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Secrets and Lies
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Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of Kiss and Tell
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Monday, 8 PM
The ocean was a beast. It was what Emerson's mom always said, as she carefully steered clear of the water's edge. As Emerson walked across the beach, her bare feet sinking into the cold, damp sand, she could see it: how the waves roared as they rose mercilessly into the air, jaws snapping and teeth flashing.
Soon the beach would be filled with revelers for the party that Abby Wilkins had planned in honor of Tricia Sutton's birthday. But for now, Emerson was all alone. She sank down onto the sand with heavy limbs. In the distance, moonlight glinted off the tip of the Phantom Rock, a rock visible only during low tide. The silvery light made it look bright and glossy, like something out of a postcard. It had been a whole month since Caitlin and Tricia had died out there, a whole month since her best friend—and her best friend's murderer—had been minted the town's newest Lost Girls. That meant there were five Lost Girls in Echo Bay over the last ten years—five beautiful, young women all lost to the ocean in tragic accidents.
But of course, Emerson knew the truth: Caitlin Thomas's death was no accident.
It all started with a party Tenley Reed, Caitlin's childhood best friend, threw to celebrate her move back to Echo Bay, Massachusetts. She got everyone to play truth or dare that night, and the very next day the notes began. Caitlin, Tenley, and Sydney Morgan, Winslow Academy's resident artsy loner, all started receiving them. They were anonymous, and they dared the girls to do terrible things. Each dare grew more disturbing—and dangerous—than the last. And if Caitlin, Tenley, and Sydney didn't do exactly as the notes commanded, the darer promised to reveal each of their darkest secrets.
All along, the darer had been Tricia Sutton, a girl they'd gone to school with forever, a girl who'd been Caitlin and Emerson's friend. Tricia lured Caitlin, Sydney, and Tenley onto the Justice, Tenley's stepfather's yacht, so she could take them to the Phantom Rock and kill them—turn them into Lost Girls.
After setting a fire in the cabin that forced everyone onto the deck, Tricia attacked Tenley. Caitlin threw herself at Tricia just in time, pushing her overboard. She saved Tenley's life, but in doing so, she lost her balance and tumbled into the ocean. The darer was dead—but so was Caitlin.
Days later, at Caitlin's memorial service, Tenley received another note while she was with Emerson, warning her that the game wasn't over. It made no sense; Tricia was buried six feet underground! Still, Tenley, Sydney, and Emerson had been on edge ever since, waiting for a new message. But a month had passed now, and nothing. Tenley was convinced the whole thing had been a fluke—a note Tricia had set up before she died—and Emerson was starting to believe her. Still, she had to admit: She'd never been so happy to be left out of something in her life.
"Emerson?" The voice sliced through the air like a knife. Emerson shrieked, jumping to her feet. She whirled around to find Tenley walking toward her, her long chestnut waves lifting on the breeze. She had on a dark cashmere sweater over jeans, and her flat boots, which made her appear even tinier than usual. As always, Emerson towered over her.
"Tenley," Emerson said, relieved. "I didn't hear you drive up." She and Tenley had planned to meet early so they could show up for Abby's sham of a party together. A month ago Emerson would have chosen a math test over spending time alone with bitchy Tenley Reed. She might not have become a friend, exactly, in the Tricia aftermath, but she'd definitely become less of an enemy.
"I didn't," Tenley replied. "I decided to walk here on the beach."
Emerson's breathing returned to normal. "I am so not looking forward to tonight," she said, slipping into the beach-proof rain boots she'd brought with her. She'd considered skipping the party altogether. She had zero desire to celebrate the birth of a murderer. But she and Tenley had agreed: They had to keep up appearances when it came to Tricia. They knew the truth about her, but to everyone else, she was just an innocent Lost Girl.
Sometimes Emerson wished that Tenley and Sydney had just gone to the police after the tragedy on the Justice. But she understood why they hadn't. Tricia had taunted them with notes about their deepest secrets. If they exposed her, they exposed her notes—and all of their secrets. And not just theirs, but Caitlin's, too: that she'd been abusing antianxiety medicine. The last thing any of them wanted was to smear Caitlin's dirt around town postmortem. So they'd agreed: no cops. Besides, what was the point, anyway? Tricia was dead. It was over.
Now, if only this night were over, too.
"I tried to talk Sydney into coming tonight," Tenley said. "But, apparently, she's never been to a Winslow party before, and she's not about to start now. I think it's possible that girl has an allergy to human interaction."
Emerson managed a weak laugh. Sydney Morgan wasn't exactly her favorite topic of conversation. A pair of headlights swung into the parking lot, drawing Emerson's attention away from Tenley. For a second everything turned daytime-bright, making the asphalt shimmer. Then the driver turned off the car and darkness settled back in. Abby Wilkins, Winslow's Purity Club cofounder and newly appointed student-body president, climbed out. She was wearing a total mom outfit: a white blouse tucked into khakis, with her beloved blue Hermès scarf wound through the belt loops. Her stick-straight brown hair fell loose over her shoulders, and there was a thin smile on her long face. Immediately Emerson began to edit Abby's outfit in her mind, a habit she'd had for as long as she could remember. Swap the khakis for skinny jeans, the scarf for a wide leather belt, and those blindingly white sneakers for slouchy boots. Then she might look somewhere close to eighteen, rather than eighty.
Abby gave them a wide smile as they approached the parking lot, making Emerson tense. She'd never been a fan of Puritan Abby, but watching her seamlessly take over Cait's role as student-body president had brought her hatred to a whole new level.
"I'm so glad you girls could make it tonight," Abby chirped.
Tenley narrowed her eyes at her. "I still don't understand why we're bringing our whole grade out, at night, to the beach where Tricia died—where all the Lost Girls died."
"I never pegged you for a wimp, Tenley," Abby said lightly. She was obviously joking, but Tenley didn't break a smile. Tenley Reed had a killer poker face when she wanted to. Emerson should know; she'd been on the receiving end of it many times. Abby cleared her throat, fiddling with her scarf belt. "I just wanted to bring things full circle," she explained. "Honor Tricia's birth instead of staying focused on her death."
They were interrupted by two more cars whipping into the lot. Delancey Crane, Abby's best friend and Purity Club cofounder, climbed out of one. She looked like the kid to Abby's soccer mom: wildly curly hair barely tamed by a hair tie, a heart-shaped face with big, wide-set blue eyes, and a sweater whose color would best be described as bubble gum. She always reminded Emerson of the porcelain dolls displayed in the window of the antiques store downtown.
Several other girls from their grade spilled out of the car alongside her. Emerson blew out a sigh of relief when she saw Marta Lazarus's familiar head of red hair emerge from the second car. She was wearing a short, flowy green dress that showed off her curves, with a cropped jean jacket. Marta's style was exactly like her personality: effervescent and fun.
"Em!" Marta exclaimed. "Tenley! You guys came." She wrapped her arms around Emerson, hugging her tightly. "Everyone's going to be so happy to see you."
Emerson felt a wave of guilt wash over her. She knew she'd been a little M.I.A. lately when it came to social events. No one could blame her; Caitlin had been her best friend. But she could tell Marta missed her. "I decided it was time for a night out," she said, forcing a smile.
"Hallelujah," Marta cheered. As she launched into a story about a cute boy she'd met that afternoon, the parking lot began to fill up with people. Soon half their grade was piling out of the cars that kept pulling into the lot.
Emerson adjusted the chunky black sweaterdress she was wearing over tights, watching as Delancey and Abby pulled several tiki torches out of Abby's car. Abby caught Emerson's eye as she sauntered past with the torches. She gave her a sharp wave, gesturing for her to join them on the beach. Emerson sighed, pushing a strand of her carefully straightened black hair out of her face. "Guess we should see what the purity princesses want."
She tried to go to her happy place as she followed Tenley and Marta to the beach. It was a calming technique Caitlin had taught her once, gleaned from her years of therapy. Her first day modeling in New York City: walking down Fifth Avenue as if she belonged there, each window showcasing an outfit more beautiful than the last. By the time she stopped in front of Abby and Delancey, she was breathing a little easier.
"I'm planning to give a speech about Tricia and Cait tonight," Abby informed them. The gold promise ring she and Delancey both wore flashed in the moonlight. "Kind of like a Lost Girl tribute. Is there anything you want me to include? I know how close you all were with both of them." Her voice was oozing sympathy, and immediately Emerson tensed back up. "I can imagine this day is especially hard for you," Abby added.
Emerson clasped her hands together tightly. She wanted so badly to reach out and smack Abby right in her pale face. She was acting as if she knew them, as though she understood, but she knew nothing at all.
"It is," Marta said, saving Emerson and Tenley from responding. Tears sprang to her eyes and she quickly reached up to swipe at them. "Which is why we really need to celebrate tonight. The way Tricia would have wanted it. Make this the party of the year!"
"Did I just hear 'party of the year'?"
Emerson started at the sound of Hunter Bailey's voice. Spinning around, she found herself facing their group of guy friends: Hunter, Tyler Cole, Sean Hale, and Nate Roberts.
"That's exactly what you heard," Tenley said, winking at Hunter. Tenley and Hunter weren't dating, exactly, but they didn't hide their flirtations, either.
"Good thing I've got a case of beer, then," Hunter said. His chiseled features relaxed into a smirk.
Abby exchanged a disapproving look with Delancey before taking off to set up tiki torches along the beach. "For the record, I do not like our new student-body president," Tenley said, watching the two of them go.
"Join the club," Emerson replied. "And I don't mean the purity one." She took a can of beer from Hunter gratefully. She wasn't in the mood to drink, but just holding it made this feel more like a party than an over-the-top memorial. Sean clearly felt the same way, because he immediately began chugging his down, his eyes glazing over as he watched the flame of a nearby tiki torch dance on the breeze. Emerson hurt for him. Tricia had been Sean's girlfriend. The Ken to her Barbie, their friends used to joke. Like everyone else in town, he'd never known what a monster she was. Emerson reached out and squeezed his shoulder. She wished there were something she could say, but sometimes there just weren't any words.
"Purity Club, student-body president, and running the homecoming committee," Marta said, shaking her head. "That girl must never sleep."
Emerson glanced over at where Abby was carefully straightening a tiki torch, Delancey at her side. "At least she can't vote for everyone. Not that I want to be queen anyway," she added, rolling her eyes at Marta.
"I know, I know," Marta groaned. "You're soooo over high school."
Emerson laughed. It had been her mantra before everything happened with Caitlin. She was done with high school classes and high school drama and, most especially, high school boys.
"Abby will find some way to fix the contest," Tyler said. His amber skin and glossy black hair seemed to glow under the light of the torches. Tyler was Vietnamese—he'd been adopted by the Cole family as a baby—and Emerson was always admiring his shiny, never unruly hair, which he wore long for a guy. "Or so Jessie says," he added.
"Where is Jessie?" Emerson asked carefully. Jessie Morrow, the captain of the cheerleading squad that Emerson—and, at one point, Caitlin—cheered on, had started dating Tyler recently, which meant she was suddenly around Emerson and her friends all the time.
"Her parents locked her in to study." Tyler made a face. "Lame."
Relief rushed through her. At the beginning of the school year, Emerson had done something she wanted desperately to forget. Mistaking the dare Caitlin had received from Tricia as some kind of best-friend-abduction ploy by Tenley, she sent Tenley a fake dare, challenging her to slip an antianxiety pill into Jessie's water bottle before a pep rally. She never thought Tenley would actually do it, just that she'd learn her lesson and stop trying to steal Emerson's best friend. But, believing the dare was from the real darer—the one sending her mysterious threats—Tenley went through with it. Neither of them could ever have known that it would trigger the seizures Jessie used to have, that it would make her fall from the very top of the cheerleaders' pyramid.
Jessie had healed completely since her fall; it was almost as if the whole terrible accident hadn't happened. But Emerson still felt uneasy around her. "Too bad she can't come," she managed to croak out.
"Since she's missing the party of the year," Marta said, holding her beer up in the air, "I say we toast!" she declared.
"To senior year!" Hunter offered.
"To beach parties every single Monday!" Nate chimed in, making a goofy face.
"To Caitlin," Emerson said softly.
"And"—Tenley added, coughing lightly—"Tricia."
"To Tricia," Sean repeated. His grip tightened on his half-empty can, making it collapse in on itself.
"To the Lost Girls," Nate added as they all clinked beers.
Emerson could feel herself relaxing a little as Hunter rallied everyone to play "would you rather," his favorite drinking game.
"I'll go first," Tenley declared. "Would you rather make out with Miss Hilbrook or… Mr. Dickson?" Miss Hilbrook was Winslow's token hot teacher, while Mr. Dickson was the creepy gym teacher who'd been around for about a hundred years.
"Hilbrook," all the guys yelled. Emerson looked over at Marta. But before either of them could answer, an unfamiliar voice cut in.
"I surmise you're playing more games?"
Emerson looked over to see Calum Bauer walking toward them. At first glance, he was almost cute, with broad shoulders and a lopsided grin. But when she looked closer, he was unmistakably Calum, his wild white-blond curls swaying like a treetop in the breeze, and his skin paler than ever in the dim light of the tiki torches.
"Abby really did invite everyone," Marta muttered.
"Let me guess." Calum pretended to stroke a nonexistent beard. "Truth or dare? I remember it was quite the salacious game the last time we played."
Emerson glared at Calum. That game was the last thing she wanted to think about right now. It was what had started everything, what had changed everything. "We're not really into that anymore," she said coolly.
"Too bad," he said, eyeing Emerson thoughtfully. "Your dare was to Tenley's party as ice cream is to my stomach."
"Someone stop him!" Nate made a show of covering his ears with his hands. "There's no SAT prep allowed at parties."
"Though he does have a point." Tenley put her hands on her hips and glowered up at Emerson. "It was your dare."
Emerson smiled sheepishly. When they'd played truth or dare at Tenley's housewarming party, she'd dared Tenley to kiss Calum. She was so intimidated by Tenley that night, afraid she was going to swoop in and steal Caitlin away from her. She'd just wanted a dare that would embarrass her. But Tenley, being Tenley, made it seem like no big deal. And then soon after, they'd both lost Caitlin anyway. Emerson swallowed hard, shoving the memory to the back of her mind. "Sorry," she said with a shrug. "He seemed like your type at the time."
"First impressions usually are accurate," Calum offered.
A few feet away, Abby lifted onto her toes, waving frantically at Calum. "Looks like duty calls," he sighed. "Abby has apparently confused 'class treasurer' with 'personal assistant.' But if any of you are in the mood to play some more later, you know where to find me." He fluttered his eye in what might have been a wink before jogging over to Abby.
"Such potential squandered," Marta said as she watched him go. "With a dad that rich, it's a mystery how he became such a loser."
Abby blew loudly on a whistle, drowning out Hunter's response. "Time to commemorate Tricia and Caitlin!" she announced.
Emerson squared her shoulders, bracing herself. More like time to pretend that just the sound of Tricia's name didn't make her want to barf.
Abby had just launched into an infuriating speech about celebrating "those we've lost" when Tenley's phone beeped loudly. "Oh my god," Emerson heard her sputter. Immediately Tenley grabbed Emerson's arm and pulled her roughly away from the group.
"Ow! What the—?" But she, too, fell silent as Tenley shoved her phone at her.
On the screen was a text, sent by a blocked number. Emerson's heart seized as she read it.
Time for a new game, girls: show and tell. The only rule? Don't tell. Or I'll show your secrets to the world.
Emerson looked wildly around, but the beach was dark, the shoreline crowded with classmates. It could have been sent from anyone—here or elsewhere. "Maybe it's a joke," she said nervously. "Maybe someone found one of Tricia's notes and thought it was just some game."
Tenley nodded, but her expression told Emerson she wasn't buying it. "I'm going to try responding," she said tightly. Tenley typed out a quick text, but a second later, she held up an error message for Emerson to see. Invalid Number.
Emerson's head started to pound. "I guess it's one-way communication," she muttered.
"We should go see if anyone we know has their phones out," Tenley said.
Emerson reached up to massage her forehead. She felt hot and stuffy all of a sudden, as if she were standing inside a sauna instead of on a wide, cold beach.
"Are you okay?" Tenley asked.
"I actually don't feel so good." Emerson wiped a bead of sweat off her brow. "I—I think I need to go home."
"Go. Please." Tenley sounded tense, but her forehead was scrunched up in concern. "You look like you're about to faint. I can look into the phone thing myself."
Emerson nodded. "Text if you find anything. But I bet it really is just a terrible joke." She gave Tenley a weak smile before hurrying toward the street. Her mom had dropped her off earlier, which meant she'd have to call for a ride home, but right now it just felt good to be moving. The farther away she got from the beach, the less her head pounded and the more her body cooled down. She decided to walk a few blocks before calling.
Tenley's text circled through her mind as she turned onto Maple Avenue. Joke or not, she felt a stab of guilt at how relieved she was that it had nothing to do with her. She wasn't part of Tricia's horrible game, never had been. Her secrets were safe.
"Hey, Lion!" A car rolled to a stop in the street behind her. Before she even turned around, she knew who it was. Matt Morgan, Echo Bay's resident fire chief. And Sydney Morgan's father. He was the only one who called her by that nickname—coined because she was a Winslow Lions cheerleader. His voice made her stomach lurch. It had been weeks since she'd seen or heard from him, and she'd hoped to keep it that way.
She turned to face him. He was in his blue pickup truck, his arm propped up on the rolled-down window. He was as good-looking as ever, his thick brown hair just starting to turn salt-and-pepper. "Let me give you a ride," he offered.
"No thanks," she said coldly. "I'm fine."
"Come on, Em." He leaned out the window. He was in his gym clothes, his muscles toned underneath his thin T-shirt. She quickly averted her eyes. "This is a good coincidence. I've been wanting to talk to you, actually. You know, get some closure on everything."
Emerson snorted. Forget closure; she wanted to erase the whole terrible Matt Morgan Mistake from her mind.
"Please," Matt said. There was a pleading note in his voice that surprised her. "You look like you could use a ride, anyway."
Emerson sighed. It would save her parents the trip. "Fine." She climbed into the truck, keeping her eyes on the road as he pulled into the street. "Go ahead," she said woodenly. "Talk."
"What happened between us this summer…" Matt paused. It was clear he was choosing his words carefully. "I'm not saying I regret it, because, of course, I don't. It was great, but… it still shouldn't have happened. You might be eighteen, but in the eyes of this town, you're still a kid. I'm the adult; I shouldn't have let it go on."
A laugh escaped Emerson. "You probably should have thought of that before giving me your number." He'd done it slyly at the cheerleaders' end-of-year car wash, smiling that knowing, little smile of his, with his eyes glued to her wet, sudsy sundress. She knew it would be wrong in about a thousand different ways if she called him. He wasn't just older, he was Sydney Morgan's dad. A girl in her grade. But that's what made her do it in the end: the wrongness of it. She wanted it to consume her, to help her do the one thing nothing else had been able to: make her forget Josh.
She'd tried everything that past year, dating the senior quarterback, throwing herself into cheerleading, dragging Caitlin to party after party. But still the memory of Josh clung to her, like a cold she couldn't quite kick. So when Matt gave her his number, she wanted to believe that this would work—let her box up that part of her life and ship it far away at last.
It had, for a little while. But then Matt had ended it, and all she'd been left with was a new batch of memories she wished she could erase.
"I know I was the one who started things," Matt continued, "but I was at a different point in my life then. Now I have a real chance of working things out with my ex-wife. And if she found out…"
Emerson nodded. She kept waiting for the emotions to hit—anger or sorrow, maybe even a pang of lingering desire—but all she felt was regret. Hot, snaking regret. It made her feel itchy inside her own skin. "Believe me," she said. "I'd like to forget about this as much as you would."
"Good." Matt blew out a relieved breath as he turned onto her block. "Because it's not just me I'm worried about; it's Sydney. If this got out, I could lose my job—and Sydney's Winslow scholarship is contingent on my being a fireman." He braked the car at the bottom of her driveway. "I couldn't live with myself if she lost her scholarship her senior year." He put a hand on Emerson's shoulder, but she shrugged it off.
"Like I said, I don't want people to know about this, either." She slid down from the truck. But as she started toward her house, she glanced back. Matt was slumped behind the wheel, a defeated look on his face. "I won't tell anyone," she called to him. "Okay? You have nothing to worry about, Matt."
She took off toward her house without waiting for a reply. All she wanted to do right now was curl up in bed and pretend Matt Morgan didn't exist. But as she climbed onto her porch, she saw something propped against the front door. It was a small package, wrapped up prettily with a sticker of the letter E on the front. Emerson crouched down and picked it up. The wrapping paper tore off easily, fluttering to her feet.
It was a pink rabbit's foot key chain. Her pink rabbit's foot key chain. The one she'd named Big Foot and taken to every game and pep rally she'd ever cheered at—until she lost it over a month ago. There was a folded piece of stationery with it, and she quickly smoothed it open. A message was printed across it in boxy, faded letters, as if it had been typed up on an old typewriter.
"No," Emerson whispered. She knew that font. She'd seen it before, on one of Caitlin's dares. Light-headed, she sank into a porch chair to read.
You're already a naughty girl, Em. Follow
my rules, or you'll become a Lost Girl,
too. Welcome to the game.
Monday, 11:02 PM
Tenley was booking it down the beach. The party was over, and she wanted to get far away from it as fast as possible. The more distance she put between herself and the scene of that text message the better. Still, she couldn't resist pulling her phone out as she walked. She swiped at the screen, making a thin beam of light cut through the darkness.
Time for a new game, girls. The words made the hairs on her arms stand on end. After Emerson left, she walked up and down the beach, looking for anyone acting suspicious. But it was a party: People were drinking and laughing and running into the waves fully clothed. No one's behavior screamed, I just sent a creepy stalker text! She tried to forget about it after that and have fun, but the same question looped through her mind all night: Could this text be related to the last one?
At Caitlin's memorial, only seconds after finding the note in her purse, she'd received a text. No words, just a photo: Tenley fast asleep and curled up against her stepbrother, Guinness, Photoshopped to look as if they were sleeping in a coffin. She deleted it before Sydney or Emerson could see. She didn't need Sydney—or anyone—seeing her with Guinness like that. She knew exactly when the photo had been taken, and it wasn't her proudest moment.
It had been just a few nights after the Justice crash. She'd been lonely, missing Caitlin like crazy, and desperate for some comfort. So she crawled into Guinness's bed. He'd been passed out drunk, and she left before he woke up. He never even knew she was there. But someone did. She wasn't sure which part scared her more: that someone had been inside her house, photographing her… or that whoever it was would rather see her in a coffin than a bed.
Praise for Secrets and Lies:—The Bulletin"So many unanswered questions, so much tingly suspense, so much dark drama: by the end of this book, some readers will think they have the identity of the darer figured out based on who is being targeted and how, but that herring may turn out to be red after all; in any case, anticipation for the finale will be high."
- "The thrills keep pages turning...an intriguing sequel with more promised for the future."—Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Truth or Dare:
"A well-plotted suspense tale....Good intrigue designed for the chick-lit crowd."—Kirkus Reviews
- "Green offers an edge-of-your-seat thriller. The characters are all well drawn and believably flawed...Creepy and dark to the core, this is a great offering for fans of Lois Duncan and Christopher Pike."—School Library Journal
- On Sale
- May 6, 2014
- Page Count
- 368 pages