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Authors: Sara Shepard

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Girls & Women, #Love & Romance, #Mysteries & Detective Stories, #Social Issues, #General

Burned

BOOK: Burned
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DEDICATION

To Colleen

EPIGRAPH

Loose lips sink ships
.


AMERICAN IDIOM

CONTENTS

Cover

Title Page

Dedication

Epigraph

Hit and Run

1. Beware, Ye Liars

2. Emily’s Little Mermaid

3. The Best Couples Always Compromise

4. Hello, Roomie!

5. Speaking of Villa Girls …

6. Spencer’s Last-Ditch Effort

7. A Partner in Crime

8. License to Kill

9. Pretty Little Stowaway

10. Diving Right In

11. Aria’s Pygmalion

12. Duets

13. People Who Float in Glass Boats Shouldn’t Throw Stones

14. Spencer’s Unexpected Swim

15. A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

16. Across the Great Divide

17. Friendship Has Its Ups and Downs

18. Too Hot to Handle

19. Dead Man’s Float

20. Resisting Is So Hard to Do

21. Hanna’s Slumber Party

22. She’s Made Her Bed …

23. The Wrong Idea

24. Something’s Missing

25. Forget Your Troubles

26. The Bends

27. Surprise Inside

28. Women and Children First

29. S.O.S.

30. The Long Ride Home

31. A Bittersweet Reunion

32. The Boyfriend Problem

33. Emily Gets Her Wishes

34. The Fun Hasn’t Even Begun

What Happens Next …

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Credits

Copyright

Back Ads

About the Publisher

HIT AND RUN

Ever told a lie to save yourself? Maybe you blamed the dent in your parents’ Mercedes on your brother so you could still go to the spring formal. Maybe you told your Algebra teacher you weren’t part of the group of kids who cheated on the midterm, even though you were the one who stole the answer key from her desk. You aren’t normally a dishonest person, of course. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

Four pretty girls in Rosewood told some very dark lies to protect themselves. One of those lies even involved walking away from a crime just miles from their home. Even though they hated themselves for leaving the scene, they thought no one would ever know about it.

Guess what. They were wrong.

It had been raining for eight days straight at the end of June in Rosewood, Pennsylvania, a wealthy, idyllic suburb about twenty miles from Philadelphia, and everyone was beyond fed up. The rain had drowned perfectly manicured lawns and the first blooms in organic vegetable gardens, turning everything to mud. It had waterlogged golf course sand traps, Little League baseball fields, and the Rosewood Peach Orchard, which had been ramping up for its beginning-of-summer bash. The first sidewalk chalk drawings of the season swirled down the gutter,
LOST DOG
signs turned to pulp, and a single wilted bouquet on the cemetery plot containing the remains of a certain beautiful girl everyone
thought
was named Alison DiLaurentis washed away. People said such biblical rain would surely bring bad luck in the coming year. That wasn’t welcome news for Spencer Hastings, Aria Montgomery, Emily Fields, and Hanna Marin, who’d already had more bad luck than they could handle.

No matter how fast the windshield wipers on Aria’s Subaru swept across the glass, they couldn’t brush off the driving rain quickly enough. Aria squinted through the windshield as she headed down Reeds Lane, a twisty road that bordered thick, dark woods and the Morrell Stream—a bubbling creek that would most likely flood within the hour. Even though there were upscale developments a stone’s throw away over the hill, this road was pitch-black, without a single streetlight to guide them.

Then Spencer pointed at something ahead. “Is that it?”

Aria hit the brakes and nearly hydroplaned into a speed limit sign. Emily, who looked tired—she was getting ready to start a summer program at Temple—peered through the window. “Where? I don’t see anything.”

“There are lights near the creek.” Spencer was already unbuckling her seat belt and springing out of the car. The rain soaked her immediately, and she wished she’d worn something warmer than a tank top and workout shorts. Before Aria had picked her up, she’d been running on the treadmill in preparation for this year’s field hockey season—she hoped she’d be an early decision shoo-in for Princeton after completing the five AP classes she was set to start taking at Penn, but she also wanted to be Rosewood Day’s star field hockey player to get that extra edge.

Spencer climbed over the guardrail and peered down the hill. When she let out a little scream, Aria and Emily looked at each other, then bounded out of the car, too. They pulled their raincoat hoods over their heads and followed Spencer down the embankment.

Yellow headlights shone over the raging creek. A BMW station wagon was T-boned into a tree. The front end was smashed and the airbag dangled limply on the passenger side, but the engine was still humming. Windshield glass littered the forest floor, and the odor of gasoline eclipsed the smell of mud and wet leaves. Near the headlights was a slight, auburn-haired figure staring dazedly around as though she had no idea how she’d gotten there.

“Hanna!” Aria yelled. She ran down the slope to her. Hanna had called them all in a panic just a half hour before, saying she’d been in a crash and needed their help.

“Are you hurt?” Emily touched Hanna’s arm. Her bare skin was slick with rain and covered in tiny shards of glass from the windshield.

“I think I’m okay.” Hanna wiped the rain from her eyes. “It all happened so fast. This car came out of nowhere, knocking me out of the lane. But I don’t know about …
her
.”

Her gaze drifted to the car. There was a girl slumped in the passenger seat. Her eyes were closed, and her body was motionless. She had clear skin, high cheekbones, and long eyelashes. Her lips were pretty and bow-shaped, and there was a small mole on her chin.

“Who
is
that?” Spencer asked cautiously. Hanna hadn’t mentioned that anyone was with her.

“Her name’s Madison,” Hanna answered, brushing off a wet leaf that had just blown against her cheek. She had to scream over the sound of the pounding rain, which was so violent it was almost like hail. “I just met her tonight—this is her car. She was really drunk, and I offered to drive her home. She lives somewhere around here, I guess—she gave me directions piecemeal, and she seemed really out of it. Does she look familiar to any of you?”

Everyone shook their heads, slack-jawed.

Then Aria frowned. “
Where
did you meet her?”

Hanna lowered her eyes. “The Cabana.” She sounded sheepish. “It’s a bar on South Street.”

The others exchanged a surprised look. Hanna wasn’t one to turn down a cosmopolitan at a party, but she wasn’t the type to go to a dive bar alone. Then again, they all needed to blow off some steam. Not only had they been tortured the previous year by two stalkers using the alias
A
—first Mona Vanderwaal, Hanna’s best friend, and then the real Alison DiLaurentis—but they were also sharing a terrible secret from spring break a few months before. They’d all thought Real Ali had died in a fire in the Poconos, but then she’d appeared in Jamaica to kill them once and for all. The girls had confronted her on the roof deck at the resort, and when Ali had lunged at Hanna, Aria had stepped forward and pushed her over the side. When they ran to the beach to find her body, it was gone. The memory haunted each of them every day.

Hanna wrenched the passenger door open. “I used her phone to call for an ambulance—it’ll be here soon. You guys have to help me move her to the driver’s seat.”

Emily stepped back and raised her eyebrows. “Wait.
What?

“Hanna, we can’t do that,” Spencer said at the same time.

Hanna’s eyes flashed. “Look, this wasn’t my fault. I wasn’t drunk, but I did nurse a drink all night. If I stay here and admit I was driving, I’ll definitely get arrested. I might have gotten away with stealing and crashing a car once, but the cops won’t go easy on me a second time.” Last year, she’d drunkenly stolen her old boyfriend Sean Ackard’s car and smashed it into a tree. Mr. Ackard had decided not to press charges, and Hanna had done community service instead.

“I could go to
jail
,” Hanna went on. “Don’t you realize how that would look? My dad’s campaign will be ruined before it even begins.” Hanna’s father was running for senator in the fall; his campaign was already all over the news. “I can’t let him down again.”

The rain fell relentlessly. Spencer let out an awkward cough. Aria chewed on her lip, her eyes drifting to the motionless girl. Emily shifted her weight. “But what if she’s really hurt? What if moving her makes things worse?”

“And then what do we do?” Aria added. “Just …
abandon
her? That seems so …
wrong
.”

Hanna stared at them in disbelief. Then, setting her jaw, she turned back to the girl. “It’s not like we’re leaving her here for days. And I don’t think she’s hurt at all—it seems like she’s just passed-out drunk. But if you don’t want to help me, I’ll just do it myself.”

She squatted down and tried to lift the girl by the armpits. The girl’s body tilted awkwardly to the side like a heavy sack of flour, but she still didn’t stir. Grunting, Hanna planted her feet and hoisted the girl upright again. Then she began to shift her across the center console and into the driver’s seat.

“Don’t do it like that,” Emily blurted, stepping forward. “We have to keep her neck stable, in case there’s any damage to her spine. We need to find a blanket or a towel, something to keep her neck steady.”

Hanna eased the girl back down into the seat, then peered into the back of the station wagon. There was a towel in the footwell. She grabbed it, rolled it up, and wound it around the girl’s neck like a scarf. For a moment, Hanna looked up. The moon had drifted out from behind a cloud and momentarily lit up the road, and the whole forest was alive with movement. The trees swayed violently in the wind. As a flash of lightning turned the sky white, all of them swore they saw something move near the creek bed. An animal, maybe.

“It will probably be easier for us to carry her around the outside of the car instead of trying to shift her from the inside,” Emily said. “Han, you take her under the arms, and I’ll take her feet.”

Spencer stepped forward. “I’ll get her around the middle.”

Aria reluctantly peered into the car, then grabbed an umbrella from the backseat. “She probably shouldn’t get wet.”

Hanna looked at all of them gratefully. “Thank you.”

Together, Hanna, Spencer, and Emily lifted the girl out of the passenger side of the car and slowly shuffled her around the back and toward the driver’s seat. Aria held an umbrella over the girl’s body so that not a drop of rain hit her skin. They could barely see through the driving storm, having to blink every few seconds to keep the rain out of their eyes.

And then, halfway around the back, it happened: Spencer’s feet slipped in the quicksandlike mud and she lost her grip on the girl. Madison tilted violently inward, her head banging against the bumper. There was a
snap
—maybe of a tree limb, but maybe of bone. Emily tried to bear the brunt of Madison’s weight, but she slipped, too, jostling Madison’s limp, fragile body even more.

“Jesus!” Hanna screamed. “Hold her up!”

Aria’s hands wobbled as she tried to hold the umbrella steady. “Is she okay?”

“I-I don’t know,” Emily gasped. She glared at Spencer. “Weren’t you watching where you were going?”

“It’s not like I meant to do it!” Spencer stared into Madison’s face. That
snap
resonated in her mind. Was the girl’s neck now tilting at an unnatural angle?

BOOK: Burned
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