Can Rebecca turn her new stepbrother into her new love?
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When Rebecca's mother marries Pres's father, Rebecca is sure that living in the same house with the guy of her dreams will have its perks and it will be just a matter of time before Pres sees her as more than a kid sister. Even though her best friend, Celeste, warns her to face reality, Rebecca doesn't listen. She thinks Pres is the perfect guy for her. But Celeste's brother, Josh, has been friends with Pres for years, and Celeste thinks she knows what she's talking about.
Rebecca's not so sure about her relationship with her new stepfather. She knows he can't replace her real dad, but she thinks she can break through his cool surface by helping him with the school play.
But things don't go as planned, and as friendships start to change, Rebecca faces surprising truths about herself and her friends. Will she find happiness in her new family and find The Perfect Guy?
"I am so nervous about the wedding," I said, twirling a lock of hair around my finger. I sat on the floor surrounded by boxes half-filled with the contents of my room. My laptop rested in a corner. "I still can’t believe that after tomorrow I’ll actually be living in the same house with Prescott Nelsen."
"Yeah, Rebecca.” Celeste hugged my favorite stuffed animal, Arf, a battered but beloved beagle, and pretended to swoon. "Just picture Pres seeing you in your ratty chenille robe and fuzzy slippers, your uncombed hair spilling across your shoulders."
"Celeste!" I threw my pillow at her. "I bought a gorgeous new robe and a pair of satiny slippers."
"A black negligee?" Celeste wriggled her eyebrows.
"Pfft." I dashed to my closet and hauled out a long, pink quilted robe. "See? Totally pretty, but modest ...."
"Nice." Celeste put her hand over her mouth to stifle a fake yawn. "I think Pres would have preferred the black negligee."
I ignored that comment as I hung up the robe and pulled out the petticoat I would wear under my gown at the wedding. I held it up to my waist and swirled around the bedroom.
Celeste flopped down on my bed, sprawling her arms and legs across it. "I wish I could have been a bridesmaid, instead of just a guest," she said wistfully. "But then, lavender isn’t really my color."
"Are you kidding?" I sat on the edge of the bed. "Lavender would look great with your black hair and blue eyes. But Mom felt that one attendant was enough. She just wants a small ceremony."
"Well, it is her wedding." Celeste laughed. "At least it was until the women from the Historical Society took over."
"Well, they said they couldn’t let their favorite town clerk get married without a big fuss, especially since the wedding coincides with the three-hundred-fiftieth anniversary of Sandy Cove. It is kind of cute the way they’ve helped plan everything. Since the reception is in the Town Hall, Mom can’t use the excuse that it’s too expensive."
"Yeah, and they even let her time it for spring break, so the groom could go on the honeymoon." Celeste grinned.
"They're really sweet," I said. "It’s like having twenty grandmothers."
"Speaking of grandmothers, won’t yours be lonely once you and your mom aren’t living next door to her anymore?"
"I doubt it. I mean, after all, we’re moving only a couple blocks away—which means I’ll still be within easy walking distance of you too."
At that point I reached over and tickled Celeste, as much to keep from getting teary as from the temptation that Celeste presented in her vulnerable position.
Celeste gave an exaggerated shriek, rolled off the bed and crouched on the floor. "For a sophomore in high school who’s about to be a maid of honor, you can be seriously immature—better not try that with Pres!"
Though I felt myself blush at the mere thought of tickling Pres, I retorted, "Why not? Because he’s a senior?"
"No," Celeste said, rising and sitting on the bed. "Because I have an older brother and I know how older brothers feel about being tickled by their sisters. They can’t stand it."
"I don’t think of Pres as a brother, but I don’t have to tell you that. You know how I’ve felt about Pres ever since we saw him starring as Frederick when the school put on The Pirates of Penzance last year."
"Yeah, that started it." Celeste sighed.
"When Mom started dating Pres’s father a few weeks after that, I decided Pres was the perfect guy—blond, handsome, absolutely drool-worthy. One look and I … I just knew."
Celeste placed the back of her hand on her forehead and struck a melodramatic pose. "Ooooh, and the fact that Pres is president of the student council, a good athlete, and sings in the school choir just reinforces your conviction that he's the 'perfect' one."
"True," I said, ignoring her theatrics. "Don’t forget, he’s going to be a devoted lawyer some day too." I mean, wasn't stuff like that important? Unlike Celeste Sullivan, who had an endless stream of boyfriends, I’d dated only occasionally. The day after we’d finished sixth grade Celeste had instinctively learned the fine art of charming every guy she met. She obviously had natural talents that I lacked. I decided that I was the type of person who needed to wait for just the right guy to come along, and then things would work out. In the meantime, I’d been content to mostly daydream about boys, rather than actually deal with them. Celeste said I was "innocent," but I think she really meant "naive." I think I'm, you know, practical. What's wrong with that?
"By the way, Celeste, Josh is like a brother to me and he doesn’t get upset when I tickle him," I said, feeling that I should defend my right to tickle Pres, even though, well, I doubted I ever would. At least, not until we’d established the perfect romantic relationship. I knew one would evolve once we were living in the same house and we had the opportunity to really get to know each other. "Josh just tickles me right back. He knows it leaves me helpless."
"But Josh isn’t really your brother," Celeste said seriously, "much as I’d sometimes like to donate him to you."
"Pres isn’t my brother either."
"He’ll be your stepbrother," Celeste reminded me. "You’ll be living in the same house with him."
"And that," I said with a triumphant smile, "will give me the chance I need to get close to him."
"It'll also give you time to drive each other crazy, just like Josh and me," Celeste said.
"Hey, you and Josh get along great," I said. But Celeste’s implication got me thinking. What if Pres and I didn’t get along? What if we wound up bickering constantly like some brothers and sisters I could name? That would never happen—would it?
"Sometimes Josh and I are at each other’s throats," Celeste said. "And," she added, grinning, "the reason we usually do get along so well is that I’m just so accommodating." She laughed, because she was anything but.
"All right, all right." I wasn’t going to spoil the afternoon by arguing. Instead I changed the subject. "So. Who will be the next guy in your life?"
"Celeste. It’s been two weeks since you broke up with Riley. That’s a record for you to be single. I figured you’d have somebody scoped out by now."
"I don’t know." Celeste rolled onto her back. "I just can’t seem to get excited about anyone. There aren’t many decent guys left."
"There must be one or two," I teased. "What about a senior? That way we could go to the graduation ball together."
"What?" Celeste sat up. "You lost me there."
"Graduation is only three months away," I reminded her. "By then Pres and I will be a couple and so of course we’ll go to the graduation party. If you hook a senior, we can both go to the party. Simple, right?"
"Simpleminded if you ask me," Celeste replied. "First of all, I think you greatly overestimate my ability to attract guys, especially when you’re talking seniors. Second, I haven’t seen any signs that you and Pres will be a couple by then, if ever."
"If I’m an optimist," I said, "then you're a pessimist. You have to think positively if you expect to make things happen."
"You have to be realistic too," Celeste said. "Thinking positively and daydreaming about what you’d like to happen will only set you up for a letdown when things don’t turn out the way you hope."
"All right," I said patiently. I was used to Celeste’s "constructive" criticism. "Let’s just agree to disagree about our outlooks on life. Meanwhile, why don’t you look for some gorgeous senior, just in case everything works out the way I know it will."
Celeste sighed. "I’ll think about it."
"Right now we’d better finish packing up all this stuff, or I’ll never be ready to move by tomorrow."
With Celeste’s help I was able to finish packing with just enough time to finish my hair and makeup before the rehearsal dinner. Since it was just Mom, Pres’s father, my grandmother, Pres, and me, we were going to dinner at the Oceanview Inn, then to the Rose Room in the Town Hall. I took care to look especially nice, getting my hair just right, even using a touch of the lavender eye shadow I’d bought to match my bridesmaid’s dress. I thought it made my eyes look even greener.
When I was all ready, I sat at my dresser and checked my hair once more in the mirror. My gaze fell to the small, leather-framed picture of my father that I hadn’t yet packed. I had not only his wide-set green eyes, but also his thick, copper-colored hair. I often wished I’d inherited his high cheekbones instead of Mom’s apple cheeks, but all in all I couldn’t complain.
I had only a few memories of Dad, but they were surprisingly clear, considering that I’d been only six years old when he’d died. I remember sitting on his lap in the oversized recliner; giggling while he halfheartedly lectured me for some forgotten misdeed; running down the long, narrow aisle in his sporting-goods store and being gathered into his arms and swung up in the air.
I also remember the day I rushed out of school to find Mom waiting for me, even though I was old enough to walk home by myself. Her eyes were red. I knew she’d been crying. Daddy had been taken to the hospital—he’d had a heart attack. There were endless days of waiting before, finally, the really bad news.
He’d always be Daddy in my heart, though I was about to have a new father. Stepfather, that is. It would certainly take getting used to, having a dad after all these years. Especially since Mr. Nelsen—I mean Bill—was the head of the English Department at my high school. I’d have to wait until my junior year to have him for a teacher, since he taught upper-level classes, but in less than twenty-four hours I’d have him for a parent. He seemed nice enough, despite his reputation at school for being strict, so I didn’t anticipate any problems.
Getting used to living with Pres would be another matter. Seeing him first thing in the morning, at meals, evenings, weekends—always. I’d have to monitor my heart rate.
"Rebecca!" Mom called up the stairs. "Are you ready? Bill just pulled into the driveway."
"Be right down, Mom." I smoothed my hair and splashed on a few drops of lilac cologne. I took a deep breath and slowly descended the stairs.
Pres stood in the front hallway. I smiled my brightest smile, preparing myself for the evening ahead, for the opportunity to achieve one of my major goals. At dinner I would get up the nerve to actually get into a deep, meaningful conversation with Pres.