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By BB Easton
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Get swept up in all the gritty, wild details of a roller-coaster love story with the ultimate bad boy in the first spinoff novel after 44 CHAPTERS ABOUT 4 MEN, the book that inspired the hit Netflix original series SEX/LIFE.
In 1997, Ronald “Knight” McKnight was the meanest, most misunderstood guy in town. . . perhaps on the entire planet. He hated everyone, except for BB Easton—the perky, quirky punk chick he couldn’t avoid.
BB, on the other hand, liked everybody . . . except for Knight. She was scared to death of him, actually. All she wanted was to marry Little Mermaid’s Prince Eric-lookalike and king of the local punk scene Lance Hightower.
But Knight was patient. Persistent. Unexpected. And once he got under BB’s skin, her life would never be the same.
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 by BB Easton
Cover design by BB Easton
Cover copyright © 2019 by Hachette Book Group, Inc.
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About the Author
Books by BB Easton
Skin is a work of fiction based on characters and events introduced in BB Easton’s memoir, 44 Chapters About 4 Men. While the settings and many of the situations portrayed in this book are true to life, the physical characteristics and names of all characters other than BB have been altered to protect the identities of everyone involved.
Due to excessive profanity, violence, graphic sexual content, and themes of juvenile delinquency, this book is not intended for—and should probably be completely hidden from—anyone under the age of eighteen.
This book is dedicated to the first boy I ever loved. The one who knew that I deserved better. The one who saved me by setting me free. The one who inspired me to become a school psychologist.
I'm sorry I couldn't fix you.
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If you've read 44 Chapters About 4 Men, then you're familiar with my style. It's sarcastic and profane. It's sexy and fun. It's embarrassingly honest, and it is nothing to be taken too seriously. Thirty-two words in that book aren't even in the dictionary for Christ's sake. I just made them up.
When I sat down to write Knight's story—this story—I wanted to be honest. I wanted to write about what it was really, truly like to be a fifteen-year-old girl from a working-class family attending an overcrowded, underfunded public high school in the late 1990s. And in order to do that, I knew I would have to bring up a lot of touchy subjects—underage sex being a big one, but also racism, homophobia, suicide, drugs, alcohol, gangs, guns, body modification, bullying, domestic violence, teen pregnancy, eating disorders, mental illness, first loves, first losses, and just plain feeling lost. That was my high school experience—and even though I knew the subject matter would be heavy—I wanted to write about it my way. In my quirky, lighthearted style.
But they didn't give a shit what I wanted to do.
Knight and BB weren't exactly known for following directions in real life, and their characters were no exception. I realized early on that this was not going to be another memoir. These characters simply wouldn't allow it. If I told them, "You're supposed to go left here," they would give me the middle finger and say, "But we wanted to go right, so we're going right this time." Eventually I tossed my historian hat out the window—it never fit right anyway—and just tried to keep up as Knight and BB ran circles around me. I would put them in familiar settings, try to recreate exact scenarios, and they would do what they did best—whatever the fuck they wanted.
So, for those of you left-brained types who are going to want to know which parts of this book are true and which parts are fictitious, all I can tell you is that most of what you are about to read actually happened, and the parts that didn't actually happen were so true to the characters that they very easily could have happened.
It's important to note that all of the secondary characters are amalgams of people I knew in high school—Frankenteens assembled from the assorted physical characteristics and personality traits of at least two of my closest friends each. Any resemblance to a single living person is purely coincidental. All names have been changed as well—including the name of my school and Knight's tattoo parlor—and I compressed the timeline of events to fit into a single school year. The story just flowed better that way.
I learned through this process that by letting go of reality a little bit, my characters were free to express themselves more fully than they ever were in real life. In that way, this story is even more honest than a rigid recounting of events would have been. It gets to the heart and soul of who Knight and BB really were, what my high school was really like, and all the terrible and beautiful things that really happened when the grown-ups weren't looking.
This book is my truth. It's just not one hundred percent the truth.
Positive, positive, positive.
It was my first day of tenth grade, and I was not going to be nervous. I was going to think deliriously happy, positive thoughts. I was going to skip down the familiar halls of Peach State High School with a bounce in my steel-toed step and a self-confident smirk on my face because this was going to be the year that Lance Hightower finally proclaimed his undying love for me. It just had to be.
I wasn't going to beat myself up about the fact that I had been trying and failing to make out with that boy since middle school, nor was I going to focus on the fact that I still had zero breasts at the age of fifteen. No, I was going to fantasize about all the wildly spontaneous, highly public ways Lance might choose to propose. After all, I'd just learned—thanks to my dad's unhealthy obsession with watching CNN—that it was totally legal for teenagers to get married in Georgia as long as they had written permission from one of their parents. That wouldn't be a problem for me, seeing as how I'd perfected my mom's signature by the age of twelve.
I was also feeling pretty damn good because I knew I'd picked out the perfect back-to-school outfit. My trademark black combat boots and wingtip eyeliner were firmly in place; I was rocking some kickass black spider web fishnets under my favorite pair of too-short-for-school cut-off jeans; my gray midriff T-shirt boasted the logo of an indie band I was absolutely certain no one had heard of; and my arms were practically pinned to my sides with the weight of a thousand metal, beaded, and leather bracelets. Also, I'd started smoking over the summer (for real this time), and my shorter, edgier, more angled haircut got tons of compliments, even from Lance (which was the whole point).
Of course, all my positivity went to shit as soon as I made it to the church parking lot for a smoke between classes.
It was no secret at Peach State High School that if you wanted to do something bad, all you had to do was walk out past the rust buckets in the student parking lot, step over a guardrail, and clear the tree line. That was it. On the other side you would find yourself in a magical wooded wonderland called the church parking lot, a place where kids could escape the oppression of our overcrowded, underfunded public learning institution to laugh, smoke, and be merry (if only for seven minutes at a time). The church was a long abandoned one-room chapel that was in the process of being reclaimed by the forest, and its parking lot was nothing more than a patch of gravel, but to a band of misfit teenagers it was heaven.
Or so I'd heard. I'd never actually ventured out to the church parking lot during school hours before, but this was my year. I just knew that on the other side of those woods I'd find my people. Artsy, quirky, free spirits who shared my appreciation for alternative rock, Avant Garde art, and experimental photography. The group that would embrace me with open arms, invite me to sit with them at lunch, and host raging keggers like the ones I saw on TV.
Instead what I found was the most intimidating group of human beings I'd ever seen in one place. Fuck me. Those kids were cool with a capital C and twenty-seven Os. They had multi-colored hair. They had piercings. They had expertly painted red lips that I could never pull off with my redheaded complexion. And the accessories—more chokers and studded belts than you could shake a flannel shirt at. One girl was even wearing denim overalls with the legs cut off and one shoulder strap undone. I wasn't punk rock—I was Punky fucking Brewster.
At least my combat boots were vintage and my eyeliner was flawless. That I knew for sure. I'd been perfecting that goddamn cat eye since the age of ten. As long as I kept my grades up my hippie parents never really gave a shit how much makeup I wore, or what I dressed like, or how many F-bombs I dropped at the dinner table. (And by dinner table, I mean my TV tray in the living room.) So I stood on the periphery and tried not to stare, clinging to both my Camel Light and the hope that someone would at least admire my eyeliner art.
I watched the guys all squeezing and kneading and nuzzling their girlfriends, and I watched their girlfriends' giant boobs bounce with every giggle.
I bet they have sex, I thought. Every one of them.
My face and neck suddenly felt itchy and hot.
Annnnd, now I'm blushing. Fantastic.
I dropped my head and stared down at my boots, which I could see with no problem at all thanks to my complete and total lack of breasts.
Why can't the heroin chic look still be in? Maybe it'll make a comeback. Please let it make a comeback.
Everyone out there looked like Drew Barrymore and I looked like somebody drew a smiley face and freckles on one of Drew Barrymore's pinky fingers.
My BFF, Juliet Iha, was supposed to be meeting me out there, but after a few minutes it became pretty clear that she'd flaked out on me yet again.
She's probably out here somewhere fogging up Tony's car windows.
Juliet was dating a grown ass man who'd dropped out of high school at least a decade prior and never seemed to have anywhere pressing to be. Without fail, that creepy fucker always seemed to be lurking around wherever we were, leaning up against his busted ass old Corvette like an actor cast to play the part of "Potential Child Molester" in a P.S.A. from 1985. Tony definitely gave me the "no feeling," but Juliet really liked him and he was old enough to buy us cigarettes, so I kept my mouth shut.
Just as I was about to stamp out my Camel Light and drag my sad ass back inside, I felt two solid arms wrap around my body from behind. One snaked around my ribcage and the other hoisted me up from behind my knees. Before I could scream "Rape!" I was flipped completely upside down and plopped, ass up, on the shoulder of a giant. It wasn't until he swatted my backside and laughed in that glorious, soft tone that made my body go all warm and bubbly that I realized I'd been captured by my immortal beloved, Lance Hightower.
Lance Motherfucking Hightower. God, he was perfection. Lance was in my grade, but he was easily half a foot taller than most of the upperclassmen and already filled out like a man. Dude had a permanent five o'clock shadow at the age of fifteen. Despite having the dark, chiseled features of a Disney prince, Lance was a punk rock icon. Every day he sported the same effortlessly badass look: faded black Converse, faded black jeans, and a faded black hoodie covered in patches advertising obscure European underground punk bands and anarchist political statements that he painted on with Wite-Out during class. That hoodie was so well known it probably had its own fanzine.
Topping off all that faded black packaging was an equally faded, slightly grown-out, green Mohawk. It probably would have added another three inches to Lance's already six-foot-three-inch frame if he ever bothered to style it, and the color totally brought out the green flecks in his coppery hazel eyes.
Oh, Lance. I had been obsessing over him since the sixth grade. I admired him from afar until last year when we fatefully wound up sharing a pottery wheel in art class. The flirting that ensued was incendiary. Atomic. The only problem was that I was technically "dating" his best friend Colton at the time, so things never really got off the ground.
Then a goddamn miracle happened. Colton up and moved to Las Vegas to live with his dad right in the middle of the spring semester. I pretended to be sad for a few hours, out of respect, then immediately resumed my campaign to become the mother of Lance's children. The only problem was that Lance and I didn't have any classes together, so all of my flirting had to be done in seven minute increments between periods. But in tenth grade, what I was sure would be the best year ever, Lance and I had been assigned to the same motherfucking lunch period. I was going to be sporting his last name by May. I just knew it.
"Lance! What are you doing?" I giggled. "Put me down! I can't breathe with your shoulder in my stomach!"
Lance chuckled. "That's so sweet. You take my breath away too, girl."
God, his voice. Like fucking angel bells. For such a big dude with such an in-your-face look, Lance's voice was surprisingly soft and flirty. It was a total mindfuck the first few times I heard that sweet sound come out of that ruggedly handsome face. And the pick-up lines. I swear to Jesus he had a new one every time I saw him. I fucking loved Lance Hightower.
I giggled harder, which made my stomach hurt even worse, and swatted at his perfect, patch-covered ass. "Put me down, asshole!"
Before he could comply, we heard a sickening smack from across the parking lot following by a deep voice shouting, "Say it again, motherfucker!"
Lance held on tight to the backs of my thighs and swung around to face the commotion, making me even dizzier as I grabbed his waist and peeked around his side to see what was going on.
Although I couldn't make out exactly what was happening due to the blood rushing into my eyeballs, I recognized the assailant immediately. I'd never met him, but I'd heard stories. Everybody had. He was "the skinhead," the only one at our entire four thousand student suburban high school.
I'd noticed him in ninth grade because he was literally the only person I'd ever seen wear suspenders (skinny ones, called braces) to school. In a world full of studded belts and chain wallets, that motherfucker wore suspenders—the epitome of dorkiness—and made them look as scary as the stripes on a venomous snake.
A snake who was standing about thirty feet away, looming over a little skater boy who was clutching his rapidly swelling jaw and trying not to cry.
When the kid didn't say whatever it was the skinhead wanted to hear, he buried his fist deep in Skater Boy's stomach, causing him to lurch forward and release a noise so guttural I assumed something important must have ruptured. With his left hand, the skinhead yanked the guy's head back by his chin-length brown hair and screamed into his terrified face, "Say that shit again!"
I felt like I might throw up. My heart was racing and my head was pounding from being upside down, but all I could register was a sickening sense of helplessness and humiliation for that poor kid. I'd been raised in a house with pacifist parents and no siblings. I'd never seen anyone get hit before, at least not in real life, and I felt that punch as if it had been dealt directly to me.
In a way, it had. That punch shook me to my core. It showed me that senseless violence and cruelty really do exist, and they come wearing boots and braces.
When Skater Boy remained silent, the skinhead responded by shoving his head so hard that he flew sideways and landed, hands and face first, in the gravel. His body slid a few feet before finally coming to a stop. The kid scrambled to pull himself into a ball and made little screeching sounds as if struggling to suppress a scream.
Instead of attacking again, his assailant began to circle him slowly, like a hawk. I held my breath and gripped Lance's waist tighter, ignoring the throbbing in my eyeballs, and watched upside down as he assessed his victim. I was horrified by how calm he was. He wasn't angry or upset, just… calculating. Cold and calculating.
The skinhead approached the kid, who was now trembling and sobbing quietly, and slowly rolled him onto his side with one very heavy-looking combat boot. Still curled up tightly, Skater Boy choked out what sounded like a muffled, garbled apology. Unimpressed, his attacker bent down toward the kid's face and placed a meaty hand firmly on the side of his head. I didn't know what he was doing at first, but when the brown-haired kid started screaming in pain I realized that the skinhead was pressing his face into the gravel.
"What was that?" he asked calmly, tilting his head to one side as if genuinely interested, the veins in his muscular arm beginning to bulge as he applied more pressure.
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I didn't mean it! Please stop! Please!" The scream at the end of his apology got increasingly louder as that heartless, hairless demon crushed his face further into the jagged rocks.
The skinhead released Skater Boy's head and stood up. I exhaled and felt my body relax into Lance's shoulder, then watched in disbelief as he kicked the kid directly in the lower back one, two, three times. By the time my eyes registered the strikes and my ears registered the resulting scream it was over, but my spirit was forever changed.
It said, These people fuck and they fight and you'd better get used to it, little girl.
Lance set me down, slowly, and I wrapped myself around him like a tree trunk for stability.
I stared, partially hidden behind Lance's sturdy frame, as the skinhead idly spit on the ground next to his victim, lit a cigarette, and walked with long confident strides… directly toward me. The gravel crunched under the weight of his steel-toed boots, which emerged from the bottom of a tightly rolled pair of blue jeans. Bright red laces wound themselves up the front of his boots, and bright red braces slashed across his muscular chest—a chest which was wrapped in a tight black T-shirt emblazoned with the word Lonsdale.
Steeling myself behind Lance's comforting presence, I mustered the courage to peek up at the skinhead's face. It was like looking at a ghost. He resembled a person, but there was no color to help differentiate his features. His skin was white. His hair and eyelashes were virtually transparent, and his eyes… His eyes were a ghostly, icy gray-blue. Like a zombie's. And when they landed on mine, my hair stood up on end so violently it felt like a million tiny needles were stabbing me at once.
Those zombie eyes flicked from mine to Lance's with a look of irritation as he approached. I could feel a buzzing electric current of malice radiating off of him well before he reached us, and I winced as he passed, as if bracing myself for his wrath. When nothing happened I carefully opened my eyes, relieved by the change in the atmosphere. The static charge was gone. He was gone. But he left a broken boy, a still burning Marlboro Red, and my scattered wits on the ground in his wake.
As traumatizing as my first smoke break had been, that wasn't the reason I was having trouble concentrating in my honors economics class. It was because as soon as the bell rang I knew I was going to have lunch with Lance Motherfucking Hightower—and my best friends, Juliet and August—but mostly Lance Motherfucking Hightower.
I saw the teacher's mouth moving, but all I could hear were my own racing thoughts. I'm totally going to sit next to him. But what if I get there first? Will he sit next to me? Maybe I should hide and wait for Lance to sit down and then run over and sit next to him before anyone else has a chance. Yes. Totally. Then I'll find an excuse to touch him. And I'll laugh at all his jokes. Not that it'll be hard. He's so funny. And beautiful. And tall. And edgy. And fucking dreamy.
"Oh. My. God. I can't stop laughing. Or reading. WHAT IS HAPPENING?"
—Colleen Hoover, #1 New York Times bestselling author on Sex/Life: 44 Chapters about 4 Men
"BB Easton's writing is smart, thoughtful and hilariously poetic. She inserts cringe-worthy tales with serious real-life situations in such a way that leaves you forever turning that page."
—Inked in Chapters
- "SKIN is not just skin deep. It's heart deep. It's soul deep. It's look-in-the-mirror-and-know-that-you-are-enough deep."—Mary Elizabeth, Bestselling Author
- "With one book, Easton has climbed to the top of my author list."—Scott Hildreth, International Bestselling Author
- "SKIN takes on a more intense, grittier tone than 44 Chapters without sacrificing all the laughs and quirkiness that BB does so well."—Charleigh Rose, Bestselling Author
- It's beautifully written, and you'll experience every emotion with every person you encounter in the story."
- On Sale
- Jul 27, 2021
- Page Count
- 416 pages