Authors: Stephanie Wardrop
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The author makes no claims to, but instead acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of the word marks mentioned in this work of fiction.
Copyright © 2013 by Stephanie Wardrop
Pride and Prep School by Stephanie Wardrop
All rights reserved. Published in the United States of America by Swoon Romance. Swoon Romance and its related logo are registered trademarks of Georgia McBride Books, LLC.
No part of this eBook may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Edited by Amy Garvey
Published by Swoon Romance
Cover designed by Su Kopil
Cover art license by Shutterstock.com
Snarky, well-written, fun
!” – Kathy
Fun, snarky light and enjoyable read
.” – Jessica
Great summer read
!” – Jen McConnel, author of Daughter of Chaos
It’s such a cliché to wake up with a hangover on New Year’s Day. I don’t even open my eyes but focus instead on being grateful that, thanks to Michael Endicott’s well-timed offer of a ride home last night, I woke up in my own house, and not Jeremy Wrentham’s. I’ll have to text Michael a “thank you” for that. Just as soon as Bigfoot stops tap-dancing on my head. Maybe in an hour. Maybe tomorrow …
When I finally get one sticky eye fully open I see my older sister Tori sitting on her bed, monitoring me for signs of life.
“I’m so glad you’re okay! I knew you were still alive because you were snoring so loudly.”
I groan and roll over away from her.
“So what happened? Beth Evans said you puked and Tommy Gage said Michael had to pull Jeremy off of you and then they got into a fistfight!”
“No! No.” I turn to her and as I roll I feel something sloshing in my guts and amend, “Well, the puking happened. Unfortunately.”
Tori laughs and stretches her legs out like a cat waking up. “Well, that won’t stop people from texting about it all day.”
“At least all is well with you and Trey?” I ask, because the only reason I had gone to the party in the first place was to get Tori out of the house to stop worrying about the fact that her perfect boyfriend, Trey Billingsley III, had been incommunicado through the whole holiday break. “He lost his phone.” She shrugs sheepishly, and I can tell that any lingering irritation with Trey is gone. “And it was
nice of Michael to tell him I was at Jason’s. Michael came back to the party to tell me you’d gone, by the way. And it was
nice of him to bring you home.” She gives me a pointed look.
“Oh. My. God!” Our younger sister Cassie bursts into the room, new Android in hand, and jumps on my bed. “I just heard that you were
scamming with Jeremy Wrentham last night!”
“Cass,” Tori admonishes, “give George a break. She has a hangover.”
Cassie laughs herself off the bed at this information and I try to distract her by saying, “We should go see how Leigh’s night went. My New Year’s Eve was nothing to be proud of … though kissing Jeremy was
Cassie squeals at this and follows me to the staircase though she does not want to hear about her twin’s purity ring and vow celebration at her church. She grabs my arm, pleading, “Tell me about Jeremy! What kind of kisser is he? I would dump Brick for him, I really would.”
I just shake my head and lead them to the kitchen to see Leigh, who is happy to share her night with us. She describes the way everyone managed to make the cinderblock church basement look pretty with swags of evergreens and big red velvet bows and gold and white candles and ribbons. A Christian rock band played and she says dancing with Alistair had been “magical”, which I can only assume is a gross exaggeration. She shows us her ring, a simple silver band on her left hand.
Cassie launches into Beyonce’s routine from the “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” video and then cuts herself off to inform Leigh, “You don’t know what you’re missing.” At least Mom’s arrival in the kitchen prevents her from discoursing on the sordid details of her New Year’s Eve with the Brick. When Cassie departs, I ask Mom, “Do you worry about her? I do.”
Mom sits at the table next to Leigh and says, “I worry about all you girls in different ways. I don’t like that Michael Endicott brought you home drunk last night, for instance.”
me drunk, Mom. I did that all on my own.” I sigh and consider picking up the bagel in front of me, but I’m not sure I should trust my stomach yet. “You can still think of him as the Prince of Longmeadow and me as your problem child.”
She nods and sips her coffee. “You know, the Endicott house is going to be on the Historic Homes Tour in a few weeks. I’m dying to see it. Bunny Billingsley says it’s so authentic, a real showpiece.”
I shrug, say, “I wouldn’t want to live in the eighteenth century,” and decide to chance the effects of one bite of the bagel on my bubbling cauldron of a stomach. “That trip to Sturbridge Village was enough for me.”
“I’m sure Michael’s house isn’t like that!” Tori laughs. “He has electricity, right?”
“Of course they do,” Mom assures me. “And they have very impressive antiques and maintain the original part of the home in the Federal style. It’s a piece of local history… The home will be on the spring garden tour, too. I hear the grounds are gorgeous.”
I get up then, willing to leave the bagel behind to get away from my mom’s rhapsodies about Michael’s house; they seem kind of tacky and underscore our canyon-sized differences – the ones between Mom and me
between Michael and me.
But before I can contemplate why Michael would play knight in Ralph Lauren-designed armor for me, I hit the laptop and find that he has sent me a Friend Request on Facebook. I accept it and moments later receive this IM:
How are you feeling?
I type: “Like a truck backed over me. But thank you for taking me home in my appalling and shameful state.”
He types: “All in a day’s work, ma’am. See you in school.”
As I contemplate our new, official, sanctioned-by-Facebook public status (Georgiana Barrett is now Friends with Michael Endicott), Shondra IMs:
“What happened since I last saw you?
but I pretend not to see it. I still feel too much like there’s a jackhammer pounding on my brain to comprehend this new social development myself.
But back in school two days later, things are definitely friendlier between Michael and me. In English we get into a happy debate over whether Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver was truly an idiot in thinking the Houhnhyms (the horse people) were better than humans; Michael accuses me of having the same conviction in the superiority of animals over people since I’m a vegan and an animal rights person. But he’s not smirking for once when he says it. He’s actually smiling.
The change between us must be noticeable to others, too, because after class Shondra walks me to Spanish and says, “I’m glad you guys worked things out.”
“I have to admit that Michael was really great at Jason’s party. And after.”
Shondra rolls her wide eyes and laughs, “Yeah. I heard about that party. And I heard about you and Jeremy Wrentham, too.”
“Oh, God. There he is.”
Jeremy walks toward us, in all his golden-haired, cashmere-sweatered glory, carrying a few books so loosely under his arm they seem to stay aloft through the sheer force of his personality. He’s chatting and smiling at everyone as he makes his way down the hallway, like a celebrity shown up in a small town, being gracious to all the little people as he makes his way to his car and driver.
To me he nods and says, “Hey, Dutch,” as he walks by.
And that’s it.
The boy who was so desperate to “ring in the New Year” with me couldn’t get past me faster if he’d had a rocket stuffed in his boxer shorts.
“Well, obviously our New Year’s Eve together represents a golden memory for him, too.” I think I sound normal, but my stomach is clenched like a fist.
At the door to Spanish class Jason Antin punches my arm lightly as he goes in, saying, “Hey, Georgia, glad you’re still with us!”
Shondra takes my arm before we walk through the classroom door but she can’t seem to speak. She just looks at me with sad eyes, her mouth slightly open but someone’s hit the “mute” button.
“What?” I demand when I can’t take it for another nanosecond.
“I don’t know how to say this …”
“So just say it.”
“I heard Jeremy took Amanda Anderson home after you left Jason’s party the other night,” she says in one breath.
I throw my arm against my forehead and mock wail, “Oh, no! And I was having our wedding invitations engraved!”
But as I walk to my seat in class, I’m on autopilot and my stomach feels even tighter, like it is trying to fold itself up into an origami bird. The feeling remains through the rest of the day until the
meeting, where Gray shows me pictures on his phone of their band’s New Year’s show. He promises to make me a mix CD so I’ll be prepared for their next show.
“I promise I’ll be at the next gig,” I swear, raising three fingers in the Girl Scout salute.
I would have been so much better off seeing the Cryptic Pigs from Hell than at Jason’s party with Jeremy. But since nothing ever really happened with Jeremy, and I never
liked him, it’s not hard to brush aside the whole night. Even if I
discovered a surprisingly sweet side to Michael Endicott.
That Saturday afternoon, Michael continues to surprise when he shows up at our house with Trey. While I’m hardly expecting him, it’s not as weird as the first time he showed up and made fun of my groceries. Somehow he and Trey and Tori and I end up in the family room watching the most recent vampire romance flick. Cassie’s the one who loves these movies, but she’s at the mall with her friend Jenny while Leigh declines to watch anything about vampires and other unholy creatures. Dating Alistair the fundamentalist minister’s son has made her even more conservative and Jesus-freaky than she was before, when she was content simply to dress like a rejected character from
I excuse myself to go to the kitchen since I can’t really last through the whole movie without making fun of it, and I know that would upset Tori, who can find romance in a can of tuna. Besides, as part of my vegan food allowance from my parents, I have to make dinner for the family once a week, and tonight’s the night. It’s never come in handier as an excuse to leave a room.
But as I pull a tub of tofu out of the refrigerator, Michael pops up behind me, asking, “Can I help?”
I’m startled, and when I recall my breath, I ask, “Don’t you want to watch the rest of the movie?”
He snorts. “No, believe me, I don’t. One more scene of those pale people flying over the trees and I will put my fist through the TV,” he says.
I shrug and hand him the tofu and point to a bowl and potato masher on the table. “You can start mashing the tofu. We’re making dairy-free ricotta.”
He scratches his head a little like a cartoon character and I have to laugh at him. “Mash the tofu?” he asks. “Isn’t it mushy already?” But he literally rolls up the sleeves of his maroon long-sleeved t-shirt to get to work. After a few seconds of consideration, he takes a knife to the covering of the tofu carton, cuts an expert slit around the rim, and then dumps the whole brick of tofu, including its water bath, into the big blue bowl I’d set out. Now I really laugh, and he grins ruefully, shaking out his fingers and wringing out his shirt.
“Um, you have to
the water first,” I say. He watches me take the bowl over to the sink and let the water stream out as I hold back the thick white brick of soybean curd with one hand. He nods as if very impressed by my mad culinary skills. Moments later, he manages to chop onions well enough and takes a childish delight in squeezing the garlic through the press, then sits to watch me sauté them in a pan and add them to the tofu with some vegan parmesan cheese and olive oil. No one on the Food Network has ever had a more attentive audience, and for once he’s not even making fun of me.
“What is this going to be again?” he asks as he sniffs the bowl of mushed tofu and seasonings.
“Vegan stuffed shells.”
“So … you really like to cook.”
I turn off the burner on the cooked shells and drain them into a colander, releasing a cloud of steam that Michael bats away like he’s in a four-alarm fire.
“Yeah, I do,” I say. “I like making something out of nothing. Baking’s my favorite. It’s like … alchemy. You start with a bunch of really unappetizing things – flour, salt, baking powder, cocoa powder – stick it in an oven and it turns into something great.”
He nods and makes a face. “I once refused to believe my mom when she was making a birthday cake and told me not to eat the baking chocolate. I never want something that nasty-tasting in my mouth again.”
“Cassie still falls for that one at least once a year.” I hand him a spoon and show him how to stuff the pasta shells and line them up in the baking dish. “You seem surprised that I like to cook.”