The Off Limits Rule (It Happened in Nashville #1) by Sarah Adams

To the real hero of my books: Sugary cereal

I’m splayed out like a starfish ripped from the ocean and dried up on the carpet of my new bedroom. I’ve been here for an hour, watching the fan blades go round and round, thinking I could have turned on a show by now, but what’s the point anyway? My fan friends are just as entertaining as anything on TV these days. Besides, fan blades don’t fill you with romantic illusions about this crappy, crappy world and make you feel that you will get everything you’ve always wanted. No, Fanny, Fandrick, Fantasia, and Fandall don’t tell me I’ll get my happy ending in this life. They just—

“Oh my gosh.” The sound of my older brother’s voice pulls me out of my fan entertainment, and I roll my head to the side, squinting at his blurry figure filling my doorframe. “This is next-level pitiful, Luce.” Drew strides into my room, literally steps over my useless body covered in candy wrappers, and mercilessly rips back the curtains.

I hiss like a vampire that’s just been easily beaten in an overcomplicated plot when the light falls onto my body. Light was the key the whole time! My muscles are too puny and wasted away from my 48-hour feeling-sorry-for-myself binge to even throw my hand over my eyes. “Stop it, jerk. Close those and leave me be!”

He towers over me and shakes his head of brown hair like he can’t believe the pitiful excuse of a human I am. I peek up through my melancholy just enough to register that I should give him a trim soon. “Look at you. Your face is covered in chocolate, and you smell.”

“Rude. I never stink. I can go weeks without deodorant and still—” I lift my arm and wince when I get a whiff of myself. “Oh yeah, shoot, that’s bad.”

His brows are lifted, and he’s nodding his head with a humorless smile. “You need to get out of this room. I gave you a few days to pout that things didn’t turn out like you wanted, but now it’s time to get up and get moving.”

“I don’t pout.”

“Your lip is actually jutting out.”

I suck the offending lip back into my mouth and bite it. Drew extends his hand, and I take it, only because I really have to pee and not at all because I secretly know he’s right and I’ve wallowed long enough. When my world went south a few days ago, the first thing I did was call Drew to come get me and my son, Levi—not like, come get us from the restaurant, but come get us from Atlanta, Georgia, where I was paving my own way, making my life happen for myself, living the dream, and FAILING MISERABLY AT ALL OF IT.

Drew didn’t even bat an eye when I asked him to come help me pack up my dignity and haul it back home. From the beginning, he wasn’t thrilled about my decision to move out of Tennessee and away from our family, so without hesitating, he said, “Be there tomorrow, sis. I’ll bring a truck.” And he did. He spent the whole next day helping me pack everything in that dinky (very smelly) apartment, and then he drove me back to his house in Nashville where my son and I will be living (rent-free, bless him) for the foreseeable future.

The only reason I’ve been able to spend the past few days interviewing my fan blades is because my amazing parents took my four-year-old for a few days while I get unpacked and settled. I don’t think they meant get my butt settled into the carpet and lie here for the entire weekend making excellent fan friends, but it’s what I’ve done, and no one is allowed to judge me because judging isn’t nice.

Once I’m standing, Drew sizes me up, and let me tell you, he does not like what he sees. “I think you have a bird’s nest in your hair. Go take a shower.”

“I don’t feel like showering. I’ll just spray some dry shampoo to kill the stink. And maybe the birds.”

He catches my arm when I try to turn away. “As your older brother, I’m telling you…get in that shower, or I will put you in it, clothes and all, because goodness knows yours could use a wash too.”

I narrow my eyes and stand up on my tiptoes to look more frightening—I think the effect would be better if I didn’t feel chocolate smeared across the side of my face. “I’m a grown adult woman with a child, so your older-brother threats aren’t effective anymore.”

He tilts his head down slowly—making a point that he’s, like, 19 million feet taller than me—and makes direct eye contact. “You’re wearing dinosaur PJ pants. And as long as you call me, pulling that baby-sister card when you need my help with something, the older-brother threats count.”