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I Dare You to Love Me

By RJF All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Drama

Blurb

Brian Royland is the high school’s golden boy. He’s smart, handsome, athletic, and charming. But he procrastinated and now he can’t find a date for prom. When his friend tells him about Iris Newman, the new girl who was nicknamed Scary Pants due to her intolerance for people, Brian is intrigued. From a distance, she seems pretty and smart. Maybe the rumors about her antisocial temperament are just that; rumors. Her snarky remarks and immunity to his charms make him quickly realize that she isn’t a girl to be messed with. But she turns into a prize to be won when Brian’s friends doubt he’ll succeed in getting her to go to the dance with him. Iris has set several goals for herself; make sure her older sister has a smooth pregnancy, help her recently single mother support and manage their family, and find a way to stop her band’s bass guitarist from asking her out every week. She doesn’t have the time or the energy to deal with the arrogant and pesky Brian Royland, who is suddenly determined to get her out on a date. It only takes six weeks for them to realize they have both experienced great loss. And they may be the key to each other’s healing.

Chapter 1

Brian


I leaned forward in my seat to get closer to the vent and glared up at the ever-present sun above me. It was a sticky one hundred and twenty degrees outside with ninety-five percent humidity. I was not looking forward to getting out of the car.

The stoplight finally turned green and I hit the gas pedal. The engine of my truck roared as it accelerated, making heads turn my way. I eased into the school parking lot and purposefully parked as far away from the campus as possible. Slinging my backpack over my shoulder, I climbed out of the truck. I was used to the staring by now; I can’t believe it used to make me nervous before.

Three years ago, I unwillingly moved here from Connecticut. I was the new, rich white kid from the city whose dad sold houses and modeled for a living. Everyone knew who I was when Mr. Royland started appearing on billboards across the freeway. That had bothered me. All I wanted back then was to be invisible.

Now? Everybody knew my name for completely different reasons.

First of all, I was gorgeous. I wasn’t the only one who thought so either. Playing baseball and football, and doing track throughout high school did wonders for my physic. And I was tan thanks to all that surfing and wake-boarding I did during the summers. My dad may have been a workaholic who spent three hours out of the week at home and could only spare twenty minutes for his kids, but I was grateful for what I inherited from him. Girls loved the tall guys, especially if they had blue eyes.

Secondly, I had great hair. I’d never tell anyone how much work it took to have such great hair, but I was proud to say it was pretty damn perfect.

Thirdly, I was smart. I wasn’t your run-of-the-mill, mindless jock. There was a brain under all those luscious, golden locks, and my grades showed it.

Lastly, I got along with everybody. I didn’t know everyone in school, but I was polite and made sure to never rub anyone the wrong way. It helped when I had to call in favors.

I smiled at a couple girls I passed in the parking lot. Yeah, I wouldn’t trade this for anything.

Kathie Jones walked by with one of her friends at her side and a tennis racket over her shoulder. She gave me a smile. “Hey, Brian.”

“Hey, Kathie. Still with that boyfriend?”

“Would you still be so hell-bent on taking me to prom if I wasn’t?” she challenged.

I chuckled. “Of course.” She wants me.

“If you’d been asking two years ago, maybe I’d be going out with you instead of Ben,” she said as she passed.

I watched her walk away. “My loss.”

She flicked her strawberry blond hair over her shoulder with a laugh. “Bye, Brian.”

I could watch her walk all day...I bumped into someone and spun around to apologize.

Eric held his opened soda out before him, dark eyes examining the front of his white and red hockey jersey.

I grimaced and joined him in the search for stains. “Sorry. Did you spill some on yourself?”

“I don’t think so.” My friend relaxed and pointed at me with the hand that held the soda. “You should be more careful.”

“It’s kind of hard to watch where I’m going—”I nodded at Kathie’s retreating back. “—when I’m watching where she’s going.”

Eric followed my line of vision and then rolled his eyes. “Can you be a bigger pig?”

“You know I can. Just wait until Trey gets here.”

Eric shook his head and took another swig of his Coke. “Found a date for prom yet?”

I surveyed the girls walking around us as we made our way to first period. “Not yet, but I’m not stressing too much. I still have time.”

“You have six weeks, Bry. You’re out of time.”

I nodded at some guys from the baseball team when they hailed me by name. “If all else fails, I could always take you. Aren’t you going stag?”

Eric yawned. “I’m not going at all. You know I can’t dance.”

“I know you’re shy. I may be your best friend, but even I have never seen you dance before.”

Eric laughed. “Hey, you can always take Hannah. Captain of the Cheer Squad is bound to have rhythm off the green.”

I pretended to gag. “Taking an ex to prom? It would ruin me faster than dork glasses and buck teeth.”

Eric gave me that parent look he so loved to give. “Life is about more than reputation, Bry.”

“Not when you’re the king.” I smiled and winked at a group of cheerleaders. “Hey. How’s it going?”

They giggled and hurried on.

Eric rolled his eyes again. “What about your mystery morning running partner? Have you thought about asking her?”

I shrugged. “She’s playing hard to get. She still ignores me during fifth and sixth period.”

Eric stifled another yawn. “Do you even know her name?”

“Give me a break. I’ve only spoken to her once. What’s up with you? Why’re you so tired?”

My friend rubbed his eyes with his free hand. “Band practice wasn’t over until after midnight. We’re playing at the Black Java tonight and Will’s nervous. He wanted to make sure we could play every song perfectly.”

“Why do you let him call the shots? You should be allowed to call it quits when you feel like you’re ready enough. It’s a band, not a dictatorship.”

Eric opened the door to our English class and walked in. “He’s the song writer and the lead vocalist. He’s earned the right to call the shots. We wouldn’t really be a band without him.”

I followed. “What about your other vocalist?”

“Iris? Yeah, I wish she’d take over. She barely has the time to practice much less write songs. She has a job and a big family.”

I did a double take. “Whoa! She has kids?”

Eric gave me a flat look. “No, stupid. She has a lot of brothers and sisters, and her mom’s single. She has responsibilities.”

I eased into my usual seat toward the middle of the classroom. “Ahh, she’s domesticated. No wonder you like her so much.”

Eric took the seat beside me and elbowed me in the ribs. “Shut up. She’s just a friend.”

I grinned. “Uh-huh. Sure.”

“I’m serious. She’s cool and I respect her a lot, but she’s a little too intense for me. Besides, she’s way out of my league.”

“No one is out of your league. You’re Eric Tyson, the best Linebacker to wear the green and gold colors of the Panthers. Everyone knows the number twenty-seven because of you.”

“Hey, Brian,” the twin brunettes who sat in the row next to us chorused.

I winked at them and they audibly swooned.

Eric chuckled. “Everybody knows my number because I hang out with Brian Royland. I’m just your sidekick.”

“Ever the lowly, Eric ‘The Tank’ Tyson.” Mitch sauntered down the aisle in his lazy gait and plopped down into one of the seats in front of us. “At least he’s accepted his place.”

I poked him in the shoulder from behind. “Thanks, Michelle. I know I can always count on you to destroy what I’m trying to build.”

Mitch shrugged and tossed his binder onto his desk. “I’m honest and I speak my mind. I have no regrets.”

“You’re feeding his low self-esteem.”

Eric flipped open his notebook. “I don’t have low self-esteem. Did either of you do the homework?”

“I think it had something to do with Hamlet,” Mitch replied.

Eric frowned. “I guessed as much. We’ve only been reading it for the past three days.”

I unzipped my backpack and went digging around it for my binder. “I did it. What’s up?”

“I had this question about...”

Trey slipped into the seat in front of Eric’s, dark eyes dreamy and unfocused. “Natasha, Natasha with hips so fine. Come to my bedroom, climb by the vine...I swear, someday I’ll see her naked.”

We each took turns slapping him upside the head, starting with Eric and ending with Mitch.

“Quit being a pig,” Mitch muttered.

“It’s too early,” Eric said around another yawn.

“You’ll never get a girlfriend if you keep talking about chicks that way,” I said. “Have some respect. Or at least pretend you have some respect.”

Trey scowled and rubbed the back of his head. “I don’t know why I hang out with you guys. You’re abusive.”

“You hang out with us because nobody else will take you,” Eric said. “If you weren’t such a potty mouth, maybe you’d have fewer bumps on your egg shaped head.”

Trey ran his hand over his close cropped hair, brow meshed in anxiety. “Dammit, I knew they cut it too short!”

“Stay away from Natasha,” Mitch said, wagging a thin finger at Trey. “I’ve been working on her for months. She’s mine.”

“I’m pretty sure a girl like Natasha would appreciate a guy who knows the difference between a good joke and a lame one.” Trey shoved the finger out of his face, causing Mitch to rock in his seat. “When’s the last time you smiled, dude?”

Mitch ran a hand through his long skater hair. “Girls dig the tall, strong, silent types who have great hair. Everybody knows the short, Chihuahua chatter guys get on their nerves.”

Eric tried to stifle his laugh. I didn’t bother.

Trey’s eyes narrowed. “Did you just compare me to a rat-wanna-be-dog that spoiled, rich chicks like to carry around with them?” A grin broke out across his face. “Right up against their boobs? Yeah, that’s the life for me.”

Our English teacher shot us a look of disapproval when Trey grunted three more times in pain. “All right, settle down you guys.”

“Yes, Mr. Farney,” we chorused like good little girls.

Trey rubbed the back of his head for the second time. “How about we both go for Natasha and see who she likes best when prom comes around?” He smirked. “Unless, of course, you’re afraid she doesn’t like you as much as you think she does…”

Mitch wasn’t intimidated. “Give it your best shot, freshman. It’ll be fun to watch you make a fool of yourself.”

Mr. Farney raised his voice so that he’d be heard over everyone else’s chatter. “Quiet down everybody. That was the late bell. Take out yesterday’s homework and we’ll go over the answers after roll call.”

Trey twisted around in his seat to beam at me. “I think I found you a date for the dance, Bry-Bry.”

Mitch rolled his tawny, emotionless eyes at me. “Don’t listen to him. He probably asked around until he found a desperate enough virgin.”

Trey ignored him. “I was talking up some of the cheerleaders and this chick walked past us. She’s smart, hot, and unpredictable. The cheerleaders hate her.”

“How do you know she hasn’t already gotten a date?” I asked.

Trey tried to conceal a mischievous smile. “Trust me. It takes a real man to ask her out. I asked around to make sure the cheerleaders weren’t just making shit up. She’s up for grabs. She’s not going to be easily wooed but you’re always up for a challenge, right? I think you should go for it. It’ll be fun.”

“What’s her name? Maybe I know her.” I had to know her. I knew pretty much every girl in our grade.

“I’ll point her out to you at lunch,” Trey said, suspiciously elusive.

“Why do I get the feeling she’s nothing like you’re making her out to be?” Eric asked.

Trey tried and failed to look innocent. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I didn’t trust Trey as far as I could throw him, but Eric was right. I was running out of time. “Don’t fail me, freshman,” was all I said.

Trey scowled. “Stop calling me that.”

“Mr. Becker,” Mr. Farney said. “What did I just say?”

Trey swiveled around to face the front. “What?”

Snickers sounded across the room.

Mr. Farney wasn’t amused. “See me after class.”

Trey sagged in his chair. “Yes, sir.”


We sat at our usual table toward the front of the cafeteria after we had paid for our lunch.

“Okay, freshman. Where’s this perfect candidate you were talking about?” I asked.

Trey looked around until he spotted her. “The right corner. Dark hair, listening to music and reading a book by herself.”

I easily found the girl Trey described because she sounded familiar.

She had thick, black curly hair that went down to her lower back, and bangs partially hiding green eyes. She tucked one of her long locks behind her ear to reveal small white ear buds and the cord that trailed down her hip into her pocket. She had a round face and perfect nose; not too long, not too short, and just slightly upturned. She wasn’t delicate or petite. She had a wide frame and strong shoulders, but she was in shape, which was what had caught my attention the first time I’d seen her running on the beach wearing only a sports bra and shorts.

Now she wore a T-shirt with a foreign band’s name written all over it and dark skinny jeans with neon green sneakers. She sat in the corner table by herself, eating French fries with one hand and turning the page of a thick novel with the other.

There was nothing special about her that would immediately catch someone’s attention. If I was honest, the thing that had struck me (aside from her awesome bod) was how real she looked. How natural, down-to-earth, and smart. She wasn’t plastic, over-achieving or attention-seeking in anyway, which made her different than any other girl I’d dated. She was surprisingly...refreshing.

“Dude, that’s the girl who runs my same route along the beach.”

Eric did a double take. “That’s Iris Newman, my band’s female vocalist.”

I perked up. “Seriously? Has she mentioned me at all?”

“No, but that isn’t too surprising,” Eric said somewhat distractedly. “She doesn’t like your type.”

I raised my eyebrows. “What’s the supposed to mean?”

He finally tore his eyes away from Iris to give me an apologetic look. “That came out wrong. What I meant to say is that he’s picky when it comes to guys.”

Trey guffawed around his mouthful of chicken sandwich. “She’s picky when it comes to people in general.” He swallowed his mouthful of food and kept talking. “I hear she’s got a serious chip on her shoulder and no tolerance for people she doesn’t like. Plus, she made last year’s wrestling champion cry.”

Mitch’s eyes widened and he dropped his bag of potato chips. “She’s the girl who made Justin Mendez cry? What a badass!”

“Okay, you can’t just say things like that without telling the whole story,” Eric interjected. “He wouldn’t stop hounding her for a date so she did the only thing she thought would make him stay away. She’s not proud of it, but at least it worked, right?”

“What did she say to him?” Mitch asked with an eager smile.

Eric scowled. “None of your business, Michelle.” His expression became less severe when he turned to me. “Don’t bother her, Bry. It’s not worth it.”

Naturally, my ego wasn’t going to let that one go. “How do you know how she’ll react? What is it about me that she’d find so repulsive?”

Eric sighed. “It’s not that. I know Iris. I’ve had many late night conversations with her. Under that tough exterior, she’s really great. But this past year has been hard and she’s still recovering. She doesn't have the time or the energy to deal with too many people outside her own family. You start bothering her and I guarantee she’ll end up making you cry too. That’ll look worse than you going to prom dateless.”

I fought the impulse to groan. Serious baggage? She just became a lot less attractive.

Trey rolled his eyes. “Oh, please! He’s not asking her to marry him! It’s just prom night. I’m sure her job and family and daddy issues can be put on the back burner for a couple hours. I know getting laid always makes me feel better. Maybe all she needs is some good loving.”

Eric rose in one fluid motion. For a six foot two, two hundred eighty pounds plus guy, he could move fast. He glared down at Trey. “If you like your jaw attached to your head, Gibson, you won’t talk about Iris ever again.”

Trey cowered in his seat. Mitch snorted.

Eric picked up his tray and shot me that same death glare. “Do what you want, Bry, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. There will be hell to pay if you hurt her. I don’t care how crippling it would be for your rep. I’ll help her kick your ass.”

I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. “I’m not going to sleep with her. I just need a hot girl to walk into the building with me on prom night.”

“Then find someone else!” Eric snapped. “I’m sure there’s an airheaded bimbo freshman somewhere in this school who’d love to be seen with the great Brian Royland.”And with that he stormed off.

“So much for bros before hoes,” Mitch muttered.

I rounded on Trey. “You really struck a nerve, Gibson. Couldn’t you have watched your mouth just this once? Now he’s not going to talk to us for weeks!”

Trey tried to act as if he hadn’t been about to piss himself a minute ago. He puffed his chest out and adopted a superior look. “Just because the big guy threw out my real name doesn’t mean we all have to start using it, all right? Who needs him anyway? All he does is bitch about the ‘bad’ and ‘irresponsible’ things we do. He was holding us back.”

I waved his words away, still irritated. “No, he was looking out for us. He always is.”

Mitch munched on a handful of chips. “As much as I hate to stick up for Bry’s boyfriend, he has a point. Eric’s always had our back.”

“Whoa, Eric’s not my boyfriend!”

“He’s referring to your bromance, dude. We all know you dig chicks,” Trey said behind his hand as if sharing a secret.

“I don’t have a bromance with anyone! Eric’s just...” I tried to find a way to describe him without sound like a girl.

Trey grinned. “Your bestest friend in the whole wide world?”

I punched him in the arm. “This is your fault. Why’d you have to go and bring Iris into this?”

“I thought it would be fun to watch you try and ask her out! We all know you’re great with girls. Dating stopped being a challenge for you years ago. I thought this could, you know, spice things up for us...I mean, you.”

I glanced at Iris out of the corner of my eye. I had been considering asking her to prom even before Trey brought her up. I had no intention of getting some that night. (I’d be the first to admit I was a flirt, but I wasn’t a sleaze.) I knew Eric was just trying to watch out for me...but he had overreacted a little. He knew me. How could he assume the worst just because Trey said it? That stung. But what stung the most was that he had assumed Iris wouldn’t be interested in me. As if I wasn’t good enough.

“What’re you thinking, Bry?” Mitch asked. “You’ve got that look on your face.”

“I don’t know. It almost doesn’t seem worth it.”

“Are you going to let Eric tell you who you can and can’t ask out?” Trey challenged.

“Can it,” I said. “Eric isn’t the boss of me.”

Trey smirked. “You sure about that?”

I chose not to answer.

Trey sighed dramatically. “All right, I hate to do this to you but you’ve left me no choice. I dare you.”

I rolled my eyes and pretended to be really interested in my pizza. “How old are you? Ten?”

“Maybe if I word it differently you’ll see how serious I am.” Trey’s smile widened. “I bet you fifty bucks you can’t get Iris Newman to go to the dance with you.”

Okay, now I’m pissed. I leaned forward on my elbows. “You want to see me fail, don’t you, you little weasel? You’d love to see me make a fool of myself and then pay you for watching. Iris isn’t going to be a challenge. I’ll get her to go to prom with me. I’ll get her to worship the ground I walk on like everyone else. I’ll get her to beg me to bang her. You just wait and see!”

Trey’s smile never wavered. “Fine.”

“Fine!” I snapped before I shoved the pizza into my mouth.

“Real mature, Bry,” Mitch murmured.

“Shut up,” I said. “I know what I’m doing.”

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