“Emery, calm down. It’s just for senior year,” Kelly Starr, Emery’s mother, spoke in a calm voice, trying to soothe her daughter, her eyes wide with shock.
“Yes, mom, senior year. I don’t have time to babysit some geek. Couldn’t he have stayed where he is?” Seventeen-year-old Emery Starr barked back, throwing her hands up in exasperation. Her wavy brown hair bounced slightly at her jerky movements. A frown pulled at her full lips as she stared at her parents.
Grant, her father, shook his head, disappointment written in his dark eyes. Unlike Emery, her father sported dark, brown eyes along with black hair. She had her hair coloring and eye color from her mother.
“Are you being serious, Emery?” he asked, his voice incredulous. Emery glared at him. He shot his wife a look of disbelief before he glanced back at her. “Em, we live in a three story house with six bedrooms and you don’t want to help a boy who has lost his parents and has been shoved from foster care to foster care and needs guidance? It’s just senior year, and then he’s an adult. How can you be so dang selfish?”
Emery clenched her jaw. It was her senior year; her time to shine, and she wanted nothing to do with the nerd that was going to move into her house. She was on the volley team and had a hectic schedule. It was her house, not some stranger’s.
“Fine, bring him,” she snarled reluctantly. “But don’t you dare make me drive him to school or show my face near him because I won’t.”
“Emery,” her mother cried, tears welling in her eyes. “Who are you? This is not my daughter speaking. The daughter I knew always had a willing heart, always wanted to help other people. What happened?”
“She grew up,” Emery replied, just as a car honked outside. “I gotta run.”
Getting up from her seat next to the island in the kitchen, she grabbed her backpack sitting next to the booth chair. Slinging it over her shoulder, she marched toward the door, without saying goodbye to her dumbfounded parents.
Her Vans slapped gently against the concrete driveway as she marched toward her best friend’s jeep. Jewel, her best friend since kindergarten greeted her with her usual signature, bright, toothy, white grin.
“Hey boo, what’s with the sour expression?” she quizzed as soon as Emery got into the jeep, closing the door behind her.
Jewel eased the jeep out of the driveway and down the road that merged into the street. Her house was more of an estate type of house. You entered through a gate when you wanted to gain access to the house. The house was hidden from anybody passing by due to trees.
“Yeah, they are bringing a foster kid into our house,” Emery grumbled, leaning back to place her backpack into the backseat.
“What the heck?” Jewel screeched. “Are you serious?”
“Dead serious,” Emery replied, a sour expression playing across her face.
“I honestly find it cool. So is it a boy or girl?”
Emery stared at her friend in disbelief. Jewel found it cool?
“Boy. Senior year.”
Jewel jumped in her seat, clutching the steering wheel.
“Wow, then he’ll be in our class,” she commented. “Is he hot? Have you seen him?”
Emery shook her head, slightly annoyed by her friend’s enthusiasm. She had thought Jewel would definitely be against the idea.
“I have no idea,” she said in a clipped tone. “He’s a nerd.”
“Oh,” was all Jewel said, her lips curling in disappointment.
She brought the jeep onto the street, heading toward the school.
“Yeah, but whatever, I’m done talking about it.”
And just like that Jewel switched the subject, talking about her cheer practice, the hot football guys, the raving parties, and last of all about Emery and her crushing on Brandon, star wide receiver of the Westview Warriors.
“So, bestie, how are things with you and Brandon?” she questioned, a smirk playing on her lips, as she shot Emery a sideway glance. Emery scoffed, rolling her eyes.
“You know what’s going on between us. He doesn’t know I exist and has a new girlfriend every week.”
“Correction, a hookup not girlfriend.”
“Same difference,” Emery countered. “I am getting over him.”
“Atta girl,” Jewel shouted, making Emery jump in her seat at the sound.
Shrugging, she tossed her dark hair over her shoulder, her face indifferent. “I don’t care about him anymore. I don’t need a player in my life.”
Jewel shot her a sympathetic look also mixed with doubt. “Yeah, Em, we both know the second you will see him, you’ll be back to square one.”
Emery giggled, knowing her best friend was correct.
Sighing, she leaned her head back against the seat, before turning it to look at Jewel. “You’re right. But maybe I’ll stop crushing on him soon.”
“I hope so.”
The remaining ten minutes of the drive lapsed into a comfortable silence, with the radio filling the interior with a placatory sound. Emery appreciated these twenty minute morning drives with her best friend. With Jewel’s busy schedule and with her volley practices, sometimes it was hard hanging out during the weeks of school months.
Westview High came into view, some students milling around on the lawns, others huddled in a group near their cars. Unwillingly, her eyes crossed the parking lot, landing on tall, fit, jersey wearing guys.
“Yeah, girl,” Jewel interrupted her search for a light-haired somebody. “You are so not over him.”
Tearing her eyes away from the jocks, she scowled at her friend, a smile breaking through though. “Oh, shut up.”
Grabbing her backpack from the backseat, she opened the jeep door, climbing out. Jewel followed, before locking the jeep, coming around the jeep to join Emery.
“Love your outfit,” Emery complimented her friend, and Jewel grinned at her.
Jewel had ginger colored hair along with hazel eyes. Her outfit consisted of classy, ripped blue jeans along with a black halter top and black and white chuck taylors. Needless to say, she was one of the popular students at Westview, while Emery received recognition because she was on the volleyball team but no where close to what Jewel got. However, Emery didn’t really care. What she cared about was playing volley and getting a scholarship. She wasn’t really a party hard person, and most evenings were spent going for a drive or just practicing volleyball.
“Okay, boo, I’ll see you at lunch,” Jewel announced, giving her friend a quick hug just as the bell rang.
They parted ways, Jewel heading for Trig and Emery heading to English. When she entered the school, she shifted into a slow jog. Being late was not an option in Mrs. Pierson’s class.
A sigh of relief escaped her when she reached the classroom door. Slipping inside, she noticed just a few seats were occupied. Good. She wasn’t the last person. Walking to the back of the classroom, she slipped into her seat, grabbing her backpack and placing it on her lap. Zipping it open, she pulled out her English textbook, setting it on the table beside her. Zipping the backpack shut, she set it back down on the floor beside her chair.
“Hey, Em,” a familiar, mocking voice reached her ears. Hunter Diez; ultimate bad boy of Westview or so he tried to be.
“Hunter,” she addressed him in a clipped voice so he got the hint that she wasn’t up for chatting with him. She glanced down at the desk, which probably had many a story to tell would it had the opportunity to. Deep gauges probably from an illegal pocket knife marred the wood. Pencils and marker marks decorated it. Yep, many stories to tell.
She felt his presence before his breath ruffled the hair near her ear. She shivered slightly in disgust. She hated Hunter, knowing he only spoke to her because he wanted to hookup. She had shut him down for three years, and this year would play out the same.
“Come on, baby, I know you want me,” he whispered, his voice low, doing a hilarious job at trying to be seductive. Eww how could girls fall for him anyway? He was not charming by any means. Sure he had thick golden hair and piercing, blue eyes, but that is where it ended. His personality made her want to evade him at each turn.
“What I want for you to do is leave me alone,” Emery replied, glaring up at him. A small smirk played on his lips, and she raised an eyebrow, unaltered by his advances.
“Mr. Diez,” Mrs. Pierson’s voice interrupted their exchange, and Emery glanced toward her teacher, shooting her a grateful smile. Mrs. Pierson barely nodded, but Emery could see she understood the message Emery was trying to convey.
“Some other time then,” Hunter murmured, pushing himself away from her desk. “I’ll get you yet.”
“Yeah, when hell freezes over.”
The small growl of frustration reaching her ears drew a triumphant grin from her lips. Yeah, his charm ran dry when it reached her. What the other girls saw in him she did not know. With a small smirk, she opened her textbook, before setting her attention on Mrs. Pierson.
The rest of the class flew by, with Mrs. Pierson giving them a lecture and then giving them a small group project to do, which they managed to do in class. When the bell rang, Emery was out the door without a second glance at the class behind her or its inhabitants.
After another boring class of Biology, she strode toward the cafeteria, her stomach growling with hunger. She grimaced slightly when she saw her teammates were conversing with a few football players. When they saw her, their captain, Shawna, waved, beckoning for her to come to the table.
She lifted her head signaling that she understood and would be there soon. She walked toward the food line, rolling her eyes in annoyance when she made out the familiar person standing in it.
“Emery, I knew you’d come begging soon enough,” Hunter announced, quite loudly, and Emery leveled a glare at him.
“Hunter, never going to happen,” she snapped, before turning away from him, grabbing a tray. His friends standing next to him sneered and laughed at the brush-off he had received. Immature idiots.
Minutes later, with an apple, orange, a burger, and a glass of milk, Emery made her way toward the table, slightly wary. The cheerleaders, Jewel along with them, had also joined the table. Great. Football team, cheerleaders, and volley players all in a group. Fun.
“Em, come sit next to me,” Jewel invited her, wearing a beaming smile.
Without glancing at the people around her, she took the seat next to Jewel, smiling at her friend.
“Em,” Shawna spoke up, and Emery glanced up at the captain.
“Practice is canceled today. Coach Wilson had to leave, so she said no practice today.”
Great. She nodded. “Alright, sounds good.”
As the popular students all got more comfortable with each other, they started talking more, and pretty soon Emery felt comfortable in the group, eating her food and conversing with the cheerleaders.
Tyreek King, quarterback of the Westview Warriors, was flirting with Taylor, one of Emery’s teammates. She almost wanted to laugh at Taylor’s awestruck look. Emery’s crush, Brandon was nowhere to be seen though. He was probably making out with some girl in a janitor closet.
The bell rang, ending the lunch period. Slowly, the table dispersed, and Emery stood up, grabbing her empty tray. Jewel stuck by her side as the two made their way toward the exit.
“I don’t have cheer practice today, so you won’t have to wait and I can give you a ride home.”
“That sounds great,” Emery replied. “I’ll see you after school.”
Then the two best friends parted ways, each walking in a different direction. Emery released a terse breath. School was almost done for the day. Just a few more classes.
After another four hours, Emery rushed out the exit, sighing in relief when fresh air and sunlight washed over her. She wanted to raise her arms in the air and spin in circles, but people would probably label her as weird, so instead, she went for a satisfied smile as she walked toward the parking lot. Jewel was already there, leaning against her silver jeep.
“Let’s go, girl,” she announced when Emery walked up. “As soon as I get home, I’m crashing. I’m tired.”
“Same,” Emery replied, yawning. She walked around to the passenger side before opening the door, climbing in. Instead of placing her backpack in the backseat, she set it near her feet. After adjusting the seat belt, she leaned back against the seat.
Jewel backed out of the lot, before putting the jeep in drive. Once they were out of the school parking, they started talking.
“So, when is the foster kid coming?” Jewel questioned, and Emery grimaced.
She had forgotten about it, and the subject now dampened her mood. Shrugging, she replied, “Not sure. I didn’t ask.”
“Wow, you are totally out of it,” Jewel remarked, and Emery nodded.
“And I’ll make sure it stays that way.”
Jewel laughed, shaking her head. “You are something, Em.”
“I like who I am.”
“I like you too, but don’t you think you could give the guy a chance. I mean the poor guy has probably been bullied all his life, has no family, and probably needs some stability. Just try to be nice, okay?”
“Who are you?” Emery snapped, suddenly annoyed. “My mom?”
“No,” Jewel’s voice remained calm unlike Emery’s. “I’m a person with empathy.”
Emery fell silent, glancing down at her hands, her nails which were cut short due to playing volleyball. She was furious at her parents for bringing another member into the family without consulting her first, and she was annoyed that Jewel was siding with them.
She was thankful when the drive ended, and Jewel parked the jeep.
“Thanks,” Emery commented,unbuckling her seatbelt.
“No problem,” Jewel replied. “Em, don’t be mad. Just think about it, please.”
“I will.” Emery climbed out of the jeep, smiling slightly at her friend, totally faking it. “I’ll see you at school tomorrow.”
Emery closed the door, giving her friend a small wave. Jewel waved back before driving away, leaving Emery standing in the driveway, staring after her. Inhaling, she turned, glaring up at her huge house. Time to face the parents.
When she walked into the foyer, she was greeted by her mother bustling about, mumbling under her. Silently closing the door, she murmured, “Mom.”
Releasing a short squeak, her mother whirled around, hand on her chest. “Emery, you scared me.”
Emery didn’t respond, only stared at her mother quietly.
Her mother repositioned a decorative pillow on the sofa, before walking toward her daughter. “I gave Teresa and Jody a day off.” The two women were both housemaids and cooks. Once she reached Emery, she placed a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “Look, Em, I’m sorry that your father and I did not speak to you beforehand.”
Emery nodded. “You should be.”
“However I will not allow you to be disrespectful. I understand you must be frustrated, but keep your temper in check,” her mother snapped, agitation creeping into her tone. “You have become a spoiled brat, and that is not something your father and I am proud of.”
“Fine whatever.” Emery swung her backpack over one shoulder before heading toward the stars.
“Emery Starr. You will not be so disrespectful. Ashton will be here at seven, and I expect you to make an appearance and be nice about it. I will not tolerate such behaviors,” her mother yelled after her, yet Emery didn’t reply.
She walked down the hall, before reaching her bedroom which was at the end of the hall. Opening it, she walked inside, shutting it behind her, also locking it lest her mother decided to come torture her again.
She didn’t really have a bedroom. It was more of a suite with a bathroom adjoined. There was a fireplace along with a couch and a chair. A golden, soft carpet was rolled out in front of the fireplace. The bed was in the corner of the large room, along with a nightstand. Her bedroom also had a balcony where she spent many a nights gazing up at the twinkling, white, sparks in the sky.
Kicking of her black-and-white Vans, she threw herself onto her bed, a sigh escaping. It had been a long day, and exhaustion was creeping up on her. Tucking her hand beneath her chin, she curled up, closing her eyes. Minutes later, she drifted into a dreamless slumber.
“Emery Starr!” the shrill, piercing sound of her mother reached her ears, and Emery’s eyelids flew open. Lurching, she sat up, confused. Then she remembered she had gotten home from school and had taken a nap. Glancing around, her eyes braked on the clock. Seven. Great.
“Emery, come. I will break down this door if I have to.” The threat fell on deaf ears, and Emery almost laughed. There was no way her mother would touch her door.
“Emery,” a deep, male voice reached her ears next. Her father. Her eyes widened in disbelief. Her father was never off work before eight. Wow. They were really changing because of a foster kid. This all made it more frustrating for her. She couldn’t understand why they didn’t make that effort for their own child. Her mother was usually out with her rich friends socializing, and her dad was busy with his company. All of a sudden they were being the parents Emery had always dreamed of having.
Anger coursed through her veins. Still dressed in black, skinny jeans and a navy colored tank top, she walked toward her door, unlocking it. She didn’t care about her appearance and whether her hair was mussed to one side and her lipstick was all over the place. Heck, it would bring her great pleasure to embarrass her parents.
She schooled her emotions, drawing a blank expression onto her face. Clenching her hands into fists, she headed down the stairs, prepared to meet the kid her parents expected her to babysit for the year.
When she reached the bottom of the stairs, she strode toward the family room. She could hear her mother giggle, and she froze. What was happening? Her father’s lulling, deep voice filled the air, and jealousy clouded her vision. Did a geek kid already have her parent’s wrapped around his pudgy, little fingers?
Baring her teeth in anger, she stalked into the family room, greeted by her beaming parents. Her parents were seated on a loveseat, facing her. Her father had his arm around his wife’s shoulder, holding her close. Their attention was on the figure sitting opposite them on the long sofa. Which meant he was facing away from Emery.
Her father noticed her first, and he nodded in greeting, before gesturing at her. “Ashton, this is our daughter Emery. Emery, this is Ashton.”
When he turned, standing up, Emery’s jaw dropped, and she could just stare. Emery had been fully prepared to meet a wiry kid in glasses not the hottest guy in LA right now. He was tall and lean, and she could see he was fit, muscles flexing. She could see he was strong even with the shirt he was wearing. Her eyes were drawn to his biceps which were bulging, and she was pretty sure he had chiseled abs. He seemed to be hispanic which she guessed due to the beautiful skin tone of his. He sported thick, black hair, cut at the sides and long in the middle. His jaw was covered in stubble, and she hated the attraction she was feeling towards him. Dark eyes fastened onto hers, and he shot her a slight close-lipped smile. He raised a perfect arched eyebrow at her, and her heart fluttered. Crap. She was in trouble. He was both handsome and seemed like a player. He made firm precise movements as he neared her.
Ash was wearing a black, tight-fitted T-shirt under a black jean jacket that displayed his muscles and dark blue jeans. Needless to say, he was not what Emery had been expecting. However, devastatingly handsome or not, she did not appreciate him invading her home.
When he held out a hand for her to shake, she glared down at it before meeting his dark gaze. His eyebrows drew together in question, a small smirk playing on his lips.
“Come on, sweetheart,” he murmured, voice smoky, only loud enough for her to hear. “I don’t bite . . . unless you want me to.” She gasped softly, and to her dismay and utter horror, she felt her cheeks heat. His riveting eyes twinkled with laughter, and the smirk melted into a huge grin, showing off his pearly whites. He knew he had an effect on her.
It was her mother’s reprimanding clearing of her throat which made Emery slowly extend her hand, all the while glaring into his mocking, brown eyes.
“Careful, sweetheart, I might come to the conclusion you hate me.”
“Not far off,” she mumbled as he reached for her hand, grasping it.
His hand was warm, calloused, and firm. She cursed inwardly as another bout of butterflies exploded in her stomach. He was too much, oozing confidence and arrogance. She disliked him already.
“Nice to meet you, Ashton.” She packed on the sarcasm, making sure he heard it in every syllable.
“Just Ash,” He replied, releasing her hand.
“Well, now that you two have met,” Emery’s mother spoke up. “Emery, why don’t you show Ash his room.”
The look she sent her mother conveyed displeasure, but her mother ignored her completely; instead, she conversed with her husband. Growing under her breath, she turned to face Ash who was staring at her with a calculating look, head tilted.
“Let’s go,” she snapped, marching out of the room, feeling him following just behind her. Heck. She hated her life.
“After you, princess,” he replied sarcastically, but she ignored him; instead, she moved toward the staircase.
He followed, without uttering a word which was fine by Emery. She wasn’t up for talking any way, so she didn’t mind at all. When they reached the top of the stairs, Emery paused, taking a deep breath, steeling herself to face him. Once her face was devoid of emotion, she turned to him. Ash was leaning against the walls near the stairs, arms crossed, casual. His backpack was hanging over one shoulder, while his suitcase sat on the floor next to him.
“Most of these doors lead to either a bathroom or bedroom. We have a few guest rooms up here. There is also a sitting room with arcade rooms in here,” she explained, walking toward a door. Grasping the knob, she turned it, opening the door, and the automatic lights snapped on.
Ash pushed himself off the wall, walking toward her. Swallowing hard, Emery moved to the side, granting him access into the room.
When he saw what the room contained, he released a low whistle, eyebrows raised. “Wow, this is sick.”
Emery didn’t reply, just stared at him.
“But I don’t need a tour. Just show me my room,” he said after a moment of perceiving the room.
“Of course, Ashton,” she replied sarcastically, and he turned to look at her, eyes flashing in annoyance.
“It’s Ash,” she mimicked him, her voice mocking, cynical.
Annoyance gave way to anger, and she watched as his already dark eyes became black. A small shiver creeped down her spine before racing to her arms, goosebumps covering her arms.
“Are you always such a bitch?” he questioned, all teasing and friendliness void from his tone. ”
Color flooded her cheeks, and without thinking, she swung at him, her hand colliding with his cheek. His head snapped to the side, and shock crossed his face, quickly overcome with unbridled fury. Whew, if looks could kill she’d be lying dead on the floor right now.
“Where the hell is my room?” he demanded, words seething with fury, and Emery found herself stepping away. He was dangerous, and he seemed ready to kill her.
“Door to the left. End of hall,” she replied, and he grabbed his luggage, shoving past her, causing her to stumble into the wall. She winced when her shoulder banged against it. But I guess she deserved it for being so rude.
Turning, she also moved to her bedroom, intent on not showing her face again for the rest of the evening. Once inside her bedroom, she locked the door, before throwing herself onto her bed, grabbing her phone which was lying on her nightstand.
Unlocking it, she immediately opened her messenger app, typing in Jewel’s name.
She clicked the FaceTime icon, and after three rings, Jewel’s face appeared on her screen.
“He’s such an ass,” Emery grumbled, and Jewel started giggling, transitioning into full-blown laughter. Emery rolled her eyes, unable to be mad at her friend for laughing at her.
“It’s not funny,” Emery protested with a huff, tucking a hand underneath her chin to support her head.
“I-I’m . . . sorry . . .” Jewel managed to say between her laughter, out of breath. “But he’s just a geek though.”
Emery shook her head. “I was wrong. Dead wrong.”
Jewel’s laughter came to an abrupt halt, face suddenly serious. “What do you mean?”
“He’s hot, Jewel, like the hottest guy that will be at Westview High hot.”
Jewel’s eyes bulged. “You’re messing with me. No way.”
“Wow,” Jewel murmured, but then a small smirk curled her lips, and Emery knew what was coming before Jewel opened her mouth. “A hot guy living under the same roof as our Emery Starr.” She wiggled her eyebrows suggestively, and Emery grunted, shaking her head.
“Hell no. But anyway, I gotta go. Talk to you at school tomorrow.”
“See you. I need the full scoop tomorrow.”
And then they hung up.
Flipping onto her back, Emery stared up at the ceiling.
She hated her life.