Authors: Cathy Cole
Eve fiddled with the new gold watch she'd bought in Paris. It had looked so good on her wrist in the shop. Now in the harsh light of the classroom it looked cheap.
She assessed the boys in the classroom. If her island beach party was going to be a success, she needed a date. And it had to be a good one. The best guy in the room.
Ollie Wright's handsome blond head was bent towards Lila Murray's glossy brown one, and he was laughing at something she was saying. Eve felt the old, familiar wave of anger.
was supposed to date the most popular boy, not Lila. Now it would probably never happen. Not for the first time, Eve wished Lila had never arrived in Heartside Bay and disrupted her carefully laid plans. Anyone with half a brain could see how perfect Eve and Ollie would look together.
Max Holmes was another no.
Been there, done that
, Eve thought, unmoved as he ran his hands lazily through his thick dark hair and gave her what he thought was his most seductive wink.
And you were a lot more trouble than you were worth.
Ryan Jameson was resting his chin on the desk, gazing surreptitiously at Lila through his overgrown fringe.
Another one with a crush on the new girl
, thought Eve with extreme irritation. Ryan was much too annoying for date material. And as for the rest of the boys in 10Y, they were all the same loud, annoying, stupid kids she'd been at school with for ever, and none of them had improved with the passing years.
She paused when she reached Josh Taylor. Now here was someone who
improved, she realized. Josh had always been the gawky nerd in the corner, doodling in his sketchbook and never saying a word to anyone. He still wasn't the world's greatest conversationalist, but his shoulders had broadened nicely, and his short hair and dorky glasses had actually become somewhat stylish.
Sensing her gaze, Josh turned and glanced at her, his green eyes enquiring. Eve felt a jolt of excitement. Josh was smart and good-looking. She'd never known him to have a girlfriend, now she thought about it. He was a bit of a man of mystery, which added to his appeal.
Could she fall for him?
Eve wasn't sure she'd ever really fallen for anybody. She'd had boyfriends, always good-looking ones, but once the thrill of the chase had passed, she always found herself losing interest. She had long ago decided that the spark she'd heard about in love songs was a myth. Love was about making the most advantageous choices, that was all.
What's not to like with Josh?
she asked herself, studying the back of his bent head, imagining the way his close-cut hair might feel under her fingers. She could make him like her, she was sure of it. And she could learn to like him too. She could make it work.
There was no time like the present to start her flirt campaign. She would play this just right. Josh would be her prize.
The bell rang for the end of class. Snatching up her bag, Eve walked up to Josh, pushing past the other students to make sure she was in the perfect position to strike up a corridor conversation.
“Hey Josh,” she said in her most flirtatious voice.
Josh glanced at her in surprise. Making a show of adjusting his bag on his shoulder, he pushed his glasses up his nose. “Hey,” he said awkwardly.
Eve smiled up at him. He was lovely and tall. This plan was getting better by the minute.
“You were looking very studious in there,” she teased, wrinkling her nose at him. “I don't know how you can concentrate in that bear pit.”
“Oh, you know,” said Josh, with a shrug. “I'm pretty used to the bears by now.”
Eve fluttered her eyelashes. Just a little. She didn't want to be too obvious. “So,” she said in her most thoughtful voice. “Am I one of the bears?”
“I'd call you more of a tiger.”
For a moment, Eve felt unsure of herself. “I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or not,” she said, forcing a little laugh.
Josh looked alarmed. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to insult you or anything. I . . . just wasn't expecting the question. Zoology isn't really my area.”
Eve laughed for real this time. She added “funny” to the growing list of Josh Taylor's attractions.
“Tigers are prettier than bears, I suppose,” she said with a carefully measured pout.
“Definitely,” Josh agreed, looking relieved that she hadn't taken offence.
Eve ran her fingers through her hair. Boys always found her hair fascinating. Sure enough, she saw Josh's eyes flicker. “And I have more tigerish colouring,” she mused, pleased with the effect she was creating.
“Unless you count the auburn-haired bears of Bolivia.”
“There are auburn-haired bears in Bolivia?” Eve said, startled by the serious look on Josh's face.
It was Josh's turn to laugh this time. “Just kidding.”
Eve wasn't sure whether she was being laughed at. Taking a deep breath, she gave him her most dazzling smile.
“And is my roar worse than my bite?” she said coquettishly.
“I wouldn't know,” Josh said, smiling back. “I haven't been roared at yet.”
They turned a corner towards the maths block. And Eve spotted the last person in the world that she wanted to see.
“Hi Josh!” Lila gave Eve a wary nod. “Eve.”
“Lila,” said Eve stiffly.
Josh beamed at Lila. “How's it going?”
“Fantastic, thanks,” said Lila, giving Josh a warm smile. “You know, for a Monday morning. What are you two talking about?”
“Bears and tigers, mostly,” said Josh.
“Nutter,” said Lila, laughing.
Eve realised with some horror that Josh's ears had turned pink. It was suddenly as clear as crystal why Josh was permanently single. The girl he liked was already spoken for.
Josh liked Lila.
Eve wanted to stamp on Lila's foot. First Ollie, then Ryan, now Josh! How come she got all the boys' attention? She wasn't even that pretty. OK, she was, but there were more beautiful girls at Heartside High.
Eve put her arm possessively through the crook of Josh's elbow. He looked a little startled, but didn't pull away.
“This chit-chat is all very nice,” she said waspishly, “but we have a class to get to. Shall we keep walking?”
Lila grinned. “How stupid of me to forget,” she said. She gave a little bow, extending her hand in front of Eve. “After you, your Royal Highness.”
Eve raged internally all the way to maths, practically towing Josh beside her like a dog on a lead. Lila Murray wanted to play, did she? Well, this time the new girl didn't stand a chance.
Eve ate lunch as quickly as she could. At a table near the door, Josh was finishing off a sandwich and packing up his bag. The moment he left the canteen, Eve followed as closely as she dared.
A number of kids left the school building in lunch break. Eve blended in with the crowd jostling through the double doors. Josh was already some way ahead of her, his long legs striding easily down the steps outside the school building and away down the high street.
Eve snatched a quick glimpse of herself in a shop window. There was no point in any of this if she didn't look good. The warm breeze had brought a flush of colour to her pale cheeks, but her lips were dry and her hair a little messy. She could live with the hair, Eve decided, but had to sort her lips out. Boys liked soft, inviting lips. She whipped out her favourite gloss and applied it with a swift one-two swipe of the wand. Much better.
To her dismay, when she looked ahead again, she realized Josh had vanished. Eve jogged up and down the high street, peering inside the shops and checking her gold watch, feeling jumpy. Time was passing too fast for comfort. Soon she'd have to be back in class. Where had he disappeared to?
Eve turned off the high street, feeling a little desperate. The sea wind hit her head-on, blowing her hair right back from her face. To her relief, she spotted Josh sitting on the beach, his rucksack by his side and his head bent over something.
Making a mental note to keep her face to the wind â strands of hair sticking to lip gloss was not a good look â Eve straightened her shoulders and strode over.
Josh was drawing. Eve stopped in the sand and gazed over his shoulder as his pencil drew the swift outline of a gull banking over the sand, flight feathers outstretched like fingers. It was so lifelike, she half-expected it to fly off the page with its usual seaside shriek. She was genuinely impressed.
There was a portrait of a laughing girl on the facing page. Eve had hardly glimpsed it when Josh flipped the sketchbook to a clean page â but she'd seen enough to recognise the face.
Lila Murray again.
When would Lila stop getting in the way?
I knows more ways to snag a boy than you've ever dreamed of, new girl,
she thought, feeling the fierce flush of competition rush through her blood.
By the time I've finished with Josh, he'll be putty in my hands.
Eve knew exactly how to hook someone like Josh. Scratch the surface on any boy, cool guy or geeky nerd, and they were all the same. If you played it right, in no time at all the boys rolled at your feet like puppies begging to have their tummies tickled. It was pathetic really.
Rule number one: compliment them.
“That's an amazing seagull,” she said warmly. She didn't even have to fake it. He really was good. “You're properly talented, Josh.”
Josh closed his sketchbook, clearly surprised to see Eve standing there. “Thanks,” he said. “What are you doing out here?”
Eve knew the rules as well as if she'd had them tattooed on the insides of her eyelids.
Rule number two
add a little mystery
She turned to face the waves, taking care to pull her hair well back from her lips. “I like to think out here sometimes,” she said in her most serious voice. “School can get a little too . . . intense. The sea makes everything clearer.”
“I find that too,” he said, looking interested.
Boys were so predictable. The puppy-tummy stage was already only a few steps away.
“Can I sit with you?” she asked, flicking her eyes sideways at him.
Josh laid out his coat so she wouldn't have to sit on the sand and patted the space. “Best view in the house,” he said.
a great view, the way the waves curled and dashed themselves against the sand. There was something mesmerizing about it. If it weren't for the fact that Eve was losing the battle between her hair and the wind, she would have almost said she was enjoying herself.
Rule number three
, she thought
. Ask questions. A LOT of questions.
“Do you come out here a lot?”
He nodded, opening up his sketchbook again. “All the time.”
Eve shifted so she was looking directly into his eyes. They were lovely eyes. Bright green eyes. She put her whole soul into her next question.
“What makes this place special for you?”
Josh fiddled with his sketchpad, and Eve felt a little flicker of pleasure. He couldn't hold her gaze. She'd work on that. Coax him gently into the sunlight. Let him know that it was OK to look as long as he liked.
“Probably the same thing that makes it special for you,” he replied. His head was bent over the page, his pencil making swift marks on the page. “The peace of it. The grandeur.”
was a nice word. Eve liked it. She nudged very gently against his shoulder. “What are you drawing now?”
“Something I've been working on for a while.” He flushed, looking nervous suddenly. “Do you want to see?”
She put her hand on his arm. “I'd love to see anything you want to show me, Josh.”
He fumbled a little, opening up the sketchbook. Eve stared at the little panels, the word bubbles, the energy of the pictures. “You're drawing a comic book?” she said.
“A graphic novel,” he said a little tightly, and shut the sketchbook with a final-sounding slam.
Eve realized that she was pushing this too fast. Josh would wriggle off her hook if she didn't tread carefully. She changed tack.
“I didn't know there was a difference,” she said quickly. “I don't know anything about graphic novels. I didn't mean any offence.”
She gazed at her hands in what she hoped was a suitably humble kind of way, waiting and hoping for the moment when Josh would relax again.
“Comic books are for kids,” he said after a moment. “Graphic novels are on a different level. I'll show you what I mean.”
He got his sketchbook out again, opening it up to a central page covered in strong dark lines. Eve felt a wave of relief. She hadn't lost her fish yet.
As Josh explained the concept behind his graphic novel â something about a quest in a magical land â Eve mentally constructed the perfect wardrobe for him to wear to her party. It would have to match her dress, but not in an obvious way. It was all about getting the right feeling. A touch of blue somewhere. Maybe on his socks?
“What do you think?” Josh was looking at her expectantly. Eve blinked, caught off guard.
“I agree!” she fudged with a little laugh.
He looked a little confused. “I asked what you thought about graphic-novel heros needing a dark past.”
Eve's eyes darted towards the tall figure in the billowing black cloak standing in the central panel Josh had been showing her. The guy did look pretty dark. Right?
“I meant, I agree they
have a dark past!” She threw in a pout, just in case.
Josh looked back at his sketchbook. “Just as well,” he said a little drily. “I don't think my guy has too many memories of kittens and snowballs.”
This wasn't going quite as smoothly as Eve had hoped. Time to ramp it up a little. Reaching over, she placed her hand lightly on his arm.
“You've caught the dark thing really well, Josh,” she said seriously. “I think you are brilliant at what you do. To be honest, I'm a little dazzled. Do you have a publishing deal?”
He looked wistful. “As if. I'm only at the preliminary stages.”
Eve squeezed his arm through his sleeve. “Daddy knows heaps of people in publishing,” she said firmly. “We'll get him to call someone to take a look. This deserves to be published.”
Josh's eyes widened. “Are you serious?”
Daddy knows lots of people,
There's bound to be a few publishers in the mix.
She was never one to let truth get in the way of a conquest. “I've never been more serious in my life,” she said.
Josh looked even more handsome when he was happy. “That's amazing, Eve,” he stammered. “You . . . you're amazing.”
Eve gave him her sweetest smile, cocking her head. “It's your talent, Josh,” she said honestly. “I'm just the facilitator.”
“Stay still,” he said suddenly, scrabbling in his pocket. “I'm going to draw you. I can put you in the novel if you want.”
Eve's heart jumped. “You want to draw me?”
“Drawing you already. Keep your head still.”
Josh's fingers were flying over the sketch pad, shading and sketching, outlining and cross-hatching, until a figure emerged on the page.
Josh flipped the pad round to show her. “You like it?”
Eve wasn't sure she recognized herself. The girl Josh had drawn was strong and beautiful with lustrous hair and big eyes, in a kind of sleek body armour that hugged the curves of her body. She liked it. If she could just feel like that inside, she thought wistfully, she could conquer the world.
Josh flipped the sketch pad shut. “It's just a sketch,” he said shyly. “I'll work it up into something better for next time.”
Eve stared into his green eyes. He was amazing. He was perfect for her in every way. How had she never seen it before? She
to snare him. Right now.
She cast her mind back to rule number three.
“So Josh,” she said, keeping her expression as warm and inviting as she could. “Where do you live?”
Josh slid his sketchbook into his bag. “In the old town.”
Eve felt excited. She'd never met anyone who actually lived in the old town before, with its ancient, salt-stained buildings and dark, cobbled lanes. “How cute!” she said warmly. “In one of the old fishing cottages? I bet your mother has done the most amazing things to it. Those little places look so charming.”
Josh yanked his jacket from beneath her so quickly that Eve almost fell backwards.
“You should try living in one,” he said, standing up. “Better get back to school or we'll be late.”
“But. . .”
He was striding up the beach already, his head tucked down into the collar of his jacket and his arms wrapped around his bag. Getting to her feet and hurrying after him, Eve felt as if more than a jacket had been pulled from underneath her. The sand itself felt a little unsteady.
Had she ruined it with Josh already?