Curvy Girls Can't Date Bad Boys - Kelsie Stelting


I preferred watching Ryde Alexander on the big screen as opposed to sitting across from him. But here we were at Halfway Café, drinking expensive lattes and eating smoked salmon bagels that were only half as good as the muffins at Seaton Bakery but cost five times as much. Good thing money was no object for him, because otherwise I might feel a little guilty for leaving my food mostly uneaten.

“So, Friday? Are you free?” He flipped his hair out of his sea-green eyes

With a slight shake of my head to clear my thoughts, I asked, “What?”

An annoyed look flicked across his face but was quickly gone. Ryde didn’t leave his acting for the set. Every second I spent with him, he was putting on one act or another. “I was telling you my friend’s movie is premiering Friday. Are you free?”

“Which friend?” There were a few premieres coming up that Dad was keeping his eyes on.

“Ambrose. I’ve only been talking about this movie for the last ten minutes.”

I knew—I’d checked out after minute one. I flashed him a guilty smile, doing a little acting of my own. “Sorry, babe. I’m a little distracted.”

Seeming a bit relieved, he reached across the table and took my hands. “If this arranged marriage is going to work, we have to get to know each other. We have to try.”

A heavy dose of unexpected guilt swept through me. I wasn’t the only one being pressured to marry someone not of my choosing. Ryde was just as implicated in this Indian tradition-turned-business arrangement as I was.

“I know.” I sighed. “Tell me, how’s filming going?”

His eyes lit up. He loved talking about himself—especially his work. “We’re doing a stunt today. Sixteen-story jump into the crash pad.”

My eyes widened. “Sixteen stories?” Just the thought of being that high made my stomach turn, not to mention jumping off.

“Of course my double’s doing it, but it should be fun to watch. Something good for my Insta account, anyway. Speaking of...”

He lifted his phone from where it lay face-up on the table and snapped a selfie of the two of us. I barely had a second to flash a smile before he pulled it back and frowned. “Can you lift your chin a little more?”

My eyebrows drew together. “Lift my chin?”

“Yeah, your neck kind of disappeared in that one.” He showed me the photo on the screen, then demonstrated stretching his neck out.

“You know,” I said, “I’d rather not. That picture is just fine.”

His lips formed a thin line for a moment, then he flashed his movie-star smile at the phone. “I’ll just do one by myself then. My fans deserve better than ‘fine.’”

I sipped from my latte—if only to keep my mouth busy with something other than a scathing retort—as his thumbs flew over the screen. The selfie he edited and posted would easily garner hundreds of thousands of likes. None of which mattered to me. I hardly got on social media, as to not affect Bhatta Productions’ carefully curated brand.

Across from me, Ryde rose to standing and shoved his phone into his pocket. With an openly frustrated look, he said, “You know, I thought when I got into a relationship, it would be with a girl who actually liked me.” He dropped a hundred-dollar bill on the table. “See you Friday. I’ll pick you up at six. Be red carpet ready.”

I lifted my eyebrows to show him I heard and rested my chin on my hand. What a great start to the week—getting up an hour early so I could make a breakfast appearance with my arranged boyfriend.

Dad required us to have at least one date in public each week—which he said was doing wonders for his movie set to premiere this summer. For my self-esteem? Not so much.

I’d always liked my body, the curves, the shapes, the colors, but Ryde picked apart everything without saying anything I could repeat as rude. I was tired of it, and with my high school graduation, and therefore my wedding date, getting nearer, time was running out. I needed to find a way out of this arranged marriage with Ryde before it was too late.

I glanced up and caught sight of a strong, tattooed arm with a leather jacket draped over it. Most people who came into Halfway Café didn’t have tattoos like that. No, just Chinese symbols they didn’t really understand or Roman numerals and the like. The tattoo sleeve covering this arm was like nothing I’d seen before.

I followed the