1 | It’s Not That I Hate Rush

The Pros & Cons of Having Maya & Rush Over for the Summer: a list by Lexus Breckerson

PROS

1. Maya is a good influence on me.

2. It’s the only time of year when I get to see her.

3. Dad and Maya have been friends since kindergarten and don’t get to see each other very often.

4. Maya is an awesome cook, so Dad and I get to eat something besides grilled cheese.

5. Maya always makes Dad and I get along even better than usual.

6. Maya and Mom were best friends when Mom was alive, and Maya likes to remember and honor Mom by hanging with Dad and me.

CONS

1. Rush is a bad influence on me.

2. Rush makes me do stupid things which always get me into trouble.

3. Rush takes Dad’s attention away from Dad’s real child (which is me and only me).

4. Rush makes my friends do boy-crazed things, which is absolutely sickening.

5. Rush is the only one in the world who knows where my chocolate stash is and he always “borrows” my chocolate and never pays me back even if I threaten him with physical harm, which I always do, but he remains unfazed because he’s bigger than me and he knows I can’t actually do anything to him.

6. Rush is bigger than me, and he smacks me on the back of the head, and one day he’s going to dislodge my brains.

7. Rush calls me names, which makes me call names back, giving us both a very immature appearance.

8. Rush eats the chocolate muffins that Maya buys for me.

9. Rush doesn’t like to do anything of the things I like to do (besides driving fast, gymnastics, hanging out, going to parties, reading, school, and some other stuff) but Dad and Maya expect us to hang out.

10. Rush is not a human being.

11. Rush cannot get along with normal human beings.

CONSENSUS:

My staying out of boarding school is contingent upon my behavior this summer, and it’s not fair to expect me to be mature and live with Rush at the same time. The cons far outweigh the pros, and the stakes are too high. I highly suggest Maya locks Rush in a closet and comes to California without him.

Chapter 1

“I’ve been considering different ways to kill people without leaving any evidence,” I told my best friend, Tasha Montoya. “It can’t be that hard, right? As long as you plan carefully?”

Tasha blinked at me. “You’re kidding, right?”

I laughed. There was nothing like the last day of school to lift a girl’s spirits. All around us, the halls of Lincoln High School were filled with rushing students decked out in school colors. Laughing and talking, the entire school population surged towards the big metal doors that led to summer and freedom.

“You are kidding.” She let out a sigh of relief, flipping her chocolate colored ponytail over her shoulder. “You nearly gave me a heart attack.”

“I’m not kidding entirely.” I tucked my arm into hers. “I’m sure I could do it if I wanted to.”

“You’d just have to remember not to leave fingerprints, or hairs, or skin cells. Heck, you better not breathe, because they can probably match breath samples nowadays.” Tasha grinned. “And you should probably do it barefoot, or else you’ll get incriminating dirt or carpet fibers on your shoe treads or something.”

One of the school’s hockey players jostled past me before I could respond, nearly flinging me to the floor.

“Watch where you’re going!” I yelled after him.

He turned around. It was Gabriel, my self-proclaimed best guy friend. Giving me a cheeky grin he said, “My bad, Princess.”

I glared at him, and he took off, calling after a bunch of his buddies. We were going to have a talk later. This was the third time he almost bulldozed me just today.

“The downside to being in a school that loves sports so much is that every single guy is the size of the White House,” I groused. “One of these days we’re both going to be trampled.”

“Oh, bummer,” a female voice said. “What would the world do without you, Lexus?”

Tasha and I both looked over our shoulders. Jenna Ventura had slipped up behind us.

Every school had to have that girl, and Jenna was ours. She might have been the most beautiful girl in the entire county. She had perfect everything: perfect, wavy dark hair; perfect brown eyes; perfect smile; perfect figure. Tasha and I called her the Barbie Doll behind her back. The three of us were together all the time, but I wouldn’t exactly call her a friend.

“Jenna,” I said. “We were just looking for you. What’re your plans for the rest of the day?”

“Besides putting this place far, far behind me?” She slipped in between Tasha and me, and I nearly got a mouthful of her wayward curls. “Party plans, chica. Or do the words Triple Crown mean nothing to you?”

Tasha made a face at me behind Jenna’s back. I rolled my eyes. Every year, a week or two after school let out for the summer, Lincoln High students threw a three-house party that we called the Triple Crown. Jenna had done little beside plan for and talk about it since spring break.

“It’s coming up fast, so we need to talk about your date, Lex,” Jenna said.

“Jenna, don’t even go there.” There was no stopping her once she really got started.

“So, Lexi.” Tasha helpfully changed the subject as we continued down the hall. “He’s coming tomorrow.”

“Ugh.” I pretended to gag. “I’m trying to celebrate, Tasha. You had to bring that up? And before you even ask, over my dead body is he coming to the TC.”

Jenna, who couldn’t care less about our conversation, pulled her designer sunglasses down to cover her eyes. If she’d known who Tasha was referring to, she would have been a lot more attentive. Rush Santorini, although most of my classmates knew him by my handle for him, Neanderthal, was something of a celebrity at my school. Almost none of them had ever seen him outside of pictures, but I was always complaining about him.

“You were contemplating murder five minutes ago. Don’t try to tell me you weren’t thinking about him.” Tasha flashed me an evil grin. “And FYI, you’re not in charge of the guest list.”

Just the thought of Rush was enough to give me hives. He and his mother, Maya – who I absolutely adored – would be arriving on a plane from Greece first thing tomorrow morning. Maya aside, I was not looking forward to it.

The three of us passed through the school doors and into the sunshine. There, at the top of the concrete steps, we all stopped to take in a deep breath, students parting around us like the Red Sea. Telling Jenna to get out of the way would have been pointless, and it wasn’t worth risking her temper.

She smiled, surveying the car and student-filled parking lot. “Ah, summer.”

Content that her kingdom was in order, Jenna turned to me and lifted her sunglasses. “You know, Lexus, I’m serious about the date. You need to ask Gabe, or you need to say yes when he asks you. You guys have been friends for forever, and it’s past time to take it to the next level. Unless you just want to be alone for the rest of your high school experience.”

Who says I wasn’t planning that murder for her? It wasn’t like I hated Jenna or was jealous of her. I was perfectly happy in my own skin.  If my dark brown hair and eyes weren’t as neatly done in style and makeup, so be it. Jenna, however, saw that as her cue to be the boss of our group.

“Come along, ladies.” Jenna laid claim to each of our arms again and hauled Tasha and me with her, down the steps and across the asphalt to our cars: a hot pink Mercedes (her), a baby blue BMW (Tasha), and a purple Lexus convertible (me).

“Lex and I were thinking we could go shoe shopping,” Tasha began. It was no easy feat for her mini sized legs to keep up with Jenna’s long ones (Jenna was five foot ten; Tasha was five foot three). “My mom broke my favorite pair the other night. You should come.”

“God, no. You have more than enough shoes, Tasha. There are children in third world countries that don’t have one shoe, let alone thirty pairs.” Jenna relinquished our arms and rifled through her pink plaid bag for her car keys.

She had a good point. She usually did. And going with Tasha to satisfy her shoe shopping obsession wasn’t high on my to-do list for the day. Much higher was going home to see my dad, and mentally preparing myself for the “discussion” we were supposed to have about school.

“What did you have planned, Jen?” I asked, pulling my own car keys out of my purse.

“Not shoe shopping. We’ve done that more than enough for one lifetime.” Jenna found her keys and, impatiently, blew a strand of her hair out of her eyes. “I would suggest ice cream, but some of us can’t handle our calories. Swimming pool it is.”

“Whatever.” Tasha unlocked her car and threw her purse inside. “We’ll meet up at the pool.” She glared at Jenna, more than a little irritated.

That much was obvious to anyone, but Jenna was anything but contrite. She rolled her eyes. “Wow, Tash, why don’t you just pout, too?” With that, she slipped into her car, gunned the engine, and screeched out of the parking lot.

“Beeotch,” Tasha sing-songed.

“Watch your mouth, young lady.” I perched on the edge of my car door. “I’ll probably have to ditch you guys, anyway. Dad’s home early and we’re supposed to talk.” I thought of my report card, liberally sprinkled with C’s instead of my usual straight A’s. I liked to think of Dad as a laid back father, but he wasn’t going to be pleased.

Tasha lifted her eyebrows. “I didn’t think to ask. How’d grades go?”

“Well, my GPA is down by almost two points. Combine that with having dropped all of my extra-curricular stuff in favor of gymnastics practice, and I see boarding school in my future.”

“Your dad’s still threatening you with that?” she said sympathetically.

“Yeah. You know him.” I didn’t enlighten her about all the other reasons Dad had brought up boarding school, because I didn’t want her, or anybody, being dramatic about it. Dad wasn’t really being dramatic, either, but we weren’t happy with each other at the moment.

“You’d better straighten up, Lexi, or you’re going to boarding school,” were his exact words. He was so gonna’ kill me. I swung my legs over my car door and slid down in my seat.

My car was my one true love. The fawn-colored leather interior was as soft as melted butter. The trunk had lots of room for my shoeboxes, spare clothes, my roller skates – actually, there was a lot of junk back there. There were even custom cup holders, and that was the most important thing, of course.

My car was on the line, too, if I didn’t “straighten up.”

“Fine, I’ll face Jen-Zilla alone,” Tasha said, interrupting my pity party. Then she grinned. “Race you to the street?”

We started our cars, and the two engines came to life. Tasha and I looked at each other for a moment, then we put our cars in reverse. The two vehicles shot backwards out of their slots, and we turned our steering wheels simultaneously so the cars swung around side by side. What could I say? The overindulged children of Lincoln’s elite spent a lot of time racing their cars. It was something we were good at.

People scattered out of the way. You just did not get in the path of a Lincoln teen behind the wheel.

I put my car in drive and hit the gas.

There was a short, straight path that led from Lincoln’s parking lot to the road. It was lined with squat bushes, but right at the corner there was a leafy palm tree that blocked my view of the road. Still, I’d done this a thousand times before. Lincoln was a secluded school well back from regular traffic, and I doubted there’d be any cars to avoid. I glanced back at Tasha, hot on my tail, when she suddenly screeched, “Look out!”

I whipped around to face the road and saw a car flying around the corner. I slammed on the brakes. My forehead slammed into the steering wheel with a sharp crack. Tasha yelped, and her brakes screeched as she came to an abrupt stop to avoid rear-ending me. A moan rose in my throat, and my vision blurred with tears.

“Oh my God!” Tasha wailed. “Lex, are you okay?”

“What just happened?”

“Is she okay?”

“She was practically on the wrong side of the road!”

I heard their voices – Tasha, Gabriel, my friend Mallory – but it was the last voice that registered first. I sat back, blinking rapidly, and saw the car that almost hit me. Red convertible. Mustang. Vintage. I saw red, and it wasn’t the car.

“You idiot!”

Tasha, clutching her steering wheel like a lifeline, sat back in her seat and closed her eyes. “It starts.”

I got out of my car. There he stood, the bane of my existence, the reason it was impossible for me to “straighten up” this summer: Maxima Russia Santorini.

“What are you doing here?” I practically screamed.

The entire schoolyard went dead silent.

“Well, hello to you, too, Lexus.”

When they heard Rush’s gorgeous Greek accent, every one of my female classmates practically started salivating.

Tasha told me once that no matter how much Rush drove me up the wall she still thought he looked like a Greek god. Since she was my friend, I had let the sappy comment pass. It was true, though. He had bronze skin, dark hair, and the most amazing eyes. His size made the football players at Lincoln look shrimpy. He wore his usual Abercrombie ensemble and had his longish hair casually brushed back, downplaying his bad boy smile just enough that mothers wouldn’t lock up their daughters when he went by.

All I saw was that smirk.

“What are you doing here?” I demanded. “You’re not supposed to be here until tomorrow.”

“There’s this magical invention called a car,” he said, speaking slowly as if I were the dumbest girl to ever walk the earth. “I used mine to drive from your house to this place. This place is a school, by the way.”

Tasha got out of her car and came to stand next to me, whether to support me or restrain me was anyone’s guess.

“As if you would know.” I felt a red hot blush start up my cheeks. Why did he have to be here? Of all places? He was bad enough at home, but here two hundred people were staring at me like I’d just grown horns.

“Lovely comeback there, Lex,” Rush quipped. “I’m proud of you.”

“When you actually learn how to speak English like a proper human being, I’ll ask your opinion,” I shot back.

“Lexus,” Tasha said, touching my arm.

“Don’t stop her, Tash.” Rush never took his taunting eyes off me. “This is entertaining. Besides, if she goes rabid, I think I can handle her.”

“What do you want, a medal?” I knew I was overreacting. Technically, Rush hadn’t done anything until I yelled at him. And I had been the one driving like a maniac. But it was weird seeing him at my school, in the part of my life that was usually neatly separated from all things summertime and Rush-oriented. “Why don’t you try looking where you’re driving?”

“Why don’t you try driving at something other than grandma speed? Maybe you’ll stay out of people’s way.”

Only Rush would call that grandma speed. “People?” I crossed my arms. “Spare me. I didn’t know they gave driver’s licenses to apes in Greece.”

Rush took a step towards me. He’d grown a few inches. Last summer we were the same height. And was it just me, or had he gotten wider? Standing in his shadow was a little intimidating.

“All right, cut it out!” Tasha said. “Get back in your cars, both of you.”

“Unfeeling jerk,” I muttered, so only Rush could hear.

“Insipid girl,” he so-not-whispered.

“Neanderthal.”

“Psychopath.”

“Now!” Tasha yelled.

Rush and I backed off. I got in my car, my head aching where I’d hit it. Shooting Rush a last poisonous look, I put the Lexus in gear.

“Breathe, Lexi,” Tasha said to me, stepping back out of the way. I was a notoriously bad driver when I was upset.

I was a little out of breath, but that was okay. The first adrenaline rush of the summer always came via Rush Santorini.

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