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Nothing But Trouble (Malibu University #1)
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A standalone novel.
No, really, I’m pretty sure his blind nana taught him how to drive.
I had no idea who he was until he almost ran me over. And frankly, I kind of wish I still didn’t because then I wouldn’t have a sprained ankle to show for it. And my leg wouldn’t resemble a boa constrictor that’s swallowed a feral pig.
Yeah, it’s that bad.
I’ve spent years saving every penny I’ve ever earned to be able to transfer to Malibu University. And now my entire future––including my scholarship––is in jeopardy.
So I either accept the help he insists on giving me, or lose everything I’ve sacrificed for.
In the meantime, I’m going to ignore the fact that we’re becoming friends.
And I’m definitely going to pretend he’s not turning into the object of my…umm, dirty fantasies.
That’s not happening.
Not even a little.
Because the minute I clapped eyes on him I knew he was nothing but trouble.
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“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” —Steve Jobs
I’m roasting. The class valedictorian drones on and on about taking life by the short hairs, something she knows nothing about, while the pale skin of my forehead gets blowtorched. The diplomas haven’t even begun to be handed out yet. At this rate, I’ll resemble extra crispy barbecued pork by the time it’s over.
From my seat on the outskirts of the audience, I glance over my shoulder and search the crowd. The view of the Santa Monica Bay from the side of the hill where the graduation ceremony is being held is surreal, picture perfect. The water Zen-like calm. The treacherous blue sky cloudless. The sight never gets old.
“Who you looking for?” Zoe queries on my right.
“I thought we agreed we weren’t going to bring him up today?”
Am I surprised, however? No. As a general rule Zoe has never met an order she didn’t love to trample under her Chanel motorcycle boots.
“So you were looking for him.”
I snatch the graduation program out of her hand and fan myself. It was probably a mistake to wear black but it matched my mood.
“No. Just bored,” I casually answer without making eye contact. I don’t even know why I bother. She’s much too perceptive for her own good. If Zoe Mayfield ever decided to give a shit, she could rule the world.
“Riiight,” she drawls while casually inspecting her short, dark nails. The sun catches the stacks of skinny diamond rings on her long fingers and returns a spray of light.
“I’m not looking for him,” I mutter. A bold-faced lie. It’s wrong how easily it trips off my tongue.
Meanwhile my neck heats, and a blazing path of pure embarrassment climbs over my face which has nothing to do with the Southern California sun. I can’t bear to look pathetic anymore. It’s time to move on. It’s been time for a while now.
Expression completely blank, Zoe gives me the universal gesture for hand job and I snicker.
“I don’t read sign language,” I whisper.
“How about this? You read this?” She flips me the bird and I chuckle.
Two seats down, Blake leans over and glares at us. I shrug and point to Zoe. She shakes her head. No need to explain. She knows Zoe better than I do seeing as they’ve been best friends since junior high. Next to her, Dora rolls her eyes.
“What time does the party start?” I say in an attempt to drive the conversation elsewhere and fast.
“Nine at Shutters on the Beach––”
Two girls seated directly in front turn around and shush us. Zoe makes a face and crosses her tanned legs. The white Stella McCartney dress she’s wearing hikes up to mid thigh, making them look like they go on for weeks. “We got a block of rooms so no one has to drive,” she explains.
The two girls in front take it to the next level, graduating from shushing to giving us dirty looks. Filled with irritation, Zoe’s gaze snaps back to them and I brace for the inevitable. I know that look. And more importantly, I know what comes next.
She rests her elbow on the back of her chair and swings her crossed leg. “Mind your own business, or I’ll rip off those caterpillars glued to your eyes.”
And there it is.
Horrified, the girls swivel around to face ahead.
“There’s still time. Maybe he’ll show up,” she continues, completely unfazed by the exchange.
As much as I want to believe that, I promised myself that I was done pining like a war bride. It wouldn’t be so bad if I knew he was safe and happy, living his best life. The life that he chose for himself and not the one mapped out for him. But I don’t know. And I have to accept the fact that I may never know.
Looking into the sympathetic eyes of my well-meaning friend, I shake my head. “I haven’t heard from him in four months.”
“Do you want me to ask––”
The hope in Zoe’s eyes dims. And even though I can tell she wants to argue, all she does is nod. Curbing the urge to take one last look around, I force my attention onto the podium.
“So in closing, I give you the words of a truly inspiring First Lady, Michelle Obama––” Squaring her shoulders, the valedictorian beams, sunshine reflecting off her wide bright grin. “It is absolutely still possible to make a difference.”
Applause explodes all around me. Everyone stands while I remain seated. This should’ve been his graduation day. In which case, I would’ve been on my feet, cheering him on. Except I’m not. Instead, I’m left to watch everyone else celebrate while a heavy weight settles in my gut.
“It’s time to move on,” I mumble more to myself than anyone else. I just want to forget. Except the yawning void where my heart used to be won’t let me.