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The Deal Breakers

The Deal Breakers

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No kissing. That’s the deal these best friends made when they were kids. And it’s a rule that's just begging to be broken.

Obviously the stupid dating app is wrong. Jessica and Rex have been best friends forever, of course they’re not a love match.

As part of a class project, their mission is to prove the app wrong, once and for all. All they have to do is date other people. Not a problem.

Except, of course, when jealousy rears its head and buried feelings come to light. Now there’s a friendship at stake...and a whole new deal on the table.

The Deal Breakers is the second installment in a three-book YA romance novella series. The books should be read in order to avoid confusion and spoilers. 

Main Tropes

  • Friends to More
  • Basketball Star
  • Forbidden Love


Jessica & Rex have been besties forever. And that friendship? It's based on one simple rule.

No kissing.

They've seen too many of their friends lose great friendships when romance gets involved, so they've sworn to keep flirting and dating outside of their friend zone.

Except now there's an app that everyone swears is accurate, and it's telling them that they're meant to be a couple.

No way. That can't be right. They're about to prove to themselves and their classmates that the app has it all wrong. They'll each date other people and maintain their perfect friendship.

It's a solid plan, until they actually have to watch each other date other people. Suddenly it's not so clear where the line to their friendship ends and a world of jealousy begins.

The besties end up breaking their no kissing rule...for the sake of science, of course.

But with that one deal broken, where do they stand now? Can these best friends go back to their old friendship now that all the rules have been broken?

Intro Into Chapter 1


My phone dinged on my nightstand but I didn't move to answer.

I knew who it is.

It was Rex. 

It was always Rex.

He was the only person crazy enough to text me before dawn. I didn’t answer when it dinged the second time, either, opting instead to bury my head under the covers. 

When my phone started to ring—the Rocky theme song he’d chosen for himself blaring in the otherwise quiet room—that was when I finally slipped an arm out from under the warm blankets and scrambled for the phone to make it stop. “Go ‘way,” I mumbled.

“Good morning to you too, sunshine,“ Rex said. 

He sounded far too wide awake for my liking. I tried to tell him that but my face was pressed into the pillow and what came out sounded like, “Mmmph.”

“Come on, sleepyhead, you promised you'd join me for a run.“

I turned my head so my mouth was exposed. “You're the devil.” My voice was a sleepy croak and it made him laugh.

“You'll thank me when you're kicking the Haver High girls' butts at the game on Thursday.”

I grunted in acknowledgement.

“Come on out, Jessica, or I’m coming in there and dragging you out.”

That had me moving. 

See, here was the thing about Rex—he’d do it. He knew where the hideaway key was hidden in our garden and it wouldn’t be the first time he used it to haul my butt out of bed. 

A morning person I was not.

But my BFF? He was such a morning person. 

Sometimes it sickened me. 

I heard his evil laugh as I cursed and tossed the phone toward the end of my bed, already getting up and throwing my hair up into a ponytail. My sneakers were ready and waiting by my bedroom door so five minutes later I ran out of the house with teeth brushed and ready to run. “I’m here, you heathen,” I called out when I spotted him bending over to retrieve the key. He made a point of eyeing a nonexistent watch. 

“Took you long enough.”

I waited for a heartbeat, holding my breath like a moron because…there it was.

His slow grin. The one that spread like molasses and softened his features, the one that made his dark eyes light with warmth and affection.

The smile that was mine and mine alone.

I let my breath out slowly, careful not to let it become a sigh. 

He crossed his arms and watched me do a halfhearted stretch. He’d already done his stretching, no doubt. He’d probably even eaten some breakfast, the early-rising weirdo. 

“You look like you’re still asleep,” he said, his eyes moving over me.

Once again I found myself holding my breath as he catalogued my body from head to toe. This wasn’t unusual. Rex was an observant guy. If I didn’t shave my legs over the summer, he’d be the first to point it out. There were very few boundaries between my best friend and me, and I was used to that, but it didn’t mean I relished the fact that he was currently eyeing my bedhead hair or my puffy face. 

He looked perfect, as usual. He’d gotten his dad’s strong jaw and the patrician features that made him look like he could have been a bigshot in ancient Rome. He had the sort of head one found in marble busts at the museum. 

He was a full-blown hottie…and he knew it.

He wasn’t a cocky jerk, though. He was a good guy. He was also human, and a teenager, and male, however, so he wasn’t exactly hiding out from the female attention at our school. Nope, the pretty, popular ladies of Coleridge High loved my bestie, and he loved them right back.

Speaking of… 

I glared at him as he started to run without me. Seconds later I caught up. “Didn’t you go out with Diana last night?” I asked. “Shouldn’t you be exhausted right about now?”

“Eh,” he said with a shrug. “The party was lame and Diana was a bore. I dropped her off early.”

I kept my gaze straight ahead and focused on keeping a steady pace. I felt the sort of grim satisfaction I always got when his latest lady-of-the-moment was about to crash and burn. I didn’t get jealous…not anymore. In fact, I almost pitied the girls Rex “dated.” I’m using that word very loosely here. They never lasted more than two weeks. Like…ever. And most didn’t even make it that long. It wasn’t like he was a serial dater or a big-time player or anything. He didn’t go from one to the other. He went in cycles and at this point, I could see it coming from a mile away. We’d be hanging out doing our thing and then he’d get antsy. 

Not bored, necessarily, just…unsatisfied. 

He’d start talking about how we should go out more. How we ought to go to more parties and meet more people. 

Like clockwork, those conversations were followed by another kamikaze attempt at dating. He’d pick a girl who’d been hitting on him, they’d go out for a couple of weeks, and then he’d get bored with that, find some minor flaw that suddenly bothered him, and come running back to me. 

I was grateful for the fast pace of our run. It made sighing pretty dang impossible. 

“How are you gonna end it this time?” I asked, my tone mild. Bored, even. Frankly, I was pretty bored by this whole situation. 

Boredom was easier to deal with than rejection. I couldn’t feel rejected because he had no idea how I felt. We’d made a deal that we weren’t allowed to develop romantic feelings for one another, but I’d gone and done just that.

But it was my problem, not his. If he found out… I swallowed a wave of fear at the thought. 

He’d run. He’d do it nicely, I knew that much. He’d tell me how much he loves me—and he’d mean it. No one loved a friend more than he loved me.

But then he’d explain that he only loved me as a friend.

I glanced over at him and saw him glowering at the road ahead of us as he pondered my question. My BFF was trying to figure out how to nicely break it to Diana that he didn’t like her like that.

Poor Diana.

Poor me if I ever did something stupid and told him how I really felt. 

“What do you think I should do?” he asked, turning to face me as we hit the road we always turned down. We’d been running the same loop for years now, and neither one of us ever felt compelled to change it up even though it had gotten rather boring.

Just like us, I supposed. We were both creatures of habit, and Rex was the only one of us who did anything to shake things up. It wasn’t his fault that his attempts always ended in disaster. 

I considered him now, trying to be objective as I eyed him. “You could just tell her the truth,” I said. 

He squinted at me like I’d just said something crazy. “You think I should tell her that she’s a lousy kisser?”

I rolled my eyes. “I think you should tell her that you’re just not feeling it. That you don’t want to lead her on by taking this relationship any further.”

He nodded with a long exhale. “You’re right. I know you’re right.”

It was the same speech I told him to give every time. 

We ran in silence for a while, each of us lost in our own thoughts. After a while, Rex broke it and the conversation turned to the mundane. We went over the games that were coming up, the homework assignments we had due.

We were both captains of our respective basketball teams and shared most of the same classes. It was one of many things we had in common. 

“Diana wants to go to your game on Thursday with me,” Rex said.

I tensed at that. We always went to one another’s games for moral support. Always. It was one of our many ‘things’—the habits and rituals that made up our tight friendship. “Do you want to bring her?”

He’d never brought a date to one of my games before. I could handle it; I never let my personal feelings affect my game. But I wasn’t loving the idea of him sitting in the audience with his attention divided between me and Diana. Games were our thing.

“Nah,” he said, his tone resigned. “I should have the talk with her before that. It’s time.”

I heard the conviction in his voice and felt for Diana. When Rex made up his mind about something, he never ever wavered.

If he made a vow, he didn’t break it. 


Not even if he’d made that vow in middle school.

I swallowed down the familiar pain. I’d gotten so used to it over the years, I could almost ignore it. I could forget that I’d gone and fallen in love with my best friend at some point when I wasn’t paying attention.

It was just harder sometimes than others. Like, times like this when I had to pretend that I didn’t care that he was dating someone else. Or when I had to coach him on how to break up with a girl I’d known wasn’t right for him from the start.

He started to laugh and I looked over at him. He arched his brows. “Do you know, she tried to pull the whole Love Quiz thing on me?”

I winced. Love Quiz was this stupid app that some high schooler from the East Coast developed and it had swept through high schools and colleges like a plague. It was being hailed as the dating app to end all dating apps. But it wasn’t really a dating app, it was more like a super invasive big brother app that monitored your social media and online interactions and claimed to tell you who your true love match should be. 

It was total hogwash, obviously. Neither of us believed in it. 

Though that hadn’t stopped either of us from installing it. 

I grimaced now because I knew what poor Diana was hoping. She wanted him to be her match after a couple weeks of dating. 

“I told her it was probably too soon to tell,” he said.

“Very tactful of you,” I said approvingly.

He scoffed and nudged my elbow with his arm. “Well, it’s not like I could tell her that I get you every time I open the stupid thing, now could I?”

I laughed because I knew that was what was expected. We’d both installed it on the same day, right around the time that everyone was getting into it. We didn’t check our results for the first few weeks—the app said to give it time. But we’d checked it randomly and repeatedly these past few months and we got each other as our love match every time.

Every. Single. Time.

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