A man stuck in the friend-zone ends up playing fake fiancée to the woman he wants to be more than friends with in this contemporary romance teeming with sexual tension. Keep reading to get a tempting taste of Earn Your Extra Credit by Meghan Quinn, along with my impressions of this standalone story, then be sure to add this rom-com to your bookshelf!
"She went home with someone else that night?"
Hearing the disbelief from my best friend's mouth makes the events of my failed date sting that much more.
I would like to make it known, I have a lot more swagger than what it seems. I don't normally ask a girl out, have her fail to recognize it's a date, and then give me a high five--as if I'm her wingman--and take off with someone else.
No. Normally I'm the one taking the girl home but with Stella, it's been one failed attempt after another and frankly, I'm done trying.
But thanks to my best friend getting married in Hawaii right before the school year starts, I'm stuck on a tropical island, watching Stella parade around in what she claims is a bathing suit.
Unfortunately, that's not the worst of it, just the tip of the iceberg. Because what I think is going to be a relaxing vacation, avoiding the one girl I can't seem to make it work with, has turned into a spectacle of being recruited as Stella's doting fake fiancé so she can save face with an old "friend" from high school.
Now I'm navigating through purgatory while trying not to get turned on by the way she holds my hand or kisses my jaw. It's all fake, that's what I keep telling myself, even though it feels entirely too real.
“Do you want to sit next to Stella on the airplane?” Arlo asks.
“What? Fuck, no,” I say while turning up the game so I can hear the announcers over my tedious, wedding-planning best friend.
Arlo snatches the remote from my hand and turns off the TV. The room is silent for a moment before uproarious objections fill the air.
“Gentry is up next,” Gunner, my other best friend and former teammate, complains from next to me. “He’s three for three so far.”
“We need to talk,” Arlo says in that stern, alpha-like voice that won over his fiancée. Little does he know it doesn’t work on me.
I reach for the remote but he swats my hand with a resounding thud, causing me to yank my hand back. “What the actual fuck, man?”
When I decided to have the guys over to my loft, I assumed we’d tear up some wings, drain some brews, and watch the Bobbies game. Never in my wildest fucking dreams would I have pictured Arlo Turner, the grumpy curmudgeon of the Forest Heights English department, to roll in like a beaming bride, holding a wedding planning folder to his chest, and consume the night with questions about what he should wear and if coconut cake is too “Hawaiian-y” for his Maui destination wedding.
But here we are.
“Cut the crap, Romeo.”
“Cut what crap?” I reach over to the coffee table and pick up my almost empty glass of beer.
“I’m not about to have the Bickersons attend my wedding, so what the hell is going on with Stella?”“Nothing is going on,” I answer, then take a small sip of my beer, making the liquid last so I don’t have to get up for a refill.
Gunner leans in and asks, “If we get to the bottom of the problem, can we turn the TV back on?”
“Yes,” Arlo answers.
“Then it was the baseball game he took her to.”
“Dude,” I say in protest while sitting up on the couch. “What the fuck happened to don’t say anything?"
Gunner unapologetically shrugs. “I really want to watch the Bobbies kill the Rebels in interleague play."
“What baseball game?” Arlo asks. “Do you mean the game you took her and Cora to?”
“Yup.” Gunner pops a chip in his mouth from the bowl on the coffee table. “Except Cora wasn’t supposed to go. It was supposed to be a daaate,” Gunner drags out.
“You asked Stella out?” Arlo asks, shocked.
“Way to sell me out for a game, you dick.”
Not showing an ounce of remorse, Gunner stands from the couch and takes my glass from me.
“I’ll top you off. You’ll need it.”
Seething, I pass my hand over my head and say, “Yeah, I asked her out. She invited Cora. End of story."
“That’s not the end of the story,” Gunner says from the kitchen, the open concept of my loft allowing his voice to carry to us easily.
When you think a friend is trustworthy and then they go and shock your fucking nuts right off by divulging everything you told them in secret...without even a blink of an eye. Gunner is dead to me.
You’re probably wondering why I didn’t say anything to Arlo about what happened, given he’s one of my best friends, right? It’s simple. Gunner got me drunk and I relished in the comfort of far too many cold beers and a listening ear. If it wasn’t for that, I’d have kept my mouth shut, because the entire incident was fucking humiliating.
Between you and me, I’ve liked Stella Garcia, the Spanish teacher at Forest Heights, for a while now. Far too long actually. I can’t quite pinpoint when it happened, but all I know is over the three years I’ve known her, I’ve been pining after the girl for the majority of the time.
Fucking bold, quick-witted with a sharp tongue, loves sports, shy when it counts. Flat-out gorgeous with her long, wavy brown hair and fascinating green eyes that have a ring of brown around the pupil. She’s had my attention for a while and last year, I decided to finally make a move.
Enough was enough. We shared too many dinners together as friends. She’s pressed her lips to my beer glass without a second thought way too many times. The moment presented itself, I grew a pair, and asked her out to a baseball game knowing she loves watching the sport as much as I do.
But fuck did it backfire.
“What’s the end of the story?” Arlo asks, growing agitated. His patience runs thin, which is surprising, given his profession of educating the youth.
He’s not going to drop it. Arlo’s relentless when he wants to know something.
Dragging my hand down my face, I say, “It was supposed to be a date.” Gunner sits next to me and hands me my refilled glass, which I gladly take. “She invited Cora. Which was fine. We had a good time, I still sat next to Stella, and we shared jokes even if there was a third wheel. But it was what happened afterwards that—”
“That gutted him,” Gunner finishes for me. When I snap a look at him, he smirks. “That’s what you told me. Just thought I’d help tell the story.”
“I wasn’t gutted.”
Maybe I was a little.
Hell...I was humiliated.
Gutted isn’t a strong enough word for what happened.
“What the fuck happened after? Christ. Why are you taking so damn long to get to the point?” Arlo practically growls.
“Go easy on our guy.” Gunner grips my shoulder. “He was embarrassed, man.”
“It’s fine, I’m over it now,” I say in a passive-aggressive tone.
“You’re clearly not if you and Stella can’t even be in the same room together. I don’t want anything ruining this trip for Greer, and your constant arguing with Stella is driving everyone fucking crazy."
“Great, then I just won’t talk to her. Simple.”
“Just tell him,” Gunner says, nudging me.
Staring down at my beer, I quietly say, “She went home with someone else that night.”
The room falls silent.
They don’t have to react for me to know what they must be thinking. They know I’ve liked Stella for a while. They know I’ve been trying to figure out a way to ask her out.
And this...hell, this was an epic fail on my end.
It wouldn’t be as bad if I weren’t already carrying a chip on my shoulder about the way I was forced to twist my life around.
Five years ago, everything changed.
Five years ago, I was stripped of the one thing that brought me life.
A ruptured Achilles tendon ended everything for me.
I never got the chance to appreciate my last game.
I never had the opportunity to sit on the field and say goodbye.
Instead, playing professional baseball was stripped from me and I was forced to fall back on my teaching degree I earned while playing in college.
To say I’m bitter, resentful, and fucking angry...yeah, that’s an understatement.
I live with regret daily and harbor more animosity than anyone should.
So, when I took Stella to the game, on a date, hoping to tell her how I feel, and she went home with someone else, it fucking stung.
Do you know what stung more, though?
The fact that she looked right past me and instead went for a rookie on the Bobbies.
Why go out with a washed-up baseball player turned phys ed teacher with a slight limp in his walk, when you can go out with an unmarred professional baseball player?
Yeah. There’s resentment for a reason. She chose the star. That’s who she wants.
That’s who I’ll never be.
And that’s why I plan on staying as far away from Stella Garcia on this trip as I can.
And when we get back to Chicago and the school year starts, everything will go on as planned.
Avoid. Avoid. Avoid.
Too easy, right?
FIND AT GOODREADS here.
MY IMPRESSIONS OF THIS BOOK:
After reading Ms. Quinn's See Me After Class I couldn't wait to revisit the characters introduced to us throughout the story, a likable group of teachers whose interactions put a smile on my face. When the wedding of two members of the group sends all of them to Hawaii in this latest release it leads to a new romance between a man stuck in the friend zone and the woman who wants him to play her fake fiancée. In a romance full of witty banter, playful interactions, and encounters teeming with sexual tension, Ms. Quinn again demonstrates why she's the master of rom-coms in a story that I recommend to all those looking for a fun and flirty read!
I was drawn to Romeo the moment I first saw him courtesy of the fun-loving nature he shows to the world as evidenced by the practical jokes and humorous exchanges between him and his fellow teachers. Behind that carefree facade though is a man who feels cheated by fate after an injury ended his baseball career prematurely. He wanted things to be on his terms and is bitter over how out of control life has gone for him. When it comes to his romantic life, that too isn't going as he hoped it would as his long-simmering attraction to fellow teacher Stella is stuck in the friend-zone. Deciding that he's had enough of her obliviousness to his feelings he tries to keep her at arm's length, but when she suggests they engage in a fake relationship to get back at a former bully, he puts his heart on the line one last time. Throughout their fake relationship Romeo endeared himself to me, showed himself to be loyal and caring as he could never say no to Stella no matter how often she hurt him. The moment they give in to the physical side of their fake relationship though is the moment everything becomes oh so real and they're forced into dealing with their true feelings head-on.
Ms. Quinn has crafted many wonderful heroines, but I must admit that Stella isn't one of my favorites. She's a fun character, quick with witty banter and playful interactions with her fellow teachers. When it comes to life though she's oblivious. She spends a lot of time in her head, worried about the stupidest things while ignoring what's right in front of her. She treated Romeo quite shabbily early on, but then couldn't understand why he tried to keep her at arm's length....seriously?!? As the story progressed though, and as she looked inside herself more, she became more worthy of the delicious Romeo in a journey of heartfelt introspection.
From the very start this is an entertaining read full of witty banter and laugh out loud moments. With a main couple who sometimes frustrated me, but always had me rooting for them, theirs was a crackling connection that made their rocky road to HEA all the more worthwhile. Each gave as good as they got in fun and flirty exchanges that practically jumped off the pages. Romeo joins a long line of drool-worthy heroes, an alpha male with a talent for dirty talk but with a heart of gold too. Stella's not Ms. Quinn's typical heroine, but the growth she goes through had me eventually warming up to her and finding her a good match for Romeo. Surrounding this entertaining main couple were characters readers have gotten to know throughout each book released by Ms. Quinn, with each character coming to feel like family, and because of that I'm excited for the next release by this talented author.
My rating for this is a B+
*I got this book from the author for review in exchange for my honest opinion.