The International Kissing Club (2 page)

BOOK: The International Kissing Club
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Only it
happening, the chant growing louder with each second that passed. And then, as if it understood what the words meant, the pig chose that moment to run its cold, wet, disgusting snout down one of her cheeks, across her mouth, and over her chin.

Piper clamped her hands on her face in a meager attempt at protection that was too little, too late and prayed for the ground to open up and swallow her whole. She prayed for an earthquake, for a five-alarm fire, for anything that would make this nightmare end.

Finally, someone managed to pry the pig away from her—she glanced up and realized Tanner had grabbed the rope and was wrestling the animal back across the square—and Piper scrambled to her feet.

It took a minute, but the entire gathering fell silent once again. As she looked up at the bleachers and wondered half-hysterically what she was supposed to do now, she realized Mei, Izzy, and Cassidy had been frantically making their way down the crowded stands to reach her. As they got to the bottom, Izzy looked up, straight at Piper, and her already pale face drained of color. Then she started to run, directly toward Piper.

Following Izzy’s horrified gaze, Piper looked down and realized her struggle with the pig had ripped the front of her dress clear off.

She was standing in front of Tanner, her classmates, and a large percentage of Paris, Texas, bare from the waist down except for the ridiculous pair of Spanx her mother had forced her, under duress, to wear.

Laughter once again replaced the football players’ silence, though Piper realized a number of adults were crowding into the square—including the high school principal, Mr. Callahan, and the town’s mayor, Mr. Hunter. But they were too late. The damage had been done.

She looked around for her mother, finally spotted her on the ground about thirty feet away. Her father and sister were crowded around her mom, fanning her with their Cotton Festival programs, but she wasn’t stirring. For one fleeting second, Piper wondered if she’d finally done it. If she’d finally embarrassed her mother so badly that her mom had done what she’d always threatened to do: died of shame.

It was the last straw.

As her world caved in, Piper turned to flee and ran straight into Germaine, who was grinning widely as she used her iPhone to click picture after picture of Piper’s humiliation.

The last thing Piper saw before she made a beeline for her car was Cassidy’s fist connecting with Germaine’s face.

Despite her complete and total humiliation at Germaine’s hands, Piper couldn’t help smiling as she imagined blood gushing from the head cheerleader’s nose. One thing was for sure—this year’s Cotton Festival was going to be one nobody ever forgot …

Chapter 1

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Piper asked as she tentatively picked her way through the field toward the huge barn about three hundred yards away. Even from this distance she could hear the loud music and raucous laughter of her classmates. Which would normally mean she and her friends were going to have a kick-ass time. It was the biggest party of the year, after all. The say-good-bye-to-summer blast they’d been looking forward to for what seemed like forever. This year, since they were finally upperclassmen, they wouldn’t get razzed for attending.

But that was before the Cotton Festival.

Before the Kiss the Pig incident.

Before she had become a YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter overnight sensation.

God, it had gotten so bad that she could hear the oinking in her sleep.

The thought had Piper stopping in her tracks, her feet refusing to move one step closer to the party. So what if it was at Mike Jenkins’s ranch? So what if he was Tanner Colt’s best friend, thereby guaranteeing that Tanner would be there? So what, even, if she’d had a crush on Tanner forever? Nothing was worth the humiliation of being chased around by drunken losers making pig noises.

“I can’t do this,” she said, her voice sounding way too high, even to her.

“Oh, come on, Piper. It’s going to be fine.” Mei reached out and squeezed her hand, her dark, almond-shaped eyes filled with sympathy. “It’s been months since the video of the Cotton Festival hit the Internet. They’ve probably forgotten all about it by now.”

“They’d be the only ones who forgot,” Izzy commented under her breath before saying out loud, “I can’t believe—”

She stopped in the middle of her sentence, and from the sudden, harsh inhalation she took, Piper could only assume it was because Cassidy had stepped on her foot.

“Even if they haven’t forgotten, you’re going to have to face them sometime,” Mei said, taking over smoothly, logical as always. “School starts on Monday.”

Piper groaned. “Don’t remind me.”

“Yeah,” Cassidy joined in, “and since the party’s already been going for a couple hours, everyone in there is probably too drunk to care about what happened at the beginning of the summer.”

“I’m not so sure about that.” Piper eyed the barn doubtfully, even as she allowed her friends to drag her closer to it. “They’d have to be pretty drunk to forget that the whole world knows me as the Kiss the Pig girl.”

“Not the whole world,” Izzy said, with a comforting pat on her shoulder.

“Yeah. Just all of North America.” Piper’s stomach clenched as she remembered the back-to-school shopping trip to Dallas she and her mother had made a few days before. She’d been so excited to get out of Paris and away from all the strange looks and pig snorts that she hadn’t considered that her troubles could follow her.

Ten minutes in the Neiman Marcus juniors department had disabused her of that notion as she’d been asked—three times—if she was the YouTube pig girl. By the time the fourth person approached
her, she had given up trying to deny it and had shouted loud enough for the entire floor to hear that “Yes, I kissed a pig!”

Too bad the person approaching had been the saleswoman, who’d looked at her like she was insane. Then again, she probably was. Especially since within minutes of her outburst her mother’s hand had crept into her purse for her omnipresent bottle of little white pills. If Piper had just kept her mouth shut, she wouldn’t have spent the rest of the day steering her stoned-on-Xanax mother from one store to the next and then driving her home through rush-hour traffic.

None of that would have been so bad—after all, her mother had been so out of it that Piper had managed to cop some really hip clothes that normally she never would have had a chance to buy—but when she got home, her father had been furious with her for upsetting her mom. Again.

Of course, she’d tried to explain that her mother got upset if Piper so much as climbed out of bed in the morning. But her father hadn’t appreciated her humor or her honesty. Especially not with Savannah, the pageant princess and perfect daughter, fanning the flames of his annoyance by acting like their mother was one step away from the grave instead of simply bombed out of her mind.

Piper had tried to explain her side of the story, but in the end it hadn’t mattered. Savannah’s fawning attention to their mother had gotten her curfew extended by two hours, while Piper’s “attitude” had merely gotten her grounded. Which was why she and her friends were so late to this stupid party. She’d had to wait for her parents to go to bed so she could sneak out.

As the sounds of a Brad Paisley song drifted toward them, accompanied by a loud chanting that could only mean someone was doing a keg stand, Piper couldn’t help thinking that being grounded hadn’t been so bad, after all. She turned to head back to Izzy’s car.

“Come on, girl. Suck it up.” Cassidy grabbed her arm and propelled her forward. “Let them have their fun. A couple minutes of oinking and they’ll lose interest, especially if you just ignore them.”

Easy for Cassidy to say
, Piper thought a few minutes later as she weaved her way through the throng of gyrating bodies that had turned the barn’s main room into one big dance floor. Cassidy had been here five minutes and she was already deep in conversation with the basketball team about some new play their coach had introduced that morning at the first practice of the year.

Izzy had locked onto River, and the two of them were currently making out in one of the unused stalls. Admittedly, Piper found that kind of odd—she’d thought they were on a break, since River was heading to college in a few days—but obviously she’d been mistaken. At least judging by the way they had started going at it the second they’d seen each other.

Mei was still hanging with her, but as the pig sounds worked their way up to epic proportions, Piper wasn’t sure that was such a good idea. Especially when she knew her best friend would object if she tried to drown herself in one of the ice chests set up against the back of the barn.

Snort. Snort, snort, snort, snort. Snooooooort.

Piper ducked her head, ground her teeth together, and did her best to be as invisible as possible—which normally might not have been a problem, but it was when every guy she passed had a pig noise to make.

Of course, it could be worse,
she thought, trying to console herself.
Someone could let loose with the dreaded—


And there it was. Big surprise. It wasn’t like her classmates were rolling in originality or anything.

“That’s it,” she told Mei, heading for the door at the back of the barn. “I can’t do this.”

“Come on, Piper.” Mei tugged at her arm. “I know it’s bad, but you can’t hide in your room forever.”

“Wanna bet?” Homeschooling was looking better and better. So what if it was junior year and she’d been looking forward to finally
taking art with Ms. Hannebaker, one of the coolest artists and teachers in Paris? Missing her choice elective was a small price to pay for keeping her sanity.

“Let’s go get a drink,” Mei said, gesturing to the row of ice chests Piper had moments before been contemplating for a very different reason. “That’ll make you feel better.”

“Nothing will make me feel better except the complete and total annihilation of Germaine the Stain.”

“That’s the spirit.” Mei laughed, and even Piper had to grin.

There was just something about besmirching Germaine’s name that made everything okay. Or if not okay, at least a little better. It might be juvenile, but they’d been doing it since eighth grade and some traditions were worth preserving.

“Come on, we’ll get a wine cooler and plot the downfall of the Wicked Witch of Paris, Texas.”

“Now, that’s a plan I can get behind,” Piper said as she followed Mei through the crowd.

It took only a couple of minutes for them to grab two bottles of Smirnoff Ice—so much better than the peach-flavored wine coolers filling two of the ice chests—and then head into one of the few stalls not currently being used for make-out sessions. As they settled on the ground, Piper got her first glimpse of Tanner through the open stall door and her heart did a little shimmy in her chest, especially when his eyes met hers across the crowded room and he smiled.

She smiled back, her stomach unclenching for the first time since she’d gotten to the party. Maybe the night wouldn’t be a total bust.

“You might want to wipe up the drool running down your chin,” Mei said with a laugh. “I hear guys don’t go for that.”

“Yeah, it’s the drool keeping them away, not my spectacular career as a YouTube joke.”

“Aww, Pipes. It could have been a lot worse.” She wrapped her free arm around Piper’s shoulders in a quick hug.

“Shh! Don’t say that too loud. You don’t need to give Germaine any other ideas.” She took a long sip of her drink. “Besides, if things got any worse, my mom would have to add Prozac to her daily cocktail of tranquilizers and vodka. My father would kill me.”

“Good point.” Mei nodded toward Tanner. “Why don’t you go talk to him? He’s obviously happy you came.”

“Are you kidding? And lose my primo hiding spot? I don’t think so.”

“Are you ever going to tell him how you feel? You’ve been mooning over that boy since ninth grade!”

“Yeah, but I can’t talk to him when the other guys are all making fun of me.” Piper shook her head emphatically. No way was she going out there right now—not when the cries of “
” were still ringing in her ears.

“Besides, he’s dating Germaine the Insane—God only knows why—and we’ve already seen what she can do when she’s mad. If she thought I was trying to steal her boyfriend …” Piper shook her head. “Remember, this whole stupid thing started because Johnny Michaels kissed me instead of her at summer camp.”

Up until seventh-grade art camp the five of them had all been friends. But after the Johnny incident, Germaine had gone from being their BFF to the WWW (Wicked Witch of the West).

“Yeah, well, that was four years ago. It’s about time Germaine learns that she can’t have everything she wants in life. I’m so sick of her crap.”

sick of it?” Piper pretended to choke herself. “At least you’re only on the periphery. She’s had me in her sights for years now. I’m sick of always losing to her.”

“Which is why you should go talk to Tanner!” Mei shoved at her shoulder a little. “He’s obviously not as into her as everyone thinks if he’s looking at

BOOK: The International Kissing Club
6.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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