Sixteen kisses a novella, p.1
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       Sixteen Kisses: A novella, p.1

           Kelly Oram
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Sixteen Kisses: A novella


  by Kelly Oram

  Also by Kelly Oram

  Serial Hottie

  Cinder & Ella

  Joni, Underway

  If We Were a Movie

  The Jamie Baker Series:

  Being Jamie Baker

  More Than Jamie Baker

  Remember Jamie Baker

  The Science Squad Series:

  The Avery Shaw Experiment

  The Libby Garrett Intervention

  The V is for Virgin Series:

  V is for Virgin

  A is for Abstinence

  The Supernaturals Series:

  Chameleon

  Ungifted

  Scion

  Don’t miss the latest news from Kelly Oram. Sign up to receive e-mail notifications for all her new releases, events, sales, and giveaways. SUBSCRIBE.

  Published by Bluefields Creative

  Copyright © 2016 by Kelly Oram

  Edition 1.0

  Edited by Ashley Blevins @ TCB Editing Services

  All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

  The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

  ISBN: 978-0-9977431-0-4

  For Leah

  I have the mother of all first kiss stories. Hands down. I know that’s quite a claim, but I do. The kiss itself was nothing to write home about. It was more of a shock than anything else. But the story surrounding that kiss—and the fifteen kisses that followed it—now that is one for the record books.

  It was my sixteenth birthday. It was also St. Patrick’s Day. No, wait. Back up. It really started the day before my sixteenth birthday, March sixteenth, when I was complaining to my best friend, Selena, about turning sixteen, and having never been kissed. “Kissless Cassie. That’s what I am. That’s probably what I’ll be when I’m eighty. I’ll be Kissless Cassie, the Crazy Cat Lady. Isn’t that right, Sir Snuggles?”

  My cat perked up at hearing his name, and moseyed across the room, knowing he would get his ears scratched. He was right, of course. He jumped up in my lap and, like the well-trained human I am, I paused my video game to give him a good scratch.

  Selena glanced up from the floor where she was giving herself a pedicure and snorted. “I don’t know what’s more pathetic: your whining, or Sir Snuggles’ lap addiction.” Sir Snuggles rolled over, indicating it was now time for a belly rub. Selena went back to painting her toes green and white, shaking her head with laughter. “You shouldn’t worry so much. You’re only a sophomore. You have plenty of time to find the right guy.”

  As if she understood what it was like. She got her first real kiss when she was twelve, and she’d had several steady boyfriends. Selena is gorgeous. She’s been asked to every single school dance since we entered middle school and school dances became a thing. I’ve never been asked to a dance. I’ve never even been on a date. “I don’t care if it’s the right guy anymore. I just want to get it over with. I hate stressing about it, and it’s embarrassing.”

  My older brother, Ben, and his best friend since kindergarten, Jared, barreled into the family room like a couple of elephants—big and loud, and tromping all over as if they owned the place. While Ben ignored us, and headed straight for the refrigerator—surprise, surprise—Jared plopped down onto the couch next to me with a heavy thump that sent Sir Snuggles shooting out of the room. “What’s embarrassing, Little Cass?” he asked as he sprawled his long Levi-clad legs across the rest of the couch, hanging his cowboy boot-covered feet over the edge.

  I had to scoot over to give the behemoth more space. Jared was 6’6”, broad through the shoulders, and narrow through the hips with an athletic build that came from working hard on his family’s ranch. With his sandy-brown hair, light green eyes, and hint of a five o’clock shadow, he could easily be mistaken for a pro-basketball player or a cover model, even though he was only seventeen.

  He could have been the most popular senior at Desert Ridge High School. (Cowboys, though they aren’t the norm by any stretch, are common enough in Arizona that they get plenty of respect.) Instead, he chose to spend all of his time with his horses, working on cars with my brother, or pestering me.

  I rolled my eyes at the nickname he only ever used because he knew it annoyed me. I’m not little to an average human, just to Giant Jared. “Nothing,” I said, un-pausing my video game.

  My traitorous best friend sold me up the river with an obnoxious snort. “Kissless Cassie doesn’t want to turn sixteen with virgin lips.”

  “Selena!”

  I lightly kicked my best friend’s shoulder, mortified that she’d divulge such private information. Finished with her own nails, she caught my foot and attacked it with green polish. She’d already painted my toes white, and now that they were dry she was adding little green clovers in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. “What?” she griped. “It’s not like he doesn’t know you’ve never been kissed.”

  I tried to kick her again, but she had my foot in a firm grip. “That doesn’t mean I want to talk about it with him.”

  “Hold still, or I’ll mess up.”

  “Why are you painting my toes anyway? Nobody’s going to see them when I’m wearing shoes tomorrow.”

  “It’s supposed to be eighty degrees tomorrow. Wear some cute sandals, and a skirt.” She gasped dramatically. “Now, there’s a thought. Dress cute for once, take some pride in being a girl, and maybe the boys will finally want to kiss you.”

  I glared at her. She knew I hated all the super girly stuff. But she loved it, and was always trying her best to convert me. Sometimes, I gave in to her—letting her paint my toenails was a prime example—but no way was she getting me into a skirt.

  There was a loud laugh from the kitchen. Selena shot a death glare at my brother. “Shut up, Ben. This is serious.”

  “Seriously funny,” he said. “Cassie wear a skirt to school? That’s almost as ridiculous as the thought that some guy might actually want to kiss her. Blugh.” He pretended to convulse at the thought.

  “Benjamin Caldwell!” Selena shrieked. “You’re going to give her a complex.”

  “She already has one—hey! The chocolate milk is gone.” Red-faced with anger, he pulled a nearly empty jug from the fridge, and glowered at my best friend. “Selena! Stop drinking all my chocolate milk!”

  “I didn’t see your name on it.”

  “Go home and drink your own chocolate milk.”

  “My mom won’t buy chocolate milk, and it’s more fun to drink yours.”

  I smirked at the smug grin on Selena’s face. She’d downed two full glasses after school today, making her stomach hurt, specifically so she could save one tiny gulp in the bottom of the container and leave it in the fridge for Ben.

  “Sel, must you always goad him?”

  She grinned at me. “Yes. I don’t have any brothers of my own to fight with, and sisters aren’t nearly as fun. Besides, he deserves it for that crack. I’m sure there are plenty of guys who wouldn’t mind kissing you.”

  I scoffed.

  “No, she’s right,” Jared said. “I know lots of guys who would kiss you.”

  I paused my game again—too shocked to continue playing. “What?”

  Selena followed my question with an excited “WHAT? Who? Tell us!”

  Jared took the controller from my hands, and shrugged as he started playing my game. “J
ust lots of guys.” His cheeks turned pink and he mumbled, “You’re pretty, Cass.”

  Both Selena and I stared at Jared in shock. Jared thought I was pretty? I couldn’t believe it. I’d known him almost my entire life. Not that he was an unofficial part of the family—I didn’t look at him like an honorary brother or anything. I liked him, trusted him, and respected him. He was kind and confident. He did his own thing, and didn’t care what others thought. He was well mannered and genuinely nice—an unsuspecting heartbreaker among all the girls at school. But he’d always just been Ben’s best friend to me. Nothing more, nothing less. I was certain I was only Ben’s little sister to him.

  But, he thought I was pretty? Something about that confession made my stomach jittery.

  Ben broke the shock-filled silence as he joined us in the family room with a sandwich and a soda. “Gross. That’s my little sister you’re calling hot.”

  As he passed by Selena, he leaned over and belched loudly in her face before sitting in our dad’s armchair and reaching for the second X-box controller.

  “That’s disgusting!” Selena cried, gagging.

  “Soda makes me gassy. Don’t like it, don’t drink all my chocolate milk.”

  “You’re a pig.”

  “Oink, oink.”

  I sighed. Their constant bickering annoyed me, but at least they’d broken the tension. Unfortunately, Selena couldn’t leave it alone. Reaching for my hand since she’d finished all of my toes, she began coating every other nail with white paint and said, “So who are some of these guys that like Cassie?”

  “Imaginary ones,” Ben offered.

  I secretly agreed.

  For once, Selena ignored Ben and kept her gaze focused on Jared. He shrugged again, looking sorry he’d brought it up. “Just guys. I’ve heard them talk about you before. Sometimes, they ask me about you because they know we’re friends, and I’m less likely to hit them for asking than Ben is.”

  My heart did this weird clenching thing in my chest. Jared considered me his friend? His pretty friend?

  Ben’s grunt of disapproval, and lack of snarky remark, made me think Jared wasn’t exaggerating. Selena clearly believed him, too. “So, why haven’t any of them ever asked her out? Are you scaring them all away on purpose?”

  Ben laughed. “He doesn’t have to. She does that herself.”

  “What’s that supposed to mean? I am a very friendly person.” I frowned, looking to Selena and Jared to back me up. “Aren’t I a nice person? Friendly?”

  “The coolest,” Selena agreed with a nod.

  Jared’s nod was less confident. “You are.”

  There was a big, fat, silent BUT hanging from his words. I had to ask. “But…?”

  After a quick glance at me, he looked back at the video game he’d taken over and shrugged as if uncomfortable. “You’re not scary, you’re just…intimidating.”

  “Intimidating?”

  “Terrifying,” Ben corrected.

  “You’re not like other girls,” Jared explained before Selena could jump down Ben’s throat on my behalf. “You love four wheeling and riding dirt bikes.” He shot me a crooked smile that made my chest do that clenching bit again. “And, you’re lethal with a paintball gun.”

  This made Selena burst into wild laughter. No doubt she was remembering a certain unfortunate incident I had with my brother last year, which is now the reason he wears a cup to go paintballing. I wanted to laugh, too—especially considering the pout on Ben’s face—but I frowned instead. “What’s wrong with that?”

  Insecurity washed over me. Yeah, I wasn’t all that girly, but I wasn’t so different. I wasn’t some freak outcast or anything. Was I?

  Noticing my distress, Jared paused the game and threw the controller to the floor. “Nothing’s wrong with that,” he promised. “Nothing at all. You’re the coolest girl I know. And, on top of that, you’re really nice, super friendly, fun, and outgoing. All of that wrapped up in one gorgeous package is enough to make any guy feel insecure.”

  Oh, man. Flutters again. Flutters. In my chest. What was going on with me? Was this a heart attack? And, why couldn’t I look away from his eyes?

  “Whoa, Jared,” Ben groaned. “No more Nicholas Sparks movies for you.” His voice broke me from my trance, and I snapped my head his direction. He rolled his eyes. “Look, Cass, it’s easy. Guys don’t hit on you because you’re not flirty.”

  “What?”

  “You know…”

  He proceeded to giggle in a high-pitched voice while cocking his head from side to side, batting his eyelashes, and pretending to flip his hair.

  Selena climbed to her feet. Making her way into the kitchen, walking awkwardly on the heels of her feet, careful not to smudge her freshly painted toenails, she scoffed. “Oh, please. That is not how we act.”

  “Is too,” Ben called to her. “Especially you. Every time you come within fifty feet of Eli Larson, you turn into a total spaz.”

  As much as I tried to hold it in, a small snort escaped me. Ben had a point with that one. After shooting a quick pair of eye lasers at me, Selena narrowed that irritated gaze on my brother. “Aw, I’m sorry. Does it make you jealous when I flirt with Eli, Benjamin?”

  Ben choked on the bit of sandwich in his mouth, spitting little bits of food out onto his plate. “You wish,” he said, coughing. “Nasty.”

  Jared and I shared a look. We both knew it was only a matter of time before Ben and Selena realized they were in love with each other, and had been for at least a year. I wasn’t going to point it out, though. The idiots wouldn’t believe me anyway. They were going to have to figure that one out on their own.

  “Oh, sweet.” Selena reached up to the top shelf in the pantry. “Thin Mints.”

  “Don’t even think about it, you little gremlin!” Ben growled. “I hid those up there on purpose!”

  “What, these?” Selena batted her eyelashes innocently, popping one of the small cookies in her mouth. “Mmm, I love Thin Mints.”

  Ben jumped up from his chair, nearly spilling his soda. “That’s it. You’re dead!”

  Selena dashed away with a shriek when Ben charged her. Jared and I listened as they bounded up the stairs, and Selena slammed my bedroom door.

  I tuned the noise out. Ben and Selena would be at that for a while, so I handed Jared the controller again, and grabbed the one Ben had been using. We started a new game, and played in blissful peace for a couple of minutes. Jared was the first to break the silence. “If you really want to be kissed, Cassie, I’ll do it.”

  I laughed because he had to be teasing. He hadn’t even turned his eyes away from the TV screen. It had just been kill monster, kill monster, I’ll kiss you Cassie, jump, stab, kill monster. “Ha ha. Thanks for the sympathy. You shouldn’t tease people about their insecurities. It’s not nice. I might just go cry in my room now.”

  He chuckled at my sarcasm. “You sound so broken up. And I wasn’t teasing. I’ll really kiss you if you want me to.”

  I froze. That sounded a little less like a joke. When my character died, Jared paused the game and sat up. His boot-clad feet hit the ground with a thump, and he flashed me a grin that melted me like Frosty the Snowman. It was an award-winning grin. Literally. He’d been awarded Best Smile in the yearbook last year. “I’ve been told I’m not so bad at it.”

  My mouth went dry. No, I’m sure he wasn’t a bad kisser at all. In fact, I was friends with the last girl he’d dated, and she’d always said quite the opposite.

  Could this really be happening? Was the gorgeous, popular senior really offering to kiss me? Me. Pathetic, unflirty, kissless Little Cass, his best friend’s baby sister?

  He was. I could see it in his golden-green hazel eyes that he was being sincere. He really would kiss me if I wanted him to, just so that I wouldn’t stress about it anymore or feel insecure. He’d probably even teach me how to do it right so that, when I got kissed for real, I wouldn’t make a fool of myself. He was super considerate that way.


  I’d never thought of Jared as dating potential until that moment. As we sat there in awkward silence while he patiently waited for me to make a decision about his offer, I saw him as more than Ben’s best friend. I saw him for the amazing, crush-worthy guy that he was. And, suddenly, though I’d never considered the possibility before, I wanted to kiss Jared. I wanted to badly. But I couldn’t. “Thanks for the offer, but I’ll pass.”

  He didn’t frown at my rejection. His smile never faltered. “Too weird?” he asked curiously. “Because of Ben?”

  Sighing, I shook my head. “It’s not that. I don’t want a pity kiss. That wouldn’t count. I don’t want to have to ask someone to kiss me. I want to be kissed because the guy wants to kiss me. Because he likes me and wants to date me.” I groaned. “I can’t believe I’m telling you this. Selena is a dead woman.”

  I glared at the ceiling where the shouting, stomping, and door slamming had quieted.

  Jared’s chuckle made my face turn bright red. “She meant well,” he said. “And, for the record, I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t think any guy who kissed you would be doing it out of pity.”

  I glanced away, and Jared’s teasing mode finally turned to concern. “I’m serious, Cassie. You just need to give guys a little encouragement. If you let them know you’re interested, you’d be surprised how quickly they’d start lining up.”

  If my face got any hotter, it was bound to catch fire. “Thanks, but I am going to literally die from embarrassment if we don’t stop talking about this right now.”

  Jared’s smile came back, easing the tension in the air, and loosening the knots in my stomach. Laughing, he slumped back against the couch again, and un-paused our video game. “Okay, Little Cass, I’m done. But, speaking of kissing, you think that’s what Ben and Selena are doing right now? It’s awfully quiet up there.”

  I laughed, beyond thankful for the subject change. “That, or they’ve finally killed each other.”

  I supposed Jared had a point about me needing to let guys know I was interested. But, how was I supposed to do that? I wasn’t little, cute, curvy, or giggly like Selena. I was average height, average weight, my boobs were average sized, my hair and eyes both an average brown. I had no curves to flaunt, no hips to sway, and I wasn’t about to flip my hair or laugh at something stupid. Guys were already pretty big morons most of the time. They didn’t need encouragement to be worse. But I couldn’t just walk up to someone and be like, “Hey, kiss me, idiot. I’m in to you.” Nope. Couldn’t do that.

 
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