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Authors: Rebekah L. Purdy

Cinderella Complex

BOOK: Cinderella Complex
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The Fairy Godmother Files: Cinderella Complex

by Rebekah L. Purdy

Published by Astraea Press

www.astraeapress.com

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.

 

The Fairy Godmother Files: Cinderella Complex

Copyright © 2012 REBEKAH L. PURDY

ISBN 978-1-62135-018-7

Cover Art Designed by Wordsugar Designs

Edited by Kim Bowman

To my husband Tim and sister Rachel for their continued belief.

For my kids (Devin, Alyssa, Kris, Barrett, Erin, and Chase) who continue to bring me so much joy every day.

To my critique group YAFF (YA Fiction Fanatics) for your wisdom, smiles and encouragement.

I'd also like to dedicate this Stephanie Taylor for giving me my first book contract!

And last, but certainly not least to my WONDERFUL agent, Denise Barone for believing in my story even when it was a hard sell.
Thank you for not giving up!

 

Chapter One

 

“Oh. My. Maggie. There he is!” Taylor squealed, jerking on my arm.

The prince rode up on his white steed like he'd fallen out of the pages of a fairytale. Golden hair, tanned skin, and a smile that made me want to recite Shakespeare. Sigh.

Okay, so it was Connor Prince, not “real” royalty, and so what if his horse happened to be a white Ford Mustang. I had two words for him. So. Hot.

I shielded my eyes from the sun. “I swear, I'm gonna talk to him this year.”

Taylor handed me her cappuccino while she adjusted her out-of-control curls. “Yeah, right. You say that every year. And every year you walk up to him, open your mouth to say something, blush, and then turn right back around the way you came.”

I deflated like a balloon. Ugh, she was right. Talk about hopeless. Come spring, I'd be the only junior without a prom date, not to mention the only girl in the entire school who'd never been kissed. I groaned.

No. I'm not doing this again.
Junior year would be my year. I'd be more assertive, more aggressive, a go-getter. Connor Prince and I would exchange words this year—heck, we'd exchange more than words. He'd be my first kiss.

Splashing water interrupted my Connor-laced fantasies. I glanced at the nearby fountain. The large stone otter perched on top spewed water from its mouth. The water crashed over carved stone replicas of footballs, winged shoes, tennis rackets, and baseball bats. Kensington High. Home of the Fighting Otters. Yeah, real scary. It'd been a lame gift from some rich guy wanting his name on the school.

“Incoming.” Taylor tugged her hair up into a ponytail while I stared at Connor.

He smiled as he drew closer to us. My heart thudded against my chest like a construction worker with a jackhammer.
Holy crap
! He's stopping.

“Hey, Maggie.” He gazed down at me through thick lashes. “Wow, your hair got longer over the summer.” Connor reached out and tugged a strand of it hair.

No. Flipping. Way. He noticed my hair? And I stood there, mouth hanging open like I was trying to catch a trout. But most importantly, Connor talked to me. I'd died and gone to heaven.

Taylor elbowed my ribcage and snapped me out of it. I managed a too-wide smile. “S-S-So, I didn't see you up at the lake much this summer,” I stammered, cheeks growing hot.

His family happened to own the summer cottage next to ours. Let me just say I spent way too many vacations trying to catch his attention by lying on the deck in my bikini. The only time he noticed me was when his football sailed into our yard, almost beaming me in the head.

Connor grinned. “Did you miss me?”

H
eck
yeah!
Okay, stay cool
. “Yeah, I definitely missed smelling your dad's barbeque and hearing you and your brothers playing football.”
Great. Here I
am
talking about stupid barbeques
.
I
don't
care about barbeques.
So not cool.

Connor squeezed my shoulder. “Don't worry, I missed you too. All those resorts and not one girl in a blue-and-white polka-dot bikini for me to stare at.” My heart thudded as if horses galloped across my chest.
Br
eathe.
N
ow is so not the time to freak!
I shifted my feet. As he slid his hand down my arm, rivulets of electricity snapped through my body.

Smiling, he released me and headed toward the school. “I'll see you around, Maggie. We've got a lot of catching up to do.”

“Sure, see ya.” I waved, turned to Taylor, and squealed. “Can you believe it? He remembers my bikini.”

“No—he remembers
you
in your bikini.” Taylor laughed, and we bounced like a pair of kangaroos hopped up on drugs.

“The guy's a tool.” Seth, my other best friend, sidled up behind us. His shaggy dark hair fell over his eyes, and he shook his head to get it back in place.

“Jealous?” Taylor snorted.

“Yeah, right. He's a complete moron.” As Seth tucked his motorcycle helmet under his arm, his turquoise eyes glittered. “Besides, if it took him this long to realize Mags is a girl, then I don't think there's much hope for him.”

“Anyway.” I rolled my eyes. “Check talking to Connor Prince off my list.”

“Too bad we couldn't check
her
off your list.” Taylor gestured as a black limo pulled up in front of the school.

The driver jumped to open the door, and out stepped the tall, beautiful, and witchy Katrina Melville. The one girl in the school I honestly hated. Mean didn't even begin to describe her. If anyone ever got accused of chewing up little kids and spitting them out, it would be her.

A Prada handbag hung on her shoulder, her tight blue top made her boobs look like they'd been inflated by a tire pump. And the tall black boots she wore over her skinny jeans had heels that looked better suited as weapons of mass destruction. I had no idea how she kept from toppling over—although it could be all the kids she trampled on, cushioning her steps.

Every year since fifth grade, I'd secretly hoped she'd move to another school. But she came back every autumn. I seemed to be one of her favorite targets, which stemmed from our days in elementary school when I accidentally whacked her in the face with a bat during gym class. She ended up with two black eyes. Kids called her “raccoon girl” and “Zorro”—nicknames that stuck until middle school. At which point, she filled out in all the right places. Guys forgot the raccoon thing and spent more time staring at her chest. And even though I apologized several times, she still held a grudge. You'd think she'd have better things to worry about. Like dating or putting on make-up or buying a shirt that actually fit.

Katrina shoved through the crowd and slammed into me as if she didn't see me. Taylor's cappuccino dumped down my front. “Hey, watch it.” I eyed my stained new shirt with dismay.

“Oops.” Her lips turned up at the corners. “Why don't you let me help you wash that off?” And then she shoved me.

I staggered backward. My arms flailed as I tried to regain my balance. But it was too late. My legs hit the edge of the fountain and in I went. Icy water rushed over me, nipping at my skin. I kicked and pushed myself up to the surface, sputtering mouthfuls of muck from my lips. I tried to stand up, but my drenched clothing weighed me down. Seth rushed into the fountain and yanked me out. I stood on the concrete, dripping wet.

What a jerk. I wanted to tear her perfect hair out and use her as a voodoo doll. Instead, I stood there, soaked and stunned. My mind raced with ways to get her back. Punching her in the face ranked at the top of the list.

Taylor dropped her stuff and grabbed Katrina's arm. “You want to start something?”

Katrina shook her off. “Not my fault she's a klutz.”

They stood, nose to nose. Crap! The last thing I needed was for Taylor to get suspended.

“Taylor, no. She's not worth it.”

Taylor met my gaze and backed down. Her shoulders heaved with anger, her eyes narrowed as she watched Katrina wiggle her butt into school.

“Someday that girl's gonna get hers.” Seth held out his hand and pulled me toward him.

A group of kids gathered around, giggling and shouting as I walked out of the shadow of the stupid otter. And there stood Connor Prince, staring right at me. At least he wasn't laughing. He looked horrified. Man, I wanted to just shrivel up.

“Did you drive?” Seth glanced at the parking lot.

“No, Jack's got the car today.” Tears leaked from my eyes, wet clothes clung to me like an extra layer of skin. “Can I use your cell to call my mom?”

He reached inside his leather jacket and handed his cell to me, while Taylor took my soggy bag. Great, everything was ruined. My notebooks, my schedules, my make-up!

Mom picked up on the second ring. “Seth what's going on?” Her car radio blared in the background.

“Mom, it's Maggie. Can you bring me a change of clothes?”

“What happened?”

Choked up, I told her what Katrina had done.

“She's messing with the wrong girl,” Mom spat. “Give me five minutes on the phone with Principal Whitaker and we'll take care of that.”

“No way. That's all I need, for you to come in here and fight my battles.”

“Her shoving you is physical assault.”

Great, my mom the prosecutor.

“So, can you bring me something dry?”

“Honey, I'm trying a case in twenty minutes. I don't have time. Did Jack leave the house already?”

“He's picking Riley up this morning.”

“What about one of your friends?”

Seth reached for the phone. “Hey, Mrs. Winters, if you can get ahold of the school and excuse us from first hour, I'll run Mags home.”

After some more back and forth he hung up with her. “Come on, I'll take you.” The first day of school and already I'd become a laughing stock. Junior year was
not
off to a good start.

Chapter Two

 

I clung tight to Seth's narrow waist, my eyes clenched shut as he shifted his motorcycle into gear. He seemed so sure of each turn while I hung on for dear life. We swung by Seth's first, where he grabbed a change of clothes for himself, then sped out to Riverview Estates, down a private road to my place. Set back against the woods, the large log home towered over the rest of the neighborhood. The turret pointed to the sky like an arrow. The porch and upper-level balcony wrapped around the whole house, with window views jutting from every angle.

Two monstrous tree trunks guarded the main entrance, and the entryway stood two stories high. A grand staircase finished the amazing look. I loved our house. It was the kind of house you'd expect to find in Colorado or Wyoming. Kind of “country elegant.” Mom and Dad built it when they were still together, but after the divorce, Dad decided to build a bigger place with his new home-wrecker of a girlfriend.

I held the front door open for him. “You can use Jackson's room.” Seth followed me in, and I noticed the letter hanging from Mom's reminder board. “Oh crap, I forgot this is tonight.”

“What's tonight?” He leaned over my shoulder.

“Grandma's retirement,” I groaned. “You're coming aren't you?”

Seth grew quiet and shrugged, a strange shadow passing over his face. “Didn't get an invite. Besides, I just got back yesterday from my dad's. I doubt Mom wants me to take off again after being gone all summer.”

Right, his infamous dad. The man who'd walked out on his mom after he was born. The same jerk who hadn't bothered to call or visit or even send gifts for the first seventeen years of Seth's life. Now all of a sudden he wanted to
be there
for Seth, when Seth was practically an adult and didn't need him anymore.

Not that my dad would win father of the year. But at least I knew him, or I did until recently. Seth and I both had daddy issues. “I still can't believe you stayed with him.” We walked to the stairs. “Wasn't it like crashing with a stranger?”

“We had some words, but things worked themselves out. I'm only sorry I didn't call more, the phone reception there was crappy. But I missed you.” He reached out to mess up my atrocious hair.

I elbowed him in the ribs then darted up the stairs. He followed, hot on my heels.

“Not so fast, shrimp.” He grabbed me by the waist and lifted me off my feet. We tumbled onto the first landing.

“You're a flipping cheater.” I tried not to laugh as he tickled my sides.

“Give up?” His eyes sparkled as he pinned my arms down.

Thrusting my hip, I tossed him off and stumbled up the stairs. “Never!”

Within a few strides he caught me and lifted me up into his arms again. He spun me around, making me dizzy.

“C'mon, Mags, you know you won't win.” His white teeth gleamed against his tanned face.

“If you don't quit, I'm gonna puke on you.”

He released me and I staggered around, trying to make the room stop moving. “Hah. See, I did win.”

“Only because I don't want you blowing chunks on me.” He headed to my brother's room, located across the hall from mine. “Think we've got time for a shower?”

Chewing my bottom lip, I glanced at the grandfather clock at the end of the hall. Last bell for school would ring in five minutes. Aw crap we were late anyway, and after my plummet into the fountain, I didn't want to show up with leaves and algae in my hair.

“Yeah, but make it quick.”

I grabbed towels from the linen closet, walked across the hallway, and knocked on Jackson's door.

“Come on in, I'm still half-way dressed,” Seth answered.

“Um—half-way as in you've got your pants on, or half-way as in you
don't
?”

He swung the door open, revealing toned abs and biceps bulging with new muscles.

W
hen
did he get so freakin' ripped?
I gazed at his chest, noticing the strange wing tattoo on his shoulder. That was new, too. Sucking in a deep breath, I dared a quick glance at his face. He stared back.

Okay, not a good idea to think of him this way. He was me and my brother's best friend. Right, so I didn't know what he saw in my brother. And sharing sucked. But we'd known one another since we were little. Heck, this was the same kid who'd shoved me in the mud and made me eat a dirt pie in kindergarten. The same guy I'd wrestled with in my yard and in the family room. We fell off bikes together, swam together. I knocked out his first tooth for him.

A lock of his shiny black hair fell across his forehead and he pushed it back, his mouth turning up at the corners. “You gonna give me a towel or do I gotta take it by force?”

I whipped it at him, face burning. “I'm just going now.” I stumbled backward, bumping into the wall.

He winked and shut the door. I rushed into my room. What just happened? I fanned my neck.
Don't even go there, girl
. After a quick
cold
shower, I dried my hair and rushed down into the kitchen. Seth was downing a bowl of cereal.

“Took long enough.” He shoveled one last bite into his mouth.

“I was dirty.”

“Oh, yeah?” He waggled his eyebrows.

I rolled my eyes, taking a swing at him. “Quit being a perv.”

He held up his hands to block my advance, catching my hand in his. “Ow, hey. I wasn't the one checking my butt out.”

I ignored this comment.

We walked out of the house and stood in the driveway.

“For your information, I wasn't checking you out. I just noticed you've bulked up is all.”

He leaned down, his mouth by my ear. “Do you like it?”

I snorted, taking the motorcycle helmet from the seat of the bike. “I've seen better.”
Okay, so this last part isn't entirely true.

Seth chuckled and tiny clog dancers stomped around in my stomach. What in the heck was wrong with me? This was Seth, not Connor. And I knew darn well Seth could get any girl he wanted. But he played hard to get, which drove the female population at Kensington High insane.

The cool breeze licked at my cheeks as we drove back into town. I clutched Seth's waist. His warmth radiated between us, chasing away the brisk morning air and the cold in my bones. His muscles tensed and contracted as he shifted the gears on the bike and leaned into each turn. My legs tightened around him. The scent of his damp hair made me think of the shower. My pulse soared, and I closed my eyes. Right. Time to shut off the mind. Weird as it seemed, it felt good to be close to him.

Seth and I had barely seen one another since the beginning of summer. We'd missed our normal camping trip. Swimming in the lake, bonfires with s'mores, and hotdogs. A summer vacation without water gun fights or girls-versus-boys Capture the Flag games. And now here he was, perched on this bike and looking hotter than I remembered. Which I'd never admit to him. Never, ever.

The school rose into view and disappointment raced through me. Too bad the place hadn't burned down while I was gone. He parked. We jumped off the bike and headed in. We made a quick stop in the office to get our tardy slips. Not exactly the best way to start the year off.

“I'll see you third period.” Seth hugged me quickly then sauntered off in the opposite direction. Walking into class late sucked, especially on the first day of school. Twenty-six pairs of eyes focused on me as I pushed into the room. Mr. Trapper glared at me over his clunky horn-rimmed glasses. As I scanned the room, I let out a sigh of relief when I spotted Taylor.

“Ms. Winters, nice of you to join us. I see that punctuality is not a priority,” Mr. Trapper said in his nasally voice. Then he muttered something about me being too much like my brother, which made me cringe.

My cheeks grew warm as I trudged down the aisle to the only open seat. Great, I'd be stuck between Mr. Football himself, Connor Prince, and the hag queen Katrina. I felt like the center layer of a prep sandwich. Okay, so I didn't mind the top layer of the sandwich.

Katrina glanced up at me with a smirk. “Oh, so your outfit wasn't tacky enough and you had to go home and change?”

I glowered. “You might not want to open your mouth too wide. Hate for your boobs to deflate—all that hot air and stuff.”

Her gaze narrowed. For a second, I thought she might shoot lasers from her eyes and singe me on the spot. Taylor giggled. Thank God she was here with me.

“Now, let's get started,” Mr. Trapper said curtly. “If that's all right with you, Ms. Winters.”

“Proceed.” I folded my hands on my desk.

His face turned crimson, and for one awful moment, I thought I might get kicked out. But instead, he ignored my comment and turned toward the board. Crap, this was going to be a long hour. And an even longer year.

By the time lunch rolled around, thoughts of transferring to another school clouded my mind. Katrina had been in every one of my classes. As if the office copied my schedule and gave it to her.

“Hey, Maggie.” Connor stopped next to my locker. “Sorry about Katrina.”

“Yeah, me too.” I laughed. He leaned in closer. His cologne smelled good, like someone had dipped him in a vat of yummy jelly and dangled him in front of me.

He grinned. “If it makes you feel any better, I think she's a snob.”

My lips tugged up at the corners. Heck yeah it made me feel better. That meant there was no way Katrina Melville would be any competition. “So, are you eating in the cafeteria?”

“Nah, the guys are waiting for me outside. We're gonna toss the football around. You can come watch if you want.”

“Thanks, but I'm supposed to meet up with my friends.” Not to mention my stomach was practically eating itself up I was so hungry.

He hesitated. Then he stood taller, his hand brushing my arm. “Okay, why don't we plan on tomorrow, then?”

He wanted me to have lunch with him. Well, kind of. Holy crap. “Sure.”

Connor's fingers grazed mine before he stepped back. “Tomorrow, it's a date.”

As soon as he walked away, I squealed with excitement. I slammed my locker door shut to mask the sound. Seth sauntered toward me.

“What'd the tool want?”

We walked to the lunchroom together. “He asked me to come watch him toss the football around.”

Seth snorted, draping an arm around my shoulders. “He's so vain. I mean, who invites a girl to watch them play around with their buddies?”

“Well, maybe he likes me.”

“And maybe he just wants attention.”

I jabbed him in the ribs. “Jealous?”

He burst out with laughter. “Of that jack-weed? No.”

Meat surprise permeated the air, assaulting my senses as soon as we ambled into the cafeteria. I wrinkled my nose in disgust as I stared at the gelatinous blob on the plates of people walking by. They could seriously use it in a horror movie as the monster. So much for hiring a new cook this year.

“Looks like the kitchen staff is hard at work,” I muttered, changing the subject.

Taylor hurried toward us. “They're trying to kill us.” She looped her arm through mine as she looked at Seth. “I'm stealing our friend.” She tugged me off to the side. “I heard Connor talked to you on the way to lunch.”

News traveled fast. I nodded. “Yep.”

“Spaz much?” Katrina pushed around us, her lips pinched into a tight line, her eyes narrowed.

“Jealous much?” Taylor threw her hand on her hip.

Katrina stopped and glared. “Of her?” She pointed a crimson fingernail at me. “Please, do you honestly think Connor Prince is interested in you? Get a clue—he doesn't date dogs.”

“Well, that takes you out of the picture, being one yourself.” Taylor's body trembled. If I didn't get her away from Katrina soon, she'd throw a punch.

Taylor was more of a kick-your-butt-ask-questions-later kind of girl. And I never wanted to tick her off.

Katrina rolled her eyes. “Oh, I'm so offended. I'll take being witchy and hot over your country mutt look any day.”

Carrying his tray to the teacher's lounge, Mr. Trapper glanced over in our direction.

Ah, crap. I couldn't afford any more trouble today.

“C'mon, just let it go.” I tugged on Taylor's arm.

“Aw, you guys make such a cute couple.” Katrina smirked, tossing her hair over her shoulder and walking away.

A couple of kids nearby snickered. I groaned. Great, more rumors. Did I mention how much I hate Katrina? “C'mon, I'm totally starving here.”

Taylor quit bristling long enough for us to get to our table. Jackson and Seth sat there, laughing.

“Love me some girl fights.” Jack grinned. His blond hair stood up in messy tufts like he'd just rolled out of a sleeping bag. “Just take my sister out of the equation. Not into that kind of thing.”

I quirked an eyebrow at him. He shrugged. “Where's Riley?”

His girlfriend was nowhere in sight.
Odd
. The two were normally joined at the lips and/or the pelvis.

“She's mad at me for winking at Sarah Keller.”

Taylor tossed a straw wrapper at him. “Don't act like a man-whore, then.”

“Not my fault the ladies like me.” He flipped up his collar.

I rolled my eyes. “I don't know how we can be related.”

He flashed me a grin and stole one of my cookies. I swatted his hand.

“You want me to beat him up for you?” Seth nudged me with his knee.

“Whatever. You can't take me down.” Jack flexed a bicep like he was on-stage in a Mr. Universe competition.

“Did his head get bigger, or is it just me?” I chomped down on my turkey-and-mustard sandwich.

“At least I don't go swimming in fountains.”

“Jerk!”

“You know it.”

Ah, I love my brother.

After lunch, we headed our separate ways. My friends weren't in any of my classes until seventh period. Drama class. But of course, I got to see the ever-lovely Katrina. Every dang class. When I stepped into the auditorium, I breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of Taylor. She sat in the back row, her feet draped over the seat in front of her. And no sign of Katrina.

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