Coming to Evernight Teen January 24th!
LETTING GO by Bridie Hall
Isabelle is left stranded at the airport, and her only chance of getting home is with her boyfriend’s older brother, Harper. When this good girl and bad boy set off towards home, it turns out that maybe she’s not such a good girl after all. And even bad boys have reasons for their bad behavior.
The road trip is full of shocking revelations and unexpected emotions, bringing the two of them closer than Isabelle ever thought possible. Maybe too close.
“I just want to get it over with. One hour, you said?” she asked breathlessly, trying to hide her nervousness.
He grinned. “You’ll ask for more, trust me.” He took off his jacket, so he was now in his short-sleeved t-shirt.
From a drawer in the cupboard to the left, he took out two black aprons with thin white stripes, handing one to her. She watched him put on his, admiring how good he looked in it. The apron suited him. She hadn’t expected that. He had boasted about being a good cook, but she didn’t take him seriously, not really, and she didn’t expect him to look so at home in a kitchen. Especially not a kitchen like this.
“What?” he asked when he noticed her stare.
“Are you and Missy …?”
“Huh? No. We’re friends, that’s all.”
“That’s a relief,” she blurted. When he raised his eyebrows, she blushed. “I mean, you two earlier …” She pointed towards the entrance and made a gagging gesture. When his astonished eyes refused to leave her face, she busied herself with her apron.
“Are you sure you’re not jealous?” he called after her. She marched into the kitchen as if she knew what she was doing there.
“Not even a bit?”
“I have a boyfriend, remember? You might know him? His name’s Jamie?”
“A tiny tiny tiny bit?” He followed her.
She turned to him. She couldn’t help but grin at his pleading expression. She liked how he was seeking her attention. It felt good. In a bad sort of way.
“I knew it,” he said, but she ignored him.
“Now what?” She looked around at the vastness of the place. “This looks scary.”
“I’ll tell you what this looks like—it looks sexy.” When she raised her eyebrows at him, he said, “I meant you in an apron.”
“Stop it, Harper.”
“What do you want to do?”
“I thought we would cook,” she said, confused, and jumped up to sit on one of the stainless steel counters.
“Get off,” he said.
“Wha—” She didn’t manage to finish as he grabbed her hand and pulled her off. “What was that about?”
“Never sit on the counters. This is a kitchen, not your bedroom.”
His statement struck her as hilarious. For a second, she couldn’t believe she’d heard right. He brought her here to teach her how to not worry about being proper and all.
She could see his shock when she suddenly laughed. She couldn’t stop. It was too funny, but she managed to mumble in between fits of laughter, “Prude.”
She stumbled back into a cupboard, leaning on it for support, still laughing.
“Cut it out,” Harper said next to her, but she could hear he was on the brink of laughing too.
“You gotta … admit … it’s hilarious,” she squealed, trying hopelessly to get some air.
“It’s not,” he said. When she stumbled again, he caught her. He was now laughing too, and they supported each other like two drunks. They were a heap of laughter. Isabelle had tears streaming down her cheeks and even when she managed to control the laugh, she still hiccupped with mirth every now and then.
“I thought I told you to stop,” Harper said, wiping her cheeks and clearing his throat.
When his warm fingers touched her red cheeks, Isabelle sobered. “I think your purpose here was achieved. I hadn’t laughed like that in ages,” she said and stepped away.
He let his hands that held her seconds ago fall to his sides.
“It felt good,” he said, subdued. “But we’re nowhere near done. Get a bowl and search for vanilla beans; we’ll be making panna cotta.”
“What’s that?” Her ignorant question stopped him dead in his tracks.
“You don’t … Never mind. You’ll see.”
“Why aren’t we making peas and cheese tart since you already offered to make it?”
He turned and walked back to her. “That’s for another time. We don’t want to get nostalgic and sad now.”
“I wouldn’t …”
“You’re underestimating the power of food,” he said, cutting her off, and then added, “We’ll make something sexy, instead.”
“Food isn’t sexy, no matter what this panotta is,” she countered.
“Panna cotta, Isabelle. Panna cotta.” He rolled his eyes at her, and she wasn’t sure whether it was because she didn’t know what panna cotta was, or because she thought food couldn’t be sexy.
Halfway towards the door with a ‘Storeroom’ sign on it, he turned, grinned, and said, “I never thought prudes could be sexy.” His dreamy eyes travelled the length of her body and stopped on her face. “But look at you …”
When he returned with two articles in his hands, she was still standing in the same spot. She hadn’t yet recovered.
“We’re strapped for time, so we’ll improvise,” he said.
Improvisation sounded bad, was Isabelle’s first coherent thought in the last five minutes. Really bad.
“Put two teaspoons of this—it’s gelatin—” he handed her the larger container “—into a small bowl and add four spoons of cold water.”
She held the container gingerly, following Harper’s moves around the kitchen with her eyes instead of doing what he’d asked. She had no idea what gelatin was.
“What?” He stopped in his tracks when he noticed she didn’t budge from her spot.
“Bowl?” she peeped.
“In that cupboard.” He pointed. He looked all business now. Relaxed, but focused. Isabelle couldn’t help but admire him. It was as if he had washed his sarcasm off of him as he washed his hands in the sink before he went to work. He seemed like he was enjoying this, like he felt at home in the kitchen. He looked sexy in his jeans, the black apron, his hair mussed and his defined biceps showing under his short sleeves.
She shivered, placing the container on the countertop. “I need to make a phone call,” she muttered.