Authors: Robin Wasserman
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Social Issues, #Dating & Sex, #Friendship, #Love & Romance, #General
Pride goeth before the fall….
Was she crazy?
Kaia stared out the dusty window of the pickup truck, wondering if she’d lost her mind. She didn’t even know why she’d called him. So he was hot. Fine. There was no point in denying that. Nor could she deny the fact that when he looked at her, when his eyes burned into her, she trembled.
But that was irrelevant. It had to be. Kaia Sellers could
involve herself with someone like this
poor, stupid, aimless, and completely unacceptable. Couldn’t, and wouldn’t. And yet …
And yet, she’d made the call. And when he’d shown up at her door, she’d welcomed him in, hadn’t she? Leaned toward him, so he would smell her perfume. Favored him with a sultry smile.
And now here she was in the old truck, Reed by her side, speeding through the darkened landscape, the lights of civilization (if Grace qualified) fading into the distance behind them.
must be crazy,
Kaia thought, unsure whether to be appalled or amused. It was the only possible explanation.
Crazy was fine—for a night. But whatever happened, Kaia promised herself, one night was all it would ever be.
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.
An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
Copyright © 2006 by Robin Wasserman
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.
Designed by Ann Zeak
The text of this book was set in Bembo.
First Simon Pulse edition April 2006
Library of Congress Control Number 2005933860
For Mom and Dad
He that is proud eats up himself: pride is his own glass, his own trumpet, his own chronicle.
Troilus and Cressida
This world is mine for the taking.
They wanted him. All of them. He knew it.
And he loved it.
Kane Geary had developed many gifts in his eighteen years of life, not least of which was a finely tuned radar for the appreciative stares of beautiful women. And tonight, he could feel their eyes on him, their gazes drawn to him from all over the restaurant. The luscious redhead in the back booth, stealing glances over her date’s sloping shoulders; the trim blonde waiting for the bathroom, zeroing in on his chiseled pecs; their perky waitress, shamelessly grazing his shoulder as she leaned across him to lay out their food—even the age-weathered brunette up in front was joining in the fun, catching his eye with a wink every time her balding husband’s back was turned.
Seated on the edge of Chez Jacques’s spacious dining room, which bustled with the well-bridled enthusiasm of a small-town Saturday night, Kane was, quite simply, the center of attention. Which was exactly how he liked it. Not that Kane was an attention-grabber, one of those tedious people who talked too much, too fast, too loudly. That would be too obvious. And far too much work. Instead, he waited, knowing that his smoldering good looks and effortless grace would eventually and inevitably draw the world to him. Or, more specifically, draw the girls.
They came in all shapes, colors, and sizes, and they wanted only one thing: him. Which meant that Kane could take his pick. And he usually did.
he thought, smiling at the blond beauty sitting across the table from him,
I may be onto something
. Beth Manning seemed to have it all: brains, personality, body by Barbie … and, as of two months ago, she had him.
She was, to put it mildly, an unlikely choice. Haven High’s resident most-likely-to-succeed, a power player when it came to AP classes and extracurriculars, a nobody when it came to anything else. Beth was the world’s original “nice girl,” and Kane knew that, until recently, dating him had never crossed her mind. Nice girls didn’t date Kane Geary. They stuck with people like Adam Morgan, Mr. All-American, earnest, good-hearted, and sweet as apple pie. But now Adam was history, and Beth was all his.
All it had taken was a little hard work, just a few surreptitious pushes in the right direction … and here she was. Tossed aside by her beloved boyfriend, who’d caught her cheating. With Kane. Or, at least, Adam
he’d caught her. Kane smirked. You’d think that after their years of friendship, Adam would have realized that when it came to Kane, what you see is rarely what you get. But Adam hadn’t bothered to look deeper; and Kane hadn’t hesitated before swooping in to claim his prize.
And what a prize. Perched primly on the edge of her seat, her hand on his, his foot grazing her leg beneath the table. Gazing at him with those open, grateful eyes—as if a dinner at Chez Jacques, the overpriced “French bistro” whose chef and menu were about as French as McDonald’s french fries, was proof of his boundless love. Yes, it was “the best restaurant in town”—but when your town was a dusty assortment of liquor stores and burned-out buildings like Grace, California, and when most local cuisine tasted as if a handful of desert dirt and cacti had been tossed in for “local flavor,” best restaurant in town wasn’t saying much. Not that Beth seemed to realize it. Kane supposed that a lifetime in Grace—or perhaps a year with Adam—had dulled her expectations. Or at least her tastebuds.
She’d temporarily dispensed with her daily uniform, a bland T-shirt and jeans, and was instead wearing a low-cut satin dress, a pale sky blue that matched her eyes. With her long, blond hair swept into a loose knot at the nape of her neck and the long, silver earrings he’d given her swaying gently with her every graceful move, she looked like a model. Gorgeous, elegant—perfect. And should he expect any less?
Kane could see the question in the envious gazes of his female admirers: What does she have that I don’t?
One thing, ladies,
he responded silently, suppressing a smile.
For the moment—me
“What are you thinking?” she asked him, tucking a stray hair behind her ear. It had become a familiar question. Good ol’ Adam was pretty much an open book—it must be somewhat unnerving for her, Kane supposed, to be dating someone with any kind of inner life, someone with secrets. And Kane didn’t mind her asking—as long as he didn’t have to give a real answer.
“I’m just thinking how beautiful you look tonight,” Kane told her—a half-truth being the best kind of lie. “I’m thinking how incredibly lucky I am to have ended up with someone like you.”
Beth giggled, her face turning a faint shade of pink. “I’m the lucky one, Kane,” she protested.
He couldn’t argue with that.
For Harper Grace, Saturday night traditionally meant three things: booze, boys, and boredom. She would hit a lame bar with a lame guy, flash her crappy fake ID at an apathetic bartender, and down a couple of rum and Cokes before finding a secluded spot for the inevitable not-so-hot ‘n’ heavy make-out session with Mr. Wrong. It had seemed a risky and adventurous formula a few years ago, but the love ’m and lose ’em act had gotten old, fast. Grace was a small town, too small—and after a few years of the same bars, the same guys, the same post-date conversation with her best friend, Miranda (usually concluding with, “Why would you ever let me go out with such a loser?”), the thrill was gone.
But, now … Harper glanced to her left. Adam’s wholesome good looks were just barely visible in the dim light cast by the flickering movie screen. His bright eyes, his wide smile, the shock of blond hair that set oaf his perfect tan—it was too dark to see the details, but no matter. She knew them all by heart.
Now, things were different, Harper reminded herself, leaning against Adam’s broad shoulder and twirling her fingers through his. There was no more need for cheap thrills, because she had the real thing. Adam Morgan, her next-door neighbor, her oldest friend—her soul mate, if you believed in such things. Which, of course, she didn’t. But she believed in Adam—and she believed that after all the effort she’d put into winning him, she fully deserved her prize. They’d been together only a couple months, but already, he never spoke of his year with The Bland One anymore. The dreamy gaze that used to bloom across his face at the mere mention of Beth’s name was gone. Knowing—or believing—that his perfect little angel had hopped into bed with someone else had had its effect. Adam had finally wised up and realized that the right person for him had been there all along, a loyal friend and next-door neighbor, just waiting for her time to come. Unlike Beth,
would never let him down, never mistreat him, never lie to him—unless, she conceded, it was for his own good.
So what if she was spending her night in a dark theater watching an endless Jackie Chan marathon rather than preening in front of the adoring masses, Haven High girls hoping that her polite acknowledgment might secure them a berth on the A-list, brawny bouncers and bartenders attracted by her billowing auburn hair like moths to a flame and hoping against hope she would ditch her date and fall into their open arms? (It had been known to happen.) So what if she had to watch what she said 24/7, to make sure none of the nasty thoughts constantly popping into her brain slipped out in Adam’s presence, lest he begin to think she really was as much of a power-hungry bitch as the rest of their school believed her to be? And so what if, in order to get what she wanted, she’d had to screw over the people she loved the most, and sacrifice whatever shreds of integrity she may have had left after four years in the Haven High trenches?
None of that mattered now. Not now that she had Adam. Strong, handsome, kind, wonderful,
She’d waited so long—but it had been worth it. All of it.
“What are you thinking?” he whispered, slinging an arm around her and drawing her close. She nestled against him, laying her head against his shoulder. He was always asking her that, and she was still delighted by the novelty of being with a guy who actually cared what she was thinking, who was focused on getting into her mind rather than into her bed.
“I’m thinking this—you, us—it’s all too good to be true,” she admitted. And though it was intended as a lie, the words had the ring of truth.
“It’s true,” he assured her, and kissed her gently on the forehead.
Harper decided, leaning against his warm body. No more party girl. No more shallow, superficial bitch. She would be the girl Adam wanted her to be—the girl he seemed to think, deep down, she really was. And who knew? He could even be right.
After all, anything’s possible.
Miranda was bored.
She’d tried to tell herself that having all this free time on her hands was a good thing. She could use some space—a nice, long stretch of empty hours every now and then would give her a chance to do all the things that she wanted to do. She wouldn’t have to accommodate anyone else—not her mother, not her little sister, not Harper, none of the people who usually saw fit to dictate the what, when, and how of Miranda’s life. She’d just do her own thing. She was a strong, smart, independent woman, right? (This month’s
quiz had confirmed it.) Enjoying your alone time was right there in the job description, and she’d been certain she was up to the task.