Yours and Mine 

A Friends to Lovers Contemporary Romance Novel

We share the same birthday and breathe the same air.

My best friend Nick, lives next door and our windows are only a foot apart.

I know him better than he knows himself, but I can’t tell him that because well, he’s a boy… that is, until he grows up and becomes a man.

A strong, handsome and persuasive man I would die for.

He is the first person I see each morning, and the last person I see when I go to sleep at night.

My life is his and his is mine and everything would have been perfect if he didn’t choose to leave.

Note: Yours and Mine is a standalone friends to lovers contemporary romance novel suitable for mature audience only.

 

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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30516849-yours-and-mine

Don’t miss the other Friends with Benefits standalone romances:

The Billionaire Escape Plan by Ember Casey

The Billionaire’s Ballet by Deanna Roy

Always You by Rachel Schurig

The Rock Star’s Secret Baby by Blair Babylon

Going for Broke by Gretchen Galway

Next to You by Daisy Prescott

For links, visit Romance Frenzy.

Chapter 1

“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”

Who could have known that a stupid game of skipping stones would be the beginning of a lifelong friendship? I sat on a grass patch by the shore, holding my hands behind my back, squeezing the flat rock with my fingers, praying that this was the gem I’d been searching for.

“I bet you mine is bigger,” Nick teased. “I’ll get at least ten skips.”

My curiosity spiked, and I wondered whether he did have a better stone than I had. But I wouldn’t accept defeat that easily. The flat one I’d found a half hour earlier and stuffed into my pocket was definitely a winner.

“Impossible. Not with this one.” Though I wished I could see just how big his was, though, and so I tried to see what he was hiding in his hands.

“No cheating, Jo. You know the rules.”

We’d spent the last hour walking up and down the cliffs of Hope Bay, looking for the perfect stones. The challenge to find the best one, an Olympic gold medal-winning flat rock, the one that would skip the furthest, highest, and most often, was on. We each would have one chance to skim our stones over the blue water of Stone Lake, and this sunny and windless July day couldn’t have turned out better for our little competition.

The winner would get the dibs on choosing our lookout point for the night – my roof or Nick’s roof – because the night sky was not only full of surprises but also full of falling stars you could wish upon. I had so many wishes I could barely keep them all in my head, and my rooftop was waiting for that special day when I was a winner and I could share my view of the sky with my best friend. Separated by only a few feet, his was to the west, mine to the east.

Given that I’d never won this challenge before, I figured my chances were somewhere close to those of seeing an asteroid hit the atmosphere and land on top of my head: pretty much a miracle. That was until I found the perfectly round, flat rock, without any sharp edges or flaws. I expected at least fifteen skips on this one. With good eight years of practice behind me — that’s when Nick and I began our friendly feud in grade one — and a strong arm, unless he’d found his rock on Mars and it had special anti-gravity hovering powers, my hope to win just once was renewed.

“Ladies first.”

“Are you afraid I’ll win?” I asked.

“Not a chance.”

“We’ll see. Feast your eyes on this.” I held my stone up between my fingers, displaying it as if it were gold. To me, it was way more than gold. It would give me bragging rights for the rest of the summer, at least. His eyes went wide for a moment before that calmness he was so good at carrying around him at all times returned to his face.

He gestured with his hand for me to take my place.

With my head held high, I cranked my neck to the side and stepped closer to the shore. There was no wind in Hope Bay today, as if Mother Nature knew that I needed this win. I prepped my arm, going through the motion of throwing three times before the rock left my palm, and I counted.

Five, seven, ten, twelve, fourteen…

“Did you see that? That was fifteen and a half.” I jumped, trying to outdo gravity, the way my stone had.

“A half?”

“Yes, I saw it. It was almost sixteen.”

“Like I can’t beat a half.” He rolled his eyes.

“Fifteen and a half. I just beat my record, and you haven’t hit a fifteen in… well, it’s been a while. I’m pretty sure that I’ll be the winner this time.”

I braced my hands on my hips, waiting patiently, and then Nick pulled his rock from behind his back and my mouth dropped open. If I thought that my rock was perfect, then his was flawless, crafted over thousands of years in the caressing waves of Stone Lake, until it was meant to be found by him.

I felt my heart pound in my chest.

He winked and gave me that smile full of confidence before his arm flew back like a pitcher’s, pulling all the strength from his shoulder and forcing it to his fingertips, right into the rock. The whizz of air was enough for me to doubt my perfect fifteen and a half skips.

I watched the rock glide over the calm water as if in slow motion, counting each long leap. My heart raced as the jumps lost their height and shortened, quickening their graceful journey.

Eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen… no!

“That last one was a half! It’s a tie.” I pointed toward the ripples in the water.

“Are you going to be a sore loser again, Jo?”

“I. Am not. A sore loser.”

“Said a sore loser.”

“You know this challenge isn’t fair. Men have stronger arms.”

“Then why do you challenge me to do this every week?”

“Because…well, if you had an older brother, he’d teach you how to treat girls.”

“What are you talking about?”

How was I supposed to explain to him that sometimes guys were supposed to let the woman win? They were supposed to make the woman feel special; at least that’s what my father had done with me. He’d let me cast the first fishing rod into a river when we fished, waited for me at the car with the door open, and stood at the table, patiently waiting to take his seat, until I was sitting. Was Nick treating me this way because I wasn’t a woman yet? If that was the reason, then I still had a few years of waiting until Nick grew up and acted like a real man.

“Never mind.” I waved my hand. “You’ll never get it.”

“Is it because I’m a guy?”

“Well, yes.”

He coughed sore loser into his hand and I threw him a dirty look.

“One day I’ll beat you. You’ll see.”

“And that will be the day that I also land on Mars.”

“Shut up.” I frowned. “What time is it?”

He looked at his watch — the only one between the two of us – so that we could be back in town by ten in the morning. In the summertime, when school was out, my father needed my help at his bakery, and Nick helped his mom with decorating the cakes at her place. He was really good at it, too, though he only agreed to do the job if she didn’t tell anyone. Our stores were next to each other, with the three-bedroom apartments right above, on the outskirts of our town, a fifteen-minute walk to the other end closed off by a fire station. My bedroom window was only a foot away from Nick’s; that’s how we’d become friends before school even started, because we’d both lived in those houses since birth. So technically, I’d known him my entire life.

“Jo, it’s quarter to. We gotta run.”

The lake wasn’t that far away, but we chose an area no one ever came to because of all the rocks – Pebble Beach they called it – and that was a good eight-minute run back home.

I took off first, but Nick soon caught up. Obviously, as a boy, he was always a faster runner, but since I’d been secretly practicing every morning, I could keep up with his pace. We pushed our feet to the max, running through the forest and back to town. The side of my leg scraped against a branch, but I didn’t stop. Helping Dad was important, and I wouldn’t ever let him down, especially since summer time was the only time he could get somewhat of a break when I helped.

“Rooftop this evening?” he asked, before dashing through the door of his bakery.

“Yours or mine?”

Was it possible that he’d consider mine for a change?

“Mine, of course.”

Yeah, I didn’t think so. I sighed, making a promise to myself to go to my rooftop afterward so that I could wish upon a falling star. Why wouldn’t Nick believe me that we got more comets on the east side?

“I’ll see you after the sun goes down.” I waved, and we both pushed open the doors to our respective stores.

“Hi, Daddy!” I ran to my father and hugged him tightly.

“You’re cutting it pretty close, aren’t you, sweetheart?”

“Still on time, though.”

“Yes, you are. You know what to do.”

I went to the back of the store, where I would spend the remainder of my day mixing and kneading dough, cutting it into even parts for the buns and larger ones for the breads, before they were set aside to rise. My father did the first run of breads and buns at four in the morning, and I helped him with the afternoon batch, before the customers rushed in after work. See, my father wasn’t just any baker – he was the best baker in the world, and his breads and buns were known all over West Virginia. Trucks lined up early in the morning for pick-up so that they could distribute his fresh goods to the larger cities. The aroma of freshly baked breads drifted through town each day, advertising his delicious goods. During school months, he hired Mrs. Gladstone, who lived close to the fire station with her three cows and a bull, so that I could concentrate on my homework, and on being a kid. And since I was going into eighth grade, the first year of junior high school this September, I wasn’t expecting to have much time for work.

“Make sure you get a good education and good grades, so that you can make something of yourself,” he’d always said. “It’s what your mother would have wanted.”

About an hour into my work, I heard the bell of the front door ring and looked at the clock on the wall. It was too early for the first customers. Living in a small town, everybody knew where everyone else was at all times. That’s why I liked to get away with Nick in the mornings. I wondered who it could be.

“Hello, Walter.” I heard Marge, Nick’s mom, say, and I wondered whether he’d come in with her, but I doubted it. He was probably stuck decorating the cakes.

“Hello, Marge. What can I do for you today?”

“One loaf, please.”

Ever since I could remember, our parents had always acted weird when they were around each other. Unless you got a couple of glasses of wine in Mrs. Tuscan, and a handful of beers into my father, despite knowing each other their entire lives, they always remained formal.

I heard him ring her up, but they didn’t exchange another word. When I peeked through the small window in the back door, I saw Mrs. Tuscan standing on her tiptoes, lip-locked with my father.

“Oh, my God,” I breathed out, and crouched down so that they wouldn’t see me.

Nick. Where was Nick? I had to tell him. But he was working now.

What did it all mean? How long had this been going on, and why hadn’t my father told me anything? Okay, so maybe an adult conversation wasn’t that appropriate with a twelve-year-old, but I was almost a teen, and so was Nick. That was like a stone’s throw from adulthood, wasn’t it?

Nick and I shared the same birthday. Our moms had delivered us within minutes of one another, making me older and wiser than Nick by three hundred and thirty seconds, to be exact. Three hundred and thirty seconds sounded much longer than five and a half minutes — something I liked to remind him about when he acted like the all-mighty stone-skipper.

I went back to work, putting what I’d seen out of my mind, at least for now, and decided not to mention anything to my father, who seemed to be running the store in an uplifted mood.

When I climbed from my room to Nick’s that evening, he had already opened the door to his balcony for me. Maybe there was hope for him to be a gentleman, after all? I climbed up the ladder to the roof and lay back on the blanket spread over the shingles. The angle here wasn’t that steep, exactly the same as on my roof, and it afforded the perfect rest spot to watch the night sky.

I sighed.

“What’s the matter?” he asked. “Are you still upset about the loss? I won fair and square, and I was teasing you, you know.”

“No, I’m not upset about that.”

“What is it, then?”

“Did you know that my dad and your mom have a thing for each other?”

“What?”

I flipped over on my stomach and looked into his eyes, which were reflecting the stars above. They were just like his mother’s: a beautiful green that drew everyone’s attention from far away.

“I saw them kissing today.”

“What? Our parents?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s gross.”

“Why is it gross?”

“I don’t know; because he’s your dad, I guess. I never thought about my mom being with someone else.”

“I never thought about my dad being with anyone else either, but maybe this is a good thing. I mean, they need someone to love, don’t they?”

“They’ve got us.”

“Don’t be stupid, Nick. I meant real love between a man and a woman. Oh, my God, do you think they’ll get married?”

“Why would you even ask that? It was just a kiss. They should date first. And if my mom’s gonna marry, I have to approve.”

“Are you saying that you wouldn’t approve of my father?”

“No, but I’m the man of the house now.”

“You’re only twelve.”

“Almost thirteen.”

“If they got married, that would make you my step-brother.” I flipped again onto my back to look at the stars. I didn’t like that idea. I preferred that we remained friends, instead being of step-siblings.

“Jo, it was just a kiss, okay? Besides, my mother’s not over my father yet.”

“Nick, it’s been five years.”

“I know, but I can still hear her cry at night.”

“Maybe she’s crying because she thinks her son is an asshat who doesn’t know how to treat women.”

“Jo! How many times do I have to tell you that you’re not a woman?”

“Well, you’re not a man.”

“I know that!”

“Argh!” I hated when we fought. Ever since Nick’s father died while serving in the navy, he hadn’t been the same. I remembered his dad as a brave man. We went to New York when we were in first grade, and Nick’s father ended up securing a man wearing a suicide vest. We later found out the guy was a religious extremist. That experience was one of the reasons I loved living in a small town, one which led to nowhere because it was cut off by the mountains on one side a lake on the other and farms to the west. Unless you were lost, no one ever came here. This wasn’t a drive-through town.

Mr. Tuscan had saved a lot of lives that day, including mine. We were lucky, and Nick was always proud of the fact that his father was a hero. He wanted to be just like him. I’d never forget the day a police officer came knocking on his door with the news of his father’s death while serving our country. I was there at the bakery. Nick was never the same after the funeral. He wanted to protect his family, especially his mother.

“I think both our parents need a change. They need something good in their lives.”

“I think your brain is doing that girl thing again.”

“What girl thing?”

“Where you fantasize about boys, heroes, and happy endings. There are no happy endings. My mom’s alone, and so is your dad. They lost their loved ones and will never have them again.”

“But we’re happy, aren’t we?”

“Yeah, but we’re just kids.

“Well, they still kissed, so I think that made them happy.”

“A kiss doesn’t mean anything, Jo.”

I shook my head and sighed. He was such a boy.

“Have you kissed a girl before?” I asked, knowing very well that he hadn’t; because if he had, he would have told me. And if he didn’t tell me, I would have found out from one of the girls at school, and there weren’t that many of us there. Eight in our class, to be exact.

“Why are you asking? Have you kissed a boy?”

“No. I’m not letting a boy kiss me until I know we’re in love.”

“That’s stupid.”

“You’re stupid. It doesn’t make sense to do it earlier.”

“What if you fall in love and he ends up being a bad kisser?”

I hadn’t thought about it that way. “Then I’ll have to teach him how to kiss.”

“A man who has to be taught how to kiss is not a man.”

“When did you become an expert at kissing?”

“I’m not. That’s just the way it is. It should be natural. Why are we talking about spit-swapping anyway? Our parents are old enough to know what they’re doing.”

I hoped they were, because when it came to the matters of the heart, I felt like I was getting more confused with each passing month — especially when I talked to Nick about it.

“Now, what are you doing on your birthday? It’s in one week,” he asked.

“Nothing, I guess. Do you have any plans?”

“Nope. Want to celebrate them together?”

It was a silly question because I couldn’t even remember one birthday that we hadn’t spent together.

“Sure. Hey, look at that one. Is that a comet or a satellite?” I pointed to the night sky sprinkled with white dots.

“Satellite. It’s too steady to be a comet.”

“I wish we could do this on my roof. I bet you we’d see more falling stars than here.”

“Well, maybe if you learn how to skip stones better, we can,” he teased. I hated him when he did that. Maybe we were already more like siblings than friends?

I shook the thought away, because I didn’t want Nick to be my brother. Despite him being an ass-hat sometimes, I liked him as my friend.

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