The Year of Falling in Love (Sunnyvale #2) by Jessica Sorensen

Chapter 1

Isabella

It’s been only minutes since Lynn told me Bella—my real mom—was a terrible person who’s rotting in her grave. Only a few tiny minutes, yet it feels like an eternity, as if I’ve entered a time portal where time moves at half-speed.

It gives me too much time to think about my mom being dead, about how angry my dad was that I asked about her, about Lynn and how I shoved her after she told me. I ran out of my house right after without waiting to see her reaction. I was completely hysterical. But thank the damn stars Kai found me, otherwise who knows what I would’ve done. In the state of mind I was in, I wanted nothing more than to make the pain go away and would’ve done almost anything to make it stop.

But by some miraculous miracle—seriously, the guy is some kind of genius distraction wizard—Kai manages to calm me down. He takes me into the den of his house, tells me to sit down on the sofa, and puts on Zombieland. Then he gives me a bowl of popcorn and a box of Milk Duds and lies down on the floor.

I haven’t explained to Kai what happened, at least not all the details, but I can tell he’s wondering by the way he keeps staring at me instead of watching the movie. It’s a zombie movie. No one is that distracted during a zombie movie unless they’re deeply thinking about something. Or they’re a total weirdo.

“I don’t know what to do,” I mumble through a yawn when the movie credits appear on the television screen. I roll onto my side to look down at Kai. His light blonde hair is flattened on one side and his cheek is red from where his face was pressed against the pillow. “I’m not sure if I can go home or if I can even call it home. After I pushed Lynn...” I shake my head. “I don’t even feel bad. What kind of person does that make me?”

He rotates onto his back and cocks a brow at me. “You pushed Lynn? When?”

“Right after she told me about my mom.” Reality crashes down on me. “I’m in so much shit, Kai. My dad was already super pissed I tried to find out about my real mom. He probably already changed the locks so I can’t get into the house.”

Kai nibbles on his bottom lip, contemplating. “Maybe that’s a good thing. No more Hannah. No more Lynn. You’d finally be free of them.”

“Yeah, I know.” I twist onto my back, sweeping strands of my brown hair out of my tear-stained face. I’m sure I’m rockin’ some awesome raccoon eyes right now and probably look like a real hot mess. Thankfully, it’s just Kai here with me. After he apologized to me for what happened in seventh grade, and then I found out about how he told everyone that Hannah lied about me being in a mental institution, I know I can trust him. “I know this is going to sound crazy—it sounds crazy even in my own head—but part of me doesn’t want to get kicked out.”

When he doesn’t respond, I slant to the side to look at him.

He’s gaping at me like I just flew over the cuckoo’s nest. “I’m going to chalk up your temporary insanity to the fact that you’ve been through a ton of shit in the last couple of hours and give you a piece of advice. If you can get out of that house, then do it. You’ll be better off on your own than living with your psychotic, abusive family.”

“They don’t abuse me. Yeah, they’re mean as hell, but they never hit me or anything like that.”

Kai carries my gaze. “Isa, words can sometimes be just as harmful as actions.”

I swallow the lump in my throat as I recollect how many times Hannah and Lynn have insulted me. How my dad ignored it. How crappy I felt, how small, how worthless. Then I think of Kai and how his dad treats him.

“You should take your own advice,” I say with an insinuating look.

He shrugs indifferently. “I’m working on it.”

I massage my aching chest with my hand, wishing I could get the tightness out. “I wouldn’t be on my own if I moved out. I’d move in with my Grandma Stephy.”

“Good. From what you’ve told me about her, she sounds pretty cool.” He sits up and stretches his arms above his head, causing his black T-shirt to ride up just enough that I get a brief glimpse of his abs.

I try not to gawk like some band groupie ogling a lead singer, but my gaze has other ideas. I blame it on my hormones. When they take over, I lose my self-control.

“Yeah, she’s cool…” Stop staring at him, Isa. You’re such a weirdo. “She’s actually the grandma I went on that trip with this summer.” I finally manage to tear my gaze off Kai’s lean muscles and give myself a mental high-five for regaining my self-control. But then I cringe when I find him watching me with curiosity written all over his face.