When Lea Amelia landed her feet in San Francisco for her overseas study, her idea of freedom was simple, like eating junk food ten times a day, sitting in front of the TV in her PJs, or going out late with her friends without the need to check in with her mother constantly.
Then she met Andrew Jaya, her brothers’ best friend. A twenty-two-year-old guy whose physical appearance looked like he was crafted straight from God’s heavenly hands, but possessed a past as bleak as if it was drawn by Evil himself. A conflicted guy who wore sadness like nobody’s business beneath his mask, a perfect-looking mask she slowly peeled away.
He was also the guy who hurt her.
Suddenly, everything about her was no longer simple.
Andrew Jaya had convinced himself that not feeling was good for him. He’d been doing it splendidly for almost his entire life. But that was before his best friend’s sister stepped into his life and ruined it. After weeks of knowing Lea, all of those warm and wonderful feelings he’d long ago denied to himself started to reappear. Problem was, the brighter the light, the bigger the shadows that came with it.
His traumatic past refused to let him go.
When the unthinkable happened, the easiest thing to do was to run. But life often proves that the easiest way is usually the hardest.
“Which one are you?”
It earned her a lazy arch of his eyebrow.
“That”—Lea nodded toward the direction of the door—“or this?” She nodded toward him.
If she thought the process of his face’s transformation at the basement was interesting, his expression now was even more fun to watch. It started with confusion, then understanding, finally a complete dickhead arrogance. “You can’t take one without the other, Lea,” he said, smiling broadly. “You have to take the bad”—he nodded toward the door, then pointed to himself—“and the good. Together.”
In that short moment, his mask was back up and running. He looked as jaw-dropping gorgeous as ever, but it made Lea feel like she was talking to that insane guy in V for Vendetta movie, the one who always wore that creepy, smiling plastic mask. Andrew leaned back in his chair, totally in his zone, and folded his arms behind his head before putting his feet on the chair next to her. His chest expanded and Lea imagined it shirtless. Darn it. The image of him in his boxers would haunt her for the rest of her life.
She dipped her chin at him and said, “I actually like the bad better.”
Baffled was what he looked right then. “Wait.” He held up a finger. “This is”—he tapped his chest, and pointed at the space between them. His eyebrows were up so high—“bad? This is me bad?”
She made a face that said yes. He made a face that said bullshit. Lea ignored him. She said, “The bad makes you look more… you.” And I like the you version better than your twin Hollywood, she wanted to add, but didn’t. She pointed at the door next. His eyes followed her hand. His forehead scrunched and his eyebrows lowered in a sharp V. “The good makes you look handsome.” Sexy and desirable too. “But not real.”
He blinked, and Lea held her breath.
His face hardened. A bit intimidating. A bit angry.
A lot angry.
Did she strike a nerve? Too judgmental? Oh, no. She was becoming her mother.
The jerky movement he did nearly made her yelp. He’d pulled his legs down, causing the chair to rattle noisily. Andrew leaned in forward with his arms crossed at the table. Lea couldn’t name the expression on his face, except it was ugly. She wouldn’t back down, though her heart drummed frantically against her ribcage. Andrew this close, and this intense, would wreck anyone’s heartbeat. She tried not to swallow excessively. His eyes stopped dead at her mouth. Feeling nervous, her hand went up to touch it, but something was there first, knocking the air out of her lungs. Completely.
Andrew was kissing her.
Kissing her. On the mouth. In his apartment. While sitting on separate wobbly chairs.
When had he moved his hand from the table to the back of her neck?
She was totally freaked out. She gripped the edge of the table with all her might.
Lea didn’t kiss him back. She had neither the will nor the time. He ended his kiss abruptly. If she couldn’t interpret the look on his face before he grabbed her face, she couldn’t even begin to guess what his look now meant. He was still close, too close, but his hand was back at the table, clenching into a fist. His breathing was heavy like he’d just spent the last minutes running. His eyes were so dark and they still stared at her mouth. She nervously licked her bottom lip. She saw a muscle jump in Andrew’s jaw.
“You like bad?” His voice low, intimidating. “This is me. Bad.”
Her eyes dropped to his mouth. He tasted wonderful. So, so him—a touch of arrogance mixed with gentleness and… sadness? Why was he sad?
Anyway, not important. This was more important.
Her first kiss.
Wait. Was it still called a kiss when she didn’t participate in the act? When there were no tongues involved or saliva exchanged? When it was that freaking short?
“Don’t,” she whispered.
“Don’t what? Don’t kiss you?” he half-barked, half-laughed. “You said you like bad.”
He turned scary and dangerous, like that one time in Japanese Garden. Lea would be lying if she said she wasn’t at least a bit afraid. For all she knew, he could suffer a double personality disorder thing, and now had turned psychotic on her.
“You don’t need to prove anything to me.”
Lea, Toto — My Lea’s theme song.
Tong Hua (also known as Fairy Tale), Guang Liang — This song is the heart and soul of the entire series. It’s a beautiful but rather sad song. I often listened to it on repeat, still do, just to get me in the mood. What does a broken fairy tale feel like? The lyrics not only speak to me about despair, bitterness, and disappointment, but also love and happiness.
Live While We’re Young, One Direction
Whataya Want From Me, Adam Lambert
Fly Me to the Moon, Jason Mraz
Just A Dream, Nelly
Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore, Reo Speedwagon
Welcome to My Life, Simple Plan
You Don’t See Me, Josie and the Pussycats Autumn in My Heart — This is the original soundtrack of a Korean’s drama I watched years ago. I have no idea who the singer is. I have no idea what the lyrics mean. I just know that it’s a sad, melancholy song that pierces through my heart.
Moments, One Direction
Belle of the Boulevard, Dashboard Confessional
Never Alone, Lady Antebellum & Jim Brickman
The Climb, Hollie Cavanagh
You’re All I Need, White Lion
When You Say You Love Me, Josh Groban
Love Me, Yiruma
All of Me, John Legend
Fix You, Coldplay
Kiss Me, Ed Sheeran
Angel, Robbie Williams
Arms, Christina Perri
Fade Into Me, David Cook
Melly is a full-time mom, wife, and fangirl. She used to work in a school and is very passionate about education.
Melly has been writing children’s books since 2011 under the name mellyberry. She loves reading all kinds of books in her spare time, mostly MG, YA, NA, contemporary, paranormal, and fantasy. She avoids horror and sci-fi as much as she can.
Melly was born in Indonesia and grew up in a multi-language environment. When she talks to people, she could accidentally string words from different languages into one sentence. When she does that, simply reminds her to speak properly.
Her ideal vacation always involves a beach; usually it’s the Nusa Dua beach, Bali. She spent a few years in USA to complete her Master degree. It was during that time that she’d fallen madly in love with San Francisco and the Bay Area. According to her, San Francisco is no doubt the most romantic city in the world.
She loves hearing from her readers and book-lovers everywhere.