Monday, 6 March 2017

Paradise Lost Chap 4

"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
cared less.
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
important... gross.
"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?
"Noelle! Reed!"
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
said tersely.
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,"
Noelle said.
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."

0 Komentar:

Post a Comment

Terima kasih sebab sudi menerjah ke ruangan saya kali ini.
Anda diwajibkan untuk komen. Amaran keras!
*ceh tipu je HAHA =P*