[ ] Go skydiving
[ ] Wear a bikini in public
[ ] Start living
Single mom Ellen Fox couldn’t be more content—until she overhears her son saying he can’t go to his dream college because she needs him too much. If she wants him to live his best life, she has to convince him she’s living hers.
So Unity Leandre, her best friend since forever, creates a list of challenges to push Ellen out of her comfort zone. Unity will complete the list, too, but not because she needs to change. What’s wrong with a thirtysomething widow still sleeping in her late husband’s childhood bed?
The Friendship List begins as a way to make others believe they’re just fine. But somewhere between “wear three-inch heels” and “have sex with a gorgeous guy,” Ellen and Unity discover that life is meant to be lived with joy and abandon, in a story filled with humor, heartache and regrettable tattoos.
Coach Keith Kinne and his daughter had moved to Willowbrook five years ago. He’d joined the faculty of Birchly High as the football coach and athletic director. Washington State might not have the religious fever of Texas when it came to high school football, but there was still a lot of enthusiasm and the six-foot-two-inch, good-looking, dark-haired former NFL player had caught a lot of ladies’ attention.
Not hers, though. Mostly because she didn’t date—there wasn’t time and no one she met was ever that interesting. So when she’d found him cornered by a slightly aggressive novice teacher from the English department, Ellen had stepped in to save him and their friendship had been born. They hung out together because it was easy and they complemented each other. He’d helped her when she’d bought a new-to-her car a couple of years ago and she went Christmas shopping with him for his daughter.
“Why are you smiling?” he asked, picking up his beer.
“Just thinking that it’s nice we’re friends. Imagine how awkward things would have been if I’d gone after you when you first moved here.”
He frowned. “Don’t say that. If you had, we might not be friends now. I was fresh off a divorce and I wasn’t looking for trouble.”
“I’m not trouble.”
“You would have been if we’d dated.”
What on earth did he mean? “Trouble how?”
“You know. Boy-girl trouble.” He put down his beer. “Speaking of dating, Lissa got on me about my internet relationships.”
“You don’t have internet relationships. You find women to have sex with.”
He winced. “That’s what she said. Have you two been talking about me behind my back?”
“Oh, please. We have so many more interesting things to talk about.” She’d never understood the appeal of casual sex. It seemed so impersonal. Shouldn’t that level of intimacy be part of a relationship? Otherwise sex was just as romantic as passing gas.
“She told me to find someone I wasn’t embarrassed by so she could meet her.”
“It freaked me out.”
Ellen grinned. “That’s because there are emotions attached to relationships and you don’t like emotions.”
“I like some of them. I like winning.”
“Winning isn’t an emotion.”
“Fine. I like how winning makes me feel.” His expression turned smug. “I get emotions.”
“You’re faking it.” She let her smile fade. “Cooper wants to go to UCLA.”
“Are you sure? He told me Stanford.”
She heard a ringing in her ears as her whole world tilted. “W-what? Stanford? No. He can’t.”
“Why not? They have a better wrestling program. I’ve spoken to the coach there and he’s really interested. I’m working on getting Coop a one-on-one meeting when we visit the school. With his skills and grades, he’s got a good shot at getting in.”
“I’m going to faint.”
“Why? You should be happy.”
She glared at him. “Happy? Are you insane? I can’t afford UCLA and it’s a state school. How on earth would I pay for Stanford? Plus, why isn’t Cooper telling me about things like meeting a coach? I should know that.”
“Breathe,” Keith told her. “If he goes to Stanford, you’ll be fine. With what you make, his tuition will be covered. If he gets a partial scholarship, it could go toward room and board. Stanford would be a lot cheaper for you than UCLA.”
Her panic faded. “Are you sure?”
He looked at her. “You have to ask me that?”
“Sorry. Of course you’re sure. You do this all the time.” She picked up her chicken. “Yay, Stanford. Go team.”
“You don’t have any contact with his dad, do you? Because his income would count.”
“No contact,” she said cheerfully. “Jeremy disappeared before Coop was born. I hear from him every five or six years for five seconds and then he’s gone again. He signed his rights away and he’s never given me a penny.” She smiled. “I say that without bitterness because I’m loving the Stanford dream.”
Keith grinned. “You’re saying you can be bought for the price of tuition?”
She smiled back at him. “I can be bought for a whole lot less than that. So why didn’t he tell me about wanting to go to Stanford? Why is he keeping secrets?”
“He’s becoming a man. He needs his own dreams and plans.”
“But I’m his mom and he’s my baby boy. Make him stop growing up.”
“Sorry. Not my superpower.”
She remembered what it had been like when Coop had been younger. It had been the two of them against the world. “I miss being the most important person in his life, but you’re right. He needs to make his own way. What are the Stanford colors? Will they look good on me?”