Title: Risking It All
Author: S.M. Koz
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: June 18th, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
A high-achieving teen who’s determined to become a fighter jet pilot is matched up with an accused criminal at an elite military boarding school in SM Koz’s YA novel, Risking It All.
Paige knows exactly what she wants—to graduate from Wallingford Academy and become a pilot in the US Air Force. She’s inherited her father’s no-nonsense attitude and whip-smart intelligence, all of which have made her the perfect Wallingford cadet.
Wallingford Academy is the last place in the world Logan wants to be. But after his girlfriend borrows his car and commits a crime, Logan takes the fall and ends up there with hopes of striking a decent plea bargain. For him, graduation can’t come soon enough.
When Paige is asked to mentor Logan, it’s the perfect opportunity to prove her leadership skills—but she doesn’t account for the feelings that start to develop or the baggage from Logan’s past which could threaten both of their futures.
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She’s got her white lab coat and fake glasses on. It’s nerdy but cute. A huge change from soldier Paige, yet equally . . . nope. Not gonna go there. Student officer. Mentor. Navy SEAL dad. Pain-in-the-ass guy friend. Way too many reasons for me to not think about how adorable her eyes are in the black frames. Or how the lab coat is hanging open to reveal a white T-shirt that’s tight across her chest and cinches in at her waist, giving me a taste of those nice curves that are usually hidden.
She walks to my side and inspects my body, her eyes roaming from head to toe. She’s watching me keenly.
This is worse than the almost kiss. That was in the middle of the afternoon and we were alongside the road. Now we’re in a dark room and I’m lying on a freaking table. It’s too easy to imagine . . .
Nope. I shake my head.
“How about chest?” I say.
She nods. “Sure.”
“Great,” I reply, completely ignoring the elephant in the room. I maneuver around the fabric scraps as I squirt a line from my throat to below my ribs. It all runs downhill and doesn’t look anything like an incision. I glance over to Eddie. He’s lying on his back as Noah uses his fingers to paint with various colors of costume makeup in between the shards of his shirt.
“Hey,” I yell to them. “Can we have some of that?”
Noah chucks a few tubes at us. I open them and start working on a line with the red and black, trying to make it look three-dimensional like Noah’s doing, but I failed art class in seventh grade.
“You’re making a mess,” Paige finally says, grabbing a tube from my hand. “Lie down.”
I do, and she spreads the tatters of the shirt and tries to fix the damage I’ve already caused.
“Hey, we’re all set,” Noah says from across the room, “so we’re going to check out a few other scenes. We’ll be back in ten.” The soft thud of the door closing would be impossible to miss.
Dimly lit room? Check. Lying down? Check. Hot girl touching me? Check. Completely alone? Check.
Paige’s fingers lightly trace a line down my sternum. My mouth goes dry. My heart starts to speed up. This is so not good.
“You know how a cadet won’t lie?” I say, watching her.
“Well, I’m finding you especially hot right now.” If I lay it out there, she’ll surely say something to knock my hormones back down to where they belong.
“What?” she asks, her eyes going wide.
“This nerdy thing you’ve got going on,” I say, waving my hand in front of her, “is a good look. But I get it. There’s Jernigan. Your dad. Your carefully crafted twenty-year plan or whatever it is. So no kissing tonight. No matter how badly you want it,” I whisper.
“You think I want to kiss you?”
“I was trying to be funny.”
“Do you want to kiss me?” I ask, goading her into the mood-ending comment I know she has in her.
She bites her lip and stares at the makeup on my chest for a few moments. Then, slowly, her eyes rise to meet mine and she nods. One small, barely perceptible nod.
Another minuscule nod.
Un-freaking-believable. She was supposed to bring me back to reality, not hike up the hormones even higher.
“My lips?” I ask, my heart now racing like I’m on my fourth lap around the track.
She smiles, and some of the tension seems to leave her shoulders. “Yeah. Your eyes are nice, too. And now that you’re not nearly as disrespectful, I’m rather fond of your personality. Oh, and your musical talent.”
I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Are we seriously admitting we like each other right now? In the middle of our physics classroom while in full costume?
“Did you choose me over Jernigan or mad scientist over headless horseman?” I ask.
“What do you think?”
She nods again, this one normal-sized. “I like spending time with you,” she says with a shrug, seemingly becoming more and more comfortable with this topic. It’s like we’re talking about our favorite colors, not our budding romantic interest in each other, despite way too many obstacles. “You’re different than others here.”
“I like spending time with you, too,” I admit. She’s standing next to the table and those kissable lips of hers are only a few feet away. If I push myself up they’ll be reachable.
“So,” I say, leaning to my left as I ease myself into a sitting position. “Jernigan’s not going to find out if I kiss you tonight is he?”
Her face goes slack. Apparently talking about liking each was okay, but actually doing something two people who like each other would do is not? Or she’s thinking of one of the other many, many obstacles I’d be okay with ignoring for the next few minutes.
Reaching for her face, I run my thumb down her jaw. Her skin is soft and smooth and only makes me want to kiss her even more.
She swallows and gently takes my hand in hers. With a squeeze, she says, “No, we can’t.”
I mean to take a breath, but it comes out like a sigh. “Right. Your future. Jernigan. Your dad. The whole balance of the universe.”
“No. I mean, yes with my future. But also it’s against the rules. No PDA on campus.”
Oh yeah. I did hear about that. It seemed like a moot point back then because I had a girlfriend and, really, who would I want to kiss at Wallingford? Certainly not my pain-in-the-ass mentor.