She's Got a Way (Echo Lake #3) - Maggie McGinnis

Chapter 1

“First offense—itching powder on the headmaster’s toilet paper.” Gabriela sighed as she let her eyes land on the four teenaged girls seated in the lounge area of the dorm. She loved them like they were her own, but right now, she’d happily rent any one of them out as birth control. They’d make even the most anxious parent-to-be think twice.

“Second offense—baby powder in her blow dryer.” She took a deep breath. “Third offense—the crickets in her bedroom. I still don’t think she’s found them all.”

Madison—blond, beautiful, ringleader Madison—snickered. “Pritchard deserved it, and you know it. She’s a bi—”

“Madison.” Gabi’s voice was firm, her eyebrows hiked. “That’ll be enough. None of those things even comes close to what you guys did last night. You have no idea how much trouble you’re in right now.”

“Is this when you say, ‘Fourth offense: sneaking off to a boys’ school in a stolen vehicle’?” She rolled her eyes. “Because we’re going to be all overdramatic here?”

Gabi lifted her eyebrows even further, but Madison just shrugged in response. “I just don’t think it’s as big a deal as you and Pritch-bitch are going to make it. As usual.”

“Wrong. It’s a huge flipping deal. You hotwired the school van, for God’s sake.”

“But Gabi—” Waverly started to plead, but Gabi put up a hand.

“Sorry, girls. Briarwood Academy has an ironclad code of conduct, and you smashed it to smithereens. The board called an emergency meeting this morning, and the headmaster has been in touch with all of your parents. You will be very lucky if they don’t expel you.”

Gabi paused, letting that sink in. She noticed Waverly’s arms dropping a bit, Eve’s eyes darting around the room, Madison biting her lip. Good. These four suitemates had been at each other’s throats all year, and in an irony of ironies, the first time they’d actually collaborated on anything, they’d chosen something that could get them all thrown out on their snarky little butts.

Sam—short for Alexandra-don’t-ask—narrowed her eyes. “She seriously called our—parents?” Her voice caught on the last word, but only she and Gabi knew why.

“Well, if the police get involved, there’s no way we can have your families hearing about this from them first.”

“The police? But Gabi”—Waverly’s hand moved to her throat—“didn’t you defend us? It was just a prank sort of a thing. Not, like, a criminal thing. Jeez.”

Gabi shook her head. Waverly had probably been dragged along against her will, as usual. The girl needed a serious spine transplant. “Don’t make me list the criminal offenses here.”

Madison rolled her eyes. “Not that we’re going to be dramatic. Again.”

Waverly looked up, eyes starting to water. “But you’re our housemother. Don’t you have leverage here? Can’t you help us?”

Gabi bristled at the title, just like she always did when it was spoken out loud. She was, in essence, the residential director for the entire boarding school, but Headmaster Pritchard preferred the antiquated term. Pritchard also preferred a school where everyone knew her place in the pecking order, and she liked that Gabi’s was firmly below hers, despite her master’s degree and eight years of employment.

Gabi shook her head. “My leverage—such as it is—ended the minute you all stepped your pretty little heads off campus. You took it too far this time, and you’re going to have to deal with the consequences.”

Just then, the lounge door opened, and Priscilla Pritchard stepped through, the picture of composure … and a cat-ate-canary smile that made butterflies take flight low in Gabi’s stomach. Priscilla was dressed in her customary navy skirt, navy blazer, and Hermès scarf—the green one, because it was Friday. Not a hair escaped her fashionable bun, and though she was pushing sixty, Gabi suspected her Boston colorist was paid extremely well to make sure not one silver sparkle ever peeked through her blond strands.

Priscilla crossed her arms and leaned against the wall. “Ladies.”

Silence greeted her, which—strangely—made her smile grow even bigger. Gabi swallowed. She had a bad feeling about this—worse than the one she’d had as she’d climbed the fire escape of the Pendleton dorm and rounded up the girls twelve hours ago.

Finally, she spoke. “I assume you expect I’m here to expel the whole lot of you. And fortunately for me, your parents all agree that expulsion is a punishment that would match the crime.”

Dammit. She was going to expel them. And maybe they deserved it, but Gabi had way too much skin in this particular game to be happy about it.

As if by silent signal, the girls transitioned