Never Gonna Happen by Linda Kage


STANDALONE
Contemporary Young Adult Romance
Published: 8 November 2022
70,460 words, 274 pages
0-Flame Sensuality Rating

Peyton’s mom and my mom were best friends.

You’d think that should cover the gist of it. But, no... Oh, no.

Not even close.

You see, Mom and Aunt Donna (as I’d always called Peyton’s mother) were not simply just best friends; I'm saying they were the-same-person-inhabiting-two-different-bodies kind of best friends.

And thus, Peyton Royce had been forced on me since the moment she was born.

We were treated like twins, yet always expected to fall in love one day and get married. The only problem with that was I didn’t love Peyton. And I'm positive she didn’t even like me in return.

Don’t get me wrong. I adored our moms—swear to God—but they had to let this stupid notion go because one thing had become abundantly clear to me over the years. I would never marry Peyton Royce. I think it was my one goal in life, actually.

So... Sorry, Mom and Aunt Donna, but you two just weren’t going to get your way on this.

Peyton and I? It was never gonna happen.

Excerpt

Chapter One

Today was the day.

I was finally going to secure a date to the school’s masquerade ball for Halloween, and I knew just the girl I was going to ask. Carmen Morales was the prettiest, smartest, loveliest, most amazing girl in the tenth grade, and she had broken up with her boyfriend of nine months the week before, meaning she was free to pursue.

Sure, every available guy from the ninth to twelfth grade wanted a chance with her, but I was going to be the one to win her. And do you want to know how I knew that? Well, I’ll tell you.

Because yesterday, I had subtly struck up a conversation with her. And when I’d learned her car was in the shop, I’d offered to be her chauffeur myself, and she had agreed. She’d agreed so eagerly, in fact, that I just knew she wanted me to ask her to the dance.

And I couldn’t think of a better time to pop my big question than this morning on our special ride to school together.

After pulling into the driveway of a brown-and-white Tudor-style home, I checked my face in the rearview mirror, dusted a fleck of dry toothpaste off the corner of my lip, then did a quick sniff check to my armpits. When I decided all was good in the aroma department, I popped a breath mint between my teeth for extra measure and glanced expectantly toward the front door of the house.

“Come on, come on, come on,” I murmured under my breath, wondering what was taking so long.

I was going to lose my nerve if someone didn’t get their tail in gear.

Finally, after what felt like a century of waiting, the front door opened and a tall, slim girl exited, her honey-blond hair fluttering in the wind and whipping into her face, obstructing her view, along with the tail of a bright green, hand-knit scarf that was wrapped around her neck.

As she hefted a backpack over one shoulder and then hugged a pile of books to her chest with her other arm, I shook my head, wondering why she didn’t just put her books into the bag.

Because knowing her, she’d trip and—yep...

There she went, stumbling over her little brother’s bicycle that had been left abandoned and lying in the middle of the yard. Up flew her books, scattering all over the grass, and down she face-planted hard among them.

I winced, sitting up a little straighter to make sure she was okay, but she sprang upright so quickly that I relaxed back behind the wheel and drummed my fingers against my thigh impatiently.

She was fine.

Then I sighed as she paused every few seconds from collecting her fallen books to see better, wasting more and more precious seconds with each useless sweep of the hand as she tried to tuck her hair behind her ear, then push the scarf out of the way, only for the wind to shove it all right back into her eyes again.

News flash: it wasn’t going to stay put in this weather.

Why hadn’t she just pulled the heaping mess up into a ponytail or tucked the scarf inside her magenta jacket on a day so windy?

Girls.

Who understood them?

I tapped the horn, letting her know I wasn’t getting any younger over here. At this pace, school would be over before she even made it to my Jeep Cherokee.

She cast me a nasty glare before yanking up her last book and surging to her feet. A huge, wet grass stain coated one knee on her blue jeans.

I heaved out another sigh.

Hopeless. She was so completely hopeless.

The door to the front passenger side jerked open, and the wind nearly ripped it from her grasp. But she held on so firmly it only wrenched her a couple of steps back.

I sighed, the third sigh within thirty seconds because, seriously, no one could be more pitiful than her.

Finally, straightening herself, she began to climb inside, muttering, “I’m fine. Thanks so much for your concern.”

Yeah, I could tell she was fine. Didn’t care.

Hooking my thumb over my shoulder, I shook my head and said, “Nuh-uh. Back seat today.”

She froze, turning wide eyes my way with her backside only inches from landing on the seat next to mine. Mouth opening wide, she shrieked, “Are you freaking kidding me?”

“Totally freaking serious,” I deadpanned.

“Unbelievable.”

A sneer followed. Then she rolled her eyes and climbed back out of the front seat before slamming the door too hard, but thankfully not breaking the glass in the window. A second later, the back door opened and she lumbered in, grumbling under her breath before she fell heavily into the seat, making the entire Jeep rock.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t want to know what she was saying about me, but again…didn’t care. If I was going to be forced to drive her to school and back home every single day, then—

Wait, what?

Oh, you thought this girl was Carmen Morales? The heap of a mess riding in the back seat of my SUV?

Um…no.

That would be a big no. A gigantic no.

A not-even-close no.

Actually, I’d say I was kind of offended you’d even think I would ever treat the prettiest, smartest, loveliest, most amazing girl in the tenth grade, Carmen “the Queen Bee” Morales, so rudely.

Really.

No, this unwanted tagalong tragedy was just Peyton.

Yeah, I should probably explain. But don’t worry, I always had to explain Peyton, so I was used to it.

The thing was: Peyton’s mom and my mom were best friends.

You’d think that should cover the gist of it. But, no… Oh, no.

Again, not even close.

You see, Mom and Aunt Donna (as I’d always called Peyton’s mother) were not simply best friends; I’m saying they were the-same-person-inhabiting-two-different-bodies kind of bosom buddies. They grew up next door to each other, sat out of gym class together when one was sick, were arrested for keying some jerk’s car together when they were teens, then they went to college and lived in the same dorm room. There, they met their respective husbands (Peyton’s and my dad) on the same night and got married within a year of each other, only to find houses on the same block, set up a business together, and get pregnant with their first babies three months apart. Those first babies being, yeah, me and Peyton.

They even coordinated our names to go together. At first, they decided Peyton would take my last name for her first name, and I’d take her last name as my first, so we’d be Royce Kinsey and Kinsey Royce. But then, our mothers realized that wouldn’t work because they had already planned before we were even born that we’d get married someday. At which point, it’d sound really strange for Peyton to go from Kinsey Royce to taking my surname and becoming Kinsey Kinsey.

Yes, our moms had thought it through that far. I’m not even kidding.

So they used each other’s maiden names instead, dubbing us York Kinsey and Peyton Royce.

And the girl had been forced on me ever since, from the moment she was born.

You think I exaggerate? Hmph. I wish.

Let’s elaborate.

We shared a crib for naptime, took our first steps together (but only because Peyton was a little overachiever who just had to start walking at her nine months to my twelve), took baths together when we were toddlers, we had our “first day of school” pictures taken together, along with every stupid year after that, went trick-or-treating together, took swimming lessons together. Vacations. Yearly doctor’s check-ups. Dentist appointments. We even got braces in middle school together.

Honestly, there wasn’t a single memory from my childhood where Peyton wasn’t right there beside me, experiencing it too.

It was always let Peyton play with you, give Peyton half your candy, don’t let Peyton sit alone at lunch, drive Peyton to school, be nice to Peyton.

Peyton, Peyton, Peyton.

We were treated like twins, yet always expected to fall in love one day and get married. The only problem with that was I didn’t love Peyton. And I’m fairly certain she didn’t even like me in return.

We were complete opposites, except no, we were even further apart than that. We couldn’t be compared to night and day because those were still measurements of time, connecting them. And there was absolutely no connection between Peyton and me. We were more like night and…banana. We had absolutely nothing in common, except that our mothers were two of the most irritatingly pushy, intrusive people on the planet.

Don’t get me wrong. I adored our moms—swear to God—but they had to let this stupid notion go because one thing had become abundantly clear to me over the years. I would never marry Peyton Royce. I think it was my one goal in life, actually.

So... Sorry, Mom and Aunt Donna, but you two just weren’t going to get your way on this.

Someday, they’d be forced to stop grinning like they knew something we didn’t, and they’d quit spouting, never say never, to us because I just did.

Gauntlet dropped.

Peyton and I? It was never gonna happen.