Authors: Alice Moss
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2010 by Random House Children’s Books
Cover art copyright © 2010 by Getty Images
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Ember, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. Originally published on the website
in 2010. First published in book form in paperback in Great Britain by Random House Children’s Books, a division of the Random House Group Limited, London.
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Faye McCarron tucked a windblown strand of brown hair back beneath her wool hat before leaning down to snap another picture. She didn’t know how long the snow would last, and there was no sense in missing an opportunity.
“Do you really want to be late for the first day of school?” Liz Wilson asked impatiently. “You know how cranky you get when you’re late.”
Faye glanced at Liz, sticking her tongue out before turning to snap another image of the flowers outside Winter Mill High School.
“The bell’s about to ring,” Liz warned.
Faye straightened up with a sigh. She was taller than her best friend by a couple of inches, something Liz was always complaining about, though Faye couldn’t see that it made much difference. “Liz, come on. Look—these roses are covered in snow and it’s only the first week of September!”
“I know, right?” Liz agreed, shaking her curly brown hair out of her perfectly made-up dark eyes. “It’s weird. I mean, maybe one freak snowfall would be OK, but anyone would think this was Christmas. The whole town looks like a greeting card.”
“Exactly,” said Faye, taking another picture. “Which is why these photos will make a great story in the
snows this early in New England. Totally weird.”
Liz snorted. “Sure, because it’s not as if the school paper won’t have tons of dorks sending them pictures of their
Faye looked at her friend, knowing she was teasing. “Are you calling me a dork?”
There was a brief silence. “So,” asked Liz, smoothly changing the subject, “any news from your dad this morning?”
Faye shook her head. “No.”
“And he hasn’t emailed? Or called?”
Liz was quiet for another moment before she said brightly, “Oh well, he’s probably just busy or something. Where’s the latest dig?”
Faye took her last picture and straightened up, fitting the lens cap to her digital SLR. It had been a Christmas present from her dad the previous year, the most expensive thing he’d ever given her. The plan was that when she was older, Faye would join him on one of his archaeology trips as an intern photographer. She couldn’t wait; it was something she’d wanted to do for ages. To visit all the incredible places her dad had told her about, with him there too, would just be awesome. Until then, though, Faye wished he could find a way to stay in touch more often when he was away. Sometimes weeks went by without a word, and Faye always worried, though she tried to hide it.
“He’s in Tanzania.”
Liz frowned. “In Australia?”
“No.… Liz, that’s
“Tanzania’s in Africa.”
“There you go! The mail probably isn’t too good there, right? Or phones. Or the Internet …”
Despite herself, Faye grinned, pulling her friend into a brief hug. “Thanks, Lizzie.”
“Trying to make me feel better.”
Liz hugged her back. “That’s what friends are for.”
The sudden loud noise of a car behind them made them both jump. They turned to see a sleek black Cadillac slide to a halt a yard or so away, tires carving deep tracks in the snow.
“Omigod!” squeaked Liz in excitement. “I bet that’s him!”
“The Morrow kid! Lucas!”
The two girls watched as the passenger door opened and a boy of about sixteen stepped out. He was tall and broad-shouldered, with very pale blond hair that flopped across his brow above piercing blue eyes. He slung a backpack over his shoulder, reaching up to push his hair back as he glanced up at the school.
“Omigod,” Liz stage-whispered. “He’s gorgeous. Take a picture!”
“For the paper—you can do a story. About … about his arrival, and the whole Morrow mystery.”
“The Morrow mystery? What are you talking about?”
“The whole town’s going on about it. Come on, Faye, you must have heard about the Morrows arriving?”
Faye had. Everyone was excited about the fact that Mercy Morrow, the fabulously wealthy heiress, had bought the old mansion in the woods.
“I know the whole town seems to be fascinated by them,” said Faye. “But I don’t see what’s so mysterious.”
Liz sighed dramatically, as if she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Faye. Why on earth would Mercy Morrow, one of the richest women in America, take a house here in quiet old Winter Mill?” she asked, repeating what many people
in the town were saying. “She could go anywhere—Los Angeles, Monaco, Rome … but she came here.” She paused for dramatic effect.
“And nobody knows why.”
“Maybe she wanted to be in a place where no one would talk about her,” Faye suggested wryly.
“Come on, Faye. Just take a picture.”
“OK, OK.” Faye unhooked her lens cap and raised the camera, but before she could snap a shot, the driver’s door opened. A tall, pale man appeared, barking at them in an unpleasant, gravelly voice. His narrow face looked as if someone had taken a skull and covered it with skin-colored paint, it was so gaunt. His eyes were sunken in their sockets, dark and cruel. Just looking at him creeped Faye out.
“No pictures,” he said roughly.
“It’s just for the school paper,” said Faye.
, no pictures.”
“It’s OK, Ballard,” Lucas Morrow said, pushing the car door shut. “I got it. Go back to Mom.”
The man stared at Faye coldly before slowly getting into the car again. A moment later, the Cadillac pulled away.
“Wow. My first locals,” said the boy with a slight smile as he reached them.
“Hi,” said Faye, thrown slightly off-balance by her run-in with the man called Ballard. “So you’re Lucas Morrow? It’s nice to meet you. I’m Faye, and this is Liz.…”
Lucas looked them both up and down. “So, you’re like … what? The top girl reporters of the small-town
Faye narrowed her eyes.
“The National Enquirer?”
Lucas smirked. “Yeah. It’s a trash mag.”
what it is.”
Faye watched, annoyed, as Lucas turned on his most charming smile. It showed his perfectly even, white teeth. “It’s … funny. Sometimes.”
Faye refused to be charmed, still upset by his trash-mag gibe. “Sure it is.”
There was a brief, awkward pause. “Sorry,” Lucas muttered. “That was supposed to be a joke. Guess I’m more nervous than I thought. It’s my first day.…”
Faye shook her head. “It’s fine.”
Lucas glanced at her, a mischievous look in his eye. “No? Are you sure? Because you don’t look fine. You look
. Your eyes are flashing.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Liz piped up before Faye could answer. “They always do it. All her family have crazy green eyes.”
Lucas’s eyebrows shot up. “Crazy green eyes?”
“Oh no,” said Liz, realizing what she’d said, “I didn’t mean … not
, crazy—they’re just, you know,
Lucas laughed. “Well, that’s good. Crazy Faye isn’t much of a nickname.”
Faye found her voice. “I don’t have a nickname. And please ignore my best friend—she’s … challenged.”
Liz gasped in outrage. “Hey!”
Lucas laughed again. “If you two are representative of the whole school, I think my stay here might be more interesting than I thought.”
Faye smiled sweetly. “Does that mean you’ll let me take a picture for the school paper?”
Lucas shrugged. “Maybe. How about we strike a deal? You let me give you a nickname, and I’ll let you take a picture.”
Faye shook her head. “Oh, I don’t think so.”
Lucas sighed regretfully. “Too late. I’ve already thought of the perfect nickname. Flash. I think it suits you.”
“Flash?” Faye repeated, horrified.
“Sure. For your green eyes, and your addiction to snapping pictures. Perfect, isn’t it?”
“Actually, that’s pretty good,” said Liz with a nod.
Lucas smiled at her. “Thank you. It’s a talent of mine. One of many.”
Faye dug an elbow into Liz’s ribs. “You will
call me Flash! No one’s going to call me Flash!”
“Aw, come on, Flash, don’t be a killjoy,” teased Lucas.
“I’m not—” Faye began, but Lucas had already started to walk away.
Faye and Liz watched as he headed for Winter Mill High’s main doors.