"Here's to another day in hell," I say, grabbing my waffle from the toaster and shoving it in my mouth as I hurry to the fridge to get my lunch.
My dad comes up beside me, putting his arm around me. "You can do this, kiddo. You're on the home stretch."
He makes it sound so easy. He has no idea what it's like. He went to a normal high school back when people around here had normal jobs and made normal wages, before the tech boom came and turned everyone into billionaires. Everyone except us. My dad does landscaping for a living. He makes the billionaires' lawns look pretty, ensuring that each blade of grass is cut to the perfect length. Some of the billionaires' kids go to my school, making my life at Devonshore High even more miserable.
I go out to the driveway and get in the rusty pickup I inherited from my dad when he got his new truck. I always park it in the very back of the school parking lot, far away from the Porsches and BMWs, but everyone knows it's there, and they know it's mine.
As I pull out onto the street, I look back at my house. From the front, it looks like a double wide-trailer. The air conditioner unit hangs out the front window and there's a carport on the side where my dad keeps his truck. The green paint on the house is peeling and the wood fence that goes around back is falling down. The house used to be considered nice for this area until the houses that were like it were torn down and replaced with mega mansions.
I'm passing one now. You can only see the second level because the property is surrounded by a tall, iron, privacy fence. This entire road is lined with mansions looming behind tall, iron gates.
When I get to school I drive straight past the back row. "Fuck it," I say as I race past a Mercedes convertible and take a spot in the second row. "New semester. New rules."
I'm sick of parking in the back and having a ten-minute walk to the building. It's my last semester at this hellhole. I'm just going to own my trailer trash label and stop being ashamed of it.
The door squeaks when I open it to get out, exhaust fumes filling the air. A girl in a white sundress with long, blond hair stares at me as I shut the squeaky door. She must be new. I've never seen her before.
"Ella Quinn," Kendra says with disgust to the girl, loud enough for me to hear.
“Good to see you too, Kendra!” I say with a fake smile.
She ignores me and says to the girl, “She’s the one I told you about. You should see her house. It's even worse than the truck."
Not quite, but almost. My dad doesn't care about making the house look nice. To him, it's just a place to eat and sleep. I've tried to make it look better by putting curtains over the fake wood blinds and getting colorful pillows to put on the drab, gray leather couch, but there's only so much I can do.
"Watch it!" I yell as a silver Porsche flies past me, nearly hitting me as it pulls in a space.
The Porsche is owned by Parker Sterling, number one asshole at Devonshore High. His dad owns a venture capital firm that invests in tech start-ups that end up making billions. That's not uncommon here in the Bay Area, the tech start-up capital of the world. It's why everyone here is dripping with money.
"Did you see that, babe?" Parker says to his girlfriend Scarlett as she gets out of the Porsche. "I almost hit the trash."
Scarlett glances back at me as she flings her long, black hair over her shoulder, meeting up with Parker in front of the Porsche. "I still smell it."
"It reeks." Parker watches me walk by. "Fucking trash needs to be taken out."
"Go to hell," I mutter under my breath as I continue to the door.
Parker and his friends have been bullying me for so long I'm used to it. Fighting them is a waste of time. I have better things to do, like graduate at the top of my class, claim the title of valedictorian, and get the hell out of here.
The only good thing about going to this school is that I don't have much competition when it comes to grades. The people here don't have to worry about grades because their parents' money and connections will get them into any college they want. I, on the other hand, need perfect grades and the stars to align to even be considered for admission into schools like Harvard, Yale, or Stanford. I applied to all three. Typically a girl like me wouldn't have a chance at those schools. Good grades aren't enough to get me in. But attending Devonshore High shoots me to the top of the admission consideration list.
Devonshore is one of the wealthiest public schools in the nation. When the tech boom happened, the old high school was torn down and replaced by a school that cost a gazillion dollars. It's high up on a hill, surrounded by trees. The school was modeled after an English boarding school with an all-gray stone exterior, tall windows, and massive, dark wood doors at the entrance. The outside looks like it's hundreds of years old but the inside is equipped with state-of-the-art technology developed by the tech geniuses that live around here. Devonshore is better than most private schools so having it listed as my high school on my college applications gives me an instant advantage.
"Move the fuck out of the way," a deep voice yells, bumping me as I go through the door, his musky cologne leaving a trail behind him as he stalks past me into the school.
Briggs Chadwick III is the number two asshole at Devonshore High, or number one, depending on the day. He comes from old money, as if it wasn't obvious from the name. Old money people always seem to have roman numerals after their name, or at least the guys do. His father, Briggs Chadwick II, owns an investment firm that's been around for almost a hundred years, started by the first Briggs Chadwick.
Briggs runs his hand through his short, dark hair and smiles as Aubrey, his tall, blond girlfriend, comes up to him, planting her mouth on his and running her hand down his chest.
Aubrey used to be head cheerleader until her modeling career got in the way of practice. Her constant posting of herself looking perfect on social media got the attention of modeling scouts and landed her a contract worth millions. She comes from money so the last thing she needed was more, but that's how it works around here. The rich get richer.
"Hey, babe." Briggs smacks her ass, then takes her hand as they go down the hall.
I hate Briggs. He thinks he's king of the school, which he is to most people here, but to me he's just a spoiled rich guy with a name that gets him whatever he wants.
I hate Briggs even more than Parker. And Finn. I haven't seen Finn today. Knowing him, he's still outside, making out with some girl, or maybe they've already had sex. Parker is always looking to get some, which is true for most guys his age, but for him, it's his sole purpose in life. He's been with at least half the girls at school. He even tried to get with me by cornering me outside the gym one day and grabbing my boob. That was his big move. To grab my boob. As if that would make me weak at the knees and have me begging him to shove his cock in me.
He's such a jerk. After he grabbed my boob, he tried to kiss me. I bit his lip so hard it bled all down his bright white shirt. He shoved me away and looked at me with so much rage I thought he was going to hit me, but then we heard voices in the hall and Finn took off.
It was after school and only the teachers were around. I could've gone to the admin office and reported Finn but it wouldn't have done any good. Finn’s dad is CEO of one of the biggest tech companies in the world and his mom is president of a bank. They donate a ton of money to the school. There's no way the school's going to punish Finn for assaulting me and risk giving up his parents' money.
Finn Kingsley is asshole number three at Devonshore High. He lives to drink, party, and have sex. He's the wildest of the three assholes, or three A's, as I like to call them. Truthfully, almost every guy here is an asshole, but Finn, Parker, and Briggs are the worst. They get power from picking on the weak, or anyone they deem not good enough to go here. I fall into the latter category. They know I'm not weak—or at least Finn does after having to get his lip stitched up after I bit it, which I'm sure he told the other A's—but my financial status, in their puny minds, deems me unworthy of even walking the halls of Devonshore High.
"Parker, wait up!" a voice yells from behind me.
Finn races past me as I stand at my locker. His blond hair is longer than it was before winter break, almost to his shoulders, and he has a dark tan. He must've gone somewhere for the holiday. His family probably has their own tropical island.
I watch as Finn and Parker meet up and go down the hall. Parker's tall, like Finn, but wider and more muscular. Finn is long and lanky. Parker has an athlete's body. He's on the school's rugby team, which around here is a sport equivalent to football in most other high schools. I've been told rugby is actually a type of football but I really don't care. I'm not into sports. But at Devonshore, rugby rules. The guys on the team are treated like gods. It's so annoying. I refuse to go to their stupid games and support those jerks.
Parker is one of our best players, and the attention he gets because of it makes him even more obnoxious. With his money, looks, and athletic talent, he could have any girl he wants but he's dated Scarlett for almost a year. I'm sure he cheats on her. There's no way a guy like him would be with only one girl for that long.
"What are you looking at?" Charlotte says, startling me.
I turn and see her leaning against the locker next to mine. "Nothing. I was just distracted."
"By what? A1 and A2?" she says, rolling her eyes.
She and I are the only ones who call them that. They're our code names so we can talk about them without people knowing. Around here, you don't dare talk bad about Finn, Parker, and Briggs. They're the golden boys who can do no wrong. You talk shit about them, you become the enemy, and I don't need more enemies.
"I don't know why you let those guys get to you," Charlotte says, opening the book she was holding. It’s a murder mystery, which is all she ever reads. She wants to work in a crime lab someday.
"I don't let them get to me," I insist, even though I admit those guys get under my skin, especially Briggs. He bullied me so bad sophomore year that I almost transferred to a different school. But then I decided to just ignore his harassment instead of getting upset, which made him lose interest. Bullies only have power if you give it to them, a little tip I didn't figure out until the end of that year.
Charlotte glances behind me. "A2's coming toward us. I gotta go." She scurries off.
Charlotte's afraid of Briggs, but I don't know why she ran off like that. It's not like Briggs is going to stop and chat. He doesn't talk to Charlotte and me unless he's insulting us, and that only happens when he has an audience, which he doesn't now because everyone's in class. The bell's about to go off.
I grab my books from my locker, and as I close it I feel a hand covering mine.
My breath catches in my throat as I'm shoved against the locker, my face slamming against the cold metal.
"Guess you're smarter than I thought," he says in his deep voice, pressing his body against mine. Invading my personal space is one of the many techniques Briggs uses to try to intimidate me. He hasn't done it all year so I don't know why he's doing it now but I need to remain calm and pretend it doesn't bother me.
"What do you want, Briggs?"
"I heard you're in the running for valedictorian."
Who told him that? And why the hell does he care?
I try to push away from him but all my effort doesn't even move him. The guy is strong. He spends hours at the gym and has a body to prove it. If I didn't hate him so much, I'd be drooling over that body. Those broad shoulders. Arms lined with muscles. The guy manages to have a tan year-round and it doesn't look fake. As if that wasn't enough, his face is perfect too—chiseled and manly, his jaw lined with stubble. He got the best of the best from the gene pool, which I find really annoying, because on top of all that, he's filthy rich.
"Let me go," I say through gritted teeth.
"Is it true?"
"Why do you care?" I turn my head and look back at his eyes. That was a mistake. I lose focus when I look at his eyes. They're this royal blue shade I've never seen on anyone but Briggs. At first I thought he was wearing colored contacts but royal blue is the actual color of his eyes. It's fitting, given that he thinks he's royalty around here.
His six-foot-two frame leans down to my face. "I didn't work my ass off all these years to hand over what's mine to some piece of trailer trash."
Is he serious? He thought he was going to be valedictorian? There's no way his grades are that good. Or are they?
Out of the three A's, Briggs is definitely the smartest one. He takes all AP classes, like me, but I assumed he was barely passing, or that his grades were artificially raised because his rich daddy made a large donation to the school. At the very least, I assumed the teachers bumped up his grades because he's an athlete. Did I mention Briggs plays rugby? He's our best player—even better than Parker. He's also team captain. That makes him king of the school in the eyes of not only the students but the teachers. I know he gets special treatment because of it.
"My grades are none of your damn business."
"You really think I'm letting you have this?" He grabs me, whipping me around and shoving me back against the locker.
"Let me go." I push against his chest, a solid wall of muscle. "I'm going to be late for class."
He grabs my wrists in his giant hands and slams them against the locker so I'm splayed out like a V. I look behind him for anyone who could help but the hallways are cleared out.
"We need to talk. After school. Meet me by the stadium."
"Yeah, right," I say, staring back at him. "Like I'm really going to trust you? I'd show up and you'd rape me, or gang rape me with your disgusting friends."
He laughs a little. "You really think I want you that way?"
His words slice through me, leaving behind a burn in my chest. Why does hearing him say that hurt so much? I don't care that Briggs doesn't find me attractive, or that when he said that just now, he looked like the thought of being with me repulsed him. I hate the guy. Why would I care what he thinks of me?
I wouldn't have sex with him either, even if he does happen to be the hottest guy in school. He's staring down at me with those royal blue eyes and I force myself to look away, my eyes wandering down to his full lips, and that sharp jaw.
"Three o'clock," he says. "Be there or else."
"Or else what?" I snap.
He backs away. "Guess you'll have to show up to find out."
I watch as he turns and goes down the hall.
One semester. I only have to make it through one semester. I thought it'd be easy. I'd just keep to myself and nobody would bother me. But on my first day back, I'm being threatened by Briggs Chadwick, who I've just deemed the newly crowned number one asshole of Devonshore High.