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Collection copyright © 2015 by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Deadly Little Secret
Text copyright © 2008 by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Cover design by Elizabeth H. Clark
Cover photo © Lisa Kimmell/Getty Images
Deadly Little Lies
Text copyright © 2009 by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Cover design by Elizabeth H. Clark
Cover photo © Picturegarden/Getty Images
Deadly Little Games
Text copyright © 2010 by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Cover design by Elizabeth H. Clark
Cover art © 2010 by Melody Cassen
Excerpt from Deadly Little Voices copyright © 2011 by Laurie Faria Stolarz
All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Hyperion, 125 West End Avenue, New York, New York 10023.
For my mother, who gave me the creativity to write, and for MaryKay, who showed me I could
I COULD HAVE DIED THREE MONTHS AGO.
Ever since, things haven’t quite been the same for me.
It happened on the last day of school. I was walking across the parking lot by the gym when my earring slipped off—a hammered sterling-silver hoop with a clasp that never seemed to fit quite right. But the pair was my favorite, given to me by my mother just months before, on my sixteenth birthday.
I squatted down to search the pavement. Everything that happened next sped by in what felt like a three-second blur: Gloria Beckham’s car peeling across the parking lot in my direction. Me, sort of frozen there, on hands and knees, assuming the car would come to a sudden halt when she saw me.
It kept racing toward me, toward the two hockey nets that Todd McCaffrey had left in the middle of the lot while he went in to fetch more equipment. At some point, I heard Todd’s voice yell out, “Stop!” Then the car plowed into the hockey nets at a speed high enough to crush them beneath the grill.
And it didn’t stop there. The car continued toward me without missing a beat.
I imagine that my heart sped up, that my adrenaline did that hormonal-pumping thing it does when it’s trying to brace you for what happens next. But what happened next I could never have prepared myself for.
Being shoved out of the way.
My shoulders slamming against the curb with enough force to cover my back in bruises and scabs for the next several weeks.
The burning of my skin as my shirt lifted up and the small of my back scraped against the pavement, tearing off two layers of skin.
And the peculiar way he touched me.
“Are you okay?” the mystery boy asked.
I opened my mouth to say something—to ask him what happened, to see about Gloria, to find out who he was.
But then: “Shhh…don’t try and talk,” he whispered.
The truth is I couldn’t talk. It felt like my chest had broken open, like someone had cracked me in two and stolen my breath.
“Blink once if you’re okay,” he continued, “twice if you need to go to the hospital.”
I blinked once, but I honestly didn’t want to. I didn’t want to stop looking at him for even one solitary moment—the sharp angles of his face; his dark gray eyes, flecked with gold; and those pale pink lips pressed together with concern—despite how inappropriate the moment was for gawking.
He glanced over his shoulder in search of Todd, who had gone to help Gloria.
“I called nine-one-one!” Todd shouted out.
The boy, probably a year or two older than I was, turned his focus back to me. His shoulders, broad and strong under his navy blue T-shirt, hovered right above my chest. “Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” His face was so close I could smell his skin—a mixture of sugar and sweat.
I nodded and let out a breath, relieved that my lungs were still working. “How’s Gloria?” I mouthed; no sound came out.
He looked toward her car again. It had finally come to a stop halfway up the grassy hill that ran along the side of the school.
The boy, noticing our closeness maybe, sat back on his heels then and ran his fingers through his perfectly rumpled dark hair.
And then he touched me.
His hand rested on my stomach, almost by accident I think, because the gesture seemed to startle him even more than it startled me. He stared at me with new intensity, his eyes wide and urgent, his lips slightly parted.
“What is it?” I asked, noticing the scar on his forearm—a narrow gash that branched off in two directions, like a broken tree limb.
Instead of answering, he pressed his palm harder against me and closed his eyes. His wrist grazed the bare skin right above my navel, where my sweater was still pulled up.
It nearly made me lose my breath all over again.
A moment later an ambulance came zooming into the lot, the siren blaring, the lights flashing bright red and white, and the boy backed away, just like that.
He crawled free of me, darted over to his motorcycle. Hopped on. Revved up the engine. And then sped away.
Before I could even ask him his name.
Before I could thank him for saving my life.
The first time I saw her I knew—long and twisty caramel-blond hair, curvy hips, and lips the color of fire.
She was talking that first time—in a group of faceless girls. I was there, too—standing a good distance back. Watching her.
I wondered what she was all about—if her cheeks were naturally seashell pink, or if she was embarrassed or maybe wearing makeup.
I watched her lips as they pouted, then stretched wide when she laughed. It made me laugh, too. I couldn’t stop watching her, imagining the way her mouth would move when she said my name, or told me she loved me, or came at me with a kiss.
And so, I made a silent vow to myself that day. I would find out about her cheeks, and the way her kisses would taste. I would find out everything, because I simply had to know. I had to have her. I still do. And one day, very soon, I will.
IT’S BEEN THREE MONTHS since the accident, and while my burns, blisters, and bruises have all healed, there’s a piece that still feels broken. And, no, it’s not my heart or anything sentimental like that. I’m not one of those overly emotional damsels in distress, eagerly awaiting her prince to come and save her. A little closure, please, is all I ask—the opportunity to see that boy just one more time—to tell him “thank you,” to ask him what he was doing there in the first place.
And to find out why he touched me like that.
“A little frustrated, are we?” Kimmie asks, noticing the oomph with which I wedge out my clay.
It’s C-Block pottery class, and I’m working the air pockets from my mound of sticky redness by thwacking, plopping, and kneading it against the table.
“Personally, I’m surprised you haven’t cracked completely,” she continues.
“Don’t you have some clay to wedge?” I ask her.
“Don’t you have some life to get?”
I ignore her comment and proceed to remind her that unwedged clay means a sculpture that’s bound to be blown to bits in the kiln.
“Maybe I like bits.”
“Do you like slime? Because that’s what your piece is starting to look like.” I pass her a sponge for the excess water.
“Honestly, Camelia, your control-freakish ways are starting to get a little old. You really should get out more.”
Kimmie and I have been friends since kindergarten—through who-can-blow-the-bigger-Hubba-Bubba-bubblegum contests to the time in the eighth grade when Jim Konarski spun the bottle and I had to kiss him. For the record, I still get crap about missing his lips entirely and accidentally tonguing his left nostril.
“I’m fine,” I assure her.
She takes a moment to look me over—from my unruly dirty-blond locks and giraffe-like neck to my self-declared lack of style. Today: a long-sleeved T, dark-washed jeans, and a pair of black ballet flats—exactly what the mannequin at the Gap was wearing.
“Fine?” she says, working her mound of clay into what appears to be an anatomically correct man: pecs, package, and all. “Miss I Spend My Saturday Nights Playing Makeover with My Nine-Year-Old Neighbor?”
“For your information, that only happened once, and her mom was having a Mary Kay party.”
“Whatever,” she says, lowering her voice.
Pottery may well be a fairly laid-back class, rulewise, but Ms. Mazur still insists on our speaking in hushed tones, for the sake of artistic concentration.
“Quick, one to ten, John Kenneally,” she whispers.
“I refuse to play this game with you.”
“Come on,” she prods. “It’s a brand-new year, we’re juniors now, and word is he’s available. Personally, I’d give him at least an eight-point-five for style, a seven for looks, and a nine for personality. The boy’s a freakin’ riot.”
“Sorry to break this to you, but I’m not interested in John Kenneally.”
“Then who, Snow White?”
I shake my head, still thinking about the boy from the parking lot—that sugary smell, those dark gray eyes.
And the way he touched me.
After the accident, after Gloria Beckham’s full recovery—turns out she went into diabetic shock (hence her confusing the accelerator for the brake and whipping through the parking lot at a speed high enough to score her jail time in some states)—I scoured the school yearbooks, searching for the boy’s identity.
Without any luck.
I pause a moment in my clay-wedging and reach down to touch the area below my navel, somehow still able to feel his fingers there.
“Okay, that’s it!” Kimmie declares. “You really need to get yourself a man.”
“Oh, please,” I say, pretending just to be straightening out the front of my apron. I run my fingers over a seam. “I wasn’t doing anything scandalous.”
“That’s probably more hand action than you’ve gotten all year, isn’t it? Forget it; I don’t want to know. Here,” she says, thrusting her verging-on-obscene clay man in front of me. “Say hello to Seymour. He’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can do on such short notice.”
AT LUNCH, KIMMIE AND I CLAIM A much coveted spot on the upperclassmen side of the cafeteria—only two tables from the soda machines and just a sandwich crust’s throw from the exit doors. A total score for midlisters like us—and one we intend to keep for the entire year.
Sitting with us is our friend Wes. We kind of adopted him during our freshman year, when the poor boy showed up at a Halloween dance dressed as a six-foot-long wiener. A couple of the lacrosse players thought it’d be funny to swipe his bun, making him look borderline offensive. Wes squawked to the chaperones. The lacrosse players got detentions. And that was how our good friend Wes earned the nickname of Wesley, the Oscar Mayer Whiner.
“Nice hair,” Wes smirks, eyeing Kimmie’s new pixie cut. She recently dyed it jet black and had more than sixteen inches hacked off for Locks of Love.
“For your information, it goes with my style.”
“Oh, yeah, and what’s that? Goth girl gone wrong?”
“Vintage vamp,” she explains, gesturing to her outfit: a polka-dot dress circa 1960, combat boots, and a frilly red scarf. Thick black rings of Maybelline outline her pale blue eyes. “Laugh now, but it won’t be so funny when I’m a rich and famous fashion designer with my own makeover show.”
“Wait, will that makeover be for you?” Wes asks, pushing his glasses up on the bridge of his nose.
“Back off,” I say, threatening him with a forkful of mac ’n’ cheese, aimed and ready to launch at his mousse-infested brown hair.
“You’ll never do it,” he dares. “Just think about the mess that could leave on the table.”
“The big, fat, hairy mess,” Kimmie says, stifling a laugh.
“Especially when I retaliate with my meat loaf surprise.” He smiles.
I drop my fork to my plate, avoiding a possible food fight.
“I take it we’re feeling a little hostile today, Camelia Chameleon?” he asks.
“Very funny,” I say, hating the sound of my name—and his incessant need to attach a reptile to it.
“And speaking of hostile,” he continues, “did either of you hear about the new kid? Word is he’s a killer.”
“Killer hottie, I hope,” Kimmie says, slipping a spoonful of peanut butter into her mouth.
“Killer as in one who kills,” he explains. “Rumor has it, he nixed his girlfriend…pushed her off a cliff. The girl ended up landing against a rock and splattering to her bloody death.”
“Sounds like someone’s been watching too much CSI,” Kimmie says.
“It’s never too much,” he snaps in his own defense.
“Wait,” I say, pushing my mac ’n’ cheese nastiness to the side. “What makes you think this rumor is true?”
“Oh, that’s right.” Kimmie grins. “Camelia doesn’t believe in rumors…ever since they made that one up about her.”
Wes laughs, knowing just what she’s talking about. Freshman year, Jessica Peet, all pissy because I wouldn’t let her cheat off my history test, decided to get me back by saying I made a habit out of peeing in the locker room shower rather than making the trip to the bathroom. For one whole quarter, I had people avoiding whatever shower stall I used.
Before I can defend myself, Matt comes and drops his books at the end of our table. “Hey, ladies,” he says. “And Whiner.” He nods at Wes.
“Who’s laughing now?” I shoot Wes an evil smirk.
Matt and I used to date, but now we’re just friends. People (like Kimmie) insist that he and I should give it another whirl, but honestly, we probably never should have whirled in the first place. It totally punctured a hole in our otherwise perfectly platonic friendship. And ever since, things haven’t quite been the same between us.
“Aren’t we looking spiffy this year?” Kimmie takes an oh-so-seductive bite of her peanut butter, slowly stripping Matt of the layers of Abercrombie he’s sporting today.
Not so surprisingly, Matt doesn’t take her visual molestation as a compliment. Instead, he ignores her and zeroes in on me. “Are we still on for study group this year? I could use some help in French.”
“I guess,” I say. “Let me check my schedule and see when I’m free.”
Matt nods and leaves, and Kimmie gives me a kick under the table. “Have you gone mad?” she asks. “That boy’s been working out. He’s a total nine on a one-to-ten scale.”
“If you like tall, blond, and chiseled, maybe,” Wes says, nonchalantly pinching his itty-bitty bicep. “Personally, I think some girls prefer charm and personality.”
“Too bad you fall short there, too, huh?” Kimmie says, giving Wes a wink.
“Matt and I are just friends,” I remind her.
“Friends, schmends,” she says. “What you need is a man.”
I look up at the clock, suddenly eager for the bell to ring. And that’s when I see him.
The boy from the parking lot.
I feel myself stand. I feel my heart jump up into my throat.
He sees me, too. I know he does.
“Um, Camelia, are you okay?” Kimmie asks, following my gaze.
“Check it out,” Wes pipes up. “That’s him—the guy who nixed his girlfriend.”
The boy pauses, looking at me for just a second before turning away and walking out the door.
HIS NAME IS BEN CARTER.
I know because everybody at school is all abuzz about him. By fifth block of the day, not even three full hours after I first spotted him in the cafeteria, the story has grown into something you might see on a made-for-TV movie. People are saying Ben strangled his girlfriend before he pushed her over the cliff that day; that when the police searched his backpack they discovered a roll of duct tape, a ten-inch knife, and a list of other girls he’d wanted to attack.
It’s last block of the day, a free block for Kimmie and me, and having snuck out of the library a few minutes early, we’re standing just two classrooms away from Ben’s locker, waiting for the bell to ring.
And waiting to see him again.
It’s not that I’m some masochistic loony in love with the idea of hooking up with a former felon. It’s just that I need to thank him—to look him in the eye, tell him that I appreciate the fact that he saved my life, and then walk away.
“This is so very bold of you,” Kimmie says, using her pencil as a hair pick. “I mean, let’s face it, it might not even be the same guy.”
“It is,” I say, watching the second hand on the giant hallway clock. Only two minutes to go.
“So, you’re convinced that a boy who supposedly murdered his girlfriend is the same one who saved your life?”
“You can’t honestly tell me you believe all those rumors, can you? Besides, we don’t know all the facts.”
“Facts, schmacts.” She rolls her eyes. “So he saved your life and touched your tummy. Lots of people have touched my random body parts, and you don’t see me making such a big deal out of it.”
“Last I checked saving someone’s life was a big deal. Plus, it wasn’t just that he touched me; it was the way he touched me.”
“Oh, right.” Kimmie yawns. “It gave you goose bumps and made your heart go pitter-pat. How could I forget?”
Instead of trying to make her understand what she clearly doesn’t, I look back at the clock, watching the second hand get closer to twelve, wondering if I’ll have the nerve to actually talk to him.
I close my eyes, anticipating the bell, and two seconds later it goes off—so loud I feel the vibration inside my gut.
The hallway fills with kids, people pushing by us, probably annoyed that we’re just standing there, holding up traffic.
But then I see him.
He hangs back for a bit, just loitering there, in the doorway of Senora Lynch’s Spanish room, watching the herd go by.
“What’s he doing?” Kimmie asks.
I shake my head and continue to watch, hoping to make eye contact, but he doesn’t even look in my direction. Not once.
It’s several minutes before the traffic in the hallway thins out even a little. And that’s when he finally makes his way to his locker.
It’s so obvious people notice him. As soon as they spot him, they gawk and exchange looks of sheer buzzery, like this is the biggest thing ever to rock our small-town world.
“Here’s your chance.” Kimmie nudges me. “It’s either now or never.”
“It’s now,” I say, my voice shaky.
I make my way toward him and my face flashes hot. Ben rips a piece of paper from his locker door, tosses it to the ground, and then works his padlock combination, totally ignoring the fact that I’m now standing right beside him.
“Ben?” I ask, feeling my pulse race. “Can I talk to you for a second?”
Still, he ignores me.
“Ben?” I repeat, a little louder this time.
Finally he peeks out from behind his locker door. “Can I help you?”
“Do you remember me?”
He shakes his head and looks away—back into his locker to search for something.
“Three months ago,” I continue, trying to jog his memory. “In the parking lot, behind the school…a car was coming toward me, and you pushed me out of the way.”
“Sorry,” he mumbles.
“You saved my life,” I whisper, catching a glimpse of the paper he tossed to the floor—a torn notebook scrap with the word murderer scribbled across it. “The car would’ve hit me otherwise.”
“I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about.” He slams his locker door shut.
“It was you,” I blurt out, as if he couldn’t possibly have forgotten something so significant.
“Not me,” he insists. “You obviously have me confused with somebody else.”
I shake my head and focus on his face—on his almond-shaped eyes and the sharpness of his jaw. He runs his fingers through his hair—out of frustration, maybe—and that’s when I see it.
The scar on his forearm.
My eyes widen, and my heart beats with new intensity.
Ben sees that I’ve spotted the scar and lowers his arm, buries his hand in his pocket. “I gotta go,” he says, glancing over his shoulder.
Throngs of people have collected around us: Davis Miller and his boy-band cohorts, a group of girls on the softball team, a couple of boys on their way to detention, and a bunch of drama rats en route to the theater.
“I just wanted to say thank you,” I say, deciding to forget them.
“It wasn’t me,” he says and then turns away.
Leaving me once again.
I want to talk to her. I had the perfect opportunity, but I messed things up. She’s just so perfect—so sweet, so shy, so amazingly hot—that I get all nervous.
It’s easier to watch her in private, like at the library. I hid behind the stacks, imagining what it’d be like to take her someplace nice. I pictured her sitting in a fancy restaurant, waiting for me to arrive, instead of sitting in the library, cooped up in school.
I noticed she’d chosen the table that looks out onto the courtyard. She kept gazing out at it, like she wanted to be outside.
What I’d give to be with her—to walk with her over fallen leaves, to hear the crunch beneath our feet, and then to kiss her, the cool autumn breeze whipping around us.
In time I know it’ll happen. I’ll make it happen. Or else I’ll die trying.
“OKAY, SO WHAT DID HE SAY?” Kimmie asks. “I want every word.”
We’re sitting in one of the booths at Brain Freeze, the ice-cream shop down the street from our school.
“Oh, my God, wait,” she says, just as soon as I open my mouth to speak. “Did you see John Kenneally?”
I peer around at the other booths.
“Not here,” she squawks, dragging the word out for three full syllables. “In the hallway, while you were talking to that Ben guy. He was totally scoping the scene. It looked like he wanted to talk to you. He was so close to tapping you on the shoulder, but you turned the other way.”
“I didn’t notice.”
Kimmie sighs. “Leave it to you to miss a hottie like him. If you don’t go for him, I totally will.”
“He’s all yours,” I say, taking a bite of my mochalicious mud.
“So what did he say?” she asks.
“No—that Ben guy.”
“Not much. Just that it wasn’t him—that I have him confused with someone else.”
“See, I told you,” she sings.
“But he’s lying,” I continue. “I know it was him.”
“Why would he lie about something like that?” Kimmie takes a sip of her peanut butter frappe.
I shrug. “Maybe he’s one of those superprivate people; maybe that’s why he took off after he saved me in the first place.”
“Doubtful,” she says. “I mean, think about it: if you were accused of murder, wouldn’t you welcome an opportunity where people could see you saving someone?”
“Sounds pretty serious,” Wes says, sneaking up from behind me. Spoon and straw in hand, he pulls up a chair and takes the liberty of mooching off our desserts. “Word’s out that you were harassing Killer Boy after school today.”
“Where did you hear that?” I ask, knocking his spoon away.
“People.” He smirks.
Wes’s smirk grows into a full-blown smile, exposing the tiny chip in his front tooth. “Everybody’s talkin’ about it.”
- On Sale
- Jan 27, 2015
- Page Count
- 816 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers