Authors: Teresa Mummert
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR
© 2013, TERESA MUMMERT
TERESAMUMMERT (DOT) COM
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author/publisher.
When I moved to Hollow Point, Pennsylvania I had a plan. I would do whatever it takes to climb my way to the top of the social ladder, not caring who I had to step on to get there.
The girl who started that rumor about your eating disorder?
That was me.
The girl who made out with your boyfriend?
The girl you don’t ever want to cross?
You’re looking at her, bitch.
To my husband and children –
Thank you for your time and patience that has allowed me to follow my dreams.
They say that sticks and stones can break your bones, but words will never hurt you. I disagree. Words, in the form of rumors, can destroy someone’s reputation.
I should know.
When I was seventeen, I thought I had the world figured out. Never get close enough to let anyone hurt you. If you don’t open your heart, it can’t be ripped out. Always remember the secrets you were trusted to keep. Those become weapons, and I’ve developed an arsenal. Money doesn’t buy happiness, it buys power, and that is even better. What goes around, comes around. And most importantly, every lie holds a truth. This life lesson would destroy my world.
I tapped my pen against my notebook, my eyes dancing around the room as I tuned out the voice of Ms. Walters. She had been droning on and on about our need to learn from history, or it will repeat itself. If that were true, she should listen to her hairstylist because that perm went out of style thirty years ago. Stifling a yawn, I bowed my back and glanced to my right.
Tammy Gerard was watching me, her eyes unfocused and lost in some sort of daydream as she twisted a hunk of orange-red hair around her stubby finger. She immediately tried to befriend me when I walked into Hollow Point High three weeks ago, but I had no intention of making friends.
“Stop staring at me you perv,” I shouted a little louder than necessary. Tammy’s eyes snapped to her desk as her fingers wrapped around the edge, gripping it tightly as if it was the only thing keeping her from running from the room. Her eyes instantly glossed over under the scrutiny of her peers.
Now everyone’s gaze was fixed on me. Some people snickered, some whispered, but all kept their attention on
“Ms. Vaughn, do you need to take a trip down to Mr. Sanders’ office?” Ms. Walters had her arms folded across her chest as she peered over the rim of her glasses at me with a warning glare.
Rolling my eyes, I snorted. “Oh, please. That guy is a bigger pervert than Tammy over here.”
The class erupted in laughter around me, and I watched as Ms. Walters’ shoulders fell. “Perhaps I should just call your parents then. Maybe they can homeschool you to give you all of that attention you feel you deserve?” Her voice rose as if asking a question letting me know she wasn’t sure of her own words.
If you’re going to act like an asshole, at least commit to the role.
“Or maybe I could call my father and let him know you are threatening to punish me when I simply complained about being sexually harassed.” I shrugged, and the entire class fell silent, in disbelief that I would challenge a teacher. My eyes narrowed, and it felt like the anger was slicing its way through my veins. I didn’t want to be here any more than she didn’t want me. I stared at her, her mouth agape but she didn’t respond. Her brow furrowed, and she shook her head, lightly causing her brown curls to sway.
“Can I get back to my lesson now?” She asked but turned back the marker board in the front of the room, not waiting for me to answer. I sank down in my seat and picked at the frayed edge of my notebook paper until the bell finally rang, releasing me from this hell.
I grabbed my belongings and slipped through the crowd of students wanting to tell the
how cool they thought I was and into the hall, hurrying to make it to my locker before my next class and cursing Ms. Walters under my breath with each step. I didn’t choose to come to this hellhole. I was perfectly happy at Reagan High in California, with all of my friends I’d grown up with. I didn’t want to be the
in a Podunk town whose only claim to fame was some idiot who’d written a self-help book and made the bestseller list. I was happy with who I already was. Back home I was somebody. I was the daughter of a prominent actor. Here, I was an outsider.
“Don’t let her get to you,” A boy said from the other side of my locker door. I didn’t bother to see who was talking to me.
to me. I could care less what some
thinks about me.”
“If you didn’t care what anyone thought, why do you keep going out of your way to make sure you’re noticed?”
My eyes narrowed as I slammed my locker door and turned toward him, but my angry response died in my throat as Bryce Emerson stared back at me. His emerald eyes sparkled mischievously as he ran his hand through his messy, dark hair. He was the first person I’d noticed when I stepped into this school. The second person was the petite brunette that clung to his side as if he’d run away screaming if she released her grip on him. Not that I could blame her for worrying. He could be kind of cute with a wardrobe update and a haircut.
“Well?” His eyebrow rose as he waited for me to respond.
“That girl was practically
. I felt violated. Not that I could blame her.”
Rolling his eyes, he took a step backward. “Well, if you need someone to run defense for you, I’d be happy to offer my services,” he said with a wink before turning around and disappearing into the crowd.
“I bet you would,” I muttered under my breath. I felt my cheeks heat as I turned the opposite direction, nearly tripping over Bryce’s girlfriend.
“Can I help you with something?” I asked as I cocked my head to the side, taking in her outfit that looked like it was pulled from the bargain bin of a second-hand store.
“I-I’m Tatum Flynn, Bryce’s girlfriend. We met before. We have Algebra together.”
I pretended to think for a moment. “I was just talking to Bryce, but he didn’t mention anything about you.” I shrugged as I stepped around her and headed toward my next class.
“Well, I know it’s probably been crazy for you trying to make new friends and figure your way around this place.” She caught up to my side, her short little legs having to take two steps for everyone I took just to keep up with me. “I thought maybe you’d want to hang out or something later.” Her mousy-brown hair barely skimmed her shoulders and she tucked it behind her ear but it was so thick, it immediately dislodged.
Could she not take a hint?
I stopped walking and spun around to face her, plastering a smile on my face. “Trust me, I don’t have any problem making friends, I just haven’t found anyone
of my time. Will Bryce be joining us on this little journey?” I asked as she pulled her lower lip between her teeth.
“Yeah, I mean… I thought maybe we could hang out at the mall or something. He doesn’t usually like to shop.”
“The mall?” I laughed, shaking my head. “I didn’t think this hellhole even had a mall.”
“Yeah, we have a mall with a food court and everything. It’s nice,” she replied, and I started to laugh but realized she wasn’t even joking.
“Great. You guys have food. Livin’ the dream,” I deadpanned as I stopped in front of the door to Mr. Hagan’s room. Her smile was hopeful. Most would have slinked away in the other direction with their tail between their legs. She was persistent, I’ll give her that. “Let me see your phone.”
She slid her phone from her pocket and handed it to me. It didn’t even have a lock code on it, and I couldn’t help but smile.
These people just trusted everyone. How adorable.
I typed in my number and saved it to her contacts.
“Text me.” Before she could respond, I disappeared through the doorway and sank down in my seat just as the teacher began to speak.
“Thanks for gracing us with your presence today, Kylie.” Mr. Hagan flashed his crooked smile before focusing on today’s lesson.
“My name is
Vaughn.” I rolled my eyes as I sank town into my seat and began to check my social media accounts on my cell. All of my friends back home had filled my feeds with pictures of them at a party the night before. If I were in LA, I wouldn’t even have attended a party at Sam’s house, but now I felt like I was being left behind. I knew the world wouldn’t stop when I stepped onto the plane, but part of me hoped that they’d at least be sad that I was gone.
I slid my phone into my purse and rested my chin on my hand. I let myself get lost in the memory of my mom before the pills had slurred her speech and turned her into a family embarrassment. When a typical family could have kept the shame private, my mother was front page on all of the gossip magazines. She blamed her problems on my father having an affair with his assistant, who was only four years older than me.
My father had no choice but to dump her at rehab and disassociate us from her completely to preserve his image. I’d tried to visit her before we left but she refused to see me, accusing me of helping him hide his liaisons and being the reason she no longer had a perfect figure.
Unfortunately, the rumors she’d started about my father turned out to be true, but I didn’t know about it until Piper Reynolds showed up at the airport to join us on our new adventure.
“Riley?” A voice broke through my self-loathing, and my eyes snapped to the front of the room to Mr. Hagan whose eyes were sparkling behind his glasses. “You looked a little lost.”
A few students snickered causing my cheeks to heat. “I was bored,” I shot back, and he chuckled, not caring that I was a jerk.
He went back to his lecture, and as I let my eyes go unfocused once more, I tried to come up with a plan to get rid of Piper once and for all.
By the time lunch rolled around, I had stood with my tray of smelly food and looked out over the sea of people. They were smiling and laughing, enjoying each other’s company. I squared my shoulder and lifted my chin as I plastered on a broad smile and walked to the table in the center filled with football players and the girls vying for their attention.
I stopped behind Bryce, clearing my throat. He turned to look over his shoulder at me, flashing a grin before sliding down the bench and patting the spot beside him.
“Hey, Riley. Want to join us?”
I pretended to ponder the idea for a moment before shrugging. “I suppose.” Sitting down my tray, I sank down beside him as my eyes danced over the food.
“I was just telling Landon how you called Tammy out in the middle of class. It was hilarious.”
“I always thought she was into chicks,” Landon spoke up, and Bryce laughed.
“You think every girl who won’t sleep with you is a lesbian,” Bryce shot back, and they all laughed.
“Tammy’s nice. She lives like three houses down from me,” The redhead across the table spoke up before taking a long drink from her water bottle.
“I never said she
I glanced down at her nearly empty tray.
“How do you guys eat this stuff and stay so thin? This food is loaded with fat,” I groaned.
“I’m going to the bathroom, want to come?” The redhead asked the brunette next to her as she stood, tray in hand.
“I’ll go. I’m Riley, by the way.”
“I know who you are. We don’t get many new students often.” She eyed me skeptically for a moment. “I’m Rachel, this is Kate.” She nodded to the girl next to her. “Come on, I’ll show you where the bathroom is behind the gym. No one ever uses it so it won’t be crowded.”
“Lead the way.”
We dumped our trays of food and headed down the East hall to the nearly desolate hallway that looped behind the gym. Rachel and Kate shoved their bags on the thin metal ledge next to the sinks before disappearing into the stalls.
“You’re making quite a reputation for yourself around here,” Rachel called out.
“That so?” I replied as I put on a fresh coat of mascara, waiting for
to tell me something about myself I didn’t already know.
“Just a friendly warning, everyone here is really close. We’ve known each other all of our lives. If you want to fit in, keep your head down.”
I smirked as I wiped a smudge of makeup from under my eye. There was no way I’d walk around here without my head held high. “I’m not interested in fitting in.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” she yelled back. If this girl thought she was going to scare me away, she had no idea who she was dealing with.
I pulled my lip gloss from my purse and slicked on a fresh coating as they asked me questions about where I was from and how long I thought I’d be staying. I rolled my eyes, dropping my makeup back into my bag before picking up a bottle of eye drops and flipping it over in my fingers. My gaze went Rachel’s water bottle, and I couldn’t help but smile as I twisted off the cap and squirted a few drops into the clear liquid before closing it back up.
“When are you going back to California?” Rachel asked as she slipped out of the stall before washing her hands.
“Not soon enough.” I turned to look at her. “You look a little flushed,” I feigned concern. “Are you dehydrated?”
She looked herself over in the mirror before grabbing her bottle of water and taking a drink.
“Maybe it’s just the lighting,” I added before we made our way back toward the cafeteria. We reached the double doors just as Rachel put her hand over her mouth.
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’ll catch up with you guys in a minute. I think I left one of my books in the bathroom.”
She was going to be leaving her lunch in the bathroom too.