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Forever June is Live! Read Chapter One Below

Forever June (13 Days of December Book Four) is LIVE!

Dylan and Carmina's book is here! Y'all... THESE. TWO. They have my entire heart. You can grab your copy here or keep reading for a sneak peek of chapter one. I hope you fall in love with their story the way I have.



THEN

Chapter One

Carmina


The saltwater spray of the ocean soaks my face and burns my lungs as I tread water to stay afloat. I close my eyes and clear my mind, breathing in the warm summer air.


This. This is my favorite feeling in the whole world.


For some people it’s Christmas morning, for others it’s their birthday or a first kiss, but for me, it will always be the ocean.


An unknown world lurks below the surface, and it’s as unpredictable as the heart—one moment completely sure and steady, the next erratic and pulling you where you never meant to drift. In order to survive the tide, you have to coast with it, ride the current until it releases you and you can finally swim back to shore. The ocean’s connection to human behavior is underrated. The similarities between it and the way we live, breathe, and experience emotions is uncanny—though, maybe that’s just the psych-major-wannabe in me.


I’m sixteen, and I already know exactly what I want to do for the rest of my life: assess people, depict their thoughts, and tear down their emotional infrastructure in order to discover the true meaning behind what they say, think, and feel. My parents say I’m too evolved for my age, but I think my attention to detail is simply more adept than most. I’ve always known who I am and who I want to be. I have my principles, my dreams, and the understanding of how to become the person I want to be without losing who I am in the process—a fragment of life most, if not all, people my age struggle with.


Ironically, my older brother, Kris, makes so much money that he can afford to not know what he wants for the rest of his life and be completely fine. Unfortunately, not all of us can be international music sensations by the time we’re thirteen.


I close my eyes and rein in my hyperactive mind, forcing it to blank as I bob with the current. I’m supposed to be clearing my head. Wiping away every last trace of dejection from the past few weeks. But even the rhythmic flow of the ocean can’t free me from the prison that is my brain.


“Carmina,” Dad’s irritated voice calls from the shore. His white dress shirt is only halfway buttoned, and his tie hangs loosely around his neck, blowing in the ever-present breeze that comes with being so close to the water. “Your mother is waiting for you to say goodbye before she leaves.”


Closing my eyes, I curse under my breath. I must have lost track of time. “I’m coming!”


I swim toward the beach, arms burning as they move in long, broad strokes against the waves lapping at my skin. Once I’m close enough to the shore, I plant my feet on the wet sand and jog the rest of the way up the beach, adjusting the top of my bikini, which is slightly askew from the water’s pull. I grab the towel I discarded during my eager pursuit into the water and sling it over my neck, taking note of Dad’s rumpled dress clothes and messy brown hair—messier than it would be if it were merely windblown.


I nod at his attire, wiping the water out of my eyes with one end of the towel, then ask breathlessly, “Where’ve you been?”


He grunts, moving toward the ocean and away from our modest house that’s tucked between a sea of palm trees surrounding our section of the private beach. “Working.”


“I’m sure,” I mutter, but he’s already too far away to hear me. He stands at the shoreline, allowing the water to rush over his bare feet, and I cast one last look at him, then continue jogging toward the house to find Mom before she leaves.


She’s going on a girls’ trip with some women from work—well, from where she used to work before Kris turned into an overnight superstar and she could live comfortably without her own income.


Before her luxurious lifestyle of lounging on beaches and mixing margaritas, my mom was an elementary school teacher twenty minutes from here. The same school where I attended first through fifth grade until Kris’s career took off and I became a public-school pariah. My brother was a household name, thanks to 13 Days of December, and everyone either wanted to use me to get to him, or looked down on me because I didn’t have his talent. He was everything every girl wanted, and every guy wanted to be, and I was just overly mature me.


When I reach the driveway, Mom’s trying and failing to force a large suitcase into the back of her too-small Bentley Continental. She has half of her closet packed up in those bags—so many that even a Ford pickup probably couldn’t house them all.


Shaking my head at her tight, white tank top and light-wash mom jeans, I call out to her. She startles, whipping around and clutching her chest as she leans back against the suitcase, which is still sticking halfway out of the trunk.


Her light gray eyes take in my dripping-wet swimsuit and matted blonde hair. “I was starting to worry I’d have to leave without seeing you.” She holds out an arm for me to curl into. “I should have known to look for you on the beach. It would have saved me a lot of time.”


“It’s fine. Dad found me,” I tell her, moving under her outstretched arm for a half hug. “I thought you weren’t leaving until later this afternoon?”


She shrugs, turning back to the task at hand: forcing the oversized suitcase into her car. “My flight isn’t until four, but it’s better we get to the airport early to check our bags.”


“Oh. Makes sense.” She ruffles my hair a little, and I shudder at the thought of being home for over half the summer with only Dad to keep me company. So, essentially, by myself.


We live in the Pacific Palisades, which is just west of Central LA. It’s peaceful and luxurious, but not exactly what I have in mind for my summer. Alone, bored, and stuck at home with a man who, most of the time, hardly acknowledges my existence except in grunts and the occasional blink when I speak to him—the blink indicating that he’s actually seeing and listening to me as opposed to looking through me, which is what he normally does.


I got screwed. My brother and his friends are spending the entire summer in Miami, and I was supposed to be there. I was there for the band’s end-of-tour party, but had to leave when they flew back to Pennsylvania for a few weeks. Plus, my parents weren’t going to let me skip the last few weeks of homeschooling anyway. The plan was originally for me to fly out there with my boyfriend and best friend once school finished; however, that didn’t exactly pan out.


Now my mom is going out of town, my dad has other commitments, and I’m not allowed to get on a plane by myself.


Kris is the lucky one out of the two of us. He has a private jet to jaunt him wherever he pleases. I’m not privy to those benefits because, for one, I’m only sixteen. Then there’s the whole fact that I didn’t become an international sensation before I hit puberty. If I’d made millions as a kid, I’m sure my parents would be much more lenient with me.


My fists clench around either end of my towel, and I swallow with difficulty, clearing my throat. “So, there’s actually something I’ve been meaning to ask you.”


Mom shoots me an apprehensive look before sighing heavily, golden hair swishing across her shoulders as she shakes her head tiredly. “What do you want, Carmina?”


“It’s just… I was supposed to stay in Miami with Kris and his friends after the tour ended, but since I had to fly back here to finish my homeschooling for the year… well, I guess I… I just don’t think it’s fair that I can’t go now. Everyone else is going to be there and—”


“I’m sure Kris doesn’t want you tagging along with him and his friends,” she says blandly, sparing me a pitiful glance.


Don’t parents usually force their children to include younger siblings instead of saying they don’t want you around? Kris and I aren’t super close, but we have a good relationship, and I know for a fact he doesn’t mind having me around—why else would he invite me on the trip? Besides, I hardly think my presence would prove to be a buzzkill.


“Might I remind you that you and Dad were also invited,” I press, bouncing on the balls of my feet pleadingly. “Carson and Jamie’s parents will be there.”


Mom shakes her head, closing the trunk of her car with a thud. “Dawn called me a few days ago—she and Rick aren’t going. She said it doesn’t feel right to go on a family vacation so soon after Mara and while Jamie’s in rehab. And since they’re not going, Carson’s parents aren’t either. That means it’s just the boys and their girlfriends.”


“Kris doesn’t have a girlfriend,” I point out, swallowing the bile that rises in my throat at the mention of Mara. “And you said so yourself—Jamie’s in rehab, so he won’t be there with Tori. Plus, the Greens’ youngest is going, and he’s my age. No one’s complaining about him tagging along.”


Her brows furrow, and I can tell by the bewildered look on her face that she has no idea who I’m talking about. “Dylan Green, Mom. He’s Kris’s best friend…?”


Her expression remains blank.


“Carson’s girlfriend’s little brother.”


Her face lights up. “Oh, Rylee!”


Of course. Rylee she remembers. Probably because Rylee has nothing to do with either of her children. It seems when it comes to Kris and me—especially me—everything is forgotten.


“Sweet girl. It’s a shame what the media put her through.”


“Tragic,” I drone, moving on to more pressing matters. My entire summer is hanging in the balance here, and she wants to discuss something that happened around six months ago? “But see—everyone is going, and only two couples will technically be there. Plus, Jer and Kirsten have been dating for so long that they hardly count.”


Her expression doesn’t change, and she looks at the open car door longingly.


This isn’t working. She’s too eager to get on the road and start her own summer of fun to actually hear me plead my case and understand why going is so important to me.


Staying here for the summer isn’t an option. I need a break. I need to leave and be anywhere else. Maybe if I’m in a different state, I’ll manage to actually relax a little.


She sighs and finally gives up on the suitcase, unzipping it and tossing clothes, shoes, makeup, and a curling iron loosely in the back seat of the car instead. I furrow my brow, unsure as to how she expects to take that stuff on the plane without a bag. “Honey, even if this Dylan boy is your age, he’s still Kris’s friend. They aren’t going to want you hanging around the whole time.”


“You don’t know that,” I argue, frustration growing into a tight ball in my chest. I take a deep breath and shut my eyes tightly to keep from crying. If I get an attitude or throw a temper tantrum, it will only further her argument that I’m too young to go on this trip when I’m not. She was fine with it months ago when it didn’t require her going out of her way to safely put me on a plane, and that’s when I was going with my boyfriend, of all people. Now it’s simply too much effort.


“Either way, you’re too young to ride on a plane by yourself, Carmina. You’re sixteen. And you are not, under any circumstances, allowed to borrow the band’s private jet, so don’t even ask.”


“Please, Mom. I really want to go.” My fingers squeeze the towel with unnecessary force. “I need this.”


“I’m sorry, but my answer is no.” Mom kisses my forehead, then slides her empty, unzipped suitcase in my direction before getting in the car. “Take that in the house for me, will you? I’ll see you in a month. Love you.”


She closes the door and backs down the driveway before I can say it back.


“Have fun,” I say bitterly, grabbing the suitcase roughly and dragging it toward our two-story house.


Angry at my mother, I stomp inside and slam the door behind me, dripping water all over the tile floors as I sulk into the kitchen. Mom hates when I don’t dry off before walking through the house, and although she’s not here to bear witness, it feels good to do this one thing in rebellion.


Sinking onto a leather stool at the kitchen island, I ponder my options. The thing about having a crazy-famous brother is that it makes going over your parents’ heads a lot easier, and with Mom gone and Dad disinterested…


No, I can’t. I really shouldn’t…


Tapping my fingers on the counter, I chew my lip thoughtfully.


I’m not rebellious. My parents may be strict, but I’ve never in my life given them a reason not to trust me. When they say no, I listen. Every time. My ex used to give me shit about it, but I never let him get under my skin. I knew that sneaking out to see him when my parents told me no was bound to get me in trouble, so I didn’t.


And yet… the thought of spending the entire summer, alone, cooped up in this house with only a driver’s permit and no car, where the only places I can walk to are places I’m bound to see Jax…


Well, unrest and boredom can make a girl do some crazy things.


With a newfound sense of determination, I decide to make one last desperate attempt to save my impending summer. I pull out my phone and click on my brother’s contact, staring at it longer than necessary as guilt for disobeying my mom eats at me. Finally, my desperation wins out.


I trace the swirls of black ink that color the granite countertop as I listen to the dial tone. It rings, rings, and rings some more until I think I’ve aged fifty years just waiting to hear my brother’s voice on the other end of the line. Then, finally—praise all that’s good and right in the world—he answers just before I’m sent to voicemail.


“To what do I owe this phone call from my sister?” he asks groggily, already aware that if I’m calling, I want something. I don’t pick up the phone for fruitful conversation, and because he’s always so busy, I leave it up to him to call when he has time to catch up. We usually talk about once a week, if that, and he occasionally texts me pictures of the cities he’s in or restaurants he thinks I’d love if I were there with him.


I glance at the clock. It’s noon where he is, so unless he’s taking a post-wakeup nap, he was still asleep when I called. If I wasn’t in desperate need of his assistance, I wouldn’t hesitate to tease him about being lazy and pampered just to get under his skin.


“Why do you automatically assume I want something from you?” I ask innocently, biting my lip with a smirk. “I mean, no greeting, no pleasantries. Do you even care how I am?”


Kris chuckles, sighing heavily. “Fine, fine. What’s up, Carmina? How’s life?”


“Oh, it’s good…” I sigh, rotating the stool back and forth in half circles as I check off the list of things I’ve done so far today. “I just got back from the beach… Mom left for her girls’ trip… Dad’s still in one of his moods… There was something else, too… but I can’t remember…” I pause, pretending to think it over. I tap my finger on my chin, smirking as silence ensues while he awaits the real reason I called. “Oh, that’s right. Can I pretty-please borrow the private jet so I can fly to Miami and spend the summer with you?”


Kris groans his discontent. “Carmina…”


“I know, I know,” I begin, bouncing my knee like a madwoman. “Mom already called you, told you not to let me come, not to come get me, not to lend me the jet… yada, yada. I’m practically a prophet. Listen, I’ll do anything. Anything. I’ll do your laundry for a month. I’ll wash the dishes. Kris, I’ll take shorter showers so the water has time to reheat for you.”


“That’s not how it—you know what, never mind. How do you think you’re going to get to the airport? You only have a permit.”


“I’ll get Dad to drive me. He won’t question Mom,” I say, chewing on my lip. It’s true—if I tell him that she changed her mind and said I could go, he’ll never double-check with her.”


Kris groans, and I can practically hear his resolve crumbling. “Oh, all right. Fine. I’ll send the jet.”


“Yes,” I hiss, pumping my fist in the air. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”


Kris sighs. “If Mom finds out, I’m telling her you played me. There’s no way in hell I'm facing her wrath for you.”


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