Page 6 of Don't Look Back


“Me losing my memory and not knowing what happened to me?” Anger sparked deep inside me, familiar and powerful. “Yeah, I’m glad that’s so great for you.”

“That’s not what I mean.” Scott sat up, looking me straight in the eyes. “You were a terror to everyone who knew you. And this”—he waved his hand around me—“is an improvement.”

That icky feeling was back, coiling around my insides. I was a terror? I bit my lip, frustrated that there was nothing in my head confirming or denying what he’d said.

Someone cleared his throat.

We twisted around and…wow, just wow. My jaw hit the bedspread. There was a tall boy standing in the doorway to my bedroom. Dark brown hair fell over his forehead and curled around his ears. His skin was deep, almost olive in comparison to my paler skin, hinting at a Native American or Hispanic ancestry. His cheekbones were broad, giving him an exotic look, and his jaw was strong, clenched tight. The long-sleeved shirt he wore stretched over his broad shoulders and biceps. His body was purely athletic, slender and yet muscular.

A black baseball cap dangled off the tips of his fingers, forgotten. Our eyes locked, and I felt a stirring in my chest. His were a magnetic, intense blue. The color of the sky right before the day ended and night took hold—the color of dusk. There was stark relief in his gaze, and also a wariness I didn’t understand.

“Is that my boyfriend?” I whispered, hopeful and scared all at once. If he was my boyfriend, I had no idea what to do with him. Well, I did—I suddenly had lots of ideas that involved kissing, touching, and all sorts of fun things, but he was…mouthwateringly gorgeous, and that intimidated the hell out of me.

Scott choked on his laugh.

The boy in the doorway glanced at my brother and then at me. Heat crept across my cheeks. The relief was still in his eyes, and my lips split in a hesitant smile. He was happy to see me, but…but then his eyes hardened into chips of ice.

“Boyfriend? Yeah,” he said slowly, voice deep and smooth. “Not even if you paid my tuition to Penn State next year.”

Stung and embarrassed, I jerked back, and the question came out before I could stop it. “And why not?”

He stared at me as if I had an arm sticking out of my head and waving around. He turned to my brother, brows raised. “I’ll be waiting outside.”

“Sure, man, be there in a sec, Car.”

“His name is Car?” I said, folding my arms.

Vehicle Boy stopped and turned back around. “Car, as in Carson Ortiz.”

Oh. That made sense. I lowered my arms, feeling about nine kinds of stupid.

Carson’s eyes narrowed. “She really has no clue about…about anything?”

“Yep,” Scott replied, lips pursed.

Carson started to leave again but stopped once more. Muttering under his breath, he looked at me. “I’m glad you’re okay, Sam.”

Before I could even respond to that, he was gone. I turned back to Scott. “He doesn’t like me.”

Scott looked like he wanted to laugh again. “Yeah, he doesn’t.”

A weird, twisty feeling sprang in my chest. “Why?”

Pushing off the bed, he sighed. “You don’t like him.”

I didn’t? Did I not have taste? He was baby-making material. Then I frowned. How did I know who was baby-making material? “I don’t get it.”

“You were kind of a bitch to him…in the last couple of years.”

“Why?”

The look on his face told me he was getting tired of the question Why? “Because his dad is hired help, and you’re not a fan of the hired help. Hell, or their offspring and anyone who associates with them.”

I dropped my hands into my lap, unsure of how to respond to that. He had to be kidding. “We have hired help?”

Scott rolled his eyes. “Dad and Mom do, which is funny because Mom hasn’t worked a day in her life.” When he saw my expression, he cursed. “Jeez, this is like talking to a toddler.”

Anger pricked my skin, and so did hurt. “Sorry. You can go talk to Car, who apparently doesn’t suffer from an impaired IQ.”

Regret flickered in his eyes, and he sighed again. “Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that, but, Sam, this is weird. It’s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or something.”

It was weird. I glanced at the empty doorway, anxious and even a little afraid. I suddenly realized I didn’t want to be left alone. “Where are you guys going?”

He glanced down at his sweats, one brow raised. “We have baseball practice.”

“Can I go?”

Surprise shone on his face. “You hate going to baseball games. The only reason you do go is because of Del.”

“I don’t know who Del is!” My hands balled into useless fists. “I don’t know what I hate. Or what I like. Or what I’m supposed to do or say. I don’t recognize any of this. To make things worse, now I find out that everyone apparently hates me—including my best friend, who disappeared at the same time I did—and I can’t even remember why.” I looked around the room, close to tears. “And my middle name is Jo. Who gives their kid a middle name like Jo?”

Scott didn’t say anything for several seconds, and then he knelt in front of me. It was strange looking at his face, seeing my own face—but more masculine and hard—staring back. “Sam, it’s going to be okay.”

A tremble started in my lower lips. “Everyone keeps saying that, but what if it’s not?”

He didn’t answer.

Because it wasn’t okay—it was never going to be okay. I was stuck in this life I didn’t remember, squeezed into the shell of this girl—this Samantha Jo Franco—and the more I learned about her, the more I was starting to hate her.

Chapter three

On Saturday I met my friends…for the first time. They talked. A lot. And they sounded and looked the same. Hair with brighter streaks strategically pieced throughout. Each of them looked as if they could use some of the doughnuts I was scarfing down.

They crowded around me, hugging and crying. My mom lingered in the kitchen, sipping wine at eleven in the morning. One of the three girls stood out from the rest. Her name I learned pretty quickly.

Veronica Hodges.

Blond. Tan. Skinny. Perfect. The type of girl who could do tanning-bed commercials and be crowned homecoming queen in a bikini.

Smoothing her manicured hand over her white cashmere sweater, Veronica curled her red-painted lips at the package of doughnuts and croissants as if they were infested with cockroaches. “We are so glad you’re okay, Sammy. All of us have been so worried.”

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