I’ve submitted one of my stories to Swoon Reads. 😬
Yes, I know… HOLD ME. But here’s the cool thing about Swoon Reads (from the Swoon Reads FAQ page):
“Swoon Reads publishes young adult and new adult romance novels. Writers can submit their original, unpublished manuscript to the Swoon Reads website, and readers who sign up can rate and comment on manuscripts to help us [editors] choose which titles we want to publish. Swoon Reads is an imprint of Macmillan publishing under Feiwel & Friends and was founded by Jean Feiwel.”
In a nutshell, you can visit the Swoon Reads site, create an account (super easy) and read amazing currently-unpublished stories, then rate and comment on them. Manuscripts that are highly rated are considered for a publishing contract from Macmillan.
So… would you mind helping a girl out? And get to read one of my stories at the same time FOR FREE? Yes? Ohmygosh, you are AMAZING. Thank you so much!
Below is the cover (designed by the fabulous Riley Edgewood—thank you!) and the story blurb as well as the first chapter. If you like that and want to read more, click here. It will take you to my page on the Swoon Reads site.
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!
Seventeen-year-olds Jesse, Ashton, and JD have been best friends since they could dribble a soccer ball. Since, they’ve bonded over that sport, kickass video games, and hardcore classes. And they’ve always had an insatiable love of pranking each other.
Until a series of those pranks goes horribly wrong.
Harmless pantsing and cell-phone hacking become a thing of the past, and a vicious social war ensues. The boys’ friendship teeters on a misunderstanding, and secrets they’ve downplayed threaten to blow wide open. Jesse’s wicked smart with only one college on the dream list—Yale. But he’s been offered a bribe to cheat for a classmate, and after the pranks leave him girlfriend-less, the proposition becomes more appealing. JD’s got the looks and athleticism most guys would trade their left nut for, and he could have his pick of girlfriends. But he’s gay. And he’s had feelings for one of the best friends for years. Ashton’s a hopeless romantic, yet he’s never had a girlfriend, let alone a second date. And when a project partnership evolves into a more-than-friends relationship, he’s tempted to break the Bro Code—for Jesse’s girl.
A common rival pits them against each other, and the pranks escalate to serious injury. The boys will need to work together—both on and off the field—to take down their rival before a prank screws up their friendships and their lives. Permanently.
Inspired by the classic song Jesse’s Girl; truTV’s Impractical Jokers, and the antics of Miller’s former high school students, DANGEROUS PLAY has the heart of an intense World Cup match-up, the comedy of a well-orchestrated prank, and a cast of varying ethnicities and eccentricities. It will appeal to fans of John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines, Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, and S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders.
And… chapter one!
I’ve been pantsed. Again.
I should be used to it. When it comes to Jesse, JD, and me, this shit happens all the time. And I wouldn’t be so annoyed if this wasn’t the third time today. Or if it wasn’t a lameass prank leftover from middle school. Or if I wasn’t standing in the middle of Hollister. With Hot Register Girl. In Batman boxers.
I hate my friends.
Hot Register Girl blushes as I pull my shorts up. “Sorry about that.” I scratch my nose with my middle finger at Jesse and JD. They’re holding up a turquoise shirt that reads If you’re hot, I’m single.
“This goes great with Ashton’s boxers, yeah?” JD asks.
Yep. I hate them.
“You play for Penn Ridge, right?” Hot Register Girl points a pen at JD. He waggles his eyebrows, charm oozing off him like cologne off a Hollister model. “Your friend scored a hat trick on my ex two weeks ago. He was totally pissed.”
“So is JD,” I say. Her brow scrunches. “Tonight’s the midnight release of Urgent Fury Five. We’re hitting up GameStop and heading to my buddy’s for a shoot-em-up Zombie fest. He’s ticked I asked you out. Bros before hos, and all.”
JD’s words, but did I seriously say that aloud? I want to sucker punch my own nuts. No wonder I’ve never had a girlfriend.
This is probably a bad idea anyway—asking out a girl I don’t even know. But I couldn’t resist the sleek auburn hair, the tight shirt, the jeans I couldn’t take my eyes off of as she let me in the dressing room.
I’m ready to bail when she tuts. “Movie’s out by then. I’m done at nine. Meet me here?”
“Sure.” I fumble for my phone. My next question’s bound to be a date-killer. “What’s your name again? I was too mesmerized by your beauty to concentrate.”
JD would be proud of that one.
Twenty minutes later I’m sipping an Orange JoJu with my friends outside Kitchen Collection, mentally making date plans. Autumn (Hot Register Girl) has already sent me a text (can’t wait for the movie! xoxo), and I’m trying to decide if I should get her flowers or chocolate when JD grabs my smoothie and drinks what’s left of it in two gulps.
I shove him away. “What the hell, dude?”
Jesse runs a hand through his big hair. “I can’t believe you’re bailing on us. For a girl.”
“What? You’d rather I ditch you for another guy?”
JD grabs my chin and bats his weirdly long lashes. “I’d be damn near heartbroken if you ditched me for another guy.”
I swat his hand away. I love JD more than I love my own brothers—we’ve played soccer together forever and he’s been my best friend for as long as I can remember—but guy has a new girlfriend every other week. He’s tall, naturally athletic, and has that vampire-bed-head-hair girls still seem to go for. I, on the other hand, have never had a girlfriend, let alone a second date.
“Look. I’m sorry. It’s just she’s really hot and my mind obliterated Urgent Fury thoughts. I’ll come to Jesse’s after the movie and you can whip my Zombie ass.”
“Who’s whipping whose Zombie ass?” Meaghan Moreau materializes behind Jesse and wraps her arms around his waist.
“Not Ashton.” Jesse pecks her cheek. “He’s ditching us for Autumn Rains.”
Meaghan furrows her eyebrows. “Who?”
“Some Bayview chick,” JD adds. “You’re lucky not to know her.”
Meaghan rolls her eyes, then playfully pulls at the collar of my shirt, and I have to put some distance between us. Meaghan’s always been like this with me—with our whole group actually—but man if The Arsenal doesn’t stir when she gets all touchy-feely. This is Jesse’s girl. I feel guilty half the time just for thinking she’s hot.
“Is she cute?” Meaghan asks.
“Is she nice?”
“Seems to be.”
“Second date potential?”
“I forgot her name and she still wants to go out with me.”
“Yessssss!” Meaghan smacks a kiss on my forehead. “You have my permission to miss opening night of Urgent Fury Five.” She turns around to a very disappointed JD and Jesse. “What? He has a date with a gorgeous girl and you will not give him crap about it. Or mess with him. No pranks on his date. This could be the one.”
Meaghan then snakes both arms around Jesse’s waist, and they kiss like they didn’t just see each other ten minutes ago. JD clears his throat. I shuffle my feet. When they finally break apart, Meaghan waggles her eyebrows. “Enjoy the show? There’ll be a repeat in fifteen. Gotta use the little girls’ room.” She hands Jesse a Kitchen Collection bag. “Here’s your mom’s birthday present. They didn’t have the Jules Fiarro cookbook so I got her Paleo A Day instead.”
Jesse squeezes her hand. “It’s cooking related. I’m sure she’ll love it.”
When Jesse’s mom isn’t at the hospital or the oncology center, she’s whipping us up every healthy snack imaginable. She’s asked fifty times for menu help for tonight’s Urgent Fury fest. I wanted to suggest ten bags of Doritos and a case of Cokes, but Doctor Hurd is textbook definition of persistence. Easier just to let her have her way.
Meaghan leans into Jesse’s ear. “Ya know,” she purrs, soft enough to be pornographic, loud enough for us to hear. “I could use an escort to the ladies room.”
The swallow over Jesse’s Adam’s apple is palpable.
Meaghan winks. “Back in fifteen.”
“Don’t you mean thirty seconds?” JD asks.
Meaghan makes a face. Jesse flips JD off, then shoves his bags in JD’s hands. I shake my head, slightly jealous. Jesse’s girlfriend is cool, hot, and apparently a sex fiend. I’m sure JD regrets the day he suggested Jesse be Meaghan’s math tutor. But Meaghan and Jesse are a legit thing. He’s her longest relationship; Meaghan was Jesse’s first . . . home run. They’re already making plans after high school and just really seem happy together.
I stare after them as they disappear into the food court crowds, wanting what they’ve got. Someone to hang out with. To help me pick out presents for my family. To talk to before bed and kiss in the middle of the mall and steal quickies in the girls’ bathroom.
When I turn back to JD, he’s digging around in the Kitchen Collection bag.
“This cookbook looks about the same size as . . .” He whips out the receipt and studies it. “Same price I bet, too.”
I narrow my eyebrows. “What are you thinking?”
JD gets that goofy look in his eyes. “I don’t think Jesse’s mom’ll like Paleo A Day for her birthday.”
“JD,” I warn.
“Come on.” He leads me into Kitchen Collection. “I wonder if Spencer’s gift wraps.”
The mall connects to a massive Cineplex that shows twenty different movies on any given night. Autumn picks a rom-com that JD would roll his eyes at, but she laces her fingers through mine halfway through the movie and I could care less if we’re watching a rom-com or a documentary or a freaking Broadway musical. I feel the softness of her palm in mine and her hair against my face when she curls up next to me. This . . . this is what having a girlfriend must feel like.
She’s still holding my hand when I lead her out of the movie theater. The temperature’s dropped like twenty degrees so I wrap my jacket around her, stop her under a lamppost, break off a red carnation from the half-dozen I bought her, and tuck it behind her ear.
“Beautiful,” I say. She blushes and presses her lips together.
“I still can’t get over how gorgeous these are. You are just so sweet.”
Yeah. That’s me. The Sweet One. The Adorable One. The Nice One. JD claims I’m too nice. “Girls like the arrogant, bad-boy type,” he says. But I can’t help it. When I like a girl, I want to spoil her. Mom’s upbringing, I guess. My brothers are the same way. And they both have girlfriends. Even Steven. And he’s in seventh grade.
Autumn squeezes my hand as we walk out into the parking lot. “Would you mind giving me a ride home?” she asks. “A friend brought me to work and . . .”
“I’ll take you home.”
Her dimple materializes. She drops my hand and slides her arm around my waist instead, then leans her body into mine, so close I’m overwhelmed by the smell of her hair—apples and a hint of popcorn. Will she kiss me at the car? At her house? On her front step? I’m so glad I cleaned out my car before I came back to the mall.
When I open the passenger door for her, a landslide of foil packages spills out. Condoms. All sizes and shapes and colors, all over the bucket seats of my Mazda. Oh. My. God. I’m going to kill Jesse and JD.
“Sorry,” I scoop up every visible condom. “These aren’t mine. They’re . . .”
“Your friends?” Autumn chuckles. “They’re looking out for you. How sweet.”
“I wouldn’t exactly call it looking out.” They know I never leave home without a condom, even though I’ve only had the need for one once. And that was a drunken mistake. “I think they’re trying to scare you off.”
Autumn’s hand is suddenly on my ass, and I freeze. Her hand migrates under my shirt; her fingers skim my belt line. “I’m not easily scared,” she murmurs. I dump the condoms on the floorboard and turn around, slowly, her hands sliding along my waistline as I face her. She backs me up against the car. “Are you going to kiss me?”
But her mouth finds mine first. Those hands that were on my waistline—one slides up my back; the other finds its way to the front of my shorts.
Oh, God. The Arsenal is fully loaded and ready to explode.
“I hope you saved one,” she murmurs between kisses, and I know what she means. It’d be so easy to pull her into the backseat and do things I only dream about. But I like this girl. I think I could really like this girl. And I definitely don’t want this to be the start and end all in one night.
So, as much as it pains The Arsenal, I pull back and kiss her cheek. “I should probably get you home.”
Autumn lives in what looks to be a mansion in Bayview Estates and I’m suddenly aware of the ripped upholstery, the barely functioning air conditioner, and everything else wrong with my crap car—a silver Mazda that’s been handed down from my older brother to my older sister to me. Jesse lives in the biggest house in Penn Ridge Heights and his parents have more money than I’d ever know what to do with. But he’s my best friend. And a guy. This is a gorgeous girl I’d like to impress. And my crap car is probably not doing that for me.
Also, Autumn doesn’t have a front step. She has a front wrap-around porch with a swing and three rockers and a slew of potted plants. The outside of her house is like a fall festival: pumpkins and mums and big bales of hay. Fall-leaf wreaths decorate the front door and windows, and a flood light illuminates what looks to be a choir of scarecrows in the front yard.
She pulls me down on the porch swing and slides up close. I put an arm around her and ask her about school and plans for next year. Her answers are long-winded but vague—“school sucks” and “I don’t know. Maybe work, maybe community college”—before she curls up closer, squeezes my knee and asks, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Loaded question. One I always have a hard time answering. I’ve always liked to write, but I’ll probably follow in my dad’s and my older brother’s footsteps and major in accounting.
I start to tell her this when she cuts me off with a tut. “Ohmigod I hate writing. Too many rules to remember. Who cares whether or not you have a comma in the right place, yanno? And my English teacher is such a bitch. She failed me on my last test because my essay was too wordy.” Autumn throws up air quote fingers and adds in a high-pitched voice, “Clear and concise.” She picks at her thumbnail. “And don’t get me started on math and reading . . .”
JD would call this a red flag. Especially considering writing’s kind of my thing. But I think of Jesse and Meaghan. Jesse’s number one in our class, without a doubt he’ll get into Yale, and the guy loves his Calculus. Meaghan would’ve failed math last year if Jesse hadn’t helped her.
Opposites attract, right?
Opposites attract, right?
“I could help you,” I say. “With English. If you want.”
Autumn’s face goes as bright as the floodlight in her yard. “You are just the cutest.” She puts a hand on my thigh, really close to The Arsenal and he flares. “We should do this again.”
“This?” I squeak, then fake cough into my palm. “Like another date?”
Autumn nods, biting into her lip. I want to bite it for her.
Second date with Hot Autumn Rains. Way better than getting my Zombie ass whooped.
I’m humming when I slide into my Mazda. I’m too nice, had condoms all over my car, drive a crap Mazda, and Autumn still wants to go out with me again. I start the drive back to GameStop, then wonder how late it is. The guys are probably already back at Jesse’s. At the stop sign at the end of Autumn’s development, I pull out my phone and check the time. It’s already after one. I also find a text. From an unknown number.
Thank you for reading! You can read the rest by clicking here. Thank you so much for reading and rating!