Page 2


Lucky for me, I am now immune to the Hot Lean (trademark pending).
Sliding my sunglasses onto my face, I hold up a hand at my ex-boyfriend.
Michael’s face curls into a scowl. He has these really soft features, all round cheeks and pretty brown eyes, and I swear he’s taught his hair to do that thing where it falls juuuuust right over his forehead. A month ago, I would’ve been a puddle of melted Daisy at that face, would’ve reached out to push his hair back from his forehead. Michael Dorset had been my crush since ninth grade. He’d always hung out with a way more popular crowd than I had (I know, shocking that my glasses and Adventure Time T-shirts didn’t make me a bigger draw), and then last year—finally—I’d gotten him.
“I screwed up,” he says now, shoving his hands in his pockets. He’s wearing the skinniest jeans known to man, jeggings if I’m being honest, and he’s got one of my ponytail holders around his wrist. The green one.
Fighting the kindergarten urge to rip it off, I shift my bag to my other shoulder. “That’s an understatement.”
It’s hot in the parking lot, and I suddenly realize I’m still wearing the little green Sur-N-Sav apron that goes over my clothes. Michael is all in black, as per usual, but doesn’t seem to be sweating, possibly because he’s like 0.06% body fat. This is the last place I want to have this discussion, so I move past him and toward my car.
“C’mon,” he wheedles, following. “We need to at least talk about it.”
The asphalt grits under my sneakers as I keep walking. Even though we’re not that close to a beach, sand magically appears here, pooling in cracks and potholes in the parking lot.
“We did talk about it,” I say. “It’s just that there wasn’t much to say. You tried to sell our prom pictures.”
Fun part of having a famous sibling—you yourself somehow become kind of famous.
But it seems like you just get the annoying parts of fame, like, you know, your boyfriend selling private stuff to a tabloid.
Or trying to.
Apparently the royal family had people on the lookout for that kind of thing and shut it down pretty quickly, which, honestly, just made the whole thing ever weirder.
“Babe,” he starts, and I wave him off. I’d liked those stupid pictures. Thought we looked cute. And now every time I look at them, they’re just another thing that got weird because of Ellie.
I think that’s what pissed me off most of all.
“I was doing it for us,” Michael continues, and that actually makes me stop and whirl around.
“You did it to buy a ‘super-sweet’ guitar,” I say, my voice flat. “The kind you’d talked about forever.”
Michael actually does look a little sheepish at that. He shoves his hands in his pockets, shrugging his shoulders up and rocking back on his heels. “But music was our thing,” he says, and I roll my eyes.
“You never liked the bands I liked, you would never let me play my music in the car, you—”
Fumbling in his back pocket, Michael cuts me off—another habit of his I wasn’t that nuts about—saying, “No, but listen.” He pulls out his phone, scrolling through it, and I’m just about to turn away and walk to my car when there’s a sudden cry from the Sur-N-Sav.
“NO BOYS!” a voice warbles across the parking lot.
I turn back to the store to see Mrs. Miller, my manager, standing on the sidewalk just in front of the sliding doors, hands on her hips. Her hair is probably supposed to be red, but it’s faded to a sort of peachy hue, and thin enough that you can see her scalp through it.
“NO BOYS ON SHIFT!” she yells again, wagging a finger at me, the skin under her arm wobbling with judgment.
“I’m off the clock,” I call back, then jerk my thumb at Michael. “And this isn’t a boy. It’s a sentient pair of skinny jeans with good hair.”
“NO! BOYS!” Mrs. Miller hollers again, and seriously, Mrs. Miller’s hang-up about her female employees having boys around them is both psychotic and ridiculous. I’m not sure why she thinks the freaking Sur-N-Sav is a hotbed of sexual activity, but the “no fraternizing with the opposite sex” rule is far and away her strictest.
“THERE IS ZERO EROTICISM HAPPENING HERE IN THE PARKING LOT!” I shout back, but by now, Michael has found what he was looking for.
“I wrote this for you,” he says, touching the screen, and a tinny blast of music shoots out of his phone. The quality is crap, and I can’t really make out any of the lyrics over the shriek of the electric guitar, but I’m pretty sure I hear my name several times, rhymed with both “crazy” and “hazy,” and then Michael starts actually singing along with it, and please, god, let me die of sudden heat stroke, let a car take a turn and mow me down here in the parking lot of the Sur-N-Sav because between my ex warbling “Daisy’s driving me crazy” and Mrs. Miller beginning to march across the asphalt toward us, I’m not sure this afternoon can get much worse.
And then I look up to see the black SUV parked at the edge of the lot, window rolled down . . .
With a telephoto lens pointed directly at me.
Chapter 2
I hustle to my car near the back of the lot, keeping my head down, my bag tucked close to my side. I can’t hear the clicking of the camera over Michael’s stupid song—he’s trailing behind me still, the phone held out like an offering—but I imagine it anyway, my brain already racing ahead to what these pictures will look like, what the headline will say. Whatever it is, it will totally paint me as the bitch. In the past year since Ellie started dating Alex, I’ve learned that there’s basically nothing that’s not the girl’s fault in tabloid stories. Two months ago, Alex and Ellie went to some ship christening in Scotland, and Alex frowned and winced through the whole thing, which led to all these stories about how my sister was making him miserable, and that her demands for an engagement ring were tearing them apart.
The truth? Alex had fractured his toe that morning tripping down some stairs. The pained look on his face had been actual, literal pain, not sadness because his evil girlfriend was bumming him out.
Yay, patriarchy, I guess.
That’s what’s so weird to me about Ellie buying into the whole royalty deal. It’s built on crap like that. If she married Alex and they had a daughter and then a son? Guess who’d rule.
Yanking my car door open, I turn to face Michael. The song is ending now, and he pauses there, looking back down at his phone. I have a feeling he’s about to start the song over, and that obviously cannot happen, so I put my hand over his. His head shoots up, dark eyes meeting mine, and, ugh, he’s doing The Smile, which is almost as potent as The Hot Lean, which means I need to nip this in the bud right now.
“Is that your doing, too?” I ask, jerking my head toward the SUV, and he glances over. Michael is cute and all, but he’s a terrible liar—I still remember the social studies test incident five years ago in middle school—so when he looks genuinely surprised and shakes his head, I believe him and sigh with relief.
He’s still a douche who sold our prom pictures, but at least he’s not actively calling the paparazzi.
“Look, Michael,” I say now, painfully aware of the lens still pointed at us, at the sweat dripping down my back, at how my hair is sticking to my face, and how any makeup I put on this morning is a distant memory.