By: Emma Hart

Everleigh hid behind the long, wine-red curtain. The music was too loud, the dancing too much, and the food far too rich for her. She wanted nothing more than to be at home with her dad, watching some trashy reality show about families just like hers.

As she pulled the curtain tighter to her, her body tensed at the sensation of being watched. It crept over her skin, eerily close, and she shivered despite the warmth of the room.


Everleigh clapped her hand over her mouth at the same time a scream left her. Snapping her eyes upward, she stared straight into the eyes of her best friend. “Reid!” she cried, shoving at his chest. “Why’d you do that?”

Reid grinned, and his eyes twinkled with his mischief. “You were hiding. C’mon, Ev. You know what we promised. No hiding.” He held his hand out to her.

She pouted. She hated these functions her mom dragged her to whenever she wanted to make a good impression. Lord knows it never convinced anyone, and Everleigh knew she could say no. She never did though. She’d never leave Reid to deal with it, although he was only six months from his eighteenth birthday.

Soon, he wouldn’t need her to be there anymore.

“But I hate it,” she whined as Reid clasped her hand.

“One dance. Then we’ll run outside.”

“You promise?”

Reid’s dark-blue eyes twinkled again—this time, brighter. “When have I ever broken a promise to you?”

“Um, last week, when you threw the water balloon on top of my head.”

He laughed, and Everleigh smiled at the warm sound that set butterflies off in her belly. “Okay, when I have ever lied to you at one of these stupid parties?”

She screwed her face up until her top lip touched the bottom of her nose. “Never,” she admitted dejectedly. Dammit—she always hated when he got one over on her.

“So come on.” Without another word, Reid pulled her out from behind the curtain and onto the dance floor.

She laughed as he slipped his fingers between hers and pulled her close. They’d danced like this a thousand times, but she’d never felt so warm before. His arms had circled her body more times than she cared to count, but she knew, right then, that something had shifted.

Fourteen or not, Everleigh White was more than accustomed to the way her heart would skip a beat at the sight of the lightly ripped varsity wide receiver. She’d had her fair share of lung-tightens whenever he smiled at her, and her skin went all fuzzy whenever he touched her.

It was a recent thing, those feelings. At first, she’d figured it was her period messing with her, but when they didn’t go away when the irritating phenomenon did, she realized it was maybe…realer.

And now, here she was, tucked against his growing, hardened body, warm and fuzzy and all heart-skipped out.

Reid danced because he had to. It sucked, but he knew better than to be rude at his mom’s event. So he found Ever in her usual hiding place and dragged her along for his ride. The defiance in her sapphire-blue eyes whenever he pulled her back into the throng of people never ceased to amaze him. She was a firecracker, a force to be reckoned with, and one day, she’d bring a man to his knees.

Hell, at fourteen years and eight months old, she had it down pat.

If he hadn’t had to pretend he didn’t care about the girl with her forehead resting against his chest, he’d have had his mouth on hers. But he knew that it wasn’t an option. He wasn’t going away for college, sure, but there was no way he could be a college freshman dating a high school freshman.

He wasn’t stupid. And no matter how beautiful she was or how enlightening her smile was, he couldn’t give in. He had to pretend to want those stupid-ass bitch cheerleaders who thrust their chests and asses out whenever he or any of his other teammates walked past. He had to pretend that Ever was nothing more than a friend to him.

He knew better.

Reid knew she was just about everything to him. He also knew that someone could be your everything and be nothing at the same time.

After all, you don’t live in the twenty-first century and not know the story of Romeo and Juliet.

The problem Reid had was convincing himself that Ever was his Rosaline and not his Juliet.

He didn’t think it was one he’d solve any time soon.

The song ended and Ever stepped back. Her tiny hands tugged on the lapels of the suit his mom had forced him into, and she tilted her head back to look at him. Eyes wide, cheeks flushed, she whispered, “Can we go now? Please?”

The begging way she’d said “please” cut through him, and he took her hand. “Let’s go, firecracker.”