“Nice to meet you, Kade.” I was beyond excited to meet Taylor’s cousin. I knew very little about his family for as close as we were. We’d been best friends for two years, but he didn’t talk about anyone other than his immediate household.
“Likewise,” said Kade. “I’ve heard a lot about you.” Taylor elbowed him in the side and Kade let out a nervous laugh.
“I’m sorry I didn’t make it to your tennis match this morning,” Taylor said, shuffling his feet in the driveway and shoving his hands into the pockets of his cargo shorts.
Taylor seemed nervous and more apologetic than he normally would when he misses one of my matches. I mean, I was sad he wasn’t there, but I understand when people have something come up, especially something as exciting as seeing a cousin for the first time in years.
“That’s okay,” I said with a wave of my hand. “I’m so excited you were able to go to the airport and get your cousin. I can totally tell that you guys are cousins, you look exactly alike.” I mean I looked a lot like my cousin Veronica, but the resemblance between these two was on a whole new level.
“Told you,” Kade said. His smoldering eyes, so similar to Taylor’s, hid beneath disheveled brown curls that brushed just below his jawline.
“Nah,” Taylor answered, snapping me back to reality. “I would never wear my hair that long.”
“And you don’t dress all in black either.” I looked Kade up and down. He wore dark, ripped jeans with an incredibly tight Buxton Peak shirt that emphasized his muscles in an all too tempting way.
“See, she knows me.” Taylor raised his eyebrows at his cousin as if telling him I told you so.
“Well, I can’t wait for her to get to know me.” Although Kade spoke to his cousin, his message was clearly directed my way. A smile spread across Kade’s face as he brushed his thick brown curls out of his eyes. As he moved, a hint of his cologne washed over at me and he gave me a wink. I could have melted.
Their clothing choices seemed to match their personalities. My classy best friend, Taylor, was more preppy with his collared shirt and cargo shorts. His clean-cut hair had a side part and the thick locks shone in the sunshine. He belonged at a country club on the golf course with high-end clubs and his own caddy.
“You didn’t tell me how hot your cousin is,” I said to Taylor, glancing back and forth between the two of them. Maybe it was a bit bold, and definitely not my normal go to, but there was something about this Kade and Taylor combo that was throwing me off balance.
“Well, gee, if he’s hot and we look just alike does that mean you think that I’m hot, too?”
“Oh please, you’re my best friend. I could never think that you were hot.” I jostled his shoulder playfully. The disappointment on Taylor’s face was evident that he was offended by my statement. I needed to soften the blow. “But now that I know how hot your cousin is, I might have to take a closer look at you.”
I used my hands to make a finger frame focusing on his face as I pretended to zoom in and out. We both chuckled, and the tension in the air was gone almost as quickly as it arrived.
“Yeah right, like you and I could ever go out. Not.” Something about him saying that made me wish we could go out. I tried not to think of him that way. It would hurt too much if he didn’t like me back.
“Well, I’m totally going to have to set you up with one of my friends so that the four of us can go on a double date.” Someone should be able to enjoy how amazing I already know he is. Besides, that would give me an excuse to go out with Kade.
“Does that mean you want to go on a date with me?” Kade asked.
“Gee, I should probably wait for you to ask me that huh?” I bit me lower lip, pretending to be coy.
“Gracie, would you like to go on a date with me?”
“Yes!” I cleared my throat. “I mean that would be lovely, thank you.”
Taylor grumbled something under his breath as he rolled his eyes. I would have to ask him about what his deal was later.
“What’s your favorite restaurant?” Kade’s sultry voice gave me butterflies. Okay, cue the melting again.
“Oh, I’m not sure if I’m ready for a restaurant date. Maybe like mini golf or hiking.”
“Maybe you should figure out which one of your friends you’re going to set me up with before you decide where we’re going on our double date,” Taylor suggested. “She might not be into hiking.”
“True. Okay, I’ll have to think about that. What color hair should the girl have? Should she be an athlete? Or should she be an artsy type?”
“I guess, hair like yours.” He reached out and brushed a piece of my hair behind my ear. I held my breath as his fingertips felt like electricity on my cheek.
A slow smile crept across Taylor’s face as if he was deep in thought. He slowly pulled his hand back and said, “And for the rest of it, surprise me. If she’s anything like you I’m sure we’ll get along just fine.”
There was awkward silence for a few seconds before Kade said, “It was nice to meet you, gorgeous, I mean Gracie, but we should probably get going to help Aunt Rhonda with dinner. I look forward to our date once we find a hottie for my cousin.” Kade swung his arm around Taylor’s shoulders and Taylor grimaced before forcing a smile and stepping aside so Kade was no longer touching him.
Taylor glanced over at me and said, “Let me know if you find a friend willing to go out with me.”
“Very funny,” I responded and blew him a kiss. We waved goodbye as they walked back across the lawn to Taylor’s house.
As soon as they went inside, I whipped out my phone to text my best girlfriend Maddie. You are never going to believe this! How is this even happening right now? Tay’s cousin came to live with him and he is totally hottt!!! And get this, he asked me out! I already thought I was lucky having the hottest guy in school for my neighbor and best friend, but now I also get to be around his equally hot cousin? Thank you, universe, for blessing me this fine afternoon!
I slid the phone back into my pocket and hurried to my room, jumping onto my bed to stare at the Buxton Peak poster on my ceiling. I usually did my best thinking when I was looking at that poster because it reminded me of Taylor. Him taking me to their concert for my seventeenth birthday had been the highlight of my summer last year.
There was something off about Taylor today and I could tell the reason had to do with Kade. They seemed very different. Not seeing each other very often certainly can’t be good for a friendship, cousins or not. I wondered if maybe they just needed some time to get to know each other better.
“My new goal is to help them become best friends!” I declared to the Buxton Peak rock stars on my ceiling. I imagined them cheering me on in this endeavor and it gave me courage to make a plan the next time I saw Taylor and Kade.
Book Club Discussion Question: What kinds of challenges do you think Gracie will face trying to repair the broken friendship between Taylor and Kade? (Please discuss in the comments below.)