This Boy by Jenna Scott

 

Prologue

As far back as I can remember, my life has been a series of moves. From Long Beach to Seattle to Medford, from Petaluma to Sacramento to Fresno. Up and down the West Coast, one cramped, tiny apartment after another. No place ever seemed permanent or solid enough for me to really put down roots or make true friends.

I guess that’s why I ended up so obsessed with reading. Mom never lets me forget that when I was a toddler, I insisted on carting around my entire collection of Dr. Seuss books to each new city, begging her to read me one every night before bed (until I learned to read on my own when I was five). The characters and stories I soaked up formed a found family for me, giving me the stability I craved. Places and people I could always return to, no matter how many miles we put behind us.

It seemed like every time I started to get comfortable in a place, my mom would be telling me it was time to pack up our stuff and go somewhere else. So when the days in La Jolla slowly added up to months, then a year, then four years, I thought that we’d found the place. That nothing would convince her to leave.

Then, a few months ago, the Incident happened.

Afterward, my public high school kicked me out halfway through my senior year, and with my plans to attend the college suddenly looking shaky, I started wishing my mom’s drunken antics would force us out of here as they’d done so many times before. It didn’t matter that I’d been on track to be valedictorian, or that—thanks to my Advanced Placement classes—my GPA was over a 4.0. Unless I graduated, no crap college would take me, let alone a great one like Stanford, my absolute dream institution of higher learning. The only place I could transfer to was Oak Academy, the ritzy private school where tuition would cover our rent for half a year.

It seemed like a long shot, but my mom stepped up and made a few calls to OA anyway, then met with a few administrators. I still have no idea what she told them, but soon after that, I got a letter on fancy embossed Oak Academy stationery saying they’d reviewed my case and were willing to offer me admission thanks to my good grades and otherwise clean record. That if I wanted to finish my senior year with them, I could—and that they had need-based scholarships available for students just like me.

Luckily, I was able to keep my job babysitting for the Becks, a family of real-estate magnates. Either Mr. Beck doesn’t know what happened at my school, or he doesn’t care. Or maybe he just kept me on because I’m great with his kid. Either way, it means my salary is safe, and I can keep socking away the majority of my paychecks into my secret college fund.

My job is practically perfect in every way, a light to hold on to during these trying times, and Harrison is the sweetest kid a part-time nanny could hope for. I took to calling him Harry from day one since he looks like a six-year-old Harry Potter.

But there’s one challenge at the Becks’ that I still haven’t triumphed over.

Hunter Beck.

He’s a senior like me, six-feet-and-change of blond, blue-eyed, homegrown SoCal hotness, and he’s got an actual six-pack—which I can’t help ogling every time he’s shirtless, which is far too often—to boot.

The way Harry talks about his older brother, you’d think Hunter could walk on water. I know he doesn’t. Every week, it’s a different girl I catch doing the shimmy of shame through that big house, and every week, I have to find new ways to keep Harry from finding out what his brother is really doing to them. Sorry, Harry; it’s not tickling.

Besides being a total manwhore, Hunter also happens to be exactly the kind of spoiled, arrogant asshole cliché that you’d expect an entitled rich boy to be. He has this way of watching me out of the corner of his eye whenever we’re in the same room together, yet he rarely deigns to speak to me. As if I’m so far below him, he can’t even muster up a simple hello every now and again.

Obviously, there’s no point in pursuing anything with Hunter myself for about a million really good reasons, but even knowing full well how horrible and narcissistic he is, sometimes I still feel like he’s my kryptonite. Every time he walks by in his swim trunks, slung low over his hips and tight, tanned abs, his hair slicked back and damp from his nightly laps in the Becks’ pool, I have to practically wipe the drool off my chin.

Like I said, it’s a challenge.

And because the sandwich that’s my life isn’t covered in enough shit already, it just so happens that Hunter goes to my new school. I can only hope we won’t see each other in the halls, or God forbid, have actual classes together. That would be way too distracting for me, and I’m committed to maintaining my GPA.

Because Hunter Beck might be pure fire, but I know better than to let myself get burned.

Or at least, that’s what I keep telling myself.