Published by: Swoon Romance
Publication date: October 18th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Seventeen-year-old Autumn Teslow arrives at her father’s job fair knowing she’ll never measure up to the perfect image of daddy’s little girl—her twin sister.
Wearing anger management issues like a second skin won’t help Autumn win her dad’s approval for the big trip she’s been planning—or meet his condition that she successfully complete a summer internship for college.
Autumn’s cool unravels when her sister lectures against disappointing the family again. And when a young, bearded guy steps through the crowd to settle the growing argument between siblings, Autumn lashes out, dubbing him a “Duck Dynasty wannabe.”
At Nineteen, Caden Behr is clueless as to why his man parts are threatened by the fearsome girl before him. He’d only come to find an intern for his recreational equipment company, not break up a girl-fight between two sisters.
Unfortunately, the only candidate left is the girl who just told him off. Without her, he’ll never prove to his CEO mother that he’s ready for more responsibility.
Autumn and Caden agree that if they can keep from killing one another, they can use one another to get what they want and then never have to see each other again. Which is what they want.
Until it isn’t.
Because despite her best efforts to scare him off, and his fading desire to push her into the lake, they’re beginning to enjoy the time they spend together. But pride is a hard habit to break. And if neither will admit their changing feelings, they could lose a whole lot more than one summer.
There’s a tap, tapping on my shoulder.“Excuse me, Ms. Teslow?”
I whirl away from my sister and bump a broad, plaid covered chest. Annoyed, I step back and crane my neck up several inches. Whoever he is, he’s a good six feet against my five foot two—with heels. “Yeah?” I snap.
Feet apart, the guy has a confident, almost cocky stance. His face is mostly hidden between a full, copper beard and the cap pulled low over his eyes. The tanned skin of his arms shows where his sleeves are rolled back. The guy could pass for the centerfold in a lumberjack calendar, if you’re into that sort of thing. Which I’m not.
“What do you want?”
“Uh … ” He glances at Sydney and back to me. “I was told you like working outdoors and might be interested in a job?”
Wait, zoo guy?
My cheeks blaze as I realize what’s happening. Sydney said if I didn’t try, I’d regret it, though this set-up is elaborate, even for her. I don’t know where she found the lumber-clown standing in front of me, but with a few empty promises, my sister can make any boy her puppet. Well, she’s gone too far this time.
“Really?” I say. “And what job is that, exactly? Cage scrubber, chief dung shoveler? No, thank you.”
“What?” he asks, eyes widening. “I don’t think—”
“That’s obvious.” My finger pokes his very firm chest. “I’m sure you two think you’re clever, but if this is some sick way of sucking up to my sister, it’s pointless. Gorillas aren’t her type.”
“Hey! Now wait just a—”
“My sister swaps guys like other girls change their days-of-the-week panties. Now, if you want to keep your balls intact, I suggest you get out of my way. I don’t need your fake job, or to work for some hairy Duck Dynasty wannabe, too dumb to know when he’s being played.”
The idiot blinks once as I push past him. Through the silent crowd I walk, head held high, toward the gym’s double doors. And freedom.
Did she just call me a Duck Dynasty wannabe?
Okay. Now, I’m pissed. Unwilling to give this girl the last word, I pivot to face her and see nothing but a rigid back. “Hey! Wait a minute. You can’t just … Don’t hate on the beard!” No reaction from the angry creature storming away from me. Brilliant comeback, by the way, I tell myself.
Maybe she does have my balls.
Caught between insulted and twisted fascination, my mind tries to unravel the chain of events where I definitely missed something. Clearly, the girl thinks I’m her enemy, but I have no clue what I did.
Also, she’s insane.
The room’s gone quiet. As I glance around, I notice a fairly large crowd has gathered. Not surprising after that show, I guess, except they’re full-on staring at me. Some expressions are obviously amused, while others seem sympathetic. Most turn away, shaking their heads or looking embarrassed as I meet their gazes. My face is too warm and my heartbeats won’t slow. All of it makes me feel like a first class chump. Like I need pity for being bested by some shrieking, pygmy-girl. Pride tenses my shoulders, stiffens my neck. I glare at the closed double doors, tilting my head until my neck bones release a satisfying crack.
Oh, it’s on.
The girl is going down.
The doorbell rings. Pushing against a pillow, I raise up on both elbows. Sydney’s arm and leg are sprawled across my back, weighting me down. Neither of us felt like being alone last night, but peaceful sleep next to my squirmy sister has its challenges. Rain beats the roof so loudly, I’m not sure I heard anything at all until another round of chimes go off.
Sydney groans as I roll her off of me. “What time is it?”
I squint at the blue letters on her alarm clock. “Ten after seven.” Dad left for work a half hour ago. My head hangs forward and I wait, hoping any deliveryman will leave their package. Then I remember water could damage something important. Craptastic.
A third bell has me stumbling down the hall. My hair is everywhere and my eyes feel golf-ball-sized puffy from stress. I didn’t think about my shorty-shorts and a tank for door answering, but it’s too late now.
Ding. “Keep your pants on, I’m coming!”
I wrench the door wide, expecting to sign a clipboard, or tell a pesky sales person to bugger off. Instead, a half-drowned Caden stands on my front stoop with Gus grinning at his side. They stare. I stare. Seconds pass. Finally, I close my mouth.
“Autumn … ” Caden starts, but I hold up a finger stopping him. It’s too early for this drama.
Leaning forward, I snatch Gus’s leash from his owner’s waterlogged hand. The dog bounds inside like a champ, and I shut the door in my guest’s shocked face, locking it afterward.
“Autumn?” There’s pounding on the door followed by a long pause. “This isn’t funny. Let me in.” He bangs again. “I drove all night to talk to you.”
“I have a phone.”
“The one you aren’t answering?”
This is insane. I’m sure he’s here to see if I’m coming back. He’s got a bet to win, or maybe a conscious to clear, but Gus won’t pay for it by drowning with him. The dog drips water all over my father’s oriental rug. That won’t win the mutt points with Daddy-o if he and his owner are, in fact, staying a while. I disappear down the hall and return with an armload of fluffy towels.
“You know it’s pouring out here, right?” I hear against the door.
“That’s a shame. Maybe Piper can hold your umbrella while you kiss her again.” My words make me small and petty, and a sore loser. I wish I’d shut up.
“What are you talking about?” The handle rattles. “You’re being ridiculous.”
I kneel, rubbing Gus’s ears dry with a towel. “I’m not ridiculous, am I, Guster? And you’re not a player like your low-life master, are you, buddy?”
“I can hear you, Aud.”
“Not a liar, or a boy who strings two girls along at once … ”
“I didn’t—” He sneezes. There’s a thud on the other side of the door that I fear is his forehead hitting wood. “You’re killing me, Cricket.”
My heart gives, and do what I couldn’t before. I reach over, unlock the door, and let him in.
Author Bio:As a child, Julie’s summers were about horseback riding and fishing, while winter brought sledding and ice-skating on frozen ponds. Most of life was magical, but not all. She struggled with multiple learning disabilities, and spent much of her time gazing out windows and daydreaming. In the fourth grade (with the help of one very nice teacher) she fought dyslexia for her right to read and won.
Afterward, she invented stories where powerful heroines kicked bad-guy butt to win the hearts charismatic heroes. And then she wrote one down…
Writing ever since, Julie weaves southern gothic, contemporary, fantasy, and young adult romances. She enjoys sweeping tales of mystery and epic adventure… which must include a really hot guy. Her writing is proof a dream and some hard work can overcome any obstacle.