Top of the Feud Chain (Alphas Series #4)by Lisi Harrison
Alpha Academy: Where betas get booted.
Eccentric billionaire Shira Brazille founded the super-exclusive Alpha Academy on exotic Alpha Island to nurture the next generation of exceptional dancers, writes, musicians, and inventors. It' s a dream come true for one hundred lucky girls, but those not measuring up can be sent home at any time, for any reason/b>… See more details below
Alpha Academy: Where betas get booted.
Eccentric billionaire Shira Brazille founded the super-exclusive Alpha Academy on exotic Alpha Island to nurture the next generation of exceptional dancers, writes, musicians, and inventors. It' s a dream come true for one hundred lucky girls, but those not measuring up can be sent home at any time, for any reason. The one left standing will win worldwide fame. Who will it be?
Is stepping up her game as Shira sheds Alpha Academy girls faster than skin from a will-pumiced foot. There's just one thing standing in her way: island bad boy Taz Brazille. Can Skye keep a dancer's poise, or will Taz throw her off the music once and for all?
Allie A. Abbott
Finally knows who she really is, and nothing is going to bring her down. Not even AJ, who just can't let go of the past. But she can Bring. It. On. Allie's come too far to be sent home without a fight.
After bouncing like a dashboard hula doll between Allie and Darwin, Charlie finally has her BFF and Brazille beau by her side. But as the competition on Alpha Island reaches its boiling point, will her drive to win make her lose what matters most?
If at first you don't succeed, you're not an alpha.
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Top of the Feud Chain
By Harrison, Lisi
PoppyCopyright © 2011 Harrison, Lisi
All right reserved.
LAKE ALPHA BEACH
“Kick her butt, Skye!” Charlie Deery’s forehead throbbed with tension as she squinted out at the race on the sun-flecked lake, but she forced her hands to keep clapping in support of her bestie. Riding the choppy waves in the final stretch of Alpha Academy’s stand-up paddleboard regatta, Skye looked like the goddess Aphrodite emerging from a clamshell—only instead of a clamshell, she stood atop a paddleboard, and instead of flowing silks, Skye wore pewter boyshorts, a silver rashguard, and a look of ferocious determination in her aquamarine eyes.
Charlie curled her bare toes in the lake’s phosphorescent green sand and anxiously nibbled her cuticles. Skye was one of only two paddlers left on the racetrack, which was marked by buoys shooting glowing holographic lines that hovered a foot above Lake Alpha. If she won, the Jackie O’s would stay on Alpha Island for at least one more day. If she lost… Charlie shook her head, sending a few strands of her long mahogany hair blowing in the manufactured gale-force wind, and tried not to focus on the waterlogged losers dragging themselves to shore.
If Skye lost, her suitcase would be waiting. And her time as an Alpha would be up faster than the Situation’s shirt.
Sailing by the recently capsized board of Shoshana Shanti-Smith from the J. K. Rowling house, Skye’s toned back flexed into an aggressive stance. Her dancer’s poise had made overtaking the other six paddleboarders look easy, but now she had to pick up enough speed to kick the flat booty of spoken-word champ (and surprisingly gifted paddler) Spinnah Fraye from the Queen Elizabeth house. The kinky-haired Spinnah was six foot two and built of pure muscle, but now that the race was nearly over, she seemed be losing steam. Her paddling had turned sloppy and her muscular legs wobbled atop her board. In comparison, Skye looked more alive than ever, pushing her oar through the turbulent water as if stirring a giant Frappuccino. Still, Spinnah held her lead on Skye to at least three board-lengths.
Charlie shivered and felt her platinum bomber vest grow sleeves as it registered her chill. As long as Skye remained in second place, not even body heat–activated clothing could warm the icy panic she felt inside.
Take her out! Charlie whisper-yelled, putting a tense hand in her pocket and crossing her fingers, telling herself to have faith in her dancer roommate. If anyone could beat Spinnah, it was Skye. The Jackie O’s were lucky to have her representing them in the Paddle Battle—both Charlie and fellow O Allie A. would have sunk faster than soggy cereal in milk, but Skye skimmed the water like a hot pool boy.
Aside from today’s nerve-wracking board brawl, Charlie had a lot of reasons to feel lucky. In fact, for the first time since enrolling at in Alpha Academy—the mega-exclusive school created by Shira Brazille, TV personality, CEO, and Alpha-in-chief—Charlie had everything she wanted. After weeks of bouncing between Darwin and Allie A., her one true love and first true best friend, everyone was finally happy. Thanks to Charlie’s brilliant matchmaking, Allie was attached at the metallic-mini hip to Melbourne, Shira’s ice-blond eldest son. Which meant that Charlie could finally go public about her rekindled relationship with Darwin, the only boy she’d ever cared about. The boy she’d known since she was five years old and her mother, Bee, began as Shira’s assistant. At last, there were no more secret rendezvous behind Allie’s back, no more necessary visits to the Zen Center every day just to calm her nerves. Now that Allie and Charlie were both happily hooked up, their days on the island had taken the agony out of agonizing and left the zing.
Especially lately, now that Shira had stopped hovering over the island like an après–bean burrito smell. The bossy Aussie had been away on an unexplained business trip for nearly two weeks, and aside from these crazy competitions, Charlie’s life was finally simple.
Maybe this time it would stay that way.
Charlie sucked in a mouthful of crisp lakeside air and turned her coffee-brown eyes to the row of volcanoes that ringed the lake in the center of the @-shaped island. Sighing, she considered the years of planning and technological wizardry needed to build this tropical biosphere in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Not to mention its surfable faux-cean. Originally, one hundred girls had been chosen from around the world to attend Alpha Academy, but soon it became clear that they weren’t so much here to learn as to compete. One by one, or sometimes in mass-firings, Shira gave Alphas the axe. The fall semester wasn’t even over and already one hundred girls had been whittled down to thirty.
As Bee’s daughter, Charlie had participated in the building of this (wo)man-made paradise. She had watched Shira scour the world for the most brilliant dancers, actresses, designers, mathematicians, scientists, hackers, and writers for her Academy, and they had all eagerly signed up to study at the most exclusive school ever created. Their teachers were world-class, their classrooms state-of-the-art. And yet here they were, paddling hard but going nowhere.
Charlie watched a pair of soaking-wet Alphas drag themselves to the sandy shore, hair matted down on their defeated faces.
Charlie’s worry-wince flattened into a pained smile as she thought back to the Alphas’ response when Shira first announced her emergency business trip. Everyone had gone nuts over the thought of being unsupervised, and the island instantly ignited with late-night bonfires, impromptu fashion shows with nonregulation outfits, and a rewired sound system perfect for blasting the new Kanye album.
But the party didn’t last for long. Soon, being the competitive Alphas they were, the girls began to invent competitions. And that was when it became clear what Shira’s plan was from the start. Before she left, Shira had prophesized, “One girl will make herself known. One girl will stand above the rest as a leader.” Like an estrogen-fueled remake of Lord of the Flies, the girls quickly abandoned their parties and set about vying for control. And the house muses—the camp counselor–types who mentored each Alpha house—responded in kind. For every contest, they awarded a prize. The bunk that won the goat-milking contest on the island’s organic farm got to control the weather on the island for twenty-four hours. The house that bested the rest at the Alice in Wonderland all-night giant chess match got makeovers and leadership coaching.
And the losers were sent home.
Last night, she and Allie had made a list on her aPod of who had been kicked out and why. After the Paddle Battle was over, there would be at least seven more additions. Charlie opened up her Alpha Tracking App and reviewed the latest executions.
There was only one person who could have sent them packing. Charlie squinted up again at the distant volcanoes, wondering where Shira had hidden her surveillance cameras on the picturesque lake. Probably inside the buoys, she decided. Shira was definitely watching their every move. Because only one girl would be left standing at the end of the semester. Whoever it was would be the ultimate Alpha, or—how had she put it? Charlie searched her memory for the icy Aussie’s exact words. An Alpha for life. No one knew exactly what that meant. They just knew they wanted it.
With Alphas challenging each other every day, even the sweetest of the remaining Alphas had embraced a kill-or-be-killed mentality. Everyone felt the pressure—no matter how ah-mazing their accomplishments, their time here was running out faster than single Jonas Brothers.
Charlie sighed and scanned the beach, wishing Darwin were here for moral support. Among the noncompeting spectators were three of Spinnah’s housemates, including video-game designer and makeup junkie Louise Holtstropper. “Let’s go, Spinnah, make Skye a swimmah!” she cheered. Charlie rolled her eyes at the pathetic rhyme—Louise should leave the spoken-word to her bestie. Snapping her attention back to the Paddle Battle, Charlie’s breath caught in her throat. Skye and Spinnah were rounding a hairpin bend in the course, and Skye was now just inches away from Spinnah’s board! Go go go, she whisper-chanted, her heart pounding with renewed hope.
Just as Skye’s board drew up next to Spinnah’s, one of the rhyme-azon’s spoken-word poems floated across the lake to reach Charlie’s ears.
Check the sunset, forget the horizon
Skye’s gonna meet the water like Motorola met Verizon!
Then Spinnah punctuated her poem in the form of an oar aimed at Skye’s shoulder.
No! Charlie gasped along with the crowd, everyone’s eyes glued to the last two fighters in the regatta. The wind seemed to pick up in pace with their rapidly beating pulses. Charlie’s stomach capsized, but Skye’s board didn’t. She righted herself as only an exceptional dancer could. Instead of falling sideways from the force of the blow, she reached out a flailing hand and grabbed Spinnah’s oar, yanking it from her opponent’s grasp and righting herself in the process.
“Wooo!” The crowd went crazy, rippling with a mix of envy and pride at Skye’s risky move. Spinnah wobbled on her board but remained upright. Only now she had to paddle out of her way to retrieve her oar. Come on, Skye. This is your moment. Charlie closed her eyes and sent up a prayer to the water gods to let her friend survive. When she opened them again she noticed Louise hopping up and down with excitement, then stopping to check her hair placement in a compact mirror.
A moment later, the two floating fighters disappeared into the final leg of the course, a holographic wave-tunnel that looked like a solid wall of churning water. Whoever emerged first would immediately cross the neon-pink finish line hovering in front of the tunnel. Charlie swallowed a lump bigger than Snooki’s hair pouf and waited for the victor to emerge.
Charlie turned back to the lake just in time to see the nose of a paddleboard emerging from the holo-tunnel.
Please let it be Skye!
And then she spotted a foot. Followed by a slender, ballet-toned calf. An overjoyed Skye sailed out of the holo-tunnel, her platinum wavelets shimmering, her fingers like two V’s held high in victory.
“YES!!!” Charlie screamed, tossing her aPod in the sand and running into the heated lake toward her beaming friend. The Jackie O’s would live to see another day on Alpha Island! And maybe, just maybe, they would find a way to make it to Shira’s ultimate finish line together. But then what? Charlie pulled Skye into a celebratory hug and tried her Alpha best not to think about it.
Excerpted from Top of the Feud Chain by Harrison, Lisi Copyright © 2011 by Harrison, Lisi. Excerpted by permission.
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