Seventeen-year-old Kim gets more than she bargained for when she is set up for murder. Perfect for fans of One of Us is Lying, E. Lockhart, and Gillian Flynn. 17-year-old Kim never expected to plot a murder. But that was before her boyfriend dumped her for another girl. Now, Kim’s stuck on a class trip to London with him and his new soulmate and she can’t help wishing he was a little bit dead, even if she’d never really do that. But when Kim meets Nicki, a stranger on the plane who’s more than willing to listen to Kim’s woes, things start to look up. Nicki's got a great sense of humor, and when she jokes about swapping murders, Kim plays along—that is, until Kim’s ex-boyfriend mysteriously dies. Blackmailed by Nicki to fulfill her end of the deal, Kim will have to commit a murder or take the fall for one.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.40(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Eileen Cook is a multi-published author with her novels appearing in eight different languages. She spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer. Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and one very naughty dog and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else. www.eileencook.com Twitter: @Eileenwriter Instagram: @eileencookwriter
Read an Excerpt
AUGUST 15 16 DAYS REMAINING
I plotted murder in the Vancouver airport while waiting at gate D78 for my flight to London. Based on the expressions of the people around me, I wasn’t the only one thinking of how to do someone in. Our flight was delayed and everyone was irritated and restless. The couple at the end of the row were fighting about which one of them had forgotten to lock the bedroom window before they left. Then there were at least a half-dozen people wanting to take out the toddler wearing the SpongeBob T-shirt, who vacillated between shrieking at a decibel normally used to torture dogs and running around slamming into everyone with his grimy hands. The old guy across from me snarled, baring his yellowed teeth, every time the kid whirled in his direction. You’d think that would freak the toddler out, but it didn’t seem to make any impact. Maybe the little boy got his ability to ignore unpleasant things from his mom. She stared down at an issue of People magazine, her lips moving as she read, completely ignoring the fact that people in the gate area wanted to club her kid with their roller bags. The only way you knew it was her child was that when he would slam into her, she’d hold out a limp plastic baggie filled with rainbow-colored gummy worms and then drop one into his clutching hand. She was like an apathetic mama bird. I tilted my head to the side to crack the tension in my neck. I wished I could block things out that well. Instead I found myself continually looking over at Connor. My back teeth clenched, tight enough to crack. Miriam was perched on his lap. I told myself to stop staring, but my attention kept being pulled back. He slid his hand under her shirt and rubbed her back in tight circles. I knew that move. He’d done that to me. Before he’d dumped me. Miriam ruffled his hair. He couldn’t stand it when I’d done that. He’d push my hand away or duck out of my reach. Connor had gone deaf after a bout of chicken pox as a kid and had cochlear implants so he could hear. He wore his hair a bit shaggy because he didn’t like to draw attention to the processor behind his ears. I’d found it fascinating. Not just because it’s a pretty cool piece of tech, but also because I wanted to know how he felt going from a silent world to being able to hear. But he didn’t like to talk about it, or for me to touch his hair. Apparently, he didn’t have the same hang-up with Miriam. I reminded myself that I didn’t care. Connor meant nothing to me now. I swallowed hard. Toddler SpongeBob slammed into me. His sticky fingers, streaked red and blue from the candy, clutched my jeans. He stared up at me with his watery eyes and then, without looking away, slowly lowered his drooling, slobbery mouth to my knee and bit me. “Hey!” I shoved him hard without thinking. He teetered for a moment and then fell onto his giant padded diaper butt, letting out a cry. I glanced around guiltily, shame landing on my chest with a thud. His mother didn’t even look over. The old man gave me a thumbs-up gesture. Great—that’s me, Kim, the kind of person who beats up preschoolers when she’s not stalking her ex-boyfriend. I crouched down to help the kid up, but he pushed me away and returned to running wildly up and down the aisle. I peered down at my phone, wishing I could call my best friend, Emily. She always knew how to cheer me up. She was spending the entire summer working at a camp on the far side of Vancouver Island. She didn’t have any cell service or WiFi, so there was going to be no quick “everything will be fine” text or call. Granted, if I’d been able to reach her earlier in the summer, I might not even have been in this situation at all. Communicating old school—by letters—might be vintage and nostalgic, but it does you no good when you have an emotional disaster that needs immediate BFF interaction. We’d been friends since elementary school and this was the longest I’d ever gone without talking to her. So far, my summer was proof positive that I shouldn’t be allowed to handle things on my own. I fished the last card she’d sent me out of my bag. Inside she’d scribbled, “I know you can do this! Your trip’s going to be amazing!!” Emily never met an exclamation point that she didn’t like. Despite the positive punctuation, I was pretty sure she was wrong on both counts. I felt far from capable, and although the flight hadn’t even left, I already hated everything about this trip. I took a deep breath, counting in for three and then letting it whoosh out. I can do this. I wasn’t going to let Emily and my parents down. A few rows over, Miriam laughed, tossing her head back as if Connor had just told the best joke of all time. She playfully punched him in the chest with her tiny little hand. Everything about her was miniaturized. She told everyone she was five feet tall, but she was four eleven at best. She looked ridiculous when she stood next to Connor. He could have put her into his backpack and carried her around like a Chihuahua. I had to admit Miriam was pretty, other than being freakishly petite. She had long dark hair that could have starred in a shampoo commercial. Her only flaw was that she wore too much eyeliner. She was addicted to the cat’s-eye look, accentuating the slant of her eyes. She had a flair for drama; she always made huge gestures, sweeping her arms around, flicking her hair over a shoulder, or talking loudly as if she was constantly trying to make sure everyone could hear her. She was in the theater crowd, so maybe she couldn’t help herself. I never would have guessed Connor would date someone like her: showy. I thought he’d enjoyed that we didn’t always have to be talking, but if we did, it was about important stuff: Philosophy. Science. Politics. We met once at the coffee shop in the morning before work and split up the Globe and Mail, silently passing the newspaper sections back and forth. He was the only other person I knew besides me who liked to read an actual paper. I’d caught our reflection in the window and thought we looked like adults. Like people who lived in New York or Toronto, with important jobs, a fancy high-rise apartment with lots of glass and chrome, and a membership to the local art museum. Miriam had no volume control, but she wasn’t stupid. I didn’t know her well—she hung with the drama crowd—but I wouldn’t have thought Connor was her type. I would have seen her liking a guy with an earring and some kind of social justice agenda. She wasn’t in the hard sciences but still took a bunch of AP courses. She’d written some paper on Shakespeare that won a national award for English geeks. No wonder I wanted to kill her. I sighed. I didn’t want to kill her, I wanted to be her. Miriam hadn’t stolen Connor. Someone can’t steal what you don’t have. He didn’t dump me because he’d fallen for her. What had happened between us was complicated. More complicated than I even wanted to admit. He had his own reasons for stomping on my heart. If I was going to take anyone out, it should be him. But no matter whom I blamed, it didn’t change the fact that I wasn’t looking forward to spending the next few weeks watching the two of them make out in front of me. I shook my head to clear it. As everyone kept reminding me, it would be for only sixteen days. I closed my eyes so I didn’t have to see them, but I could still hear Miriam. Her drama teacher should be proud of how well Miriam’s voice carried. She was four feet eleven of all lungs. Her voice filled the entire gate area and spread down the hall like toxic lava. I could tell already that the sound would be like fingernails on a chalkboard by the end of the trip. The worst part was that I’d pleaded to go. I told my parents if they let me attend, they’d never have to get me another gift. Once Connor had announced he was going—before we’d broken up—I’d been instantly consumed with images of the two of us walking hand in hand through narrow cobblestone streets. The program was advertised as if it were a great educational opportunity, but the truth was, there weren’t any real demands. We’d be “exposed” to culture, as though it were a cold we could catch. I didn’t really care about the chance to travel, or what I might learn from the sights of London; what mattered was going with him. I didn’t want him to be away for almost three weeks, doing all these things without me. I loved the idea of starting school in September with the two of us chatting constantly about “remember the time we were in London?” until everyone around us was annoyed. In retrospect, I know he wanted to come because he didn’t think I was going. He signed up without talking it over, telling me only after it was a done deal. I pleaded with my parents for days, never admitting that I wanted to go because of Connor and instead laying it on thick how it was a great way to expand my horizons, how amazing it would look on my university apps, and how I’d suddenly developed a fascination with British history, until they gave in. Then, after things with Connor blew up in my face, I’d begged my parents to let me bail, but they wouldn’t budge. They insisted it wasn’t the deposit, it was the point. My dad called it a chance for me to “build character.” As far as he was concerned, Connor had never been worth my time. He made a snide comment about Connor’s overbite, which, coming from a dentist, was some serious trash talk. My mom had made a dismissive sniff and told me “he’s not worth bothering over.” She acted as though she didn’t like him, but when I’d first told her about Connor, she’d been as excited as me. He was exactly the kind of boy she would have liked at my age, and the exact kind of boy she assumed would never know her awkward daughter even existed. She looked at me differently, as if her ugly duckling had finally hit possible swan status. We went shopping together and got matching hot pink mani-pedis. We’d never gotten along as well as we had for those few weeks. Then when things went bad with him, my mom acted as if she were the one who’d been humiliated. She might have said she wanted me to go on the trip because it was a chance to travel, but she also wanted me to be the kind of person who held her head high to handle the situation the way she would have done. And I wanted to be that person too—the kind who would have a fantastic time regardless of a breakup and, by the end of the trip, see Connor desperately sorry he’d broken up with me. All while making a pack of new friends. However, if I was going to go full fantasy, I might as well add in that the queen would invite me to the palace, and Will and Kate would ask me to baby-sit, and Harry and Meghan would offer to hook me up with some minor count or a duke. The truth was, the next few weeks were going to suck. And I was going to be stuck strapped in directly behind the lovebirds for the entire flight, watching them crawl all over each other in the tiny coach seats. I squeezed my eyes shut as if I could block out the mental image playing on the big screen of my mind. I’d told myself a thousand times since we’d all checked in and I’d heard our seating assignments that I could handle this, but with every second that went by, it was becoming increasingly clear to me that I wouldn’t make it. I’d snap somewhere thirty-three thousand feet up and beat the two of them over the head with the in-flight magazine. Or start crying again. I wasn’t sure which would be worse. You would think there was only so much crying a person could do before she got completely dehydrated. I’d told myself I couldn’t stand him anymore, so why did my heart still seize and my throat grow tight every time he was around? I stood up so suddenly that my bag fell to the floor. I snatched it up and strode over to the airline counter. The gate agent didn’t look up. She was too preoccupied typing into her computer. Her fingernails, which had a thick layer of bright red gel polish, made a strange clacking sound on the keys. I cleared my throat, but she still didn’t stop. “Excuse me,” I managed to get out before she held up a finger to silence me. She finally finished whatever she was doing and glanced up. “If you’re asking about the delay, I don’t have any more information. As soon as we get clearance, we’ll start boarding.” There was makeup creased on her forehead and I suspected she was on her last nerve. She was a walking reminder to never go into a customer service occupation. I leaned forward even though logically I knew Connor couldn’t hear me from where he was sitting. “I wondered if I could change my seat?” She scrunched up her face. “I don’t think—” “See the guy back there?” I yanked my head in Connor’s direction. “That’s my ex-boyfriend. We’re going to England on a travel program. I’m supposed to sit right behind him.” I paused. “For nine hours.” Her perfectly arched eyebrows shot up to her hairline and she looked over my shoulder. I sensed I was getting somewhere. “He was my first boyfriend.” My voice cracked and I had to swallow over and over to keep control. “He dumped me just a couple weeks ago.” Her eyes softened, but she shook her head. “I’m sorry, but I can’t—” “That’s his new girlfriend. She used to be my best friend.” The gate agent sucked in a breath and looked over at Connor as though he were something she’d scraped off her shoe. I felt bad as soon as the words were out of my mouth. Miriam and I had never even hung out before this trip, let alone been friends, but I needed the agent to help me. Desperate times called for desperate measures. I don’t lie to hurt people, or to pull something over on them, but I guess sometimes I . . . make up stories to make myself more interesting. As long as I can remember, I’ve done it. On the playground in elementary school, I told the other kids that fairies lived in my backyard. In junior high I let everyone think I’d been adopted. I didn’t want to lie. I wanted to be normal and interesting, but I wasn’t. I hadn’t lied with Connor. With him I’d been one hundred percent honest about my feelings, and look how that had turned out. The agent clacked away on the computer. “Your name?” “Kim, Kim Maher.” I spelled my last name. “I need your old boarding pass.” I slid the limp piece of paper across the counter. She tore it in half as the machine spat out a new one. She passed it over to me with a wink. “He doesn’t deserve you. Have a good trip.” The tight band around my chest loosened. “Thanks.” I wove through the crowd clustered around the gate and plopped back down in my seat. I pushed the New York Times I’d already read out of the way and pulled out the magazine I’d brought. I hid between the pages, blinking back tears. The gate agent was right. Connor didn’t deserve me. It was the same thing Emily told me. But even if I knew it was true, it didn’t hurt any less. All I had to do was figure out how to get my heart to catch up to the fact that my head didn’t like him anymore. A girl slid a few seats over to be next to me. “Did she say anything about the delay?” Her English accent made me feel as if I’d dropped onto the set of a BBC historical drama. I shook my head and quickly wiped my eyes so she wouldn’t notice the tears. “No news.” The girl sighed. She pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around her knees. She tugged the thin cream cashmere sweater sleeves over her hands. She glanced down at the stack of paper on the chair next to me. “Your Times?” I nodded. “Did you read the article about the changes to the space program? I saw it earlier this morning.” I jumped slightly in surprise. She seemed like someone who would spot a copy of InStyle at a hundred meters but wouldn’t know a shuttle from a rocket if she were whacked across the face with one of them. “Uh-huh.” I picked up the paper, looking for the Science section. “I think that’s what I like about a real paper,” she said. “It’s like a knowledge Easter egg hunt. You never know what you’re going to find.” I nodded like a bobble-head doll. That was exactly why I loved reading a paper too. “Yeah. Are you into space stuff?” She shrugged. “Just find it interesting.” I held out my hand. “I’m Kim.” “Nicki.” She smiled as we shook. “How come you aren’t hanging with the rest of your group?” She motioned to a couple rows over. There were eight of us on the trip and we were all on this flight. A few had busted out cards to play a game on the blue carpeted floor, and the others were clustered around Jamal’s laptop checking out his music. “How did you know—” I got out before she flicked the blue and white STUDENT SCHOLARS FOR CHANGE tag attached to my carry-on. I’d forgotten I was branded. “Ah. I’m not really friends with any of them. There are just three of us from my high school. It’s complicated,” I said. Nicki nodded. “Story of my life. I was here visiting my dad, and the reason he lives here, instead of in London with me and my mum, is all sorts of complicated too.” Nicki tucked her hair behind her ears. Her bob wasn’t quite long enough, so as soon as she did, the hair fell free and swung forward again. “Sorry, that came out a bit pissy. I just find other people . . . ugh. I don’t know. Disappointing.” She shoved her hair back again. “Story of my life,” I said, echoing her words. She laughed and it reminded me of scales on a piano. Nicki tapped the robotics magazine on my lap. “You plan on going into robotics at uni?” I shook my head. “Not sure. I’m leaning toward engineering, maybe computers.” She waited until an announcement about a flight to Phoenix stopped blaring on the PA. “I’m thinking psychology. I’m interested in research. This is my gap year.” She watched the unsupervised toddler fish a booger out of his nose and rub it into his hair. “What kind of research?” “Human behavior. I don’t have any interest in being a counselor. People blathering about their problems all day would drive me barmy. But I’m intrigued with why people do what they do, why they don’t do some things, what they could accomplish, that kind of thing.” I traced the pattern in the carpet with my shoe. Understanding other people was one of the great mysteries in my life. “If you ever figure people out, you’ll have to let me know what you discover. Math I can make sense of, but people are more confusing than quantum physics. Give me a robot any day.” She laughed. “Don’t give up on humanity just yet. Maybe you haven’t met anyone worth figuring out.” The overhead speaker chirped to life. “Attention: Passengers on Air Canada flight 854 to London. Due to aircraft maintenance issues, this flight will be further delayed. We apologize for the inconvenience.” The crowd groaned. The screen over our gate flickered and a new departure time, three hours from now, blinked on. Connor stood and stretched. “Who wants to find a place to watch the Whitecaps game?” Our group began to gather up their stuff. He was like the pied piper of nerdy people. Everyone was willing to follow him. Miriam walked over toward me. “Do you want to come?” she offered. Her legs were so small that her size extra small leggings were baggy around her thighs. She must buy her clothing in a kids’ department. “No thanks,” I managed to say, willing her to walk away. Or she could disappear completely—I was open to that, too. “You can’t want to hang around here for the next three hours.” Miriam nudged my tote with her foot. “C’mon, we’ll all get some fries or something. It’ll be fun.” Fun wasn’t even in the top ten words that I would think of to describe the situation. “I’m fine,” I insisted. It was bad enough that Connor wanted nothing to do with me. It was worse that he started dating someone else right away. It was a nightmare that I was stuck on this trip with them. But her being nice to me was a layer of shit icing on this crap cupcake. I didn’t even know how much Connor had told her about what had happened between the two of us. I wasn’t sure what I preferred: that she knew and felt pity for me, or that he hadn’t told her anything because he didn’t think I was worth mentioning. I slouched lower in the seat. “Leave it—she doesn’t want to come. Trust me, no one will miss her with that attitude.” Connor strode over and took Miriam’s hand without even glancing at me. I flushed. He was right. I was a walking black cloud of doom. I hadn’t bothered to get to know anyone else coming on the trip and now I was going to be miserable and alone. “Gawd, he’s a tosser,” Nicki said, loud enough to carry. I wasn’t entirely certain what it meant, but it sounded both hysterical and insulting. I burst out laughing. Connor and Miriam walked off down the hall, the rest of the group following behind them. He glanced over his shoulder at us, and when he saw we were still staring, he whirled back around. My chest filled with air. I felt like one of those large balloons at a parade—ready to float away. “I don’t know what you said, but you’re my new favorite person on this planet,” I said. I meant it, too. My BFF couldn’t be reached except by letter. Emily might as well have been in space for all the help she could give me. “That guy is a loser.” Nicki pulled me from my seat. “I can tell, because as we’ve already established, I study people. You can pay me back for correctly identifying him as a wanker by keeping me entertained for the next few hours.” “How would you like me to do that?” Nicki’s smile spread across her face. “We’re smart women, we’ll think of something.”