– Jake –
When my dreams of going pro are crushed by a career-ending knee injury, I have to figure out how to use brains over brawn for the first time to graduate college.
Enter Eden, my new Biology tutor. Except she doesn’t want to be paid in the usual way. She wants me to give her relationship tutoring to attract a guy she likes. But this shy, awkward brainiac is turning out to be so much more than I expected.
In the words of a scientist, will this equal exchange turn out to be more than the sum of its parts?
– Eden –
Hot guys don’t fall for nerds like me. It’s just a fact of life – one I’ve come to accept like gravity or thermodynamics. So even though others think Jake’s interested in me, I know it’s just this tutoring deal we have going on. I show him the electron transport system and he shows me how to kiss. Simple as that.
There’s no sense in getting my hopes up, even as I realize this ex-jock and I fit together in a way I never thought possible. Rarely does an equal exchange turn out to be more than the sum of its parts.
Even when I desperately want it to.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The main character of this novel was a side character in my other books, and she was begging for her story to be told!
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I wanted to show how two people from very different groups and upbringings can come together and discover how well they fit together – despite preconceived notions of how they should be. Our past doesn't define us and everyone gets to choose their future.
What am I getting myself into?
I sit at a table near the front entrance of the campus library, keeping an eye on the doors, waiting for Samantha and her friend, unsure what’ll happen.
She texted me some story last night about how her friend is willing to tutor me if she can pick my brain about how to get a guy she likes to notice her and go on a date with her.
I said yes automatically, just grateful to finally have help in Bio, but now that I think about it more, what do I know about dating? I’ve never had a serious girlfriend. Baseball took up way too much of my life.
When it’s off-season, plenty of guys on the team date and have girlfriends because there’s only light practice to deal with, but once the season ramps up in the spring, there’s no time between training, games, traveling, and then school on top of all that. Only the truly committed, like Logan and Rachel, survive that every year.
Personally, I’ve never bothered with it. If I want to hook up with a girl then I do, but I can’t give her the attention she deserves with all the other demands on my time, so I make it clear up front I’m not looking for anything more. So how am I supposed to advise this girl who’s specifically wanting that more I’ve always shied from? It’s the opposite of how I’ve lived my life up till now.
I catch sight of Samantha and the brunette I suspected was the tutor entering the library, and I stand so they’ll see me. Samantha waves but the other girl simply stares at me, studying, and as she gets closer, I notice her eyes are a dark brown behind her black-framed glasses, more intense than I would have expected. Her full upper lip and pert nose soften the effect some, but those eyes… it brings back that word from last time. Arresting.
Her gaze shifts and she finally seems to realize I’m watching her too, her head immediately tipping down, light brown hair falling forward to partially curtain her face.
“Hey, Jake,” Samantha chirps, much friendlier than she was yesterday initially. “This is my friend, Eden. She’ll help us go over the stuff Dr. Brinson assigned.”
“Hi,” Eden murmurs, so faint I can barely hear it, solemn as she meets my eye again briefly.
“Hi.” I’m tempted to stick my hand out for a handshake, almost feeling like this is a job interview with how serious she is. Not that I’ve ever been on one. “I really appreciate you agreeing to do this.”
“It’s no trouble,” she replies, her voice soft and sweet, at odds with her demeanor. “I’m always happy to help.”
We sit down and Samantha pulls out her Bio textbook, flipping to our chapter and slides it over to Eden, who quickly skims through the pages.
“Okay,” she finally says, handing the book back. “Let’s get started.” And suddenly it’s like she transforms, going from shy, serious girl to Biology teacher, clear authority and confidence in the way she speaks to us as she goes through the section methodically.
I scramble to open my notebook, writing down her interpretation of the material, her voice soft enough that I really have to pay attention to hear it. But other than that, there’s something about how she’s explaining it that’s so much easier to understand than when Dr. Brinson does it.
When we get to the first part I had trouble with during lecture yesterday, Samantha interrupts her, apparently as clueless as I am, to ask questions. She patiently answers each one and asks Samantha to repeat it back to her. Weird, but whatever.
At the end of the section, she backtracks to the beginning, requesting for Samantha to now be the teacher and explain everything she just covered to her.
She must notice the confusion on my face because she tells me, “Samantha is an auditory learner. She learns best by hearing the information. That’s why she doesn’t take any notes and I have her repeat stuff back to me.” She pauses, looking down at my notebook. “But I see you prefer to take notes. Are you a visual learner, like me?”
“Uh…” It’s the first time since we started that she’s directly addressed me and I find myself suddenly nervous under those sharp eyes. “I thought everyone was supposed to take notes. That’s what you do.”
“And what do you do with the notes later?”
“So why do you take them?” she asks calmly, no censure behind the question. But I still feel slightly like an idiot being put on the spot. And I’m fairly sure cocky swagger won’t get me very far with her.
“I don’t know,” I admit, my voice smaller than I’d like.
“That’s okay,” she says easily, giving me a slight smile. “We’ll find what style of learning works best for you. For now, Samantha will teach the section to us.”
I raise my hand tentatively, unsure about interrupting her to ask something. I was taught never to interrupt a teacher. Maybe that’s why I suck so much at school, though.
“You don’t have to raise your hand,” she says kindly. “If something is unclear, please always ask.”
“Why is Samantha teaching it to you? You already understand it.” It’s actually incredible how she’s barely had to refer to the book at all when explaining this stuff to us.
“Studies show that one of the best ways to master a subject and truly comprehend it is to be able to teach it to others. So we’re simulating that here. We can try it with you later too.”
“Me?” I clear my throat, not liking how high my voice got just then.
“We’ll wait till another session if that makes you more comfortable.”
“Yeah, that.” I shut up then, slumping down in my seat as Samantha goes through the chapter from the beginning. But my eyes aren’t on her. They’re on Eden.
I’m aware I should be drawn to the classic beauty with the model figure, but there’s something about Eden that keeps drawing my gaze back. Her initial reticence is gone, encouraging Samantha as she continues, filling in a word or phrase for her every so often if she stumbles. She’s the kind of girl who doesn’t enjoy the spotlight, but happy to support those who do.
She catches me staring at her and immediately turns away, letting her hair fall forward, drawing in on herself. She didn’t seem to mind my gaze when it was on her while teaching, but apparently that’s not the case now.
When Samantha’s finished and Eden has praised her for how well she did, we move on to the next section. I’m unsure if I should take notes still after her questioning me earlier, but she soon sees me wavering and pauses.
“I said we’d find your learning style, didn’t I?” She’s in teacher mode again, meeting my eye fine. “I have a feeling you’re a kinesthetic learner. The way you’ve been shifting in your seat, tapping at your paper. It’s not nerves. It’s just hard to keep still, right?”
I stare at her. “Yeah.” My parents had me tested for ADHD more than once, but the doctor always said that wasn’t the issue.
“You learn best by doing. Physical pursuits are probably easy for you. And asking you to stay unmoving in a small desk for an hour and a half is torture.”
“It is.” I’ve never heard anyone put it into words before like that, but everything she’s saying is spot on. “It’s hard to keep focused the whole time when you can’t move.”
She nods. “Unfortunately for this type of class there aren’t many hands-on activities we can do, but one thing that may help is to draw a diagram of what we’re discussing so you visualize the connection, the movement between each process. And feel free to get up and walk around if you need to. I know you’re still paying attention.”
“Okay,” I nod, concentrating on doing just that as she continues on. She also makes sure to point out connections between things, this lesson seeming more tailor-made for me rather than Samantha. And true to her word, she keeps right on when I take a quick break to stretch, still listening to her, trying to soak up as much as I can of what she’s saying.
It’s unlike any class setting I’ve been in, and by the time we’re done, I actually want to smile. By some miraculous feat, I understand what’s going on. It almost seems like a trick.
As Samantha closes her textbook, Eden angles her chair toward her, the two girls whispering quietly to each other, occasionally glancing my way. I sit up a little straighter, aware I’m being judged. All I can hope is that I pass. Eden is a miracle worker. I can’t have her stop tutoring me now.
I flash her a smile the next time she looks over, but all it does is make her turn away even more so I can no longer see her face.
They finally break apart and Samantha gives me a subtle thumbs up. My shoulders drop, tension releasing from me. Now I just have to hold up my end of the agreement, though I’m still not exactly sure what that entails.
Eden is silent as Samantha packs up her stuff, waiting until she’s told us goodbye and halfway out of the library before she says, “So, um, this is kind of awkward.” She tucks her hair behind her ears, seeming to shrink in on herself. I guess teacher Eden is gone.
“Why?” I ask, trying to appear nonchalant. She’s right, this next part is a little awkward, but I need her to be at ease if she’s going to continue tutoring me. “You helped me out, now I can do the same for you. Samantha said you want relationship advice. Lay it on me.”
She stares at the edge of the table in front of her, tracing a pattern with her finger along the surface. “I’ve liked this guy for two years, but he’s never paid any attention to me. I want to know what to do to get him to notice me, to like me back.”
My mind momentarily goes blank with a request of this magnitude, my mouth opening and closing, but nothing comes out. Two years and the guy’s never noticed her? What does she expect me to do?
She peeks over at me slowly, reminding me of a stray cat, timid, unwilling to trust, but desperate.
“Well, uh, let’s put liking on the back burner for now. First, we have to get him to notice you.”
She blinks, leaning in a little closer. “Okay, how can I do that?”
“When do you see him?”
“We have Medical Ethics together on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”
“Do you sit near each other?”
“No, he sits in the front, I sit in the back.”
“So go sit by him,” I tell her, the solution incredibly obvious to me.
She makes a sputtering sound, her eyes widening. “I can’t sit next to him!”
“Because-” She visibly swallows, her gaze darting around the room. “Just because,” she whispers.
“Okay…” I scrub a hand down my face, realizing I’ve got my work cut out for me. “What’s your experience like with guys?”
“That’s- that’s personal,” she stutters.
“I’m just trying to… establish a baseline. Like how I tied in the science?” I grin.
She gives a small smile, her shoulders dropping slightly.
She shakes her head.
“Um, have you…?” How do you politely ask a girl how far she’s gotten with a guy?
She seems to catch my meaning, her cheeks flushing. “Let’s just assume the baseline is at zero.”
Zero? What the hell does zero mean? “Kissing?”
Good God. “Talking?”
“Rarely. Unless it’s for school.”
I resist the urge to drop my jaw. Did she grow up in a convent or something?
She sighs, letting her hair fall forward to cover her face before sitting up straight and looking me in the eye. “My father’s always been very overprotective,” she explains. “Well, more like strict. I’ve never had many friends. And definitely no male ones. But him sheltering me has put me at an extreme disadvantage now. I can’t- I don’t-” She pauses, struggling for the right words. “I want to experience my college years while I can. I’m running out of time. I want to flirt and go on a date with a boy and have someone like me. Maybe even… love me,” she says shyly. “But I don’t know how to get to that point.”
I study her, the earnestness on her face, the way her hands are folded tightly on her lap, trembling slightly. “This is more than just advice.”
“Yes,” she nods. “I need you to tutor me, the same way I’m doing for you. I’m aware I have a long way to go, but I’m willing to put in the time and effort. I just need someone to guide me. Teach me. I have no clue what I’m doing otherwise.”
The shy girl is nearly gone, her passionate speech about learning overriding whatever timidity she had going on earlier.
“I’m in.” Really, how hard can it be? I show her how to flirt and then pass Biology. It’s a win-win.
“Great,” she sighs in relief.
“But you have to get over being scared of talking to him at some point, okay? There’s no purpose to all this otherwise.”
“Right,” she gulps. “I created a checklist, actually, of different things I’d like to work on.”
She hands me a handwritten list, her penmanship elegant, perfectly legible compared to the chicken scratch I write.
“Yeah, this looks doable,” I tell her, reading it over.
“Great.” She picks up her backpack, slinging it over her shoulder.
“Wait, you don’t want to get started now?”
She glances over at me in surprise. “I thought you would have plans.”
“It’s Thursday night. Isn’t that usually college night at the clubs around here? That’s what Samantha said it is at Empire at least.”
“Yeah, it’s college night, but why would you assume that’s how I choose to spend my time?”
She appears startled. “I… I guess that was pretty presumptuous of me. It’s just, you’re very attractive.” She clears her throat, thumping on her chest a couple of times. “I thought that’s where you would go to meet women.”
I don’t know why the presumption that I go out trolling clubs on college night rankles me, but it does, even though I’ve done it plenty of times before. But that was in years past. I’ve turned over a new leaf. “I don’t go out to clubs to meet women.”
She tilts her head to the side in curiosity. “They come to you then?”
“What? I mean, yeah, but I don’t do that anymore.”
She purses her lips in thought. “Baseball players have groupies, right?”
“Who told you I’m a baseball player?” Was. I was a baseball player. I’m not one anymore.
“I did a little digging on you,” she admits. “I wanted to find out if you were the right guy to do this with. If you had the experience I needed.”
My brows raise before I can stop myself. “I wasn’t aware Samantha knew that much about me.” I’ve only spoken to the girl a handful of times.
“Not her. Someone else I know.” She shifts in her seat, looking guilty, and my internal warning alarm sounds.
“Darla Johnson?” she squeaks tentatively, like she’s asking instead of telling.
I sigh, rubbing my temples in an effort to stave off the immediate headache that’s formed. “How in the hell do you know Darla?”
“She’s a junior too, and we’ve somehow ended up having classes together every semester. We’re not friends or anything, I guess more like acquaintances. Anyway, I figured if there’s anyone who could tell me about a guy, it’d be her.”
She’s right about that. The girl certainly made her way through the baseball team. “Why didn’t you just ask her about what to do with this guy? I’m sure she could give you some pointers.”
She purses her lips. “I suspect Darla and I don’t exactly have the same dating style.”
You mean hounding someone incessantly until you finally give in just to make her shut up?
I keep the thought to myself and ask instead, “So apparently whatever she said about me met your standards?”
She nods in a businesslike way, morphing into that scientist persona again. “You have your choice of girls to pick from, yet you’re discerning in your selection. Not too many that you’d be considered a player, but not a monk or too picky either. It’s been noted that women like you, you have an easy rapport with them, and you don’t have a trail of bitter exes behind you.”
She straightens her glasses on the bridge of her nose, something about the action more professorial than pure nerd. “You clearly know what you’re doing and respectful with those you’re with. And that’s exactly what I need.”
I’m not sure how to respond. I had no idea she’d put this much thought into it, assigned this much meaning to her choice of me as her tutor. A small part of me is flattered, the larger part… embarrassed. Is that my reputation? What others see me like? Just a guy who can show a girl a good time?
She’s silent, peering at me closely when her face falls. “I’ve offended you. I’m sorry-”
“No, there’s nothing to be sorry about. Everything you said is true.” Better than being seen as some seducer, I guess.
I stand and grab my bag, suddenly wanting to be out of here and away from her all-knowing gaze.
She stands too, panic crossing her face. “Where are you going?”
“I’ll probably hit Empire tonight. It’s college night after all.” I give her a rueful smile, sarcasm bleeding through despite myself. But really, it’s not her fault for pointing out the facts. It’s mine for not wanting to hear them. Sure, I’ve decided to start fresh this year, but that doesn’t mean everything that happened in the past doesn’t follow me too.
I pause before leaving and glance over, her gaze sorrowful. Well, now I feel like shit. “Listen… thanks for tutoring me. I’ll look over your list and try to come up with a game plan. Sound good?”
She nods, wringing her hands together in front of her. I automatically reach out to stop her, not wanting her to work herself up over this.
Her fingers are like icicles, startling me. “Jesus, why are you so cold? It’s eighty degrees out.”
“Yeah, but we’re indoors. Buildings are always kept too cool for me.” I finally take in the fact she’s wearing long jeans and a sweater when most of the girls here are in shorts and a tank top.
“Here.” I take both her hands in mine, her delicate fingers soft against my calloused palms. Even after not playing baseball for months now, it seems my hands still want to stay rough. I rub her hands between mine gently, hoping the friction will warm them up.
I glance up, her eyes wide as she watches our joined hands, looking like she’s holding her breath. “Sorry,” I tell her in a rush, immediately letting go, both her hands flopping down against her thighs in an uncoordinated movement. “I wasn’t thinking-”
“No, it’s fine,” she interrupts, talking over me.
We’re both silent for a moment, her eyes darting back and forth between my hands and face.
“I guess I forgot we only met today.” I jam my palms in my pockets so they won’t be tempted to reach out again and touch her smooth skin, to see if I really did warm her up.
What the fuck are you thinking? She just said she’s never touched a guy and now you’re grabbing at her?
“Really, it’s okay,” she assures me. “We’re past formalities at this point. It wasn’t exactly a conventional meeting.”
“Um, no,” I laugh at her understatement.
She crosses her arms over her chest, hiding her hands. “Are you actually going to Empire?”
“No,” I admit. “I was an ass for saying that.”
“No, you weren’t,” she says, seriousness all over her face. “Sometimes I say things without realizing how it can come across to others, especially those I don’t know well. I get better with time, I promise,” she smiles softly. “But if you do go in the future, maybe I could come with you? To- to practice or something?” Her voice wavers, clearly terrified at the thought, but I have to give her credit for wanting to try anyway.
“Let’s give it a few lessons. We have to work on your skills first.”
“Okay,” she grins, revealing a slight gap between her two front teeth.
She quickly drops the grin, though, when she sees me staring. She bends down to grab her backpack again and heaves it over her shoulder, scooting past me. “See you next week for tutoring.”
I raise a hand in farewell, watching her dodge other students on her way out, some people not even realizing she’s trying to get by them.
I drop back down in my chair, running my palm over my face and review my notes, the diagrams I’ve drawn still making sense miraculously. I glance up once more, but she’s gone from sight already. At least it seems I’ve found my way to a passing grade.
Now to just get her up to par too.
Allie lives in sunny Florida with her husband, daughter, and two cats. A librarian by day, she spends her nights writing happily ever afters. She enjoys reading, playing video games, and all things Disney.
Links to Purchase eBooks
Link To Buy First and Only On Amazon
Have you read this book? Tell us in the comments how you liked it!