Schooled Exclusive Chapter

When I published Schooled, here’s what I heard from you guys…

“Dylan is my newest book boyfriend. The guy who shows that what you see isn’t always what you get, that good looking can also be intelligent and soooooo cute!!!!! I want one, ok Piper? You can deliver him to my place.”
“I need more Dylan and Lex! Dylan is so unlike most of the genre’s heroes–in a GOOD way.”
“Any day of the week, I would take Dylan Cameron as my hero…”
Here’s Lex and Dylan’s first kiss, with a twist ☺
It lines up with Chapter 2 of Schooled. Enjoy!

 

Chapter 2

Dylan

“Lex? It’s Dylan. Is everything OK?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” A small, distinctly not-OK-sounding voice came back through the closed door.
I thought about turning around to go back to the party downstairs. Then I remembered the way Lex had bolted up to her room.
It wasn’t birthday girl behavior and probably had something to do with the giant douchebag we’d run into earlier. I couldn’t believe he had the balls to even talk to her like that.
On impulse I turned the handle, easing the door in. When my eyes adjusted to the dim light I could see Lex sitting on the queen size bed with her long legs tucked under her. She looked tense and defeated at once.
I was torn between standing my ground and finding Jake Marsden. The temptation to put a fist in his face was almost too much to ignore.
But it’s not about him. It’s about her.
“I saw you take off up the stairs like something was on fire. What happened?” I forced myself to sound calm even if I didn’t feel it.
She sniffed and shook her head, trying for a smile. Trying to look like the together girl I’d always seen. The one she showed to the world. “Nothing. Really, Dylan, it’s fine.”
I waited her out.
“It’s stupid,” she muttered finally, pushing herself up and crossing her legs.
I wondered for a second about getting Ava. My sister would know what to do. Still, even though I wasn’t sure how I could help Lex, my gut told me to stay.
I gestured to the bed beside her. “Can I …”
“Be my guest.” She sighed, motioning me over to the bed.
Lex’s gaze was a weird shade of silver that never ceased to fascinate me. Her red hair falling over her shoulder, she reminded me of a fox. Curious and attentive and a little skittish.
I wanted to fix the hurt in her eyes. To remind her just how strong she was.
“I remember when Jenna Carlisle held her twelfth birthday party the same day as yours, even though her birthday wasn’t until the week after. Everyone knew she did it just to spite you. Half the class missed your party. It was a dick move, but you didn’t let anyone see that it bothered you.”
Even though I’d been ten years old, I knew kids and I got what was going on. I was incensed on her behalf. Though I hadn’t liked most of Ava’s friends, Lex was different.
Lex had always been different.
“So what you’re saying is the world has been out to get me for nine years and I should be used to it by now?” Her lips tugged up at one corner. It encouraged me.
“I’m saying you don’t need to have it together all the time. No one expects you to be perfect.”
She blinked. Again.
Shit.
How did that make it worse?
What if she started crying? I’m not good with crying.
Whenever Ava used to cry, I’d pass her off on Ethan. My older brother was good with tears.
Actually, he was good with girls, period.
But I couldn’t just sit there like an asshole.
It was my turn to be surprised when Lex leaned into me, pressing her face into my chest. I wrapped my arm around her, mostly because I was at a loss for what to do. It must’ve been the right thing because she sighed against my shirt. She smelled sweet and a little spicy and when she pressed closer, her coppery hair slid against my cheek.
The crush I’d had on my sister’s best friend was both long-standing and well-guarded. I’d gotten really good over the years at hiding the way my body reacts to this girl. Like she’s a fire in the arctic and I’m freezing, crawling in the darkness.
I could count on one hand the number of conversations we’ve had over the years. Most of our exchanges had been only in passing or at my parent’s dinner table. Now, after ten years of admiring this girl from a distance, her body’s flush with mine.
I let her stay exactly where she was. I gave into it, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and just breathing her in. After not nearly long enough, she sat up. Her expression said she wasn’t quite sure what’d happened either.
She pushed back the hair that’d fallen across her face and tucked it neatly behind her ear.
It escaped almost as fast. I had to resist the temptation to brush it back myself.
When she found her voice it was still a bit scratchy. “Thanks, Dylan. For … you know. This crap with Jake, though, it won’t happen again. I’m swearing off guys.”
I rolled with her change of pace, pretending she hadn’t been perilously close to breaking down in my arms a second ago. “Switching to girls?”
Her brows drew together as she considered. “I’m leaning toward celibacy. Girls are crazy too.”
This was the Lex I knew. Self-deprecating and sarcastic.
“Sounds like a plan. I know of a great convent if you’re in the market.”
Her lips twitched at the corner. “Please. I’m so ready for things to be simple, you know? I would love to have one outfit to choose from in the morning. Eat porridge for breakfast. Live vicariously through other people’s drama.” Her face scrunched up. “Though I’m not sure I want to go to any convent you’re … familiar with.”
I turned it over in my head but still wound up confused. It was like my brain had been muddled by spending this much time this close to her. “Wait, what are you saying? You think I’m a player?”
Lex raised a delicate eyebrow, the same red as her hair. “I’m sure I’m not the only one.”
“Seriously?”
Her assessment bothered me. Not only had she had some opinion of me, it was definitely not the one I wanted.
“Maybe I am. But you don’t even know me, Lex. Not really.”
She held up her hands, as if to say don’t shoot the messenger. “So that rumor about Principal Green suspending two cheerleaders for fighting over you in the hall in junior year wasn’t true?”
“Not my fault,” I insisted, frowning. “You can’t hold me accountable for the actions of hormone-ridden teenage girls, especially ones I wasn’t even dating.”
The whole thing had got blown way out of proportion. Fuel for the inescapable gossip mill that was our high school.
Her expression said she wasn’t convinced.
I’d spent my whole life having people judge me for things that weren’t true, weren’t fair. I’d never really had a problem with it until now. For some reason I couldn’t handle having the one girl I’d always admired look at me like this.
“I don’t know how we ended up talking about me. I came up here to talk about you. But as long as we are, can you do me a favor and just forget everything you think you know about me for a second?”
She sat up, crossing her arms. “I’ll try.”
“If it helps my image, my social calendar is remarkably empty at the moment,” I added. “And with your ringing endorsement a second ago, is it any wonder? You know, ‘girls are crazy’ and all.”
“Sure, but I bet you broke a lot of hearts back East when you came here. It’s funny, though, now that you mention it, I can’t remember you dating in high school. Did you never bring girls around?”
Lex meant to our house, where she’d spent more time than at home.
“You don’t remember because you and Ava were so much older and cooler. If it wasn’t about clothes, or football players, or celebrities it wasn’t on your radar.”
She looked ready to disagree, but I was on a roll.
“Listen. What if I told you I haven’t had time for girls?”
Lex smiled, a little dimple appearing at the corner of her lips. For a couple years when I had it really bad, I lived for that dimple.
“Yeah right. No time for girls? Even when they’re pulling each other’s hair out over you?”
Part of me said to brush off her question, but I wanted to tell her.
It reminded me of that magic trick, where the magician starts pulling a scarf from his sleeve, only to reveal one after another after another. More brightly-colored secrets than you thought could possible exist follow each other in a chain of surprises.
“Pretty much. I needed a full scholarship to make tuition. It wasn’t an option for Ava because of her grades and major. But Mom and Dad lost some of their savings and they couldn’t afford to put us both through after Kate. I logged about twenty hours a week in extra credit projects and tutoring senior year. Between that and rugby, which the guys begged me to stay on the team so they could have a run at state, I didn’t have time for dating that year. Or anything else, really. I thought I might get a rugby scholarship but messed up my knee midway through the season. When I got an academic scholarship to Penn State, I jumped at it. Believe me, my parents were just as shocked as you are that I managed to score the free ride.”
Lex’s stunned expression reminded me I’d just spilled way too much. Regret washed over me.
“Don’t say anything to Ava, OK? She doesn’t know. I mean, she knows about the scholarship but not about the money thing.”
Lex had no reason to be loyal to me over Ava, but when she nodded, I wanted so much to believe her.
“So why did you come back?” she asked, shifting. Lex looked so intent she barely noticed when her skirt rode higher up legs that were too damn long to be real. I’d seen her in a bathing suit before, but that seemed miles apart from sitting on her bed, wondering what color her panties were and flirting with the possibility of finding out.
I didn’t want to point it out and make her uncomfortable. So I settled for being the uncomfortable one.
Focusing on her question helped keep my mind out of the gutter.
“I always wanted to be here. But the scholarship and other things made Penn State look pretty good last year. I studied my ass off hoping to get a transfer closer to home. Guess I lucked out. In any case, I’m glad to be back. And maybe if I’m lucky I can have a semi-normal college experience.”
A sudden smile pulled across her face and it brightened the whole room. “Well, Dylan, you got your wish. A good-looking kid like you will catch up on the extracurriculars in no time.”
The lightness in her tone reminded me how little she knew of my life. The parts I couldn’t tell her, not even here, not ever.
“I’m not a kid, Lex. Don’t assume I haven’t been through just as much as you have.”
My tone was harsher than I’d intended, but I couldn’t help it. She didn’t have a clue what I had been through these past few years.
The smile fell from her lips and the humor vanished as quickly as it’d come. Lex’s expression turned wary and her eyes flicked back and forth on mine.
Calm down, asshole.
She wasn’t trying to push my buttons and it wasn’t her fault I was wound so damn tight.
Or if it was, she didn’t mean to do it.
“Anyway, if you’re so much older and smarter,” I went on, “what’d I miss while I was up to my ears in textbooks and jockstraps?”
She seemed to relax a few degrees when I did.
“You mean because you didn’t date?”
I nodded. She tilted her head, considering, and tapped her finger absently on her lips.
“Well, on the bright side you missed out firsthand on the whining, the catfights, and a hundred varieties of high maintenance that is teenage girls.”
Her wry comment made me smile again. She had this way of being funny and sarcastic without sounding unfeeling. After the experiences I’d had growing up it was the last part that was most important. The difference between being smart and caring and cold and calculated could be a hard line to discern.
“I like your optimism. Although some of that definitely came through osmosis living with two older sisters. What about the downside?”
I could’ve sworn she flushed, but it was hard to tell in the faded light cast by a single lamp in the corner of her room.
“Well, the obvious one is sex. I mean, it kind of is something you need two people to do.” She frowned. “Or I guess, more than two is fine also…”
Her sultry words made my bloodpressure spike. I was painfully reminded of how close her body was to mine.
Somehow, keeping a level head around the girl I’d grown up fantasizing about was a lot easier when she didn’t say the word ‘sex’. Especially while she was looking right at you.
I cleared my throat. “Alexis Caine. Are you asking about my sex life? Like, for posterity?”
I couldn’t in a million years have predicted I’d spend the first night of my first weekend back in California at a new school sitting on Lex’s bed talking about sex.
The world clearly wasn’t playing by the rules tonight. Still, when a beautiful girl asked you about sex, wasn’t the right response to answer her?
“Well, since you seem to be prying all my secrets out of me, why stop now.” I crossed my arms, mock serious. “I’m not a virgin. But it has been awhile. Junior year, Amy Street. We dated for two months, but she moved away with her family.”
Lex burst out laughing, lifting her arm to cover her face as if it would hide the depth of her response.
I held up a hand, suddenly grateful I don’t blush. “Stop. For the record, she didn’t move the day after we had sex.”
“Mhmm. It would explain a lot, though, wouldn’t it?” she teased. I leveled her with a look.
Even though her joke was at my expense, I was glad to see her in the mood to tease after what’d happened downstairs.
“It was a family decision,” I explained.
“A family decision to get her away from you and your badass moves?” She said the words with relish, wiping at her eyes. This time it was because she’d been laughing, not because she was sad.
“You’re an ego crusher, Lex.”
“I’m sure you can take it.” Lex looked up at me from under dark lashes. The easy rapport that’d been developing between us was foreign.
And addictive.
“Uh-huh. Listen. Guys are more delicate than you think. But between you and me, because I never really had a girlfriend, I’m a little light on all the … sex-adjacent stuff. All those early teen years of truth or dare, making out in the back of the car, groping on the couch? Never happened to me.”
I leaned in, my face just inches from hers, and rested my hands on her knees. I’d somehow forgotten about the whole bare legs thing in the ease of our exchange, and my chest tightened as I was distracted by the feel of her skin, soft and smooth under my palms. Lex didn’t seem to notice.
“I will deny it if this ever leaves the room, but my cumulative sexual experience totals about the length of an episode of Breaking Bad.”
Her mouth fell open like I’d just confessed to murdering an elected politician.
I held up a hand. “OK, but before you start worrying about me dying alone, two girls have asked me out since I got here. So as of now I have two dates and zero moves. I’ve spent so much time with guys and books I hardly know what to do with girls. Who aren’t, you know, my friends or sisters.”
“Or your sisters’ friends,” she deadpanned slyly.
“Exactly.” I couldn’t help the grin.
Her expression shifted and a tiny wrinkle appeared in her forehead. Her gray eyes, shot with silver, worked over mine. My hands itched to move on her legs, or off them, but I didn’t want to draw attention to my discomfort.
She was lost in thought and I was about to ask if she was alright when she spoke.
“I am a woman of science,” she started, “and as such, believe an objective test is in order.”
I was lost again. It felt like she’d arrived at some destination and I still didn’t know where we were going. “In English, Yoda.”
She straightened her spine, squaring her shoulders.
“Kiss me.”
Two words.
No inflection at the end. Not a question, a command.
They echoed in my ears against the dull noise from the party downstairs.
I almost burst out laughing, but the seriousness of her gaze stopped me. Of the ways I’d thought this party might play out tonight, kissing this girl was not one of them. After nineteen years I knew better than to hope for it.
After endless seconds the confidence in her gaze wavered. The way she looked at me, like she was actually waiting for me to respond, had me jerking my hands back.
“Listen, Lex,” I started as I pushed myself off the bed, “I appreciate the effort to make up for my recently lackluster social life, but I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Her gaze held confusion and what almost looked like hurt. I forced myself to remember exactly why this wasn’t a good idea. “For one, you’ve been drinking.”
“And you haven’t?”
“No, actually.”
Lex reached for my arms. Her hands barely made it around my forearms but she insistently tugged me back down onto the bed. “I’m not drunk.”
Clearly that line of reasoning wasn’t going to work. But I was really having trouble remembering the other reasons that having this girl kiss me was a bad plan, especially with her fingers wrapped around my arms.
Because Ava would kill you.
Because you’ve known Lex all your life and she’s never shown the slightest interest in you.
Because…
“I’m not drunk,” she said again, insistently.
Unable to come up with an alternative that wasn’t leaving, I did what any man would do.
I stalled.
“What’s twelve times eighteen.”
Her gaze flicked to the ceiling momentarily like she was doing the math before coming back to mine an instant later. “Two hundred and sixteen,” she replied coolly.
Christ.
That was hot.
I swallowed before trying again.
“The capital of South Africa.”
“Pretoria.”
OK, far from proving my point she was pummeling me into the dust. Her expression was bright and determined, like my challenge was a game that only adding fuel to the fire of her conviction.
I needed a good one. My admiration was warring with the need to show her, and myself, that she was too far gone to be making decisions.
I leaned in and narrowed my eyes. “First Democratic president of the United States.”
Surprise crossed her features, her dark lashes blinking and her lips pursing.
I had it in the bag.
Lex leaned her elbows on her knees and her chin on her fists. “Andrew Jackson. Serving from 1829 from 1837.” Her smile was a little cocky. “Any more? I could do this all night.”
Being a good guy sucks.
I could see how tonight was going to play out. Fast forward a bit and I’d be at home in my bed cursing myself.
After I jerked off.
Which I should probably do in the shower, because at this rate, I was going to come for fucking hours.
“Dylan, listen,” Lex began, pulling my mind back from darker places. “First, it’s one little kiss. We’re both grown-ups. No big deal.”
Right. No big deal. Not like I hadn’t imagined doing it a million times.
“Second, there’s nothing here.” She waved a finger in the air between us. “We’re practically family, minus the ick factor. Given circumstances that were admittedly beyond your control you are in desperate need of an unbiased third-party opinion.”
I started to argue. The way she was talking, I was some kid who needed to find a hooker to take his virginity.
Lex clapped a hand over my mouth before I could say it and my determination slid when my lips touched her palm.
“Third, I have no stake in this, so can be completely honest. If you suck, I’ll tell you.”
I held my breath for a moment. I’d gone deaf because all I could process was the feeling her skin on mine. She must have realized at the same time because she dropped her hand, using it to smooth down her skirt.
I’d been thinking of this girl way too long in way too many ways. But I wasn’t even on her radar. Hell, she was talking about kissing me like it was a public service.
A mutinous voice in my head said, What would happen if we did this?
I’d kiss her, she’d pass out and forget it ever happened.
Or worse, I’d kiss her, she’d laugh at me, and I’d be a regular joke for her and Ava for the next twenty years or so.
The second prospect was only shades worse than the first.
Lex threw up her hands impatiently. “Oh come on, Cameron, it’s one stupid kiss. To cap off one stupid, heinous night. What are you so afraid of?”
The derision in her tone cracked something inside me. It was like she really did think of me as her best friend’s little brother.
I might not be able to make her see me the way I wanted to, but I could sure as hell make her realize I wasn’t a kid.
“One kiss? Fine.”
The way we were sitting left our faces were only inches apart. Now that we had no mandate to talk, I let my gaze play over her. Eyes that looked like they held all the secrets of the damned universe, or at least the ones worth knowing. Thick copper hair like silk falling over one shoulder. The lightest dusting of freckles just visible over her cheeks.
Huh.
I’d never noticed those before.
Probably because I’d never been this close to her before.
That realization sent blood thrumming through my veins.
I leaned my body toward her. Everything was moving in slow motion, my brain included. When I stopped our lips were a couple of inches apart and I couldn’t bring myself to close the deal.
It was like one of those dreams that you know is too damn good to ever be real. I didn’t want to keep going for fear I’d wake up alone in a sweaty pile of sheets.
Lex inched forward, like she was impatient to get it done. Now I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move without having my mouth on hers. I realized my fist was gripping the cover on her bed just to keep me grounded.
This isn’t happening.
Even if it was, it’d be over in no time.
I’d gone sky diving for my nineteenth birthday. Maybe this was like that and the hardest part was throwing yourself out of the plane.
Drawing on that, I brushed my mouth across hers.
I’d expected something – maybe electricity, like sparks off a welder. What surprised me most was that it felt so real.
When I’d pictured it in my head before, I didn’t quite have it right. Her lips were firmer that I’d imagined, her smell sweeter.
This isn’t happening.
When my eyes opened hers were still closed. Like maybe she didn’t even feel it the first time.
I debated what to do for what felt like an hour but was probably half a second.
She wanted to give me a second opinion. Clearly that wasn’t enough to base on one.
So I kissed her again.
This time when my mouth brushed hers, I didn’t pull back and she didn’t resist. I let my lips explore hers. I wanted to know exactly what her mouth felt like, tasted like. That way at least I could remember it. If I imagined her again – hell, when I imagined her again – I’d get it right.
I wanted her to respond, wished viciously that I’d kiss her and she’d melt under me, realize that all along I was exactly what she needed and wanted. But it wasn’t meant to be.
When I finally pulled back I expected her to smile benevolently and pat me on the head. Instead her gaze was fixed on the bedspread between us. Her expression wasn’t patronizing or mocking.
All she said was, “Well.”
If there was one thing I knew about Lex, it was that she could talk her way out of anything.
The single word had a greater effect on me than both kisses combined.
Because I knew it meant I’d gotten to her. Somehow, on some level, it’d affected her. Maybe it was only a sliver of what it’d done to me, but it was something.
Confidence and heat ran through my veins, eliminating any second-guessing.
I’d been waiting for this my entire life and wasn’t about to let the chance pass me by.
This is so fucking happening.
She started speaking again but I didn’t hear the words. Fuelled by adrenaline I reached for her.
My hand cupped the back of her head, dragging her surprised mouth back to mine. My lips crushed hers as my thumb stroked her jaw.
She was doing everything to tell me she was into this.
Except kiss me back.
I’m not your brother, Lex.
I wanted to say the words. Instead, I showed her, pressing my tongue against the seam of her lips until she opened for me.
She tasted faintly of rum but mostly of her and I couldn’t get enough. My tongue probed her mouth, teasing, exploring in a way I’d never wanted to before.
It was the sweetest torture, having her and still not. Like she was passively resisting, half there with me and half somewhere else.
Just fucking kiss me already.
Impatient to do something, my teeth found her bottom lip.
She moaned into my mouth and everything exploded around us.
Lex’s hand slid up my chest, scorching my skin through my shirt on its way to winding around my neck. Her fingers tugged me closer.
Like I needed any convincing.
We were in this together now. Her and me. Her mouth had come alive under mine, nipping and teasing and giving every bit as good as she got.
Shit, the noises she made were enough to make me lose myself.
My fingers brushed her leg, reminding me we weren’t anywhere near close enough.
None of this was enough
I pulled myself onto my knees, reaching my arm around her to haul her body against me. The fingers of my other hand fisted in that silky red hair. Being high on her made me bold and I tugged, forcing her head back so I could access even more of her sweet mouth.
Her body was against me, held there by the force of my grip. But she wasn’t retreating. Her hips pressed against mine without coercion, making me painfully aware of every inch of us that was in contact. She couldn’t help but feel how hard I was against her. When she arched into me, I groaned.
I was redlining, coming apart at the seams. Lex was everything I’d ever imagined and then some.
My heartbeat was a bass drum in my head. I had no idea what she’d started this for. Maybe she didn’t either. But my brain and all its excuses were long gone and all I wanted was her softness, her hunger, her sarcasm, all of it pouring into me.
My hand released her hair to graze her thigh. She was so damn soft and I stroked a finger up the back of it, nearly losing my mind when I realized I was well above the line of her skirt.
I don’t know if we were there for a minute or an hour. It was so damn good, and already part of me was playing this out. Imagining what it would be like to actually be inside her.
To lay her down on the bed and watch her shatter.
To have her know I was the one who’d done it.
Suddenly her hands shoved at me, snapping me out of my dream. I fell back, my dull reflexes barely catching me before sliding half off the bed.
It was a cruel reality check, one moment lost in my dreams and the next, back sitting on the side of her bed alone. My eyes trained on the floor while I steadied myself.
Her breathing and mine, shallow and mismatched, were the only remnant of what we’d just done.
Scratch that. When I turned my head to look at her, Lex was leaning back on her arms. Her hair was messy and her lips were swollen. Her eyes…her eyes were big and alive and questioning on mine.
I bit back the self-deprecating chuckle that threatened to escape.
What had just happened changed both of us. But it changed who she was to me. I’d never again see her as Ava’s. Because now I had part of her too. A different part, but one I knew she wouldn’t forget.
“Was that scientific enough for you?” I murmured.
Lex cleared her throat. “That was …” she trailed off. “You definitely have the right … foundations,” she said feebly. My unrelenting stare forced her to shift.
“Foundations?”
That wasn’t the word I’d use for what went down between us. I might not be the most experienced but I knew chemistry when I felt it. I knew the way she’d responded to me because it was the same way I responded to her.
Heat.
Sweat.
Need.
Want.
Part of me wanted to tell her this wasn’t over. To make her admit what’d just happened between us.
Instead I stood and crossed to the door. “Well, thank you for the advice. And the experiment.”
When her gaze finally met mine again there was no offer, no ego, no humor.
As selfish as it might’ve been, it was darkly thrilling to see her look at me like that. Because I knew without a doubt she was thinking of me and not some asshole she’d dated in high school.
“It was good catching up, Lex. Happy birthday.” I tore my gaze from hers and let myself out.

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