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Imogen nudged my arm, nodding toward the classroom door. “Finally, some talent,” she whispered.

She wasn’t wrong. The guy standing by Mrs. Wells’s door was gorgeous—like, shouldn’t even be at our school gorgeous.

“Welcome to Fordham High, Noah,” Mrs. Wells said. “Take a seat over there.” She pointed to the empty space next to me, and Imogen gripped my forearm. “Scarlett and Imogen, you have most of the same classes as Noah this year, so please show him around and make him feel welcome.”

Im’s face lit up. “Absolutely.”

Good luck, Noah.

He walked to our desk at the back of the classroom, demanding everyone’s attention and owning the room, but his focus was on me. I squirmed in my seat, heat flooding my face. He looked older, the way he carried himself with an air of I don’t give a crap.

“Hi,” he said, still staring just at me.

“Hey. I’m Scarlett, and that’s Imogen,” I said, pointing to my best friend beside me. “I guess we’re your tour guides.”

“Thank you,” he replied. He even sounded older—he pronounced a lot more of each word than most of the kids here did. “Although this school is so small, I doubt anyone could get lost here.”

“So true!” Imogen said, leaning over the desk so Noah could see her past me.

Bobby turned around in his seat. “You like wrestling, Noah?”

Noah’s forehead creased.

I held up my hand. “Bobby’s a WWE freak; he’s not offering you a fight.”

“Definitely not,” Bobby confirmed. “You look like you can handle yourself.”

Noah grinned. “Handling myself is what got me expelled from my last school.”

He didn’t seem like the fighting type, but then again, I’d known him for five seconds. Maybe he was repeating a grade.

“How old are you?” I asked. “You look older than fifteen or sixteen.”

“Sixteen,” he replied. “What about you?”


“She’s just sixteen,” Imogen cut in, clearly annoyed at being ignored. “I am too.”

I wanted to roll my eyes. As if he were going to take her over the desk right now just because she’d been the same age as him that little bit longer.

“Yeah, it was my birthday last month,” I explained.

Still ignoring Imogen, Noah said, “It was my brother’s birthday last month too. What date was yours?”

“Thirteenth. Thank God it wasn’t a Friday this year.”

He laughed. “Are you superstitious?”

I nodded once. “Big-time. I won’t walk under a ladder or cross paths with a black cat. I wave to magpies, depending on how many there are, of course, and throw salt over my shoulder.” He cocked his eyebrow. I shrugged. “My parents are kinda superstitious too. And suspicious.”

“Wow,” he said. “Well, you never know what’s out there in the big, bad world.”

Out there in the big, bad world. Déjà vu. I’d heard that somewhere before, but I couldn’t place it.

The bell rang, making me jump. “Ready for English lit?” I asked Noah, ignoring the odd feeling inside.

“Not really. You are sitting next to me, right? You’re my tour guide, after all.”

Imogen stalked off ahead, in a foul mood because she didn’t have Noah eating out of her hand.

I smiled. “Sure.”


“So where did you move from?” I asked Noah as we walked to our next class.

Throughout our fifty-minute English class, Noah had quizzed me relentlessly. It was as if he was trying to learn every last thing there was to know. New kids weren’t usually this chatty. But I liked it and wanted to know all about him too.

“Hayling Island.”

“Cool. What’s it like there?”

“Small,” he replied.

I’d learned about it in geography when we briefly covered the British Isles. It really was small.

“What made you move to Bath?”

“My dad’s job. Hayling wasn’t much fun, so it’s nice to be here.”

We reached the science block, and I turned to him. “Well, I’m glad you’re here.” My eyes widened to the point of pain. Why on earth did I say that out loud? I cringed. You didn’t tell a guy you kind of liked him right away—especially when you’d only known him an hour.

He shoved a hand through his fair hair, moving it out of the way of his forehead, and smiled. His light-blue eyes sparkled. Actually freakin’ sparkled. I used to think I was more of a tall, dark, and handsome type of girl, but it was definitely tall, blond, and handsome for me now. His jaw looked like it had been carved from stone, and his lips… Well, those things would have any girl gaping.

He stared down, a full head taller than me. “I’m glad that you’re glad.”

Sucking my lips between my teeth, I took a small step back. I liked him. There was no question of that, but he looked dangerously close to kissing me, and I was in no way ready for that.

We were called into the classroom, and Noah took a seat next to me. The Bunsen burners were out, which meant I was going to have to really listen because it looked like we were doing an experiment. I hated experiments.

“You good at chemistry?” I asked.

He chuckled. “There is a bad joke in there somewhere. I’m okay, yeah.”

“Good, because I suck. I’m failing so badly, I don’t know why they continue to make me attend. I think my presence alone dumbs down the rest of the class.”

He chuckled. “You can’t be that bad.”

“Oh, wait and see.”

“Settle down,” Mr. Gregor said. “Welcome, Noah. Have you covered—”

And that was where I switched off. I couldn’t be any less interested in chemistry if I tried. I’d learned more watching The Big Bang Theory than I had at school.

I switched back on when Noah poured something into a test tube.

“What’s the point of this then?” I asked, nodding to the Bunsen burner.

“You really don’t like science, do you?”


“Me neither, actually. There is too much unexplained that science doesn’t have an answer to.”

“What do you believe in?”

He shrugged. “I’m not sure yet. Anyway, I might not like all this, but I do understand it, so I’ll explain while I work, and you can make notes. Let’s see if I can help you pass this class.”

Yeah, again, good luck, Noah.

I popped the lid off my pen, trying to concentrate on what he was saying rather than his deep voice and the way his crooked smile made me swoon. There was no way he was going to be able to help me with chemistry—the subject anyway.

As he worked, his eyes kept flicking back to watch me like I was the most interesting thing on the planet, like he was scared if he took his eyes off me, I’d be assassinated.

He turned to me once everything was set up. “Tell me something about yourself.”

“We’re supposed to be making those chemicals…do something.” And there’s not a whole lot to tell.

He shrugged. “We’ve got a minute. Come on.”

There was one thing. I didn’t like to bring it up much because it was weird and I always got the same how can it not drive you crazy question. Sighing, I replied, “I remember nothing before the age of four.”

His eyebrows shot up. “What?”

“There was a house fire and we lost everything. My parents got me and my brother, Jeremy, out, but we were hospitalized for smoke inhalation. When I woke up, I couldn’t remember anything.”


“Nope. All I remember is waking up in a yellow room. I didn’t even know my family.”

“When did you start remembering?”

I frowned. “I didn’t. They filled in the blanks with stories of stuff we’d done, but I don’t actually remember any of it.”

“That’s crazy. Hey, they could’ve told you anything.”

I laughed. “Yeah, they could’ve had fun with that one. ‘We’re a normal family and you and your brother fight like cats and dogs’ is pretty boring.”

“They could have made you a princess. Or you could really be a princess and they stole you away to—”

“Okay,” I said, cutting him off, “you have an overactive imagination.”

Smiling, he replied, “Sorry. It’s just a bit weird.”

“Totally weird. I repressed everything because of the traumatic experience, apparently.”

“Think you’ll ever get your memory back?”

I shrugged. “Probably not. Doesn’t matter though.”

“I suppose not. I would just hate to have lost four years and a lot of experiences I couldn’t remember.”

“It bugged me before but not now. Lots of people don’t remember much of their childhood. I just don’t remember the first four years.”

“Did you try therapy or get hypnotized?”

I laughed. “Nope. It’s really not that big of a deal. I tried remembering, but there’s nothing there.”

He smiled. “One day you will remember.”

I gave up believing that about four years ago.



One hundred and eleven. That was how many texts had gone back and forth between me and Noah in the six days we’d known each other. It was a ridiculous amount of texts to send a virtual stranger. But he didn’t feel like a stranger. We’d talked about almost everything—our likes and dislikes, family, friends, funniest moments, darkest moments. Although there was a lot more to learn about each other, I felt that I knew him pretty well already. He seemed determined to know everything there was to know about plain old me.

After a full school week of flirting our butts off, I had fully entered the obsessive realm, and now my every thought pretty much involved Noah. I annoyed myself and was sure my family now hated me.

“I’m leaving in a minute,” I said to my parents.

“Who’s meeting you?”

“No one. I’m walking to Noah’s; then we’re heading to town together.”

One of Dad’s dark eyebrows lifted. “We’ll take you to this Noah kid’s house. It’s about time we meet him.”

“What?” No, that was not happening.

“Honey, you don’t expect us to let you go to the house of someone you barely know and we’ve never met, do you?” Mum said.

“Yes! That is exactly what I expect. Noah’s fine.”

“I’m sure he is, but if you’re going to be hanging out with him outside of school, then we need to know him,” Dad added. “I’ll just get the keys.”

“You can’t be serious. Why’re you doing this to me? Do you have any idea how embarrassing it’s going to be when I show up with my parents?” Did they skip being teenagers altogether?

Jeremy laughed. “I’m really enjoying this.”

Glaring at him, I said, “I hate you.”

“All right, drama queen,” Mum said. “Get your jacket and we’ll go now.”

“Can you at least wait in the car?”

“That defeats the objective of meeting Noah.”

Following her, I grumbled, “I know.”

Ten minutes later, I knocked on Noah’s door and took a deep breath. He hadn’t told me if his parents were home or not; mine were standing behind me. A guy that looked like Noah opened the door. His brother.

“Are you Scarlett?” he asked.

“Yep. You’re Finn, right?” He nodded and stepped aside. “This is my mum and dad, Marissa and Jonathan.”

“It is nice to meet you all. Come in. He is around somewhere. Can I get you anything? You thirsty?”

I shook my head. “I’m good, thanks.”

“No, thank you, Finn,” Dad said. “Are your parents home?”

“Yes, in the kitchen. Come through.”

I followed Finn into a glossy, white kitchen. He sat on a stool at the counter, so I followed, wishing Noah would hurry up. Why hadn’t Finn called for him?

Noah’s parents turned around. They were both effortlessly beautiful, just like their sons.

“Marissa and Jonathan, these are my parents, Bethan and Shaun.”

Bethan’s eyes lit up. “Scarlett! It is so lovely to finally meet you. And I am so glad your parents came too. Jonathan, Marissa, how do you do?”

“So, what are you going to see?” Noah’s carbon-copy big brother asked me.

“No idea. We just go and see whatever’s on. It’s kind of a thing my friends and I do.”

“Really? Have you seen many awful movies?”

“Tons,” I replied.

Finn smiled, and it made him look even more handsome, though not as much as Noah—but then, I was pretty much obsessed with his younger brother.

“Do I need to ask what your intentions with Noah are?” he asked, fighting another smile.

Laughing, I swiveled on my stool and rested my arms on the counter. “I promise my intentions are good.”

“He will be so disappointed,” he replied, winking. “Tell me about yourself, Scarlett.”

“Not much to tell really.”

“So you are the average teenager? No skeletons in your closet?”

I held my finger up. “I stole a chocolate bar from a sweet shop when I was ten. But I felt so bad that I couldn’t eat it.”

He laughed. “A regular little rebel, aren’t you?”

“Totally badass,” I replied, killing the American accent with one syllable.

“I thought I heard the door,” Noah said, eyes widening when he saw my parents chatting to his. “Why didn’t you call me, Finn?”

“If you weren’t too busy doing your hair, you would have been down here to let her in, girlie.”

Ah, brotherly love.

“Sorry about my brother,” Noah said. “And these are your parents?”

Mum and Dad turned around, and another round of introductions started.

I watched my dad closely. His shoulders relaxed, and he smiled as he spoke to Noah. Yes! Clearly he didn’t think Noah was about to murder me.

“I guess we should get going and let these kids get to the theater,” Mum said. “It was lovely to meet you all; we’ll have to get together sometime.”

Bethan touched Mum’s arm. “That would be fantastic. We don’t know very many people here.”

“Ready?” I asked Noah. “Or do you need more time to do your hair?”

Finn laughed, offering his hand for a high five. I slapped it, earning a glare from the guy I couldn’t seem to get out of my head.

“Okay, you are never meeting my brother again,” Noah said, pulling me off the stool. I swooned inwardly at the feel of his soft-yet-firm hand covering mine.

We made a quick exit, leaving my parents to continue talking to his, and set out for the shortcut to town. I was so looking forward to spending time with him outside school, I was practically skipping.

“Favorite holiday?”

“Hmm,” I murmured. “It’s between Christmas and Easter. Probably Easter.”

“Why Easter?”

“We go to visit my grandparents, and they put on a massive Easter egg hunt. They own a farm, so it literally takes all day to find the eggs. Then we light a fire in their living room, drink hot chocolate, and eat our eggs. Sugar coma central, but I love it. Three months to go!”

Noah grinned down at me.

“What about you?”

He frowned. “Holidays aren’t that big in my family. Christmas, I suppose. So you will be away over Easter?”

“Yep. In Cornwall, so we’ll be there Thursday night until Monday afternoon. My friends usually do something Monday night if you want to come too?”

“What do you do?” he asked.

I shrugged. “Just hang out. Imogen has an outdoor pool, so we spend the day in the water. The guys burn barbecue food.”

“You go in an outdoor swimming pool in April?”

“Yeah. Last year was okay, but the year before, the English weather was not kind to us.”

“You still did it?”

“Yep, it’s tradition.”

“Crazy tradition,” he muttered, making me laugh. “What about your birthday? Anything planned yet?”

“I’m trying to convince my dad to let me have it at an all-ages club.”

“He doesn’t want to?”

“He thinks people will sneak drinks in and would rather it be at our house.”

“They could sneak drinks in there too.”

I threw my hands up. “Thank you! He’ll give in soon though. I’m sure.”

“He’s not good at saying no to you?”

We approached the theater, and I saw my friends standing outside. I wanted longer alone time with him.

“He’s crap at telling me no.” We reached everyone else. “And here we are. Hey, guys.”

“Hey,” Imogen said, immediately taking a not-so-subtle step closer to Noah. “We can’t decide between scary or romantic.”

“Yes, we can,” Bobby said. “I ain’t watchin’ nothin’ lovey, so we’re going for the slasher.”

Imogen rolled her eyes. “Fine! Whatever.”

“Slasher is cool with me,” I said. “Noah?”

He raised his eyebrow as if to say, “Or romance, really?”

Bobby clapped his hands together. “Settled then. It’s showin’ in half an hour, so should we go to the arcade first?”

With previews, it’d be an hour before the film actually started.

Without answering Bobby’s question, we set off toward the arcade opposite the movie theater. Imogen stormed ahead. Since they’d broken up last year, Imogen had been cold with Bobby—because he had broken up with her. She didn’t like that. Imogen Forest wasn’t supposed to be dumped.

“I think I’m going kick your butt at air hockey,” Noah said, nudging me with his elbow.

“Probably. I suck.”

Chris gave me a disapproving look. He knew I didn’t suck. I was actually champ of our group, but that didn’t mean I could beat Noah. I had no idea how he played, so I didn’t want him to know I was good.

“Yep, Scar-Scar couldn’t hit it straight if her life was on the line.”

“Thanks, Chrissie!”

When I had first arrived at school, Chris had been the one to show me around, and he had taken me in to his group of friends, who I quickly adopted as mine too.

We got in the arcade, and the guys went to change some money into tokens. Chris grabbed my arm and took me aside. “What’s going on with you and the new boy?”

Trying not to grin like a moron, I shrugged. “Not much.”

“Not much? You two are all flirty, flirty, gonna suck each other’s faces off any minute. He’s watching us right now, trying to work out if there’s anything going on. Should I kiss you?” His face lit up with mischief.

I whacked his arm. “Don’t you dare, Christopher.”

“Fine, Miss Boring. Has he not tried anything yet?”

“I’ve known him two minutes.”

Imogen slotted beside us and raised her perfectly plucked eyebrows. “Maybe he’s gay.”

“So what if he is?” I replied, secretly hoping he wasn’t.

Chris rolled his eyes. “He’s not gay! Clearly he just knows you’re not easy.”

He was having a dig at Imogen, because Im wasn’t playing along with the best-friend thing. If she hadn’t been attracted to Noah, she would have been as supportive as Chris.

We all looked over to Noah, who was watching me, talking to someone on his phone, and frowning. He looked away as I made eye contact.

“What’s that about?” Chris said.

Imogen smirked and shrugged. “Probably his girlfriend.”

“Shut up, Im,” I said.

Noah hung up, slipped the phone in his pocket, and jogged back to us.

“Everything okay?” I asked. Please don’t have a girlfriend! It would be pretty crappy of him if he had. We’d been flirting and texting constantly.

“Everything is fine,” he said, casually throwing his arm over my shoulder. It was a friendly move, but it made my insides turn to mush. Imogen rolled her eyes and turned away. I didn’t really care what she thought.

We walked to the air hockey table with Noah’s arm around me and Chris winking over my shoulder. I wasn’t complaining.



I sat through another uninsightful English literature lesson, bored out of my mind. We had yet to leave the classroom in my two weeks in mainstream school. Learning wasn’t just about reading from textbooks.

Scarlett sat beside me. I’d made sure to sit next to her enough that now her friends left a space open for me if I didn’t make it to class first. She didn’t seem to have any issue with it.

Unsurprisingly, we were reading Shakespeare. What I really didn’t understand was once we’d finished Romeo and Juliet, we’d be watching the film. It was as if the teachers had given up.

Imogen turned around and said, “Movies and arcade tonight?”

“I do hope your interruption to the class has something to do with the Montagues and Capulets,” Mr. Stevenson said.

Imogen turned back, scowling, and muttered, “Sorry, sir.”

“You want to come tonight too?” Scarlett whispered when Mr. Stevenson went back to whatever he was doing at his desk.

“I thought that maybe we could do something together instead.”

She blinked three times before replying. “We went together last time.”

“I know, but everyone was there too.”

Scarlett was awful at concealing how she felt. Her eyes widened a fraction and her posture lifted. “What do you want to do?”

“I’d like to take you on a walk.”

“A walk?”

“Yes,” I replied, smiling. So far, we’d not spent time alone; her friends were always with us. I needed to get her alone. “I promise you’ll enjoy it.”

She turned her nose up. “Doubt it but I’ll go.”

Of course she would. “Great, I’ll pick you up at four to give you time to change after school.”

Nodding her head, she went back to reading. It was obvious she didn’t want to walk, but she did want to spend time with me. I needed to be able to get her to do things.

The bell rang, signaling lunchtime. I closed the book, which I’d already read when I was nine, and put it in my bag. “You hungry?” I asked Scarlett as we left the classroom.

“Starving. I’m getting fries today for sure.”

“You know they’re cooked in a lot of oil, don’t you?”

“Yep,” she replied.

That was another thing I didn’t understand. Far too many people didn’t care about what they put inside their body. The even ate things they knew were bad for them.

“What’re you having? Another salad?”

“Probably,” I replied. It was about the only thing I knew wasn’t crawling with chemicals and additives. “It’s nice. You should try it.”

She halted. “You think I need to swap fries for salad?”

“What the hell, Noah?” Imogen snapped. “How dare you call her fat!”

“What? I never called her fat.” I turned to Scarlett. “You know that’s not what I meant.” She frowned, and I panicked. Touching her arm, I smiled. “Come on, you don’t think that’s what I was saying. There’s not one part of you that needs to change. I was just talking on a health level, not weight loss.”

“Scarlett, come with me,” Imogen said, glaring at me.

“Why does she need to take you away? I’ve explained the misunderstanding,” I said, stroking Scarlett’s forearm with my thumb.

“It’s fine, Im. I know what he meant.”

“Seriously? I know you’re not used to a lot of attention from boys, but this is ridiculous.”

Scarlett shrank and bit the inside of her lip. I wanted to bite back and tell Imogen exactly what I thought of her, but that probably wouldn’t do me any favors with Scarlett.

“I think maybe you should go and find Bobby and Chris before you hurt your best friend’s feelings any more,” I said.

“This is a joke. Why are you letting him walk all over you?” Imogen said.

“I’m not walking over her, Imogen. You are.”

She held her hands up. “Whatever.”

I waited until she left to say, “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” she replied. “Think she’ll talk to me again anytime soon?”

“Honestly, I think she’s the one that should be worrying about that. She had no right to talk to you that way.”

Scarlett shrugged. “She gets like that sometimes.”

I gritted my teeth and let go of her arm. Why didn’t she stand up for herself more?

“Well, I’m sorry for my part in it,” I said, sidestepping so I was in front of her.

She gazed up and bit her lip. Her dark-blue eyes shone. She really was incredibly beautiful. The longer I stared at her, the harder my heart beat. “It wasn’t your fault,” she whispered, her eyes flicking to my lips and then back up to my eyes.

Heat flooded through my body. I wanted to kiss her too. She was so alluring, so sweet and pure. I couldn’t kiss her though. Not yet. I had to remember what I was doing here.

I exhaled hard. “Let’s get you those fries.”

Grinning, she replied, “Nah, I might try a salad, since I have it on good authority that they don’t suck.”

Laughing, I put my hand on her back and led her into the cafeteria toward the salad bar. “They definitely don’t suck.”

After school, I went home to change into some warmer clothes and my walking boots, then left to get Scarlett.

She opened her front door and pouted. “Is this appropriate walking wear?”

“Yes, you look great.” She had on a fleece zip-up jacket, slim jeans, and boots.

“Okay, let’s go walking then.”

“Are your parents in? Shouldn’t I talk to them about where we’re going first?”

Giggling, she shook her head. “They’re both at work still. I’ve told Jeremy though.”

“All right, let’s go.”

“Where exactly are we going?”

“You have a great countryside here, so we’re going to explore it a little. I promise to have you back before dark.”

As we walked along the path, I took her hand. She was warm and inviting and so unable to hide her smile that it almost made me laugh. I liked the feel of her hand in mine.

“Okay. I’ve not really explored where I live before.”

“Why not?”

“Well, we moved around a lot when I was growing up. We’ve been here about three years now, and it’s the longest we’ve stayed in the same place.”

“Really? Why do you move so often?”

“Dad’s work.”

“Oh,” I replied, looking away. I wondered if they would ever give her the true reason. “Do you think you’ll move again?”

“Not sure. They seem settled so hopefully not. I have friends now.”

“You didn’t before?”

“No, there was no point. We’d move on and lose contact, so I stopped trying to get to know people.”

That sounded so painfully lonely. If she had never been taken, she wouldn’t have ever had to know what loneliness felt like.

“The people I’m friends with back home I’ve known since I was little. We’re a close community. I can’t imagine what it was like to grow up with just your brother.”

She lazily lifted a shoulder in a shrug. “I didn’t know any different, so it was fine.”

“You may have. Did you move a lot before the fire?”

“I…I don’t think so, but I’m not sure. We could have.”

“Do you not know much about that time?”

“I remember nothing,” she said.

“But your parents must have told you all about it.”

“I guess.”

Why doesn’t she want to remember? I wanted her to—needed her to.

“Perhaps you’ll get those memories back one day.”

She would. I was determined to push gently and often to get her to try to remember.

We took a public footpath and followed it though fields and past forests. The familiarity of it settled something inside. I missed my community so much, but when I was outside, I felt a connection to them through nature and being among the elements.

Soon, Scarlett would understand how that felt too.



I had never been excited to see a girl before, but after knowing Scarlett just three weeks, she made me feel things I thought I wouldn’t experience until I was a lot older. I wasn’t supposed to feel anything for her. It wasn’t even supposed to be possible to have feelings for her.

The doorbell rang and I wiped my hands on my jeans. That would be Scarlett. My parents were sitting and reading on the sofa opposite. They looked up and smiled.

“Are you ready, Noah?” Dad asked.

I nodded once and stood. “I’m always ready.”

There was a lot riding on my ability to win over Scarlett. I had to make this work. Taking a look in the mirror in the hallway, I took a deep breath and gave myself a silent pep talk. Thinking of home gave me strength. There was a lot of distance between me and my people, but knowing they were all behind me spurred me on.

I opened the door and she was standing holding a shopping bag and grinning as much as I probably was. Being around her was euphoric.

April had rolled around quickly. I loved spring; everything was coming to life again, and the air was considerably warmer.

“Ready for our movie night? I can’t believe you’ve never had a movie night in with friends before.”

I shrugged and moved to let her inside. “I prefer to be outside.”

“Well, you’ve been missing out on something great.”

“Hello, Scarlett,” Mum said, conveniently walking out of the living room as Scarlett came in. They were going to have to stop popping up everywhere quite as often as they did, or it was going to look weird.

“Hi, Mrs. York.”

“Call me Bethan, remember?” Mum said.

Scarlett nodded. “Right.”

“What do you two have planned for today?”

Holding up the bag, she replied, “Snacks and movies.”

“That sounds fun. Keep your bedroom door open, please, Noah.”

I frowned. Supposedly, they trusted me, but every time I was told to leave my door open or not to rush things, I felt like I was being judged, that my loyalty was in question. I knew the proper way to handle this. I wasn’t going to mess it up.

I liked her, yes. I could fool my family, but I couldn’t fool myself. That didn’t mean I was going to throw everything away over a teenage crush.

“I will,” I replied a little harder than I usually spoke to my parents. Trust me. With a curt nod, Mum retreated back to the living room. “Come on then, show me how much fun a movie night is.”

Smiling, she walked past me, heading up the stairs to my bedroom. I couldn’t help watching her. She was petite, but her slim legs and slight frame made her look taller. Her dusty brunette hair cascaded down her back in loose, messy waves.

“Okay,” she said, turning to me once we were in my room. “Which one do you want to watch first? Batman Begins or Spider-Man?”

I shrugged. “I haven’t seen either so it’s your choice.”

“What? You’ve never seen the Batman or Spider-Man movies?”


“Noah, where have you been living for the last sixteen years?”

I forced out a laugh and took Batman Begins from her outstretched hand. “This one first.”

“Well, I know you’ve at least had popcorn, but please tell me you’ve also had Oreos before.”

Grinning, I replied, “I was raised on a pretty remote farm on a tiny island, but I am not that sheltered.” I was. Until she held the packet up, I had no idea what an Oreo was.

“I don’t know, you’ve not watched much TV, never had movie nights, you don’t eat a whole lot of junk, and you’ve never had a girlfriend before.”

“Funny how I meet you, and three weeks later, I’ve corrected all of that.” My heart jumped as I realized what I’d said. I knew I needed the girlfriend/boyfriend title but that wasn’t exactly how I had envisioned it happening. She had to feel special. It had to be romantic. And not just because that’s what I needed to get her to put every ounce of her trust in me.

Unfortunately, Scarlett didn’t miss it either. She watched me carefully, silently. “Have you done all of them now?”

“Is that what you want?”

She frowned. “No way, I asked you first!”

Laughing, I put the DVD down on the bed, followed by the bag she was still clutching, and bent my head level with hers. “Well, I think it’s a pretty good idea.”

“We’ve not known each other long,” she replied. Her voice was low, almost a whisper.

“I know, but I like what I’ve seen so far. I’m not proposing, Scarlett. You’re not forced to be with me forever. Look, this is new to me, but I like you, and I’d like to see what happens.”

She broke into a heart-stopping smile that did nothing to help me control my feelings for her. “In that case, I’m in,” she replied.

We stared at each other like morons as the air thickened. I was supposed to kiss her. I’d never kissed a girl before. She had an ex-boyfriend, so the likelihood of her having kissed someone before was high. I didn’t want to look like an inexperienced fool.

Now was the time though. I’d let things go on for far too long with very little physical contact. She wanted to take things further, had for a while now, but I couldn’t rush anything with her and risk it burning out.

Reaching out, I gently grabbed her hips and brought her closer. Her hands fell on my chest and she splayed her fingers, running them over my shoulders. Yes, she had definitely done this before.

I leaned in and my heart went wild as I felt her breath across my lips. This was uncharted territory, but being this close to her, having my hands on her and hers on me, felt so natural it scared me. The feelings I had for her were almost so overwhelming I wanted to run and hide from them. I understood love. I felt it for a multitude of people, but this was different. This was confusing, exciting, terrifying, and so, so strong.

I closed the inch between us when I couldn’t stand it anymore. Her lips were smooth and soft and melded to mine perfectly. Scarlett was warm and felt like home. It was more than I had ever imagined.

Her hands found their way into my hair, and I pulled her tighter against my body. I grazed her bottom lip with my tongue, and she twisted her fingers through the light strands at the back of my head. My heart hammered every second I kissed her. We pulled away at the same time.

I saw, for the first time, that she was the light.

“So…Batman Begins then?” I asked, clearing my throat and holding on to her. I tried to control my breathing and my erratic heart rate, so she wouldn’t know just how much she had affected me.

Nodding with a showstopping smile, she replied, “Good film.”

I gave her a chaste kiss and let go. “Get comfortable. I’ll put it on.”

Scarlett sat closer to me when I got on the bed. Before, we had left a small gap between us, but now her arm was firmly pressed against mine. I wanted her closer and farther away at the same time.

“Ready to experience a movie night?” she asked as the film started.

My arm was itching to be around her. I could smell her berry shampoo; it was as confusing as it was comforting.

“I’m ready,” I replied, lying. Whatever was going on between us was real, and I was definitely not ready for that.


It was almost Easter, and I found out just how much she loved the holiday. Her room was full of decorative eggs, chicks, and rabbits. Light-blue and yellow banners hung twisted around each other on the wall above her bed.

Her enthusiasm was both cute and addictive. Since we had gotten together officially, my parents had kept an eye on us from afar and hers had been…well, less far. As much as I wanted to spend time with her completely alone and uninterrupted, I understood why her parents had a door wide-open rule.

She lay against my side as we watched Transformers. Movie days had sort of become our tradition. I grew up without TV, so Scarlett was determined to show me what I had missed out on. I still preferred to be outside, but I did love spending time with her—whatever we were doing.

“I remember playing with Transformers when I was little. Me and Finn used to fight over who got the yellow one. At least I think it was those.”

She looked up from where she was resting on my shoulder. “I can’t imagine you and Finn fighting; you’re so close.”

“Believe me, we used to. What about you and Jeremy?”

“We got along better when we were little. I’m not sure if we fought before the fire. We probably did.”

I watched her for a minute, taking in the darkness of her midnight-blue eyes. They were unusual, beautiful.

“What? You still think I’m weird for not remembering, don’t you?” she asked.

“No, of course not. I find it strange that you don’t want to remember but not that you can’t.”

Sitting up, her posture became defensive. “I do want to, but I can’t do it. I’ve tried a few times over the years, and it just ends up with me getting so frustrated I feel like I’m going crazy. It hurts to try, Noah. Physically too. It gives me headaches.”

“All right,” I said. “I’m sorry. But if it is something you want to do, I can help. Maybe I can take the pressure off you somewhat. I don’t like you wanting something but being too afraid to go and get it.”

She pursed her lips. “If I ever decide to try again, I’ll let you know.”

Holding both hands up, I replied, “All right. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“Can we just watch the movie now?”

I leaned back against the headboard and held my arm out for her. Reluctantly, she lay down with me and tucked herself back into my side again. Something felt wrong, and I realized that I didn’t like her being angry with me, even if it didn’t last long.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered again and kissed the top of her head. This needed to be fixed. I didn’t feel right, and I knew I wouldn’t until we were okay again.

“It’s okay,” she replied, holding me tighter and breathing me in. I closed my eyes, enjoying seeing and feeling how she felt about me.

That was our first real disagreement, the first time she’d shied away from me and gotten angry. I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure that never happened again, even though I knew that was impossible.



I was on a total high. It was the last day of school before Easter. Noah and I walked along the corridor hand in hand, trailing behind Imogen, Chris, and Bobby.

In two days I was going to my grandparents’ for the weekend, and although I would miss Noah, I couldn’t wait. The Easter egg hunt was at the front of my mind. We’d even probably find a few from last year. No matter how old any of us got, we still had a basket and we still went searching.

“I’ll see you at lunch,” Noah said as we parted ways to go to our one different class.

Imogen pulled me through the door and we took our seats. She was still a little sour about me being with Noah and him not paying her one bit of attention. I tried not to let it bother me, but it was annoying that she couldn’t just be happy for me. If she’d had a boyfriend right now, I was sure it would have been a different story.

“Have you slept with him yet?” she asked.

I was taken aback. Imogen was a little too open with things like that, but I hadn’t expected her to come right out and ask that, especially since we’d only been officially together four weeks, and it’d be my first time.

“No, but thank you for asking.”

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t be such a prude. Do you think guys like Noah are going to hang around forever?”

“I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t make him wait forever, and Noah’s not like that.” He really wasn’t. He didn’t make constant sexual innuendos and talk to girls’ breasts. He’d shown me nothing but respect and hadn’t even mentioned us having sex yet. I wasn’t sure where his head was, although when he kissed me, I had a pretty good idea—but he wasn’t the type to push.

“Of course he’s not. You’re too naive.”

“That’s the kind of guy you’re used to, Imogen. They’re not all like that.”

“Wow, thanks so much, Scarlett.”

“Come on! You can’t tell me my boyfriend is going to dump me if I don’t put out and then be offended when I come back with the truth. You’re my friend, Imogen, so I’m going to be honest and tell you when you’re being a cow. You get your heart broken because you go for guys that you know are only after one thing. Sorry, but that doesn’t really leave you much room to complain or judge.”

Mr. Waters started the class, and I’d never been so happy to begin a math lesson before. Imogen pretended to be engrossed in the equations we were given, but I knew she was only doing it to ignore me. I didn’t like hurting my friend, but I wasn’t going to take her crap.

My phone vibrated once in my pocket and thankfully Mr. Waters was over on the other side of the room helping someone, so he hadn’t heard it. I slid the phone halfway out of my pocket and opened the message. It was from Noah, of course, and said “My place after school. Everyone is out.”

It wasn’t often that we got time alone, so I sent back an immediate reply of “yes” and shoved my phone back away.

School passed far too slowly but that was only because it was the last day. Noah and I walked back to his place after I’d gotten the okay and a “back by nine o’clock” reminder from my mum. I hadn’t told Imogen about Noah’s text because she would only give me that I-told-you-so expression that I could do without. It wasn’t her business anyway.

“So where are your parents and Finn?” I asked.

“Mum and Dad are visiting friends and won’t be back until the early hours of the morning, and Finn is taking a girl from work out on a date. Hopefully he won’t be back before I have to get you home.”

“I’m sure he won’t, unless the date is really bad.”

He squeezed my hand. “Let’s hope they like each other then.”

We got back to his house, and he went straight in the kitchen, knowing I needed a post-school snack. He and his family were all health freaks though, so I knew I wouldn’t be getting chips or chocolate. That didn’t matter; their food was amazing and healthy.

Noah fixed us some carrot and cucumber sticks; fresh, homemade bread; cheese; and dip. We sat down in the living room to eat and watch their TV that looked like it belonged in a museum. They weren’t big on TV.

We ate snuggled up on the sofa. It was perfect.

“So, what’re you cooking for dinner to top this?” I asked, taking a bite of carrot.

“I thought you might cook for me. You know, since you are the one leaving me for four days.”

Shrugging one shoulder, I leaned further into him. “Sure, if you don’t mind oven french fries and a frozen pizza.”

Like I thought, he turned his nose up. “No, thanks. I’ll teach you to cook something decent.”

“Pizza is decent.”

“Freshly made pizza is decent,” he countered.

“You’re teaching me to make fresh pizza? Like, the dough too?”


This could end badly, but I was surprisingly excited. We weren’t completely alone much, and this was likely to be the only time before I went away. I was glad we weren’t just spending the afternoon watching the TV. “All right. Don’t let me ruin it though.”

“You won’t ruin it.”

We went up to his room to chill before starting dinner. I sat on his bed and Noah stood by his desk, tapping his fingers on his sketchpad. He was incredible and could draw pictures that looked like photographs—it was breathtaking. He’d only just let me see them, and I seriously hated him for how much artistic talent he had. I had none.

I could tell he was considering showing me something but was nervous and maybe a little unsure of it. Suppressing the urge to beg him to show me, I pretended to look around his room. The decision had to come from him.

He bit his lip, picked the pad up, and held it close to his chest. “I’ve been working on something.”

My eyes lit up. “I know. You’ve been keeping it hidden. Are you ready to share?” He would absolutely not let me see anything that was unfinished.

“I am, but I’m worried.”


“You have to promise me it won’t scare you. It’s something I have been thinking about recently.”

“I won’t freak, I promise. What is it?”

“Well, even though we have only been together a month, I do think about our future, and I’m not saying I want to rush into anything, but it is on my mind.”

I held my hands out, on cloud nine. “Show me!”

Taking a deep breath, he gave me the pad and turned away. He hated watching someone looking through his work. It was really personal to him, and I loved that he shared it with me.

I flipped the pad over and the picture made my heart stop. It was me and him, probably about four years older than we were now, standing outside a beautiful wooden house, surrounded by a meadow.

“You said you wanted to live in the city, in a posh apartment, but I couldn’t see it. I hope you don’t hate this,” he said.

“Are you kidding? This is incredible.” It brought tears to my eyes. I loved him and our mapped-out future so much I thought I might burst. How could he think I would freak out? This was perfect. I was fairly certain that unless he cheated or killed someone, he was with the one I wanted to spend my life with.

There was no way anything could be as beautiful or peaceful in the city. Everything changed as I stared at the drawing of us, arms around each other, happy as a person could be, surrounded by nature. I wanted that. I wanted to live a life with Noah where we’d have more time to enjoy things, rather than rushing around a busy city, taking hours to get anywhere, and bumping into people every second. I wanted our house to be surrounded by land we could enjoy and fresh air.

“I want this too, Noah. I have even less idea of what I’d do if we lived in the country like this, but I want it more than a built-up city. I don’t care if I don’t earn as much money.”

He finally looked at me, and his smile melted me. “You have no idea how much I want it too.”

“Well, it’s done,” I said, my voice thick with emotion. “After university, we’ll move to the country and live the simple life. I want goats and those cute little micro pigs.”

Laughing, he sat beside me and stroked my jaw, stealing my breath. “You want a farm?”

“If I’m living in the country like this, I want animals.”

I spent the next hour watching him draw pictures of my animals. He laughed through the whole thing, even adding chicks, rabbits, a cow, and a llama. I added a stick sheep with a bad woolly body. It was stupid fun.

At six we went downstairs to make the pizzas. Noah got the ingredients, and I got a wooden bowl and spoon. He didn’t bother measuring anything out, so I left him to put everything in and I just stirred it until it was thick enough to knead.

Noah slapped the dough down on the countertop and smirked. “Go on, get kneading!”

It was gross. I hated when things stuck to my hands and it greatly amused him, but I was having fun cooking with him.

I pushed the dough down with the palm of my hand and froze.

Noah, sensing something was wrong, asked, “You okay?”

I shook my head, clearing my thoughts. “Yeah, just had a major sense of déjà vu.”

“Really? With what?”

“Kneading this with my palm. I’ve never done it before, so it must be from when I attempted chocolate chip Christmas tree cookies with Mum a few years ago.”

“Strange,” he said with a shrug. “Hey, perhaps you have done this before, you just don’t remember it.”

I looked down. “Noah, please.”

“No.” He lifted my chin and bent down to look right into my eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m not bringing it up again, and I don’t want to upset you.”

“No, I overreacted. You’re allowed to talk about it. Wow, I really am different, aren’t I?”

“Yes, you are.” Ouch. “You are completely different to everyone else because there is no one else that is perfect to me or for me. Different is not a bad thing.”

He was still at the same height as me, so I leaned forward and kissed him. His arms quickly wound around my back, and I was pulled onto my tiptoes, flush with his chest. My hands were still gross and sticky from the dough, but that didn’t seem to worry him as I gripped his hair.

Noah pushed me against the countertop and ran his hands down my back. When I felt my insides burst into flames, I pulled back. I had the desire to be with him, but I wasn’t ready. Why couldn’t my body and mind be more in sync?

He kissed my forehead, breathing just a little too fast. “We should get the dough kneaded and rested soon, or this pizza is going to be awful.”

I took a deep breath and tried to get my body under control. “Sounds good. I’m getting hungry.”

We spent the rest of the evening relaxing together. We didn’t mention my loss of memory again because it always turned things tense between us. I hoped he would get past the oddness of it or I would remember already, because I didn’t want anything causing friction between us.

I spent the next couple days—supervised—with Noah, and then it was time to go to my grandparents’. I wasn’t sad that I wouldn’t see him, although I’d miss him, because we were keeping in touch and, as he’d said, we had our whole lives ahead of us, so what was four little days? I seriously loved him.



I waited, impatiently, in the car with Jeremy as our parents had yet another conversation after they’d said bye. “Seriously, we shouldn’t even get off the sofa until they’re in the car,” I said, pressing my forehead against the window.

Mum and her parents could talk solidly until the end of time. Getting together had always been a huge deal as far back as I could remember—which was actually only ten years.

“Yep,” Jeremy agreed, and I looked over at him. He didn’t even glance up from his phone, which had been glued to his hand the entire weekend. “It was really annoying when you were a whiny baby and I had to try amusing you while they were still talkin’.”

“Still texting Amie? You so lurve her.”

“How’s Noah?”

“Touché, Big Bro.” I looked back out of the window and expected him to make another comment, but he was too engrossed in reading her new text. Well, at least she was still talking to him; I hadn’t heard anything from Noah all day.

Mum and Dad finally got in the car, and Mum wound down her window, ready to talk more. “You two ready?” she asked over her shoulder.

Jeremy looked up then. “You for real? We’ve been sitting in here for fifteen bloody minutes.”

“Language, Jeremy,” Dad scolded, frowning at him in the mirror.

“Can we just go please, Jonathan?” Mum said to Dad, and waved out of the window. “See you soon. Bye! Love you!”

“You kids wanna stop off at McDonald’s for lunch?” Dad asked. “We won’t be home until after two.”

“KFC and you’ve got a deal,” Jeremy replied.

I rolled my eyes. “I don’t think they’re trying to make a deal, idiot.”

Mum sighed. “Jon, just stop at whichever one you see in an hour.”

This was going to be a long drive. I pressed the home button on my phone—again—to check if I’d missed a text from Noah—again. Nothing. I was being stupid. It was only one day that I hadn’t heard from him, but I was used to waking up with a text and then shooting messages back and forth all day. I loved that we could talk so much and never get tired. We never ran out of things to say, but if we weren’t talking, we’d just enjoy un-awkward silence together. We’d only been together a little over a month, but I already felt so much more for him than I had for Jack in the eight months we were going out.

Slipping my phone in my pocket, I reasoned with myself. I did not need to text him every waking minute of the day—it was nice, but I didn’t need to. We were seeing each other when I got home, so I’d message him later to confirm that we were still on and ask if he was okay.

Feeling better about my decision not to go stalker on him, I lay back against the seat and closed my eyes. I was settled, the steady hum and movement of the car threatening to send me to sleep any second. I welcomed it. Easter was amazing but exhausting.

“No!” Dad snapped, suddenly tugging on the steering wheel. The car jolted to the left. My eyes flew open, and I gasped as I was thrown against Jeremy’s side. A scream ripped its way up my throat.

“Jonathan,” Mum shouted at the same time Jeremy and Dad swore.

I heard loud horns beeping from several cars as Dad tried to steady the car. He slammed the brakes on as a minibus swerved in front of us.

I screamed again as we were hit from behind. My body flew forward before it was caught by the seat belt. The sound of crunching steel and smashing glass pierced my ears. My heart raced, and I gripped Jeremy’s hand as someone else smashed into us from the side, making our car hurtle toward the hard shoulder on the motorway—then a ditch. And trees!

Oh God. I squeezed my eyes closed and everything moved in slow motion. We hit a large tree trunk, but I was out before the car even stopped.

by by Natasha Preston

  • paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
  • ISBN-10: 1492618527
  • ISBN-13: 9781492618522