He was just a boy.
And I was just a girl.
But if that’s all there was to the story it wouldn’t be very interesting, would it?
Up and coming band Willow Creek is back in their hometown for the summer. For the drummer, Maddox Wade, this summer was meant for writing music and playing gigs.
Falling in love was not part of the plan.
One look at Emma Burke and those plans cease to matter.
Emma is quiet and guarded. She’s still hurt from her father walking out two years ago. She doesn’t want to trust Maddox, but with his dark hair, smoldering good looks, and infectious smile he’s impossible to resist.
Together Maddox and Emma embark on an unforgettable summer of adventures and first love.
Everything is perfect…or so Emma thinks.
There are things she doesn’t know, and when she finds out the truth it might shatter everything she’s built with Maddox.
No one said love was easy, and for Maddox and Emma it just might be impossible.
The grass crunched beneath my feet as I followed Sadie through the fair entrance. I hadn’t even wanted to come. I would rather be home reading or playing the piano, but Sadie, who’d been my best friend since we were in diapers, was relentless.
It was the first official day of summer vacation and she didn’t want me to lock myself in my house until school started in August and I was forced to emerge.
She called this fun.
I called it hell.
“Isn’t this nice, Emma?” She chimed, clapping her hands together. Her brown eyes were bright and happy.
“Uh…nice isn’t the word I’d choose.” I wrinkled my nose at the trash littering the grass. Some guy bumped into me, knocking me to the side. I reached up to keep my hat from falling off. It was one of those large black round hats that helped to shade my face from the sun. Sadie said it looked ridiculous, but I liked it. I’d never been one to take another person’s opinion to heart. My mom raised me to be a free spirit like her, so I always did my own thing.
“Emma!” Sadie groaned when she saw I’d been separated from her. “Taking you places is like having a child. I take my eyes off of you for two seconds and you’re gone.” She grabbed my arm, dragging me through the crowd. “Willow Creek is playing and I won’t miss this! I had to give Adam Carson a lap dance to get these tickets at the last minute.”
“Ew! Sadie! You gave him a lap dance?!”
People turned to stare at us with my exclamation.
“A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.” She gave me a look like I’d know exactly what she meant.
“I don’t even want to go!” I complained. “I don’t know who they are, and I won’t like their music anyway!”
“Well, we can’t all be freaks that listen to classical music, like Beethoven,” she argued.
“Why don’t you go on without me,” I pleaded, semi impressed that she knew who Beethoven was. “Look, food!” I pointed to a stand. “I’ll get something to eat while you go listen to them play and we’ll meet up afterwards.”
“You really don’t want to go, do you?” She frowned, her brows drawing together. Sadie wasn’t used to me balking at her plans.
“Not really,” I shrugged. “I’ll probably just get a headache and want to go home afterwards.”
She sighed. “Fine, you get something to eat, I’ll go to the concert, and then we’ll walk around for a while.”
“Great,” I said, prying my arm from her hold.
“I’ll see you in a little bit!” She grinned, skipping off towards the bleachers in front of the stage. Her wavy brown hair swished around her shoulders.
I headed for the area with the food vendors, thankful that I’d gotten out of going to the concert. Willow Creek was the star act this year at the fair. Some local band that was making it big. I didn’t know who they were or what they sang, and I didn’t care to find out.
I grabbed a hotdog and fries before finding a vacant picnic table.
I heard the music start up a few minutes later with a clash of drums.
I sighed. Yep, so not my thing.
After I finished eating, I grabbed my purse—a large messenger bag with tie-dye strings of fabric hanging off of it—and pulled out the book I was reading. I never left home without something to read.
I got sucked into the fictional world of fairies and completely lost track of time.
I was shocked when I looked up and realized the sun was setting and people were clearing off the bleachers.
Where was Sadie?
I looked around, scanning the crowd of people for her.
I started to panic when I couldn’t find her.
It wouldn’t be the first time Sadie had ditched me, usually for a guy.
Some people might think she was a crappy friend, but Sadie was just…Sadie. And when I really needed her she was always there for me.
I tucked my book back into the bag, grabbed my trash, and dropped it in the nearest trashcan.
All the while, I kept looking for Sadie.
I grabbed my phone sending her a text asking where she was.
Unfortunately, if she was with a guy I wouldn’t get a reply—and cell service was spotty on the fairgrounds anyway. I was so giving her a piece of my mind for this. I hadn’t even wanted to come! And of course I’d gotten a ride with her, so I was trapped at the frigging Clarke County fair twenty to thirty minutes from home. In other words, there was no way I could walk. And since my mom didn’t even own a cellphone it wasn’t like I could call her—and she’d be working in her studio at this time, which meant she wouldn’t even hear the home phone ring.
“Are you lost?”
I squeaked at the sound of the voice and took a few steps back. I almost fell in a hole and the guy reached out to steady me.
“Whoa, are you okay?” He asked, flicking dark hair from his eyes. It was slightly damp with sweat, as was his whole body. I wondered what he’d been doing to get that sweaty, but then decided I’d rather not know. While I watched him he pulled a baseball cap out of his back pocket and fixed it onto his head, pulling the brim down low so that half his face was shadowed.
“I’m fine.” I straightened my cardigan and squared my shoulders. “I’m…I’m waiting for someone.” I didn’t want to give this guy the impression he could take advantage of me.
He grinned crookedly, tilting his head. “Something tells me you’re lying.” He scratched his stubbled chin. He couldn’t be more than two years older than me, maybe nineteen or twenty at the most, but something in his silvery gray eyes made him seem so much older. Like he’d had a rough life or something. It made me a little more trusting of him. I could relate to rough. My dad was an alcoholic and before he walked out on us things had been bad. “I promise I don’t bite.”
“I can’t find my friend,” I shrugged. “I’m sure she’ll show up eventually.” I looked around—for the thousandth time—hoping Sadie was about to jump out from behind one of the stands and scream, “Gotcha!” But she didn’t, of course.
“Would you like me to wait with you?” He asked, tapping his fingers along his jean clad leg.
I looked around at all the people milling around and decided there wasn’t much this guy could do to me in public.
“That would be great,” I smiled. “Thank you for offering.”
His lips twisted, almost as if he was trying not to laugh at me. “I’m going to grab a bottle of water and then we can find a table.”
“Okay.” I fell into step beside him. I checked my phone and wasn’t surprised to find nothing from Sadie.
He bought a bottle of water from one of the vendors and cheese fries—the kind with the liquid cheese that grossed me out.
“Come on,” he tilted his head towards a free picnic table. “Let’s just sit down for a while and look for your friend. What exactly does she look like?”
“Tall, brown hair, pretty,” I shrugged.
He laughed. “You just described half of the girls here. Although, none of them are as pretty as you,” he winked.
My cheeks heated and I looked down. I wasn’t used to being called pretty. Most of the people that I went to school with, guys and girls, thought I was weird. I was different, and people didn’t seem to understand different. It was all to easy to pass me up as odd.
“Surely you know you’re pretty,” the guy added. “I think I might be developing a crush on your freckles.”
When I was little I hated my freckles. None of the other kids had them and I’d been embarrassed, but as I got older I learned to love them because they were a part of me. My mom always told me there was no point in not loving yourself, because you can’t change who you are and might as well embrace it.
“What’s your name?” I asked him, wanting to steer the topic of conversation away from myself.
“Maddox.” He answered, wiping his cheese covered fingers on a napkin. “Yours?”
“Emma,” he repeated. “I like that.”
“Um…thank you?” It came out as a question.
He chuckled, like my awkwardness was cute or something. “Are you from around here, Emma?”
“About twenty or so minutes from here,” I shrugged.
“Winchester?” He asked.
“Uh…yeah…how’d you know?”
“Don’t worry,” he laughed, “I’m not a creep, it’s just where I’m from.”
“Oh,” I relaxed.
“We have a lot in common,” he continued, eating another heart attack inducing cheese fry.
“Yeah,” he nodded.
“I don’t see how we have much in common except where we live…”
“Really?” He quirked a brow. “You look like you don’t want to be here and I don’t want to be here either. That’s another thing we have in common.”
“I don’t like crowds,” I mumbled.
“What a coincidence,” he grinned widely. “I don’t either!”
I narrowed my eyes at him.
“What?” He frowned. “You don’t believe me?”
“I don’t know you,” I countered. “How could I tell if you were being serious or sarcastic?”
“Then why don’t you get to know me,” he suggested. “Go on a date with me.”
I gaped at him, unable to form a coherent sentence. “You’re very presumptuous.”
“I’m not asking you to go to bed with me, that would be presumptuous. A date allows two people to get to know each other in a no stress environment.”
“No stress?” I laughed. “I hardly consider a date as no stress.”
He tapped his fingers against the top of the table. I was beginning to wonder if it was a nervous habit or something.
“So…are you saying no the date?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know,” I stammered. “You’re making me nervous.” My hands wrung together beneath the table where he couldn’t see.
He chuckled, taking off the hat and running his fingers through his hair before replacing it. “I make lots of people nervous.”
“I’m only seventeen,” I warned, the words tumbling out of my mouth before I could stop them, “so if you’re like twenty-five you might want to give up now.”
“Do I looked twenty-five to you?” He laughed.
“No,” I squirmed.
“I just turned nineteen,” he supplied. “Is that too old for you?”
“I don’t date,” I mumbled, hoping he’d get tired of me and just leave.
“I find it hard to believe that a girl as beautiful as you doesn’t date.” He flicked the plastic top to the water bottle into the grass and I almost felt like scolding him for it, but I couldn’t find the words. “And I hardly think one date is that dangerous.”
“You’re annoyingly persistent,” I mumbled.
He grinned widely, his teeth perfectly straight and white. “I guess I just don’t want to get old and look back on my life and wonder what would’ve happened if I asked the pretty girl with freckles that I met at the fair out on a date,” he rambled.
This guy? Was he for real? And yet I found myself succumbing to his charms. “Fine, I’ll go on a date with you,” I mumbled, agreeing mostly to get him to shut up. As soon as I finished speaking I realized I’d just agreed to go on a date with a virtual stranger.
“Excellent,” he grinned, and I couldn’t stop my smile, “and wear that hat, I like it.”
Wait until I told Sadie that one.
“Any word from your friend?” He asked, eyeing my phone that lay on the table.
I checked it even though I knew there was no message. “Nothing,” I mumbled.
“You need to find a better friend,” he joked.
“I think you might be right,” I frowned.
He stood up and held his hand out for me. “Well, we’re already here, we might as well have fun.”
I eyed his hand like it was a live grenade that might detonate at any second. He wiggled his fingers, trying to coax me. Instead of accepting his hand I stood up to follow him. He let his hand drop to his side and smiled to show that he wasn’t offended.
He started to walk away, assuming I would follow, and I called, “Maddox!”
“Yeah?” He turned around.
“Your trash…are you just going to leave it?” I frowned.
He narrowed his eyes at me. “Are you one of those girls that’s always preaching about saving the environment and won’t eat meat?”
“No,” I scoffed. “I’ll have you know that I can devour a cheeseburger in three seconds flat.”
He laughed. “Good.” He came back and picked up his trash, discarding it. “Coming?” He called over his shoulder.
I hurried after him.
“Nice boots.” He pointed to my flowery Doc Martens styled shoes.
“Thanks,” I smiled.
“What do you want to do? There’s pretty much everything.” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “There’s the carnival setup over there,” he nodded his head, “or the track…although it’s probably too late for that. Or we could take a look at the different booths—we might find something interesting there.”
I found Maddox’s rambling endearing.
“I don’t know, this isn’t exactly my scene,” I shrugged.
He chuckled, grinning crookedly. He peered down at me and I realized now how much taller he was than me. His white t-shirt stretched taut across his muscular chest, making his tanned skin seem even darker. My eyes ventured further down and I saw that he wore black jeans with a studded belt and boots.
“Are you checking me out, Emma?”
“What? No! Of course not!” I flailed.
He chuckled, rubbing his jaw to hide his widening smile. “You definitely were. It’s okay. You can look, but no touching below the belt…yet.”
I gaped at him. He did not just say that.
He laughed, continuing to play with me. “I like to know girls a little better before I unleash the beast. It might scare them.”
I didn’t know what to say and I kind of felt like running away.
He reached out, wrapping his arms around my shoulders, drawing me against his muscular body. “If you’re going to go on a date with me, you better get used to my sense of humor.”
“I’m not sure I want to,” I mumbled.
“Oh come on, I’m delightful.”
I wasn’t sure delightful was the word I’d use to describe Maddox. Then again, I’d only met him thirty minutes ago.
“You say delightful, I say crude.”
“Oh, you wound me.” He grasped his heart with his free hand.
“I doubt your ego is bruised.” I couldn’t help smiling at him. There was something about him that was infectious and easy to like.
“Don’t doubt my affection for you, Emma. I promise you it’s more than bruised. It’s downright shattered.”
I couldn’t contain my laughter.
“You know what, forget this madness,” he waved his arm to encompass all the roaming people. His other was still slung around my shoulder, a heavy and warm reminder of his presence. “You wanna just talk for a while?”
“Yeah, you know, where you move your mouth like this,” he mimed with his hand, “and words come out.”
“Uh…isn’t that what we’ve been doing?” I asked, confused.
“Yes, but I think it’s imperative that we get to know each other better before our date so that we can avoid the obligatory awkward first date and get to the fun stuff.”
“The fun stuff?” I repeated. “This isn’t the below the belt stuff is it?”
“Of course not, Emma. What kind of man do you take me for? I’m offended.”
“Hey, you were the one that brought that up before,” I defended.
He steered me away from the crowd and towards the now empty bleachers. A crew was packing up the stage equipment and loading it onto a truck with the Willow Creek logo—a willow tree with a tire swing.
“Anyway,” he continued, leading me up to the very top of the bleachers and sitting down, “I figure if we know each other a little better tonight, then the hard part is out of the way for our date.”
I was still shocked that I’d actually agreed to go on a date with him, but he had a point.
He stretched his legs out on the bleachers in front of him. “So, tell me a little bit about yourself.”
“There’s not much to tell,” I shrugged, playing with a strand of my wavy blonde hair.
“You really suck at this whole getting to know each other thing.” He grinned.
“You’re right,” I frowned. I guessed I’d spent too much time avoiding people that now I didn’t really know what to do. I took a deep breath and tried to think of something to tell him that wouldn’t be too personal or exposing. “I play piano. Does that suffice?”
“It does,” he grinned. “I happen to play the drums.”
“Really?” I asked, surprised. “You’re not just telling me that so that I’ll think you’re cool, are you?”
He laughed, ducking his head so that the brim of the baseball cap hid his face. “Not at all. Scoot over.”
I slid away from him and he leaned over, plucking drumsticks from his back pocket and hit them against the bleachers—creating a beat. “Believe me now?” He quirked a brow.
“I believe you.”
He continued to drum, spinning one of the sticks around his fingers in a fancy trick. “I can keep going if you don’t believe me,” he grinned boyishly.
“I said I believed you,” I laughed.
He smiled, and the drumming ceased. “Ah, that’s what I wanted.”
“What?” I asked confused.
“To hear your laugh. It’s beautiful, just like you.”
“You’re full of all kinds of cheesy lines,” I laughed.
“Cheesy?” He faked that he was offended. Removing the baseball cap he said, “Most girls eat that stuff up.”
“I’m not most girls,” I stated. I wasn’t like most people my age and I was fine with that. I was happy to be a free spirit like my mom.
“I’m beginning to see that.” He smiled, closing the space between us so that our legs touched.
I hadn’t even wanted to come to the stupid fair, and I’d been pissed at Sadie for abandoning me, but sitting here with Maddox made me glad I had come. Even if he was a bit cocky, I liked him for some reason.
Looking out at the dark sky, I frowned. “I better call for a taxi,” I mumbled. Since apparently Sadie had left I had no choice. She was getting a mouthful later.
“Taxi?” Maddox’s eyebrows furrowed together and he looked at me with a perplexed expression. “Why would you call for a taxi?”
“Uh…” Now it was my turn to look at him weird. “Because I need to go home. It’s getting late.”
“I can take you home,” he offered.
“No, that’s not necessary.” I waved away his concern.
“Don’t be silly,” he stood up. “I’m heading that way anyway. We’ll go together.”
“I don’t know,” I frowned.
I might like Maddox, but I didn’t know him. Getting in a car alone with him could be dangerous.
“Come on,” he coaxed, “I’ll find my brother and we’ll head out. What do you think?”
Brother? So we wouldn’t be alone. I guessed that made it better. “Yeah, sure.”
“Great,” he grinned. “Here, let me help you,” he held a hand out to me.
“It’s just my hand and these steps can be shaky, plus it’s getting dark. Just let me help you,” he pleaded.
He was right and I was being stupid. He just…he made me nervous.
I placed my hand in his and he helped me off the bleachers. There’d still been enough light when we climbed up them that I hadn’t had a problem, but now I was glad for the security his hand provided.
When we were on solid ground again he released my hand. For some reason I missed the feel of it.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket, texting his brother I assumed. A few seconds later his phone vibrated with a response.
“He says he’s at the entrance.”
“Cool,” I said for lack of anything else to say.
“So, you said you were seventeen?” When I nodded, he added, “Does that mean this is your last summer before you’re a senior?”
“It is,” I nodded.
“Have you decided what you’re going to do after school?”
“No,” I admitted. “I’m still contemplating between a few things. Are you in college or working?” I asked, tilting my head back to look up at him.
“...I guess you could say I’m working.”
“You guess?” I questioned, confused.
“It’s complicated,” he shrugged.
I wondered exactly what he meant by complicated, but I didn’t think he was likely to answer if I asked.
“I see him,” Maddox pointed up ahead.
I squinted, not sure if I was seeing right.
“Uh…” I paused, looking from his brother to him. What the actual fuck? Were they clones or something? I guessed the more plausible explanation would be that they were twins, but a Maddox clone sounded a hell of a lot cooler.
We stopped in front of his brother and Maddox introduced us. “Emma, this is my twin brother Mathias.”
“Hi, nice to meet you,” I smiled.
“Whatever.” Mathias rolled his eyes, and strolled off towards the parking lot.
“Sorry,” Maddox frowned. “He doesn’t like people…or animals…or living.”
I laughed. “Is there anything he likes?”
“Of course,” I sighed. I should’ve known that would be his reply.
“Just ignore him. It’s what I do,” he shrugged, and we followed after his brother.
Mathias stopped in front of a gray Nissan sports car I’d never seen before. “What kind of car is that?” I asked, pointing. It looked futuristic, like it could take flight to outer space or something.
“Nissan GT-R,” Maddox answered, “isn’t she gorgeous?”
What was it with guys and cars? Honestly.
“Looks nice to me,” I shrugged. In my humble opinion a car was a car and nothing more.
Maddox looked at me like my simple statement was downright murderous. “Nice? Nice? This car,” he reached out and lovingly stroked the hood of the car, “is what dreams are made of.”
“If you say so.”
“Can we get in the fucking car?” Mathias asked, sticking a cigarette between his lips and lighting the tip.
“No smoking in the car,” Maddox warned with a raised finger.
“Fucking killjoy,” Mathias rolled his eyes, tossed the cigarette on the ground, and opened the car door. I was surprised when he slid the seat forward and climbed in the back.
“Milady,” Maddox extended his hand towards the car, “get in.”
I gave him a smile and got in the car. Even though I wasn’t that tall I had to practically sit on the ground to get in the low vehicle. Who the hell wanted a car like this? Well, obviously Maddox.
He started the car and caressed the steering wheel, making a sound that could only be described as a moan. “Do you hear that purr?”
Was it too late to run away?
“You’re scaring the poor girl,” Mathias said from the backseat. “Shut up and drive or I will light a cigarette in here and good luck ever getting the scent out of the leather.”
“Asshole,” Maddox groaned, turning on the headlights and speeding out of the parking lot.
“Whoa,” I grabbed onto the door.
“Sorry,” Maddox gave me a sheepish smile. “I should’ve warned you about the power she has.”
I’d never been in a car like this before. I drove an old 1972 Volkswagen Beetle that didn’t start half the time, and it sounded like the engine was going to go up in flames anytime I actually drove it. This one sounded nothing like that. Maddox was right, it did purr.
Since Mathias was in the car we didn’t really talk. Maddox turned on the radio and let that fill the silence.
When we got close to Winchester I started giving him directions, leading him to the simple brick one-story house that I called home.
To someone else it might’ve seemed like a dump, but I loved it.
My mom and I did our best to keep it up and decent looking. The front windows had white shutters and flower boxes overflowing with purple petunias. The grass was freshly mowed and green, instead of brown like the other houses on the street.
“Thanks for the ride,” I reached for the door.
“Wait!” His warm hand wrapped around my arm and I turned back to look at him. “I don’t have your phone number.”
“Oh, right,” I mumbled, rattling off the numbers so he could enter them into his phone. “I’ll call you.”
“Yeah, call. Is that a problem?” A single dark brow rose.
“No, not at all,” I stammered nervously, “I just assumed you’d text.”
He chuckled. “If I text you I wouldn’t be able to hear your voice and that would be a damn shame. Texting is so impersonal.”
“Oh,” was all I said.
I’d never met a guy like Maddox before and I hadn’t quite decided yet if that was a good or bad thing.
“I’ll see you soon,” I smiled at him. “Nice meeting you Mathias.”
I heard a grunt in reply from the back of the car. Mathias was clearly a guy of few words. Besides their looks the twins were clearly polar opposites.
I was surprised when I closed the car door and heard another one close.
I looked over the top of the car and saw Maddox.
“What are you doing?” I asked, perplexed.
“Giving you a proper goodnight,” he shrugged. “Did you really think I’d just drive off without knowing you got inside okay?”
“I-I don’t know,” I stuttered. Maddox had left me flustered.
We walked up the pathway together and stopped outside the front door while I fumbled for my house key. Once I got the door opened I expected him to leave, but he didn’t.
Instead, he lowered his head and whispered, “Thank you for making tonight worth remembering. Goodnight, Emma.” He pressed his lips to my cheek and walked away, leaving me standing there flabbergasted.
I forced myself to move and stepped into the house.
I leaned my back against the closed door, my mouth parted with surprise. I raised my shaking fingers to press them against my cheek and closed my eyes. A part of me was convinced that tonight had been a dream and I’d wake up in the morning and find that Maddox didn’t exist. And that, surprisingly, left me feeling heartbroken.
Micalea Smeltzer is a bestselling Young and New Adult author from Winchester, Virginia. She’s always working on her next book, and when she has spare time she loves to read and spend time with her family.