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Don't Forget Me

Don't Forget Me

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Sparks are flying between these best friends. Could a practice kiss change everything?

Main Tropes

  • Friends to Lovers
  • Practice Kiss
  • Boy Next Door
  • Angst/Pining
  • First Love
  • He's Been in Love with Her for Years


Seventeen-year-old Eliana Costa has never kissed a guy. Her best guy friend, Jess, is more than willing to help her out. He has plenty of experience since he finds a new girlfriend every other week. But when a practice kiss brings on feelings Eliana hadn't bargained for, her already messy life is thrown into a new level of chaos.

Life is already more than she can handle after her dad's disappearance. Eliana worries that if she admits her feelings to Jess, she just might lose her best friend. And right now, a best friend is all she needs. But when another girl tries to date Jess, Eliana is forced to decide if taking a chance on love is worth the risk.

DON'T FORGET ME is a standalone novel in The Ridgewater High series. Perfect for readers who enjoy sweet YA romance with ballad-worthy chemistry, passionate kisses and endearing characters.

Chapter One Look Inside

Betting on my best friend’s love life was getting expensive. Seriously, I’d get a bigger return on my investment if I threw the money out the window.

It was the smirk on Ashlyn's face that tipped me off. I’d lost yet another bet.

“Time for another trip to the mall, Eliana.” Ashlyn opened her locker which was next to mine.

I counted how many days had passed since her brother, Jess, started dating his latest girlfriend. Well, ex-girlfriend now. “They only made it nine days?”

“Yeah. I think that’s a new record for him.”

I shook my head as I spun my locker combination. “I thought he’d make it at least two weeks this time around. Olivia seemed way cooler than his usual type.”

“Maybe that’s what scared my commitment-phobe brother. She was smart, unlike his usual looks-over-personality type.” Ashlyn's gaze wandered behind me. “Speaking of my brother…”

Jess walked up behind Ashlyn as students filtered out of the halls in a rush to leave for their after-school activities. Even though Jess and Ashlyn were a year and a half apart, they could be twins with their identical dirty-blond hair, tall frames, and the glowing Brooks family complexion. In other words, they looked nothing like me with my dark brown hair and barely five-foot frame.

“Nine days? You only made it nine days?” I asked Jess.

“You heard, then?” He squeezed his green eyes shut and sighed. “Which one of you is paying for the shopping trip this time?”

“Eliana, of course,” Ashlyn practically sang. “She has way more faith in you than I do.”

“I don’t know why.” I shook my head and scowled at Jess, though I could never really be mad at this. Him not having a girlfriend was always a good thing for me. It meant I wouldn’t have to share him with anyone else. But I went on pretending to be annoyed and said, “This is the third time this year I’ve had to pay for your sister’s accessory addiction.”

Jess shrugged. “Well, three times isn’t that bad.”

I shoved his shoulder and he bumped against his locker door. “I didn’t mean third time this school year. I was counting since January. That’s not even two months. I’ll have to ask my dad to increase my allowance if I’m gonna keep up with your dating schedule.” Which I didn’t want to do. Dad had been super stressed lately with work. Trying to land big client portfolios always took a toll on him, and his latest acquisition was no different.

Jess pulled his backpack from his locker. “This betting game isn’t my fault. You do it to yourself. Maybe my relationships would last longer if my sister and best friend weren’t always counting down their demise. Plus, isn’t it better I break up with them when I know it’s not going to work out, instead of stringing them along?” 

“So when are we going shopping?” Ashlyn asked, ignoring her brother.

“Tomorrow after school?” I suggested.

“Sounds perfect!” Ashlyn snapped her locker shut and pulled her Chloé bag over her shoulder right as her boyfriend, Luke Davenport, came around the corner. Unlike Jess, Luke and Ashlyn had been dating for months.

And then there was me. I’d never had a boyfriend. Period. I’d never even kissed a guy. So who was I to judge Jess? At least he asked girls out. That was more than I could say for the other guys in Math Club.

Ashlyn sashayed over to Luke and kissed him like they were saying goodbye instead of hello.

“Get a room,” Jess said under his breath.

I just laughed. Ashlyn and Luke were gross. Cute, but gross.

When they finally broke apart, Ashlyn smiled back at us and said, “I’ll see you guys later.”

Jess and I shut our lockers at the same time, and headed toward the parking lot near the PE building where Jess always parked his lime green Camaro. His baby was less likely to get scratched there.

The air was frigid when we walked outside, the ground dusted with a skiff of white powder that hadn’t been there at lunch time.

“Here,” Jess said, offering me his arm. “It looks pretty slick right there.” He pointed to the area on the sidewalk where the rain gutter emptied.

“Thanks.” I linked my arm through his as we tread carefully down the icy slope to his car. He opened the passenger door for me and dropped the keys in my lap so I could get the heat blasting while he scraped snow off the windows. We’d done this routine so many times since he started driving us to school two years ago, we didn’t have to think about it anymore.

Once the windows were clear, Jess banged the ice scraper on the bottom of his sneakers—yes, even his tires were too precious for that job. He climbed in and held his reddened hands against the heater vents.

“It’s freezing out there.”

“It is winter.” I shook my head as he shivered in his short-sleeved t-shirt and jeans. “Maybe one of these days you’ll decide to wear your coat. You do know we live in Ridgewater, New York, not the Bahamas, right?”

“Y-yeah, y-yeah,” he said through chattering teeth.

We had this discussion at least twice a week. But no matter how many times I told him to wear his coat, he refused. Coats weren’t cool, and they got in the way of the other stuff in his locker.

“At least you stopped wearing shorts all winter. That’s an improvement.”

His lips quirked into a proud smile, and part of me felt like he only did those things to prove some kind of a point. Guys. I didn’t understand why they’d choose to be cold all for the sake of looking tough.

His shivering slowed as we headed out of the parking lot toward our neighborhood.

“So, what was it this time?” I asked as we drove past the football field.

“What do you mean?” he asked, pretending like he didn’t know exactly what I was talking about. We’d had this conversation so many times.

“Did she snort when she giggled? Breathe too heavily? Crack her knuckles?” Seriously, you’d think Jess was a player with the number of girls he’d dated, but he wasn’t. It was more like he was looking for a specific girl, and he was having a hard time finding her.

“None of those things.” He glanced briefly at me and shrugged. “She was too… I don’t know…insecure?”

“Of course she was insecure!” I didn’t know whether to laugh or throw my hands in the air. “She’s seen how many girls you’ve gone through.”

Jess sunk back into his leather seat. “Maybe there’s something wrong with me.” 

“You’re just really picky. But picky can be a good thing.”

“Kind of like how you’re so picky you’ve only ever liked guys like Ryan: all the charm, all the muscles, and the dark hair and eyes to go with it.”

Of course, he would bring up my infamous crush on our old neighbor. He and Ashlyn had teased me plenty over the years.

I played along like I always did, even if the unrequited crush still stung. “You forgot the dazzling smile.”

“Oh yes, how could I forget?”

He stared out the windshield as we waited at a stoplight. The wipers swept the falling snowflakes away. “Maybe I should take a break from dating for a while. I’ll be leaving for Cornell in a few months anyway.”

I chewed on the inside of my cheek. I hated thinking about him moving away for college in half a year. I was a junior and would be left behind. Sure, I’d still have Ashlyn at school next year, but she wasn’t Jess.

When I turned back to him, he was studying me instead of watching the stoplight. He frowned when he noticed me scowling. “Hey,” he squeezed my knee and shook it, “Ithaca’s just over an hour away. We’ll see each other all the time.”

But what if we don’t? What if he finds a new best friend? What if he gets so caught up in college he forgets about everyone back home? What if he finds the girl who he’ll finally choose over me?

My stomach soured at the thought. One day he would find someone, and she’d steal my best friend from me.

* * *

Hours later, after Jess and I finished our homework, I crossed the lawn to the white two-story Colonial next door. Even after my parents renovated it, our house wasn’t quite as big as the Brooks’, but it was a good size for the three of us. I walked through the red front door and set my backpack on the hardwood floor. Mom was in the kitchen, her back turned to me as she transferred a batch of cookies to the cooling rack.

She was baking?

That was the last thing I expected to find when I came home. She usually spent her afternoons watching her favorite soap, As the Sun Sets. Or shopping. 

But baking? No, not my mom. Unless she turned into some robotic Stepford-wife type while I was in school. Or she was secretly an alien doppelganger.

I eyed the cooling rack. Well, the chocolate chip cookies did look pretty charred. So maybe Mom hadn’t been inhabited by an alien after all.

“Hey, Eliana.” She looked over her shoulder, a smudge of flour across her cheek. “I don’t know why I offered to bring homemade cookies to your piano recital tonight. I should have picked up a dozen from the bakery and put them on a plate like I usually do.”

“These might be okay.” I grabbed a cookie. It was crisp and heavy. Had she accidentally used cement instead of flour?

She watched with hopeful eyes as I took a bite. 


I tried chewing it for a few seconds before spitting the burnt cookie in the sink.

“Maybe we should stop by the bakery on our way to dinner tonight.”

Mom nodded. “Let’s do that. Your dad should be home soon so we should have time before our reservation.” She tossed the rest of the cookies in the trash. “How was school today?”

“Pretty good. I think I passed my test in Trig.” I filled a glass with water from the fridge to wash down the burnt-cookie taste. “I have a Spanish test tomorrow, so Jess helped me study. Oh yeah, and I have to take Ashlyn shopping again.”

“Jess broke up with another girl?” She shook her head. “You girls need to stop betting on him and his string of girlfriends. If your dad knew how much of your allowance went to Ashlyn’s wardrobe, he wouldn’t be so happy to give it to you.”

After taking a sip from my glass, I said, “Who do you think taught me the art of gambling?”

My mom hmphed as she scraped the remaining cookie dough into the garbage. “Obviously, he didn’t teach you well.”

“Jess says he’s done dating for now anyway, so that takes care of the problem.”


I pushed a strand of hair off my face and tucked it behind my ear. “He says it’s pointless since he’s graduating soon anyway.”

She raised an eyebrow. “How much do you wanna bet he doesn’t even make it one month?” 


She laughed as she set the mixing bowl in the sink. “I was joking, honey. You know I don’t believe in gambling.”

“What’s this talk about gambling?” My dad’s rich Italian accent interrupted us. He strolled into the kitchen, his tie already loose over his blue dress shirt and his dark hair tousled like he’d been running his fingers through it on his drive home.

“It’s nothing, Dad. We’re joking around.”

“Good,” he said before grabbing my mom about the waist, pulling her into his arms and kissing her like he hadn’t seen her in weeks. 

“Gross. Can’t you at least wait for me to leave the room before you start making out?”

“No. It’s good for children to see how much their parents love each other. It helps them feel safe and secure.” Dad winked before returning to make out with Mom. 

I rolled my eyes. You’d think they were newlyweds, not a middle-aged couple who’d been married for almost twenty years. Seriously, they were almost as bad as Ashlyn and Luke these days.

“I’m gonna get dressed for my recital,” I said since there wouldn’t be much time after dinner. “Hopefully you’ll come up for air before I’m back downstairs.”

As PDA as they were, I couldn’t keep a smile from sneaking up my face when I walked past them and down the hall to the staircase. Things had been rocky a few years back before my mom went to rehab for her alcoholism, but now they were better than ever. It was the kind of love story people dreamed of: high-powered Italian businessman falls in love with the cute girl in the coffee shop and asks her to marry him after only a few dates. It was a great love story. And my dad was right—the way they were together did make me feel safe. And I believed as long as you had a happy family, life was good.

On our way out the door, my dad’s phone beeped. He pulled it from his pocket, his eyes tightening as he read the text.

“What is it?” my mom asked with concern.

My dad pressed his eyes closed for a moment. “It’s John from work. There’s something I need to take care of.” He patted his hand on the side of his leg as if deciding what to do. “How about you guys go ahead to Alessandro’s so we won’t be late for the recital. I’ll meet you there.”

“Are you sure, honey?” Mom set her hand on his arm.

He nodded and bent over to give my mom a hug and a kiss, followed by a hug and a kiss on the cheek for me as well. “You girls have fun. I’ll join you when I can.” He handed Mom the keys to the Audi and waited for us to pull out of the driveway before going back inside the house.

* * *

“What can I get you ladies to drink?” the red-headed waitress asked when she stopped by our table, her pad and pen ready. 

I smiled at her. “Raspberry lemonade, please.” I could drink a gallon of the stuff.

Mom bit her lip, still trying to decide. “Umm…”

“We have an excellent wine list,” the waitress offered. “May I suggest the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon?”

It was probably the most expensive wine they served.

I held my breath when my mom’s eyes moved to the wine list, and bounced my knee as a bit of anxiety tightened my chest. I didn’t know why I reacted that way after all these years. 

A moment later, she smiled at the waitress. “I’ll have the raspberry lemonade as well.”

My muscles relaxed as the waitress jotted down my mom’s order. “I’ll be right back with those.” With a smile, she turned and headed back to the kitchen.

“Will you text your dad to see how much longer he’ll be? I left my phone at home,” Mom said as she looked over the dinner menu. Why did parents always forget their phones? Was it their way of proving they weren't addicted to them like they accused their teens of?

Whatever. It didn’t matter. I did as she said before turning back to my own menu.

The waitress came back with our drinks and took our orders. 

“Any response from your dad yet?” She glanced anxiously at her watch.

I clicked my phone on and smiled at the picture I'd set as my wallpaper—Jess, Ashlyn, and me at their family's cabin last Fourth of July. But my dad hadn't responded.

“No text yet. Maybe he’s still on the phone with John,” I said. “He seemed stressed about whatever the text said.”

My mom nodded. “He did. I know he’s been worried about a few of his clients with the recent changes in the stock market. Hopefully, everything’s okay. Your dad could use a break. Maybe we could head to Martha’s Vineyard for a few days and give his blood pressure a much-needed rest.”

“That would be nice.” Though it would be freezing this time of year. At least the house we usually rented had a huge fireplace to stay warm by.

The waitress set our plates in front of us a while later. I took a bite of my pasta all’Amatriciana. The pancetta and tomato taste filled my mouth.

“Did he text you back yet?” My mom turned to look at the restaurant’s entrance, checking. 

He had never missed our weekly dinner at Alessandro’s before.

I checked my phone. Still nothing. “Should I call him?”


I called, but it immediately went to voicemail.

“What’s wrong?” Mom asked when she saw the confusion on my face.

“His phone went straight to voicemail. Maybe he’s driving here now?”

But he never showed up at dinner. I sent him another text on our way to the car, so he’d know we'd left.

We stopped by the house for a plate to put the cookies on before going to the recital. My dad’s truck wasn’t in the garage, and when we walked into the kitchen, we found a note waiting for us on the granite counter.

Sorry, I messed everything up. It’s better you not know anything.


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