Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Bad Boy Rebels [1-3] (Kissing Benton Meeting the Bad Boy Rebels Going Undercover)

Jessica Sorensen

  Bad Boy Rebels

  (Bad Boy Rebels Books 1-3)

  Jessica Sorensen


  Discovering Zhara: Kissing Benton

  Completely Clueless

  Out the Window

  Locked In

  First Kiss


  Discovering Zhara: Meeting the Bad Boy Rebels


  Bad Liar

  A Proposal


  A Fifty Year-Old Woman

  Meeting the Bad Boy Rebels


  Discovering Zhara: Going Undercover


  Sexy… who?

  Get in the Car

  A Strange, Unfamiliar Ride

  The Mysteriously Familiar Stranger

  A Message


  About the Author

  Also by Jessica Sorensen

  Jessica Sorensen

  All rights reserved.

  Copyright © 2017 by Jessica Sorensen

  This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.

  No part of this book can be reproduced in any form, or by electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer who may quote short excerpts in a review.

  Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or names featured are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if we use one of these terms.

  For information:

  Cover Photo: Regina Wamba ©MaeIDesign and Photography

  Created with Vellum

  Discovering Zhara: Kissing Benton

  (Bad Boy Rebels, #1)

  By Jessica Sorensen

  Discovering Zhara: Kissing Benton

  Jessica Sorensen

  All rights reserved.

  Copyright © 2017 by Jessica Sorensen

  This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.

  No part of this book can be reproduced in any form, or by electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer who may quote short excerpts in a review.

  Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or names featured are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if we use one of these terms.

  For information:

  Cover design by Mae I Design

  Created with Vellum

  Completely Clueless

  I feel so guilty I might throw up. Wouldn’t that be a great way to start the night? My first time going to a party and I puke my chicken and rice all over the welcome mat. I can hear the gossip on Monday. Did you see Zhara yack her guts out on Friday? No? Well, you should’ve. She looked like an idiot! I might agree with them too. I probably do look pretty idiotic at the moment, climbing the stairs to Benton’s party, pretending I actually belong here.

  You could, I think to myself. You’ve never tried so how do you really know for sure?

  Despite my semi-optimistic thoughts, I almost turn around. But when I glance over my shoulder, Taylor, one of my closest friends, catches my gaze.

  She smiles. “Relax, you’re going to have fun.”

  Swallowing hard, I nod and keep marching forward, even when my legs begin to tremble.

  “Zhara, stop shaking,” Taylor says, moving up beside me. “You need to chill out. It’s just a party.”

  I swallow the massive lump that’s been wedged in my throat ever since I told her I wanted to go to the party. “Sorry. I’m just really nervous.”

  She sighs heavily. “You should’ve taken a couple more shots before we left. You’d probably be more chill.”

  I shake my head. “No way. I almost puked up the one I had.”

  She adjusts the hem of her thin strapped black and pink dress as we near the third floor. “Shots aren’t supposed to taste good, silly.”

  I fiddle with the hem of my shirt, feeling self-conscious. Compared to the short dress and four-inch stilettos she’s wearing, my pale pink shorts, white tank top, and gladiator sandals make me feel way underdressed.

  “Then why’d we drink them?” I ask, knowing I probably sound dumb.

  She shrugs. “That’s what I always do before I go to a party. It’s like my warm up before the big game. You know, like how we stretch before we cheer.”

  I nod like I understand, but I don’t. Drinking before partying? So that’s a thing?

  God, I’m so clueless. When did I get so completely clueless?

  “Don’t worry, you’ll catch on after a party or two,” she assures me, reading the confusion all over my face. “That is, if you go to another one. I was shocked when you said you wanted to come to this one.”

  I’m shocked myself. I’ve never been to a party before, at least not a crazy, drinking, famous end of the school year party, like the ones Benton throws. Taylor’s been to her fair share, though, and I’m hoping she can show me the ropes so I don’t seem so out of place. Although most of the time I feel that way anyway, even when I’m with Taylor. We’re completely different from each other and it shows big time.

  We haven’t always been that way, though. Back during our freshman year of high school when we first became friends, we had a lot in common. We were both shy and a little naïve, had never had a boyfriend, loved spending Saturday’s watching morning cartoons, and had crushes on most of the varsity football team, even though we knew they were way out of our league. We were so close that sometimes people thought we were sisters. But the end of our sophomore year, Taylor outgrew her shy, naïve, never-had-a-boyfriend phase, and transformed into a fun, popular, flirty, party girl who’s dated most of the varsity team. Me, I’m stuck in the same place. I never go out on weekends, I’m kind of popular I guess, but mostly by association through Taylor. I’ve never kissed a guy. And I’ve been told I can be very dull and boring.

  I can’t help who I am, though. When I think about changing, I get so stressed that it feels like a giant elephant is squashing my chest and crushing the oxygen from my lungs. Whenever that happens, my first instinct is to suck in a breath and get the air flowing again. The problem is I’m afraid to take that breath. Afraid that if I open my mouth, I’ll end up screaming until my lungs burst and everyone will see me for who I truly am. A girl who’s lost, frustrated, and confused, instead of the put together, proper, goody two shoes people portray me as. Sometimes I want just do it, take an inhale and exhale and yell, I’m not really as good as everyone thinks! And I don’t want to be!! But then I remember the final words my mom said to me before her and my father died in a car crash.

  “Zhara, this isn’t you,” she said after I told her I wanted to make some major changes in my life.

  I was almost sixteen years old and felt trapped in a life I didn’t believe I belonged in. I wanted to quit cheerleading, stop focusing on school so much, explore more things, have more fun, be a little reckless for once in my life, like Taylor.

  My mom didn’t agree, though.

  “I know you mi
ght think you need to try new, maybe even crazy things, but I’m afraid a few years down the road, you’ll regret giving up what you have now.” My mom placed her hands on my shoulders and smiled at me. “You’ve always been my good little girl. I love that I can rely on you to talk your brothers and sisters out of doing stupid stuff. That’s who you are, sweetie. And just wait, when you’re going to some major, fancy college, you’ll look back at this moment and be glad you didn’t give everything up.”

  I felt so frustrated with her. My parents had always thought of me as the one who kept an eye on my siblings, while everybody else got to do whatever they wanted. Even my twin sister, Alexis, wasn’t nearly as responsible as me. She went to parties, her grades were considered passable, not great, and she was allowed to explore her artistic talent through paint, photography, sculpting, and any other class she asked to take. My mom supported her ever-changing dreams. Me, if I got so much as an A-minus on an exam, I got drilled with questions about what was going on, as if a tiny grade slip stemmed from some major crisis.

  Usually I kept my mouth shut, and gave up on the argument, but that day I was exhausted from being someone I wasn’t.

  So, I had opened my mouth and let the pressure in my lungs burst. “I don’t want to be this person anymore! I don’t know who I am. And I’m tired of pretending to be someone I’m not. I’m starting to hate my life.” I shook her hands from my shoulders and stepped back, glaring at her.

  My mom’s lips parted in shock. “Zhara, you don’t mean that—”

  “I do. You and dad are always on my case. Zhara do this. Zhara do that. Zhara be perfect. But you know what, I’m not perfect. I don’t want to be perfect. And I’m sick and tired of listening to you guys tell me I am!” I stormed for the door, shaking so hard from the anger.

  I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be whoever I wanted to be, like my older brother, Loki, who was away at college studying philosophy and had no set future goals. Or like my oldest sister Jessamine who just moved to London to attend culinary school and chase her dreams of being some fancy chef. Even my younger brother, Nikoli, who was barely fourteen frequently changed his mind about what sport he wanted to play. He even dropped out of tennis because he decided he wasn’t that into it and no one gave him crap about it.

  “Zhara,” my mom chased after me. “Come back here. We need to finish this discussion.”

  I barreled down the stairs. “Leave me alone!”

  As I reached the bottom of the stairway, she caught hold of my arm and pulled me to a stop.

  “I’m not going to leave you alone,” she said, struggling to stay calm. “Not until you calm down.”

  I jerked my arm away from her. “I’m tired of being calm,” I snapped. “I want to be able to feel however I want, not how you tell me I should feel.”

  Her eyes widened, taken aback by my sharp tone. “Sweetie, you can do that. But I’m not going to let you walk away during a fight. That’s not what we do. We talk through stuff.”

  “I’m tired of talking.” I yanked open the front door. “I don’t ever want to talk to you again.”

  I didn’t really mean it. But we never did get to talk again, because the next afternoon she died.

  It’s something I have to live with every day, the guilt over those horrible words I said to her, all because she was trying to turn me into the person she wanted me to be. And while I still don’t think she was right, I’ve done my best to live up to her expectations. I’m still the same good girl who spends most of her free time doing extracurricular activities and making sure her brothers and sisters stay out of trouble. But I’ve struggled to maintain my good girl image. I want to let loose just a bit and for once see what it’s like to be carefree, instead of this wound-too-tight person.

  That’s what tonight is about. Going to one party and experiencing something I’ve only ever been able to experience by listening to Taylor’s wild stories.

  Boy oh boy was Taylor shocked when I told her I wanted to go with her tonight. She looked at me like I sprouted a unicorn horn in the center of my forehead and said, “Are you sure? Benton’s parties can get really intense.”

  “I want to go,” I said, battling to ignore the voice in the back of my mind that told me I wasn’t a party girl. Maybe I wasn’t, but how was I supposed to find out if I didn’t go to a party? How was I supposed to figure out anything when I hardly did anything? “Unless you don’t want me to.”

  A smile broke across her face and she let out a squeal. “Hell yes, I want you to go.” She clapped her hands together excitedly. “I’ve been wanting us to party together for, like, forever. I just never thought it was going to happen.”

  And just like that, I found myself stepping out of my comfort zone and into a new, unsteady, tight-rope zone, where I can’t quite get my footing and where I feel extremely guilty all the time.

  If my mom knew what I was about to do, she’d be so disappointed in me.

  More guilt chokes me, but I bury it down as we reach Benton’s apartment door, the music on the other side is booming so loudly that the floor beneath my feet shakes. I haven’t been to a party before, but my mind conjures up all sorts of wild ideas of what could be happening inside.

  It sounds so loud in there, I think. That thought is followed by, holy crap, I sound like an old lady who lives with ten cats and never leaves her house.

  “Are you sure you want to do this?” Taylor asks, noting my wary expression.

  I wipe my damp palms on the sides of my pale pink shorts and force a smile. “Yep. Let’s do this.”

  She grins, lifts her hand, and knocks on the door. When no one answers, she knocks harder.

  “What are we going to do if no one answers?” I ask, biting my nails.

  “Walk in.” She reaches for my hand and gently tugs my fingers out of my mouth. “No nail biting tonight. Got it?”

  I bob my head up and down, an anxious breath rushing from my lips. “Sorry. I do it when I’m nervous.”

  “I know.” She points a finger at me. “But you shouldn’t be nervous. You’re supposed to have fun at parties. You know, let your hair down or whatever.” Her eyes light up. “Speaking of hair.” She reaches toward my head and steals the clip from my hair.

  My long, brown, curls spill across my shoulders in a wildly untamed mess. I hastily comb my fingers through the locks, attempting to tame them. But it’s no use. As usual, my dang curls are untamable.

  “Please give me the clip back,” I beg, sticking my hand out. “My hair looks like crap.”

  “No way. Your hair is sexy.” She touches her shoulder length red hair with her fingers and pulls a face. “God, I wish I had your curls. But no, I had to be cursed with thin, flat, lifeless hair.”

  “Your hair looks amazing.” I motion for her to give me the clip, but she shakes her head. I grimace. “I didn’t even brush my hair today.”

  “So what? You have this sexy bedhead thing going on. Guys love that.”

  “I’m not trying to impress any guys.” I lunge for the clip, but she skitters to the side, moving out of my way, and I almost run into the wall.

  “You say that now, but you’ll change your mind.” She flashes me a devious grin then chucks my clip over my head and down the three flights of stairs.

  The cheap plastic breaks into pieces as it hits the concrete at the bottom.

  I frown at her. “So not cool. That was my favorite one.”

  “Then I’m glad I broke it. You shouldn’t have a favorite hair clip.” Smirking at me, she hammers her fist against the door again.

  I narrow my eyes at her, trying to appear irate, but she only laughs.

  “You trying to get pissed off is the funniest thing ever,” she says. “You’ve always sucked at it.”

  That’s not true. I was angry at my mom for the entire day before she died and my inability to let go of that rage has haunted me for the last two years.

  My shoulders slump. “I’m sorry. I just—”

  The door swings
open and all the noise from inside spills out. My first instinct is to cover my ears, but realizing how lame I’ll look, I force my hands to remain at my sides.

  Be cool, Zhara. Be cool.

  Benton casually leans against the doorframe with his lean arms crossed. He doesn’t say anything, just stares at Taylor.

  His gaze is intimidating, at least to me. But Taylor appears completely undisturbed by it, probably because she’s used to it. He does look that way a lot; every single time I’ve seen him in the hallways, whether he’s walking alone or talking to people. Most of his friends don’t get too fazed by it anymore, but if a stranger crossed paths with him at night, they’d probably run in the opposite direction—he gives off that scary of a vibe. And it doesn’t help he looks older than he really is.

  Like Taylor and I, Benton just graduated high school, but with his tattooed arms and his I don’t-have-to-answer-to-anyone attitude, he looks like he should be in college. Or kicking someone’s ass at a biker bar. I remember the first time I saw him, back at the start of our sophomore year when he first moved to Honeyton. He’d actually lived in our town once before, back in elementary school, but holy wow he’d changed.

  “That’s Benton?” I’d asked Taylor, gaping at Benton as he walked down the school hallway with an air of confidence that could only be envied.

  She slammed her locker shut and eyeballing Benton like a piece of delicious chocolate she wanted to devour. “Yep.” She was practically drooling as he walked by us without so much as a second glance. “Good God, he’s so hot.”

  I wasn’t sure I entirely agreed with her. I mean, sure, he was obviously attractive, in a rough, intense way. All bad boy I-don’t-give-a-shit, with his dark hair shaved short on the sides, tattoos, and facial piercings. But his eyes are what really made him seem older. They looked haunted, like he’d been through more difficult stuff than a lot of sixteen-year-olds.