Blog Book - The Trouble With Thomas, Chapter One


What is this new book you ask? Well, it's a blog-subscriber-only young adult rom-com! Yep. Only blog subscribers have access to the book until it is complete. And bonus, if you're a subscriber, you will get a free e-book download once it is edited and ready to go into the wide world! I'm still posting chapters of The Fallen on the VIP page on Fridays, but I thought a story straight to your inbox would be fun, too! Look for The Trouble with Thomas on the first Saturday of each month (the same day my newsletter goes out!)


Without further ado... here is the first chapter!


THE TROUBLE WITH THOMAS, CHAPTER ONE


The trouble with Thomas was that he was terrified of life, but he hid it behind a veneer so thick, it took a chisel and a hammer to break through to the boy underneath. Good thing my father was a sculptor, and I’d spent a lot of time in his studio.


That’s a bit far into the story, so let me back up to the most logical place to begin—the beginning. Also known as the day Thomas Whitmire fell madly in love with my best friend after she single-handedly beat him in a high-stakes game of checkers—yes, checkers. The stakes? Mint chocolate chip cookies, of course.


It was a rainy day, which meant Mr. Decker, the senior class physical education instructor, wasn’t in the mood for anything that required more effort than dragging a stack of board games out of the janitorial closet. A third of the basketball team was in our class, so they held an unofficial practice while the rest of us finished our homework or played the musty, old games.


Mina, my very best friend since her family moved next door when we were four, had just put the last period at the end of her English literature essay and wanted something else to do while I trudged through my Physics homework. Cue Thomas, who had sprained his ankle and was sick of watching everyone else have fun shooting hoops.


As far as meet-cutes go, it was unremarkable. At least, that’s how it looked from the outside. But underneath all that shiny veneer, Thomas Whitmire was coming undone one kinged checker at a time. Once Mina had captured every red piece on the board, she took his mint chocolate chip cookies, climbed the bleachers, and shared the spoils of her victory with me.


Neither of us knew it then, but Thomas saw Mina. He actually saw her. He saw more than her unruly curls, her mismatched eyes—how she has one green and one brown, I will never know—the gap between her top teeth, and that weird gulping noise she always made when she was nervous. Thomas found the gorgeous girl beneath all the quirky (and sometimes off-putting) behaviors, the same one I knew and loved. All in all, Thomas had reached a level most high school boys never did—his definition of traditional beauty had been redefined the moment Mina stole his heart.


All over a game of checkers, folks. Who knew?


Three weeks after that fateful match, Thomas approached me during Health and Wellness class just before the late bell rang. We were supposed to sit with our chosen partners—not that I had a partner, but I certainly hadn’t expected Thomas to choose me—so once the bell rang, we were sealed as partners for our next project. Four weeks of fake baby-sharing bliss… yay.


“Um, you know we’ll be stuck together for at least four weeks taking care of an electronic bundle of anxiety wrapped in a onesie, right?” I asked, peering at him through my glasses.


Thomas, whose teeth were perfectly straight, white, and even just as any proper, young adult novel basketball superstar’s should be, chuckled and settled deeper in his seat. He was committed, and he wasn’t going anywhere.


“Yeah, I know. You’re, like, the least annoying person in the class, so I figured raising a kid with you wouldn’t be half bad. We might even get a good grade,” he said, swiping a hand over his meticulously combed hair.


I twirled a lock of dull blonde-brown hair around my finger and shoved my glasses back to their proper place. “So, you’re using me to get a good grade?”


Thomas shook his head, sending a breeze of nice-smelling boy soap my way. Seriously, are there conventions or something? Where do teenage boys go to learn how to smell like those cologne ads inside fancy magazines?


“Uh, we just buy the cologne,” Thomas said, answering my question though I had not intended to ask it aloud.


My cheeks flushed as I tried to sink into my chair enough to disappear. He chuckled again and pulled me into an upright position. “No, I’m not trying to use you to get a good grade. I’m an A-plus student, actually, and I don’t cheat. I do need a favor, though, and I was hoping we could work out an arrangement.”


“An… arrangement?” I drew out the words, cautious since they might mean anything from doing all the work myself to cleaning out his sock drawer.


He leaned forward to ensure every ounce of my attention was on him—where else would it be—and glanced around the room. “Okay, here’s the thing,” he whispered. “I really, really like Mina, and I wanted to ask her out, but I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m an idiot jock who can only dribble a ball.”


“You sprained your ankle walking down the hall,” I said, peering at his completely perfect hair without a single strand out of place.


“And? What has that got to do with anything?”


I waved my hand to distract myself from his perfection. “I was merely pointing out that I doubt Mina thinks anything about you other than you cannot walk like an adult human being.”

Thomas winced and sat up slightly. “Yeesh. I thought you were nice. Where do you keep all that sarcasm?”


“What do you want me to do, Thomas?” I asked. “If you want to ask my best friend on a date, then just ask her. What’s the big deal?”


“I told you. I don’t think she likes me, but that’s where you come in. See, I thought if we hung out a little, then maybe she might get to know me and realize I’m not the guy she thinks I am.”

I blinked. Then I blinked again because… what?


“How will doing a school project with me help her get to know you? Just because she lives next door and we spend every possible waking moment at each other’s side doesn’t mean… Okay, I see where you’re going with this.”


Thomas grinned, which, admittedly, was not awful. As far as looks went, he had that box check-marked, italicized, underlined, and bolded, but Mina wouldn’t give him a second look based on that alone. Fortunately, I hadn’t had much interaction with the guys on the basketball team—not that they were the usual jerky jocks or anything. Most of them were nice and polite, but we just didn’t have anything in common.


Nothing.


At all.


Which was why Thomas’s plan would crash and burn on the runway.


“Look, Mina is shy and quiet, but under all that is something like a monkey on a sugar high. When she’s with people who love her, she’s not exactly the same person she is at school, okay?”


Thomas arched an eyebrow and grinned again. “I have no idea what a monkey on a sugar high is like, but I’m willing to take that chance.” He scooted closer and wiped the grin from his face. “I’m serious, Brenna. I really like her, and it’s not just a… a… like an accomplishment or something. I want to ask her to that winter formal thing.”


Oh, that. My stomach twisted just thinking about it.


“She won’t go to that. We made each other a promise we wouldn’t even worry about it.” I shrugged and pulled my textbook out of my bag.


“Why did you do that?” he asked, his green eyes sparkling with something I could not identify but was sure meant nothing pleasant. The way he studied my face said he already knew the answer and had a counteroffer prepared just as soon as I spit it out.


I fidgeted with the corner of the textbook as a blush crept up my cheeks. No way would I tell Mr. Popular we agreed to ignore the whole winter formal debacle because we knew no one would ask us. The stress alone was not worth the worry, so we made plans to do something else—eat chocolate and ice cream while watching rom-coms all night.


“Uh… we’re going to visit her sister that weekend, so we’re leaving right after school. We won’t be in town for the formal,” I said. Lies, lies, lies.


“You’re visiting her sister at college?” he asked. “Over winter break?”


“Yeah. Yeah, that.” I nodded, letting him fill in the gaps with the most logical information he could gather from staring at the side of my tomato-red face.


He chuckled and leaned closer, just enough that only I could hear. “Mina told me her sister was coming home for winter break, Brenna. Then she killed my last checker and stole my cookies. What’s the real reason?”


I licked my lips, wondering where our lousy teacher was. Of course, when I needed an adult the most, there were none to be found. So much for starting class on time and saving me from the most awkward conversation in the history of Brenna Charles and her rambling mouth.


“Were you worried no one would ask you?” he asked, also a whisper.


I nodded slightly and groaned, covering my face with my hands.


“It’s okay, really. Don’t do that.” Thomas tugged my hands from my face. Gone was his boyish grin and mischievous, glinting eyes. Instead, his features were soft and kind.


“That look says it all. No one wants pity because they can’t get a date to a high school dance, Thomas.”


“It’s not pity. You’re pretty, and despite my earlier comment, you are nice. I’m sure some guys want to ask you. But I’m not worried about that. My cousin will be staying with us for the holiday. His parents are going skiing, and he didn’t want to go, so I can ask him to take you.”