The Punk and the Plaything (When Rivals Play #3) - B.B. Reid
“WE’RE HERE, MISS.”
I could feel Joe, my father’s driver, watching me through the rearview mirror as I stared out the back window of the Escalade. What was it about the sun shining brightest on the darkest of days? Was it irony or did the universe have a sick sense of humor?
There was nothing special about today if you didn’t count orientation. Traditionally, it was a rite of passage reserved for freshman, but at Brynwood Academy, the seniors also had one. It was no secret the future upper echelon would pass through these doors, so the board wanted to ensure that none of the academy’s prestigious diplomas were squandered.
Still, I was unable to silence the doom roiling in my gut since the moment I opened my eyes this morning.
Joe came around to open the backdoor, and the moment my patent nude Pigalles touched the brick, a hush fell over the crowded lawn. If Joe noticed, he didn’t remark, but he wouldn’t have even if he had. My parents didn’t treat him as a member of the family. Their insistence on decorum had long surpassed nauseating, becoming stifling and often condescending.
“Pick you up in a couple of hours?” he inquired. I didn’t miss the concern in his gaze, though there was nothing he could do. A tight smile was all I could offer him before facing the school.
One foot in front of the other.
I didn’t dare take a page from Dorothy’s book and click my heels together—home was the last place I wanted to be. The building seemed to stretch further and further away with each step I took, but, eventually, I reached it, and the group crowding the front doors parted like the Red Sea. I didn’t acknowledge any of them, and they didn’t dare greet me. They weren’t my peers. They were my subjects. And they didn’t just fear me—they hated me.
“Bitch,” someone daring enough whispered as I stepped inside the air-conditioned building.
I didn’t even flinch. It wasn’t the first time I’d been called such, and as usual, I pretended to be oblivious.
It was all true.
Keeping my strides long and my head high, I strutted into the nearest bathroom. The moment the door closed behind me, however, I finally let my shoulders sag. Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath as I rested my head against the door.
It was just one more year.
I couldn’t turn back time, but I could look to the future. In ten months, I’d be eighteen. In ten months, I’d be free.
The sound of three short vibrations had my eyes snapping open. I quickly dug through my father’s gift for my sixteenth birthday last year. Most kids got a car, which was pretty extravagant. I got a baby Birkin that I’d nearly thrown up in when my father boasted about the price. If you’re curious, I’ll give you a hint—my father could have bought three cars with the money he’d spent on this bag.
Pulling my phone, I read the message.
Ever: Be there in five, dear.
My lips twisted in a wry smile as if I hadn’t just been close to tears. At least one of us was enjoying the irony of our relationship. Once upon a time, I thought… maybe…
Shaking my head, I typed my response.
Moving to the mirror, I studied the reflection staring back at me. The seconds stretched into minutes, but still, I waited, hoping for a glimpse of the girl I once cherished.
Nothing but barren blue eyes stared back at me.
I told myself it was for the best as I lifted a tube of lipstick from my purse and applied a fresh coat of dark cherry until my lips appeared fuller. Mother hadn’t approved of my choice, preferring I wear a softer shade. One that said I took people’s shit with three sugars. Yeah, no thanks. Ask anyone, except maybe Ever, and they’d tell you there was nothing peachy or coral about me. The lipstick contrasted the paleness of my strawberry locks that was red to some and blonde to others. It made me appear unapproachable. Unattainable.
Thanks to my father, that was no longer true.
Satisfied I wouldn’t besmirch the Montgomery name with a single strand of hair out of place, I left the bathroom and followed the brightly colored signs.
Tables filled with informational pamphlets about the ACT/SAT tests and financial aid, as well as swag from various colleges, lined the walls of the hallway. I bypassed them all and headed to the long line marked M-O, where a team of administrators and