Chapter One

It was October of my sophomore year of high school. So far, I had managed to be my usual, average self, never popping up in the daily gossip or drama. But hey, I liked it that way.

I walked into English that Monday just like any other day. But, I was surprised to see that the other students who were there were not seated, and the desks were rearranged into table groups.

I approached Shawn Masterson, my usual English class buddy. Not only had we been close friends since we were kids, but we were also the two smartest people in the class, so we decided to stick together. "Hey, what's going on?" I asked him.

"New seats," he groaned in response. I rolled my eyes. Why do teachers have to give us assigned seats? I felt that I worked much better sitting near my friends.

By the time the second bell had rung, signalizing the start of class, the rest of the students had shown up. "Okay, as you can see, I am assigning your seats now," Mrs. Tompson declared. Without further hesitation, she began telling people where to sit. "Holland Abbot," she called my name. I gravitated to the seat she motioned to.

The "tables" were formed by four desks pushed together. So far, I sat across from Carson Happlings and diagonal to Macey Fredricks. Macey was nice, intelligent, and quiet, but not very social. Carson, on the other hand, was a jock and a bit cocky, but I could get used to looking at him for fifty minutes first thing in the morning.

"And, next to Holland, let's have," Tompson began, searching for her next victim. I prayed in my head that she would pick Shawn, but I knew the chances were slim. "Barrett Lyles," she announced. I gulped. Barrett Lyles, or Brett, as everyone called him, was a star baseball player who was dating the most powerful girl in the grade, Tanner Heart. As anyone could imagine, I didn't talk to Brett that much. Ever. So, I was stuck with three people I never spoke to in a class that I was very serious about. Sounds like a blast.

Mrs. Tompson finished seating people, thankfully putting Shawn right behind me. She made her way back to the front of the classroom and began class. "These are your new reading groups," she explained. Mental groan. "You will be reading and decoding poetry, analyzing epics, editing papers, and so on. I tried to put you with people you do not usually sit with so perhaps you will meet someone with the same interests as you. This will come in handy for your big, end-of-the-year project." The teacher rambled on about the project for a long time. I turned my attention to my notebook, but stole a glance at Carson. He had semi-long, blond hair, green eyes, and an incredibly muscular body from lacrosse training. Brett also had blond hair, but his was wavier and more of a dirty blond. His eyes were this enchanting shade of blue that could make any girl weak at the knees. As for his body…perfection. And of course, I had a huge crush on him in seventh and eighth grade, but that was a long time ago.

"Holland," someone whispered. I looked up, pulled out of my daydream. It was Carson. I couldn't help the butterflies in my stomach when our eyes met, "Can I borrow a pen?"

"Sure," I replied, quickly digging through my pencil case. I handed him a black pen and smiled.

"Thanks so much," he said, his green eyes glinting in the light. I nodded, hoping I wasn't blushing. I guess I underestimated the mesmerizing power of his allure.

I picked up my own pen and started jotting down what Tompson was writing on the board. Twenty minutes later, the bell rang, freeing us from the torture of Honors English II.

"Oh, Holland," Carson said as we both gathered our things. "Do you mind if I borrow your pen for the rest of the day? I lost all mine."

"Yeah, sure. It's no problem." I smiled and swung my backpack over my shoulder. He shot me an irresistible, charming smile that nearly melted my heart. I spun around clumsily and bumped right into someone. "Oops, sorry," I mumbled.

"Whoa there, watch it," Shawn scoffed sarcastically. I scowled at him and nudged his shoulder. We both turned to leave, when I glanced back at Carson who was staring at me. He looked away quickly and picked up his backpack.

"See you, Holland," he said before I walked out the door. I turned back and smiled.

"Bye," I replied. I caught up with Shawn, and we headed to our next class, Chemistry.

"What was that?" he asked with a playful shove. I looked at him, and he wiggled his eyebrows at me.

"What was what?" I had no clue what he was talking about.

"Carson Happlings saying bye to you, staring at you when you talked to me, stealing peeks at you during class." His voice was teasing and suggestive.

"He was looking at me during class?" I kept my voice calm and hushed so he couldn't hear the excitement in my voice. We turned down another hallway and arrived at our classroom.

"Yep, multiple times," he confirmed, "Maybe it's because you look especially pretty today." I was shocked that Shawn would say something like that. I mean, I did put a little more effort into my outfit than usual, but would he notice? I was wearing dark skinnies with a floral tank under a denim, button up shirt that I left open. My hair was soft and wavy, pulled back with a thin, white head band. As for makeup, I kept I pretty natural, just foundation, some mascara, and a rosy blush.

"Really?" I inquired, mocking him a little. He blushed slightly as we took our usual seats in the back of the room. I put my books on my desk and prepared for class.

"I didn't mean it like that, just, uh," he stuttered nervously with a big sigh. "It just looks like you tried a little harder today." I giggled at his obvious embarrassment. "Oh shut up."

"I'm not making fun of you!" I said, "Just flattered that you noticed." I smiled teasingly at him to his agitation. He glanced around, hoping none of his friends saw his little scene.

Class began a couple minutes later. Mr. Henry droned on about who knows what, but I was too preoccupied to pay attention. I was thinking about what Shawn said about Carson. And what he said about me. Was Carson really staring at me? Did Shawn really think I was pretty? I needed to have a serious conversation with Riley today.

I practically sprinted to lunch the second the bell rang. "See you later, Kiersten," I muttered to Kiersten Weber, the girl I sat next to in history, as I slipped out of the room. I needed to track down Riley before Shawn got to the cafeteria.

"Riley!" I shouted as I approached the table. Thankfully, Shawn wasn't there, but Riley's boyfriend, Noah Welsh, another star lacrosse player, was there. I liked Noah, but he could be a hot-shot on more than one occasion. He also got more attention from Riley than I did, and as her best friend, I had the right to be jealous of her boyfriend.

"Hey, Holly," she replied coolly. Only my closest friends, like Riley and Shawn, and my family called me Holly. I hated it when people I'm not really friends with tried to call me Holly; it just felt wrong.

"Hey, I really need to talk to you," I whispered, eyeing Noah, "It's urgent. And private." Noah smirked at me, understanding what I was hinting at. Riley gave me a tight smile, showing her irritation.

"Babe, do you want me to buy your lunch?" Noah offered her. She shot him a sweet smile.

"You're wonderful, thank you." Riley handed him some money and watched him longingly as he headed to the lunch line. I felt a twinge of guilt. I hated being their third wheel; always coming between them. But this time, it was an exception.

"So, what is it this time?" she asked, pretending to be annoyed. I sat down next to her and pulled my chair closer so I could keep our conversation somewhat private.

"Okay, I have to say this before Shawn arrives," I began, searching for him once more. Once I was sure the coast was clear, I continued. "Today in English, Tompson put us in table groups, and I'm with Macey, Carson, and Brett." Riley grinned, but then it faded when she realized how awkward it must have been. "At first, I was nervous about sitting next to Brett, because, you know, he's hot and popular. But then, Carson asked me for a pen, and when our eyes met…" I trailed off, but she understood.

"Oh my goodness! Did you and Carson Happlings have a connection?" She squealed with excitement, her eyes almost bursting out of her head.

"Let me finish!" I scolded. "When the bell rang, I started talking to Shawn, and I caught Carson staring at me, but when I looked at him, he quickly turned his head. But, when I left, he said goodbye to me." Riley gasped and wiggled in her seat. "Then, Shawn said that he noticed that Carson kept looking at me during class. I asked Shawn why, and he said, and I quote, 'maybe it's because your look especially pretty today!' Then, Shawn started blushing. Blushing! It was so strange!"

"What? Shawn was blushing, and he called you pretty?" Riley exclaimed, just as surprised as I was. "Oh my god. Shawn likes you!" My cheeks blared red and I smacked Riley.

"There is no way Shawn likes me," I retorted. He couldn't like me. We were like brother and sister. There was no way.

"Well Carson clearly likes you!" Riley's face lit up, her golden eyes beamed. "Oh my god, Carson Happlings, incredible lacrosse player and level ten hottie, likes you!"

"You say that as if it's impossible," I remarked. She glared at me.

"You know that's not what I meant, Holly." Just then, a hand grasped my shoulder, and its owner took the seat next to me. I knew who it was already, but Riley's suggestive look gave it away for sure.

"My two favorite ladies," Shawn boomed, "What are we gossiping about toady?" He proceeded to unpack his lunch as he waited for our response. When we didn't answer, he gave us each a suspicious look. "What? Is there something in my teeth?" Riley and I exchanged glances and laughed at him, our poor, conceited friend. Shawn just shrugged his shoulders and shoved food down his throat.

A couple minutes later, Noah returned with Riley's food, and another boy approached the table. Carson Happlings. I swallowed hard when I saw him looming above our sad little lunch table. Thankfully, he tapped on Shawn's shoulder and not mine.

"Hey, man," Shawn grumbled between bites, "What's up?"

"I was just wondering if you were still driving me home today," Carson asked, not even looking my way.

"Yeah," Shawn replied, unnecessarily loudly, "No problem." Carson grinned and punched Shawn's shoulder before walking away. Just before he turned to leave, he looked at me and smiled warmly. I was too taken aback to realize what had happened in time to smile back.

"He just smiled at you," Riley squeaked, wide-eyed. I shifted uncomfortably. It was fine when it was just Riley and me, but then, with Noah and Shawn there, I felt uneasy. I noticed Shawn tense up a little out of the corner of my eye. Was he jealous? I cleared my throat and blatantly ignored her.

To my relief, yet another person showed up to take the attention off of me. Her name was Syble Cameron. She and Riley had a few classes together, so they were always asking each other homework questions. That day, she decided to join us for lunch, which wasn't that unusual, but it didn't happen too often.

"Hey, Syble, what brings you here?" Riley inquired somewhat politely. Syble smiled and pulled out her lunch.

"The people I usually sit with all have a math test next period, so they're studying in the library," she responded with a hint of sadness in her voice. I wasn't exactly friends with Syble, but she was really sweet.

"Well we're glad to have you," Shawn told her kindly. Syble smiled, seeming surprised, and blushed a little.

The rest of lunch went on rather uneventfully. The lovebirds kept giggling and flirting, occasionally breaking so Riley could include Syble in the conversation. I usually talked with Shawn, but today I tried to keep my mouth busy with my food, so we only exchanged a few words here and there. Before I was flattered by his compliment, but I slowly felt more and more uncomfortable and just plain confused. Shawn seemed to be acting normal, but I just couldn't get his strange behavior out of my head.

The second I finished eating, I packed up to leave. "Well, I'm going to head out. Bye," I said as I stood up.

"See you later, hon," Riley responded with a wink. I then turned my attention towards Shawn.

"Later, Holly," he said calmly. With that, I departed from the cafeteria and wandered up to my locker. As I was putting some books away, I was met by yet another surprise visitor.

"Holland," Brett greeted me from a few lockers down. I turned and offered I small but friendly smile.

"Brett, hey," I replied, having no idea how to react. Like I said before, I never spoke with Brett on a casual occasion.

"Would it be cool if I borrowed your notes from English today? I sort of spaced out and missed a few things." Brett rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. I couldn't help but smirk at his embarrassment.

"Of course," I said. I took my notebook back out of my locker and handed it to him.

"Thank you so much," he beamed, "You're a life saver, Holland." I was a bit caught off guard by his compliment. I mean, it was probably just something he said to anyone who helped him out. He didn't even know me.

"It's no problem." I smiled kindly, which he quickly returned.

"I'll see you around," he said as he walked away. I leaned against my locker in amusement. All of a sudden, guys – popular guys that is – were noticing me. Three, attractive jocks complimented me in one day. Carson didn't directly compliment me, but just the fact that he looked at me differently was all I needed.