Scorched

Page 1

Chapter 1

Andrea

This had to be the absolutely stupidest thing I’d ever seriously considered agreeing to take part in. That was admitting to something pretty epic, because I’d done a lot of stupid in my twenty-two years strutting around on planet Earth. And I mean, a lot of stupid.

At the ripe age of six, I’d shoved a fork in my pappy’s toaster when my Toaster Strudel got stuck—though I’m pretty sure even back then I knew that wasn’t a clever thing to do. That ended in a trip to the emergency room and a near heart attack for the dear old man, who, after that, refused to babysit me again. Then, when I was ten, I allowed my older brother—older by barely a year—Broderick to convince me that jumping from the porch roof into the pool down below was a totally cool idea and not dangerous at all. That also ended with a trip to the ER, a broken leg, and a summer-long grounding for Brody.

Not all my stupid actions resulted in hospital visits, but that didn’t make them any less dumb. When I was fourteen, I was positive that I could take my parents’ car around the block without them ever finding out. Unfortunately, in the excitement of doing something naughty, I’d forgotten to lift the garage door and ended up driving through it.

In their shiny, new Benz.

Then I’d dated Jonah Banks, all-star quarterback in high school, and while that didn’t necessarily sound like a bad thing, he’d been under the impression—and probably still was—that the sun revolved around the Earth. And because everyone else was doing it, I’d given him my v-card, and had immediately wished I could grow that damn hymen back, because the awkward fumbling in the back of his truck and all that sweating so hadn’t been worth the pain and weirdness.

I was also beginning to think changing my major at the start of the new year from pre-med to education hadn’t been a smart choice, because cheese and rice, I was going to be in school forever and when I graduated, I’d be so far in debt that Sallie Mae would be the godmother of any children I had. Not to mention, my parents were still reeling from my latest string of decisions that they didn’t necessarily approve of. Both were doctors, successful ones, and Brody was already in med school, continuing the family tradition like the good child that he was.

But becoming a doctor…well, it had been what they wanted. Not me. Seeing Kyler, my best friend’s boyfriend, change his major last year had given me the courage to do the same. Not that I’d ever tell him that, though. Or really admit that to anyone.

However, one of my latest and greatest idiotic decisions to date, and probably the most painful, was allowing myself to be charmed by Tanner Hammond. Because I totally, totally knew better. From day one, I recognized Tanner for what he was—a player’s player. After all, I’d grown up with a brother who’d had the attention span of a gnat when it came to girls. Tanner was no better.

Fucker.

But I was about to make another epic bad decision, because as I stared into Sydney Bell’s bright blue eyes, I couldn’t tell my best friend no.

Well, I could tell her no. I’d told her no a lot, but I couldn’t in this situation, because telling her no meant that I would be stuck here by myself, and nothing drove me more crazy than being…well, alone.

“Please,” she said, clapping her tiny hands together as she hopped, causing her thick black ponytail to bounce. Everything about Syd was small. Standing next to her, I felt like Bigfoot—a redheaded Bigfoot. “Please. It will be so much fun. I promise you. And it’s going to be the last time any of us really have a lot of time to get away. Summer is almost over. Kyler is doing the vet school stuff. My grad school classes are going to suck up all my time.”

And I’d be puttering around, being lame and useless, still taking undergrad classes like the loser I was turning out to be.

Plopping down on the edge of the bed in the apartment she now shared with Kyler, I tried not to think about all the indecent things those two had done on said bed. Or think about the constant reminder that all my friends were either paired off, entering grad school, or starting their careers while I was…unchanged.

Stuck.

Even though I kept changing my mind about, well, everything, I was still stuck.

“But it’s a cabin in the woods of West Virginia,” I said, shaking off troublesome thoughts before they festered into something I couldn’t ignore. “That’s like the start of every horror movie featuring cannibals.”

Syd narrowed her eyes. “You had no problem going to the cabin in Snowshoe.”

“That’s because that cabin is in a tourist town, and this cabin sounds like it’s in the middle of the mountains,” I pointed out. “And may I remind you what happened the last time you went to Snowshoe? You got snowed in and some crazy dude attacked you.”

“That was a freak occurrence,” she insisted, waving her hand. It had taken her a long time to be so flippant about the event, but I noted that for this trip she and Kyler had rented a different cabin, rather than going back to the one his family owned. I honestly wasn’t sure if Syd would ever go back to that cabin. “And the house Kyler and I rented is actually near Seneca Rocks, so it’s not that remote. It isn’t like you’re going to run into the chupacabra or a pack of aliens.”

I snorted like a little piglet. “I’m more worried about six-fingered hillbillies.”

She folded her arms across her chest. “Andrea…”

Exhaling, I rolled my eyes. “Okay. I know there aren’t six-fingered hillbillies running around.” Truthfully, I’d found West Virginia to be very beautiful every time I’d visited.

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