you gotta wear the right shoes.
Life is rapidly changing for pre-teen shoe spokesperson Riley Mae. After escaping near disaster at the top of Half Dome in Yosemite, Riley, her family, and her Swiftriver co-workers fly to a secret hideout in Northwest Montana. But when the plane’s malfunction leads to a rough landing, Riley wants nothing more than to return to friends, church, and home. Then she meets Sunday, a ten-year-old boy from Kenya who wrestles fish, battles bears, and tackles leukemia. While her rigorous raft training for the marketing campaign brings a few bumps and bruises, Riley now feels up for the challenge.
Everything looks as bright as the glistening fool’s gold on her “Ready Eddy” river sandals, but everything is not as it seems. Riley soon learns that life is as unpredictable as the raging waters, which, if she is not careful, will sweep her away and into the hands of an enemy who is even closer than she thinks.
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Riley Mae and the Ready Eddy Rapids
By Jill Osborne
ZONDERKIDZCopyright © 2013 Jill Osborne
All rights reserved.
Running for your life is not as exciting as it looks in the movies. And it's not something I ever expected to do, especially since I'm only twelve. Well, almost thirteen, but that doesn't make it any better. I never thought that being the spokesgirl for the Riley Mae Outdoor Shoe Collection would totally mess up my life. I suppose if I had thought about it a little more carefully, I would not have begged my parents to sign that rotten two-year contract. Mom always says that I "fail to think things through." But this time, I really tried! I thought it would be fun to be famous. I thought it would be great to wear new shoes all the time. I thought it would be interesting to travel to new places. But even in a million years I never would have thought it would get me in this much trouble!
"So, your real name is Daniel Stevens?" I squinted at the guy sitting across the aisle from me in the private jet. Just a day ago, I thought his name was Flip Miller, my silly photographer from Swiftriver shoes—a guy who wears wrinkly clothes and eats stale leftovers from his pants pockets.
"Yeah, but you can still call me Flip."
"And you're rich?"
He pushed his cushy seat back into a reclining position. "I guess you could say that."
"And that's why you can sponsor all those kids from other countries, right? It all makes sense now."
Flip grinned. "My dad always sponsored kids when I was little. I thought it was cool. I wrote them letters and sent toys whenever I could. When I got old enough to sponsor a kid on my own, it was hard to pick just one, so I figured, why not? I can afford a few more."
"Yeah, but when TJ and I visited your office—"
"You mean when you broke into my office—"
I looked over at my dad, who was snoozing in the seat next to me. I never told him about that time when TJ's older sister Breanne took us to Flip's office to spy on him.
"Okay," I whispered. "When we 'broke in,' we saw pictures of TWO HUNDRED sponsored kids on your wall."
"Like I said, it was hard to pick."
The woman sitting next to Flip—the person I had known as Fawn, my bossy personal assistant at Swiftriver shoes—spoke up.
"I always remember Dad saying that God cares more about what we give than what we have."
Flip's and Fawn's dad was some guy named Drake Stevens, a famous millionaire and real estate developer from New York. I say was, because he's dead now. He was killed by some nasty people in his own company, who I guess wanted his money. If he was as generous as Flip says he was, why didn't they just ask him for the money? No need to kill the guy.
I turned my suspicious glance toward Fawn.
"And your real name is Samantha Stevens? Sister of ... him? I raised my eyebrows and pointed to Flip.
"Shocking, I know," Flip said, as he ran his fingers through his dark brown, perfect-model hair. "I'm sure you're thinking, 'How did the brother get all the brains and charm, leaving his poor sister with nothing but a bad temper and a horrible taste in clothing?'"
"No," Fawn said, "I'm sure Riley was wondering how I've managed to put up with such a goofball for a little brother all my life. Isn't that right, Riley?"
"You guys are starting to sound like me and Brady." (Brady's my little brother, who's not so much a goofball, but a genius who sometimes—okay, lots of times—gets on my nerves.)
"So," I continued, "you changed your identities to escape the bad guys. I get that. But then you moved to Fresno? To start an outdoor shoe company? Why?"
Fawn shrugged. "Because we like adventure."
She hardly got those words out of her mouth when the plane jolted—hard. My lemonade glass flew off the tray in front of me and spilled out onto my shoes. Great, that would leave a sticky mess. Good thing I had about a hundred backup pairs in my luggage.
Flip straightened his chair and buckled his seat belt, then yelled up to our pilot. "What happened, Tyler? You just clip a mountain or somethin'?"
"No," Tyler yelled back. "Just some turbulence. Everything's under control." I couldn't see Tyler's face, but he sounded calm.
The plane bumped again. Good thing there was nothing left to spill. My dad, who was now awake and reading a fishing magazine, had a concerned look on his face.
"Flip, how well do you know this pilot?"
"I know what you're thinking, Mr. Hart, and you can relax. I've known Tyler for a long time. He'd never sell us out."
"What's that mean?" I asked.
"It means we can trust him to keep us safe," Dad said.
I looked out the window of the plane and tried to guess where we were. No clues yet, since we were above clouds.
"Why can't you guys tell me where we're going? It's not like I can tell anyone, since you took my phone."
"That was just a protective measure," Dad said.
The plane dipped and bumped again. I grabbed my armrest.
Eric Stevens, Flip's and Fawn's younger half brother, stumbled down the aisle from the bathroom. "Nice bump." He rubbed his lip. "I think I chipped a tooth in there."
"How come no one's after you?" I asked him. As far as I knew, only Flip and Fawn had been hiding undercover as Swiftriver shoe employees. "Don't you like adventure?"
"Sure. I've been experiencing lots of it trying to find these guys." He pointed to Flip and Fawn and then took a seat and buckled up.
"Are you rich too?"
Eric grinned and nodded. "Dad made sure we were well taken care of after the divorce. He loved my mom a lot. She loved him too, but she couldn't take the heat of being Drake Stevens' wife. Too many people use you for your money."
"And want you dead." I wished I hadn't said that when I saw Fawn frown and look down.
"I'm sorry, Fawn."
"That's okay." She looked back up and half smiled.
This all was so crazy. I had been working with Flip and Fawn for six months, but now I felt like I had to get to know them all over again.
For example, Fawn had on a new pair of Riley Mae Rock Shocker hiking boots—which was a whole lot different than those fancy high heels she'd been wearing over the last few months.
"So," I said, "the 'real' Fawn likes sports." I pointed to her boots. "Do you have a favorite sport?"
She didn't even have to think. "Running. I like breathing hard. It makes me feel alive."
Huh. That was interesting. "My softball coach sometimes makes us run a mile before practice. It makes me feel like I'm gonna die."
Fawn laughed. "I joined our school's cross-country team when I was in fourth grade. The first time I ran a mile, I felt the same way. My mom was a runner, so she encouraged me to keep going."
"I thought your mom died a long time ago."
I felt bad as soon as I mentioned that. Sometimes I think it would be helpful for me to put some sparkly pink duct tape over my lips and leave it there for good.
Fawn didn't seem too disturbed. "She died of breast cancer that same year, when I was nine. After that, I decided I'd always keep running, kind of as a special way to remember her."
"Did it get easier?"
Fawn's eyes narrowed. "Did what get easier?"
"The running, I mean."
"Oh ... no. It's not supposed to get easier. You always want to increase your mileage or your speed."
"Yikes. I better not take up running then."
Fawn gave me a confused look. "No, it's really a great thing to do. You would love it, Riley, and since you're a spokesgirl for athletic shoes, you should know a little about every sport." She looked around for a minute. "I've got a running magazine around here somewhere. Hang on ..."
Fawn got up and searched through some of her tote bags. She eventually pulled out a magazine with a runner on the front cover and started flipping through it. Then she settled back in a chair, smiled, and began reading.
I glanced over at Flip, who was sitting across the aisle. "I guess she forgot about me."
Flip looked in his sister's direction. "She does that to me all the time. She'll come back around." He pulled a deck of cards out of his backpack. "Wanna play Go Fish?"
I sighed. "That's the most boring game in the universe."
"Nah! We can pep it up. How about we put the cards in a bowl under a bunch of goldfish crackers, and then when you go fish, you have to stick your face in and pull out a card?"
Well, at least that sounded like the Flip I knew.
"Interesting, but ... I'd have to have my own cards and bowl. I'm not sticking my face anywhere you've stuck your face."
"Good point." Flip shuffled the cards and looked disappointed. "Sorry. Only one deck."
I tapped my chin with my fingers. "Hmmm. How about we have Eric hide the cards, and then when we have to go fish, we go on a search and we don't come back till we have a match?"
Flip shook his head. "Good idea, but I have this, remember?" Flip lifted up his right foot, which was wrapped in a cast. Was that just a few days ago when he broke his ankle practically falling off Half Dome in Yosemite?
"Yeah," I said. "Guess that won't work either." Then I remembered that I had a softball with me.
"I know! Let's play Manly Sting." I pulled the pink and purple colored ball out of my backpack, tossed it up in the air, and caught it.
My dad dropped his magazine and held up a hand. "Don't do it, Flip."
Flip laughed. "Seriously? Why not?"
"Because it's dangerous!"
I punched Dad in the arm. "It is not! You were the one who taught it to me."
"And you got way too good at it."
I smiled and tossed the ball up again.
"I wanna play!" Flip reached over and caught the ball as it came down.
"Okay." I swiveled my fancy jet chair to face the aisle, a few feet from Flip. "This is what you do. Throw the ball as hard as you can, and I have to catch it with my bare hand, without making any sound."
"Are you kidding? It'll tear your arm off!"
"No it won't, because the rule is, you can't wind up. You have to keep your arm still and only use wrist snap." I grabbed the ball from Flip to demonstrate, but without throwing the ball. "The first one to make any noise when they catch the ball loses."
"Sounds easy to me," Flip said.
My dad shook his head and then covered his eyes. "I can't watch this."
I handed the ball back to Flip. "Okay, then, you throw first." I held up my empty hand and waited to absorb the sting of the ball. But when Flip released the ball, it dribbled straight down his arm and onto the floor. Then it rolled up to the front of the plane.
"Woops." He lifted his cast again. "Guess you have to be the gofer for this game."
I retrieved the ball and returned to my seat. "You ready?"
"Bring it on!" Flip held up his hand.
I snapped the ball toward him, and he caught it.
"I told you," Dad said. "She's been working on that wrist snap for five years."
Flip shook his hand out. "Okay, I get it now. I wasn't ready for that. Let's play again."
"No problem." I held my empty hand up again. "Throw away."
Flip snapped the ball and this time it reached the target. It stung a little, but I remained silent. After many years of playing Manly Sting, I've trained myself to say "oww" in my head.
"Okay, my throw. You ready this time?"
Flip rubbed his hands together and leaned forward. "Let's go!"
I snapped the ball again, this time a little harder.
A funny grunt came from Flip's neck area.
I giggled. "That was a throat yelp."
"It was barely a noise!"
"Any noise counts. Now you throw. If I don't make a noise, I win again."
Flip practiced snapping his wrist a few times. "Okay, get ready. This is going to be super manly."
He wasn't kidding. He hurled it in. When it hit my hand I flinched a little, and the sting made my eyes water. That time, I said "WAAAAAAHHHHH" in my head. The only person who had ever thrown me one harder than that was my best friend, TJ, and she's the number one pitcher in our league.
Flip looked at me with wide eyes. "Uh-oh. I better quit while you're ahead."
"I told you," Dad said again.CHAPTER 2
Hey, anyone want a snack? This manly sting stuff is making me hungry." Flip got up and tripped a little trying to walk in his ankle cast.
"Sit down, dummy." Fawn jumped up from reading her magazine and passed Flip in the aisle. "I'll get your food. You also have a concussion, remember?"
"Oh yeah. Riley, that must be why I lost."
"Are you even supposed to be flying?" Dad asked Flip.
Flip sat back down and rubbed his head. "Doesn't matter, does it? Anyway, we'll be landing in an hour or so."
Ah, a clue! I checked my watch. I wished I had paid attention to the time when we took off. Rats. We had to have been in the air at least an hour. How far could we get from California in two hours? And what direction were we flying?
My brother Brady would know. That kid can pick up a blank piece of paper and draw the whole United States in about three minutes—disgusting. Too bad he wasn't here. The lucky duck was staying with my grandparents for a few days while Mom worked on investigating the Swiftriver mess.
My mom's the chief of police in Clovis. That's a city right next to where we live in Fresno, California. She was the one who figured out that Flip and Fawn weren't really Flip and Fawn. She's suspicious of everyone, which used to bug me, but considering I'm on the run with people who are being hunted down by bad guys, I guess that's a good thing now.
Fawn returned with a plate of fruit and a big bowl of goldfish crackers. I grabbed a handful real quick, just in case Flip was tempted to stick his face in.
"So, what's your 'secret' cabin like?" I asked. "Will I have to sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag?"
Flip laughed so hard that a goldfish cracker flew out of his mouth. He caught it in the air. "Our cabin is ... well, I guess calling it a cabin is a little deceiving. It's more like—"
"A resort." Eric reached over to the fruit plate and snatched up some grapes. "I'm pretty sure you can see the place from outer space it's so big."
"I love that place." Fawn closed her eyes. "It's so peaceful by the lake."
"You have your own lake?" I elbowed Dad, who was reading his magazine again. "Did you hear that, Dad?"
"Well, it's a small lake," Eric said. "But you can still take a boat out—"
"A boat?" Dad got all excited. "Is it, by chance, a fishing boat?"
"We have a lot of boats," Eric said. "Fishing boats, ski boats, row boats, kayaks—"
"Wow," Dad's eyes got wide. "I may never go back to work."
That started a really boring conversation between Eric and my dad about fishing. The plane bumped again, so I buckled my seat belt. Great—no escape. I had no choice but to rest my head on my pillow, close my eyes, and pretend I was on a roller coaster.
I guess I fell asleep, but I'm not sure for how long.
"Riley." Dad shook me. He grabbed my seat belt and pulled. "Are you all buckled in? We're landing."
I had to think about where I was for a minute. Oh, yeah. I had no idea. I looked out the window. Maybe there would be a clue now. This time I saw bunches of trees and mountains in the distance. Tall ones, some covered in snow.
I rubbed my eyes. "Are we in Alaska?"
"Good guess, but no," Fawn said.
We flew over a lake, and I wondered if it was the Stevens's secret resort lake. The ground came up quickly, and I heard a jolt underneath the plane. The landing gear coming down made me jump, but then when I remembered what the noise was all about, I relaxed back into my seat.
That's when the plane rose back up.
"How come we're not going down?" I asked.
Flip looked confused. "Not sure. Hang on ..."
He got up and limped to the front of the plane. Fawn didn't stop him this time. He disappeared into the cockpit as the plane rose even higher in the air.
"Maybe Tyler got his states mixed up," Eric said.
A couple minutes later, Flip returned, with a fake grin on his face. "Anyone got a parachute? Our landing gear's busted."
"Don't even joke about that," Fawn said.
"I'm not joking. The right wheel won't come down. Tyler's going to fly around a little and try to fix it."
My head started pounding. "How's he gonna do that?"
"Oh, it's an easy fix. He just needs to climb out the front window and swing down there and pull it out. Should only take a minute."
I must have looked panicked, because Eric got up off his seat to come over to pat me on the shoulder.
"That's not the real plan. Flip's always been a kidder." He turned to look at his older brother. "What's he really gonna do, bro?" Eric was breathing a little hard, and he kept flipping his head to the side to keep his blond, curly bangs out of his eyes.
Next, Dad got up and went into the cockpit. That made me nervous. He came back in a couple of minutes, looking very concerned. "Okay, gang. Here's the plan. Tyler's going to run the plane out of fuel, and if the landing gear hasn't righted itself by then, he'll land on the front and left wheels."
Excerpted from Riley Mae and the Ready Eddy Rapids by Jill Osborne. Copyright © 2013 Jill Osborne. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERKIDZ.
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