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Caden Miller is Willowbrook High School's notorious rebel, known for his devil-may-care attitude, grey hoodies, and a reputation that precedes him. Ruby Norman, on the other hand, is Willowbrook's epitome of sweetness and innocence. She excels academically, volunteers at the local shelter, and dreams of a life beyond the confines of her small town. When their paths cross, sparks fly, igniting a rollercoaster of emotions that neither Caden nor Ruby saw coming. Underneath their heated exchanges and antagonistic banter, a deep-rooted attraction simmers. The more they try to deny it, the stronger their feelings become. Drawn to each other like magnets, they embark on a forbidden romance that challenges societal norms and tests their own personal boundaries.
Ruby realized with clammy fingers that tomorrow was the day as the tip of the red pen smoothly completed the cross mark in the tiny square of the calendar. She had run out of time to prepare, feeling the weight of anticipation settling upon her.
The impending arrival of tomorrow consumed Ruby's thoughts, causing her heart to race and her stomach to churn with anxiety. Despite having carefully considered this day throughout the past week, her nerves threatened to drive her to madness as it drew near. The absence of her friends, who had chosen to continue their education at her former boarding school, only worsened her unease. Even Luke, her close companion, would not be there.
Glancing at the untouched glass of warm milk her mother had placed on the bedside table hours ago, Ruby noted its transformation into a cold liquid mirroring the raindrops against her window. The thought of its taste made her cringe, and she abandoned the book in her hands, too weary to continue reading. Trying to reassure herself, she whispered, "Everything is going to be fine. You can do it."
A knock at the bedroom door interrupted her solitude, and she instantly recognized her mother's presence. "Come in, Mom," she murmured, grabbing a pillow and burying her face within it.
Dressed in a nightgown, her mother entered, her face etched with a frown and her eyes betraying her sleeplessness. It was evident that she hadn't found a moment of rest either. Approaching the bed, she embraced Ruby and planted a gentle kiss on her forehead, saying, "I knew you would be awake. Stop worrying, Ruby. It's only high school."
"But none of my friends are going to be there!" Ruby lamented.
"You can always make new ones. This is your opportunity to branch out, experience other things," her mother responded cheerfully.
"I can experience the world better by reading about it," Ruby retorted, her gaze drifting towards the bookshelf in her room.
Lifting her head from the pillow, Ruby noticed her mother's gaze fixated on the untouched glass of milk. She braced herself for a scolding, but to her surprise, her mother smiled. "Drink it," she encouraged, bringing the glass closer to Ruby's lips. Hesitant, Ruby gulped it down.
"Good night, sweetheart. You're going to have a great day tomorrow," her mother reassured, switching off the bedside lamp and enveloping the room in darkness.
As time passed, Ruby's eyelids grew heavy, but her worries refused to dissipate. They manifested as recurring dreams throughout the night, bordering on nightmares.
Ruby glanced at her wristwatch, realizing she still had twenty minutes to reach her first class. Despite repeatedly consulting the campus map, she couldn't locate her classroom.
Contemplating asking a nearby group of students, she dismissed the idea, urging herself forward with determination. "You can do it," she whispered to herself, taking a step forward.
Five minutes later, she stood outside Room 201, where her first class of the day was scheduled. Suddenly, she remembered that she needed to meet the Department Head to submit some documents.
Due to her former school's delayed term, Ruby was starting a month later than the other students. Consulting the map once more, she realized she would have to walk to the second floor, take a right, and then make another left to find the office.
After taking a right turn, Ruby found herself facing a wall instead of a corridor, realizing there was an error in the map. With no other option, she approached a group of six students standing a few meters away, engaged in lively conversation.
Clearing her throat, Ruby spoke up, "Excuse me?"
The group's chatter ceased abruptly, and all eyes turned towards her, making her self-conscious.
"Hey?" a girl of the same height as Ruby responded, stepping forward. She wore a loose-fitting t-shirt that draped lazily over her body, and her straight, silky hair cascaded past her waist. Ruby could still sense the lingering gaze of the others in the group.
Offering a small smile, Ruby introduced herself, "I'm Ruby, a new student in senior year. I was wondering if you could help me find the office?" Her lips pressed together with hopeful anticipation.
The girl glanced at the map in Ruby's hands but refrained from commenting. Smiling warmly, she introduced herself, "Of course! I'm Olivia. The office is-"
"Hey, Liv!" a masculine voice interrupted her. It belonged to one of the guys from the group, who strode towards them, his gaze fixed on Ruby. He stood tall, boasting broad shoulders, and his curly hair peeked out from under his jacket's hood.
Ignoring Olivia, he addressed Ruby directly, "I'll show you the way to the office. The map's outdated," he offered.
"Sure," Ruby replied, offering a hesitant smile.
As he started walking, Olivia pulled him back, whispering something into his ear. Ruby strained to catch the words but couldn't. She observed the dismissive wave the guy gave to Olivia and continued walking.
He pointed to a door on the right and said, "You see that door? That's the office. The map hasn't been updated. It was relocated here a few days ago," he explained, accompanied by a smile.
"Okay. Thank you," Ruby responded, making her way towards the wooden door with a nameplate that read 'Office'. A hint of hesitation flickered in her mind, sensing some potential trouble, but she dismissed the feeling. Caden's gaze remained fixed on her, and she couldn't help but notice the group inching closer, which felt rather strange.
Checking her wristwatch quickly, Ruby pushed the office door open and stepped inside.
In a split second, she realized she was too late. The glass of milkshake strategically positioned above the door had been flipped upside down, drenching her hair and jacket with its contents.
Laughter assaulted her ears. She turned around and saw Caden leaning against a wall, his hand clutching his stomach as he laughed at her misfortune. He glanced at another guy, Daniel, who joined in the amusement. Daniel held a phone, recording the whole incident. "Did you get it, Dan?" Caden asked.
Daniel confirmed with a chuckle, "I did! Let's get out of here." The group retreated, leaving Ruby standing there, drenched and humiliated.
Caden, struggling to regain his composure, straightened up and locked eyes with Ruby. Anger surged through her as the milkshake dripped from her hair. Her nostrils flared, and without a second thought, her hand connected with Caden's cheek, delivering a forceful slap that sent him stumbling backward. It took him a moment to realize what had just happened—the impact of her slap registering on his face.
Their expressions mirrored each other—Ruby fueled by anger, and Caden realizing that this was only the beginning.
Gently patting his reddened cheek, he growled through gritted teeth, "You're going to pay for this!"
An hour later, Ruby found herself standing in front of the massive mirror in the girls' bathroom, groaning in frustration and occasionally stomping her feet as she tried to remove the remnants of milkshake from her hair. Thankfully, her jacket had protected her t-shirt from being spoiled. She carefully wiped away the few drops that had dripped onto her jeans, and the previously empty dustbin beside her was now filled with discarded tissues.
It was impossible for Ruby to go back home, change, and return to school in time. Taking the city bus would consume two hours, and with only four lectures scheduled for the day, she would miss all of them.
Feeling frustrated and wanting to appear presentable in class, Ruby checked her watch and realized there were only ten minutes left in the first lecture. Physics was her favorite subject, and she had prepared diligently for this lesson. However, all her efforts had been in vain because of that infuriating guy, Caden.
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