Wednesday, 5 April 2017
Sunday, 26 March 2017
Rovering to Success was designed to be a handbook for both the Rover Scouts themselves, and the leaders who guided the youth's development. In it, Baden-Powell outlines that the only true success in life is "happiness" (ibid:15). However, in order to achieve this "happiness" a Rover Scout must successfully navigate the five stumbling blocks, or "Rocks" which can prevent this "happiness." Therefore, Baden-Powell outlines as well as the "Rocks" the means by which to avoid them.
The chapter entitled "Horses" deals primarily with the difference between "sport" and "false sport" (ibid:30). Baden-Powell outlines how to avoid "false sport" by discussing such things as "cleansport," "hobbies," "livings," "responsibilities," "thriftiness," and "service" which warning against gambling (ibid:30). That is to say, the degeneration of youth can occur as a result of cheating and gambling, and it is through hobbies, earning respectable livings, having responsibilities, and performing service that the youth can avoid such degeneration which would not benefit the community.
The "Rock" which must be avoided in the "Wine" chapter is that of overindulgence and temptation (ibid:66). This overindulgence can manifest itself as "over-eating," "over-sleeping," and "over-working" (ibid:66). This "Rock" can be avoided, according to Baden-Powell, through the development of "self-command," namely through self-control, self-respect, loyalty, and strength of character (ibid:66). Therefore, by respecting your body and yourself, you are better able to perform service for your community.
In the "Women"1 chapter, Baden-Powell describes sexual instincts and their risks (ibid:100). In this section, the youth learns about changes to their bodies and hormones, and the potential risks of sexual encounters. In order to avoid this "Rock," Baden-Powell outlines the characteristics that men should possess and discusses what the institution of marriage is (ibid:100). That is to say, manliness is characterized by chivalry, good parenting, service and hygiene. The section on marriage outlines not only how to choose the "right girl" but also the responsibilities of the husband, such as bringing an income into the home, how to deal with debts, and the joy of children.
It is in the chapter entitled "Cuckoos and Humbugs" that education is emphasized the most. Baden-Powell outlines for the Rover Scout how books should be read, and that both travel and self-expression such as art are all methods for self-education (ibid:134). The "Rock" to be avoided in this case is ignorance. Through this self-education, the youth can draw on both experiences and knowledge to come to conclusions. In this way, the Rover Scout is then better prepared for civil service since his education, according to Baden-Powell, should centre around public work, government, and international relations, taking every opportunity to be "good" citizens of their local, national, and international communities (ibid:134).
In the case of "Irreligion," irreligion does not being of a "wrong" religion, but rather that each individual, regardless of religious choice, should be in some way spiritual. Therefore, the "Rock" being avoided here is Atheism (ibid:174). For Baden-Powell, the outdoors is the safeguard against Atheism because it is through nature that an understanding of the divine can develop. This would also, therefore, instill humility and reverence in the Rover (ibid:174). By coming to understand nature, the Rover Scout also comes to understand his body, his mind, and the world around him (ibid:174).
The preceding chapters are guidelines for any young adult to find happiness. Therefore, the final chapter of Rovering to Success presents how this framework should operate within the Scouting community. Baden-Powell outlines the objectives of the Rover Movement, namely, creating good citizens for the nation (ibid:204). The methodology employed to facilitate this development were the concepts of "service," "brotherhood," and the outdoors (ibid:204). Therefore, Baden-Powell outlined the organization of the Rover Scouts such as "how to start," "training," "uniform," "service," "recreation" (ibid:204). Therefore, through reading this book, the Rover Scout comes to an understanding of not only what the community value in its members, but also how to develop themselves in order for their own identity to match that of the "ideal."
Monday, 6 March 2017
CHAPTER 4 THE OFFICIAL KICKOFF
"What do you think? " Noelle asked as we stepped out onto the Spanish-tile patio at the rear of the
Ryan family estate. The backyard fronted a cliff overlooking the ocean, and the water was so crystal
clear I could see a school of tiny fish swimming beneath the surface. The sun shone down on the
glistening infinity pool as palm trees swayed in the breeze. Gorgeous tropical flowers in bright pinks,
oranges, and purples burst from flower boxes and vases everywhere. A steel drum band played a
jaunty tune as waiters circulated with yummy-smelling barbecue and frothy drinks. I had shed my
sweater, exposing my wrinkled T-shirt underneath, and I was still way too hot. But I couldn't have
Every stressful Dash-and Josh-related thought I'd had on the plane melted away like sorbet in the sun.
One deep breath of this laid-back island atmosphere and Carefree Reed was in the house.
"I can't believe we're still on the same planet," I replied, thinking of the slush and snow back in
"Aw. It's so nice to see the world through the eyes of a novice traveler," Noelle said, slinging her arm
around me. "Come on. Let's get some food. I'm famished."
Tiffany had broken away to find her dad, who already was there some where. Mr. and Mrs. Lange
were standing just across the patio. Mrs. Lange had, in fact, met us at the plane, but after the briefest
of hellos, she had spent the entire limo ride talking on her cell, arranging details for some fund-raiser
she was throwing the first Sunday of the New Year. Now she and her husband were chatting with
Amberly, her prepped-out parents, and her crunchily handsome brother, Austin, who had just arrived.
I had never met Mr. Carmichael, and I couldn't help but stare at him. This man--this tall, hard-bodied,
towheaded, merry-eyed man-had had an affair with Cheyenne Martin a few weeks before her death.
And he hadn't even attended her funeral. Did Amberly know? Did her mother know? And more
"So, where's this Upton guy?" I asked, forcing myself to look away from Mr. Carmichael. Noelle
smirked. "Let's see if you can pick him out yourself."
"Upton Game, the solitaire version?" I joked. Taking her up on the challenge, I scanned the party
goers. If I were the hottest guy ever to walk the earth, where would I be?
I recognized the squeal before I had a chance to spot where it was coming from. Suddenly Kiran's
slim arm was wrapped awkwardly around my neck. Her drink spilled, splashing on my shoes, but she
kept bouncing up and down as she attempted to hug Noelle and me at the same time.
"Omigod! It's so good to see you guys!" Kiran cried. "It totally sucks that you had to miss my birthday
party, but I'm so glad you're okay!"
Parrying was always priority number one with Kiran. Higher on the list than attempted murder. She
pulled back and placed her now empty glass on the tray of a passing waiter.
"Let me look at you," she said, holding both my wrists. "What are you wearing? You need to get out of
those New England rags and get into the islands!" Kiran certainly had done just that. She wore nothing
but a red bikini top, a tiny red bikini bottom, and a red-and-white sarong that exposed her entire leg.
Her heels were at least four inches high, and the white beads around her neck were the size of grapes.
Her long dark hair was swept up in a tight bun, and huge D&G sunglasses practically covered her
face. I smiled as she plucked a piece of lint from my T-shirt. Even with the fashion critique, it was
good to see her.
"I told her to change on the plane, but she just wanted to get here," Noelle said with a shrug.
"Well, we can't blame her for that. Hi, Noelle," Taylor Bell said, joining us. She bit her lip and
looked down at the ground before meeting my eyes. "Hey, Reed."
"Hey!" I reached over and hugged her, since she was clearly tentative about seeing me.
"You look incredible."
"Thanks," Taylor said, blushing.
What little baby fat she'd been carrying around a year ago was gone and had been replaced by some
serious muscle tone. Even her face looked tauter. Gone were the rosy red cheeks, replaced by
pronounced cheekbones and a slight tan. Her blond hair was as curly as ever, but it was longer,
grazing her shoulders. Her buttery locks danced in the island breeze as she turned around to show off
her new physique and blue strapless dress.
"I've been dieting and working out like a fiend for the last nine months," Taylor said giddily.
"I am so winning the Upton Game this year."
""Wait a minute. You didn't shed the poundage just for Upton," Noelle said incredulously. Taylor
blushed deeply. "No. Of course not. I did it for me." But she obviously had done it for Upton. Which
Noelle was clearly about to say before we were interrupted.
"Noelle! So good to see you!"
We all turned around to find a tall girl with stunning green eyes and gorgeous auburn curls striding
toward us. She wore a green halter dress and gold hoops and was trailed by a guy who could only be
her brother. He had the same eyes and hair color, though his was straight and brushed aside in a
preppy 'do. He wore madras shorts and a light-yellow polo shirt, and he had a kind of tight look about
him, as if he were born with a stick up his butt. Clearly these were the Ryan twins.
"Paige. Good to see you, too," Noelle said as she hugged the girl, though I could tell from her tone
that she didn't mean it. "Hi, Daniel," she added to the guy.
"Noelle," he replied with a nod. "Don't suppose Dash is with you."
"Not at present, no." Noelle looked past the twins at an older couple who were now approaching.
"Mr. and Mrs. Ryan. You've outdone yourselves once again."
"Ah, Noelle. Always so polite," Mrs. Ryan said.
She leaned in and gave Noelle a double-cheek air kiss, gripping Noelle's elbows as she did so. I
couldn't help but notice the size of the emerald on her finger. It overlapped the two fingers on either
side and was surrounded by huge diamonds. It was so big it was ugly, even though I knew it must have
cost a fortune.
"Ryan family, this is my friend Reed Rrennan," Noelle said, stepping aside. Mrs. Ryan, a Rillings
alum like her daughter and descended from Jessica Billings, the Billings founder, clearly recognized
my name. Her green eyes quickly flicked over me, and she pushed up the sleeves of her flowing blue
silk jacket, which she wore over a black top and pants. For a woman of her age, she had a seriously
toned body and healthy tan, and her auburn hair was cut into a sleek, short 'do. If not for the sour look
on her face, she would have been very attractive.
"Reed Brennan, the girl whose questionable leadership skills put the future of Billings at risk," she
My jaw dropped. Paige hid a laugh and looked away. I felt myself start to close up--the unworthy
Croton girl--but something inside of me said no.
"My questionable leadership skills? Do you mean the way I saved the house from being disbanded by
raising five million dollars for the school?" I'd had enough of backing down. She couldn't talk to me
that way, even if this was her insanely sprawling estate. Kiran suppressed a giggle, but she didn't do a
very good job. I could feel Noelle trying not to smile as well.
"Well, your insolence certainly hasn't been exaggerated," the woman said. "I can see why the girls
voted you out, but I can't imagine why they let you back in."
"Calista," her husband said warningly, stepping up to grip her arms from behind. He looked at us and
smiled. "Why don't you kids go grab yourselves something to eat?" Then he forcibly turned his wife
around and led her away.
"Your mother sure hasn't changed," Noelle said to Paige.
"She has this thing about speaking her mind," Paige explained.
"No problem," I replied, even though I wasn't entirely sure that was an apology.
"Ah. There's Gage. I'll catch up with you ladies later," Daniel said, quickly excusing himself.
"Never been all that comfortable around a group of females, that one," Noelle pointed out.
"Daniel? No, he just wants to catch up with the guys," Paige said, hooking her arm around Noelle's
and leading us farther into the party. "So, tell me, was this girl really related to Ariana? Daniel says
she never mentioned a half sister the entire time they were together." Wait. Daniel dated Ariana? How
could she have liked that guy and Thomas? They were obviously polar opposites. But then, she was a
total nut job.
"Well, Ariana did have a talent for keeping secrets," Noelle said.
Kiran and Taylor fell into step with me behind Noelle and Paige. It was obvious that Paige
considered herself on the same level as Noelle, which no one else in our circle would ever do.
Except Ariana, of course. But again, bonkers.
A tray of barbecued chicken and pineapples on skewers passed by, and I was just reaching for it when
an older couple moved aside and I saw a guy about my age standing near the railing overlooking the
water. He had shaggy, light-blond hair, all combed forward toward his face and sticking out in an
adorable way around his ears. He wore a black T-shirt and battered jeans and was leaning against the
railing with his arms--his very nice arms--braced at his sides. There was a pensive look about his
angular face as he stared out at the ocean. I reached out and stopped Kiran.
"Wait. Is that Upton?"
All four of them stopped, and then laughed.
"No, no, no, no, no," Paige said. "That is not Upton. That is Sawyer Hathaway."
"So very not Upton," Noelle added derisively.
"Although he has gotten cuter," Kiran said, looking him up and down in a pondering way as she took a
sip of her drink.
Taylor glanced around, and then whacked me with the back of her hand. "That is Upton." I followed
her gaze across the pool, past all the glittering conversation, bleached-white smiles, and clinking
glasses. It was as if time stood still. All noise ceased to be. There was no air.
Noelle had not exaggerated. Upton Giles was the single hottest male specimen ever to walk the earth.
Tall and muscular, but in a lean and extremely sexy way, Upton had sun-kissed light-brown hair that
was perfectly tousled all over. His buttery tan was shown off by his white linen shirt, which was
rolled up at the sleeves and unbuttoned just enough to show off a smooth, chiseled chest. He wore a
black rope necklace with some kind of ring hanging from it and had a smile that could fell a thousand
supermodels. Even from across the patio, I could tell that his blue eyes matched the Caribbean Sea.
He was talking to a guy with short brown hair and a decent smile, but I barely gave the guy a glance.
When you were looking at Upton, he was all you could see.
Boy was hotter than Josh. Hotter than Dash. He was even hotter than Thomas. He was hotter than a
grilled Josh-and-Thomas sandwich with Dash filling.
"Told you," Noelle whispered in my ear.
"Holy crap," I replied, before I could censor myself. All the girls laughed.
"What's the joke?" Amberly asked, coming up behind me. My shoulders curled forward as all the
hairs on my neck stood on end.
"Nothing you need to concern yourself with," I said flatly. Noelle shot me an admonishing look. "We
were just talking about the Upton Game."
"Oh my gosh, I am so in. Paige filled me in on the deets when I got here," Amberly said, the skirt of
her blue flowered dress billowing out in the breeze. "And he's, like, Africa hot."
"And you're, like, five years old," I replied, mocking her voice by pitching mine up two octaves.
"God! What's your problem?" Amberly asked me.
"Do you really need me to explain it to you?" I replied. "I knew you were an airhead, but I didn't think
you were that stupid."
Amberly's jaw dropped, and Noelle grabbed my arm, yanking me away from the others.
"Okay, you need to chill. This is supposed to be a vacation."
"Well, it's not going to be one if I have to deal with her the whole time," I said through my teeth. "Do
you even know what she's done to me over the past week? Talking down to me, trashing my room ..."
"I'm aware, but you're going to have to let bygones be bygones," Noelle said. "Otherwise you two are
going to drive me crazy. And I, for one, am here to have fun. Aren't you?" I took a deep breath and
looked around at my gorgeous surroundings. My eyes went straight to Upton. "Yes."
"Good. Now let's get back over there before they start thinking we're lesbian lovers having a spat,"
I laughed out loud. Noelle was right. I was here to have fun. And I could avoid Amberly for the next
few weeks. When I returned to the circle, I stood between Kiran and Taylor and averted my gaze from
the little china doll. See? No problem.
"Everything okay?" Tiffany asked, joining us.
"Fine. We're all good," Noelle assured everyone.
"Good. Then shall we officially kick off the Upton Game?" Paige suggested.
"Wait. Poppy's not here yet," Kiran protested.
"She's not flying in until tomorrow," Taylor added.
"Her loss," Noelle said with a smirk. "By then the game could already be won." The girls all laughed
devilishly, and I rolled my eyes. This whole thing was just so silly. But they seemed to be enjoying it,
so who was I to judge?
"May the best girl win," Paige said, lifting her glass. They all reached up and clinked their glasses
together. Everyone but me. Because A, I didn't have a glass, and B, I was not going to be
"I'm rooting for you, Taylor," I said, as our klatch broke up.
"Thanks!" Taylor cooed, hand to her chest.
"Everyone likes an underdog," Paige snickered.
Taylor's face dropped as the girl sauntered off in Upton's direction. First impression of Paige Byan?
Ice-cold bitch. I wanted to trip her, but I didn't have the guts just then. Maybe later.
"I don't like that girl," I said under my breath.
Taylor swigged the rest of her drink. "Join the club."
"Wow. A mean word from Taylor Bell? Times have changed," I joked. A comment like that was very
un-Taylor. She had always been the most doormatty of the Billings Girls. Taylor smiled in an almost
apologetic way. The wind tossed her curls in front of her face, and she casually swept them back.
"It comes from no longer having to answer to the Billings hierarchy," she said, taking a deep,
cleansing breath. "You'd be surprised how freeing it is."
CHAPTER 3 THE UPTON GAME
"So, Noelle, are you going to play the Upton Game this year?" Tiffany asked as we kicked back in our cushy leather seats on the Lange family's private plane the next morning. Our chairs were arranged in a sort of conversation pit, so that we could all see one another. Toward the back were four more seats, lined up against the walls like in a regular plane, except they each were singles with tables at either arm. Only one was occupied. Noelle's father, whom I hadn't met yet, had been talking intensely into his cell phone ever since we arrived at the airport and hadn't even glanced our way. Noelle's mother was already in St. Barths and would be meeting our plane when we landed.
"I'm not sure you guys could handle the competition," Noelle said, arranging the skirt of her black
linen dress around her legs. She and Tiff both were already outfitted for the islands--Tiff in tan shorts,
a white short-sleeve shirt, and stacked espadrilles--while I was bundled up in a wool sweater and
jeans, my thick coat shoved into the overhead compartment. I was, thank God, a newly reminted
Billings Girl after yesterday's successful vote, but I certainly didn't look the part. I wondered exactly
how hot I'd be when I stepped off the plane.
Tiffany laughed at Noelle. "Look at the ego on this one!" She accepted a flute of champagne from the
flight attendant and curled up her long legs onto her seat. I passed on my glass. No alcohol for me.
Not for a while. "Gome on, Noelle! It's your first Dash-less Christmas in forever. You have to play."
My heart took a nosedive that, luckily, had nothing to do with the plane doing something funky.
"Okay, I'm confused," I said as the flight attendant deposited a tray of chocolate-covered strawberries
on the table between me and Tiffany. "A, what is the Upton Game? And B, Noelle . . . since when are
you Dash-less? I thought you guys got back together." Noelle took a long sip from her champagne
glass, and then placed it down on the table at her side. "Not anymore."
I attempted to swallow. "You broke up? What happened?" Noelle shot Tiffany a look, and Tiff
focused her gaze out the window. "Honestly? It seems that once you've seen your boyfriend hook up
with one of your best friends, it becomes rather hard to kiss him without thinking of where his lips
have been," Noelle answered. My face burned. I was the best friend. I had ruined Noelle's
relationship with Dash. For good. "Noelle--"
"So, the Upton Game!" Noelle said loudly, brightly, slapping her hands down on her lap.
She wasn't going to talk to me about Dash. I guess I could understand that. But I felt a sting in my chest
nonetheless. Our friendship had changed, and not in a good way.
"Yes, let's fill in Reed." Tiffany reached for a chocolate-covered strawberry and bit into it.
"Okay. Tiffany and I have been going down to St. Barths ever since we were in strollers." Noelle
paused for a moment, and I knew that she was thinking about how she hadn't been able to go last year
because of Thomas's trial. "And we're not the only ones. There's a whole group of us."
"Like Gage," I supplied. Unfortunately.
"Gage, Kiran, Paige, and Daniel Ryan, Weston Bright, the Hathaways--"
"Of Simon International," Tiffany put in, passing the tray of strawberries to me. I selected one and
took a bite. Its flavors exploded in my mouth. Much better than the dry pretzels on my last flight. "Her
family owns this sick chain of hotels all over the world, including one on the island. We hang out
there a lot."
"Poppy is outrageous," Noelle added. "I'm interested to see what you think of her." She leaned back
and narrowed her eyes. "Who else... oh, Dash," she said through her teeth in a tone that forbade any
further questioning. "And, of course, Upton Giles." She shot Tiffany a sly look, and Tiffany swooned
dramatically. She fanned at her neck, opening her white collared shirt wide. "Oh, Upton Giles .. .,"
"You got that right."
Noelle leaned forward, and they clinked glasses.
"Who's Upton Giles?" I asked.
Noelle took a breath, swigged her champagne, and turned to us. "Upton Giles is the single hottest
male specimen ever to walk the earth."
Noelle was not one for over exaggeration. If she said the guy was drop-dead, he was drop-dead. I
immediately thought of Josh, who had yet to call me, text me, or e-mail me. I wondered if he knew I
was headed to St. Barths. He had to have heard it through Gage or
"Weston or someone, right? I pulled out my iPhone to quickly check for messages. There was nothing.
My heart twinged, and I put down the phone. Moving on, Reed, remember? You're moving on.
I looked at Noelle. "So . . . Upton Giles is the object of the Upton Game?"
"Exactly," Noelle replied.
Tiffany cleared her throat and shifted in her seat. "Every year, all the girls in the crew compete for
Upton's . . . affection," Tiffany explained.
"Back when we were twelve, it was all about who could get a peck on the cheek from Upton first,"
Noelle explained, slightly lowering her voice. "But now that we're older, things have gotten a bit
"Basically, whoever hooks up with Upton first wins the Upton Game," Tiffany clarified, taking a sip
I nearly choked on a large bite of strawberry. "Omigod. Ew!" I said, covering my mouth.
"You guys all have hooked up with Upton? "
"Reed! Please! I don't think my father could quite hear you," Noelle admonished, swiveling in her seat
to check the back of the plane. But her father was still barking away on the phone. She settled in,
smoothing her long black skirt over her legs. '7 have not. Cheek peck back in the day? Yes. But for the
last few years I've been . . . otherwise occupied, guywise." Noelle and I avoided eye contact.
"But pretty much everyone else has hooked up with him," Tiffany added, swigging from her
champagne glass again.
I looked at Tiffany. As long as I had known her, she'd never had a serious boyfriend. In a weird way, I
had always thought she was sort of above the petty pursuit of guys. She usually had so much other
stuff going on. Her love of photography kept her well occupied--she always was shooting for classes,
for fun,' for the school paper, and sometimes even for magazines in New York City. She also was a
straight-A student and sang in the Easton Chorale. The thought of her with a guy was totally out of
"Even you?" I asked.
Tiffany blushed and shrugged. "We all have our weaknesses."
"Everyone except Taylor," Noelle amended. "She's been coming down for the last few Christmases as
Kiran's guest, and she's yet to win."
"Not for lack of trying," Tiffany added, rolling her eyes. Noelle laughed lightly, and I looked down at
my hands. It was going to be so odd seeing Taylor Bell and Kiran Hayes again after more than a year.
I hadn't spoken to Taylor in ages--not since the night she disappeared from Easton so mysteriously.
The last time I saw Kiran was the night she confessed that she had played a role in Thomas Pearson's
kidnapping. The kidnapping that had led to his murder. Even with all of that hanging over us, I
couldn't wait to see them. I suppose that time heals all wounds. Or absence makes the heart grow
fonder. I guess cliches are cliches for a reason.
"So, what do you think, Reed?" Noelle asked with a smirk. "Up for a little Upton?"
"Please," I said with a scoff. "I haven't even met the guy. Besides, I'm not really into players." Not
anymore, I added silently, thinking of Thomas.
"Believe me, when you see him, you'll be in," Tiffany said, toying with the hair at the nape of her
neck. She was still blushing. Whatever the allure this guy had, it was strong.
"So, what else do I need to know?" I asked, hoping to change the subject. "The Upton Game isn't all
you guys do down there, is it?"
Tiffany and Noelle pretended to have to think about it. "It's the only thing worth doing," Tiffany joked.
"Well, there is Casino Night," Noelle added.
"Ah, Casino Night," Tiffany added, quickly sucking a bit of chocolate from her finger as she adjusted
her position in her seat. "The Ryans throw it every year on the night after Christmas, and we all lose
tons of money."
"Sounds like fun," I said wryly. "I guess I won't be participating."
"Oh, we'll front you some green," Noelle said casually, like it wasn't even a question. "You have to
come. Whoever has the most chips at the end of the night wins all the money that's been spent at the
tables. We usually give it to charity, but if you win, you could keep it." My face burned. "Because I
am a charity case."
"I didn't mean it like that," Noelle said, rolling her eyes. "I just mean, it would be great if you won."
"They have everything," Tiffany said. "Craps, roulette, blackjack, poker--"
"Poker is the most competitive," Noelle put in. "Every year the girls try to beat the boys. It's like an
"Really? Poker's my game," I said. "I used to play with my brother and his friends."
"Nice. We have a ringer," Noelle said, lifting her glass.
"Omigod, can you teach me?" Tiffany asked, leaning forward in her seat and placing her feet on the
floor. "I totally suck."
"Sure," I said. "Do you think your dad keeps cards on the plane?" I asked Noelle. She was already out
of her seat. "Are you kidding? He and his cronies take this jet all over the world. How do you think
Daddy won the house in Majorca? He bluffed on a pair of sixes at fifty thousand feet."
Tiffany laughed as Noelle put her hand on my headrest. "Why don't you come with? I'll introduce
you." I bit my lip. Noelle's father was still on the phone and was obviously tense. Probably doing
some big business deal. Hardly seemed like a prime time for an intro, but who was I to judge?
"Okay." I unhooked my seat belt and followed Noelle toward the back of the plane. Her father
glanced over his shoulder, saw us coming, and blinked. I heard him say something into the phone
about calling back, and then he flipped it shut. He stood up as we approached and tugged on the
waistband of his perfectly cut trousers. He had shed his suit jacket and wore a crisp white shirt, darkblue
suspenders, and a dark-blue-and-red tie, which was still tightly knotted. He had to be at least six
foot four, with broad shoulders--definitely an athlete. His brown hair was cropped close to his head
in a military Caesar, and he did not look old enough to be Noelle's father. Hot uncle, maybe, but not
He looked at me for a long moment before smiling at Noelle, which gave me the uncomfortable
sensation that he felt I was in the way.
"Pumpkin," he said, giving Noelle a kiss.
"Daddy," she said. "You've been on the phone for so long; I haven't had a chance to introduce you to
my friend." Her tone was admonishing, and his reaction was chagrined. Was there no one Noelle
"Daddy, this is Reed Brennan. Reed, this is Wallace Lange," Noelle said proudly.
"Reed." He cleared his throat and nodded.
"Hello," I said. There was a long moment of silence. Noelle looked at her father as if she were
expecting him to say or do something.
I tried again. "Thank you so much for inviting me on vacation. It's incredibly generous of you."
"Oh, you're welcome." Then his phone vibrated on the table, and he glanced at it distractedly.
"Excuse me," he said gruffly, grabbing for the phone. "Hang on," he said into the receiver. He held the
phone to his chest and looked at Noelle. "I don't really have time for social hour right now, Noelle,"
he said pointedly.
Noelle rolled her eyes. "Do you have a deck of cards?"
"In the cabinet."
He sat down, turned away, and began talking into the phone. Noelle stared at him for a moment,
annoyed, before moving on.
"Sorry. He gets crabby when he's in business mode," she said, yanking open the cabinet. Inside were a
few decks of cards, a full set of poker chips, and a folded felt poker tabletop.
"Always be prepared," she said wryly. She pulled out the tabletop and chips and handed them over.
We were about to return to our seats when her phone beeped. She pulled it from the pocket of her
dress and rolled her eyes again.
My throat went dry. "He called?"
"No. Texted, the wuss," she said. "He wants to know if it's okay with me if he comes down this year. I
don't know why he would, since his parents are going to be in Europe with his aunt's family until
Um, maybe because he wants to be with you? I thought but didn't say. She quickly texted back, her
fingers flying over the touch screen.
"What are you writing back? "
"That he can do whatever he wants. I'm not his keeper." She finished her text and dropped her phone
back in her pocket.
"Noelle--," I began.
"Reed," she said firmly. "We are not talking about this anymore."
"But I have to ask you something," I said, clutching the poker tabletop to my chest. She clucked her
tongue impatiently. "What?"
"If you're still mad . .. why am I here?"
Noelle thought about it a moment, then smirked. "Let's just say you're lucky I don't have to kiss you."
CHAPTER 2 THE CRAZIES
Sunday morning, the sky was the perfect shade of gray. The kind that wouldn't bring the joy of snow,
but would hang around all day, reminding everyone to be cold, down, depressed. It was freezing
inside the chapel. We all pulled our coats tighter as we stepped through the arched doorway and
under the vaulted ceiling. The atmosphere was hushed. Whispers skittered along the cold stone floor
and up the walls. We may as well have been attending a funeral in the austere old church. The girls of
Pemberly gathered in their pews, hugging one another and resting their heads on each other's
shoulders. Gage trudged in, head down, hands in the pockets of his heather gray coat. That was when I
knew for sure that he was seriously depressed--the boy never wore outerwear. Thought he was too
cool for bundling. But today his head was clearly somewhere else--room 4007.
"Students, let's all take our seats," Headmaster Cromwell said, stepping up to the podium. I glanced at
Diana Waters, my friend from Pemberly. Cromwell had never greeted us so informally before. As we
sat down next to each other, I noticed that even his appearance had changed. He wore a burgundy
wool sweater under his suit jacket and no tie. No American flag tie tack. It was Casual Crom.
"Freaky," Diana whispered as everyone settled in around us.
"No doubt," I replied.
"I'll make this short," Headmaster Cromwell began, his pale hands gripping either side of the podium.
"First, as of today, I will be relinquishing my post as headmaster of Easton Academy."
Surprised murmurs filled the room.
"No more Crom?" Lorna Gross said from the pew behind mine. She actually sounded upset. I,
however, felt a huge sense of relief, though it was tinged by irritation. I detested the Crom. He had put
us all through the wringer this semester. But that also was part of the reason I was irritated. All those
hoops I had jumped through for him . . . and now, next semester, there was going to be some new
headmaster to suck up to.
Cromwell held up a hand to silence the crowd. "But I do have a few announcements to make before I
go," he said. "First, due to the events of last night, the school will be breaking early for the holiday.
Which means you are all excused from your finals." This announcement was met with stunned silence.
I was sure that a few of my classmates wanted to celebrate--I could practically feel the strain as they
held back whoops of joy like a hundred overfilled helium balloons--but no one uttered a sound.
Considering that Ivy was in the hospital, that yet another of our classmates had turned out to be a
murderer, celebrating just didn't seem appropriate.
"The Board of Directors has discussed the situation, and we all believe that it would be best for you
students to take this time to be with your families while the Board discusses how we might better
ensure the security of the student body."
"He sounds like he's issuing a statement to the press," Diana whispered, tucking her hands under her
"He's practicing," Missy Thurber said, leaning in from behind us. "Did you see the vultures parked
outside the gates this morning? The press smells blood in the water, and they're about to chow down."
"You're mixing your metaphors again, Missy," I scolded through my teeth. When I glanced over my
shoulder, I found myself staring into those yawning nostrils of hers. Ick.
"Whatever. I wouldn't be surprised if they shut down this place," Missy replied, sitting back again.
"Parents have been calling all night. People are freaked out. I'm freaked out. I mean, I lived down the
hall from the girl."
Yeah, and I'm the one who had a gun pointed at her head last night. Boo-freaking-hoo, Nostril Girl.
"Thank you for your time and attention," Mr. Cromwell said awkwardly. "You're all dismissed." The
room filled with chatter and exhausted-yet-exhilarated students jammed the aisles. I found Noelle as
quickly as I could. She was on her way out the door with Amberly Garmichael and Tiffany
Goulbourne, her long black coat contrasting sharply with Tiff's pristine white jacket. Amberly wore a
light-blue coat with white gloves and a white hat and looked like a little American Girl doll. I felt a
rush of anger at the sight of her--at the girl who'd taken my place in Billings and had ransacked my
Pemberly single-but I did my best to push it back down.
"Noelle, wait!" I called, jogging to catch up.
They paused just outside the door and waited. Each had her cell phone out and ready, probably to
spread the news that we'd been freed.
"Hey," Noelle said, pushing her dark hair over her shoulder. "Crazy stuff."
"I know," I replied, catching my breath. "Missy said they might close the school for good."
"Close Easton?" Amberly gasped, her blue eyes wide. "Can they do that?" Noelle snorted a laugh and
adjusted her cashmere scarf. "No. Please. The school hasn't done anything wrong."
"Although they do keep admitting the crazies," Tiffany said, covering her short black curls with a red
cabbie hat. "And we keep inviting them into Billings."
"We didn't invite Sabine," I pointed out, shoving my hands into my pockets as a stiff wind blew by.
"Cromwell put her there."
"True," Tiffany said as her phone trilled. "It's my dad. I have to take this." She moved away a few
steps as Noelle, Amberly, and I started to walk across the quad. Noelle wisely maneuvered her way
between Amberly and me, acting as a human buffer.
"Speaking of invitations to Billings, Reed, I'm sure you know we want you back next semester,"
An instant thrill ran through me. "Seriously?"
"What?" Amberly blurted at the same moment.
Noelle paused and gave me a look that was half condescension, half apology. It would have been hard
for anyone other than her to pull it off.
"Of course. Now that we know Sabine was behind everything, I'm sure everyone will agree," she
said. "I plan to take a vote on it this afternoon, but I can't imagine who might vote nay."
At this, she turned to the side to give Amberly a pointed look. Amberly inspected her nails.
"You will accept the invitation, of course," Noelle said to me.
"Of course," I said, even though there was a twinge of trepidation inside my chest. "I mean, it will be
a little strange after living there with Sabine for so long...." I took a deep breath and looked across the
quad toward Billings House. My fists clenched inside my pockets.
"I can't believe I trusted her," I said, as humiliation and fury bubbled in my veins-something I clearly
was going to have to get used to. I had a feeling that my relationship with Sabine would haunt me for
the rest of my life. "How could I have been so stupid?"
"Hey. We all thought she was a sweet, innocent little thing," Noelle said.
"Not you. You never liked her," I pointed out.
Noelle smiled wryly and cocked her head. "Yes, but I rarely like anyone." I actually cracked a smile
at that one. Then I heard shouts in the distance and knew that reporters were firing questions at some
poor soul who had just driven up to the gates.
"They're going to be all over us," I said.
"No doubt," Noelle said, staring off in the direction of the dorms and the driveway beyond. Then,
slowly, she looked at me and smiled, her brown eyes bright. "Unless we're not here." I blinked. "What
do you mean?" I asked, as Tiffany finished her phone call and rejoined us.
Noelle grabbed Gage as he skulked by. He glared down at her hand, but he paused.
"What? "He looked pale, and there was a crease across his left cheek from his pillowcase. Not the
coiffed Gage I knew and didn't love.
"Everyone's still going to St. Barths, right?" Noelle asked.
"That's the plan," Amberly said.
"No doubt," Gage replied, looking off into the distance. "I plan on being hammered and stupid for at
least two weeks."
"So the usual, then?" Noelle joked.
"You should have a stand-up routine, Lange," Gage snapped. Noelle turned to Tiffany. "Tiff? You in?"
"Oh, I'm so there," Tiffany replied. "Dad has a Vogue shoot a couple days before Christmas. I'm going
to assist." Her father, Tassos, was a world-renowned fashion and entertainment photographer.
"Actually, Kiran is one of the models." Gage visibly brightened at this news. "Oh, tell me it's a
swimsuit thing," he begged.
"It's a swimsuit thing," Tiffany confirmed grudgingly.
"Yes!" Gage cheered. "Hammered, stupid, and laid." I rolled my eyes. Boy bounced back quickly.
Noelle focused her brown eyes on me. "Reed, you're coming with." She lifted her iPhone and hit the
screen. "I'm going to call Donnie right now and let him know we'll be one more."
"Who's Donnie?" I asked.
"Our pilot," Noelle replied.
I laughed and placed my hand over her hand on the phone. "Wait, wait. I can't go to St. Barths. My
parents will want me home for Christmas. Especially after all this." Noelle looked at me as if I were
a puppy who'd just peed on the floor. "Reed. Think about it. Thomas was your boyfriend. Ariana tried
to kill you. Now Ariana's sister has tried to kill you. You go home, and the entire news media is going
to take over West Wackadoodle, PA, and, while it might be fabu business for the local IHOP, they will
camp out on your front lawn and spend the entire break tearing into your every secret. Do you really
want to put your family and friends through that?"
My heart pretty much stood still. I could just see the headline now: STALKED SCHOLARSHIP
STUDENT CONFESSES: MY MOM'S A FORMER JUNKIE.
"It's settled, then. You're coming with us," Noelle said, accurately reading my silence. " For the next
two weeks it's nothing but sun, sand, and mojitos for us." There were more shouts from the distance.
The zoom of a rushing engine. I wondered if one of the news vans was getting ready to ram through
the front gate. "We can deal with whether or not we'll have a school to come back to later," she added
under her breath.
So she wasn't that confident in Easton's staying power after all. I swallowed hard and looked around
the quad at the familiar buildings and faces as Noelle made her phone call. A world without Easton?
After everything I had been through, that was one blow I wasn't sure I could survive.
CHAPTER 1 REALITY
I walked down the hall of the ICU at Edward Billings Memorial Hospital, trying to look as if I
belonged there. Holding my coat closed tightly over my now ridiculous-seeming gold minidress and
trying to make the nurses and doctors believe I knew where I was going. But I didn't. I didn't know
where I was going, or where I was, or how I'd gotten there. I had never navigated these sterile halls,
never had to visit this cold, ominous place with its grim-faced orderlies and somber lighting. The one
thing I knew was that this could not be happening. In my mind's eye, all I could see was the blood. I
had woken up on the floor of the solarium in Mitchell Hall, the back of my head throbbing with pain.
Noelle had been hosting a preparty there for Kiran Hayes's birthday fete in Boston, and I had gone to
confront Sabine DuLac about her relationship with Ariana Osgood. She had pulled a gun on me, I had
blacked out, and when I'd come to, I had seen Josh's prone body, his face pressed into the hardwood
floor. And blood. Blood everywhere. The scream that had escaped my throat had sounded
otherworldly, like something out of a science fiction film. Like nothing that could have come from my
own throat. That was when Sabine had realized the bullet had missed me. Even though the gun was
gone, even though Trey Prescott and Gage Goolidge were holding her back, she had made one final
lunge, intent on strangling me or clawing my hair out--hurting me in whatever way possible. I had
thrown myself backward in fear and had bumped into something hard. A second body. Dark hair had
been splayed everywhere, arms bent at unnatural angles. Another scream, and after that, everything
had become a blur. The shouting as the police had hauled off Sabine. The Pemberly girl who,
splattered with blood, had fainted dead away. The flashing lights of the ambulance. The EMTs
shouting for us to stay back as they'd sorted out who was hit and who was unconscious and who might
be. .. dead.
Now an orderly shoved a meal cart out of a room and right into my path. I was so startled that my
hand flew to my heart. My knees felt like they could collapse at any second. I pressed my other palm
against the wall to steady myself, my fingers landing just above a gold plate with a room number
printed on it: 4005. Which meant that the next room was 4007. The room I was looking for. The room
Deep breath, Reed. You can do this. You have to do this.
I closed my eyes for a moment. This wasn't about me. Yes, Sabine had tried to kill me. Yes, the person
who, all semester long, I had thought was my best friend had turned out to be a raving homicidal
lunatic stalker. Yes, I had spent months living in the same room with a girl who had then tortured me
and drugged me and sent out a lewd video of me to the entire Easton Academy community. That was
all about me. And I could deal with all of that later.
But right now. This. This was not about me.
I took that deep breath and stepped tentatively into room 4007. Josh's eyes instantly met mine,
whisking the breath right out of me. I was aware of the machines--the beeping of the heart monitor, the
strange twitching lines on the screen, the dripping IV. But for a moment, just one moment, all I could
see were those eyes. The relief, the anguish, the longing, the fear. Everything I felt was right there in
his eyes. He knew. He understood. But then he broke eye contact, and I dropped back to reality.
Reality, where Ivy Slade lay on a hospital bed, unconscious and pale, her eyelids appearing purple
under the fluorescent lights. Tubes and wires and sensors were stuck to her temples and wrists, and
her black hair was shoved back from her face in a haphazard, unparted way that she would have
loathed if she could have seen it. The white hospital sheets were tightly tucked in all around her,
giving her the look of a half-wrapped mummy. Only her arms were free, and Josh was holding her
hand. Her delicate, seemingly lifeless hand. My throat went completely dry.
Why hadn't she stayed outside like the police had told her to do? Why had she run back into the
solarium? In all the panic, I hadn't even realized that she had come up behind me. She didn't have to
be there. Didn't have to come with me to confront Sabine. I had even told her not to come along, but
she obviously was worried about me in my one-track state of mind. That track being the express train
to confrontation with a homicidal maniac. It was my fault that she was here. All my fault.
"Is she going to be okay?" I whispered.
Please say yes. Please, please say yes. I wasn't sure I could handle another death. Another funeral.
Another good-bye. I wasn't sure if any of us could handle it.
"They think so," Josh replied. He looked hopefully over at her. "The bullet went through her upper
shoulder and just missed her lung. If it had been half an inch lower . . . She lost a lot of blood, though,
which is why she's unconscious right now. But yeah, they expect her to make a full recovery."
My eyes misted over as a crushing weight was lifted from my shoulders. She was going to be okay.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! Ivy and I had just started to become friends. If it weren't for her, I
may have never figured out that it was Sabine who was after me. That Sabine was the person who had
killed Cheyenne Martin and had tried to make me believe it was my fault.
If it weren't for Ivy, I might have gone to Kiran's party with Sabine and ended up shot dead in an alley
in Boston somewhere. Who knew what the details of the girl's plan had been? It seemed that, as long
as it had ended with me dead, Sabine would have deemed it a success. Josh placed Ivy's hand on the
bed next to her hip and slowly got up to usher me out the door. As we left the room, I turned to
him, prepared to be a good friend--a supportive friend and nothing more. To ask the right questions.
The questions that Noelle Lange and Rose Sakowitz and all the other people down in the waiting
room wanted me to ask. But before I could even open my mouth, I was in his arms.
"I thought she was going to kill you," he said breathlessly. Surprised tears jumped to my eyes. I
savored the familiar strength of his arms, the crisp scent of his shampoo. I clung to him, gripping the
smooth fabric of his oxford shirt like it was a life vest and I was about to go under.
"I can't believe what you did," I said as a tear spilled down my cheek. "Lunging for the gun like
that..." I forced myself to pull back so I could look into his eyes. "When you hit the floor, I thought you
Josh placed his hands on either side of my face and looked at me as if he was trying to reassure
himself that I was actually there. "I didn't even think. You were frozen, and there was a gun pointing at
you, and I ... I didn't even think. It was either throw you down or go for the gun, and I guess I was
closer to the gun, so ... I just did it."
"You saved my life," I said, a sob choking my throat. He moved his hands to cup my shoulders and
touched his forehead to mine, blowing out a sigh. "You're okay. You're okay," he said. "Thank God
you're okay." Just like that, my heart filled with bubbles of joy. Josh still loved me. He loved me so
much that he couldn't stop touching me. He loved me so much he had put himself in harm's way to
save me. Josh loved me. I felt so high, I could have floated right out the hospital window. But then,
reality. Like a lasso around my ankle, reality once again 6
slammed me back down to the ground. Because Josh's attempt to save my life had resulted in Ivy's
current state. He had knocked the gun just as it had gone off. Knocked it so that the bullet had passed
me by... and had hit Ivy right in the chest. In trying to save me, his ex-girlfriend, Josh had put his
current girlfriend in the hospital. We both looked over at Ivy's room. I knew that Josh was thinking
exactly what I was thinking, that Ivy didn't deserve this. He let his hands slip from my shoulders, and
he stepped away. Suddenly, I was freezing. For the first time, I noticed the bloodstains on the front of
his shirt. On his hands. Under his fingernails. Ivy's blood. It was everywhere.
"What happened to Sabine?" he asked flatly, as we started walking back to the waiting room.
"They arrested her," I told him. "Pretty much everyone heard her confess, so . .."
"I can't believe this. I can't believe this is happening." Josh pressed the heels of his hands into his
eyes. I knew the feeling. It was all so overwhelming that it was hard to decide which part to try to
sort out first. Cheyenne's pointless murder, Ivy's pointless injury, or the fact that Sabine was Ariana's
sister and, apparently, had come to Easton for the sole purpose of torturing me. How were we
supposed to deal with that?
And then, of course, there was the issue of us. The "us" that now included three: me, Josh, and Ivy.
"So . . . now we just. . . ," I trailed off. I knew Josh well enough to know that he always did the right
thing. And the right thing at this moment did not include me.
We turned the corner and stopped down the hall from the waiting room. Josh leaned against the
cinderblock wall. He looked miserable. Tired and gaunt and haunted. He raised his hands to his face
again, making a little tent around his nose and mouth. For a moment, neither of us breathed. Then he
dropped his hands, as if resolved, and looked at me. The emotion was gone. In its place was an
"I have to stay with Ivy," he said firmly. "I have to know she's okay. She's going to need . .. someone."
My heart contracted painfully, and I allowed myself one moment of selfishness. One. But what about
me? I thought. And then I let it go. Because he was right. Ivy needed him more than I did. Yes, I had
been through a lot this semester. We both had. Cheyenne's murder, our breakup, my falling-out with
Noelle, and the constant feeling that someone was stalking me. All the heartache and paranoia had
been because of Sabine. It had all been part of her little
"torture Reed for hurting Ariana" plan.
I wished that Josh and I could have talked through all of this right then. That we could have sat
together and figured out what it all meant. But at that moment, it all meant nothing. Because he cared
for Ivy and, as much pain as I was in, Ivy needed him more. I glanced over my shoulder toward the
waiting room. I saw Noelle hovering, watching me expectantly. We hadn't even had a conversation
yet. Hadn't cleared the air after our massive breakup and her kicking me out of Billings. But she had
made a peace offering--she'd invited me to the party tonight--and after everything we'd been through
in the past few hours, I knew that things were going to go back to normal between us. At least I hoped
they were. She was all I had now.
"I guess I should go tell them what's going on," I said slowly. The last thing I wanted to do was leave
him, but I had to. Standing in front of Josh and not being able to touch him was going to kill me.
"Okay," he replied, his eyes wet.
"Okay," I repeated, somehow getting the word past the lump in my throat. I turned and started down
the hall, my footsteps heavy. A few doors down, I paused and looked over my shoulder. He was still
standing there, watching me. Watching me walk away from him. "Keep me posted, okay? On how
So there it was. Good-bye. I was going to be strong. I was not going to pine and whine and wish. I
was going to be good. For me, for Josh, and for Ivy. That was my promise to myself.
CHAPTER 16 DROPOUTS"I should have just stuck with the original plan and stayed out of the Upton Game," I ranted to Noelle,
Kiran, Taylor, and Tiffany as they followed me down the hall to the Langes' guest room, past all the
indigenous pottery displayed on glass tables along the wall. "Clearly I was not cut out for this
particular sport. And does he really think I believe that he's only into me now? After however many
years of being England's number one player?" I threw open the double doors to my room and stopped
in my tracks. Noelle barreled right into me, and Kiran tripped over Taylor, knocking into the wall and
taking down a potted plant. Tiffany caught the vase just before it hit the floor.
"Can you warn us when you're going to do that?" Kiran asked, straightening her top. I couldn't
respond. I was too stunned. Every inch of my room was covered in flowers. Huge pots lined the floor.
Vases bursting with white and orange blooms were arranged on the bedside tables and atop the
dresser. Long glass boxes overflowing with gorgeous tropical buds had overtaken the windowsills.
Loose petals were strewn all over the floor and on the bed. A handwritten note sat propped up on my
"My mother is so going to fire Maritza when she sees this mess," Noelle said, nudging some petals
with her foot. "Dammit. There goes her good espresso!"
"Who're they from?" Taylor asked, her eyes bright.
My first thought was of Josh. Had Josh talked to Ivy and explained that he still loved me?
My heart beat wildly with curiosity as I picked up the card, not daring to imagine what it might say.
The handwriting was unfamiliar, and my eyes went directly to the signature. I forced a smile. "They're
from Upton," I said, silently scolding myself for letting my thoughts turn to Josh. That was over. I was
moving on. And clearly Upton was more than willing to help me speed up the process.
"How did he pull this off?" Tiffany asked, lowering her nose to the nearest arrangement.
"We just left him. Does he have the florist on speed dial?"
"Dear Reed," I read. "Please accept these flowers as my sincere apology. I promise that tonight, you
will have my full and undivided attention, if you so choose to allow it. Love, Upton." My heart
"Wow. He really likes you," Taylor said, fingering the soft petals of a huge white lily. She took a deep
breath and let her hands slap against her thighs. "Well, that's it. I'm officially dropping out of the
"Really?" I said.
"What's the point?" Taylor asked, lifting her arms to take in the entire room. "You have his full and
Kiran sighed audibly. She took a lipstick out of her clutch and leaned toward the mirror on the
dressing table. "Guess it's Graham Hathaway for me."
"Poor guy has no idea what he's in for," Noelle joked.
"No, he does not," Kiran agreed, pressing her lips together. The flutter in my heart took on a whole
new excited rhythm. My competitive side couldn't help but feel a bit proud. Apparently I had won.
Upton, the most coveted and sought-after guy in their group, was all but mine.
Unless, of course, Poppy had anything to say about it.
But in the past few hours, I had taken Tiffany, Kiran, and Taylor out of the game. Three very worthy
contenders. If I could intimidate them, I could intimidate anyone. Even Poppy Simon. Suddenly, I
couldn't wait until tonight.
CHAPTER 15 JEALOUSY
Goose bumps covered my skin. My whole body shook uncontrollably. I gritted my teeth and held mybreath and tried to control it, but nothing helped. I had tied up my hair off my neck with the hair band I
had kept around my wrist since I'd gotten to St. Barths, so the soaking strands were no longer hitting
my shoulders. That was something, at least. But how long had I been standing there? How much
longer was I going to have to wait? Every moment seemed like an hour.
And then, voices. Angry voices. Adrenaline instantly warmed me. It was Upton. Upton was shouting
"... stupid, immature, ridiculous thing to--"
"We were just having a bit of fun," Sienna's voice replied. My blood boiled with anger. I was going to
scratch those girls' eyes out the moment I saw them.
"You should be ashamed of yourselves," Upton scolded, his voice just outside now.
"Reed! Where are you?"
"Right here!" I said meekly, lifting my arm so it could be seen in the space between the top of the door
and the canvas roof.
"Are you all right?" Upton asked.
A towel appeared over the door and I whipped it down, wrapping it around my shoulders. My eyes
closed in ecstasy as warmth radiated over my skin.
"I'll live," I replied.
"Here are your clothes," Upton said, folding my dress and bathing suit over the door. Oh, thank God. I
quickly stepped into my dry bathing suit and yanked the T-shirt dress on over my head. They felt so
warm--like they had been tumbling in a dryer for an hour--but that was probably just in contrast to the
frigid temperature of my skin. I took a deep breath to calm the trembling, and I opened the door.
"I'm so sorry," Upton said immediately, pulling me into his arms. I closed my eyes and pressed my
cheek against his chest. The warmth of his body chased away the last of the shivers. "They said you'd
gone back to the Langes'. That you'd come down with a headache."
"I figured," I said, glancing over at Sienna, whose arms were crossed over her chest as she looked
imperiously out at the ocean, as if she owned it. Amberly, Paige, and Poppy weren't there. I wondered
how Sienna had ended up taking the blame solo, but honestly, I didn't care.
"I believe Sienna has something to say to you," Upton said, loosening his grip on me.
Sienna glanced at my angry face and rolled her eyes. "We're sorry," she said, with no sincerity
whatsoever. "We were just having some fun." She offered me her hand and arched her perfectly
waxed eyebrows. "Friends?"
Anger clenched my chest and I pulled away from Upton completely, stepping toward her.
"You and I were never friends, and we're never going to be friends," I said, causing her face to fall.
"In fact, you and your little posse can stay away from me for the rest of the trip. Far, far away. And I
suggest, for your own sake, that you do."
Sienna's thin lips parted in indignation as I turned on my bare heel and stormed off toward the pool
and the restaurant behind it. The sun was just dipping behind the hotel. I needed to find my friends and
vent before I exploded.
Upton caught up to me near the shallow end of the pool and grabbed my arm.
"Thanks for finding me and everything, but I really need to talk to Noelle right now," I said, wresting
myself from his grasp.
"Wait. I just wanted to say I'm sorry," Upton told me, his eyes pleading. "Sienna's just being a spoiled
child. She doesn't know how to handle jealousy, you see--"
"Jealousy? Wait a minute. I thought she was new here too. What's she jealous of?" I asked, a niggling
feeling of ignorance gnawing at the back of my neck. Upton bit his lip and looked away. "Yes, well...
we kind of had a thing last term when she and Poppy came to visit me at school. ..."
An incredulous laugh escaped my throat and I backed away from him. "Oh my God! You are a total
"Is there any female on this planet you haven't had a thing with? " I asked, lifting my palms to the sky.
"Maybe it would be simpler for you to list your non-hookups than your hookups."
"Reed, none of that matters," Upton said, reaching for my hands. He held them both in his and looked
into my eyes. "You're the one I want to be with now. Only you. I swear it. All of that is in the past. It
doesn't matter anymore."
I was amazed at how sincere he made it sound. For a second I almost believed him. And maybe a
year ago I would have. But I wasn't that naive anymore. Reed Brennan had gone through some
"It kind of does matter when I spend over an hour freezing my ass off in a dark shower stall," I told
him, yanking away my hands. "This was supposed to be a fun little vacation fling. And the fun just
officially ended. I have to go."
This time, when he called after me, I didn't look back.
CHAPTER 14 UNHAPPY HOUR
"I say we hit the showers," Tiffany said to me a few minutes later, fanning herself with her hands.
Upton, Gage, and Dash were volleying the ball back and forth over the net, and everyone else had
plopped down on towels. "I am way too sweaty for comfort."
"Agreed," I said, figuring I could use a cool off, considering my knees were still shaking from kissing
Upton. Waving good-bye to the others, we grabbed our beach bags and made our way up the beach
toward the Simon Hotel's outer buildings. The hotel itself stood on the bluff and was accessible by a
huge staircase cut into the rocks, if you were in the mood for a hike, or, if you were feeling lazy, you
could get there by one of the many golf carts that zoomed between the lobby and the beach all day
long. Down there were a casual breakfast and lunch restaurant and bar, a beachside pool, and a line
of slim, canvas-topped huts, each of which contained a private shower.
"You really like him, don't you?" Tiffany asked as she stepped inside her own stall, closing the thick
wooden door behind her. I heard her latch the lock as I walked into my own stall. "Upton, I mean. Not
Dash," she clarified.
"Yeah, I kind of do," I said, raising my voice so she could hear me over the water. I stepped out of my
bathing suit and slung it over the door, then added my towel and T-shirt dress cover-up so they'd be
out of reach of the shower's spray. "Is that pathetic?"
"Why would it be pathetic?" she asked.
I turned on the water and leapt back as the cold jets hit my bare skin. Huddling against the far wall, I
waited until I felt the stream start to warm up on my feet, and then inched my way in.
"Because you all like him, and he's such a major flirt," I replied. I lathered up my hair with shampoo,
and then left it piled atop my head as I started to wash my skin. "Besides, he clearly has something
going with Poppy."
"I wouldn't take the Poppy thing too seriously. When it comes to guys, she has the attention span of a
gnat. And as for everyone else, they're just playing the game. Which, by the way, you are clearly
winning," Tiffany said.
I blushed happily. "You think?"
"It's so obvious." The pipes squealed as she turned off the water. "I say, if you really like him, go for
"Are you done already?" I asked, surprised.
Tiffany laughed. "I am the queen of the thirty-second shower. Something I learned from traveling with
my dad--you can never count on a foreign water heater," she joked. I could hear her moving
around, getting dried off and dressed. "I'm gonna grab a snack. Want to meet at the restaurant? " Sure.
Her door creaked open and slammed, and I dove under the still-warm water, quickly rinsing my hair. I
finished cleaning up and rinsing off and felt as if I'd actually accomplished something. Beaten the hotwater
clock. And learned my first lesson of international travel. Smiling, I turned around to grab my
My hand caught air. I blinked, my eyes adjusting to the relative darkness. There was nothing hanging
on the door. No towel. No clothes. No bathing suit. Nothing.
I heard a giggle and my heart dropped.
"Who's out there?" I asked.
More snickering. It had to be Paige, Amberly, and Sienna. Noelle, Kiran, and Taylor weren't about to
steal my clothes. In fact, the immaturity of the stunt had Amberly Carmichael written all over it.
"Very funny, you guys. You just won the award for cleverest fifth-grade prank. Can I have my stuff
back now?" I asked as the last of my shower water gurgled down the drain.
"You wish," Amberly replied, giggling.
"You are so going to wish you hadn't done this," I said through my teeth.
"Feeling kind of cocky for someone who's standing there in her birthday suit, Reed," Paige teased.
"And a piece of friendly advice," Poppy added, her voice firm. "Back off Upton."
"Poppy?" I said, surprised. "Where the hell did you come from?"
"I live here, remember?" she replied. "Wow. You blokes weren't kidding. She really is a stupid cow."
They all laughed and my face burned. I narrowed my eyes.
"We haven't officially met," I said loudly, talking over their giggles. "I'm Reed Brennan. Do you
always treat the guests at your parents' hotel this way?"
"Only the daft ones," she replied. "Just because I've been playing nice up till now doesn't mean I
haven't noticed what's been going on."
No. It just means that you're totally two-faced, putting up a good carefree, sweetie-pie show for your
friends, when you're actually a complete bitch.
"Last time I checked, you and Upton were just friends," I said. "Wanting him to be your boyfriend
doesn't make it true."
Poppy was silent, and I knew I had her.
"He may not be mine yet, but he will be," she finally sputtered. "Stay away from him from now on, if
you know what's good for you."
My jaw dropped. I had barely even spoken two words to this girl and she was threatening me?
"Or what? You'll steal my clothes again?" I asked sarcastically, hugging my dripping body.
"What could possibly be worse? "
"We'll see how you feel in about an hour," Sienna said. "Come on, girls. I'm suddenly starving. Let's
go join the others at the restaurant."
They giggled and started walking away. My heart skipped a beat.
Everyone else had already left the beach and gone inside? That meant no one was going to be walking
by here anytime soon. I was already starting to shiver. Not good. I moved my feet back and forth and
jumped around a bit, trying to keep warm. I waited and listened, hoping someone would step into the
next shower or walk by on their way to the beach, but I heard nothing.
"Hello?" I called out. "Is anyone there?"
Silence, save for the waves crashing into the shore.
"Anyone! Hello! I need some help in here!" I shouted louder. Somewhere near the pool, a reggae band
started playing some happy-go-lucky tunes over some seriously cranked-up speakers. Happy hour
was starting. Great. No one was going to hear me now. My heart started to pound as my skin tightened
and grew colder still. How long was I going to have to stand here? What if Noelle and the others
never came back to the beach? I was sure that if anyone asked about me, Paige would make up some
stupid story about how I went home on my own or something. I could be standing there naked for
hours. A stiff breeze rattled my little hut, and I stepped back against the wall for warmth, hugging
myself as tightly as I could. I was really starting to hate the Upton Game.