by Rachel Van Dyken

  This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.


  Copyright © 2012 RACHEL VAN DYKEN

  ISBN 978-0-615-73236-7

  Cover Art Designed by Laura Heritage

  Chapter One

  It was a normal day in my normal life, and it should have been everything I’ve come to expect in the sleepy town of Seaside, Oregon.

  I’d wake up, brush my teeth, careful to sing Happy Birthday at least three times before I stopped. I was paranoid like that. I often had dreams my teeth would fall out. A friend once told me that meant someone was going to die in your family.

  If only.

  I know that sounds harsh, but then at least something beside the norm would happen to me. Not that I was insane enough to start wishing for family members to keel over. Maybe it was all this teenage angst. At eighteen, I was just finishing out my senior year of high school.

  To say I could not wait to go to college would be the understatement of the century.

  I had a calendar with giant red x marks over each day.

  Nine months.

  That’s all I had. And then I was free.

  Free of this boring oh so normal place, and free for change to happen. Crap, even getting my hair dyed a different color than the golden blonde it was would be enough change for me.

  But my mom hated artificial anything.

  What can I say? We live in Oregon. We hug trees and all that.

  I spit the last bit of toothpaste into the sink and looked into the mirror.

  “Ugh.” I cringed at my reflection. Why couldn’t my eyes have been anything but brown?

  I blamed my parents.

  Their boring genes became my boring genes and voila, here I am.

  I slipped on a pair of faded skinny jeans, threw on a pair of tennis shoes and a tight- fitting V-neck Henley. It wasn’t that cold outside yet but everyone knew that the weather in Seaside could turn from gorgeous to disastrous within minutes.

  I walked into the bathroom and pinched my cheeks. My parents wouldn’t let me wear makeup.

  I know, weird.

  Eighteen and I’d never kissed a boy, never worn makeup, and I drove a semi-new pickup to school.

  My only saving grace was that I was actually one of the cooler kids at school. I wasn’t sure if that was a positive mark in my favor or another way of explaining just how lame Seaside was.

  I put on some lip balm and ran downstairs. I needed to stop acting so moody or my mom would think I was on drugs. Usually, I’m a very happy go lucky girl, but last night had been another rough one.

  I had that stupid dream again about the boy with blonde hair. A boy I’ve never seen before in my life. He drove up to the school and proclaimed his love for me.

  I was wearing makeup.

  A killer dress.

  Oh yeah, and he kissed me.

  I always dreamed like that. The dream only occurred once a month and it was always different. My psychiatrist mom would say I was projecting, or possibly suffering from some sort of delusion.

  Which I probably was.

  However, I thought it was just another sign that I needed to lay off the double mochas and late night TV. You can only watch One Tree Hill so many times before you begin to think Chad Michael Murray is actually going to show up at your house one day and proclaim undying love.

  I ducked into the kitchen, grabbed my slick rain jacket, put a banana in my backpack, and took a bite out of an apple.


  No answer.

  I sighed. “Mom! I’m leaving for school!”

  Still no answer.

  With patience I knew I didn’t possess I screamed her name a third time and waited for her to emerge from her study.

  Sure enough after three minutes the door to her study opened. Her glasses were slightly tilted on her face as if she put them on in a rush, her hair in a messy bun. She gave me a cheeky grin and shrugged.

  That was good old mom. Her slight build just made her look that much more innocent.

  “Sorry, Hon, late night client. Do you need money for lunch?”

  “Nope. I still have some from yesterday.” I shoved my hands in my pockets and stared into the space right above her head so she would think I was looking at her and paying attention, when really I just wanted to get to school.

  “Oh, alright. Well, have a good day.”

  “Yup.” I was already turning on my heel to walk out the door.

  Always the same.

  She always fell asleep in her office. There was always some depressed client in this tiny town that wanted to kill themselves. Needless to say, she never needed more work. I blamed the dreary Oregon weather and my mom’s inability to say no to anyone. Even me. It sounded like every girl’s dream. A parent that said yes all the time?

  It wasn’t a dream.

  She was more of a… I don’t know, maybe a roommate? My dad wasn’t any better. He was a surgeon. I hardly saw him, but when I did, he usually missed mom so much it was hard to get a word in edgewise.

  They were brilliant and would often hole up in her office with a bottle of wine and talk philosophy.

  The idea of drinking wine and talking philosophy literally made my stomach ache. I’d rather watch Reality TV all night while eating sardines.

  Sometimes I think they wished I hadn’t been born. It wasn’t that they didn’t love me. I knew I had their love. They just seemed happier without me.

  It sucks, but at least I knew what to expect. If you know what to expect you never really get let down. That’s what I chanted the entire way to the truck.

  I threw in my messenger bag and slammed the door.

  The drive to school was short. I had a pretty awesome view of the ocean on the way, too. It helped that my parents lived in a legitimate Better Homes and Gardens beach house.

  As I drove into the parking lot, an involuntary shiver ran down my spine.


  I bit my lip and turned off the ignition.

  I don’t know how long I sat there, five minutes maybe, and then someone was banging on my window.

  “Nat! What the heck? Where have you been?”

  My best friend, though I hated to claim her at times considering she had the tendency to be neurotic and slightly irritating, banged on the window again. “The meeting? Did you forget?”


  I pushed open the door and hopped out. “Sorry, Alesha. I totally spaced it.”

  She folded her arms across her chest and scowled. “What’s up with you lately? We only have thirty days until the dance and Homecoming has to be the best! I mean it’s like one of our final hoorays!”

  “I think you mean hoorah.”

  “Whatever.” She blinked several times, trying to clear the clumps from her heavy mascara, and threw her bag over her shoulder. “All I’m saying is we need your help. Think you can float out of la la land and make it to the meeting after school?”

  “Yes?” I said it as more of a question then flashed her a smile. “Yes, Alesha. I promise I’ll make it and I’ll do wonderful things with the decorations. Great theme by the way.”

  “What is it?”

  “Life’s a Beach?” I guessed.

  “Lucky guess…” she muttered then stormed off.

  I exhaled and again a pri
ckling awareness washed over my skin. Seriously, I needed to get more sleep. The bell rang. I trudged to my first class not really paying attention to anyone around me which was just a bad choice period. I mean, I’m a teenager. We’re clumsy and all that.

  Needless to say, I tripped. My messenger bag went flying out of my hands and my books spewed out of my bag like they were angry they were there in the first place.

  “Crap.” I knelt down and reached for my Poli-Sci book just as another hand brushed mine.

  Chills spread throughout my entire body. Alarmed, I pulled back and looked up, straight into the greenest eyes I’ve ever seen.


  I’m sure my mouth dropped open, because that’s the typical girl response when she sees someone so breathtakingly handsome all she really wants to do is curse and then pinch herself to make sure she isn’t dreaming.

  I felt my skin heat as he wordlessly passed me my book, and then held out his hand to help me up.

  I took it, mainly because I was in such shock I didn’t know what else to do.

  And just as I was about to speak, or exhale, or do anything that would prove to this very beautiful boy that I was in fact a human and not a robot, someone walked up beside him and scowled.

  “Knocking girls on their knees already hmm, Alec?”

  It was like looking at the sun and moon at the same time. Alec had messy black hair and green eyes. His chin was pronounced, his jaw had a five o’clock shadow on it. No way was this guy a teenager. The boy next to him stretched out his hand and grinned, revealing perfectly straight white teeth. His hair was blonde and curly, his skin the perfect tan, as if he just spent the last few weeks on vacation in Hawaii. His dimples were so deep you could tell he smiled a lot, whereas the other guy, Alec, hadn’t said a word. Nor had he smiled. Not once.

  “Um...” I took the guy’s hand. “He didn’t knock me down, he was helping me. I tripped and…” Why the heck was I defending myself like some guilty prisoner?

  “No worries.” The guy shrugged. “Demetri. And your name?”

  “Natalee,” I said slowly. “But everyone just calls me Nat. Nice to meet you… both.”

  Demetri shrugged. “Yeah, well, we’re new in town, so I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of us.”

  There was something vaguely familiar about both of them, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Again, it’s probably all that late night television watching. No way do I actually know two guys this hot.

  I stole a look at Alec. He seemed to be flexing every muscle in his body, almost like he wanted to punch me, or eat me, or maybe just kill me with his bare hands.

  Great start to a day.

  At least it wouldn’t be boring.

  “Right, um, like I said, nice meeting you. I’ll just…” I didn’t finish the sentence, instead I just walked as fast as my legs could take me to my first class praying the whole time that my butt looked good in my jeans and that I had remembered to put on deodorant.

  “Nat!” Evan jumped out of his seat and plowed toward me. “Where were you this morning? We waited, but then, you know I got hungry and… well, you weren’t there.”

  I rolled my eyes. “Evan, when are you not hungry? And I totally forgot, sorry.”

  He shrugged. “No apologies necessary. I just hate having to be the only sane one in that estrogen fest.”

  I smirked. “Right. You just hate being surrounded by beautiful women.”

  “It makes it hard for me to eat.”

  “Why is that?” I took my seat and grinned.

  “Well…” he leaned forward. “I can’t just maul my food with all those pretty girls watching, and I’m pretty sure eating anything in front of chicks who use laxatives as an appetizer is a quick way to get shot in the face.”

  “Ah, this is true. Here.” I reached into my backpack and took out the banana I had snatched from the counter earlier. “My peace offering.”

  “Thank God.”

  “Boys. Give them food and they’re putty in your hands.”

  Evan peeled the banana and took a huge bite. “Please. Any guy would be putty in your hands, Nat. You’re freaking hot.”

  I rolled my eyes, as I did whenever I got a compliment, and was relieved when the teacher told us to take our seats.

  “Now, as you all know, this school is part of an exchange student program with other schools around the world.” Mr. Meservy cleared his throat and continued, “Because of this program—Evan! Throw that banana peel elsewhere, perhaps the trash can? Not the floor, or I’m going to make you scrub it with a toothbrush.”

  Evan threw up his hands and made a giant show of throwing the banana into the trash can and returned to his seat. The chair squeaking against the floor.

  “You may continue, sir.” Evan saluted and winked.

  I rolled my eyes and turned back around to face Mr. Meservy. He wasn’t my favorite teacher, probably because he was freakishly young and reminded me somewhat of my dad. Weird comparison, I know. In all honesty he looked exactly like pictures of my father when he was young. I only know this because upon seeing him for the first time my mom nearly had a heart attack.

  But that’s beside the point. Teachers aren’t supposed to be only a few years older than students. It’s just not right. He had to fight twice as hard to earn the respect due than all the rest of the teachers, even though he was three times as good and brilliant to match.

  Mr. Meservy shook his head. “As I was saying…” He gave Evan a pointed glare. “Our school is part of an exchange program, and although we’ve never had any students utilize this wonderful opportunity, there are two students originally from British Columbia that have taken our school up on this offer.”

  Two students? Were those the boys I saw this morning? Were they brothers or just friends? They looked like polar opposites. I bit my lip and began tapping my pen against my desk.

  “Let’s all give them a warm welcome, and please try to be civil, people. We don’t want to scare them into thinking Seaside is filled with druggies and gang bangers.” You’d think Mr. Meservy was welcoming the president or something with all the warnings he was giving us, but then again, nothing exciting ever happened here so it kind of made sense.

  A sudden knock at the door interrupted his speech.

  Every head in the room turned.

  The two guys from the hallway walked in. Alec, the brooding one, looked like he’d rather be run over with a car then be in the classroom. And Demetri had his perma-smile pasted across his mouth as if it was the most fun he’d had in years.

  “Welcome, welcome.” Okay why was Mr. Meservy bowing to them? He clasped his hands in front of him as if he was in the presence of George Clooney and bowed. Yes, our very lame teacher from Seaside, Oregon just bowed to the exchange students. I could have died.

  Shocked, I could only watch as Demetri smirked in my direction then returned Mr. Meservy’s bow with one of his own. Alec, however, was motionless. His eyes seemed to darken even more as he looked at every person in the room but me. I know because I was waiting for it. Stupid, but I wanted him to look at me. And again, I blame TV. I liked his brooding attitude even though I knew it was just a sign of his immaturity and lack of personality. I couldn’t help it.

  Demetri winked at me then looked at Mr. Meservy and pumped his hand. “Thank you so much for the warm welcome. I also don’t think I’ve been on the receiving end of a bow since I played Prince Charming in first grade.”

  Mr. Meservy blushed to the roots of his hair, probably just now realizing that yes, he had indeed bowed to the Canadians. “Well…” He cleared his throat. “Again, welcome to Seaside High.”

  Demetri nodded and made his way to the back of the class. Alec trailed behind, but not before stopping at my desk. Our eyes met, and I couldn’t pull my gaze away. He was staring through me, uncomfortably so. I opened my mouth to speak but wasn’t really sure what to say. Finally, after what was most likely an awkward silence for everyone else in the room but us, Alec spoke.

/>   “I think you dropped this.” He placed a pink pen on my desk and continued to his seat in the back. My heart thumped wildly in my chest. Mouth still hanging slightly ajar, I quickly clenched the pen and willed myself to look back at the front of the room.

  It was as if nobody had seen the intense exchange between us.

  Except five minutes later, I realized I was still clenching the pen and hadn’t yet opened my book. It was like I had spaced out or something.

  “Geez, Nat, it’s just a pen,” Evan mumbled behind me. I laughed right along with him even though my heart was still hammering in my chest. The two new kids were gorgeous, that much was obvious, but a small part of me seemed to find them familiar. As if I’d seen them before?

  I stole a peek behind me, irritated that Evan tried to block my view. Alec looked away but Demetri flashed me another heart-stopping smile.

  And then it hit me.

  I knew exactly who those boys were.

  Unfortunately, my realization came at the same time as every other girl in the classroom.

  The whispering grew louder and then some of the girls shrieked. I looked back at Evan who seemed to be slowly trying to figure out the same thing. He looked at me, then back at the boys, then back at me.

  I rolled my eyes and pulled out my phone careful not to let my teacher see. I was so not going to give him ten dollars just because my friend was painfully disconnected from the world enough not to know who those guys were.

  I searched AD2 on my phone and held it up to Evan.

  “Holy sh— I mean, crap.”

  Nobody ever said boys were intelligent, or tactful for that matter.

  “Those are the dudes from AD2!” He did a fist pump and turned around to give them both a head nod which apparently in boy world meant, “What’s up, you’re cool, let’s hang.”

  Because he got two very cool-looking head nods back. I rolled my eyes, a little disappointed that my fantasy had ended just as fast as it had begun. The day was no longer boring, but now I knew without a doubt that Alec would not be smoldering in my direction, and Demetri was fortunate enough to be the type of guy that had every STD listed and probably some of them that weren’t. The guy was known for his conquests. TMZ followed them everywhere, which begged the question — what the heck were they doing in Seaside?

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