Coping the quote
30+ quotes from Magnolia by Kristi Cook

Quotes from Magnolia

Kristi Cook ·  306 pages

Rating: (6.6K votes)


“You can take the girl out of Mississippi but you can't take the Mississippi out of the girl.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“I'll tell you about Ryder. He's the star quarter back of our Division 1A state championship football team. Top student in our class, he doesn't even have to work for it. He plays the piano like some kind of freaking prodigy, and I wouldn't be surprised if he composed sonatas or something in his spare time.

Oh, and did I mention that he's gorgeous? Of course he is. Six foot four, two hundred ten pounds of swoon-worthy good looks. Spiky dark hair, chocolate brown eyes, and full-on dimples.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“[The skeet tournament] It's a competition that I've entered – and won – every year since I was thirteen.
And here's the thing – it really pisses them off. All these hunting boys and their daddies show up decked out in camo gear, determined to beat the girl who has the audacity to challenge their masculinity.
And, okay, I'll admit it … I like to needle 'em just a bit. I purposely wear the girliest outfit possible – little flowery sundresses with cowboy boots, most years. Drives 'em nuts. If they're going to be beaten by a girl, they'd rather it be some tomboy wearing overalls and a flannel shirt, you know? Stupid sexist pigs.---(Jenna Cafferty)”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“I let the curtains fall back against the glass, effectively blocking the view of my nemesis standing there beneath the twinkle lights, looking way too hot in his charcoal-colored suit.

It would be so much easier to hate him if he didn't look so good. And I want to hate him; I really do.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“I grab one of the lanterns we’ve left in the mudroom and head toward my parents’ room, expecting Ryder to follow.
But he pauses at the bottom of the stairs. “I guess I should…you know. The guestroom. Should be safe upstairs now.”
I just stare at him, trying to decide if he’s serious. But then he reaches for the banister, and I realize he is. “You don’t have to,” I say, my cheeks flushing hotly. “I mean…I’m fine with you down here. With me.”
I can’t believe I just said that. But, jeez, everything’s so awkward now.
“You sure?” he asks, taking a step toward me.
I shift my weight from one foot to the other. “Yeah, I’m…you know, getting used to having you around. Anyway,” I say breezily, “we might get some more severe stuff tonight. Probably shouldn’t take any chances.”
Oh my God, I’m practically begging him to stay with me. What is wrong with me?
“You’re probably right,” Ryder says, relenting.
I try to think of something clever to say, but come up blank. So I turn and stalk off to my parents’ room instead.
Ryder finds me in the bathroom, brushing my teeth with bottled water. He stands in the doorway, leaning against the wooden frame, watching me. Our gazes meet in the mirror--which, of course, makes gooseflesh rise on my skin. I spit in the sink and take a swig of water to rinse.
“Jem?”
I turn, the marble countertop digging into my back. He moves toward me, closing the distance between us. I sway slightly on my feet as he reaches for me, his dark eyes filled with heat. His gaze sweeps across my face, warming my skin, making my breath catch in my throat.
Oh man.
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“Hey!” a voice calls out behind us, and we turn to find Ryder standing beside the row of orange lockers outside Mr. Jepsen’s classroom. I have no idea why he’s out of class early, and I don’t care. “I just heard the announcement--congrats.”
“Thanks,” Morgan chirps. “This is epic, right? Both of us.”
Ryder nods, his gaze shifting from Morgan to me.
I duck my head, averting my eyes. This is worse than when I hated him, I realize. At least then, it wasn’t awkward. I could just ignore him and go about my business. Now I feel all queasy and mad and breathless and guilty. I need to get away from him. Fast.
Mercifully, Morgan glances down at her watch. “We gotta get going. There’s a meeting in the media center.”
“Right,” Ryder says. “But, uh…Jemma, could I talk to you for a second after school today? Before practice, maybe?”
My gaze snaps up to meet his. “I…um, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“I’ll be quick,” he says. “Actually, maybe I’ll come over to your house after dinner. That way I can say hi to Nan.”
“She’s…really not up to visitors.”
“Really?” He fixes me with a stare, one brow raised in disbelief. “’Cause your mom said just the opposite.”
Crap. Now what? I’m out of excuses. Besides, the last thing I want to do is pique Morgan’s curiosity. “Oh, fine. Whatever.”
“Great. See you then.” He turns and heads back into the classroom without a backward glance.
I have no clue what he wants to talk about. Things are already uncomfortable enough between us as it is. No use making it worse by discussing things that don’t need to be discussed. We made out, even though I hadn’t bothered to break up with Patrick first. It was a mistake--a big mistake. End of story.
The memory of that night hits me full force--his shirt was off; mine was close to it. My cheeks flare with sudden heat as I recall the feel of his fingertips skimming up my sides, moving beneath my bra as he kissed me like no one’s kissed me before. Ho-ly crap.
Stop.
“What was that about?” Morgan asks me as we continue on our way. “He was acting kinda weird, wasn’t he?”
“I didn’t notice,” I say with a shrug, going for nonchalance. “Anyway, we should hurry. We’re probably late already.”
“Maybe he wants you to ask him to escort you,” she teases, hurrying her step.
I match my pace to hers, needing to take two steps for every one of hers. “Yeah, right,” I say breathlessly.
“Hey, you never know.” She looks at me and winks. “Weirder things have happened.”
Oh, man. She has no idea.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“Jemma?” Ryder murmurs, his mouth hot against my skin. “Is this okay?”
I tilt my head back against the wall, catching my breath. “Yeah,” I say, panting. “It’s definitely okay. Okay?”
His forehead is resting on my shoulder now, his hands skimming my hips. “You sure? I don’t want to…I mean, I know things are kinda weird right now, but--”
“Just kiss me, Ryder.”
So he does.
Does he ever.
And, of course, that’s when the dang-blasted tornado siren decides to go off again.
Seriously?
Ryder steps back from me, looking a little disoriented. It takes us both a few seconds to get our bearings. “Storage room,” he says. “I’ll get the cats; you get the dogs?”
I just nod, tugging my tank top back into place. Somehow it’d gotten pushed up, bunched around my bra. And Ryder…At some point he must have taken off his T-shirt, because he’s shirtless now, his jeans riding low on his hips.
Focus, Jemma. The dogs. I’ve got to get the dogs.
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“I dunno…After seeing him this summer at the beach, maybe Mama’s onto something. I mean, let’s face it--the boy’s hot. You could do worse. Much worse.”
“Yeah, well…there’s more to it than looks,” I grumble.
“Right. There’s also intelligence--check. Talent--check. Character--check.” She ticks each one off on her fingers. “As far as I can tell, he’s got it all--the total package. I mean, okay, so he’s the boy next door, and Mom and Laura Grace have been bugging you two about each other since forever. But seriously, what more do you want?”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


Thunk. I jump back in alarm, my heart pounding against my ribs.
And then I hear, “Jemma!” A loud whisper, coming from below. I open up the doors and step outside. Moving quickly to the railing, I lean against it and peer down to find Ryder standing there, staring up at me. He’s dressed in a suit and tie--the same charcoal suit he wore to the gala, with a narrow silver-blue tie.
“What are you doing?” I call down to him.
He drops a handful of pebbles, scattering them into the grass by his feet. “Shh! Can I come up?”
I lower my voice to match his. “What’s wrong with the front door?”
He eyes me with raised brows. “Really?”
I picture my parents downstairs. Imagine what questions they’d ask, what gleeful conclusions they’d leap to at the sight of him here, asking to see me. I shake my head and reach a hand down toward him. “Here, can you climb?”
There’s a vine-covered trellis against the house beside my balcony. If he can just get a foothold, he’s tall enough to swing himself up and over the railing.
Which he does in less than two minutes. Pretty impressive, actually. Once he’s got both feet on the balcony, he casually brushes himself off. Somehow, he manages to look like he just stepped off the cover of GQ.
I tip my head toward the window. “You wanna come in?”
“You think it’s safe?”
“Just let me go lock the door,” I say before hurrying back inside.
And don’t think I’m not amused by the irony. Because unlike normal people, we’re not sneaking around to avoid being caught and punished. Nope. On the contrary, our parents would celebrate if they caught us in my bedroom together. I’m talking music and streamers and champagne toasts.
As quietly as possible, I turn the key in the lock, listening for the click. Sorry, folks. No party tonight.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“He’s just so…so…unyielding.”
“Wow, is that one of your SAT words?”
“Ha-ha, very funny. You know what I mean, though.”
She shrugs. “Yeah, I know. He’s always been that way. I kind of figured he’d grow out of it.”
“Well, don’t hold your breath. That boy’s got a stick up his ass, if you ask me.”
“A very attractive one at that.”
“What, the stick or his ass?”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“So,” Ben says, tapping his fingers against his thighs, “Ryder’s going to watch out for you during the storm, I guess. Keep an eye on your place and everything?”
“I promised her dad I would,” Ryder says.
Because God knows that’s the only reason he’d do something nice for me. I can’t help but roll my eyes.
“Well, it’s not like I’m right down the road like Ryder is, but if you need anything, just let me know, okay? I don’t mind coming out there.”
“Thanks, Ben,” I say, patting his shoulder. “That’s sweet.”
And then Ryder leans over and turns on the radio, blasting a country music station loud enough to make conversation impossible.
I guess that means we’re done talking, which is fine by me.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“The thing is, Rosie’s pretty--really pretty. Sure, she’s dumb as a rock, but a lot of guys don’t care about that. She could have her pick of cute boys, but instead she continues to pine away for Ryder. Quite obviously, I might add.
Sometimes I think about pulling her aside and telling her to have a little self-respect, but what’s the point? She wouldn’t listen. She doesn’t like me very much, cousin or not. Besides, if the rumors about them hooking up are true, well…maybe there is something going on between them. How the heck would I know? And more important, why should I care?”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“Actually,” Mama says, “maybe I should see if Ryder’ll come over here and stay with you.”
“No way. Forget it. I told you. I’ll be fine.”
“I just hate the thought of you here all by yourself. Besides, Rob’s leaving for Jackson in a few days, and Ryder’ll be alone. He could come stay in the guest room.”
She can’t be serious. “What the heck, Mama? Why don’t we just share a bed?”
“Aww, honey, you know I don’t mean it like that,” she says.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“So…we keep it a secret?”
“Not exactly. I’ve got to tell Lucy and Morgan. Just…not our parents, okay? Besides, think how fun it will be, sneaking around.”
His eyes light with mischief. “Good point.”
“Don’t go getting any naughty ideas,” I tease. “C’mon, walk me to my car.”
He takes my hand and falls into step beside me, glancing down at me with a wicked grin.
“What?” I ask.
“Hey, you’re the one who brought up ‘naughty,’ not me.”
I poke him playfully in the ribs.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“I’ve got an idea,” he says. “Let’s pretend we’ve got to do a school project together. You know, say that we’ve been paired up against our will. We can make a big fuss about it--complain about having to spend so much time together.”
“While we secretly do lots of naughty things?” I offer.
He nods. “Exactly.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“Tropical storm update flashes menacingly across the television screen, and I reach for the remote, turning up the volume several notches. Tropical Storm Paloma has been officially upgraded to hurricane status, the local meteorologist announces--just a little too gleefully, if you ask me. It’s currently a category one, but they expect it to strengthen to a two before making landfall.
Oh, joy.
The US model is predicting landfall just west of Pensacola, Florida, while the European model predicts Gulfport, Mississippi. Seems like a toss-up, except that they’re sending Jim Cantore to Gulfport, and everyone knows what that means.
The Mississippi coast is doomed.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“Are you sure you’ll be okay?”
“I’ll be fine,” I repeat, a lump forming in my throat. “Just…take care of Nan, okay?”
She releases me and steps back, wiping her eyes with the back of one hand. “Lou said she’d drop by and check on you every once in a while, but if you need anything, you know you can call me or Daddy anytime--day or night.”
I just nod.
“And if there’s a problem here at the house, call Ryder right away. He’ll come over and--”
“But you said no boys,” I argue stubbornly.
She gives me a pointed look. “Except for Ryder.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“Ryder’s heart beats madly against my ear as we cling to each other, holding on for dear life. Adrenaline races through my veins, making my breath come in short gasps. I can feel Ryder’s fingers in my hair, his nails digging into my scalp as he presses me tightly against his body, his muscles bunched and rigid.
I know I’m supposed to hate him, but all I can think right now is how glad I am he’s here--glad that I’m not alone. I’ve never been so scared in all my life, but I know it would be worse without him.
It’s over in a matter of seconds. The freight-train roar quiets, the rain returning with a vengeance. I don’t need Jim Cantore to tell me it’s a rain-wrapped tornado. I’ve watched enough Storm Chasers to recognize it, even from my little hidey-hole under the stairs. If we had been outside, we probably wouldn’t have seen it coming, not till it was too late.
Ryder releases his grip on my head, and I pull away slightly, peering up at him. His deep brown eyes are slightly wild-looking, but otherwise he looks okay. His face isn’t a shade of green, at least. I lean back against him, my head resting on his shoulder now. We’re still holding hands, our fingers intertwined. Somehow, it doesn’t seem at all weird. It just feels…safe.
Neither of us says a word, not till the sirens are silenced a few minutes later.
“I guess we should give it a few minutes,” I say, my voice slightly hoarse. “You know, just to make sure that’s it. No point in going out just to climb right back in.”
He nods. “Besides, it’s perfectly comfortable in here.”
“Well, I wouldn’t go that far.”
“Okay, let me rephrase. It’s not uncomfortable.”
I swallow hard. “I hope it’s not bad out there. I’m afraid of what we’re going to find.”
“No matter how bad it is, we’re fine; the dogs and cats are fine. That’s what matters, Jemma. Anything else is replaceable.”
“You sound like my dad, you know that? Have you been studying at the Bradley Cafferty School of Platitudes or something?”
“Your dad’s a smart guy,” he says with a shrug.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“For several seconds, we stand there staring each other down. Anger radiates off the both of us in waves, crackling like electricity.
And then…he sort of staggers back. All his swagger, his bravado, crumbles away in a split second, just like that. “Why do we keep doing this? Yelling at each other like this?”
I let out my breath in a huff. “Because you always piss me off, that’s why, acting all smug and superior.”
“Yeah, and you always throw temper tantrums like some kind of spoiled brat. That’s just who we are. We’re not perfect.” He takes a deep, rattling breath. “But we’re good together, Jem.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“For several seconds, we stand there staring each other down. Anger radiates off the both of us in waves, crackling like electricity.
And then…he sort of staggers back. All his swagger, his bravado, crumbles away in a split second, just like that. “Why do we keep doing this? Yelling at each other like this?”
I let out my breath in a huff. “Because you always piss me off, that’s why, acting all smug and superior.”
“Yeah, and you always throw temper tantrums like some kind of spoiled brat. That’s just who we are. We’re not perfect.” He takes a deep, rattling breath. “But we’re good together, Jem.”
He’s right. I know he is, but…
“You say you love me, but you can’t even be bothered to tell me that you’re applying to a school in the same city as me? Not until the cat’s out the bag and everyone knows? What am I supposed to think, Ryder?”
He rakes a hand through his hair. “Don’t you get it? I want you to follow your dreams. To do what you want to do with your life--not what your parents want, or what Nan wants, or what I want. I didn’t want to take that away from you. If you knew I was thinking about going to Columbia…” He shakes his head.
“Then what? I’m having a hard time following your logic here.”
He sighs, his enormous shoulders seeming to sag. “I didn’t want you to apply just because I’m going to be in New York. Or hell, even worse, not apply because I’m going to be there. I was going to tell you in person. And then the scout shows up at the game tonight, and what was I supposed to do? My mom is freaking out; you’re freaking out.” He throws his hands in the air in frustration. “I’ve totally fucked this up.”
It hits me then, the truth of the situation. He made his decision about Columbia on his own, and he wanted me to be able to do the same. Of course.
Hell, if it hadn’t been for the storm bringing us together like it did, I probably would have turned down NYU rather than risk going off to New York with him, and that’s the truth.
I drop my gaze to the ground and take a deep breath, cursing myself for being such an idiot.
“No, you haven’t,” I say at last, raising my eyes to meet his confused ones.
“Haven’t what?”
“Fucked it up.” I take a tentative step toward him. “I get it now. God, Ryder. Why do you have to be so perfect?”
“Perfect? I’ve been in love with you for so long now, and I’ve never managed to get it right, not once.”
I have to bite my lip to keep from grinning. “News flash--I think you’ve finally got it this time.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“I didn’t want you to apply just because I’m going to be in New York. Or hell, even worse, not apply because I’m going to be there. I was going to tell you in person. And then the scout shows up at the game tonight, and what was I supposed to do? My mom is freaking out; you’re freaking out.” He throws his hands in the air in frustration. “I’ve totally fucked this up.”
It hits me then, the truth of the situation. He made his decision about Columbia on his own, and he wanted me to be able to do the same. Of course.
Hell, if it hadn’t been for the storm bringing us together like it did, I probably would have turned down NYU rather than risk going off to New York with him, and that’s the truth.
I drop my gaze to the ground and take a deep breath, cursing myself for being such an idiot.
“No, you haven’t,” I say at last, raising my eyes to meet his confused ones.
“Haven’t what?”
“Fucked it up.” I take a tentative step toward him. “I get it now. God, Ryder. Why do you have to be so perfect?”
“Perfect? I’ve been in love with you for so long now, and I’ve never managed to get it right, not once.”
I have to bite my lip to keep from grinning. “News flash--I think you’ve finally got it this time.”
His smile makes my heart leap. “Do you have any idea what was going through my head when you first told me about NYU? I couldn’t believe it. It was like…like a gift fell right into my lap. Like winning the lottery. All this time I thought going off to New York would mean leaving you behind. And now--”
“Now we both better get in,” I finish for him, though it probably wasn’t what he was going to say. I mean, he’s a shoo-in for Columbia. Perfect grades, high SATs, and a superstar quarterback the likes of which the Ivy League rarely sees. He’s every college admissions director’s dream. But me? If I get into NYU, it’ll be by the skin of my teeth. Because they want geographic diversity or something lame like that. I’m nothing special.
“Where will you go if you don’t get into NYU?” he asks.
“Where else?” I say. “Ole Miss, with Lucy and Morgan.”
“Then Ole Miss is my backup too. Here’s the thing, Jem. I’m going wherever you’re going--whether it’s New York or Oxford. I’m not missing my chance this time.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“God, Ryder. Why do you have to be so perfect?”
“Perfect? I’ve been in love with you for so long now, and I’ve never managed to get it right, not once.”
I have to bite my lip to keep from grinning. “News flash--I think you’ve finally got it this time.”
His smile makes my heart leap.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“As I follow them up, my phone buzzes. I pause, my heart racing with anticipation. I know it’s from Ryder even before I see his name on the screen, followed by three lines of text.
My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.
Romeo and Juliet?
I type back, smiling giddily. I should know this--we studied the play in ninth grade.
Yeah. It’s Juliet’s line, but it works for me.
I love you, Ryder Marsden.
Not half as much as I love you, Jemma Cafferty.

Sighing dreamily, I shove the phone back in my jacket pocket and hurry off to find my friends.
Do I ever have a tale to tell them.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“I get it now. God, Ryder. Why do you have to be so perfect?”
“Perfect? I’ve been in love with you for so long now, and I’ve never managed to get it right, not once.”
I have to bite my lip to keep from grinning. “News flash--I think you’ve finally got it this time.”
His smile makes my heart leap. “Do you have any idea what was going through my head when you first told me about NYU? I couldn’t believe it. It was like…like a gift fell right into my lap. Like winning the lottery. All this time I thought going off to New York would mean leaving you behind. And now--”
“Now we both better get in,” I finish for him, though it probably wasn’t what he was going to say. I mean, he’s a shoo-in for Columbia. Perfect grades, high SATs, and a superstar quarterback the likes of which the Ivy League rarely sees. He’s every college admissions director’s dream. But me? If I get into NYU, it’ll be by the skin of my teeth. Because they want geographic diversity or something lame like that. I’m nothing special.
“Where will you go if you don’t get into NYU?” he asks.
“Where else?” I say. “Ole Miss, with Lucy and Morgan.”
“Then Ole Miss is my backup too. Here’s the thing, Jem. I’m going wherever you’re going--whether it’s New York or Oxford. I’m not missing my chance this time.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“Ryder! What’s taking you so long?”
“I’m on my way!” he yells back.
It feels like forever before he pushes open the door and ducks inside. Then I see why it took him so long. He’s somehow got the three cats tucked under one arm and the cake plate clutched in the other hand. No spare for a flashlight or lantern--so he accomplished this all in the dark.
“Here,” he says, handing off the cake to me before releasing Kirk, Spock, and Sulu into the crate and latching the door.
“Seriously, Ryder? You brought the cake?”
He shrugs. “I was hungry.”
Hmm, I guess all that kissing worked up his appetite. For cake. I’m not sure if I should be offended or not. On the plus side, he doesn’t look like he’s about to puke. So we’re making progress as far as his fear of storms goes. I guess that’s something.
“Did you happen to bring a fork?” I ask, setting the plate on the makeshift tabletop.
He produces two from his pocket, holding them up triumphantly. So we eat cake while the sirens blare. Actually, it doesn’t sound that bad out there. Still, the fact that we’re so calm--that Ryder’s so calm--should tell you how routine this is getting. As long as we don’t hear that awful freight-train sound, we’re good.
“What happened to the cake?” he asks between bites. “It looks like someone mutilated it while I was gone.”
“Sorry,” I mutter. “Guess I did some stress bingeing. You realize you’re not wearing a shirt, right?”
He glances down and shrugs, his cheeks flushing ever so slightly. “Sorry ’bout that.”
It might seem silly that he’s apologizing, but at Magnolia Landing, you don’t come to the table unless you’re fully dressed. It’s one of Laura Grace’s most unbendable rules--you dress for meals, even breakfast. Not that this counts as a meal, and I’m not sure you could call this plywood-on-top-of-a-crate thing a “table.” But still…
By the time the sirens shut off, we’ve completely cleaned the plate, even scraping off the hardened frosting with our fingers. “That was quick,” I say, setting aside the now-empty plate.
Ryder nods. “I guess we should give it a minute or two. You know, make sure it’s not coming back on.”
So we wait. Silently. Ryder can’t even meet my eyes, and all I want to do is stare at his lips. This is crazy. I mean, what do we do now--now that the sirens are off and the cake is gone?
Apparently, the answer is pretend like nothing happened.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“I guess we should give it a minute or two. You know, make sure it’s not coming back on.”
So we wait. Silently. Ryder can’t even meet my eyes, and all I want to do is stare at his lips. This is crazy. I mean, what do we do now--now that the sirens are off and the cake is gone?
Apparently, the answer is pretend like nothing happened.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“Where will you go if you don’t get into NYU?” he asks.
“Where else?” I say. “Ole Miss, with Lucy and Morgan.”
“Then Ole Miss is my backup too. Here’s the thing, Jem. I’m going wherever you’re going--whether it’s New York or Oxford. I’m not missing my chance this time.”
“Why?” The word just tumbles out of my mouth before I can stop myself. “You’re going to be some kind of college superstar, whether it’s the SEC or the Ivy league. You’ll probably win a freaking Heisman.”
“And you just might win an Oscar,” he counters.
I roll my eyes. “Yeah, right. Please.”
“Why not? God, Jemma, you don’t even see it. How strong and smart and tenacious you are. Everything you do, you do well. I’ve never seen you put your mind to something and not come out on top. You win that trophy at cheer camp every single summer--what’s it called, the superstar award? Only three people at the whole camp get it or something like that, right?”
“How’d you know about that?”
“Miss Shelby told my mom. I think they put it in the yearbook, too, don’t they?”
“Maybe,” I say with a shrug. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s just a cheerleading trophy.
“And how long did it take you to win your first shooting tournament after your dad bought you that gun? Six months, tops? From what I hear, you’re the best shot in all of Magnolia Branch.”
“Okay, that’s true,” I say, a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth.
He reaches for my hand. “And then there’s those dresses you make, like the one you wore to homecoming. You take something old and make it new--turn it into something special. My mom says you and Lucy could make a fortune selling ’em, and I bet she’s right. Don’t you see? You’re not just good at the stuff you do--you’re the best. That’s just the way you are. So I have no doubt that you’re going to be some award-winning filmmaker if you put your mind to it.”
My heart swells unexpectedly. “You really think that?”
He nods, his dark eyes shining. “I really do.”
“Tell me again why we’ve hated each other all these years?”
“Because we’re both stubborn as mules?” he offers.
I can’t help but laugh. “Yeah, I’d say that about covers it.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“Tell me again why we’ve hated each other all these years?”
“Because we’re both stubborn as mules?” he offers.
I can’t help but laugh. “Yeah, I’d say that about covers it.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“Tell me again why we’ve hated each other all these years?”
“Because we’re both stubborn as mules?” he offers.
I can’t help but laugh. “Yeah, I’d say that about covers it.”
“I love you, Jemma. I’ll wait as long as it takes for you to feel the same. I’ll wait forever if I have to.”
I suck in a breath. He doesn’t know. How would he? He’s said it to me, but I’ve never once said it back. “Trust me, you had me at ‘prettiest girl in all of Magnolia Branch,’ and then you sealed the deal with that whole ‘best shot’ thing.”
“Wait…Are you saying…I mean--”
“Shhh.” I put my finger against his lips. “Though you’re really cute when you’re stuttering like that.”
“Hey, I don’t stutter.”
“Neither do I. I love you, Ryder Marsden. See?” I rise up on tiptoe and press my lips against his.
His arms encircle my waist, drawing me closer, till there’s no space whatsoever between our bodies, till I can’t tell where he ends and I begin. His mouth moves against mine, and he kisses me hungrily. Thoroughly. Expertly. And so very hotly.
This kiss is somehow different from the ones that have come before it. It’s a promise that he is mine, that I am his. It’s an acceptance of our fate. It’s the ultimate acknowledgement of something that’s been there all along, just waiting for us to discover it. To enjoy it. To celebrate it.
So we do.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


“What do you think, Jemma”
It takes a second to realize that she’s talking to me. I’m too focused on the fact that Ryder’s sitting beside me--just inches away--holding my hand beneath the table. “What?” I ask, glancing around at the expected faces. “Oh, the train. Yeah, maybe.”
“They should go up a week early,” Laura Grace declares. “Take some time to see the city. Maybe catch a couple of Broadway shows or ball games or something. We could go with them!”
“No,” Ryder says, a little too loudly. “I just meant…we should probably do it on our own, me and Jemma. Learn our way around and all that. Y’all can come up for Thanksgiving break, once we get settled and everything.”
Laura Grace nods. “That’s a great idea. We could get rooms at the Plaza, watch the Macy’s Parade. And the two of you can show us around.”
Ryder nods. “Exactly.”
Beneath the table, I give his hand a squeeze.
Laura Grace eyes my plate suspiciously. “You’re just pushing your food around, aren’t you? You’ve barely taken two bites. I thought you loved Lou’s Cornish hens.”
“I do. I’m sorry. All I can think about is that English project due this week.” I look over at Ryder with a faux scowl. “We’re already way behind--you’ve always got some excuse. We should probably work on it tonight.”
“Probably so,” Ryder says with an exasperated-sounding sigh.
“That’s the third project the two of you have been paired up on,” Mama says, shaking her head. “I hope you two can behave well enough to get your work done properly. No more arguing like the last time.”
We’d pretended to fight over a calculus project. Yes, a calculus project. Is there really any such thing?
“We’re trying really hard to behave,” I say, shooting Ryder a sidelong glance. “Right?”
His cheeks pinken deliciously at the innuendo. I love it when Ryder blushes. Totally adorable.
“Right,” he mumbles, his gaze fixed on his lap.”
― Kristi Cook, quote from Magnolia


About the author

Kristi Cook
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