Perhaps it is a throwback to my youth, but I love the books where the plot is brother/sister and best friend or rivals to lovers. I like the heart twistin’, which is strange because I avoid drama in my own life. Perhaps I’m one of those people who loves romance train wrecks. Actually there is no perhaps about it. I enjoy watching love disasters.
Welcome to Piper Lawson’s love catastrophe!
Any day of the week I would take a Dylan Cameron as my hero because he is the berry flavor of menlies. Men come in all flavors, not just thirty two, but Dylan is sweet and sensuous and melts on the tongue. Not that he has been on my tongue but I wouldn’t say no. This is a hero who isn’t all swagger and finesse. He’s not a bad boy. He’s not a good guy. There is no highlight reel about him. There is no bigger than life persona. In all ways he is a male middle ground that comes in a very handsome package. And this boy makes up in enthusiasm for all his inexperience. Let me tell you that Dylan’s effort is mouthwatering. I actually felt some earthquaking when his very successful and descriptive dirty talking shifted the tectonic plates in my region of California.
Alexis Caine has been having a really crappy summer. Her main squeeze for the past four years dumped her via phone when the opportunity to intern for the summer in NYC took her from San Diego. The douche, who’s really douchie, shows up at Lex’s birthday party like they are BFF’s. After some distress from her inner moppet, Dylan, Lex’s real best friend’s little brother, rides in on his fine white horse to readjust her priorities and show her she doesn’t know half the stuff she assumes about everyone; especially him.
Really, girls and boys… How do you say no to someone who is witty, warm–make that hot as hell, smart, lusty, and good hearted. Dylan is persistent and that makes him all the more delicious. I would want the alternate dimension me to have a guy like him. Or because I’m greedy, two. But it’s all moot point because Dylan was made for Lex even if she fights her heart the entire freaking way.
I really loved the tension through the story; the pacing was great; it’s a true page turner. The characters are really well constructed and likeable. I really don’t have much that made me poo-poo this book, even with all the dramarama. Maybe Piper Lawson could do a picture book of Dylan Cameron though… ya know, for the people that are more visual. Wait, Piper! A dirty, NSFW, smexy Dylan Cameron calendar would work too. My birthday is in October, please make that month a celebration by that pic being Dylan in his birthday suit.
It is fantastic to watch Dylan and Lex fall apart (again and again and again) and then figure it all out. And thank god because they had me worried through the ENTIRE book.
Twenty-one-year-old Alexis Caine is so close to her dream she can taste it. And it tastes like validation and Häagen-Dazs.
In a few months the quick-talking redhead will graduate with a shiny new business degree and launch a fashion label with her best friend Ava. All the planning, dedication, and saying ‘no’ to everything – and everyone – distracting will pay off.
Then Dylan Cameron, Ava’s tall, dark and broody younger brother, returns from the East Coast to start sophomore year at Lex’s San Diego college. Lex has hardly seen him in years and given his reputation for partying and girls, that’s just fine with her.
But Dylan’s all grown up. And a night of unplanned confessions for both of them threatens to tear Lex’s carefully constructed world off its axis…
“So why’d you come back?”
He thought for a moment. “I always wanted to be here. But the scholarship and other things made Penn State look pretty good last year. I studied my ass off in the hope of getting a transfer closer to home. Guess I lucked out.” He let out a breath. “Bottom line: I’m glad to be back. And maybe if I’m lucky I can have a semi-normal college experience.”
I tried to lighten the serious mood by cracking a smile. “Well, Dylan, you got your wish. A good-looking kid like you will catch up on the, ah, extracurriculars in no time.” Somehow it didn’t have the desired effect, causing him to frown.
“I’m not a kid, Lex. Don’t assume I haven’t been through just as much as you have.” Something in his steady gaze made me uncomfortable. Point, Dylan. He had changed a lot from the Dylan I’d known. Or more accurately, the Dylans I’d known. I remembered him through flashes, impressions over the years. The smart one who’d tried to convince his mom he couldn’t go to school the day he lost his first tooth because he clearly needed surgery to re-attach it. The timid one who’d been afraid of storms, willing to play Barbie with second-grade Ava and me just to have company when the thunder started. The serious one in junior high who’d peer at you thoughtfully from under dark hair and dark lashes when your paths crossed, like he could see inside your head. Then there was the one in high school—the athlete and the partier, beloved by guys and girls alike. Well, apparently not as much of the girls as everyone had assumed.
I didn’t know which Dylan was sitting in front of me—one of the four, or another entirely.
Chalk it up to yet another surprise. I felt like I could build a Jenga tower out of them. It turned out the guys I thought I could trust left me, and the ones I thought had perfect lives were holding them together with duct tape behind the scenes.
“Noted.” My voice sounded steadier, brighter than I thought it would.
“But if you’re so much older and smarter,” Dylan said, seemingly recovered, “what’d I miss while I was up to my ears in textbooks and jockstraps?” His sudden playfulness was unexpected and I was having trouble keeping up with his mood swings. Despite it all, I found myself thoroughly enjoying our conversation and wondering if he was too. And if it surprised him as much as it did me.
“You mean because you didn’t date?” He nodded. “Well,” I contemplated, “on the bright side you missed out firsthand on the whining, the catfights, and a hundred varieties of high maintenance that is teenage girls.”
“I like your optimism. Although some of that definitely came through osmosis living with two older sisters. What about the downside?”
I looked at him strangely. I would have normally flushed, but given my current state of mind and partial inebriation I was footloose and censor-free. “Well, the obvious one is sex.” Dylan quirked an eyebrow. “I mean, it kind of is something you need two people to do. Or, I guess, more than two is fine also.” The words spilled through my filterless brain and out my mouth, ending with a lift that suggested I was waiting for a response. This moment brought to you by hard liquor. And now that I was learning more about him than I’d ever thought I wanted to know, some small part of me was curious to see where this unexpected conversation would lead.
Dylan looked amused as he turned to face me on the bed, legs crossed, his posture mirroring mine. “Alexis Caine. Are you asking about my sex life? Like, for posterity?” Our knees were touching. I shouldn’t have noticed, but did. Could feel the warmth of his body on my bare legs through his jeans. I wasn’t sure how to respond.
His mouth twitched and suddenly he burst out laughing. It was a rich noise that sounded real contrasted with the dull roar of laughing and music that wafted up the stairs. I had the random thought that I would do just about anything if he would keep laughing like that.
“Well, since you seem to be prying all my secrets out of me tonight, why stop now, right?” He folded his arms across his chest as if steeling himself for my reaction. “I’m not a virgin. But it has been awhile. Junior year, Amy Street. We dated for two months, but she moved away with her family.” I failed miserably to hold in a snort of laughter. That was miles from what I’d been expecting.
Dylan caught up quickly. “Stop it! For the record, she didn’t move the day after we had sex.”
“Mhmm. It would explain a lot, though, wouldn’t it?” Teasing him was the most fun I’d had all night. Probably longer than that. I had found a crack in his perfect composure and was perversely enjoying picking at it. For once I wasn’t the target of someone else’s darts.
“It was a family decision.” His eyes implored me to understand. But he wasn’t taking himself too seriously either, and the glint in his gaze suggested—what, that he was actually having fun?
“A family decision to get her away from you and your badass moves?”
“You’re an ego crusher, Lex.” He feigned hurt.
“I’m sure you can take it.”
“Uh-huh. Listen. Guys are more delicate than you think. But between you and me, because I never really had a girlfriend, I’m a little light on all the … sex-adjacent stuff.” He gestured dismissively with one hand. “All those early teen years of truth or dare, making out in the back of the car, groping on the couch?” I nodded like I knew what he was talking about. Though Jake and I’d done some of that, I wouldn’t have characterized it as a life phase.
“Never happened to me.” Dylan put his hands on my knees and inclined his head toward me. His dark eyes were earnest and self-mocking. “I will deny it vehemently if this ever leaves the room, but my cumulative sexual experience totals about the length of an episode of Breaking Bad.”
His admission shocked me. First, it was because I didn’t know how he’d managed to escape female attention for that long. If I’d met him tonight instead of fifteen years ago I’d probably have a different perspective on the whole thing. If anything he had more composure and maturity than most of the guys my age.
But second, I had no idea why he was telling me this. I forced my mind back to the conversation at hand. Which might not have been the best idea after all.
“Before you start worrying about me dying alone, two girls have asked me out since I got here.” Apparently girls at our school were smarter than East Coast and high school girls. “So as of now I have two dates and zero moves. I’ve spent so much time with guys and books I hardly know what to do with girls. Who aren’t, you know, my friends or sisters.” Dylan ran a hand through his dark hair, shoved it out of his face.
“Or your sisters’ friends.” It seemed funny at the time.
“Exactly.” The dimple had returned, next to a self-deprecating smile.
This was where things went hazy. All I know was that this was a pretty messed up night. It pissed me off that guys like Jake would be off making out with evil coeds at their ex-girlfriend’s party. It also pissed me off that guys like Dylan, who were decent underneath it all, were left out in the proverbial cold. I needed to do some karmic realigning.
And how exactly are you going to fix this? The teeny, tiny sane part of me asked from a faraway place. I shushed her. Me and the Cap made a good team.
“I am a woman of science,” I began, “and as such, believe an objective test is in order.”
Dylan raised his brows skeptically. He evidently didn’t know where this was going.
That made two of us.
“In English, Yoda.”
I ignored the age barb and instead stretched up and squared my shoulders, my chin jutting out. “Kiss me.”
**This is an uncorrected proof, subject to change prior to publication. Not for resale. ©Piper Lawson
Meet Piper Lawson:
Schooled is Piper Lawson’s debut novel. Piper loves reading and writing stories about sassy, sexy, smart women and the guys who fall hard for them.
Piper’s main household expenditures include books, shoes, and chocolate, not necessarily in that order. Coffee = life (and she’ll defend it accordingly, especially when cornered). Piper has two business degrees, neither of which she’s leveraged into a fashion label.
Home is Canada plus occasional sunny winter escapes.
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