Chapter 1 excerpt
As I scan the room full of party people, I see Jared and wave at him. He’s Madison’s favorite cousin and they spend a lot of time talking on the phone together. It’s funny. I feel like I know him already, just from the way Madison speaks of him. Jared’s smile fades when we make eye contact. Before I can stop him, he leaves the dance floor and disappears into the kitchen. Weird. When I met him after the graduation ceremony, I assumed he wanted to talk to me.
“That guy has a weird vibe. Stay away from him, Rumor.” Turning around, I find Rex glaring in his direction.
“What in the world, Rex? Have you been glaring at Jared? Why would you do that?” I cross my arms over my chest, waiting for him to answer.
“I’ve been looking for the two of you.” Madison is at my side, looking at us. “What’s going on?”
Before I can say anything, Rex responds. “Nothing, just reminding Rumor that she needs to behave herself like her dad told her to.” He smirks.
“Seriously, when has she ever done something she wasn’t supposed to?”
“Hey, I’m right here.” I’m not happy about how this conversation is going.
My best friend laughs, then gives me a quick hug. “We’re teasing you. You and I have our own priorities, and breaking rules isn’t one of them.”
She’s right. There’s no reason to rock the boat. My dad has done so much for me, and I have no desire to repay him by causing trouble. And Madison? All she wants is to become an attorney. So neither of us have any intention of getting ourselves into any trouble that would tarnish her record, or my dad’s, for that matter.
“Are you ready for vacation? I mean, will all of your family be going, or is it just like your mom and dad with your brothers and sister?” Rex asks.
She glances over the room and sees her extended family having a good time. “No, it’s just gonna be Mom and Dad and my brothers and sister, that’s it. I don’t expect that we could handle traveling with all forty of us. It would be fun at some point.” She’s sounds amused. “But not this trip. It’s just us and the beach. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the ocean, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Madison’s mom is waving at her. “Whoops. Forgot, I need to go help Mom in the kitchen. Have fun, you two. I’ll be back soon.” Madison maneuvers through the crowded living room, meeting her mom in the open kitchen.
The music changes from a fast pounding beat to a slow-paced ballad. “Dance with me, Rumor?”
The fine hairs on my arms stand up. “Um, not right now. Okay?” I like Rex. He’s become one of my best friends and I’m feeling a little awkward around him right now because I’m getting mixed signals from him.
Chapter 9 excerpt
The energy level ratchets up another notch, increasing the number of goosebumps crawling up my arms. My camera is ready to go. The lens focuses on the cheer squad as they move through their routine. Flirty smiles between them and the onlookers fill my camera. I can change the perspective of each shot by taking small steps forward or to the side.
Anyone who grew up around here knows the rivalry between the Kingston College Cougars and the Bridgewater College Bears. I can upload these as editorial pics on the Royalty Free Pics website. The local news will use them as well as local bloggers. Two birds with one stone. I’ll be one step closer to having enough cash to buy a car and get my homework assignment finished.
I move through the crowd when someone pushes me from behind, and I fall forward. Crap. The crowd is getting rowdy, and I can’t seem to get my footing. I’m pushed down again, and someone yells at me. “Hey, get out of the way!”
My bag falls from my shoulder, and it’s good nothing falls out. Reaching for it, I stuff my camera inside. On my knees, I try to force myself back up when I get pushed down and stepped on. That’s it. I’m done. I hate crowds. And in moments like this, I hate people.
Warm hands take my shoulders, pulling me back into a hard body. “This isn’t the safest place for you. Come on. Let’s get you out of here.”
I turn around in relief to see Booker smiling down at me. “Hi.” I exhale.
He quirks his brow at me as he pushes through the crowd to get us out of the Commons.
“Ow.” I roll my elbow out and see a black and blue mark forming.
“Are you alright?” He takes my hand, lifting my arm to examine. “You’re bruised.”
“I guess I am.” My teeth clinch as he rubs his thumb over the darkening bruises on my arm. “I’ll be okay.” Booker growls as I wrench away.
“Where are you off to now?” His voice is softer now.
“I guess back to the dorm.” I shrug.
“Can I walk you back to your room?”
“Okay.” I could use a bodyguard to make my way from the crowd. And it’s another opportunity to talk to Booker.
“Thank you.” He wraps his hand under my elbow, leading me away from the crowd. “Do you want a cookie?” His smile widens. “I just came from KC Bakery.”
“What kind did you get?” I skipped lunch and could use a sugar kick.
“Chocolate chunk.” He opens the white paper bag, showing me the half dozen chocolate chunk cookies.
“Oh, my gosh! Those are my favorite!” I reach in, pulling out a cookie and stuff my mouth full, indulging in the sugary goodness.
“I’m glad you like it. Does that mean you are coming over to the dark side?” He bumps his shoulder against mine.
I lift my head up and shield my eyes from the sun. “Why the dark side? Why don’t you come to my way of thinking?”
He tilts his head in thought as we make our way through the campus, toward Main Street. “What is your way of thinking?”
“I don’t know. I guess I would fall on the side of truth.”
“So it doesn’t matter if the truth is good or evil, as long as it’s truth?”
I frown. “You’re twisting my words.”
“No. I am asking you to clarify.” He looks down at me. “Is that not what you’re saying?”
I stop at the crosswalk and wait for the light to turn green. A deep breath fills my lungs and I blow it out. “I believe in truth. Not good or evil. I mean… good people can make mistakes. As long as they own their mistakes and tell the truth, they can find forgiveness. How do I answer that, Booker? I don’t think I can pick a side, so I choose truth.”
The light changes and we make our way across the street and toward the dorms before Booker responds to me. “For such a quiet little thing, you continue to surprise me.”