Gavin was there, waiting at my locker. He practically pounced on Linds and me. “Mom said there were cop cars at your house last night. I called but—”

“I know. I just forgot to call you back. I’m sorry.” I opened the locker door and yanked out my English textbook. “They were over . . . um, to just check out the house. Nothing major.”

Doubt crossed his face. “She said there were like three cop cars there.”

“They roll deep?” I said, shrugging. How many people on our street had noticed? Gavin lived further down than Jensen. “Really, everything was fine. They were just checking out the house.”

“God,” Linds exhaled deeply, tipping her head against the nearby locker. Two red circles blossomed across her cheeks. “She’s such a bitch!”

Gavin looked at her, confused. “Huh?”

“Wendy,” I told him, closing my locker door. “She’s talking about Wendy Brewer.”

“Oh.” He didn’t look surprised to hear that name as he straightened the hem on his dark blue polo shirt. “What did she do?”

Linds pushed off the locker beside me. “Breathed her bitchiness on me?”

Sliding the strap of my bag up my shoulder, I laughed. “I’ve got to go to class. See you guys later?”

“Yeah.” Linds started down the opposite hallway but whirled back around. “Oh! Before I forget, you’re helping out with the haunted house this year.”

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“What?” I stared at her while a slight grin appeared on Gavin’s face. “It’s like, not even September. Why are we even talking about this?”

“Because I had my Leadership of Tomorrow meeting yesterday, and they’re already planning for this year’s Halloween crap.” She didn’t even have the decency to look ashamed as she trotted backward. “And they need volunteers. So thank you for volunteering.”

I gaped at her.

Holding her notebook close to her chest, she grinned like a cat that had eaten an entire cage full of canaries then moved on to a poor family of mice. “Our first meeting is Saturday afternoon. I’ll give you more details later. Bye!”

Tipping my head back, I groaned. “What the hell?”

Gavin chuckled as he draped an arm over my shoulders. “Well, that should be fun.”

I slid him a dry look. “Last year I ended up being—”

“The girl dissected on the table,” Gavin finished, grinning down at me. “I remember. You were so thrilled about being covered with corn syrup and food coloring.”

Squeezing my eyes shut, I groaned again. “I refuse to play the stupid half dead chick this year.”

There was a pause and then he said, “Too close for comfort kind of thing?”

I smacked his arm and a sheepish look crossed his face. “Yeah. That.”

SPYING THE REDHEAD I was looking for, I hurried to where Heidi Madison was sitting at the end of the table, her bag on the seat beside her. I picked it up, setting it aside, and then dropped my tray down.

Heidi raised her chin as she pulled out her white earbuds. She dropped them into the lap of her flowery, flowing dress that was colored with pinks and purples. A headband pushed her vibrant red hair back. With her baby face full of freckles, she looked like a freshman instead of a senior, something that bugged the hell out of her. I told her all the time that when she turned forty, she’d appreciate the fact she always looked younger.

Linds and Heidi couldn’t be any more different. One was super vocal while the other only spoke when she had something to say. Linds loved the outdoors and hated the idea of wild animals. Heidi preferred books to people and wanted to be a veterinarian. Linds was a meat lover and Heidi was a holy granola roller. I was somewhere in-between the two, the glue that forced the two opposites together.

“You’re late,” she said, closing the paperback she was reading. Her food sat untouched.

Picking at the bottle of water I grabbed, I heard Brock laugh and glanced over to the table full of football players, then there was the sound of a tray hitting the floor. I turned around just in time to see a smaller student bending down and chasing peas across the floor.

Why did they have to be such jerks?

And why did I even think for two seconds that Brock was cute? A sense of betrayal rushed through me, because Brock and his crew of boys had always acted like that, ever since I had known them. This was nothing new, so it was more of a case of me forgetting.

Forcing myself to forget a lot of things, actually.

I flipped back to Heidi. “I couldn’t get my dumbass locker open.”

“I don’t know why you have so many problems with it.” She slid her tray closer and picked up a fork. Interest sparked in her light green, almost hazel, eyes. “Every year it’s the epic battle of the locker for you.”

“I know.” I sighed, feeling pitiful. “Hey, did Linds corner you over the stupid haunted barnyard crap?”

“She knows better than that.” She laughed softly. “She got you again, didn’t she?”

“Yes!” I picked off a slice of pepperoni and then another, resisting the urge to beat my head on the table. “It’s not even September and I have to think about this.”

She giggled. “And you know you guys will start building the props within weeks.”

“Ugh. Don’t remind me.” Over my shoulder, I scanned the cafeteria. Not that I was looking for anyone in particular, but my insides twisted in a funny way when my eyes stopped on Brock’s table.

Wendy was sitting beside Monica, flashing super-white and super-straight teeth at the guy next to her, who just happened to be Jensen. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was leaning back with his arms across his chest, looking pisstastic, I’d be a lot less—

That very second he looked over to where I was sitting, and I swear that even though there were several tables separating us and many heads in the way, our eyes met.

One side of his lips quirked up.

My cheeks flushed as I turned back around, meeting Heidi’s look. “So,” she said, drawing the word out. “Were you just eye screwing Jensen Carver?”

“What? No.” I picked up my pizza. “Why would I do that?”

“I can think of a few good reasons,” she said dryly.

I coughed out a laugh. Heidi didn’t know about my history with Jensen and, as much as I loved the girl, I was so not going there. “Whatever. I mean, he is good looking—okay, he’s more than good looking and very few girls or guys would kick him out of their beds, but eye screwing?”

Her gaze flicked over my shoulder. “Uh, Ella—”

“If I’m going to eye screw someone, it would not take place in the cafeteria. That just seems unsanitary.”

“Um—”

“I would eye screw in class,” I decided, winging my pizza around. “Like in biology. While we’re dissecting frogs, I’d eye screw the hell out of him then, but he’s not in the class and that also seems unsanitary, so I guess I’m not eye screwing—”

“Me?”

I swallowed the mouthful of pizza as I squeezed my eyes shut. He was not standing there. He was so not standing there. Oh no, no, no, no.

The chuckle that came next was too familiar, and I forced my eyes open. He dropped in the seat next to me, angling his body toward Heidi and me as he propped his chin on his palm. “I have bio after lunch, but if you tell me when your class is, I’ll do all kinds of terrible things to get mine changed.”

Oh my God, even the tips of my ears were burning.

Heidi took a hefty drink of her all natural root tea or whatever gross concoction was mixed in her plastic bottle. “Well, we now know that Jensen is a fan of eye screwing.”

His eyes darkened to a blue on a bright sunny day. “That I am.”

I wanted to crawl under the table and die.

Stretching his leg out, he knocked his knee against mine. “So I hear you had a little run-in with Wendy this morning.”

Heidi placed her bottle on the table, frowning. “You did?”

I sighed. “I didn’t think it was a big enough deal that anyone would hear about it.”