Chapter One: Abhorrence
Callie Price looked out of the passenger side window and let herself be mesmerised by the trees that rushed by in a blur of green. She had only been in Morleigh a matter of weeks, but she was already in love with the place. The car bounced over a speed bump and Callie quickly held up the styrofoam cup balanced on her lap. There was no way she was getting scalding hot Starbuck's coffee on her new school uniform, especially not her white cotton shirt.
She raked her long, golden blonde hair out of her face, before deciding it might just be a better idea to tie it all back. Callie wasn't sure yet whether she was looking forward to her first day at Caprus Academy, the most prestigious private school in the small seaside town of Morleigh. In fact, she had the suspicious that it was the only private school in Morleigh. The colours were crimson, navy and white, which Callie didn't mind so much. At least her uniform wasn't anything fluorescent.
Blake Remington drummed his fingers idly on the steering wheel of his new baby, this year's model of the Chevy Impala Sports Sedan. He glanced across at his stepsister, who was still gazing wistfully out the window. It hadn't been as hard for Callie as it had for him, moving all the way from Michigan to this little town on the edge of Oregon.
Blake had finished up his law degree a year early and had already been placed in an outstanding company, but when his father Alastair had taken off to England and left him responsible for Callie, Blake sensed opportunity in Morleigh. In reality, he had had the decision to come to England with Alastair, but he knew that Callie would prefer to stay in America. Besides, he was old enough to look after her by himself.
"Excited for your first day?" Blake inquired, to which he received a distracted nod in reply. Caprus Academy was an expensive school, but Alastair had left a generous sum of money with Blake – and besides, Callie's results from her previous school had guaranteed her a scholarship into Caprus Academy.
The early August weather was looking grim, much to Callie's dismay. She hadn't brought an umbrella with her and didn't want to turn up to her first class soaking wet with a see-through school blouse. Blake's car snaked through the carpark despite the strict sign proclaiming STAFF ONLY. He put the car into neutral and leaned across to kiss Callie's cheek. She turned her face to the gesture, grabbing her bag and stepping out of the car.
"I'll pick you up at three," Blake called before she slammed the door shut. His car roared off through the parking lot and out of the gates. Callie's tense posture relaxed and she breathed a sigh of relief as she witnessed his departure. Hefting her schoolbag higher, she pulled out a slightly crumpled timetable from her pocket and glanced over it.
"Hey. You new?"
The voice made Callie look up in surprise and nod warily. The girl watching her curiously was wearing the same crimson, navy and white uniform. It looked good on her considering the deep auburn colour of her hair, which Callie firmly decided after a moment's inspection was natural. Her hazel eyes were friendly as she smiled at Callie.
"Was that your brother who dropped you off?"
Callie shook her head fervently. She didn't even think that she and Blake could pass for siblings. She was smallish with golden hair and deep blue eyes, while Blake was over six feet tall with jet-black hair and bright blue eyes. They didn't really look anything alike, but it hadn't been the first time someone had just assumed they were related.
"No. Stepbrother, actually."
"I'm Evelyn Bennett," the auburn-haired girl stated, "But everyone here calls me Eve. You look lost."
Callie nodded again. "Callista Price, but people only ever call me Callie. It's my first day here."
"Senior year?" Eve asked, raising an eyebrow when Callie nodded once more. "You look a bit young."
She was maybe a few inches taller than Callie, which wasn't exactly hard considering that Callie barely scraped five foot four. She had a polished sort of appearance that made Callie think she must be a prefect or something. Callie ran a hand self-consciously over her hasty French braid.
"Yeah. Although, I'm not eighteen until next March."
"Can I see your timetable?" Eve inquired, causing Callie to wordlessly hand her crumpled piece of paper over. Eve was probably the sort of girl who had her timetable laminated and put into an organised diary. "Nice. You're in the same homeroom as me, with Mr Clement. He's pretty cool."
Eve started the trek up the hill towards the Academy, motioning for Callie to follow. The buildings all had red bricks and cream roofs. There were plenty of trees around campus, and it was more spaced out than Callie's crumby little high school back in Michigan. Callie noticed a group of boys kicking a football around on the oval as they passed. Eve raised a hand and waved at them. A tall, muscular boy with shaggy brown hair waved back, a grin spreading across his features. Callie remained silent as Eve led her into room SE-04, where a balding man who must be Mr Clement was scrawling something on the whiteboard.
"Miss Bennett, take a seat." Mr Clement turned to face them, and Callie couldn't help being mortified. She hated being late. It meant that the whole class would stare at her, which they would enough considering she was new. Her cheeks started to heat up in embarrassment. "You must be the new girl. Callista Price, is that right?"
"Callie," she corrected automatically. There was a girl in the front row watching her intently, with black hair so silky it looked like something out of a Pantene commercial. She crossed over and hesitantly took a seat beside Eve. She must look like such a dork, the new girl following the immaculately dressed Eve Bennett around like a lost puppy. She made a mental note to find herself some actual friends, not people just showing her around out of sympathy because she was a new girl.
Callie completely tuned out as Mr Clement began his monologue about hard work, being punctual for class and handing in assignments on time. Eve nudged her and slid her timetable across the desk so that Callie could compare the two. To her surprise – and relief – she was in most of Eve's classes. In fact, the only class that they didn't have together was Maths, which unfortunately was what Callie had next.
The bell rang and shocked Callie from her reverie. She gathered her stuff together, watching as Eve raked back her auburn hair and swept from the room. Callie flipped her timetable over and examined the map on the other side. Great, now she had to try and figure out where the Maths block was.
"Don't mind her." The dark-haired girl who had been staring at Callie leaned against the desk opposite. "Eve started dating Aidan Carter at the beginning of this year. He's star player on the Caprus Cougars team."
"Ummm…" Callie wasn't exactly sure what the Caprus Cougars were, or why this girl was coming over and talking to her about Eve. When she saw Callie's confusion, the girl tossed back her black hair and laughed.
"The Caprus Cougars are the Academy football team. So basically, Aidan's really popular. Which is why Eve has become pretty stuck-up, it seems." The dark-haired girl pushed herself off the desk. She was tall enough – and definitely pretty enough – to be a model. "I'm Kiara Holden, by the way."
"Callie Price," Callie responded, although she was sure that Kiara would already have heard Mr Clement saying her name.
Kiara nodded, before seizing Callie's timetable and inspecting it. She put it down after a few moments, sliding a tube of lipgloss out of her pocket and touching up her lips. After she was done she pointed to the building directly across.
"That's the Maths building over there. Your classroom is that one opposite."
"Oh. Thanks." Callie stowed her timetable back in her pocket and walked across to the Maths block. A gaggle of students – seniors, judging by the blazers – were milling around outside the classroom. She felt very out of place. Everyone here already knew each other, they were hanging in their little groups…and she was by herself, not knowing anyone except Eve and Kiara.
Math was no more interesting at Caprus Academy than it had been at Callie's old high school. Of course they were doing Calculus first, which just happened to be one of the things that Callie was the worst at. She sat at a desk beside the window with names and symbols carved all over it. Her mood only got gloomier when the rain started to pour down. Maybe she was just condemned to be a loner in Morleigh.
"Hey." Someone tapped her on the shoulder. She turned to see it was the boy sitting next to her, a cute boy with dark brown hair. "You look like you're having trouble there. Everything okay?"
"Yeah." Callie nodded vigorously, glancing down at her paper to see that she hadn't even copied the problem from the board. "I just…Math isn't really my strength."
The boy laughed quietly. Now that Callie looked closely at him, she could see that he had deep jade-green eyes. He extended a hand across to her, which she looked hesitantly after a quizzical glance at him.
"I'm Declan Aberdeen. You're new, aren't you?"
She smiled wryly. "I only started today. Callie Price."
It struck her then. She was at a new school. No one knew the Callie Price from Michigan. She could be whoever she wanted to be here. There was a lot that Callie wanted to be distracted from, and boys were always a welcome distraction. She'd tried playing the studious card, last year. That hadn't worked out too well for her. So she might as well try the flirtatious card, especially as it might lead to jealousy. Instinctively, she leaned across and tapped Declan on the arm.
"Do you think you could help me with this problem? I have no idea how to solve it."
"Sure." Declan leaned across and scrawled the problem down on her page, going through it step by step until Callie had her answer. She smiled across at Declan. He seemed like a genuinely sweet guy.
"Thanks so much. I think I get it now."
Declan raked a hand through his hair, glancing at the teacher, who was still scrawling on the board, before looking back at Callie. He leaned across and there was a bit of mischievous glitter in his eyes.
"Hey, um, we normally have a sort of…back-to-school thing up at the Garish Cliffs. It's tomorrow night, if you wanted to come."
Callie trailed her fingers through her French braid. "You've only just met me."
Declan laughed a little. "It's not like it's just going to be you and me there. Pretty much all of senior year comes. I just thought, well, you probably wouldn't know about it considering that you're new."
"Oh." Callie felt her face growing hot and realised how excruciatingly embarrassed she was. This guy was only trying to be nice, and of course she had immediately assumed that it must mean something. A little humiliated, Callie focused her attention on the equations being written up on the board. "It doesn't matter. I don't think I'd be allowed to go anyway. I don't know where the Garish Cliffs are, and my stepbrother doesn't like me going out too late."
"You live with your stepbrother?" Declan raised his eyebrows when Callie nodded. "How old is he?"
"Nearly twenty-one," Callie replied, smiling wryly when she noticed the surprised expression on Declan's face. "He's mature for his age."
"If you give me your address, I don't mind picking you up," Declan said, passing her across a pen with a smile. "And I promise I can have you home by whatever time your curfew is."
Callie hesitated. Blake probably wouldn't be happy. He didn't like her going out late, especially on school nights. But it was only one night, and she could be home easily before midnight if Declan lived up to his promise to drive her home. She felt a little uncomfortable about accepting a lift from him, though. She hardly even knew the guy. So Callie picked up the pen and passed it back.
"It's okay." For a reason that wasn't alien at all to Callie, she would much prefer to get a lift from one of the girls she'd met rather than a guy. It just made her feel safer, more comfortable. "I can get a lift from Eve or Kiara."
"Eve or Kiara?" Declan repeated, sounding astonished. He leaned back in his chair. "You're friends with both of them? Wow. That's two completely different crowds I never saw crossing over."
"I wouldn't say friends," Callie murmured, before getting back to focusing on her calc when the teacher turned around and shot her a sharp glare. She was both excited and apprehensive about this party at Garish Cliffs. So long as she could get a lift there and back, everything would be great…hopefully.
It was a cold night at Garish Cliffs, which was how Eve found herself wearing her boyfriend Aidan's football jumper. Gunmetal grey clouds loomed over and threatened to unleash a storm, but it had just gone past ten o'clock and the rain hadn't started yet. Eve glanced around for Callie. She'd agreed to give the blonde girl a lift there and back, and Callie had been a little nervous, probably because she hadn't known what to expect. Looking at her now though, Eve thought she seemed confident enough. Callie was flirting with Rex, one of Aidan's mates, with a plastic cup of punch in her hand.
"You okay, babe?" Aidan slid an arm around Eve's waist. She smiled and turned to face him. Most girls would kill for a boyfriend like Aidan. Good-looking, popular, fairly easy to get along with. Sometimes Eve still found it hard to believe that she was actually dating him.
"I'm fine," Eve responded. In all honesty, she found Garish Cliffs a little creepy. There was a stone altar right in the middle of the place, and while it served as a great drinks table, rumour had it that it was used for sacrifices back in the 1800s. There were also seven raised grass circles at equal distance from the altar, and also an equidistant from each other.
Aidan slid his hands a little lower so that they rested on Eve's butt. She forced a smile, but in reality she was a bit uncomfortable. Eve didn't believe in saving herself for marriage or anything, but she and Aidan had only been dating two months. There was such thing as a bit of class. She didn't look those girls who went out with a guy and next thing they were sleeping together, so she was determined not to become one.
"Want to get out of here?" Aidan whispered in her ear in what he no doubt thought was a seductive voice. "My parents are out of town for the week. We could go back to mine…"
Eve shook her head, offering him an apologetic smile. "I can't. I promised I would drop Callie back at her place after the party."
Aidan glanced over at the blonde girl who had accompanied his girlfriend to the party. She was currently making out with Rex, who had his fingers twisted in her long wavy hair. He couldn't help but scoff derisively. Eve could do better than make friends with some girl who was whoring herself out already. She hadn't even been at the school for three days. Besides, everyone knew Rex would get his hands on whatever hot girl came his way.
"The newbie slut? By the look of things, she's going to be heading back with Rex tonight. I wouldn't worry about her."
Eve wasn't so sure. She hadn't really picked Callie as that kind of girl. Sure, she might randomly make out with someone like Rex, but Eve didn't think she would sleep around. A commotion over by the drinks caught her attention and she groaned inaudibly. Kiara had spotted her ex-boyfriend, Zach McLery. The two had been dating for years until Zach had broken things off, and she was still not over him. Two of Zach's friends, Joel and Declan, were attempting to calm Kiara down as she was obviously getting herself worked up.
Eve sighed heavily. Zach's group was really sweet – with the exception of Gabriel Winton, an incorrigible flirt – but Kiara had become bitter after Zach had ended things. She stalked away from them towards the trees that grew all around Garish Cliffs, except for the particular point with the altar and seven surrounding circles. Callie pulled away from Rex and followed Kiara, putting a hand on her arm and saying something to her. Kiara whirled around and pushed Callie away from her. Eve could tell things might get violent if she didn't intervene, so she weaved through the congregation and hurried over to Callie and Kiara.
"What's going on?" Eve asked.
"None of your business, Evelyn," Kiara replied coldly, fixing Eve with that icy blue gaze of hers. Once upon a time, Eve would have backed down, when she had been quiet and Kiara had been the captain of their Academy's cheer team. But Kiara was nothing but a bitter shell now. There was nothing about her that intimidated Eve.
"I just came and asked her what was wrong," Callie frowned. She looked pretty irritated that Kiara had responded in such an aggressive way, and Eve didn't blame her. Kiara had been out of line, but she did get emotional when it came to Zach.
"You're new, you wouldn't get it," Kiara told Callie bluntly, before brushing past her and walking down through the trees towards the parking lot. Neither of the others attempted to follow her. The thing with Kiara was that she didn't get all heated and fiery. Instead, she was cold like ice.
"You okay?" Eve asked, turning to Callie. Sure, she might not like how the blonde girl threw herself at Rex, but she didn't think that equated to getting her head bitten off by a snappy Kiara. Callie hugged her jumper tighter around her as the trees swayed in what was starting to become a chilly wind.
"Fine," Callie replied, shoving her hands into her pockets. "I just don't get what her problem is, but like she said, I'm new so I wouldn't understand."
She'd thought Eve was just trying to babysit her at first, show her around the school and get her settled into the new environment that was Caprus Academy. But it had become clear, such as when Eve had agreed to give her a lift and with the concern she showed now, that Eve was just a genuinely kind-hearted person. Callie found herself hoping they could be good friends. She could use a friend.
"I don't know if you've met them," Eve turned and indicated Zach and his friends, who by now had forgotten all about the incident with Kiara and were cheering on Gabriel as he downed a jelly shot. "But Zach and Kiara were dating for something like two years. There was some rumour she was cheating on him, no one knows if it was true or not. Zach broke things off at the end of our junior year, and I guess things have been tense between them since then."
"I've met Declan," Callie said, glancing over at the guys. Eve knew Declan pretty well – he was Gabriel's best mate, although he wasn't anywhere near as wild as Gabriel. Even now, Declan supported Gabriel as he struggled to stay on his feet. "He was the one who invited me to this party thing."
Eve wasn't surprised. Declan was a bit of a sweetie. She turned when she heard boots crunching through the bushes towards them. It was Aidan, an impatient expression across his face.
"Eve? You coming back to the party, or what?"
She made a split second decision. "It's getting late. I think I might take Callie back home now. Her stepbrother's probably worried about her."
Aidan's jaw clenched momentarily, a flash streaking through his eyes before disappearing as quickly as a fork of lightning through the sky.
"Alright. See you tomorrow then."
There was no 'babe', no term of endearment. Eve tensed imperceptibly, realising that her boyfriend was not happy with her. Keeping Aidan happy was a difficult thing, though. They both knew there was only one reason that she bothered. If there was something solid keeping them together, something in it for Eve, then she highly doubted that they would still be together. She leaned in and placed a chaste kiss to his cheek, highly aware of Callie watching with curious eyes.
They walked to Eve's car in silence and Callie raked back her hair as she clambered into the passenger seat, staring out into the darkness. Eve noticed a hickey developing on her neck and had to suppress her distaste. She really did hope that Callie wasn't one of those girls. Eve glanced at the blonde as the keys crunched in the ignition and the engine roared to life.
"So. You and Rex, huh?"
Callie shrugged, and although a smile curled her candy-pink glossed lips, there was something hollow about her eyes. The longer Eve watched her, the more forced the smile became. It sent shivers down her spine. Thunder rumbled threateningly overhead and Eve was grateful for the rapidly approaching storm – yet another excuse for her leaving early.
"He isn't really my type," Callie murmured, turning to look out the window. Eve raised her eyebrows, but slid the gearstick into reverse. Some things weren't her business. Just like Callie couldn't know the truth of her relationship with Aidan, it was none of Eve's concern as to why Callie was acting so…weird. Rex was a pretty good-looking guy. Most girls would be giggly and excitable once receiving his attentions, but it was like Callie had just gone blank. Eve drove out of the parking lot, thinking it was kind of spooky how she already felt like she had some kind of strange connection to this new girl.