The last day of term. No, scratch that, the last day of the year. November had finally rolled around and students were streaming from every exit of the school safe in the knowledge that the next two and half months was theirs to do with as they pleased. No more waking up at 7 am, no more struggling to stay focussed on the teacher's droning voice, no more lying to said teacher about why their homework wasn't in on time, basically no more school until February and not one face in the crowd looked sad about that.

"How many different ways can you say 'freedom'?!"

Alexa Bowden smiled as her best friend screeched through the crowd towards her. Everything about Hailey Porter screamed alternative. From the way she dressed, to the way she wore her hair, to the music she listened to. In comparison Alexa appeared shy and conservative. No one, not even themselves, fully understood why the pair were friends but they had been since kindergarten and that bond didn't appear to be weakening any time soon.

"Several," Alexa answered, "But plain old 'freedom' is sounding pretty good to me right now."

"Right, we'll stick with that then." Hailey grinned, linking her arm through her friend's and navigating a path through the teenagers milling on the lawn and footpath. Further down the street the mass thinned and the girls were able to spot their escorts waiting patiently beside the crappiest van known to man.

The shortest of the two males, Cody Sawyer had been instant friends with Hailey in their first year of high school when he let her copy him in a maths test. A year younger than the girls, Cody had been put ahead a year in primary school and still managed to put the older students to shame in every test and exam. His natural ability and love of studying had earned him popularity with the teachers but not with his peers. Alexa and Hailey had effectively saved him from a high school career of isolation as well as scored themselves a private tutor when the panic of exam time struck every year.

Currently, Cody was standing awkwardly next to the van while the owner was leaning casually against it. As Hailey's current and longest boyfriend, Jayden Martin was the group's newest addition. He and Cody had nothing in common but had formed an awkward friendship for Hailey's sake. Jayden was two years older than Hailey and Alexa, he'd dropped out of school in his fifth form year to join a band. So far they hadn't gotten any further than a few gigs in local pubs but Jayden was convinced they had what it took to succeed, despite everyone else's quiet scepticism.

"Hailey when are you getting that car you're always talking about? I'm putting my rep at risk being seen in this thing." Cody joked as the girls reached them.

"I don't think it's your rep you need to worry about," Alexa eyed the vehicle warily, "More like the safety of your life."

"Alright, alright," Jayden pulled away from Hailey's greeting kiss, "Are you done insulting my ride or would ya'll like to walk home?"

"They're done." Hailey assured him. Picking up her dropped bag she climbed into the front seat while Alexa and Cody piled through the back door. There was no actual back seat. In his quest to fulfil every rock star cliché ever invented, Jayden had replaced it with a fully made-up mattress, hung curtains and filled the available spaces with lava lamps to create an eerily lit, stoner-like atmosphere. All that was missing was the groupies; the one fantasy that Hailey had point-blank refused to lethim live out.

"So are you guys gonna come to the gig tonight?" Jayden asked, watching in the rear-view mirror as Alexa and Cody struggled to stay upright when the van swung around corners.

"Can't." Cody grumbled. "Summer school starts Monday and I've got heaps of work to do to get prepared for it."

"Summer school? I thought you only went to that if you failed normal school."

"Not this summer school." Hailey spoke proudly, "Only three people from each school get accepted and it's like second year university level stuff."

"I've been trying to get into it for years, hopefully it will prove to be as educational and worthwhile as the hype has led me to believe."

"Whatever floats your boat." Jayden grunted, though not unkindly, "What about you Lex?"

"Uh, I should probably have an early night, I have work in the morning, but I'll try stop by for a while at least." Alexa promised. A moment later she pulled back the sliding door and stepped onto the footpath outside her house. Waving goodbye to her friends she turned and jogged up the path and through the front door where she knew her mother was waiting.

--

The first day of the holidays. The first day of two and a half months of pure freedom. From his bed Luca McLeod smiled at the half naked woman watching him from the wall. His flight from England had arrived late the night before and he hadn't made it to bed until after 2 am. Unfortunately his body was still on school time and he'd awoken at 7:30. Despite missing out on his first sleep-in for months, Luca was in a good mood. His father had brought him home instead of shipping him off to his grandparents in France as he did for the term holidays throughout the year. Luca didn't know what had inspired his father's change of heart but he wasn't about to question it. Deciding against going back to sleep, he dragged his body out of bed and into the shower, intending to spend the morning exploring the house he hadn't seen in over a year. Having his own ensuite was definitely something that he missed at school. His one at his grandparents wasn't even half the size of this one, and it definitely wasn't as well looked after. A fact probably caused because his grandmother felt that it was character building for him to learn to clean his own room. Apparently she felt he didn't get enough of that during the term. Here however, his mother employed a full time cleaning staff so the whole place was spotless at all times.

Emerging from the shower, Luca wandered leisurely into his room, towel slung low on his hips. The presence of the maid was unexpected and from the look of her face he guessed she wasn't prepared for his outfit, of lack thereof.

"Good morning." Luca smiled, then deciding her was taking too much pleasure in her discomfort, reached for the robe that hung behind his door, "Can I help you?"

"Uh...your father would like to see you in his office once you've had breakfast." She blurted out quickly, avoiding eye contact and hurried from the room.

Still smiling to himself Luca crossed the room to his stereo and turned it up loud. He dressed slowly before making his way down through the halls and staircases to the kitchen. Accustomed to fixing his own breakfast at school, it took him a moment to register why the chefs were looking at him strangely.

"What can I make for you Master McLeod?"

"Oh…I was just going to make some toast." Luca motioned to the toaster on the bench then continued his search for the pantry.

"Why don't you take a seat in the dining room and I'll bring it out to you in a moment." The chef suggested and Luca nodded before moving through the double doors into the empty room next door.

Fifteen minutes later he was knocking on his father's door, frowning at the formality of having to go through a secretary to see his own father in his own house.

"Enter." Phillip McLeod called from within, watching as his only son stepped across the threshold. "Good morning Luca."

"Good morning Father." Luca stood straight and addressed his father formally as he had been taught to speak to adults his entire life.

"Take a seat." Phillip motioned to the leather chairs in front of his desk. Luca obeyed and Phillip noticed he had outgrown the gangly, awkward stage of the last time they had been face to face. Luca had been only 16 then. "Welcome home."

"Thank you." Luca nodded and Phillip saw then that the boy was nervous.

"How has boarding school been treating you?"

"Very well. I passed all my exams."

"I know, the school sent out your report."

"Oh."

"You have friends there?"

"Yes, many." Luca nodded. His father was the richest so Luca was therefore the most powerful student in the school. You were either with him or against him and those against never lasted long.

"Good. Your grandfather tells me that you took a young lady home to France last holidays."

"Yes I did." Luca cringed at the memory, a dare from one of his friends to see how his family and hers would react.

"Are we going to be seeing her here in the near future? I would love to meet the girl that finally caught my son's interest."

"Oh…it, uh, it didn't really work out."

"Really? What a shame. Do you know why I brought you home Luca?" Phillip abruptly changed the subject and Luca was thrown off for a moment.

"No I don't."

"Did you want to come home or would you rather I sent you back to France?"

"I'm glad you brought me home."

"Good. I have a proposition for you. I recently acquired a new business and I'm in need of a capable manager."

"Me?" Luca felt his relaxing, enjoyable holidays slipping away.

"Do you think you can handle it?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"You could always go back to your grandparents."

"When do I start?" Luca sighed taking what he saw to be the less of two evils.

Twenty minutes later he was walking out the door with a name and an address and no idea what he was about to get into.