Release day: June 22, 2018
Tristan Lopez is loyal to his brothers. He doesn’t really have a choice, born into a gang that has a chokehold on every kid that roams its streets. He gave his life to them willingly, knowing if he did then one day this kingdom, led by boys drunk with power and ruled by fear, would all be his.
He was loyal through it all. Loyal when prison took his dad away. Loyal when his face was touched by the cold metal of the rival gang’s gun. Loyal even though his mom begged him to run the moment she returned home from rehab.
He thought about becoming someone else. It was hard not to crave the life of a regular 17-year-old. It’s the only reason he stayed in school—to pretend. But he always fell back in line.
Riley Rojas didn’t belong in Tristan’s real world. She should have only been part of the fantasy, one of the many faces he got to pretend with amidst rows of metal chairs and desks and whiteboards with assignments. But there she was, moving boxes from the back of an old pick-up into a house Tristan had shot up on a dare with his friends only a few months before.
Tall enough to look him in the eyes and strong enough to fill his shadow, Riley took up space on his streets, her loud mouth fearless in the face of the gang leaders who terrified everyone else. She pushed Tristan around on the hard court, and she balled better than his friends—better than him
sometimes. She challenged him. She needed him. He liked it. And when her pale blue eyes stared into his, he quit wanting to pretend.
He couldn’t ask her to leave because she’d only dig her heels in deeper. He couldn’t ask because he didn’t want her to go. She was blurring his lines. She was testing his loyalty.
He was falling in love.
And it was going to tear him apart.
We stare at one another through a full breath while she takes in my partial promises, and I’m compelled to make my point again—the one I have been trying to make since I first met her.
“You don’t belong here, Riley. You just don’t.”
I’m barely done speaking when her hands reach up and touch my cheeks as her body steps into me. Her eyes close in that fraction of a second and her lips find mine, a cool and soft surprise that stuns me at the first touch, my entire body rushed with what feels like a shot of morphine that begins at my lips and flows down my neck and arms and spine. It’s the softest kiss I’ve ever had. There’s nothing dirty or obligated about it.
Her fingertips are feather-light against my skin, and her mouth holds onto my bottom lip with a quivering and timid touch that matches everything I know she’s feeling—that I’m feeling.
This kiss is uncertain. I don’t deserve it. She should take it back.
Her lips fall away from mine, losing their tentative hold as she lowers her heels back to the ground and takes a single step away as her eyes open on me. They are heartbroken and embarrassed. I didn’t kiss back. It kills me that I didn’t, and I wanted to. God, did I want to. Her lips deserve better, though. Kissing back would have been another sin. It would have been weak in another way. I’ve let her get too close as it is.
“We can’t be friends.”
The sickness climbs up my chest the instant I utter those words. Her eyes flicker, the light dimming quickly, hope lost and regret quickly moving in. Her mouth hardens, lips forming a sneer. I wouldn’t be shocked if she spit at me next. She doesn’t, but she does slap me. My skin bakes, the burn from what I know is a bright red sting she left behind throbbing as I tilt my head back to face her.
She knocked me off my axis, but she didn’t destroy my world. It’s more than that, though. I know it the second she turns her back to me and walks out the gym door.
I didn’t destroy hers.
About the Author
Ginger Scott is an Amazon-bestselling and Goodreads Choice Award-nominated author of several young and new adult romances, including Waiting on the Sidelines, Going Long, Blindness, How We Deal With Gravity, This Is Falling, You and Everything After, The Girl I Was Before, Wild Reckless, Wicked Restless, In Your Dreams, The Hard Count, Hold My Breath, and A Boy Like You.
A sucker for a good romance, Ginger’s other passion is sports, and she often blends the two in her stories. (She’s also a sucker for a hot quarterback, catcher, pitcher, point guard…the list goes on.) Ginger has been writing and editing for newspapers, magazines and blogs for more than 15 years. She has told the stories of Olympians, politicians, actors, scientists, cowboys, criminals and towns. For more on her and her work, visit her website at http://www.littlemisswrite.com.
When she’s not writing, the odds are high that she’s somewhere near a baseball diamond, either watching her son field pop flies like Bryce Harper or cheering on her favorite baseball team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Ginger lives in Arizona and is married to her college sweetheart whom she met at ASU (fork ’em, Devils).
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