On Monday morning, I find myself ripping off my clothes and jumping in the shower like I’m going for the gold at an Olympic race. I crank the nozzle as far right as it’ll go—the hotter the better, for the steam to build quickly.
More than I want a cleansing, I want the hidden message—our secret exchange of thoughts, belonging to only us—to appear.
But as the shower glass fogs, no words emerge. And the depth of my disappointment is irrational; there should not be the sting of tears in my eyes right now.
Kingston is forbidden fruit in so many ways: he’s our exchange student, my father has already warned him against me…and his departure date is set and inevitable. So my anticipation of these messages is not only foolish, but self-destructive. Because the more attached I get, the worse it will hurt when they’re no longer even a possibility.
I hurry through my now-mundane shower with a heavy lump of disenchanted sensibility in my gut.
But when I turn off the water and step out, every thought I’d just told myself made sense is replaced with a swell of immeasurable bliss.
Guess what else fogs up in a steamy bathroom?
And on it is his message to me—the best one yet.
There was something in her movements that made you think she never walked but always danced.
I’m instantly aware—this is bad, because once you think something’s gone and it comes back better than ever, your craving for it reaches a whole new, dangerous level.
You only fully realize the depth of want and need immediately after experiencing loss.
Too many emotions to name surge inside of me, my head a good kind of hazy while the muscles around my heart cinch tighter. I know Kingston and I are merely friends, albeit becoming better ones with every effortless interaction. We’re just housemates who’ve found a clever, entertaining way to match wits.
But if it was, if it could be, more…he’d be damn good at it.
I now understand how he’s able to bewitch girls by the droves. It’s not just his strikingly good looks, or enticing accent…it’s him. Those girls are such simpletons, so spellbound by the outside package that they don’t even realize the entirety of his allure.
But I do. I see his invisible, inherent charm; the sheer seductiveness that emits from his every smile and move; and his keen mind.
Shaking off the silly, romantic musings that have no place in my life, I hustle to get ready for school.
But once I’m in the parking lot, ignoring the bell warning me I’m about to be late, I throw caution—and my better judgment—to the wind, and type out a text.
Me: You’ve read Anne of Green Gables?
The second bell rings as I wait for a response, but for some inexplicable reason, I simply don’t care. Then a different ding sounds—and with it, my heart thrums an anxious beat.
Kingston: No, should I have?
Me: Yes, great books. But I asked bc the quote you left me this morning, which I really liked btw… it’s from one of the books.
Kingston: Ah, well they stole your story then, Love.
I’ve definitely unfairly judged the girls caught under his spell. The choice was never theirs. He’s that good.
Me: How do you figure?
Kingston: I searched “quotes for Echo Kelly” and that came up. As it should. Said it perfectly.
This—he—could get addictive. And lines clearly drawn in my head and heart could easily become blurry, if not completely obliterated, should I sit here any longer.
So I force myself back into friend mode and reply accordingly.
Me: You’re on a roll this morning. Better save some of those savvy lines for the tarts.
I hesitate before sending one last message.
Me: I’m late. Have a good day playboy!
I run into school, out of breath for two reasons but satisfied with myself for taking back control of the situation that was headed in a direction I dare not explore.
First, you don’t leap from shy introvert who doesn’t date to Kingston Hawthorne: a smooth-talker with a face made for dreams, a body of unworldly men, and the entourage of a celebrity. He’s not the type of guy to get your feet wet with, or you’re sure to drown on your first swim. And secondly, the detour I threw worked, because the texts that continue the rest of the day are back on the track they need to be.
Temptation is ONLY a room away….
Filthy Foreign Exchange Releases April 24th!
New York Times bestselling authors Angela Graham and S.E. Hall have teamed up again to bring you a full-length, steamy new romance.
Echo Kelly is loyal to her studies, family, and aerial artistry. She has no time for or interest in anything else, and is heartbroken when her oldest brother, Sebastian, gets accepted to a study-abroad program— exchanging places with cocky, not-at-all-shy foreign exchange student Kingston Hawthorne.
Kingston Hawthorne had the life every twenty-year-old guy dreams of— endless cash, easy women, and fast cars— until his father ripped it all away, shipping him off to the States and placing him temptingly close to the underage virgin who fascinates him in the most challenging of ways.
With Kingston’s bedroom just a connecting bathroom away from Echo’s, the chemistry between them is even more enticing than the notes he leaves for her on the shower door.
How long can you pretend you’re just friends?