Chapter 1

I was late for school, as usual. It wasn't just that I wasn't a morning person, I absolutely hated mornings in general. The sound of my phone alarm was the most miserable sound in the whole world, and setting my favorite song as the tune for it, ended up making me despise that song. So there I was, yet again, rushing to get dressed, having to skip breakfast, in my usual foul morning mood, unable to find the keys to my car.

"Mom! Have you seen my keys?" I shouted from the living room, and mom popped her head in from the kitchen, with a smirk on her face.

"You mean the ones in your hand?"

I looked down, and sure enough, I was holding my Pokemon keychain, and like a child I stomped my feet on the floor.

"What is wrong with me!" I said out loud, grunting in frustration.

"It's okay, honey, it happens to me all the time."

"Yes, but you're old!" I told her, and she laughed it off.

"Just be careful on the road. Do you need me to drive you?"

"No, thanks. As long as I can remember where the brake pedal is, I should be fine."

Mom laughed again, and then came over to give me a quick hug before I headed out the door.

"I love you, Brie."

"I love you too, Mom."

The only thing I enjoyed about the school mornings was the drive there. We lived in the beautiful countryside of North Carolina, where the vegetation was always green and it was all around me. Growing up in a big city, I was definitely able to appreciate nature more than the grey and imposing skyscrapers, and I loved the way the much cleaner air felt in my lungs.

It took me about twenty minutes to drive to school, and most of the drive was on the curvy roads of the countryside, which I preferred to the busy trafficked ones, and with my windows rolled down, the breeze coming in was cold but calming on my face. I would go from being a sleepy angry dragon to a cool and collected student, and it was all because of this drive.

The sun was rising, and the soft light of morning shone on my car through the tall and thick trees, and for one small moment, I was blinded by it. I quickly put the screen down to shadow my eyes, and when I was able to look ahead again I screamed, stomping on my brakes, having noticed someone in the middle of the road. The car stopped only a few inches from him, and I was furious. Scared out of my mind, but furious.

"What is wrong with you? I almost ran you over!"

The boy turned around to face me, and I felt my cheeks lit up on fire. I recognized him immediately, and all of a sudden I couldn't speak anymore.

"I'm sorry, I... I don't know where I am," he said, and he looked confused and lost.

I got out of the car and took a step towards him, still shaken from my almost accident, and from the fact that I was actually talking to Noah Adler, the most handsome and most popular guy in school.

"Are you all right?" I asked him, and even though I was truly concerned about him, I couldn't contain my excitement from talking to my crush for the first time.

"I... I think so. Do I know you?"

"We go to the same school but no, I don't think you know me."

"You're Brie, right?"

I couldn't believe he knew my name, and I nodded enthusiastically.

"Yeah, my buddy has a thing for you," he said in a laugh shaking his head, and I wasn't sure if I should feel complimented or mortified by the tone he used, as if he was making fun of his friend for liking me.

"What are you doing here?" I asked him, trying to change the subject.

"I... I have no idea. Would you mind giving me a ride?"

"Sure!" I squealed, embarrassed by the high pitch of my voice.

"Great," he simply said, and he walked to the passenger side of my car.

"Do you want me to take you to school?" I asked him once we were both in the car.

"Sure, why not."

This guy might have been attractive, but he was completely nuts. Either that, or he was high on drugs, which I wouldn't put past him, with his kind of reputation.

"So, Brie, you're pretty new to town, right?" Noah asked me after we started driving.

"Yes, sir," I said, and immediately realized how stupid I must have sounded. Who in their right mind would call their peer a sir? Me, obviously, since evidently I enjoyed making a fool of myself.

Noah laughed, and he nonchalantly opened my glove box.

"Excuse me? What are you doing?" I said, almost incredulous by his rudeness. What kind of person gets into a car and starts snooping around?

"I was curious to see if you had a gun. Your dad is in the military, right?"

"Are you for real?" I asked him, and he laughed again.

"Yes, I'm for real. You know, you're a funny one, Brie."

This guy was on a whole new level of strange, I mean, I was totally amused, but still, I was a little creeped out. What did he think, that the army and the mafia were the same thing?

"What if I did have a gun there, what would you have done?"

"Nothing! I was just curious to know if it was like in the movies."

"What do you mean?"

"You know, how soldiers are super paranoid about everything and are always ready to defend themselves."

Yes, that did describe my dad pretty accurately, but I didn't feel like sharing that information with Noah for some reason, so I just shrugged my shoulders and kept focusing on the road.

I tried to not look at him at all, but here and there I would glance over to my right, still in disbelief that he was actually sitting next to me. He was absolutely dreamy, with his dark hair and blue eyes, and that perfect yet arrogant smile. He knew he was handsome, and he took complete advantage of that, especially with the girls at school. He had an on and off girlfriend, the classic Barbie cheerleader stereotype, just as he was the classic popular jock. But there had always been something different in Noah, something I found myself attracted to more than his looks, and it was his humor and wit. He was incredibly clever, even if he downsized it, a lot.

As I kept thinking about him, I realized how creepy it was that I knew so much about him, while he barely remembered my name. Pathetic was a pretty spot on way to describe me right now.

"Does it happen often that you find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere, not knowing how you got there?" I asked him after a couple of minutes, unable to keep quiet.

"Actually, no, it doesn't. But I guess there's a first time for everything, right?"

"And your parents? You don't think they're worried?"

"They probably haven't even noticed I've been gone."

His tone wasn't as light as before when he mentioned his parents, and I felt sorry for him. Yes, my family was pretty messed up, but at least I knew they cared enough to worry.

"What is the last thing you remember?"

He closed his eyes in concentration, and then he shook his head.

"The party, I guess. We were at Mel's house, practically the whole school was there, and I was just having a good time with my friends."

"There was a party? On a school night?"

He laughed, really laughed, and I could feel my face turning red.

"Yes, on a school night. Us big kids like to party anytime, anywhere."

"But then you end up needing to be saved by someone like me," I commented back, trying not to show how my ego was a little hurt by him basically calling me a child.

"And oh am I glad you did," he said in a fake smile.

Some gratitude this boy was showing! My initial excitement was slowly starting to die down as I realized what a conceited person he really was.

I scoffed, and Noah laughed again.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you. You're pretty when you're mad, you know that? Now, if you would just take a little better care of yourself, I think you'd have a lot going for ya."

I couldn't believe what he was saying, he had just apologized and then insulted me even more. Who did he think he was?

"Better care of myself? I'll have you know that I'm a very healthy person, I exercise, eat well, and study hard. If that's not taking care of myself, I don't know what is," I spat out angrily.

"I mean, you should improve on your makeup skills, it's just really... Plain. And your hair, I mean, it looks healthy and all, but the color could use some light or something. And your clothes..."

"What are you, some fashion expert?" I interrupted him, not needing to know his opinion on my clothes.

"Maybe," he said, and when I turned to look at him he winked at me, making me roll my eyes.

"But, your look still works. At least on some guys," he said holding back a laugh.

"You mean your friend? Who is he, anyway?"

"Oh, you don't want to know. He would break your heart and scatter the tiny little pieces for you to never find them again. You're better off away from guys like him."

"Guys like you, you mean?"

I glanced at him, and he had a mischievous look on his face.

"Yes, exactly like me."

When we finally got to school, I was in a worse mood than when I had woken up, if that was even possible. Noah Sanders had ruined my drive, and I couldn't wait to kick his spoiled little butt out of my car.

"Thank you for the ride, Brie, it was fun, but let's not do this again," he said as he opened the door once I parked the car in front of the school.

"Let's not. Maybe next time I'll just run you over instead of giving you a ride," I told him, and he laughed before slamming the car door in my face.

I quickly got out of the car as well, trying to come up with a snarky comment that would make him feel sorry for how he treated me, but he was already gone, and I was already late.

I spent the next couple of hours thinking about my strange encounter with Noah Sanders, and I couldn't wait to tell my best friend, Sarah, all about it. But when I sat next to her in our history class, she seemed incredibly eager to share some news with me as well.

"Oh my gosh, have you heard about what happened last night?" she told me frantically, without even saying hi.

I shook my head, and she continued: "Noah Adler and Kyle Rogers were in an accident last night, they're both at the hospital in critical condition."

"What? That's not possible," I said confused.

"Yes, it's true! My mother was on rotation last night, and she was there when they arrived at the hospital!"

"No, Sarah, trust me, you're wrong, Noah's fine," I said firmly, and I was about to tell her that I had seen Noah that morning, that he was fine, crazy and rude, but fine, but she cut me off.

"I know you have a major crush on him, but I swear, I'm not lying. Look, everybody's talking about it!"

She pointed at the rest of the kids in class, who were all conversing loudly in small groups, and I kept hearing Noah's name come up, and a few of them were even crying.

"Brie, what are you doing?" Sarah asked me, but I ignored her.

I got up from my chair, grabbed my things and left the room running, headed to the parking lot.

As I drove to the hospital I kept telling myself that there had been a mistake, like a stolen identity or something, and I didn't even start to consider the possibility that I had gone insane and imagined giving Noah a ride.

I rushed into the emergency room, and when I asked for Noah Adler, I was directed to the first floor, to the intensive care.

"They have his name, but that still doesn't prove anything," I whispered to myself as I ran up the stairs into the lobby of the first floor.

But when I walked in, I immediately saw them, Noah's parents. They were talking to a doctor, and they were completely distraught. I had never seen them before, they never attended any of Noah's games or anything school related, but Noah and his Dad's resemblance was so remarkable, that it was easy to tell they were related. They both had the same wavy dark hair, the same icy blue eyes, and long and straight noses that gave them a regal and serious look to their faces. Noah's mother had beautiful red hair, but the only thing her and Noah had in common was the color of their skin, which was lighter than Noah's dad. I could tell she had been up all night, and her small and lean body looked so fragile and weak, as it kept shaking through her sobs.

Noah's father was holding her tightly against his chest in a sweet protective way, even though his face looked just as broken as hers.

"They have to have the wrong guy, it's impossible," I quietly repeated to myself, holding back tears of sadness and frustration.

I didn't know what to do, I was just standing there like an idiot, staring at Noah's parents as they received bad news from the doctor. I knew they were bad news because with every word that came out of the doctor's mouth, Noah's father's knees gave out a little more, until the weight of his pain couldn't hold him and his wife anymore, and they both fell on the floor, calling out Noah's name in desperation.

I looked away, unable to stand the sight of their pain, and that's when I saw him, behind the glass doors of the intensive care. I only saw him for a moment, as they were moving him to another room, but the image was stamped in my mind. He was in a stretcher, full of tubes and with nurses around him, but I was still able to make out his unforgettable features, and I completely lost my breath.

I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach, taking out all of my air, and I had to hold onto the wall to not fall. That was unmistakeably and inexorably Noah Adler, and I had completely lost my mind.