After losing her parents in a tragic accident, surfer girl Janie Mason trades the sunny beaches of Hawaii for the cold fog of San Francisco and new guardians—the Rochesters—that she’s never even met. Janie feels hopelessly out of place in their world of Napa weekends, fancy cotillions, and chauffeurs. The only person she can relate to is Daniel, a fellow surfer. Meeting him makes Janie feel like things might be looking up.
Still, something isn’t right in the Rochester mansion. There are noises—screams—coming from the attic that everyone else claims they can’t hear. Then John, the black sheep of the family, returns after getting kicked out of yet another boarding school. Soon Janie finds herself torn between devil-may-care John and fiercely loyal Daniel. Just when she thinks her life can’t get any more complicated, she learns the truth about why the Rochesters took her in. They want something from Janie, and she’s about to see just how far they’ll go to get it.
|Soho Press, Incorporated
|Penguin Random House Publisher Services
|14 - 17 Years
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“This is the place,” the driver said. “Home, right?”
“Not really,” I muttered. The ride from the airport had passed in a blink. But then, my whole life felt like that lately. Every time I closed my eyes, the world seemed to jump forward to a new and terrible place.
Less than three weeks ago, I’d been sitting on our back porch watching the tide come in. When a car pulled into the driveway, I figured my parents were back early from their “day date.” Then the doorbell rang, which was weird; weirder still, when I answered it, there were two serious-looking cops standing there. The older one asked, “Are you Janie Mason?”
The next time I blinked, two caskets were being lowered into matching dark holes, while a priest talked about lives cut tragically short. Blink: I was in a lawyer’s office, my bare legs sticking to a leather chair as he droned on. Your parents appointed the Rochesters to serve as your legal guardians. They live in San Francisco . . . Blink: I was on a plane, watching Kona International Airport recede in the distance. Blink: at the bottom of the airport escalator, a chauffeur was holding a sign with my name on it.
And now I’d arrived at the home of total strangers, like so much driftwood cast ashore.
I fought the urge to cry as I tucked stray hairs into the hood of my anorak. The rain was coming down in sheets, making it difficult to see more than a few feet past the car. The driver hurried around to retrieve my suitcases from the trunk. Girding myself against the downpour, I climbed out of the backseat.
The wind drove the rain into me, quickly soaking my clothing. It rained all the time in Hawaii, but those drops were warm, more like a caress. These icy pellets were a different beast entirely. Shivering, I tilted my head back and stared up at the house.
“Whoa,” I muttered. It was a mansion: huge, imposing, and starkly different from our cozy beach cottage. The kind of place you could actually get lost in; especially since it was completely dark aside from the light above the door.
The driver carefully set my battered suitcases on the front porch before pressing the doorbell. I joined him beneath an awning that blocked the worst of the storm.
“You’re sure this is it?” I asked after a minute, trying to keep the tremor from my voice.
“It’s the right address.” The driver frowned at the door, then pushed the buzzer again. We both listened as doleful chords bounced off the walls inside. “Sure they’re expecting you?”
“Yeah. I mean, I think so,” I said.
He smiled at me, and I felt badly about forgetting his name. “If you’d like, miss, you can wait in the car.”
“No, thanks. I’ll be fine.”
“I’ll wait with you until they answer,” he said, laying a comforting hand on my shoulder.
He was only trying to be kind, but I flinched at the contact. For the past few weeks I’d felt like a rag doll being passed from person to person, hugged and patted and consoled. Even my parents’ lawyer, Mr. Briggs, had offered an embrace. I was seriously done with being touched by virtual strangers who claimed that everything was going to be okay, when obviously it wasn’t. Nothing was ever going to be okay again.
The door slowly creaked open. I sucked in a deep breath and plastered a smile on my face.
An elderly Asian woman squinted up at us. She was tiny, barely five feet tall. A ratty gray bathrobe brushed the top of her slippers. Enormous round eyeglasses made her look like a wizened owl; the dark wig perched crookedly on her head only heightened the effect. Her scowl deepened, and she barked, “No.”
Then she slammed the door shut.
My jaw dropped. Was this some sort of joke?
The driver grumbled something and rapped hard on the door. It didn’t open. I pictured the elderly woman standing on the other side, willing us to go away.
For a second, I felt a flash of hope. Maybe this had all been some sort of huge mistake. I’d call Mr. Briggs and explain that the Rochesters didn’t seem to want me after all, and he’d get me on the next flight home. I could live with my friend Kaila instead. By this time tomorrow I’d be back on my surfboard, waiting for a set of waves to come in . . .
The door opened. The owl lady peered at us again, frowning.
“I-I’m Janie,” I squeaked. “Janie Mason. The Rochesters should be expecting me?”
Wordlessly, she stepped back and opened the door wider.
The driver cast me a quick, questioning look. When I reluctantly nodded, he picked up my bags and shifted them inside.
“Good luck,” he said, sounding relieved. Then he raced back to the car, head ducked against the rain.
Owl lady closed the door and bolted it while I surveyed my surroundings: my new home, I told myself, but the thought was so absurd I almost laughed. In the dim lighting, it was hard to make out much aside from the thick Oriental rug I was dripping on and some huge, dark pieces of furniture.
“So,” I tried again, “are the Rochesters here?”
“Not home,” she muttered in a thick accent. Looking me up and down appraisingly, she added something that sounded like, “Kung backit mo deeto?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t speak Filipino,” I apologized, recognizing the language. Tourists from the Philippines tended to make the same mistake, since I’d inherited my mom’s hair and skin tone.
You speak it. Why didn’t you ever teach me? I’d demanded in fourth grade, jealous of Yuko Osumi’s ability to rattle off Japanese phrases at recess.
It brings up too many bad memories, Mom had replied, looking sadder than I’d ever seen her.
She shook her head. You’re too young. I’ll tell you someday.
Now there would never be a someday, I thought. My lip quivered again, and I bit it to stop the tears.