With only six more days until Summer Rush’s grand redebut is scheduled, I’m scrabbling to get everything done. I’m kind of freaked, and terrified that I’ve gone in all the wrong directions with this rewrite, or that I haven’t retained the original feel of the novel – it’s really kind of scary. But, my terror aside, here is the preview I promised!
“I’ve been considering different ways to kill people without leaving any evidence,” I said to 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 was surging towards the big metal doors that led to summer and freedom.
“You are kidding.” Tasha let out a sigh of relief, flipping her chocolate colored ponytail over her shoulder. “You nearly gave me a heart attack.”
“As if I would actually kill someone.” I tucked my arm into hers. “Although I bet I could 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, nearly dumping my armful of science and history books onto the floor.
“Watch where you’re going!” I yelled after him.
He turned around – it was Gabriel, my self-proclaimed best guy friend – and grinned at me. “My bad, Princess Lex.”
I rolled my eyes. He took off, hollering after a bunch of his buddies. We were going to have to have a talk later.
“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 heavily accented, 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 has to have that girl, and Jenna was ours. She might have been the most beautiful girl in our 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. She sat with us at lunch and was Tasha’s lab partner in chemistry, yet she still managed to elevate herself above everybody else.
“Jenna,” I said sweetly. “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. I nearly got a mouthful of her wayward curls. “Party plans, chica. Or do the words Triple Crown not mean anything to you?”
Tasha made a face at me behind Jenna’s back and we both hid our smiles. 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 besides plan for and talk about it since spring break.
“We really need to get you a date for it, Lex,” Jenna said.
I rolled my eyes. “Jenna, don’t even start it.”
“So, Lexi.” Tasha helpfully changed the subject as we continued down the hall. “Tomorrow he’s coming.”
“Ugh.” I pretended to gag. “I’m trying to celebrate, Tasha. You had to bring that up? 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 few of my classmates knew him by name, was an oft-talked of topic when summer neared.
“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. “Besides, 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 doors and into the sunshine. There, at the top of the concrete steps, we all stopped to take in a deep breath. Students parted around us like the red sea. Telling Jenna to get out of the way would have been pointless, and it wasn’t worth it to risk her temper.
Jenna smiled lazily. “Ah, summer. Glorious.”
The parking lot was filled with luxury cars. There was my purple Lexus convertible, Tasha’s baby blue BMW, Jenna’s hot pink Mercedes convertible, and dozens of other cars in every color of the rainbow. Students clustered in, on, and around the vehicles, chatting in a mixture of English and Spanish.
Turning to me, Jenna lifted her sunglasses. “You know, Lexus, I’m serious about the date. I’m thinking about assigning Gabriel to you. He’ll be happy enough to arrive with you on his arm. I don’t want one of my friends going to the TC stag.”
“Who says I wasn’t planning that murder for her?” I said under my breath to Tasha.
“Come along, ladies.” Jenna laid claim to each of our arms again and hauled Tasha and I along with her, down the steps and across the asphalt to our cars.
“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 nine; Tasha was five foot three), so it was a good thing she worked out. “My favorite pair broke 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 dozens of pairs.” Jenna relinquished our arms and rifled through her blue plaid bag for her car keys.
Tasha gave me a look that clearly said help.
We could put up with Jenna in school. It was social suicide if you couldn’t. But the first day of summer was not something to be trifled with.
“What, exactly, did you have planned?” I pulled 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 stray strand of her hair out of her eyes. “I would suggest ice cream, but some of us can’t handle our calories. Swimming pool, then?”
“Whatever.” Tasha unlocked her car and threw her school books inside. “We’ll meet up at the pool.” She looked more than a little irritated.
That much was obvious to all of us, 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. Tasha and I looked at each other.
“Beeotch,” she sing-songed.
“Temperance, young lady.” I perched on the edge of my car door. “What kind of hell do you think will break loose if we ditch Jenna and make a run for, say, the mall in San Diego? Dad gave me an allowance bonus.”
“You want to risk your neck?” Tasha said, lifting her eyebrows. “On the very first day?”
“If you want to go shoe shopping, then we are going shoe shopping. I will deal with Jen-Zilla tomorrow. Or, more likely, tonight when she comes to kill me.” I swung my legs over the car door and slid down in my seat.
I loved my car. The fawn-colored leather interior was as soft as melted butter. The back seat had lots of room for my shoeboxes, spare clothes, my roller skates – actually, there was a lot of junk back there. In the front, in tidy rows in a purple gift box, were the sunglasses that my dad bought me every time he traveled to a new place.
“All righty.” Tasha beamed. “Let’s ride!”
We started our cars, and the two engines rumbled to life. Gabriel, standing on the front steps, grinned and blew me a kiss.
Tasha winked at me, and then we both put our cars in reverse. The two cars shot backwards out of their slots, and we turned the wheel simultaneously so the cars swung around like mirror images of each other. What can 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 did not get in the way of a Lincoln teen behind the wheel.
“Ladies first!” Tasha called to me.
Giving her an overacted bow, I hit the gas. The tires squealed as they tried to gain traction on the hot road.
There was a short, straight-shot road that led from Lincoln’s parking lot to the main road. It was lined with squat little bushes but right at the corner there was a leafy palm tree that all but 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, “Lexi, look out!”
I whipped around to face the road and saw a convertible flying around the corner. I slammed on the brakes. I didn’t have on my seatbelt and my head slammed into the steering wheel with a sharp crack. Tasha yelled, and her breaks screeched as she came to an abrupt stop. My vision was too blurry with tears to see straight.
“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!” an all too familiar voice yelled.
I heard their voices – Tasha’s, Gabriel’s, my friend Mallory’s – but it was the last voice that registered first. I sat back, blinking rapidly. Red convertible. Mustang. Vintage. I saw red, and it wasn’t the car.
Tasha, clutching her steering wheel like a lifeline, sat back in her seat and blew out a breath. “It starts.”
I got out of the car. There he stood, the bane of my existence: Maxima Russia Santorini.
“What are you doing here?” I practically screamed.
The entire schoolyard went deadly silent.
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 let the sappy comment pass. It was true, though. He had the bronze skin, the dark hair, and the stunning eyes. He made the football players here at my school look shrimpy. He wore his usual Abercrombie 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.
“Well, hello to you, too, Lexus.”
When they heard Rush’s gorgeous Greek accent, every one of my female classmates practically started salivating.
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 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 she was there to support me or restrain me was anyone’s guess.
“As if you would know.” I could feel a red hot blush starting up my cheeks. Why did he have to be here? Of all places? It 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. He just loved to piss me off. “This is really rather 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.
Rush took a step towards me. He’d grown a few inches. Last summer we were on equal footing where height was concerned. 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 firmly. “Get back in your cars, both of you.”
“Unfeeling jerk,” I muttered, so only Rush could hear.
“Insipid girl,” Rush so-not-whispered.
“Now!” Tasha yelled.
Rush and I backed off. I got back in my car. My head ached where I’d hit it, and my sunglasses had spilled all over the floor. The pair Dad had brought me from Antigua had lost a lens. I shot Rush a last poisonous look as 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 angry.
I was a little out of breath, but that was no biggie. The first adrenaline rush of the summer always came via Rush Santorini.