The publication date fast approaches, and to celebrate, here’s another exclusive excerpt from Change of Season. Enjoy and feel free to comment here, on Twitter or Facebook.
A squeal behind Autumn’s head caused her to spin around, triggering a neck spasm and making her wince in pain. Scampering down the hall in a black mini-dress was her best friend, Heather Saunders, her backpack slapping lightly with each galloping step. Her pale blue eyes were wide, her smile enormous.
Football captain must have asked her out to the dance tonight, after all, Autumn concluded. So much for all the girls going stag out of spite!
“Autumn!” Heather shrieked, earning a glare from the art students congregated on the floor nearby. “Holy shit! Have you been to your locker yet?”
Autumn frowned. “No. I had Science and Math this morning and the books were with me. Heather, what’s going on? Did you start your day with Pixy Stix again?” The gears slid into place in her brain and she felt her heart stop. “What’s wrong with my locker?”
“Of course you haven’t seen it yet, or you wouldn’t be – well, you!” Heather hugged her tightly, which only compounded Autumn’s concern. “Come! See!”
There was no choice: Heather seized her hand and literally dragged her down the hallway, past several groups of girls who were far too interested in Autumn for her liking, past the music room where the band was rehearsing, and sailing around to the Drama hall, where for reasons unknown, Autumn had her locker assigned. As she rounded the corner, she immediately gasped and felt her head spin.
Her locker was covered in balloons and orchids. Covered. Batting her eyes furiously against the spins, she made out at least five flowers and eight balloons in a variety of colours. A bag of aerodynamic Skittles had vomited on her beige locker door.
“I’m gonna be sick,” Autumn murmured.
“This is so sweet! You know he did this!” Heather enthused.
“My locker is Winnie-The-Pooh. It’s about to take flight towards the freaking honey tree,” Autumn grumbled. “Is everyone staring?” She couldn’t bear to look herself.
“Of course they are!”
“I’m gonna hurl,” Autumn moaned.
Autumn’s palm pressed to her forehead as a headache blossomed beneath. This was insane. Crazy. Okay sure, she’d finally let Chris take her to a movie – with Heather and her date, as well as Corrina. Maybe she’d chatted with him once or twice on the bleachers. Maybe they’d made out at Greg Desouza’s party last week, after drinking far too much schnapps. But she’d been perfectly clear about tonight’s Homecoming Dance being a girls’ night. Judging from this display, either a clown had moved into her locker, or Chris wasn’t ready to take no for a final answer.
“Help me get rid of it,” Autumn hissed at Heather.
“What? No way! This is so sweet of him. You really should go with him. He likes you,” Heather whispered back.
“And didn’t you say he was an epic kisser?” Heather continued quietly.
“Heather, you know how Homecoming goes! He wants one thing, and I don’t want to give it to him,” Autumn grumbled.
“Maybe, maybe not. You could still go with him, and leave with Corrina and me at the end,” Heather suggested. “Either way, think fast: he’s coming over.”
Loose waves of auburn tumbled over her face as Autumn bowed her head in embarrassment. The whispering girls nearby grew cattier in their cacophony, the dirge dulled only by the erratic pounding of her heart. Heather, in contrast, was glowing in delight, and for a moment, Autumn considered suggesting Chris take her to the dance – and move the kaleidoscope on her door to Heather’s locker while he was at it. Damn it! Now what am I going to do? Oh hell!
“Autumn Brody: just the lovely lady I’ve been looking for all morning!”
Maybe if I pretend not to hear him, he’ll just go away… or get distracted by that model over there.
“Answer him,” Heather growled quietly.
“Do I have to?” Autumn retorted under her breath. Turning around reluctantly, hair protectively draped across her cheeks, she forced a smile. “Chris Miller: the living embodiment of a Rick Astley song. Ever consider giving up?”
His hand came to rest upon the locker beside her as he winked playfully. “Never crossed my mind. Do you like your surprise? Heather told me of your appreciation of orchids.”
Autumn glared angrily at her purported best friend, who winced and mouthed an apology. “I don’t care for surprises, and my best friend knows it.”
Chris dialed up his perpetual smile to a celebrity stunner, and Autumn swore someone’s panties literally dropped behind her. “You don’t respond to the direct approach, Autumn. You pose a challenge. A guy’s gotta pull out all the stops with you, it seems.”
“Consider them pulled. Please stop yanking on them?”
He leaned in, his bright blue eyes focused upon hers as he whispered in her ear. “The dance. Go with me.”
“I d-don’t want you to get the wrong idea,” Autumn murmured, pinching her thigh in a desperate attempt to remain calm. Those lips… God, they’re soft – NO!
“What idea would that be?” His voice was husky, his breath warm upon her ear. “We go, we dance. Or are things different in Toronto?”
She summoned what little snark remained in the puddle of girl she was fast becoming. “Oh it’s like She’s All That: choreographed group numbers, bets about geeky art girls. Have you learned the steps?”
“Teach me, then.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Heather fawning over their exchange as if it were the chick flick of the week on Lifetime. I am going to strangle her. I am not her Barbie doll, and he is not Ken, and this is not Degrassi. Her heart raced wildly as she ran her hand through her hair to buy time to steel her resolve.
“I meet you there,” Autumn cautioned.
“I’m taking the TTC home with Heather,” she added firmly.
Chris shrugged. “Okay.”
“And you make this shit disappear off my locker door, like now.” Her eyes met his, pleading for mercy. “I’m serious. Go give them to a hospital ICU or something.”
Heather gasped. “No way! They’re so pretty! And these are primo orchids – definitely not grocery store.”
“Heather?” Autumn cooed, glancing to her friend. “Shut up.”
“You have to keep the orchids,” Chris insisted, edging closer.
“And do what with them all day? I have class, remember?”
“Keep three of them. A small bouquet.”
Autumn rolled her eyes. “One orchid. Final offer, Miller.”
Without warning, his lips crashed into hers, and Autumn melted into the locker behind her back with a sigh. His lips were as soft as she remembered, his scent as intoxicating as the night they’d tangled together on Greg’s couch. I’m so screwed, Autumn realized as her hand toyed with his waves. As he pulled away, he thrust the largest bloom towards her right hand with a wink.
“Done. See you tonight, Ms. Brody.”
She drew shuddering breaths as he plucked the balloons and flowers free, inwardly cursing his nonchalance. It was unfair, the effect he had upon her. He was magnetic, mesmerizing with just a smile. Someone called her a bitch across the hall, but she couldn’t care enough to reply. Chris must really want me as a person, she mused. Why would he go to so much trouble just to dance and make out? He could have any girl in the school – hell, a whole entourage across the hall lay in waiting. The gentle kiss on her cheek as he departed, oblivious to staring eyes, said everything she needed to hear.
“Oh my god!” Heather shrieked, hugging her tightly. “He is so romantic! Isn’t he romantic?”
“He is,” Autumn sighed happily. “And persistent.”
“Good thing he is! You are going to be the envy of our entire grade tonight!”
Autumn jabbed her friend’s arm hard. “I’m still pissed at you for helping him Hallmark-bomb my locker.”
Heather grinned. “You’ll get over it. Ooh! We’ll have to do your hair. I’ll come over right after I drop my books at home. You need to be a princess!”
“Shut up! I’m living vicariously through you. Now, let’s go grab lunch and plan out your look!”
With a sigh, Autumn acquiesced, following Heather absently down the hall with her orchid still in hand. So much to do before tonight… She would never understand his fascination with her, but she was grateful he’d looked her way – and continued to stare. If this was some strange, complex dream, she hoped to never awaken from it.