Publication date: June 30th 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Topher Elliot is high school royalty.
The king of Lakeview prep.
You know the type. Disgustingly rich. Blond-haired. Eyes the color of a clear, blue sky. And muscles for days.
He also happens to be enemy #1, the bane of my existence.
Only, now my scholarship is in jeopardy and, like the peasant I am, I must tutor the king himself if I want to graduate.
Still, if I have to be around him, I might as well make it worth my while. So I send him a scathing text, telling him exactly what I think about him. But he mistakes me for someone else. That’s when I hatch a plan: get dirt on the king, and watch his reign crumble.
It’s about time someone made the king come tumbling down.
Now that we were alone, I couldn’t help but wonder if he got my text and what he thought about it.
Did it bother him? Did it affect him at all? Or did it bounce right off his bulletproof ego? Because he sure seemed unaffected.
I glanced up at him, confirming his gaze, and I almost opened my mouth and confessed with an apology when he said, “Hey, I uh, wanted to say sorry for this morning. Mikey and the guys can be jerks sometimes.”
I raised a brow, surprised at the admission. I hadn’t expected that.
“Sometimes?” I asked, and when he laughed, I flinched at the sound.
“Good point.” Topher grinned.
“What about you?” I asked.
“What about me?”
“You’re not a jerk sometimes?”
He winced like the words hurt. “Hey, you have to admit, you were staring pretty hard.”
“I was not. I was—”
“You were,” he crowed.
“I didn’t realize it was you.”
“What’s that mean?” he asked, leaning back in his chair, clearly enjoying our exchange.
What did that mean?
He crossed one leg over the other, propping his ankle on top of his knee. One arm draped casually over the back of the chair as he waited for my answer. And all I could think was, It must be nice to be so comfortable in your own skin.
I shifted my gaze to my nails, where I studied the glossy black polish. “It means,” I growled, “that if I had known it was you, I would’ve gouged my eyes out before taking a second look.”
“Could’ve fooled me,” Topher mumbled under his breath.
My eyes shot to him and narrowed. “Excuse me?”
He lifted a shoulder, then dropped it. “Just that it didn’t look like you were disgusted. It looked like you wanted to jump me.”
My jaw dropped, mouth gaping like a fish. I closed it, then repeated the process.
Great, he’s turned me into a guppy.
Annoyed with myself for letting him get to me, I snapped my mouth closed and spoke between clenched teeth. “Oh, and I suppose you’re an expert on what that looks like?”
“You said it, not me, but if it makes you feel any better,” he whispered, leaning close, “I kinda liked it.”
A choking sound gurgled from the back of my throat before I straightened, composing myself.
He wanted to get under my skin, and I was letting him.
“Whatever,” I muttered, then flipped open my textbook. “I suppose you’re sorry for being a jerk yesterday, too.”
I huffed out a breath. Of course he’d so quickly forget.
My fingers curled around my book until my knuckles turned white. “Yeah, in first period?”
A crease formed between his brow. “You mean the name thing?”
The name thing. Like it was no big deal even though they’d been torturing me with it since the sixth grade. Oh, how fun it was to be known as Skunk Girl.
“Yeah, that and your friends stomping all over my stuff in the hall.”
He opened his mouth to speak, but I held out a hand and stopped him. “You know what? We make choices every day that make us who we are. No point in apologizing if you’re going to continue being a prick. ”
I bowed my head, feeling like a jerk. It was almost as bad as the text I sent him.
What had gotten into me? I never spoke my mind or stood my ground.
I pulled out a blank sheet of paper so we could do some problems when I felt the vibration from his silent laughter.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing.” He smirked.
I gnashed my teeth together, shooting him an unamused look.
“It’s just, I’m not used to you being so opinionated. You hardly ever speak in class. I think I’ve barely heard you say two words. Who knew you were so feisty?”
I frowned. That sounded almost like a compliment, but why did it feel backhanded?
“Yeah, well, you don’t really know me.”
“True. I guess I don’t. You sure seem to think you have me pegged though.”
It was a statement, not a question. And he was right. “I know exactly who you are.”
“And who is that?” he asked, his tone hard as steel.
“You’re Topher Elliot, King Royal. You walk on water, and everyone bows at your feet.”
I rolled my eyes. “Oh, don’t act like you don’t know what everyone calls you guys.”
He exhaled and stared down at his textbook with a frown. For a moment, he looked almost bothered by it. But that was impossible. Boys like Topher didn’t care what girls like me thought of them.
“I mean, I’ve heard the royal thing, but . . . Anyway, it’s not like I wanna be called that.”
“Okay,” I said, when what I really meant was You expect me to believe that?
“So that’s it, then, huh? One label and you’ve got me all figured out?”
His throat bobbed, and he almost sounded . . . angry or upset. Which was weird.
When I said nothing, he straightened in his chair and glanced down at his book. “Whatever. Let’s just get on with this.”
Gracie Graham writes contemporary young adult novels and is the pen name for adult author Tia Souders.
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