The Crush Collision (Southern Charmed #2)
by Danielle Ellison
Publication Date: February 18, 2019
Publisher: Entangled Teen: Crush
Haley Howell has had a hopeless crush on her brother’s best friend, Jake Lexington, for as long as she can remember. Too bad to him, she’ll forever be off-limits. But with senior year and acceptance to a college outside their tiny southern town of Culler, South Carolina, comes new confidence. Haley’s ready to get Jake to notice her—whatever it takes.
No one in Culler notices the real Jake anymore—to them, he’s nothing more than the star football player or the kid with the family tragedy. When one mistake lands him in community service, he’s shocked to find his best friend’s little sister there, too, looking cute as hell and threatening all his no-friends-with-benefits rules. But Jake isn’t ready to take a chance, no matter how crafty Haley’s willing to get to prove him otherwise…
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Outside the house, the wheelchair ramp is loose from the front porch. I told Dad we need to build this shit in, but he won’t do it. Right now we still have one of those plastic ramps, temporary. The way he hopes all this is. Jamie and I both know it isn’t, but we can’t tell him anything. He never listens to us anyway. I scoot the thing so it latches back into place.
The sound echoes through to the outside of the house, and my heart starts pounding as I rush up the porch ramp and jam my key into the hole.
“Jamie!” I call out. Everything replays in my head, shattering, twisting, too fast to scream, blood. Lights flash in front of my eyes. I expect to see the car again, smooshed and crushed, blood everywhere, to feel the rain on my cheeks. Even though I don’t, I have to tell myself to breathe. Worst case scenario, always.
I hear Nanette and Jamie talking, then there’s laughter. I want to be sick, but everything is okay. I push all the fear down into my throat, and call out, “Hey bro.”
“Jake! Come in here.”
I clench my fist for a second before I make the short walk into the study. Well, the former study. It’s Jamie’s room now. I stop in the doorway, pushing the empty wheelchair back inside, and look around the room to the new-addition poster of Selena Gomez in barely a swimsuit. It’s more and more his every day.
He’s playing a video game on the computer, on pause, controller in hand. I stare at the wheelchair, and my stomach churns. I hate that thing. As much as I wish Dad was right, that the whole thing was temporary, that chair reminds me it’s not. He used to do the same thing with Mom, pretend like it was something other than the truth. It’s how he copes. Jamie looks up at me and smiles.
It’s never not going to be weird to have my big brother look up at me.
Jake Lexington is asleep on my couch again. The sight of him there—one leg sprawled over the back and the other over the side, arms tucked across his eyes—takes me by surprise. Not him, I reckon. He’s here so much, it might as well be his couch. It’s the look of him, the way he has this power to make me blush without even being conscious. I can still feel his breath on my neck at the party. Stop it, Haley.
I avert my eyes as I rush past him toward the kitchen.
It’s better for everyone if I don’t look at him too long. Even when he’s asleep. Maybe especially when he’s asleep, because then there’s no risk of him noticing that I’m staring and I can look as long as I want. Looking too long makes me want him. Jake Lexington is off-limits.
I stop in the doorway and glance back. He shifts on the couch, a move that makes his long hair dangle in front of his face. He even sleep-sighs, and it makes me smile. He’s so cute laying there. I’d take a picture of him right now if it wouldn’t be considered ten kinds of creepy.
Lord, I’m hopeless.
Coach?” I say. “Jake, you ready for this?”
He gives me a look. We both know I’m not, but I’m here anyway. “I need you to stay focused, son.”
“The game is my life.”
Coach shakes his head. “Not the game, Jake. Life, school, responsibilities. Like we talked about after Jamie.”
“Got it,” I say.
He rests a hand on my shoulder. “I hope you do. You need to talk about anything?”
The only adult who gives a shit about me is Coach Tucker. To everyone else, I’m the other Lexington, number 81. I’m responsible for the QB and the ball. That’s all the fuck anyone cares about in this town: football. I don’t blame them, I love it, too, but sometimes I want something else to matter.
He gives me a side-eye. “Not even about how you reek of alcohol right now?”
I don’t dare say anything about that.
“You ever come on this field drunk during a game, and I mean one time, you’re benched.”
“I won’t have you ruining things for your teammates, or disrespecting me or them or this game or yourself. One time, do I make myself clear?”
“Maybe you should do something crazy, Other Howell.”
Her eyes light up when I say it. I know I’ve stepped into something. Haley slowly unfolds herself from the couch. Her eyes sparkle, and I’d never really noticed how much they seem to dance in her happiness. What are they like when they’re sad? Angry? Lost? I hope I never see that, but I also want to see everything. The blanket falls from her legs. Her shorts are pink and high on her thighs, and then I look up because I shouldn’t even be looking at her legs.
“What if I don’t always want to play it safe?” she asks. My heart races, and my eyes wander across her body. Focus. “I want to do it, Jake. Something crazy. More than one thing, lots of things.”
“I’m not following...”
She exhales and then grabs my arm by the wrist. “I want you to make me try things that I wouldn’t normally try. I want to prove to myself that I can do other things, that I can take risks and have fun.”
“You want me to give you risk lessons?”
“Yes! Exactly,” she says.
Part of me likes the idea of hanging out with her. Showing her new things, being a friend to her. It could be good to have someone else, and I need someone else. Someone who doesn’t know every piece of my life. But at the same time, she’s Howell’s twin sister. The other part of me feels like I should shut it down right now and not get involved with her at all. In any way.
“Like what kind of shit? Dangerous? Big? New and strange?” I am a glutton for punishment.
She’s smiling again, and she does that a lot. At me? Or just because? Shake that off, Jake.
“All of the above. Everything. Anything,” she says.
The bleachers are full. Culler Knights blue and gold on one side, Haymont Hound red on the other. The cheerleaders are already at it, along with the crowd, and we can hear the roar as Howell leads us through the game day banner. This is what I live for. This right here.
The team huddles up, and Coach calls us the first play. We take the field, and I nod at Howell. I’ve got him out here, just like he’s got me everywhere else. I will do whatever I can to protect Howell on this turf, the way I didn’t protect Jamie off of it.
We win the coin toss. The rest of the world fades away as the ref’s whistle blows and the ball is passed. As soon as the clock starts, everything disappears. The past, the mistakes, Jamie, my guilt. It doesn’t exist here; this is my escape.
Top 10 Writing Tips for Aspiring Writer
As an author, you get asked a lot some tips on writing. I never quite feel adequate to answer this, because I’m certainly not always as disciplined as I need to be, but I have learned a few things the hard and easy way.
If you write, you’re a writer. Everyone, especially new writers, struggle with this. We all strive for the being an author moment, and I know I used to say, “I want to be a writer.” But if you are writing, then you are a writer. Own that. Believe it for yourself. Don’t wait until you’ve achieved a certain status or publishing deal.
Set goals. This is two-fold. Know where you want to go and make a plan of action of how you are going to get there. Goals are good! They give you a plan to work toward. But, with the goals, be flexible. You may not achieve that goal in the amount of time you want to—and that’s okay. Goals are a waypoint to guide you to a direction, not a final destination.
Surround yourself with positive people. The writing community, especially in YA, is pretty amazing. I’ve made some awesome friends through being involved and just genuinely talking to people. It’s important to have others who understand what you’re going through, who can cheer you on, help you out, lend an ear—and you can do the same for those people. Be yourself, and be open to meeting people, and don’t use them because you think they can do something for you. (It happens, sadly.) Find people in your “real” life, who believe in you, too. The people you meet will be irreplaceable in your journey.
Do other things. Try new things. Try everything. If you think there’s something else you’re interested in, do that. Follow that. Explore that job, that dream, that hobby. Travel all the places you want to travel. Get a degree or have a family. None of it is a waste of time because it’s an experience. Writing will always be there; life won’t. So if there’s something you want to pursue, then pursue it…and one day, if writing is truly your passion, you will come back to it—and you’ll do so from an even better mindset because you will know this is without a doubt what you want and you will have more stories to tell because of the things you got to experience.
Be okay with failure and disappointment, but not content. Failure and criticism is going to happen. Not everyone will love your book. Sometimes they will hate it, in fact. You will miss a deadline; you will not able to finish your book; an agent won’t want to represent you; a deal won’t go through; a publisher won’t back you; there are a hundred things that could go wrong in every stage. Each of them matter to you, so you are allowed to be disappointed that something didn’t work out, but you can’t be content there. You have to be willing to pick yourself up and keep moving forward. Learn from the failures, carry the disappointment and channel it into the next thing…and trust there will be always be a next thing. If you don’t see one, make one.
Don’t compare yourself. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Roosevelt said that, and he wasn’t wrong. When we look at what other writers are doing and we aren’t, it’s so easy to think we’re not as good, not as deserving, not as talented, our book isn’t as good, etc. There’s always a reason to feel like someone else is better than you, but publishing isn’t about that. It’s luck, timing, hard work, persistence and patience. When you compare what you don’t have to what you think someone else does, it’s easy to get discouraged and want to quit. Why keep trying? Because your stories are your own; no one else can offer up what you bring to the table. Be proud of what you’ve done, what you’re going to do, and be happy that in a world of people who have always “thought about writing a book”, you are.
Take a break if you need it. Life influences writing. I know I’ve been in a mental place and not able to write. I withdraw a lot, from social media and the writing community, because sometimes I can’t. I think it’s okay to say you’re struggling, to share positive news, painful news, whatever, with the community you’ve created. You may be creatively empty or overwhelmed. It’s not always the time to write a certain book, or to write at all. Maybe you need a break for a week, or even a couple months, to do something else. Take it. Take time to breath. Self-care is important; more important than the goal you set. If you set the goal but you can’t enjoy it, then you’re hurting yourself.
Be kind to yourself. If you only leave here with one piece of advice, leave with this one: be kind to yourself. Writing requires leaving a little piece of yourself in every project you write, and pouring your soul onto pages left to the masses to love or hate. That, plus finding a community of people, can be an exhausting thing. We already talked about self-care, but when you fail to meet your expectations, you’re going to be harder on yourself then anyone else. When I’m not writing “enough books” I always apologize to my agent—and she reminds me that I’m not just a writer. I wear a lot of hats, each of them time consuming, each of them exhausting, and I don’t always have energy to write. That’s okay, too. Just allow yourself the mental space needed and no matter which of these other things above are weighing on you, be kind to yourself. Tomorrow is always a new day.
Danielle Ellison is a nomad, always on the lookout for an adventure and the next story. In addition to writing, she’s the founder and coordinator of the NoVa TEEN Book Festival. When she’s not busy with books, she’s probably watching her favorite shows, drinking coffee, or fighting her nomadic urges. She is newly settled in Oklahoma (for now) with her cat, Simon, but you can always find her on twitter @DanielleEWrites.