Fire and Ice Young Adult and New Adult Books

 

Something I'm Good At

by Caroline Andrus



"Something I'm Good At by Caroline Andrus Summer was the girl who had it all: good grades, a spot on the high school volleyball team, and a best friend since elementary school. Then she was diagnosed with lupus, and her best friend betrayed her. Now she’s cutting ties, because nobody should have to deal with someone as broken as her.

Kane is the guy who never gives up. When he puts his mind to something, he gets it done—no matter how many broken bones it takes. So when a chance encounter at the urgent care throws him in the path of Summer, the girl he’s secretly had a crush on for years, he’s determined to win her heart.

Despite her vow to keep people away, Summer finds herself falling for Kane’s charm. Will the boy who never gives up be able to win—and keep—the heart of the girl who is afraid to let people in?


 

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Contemporary Romance

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Teens


Chapter One

Kane

In the sixteen years I’ve been on this earth, I’ve discovered there are a lot of things I’m no good at: Boy Scouts, football, soccer—team sports in general—not getting food all over myself when I eat. The list goes on. But today is going to be different.

I’m wearing my lucky t-shirt, the blue one with the cartoon taco that says, “I’m Into Fitness. Fit’ness Taco In My Mouth.” I need all the luck I can get, because today I’m saying goodbye to the low practice flatrails at the Sol del Mar Skatepark. Against my friend’s advice, I'm attempting to grind the real handrails.

My best friends, Mark and Abigail, are nearby watching. They’ve been grinding the rails for ages, while I’ve been left behind. Well, no more. Ignoring the blazing August sun roasting me alive, I adjust my sunglasses and focus on the rail in front of me. I visualize myself nailing the grind. I'll ollie up at a 45 degree angle, keep my balance, and slide my board down the length of the rail. This will be a cakewalk.

“There’s no way you’re going to get this. You’re not ready,” Mark calls out. His face—what I can see of it behind his dark sunglasses—is serious, and I know he’s only looking out for my safety. Mark and I have been tight since we were practically in diapers. We used to be next door neighbors. We even got matching haircuts recently—shaved close on the sides and longer on top. Somehow it looks way cooler on him than me.

“Aw... leave him alone, Mark,” Abigail says. Though I don’t take their ribbing to heart, it is refreshing to hear one of them have faith in me for once. “I like watching Kane fall.”

So much for that.

Tuning them out, I take one more deep breath and put my board in motion. I aim for a small ramp and lean into a turn, gaining speed as I shoot down the incline. The rail is just up ahead. I count the seconds in my head, then kick my board up into the ollie. I land on the rail and grin as I hear the sweet sound of metal on metal.

“Nailed it!” I yell, pumping my fist in the air.

And then I lose it. Next thing I know, I’m falling face first, the hot concrete rushing toward me. I quickly bring both arms up to break my fall and protect my face, and I land hard on my right wrist. Pain shoots through my hand and up the length of the arm.

Rolling onto my back, I clutch my arm, and yell, “Son of a bitch!” It’s either that or cry, and no way am I crying in front of my friends and everyone else at the skatepark.

Footsteps pound the pavement, and I know my friends are running toward me. Right arm clutched to my chest, I squeeze my eyes tight against the pain, and the blinding sun. So much for my lucky t-shirt. I’m 98.3 percent sure I’ve broken my wrist.

The bright sun against my closed eyelids is suddenly eclipsed, and when I open them, my friends are hovering above me. They wear matching expressions: unimpressed and unsurprised.

Mark pushes his sunglasses up into his light brown hair and shakes his head. “I told you man, if you’d tried the 50-50 first you could have jumped out of that fall.”

“Is his wrist supposed to bend that way?” Abigail asks. One side of her lip is curled up in disgust as she nibbles the black polish from one of her thumb nails.

“Not. Helping,” I bite back through clenched teeth. “Help me up. And then drive me to urgent care.”

I know better than to go to the emergency room. After my third break, Mom got the bill and told me to quit being stupid and stop injuring myself. Then—because she knows me—she added that if I was going to be stupid, at least do her bank account a favor and get myself to urgent care instead.

Mark grasps my uninjured hand and helps me to my feet, while Abigail retrieves my skateboard. I keep my right arm close to my body and my head down as I walk through the skatepark. I ignore the commotion of the other skaters still riding the ramps and rails.

We step through the open arch of the entrance. It’s a huge thing with SOL DEL MAR SKATEPARK spelled out across the top in twisted metal. It was probably really cool once, but now it’s old and rusted.

“You’ve got a little something on your face.” I glance to my right. Dennis, one of the regulars at the skatepark, is sitting on the crumbling brick wall next to the arch. He’s pointing at his chin, a lit cigarette between his fingers. The big dopey grin on his face tells me he’s probably high.

I pause and swipe at my chin. My hand comes away red with blood. “Thanks.”

“No prob, K-man.”

I wave goodbye to Dennis and continue walking. We reach Mark’s gray Subaru. Three feet from the vehicle, Mark puts his hand up in the universal sign for stop. He rummages in the front seat for a moment, then emerges with a wad of tissues.

“If you get blood all over my seat, so help me Kane...” Mark lets the threat hang. I know he’s kidding. Mostly. His parents gave him their used car for his sixteenth birthday. The only thing he loves more is his surfboard.

I grunt to let him know I heard and press the tissue into the wound on my chin. I'm careful not to smear blood anywhere when I climb into the backseat.

While Mark and Abigail climb in, I drop the tissue to my lap and pull my phone from my front pocket. I call Mom’s cell, then wedge the phone between my shoulder and ear, grab the tissue, and press it to my chin again. Glancing around, I realize I’ve dripped blood on my shorts. At least I missed Mark’s upholstery.

She picks up after three rings and says, “What happened?”

“Hello to you too, Mother,” I quip back, trying to keep things lighthearted.

She sighs. “Kane...”

“I’m not going to the ER,” I tell her, a hopeful cadence to my voice.

“Urgent care?” she says, her voice dry.

“...Yes.”

Mom sighs again. “I’ll meet you there.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

“Give me some warning; what is it? Leg? Arm? Head?”

“Wrist.”

“I should throw that skateboard in the trash.”

“You know I’d just get another.”

Mom releases yet another sigh. I know I’m exasperating her, but I can’t help it.

I hang up with my mom and shove the phone back in my pocket. Abigail turns up the radio so loud I can’t even hear myself think. Before long, we’re pulling into the parking lot of the Sol del Mar Urgent Care. Mark hits the speed bump in the lot too fast and my arm slams into the door. I curse and bite back the pain. I think I hear Mark mumble an apology, but it’s hard to tell over the earsplitting music.

As the three of us climb out, I bump my arm yet again on the door frame. Wincing, I close my eyes against the pain, then slam the door closed behind me—harder than necessary—earning me a frown from Mark. I ignore him and glare at the car. Stupid door.

We enter the all too familiar building, and I step in line behind a woman with a little boy. I wait as the woman at the desk hands the mother a clipboard of paperwork. The mother leads the crying toddler to a set of chairs to our right. When the desk is clear, I step forward, and the woman looks up.

She raises her eyebrows, looks me over, and says, “I wondered when we’d be seeing you again, Mr. Dwyer.”

I shrug, and the small movement sends pain shooting through my wrist. I flinch. “I just can’t stay away, Patricia.”

She sighs—that seems to be my superpower, making middle-aged women sigh. I think I’m up to four for the day. She clips a pen to a clipboard and hands it to me. “Looks like you ripped up your chin.” She looks me up and down. “And your arm?”

“Pretty sure I broke my wrist.” I cock my head to one side, not making the mistake of shrugging again. I'm sure I look super awkward, especially since I’m still holding the wad of blood soaked tissues to my chin.

Patricia shakes her head. “Go ahead and start filling this out if you can. Is your mom on her way?”

“Yep.” I reach for the clipboard with the tissue hand and Patricia grimaces. Mark steps forward and grabs the clipboard before I can. Patricia shoos us away.

I retreat to the waiting area on the left—away from the crying kid—and take a seat. The blue plastic chairs are hard and uncomfortable, as if waiting to see a doctor wasn’t painful enough. My friends settle in on either side of me.

“You guys can take off; this could take a while.”

“Try not to fall off the exam table, okay?” Abigail stands and sets my skateboard on her vacated seat. I stick my tongue out at her.

Mark shakes his head and sets the clipboard down beside him. “When are you going to start listening to me, man?” Before I can whip out a witty comeback, he stands as well and laughs. “Text when they spring you from this joint.”

“Will do.”

My friends give one last wave goodbye before vacating the building. I glance around at the other inmates. There are only a handful, which means this will hopefully be a quick trip.

The front door opens, and I look up, expecting my mom. What I see is even better; Summer Swanson, my crush of two years. I sat behind her freshman year in English. I asked to borrow a pencil, and I swear, when her fingers brushed mine, I’d felt a spark. She’s as beautiful now as she was that first day I saw her. Her long blonde hair shines under the fluorescent lights, framing her round face. The woman holding the door open for her must be her mom because they look so much alike.

My joy at seeing her is short lived when I see how pale she looks. Despite the California heat outside, she’s clutching a sweater close to her body.

Her mom gives her a half-hug and sends her in my direction. I straighten up in my chair and drop the tissue in my lap, hoping the blood has quit dripping. I’m pretty sure my hair is a mess after my fall, and I attempt to finger comb it. Too late, I realize I’m probably smearing blood through it. I hope it blends into my brown hair. Maybe she’ll just think I have red highlights.

Summer sits across from me, but doesn’t spare a glance in my direction. She’s staring at her hands, which are now balled into fists in her lap. She looks miserable, and I want to make her feel better.

I clear my throat, but she still doesn’t look. I move closer, leaving one chair between us. I don’t want to come on too strong.

“So,” I say, casually. “What are you in for?”

This gets her attention. She looks at me, and I’m blown away. Her eyes are the palest, most beautiful blue I’ve ever seen. I don’t remember them being this pretty during our pencil exchange. I’ve seen her since, of course, at school, but never this close up.

“What?” she asks. The confused expression on her face might be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

I gesture to my own arm. “I’m in for a broken wrist. There was an incident with a skate rail.” She raises her eyebrows, and I quickly add, “But you should see the rail—way worse off than me.” This earns me a slight smile. “What about you?”

She shrugs and averts her gaze to her lap.

“Top secret?” I look around conspiratorially. “Don’t worry, you don’t have to tell me. I’ll just assume it’s worse than it actually is.”

“Fever,” she says. She’s still trying to suppress a smile; I can see it tugging at the corners of her lips.

I lean back, away from her. “Hey, I’ve already got a broken bone. Are you trying to get me sick, too?”

“You are so weird.”

“I prefer adorable, but I’ll take what I can get.” I flash her my most charming grin. “I’m Kane.”

I have no doubt she’s forgotten me and the pencil exchange. I never did work up the courage to talk to her again. She was always occupied with her friends, and I wasn’t even a blip on her radar.

She does smile this time, for real, and it’s like someone turned on the sun.

“Summer.”

“My favorite season.”

“Original.”

I pretend her words hurt and clutch my good arm to my chest. “You mean you’ve heard that one before?”

Summer shrugs. “Only once or twice.”

“I’ll do better next time.”

“What makes you think there will be a next time?”

“Because I like you Summer, and I think you like me too.”

She rolls her eyes, then points to my face. “You’re dripping blood.”

I grab the tissue from my lap and try to catch the next drip. I don’t know why I bother. I’ve already got blood down the front of my shirt. Hopefully Mom can clean that out, or at least find me another one. I love this shirt, though apparently, it’s not as lucky as I’d hoped.

Mom, with impeccably bad timing, barges through the doors. She strides directly toward me and pauses a few feet away. Looking me up and down, she shakes her head. “Really, Kane?” Her tone is less annoyed than incredulous.

I grin. “Hey, at least it’s not my dominant hand.”

“Give me the clipboard.” She holds out her hand, and I point to it, still on the seat where Mark left it. Mom sits across from me and gets to work.

While Mom is scribbling out my medical history, I turn my attention back to Summer. “So, where were we?”

“Kane Dwyer?” A nurse—I recognize her as Claudia Diaz—stands at the door leading back to the exam room. She’s looking at me expectantly, and I groan. I’m surrounded by women with terrible timing today.

“I think you were about to get called into the exam room,” Summer says, humor coloring her voice.

“Can I get your number?” I ask. It can’t be chance that I’ve run into her here.

It’s fate.

“Come on, Kane,” Mom says, standing. She adjusts her purse on her shoulder, still scribbling information on the clipboard.

I turn to face her and hold up one finger on my good hand. I have to remove the tissue to do this, and I can feel blood dribbling down my chin. “One sec, Mom.”

She gives me her “Mom” look. I know that look well. It means she has no time for my BS.

I grab my skateboard from the chair and reluctantly turn back to Summer. While walking backward, I say, “I’ll see you at school.”

“You don’t know which school I go to.”

I grin. “Unless you’ve transferred this year, we’ve been at the same school since freshman year. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for you in the halls.”

“Kane, turn around,” Mom says. “Before you fall down and break your other arm.”

I wink at Summer, who’s still looking at me dumbfounded, and turn my back on her.

“Mom, it’s my wrist.” I say, as I follow her through the door Claudia is still holding open. “And you’re killing my game.”

“You’re lucky your ‘game’ is all I’m killing.”