Samantha Spade: the quiet, witty, extremely sarcastic one. She's sweet and smart and has a shoulder for anyone to cry on. A big romantic and severely lacking in the guy department. Though that might change this year… if she can learn to get past first impressions, that is.

David Weston: the rich, arrogant playboy who thinks the world revolves around him. He's smart, sexy, and can charm any girl with a pulse. Any girl except Sam, that is. When they're made to work together for the school fundraiser, he'll make her see that there's a fine line between love and hate. And maybe he'll make her cross it.

Madison Harper: the school golden girl. She's got everything – money, looks, smarts, personality. But this year, her friends will find out that there's much more than meets the eye to Madison. Perhaps she doesn't have everything. Perhaps there's more darkness in her life that people thought.

Ian Hart: the hottie next door. Laid-back and laconic, Ian is one of Sam's closest friends, and she is one of the most precious people in his life. But when Ian makes a startling discovery, his friendship with Sam is put to the test. Does it stand a chance?

Scott Manning: the badass player. Also Sam's overprotective stepbrother. Scott's used to being shifted off to the side, to being second-string. He's used to temporary, not permanent. Then he starts having some intense not-so-platonic feelings for the one person he can't have. Or so he thinks.

It's their final year at Maple Ridge Academy. As they near closer and closer to graduation, hormones go into overdrive, friendships are tested, bonds are formed, and ties are severed. They will learn that family isn't just blood. It's much more than that.


If a duck quacks, and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?

Yeah, normally this question involves a tree, I'm aware of that. But ducks sound so much more interesting than trees. At least, in this case.

Okay, first off, no, I'm not insane (though a certain track star would beg to differ, but he's an ass, so really, who gives a damn what he says?). I'm just… quirky. Quirky and eccentric. I think that beats the hell out of being boring and predictable, though, two things of which I'm also often accused of being.

I am nothing if not a paradox.

My name? Samantha Spade. Yeah, I know. My name sounds kinda cool, especially when I say it in the whole James Bond kind of voice.

Spade... Sam Spade.

I'll stop now.

So, who am I? One of the many students at Maple Ridge Academy. What is Maple Ridge, you ask? Well, as the student body so lovingly refers to it as, Maple Ridge is the school for the rich and unwanted. See, time was, you used to have to have some kick-ass talent to get into MR. Now, you just have to have a shitload of money to be able to pay the extortionist-like tuition fees (seriously, I could live off one year's tuition for the rest of my natural-born days). No longer is it a school for the exceptionally gifted and talented. Now, it's just a giant daycare for spoiled, rich teenagers.

Well, mostly. In my three-going-on-four years at MR, I've managed to meet a few exceptions to the rich-equals-snob stereotype.

There's Madison Harper, my roommate of three years so far, and one of my best friends. Madison, well, what can I say about her? She's perfection personified, in my opinion. She's incredibly kind, she's incredibly intelligent, she's incredibly beautiful in the classic sense (think killer long legs, beautiful sky blue eyes, bright blonde hair, and impeccably flawless skin – she's been named one of the top five most gorgeous people on campus three years in a row already), and she's the Student Council President, co-captain of the cheerleading team, and a proud member of the Science Club. Plus she's got the adoration of dozens of guys in this school.

And she's been my roommate since I first came to this school.

I feel a 'nyah-nyah nyah nyah-nyah' is in order.

Then there's Ian Hart. He's our resident basketball star. In fact, basketball's how he got to come to MR. See, unlike ninety-two-percent of the school population, Ian came on a scholarship. His dad passed away when he was eight, and his mother had to work two jobs to support him and his younger brother. He was able to get a full scholarship to Maple Ridge, and of course, he took it. After all, MR is the only school in Canada that's prestigious enough to ensure you go off to any university you want, and Ian won't have any trouble getting a scholarship to his choice university.

And have I mentioned what a cutie he is? He's, what, six-foot-five? Yeah, he's mad tall. He's got thick, wavy hair that's the most interesting shade of brown. It's so cool; if the light hits it just right, you can see strands of gold. His eyes are the most captivating shade of blue; Madison once said the exact shade was cerulean. And when he gets excited or something, you can see little slivers of navy or light blue. He has, by far, the nicest eyes I've ever seen. Yes, Ian Hart makes up another fifth of the campus hotties.

And stepbrother dearest adds to our list. Scott Manning is the son of Adam Manning, my stepfather whom I so adore.

Yes, that was my sarcastic voice.

To tell the truth, I don't particularly like my stepfather all that much (I guess that's not really uncommon), and I don't particularly like the kind of person my mother turned into. See, for as long as I could remember, it was Alan, Amanda, I, and Mom. We weren't exactly poor, but Mom had to work her ass off like, twenty-four-seven. It didn't help that Amanda is about the most materialistic and shallow person to ever grace this earth. When Mom got engaged to Adam, I have to admit, even I got sucked in by the whole luxury lifestyle. I got over it quickly, though, and so did Alan.

But Amanda? She's milking it for all it's worth. And Adam seems to genuinely enjoy spoiling her; I guess she's the little princess he never had. Mom and Adam got married the May that I was in the eighth grade, so by the end of the summer, they figured it would be less hassle (on them) if they just sent me to MR for my high school years, like Adam did with Scott. I think part of the reason the parentals shipped me off without a second thought is because Scott and I are so much alike, you can easily mistake us for blood.

We both have the same skin tone (whereas mine is natural – parents are Guyanese, holla – Scott's comes from a tan made by years and years spent vacationing in Maui or the Dominican, wherever the happening vacation spot for the rich is these days), the same thick dark hair, the same dark eyes… we even have the same sort of build, only I'm more, ah, feminine. But physical similarities aside, we're both highly opinionated (we have many a debate together), passionate about the things we love, have bad tempers (it takes a lot to really piss me off, but when I get mad…), and love chocolate chip ice cream. But above all, there is the mutual obsession for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Our mutual love for the show is what actually brought us together (it's so corny, I know). Scott used to detest me (he met Amanda first, and pretty much assumed I was as bitchy as my younger sister), and I wasn't exactly fond of him, either. Trust me, you wouldn't exactly be best friends with a guy whose boxers and other unmentionables you found all over your living room one Saturday morning. But then when we discovered the other liked BtVS as much as we each did, Tuesday night at eight became our time, and we gradually shed our judgments and stereotypes of one another. Now, we're as close as blood siblings, which just goes to show that blood ties don't matter any more than emotional ones.

So… where was I, again? Oh, right. Sorry, got a little sidetracked. I do that often. So I got sent off to Maple at the beginning of ninth grade, and I pretty much lost contact with all of my friends, except for my lifelong best, Leah Green. Alan got shipped off the year after me, when I was beginning tenth grade; he was starting seventh grade.

Dear, dear Amanda got to stay at home in Toronto and continue to go to public school. You would think she'd be upset that her twin and older sister (who practically raised her, while Mom was at work) got booted off to boarding school. But no. Her exact words were, and I quote, "So that means I get a bigger allowance, then, right?"

How I miss her so.

And there's that sarcasm again.

I'm just kind of sad for Alan, since this is my and Scott's last year at Maple (last year was supposed to be Scott's last year, but the idiot had to go and skip half his classes and fail the year, so the school faculty so graciously allowed him to repeat his senior year with me… after Adam 'donated' a couple hundred grand, of course). Alan's still got another three years after this, and I know it'll be weird for him without me around. I'll miss him, too. I'm glad he's managed to make genuine friends, though, like I have. There have been a couple of girls who tried to befriend me, just to get a date with Scott or Ian, but that was back in tenth grade, when I was young and naïve. Thank goodness I know better, now. Besides, no one would dare to mess with Alan, not when he's got five seniors on his side.

Yes, five. There's myself, Scott, Ian, Madison, and David Nicholas Weston the First makes five.

Let me make it clear right now: I abhor David. I detest him. I loathe him. I despise him about as much as I love Buffy. That is how much I do not like him. But alas, I'm constantly forced to see him, since he's been Maddy's friend since they were in diapers, and he's pretty cool with Alan, too. He and Scott are like brothers though, which irks me to no end. How my brother can be so close with the Son of the Devil is beyond me. The time he came 'round when Leah was visiting, even she liked him. Weston's on thin ice with Ian though, so I'm comforted that at least one of my friends has some shred of sanity.

Perhaps I would have actually liked Weston if we'd got off on a better foot – even I can admit that excluding the way he behaves toward me, he has some qualities that aren't completely suckish.

See, my first day at school, he hit on me (I'd barely stepped foot out of the taxi). I'd never been hit on before, so naturally, it was a little shocking. And, I'm not afraid to admit this (because all it means, really, is that I have eyes), but David was – is – handsome. I would even go as far as to say he's a hottie. Of course, I'd have to be drunk to say that in mixed company, but you get what I mean. See, unlike the public schools in Toronto, which are pleasantly diverse, you could count the amount of non-Caucasian people with both hands. Besides myself, my brother, and David, there's I think one or two more Guyanese people. I think the official school census had results that showed that seventeen-point-three-percent of the school's population was not white.

Anyways, I'm off-topic again. I'd rather be off-topic, though, if I'm going to have to describe David Weston's physical features. Okay, we've got thick black hair that always looks tousled, though I guess on him, it works. He's got nice eyes, too, I suppose. They're a deep shade of brown, almost black, and sometimes you can see flecks of golden brown. I see it a lot when we argue, so I guess it's when he's pissed that his eyes go like that. He's got a strong jaw, and he's built, but not overly so. He's, well, I guess you could say he's got the body of a track star and a football star combined. That may be because he is both a track star and a football star. Or it could be coincidence, I don't know.

My ever-present sarcasm, people. It seems to appear more often when Weston is the subject of talk.

Point is, I can see why girls think he's so hot (he's another one of the campus hotties, by the way). He's pretty cute, I guess… if you go for that whole tall, dark, and handsome thing. And really, who does?

Okay, not counting Buffy and any other girl (read: me) who thought Angel was the hottest of the hottest.

David Weston is definitely no Angel, in any sense of the word.

Just thought I should make that clear.

Okay. And now back to why we don't get along. After he (rather crudely) hit on me, I (rather loudly) told him off. Then he insulted me, so I insulted him back (I may be quiet a lot of the time, but like I said, when I get mad, I give as good as I get). Thus began our three-year-long feud. I try to cool it around Maddy and Scott, but he gets under my skin every single time.

Which brings me to the day I went back to school, the weekend before classes began. Scott, Alan, and I usually make the three-hour-long drive up north as soon as we can, because we really don't like being at home with the parents and Mandy. But this year, we all went on a vacation to the Big Apple to spend some 'quality time' together, seeing as we apparently never do that anymore. I pointed out that we would spend more time together as a family, if only the boys and I weren't thought of as the family disgrace and sent off to boarding school.

Yeah, I got my allowance suspended for the rest of the summer because of that.

But is it not the truth? (It is.)

Right. So, the first day back at Maple. We helped Scott move into his single room, then we helped Alan move his bags into his dorm, then the boys so graciously helped me bring my bags into my room.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Knock knock."

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes, and continued packing away my clothes into my closet. Madison, who had arrived the day before me, had already finished settling in, and was lying on her stomach on her plush queen-sized bed, leafing through the latest issue of Teen People that I'd gotten the other day. Yes, we may be the unwanted, but we're highly compensated for it. Read: money apparently makes up for lack of love.

Gotta love that logic.

Madison grinned and leapt off the bed, rushing towards the window to open it up. There's only one person that we know who comes to the window when he visits us. That is the one and only (thank God – if there was more than one, I think I'd have an aneurism), David Nicholas Weston the First.

Yes, I know. Now you see why I wished we didn't have a room on the ground floor.


I poked a finger into my ear. When Madison screams, I temporarily lose my hearing.

"Sunshine," he smiled warmly, climbing through the window and giving her a big hug. "I haven't seen you all summer."

"I know. We went to Aspen and I skied and everything. It was great," she gushed.

"I'm so glad you had fun," he said, sitting down on my bed (and he knows it's my bed, too, the ass). "Tell me all about it."

I sighed, not exactly happy about the idea of Weston spending the next hour in my room, on my bed. Keeping silent, I moved out from the closet, and began to pack away my books. I have a whole trunk of them. Books, that is. At the end of every year, I have to empty my shelves, and then I have to repack them in September. I'm one of the few students who actually use their bookshelves for books. In fact, I have so many books, that Maddy graciously gave me her shelf space. It usually takes me a couple of hours to pack everything back, if I have help. Usually, I do. But since Weston was (purposely, I bet) monopolizing Maddy's attention, I started to work by myself.

"Oh, it was so fun. I have presents and souvenirs galore for you, by the way. I fell so many times, but I never got hurt or anything, and it was all good. But, oh! David, you should have seen Sam!" I winced at the mentioning of my name. I could just imagine Weston's face. I sneaked a peek, and sure enough, he had that hard look in his eye, and he visibly stiffened.

Thank you, Maddy, I silently groaned. He's going to start in on me any time now.

See, contrary to what people think, I don't enjoy arguing with Weston. I'm not the sadist of the two of us. I just retaliate, because hell if I'm going to take his crap lying down.

"Spade went with you?" His voice sounded oddly strained. "You didn't say she was going with you."

Madison's eyes widened. "Oh! Crap, David, I'm sorry! Daddy was asking for you, but Mum wanted to meet Sam, so she told me to bring her along, and you know if I could have, I would have brought you, too."

Remember how I said those two have been friends since diapers? Well, whenever one goes on vacation, the other one tags along. This year, I guess I kind of broke their tradition. I guess I do that a lot. Not that I particularly like Weston to think that I'm trying to steal his best friend away. Not that I even care what he thinks. It's just, I know how hard it is when it feels like your friends are abandoning you. Then again, Weston should grow up and realize that Madison needs a friend of her own gender, too.


"Maddy, I think if you'd brought us both, we'd all be in little white rooms with no doors and padded walls," I cracked, frowning when I realized that the book in my hand belonged on the topmost shelf. At five-foot-seven, I was used to being tall. Up until the end of tenth grade, that is. After that, it seemed that everyone suddenly shot up, and now, I'm actually thought of as short.

Me, short!

"You guys," Madison sighed, exasperated. "You two are my best friends."

"Thanks, Maddy," we replied in unison, before trading wary looks.

"And not that I'm looking to force you guys into being friends – okay, not anymore," she added hastily, off our looks. "But if you two could at least tolerate each other, it would make my life – and Scott's and Alan's and Ian's – a hell of a lot easier. I mean, come on, guys. It's senior year! Who has time for pissing each other off?"

"Hey, I try to be nice," I replied indignantly, biting my bottom lip.

If I jump, could I stick the book on the top shelf?

Weston snorted. "Like hell you do."

"Like hell I don't," I retorted absently, trying to push the book on the shelf while jumping.

"Oh, for God's sake," he muttered darkly under his breath, coming over to stand beside me. "Gimme." He held out his hand for the book.

"'Gimme, gimme' never gets. Don't you know your manners yet?" I asked sweetly.

"Never mind. Look who it is I'm talking to."

"Give me the damn book, Sam."

"Say please."

"Fuck you." He grabbed the book out of my hand. "Where do I put this?"

"Top shelf, right above the Harry Potter books. …Thanks, Weston," I said, for once too tired to be snarky.

"You're welcome, Shorty," he replied, lying down on my bed.

"See, you can be civil to each other!" Madison beamed, giving us both proud looks. A knock sounded at the door, before Scott came in.

"Sam, Buffy marathon? I just unpacked my DVDs. Oh, hey, Maddy. You look gorgeous. David, man, what's up?"

"Nothing much. Just came round, wanted to see if any of you losers showed up yet," His Unholiness grinned. The cocky bastard.

"Cool." My brother turned to me. "Sammy?"

"After I'm done packing away my stuff. I mean, the room's a mess right now, I can't just leave it like that. Speaking of which, Weston, get your ass off my bed," I said, not bothering to turn around.

"How about you get in with me?"

Madison groaned. "You guys-"

"How about you go fuck yourself?" Scott burst out laughing. I don't usually swear, but he always finds it so funny when I do. Madison gave him a reproachful look.

"Don't encourage them!"

"How about I fuck you?" Weston raised an eyebrow suggestively. I clenched my teeth. When the arrogant asshole couldn't get me pissed off one way, he always did the sexual innuendo thing. He knew how much it pissed me off.


I focused all my attention on the half-packed bookshelf.

"Sam? C'mon, what do you say? We'll kick out Mads and Scott, turn down the lights, close the blinds… unless you want them to stay open. Whatever turns you on."

Antidisestablishmentarianism. Spell it. A-N-T-I-D-I-S-

"But we should probably make sure the windows are locked. And the door, too. We don't want anyone barging in."


"And maybe we should do some soundproofing, 'cause baby, I'm gonna make you scream."

That did it. I grabbed the nearest thing – the 300 page hardcover thesaurus I'd gotten the previous year for school – and threw it at His Unholiness.

A string of loud curses flew from his mouth. I smiled, satisfied. "I'll see you guys later," I chirped. My eyes flicked over to Weston's bruised temple. "And David?" I added, my voice laced with mock-concern. "You should really get that looked at. It looks absolutely painful." I shrieked and pulled the door shut as he bolted from the bed, his eyes filled with fury. Locking the door, I shook my head, startled as I felt his body collide with the thick slab of wood.

What an asshole.