IT STARTED AS A JOKE.
When they were little, Lexi and her identical twin, Ava, made up a third sister, Alicia. If something broke? Alicia did it. Alicia was always to blame for everything.
NOW THE GAME IS ALL GROWN UP.
The girls are seniors, and they use Alicia as their cover to go out with guys who they'd never, ever be with in real life. But sometimes games just aren't worth playing. A boy has turned up dead, and DNA evidence and surveillance photos point to only one suspect—Alicia. The girl who doesn’t exist.
IDENTICAL TWINS. IDENTICAL DNA. IDENTICAL SUSPECTS.
Ava insists that if they keep following the rules for being Alicia, everything will be fine. But Lexi isn't so sure. She must find the truth before another boy is murdered.
BECAUSE EITHER AVA IS A KILLER . . . OR ALICIA IS REAL.
Praise for THE THIRD TWIN:
"[An] original, riveting thriller." Melissa Marr, New York Times bestselling author of Made for You
"Delicious and deceptive, The Third Twin is a twisty-turny thrill ride! I couldn't flip the pages fast enough!" Kimberly Derting, author of The Taking
"A classic whodunit."Kirkus Reviews
“Driven by the adrenaline pump of whodunit and who’s next to die.”—BCCB
“[A] fast-paced thriller . . . . fans of “whom can I trust?” mysteries will find much to like.”—Booklist
|Publisher:||Random House Children's Books|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
We have three rules for being Alicia: always wear the diamond pendant; never sleep with any of the guys; and after five dates, they’re history, no matter how hot they are. Right now, I’m especially glad for rule number three, because this particular guy seems determined to break rule number two.
“Come on, Casey. Take it easy,” I say, pushing myself away from himas far as I can in such a small space, the door handle pressing uncomfortably against my back. The car has that musky, skunky smell of old pot smoke, and there are two half-smoked joints in the cup holder, right out in the open for everyone to see. Makes me wonder who else has been in here recently.
“What?” he says with a smile, a lock of his blond hair falling into his eyes. Damn, Ava was righthe is really hot. Of course, my sister would never get Alicia involved with someone who wasn’t good-looking. High cheekbones and tight abs are the prerequisites for dating Alicia, even if Casey does drive a dented 2007 Camry and work at the Cheesecake Factory. Guys with expensive cars and a real future go out with Ava.
Casey drums on the steering wheel with his fingers. “Not like this is the first time we’ve gone out or anything.”
There’s no way I can comment on that, because technically this is our first date. Ava swore that nothing happened between them the other times, but he’s so handsy, I’m starting to doubt her story.
“And?” I say, sitting up and straightening my shirt.
“And . . .” Casey leans toward me. “You don’t expect me to be a good boy forever. I mean, come on . . . look at you.”
I glance down at the short black skirt that Ava put on me earlier this evening and wonder what she would do. He obviously hasn’t been able to tell the difference between the two of us. Over the years we’ve found that, given enough cleavage and lip gloss, most guys aren’t all that observant.
Casey must think that my hesitation means I’m caving in. “Come on, babe,” he says, his breath hot on my neck as he swoops back in for another try. “You know you want to.”
Babe? Did he really just say that? “I don’t know anything,” I say, using all my strength to keep him away from me. “Except that I don’t want anything more to do with you. Get off me.”
Casey grins and leans back against his seat, his profile sharp in the dim orange glow of the Cheesecake Factory parking lot. I can see my car out the passenger-side window, all alone in a pool of light under the streetlamp, now that everyone else has gone home. I suddenly want so badly to be in it, seeing nothing but his car in the rearview mirror. I grab my bag off the floor and reach for the door, but just as quickly, Casey’s hand is on my arm.
“Not so fast,” he says, biting his bottom lip. “We’re not done here.”
“I think we are,” I say, twisting my arm hard, but I can’t get him to let go. The strength of his grip is surprising and unsettling. A jolt of fear ripples through my body as I stare at his fingers, which turn white as they clutch my arm.
“Then once again, we’ll have to agree to disagree,” he says, pressing his mouth against mine. I’m clenching my teeth so hard that they grind against my upper lip, and I taste the metallic tang of blood. He pulls back just a little, and his grin gets even widerhe’s loving this. “So that’s the way it’s going to be? Fine with me. We can do this the easy way and you can sit back and enjoy it, or we can do this the hard way. Your call.” All I can smell is the spicy scent of his aftershave, and I feel like gagging. I can’t believe I kind of liked the smell when I met him here after he got off work. Tall, handsome, politewhen Casey walked with me down by the pier and bought me ice cream at the stall on the boardwalk, he was everything Ava had said he’d be. Now that nice person is completely gone, and I can feel the force of his desire to control me wash over us in this cramped front seat.
My mind is racing, and I’m pissed at myself for getting into this situation. I should never have gotten into his car in the first place. All those self-defense classes Dad made us take a couple of years ago, yet here I am alone in a dark parking lot with a guy I barely know. Idiot.
“I said no!” I shout, shoving him, but he seriously outweighs me, and the harder I fight him, the more he seems to get off on it. The sharp edges of panic start rising in my chest. We were just having fun. This is not how it’s supposed to go.
“God, that’s hot,” he says, bending down and biting my shoulder so hard, I feel his teeth pierce my skin.
“Get off me!” I scream, louder this time, the sound echoing and desperate in my ears. I can feel my heart beating fast and my breathing turn shallowly as ideas flash through my brain, trying to figure a way out of this car, out of this night. I push him one last time and then drop my arms. There’s no way I can fight him off. I’m going to have to try something else.
“Aw, come on. You’re not giving up that easy, are you?” he asks, his voice lower and his breath quicker than it’s been all night.
“Look,” I say, knowing that if I give in to the panic, it will only feed the moment. “Just let me out of here. I’ll get in my car and go home and we’ll forget about it.”
“I’ll give you something you won’t forget,” he says roughly. “Don’t you worry about that, Alicia.”
That name rips right through me. Alicia. I can feel my heart slow for just a moment, and I inhale deeply. Tonight, I’m not Lexi; I’m Alicia. Strong, confident, and infinitely capable. I might give up, but Alicia would fight this asshole to her very last breath. I close my eyes and realize that I’m gripping my bag with my right hand. Casey’s pressing himself against me and doesn’t notice my fingers slipping into the opening of the soft leather. He doesn’t hear the soft metallic clink as my hand closes around what I’ve been looking for, the weapon they taught us to use if we were ever in a situation like this. His eyes are screwed shut as I pull the keys out of my bag and, before I can lose my nerve, rake them across his face with as much force as I can manage.
“What the fuck!” he shrieks, jerking back and clamping one hand to his cheek.
I know I have only a few seconds, so in one quick motion I flip the handle, push the car door open, and tumble out into the dark, damp air, gulping it in like I’ve been underwater for hours. I hear commotion behind me, but I don’t stop to look as I scramble to my feet, unsteady in the high heels I’m not used to wearing. It seems to take forever to reach my car, but I finally manage to open the door with the keys that are already in my hand. I slide into the front seat and slam and lock the door behind me.
“You little bitch!” he shouts from outside the car, his breath making a circle of fog on my window. I see a line of blood on his cheek, and my stomach clenches, knowing it’s only fueled his anger. If he gets hold of me now, there’s no way he’s letting go. He pounds on the glass, and I flinch. For one agonizing second I can’t find the ignition button as I run my hands desperately over the dashboard. He’s still shouting, his face just inches from mine. I’m afraid he’s going to put his fist through the window, when the engine roars to life and I squeal out of the parking space, my headlights zigzagging across the dark asphalt. Only when I reach the parking lot entrance do I pause for a second and notice the dark flecks of blood on my fingers. As I wipe them quickly on my skirt, I find the tiniest grain of satisfaction in the fact that I caused it, imagining the story he’s going to have to tell about how he got his stupid face ripped open. Turning onto the main road, I allow myself one glance into the rearview mirror and see a lone shadowy figure leaning against the small red car under the dim lights.
It’s cold in here, and I realize I left Ava’s sweater in his carthe new blue one with the beading that she let me borrow. She’s going to be pissed about that, but if that’s the worst thing that happens tonight, I’m good. I adjust the mirror, and my face comes into focus. For a second I don’t recognize it. It’s not just the heavy eyeliner and sparkly purple shadow Alicia wears, or the diamond-filled letter A on the pendant that catches the light from the street. There’s something behind the physical transformation that my sister crafted so carefully earlier this evening, a hardness underneath that makes me momentarily uneasy. Alicia isn’t scared, and she isn’t sorry. She’s glad that for once, a guy got what he deserved.
Alicia started as a joke. The ultimate imaginary friend, our pretend triplet was handy to have around when we were little. All of Cecilia’s warm chocolate chip cookies disappear? Alicia did it. A bunch of expensive games get downloaded onto Dad’s phone? Just blame Alicia. They both went along with it back then, figuring it was just some quirky twin thing, but if Dad found out that we were still pulling the Alicia business after all this time, he’d kill us. Now that we’re seniors, Alicia’s the first one into the pool and the last one to leave a party. Ava resurrected her a few years ago when she gave Alicia’s name to a guy for fun, and I play along sometimes just to blow off some steam. I don’t date. At least, that’s what everyone thinks. Dad likes to brag that I’m too busy with school, clubs, and volunteer work to worry about boys. And he’s right, mostly. But every now and then it’s fun to get dressed up and go out, no strings attached. At least, it was until tonight.
I unfasten the necklace and lift it off my skin, the diamonds in the thick script A pendant catching fire in the glow of the recessed kitchen lights. As I coil it on the countertop, I can feel the last remnants of Alicia fall away until I’m just Lexi again, sitting on a kitchen stool in baggy sweatpants listening for Ava’s key in the lock.
“Hey,” she says with a giggle when she finally lets herself in through the kitchen door. “How did it go? Isn’t Casey cute?”
“Jesus, you can really pick ’em,” I say, downing the last of the cold coffee in my mug. It’s almost two a.m., way past the curfew that Dad imposed but doesn’t enforce, and the whole place is quiet. His wing of the house is far enough away from the rest of us that he never hears anything even if he does happen to be home.
“What are you talking about?” Ava says, and I don’t miss the slight slur in her voice.
“How much did you drink tonight?” I ask. I know she’s going to get annoyed, but I can’t help myself. My mind flashes to the very earliest photo we have, of right before Dad adopted us, the one of the two of us on an old-fashioned flowered couch. We’re already six months old, and I’m sitting up grabbing my feet, but Ava’s so tiny that she still seems like a newborn propped up against one of the pillows, the feeding tube taped to her cheek, and her arms grasping at thin air. I look like a hulking giant next to her. There isn’t any evidence of us earlier than thatno newborn pictures, no plastic hospital bracelets pressed into a photo album, no cards with imprints of tiny feet dipped in paintit’s like we materialized right at the moment he found us on his restaurant steps.
Ava reaches absently for a glass and pours herself some water from the fridge. “None of your beeswax,” she says, like we’re four years old again. “I was goodMaya drove.” I can smell the beer on her breath when she talks.
“So, what happened with Casey?” She grins a little wistfully. “Maybe not the smartest guy in the state, but definitely easy on the eyes.”
Casey. Just the name alone leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I slide off my stool at the counter and walk over to the espresso machine on the wall. Might as well make some morenot like I’m going to get much sleep tonight anyway. “Does this look easy?” I ask, and pull at the neck of my sweatshirt so that she can see the deep purple bruise he left with his teeth.
“Oh my God! What happened?” she asks, suddenly looking a lot more sober. “Casey did that? I totally thought he was a nice guy. He never pulled anything like that on me.”
“Lucky you,” I say coldly, shrugging my shirt back on.
“Where were you?”
The dim orange glow on the asphalt flashes through my mind. “In his car in the Cheesecake Factory parking lot.” My eyes start to tear up. “Everyone else was already gone.”
“Did he . . .” She searches my face, her green eyes full of worry. “You know . . .”
“No,” I say. I sniff and take a deep breath, trying to get myself together. “He didn’t. But not because he didn’t try.”
Ava wraps her arms around my neck, and I relax a little. That’s usually all it takes, and she knows it. I’ve never been able to stay mad at her for long. “I’m so sorry,” she says. She pulls back and looks into my face, and I know she’s seeing a version of what I see looking back at herthe same curly brown hair and green eyes, but it’s nothing like looking into a mirror. Ava’s the beauty and I’m the brains, and it always amazes me when people can’t tell us apart. It’s not just the fact that I’m an inch tallerthat’s only noticeable when we’re standing next to each other. Because she was so sick when we were babies, Ava seems so delicate, so fragile. Two words I can’t imagine ever being said about me.