Chapter 1

"Alexa Malone!"

I turn at the sound of my name, feigning boredom. I have no idea who the incredibly bouncy girl charging in my direction could be. Sighing I examine my cuticles. She's probably just another victim of my insufferable older brothers.

"Which one?" I ask when she comes to a screeching halt in front of me. I take in her pixie like appearance and strawberry blond curls. "Let me guess: Doug?"

Her eyebrows crinkle. "What are you talking about?"

"Which one of my brothers are you currently screwing?" I snap, taping my foot impatiently. I really don't have time for this right now.

Her eyes light up and I almost gag. Honestly. What gives my brothers such a hold over the girls of our school?

"I'm not anything to one of your brothers," she says breathlessly, giggling to herself. "They'd never... I'm not their type!"

I roll my eyes. "The only girl in this entire school who falls into that category is me and that's because we're related."

She laughs like I'm the funniest person in the world and I suddenly know what she wants.

"Listen, I don't get involved in my brothers little... conquests," I say, throwing her a disgusted look. "You're what? 13?"

"I'm 15!" she replies defensively. "Almost 16!"

"Whatever. You're too young to throw yourself away on those miscreants. Why don't you just join Key Club or something?" I glance at my watch. "Gotta go."

"Wait! Alexa!" She falls into step with me. "I'm not interested in your brothers! I'm interested in you!"

I stop, not looking at her. This is an odd development. "Well, I'm flattered but you're a little too female to be my type."

She bursts out laughing and jumps in front of me. "Oh God! Not like that! I'm new here and you were, like, totally a legend at my old school!"

"Why?" I demand, not bothering to hide my shock.

"You're Alexa Malone!" she informs me, as if I didn't know. "Mysterious younger sister to the infamous Malone Brothers. Like, the only girl in the world who truly has a chance to understand them. People at my old school would kill to walk in your shoes for one day, let me tell you!"

"Where'd you go to school?" I ask.

"Mesthana High."

Ah, yes. I remember the Mesthana phase very well. Many, many crying girls showed up at the Book Nook that fateful summer. My brothers managed to work their way through the entire women's volleyball team and Andy even managed to send a sobbing secretary my way. He'd already graduated by then.

"Oh," is all I say to the girl. "What's your name?"

Her eyes light up just as they had when I'd implied she was seeing Doug. "I'm Natalie Nutello."

"So if you're not after one of my brothers," I say, motioning for her to follow me as I continue down the hall. "Then what do you want?"

"I... um... I just want to be your friend," she mumbles. When I just look at her she smiles hopefully. "I know I'm not very cool but you could teach me!"

I look down at my black flats, skinny jeans, and maroon t-shirt before flashing my eyes at her mini skirt and glittery pink tank top. "I don't think I've got much to teach you kid."

"But you do!" she argues. "You're more than just Alexa Malone: sibling to the stars! What about when you single handedly organized the charity concert in support of the rebuild after the tornadoes last year? Or all the work you did to protect the animal shelter when the state pulled their funding?"

I think my jaw actually drops. This little, unassuming, all-too-pink girl wants to do charity work with me? This has to be an act. Cuddle up to Alexa Malone and get a one-way ticket to the Malone house any time you want or something.

Generally, I don't trust new people. Hell, I rarely trust people I've known for years. Something in this little girl's hopeful expression, however, sticks with me.

"Alright. Have you ever heard of the Sudan?" I ask.

"You mean the genocide in Darfur?" Hmm. I am slightly impressed with this girl. "It's so sad! We learned about that in my old school."

"Helpful Hands – my organization – is gearing up for an events week to raise awareness. Come to the meeting Thursday after school if you want to help."

She squeals and throws her arms around me. "Thank you thank you thank you!"

"Uh huh," I reply flatly. I squirm out of her arms. "I have to go. It was... interesting meeting you Natalie."

My phone buzzes with a text from my twin brother Doug:

Where are you?! Me and Matt want to get out of here!

I ignore the text and push the doors open. Doug and Matt lean casually against the mustang Dad bought us. As usual, they're surrounded by a gaggle of freshman. Matt sends them away as I approach.

"About damn time!" Matt exclaims. "We were going to leave you here in about 30 seconds."

I know that isn't true. As mush as I badmouth my brothers we all are pretty close. If I ever decide to date – not that I have much incentive with all the older brothers my brothers have managed to piss off over the years – I know Doug would be first in line to kick the guys ass.

"Slight delay in the hallway," I reply, climbing into the back seat. "I see the new class isn't wasting anytime."

"What can we say?" Doug smirks confidently. "Our reputation does precede us, Lex."

"You think that would scare the girls away."

"And miss out on their chance at being America's Next Malone Mistress?" Matt responds, pitifully mimicking a talk show host.

I snort. "If the world could only see you threw my eyes."

Matt's phone rings and I pop in one ear bud.

"Yeah well I thought-" Matt looks from me to Doug. "But Dad! You said... Ok. Fine. See you next week."

He snaps his phone shut and throws it none – to – nicely into his backpack.

"Barcelona beckons?" I ask.

Matt meets my eyes in the rearview mirror and nudges Doug . "Sorry kids."

Doug doesn't respond and I shrug and put in my other ear bud. Before I hit play Matt smiles at me.

"We'll still do something awesome for your birthday ok? Andy's coming home and everything!"

"Yeah," Doug adds. "And maybe Mom and Bill will come over since Dad won't be around."

I nod, smiling like it doesn't matter. Matt and Doug start discussing random girls at school and I crank up the volume. I find myself wondering, for the millionth time, how Dad could affect our life so much when he's barely even there.

Three chapters into Jane Eyre – the latest English assignment – Doug's voice crackles through my walkie-talkie.

"What are you doin' tonight, Lex? Over."

I chuckle. We've all been using these walkies since we were little kids. Doug gets really into it. "Studying. You and Matt got Topher's thing yeah?"

"You didn't say over!" he reprimands. "Yeah, though. We need to get the oil changed tomorrow. The appointment's at 11. Over."

"So what you're saying is you and Matt will be hung over and I need to get the oil changed. Over." I put extra emphasis on the last word to please him.

"Yes," he replies guiltily. "Over."

"Consider it done. I'll set an alarm on my cell. Say bye to me before you leave. Over and out."

"Thank you!" Matt and Doug both chime together.

Laughing, I return to my reading.

Driving alone occurs rarely in my family so I leave early and take my time on the way to the garage. I'm singing along to the radio when I pull up to the office.

A boy I slightly recognize from school leans against the wall smoking.

"Hi!" I say, energetic from my pleasant drive. "I have an appointment for an oil change."

He takes a drag from his cigarette and casually releases the smoke. "What do you want me to do about that?"

"Um, change my oil." So he's the type of guy who thinks he can be an ass because he's hot. Awesome. "You do work here, right?"

He drops the cigarette and puts it out with his shoe. Some smoke floats in my direction and I jump back. He smirks. "Inside."

"Yeah," I reply dryly. "Thanks, I guess."

I ring the bell at the desk and rest my chin on my hand. The guy – I think his name's Derek or Devon or something – follows me in and makes his way behind the counter.

"Name?" he asks, glancing at a silver clipboard.


"What can I do for you today Malone?" he asks.

"Really?" I look around in search of his twin. I mean I'm a twin. It's possible he is too. "Didn't we just do this outside?"

"Wasn't listening." He smiles in a way that makes me think he's lying.

"I need an oil change." You buffoon!

"Thirty-five dollars and your car key."

I drop the money and my keys on the counter and retreat to the waiting area. About twenty minutes later the guy slides into the seat next to me.

"Jane Eyre," he reads off the cover. "You go to Carter don't you?"

"Yes." I make a point to not look up from my book.

"Figured, being that you're a Malone and all. I didn't know the Malone's popped out a girl along the way."

I slam my book shut and glare at him. "Popped out? Childbirth, which you will never experience or understand, is the most excruciating physical experience known to humans. Nothing about it pops!"

He smiles at me and, completely against my will, my stomach drops. Gorgeous boys always have the worst attitudes. "I knew I could get you to shut that book somehow."

"Who are you?" I demand.

"Dominic Connor. You live down the street from me, actually. I knew who you were when you came in." I feel my jaw drop and he stands up with a smirk. "You're all done. Don't forget your keys."

I stare after him. I'm about to ask where he left my keys when he calls over his shoulder. "On the front desk."

I stamp over, grab the keys, and run to my car. Hopefully I won't cross paths with Dominic Conner for a long time.