Chapter 1

"Abby, hurry up!" I shouted from the front door, checking my watch. Crap, we were going to be late if we didn't get going.

On our very first day at a new school.

Not good.

"I'm coming, I'm coming!" my sister shouted from the bathroom, sounding irritated.

I released a bated breath as I bounced from foot to foot, ready to get going.

Abby came out of the bathroom, looking like someone had hell to pay, her heels clicking against the polished wooden floor. She flipped her platinum blond hair over her shoulder, glaring at me. "God, what is your deal?" she sneered at me, "I've never seen anybody so excited about going to a new school."

Before I could catch myself, I rolled my eyes at her. She wasn't a morning person, especially when it was a school morning. Lucky for her, I'd been dealing with her crabby attitude since she'd turned five and had learned just to take it in stride. I'm a patient person by nature; definitely a good thing when it comes to dealing with my little sister.

"Ah, it's not that bad," I said, flashing a grin only because it irritated the living heck out of her. While I don't go out of my way to bug my sister, I know my morning person attitude agitates her above all else. And honestly, it's pretty funny, especially now. I could practically see the smoke blowing out of her silver hooped and diamond studded ears at my grin. "Now come on, we're going to be late if we don't get going right now."

She made a strangled noise and grumbled, "Fine," under her breath before storming past me in her I'm-so-going-to-put-my-heels-in-your-balls strut.

Lucky for me, she hadn't tried yet because I'm in football and I happen to be pretty fast.

Grateful for small favors, I watched her walk down the steps, cursing under her breath before she turned to glare up at me. "Well?" she demanded snidely.

"One sec," I said, shaking my head at her before turning my attention to inside the house. "Hey, Mom," I called, "we're heading to school."

"Okay, honey!" I heard some shuffling from inside the kitchen and my mom emerged wiping flour off her hands and wearing a warm smile she always had ready for anybody, friend or family or stranger. She tucked a stray of dark hair out of her face. "You behave now, you hear?"

I smiled and nodded, kissing her cheek. "You know I will. Love you," I said before heading out and down the stairs.

"I love you! Have a good day at school, Ethan!" she called from the porch. I turned around, walking backwards, and waved at her. "Will do!" I called back and turned around again. I quickened my pace to catch up to my sister, knowing my mom would roast my butt in the oven if I didn't keep an eye on her.

While she was a major pain in the butt to put up with almost twenty-four seven, I still loved her and didn't want anything happening to her. Since our Mom had gotten a hysterectomy due to ovarian cancer when I'd been thirteen, I wouldn't get another sister or a brother and I didn't want to lose the sister I already had, even if she was a brat.

She eyed me out of the corner of her eye as her fingers flew over her pink encased iphone. "What are you? My babysitter?" she snapped at me.

"Oh come on, it's not like you have anyone else to walk with," I said, knowing that by the end of the day she'd probably attract some Barbie Wannabe Bimbos to be her groupies if there were any around here.

She always did.

"Whatever," she muttered under her breath and went back to texting whoever it was she was texting. Suddenly she shrieked and starting smacking her phone. "Oh my, God!" she exclaimed. "I hate it here! The stupid trees are getting in the way of my signal!"

"You know, it's not going to work any better if you keep hitting it," I stated, an edge of sarcasm in my tone.

"Shut up!" she snapped at me and continued hitting the poor phone.

I rolled my eyes at her melodramatics. We'd moved down here from L.A right after my junior year and her freshman year had ended from the city because my dad had gotten a really good job offer. Then my mom had absolutely fallen in love with the town when she found out she was able to open up her own at home bakery. Even though I missed my friends, especially my football mates back in L.A, I couldn't be happier to get away from there. I've always hated the city. Too crowded. Too much noise. Too many snobby people. My sister, on the other hand, couldn't survive anywhere where there wasn't a Starbucks within walking distance.

Needless to say, there aren't any Starbucks around here.

"Hey, Ethan!"

I paused and turned when I heard my name to see Alan, one of the guys I'd met at football camp over the summer, running towards me. I gave a friendly wave as I waited for him to catch up. "Hey, man," I said, punching knuckles with him.

"What's up? Ready for school?" Alan asked as we started walking together.

"Hell yeah!" I said, grinning at him. Abby gave a snort beside me, but I ignored her as I turned my attention to Alan. "You?"

"Ye…no," Alan laughed. "But senior year is going to rock! Especially with you on the team. I mean, seriously, we're so going past the play offs this year."

I gave a modest laugh. "Hey, you guys can make it past play offs without me. I'm not that good at football."

"Dude, are you kidding me? I heard you had universities from all over the country trying to get you on their team," Alan said, his eyes going wide.

"I had a few, but I think that's a bit of an exaggeration," I mumbled.

"Ah, whatever, man. Hey, I'm going to go on. Hopefully, I'll see you in some of my classes today and I'll definitely see you at lunch. That alright?" Alan asked.

I laughed. "Yeah, man, go ahead. I'll catch you later."

"Cool. See ya." With that, Alan took off at a steady jog and soon disappeared farther up the trail.

"He's hot," I heard Abby say and I shook my head at her for what seemed like the millionth time that morning.

"What is it with you and guys? Seriously, Sis, he's one of my friends. Can you keep him off limits?" I asked, exasperated.

Abby rolled her eyes at me and continued forward, swearing at her iphone.

I slowed down a little. Up ahead, I could see more students also on their way to school, meaning we were getting closer to the school.

My eyes drifted over the crowd and towards a solitary figure walking close to the woods on either side of the trail my sister and I were taking to get to school.

She was walking by herself, head down. I didn't know her name, but she lived next door to me and I'd seen her a few times over the summer, sitting on her window sill and staring out at nothing in particular, oblivious to the world around her.

I sped up a little, feeling the sudden urge to talk to her. I was about to call out to her when I heard several guys shouting my name. I looked away from her to see Alan and several of the other guys from football heading towards me. I waved at them and then returned my attention to the girl walking by herself, but she'd disappeared.

What the hell?

Shaking my head I looked back at the guys and headed towards them.

As a thought occurred to me, I glanced around to look for my sister. She was up ahead, flirting with some guy. Resisting the urge to go over there and drag her off, I caught up with the guys and allowed them to distract me.

We walked the rest of the way to the high school, laughing and joking.

It didn't take much longer for us to arrive at Castor High School.

The school was a decent size. As the only high school in the town, it had about an average student population of a thousand. It was two stories high and built from red brick. Not too different from my old high school, just smaller. I looked around the campus buzzing with student activity.

From then, the day started out about how you'd expect a kid starting at a new school would go. Alan helped me find my locker and my first period class, which was English.


First period went by really slowly, with Mrs. Gibbs droning on and on about class rules and school rules and different English things. If you didn't know, English is my least favorite subject and the subject I'm the worst at. And having a woman like Mrs. Gibbs for a teacher only made it worse for me.

Once first period was finally over with, I was on my own. It took me a while to find my second period class because I got lost a few times, but I finally managed to find it.

Unlike first period, second period (which was U.S Government) flew by pretty fast and I was headed to Algebra ll, my third period. By now, I've got a somewhat decent idea of the layout of the school. Not a great one, but a good enough sense that allowed me not to get lost as much and to actually make it to class before the bell rang.

I paused at the door where a young woman was standing, smiling as she checked schedules. She tucked a strand of dark hair behind her ear before looking at me. "Hello, I'm Ms. Barton. Can I see your schedule please?" she asked in slight Southern accent.

I smiled charmingly and handed her my yellow schedule paper. She looked it over before handing it back to me. "So you're a new student? Well, Ethan Miller, welcome to Castor High. I'm new myself this year so I guess we can learn the ropes together," she said, "I don't have a seating chart so just sit wherever you like."

"Yes, ma'am," I responded, chuckling as I took my schedule from her and stepped inside the classroom. I glanced around for an empty seat and gave a pause when I saw the same girl from earlier sitting in a back corner by herself. Her head was bent low and I could see the black earphone cord somewhat hidden by her black hair and black and white striped hoodie. Like when I'd caught her staring out her window, she seemed oblivious to the world.

My heart gave a slight leap and without a second thought I made my way to sit in the seat beside her. She didn't even glance up in my direction. In fact, she didn't even seem to notice anything. She just kept bobbing her head imperceptibly to all but those sitting close to her. Which, as I leaned back in my chair and surveyed the surrounding chairs, was only me.

Dang, what was she? An anathema? No one seemed to even notice her, just like she didn't seem to notice them.

Sighing irritably at that, I drummed my fingers against my desk, trying to think of something to say that would get her attention. It's usually rather easy for me to talk to new people, but for some reason, the cat had my tongue on this one. Finally, I opened my mouth to say something.

The bell chose that moment to ring and Ms. Barton came inside the classroom and shut her door. Smiling brightly at us, she began her speech. "Hi everybody. As I'm sure most of you returning students know, I'm new here, taking the place of Mrs. Holbrook who retired at the end of last year. First of all, I want to say welcome to Algebra ll and I'm glad to have all of you in my class this year." She paused when she glanced over in my general direction. "Ms. Taylor, can you please remove your headphones? I allow them when y'all are working on class work or homework, but not when I'm speaking. Ms. Taylor?"

The girl next to me didn't seem to notice Ms. Barton talking. To keep her from getting in any trouble I reached over and tapped her on the shoulder. With a sharp gasp, she looked at me, her large emerald green eyes wide.

"Earphones," I murmured, gesturing at hers and mimicking taking them out with my hands.

She swallowed and tugged them out of her ears before looking up at Ms. Barton.

Ms. Barton smiled. "Thank you, Ms. Taylor. Now as I was saying, welcome to Algebra ll…"

My attention faded into oblivion as my eyes darted over to "Ms. Taylor" sitting next to me. She'd returned to staring at her desk, but she hadn't put her headphones back in. My eyes traveled over her, taking in her appearance. She was wearing a zip up black and white hoodie with the hood pulled up, her black hair spilling out from underneath the hood, a blue jean skirt with black and white leggings to match her hoodie and converse shoes. She had her hands in her lap and I noticed her nails were short and painted with black nail polish.

She looked somewhat like the emo girls I'd never really associated with at my other high school. And even though emos weren't really my type, I couldn't help but think she was pretty darn cute.

I spent the rest of the class with my attention span flicking back and forth between Ms. Barton and the girl sitting next to me. Before I knew it, the bell had rung and it was time for lunch.

I stood up and leaned down to gather up my stuff. I straightened back up, deciding to ask her if she'd walk with me to lunch to find she was already gone. Well…crap. Did she just vanish with a poof of smoke every time I wanted to talk to her? I took a closer look around her desk.

Nope, no puff of smoke.

Shaking my head, I slung my backpack over my shoulder and headed out. Thankfully, I already knew where the cafeteria was thanks to football camp because we'd always eaten in the cafeteria.

When I reached the cafeteria, I stopped inside the doors and scanned the inside. There was a decent amount of people in the cafeteria and it was somewhat noisy, but it was nothing compared to the deafening roar of lunch time at my old high school. For this, I was grateful.

"Ethan! Hey, Ethan!"

When I heard my name I turned to the table where I saw Alan standing, waving his arms to get my attention. Grinning, I started in that direction.

"Sup, man?" Alan asked once I'd gotten there and had sat down.

"Not much," I replied, setting my backpack down on the floor next to my feet and my schedule on the table beside me. Before I could even blink, Alan had snatched it up and was looking over it. "Dude, you got the new teacher Ms. Barton? I heard she's pretty damn hot. Is she?"

"Eh, I wasn't really paying attention," I muttered absently.

I'd been paying more attention the cute green eyed emo girl next to me.