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Kick by Dean, Ali (1)

Chapter One

Kick

It’s buzzing anticipation. Floating weightlessness. Adrenaline rush. All the best feelings wrapped into an emotional high that will never get old.

I think I might be addicted to falling in love.

After watching Jack Kingston on stage for hours, his voice permeating the air, messy dark hair flopping around his sweaty forehead, I’ve already got the buzz going. His band, Kings of Sound, has this mixture of rock, soul and pop that captivates and energizes. I knew it the first time I heard them from my computer, watching a YouTube video. After tonight, there’s no doubt in my mind these guys are going to be big. Huge. They just signed a record deal and they’re about to release their first album while touring around the country, and that will elevate them from local celebrities to national ones.

I’ve seen Jack play in live shows on videos, listened to his voice on my computer, stared at his images online, but nothing prepared me for seeing him in the flesh. I’m definitely about to fall in love.

My twin sister, Shay, hurries to keep up with me. The concert’s ended and the venue is hot. The band’s probably gone straight outside to get some fresh air, cool off, and take a breather from the crowd. I move through the throngs of college students with purpose. I want to meet Jack Kingston. Not only that, I want to kiss his sweaty body and hear his sexy voice whisper in my ear. He’s going to be touring soon enough, and that makes my intentions easier. Falling in love always requires an escape plan afterward.

Once we’re outside, I spot an alley behind the Happy Hollow, the bar and music venue where they held the concert. I gesture to Shay, who rolls her eyes but follows anyway.

We turn the corner, and sure enough, there’s Jack. With the drummer, also Jack, but called Townie for short. A few girls are already gathered around them, fawning and giggling. Not really my style – I’m not patient enough. I know I look hot tonight in skintight red leather pants and a white tank top that might be slightly see-through. The fire-engine red lipstick drawing attention to my mouth completes the message I’m sending. Should be enough to get his attention, but there’s stiff competition.

Jack looks up, sensing our approach. His gaze lands on me, sweeping up and down once before he breaks into a smile.

A thrill courses through me as his eyes welcome my approach. Yeah, I’m going to fall hard tonight.

Shay nudges me. “I’m headed home. You good?”

“Yup,” I say with a grin.

When I reach them, I lean against the brick wall, taking in Jack and Townie and glancing at the three girls. Conversation’s stopped.

“Hey. Great show. Got any plans now?” I don’t make eye contact with anyone specifically, asking the question generally to the group.

Jack clears his throat. “For tonight?”

My eyes land on him and he bites his lower lip like he knows what I’m thinking. I nod. “Yeah, tonight.”

“No plans,” Townie offers. He’s sitting on a crate, ankle on his knee, eyes dancing. There’s already heat building between me and Jack, and Townie sees it.

“Want to cool off somewhere?” This time, I look right at Jack, so he knows who I’m directing my question to.

“What do you have in mind?” he asks, not disguising his curiosity.

I shrug, glancing at the audience of girls who watch in rapt attention. I don’t really care if they come with, I only want to move this party away from the crowds. Not that I mind crowds, but it’s already past midnight, so if I want to have a night with Jack, I’ve got to get things rolling. The crowd just around the corner would hinder my agenda.

I’ve actually got no idea what I have in mind to cool off, I just know that we’re all hot. “Water,” I state as if I’ve got it all worked out. A plan starts to formulate.

“Do we need bathing suits?” Jack asks, his lips curling into a smirk.

I’m momentarily distracted by the boyishness in his smile that’s not totally jiving with the bad-boy-rocker look he has going on. “Do you have dimples?” I ask, frowning and leaning closer. His smirk turns into a broad smile, highlighting two dimples. Well, that was unexpected.

With shaggy brown hair, sharp cheekbones, and perfectly sculpted lips, I can’t decide if he looks better in the darkened alley than he did on stage with bright lights shining down on him. Leather bracelets run from wrist to elbow on one arm, and a sleeve of intricate tattoos covers the other. Black jeans that are worn exactly like a real rocker should wear them—like they’re comfortable, tight enough to be hot and badass but not trying too hard.

The door to the alley opens and the other two members of the band walk out, followed by two girls. One girl wears patchwork pants, a crocheted top with major boobage, and rocks frizzy dreadlocks. The other is tiny and curvy, with a flouncy skirt, halter top, and hot pink highlights. Her eyes land on Jack first, and then go to me, narrowing. Well, then.

Townie asks the newcomers, “Yo, guys, you want to cool off in some water?” There’s humor in his voice and he glances at me with a playful grin.

The bass player, Will, points out that we’re not exactly around the corner from the ocean.

I gesture to them to follow me out of the alley in the opposite direction from the crowds. “Come on, it’s not the ocean. But we can walk there.”

Will and the piano player, Carson, size me up. Their eyes then shift to the three girls who haven’t said a word, sweeping over, blatantly checking them out. Guess the other two girls aren’t these guys’ girlfriends because it’s obvious they’re sizing up their chances of getting laid if they stick with this group instead of working the crowd.

Everyone must decide to chance it because half an hour later, I’ve snuck us into the Cal U pool area. As a varsity swim team member, I’ve got a card that opens the side door to the pool. We meet at five AM sometimes for practice, before the building opens, so I figure we’re entitled to use our special access for fun as well.

A couple flasks of whiskey were passed around on the walk over, and I’m feeling warm and wild as I strip down to my underwear with the others. Well, underwear is a stretch. My thong doesn’t cover much.

I’ve got names on everyone now: the one with dreads is Cassie, the small one with pink hair is Addy, and I think the other three girls are Julie… yeah nevermind that’s all I’ve got.

Jack watches me as I walk over to the ladder leading up to the high dive. The pool area is dark, only a few dim lights casting a soft glow over the water.

I look over my shoulder, letting my eyes skim over his body, taking in the black boxer briefs, the tan skin. I give a nod in appreciation. He’s exactly what I hoped. Chiseled rock star abs. A little too wiry to be an athlete, but I bet he’s scrappy and strong. He probably did well at sports in school, but didn’t continue bulking up like college athletes do. As I climb up the ladder, I run an imaginary childhood through my head, creating a story for the guy I plan to fall in love with for the night.

When I get to the top of the high dive, I take a deep breath, holding on to the rails. It feels a little like the top of the world up here, with the group below small, craning their necks up to see me.

“Careful,” a gruff male voice says behind me.

I recognize it as Jack’s before I feel him right behind me, so close his body heat warms my back.

I look behind me. He’s still on the ladder, and his eyes are hooded.

“Did you stare at my ass the whole way up?” I tease. We both know I wouldn’t mind if he had.

He bites his lower lip, the second time he’s done that tonight, but ignores my question. “Are you a diver?”

I shake my head. “A swimmer.”

“What’s your name?”

“Lydia. But people call me Kick.”

His lips quirk up. “Kick? Where’s that come from?”

“I have a knack for accidentally kicking people in the pool at practice,” I say with a sigh. “I can’t help it. I’m a breaststroker with long legs. The breaststroke kick shoots out.”

“You aren’t Lydia Spark, are you?”

I suck in a breath at his question. How would he know that? Jack chuckles when my eyes narrow.

“It’s all over the record board. Shay and Lydia Spark. Shay’s your sister, I guess?”

Oh, right. Relaxing, I nod. “Yeah, Shay’s my twin sister. She was at the concert too.”

“Why didn’t she come with us?” he asks, and I sense only curiosity. After all, it’s a little odd I approached him solo. Most girls travel in entourages. But that’s not usually my style.

“She’s not much of a rule-breaker,” I explain simply, before turning back around. “And I’m hoping she falls for an Olympian anyway.”

The high dive is a large platform, and I start to make my way to the edge. When I reach it, I look out over the water. It’s so different this time of night compared to during practice. Still. Empty. Quiet. Lonely. Instead of jumping I sit on the edge and look back. Jack is right behind me and he sits next to me.

“Sing me something, Jack.”

He hesitates a moment. “Not tonight. Not after a show. I’m spent.”

I eye him at the response. “Is singing for a girl too romantic for you or something?”

He laughs, looking at me and shaking his head. “Really Kick, it’s hard to think about anything with you in front of me like that.”

I glance down at my bra, bare stomach. “Fair enough.”

We sit in silence for a beat before he starts to hum. I don’t recognize the tune. My body turns to him right as he quietly breaks into verse, his voice making me lean in closer. It’s about a little girl, but it’s not a love song. It’s smooth and lilting like a lullaby and drops personal touches that make me feel like an intruder. Nothing like what Kings of Sound played from the stage.

He doesn’t look at me as he sings, just sits there casually, gazing out over the water. A few locks of hair fall over his face, nearly hiding the expressive blue eyes that complete the smoldering effect. When he’s done, I want to ask who it was about, but it feels so personal. Even for a guy I’m pretending to fall in love with.

Instead, I say, “Tell me something about you that will surprise me.”

“You’ve got a lot of demands,” he says with raised eyebrows, but he doesn’t seem annoyed.

“Just making conversation.”

“Uh-huh,” he replies, flashing me a knowing look.

“Fine, I’ll go first,” I say with mock frustration. “I did a belly flop off this once.”

His eyes widen. “You’re shitting me.”

“Nope.”

“Then you have to do it again.”

“That was a very predictable response, Jack, but the answer is no,” I say primly. “I didn’t tell you to impress you or prove anything, it was just the first thing that came to mind. I did it on a dare. And I will never do it again. My front side was red from the sting for hours. So painful. I was sore the next day.” I shudder, remembering it.

He laughs, and I’m rewarded with another glimpse of his dimples. “Your turn.”

“That song was about my little sister. Gracie. She’s seven.” He smiles, and, dimples. GAH.

“So you’re telling me you’re a musician, with a six-pack, who writes songs about his little sister?” I ask slowly. And has dimples?

His smile widens. “Yes?”

“You’re killing me here, Jack. Tell me something gross about yourself.”

He rubs a hand over his chin, thoughtful. Glancing at me from the corner of his eye, I can tell he’s contemplating how much to confess.

“This is pretty embarrassing,” he starts.

“Tell me,” I say, giddy and clapping my hands. Oh, I hope it’s something really nasty and weird. I love hearing people’s secrets.

“Um, well, I drive a minivan.”

I hang my head, shaking it in disappointment. “You’re hopeless, Jack Kingston. That’s not gross, that’s adorable. And anyway, minivans are great for sex.”

With that, I stand up, take a deep breath, and do a front flip into the pool, completing it with a graceful dive into the water. My head spins a little from the movement, but the water is refreshing and by the time I resurface, I’m collected.

I glance up, and Jack is still sitting up there, legs dangling. The group has moved to sit on the deck and they’re clapping at my flip, a few getting up to try the high dive themselves now that I’ve broken the ice.

I can feel Jack’s eyes on me as I climb out of the water, and I turn to look up at him. He’s standing now on the high dive, a quiet silhouette that momentarily takes my breath away. Though I can barely make out his eyes, the weight of them is heavy, like he’s seeing right into me, through me. I shiver. He doesn’t release our eye contact as he steps forward, and then he ducks his head into a dive, gracefully descending into the water with minimal splash.

When he breaks the surface, his eyes are back on me, and I flash a smile before walking slowly to the locker room, confident he’ll follow.