine?” she repeats.“Is that your mom’s name?”“Okay, her name is Bethany Alderson, but they thought Starshine sounded more like the owner of a New Age store.”I can tell Megan is having mixed feelings about that information.Not that I can read her mind, but anyone could figure that out from her lifted eyebrows and forced smile.Just then a soccer-mom-style SUV pulls up alongside the sidewalk.“Mom, this is Caryn Alderson,” Megan says, as she opens the door and throws in her backpack.“She’s new to school.Her mom owns some kind of New Age-y store here in the Village.”“Nice to meet you, Caryn,” says Megan’s mom with a smile.“I’ll try to stop by soon and meet your mother.Megan, we’ve got to go.Honey has been alone way too long.” Megan hops into the passenger side of her mom’s car.“What kind of dog is Honey?” I ask, picturing the cutest little yellow dog.Again the puzzled look from Megan.When will I remember that mental images don’t necessarily mean anyone has actually mentioned something in the conversation?“Mixed breed— we got her from a shelter back in July,” Megan answers.Ms [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]