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Georgette St. Peters didn’t have a mean bone in her body. She was the girl moms didn’t worry about when they dated their sons because she was as pure and innocent as a newborn baby, not to mention her tongue dripped with nectar so sweet it made hummingbirds dizzy. Her southern accent oozed charm and class, but it was her face—oh, her face—that made boys follow her like lovesick flocks of idiotic chickens.

If Georgette crossed the street without looking both ways, some boy would leap into traffic to be her superhero. She could do no wrong, exhibited by her position as the teacher’s favorite in every class she graced from kindergarten onward, and she did not understand the meaning of the word failure. Captain of this, captain of that. Lead this, lead that. She collected trophies like some people collected pennies, and each one was shinier and bigger than the last.

Everyone who mattered adored Georgette St. Peters. Everyone who didn’t matter, well, they loved her too. She spent her days ruling the school with a cheery smile, the occasional giggle, and a take no prisoners approach to life. If she wanted it, she got it, and everyone cheered.

Except me.

I, Simon Pelletier, thought Georgette St. Peters should take a flying leap off the nearest skyscraper—and maybe take all her lemming friends right along with her.

I hated Georgette’s easy lifestyle. She never struggled, never had to try too hard, and that smile—ugh, how I hated it. I guess I didn’t actually hate her, but everything she stood for was so far out of my reach, so impossible, it made me scrunch my nose and grind my teeth every time I saw her.

To be fair, she wasn’t the only one who triggered all sorts of uncomfortable emotions, but she was the one… Oh, who was I kidding? I’d had a thing for her since elementary school, but there was zero chance she would ever look at me, let alone see me as a viable option. Who would? I was three months away from aging out of the foster care program with no prospects whatsoever, which leads me to the only person who ever really cared about me—Charlotte Woods.

Charlie was my saving grace, at least, she tried to be. Once the guidance counselor discovered I was close to my eighteenth birthday and had nowhere to turn, she referred me to the Harris Hyland Foundation, and ever since, Charlie has been working her butt off to help me find scholarships, housing grants, and other things to make my life easier once I was out on my own.

The woman was the only reason I never gave up, the one person who was a bright light in all the gray, gloomy, depressing sadness in the world. I knew she was once like me, a child stuck in a failing system with no one to care about her—until she found her husband, Knox, of course, but even that took time and a lot of work.

Even with Charlie’s help, I knew the day I turned eighteen, I’d end up on the street. Sure, the foster home I was in was okay, but they had other mouths to feed—many much younger than me. I could work and help pay for things, which I had offered to do many times, but I wasn’t so sure old man Angelson wanted a screw-up kid like me sticking around once the government check stopped coming in. The way he looked at me like I was already bound for prison for life, said all I needed to know.

Francine Angelson wasn’t all that bad, but she followed her husband’s word like law, and if he wanted me gone, then out I’d go. I would miss her, my foster mother, and the pancakes she always brought home when she worked the night shift at the crummy diner down the street.

But none of that really matters, because no matter what I thought about my future, life had a way of taking things into its own hands and scrambling it up. Charlie tried to warn me about that—the way life could try to beat you up, smack you around, and twist you two ways from Tuesday—but even she couldn’t prepare me for what I learned just a few months into my senior year of high school.

That was it, the year things went downhill fast—so fast, I almost suffered whiplash before things came to a grinding halt one night on the roof of a hospital. As I stood there staring at my future, Georgette St. Peters gave me something I never thought I would ever have.

Georgette gave me purpose and without it… Well, Georgette would be dead.

And if Georgette was dead, then I’d have no purpose. So, you see, life really does have a way of screwing with you.

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Chapter One

Rain pelted my back as I ran toward the school. It was probably a good thing since my clothes hadn’t been washed, but they were the only...


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