Chaps & Cappuccinos (High School Clowns & Coffee Grounds #3) - A.J. Macey Page 0,1

anything I can do? After school, we could do some browsing in the library for our next book if you want,” Jesse offered sweetly, his shoulder raising slightly in a shrug. “It’s not jokes and humor like Reid can give you, but it might help take some stress away even for a little while. Or you could video chat with all of us tonight if that would help,” he suggested, making my heart squeeze at his thoughtfulness.

Ever since I’d finally chipped away at his shell and got him to tell me—and Kingston’s parents—about his home life, my soft-spoken and gentle boyfriend had started to grow, ever so slowly, more affectionate in public places. More and more, he was gaining that confidence I had seen on our weekend away in Lincoln, and I had to admit, I liked seeing it.

Really liked seeing it.

“I would love to pick a new book with you, Jess. Well, if I’m not grounded,” I muttered with a frown, remembering I had unfinished business at home. Putting off the confrontation any longer than necessary would probably be bad. “Last weekend, I left without my mom’s permission again because Tyler was there. Told her I wouldn’t be back until he was gone, and since he didn’t leave until yesterday, I’m sure I’ll have to deal with that whole nonsense.”

“Ugh, yeah,” Jesse groaned, a grimace passing over his handsome features. “At least the douche is gone though.” He was trying to be reassuring, but his body betrayed his uneasiness. Unconsciously, his shoulder lifted in a half-shrug, and the grimace couldn’t quite be wiped from his face.

“Too true, Jess, too freaking true. Good riddance” The bell rang, signifying the end of homeroom. Getting up, I slung my bag over my shoulder and smiled at Jesse who had waited for me. “Going to walk me to class, Jesse Parker?”

“Only the best for my Em,” he whispered, his lips brushing over my cheek as he leaned in to give me a soft kiss. When he pulled back, his smile was more strained than I’d hoped to see. “Brad might be in jail, but Dylan and the other assholes still go here. I want to make sure you’re okay; no one gets to bully you.”

The reminder that a jerk like Brad still had supporters and followers stung. I had made a lot of progress in putting an attempted rapist in jail which was something I should feel proud about, but the thought of douchebag Dylan and his cruel words made it hard to keep my smile going. When my mind fully processed everything Jesse had said, his declaration to watch over me made my heart warm.

“I love you.”

A bright smile appeared, his teeth a brilliant white against his deep skin, and in that moment, Jesse appeared truly happy. That makes everything we’re going through seem that much easier than it is, I thought with a quiet sigh.

“I love you too, Em.” He opened his mouth to say more, but a familiar voice filled the space, cutting him off.

“Aww look, how sweet. The delinquent and the slut,” Dylan cooed with a sneer, “such a cute romance. You two should be a movie.” My lips thinned, my irritation growing as the crowd laughed.

“Hey!” Ms. Ester, my American History teacher, called out from down the hallway, a hint of ice threading into her words. When she had the hard expression on her face, the resemblance to Lyla, who had that exact look perfected, was undeniable. “I do believe you have classes to be going to instead of harassing fellow students. If I see it again, I will send all of you to the office, am I clear?”

The crowd grumbled but didn’t continue to throw insults toward us. Somehow understanding that I didn’t have it in me to verbally spar anyone else today, Jesse and I continued down the hall without so much as a backward glance.

“Thank you.” I spoke quietly, ignoring the glares that were no doubt burning holes into our backs.

“Always,” he told me with a grin. “I’ll text you.” With a final kiss, he broke away from me toward his own class, leaving Ms. Ester and me alone in the hallway.

“Thank you,” I repeated, shifting my bag strap on my shoulder in a fresh wave of nerves. Lyla and I were extremely close, heck, I would even consider her my best friend, but Ms. Ester was still my teacher.

“No problem,” she said, a soft smile curling her lips as she looked at me. “Lyla