Hired Hottie by Kelsie Rae

Prologue





Charlie





Resting my head against the school bus window, I squeeze my eyes shut. But it doesn’t make the mean boy’s words go away.

Why do you have a boy name? Are you a boy? Your hair is short like a boy. Charlie’s a boy! Charlie’s a boy!

With a sniff, I use the sleeve of my shirt to wipe under my nose.

Bunch of jerks.

The bus bench shakes as someone plops down beside me. Slapping his hand against the brim of my baseball hat, my best friend greets me. “Hey, Charlie.”

“Hi,” I mumble, but I don’t look up at him.

“Charlie?” he pushes, leaning closer.

I scoot closer to the window.

“Leave me alone, Levi.”

“Are you crying?” He sounds surprised. But I guess that makes sense. I’ve never been a crier.

Shaking my head, I wipe my tear-stained cheeks but keep my eyes glued to the front of the school.

Why haven’t we left yet? Isn’t everyone on the bus?

I want to go home. Well, to Levi’s home. His mom takes care of me while my dad is at work.

“Charlie, look at me,” Levi says quietly.

Knowing he won’t stop bugging me until I do, I peek up at him. He’s bigger than me. He’ll be in middle school soon, and I’ll be stuck here for another three years.

The thought brings another tear spilling down my cheek.

“What’s wrong?” he whispers before looking around the bus to see if anyone heard him. I know he doesn’t care whether people eavesdrop on us, but he knows I do. I don’t like being the center of attention. I don’t like anyone noticing me. Period.

Unless it’s Levi.

I stay quiet.

“Was someone being a jerk to you again?”

Dropping my chin to my chest, I try not to cry even more. My dad always tells me to be tough. I can be tough.

“Who was it, Charlie? What were they saying?”

“I don’t want you to get in trouble for beating anyone up,” I plead. My voice is kind of squeaky as I dare to look over at Levi again.

“I won’t get in trouble,” he chuckles. “Just tell me what happened.”

“They said I was a boy.”

“Who’s they?”

“C-Conner.”

“Conner Daniels? Again?” Shaking his head, Levi nudges my shoulder. “You’re not a boy, Charlie.”

“B-But I have boy hair. And a boy’s name.”

“Your dad gave you a short haircut ‘cause he doesn’t know how to do bows and stuff. That doesn’t make you a boy.”

“But my name—”

“Is awesome, Charlie. And your full name is Charlotte. That’s a girl’s name.”

“But he said—”

“Forget what he said.” His jaw tightens as he holds my stare. “You’re better than that, Charlie. Don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you’re not perfect, okay? They don’t know you like I do. And if they ever make you feel anything less than that, you tell me. I’ll take care of it.”

“But I don’t want—”

Slapping the brim of my hat, again, he says, “No buts, Charlie. I got your back. Always. Understand?”

I stay quiet because I don’t want to argue with him, but I also don’t think he’s totally right, either.

“What is it?” Levi pushes, reading my mind. He always does that.

“H-how will you have my back when you go to middle school?”

With a shrug, a confident Levi leans back into the brown cushion and gives me his simple answer. “I see you every day, Charlie. Just because I won’t ride the bus home with you doesn’t mean we’re going to stop hanging out. Your dad still needs my mom to watch you. And even if he didn’t, I’m not going anywhere. We’re best friends.”

“Forever?” I whisper, staring into his green-brown eyes.

“Yeah, Charlie. You’re like my little sister, and if you have any problems while I’m at Granger Middle School, you just tell me, and I’ll get it taken care of. Promise.”

Smiling softly, and feeling hope for the first time since recess, I rest my head against his shoulder.

Life might be crappy sometimes, but at least I have Levi.





Chapter One





Charlie





The sound of knuckles tapping against the front door grabs my attention as I slip on my jacket and peck my dad on his wrinkled forehead.