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Authors: Komal Kant

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BOOK: Falling for Hadie
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Ashton smiled and a dimple appeared in her cheek. She looked a lot happier than she’d been in the last few weeks. It might have had something to do with the way her hand was entwined with Luca’s. I’d be happy too if I was dating a guy like him. Luca was hot, sweet, kind, and in a band. He was the kind of guy I needed to date—someone who would love me no matter what and stand by me. But everyone knew he only had eyes for Ashton.

“I just wanted to see if you were…okay. You know, after the whole Bennett thing? I saw you two fighting at Kendall’s party.” Her blue eyes studied me in concern.

I doubted there was a person in the senior year that hadn’t seen the fight between Bennett and me. And the ones who hadn’t seen it had heard all about it by Monday morning. News travelled around this town like crazy.

“Yeah, I’m as okay as I’m ever going to be,” I said with a shrug.

“I feel like it’s my fault,” Ashton said in a quiet tone. “It’s like I created a monster. I’m not talking to him again; I don’t think I ever will. Not after the way he’s been acting lately. I never realized just how important popularity was to him.”

“You’re not the only popularity-sucking leech in this school,” Luca said, pushing his thick, dark hair off his face as he gave Ashton a teasing smile.

Ashton’s mouth fell open and she shoved him. “You did not just say that to me.”

Luca’s smile grew. He obviously loved getting a reaction out of her. “And what if I did?”

“Then I’m going to…”

Ashton didn’t get to finish her sentence because Luca swooped in for a quick kiss. Feeling super awkward, I glanced back at Mariah and Estella who were brushing the grass off themselves. This entire situation was bizarre. Who’d have thought that a cheerleader could ever date a tattooed rocker?

Mariah pretended to gag when I caught her eye, and I tried to stifle a laugh. Unfortunately, I kind of failed and Ashton looked back at me, her face slowly turning red.

“I’m sorry about that! I’m so embarrassed!” She gave Luca a glare, but there was no sign of anger on her face. “You need to go. Now.”

He folded his arms across his chest. “Are you gonna make me, Princess?”

“Luca, you’re distracting me! Give me five minutes. Pleeease.” She widened her eyes for effect, and Luca sighed.

“Fine, don’t take too long.” He nodded at me before walking off at a leisurely pace.

Most of the girls sitting on the field followed him with their eyes. He was kind of hard not to check out. Luca stood out in a good way; he was lean and muscular and his tattoos made him unique. Girls dug guys with tattoos. He hadn’t always gotten positive attention like that until a recent makeover, but I had definitely noticed him long before that.

“Anyway, I just wanted to check in on you. You know, return the favor?” Ashton gave me a sad smile and I knew that she was thinking back to a couple of weeks ago when she’d been the target of the popular kids.

Except they hadn’t written nasty things on her locker, they’d just ostracized her from their group. Even though Bennett was in the popular group and I’d been dating him at the time, I’d still gone out of my way to talk to Ashton. I guess, despite how mean she’d been to others, I’d felt sorry for her. No one deserved to be on the receiving end of bullying. Ever.

“Well, thanks,” I said. “I appreciate it.”

“Let me know if you need anything, even if it is just to give Bennett a good telling off. He has it coming to him.”

I nodded, not really sure what to say, as Ashton gave me that dimpled smile again before walking off. I stared after her, kind of amazed that she’d spoken to me at all. No one was used to this Ashton Summers, the one who cared about people. Everyone was better acquainted with the take-no-prisoners attitude she’d always had going on.

“That was bizarre,” Mariah said from behind me.

It definitely was bizarre, but I guess people really could change. Bennett certainly had.

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

Lincoln

 

Somehow, I’d managed to land smack bang in the middle of Hadie and her friend, Mariah in English class. The more I tried to avoid the girl, the more I was forced together with her.

Two weeks had already flown by since I’d started school here, and I still hadn’t bothered to call Hadie and ask her to tutor me. Ms. Flick had finally noticed that I hadn’t made much progress catching up on the work I’d missed and insisted I sit next to Hadie so I could copy her notes on the text.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting much work done because Mariah was talking my ear off. She was friendly, don’t get me wrong, but she asked way too many questions. Questions that I didn’t want to answer.

“So, why would you want to leave New York City and come to a small town like Statlen?” she asked.

What the heck was I supposed to say? That I’d come here because I was trying to run away from something?

“Uh…my dad was born in Verdana, so he wanted us to experience life in a small town.”

The words coming out of my mouth had been well-rehearsed within my family until it was impossible to forget them. We’d had to practice so that we didn’t have ten different versions of the story. Statlen was a small town, so word would get around if we were all saying different things. Mom, being the control freak that she was, made sure we all learnt our lines off by heart.

“But it must be sooo amazing there! Don’t you miss all your friends?”

Not really. Kinda. Sometimes. I missed the way they used to be around me, not the way they were now. “Yeah, New York is pretty amazing, but it’s good to get around and see what else is out there. I miss my friends, but we still stay in touch.”

I sounded so goddamn rehearsed that I wanted to punch myself in the face. The last few words came out sounding a lot more bitter than I’d intended, and Hadie glanced up to study me. Those almond brown eyes of hers flickered across my face as though she’d heard the bitterness in my voice.

As I studied her, I realized that she was holding something back too. Her eyes were large and sad, her mouth always turned down. Underneath the strong exterior was someone who’d been hurt and was vulnerable.

We sat there, staring at each other until Mariah cleared her throat. “Wow, guys. Way to make me feel like the third wheel.”

Feeling embarrassed that Mariah had caught us looking at each other like that, I turned to my right where Mariah was watching us with this smug expression on her face like she was seeing something neither of us could.

“So, Link, did you have a girlfriend back home?” Mariah asked in a casual tone.

From beside me, Hadie let out a choking sound. I was pretty sure I was choking internally. Was it normal for people in this town to be so forthcoming? In New York, everyone was too absorbed by their own lives to care what other people were doing. We’d lived in our neighborhood since before I was born, but had yet to know one of our neighbors on a first name basis. In Statlen, everyone seemed to know everyone else’s life story.

Maybe this hadn’t been the best town to run away to.

When I was confident that I wouldn’t sputter like Hadie had, I responded to Mariah’s question. “No, I’ve been single for over a year now.”

Mariah raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “No way. I don’t believe it. A catch like you single for this long. What’s wrong with you?”

A prickling heat began creeping from my neck to my face as I struggled to form words. This was a question Mom hadn’t gone over in her brief, and I was at a loss of what to say. Did I deflect her question or answer it? What could I make up that would sound valid? I wasn’t great at coming up with lies on the spot.

“Ray, seriously, shut it,” Hadie said in a disapproving tone. “We need to get work done, so will you go flirt with someone else?”

Mariah pouted and stuck her tongue out at Hadie before drawing the girl sitting in front of her into a conversation about some field party that was being held in a couple of weeks.

“I’m sorry about her,” Hadie said, not meeting my eye. “Mariah has no filter whatsoever. She’ll say the first thing that pops into her head. Then again, I’m sure you must be used to getting attention from girls, so it’s probably not even a big deal and I shouldn’t have said anything because…”

“Hey, slow down,” I said, perplexed by her behavior, and placed a hand on her arm. “I don’t like having the attention on me. I’m nothing special.”

Hadie seemed startled by my touch and glanced down at look at where my hand rested on her arm, a flush spreading across her light complexion. She looked up at me again, her eyes confused and searching. The look was too engaging, too unsettling, and I quickly pulled my hand away.

She seemed even more embarrassed now, as she picked up her copy of
Wuthering Heights
and began flipping through the pages furiously. “Um…um…so…what do you think of the book?”

“It’s not my thing,” I said simply.

Hadie stared at me like I’d said something unheard of. Then she shook her head and looked away. “Well, I can’t expect you to understand. It’s not really a book that guys would enjoy…”

I tipped my chair back casually. “I thought that Heathcliff guy was a psycho.”

She looked incredulous. “Are you being serious? Heathcliff is not a psycho, he’s just misunderstood…”

Our conversation was cut off as Ms. Flick addressed the class, and Hadie shot me a look of irritation before her attention shifted to the front of the room.

“A few of you,” Ms. Flick said, her eyes flickering to a group of boys sitting in the front row, “raised concerns about the text and required clarification on it, so I’m going to open up the floor for discussion. Let’s see how the rest of you, who actually bothered to read
Wuthering Heights
, felt about it. I’m going to start with an easy question: who are the key players in the novel?”

A hand shot up in the front row. It belonged to a girl with wispy, blonde hair. “Heathcliff, Catherine Earnshaw and Edgar Linton.”

Ms. Flick nodded her approval. “I would say that the three of them were definitely the catalyst for the events that occur and continue into the next generation. Let’s go over Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship again. I know that you guys had mixed views on it the last time I asked, but would anyone like to voice their opinions again?”

There was movement beside me as Hadie raised her hand, and Ms. Flick nodded at her to speak.

“I think what Heathcliff and Catherine have is true love. He goes to great lengths to be with her even when she is married. She plays a cruel game with him.”

I couldn’t help but snort at that. It was amazing the lengths that some girls took their fictional crushes to.

Hadie turned to me and shot me a glare. “Is something funny?”

I shrugged. “If you think that that’s true love then you’re delusional. Heathcliff was a jerk. He was selfish and manipulative. He was like a toddler throwing a hissy fit because he couldn’t have what he wanted, so he decided to make sure that no one else could have it. If he really cared about Catherine, he wouldn’t have put her through all that shit.”

Ms. Flick cleared her throat. “Language, Lincoln, but you do have a point. A lot of people say that Heathcliff’s behavior was selfish and a way for him to get revenge.”

“Yes, but he loved Catherine,” Hadie said, a passion burning in her eyes. “His anger, his jealousy, his vengeance were all a proclamation of his love for her.”

“Both very good arguments,” Ms. Flick said, glancing around at the class. “Does anyone else want to weigh in?”

The wispy, blonde haired girl raised her hand again and Ms. Flick motioned for her to speak.

When I turned to look at Hadie, she was giving me a look of disapproval. No doubt I’d probably insulted her favorite male character or something.

I leaned in close until we were inches apart, lowering my voice. “If he really loved her, he would’ve wanted her happiness regardless of whether or not she was with him or someone else. When you love someone, you would do anything for them, not anything to destroy them.”

I didn’t think it was possible for Hadie’s face to turn a deeper shade of red, but as we stared at each other again, it definitely did. The animosity that she’d had towards me earlier on had all but stripped away, leaving behind a girl who was confused and broken.

It was starting to become clear to me that Hadie was like this because of some stupid high school drama. I’d thought that it was a big deal when people stared at me, but I had nothing on Hadie. Today I’d seen a bunch of guys laughing at her as she’d walked past them, while other students looked on. She seemed like such a simple girl who wasn’t nasty or stuck-up, and I didn’t believe Becky and Ciara when they said that she was easy. She seemed anything but that.

“You’re doing the weird staring thing again,” Mariah said from beside to me.

Her voice made us snap our heads away and I looked back down at my desk, thinking that Mariah had the worst timing imaginable.

Chapter Nine

 

Hadie

 

“You should’ve seen them!” Mariah was jabbering away. “They couldn’t keep their eyes off each other! It was like no one else was in that room except them!”

BOOK: Falling for Hadie
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