Cover Design by Najla Qamber Designs
First comes a nickel,
Then comes a shove,
Then comes loss only conquered by his love.
This is the story of my first true love. The story of how the boy next door protected me, became my best friend, stole my heart, and rescued me from my darkest despair.
“Tommy, my mother’s going to kill me if I don’t make curfew! I have to go. We have to stop.” God, his lips. The way he kisses that spot behind my ear, making my knees go all jelly. And his hands—his strong, skilled, wandering hands—they’re cupping my ass, pulling me closer to his body. His very stimulated, very rigid, body. Mmm, he’s delicious and tempting, and I want him so bad. I’m this close to giving in to his devilish ways—this freaking close—but . . .
Not when the clock is ticking and my mother’s waiting for me on the couch to get my Daisy Duke wearing ass home.
“Please, baby, five more minutes? I’ll walk you home. Your mom loves me, she’ll understand.” He’s persistent, like always, but even with his soft lips trailing those sensuous kisses along my collarbone while his hands explore all the sensitized triggers of my body that awaken like live-wires underneath his expert touch . . .
“Nope! We have to stop!” I’m panting with desire and frustration and oh, God, do I want him. Willpower, Gabriella! Sometimes it’s damn near impossible to muster while entranced by such passionate efforts, but I’ve used it for years, and I’m not giving up now.
“She’s not going to love you when she sees this on my neck!” I pull away from his embrace and point to the purple hickey he gave me the night before. “Tommy, that woman inspects my body like I’m part of a prison strip search. How am I going to hide this one, you animal?”
Laughing that gruff, contagious laugh that I can feel in my toes, Tommy exaggerates a growl, accentuating his r’s. “You make me an animal. It’s all your fault. Those shorts, those tanned mile-long legs. Your father let you go out of the house looking like that?”
“Not exactly. I have my sweats in my bag. I told them you, me, Maria, and Crystal were watching a movie in your basement. I hate lying to them all the time. They’re going to wind up finding out their sixteen-year-old daughter is fooling around with the hot older guy next door. And when they do—”
“My ass is grass.”
“And your balls will belong to Papa Rossi. We have to tell them. Ease them into it. If we show them we can be mature about this, that it’s just a little crush and then slowly ease them into us dating . . . I think they’ll approve.”
“Yeah, okay, Gabriella. You and I both know this is not some little crush. This is a lifelong love affair, whether they want to believe it or not. You’ve wanted me since you knew what love was, ain’t that the truth?” His arms are back where they belong: around my waist, holding me close.
“And you’ve wanted me before it was morally acceptable, so let’s not go there, dude. We get it, our friends get it, but our parents are another story. Dad grills Gina about being boy crazy all the time and she’s almost graduated from college! He and Mom were married fresh out of high school. He doesn’t want that for his daughters. He wants a better, more modern future and I can’t disappoint him, Tommy. As much as I love you, as much as I’ve promised my future to you, I have to show them we can have it all.” Same story, different day. “I’m not allowed to date until I’m sixteen. Those are the rules.”
“Newsflash! Guess how old you are, Gabby?”
I’m not an idiot. I know how old I am. I’m just chicken. The wrath of my over-protective, off-the-boat father is something I’d rather put off a while longer. Promises, promises—I think I’ve made more than I can keep.
Sensing my discomfort with the topic we’ve beaten to a dead horse repeatedly, Tommy relents, showing his sweet compassion. “We’ll have it all one day and I can’t wait to give it to you.” He kisses my forehead, reassuring me. “Sixteen or sixty, this is right. It was not a coincidence that your family moved onto this block all those years ago—it was fate. You were meant for me, I was meant for you, and we have those two punks, Sasha and Seth to thank for picking up where fate left off.”
Allowing the calm I always feel in Tommy’s arms to surge my senses, I laugh. “I actually feel some sort of weird loyalty to those two brats. We may have to name our firstborn after one of them.” I pull out of our embrace to rummage through my bag for the sweats I’d left the house in.
“Not happening. When we have our precious little girls, they’ll have their mama’s beauty and their daddy’s stubbornness, and they will not be named after two kids who picked on you for the better part of your childhood. Little pricks. The thought of them still irritates me. I’m so glad they moved to Long Island—no man’s land—where they belong.”
“No man’s land? Your grandmother and uncle live there. It’s not exactly off the map.”
“It may as well be. I can’t remember the last time I saw either of them. My parents and their family drama—they exile anyone who doesn’t play by their ridiculous set of rules. But, whatever, my parents aren’t the issue right now, it’s yours I’m worried about.”
I glare at my watch, the second hand criticizing every move that isn’t in the direction toward my own house. “Yeah, I’m worried about them too, and how Mom’s going to react when I walk in five minutes late for the third time this week.”
“Come on,” Tommy huffs, finally relenting. “I’ll walk you home and get you out of trouble.”
“You? Get me out of trouble? You’re the one reason I’m always in trouble!” I should heed my own warning, be wary of the consequences of being young, foolish, and in love, but Tommy’s trouble is the kind every teenage girl would die for—dangerous in the sweetest way possible. Is it a sin to get a thrill from that danger? If so, I really don’t care. I’m not in training to be a nun, and you only live once. Tommy radiates life into me, the kind that makes me grateful for opening my eyes every morning. Life as Tommy’s girl—whether public knowledge or not—is the only kind of life I want.
Reading my mind the way he’s always been able to, he kisses my forehead and wraps an arm around my shoulders. “I’m the best kind of trouble and you know it.”
“That I do. Now take me home, my hero.” I’ve called him that since the day from hopscotch hell. It caught on and I never turned back. It’s the same with my feelings for him—those have been going strong for a long time now too. Devoted. Helplessly loyal. Faithful in every sense of the word.
Faith Andrews lives in New York where she is happily married to her high school sweetheart. They have two beautiful daughters and a furry Yorkie son, Rocco. If she isn’t listening to Mumford and Sons or busy being a Dance Mom, her nose is in a book or her laptop. She’s a sucker for a happily ever after and believes her characters are out there living one somewhere . . .
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