This excerpt is from chapter 2.

Seventeen-year-old Peyton Lane has a part-time job waiting tables in a diner, where her co-workers Steve and Tori give her a hard time for being so tall.

On this night, they bet her that she can't get a tall guy to kiss her ...


 I hesitated. This was crazy. I wasn’t the sort of girl who could confidently march up to a guy and demand kisses. Heck, I wasn’t the sort of girl who could march confidently. And I wasn’t sure I could succeed in getting the hot guy to kiss me. Scratch that — I was sure. That I couldn’t succeed.

But just maybe I was irritated enough to try.

“I’ll give you my two hundred if you win, Peyton. When you win,” said Jim.

I stood to win four hundred bucks, and I could seriously use that kind of money.

Of course, if I lost … I shuddered.

“Too scared to try? Chicken?” Steve flapped his elbows and made clucking noises.

 “Huh, more like ostrich,” Tori goaded.

She was so sure I’d bomb out. It might be worth the embarrassment to wipe that self-satisfied smile off her face.

“Or like Big Bird,” Steve said.

“Fine, I’ll do it.” Had those words just come out of my mouth? Oh, jeez.

“Atta girl!” Jim said. “But better do it quickly — they’re leaving.”

Sure enough, the group was getting to their feet, the three girls grabbing their bags, and the tall guy unfurling himself from the corner seat. Oh, man, six-three. Short hair, pretty much the same light brown as mine, light eyes — I couldn’t tell the color from where I stood — and broad shoulders. I couldn’t decide if he was really hot, really really hot, or really freaking hot.

“It’s got to be a real kiss, not just a peck,” Tori said.

“Yeah, there’s got to be tongue,” Steve added.

Panic skittered up my spine. Maybe it showed on my face, because Jim gave me an encouraging smile and a pat on the shoulder, and said, “Relax, kiddo — you look like you’re about to be fried in the electric chair.”

I fixed a smile onto my lips. “Better?”

“Uh, can you do something with your hair and maybe put some color in your cheeks?”

I yanked my hair free of its ponytail and fluffed it up, pinched my cheeks, and undid another button on my shirt for good measure. Then, to the accompaniment of Jim’s rendition of It’s Now or Never, I turned to face the corner booth, and started walking.

I am a queen. I am a queen.

I repeated the words silently to myself with each reluctant step, but it did no good. I was no regal creature, just a seriously tall girl. And right now I’d rather be doing anything — even writing a calculus test or cleaning up the kitchen at home — than this.

“Hey, Micayla, Greg,” I said, when I drew up to the table.

I recognized all of the faces — except his — from school. Four of them, including the predatory girl in the blue dress, were a year below me, but Greg and Micayla would be seniors with me when the new school year started in ten days’ time.

Greg Baker was vice-captain of the school’s varsity basketball team, and forever trying to get me to try out for the girls’ team. I estimated his height at a respectable six-one, but he looked short beside the tall guy who stood beside him, filling my peripheral vision with green. Every cell in my body was already attuned to him, like sunflowers rotating to face the light.

“Hey,” I said. My voice came out embarrassingly high. Instantly my cheeks grew hot. “I need to speak to …”

My gaze slid up to the tall guy’s. Oh, boy. Six-four — six-four if he was an inch. And his eyes were an unusual olive green.

“Oh, this is my cousin Jay Young, he’s from DC,” Greg said. “Jay, this is Peyton Lane. She’s also a senior at Longford High.”

“Hi,” Jay said. His voice was deep and steady.

“Hey, Big P,” said one of the junior boys. “What’s the weather like up there?”

I blushed harder. I hated that nickname — it made me sound like giant genitals or something. If I ever found out who at school had started it …

Jay gave me a puzzled grin and said, “Sooo, what’s up?”

“Um …” Now what? I had no idea how to say this. I wished the rest of the group would go away and leave us alone, but they were all staring at me as if I was the bearded lady at a freak show. “Look, is there any way I could persuade you to kiss me?” I finally blurted out.

“Say what?” said one of the girls.

Blue Dress rolled her eyes and made a disgusted sound, and Greg burst out laughing.

“Come again?” Jay said.

“Three minutes!” Tori called from the other side of the restaurant.

“They,” I said, indicating Steve and Tori, “bet me that I couldn’t get you to kiss me. And … I took them up on it.”

He still appeared bewildered. Probably thinking, And this is my problem, how?

“Dumb, I know, but I did. It’s just that I could really use the money.”

I looked away from him. I could feel heat radiating out from my face — my cheeks must be the color of the cherry-red leather seats, the crimson checkered suit of Jumping Jim on the window decals, the ketchup-scarlet of pure humiliation.

“Hey, I’m flattered. But I don’t generally go around kissing strange girls.”

“Strange, man, you said it,” Junior quipped, and Blue Dress and her friend giggled.

“Sure, no problem,” I stammered. “It was always going to be a long shot. Sorry I bothered you.”

I’d never been so mortified in my entire life. My eyes were prickling with shame and anger at myself, and my chest felt like it was clenched in the crushing grip of a giant. A real one, twenty feet tall at least. Why in the name of all that’s holy had I ever taken the freaking bet? What had made me think, even for one crazy moment, that a tall, hot guy would want to kiss me? I turned to go and was halfway back to where Steve and Tori stood gloating at how fast and how entirely I’d struck out, when I heard the deep voice again.

“Hey, Peyton?”

“Yeah?” I turned to face him. He still stood beside the girl in the blue dress. The rest of the group were at the door, ready to go.

“What was the bet?”

“Four hundred dollars.”

He gave a low whistle. “That’s a lot of money.”

“Yeah — go big or go home, right?” I said, trying to force a note of humor into my voice and a carefree smile onto my face. But none of this was amusing. I didn’t have four hundred bucks to burn. “Like I said, dumb.”

I shrugged and turned back. Tori and Steve high-fived each other, then both held out their hands as if I was going to hand over the money right there and then.

A warm hand grabbed mine from behind and tugged, spinning me around. Jay stood there, his head tilted to one side, a grin on his lips, and a challenge in his eyes.

“Let’s disappoint them, yeah?”



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