The last person Riya Johnson expected to run into at her new summer camp is Courtney Chastain-her childhood best friend and the girl who broke her heart after a secret, mind-blowing, life-altering kiss. She definitely didn't expect to be sharing a bunk bed with her for four long weeks.
Courtney has what every girl wants-she's beautiful, rich, and the object of every boy's desire at Camp Pine Ridge. Too bad none of them make her feel an iota of what Riya's kiss did all those years ago. But Courtney needs to uphold appearances at all costs-even if it means instigating an all-out prank war with Riya as her main target.
Neither girl can stop thinking about the other...but that doesn't mean they can give up past hurts and take a chance on a future together.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 18 Years|
Read an Excerpt
Keeping Her Secret
An Endless Summer Novel
By Sarah Nicolas, Stacy Abrams
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Sarah Nicolas
All rights reserved.
Riya's toe caught on the rock embedded in the gravel path, and she lurched before catching herself. Her duffel bag tilted forward, jerking her arm with it until the sturdy canvas smacked against the ground. She glanced around and breathed a sigh of relief. All the campers near enough to see were too absorbed in pre-camp excitement to have noticed.
The sun beat harshly down on her bronze skin. Sweat prickled her neck, so she swept her thick black hair into a lazy ponytail.
Riya hoisted the bag back to her shoulder and walked on, the lake on her right and cabins on her left. Boys milled about these cabins, ages increasing as she walked along. Somehow, the front porches were already draped in towels and half-dried clothes. She'd obviously gone the wrong way from the parking lot. The girls' cabins must be the identical, but tidier, lineup on the other side of the lake.
Her mom's car had overheated, and she'd arrived almost an hour after check-in, too shy to ask anyone for directions. Riya'd seen the error of her ways since then. She told herself she'd stop the next employee she saw. She considered asking one of the boys for about half a second before chickening out.
Gravel crunched under approaching steps. Riya jerked her gaze up to find an overly perky girl wearing a baseball cap with "Camp Pine Ridge" embroidered across it practically bouncing toward her.
"I'm Camp Counselor Becky," the girl said, voice chirping like a bird. "You look a little lost?"
Becky smiled up at her with so much joy it should've been fake. But it wasn't. Riya had always been suspicious of people who seemed so happy they were about to burst out of their skin with it. Not natural.
Becky was only a couple years older than Riya and ridiculously cute with huge hazel eyes and a freckled button nose. She'd certainly have no shortage of campers harboring secret crushes over the next couple of weeks. If it weren't for the supernatural levels of cheer, Riya would probably be one of them.
Riya smiled back at Becky with a mere fraction of her happiness. "Do you know where cabin G7A is?"
Becky nodded so enthusiastically Riya worried for the muscular health of her neck. She pointed farther down the path. "I'm actually the counselor assigned to your cabin. You must be Riya. I was just headed to the parking lot to meet you."
She paused and peered up at Riya expectantly. Riya knew her five-six height was considered perfectly average, but she always thought of herself as short. Probably because she spent all her time around volleyball players. Becky bounced, drawing Riya's attention to the fact that she was waiting for Riya's response.
"Great?" Riya hadn't intended for it to come out as a question. "So it's ..." she trailed off, searching the other side of the lake as if she might see the cabin number from there.
"You went the wrong way, I'm afraid. But go ahead and walk past the arts and crafts hut — you can't miss it; it's the one with the huge windows — and yours will be the second cabin."
Riya took a few steps backward, maintaining eye contact with Becky as she said, "Thank you." Then, she spun on her heel and picked up the pace toward the cabin.
Sweat trickled down Riya's neck as she approached the arts and crafts building. As Becky promised, windows made up two entire sides of the building. Between blinding flashes of reflected sunlight, a flicker of movement inside the room caught Riya's attention.
She veered closer, stepping off of the gravel path onto the patchy grass. The bursts of movement coalesced into a ballet dancer, twirling and leaping with singular grace. A blond bun swirled high upon her head. Black tights and a pale blue fitted tank stretched across her tall, lean frame. In the seconds when the movement slowed and the glare on the glass moved in just the right way, Riya thought the girl looked familiar. Of their own accord, her feet led her toward the propped-open door. She entered, thinking of nothing else besides getting a better view of the supremely talented dancer.
Music played from a portable speaker the size of a soda can in one corner. The dancer slid and spun and flew across a worn wooden floor. She moved with so much passion, so much soul, that Riya stood riveted two steps inside the doorway, sure her mouth hung open in admiration but unable to bring herself to care how it looked. This — the dancer and the dance, combined, inseparable — was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen.
Glimpses of the ballerina's face crashed against her memories, leaving her on the teetering edge of recognition.
Then, another person she hadn't noticed before moved in the corner and several things happened at once. The second person was a guy she also recognized, which made everything fall into place. The dancer stumbled to a stop, staring at Riya, drawing the guy's attention to her as well. Riya's duffel bag thudded to the floor.
"Riya?" the guy said, voice hopeful, happy, excited.
"Riya!" the girl said, voice none of those things. The very opposite of those things.
The two were twins. Colt Chastain was the masculine version of his willowy sister, Courtney — all blue eyes and blond hair and winking dimples and skin like velvety whipped cream.
And up until four years ago, they had been Riya's best friends.
All the air sucked out of the room when Riya's gaze discovered the agitation roiling out of Courtney's every pore. She was twelve again, heart shattered and stomped to bits in the backyard she'd be leaving in three days.
Colt bounded to Riya and swept her into a celebratory hug. "Riya!" he said. "I thought I'd never see you again."
He pulled back and grinned at her, a grin Riya tried to return and failed miserably, resulting in something that felt like a grimace. Colt was kind enough to pretend not to notice.
"You never called or emailed. We worried." Colt glanced back at his sister but then turned quickly away from her death glare. He squeezed Riya's shoulders. "I missed you."
Riya regained enough composure to mumble, "Missed you, too, Colt." She swallowed down a lump the size of Texas, before mustering the bravery to look at Courtney again. Despite her obvious resentment, the girl glowed in the golden light of sunset, as beautiful as she'd ever been. Dancing had served her well, packing her lithe frame with lean muscle and matchless grace.
"Missed you too, Courtney."
The spell broke as Courtney's scowl deepened.
"Oh, hell no." Courtney stomped past the two of them, her shoulder brushing Riya's as she passed.
The beautiful ballerina disappeared into the blinding light just as Riya did something she hadn't done in four years: burst into tears.
* * *
Courtney's feet pounded the gravel all the way back to her bunk as she ignored excited waves and several calls of "Hey, Court!" from campers she'd spent the last couple of summers hanging out with. She could count on one hand the number of boys her age here who she hadn't kissed — and the ones who didn't want to kiss her? Well, she didn't need any digits for that.
Didn't Riya Johnson know this was Courtney's summer camp? Who did she think she was, strolling into Camp Pine Ridge in their last year with her big, sad brown eyes, like she had any right?
This was Courtney's last summer, her final fling before she had to commit to her family's vision for the rest of her life. And she was not about to let Riya ruin it for her.
She'd spent four years trying to forget that crisp autumn night right before Riya moved.
She had only been moving one county over, but to thirteen-year-old Courtney, it felt a million miles away. They'd been climbing a huge oak tree in Riya's backyard. Well, Riya had already climbed up to the top and back down to encourage Courtney to go even higher. Riya had always been the brave one.
She'd lowered herself to the same branch Courtney straddled, then scooted until she sat mere inches away. "I'm going to miss you, Courtney," she'd said, threading her short, strong fingers through Courtney's pale, slender ones, as she'd done a dozen times.
Courtney remembered being fascinated by Riya's lips, fading from a deep brown on the edges to a pale pink in the plump center. She stared at them until she licked her own lips and closed her eyes without thinking. The next thing she knew, those beautiful lips were pressed against hers and Riya was kissing her like she'd seen in movies and Courtney was kissing her back. Riya's arms had circled Courtney's waist, and Courtney's fingers traced circles on the back of Riya's neck. She hadn't been thinking about what any of it meant. She'd just been reacting and doing what felt right.
Then the porch door slammed, and they jumped apart. Colt called their names, and Courtney scrambled away from Riya, shimmying down the tree trunk and running all the way home.
She'd never talked to Riya again.
Courtney had kissed dozens of boys in the past four years, but none of them had felt as right and as wonderful as Riya's clumsy lips pressed against hers on that chilly September night.
And that was the whole problem.
A small someone stood in her path. The kid didn't move as she stomped forward. Courtney glanced up to see a skinny first-year redheaded girl staring at her own feet.
"Fozzie Bear sent me to get you," she said without looking up. "Your mom's on the phone. She's called six times."
Inhaling, Courtney straightened her shoulders and raised her head. "Thanks, kid."
As Courtney made her way toward the office, the girl followed several feet back and continued to avoid looking at her. All around them, the lush mountain summer offered every hue of green imaginable. The afternoon sun hung low in the sky, leaving a long trail of fire across the lake.
Courtney slowed her pace to walk next to the girl. "What's your name?"
The girl bit her lip, displaying a wide gap between her two front teeth, as she watched her feet take several steps. "Olivia."
"Are you scared of me, Olivia?"
Nodding, Olivia scrunched her eyes, wrinkling her freckled nose. The poor kid was terrified.
Courtney pivoted and bent at the waist in front of Olivia, stopping her in her tracks. "Why?"
The girl took two steps back. "The other girls in G1A said you were mean. One said you duct tape girls to trees."
Courtney laughed, but when Olivia's green eyes went wide, she stifled it quickly. "That was just the one time, and she deserved it, I promise."
Finally, Olivia glanced up at her through strawberry-blond lashes. "So you're not mean?"
"No." Courtney slowly reached out to straighten the girl's shirt. "That's just something people say about girls when they don't let other people push them around."
Olivia met Courtney's gaze straight on. "Nobody pushes you around?"
"No, nobody." Except my parents.
Olivia's eyes began to change shape, and the transition spread across her entire face until she smiled brightly. "Then I'm going to be mean, too." She took off in the opposite direction from the office, practically skipping.
"That's not what I meant!" Courtney called after her, but the girl was gone, probably off to cause untold trouble. Laughing to herself, Courtney shook her head and continued on to the office. She made a mental note to have a better talk with the girl later.
Camp director Bob Fazio — or Fozzie Bear, as he was known among the campers — was not in the office, but his secretary wordlessly motioned to a phone in the corner with a flashing red light. She offered Courtney a sympathetic smile.
"I tried to tell her campers aren't allowed to use the phone for personal calls," she said. "But, well, you know."
Oh good Lord did Courtney know.
Courtney cradled the phone between her ear and her shoulder. "Hey, Mom." She raised her left foot behind her and pulled it against her thigh for a quad stretch. Riya had cut her dance practice short, but she still had a couple of things to work through before camp events started, and she needed to stay limber.
"Hay is for horses, Courtney."
Courtney's eyes rolled back of their own accord. Seriously, she couldn't help it. "Hello, Mother."
"Was the new driver okay?" Unmistakable traffic sounds filled the background of her mother's call. Courtney pictured her, black heels clicking briskly through the downtown streets of Charlotte in her crisp business suit, hair unmoving from half a can of hair spray.
"Yes, he was fine." Her brother had chatted him up throughout the entire three-hour drive, but her mother wouldn't care to know that.
"Just fine?" Mrs. Chastain's voice went shrill. "I don't know why your father insisted on hiring a Mexican anyway."
Blood rushed to Courtney's cheeks, embarrassed even though no one else could hear. "He was great," she amended. "Perfect gentleman. And his parents are from Argentina."
"Anyway," her mother said, already bored with the conversation. "I spoke to Joseph Morgan about getting you an internship next summer, and he said it wouldn't be a problem."
Courtney had lowered her left leg and started to raise her right, but stopped in mid-motion. Her mother had called her on the first day of summer camp to talk about an internship next summer. It was like she was trying to ruin Courtney's final few months of freedom.
"An internship? Isn't next summer too early?" Her heart thudded clumsily against her chest. It seemed to be saying: Too soon. Too soon.
"You'll need to start early in order to be up to working for Chastain and Chastain when you graduate law school. You'll start with menial tasks. Filing, getting coffee, that kind of thing. You can do it."
Courtney had no doubt that she could do it, but no one had ever asked her if she actually wanted to. She sighed, wondering if it was even worth it to bring up that old argument. She never won. With the two best defense attorneys in the old south as parents, she hadn't won a single argument since she was four years old.
Oh, what the hell. She'd told Olivia she didn't let anyone push her around. Besides, her mother was hundreds of miles and four weeks away. "And what if I get in to Juilliard?"
Her mother huffed. "Courtney Clare Chastain, I thought we agreed. Your dancing is a lovely hobby that will keep you slim and graceful as you age. But it's not a career."
Only Collette Chastain would consider her unilateral decree a mutual agreement. And call something Courtney practiced sixteen hours a week "a hobby."
"But that's the whole point of Juilliard," Courtney argued for the billionth time. "People who graduate from there can make it a career."
"Your father and I won't pay for it." Her mother's voice came out clipped and angry. She'd never spelled it out in so many words, usually choosing to rely on veiled threats instead. But there it was in black and white. It seemed Courtney wasn't the only one emboldened by the distance between them.
Most parents would be thrilled if their daughter managed to snag one of the twelve spots offered each year to women in Juilliard's dance program. Not hers, though. She'd known since she'd understood the basic concept of jobs: the only acceptable path included Harvard Law and a fast track to partnership at Chastain and Chastain.
"I don't need you to." Courtney's voice had fallen flat, attempting to conceal her fear with icy determination.
She was lying, of course. All of Juilliard's scholarships were need-based, and her family certainly didn't qualify in that department. If she even managed to get in.
"Courtney, you can't pay tuition with a pretty smile." Her mother's syrupy sweet words grated against her nerves like sandpaper.
The worst part was, Courtney couldn't argue with her. She didn't see how she'd make it four years without her parents' support. And they'd never give it. This conversation would never end any differently.
"Okay, Mother, I have to go. We have orientation." In forty minutes, she added silently. But after this wonderful conversation, Courtney needed some dance time.
"Kisses," her mother said.
Excerpted from Keeping Her Secret by Sarah Nicolas, Stacy Abrams. Copyright © 2016 Sarah Nicolas. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.