XOXO Read Online Christina Lee

Categories Genre: M-M Romance, Sports Tags Authors:

Total pages in book: 84
Estimated words: 80199 (not accurate)
Estimated Reading Time in minutes: 401(@200wpm)___ 321(@250wpm)___ 267(@300wpm)

Lark Levitt doesn’t belong at Roosevelt College, at least in theory. Most students who attend the private university come from wealthy families, and Lark is only a scholarship and a bus ride away from the trailer park where he lives. It’s also a dream come true because dance is his life, and their program is one of the most prestigious in the country. But there are bumps in the road, like running into someone from a difficult time in his childhood. Someone who now pretends he doesn’t exist.

Henry Albrecht survived childhood cancer and is now a Roosevelt quarterback and model student. His past is something his father insists Henry keep private, and though his dad has his reasons, it makes his remission feel like a dirty secret instead of a triumph. He has few precious memories from that time in his life, except for a kid from the hospital who made his recovery manageable. A kid who’s all grown up now and at Roosevelt, jeopardizing everything Henry’s carefully kept under wraps.

They decide the best course of action is to keep their distance. Easier said than done. Their renewed connection brings solace, clarity, and a raw intensity that awakens a spark between them. But hiding their history is exhausting, and soon enough their secret meetups are in danger of being exposed. Henry will need to face his fears—and his father—or lose the only person who’s ever understood the real him.

* Discussions of cancer treatments and depictions of mental heath struggles

*************FULL BOOK START HERE*************




I shuffled toward the common room of the children’s ward at Mercy Hospital, wearing a hoodie over my thin gown because of the chill in the air and fuzzy socks with grippers so I didn’t slip and fall. It was standard wear for all patients, so I no longer felt self-conscious about it, and some days I was too sick to care.

My heart leaped when I spotted Lark working a puzzle at a round table. It was one of his favorite activities, especially putting together the famous painting with the ballerinas. He’d sworn me to secrecy before sharing his dream of dancing on Broadway someday. He liked putting earbuds in and listening to soundtracks from his favorite musicals. I’d been to quite a few with my parents and only enjoyed a handful. But Billy Elliot was a memorable one. Not that I was as obsessed with the story as he was, but it helped us find common ground. Lark had taken dance lessons his entire life, but his cancer treatments had set him back.

“Guess what?”

“Chicken butt?” Lark replied, and we smiled at each other.

“I’m being discharged tomorrow,” I said, and though I was excited, I was also sad to leave my new friend. I had what the doctors called a successful bone-marrow transplant for leukemia. But only time would tell.

“Awesome,” Lark responded around a cough.

I sat down in an orange plastic chair. “You get better too so you can go home.”

“I’m trying my best.” He slid an apple Jolly Rancher across the table to me, then pulled down his mask and popped a watermelon one in his mouth. It was his favorite flavor, and his mom kept his hard-candy obsession well-stocked.

I slid a corner piece over to him, though he could probably do this puzzle with his eyes closed at this point. Lark’s cancer was a bit trickier than mine because they also found spots of it on his lungs. He had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and people often got our two types of cancers confused. But mine started in my bone marrow and his in his lymph nodes. And yeah, we both knew way too much about the disease.

We’d been in this hospital for the better part of two months, both receiving treatment and fighting for our lives. The hospital staff tried to treat us as the kids we were by offering activities during the day as long as we wore our masks and washed our hands before and after leaving the room.

One of my favorite days was when they brought the adorable therapy dogs. My least favorite was when one of us died.

Lark and I had grown close, maybe because we were a similar age—him being eleven and me twelve. But it seemed more than that, even if on the surface we had few shared interests. I loved sports and played them all my life. My cancer had also placed me on the sidelines, and my dad worried it might ruin my high school football chances. I was actually more worried about surviving.

“Should we exchange numbers?” I asked Lark as I sat down across from him.

He frowned. “I don’t even own a cell phone. But maybe our parents can?”

“Sounds good,” I replied, though we both knew it was unlikely. Our parents barely saw each other and hadn’t spoken more than a sentence or two. Talk about having little in common.

My parents ran a prestigious real-estate business in Hunterdon County—at least that’s how they always described it. They were usually busy and sometimes seemed more worried about how my illness might affect them more than me. Don’t get me wrong, they were scared and sad when I was first diagnosed; it was written all over their faces. But soon enough they put on a brave front and offered plenty of reassurances—maybe too many. As if my cancer was only a blip on the radar that was my life. Of course, one could only hope. But in the thick of it, I needed all the support and comfort I could get. They offered it, but I always felt like they never really sank into it with me.

And I got it. They wanted to remain optimistic. But as soon as they heard I was being discharged, they were already talking future plans and what private high schools I should apply to with prestigious football programs. There was that word again. Prestigious.

I didn’t tell Lark any of that, but I wanted to. I felt like I would be betraying my parents if I did. They were always worried about appearances, and though I knew I had grown up not wanting for anything, sometimes I wished they would be more like other parents. Like Lark’s mom and stepdad. He wasn’t around a lot, but she was, and she was so warm, caring, and awesome.