Chapter One

Boone Duran glared at the back of his father's head as the car turned smoothly into the long winding driveway of Montcalm Academy for Boys. He glanced out the window as the car pulled up by a uniformed man, placed at the entrance to direct the students to their dorms. Boone already knew where he was staying this year: Barbier Hall, Suite 205, the senior students' dorm. His father rolled down the window.

"Student's name, please." Boone stole a look at the uniformed man's face and groaned inwardly. Davis Stewart, the most annoying "house father" on campus. Boone had had the misfortune of living in Davis' building in his sophomore year, and the man had attached himself to Boone ever since, convinced that the boy would appreciate his attention and guidance, but Boone knew very well that the man just wanted to attach himself to the Duran family name.

"Boone Duran," his father answered, his deep voice conveying none of his current displeasure with his son. Davis flipped through the papers on his clipboard and highlighted something.

"Barbier Hall, to the left just past Richter Center," he said with a grin, and looked as if he wanted to keep talking, but Boone's father stepped on the gas hastily. In the front seat, his mother sniffed slightly. His parents didn't like Davis any more than he did.

Barbier Hall was a slightly weathered looking brown building, with the careful architecture and pristine landscaping the rest of the campus displayed. Pulling into the handicapped parking spot right before the building's doors, Mr. Duran stepped out quickly. The Duran family could get away with things like parking in inappropriate areas because of who they were.

Boone hauled himself out of the Durango, nearly hitting his mother with the door, and she frowned at him before carefully rearranging her features into something suiting a sophisticated lady. He wrestled several of his boxes out and dropped them at his feet, his parents moving toward the doors without him. Reaching back in the car to grab his iPod, Boone was straightening when he saw a battered Ford Taurus pull up.

Now, to understand Boone's surprise at this, it is necessary to understand several things first. Boone's family was extremely wealthy, and Montcalm Academy was a private all boys boarding school for the wealthy. In Boone's experience, wealthy people did not drive anything resembling a Ford Taurus, and especially not anything that was as damaged as this one. It had a huge dent in the passenger door, one headlight was duct taped on, and the rear bumper appeared to be falling off.

What in the world? There's no way that belongs here, but Davis wouldn't let anyone in who wasn't registered. He continued to watch, openly curious in a way he hadn't been in months. A boy emerged from the passenger seat and retrieved two suitcases and a backpack from the back seat. He was small, for a teenage boy; his clothes were baggy and obviously used, and he wore a pair of jeans and a black hoodie. A black baseball cap perched on his head, and as he turned toward Barbier, Boone caught a quick glimpse of his face before his mother called his name.

"Boone! Come along, we need to get you checked in so that your father and I don't miss our flight."

Oh, yes, we can't allow that, now can we? He put on his mask and strode into the building, ignoring the small boy right behind him.

Jazz sucked in a deep breath as Pete pulled up next to the uniformed man.

"Student's name, please."

"Jasper Howard," Pete said confidently, ignoring the condescending glance toward his beloved car. Jazz held her breath as the man checked his clipboard, then let it out again as he marked something down.

"Barbier Hall, to the left just past Richter Center."

She was in. Montcalm Academy would be her home for her senior year of high school. Pete and his group had actually pulled it off. She glanced at him, and he grinned at her.

"See, I told you it would be okay. The hard stuff came when we had to get you admitted and find a scholarship."

"I guess I'm not used to things working out like that without—well, you know. I'm glad it did though."

A moment later, they found Barbier Hall, and Pete came to a stop. Jazz unbuckled her seatbelt, and Pete said, "Well, good luck kid. I wish I could say that I'd see you again, but—" he shrugged.

"I know. Thanks, Pete, for everything," she said sincerely.

She checked her outfit, smoothing the wrinkles from her black hoodie, and he reminded her sharply, "Hey now, guys don't do that unless they're goin' on a date. You're Jasper now, remember that."

Nodding, she opened the door and climbed out, grabbing her bags from the back seat and turning toward Barbier Hall. A tall, dark haired boy was looking at Pete's car with something like disgust, and she bridled inwardly, instantly forgetting her worries and slipping into her confident self. Someone called his name and he glared at the car before whirling and stalking inside, and Jazz dashed after him.

Once inside, she quickly lost sight of the boy in the crowd of students and their parents. She found the A-H line and stood quietly, effortlessly blending in and using the time to study the crowd.

Apparently this was the senior dorm, as all of the boys were tall and well on their way to becoming men. The noise level in the lobby was high, and she listened to rumbles of conversation as friends found each other and began the process of getting reacquainted from summer break.

"Vicki and I broke up in July, and—"

"Eagles won the nationals, did you watch it?"

"Polished my game this summer, bet I can beat you in a pickup game now!"

Then Jazz was at the front of the line, facing a bored looking man wearing a maroon polo shirt with the Montcalm logo over his heart.


"Jasper Howard."

He shuffled through his papers, and she realized that those around her were casting quick looks in her direction. Oh. I'm the only one without a parent or chauffer or someone with me. Her atypical clothing and the blue streak in her dark hair may have had something to do with it.

"Suite 205, on the second floor. Here's your packet. Have a nice day and welcome to Montcalm," the man droned. Jazz took the packet of papers and slid through the crowd to an unoccupied corner, juggling her suitcases and backpack without dropping the papers.

Once in the corner, she set her bags down and stuffed the packet into her backpack. Then, recollecting her belongings, she shoved her way toward the stairs, ignoring the angry looks from the snobs around her.

There was no one in the staircase, and she darted up to the second floor and started down the hallway.

"201, 203, there it is. 205." Jazz grumbled as she realized her key was somewhere in her packet, so she shifted her things to the floor and started digging for it. Boys and their parents moved in and out of rooms, carrying and dragging boxes and suitcases of all sizes, and when she finally found her key and unlocked the door, the hallway was crowded with people.

Jazz didn't need to listen to know that everyone was starting to whisper about the "scholarship kid" and warning their precious sons against associating with such a disreputable character. Huh, she thought irritably, I look pretty average for a lower middle class kid. In fact, this is pretty decent stuff. They're just snobs.

The suite she stepped into was what fully convinced her that this was a rich kid school, beyond the fancy landscaping and luxurious lobby. Straight ahead was a large navy blue couch with a low table in front of it and a matching chair and lamp on either side. There was a sink, small refrigerator, microwave, a table, and two chairs at the far end of the room, and a big window on the far wall. She noticed that it would not open far enough to allow a body through, and suspected that was deliberate on the part of the administration.

To her right were three doors opening onto bedrooms, two of which had suitcases on the beds and boxes on the floor. On her left were two more bedrooms with a bathroom in between.

She picked the bedroom on the left nearest the door, although they were identical, and flung her bags on the bed with a sigh. The bedroom was decent sized, with a desk and chair, nightstand, dresser, closet, armchair, and, of course, a bed. Navy blue seemed to be the color theme, with accents of off white, and she grimaced as she realized that she should not notice things like that if she was going to blend in. Disappointingly, there was no window in her room.

Jazz flopped on her bed and buried her face in the pillow, before realizing that she didn't even know how many roommates she had, or what their names were. Just as she rediscovered her packet, the main door opened, and voices filled the air. She would have gone out and introduced herself, but the two adults that showed up momentarily changed her mind, as she didn't want to face any parents just yet.

A half hour passed, as she memorized her roommates' names and started unpacking, and they finally seemed done with bringing all the boys' things up to the suite. The parents left, and she decided it was time to face her roommates.

Boone found his parents in line already, and was about to join them when someone shouted his name.

"Boone! Over here!" He turned, and saw his two best friends moving through the crowd toward him.

"Hey man! Long time no see," Jonah said, slapping him on the back.

"Hey Boone," Kyle said calmly. "Any idea who our roommates will be?"

Boone flicked a glance at Kyle, then Jonah, and said, "I think we only get one, 'cause there was an odd amount of guys this year, but I don't know anything else. I think he applied late."

This was supposed to be the year that their other best friend, Kevin, roomed with them and it was just the four of them. But instead, Kevin was never going to room with them again. Boone knew the others were thinking the same thing, but no one wanted to bring it up right now. They had enough to deal with, with settling in and getting used to a new roommate and classes.

"Boone!" His mother's voice cut through the noise and he scowled.

"Come on, let's get this out of the way so they can leave already." Mrs. Duran gave Jonah and Kyle a perfunctory smile as Boone grabbed his packet and dug out his key. They headed back out to the car as Mrs. Duran asked, "Did your parents leave already, Kyle?"

"Yeah, they had to drop off Aaron at my aunt's house before they catch their flight to New York. They have a conference this week."

"And your father, Jonah? Did he drop you off today?" Boone suppressed a nasty comment. She knew that Jonah's father was a sore subject, and yet she persisted in bringing him up.

"No, Mrs. Duran, he's in Japan this month. Mr. Keyes brought me over."

"In Japan? I don't suppose he will lend me his assistant until he gets back, will he?" Mr. Duran asked abruptly. Jonah wasn't sure if he was serious or not, but he answered as if he was.

"Mr. Keyes is conducting Father's business meetings while he is away."


Mr. Duran opened the back of the Durango and started unloading boxes as the boys started scooping them up to carry upstairs. Once away from Boone's parents, the boys dropped their formality and relaxed temporarily. Boone's parents and Jonah's father were typical wealthy socialites, dropping their kids at boarding school and caring nothing about them unless it would hurt the family name. Kyle's family, on the other hand, was more or less normal. They were wealthy, but lived modestly and cared about each other and their two sons, Kyle and his little brother Aaron.

"Hey," Boone remembered, "I saw the weirdest car in the parking lot just a few minutes ago. It was all beat up and was a Ford Taurus. This kid got out and looked like he's on welfare or something. I've never seen him here before."

"Maybe he's a new scholarship kid," Kyle suggested.

"I don't know. I just hope he's not rooming with us."

"We'll put him in his place if he is," Jonah asserted confidently. After all, they were the kings of the school, and all new kids learned that fast.

They reached the suite and Boone dumped his armload in the last bedroom on the right, next to Kyle's room. Jonah paused outside the room for a moment, then stepped in and said, "Well, we have a roommate up here already. Anyone read the packet and know his name?"

Boone stuck his head out his door and caught a glimpse of a black hoodie and a black baseball cap on the figure currently lying on the bed in a bedroom on the left.

"Great. Just great. It is the weird kid."

Then his parents sailed in with the last of his things and spent the last few minutes examining his living arrangements for the next few months before saying goodbye.

"Behave, Boone. If we get another call from Headmaster Daley, you will be in huge trouble. We'll have someone drop off the Jeep in a few days." Then they marched out the door, on a mission to catch their flight on time.

Yeah, some goodbye. At least I get the Jeep for the year. He looked up from shoving a box against the wall when Kyle pulled a sheet of paper out of his packet.

"Okay, so our roommate is Jasper Howard, a senior obviously, who—well, this is odd. He doesn't have a cell phone number or an email listed." Jonah looked up from his own phone with interest.

"Really? How does he survive?"

"Not everyone is as dependent on texting as you, Jonah," Kyle said, "but it is strange that he doesn't have at least an email. How is anyone supposed to contact the kid? Even if Montcalm bothered to inform us ahead of time who we would be living with, we wouldn't have been able to get a hold of him."

"Who cares," Boone said, with an edge to his voice. It had been a stressful day for him, and instead of relaxing with his best friends, he had to deal with a new scholarship kid as his roommate. Definitely not my idea of a great arrangement. Who put him in here with us anyway? A scholarship kid? How geeky is he going to be, if he was smart enough to get a scholarship? Time to check him out, I suppose.

He gave Jonah a dangerous grin. "Let's go meet Jasper Howard."