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Authors: Mindi Scott

Freefall

BOOK: Freefall
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“I’m talking about Isaac. About you finding him.”

I tensed up. Anytime I thought about the morning two months earlier when I’d found Isaac’s body, I wanted to puke. Which is exactly why I tried to
never
think about it.

Kendall touched the mini Magic 8 Ball dangling from the key ring on my belt loop. She knew it was Isaac’s. Everyone knew. It had been his good-luck charm for years and he never went anywhere without it—until the night he’d given it to me, saying I needed its advice more than he did. It was all a joke, really, and I would have given the stupid thing back to him the next day. If only he’d woken up.

 

FREEFALL

MINDI SCOTT

Simon Pulse
NEW YORK   LONDON   TORONTO   SYDNEY

 

If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

SIMON PULSE

An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division

1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

www.SimonandSchuster.com

First Simon Pulse paperback edition October 2010

Copyright © 2010 by Mindi Scott

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

SIMON PULSE and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

For information about special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-866-506-1949 or [email protected].

The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event. For more information or to book an event contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at 1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at
www.simonspeakers.com
.

Designed by Mike Rosamilia

The text of this book was set in Zapf Elliptical 711 BT.

Manufactured in the United States of America

2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

Library of Congress Control Number 2010012663

ISBN 978-1-4424-0278-2

ISBN 978-1-4424-0279-9 (eBook)

 

For Dwayne,
because you used your birthday wish on me

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Liesa Abrams, my amazing editor, teacher, and friend for your guidance and trust. You were the first industry professional to connect with this story, and I am ecstatic to have had this opportunity to work on it with you. Somehow you always know what I’m trying to say, even when I don’t.

Many thanks as well to my agent, Jim McCarthy. The day you offered representation was one of the best I’ve ever had. You changed my life even before you sold this book just because you believed in it. Thank you for everything you do for me.

I would also like to offer my deepest gratitude to:

• my mommy, Leeann Ward, for being my mommy and for always believing that I have talent. This is even better than being an english teacher, right?

• Lindsey Schoenberger, Nikki Thompson, Matthew Persons, and Joyce Huttula for listening to me ramble about life and the characters in my head, and for always helping me make sense of it all.

• my family and friends who have supported me through the years. I’m lucky because there are far too many of you to name. Please know that I appreciate you all!

• the WDers, for convincing me that the things I want to write are worth reading.

• Dr. Jacob Mathew, for giving speeches just for me, and not laughing when I said that I wanted to become a published author in ten years. (And yay! I did it in seven!)

• everyone at Simon Pulse and Aladdin, who have worked hard to make this book the best it can be. I’m grateful and, quite honestly,
awed
, that such dedicated and talented people are making it possible for my long-time wish to become a reality.

• Mandy Hubbard, for coming to my rescue time and time again regarding queries and bios, and for commiserating with and guiding me in all the stages of this crazy journey.

• Phoebe Kitanidis, for being fun, smart, and easy to talk to. And, of course, for loving my book enough to make the Big Introduction for me.

• my instructors Pam Binder, Waverly Fitzgerald, Kristen Kemp, and Ila Zbaraschuk, for helping me grow as a writer.

• the many, many brilliant peeps I’ve encountered through LiveJournal, the Tenners, the Blue Board, Twitter, MB YA classes, and UW PopFic program (Pam’s Kids).

Special thanks to Michelle Andreani, Memory Arnold, John C. Ford, Phoebe Heyman, Samantha Horswill, Ryan Hughes, Diana Jeong, Annika Barranti Klein, J. E. MacLeod, Liz Martinez, Gina Montefusco, Mandy Morgan, Andrea Perrin (Seth’s #1 fan), Bradi Roberts, Kim Steffen, Jesse Stewart, and Jen VonDrak for the insightful critiques and helpful information you’ve supplied for me.

And above all, thank you to my husband, Dwayne Scott, for having to two tickets to Iron Maiden (baby), and for making it possible for me to become a penniless sitar player. I couldn’t have done it without you, and wouldn’t have wanted to. I love you the most, Lover.

 

FREEFALL

SATURDAY,
SEPTEMBER 4

8:19
P.M.

This was Daniel’s deal. He’d taken the order, contacted a supplier, and set it all up. I was just the sucker he’d roped into driving him for the actual delivery. Which meant, technically, I was also the guy who had the police cruiser riding his ass through town.

Just like always.

“You know, Dick,” Daniel said, “I’m pretty sure you bring this cop bullshit on yourself.”

“Oh yeah?” I kept the steering wheel as steady as I could and stole another glance in the rearview. All I could make out in the dusky darkness were bright headlights and the outline of the light bar on the cruiser’s roof, which—so far—wasn’t flashing. “How do I bring it on myself? By hauling you around everywhere in my brother’s unlucky car?”

“No,” Daniel said. “By driving like a paranoid old lady. You’ve got
to blend in better on the road. And go faster. You might not realize this, but cops pay close attention when people are under the speed limit too.”

“I
know
that.”

What I didn’t know was why Daniel thought he was some kind of speed-estimating expert; the Mustang’s speedometer was always stuck at zero whether I was at a dead stop or cruising the highway.

I looked in my side-view mirror. From what I could tell, the cop had no plans to stop tailgating me anytime soon. The experience was
not
doing wonders for my hangover headache or crazy-nervous heartbeat.

“You’ve got to quit looking at him,” Daniel said between swigs of his Jack and Coke. “And take some deep breaths or something. The street you want is coming up next left.”

The moment of truth. I flipped on my blinker, and then eased into a pretty smooth turn, even with all the weight Daniel had piled in the back. I peeked in the rearview again, trying to be casual about it.

To my relief the cruiser hadn’t followed. We were in the clear for now.

A minute later we hit the crest of Ray Fitch Hill—“Rich Bitch Hill” to those of us unlucky enough to live by the river—where huge houses sat on square, perfect lawns with clipped hedges and lit-up flower beds. Amazing,
really, the ritziness of this part of town. Most of the cars alone were worth three, maybe even four, times as much as the single-wide mobile homes Daniel and I called home.

Daniel directed me to the place, and as I backed into the driveway, Pete Zimmer, the Kenburn High football god himself, was waiting on the sidewalk with two other jocks. They all looked alike with their buzz-cut hair and T-shirts that said,
I AM COLLEGE
,
I’D DO ME
, and
SEXY NEVER LEFT
.

“Just let me handle this,” Daniel said to me.

“I always do.”

We climbed out of the car. I fidgeted with Isaac’s miniature Magic 8 Ball while Daniel clasped I-Am-College Pete’s hand all secret-handshake-style. This crap had been going on for over a year, so I should have been used to it, but Daniel acting buddy-buddy with guys we’d always hated still weirded me out.

Pete nodded toward me. “Hey, Seth.” Then he got down to business. “Danny, I have all these people showing up. Last big party of the summer and you’re late with the beer. What’s up with that?”

“Hey, these things take time,” Daniel said.

The fact that he didn’t correct Pete over the Danny thing bugged me too. Everyone got a nickname from Daniel—he’d been calling me Dick instead of Seth for years—but he usually didn’t let people get away with calling him anything but Daniel.

I popped the trunk, which was packed tight with cases of beer and a whole mess of Jack Daniel’s and vodka. Then I went around, leaned into the car, and pulled out the blankets from the backseat that had been covering up more stacks of the same.

Pete stood at the back of the car, staring down. “What’s all this single-serving shit? I ordered a keg.”

“That didn’t work out,” Daniel said, playing it cool. “But I got you a good price and threw in a bunch of hard stuff, too. You and your pals can stay sloppy drunk all night with this.”

Pete frowned. “What are you trying to pull, Jackson?”

If I hadn’t known better, the expression on Daniel’s face would have made me believe he was actually sorry. He clamped his hand on Pete’s shoulder and hunched down so they were at eye level. “Look, Zimm. I have it on good authority that the police are looking for some underage parties in your neighborhood to raid this weekend. If you have a keg, there’ll be no way to hide it. You’ll be screwed, I’ll be screwed, we’ll all be screwed. It’s safer this way.”

I’d-Do-Me Eric raised his eyebrows and looked down the street like he expected to spot police cars staking out the place.

“Where’d you hear that?” Pete asked. “About the cops?”

“I have people everywhere,” Daniel said, waving toward the Valley.

Pete looked like he wanted to ask more questions or possibly kick Daniel’s ass, but Sexy-Never-Left Garrison cut in. “Dude, beer’s beer. Let’s do this.”

“Yes, let’s,” Daniel said. “Dick and I will haul everything in for you, no extra charge. Sound cool?”

Pete shrugged. “Go for it.” Then he headed back to his mansion with his friends trailing behind.

When they were gone, I couldn’t help laughing. “You have people?
Every
where?”

“Hell yeah, I do,” Daniel said, grinning. “And these people of mine predicted that beer will be served in huge quantities right here tonight. Which is exactly why you and me are going to stick around.”

I shook my head. “No way.”

It was more of a reflex than anything. Saying no to Rich Bitch Hill parties was as automatic to me as saying yes had become to Daniel.

“Come
on
, Dick,” he argued. “It isn’t like you have anyplace better to be.”

He was right. And, well, the truth was, I actually did need to do something to get my mind off all the crap from the night before.

Daniel could always pick up on it if I was wavering, so he told me his usual lie to seal the deal: “Just give me twenty minutes here and we can take off, okay?”

“Fine,” I said, pretending to believe him. “Twenty minutes.”

10:44
P.M.

I’d been to enough house parties to know when everything was about to fall apart. After two hours, this one was definitely on the way to disintegration. Forty or fifty rowdy drunk kids were there, all laughing and yelling their heads off while the suck-ass dance music vibrated children out of their beds the next block over.

I was ready to leave—I’d been ready since we’d walked in, to be honest—but Daniel had disappeared with some chick, so I headed back to the kitchen on my own, even though the booze was in there and I kind of wanted to steer clear. Being around these rich assholes was messing up my head worse than ever. The room I was trying not to go into was exactly where I kept ending up; the stuff I was trying not to drink was exactly what I’d been chugging all night.

BOOK: Freefall
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