Dean Alexander King.
It’s a name I hadn’t heard since the day my brother said we could never utter it again. In fact, I hadn’t thought of him much since, even though I had the biggest crush on him my entire childhood. It was a silly crush. He was my older brother Forrest’s best friend since kindergarten, which meant I had barely been born when they first met.
Our mom practically adopted him like he was a stray puppy. She showered him with attention, clothes that fit him right instead of the raggedy hand me downs he wore, and plates of hot food every night she could. He was her little pet project from the wrong side of town.
In fact, Dean was such a fixture in our home that I thought of him as my other brother until I was ten and figured out what having a crush meant. After that, I followed Dean around like a pest until he and Forrest would get irritated enough to lock themselves in Forrest’s room. Other than that, he never noticed me. I was just the annoying kid sister of his best friend.
When I was sure no one was listening, I named my Barbie, Emma and my Ken doll, Dean and I made them kiss. A lot. Sometimes with no clothes on. When I was twelve, I would write Emma plus Dean, or Emma Cassidy King on my school folders over and over. Usually with a lot of hearts and other embarrassing things I’m glad no one ever saw.
Sometime around thirteen is when I started to notice the differences between them. Differences that left me confused. I never understood how Forrest and Dean were friends in the first place—they were as different as night and day.
Dean was always in trouble. He got suspended more times than I could count. He got into fistfights at school that Forrest inevitably had to break up. He went through girlfriends like dirty socks, and he got put in juvie. Three times.
Forrest, on the other hand, was and still is, polite and gentlemanly. He rarely swears, he had one girlfriend through all of high school, and like me, he follows all the rules.
Not Dean. Filthy-mouthed, cocky and arrogant—he broke the rules like it was his favorite hobby. And unlike his last name might suggest, Dean King was nothing out of a fairy tale. Which is probably why the vision of him never failed to make the skin of my cheeks fill with a hot, red blush—and why my fourteen-year-old daydreams were always of him shirtless, offering to be my very first kiss.
Of course, I never got that kiss. For one, Dean was five years older than me, and I was nothing more to him than a little sister. Two, my brother came home one day and told us his engagement to his high school sweetheart and fiancée Renee had been called off, and that Dean was the reason.
Dean never came around after that. Last I’d heard he’d taken off and was never heard from again. Well—until now that is.
Only, he didn’t look at me like I was Forrest’s little sister anymore—and he asked me not to tell Forrest he was back in town.
Dean King is fire.
Like the most beautiful and destructive of all the elements.
Fire is a welcoming warmth that washes over your skin, like a glowing blanket. But in the blink of an eye, flames can leap, devouring everything in their path. Everyone and everything in its way is left to choke on the thick black smoke. If you turn your head for even a second, everything you once loved and held so dear is gone.
Fire smolders. Flickers playfully, sending embers flying like a sparkling, hot fountain of orange against the dark purple of night.
Dean King is fire.
And I am rain.
The Space Between Us releases January 31, 2018
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