Chapter One

Everyone could say that James Cromwell and his little group of friends are the epitomes of assholes. I mean, you could see it from the moment they enter the grounds of Woodrow Wilson Academy: the way their annoyingly hot bodies swagger through the halls, the arrogant tilt of their chins, and the bemused snobbish twinkle of their eyes… They were just damn bastards, the lot of them.

But the funny thing about it was that practically all the girls and even some of the boys were fucking blind to this fact. I don't understand why, really; it was so damn obvious! Once any of those supposed sex-gods set their eyes on you, you're the flavor of the week. Literally, by next Monday they're on the prowl for someone new.

How do I get these keen observations? Well, I literally have a beautiful set of friends. And when all your friends are beautiful except you, they have that tendency to be asked out by bastards—them. But to my delight, none of them fell for those dimwits, because they were actually smarter than that.

As for the others, I honestly couldn't blame them. James, Nate Bell, Evan Blackford and Cole Adamson put the fucking ass in class. They actually had something to be assholes about: they're all smart, extremely charming and really gorgeous. But sorry, that's not good enough for anyone I have huge amounts of respect for.

Anyway, today was the last day of summer. I finally get to see my friends after two boring months without them. It's not that I didn't enjoy playing video games and (if you can believe it) soccer with my brother Lake and his drool-worthy-yet-totally-out-of-my-league best friend Damon Matthews, who just happened to wake me up at six in the bloody morning just to go jogging with him around our humongous backyard.

"Why are you making me do this again?" I hissed angrily, panting as I tried to keep up with Damon. He tilted his head and smirked at me, locks of his golden blonde hair falling into his adorable blue eyes.

"Because you love me, sweetheart, and you're welcome," he replied, winking at me. I groaned and tried to jog faster. One side of my brain was busy watching Damon's too appealing backside, while the other was trying to jog along to the beat of "We Will Rock You." I wondered sometimes if I were really this pathetic, lusting after my brother's best friend.

"Why couldn't you just wake Lake up or something? Aren't you two the peas in the pod or the grapes to the vine or whatever analogy you can come up with at six fucking AM?"

"Lake can sleep through a war, and if I even tried to wake him up, he'd cut my legs off." Damon slowed down a bit so I could catch up with him. "And besides, after two blissful months, don't you think I already like spending time with you?"

"Didn't your father teach you that flattery gets you nowhere?" I rolled my eyes at him but smiled anyway. Trust me, when it came to Damon Matthews, one couldn't even try to resist the natural charm that oozes off him.

"How could he teach me that when I'm practically attached to Lake by the hip?" Damon laughed. For once, I managed to keep a pretty good pace with him as we jogged for around thirty more minutes. By the time we finished, Damon still looked hot and sweaty. I, on the other hand, looked like a suckling pig ready for roasting.

"I hate you," I managed to stutter out, collapsing in the middle of our backyard. The sun's rays were starting to peek out from the morning clouds, but I didn't have to shield my eyes from its brightness. Damon sat beside me, taking deep even breaths.

"I love you too." He chuckled breathlessly, laying down and tilting his head to face mine. "Are you excited to see your friends today?"

"Yeah, I guess. It happens every summer, you know. They go off to foreign places that I can't even pronounce and come back looking even more fabulous than when they left."

"Your parents have the money to send you off to un-pronounceable foreign places."

"Yeah, but they're too busy to chaperone Lake and me. I totally don't mind staying here, though. I just hate looking like grub." I sighed, pushing my hair away from my sweaty face. Okay, so it was an insecurity of mine—having drop dead gorgeous friends while I looked like I came out of a garbage can. Everyone, including my friends kept telling me to do something about it, but something in me never really pushed me to do it, you know?

"Well, if it makes you feel any better, Jules, I think you look fantastic, even now." Damon leaned down and kissed my forehead, before standing up and stretching. "I'm going to take a shower. Thanks for the jog and the delightful company, Ms. Evans."

With that, he trotted back inside the house. I sighed and looked up at it. It was larger than any average house… Okay, so it was a mansion. It looked like those large houses you see in Napa, with the vines lining the vast amounts of land. Can you picture it: the large driveway leading up to the nice yellow house with two balconies on the second floor, while the back of the house shows a vast amount of green space, with a pool and a makeshift soccer field? If you can, that's pretty much what my house looks like.

I finally stood up and brushed away the grass that stuck to the back of my legs and my shirt. Jogging into the house (still wondering how I managed that after the brief torture Damon put me through), I went up the stairs and into my room. Surely there was something decent enough in this mess that I could put on before going to Joe's Diner.


Finally settling on a pair of new jeans that I forgot I bought and a nice long sleeved hoodie from Gap, I took a shower and headed downstairs. I smelled breakfast while washing my hair, so I couldn't help but hurry up and go downstairs to see what Mrs. Delaney was cooking.

Mrs. Delaney had been Mom and Dad's friend since college, when Mrs. Delaney was still Ms. Keane, the waitress over at a small coffee shop near their campus. Mom and Dad adored her for being so nice and generous to them every time they needed a helping hand. So once their business hit it big, they hired Mrs. Delaney to stay with us, in exchange for her amazing cooking skills. Mrs. Delaney wasn't a cook to us. She was a very dear friend, as cheesy and cliché as it was.

"Morning, Mrs. D," I chirped, scrambling onto the large island in the middle of the kitchen. Mrs. Delaney shot me a frazzled smile, sliding over a glass of apple juice. She was busy making chocolate chip pancakes, scrambled eggs that wasn't too cooked (yum, my favorite), a slab of bacon and blueberry muffins. "Who else is up?"

"Well, Mason's busy with your father's broken car, which still bewilders me on how it broke. Your father's in his study, your mother's there with him. Lake is still asleep. And Damon's watching Mason." Mrs. D removed a fresh batch of muffins away from the oven. "What are you doing today?"

"Well, Denise, Alice and Kate are going home, so we're meeting up at Joe's later for a late lunch," I answered, fiddling with my glass. "Denise is coming from Greece, Alice is coming from France and Kate's coming from Prague."

"Ah, Europe, such a beautiful place in my dreams." Mrs. D sighed wistfully, fixing up a plate of bacon, eggs and pancakes for me. "I've always wanted to go there. Maybe next time your parents go on a business trip, they'll bring me."

"Brilliant idea, Sarah, I'll make sure of that," a clipped voice noted. I tilted my head to see my all-too-perfect mother walking in with a cup of coffee in one hand and a bunch of papers in the other. Her dark brown hair was fixed in a neat bun, and she was dressed in one of those size zero business suits. She eyed my breakfast in distaste, clicking her tongue. "As much as I think you're beautiful, Julia, I think you should change your eating habits. Have some fruit and cereal."

"But Mrs. Delaney already fixed it for me," I argued weakly, knowing better than to argue with my law-graduate mother. She raised a bemused eyebrow. I sighed and quietly gave up my plate. "I'll just go for a walk or something."

I stood up and grabbed a bottle of water, exiting through the back door. I saw Mason and Damon looking at Dad's broken car with interest. Damon looked up and saw me heading outside with water, and he flashed me a gorgeous smile and a thumbs-up before turning back to the car. I sighed again, walking down the sidewalk to the park.

The breeze felt cooler on my face. Thank God autumn was finally coming. I was sick and tired of the too-hot weather and the barely-there air conditioning at home. I drank some water, letting the coldness of the liquid slide down my throat. I walked through the alleys and sidewalks until I reached the picturesque recreational area of our neighborhood. Kids were tottering back and forth on the swings and see-saws, parents were chatting amiably amongst each other in the early morning sun, and the dogs were trotting around the walkway with their respective owners.

I was enjoying this view, greatly in fact, until someone bumped into me and sent my bottle of water flying onto the field. The water sprayed everywhere, leaving me and the person who bumped me wet and speechless. I whipped around, ready to beat this person into a bloody pulp. "Who do you think you are?!" I shrieked, glaring at the person. "Can't you see I was standing in the way?"

"I'm sorry," the person managed to stutter out, and it was only then when I recognized who it was. I tried my best not to stare at him, choosing instead to stare at the dog he was bringing along. "It was just that the dog was rushing to get walking, and I'm not used to being up this early—"

"I'm not surprised," I muttered, making him look up at me in shock. His piercing green eyes stared into mine, and I stared back, trying to ignore the weird thing my stomach was doing. I was ready to turn around, run home and puke.

"Excuse me?"

"Uh, you're excused. I'm gonna go." I smiled briefly and walked past him, but he grabbed my wrist and whipped me around to face him.

"Did you actually just walk away from me?" he questioned, raising a bemused eyebrow at me. "A girl's never done that to me before, well, except for a few at school. But that's a great minority."

"I'm surprised they're not walking away from you at the rate this conversation's going," I replied, surprised at my own harshness. He stared at me, trying to psychoanalyze me perhaps. I had the biggest urge to bite my lip and run away, but I kept my stance.

"Who are you? You look really familiar."

"I don't know how I'm supposed to take that, seeing that we go to school together." Why did I tell him we went to school together?! Oh shit, why am I even talking to him? Stupid, Jules, stupid!

"We do? No wonder! Who do you hang out with?"

"I don't see if that's any of your business!" I wrenched my hand away from his grasp and started to run.

"But wait, what's your name?!" he yelled out, but I was not the least bit ready to turn around and face him. After all, this was the king of the school, along with his little knights in shining armor.

Hell no, I wasn't ready to tell James-fricking-Cromwell who I was.