Bite Size - whatthegreencarrot

Chapter 1: Warm Welcome

I didn't want to move. I wanted to stay in New York for my whole life. Some people didn't like waking to police sirens at six in the morning, but I loved it. In fact, I'd wanted to work in the homicide department of NYPD for as long as I could remember,

Unfortunately, my parents didn't like the waking-up-to-sirens thing as much as I did. So when my grandfather died and left us his country ranch in Iowa, they jumped at the chance of moving. Nobody asked me what I wanted. No "Hey, Catherine, is moving good with you?" Instead, the 'rents told me to pack and stop being selfish.

Ha, selfish. Hypocritical much? It wasn't as if they'd wondered if I, Catherine Jean Montgomery, would like the idea of Iowa and chores with stinking cattle. Goodbye NYPD, and hello manual labor . . . Yeah, things weren't looking good for me.

"Catherine!" my mother screamed from downstairs. "Pack!"

How had she known I wasn't packing? I glanced warily at the door and dutifully began throwing my things into a cardboard box. My life in a box. How dreary, I thought sourly. Letting myself stand still for a moment, I leapt to my feet when my mother shouted again, "Catherine!"

Moving day came much, much too fast.

I stood in front of the mirror, giving myself a last-minute appearance check. My auburn hair was safely pulled into a ponytail, and my blue eyes stood pale and washed-out on my face. I'd never been considered ugly—just merely pretty. Nothing special.

The sound of the door opening made me turn around, and I found my dad awkwardly standing in the doorway. Of the two of my parents, he was by far the quieter one. "The truck's here. Bring your bags," he said, turning and leaving me to carry all my boxes and bags.

Gee, thanks for carrying my stuff downstairs, I thought bitingly.

I wasn't exactly in the best of moods.

Hefting up a box, I carefully walked down the stairs and to the moving truck. I handed it to one of the workers, then jogged back to get another box. It went like that for twenty agonizing minutes, and then I was free . . . to get in the cramped family vehicle.

I don't know how long we drove, but it took ages. We had occasional gas stops and bathroom breaks, but we were on the road for the most part. I remembered nodding off here and there—our trip was, inevitably, boring. There was no other way to describe it. I nearly jumped for joy when my mother announced that we were nearing out destination.

The ranch came into sight, and we passed a pair of teenagers, a boy and a girl. They were too far to see clearly, but I could tell they were attractive. It wasn't so much the faces as the way they stood: confident, poised. My eyes stayed locked on them as our car pulled into the driveway. "Who are they?" I blurted.

My mom turned around and saw who I was talking about. "Oh, those are the Sinclair children," she said brightly. I inwardly made a face at the word children. Those people were no more children than a cheeseburger was Italian. "They're about your age, I think . . . Grandpa used to mention them. I bet you'll be great friends."

I took another look at their faces—faces that would shame a Botticelli angel—and gave her a skeptical look. She had to be joking.

"What? How can there be school when we're in the middle of nowhere?" I said, staring in disbelief at my uniform. It consisted of a gray-and-burgundy plaid skirt, a white button-up, and a saggy gray sweater with the Weston private school crest embossed in burgundy. "It's so . . . ugly."

"Don't be silly, you'll look like a darling in this," my mother said, ushering me upstairs. "Go and get changed, I'll drop you off."

Making a face, I walked into my new room (the wallpaper was peeling off) and changed into the uniform. Giving my hair one last pat, I sprinted down the stairs, just as the doorbell rang.

"Catherine, get the door!" called my mother. I obliged and opened the door to find the two Sinclair siblings, standing there in their ethereal beauty. (How friggin' poetic.) Forcing my face into an amiable smile, I nodded at them.

"Hi," I said, my eyes darting from the girl to the boy. Both had dark, magnetic brown eyes and unfairly flawless features; cry-worthy, as some of my friends back home would've said. The girl had corn-silk blond hair that hung down her back in silvery sheets and a slim dancer's frame. Her brother had dark hair to match his eyes and his sister's white skin. "I'm Catherine Montgomery."

The boy's face broke out into a dazzling smile, and he held his hand out to the girl. "Ten bucks," he said smugly. His voice was a pleasant tenor, not too deep and not too high. It was the friendly, carefree kind of voice that made you want to smile.

His blonde sister made a face. "Later," she said, turning her dark brown eyes to me. "Evelyn Sinclair. This idiot here is Dale, my twin. Don't mind him. We go to Weston, too." Her lips quirked up into a half-smile, but it didn't reach her eyes. "Need a ride to school?"

I blinked in surprise. "Uh, yeah, sure. Hold on a sec, I'll be right back." Darting into the kitchen, I said hurriedly to my mom, "I'm getting a ride with the Sinclairs, see you later." Grabbing my backpack, I rejoined the Sinclair siblings. "Okay, we can go, if you want."

Evelyn turned to her brother—Dale, his name was. "That's five, pay up."

"No," Dale objected, "you owed me ten bucks in the first place. So now you just owe me five. I don't owe you anything." His smile was smug. "C'mon, we're gonna be late for class." Dale turned around and started walking towards his car, which was parked next to my late grandpa's tractor. The contrast was painful.

"Moron," murmured Evelyn, following suit. After a moment of hesitation, I walked after them. Dale unlocked the flashy red BMW's doors, and we all got in. Evelyn chose to sit in the back with me, rather than up front with her brother. Not for the first time, I found myself being glad that I was an only child.

"So, Catherine," said Dale from the driver's seat, as if testing my name out. "Which grade are you going in to?"

"Junior," I said quietly, looking out the window. All I saw was waves of boring yellow grain. "Not a whole lot of scenery, is there." I grew bored of looking at the grain and glanced back at the twins. Both were tall, with Dale being the taller of the two. I was near Dale's height; I'd been the tallest girl in my grade last year.

Dale smirked. "Nope, our scenery's down to a minimum. I'm a junior, too, but Eve here happens to be a know-it-all, so she's in twelfth grade." He nodded at Evelyn, and I realized that "Eve" was Evelyn. "She skipped a grade."

"Oh," I said, unsure of what to say next. "So, um, your nickname is Eve?" This question was, of course, directed at Evelyn.

Evelyn winced delicately, shaking her head and shuddering. "God, no. Dale just calls me that to annoy me." She shot him a pointed look. "Isn't that right, dear?" she said, her tone cutting. Dale didn't even bat an eye.

"Where did you ever get that idea?" he drawled, a slow smile spreading across his handsome face. "Why, Eve, I would never want to annoy you. The very idea is blasphemic." Dale winked at me through the driver's mirror.

Making an irritated noise, Evelyn crossed her arms and leaned back into her seat. She told Dale to go do something highly unpleasant, earning an "Ooh, Evie swore" from Dale. And here I'd been, thinking that the Sinclair twins were mature. At least I'd been half-right.

"Do you guys usually argue this much?" I interrupted them mid-quarrel. They froze, looking at me in surprise. I repeated my question again, flushing slightly under their heavy gazes.

"Five bucks," Dale finally said to Evelyn after a long, awkward pause. "That's ten dollars you owe me, Eve."

"And that," I said sharply, scowling at both of them. "What's all this about? Are you betting on me?" It didn't seem right to bet on a person—people just didn't do that. And I'd just met these two people.

Evelyn flicked her hair out of her face. "I don't owe you anything anymore, she figured it out." She turned to me. "It's a system that Dale and I have for all newbies. We bet on them. You've finished all of our bets, save for one." Her full, glossed lips curved up into a cool, calculating smile as the car pulled into the parking lot. "I bet she'll last for four weeks," Evelyn threw over her shoulder as she left to get to class.

"One and a half months," Dale called after her. "She's tougher than the last batch." He flashed me an almost feral grin, getting out of his car, too. "I'll see you at lunch, Catherine." Dale's dark, intoxicating eyes seemed to draw me in, like magnetic pools. Then he was gone.

I blinked, trying to clear my head. Dazedly getting out of the car, I shut the door and watched his fading figure. Something was funny about this place, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to know what it was.

Lunch came quicker than I'd hoped. Back in New York City, I'd always wanted to reach lunch as soon as possible. Now, it was a whole other situation. I didn't want to wander around, searching for somewhere to sit, nor did I want Dale or Evelyn seeing my hunt for a seat.

Especially not Dale, I thought to myself, shuddering as I got into the lunchline. Those dark brown eyes staring emotionlessly at me as I searched the room for a table to sit at, his seraph's face cold and unmoving. No, I didn't think I'd be able to live through this lunch period if that happened.

Fortunately—or, rather, unfortunately—I heard my name shouted for all the cafeteria to hear when I finished paying for my lunch. Heads turned to the speaker, then to gawk at (well, not gawk—these people were too elegant to gawk—more like appraise) me. "Hey, Catherine! Over here!" hollered Dale Sinclair.

Oh, dear.

Cheeks reddening under the weight of five hundred piercing stares, I tentatively walked over to his table and sat next to Evelyn. She greeted me with a cool nod, then turned her attention to another blond girl. "So, how was your summer, Monica?"

"It was alright," the blonde said indifferently, taking up a forkful of salad. I nearly gasped in horror when I saw that the salad was all that she had on her plate. Who wouldn't pile up their plates when there was free food to be eaten? Scandalous.

Dale saw my shocked expression and started laughing, making me duck my head and blush. Our tablemates all looked at him oddly, except for one person. My eyes latched on to the single individual, who happened to be a (dare I say it) very handsome boy. He was good-looking—maybe even better-looking than Dale, with his windswept, jet black hair and unblemished pale skin. His face was tilted down, so I couldn't see his eyes, but I could tell that he was very attractive.

Evelyn caught me staring and nudged me under the table. She, too, shot him a furtive glance. Getting up from her seat, Evelyn said, "Catherine and I are going for a little walk and a talk, alright? C'mon, Catherine." She grabbed the crook of my elbow and nearly tugged me from my seat.

"Wha?" I protested around a mouthful of food. Dale snickered. "Buh I don' wanna!"

"Oh, yes you do," she replied, this time successfully taking me from my seat. Damn, this girl was strong. Quickly swallowing my pizza, I stumbled after her. Once we were outside, I glowered at her, and she had the decency to look apologetic. Somewhat. "So you saw that guy? Black hair, attractive, amber eyes?"

Amber eyes. What the fuck—amber eyes. Who identified eyes as amber? We were in friggin' high school, for God's sake.

"Yeah," I said, left eye twitching. I bet she was one of those pretentious so-called prodigies whose life goal was to learn every last obscure color. "Why?"

Biting her lip in an almost nervous manner, Evelyn said in a low, quick voice, "That's Liam Barnes. Catherine, promise you won't talk to him." Her dark eyes were troubled as they looked at me, and I wondered what this Liam character had done to evoke such strong emotion. "Catherine."

"But . . ." I hesitated. "But why? He seemed alright."

Her laugh was humorless when she replied. "Trust me, Catherine," Evelyn said flatly, "Liam Barnes is about as far from 'alright' as it gets." She started back into the cafeteria, then stopped to face me once again. "And you asked me why I was warning you off him—Liam would bite your head off if you approached him. I betted you'd last for four weeks, and I'm not intending to lose a hundred dollars." Evelyn left.

I fought down an incredulous snort. Only she would make such a big deal over a bet. And for a moment there, I had actually been illusions into thinking that she'd actually been interested in my welfare. Smooth.

It wasn't until much later that it occurred to me: Maybe Evelyn Sinclair hadn't been entirely truthful.

Later in the day, I decided to ignore Evelyn's wishes and to talk to the enigmatic Liam Barnes. Bite me—I didn't give a damn if Evelyn threw a hissy fit at me. I could handle her, I bet; I'd seen girls like her before. All talk and no play.

None of them, of course, had been as beautiful as her, but that was irrelevant.

I spotted Liam a few lockers down from mine and quickly caught up to him. At first, he didn't seem to notice me, but after a few moments he said, "Screw off, newbie."

Ouch. So maybe Evelyn had exaggerated about the "bite your head off" part, but Liam definitely wasn't ranking Total Sweetheart on my list right now. Seriously. What if I'd just been lost and needed directions or something?

"Hey," I said, getting a little testy despite myself. "No need to be so rude. I just want to talk."

"Well, I don't," he snapped, shoving me aside. I yelped in surprise, then quickly went back to his side, now determined. He couldn't just push people around like that; what if I'd been hurt? Smashing into a locker didn't sound all that great, and I was pretty sure he wouldn't appreciate the experience, either.

Scowling, I said, "What's your problem? I know preschoolers who are politer than you. Do you just enjoy having a stick up your ass, or were you just born with one there?" I huffed angrily and crossed my arms. "There's this amazing thing, you've probably never heard of it. We humans like to call it 'being civil,' but I guess you wouldn't know anything about that."

"No, I wouldn't," he murmured under his breath, so low that I nearly didn't catch it. I couldn't help but feel surprised; was he admitting that being civil was something he was inexperienced in? Or was I misinterpreting things entirely?

Liam lifted his eyes to mine for the first time, and I found myself stunned by the intense color. Evelyn had called them amber; she wasn't even close. They were a deep, roiling gold, tinted with the faintest layer of orange. There seemed to be something dark flickering beneath those golden orbs, and I felt myself being drawn in.


I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard my name uttered, my trance broken. Casting Liam a wary look, I said to the speaker, "What's up?"

"The sky," Dale replied (that line was so old by now). "C'mon, we gotta go. Eve's waiting in the car, and she's in one hell of a bad mood right now. Literally on a warpath. Barnes," he added to Liam, acknowledging him with a cordial nod.

Liam gave Dale a close-lipped smile, but it didn't reach his eyes. "Sinclair. See you around, newbie." He turned around, pulling up his hood and holding up his hand in a wave. "Oh, and I bet she'll last for three months," Liam threw over his shoulder. "This one's a fighter."

And as wrong as it was that they were betting on me, all I could think about was how much I liked the sound of Liam's voice saying those lone four words: "This one's a fighter."