Pepper’s never considered revealing her deeper feelings for her longtime friend, Jace Wilder. After all, he’s got the personal magnetism and good looks to hook just about any girl in town — and he has. Their friendship stands apart from high school social circles, and they’re both just fine with that (or at least they pretend to be).
That is, until running star Ryan Harding moves to town.
When it comes to running, Pepper’s goals are clear. But when it comes to Jace and Ryan, it’s nowhere near as simple.
As Jace and Pepper focus on their athletic ambitions, they discover that Jace’s social status has followed him to college, despite his attempt to keep a low profile. With her boyfriend as an idol on campus, Pepper discovers that she might just be a target to those who find Jace threatening.
Are Jace and Pepper strong enough to withstand the pressure from those who want something from them? It won’t be easy fighting for her title and her boyfriend, but nothing easy is worth winning… or keeping.
Excerpt from Pepped Up
The yoga CD ends and switches to a familiar dance mix. Gran pops her head in the living room. “I love this song!” she exclaims as she dances her way towards us, swinging her hips to Mariah Carrey.
Zoe and I glance at each other and grin. Claire shakes her head and announces she has to get home to study. She knows what’s about to go down.
Zoe, Gran and I choreographed some rocking moves to every song on this dance mix. We immediately move into position and belt the lyrics as we shake our booties, roll our hips, and twirl around in a synchronized effort. Gran hikes up her sweat pants and pushes her wiry hair back with a head band. Zoe and I lose our tee shirts as we work up a sweat.
Several songs later, after a dramatic rendition of Beautiful Life by Ace of Base, I turn towards the kitchen to get something to drink. Jace is leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed and a huge smile on his face. His green eyes are dancing with amusement.
My heart jumps into my throat. I spent the last thirty minutes prancing around, and I cringe thinking of my shameless Beyoncé wannabe performance. Yeah, that “dance like there’s no one watching” proverb? I can totally rock that. Except this time, I had an unknown audience. If there was any hope Jace might start looking at me like a mature, attractive young woman, I’ve blown it.
“How long have you been standing there?” I blow a loose lock of hair from my forehead.
He shrugs and grins wider. He’s wearing a tee shirt with the sleeves cut off and my eyes are drawn to his biceps. They look impossibly large with his arms folded like that.
I shake my head and push past him towards the kitchen. Someone turns the music down, and I hear Zoe squeak an embarrassed “hello” to Jace.
I chug a cold glass of lemonade. It helps to cool down my body temperature, but my heart is still racing. Zoe mumbles something about needing to pick up her little brothers, and waves good-bye. It cracks me up how flustered she gets around Jace. But she’s just like any girl, after all.
“Boy, this old lady needs a shower after that energizing workout!” Gran huffs. She shuffles off to her bedroom.
I glance at Jace, who is still leaning against the doorframe, watching me. I swear, his jet-black hair is always perfectly messed up in a wavy, tousled fauxhawk that begs for girls to run their fingers through it. And why do his cheekbones have to be chiseled like a sculpture? It’s so irritating.
I stomp off to my room. I grab a clean tee shirt from my dresser and pull it on over my sports bra. Jace follows me inside and shuts the door. He sits on the edge of my bed, and I know he wants to talk to me about something.
I sit down on the bed facing him, but as far away as possible. Still not enough distance. It seems like the more emotional I am – even if it’s embarrassment I’m feeling – the crazier my hormones get. I don’t trust myself with Jace in my bedroom right now.
Ali Dean lives in Colorado with her husband and two children. In addition to reading and writing, she loves the outdoors- everything from marathon training and biking to snowboarding and skiing.