Chapter One

Don’t look at him and he’ll go away. I chanted in my head, as I walked toward my locker. It took an extreme amount of willpower not to glance back over my shoulder.

Not only would alerting him I could see him be pointless but it would also be stupid. The halls were already full of students. Although, if he’d followed me inside the school I would have seen him easily enough through the throngs of people. He would stand out just like they always did, unmoving and watching.

“GAH! Have you seen Leif? I mean honestly can he get any hotter? Oh, yes he can.” Miranda Wouters, my best friend since elementary school, squealed as she grabbed my arm.

“No, I haven’t seen him. Football camp must’ve agreed with him,” I replied, forcing a smile. I couldn’t care less how hot Leif Montgomery looked. Miranda rolled her eyes and opened the locker beside mine.

“Honestly, Pagan, I don’t get how you can be so immune to such intense hotness.”

I managed a genuine laugh and slipped my bag over my shoulder. “Hotness? You didn’t just say hotness.” Miranda shrugged, “I’m not an endless well of descriptive words, like you are.”

I chanced a peek over my shoulder. The halls were full of normal people, living people. They were talking, laughing, and reading over their schedules. It was all very real. I let out a sigh of relief. This was the first day of my senior year. I wanted to enjoy it.

“So, what class do you have first?” I asked, relaxing for the first time since I’d spotted the dead guy lounging outside on the picnic table staring directly at me.

“I have Algebra II, blah! I so enjoyed Geometry last year.

I hated Algebra my freshman year and I can already feel the negative vibes coming from my textbook.” Miranda’s dramatic flair for life never failed to make me smile.

“I’ve got English Lit.”

“Well, we all know you’re loving that. OH, look, look, look, there he is,” Miranda managed to squeal in a hushed tone while nodding her head toward where Leif stood talking to other football players.

“Hate that I can’t hang around and bask in the presence of greatness with you, but this is my stop.” Miranda glanced back at me, rolled her big brown eyes, and gave me a wave before making her way over to Leif.

Empty rooms were places I usually avoided at all cost.

Given the fact the bell wouldn’t ring for five more minutes, this room would no doubt remain empty for the next four minutes. If I’d stayed out in the hall, I would have been dragged by Miranda over to where Leif stood surrounded by his chosen few. I knew without a doubt he wasn’t interested in talking to Miranda. We’d been going to school with Leif since we were eleven. Since his move from somewhere up north to the coastal town of Breeze, Florida, never had he acknowledged either of us. Not that I minded. He wasn’t my type. I walked over to the desk closest to the window and put my bag down.

A movement, out of the corner of my eye, caused the hairs on my arms to prickle. I’d known better than to stay in this empty room. But I was here now and running would make it worse. I turned to face the same soul from outside sitting in a chair at the back of the classroom with his feet propped up on the desk in front of him and his arms crossed casually over his chest. How had he known I could see him?

I’d given no indication outside. Normally ghosts needed a little clue from me to realize I wasn’t as blind as the rest of the world. Something was different with this one. I dropped my gaze and started to turn around. Maybe I should go join Miranda and the jock squad out in the hall. If I acted like I didn’t see him and casually made my way back into the hallway then he might think he’d made a mistake and float away or walk through a wall or something.

“You don’t really want to subject yourself to such pointless company do you?” a cold, smooth voice broke the silence.

I gripped the hard plastic chair beside me so hard that my knuckles turned white. I fought down a startled little cry—

almost a scream—in the back of my throat. Should I ignore him? Should I respond? Alerting him that his hunch was right might not end well. But ignoring this was going to be impossible. He could speak. Souls never talked to me. From the time I realized that the strangers who frequently watched me or appeared in my home and wandered the halls were not visible to anyone but me, I’d started ignoring them. Seeing dead people wasn’t a new thing for me but having them talk to me was definitely a new twist.

“I pegged you with more guts. Are you going to let me down too?” His tone softened. There was a familiar drawl in his voice now.

“You can speak,” I said looking directly at him, I needed him to know I wasn’t afraid. I’d been dealing with wandering souls, which is what I like to think of them as, all my life.

They didn’t frighten me but I liked to ignore them so they would go away. If they ever thought I could see them, they followed me. He continued to watch me with an amused expression on his face. I noticed his crooked grin produced a single dimple. The dimple didn’t seem to fit with his cold, arrogant demeanor. As much as his presence annoyed me, I couldn’t help but admit this soul could only be labeled as ridiculously gorgeous.

“Yes, I speak. Were you expecting me to be mute?” I leaned my hip against the desk. “Yes, as a matter of fact, I was. You’re the first one who has ever spoken to me.” A frown creased his forehead. “The first one?” He appeared genuinely surprised he wasn’t the first dead person I could see. He was definitely the most unique soul I’d ever seen. Ignoring a soul who could talk was going to be hard. However, I needed to get over his ability and get rid of him. Talking to invisible friends could hinder my social life.

I’d end up looking like some crazy chick who talked to herself.

“Pagan Moore, this must be my lucky day.” At the sound of my name, I spun around to see Wyatt Tucker sauntering into the room.

I forced a smile as if I hadn’t been speaking to an empty room. “I guess it is.” I tilted my head back to meet his eyes.

“You just keep growing, don’t you?”

“Can’t seem to stop it.” He winked and then slung a long leg over the chair across from mine before sitting down.

“What have you been up to this summer? I haven’t seen much of you.”

I chanced a peek back toward the soul to find an empty chair. A mixture of relief and disappointment washed over me. Wanting to ask him more questions wasn’t exactly a good idea, but I couldn’t help it. I'd asked other souls questions before like, "Why are you following me?" or, "Why can I see you?" and they always remained mute. Often times they disappeared when I began asking them questions.

Turning my attention back to Wyatt, I forced a smile before replying, “I stayed up in North Carolina all summer at my Aunt’s horse ranch.”

Wyatt leaned back in his chair and shook his head. “I just don’t get why people would want to leave all summer when we live on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.” For me it hadn’t been a choice really but I didn’t want to explain the reason to Wyatt or anyone else. More students started entering the room, followed by our English Literature teacher, Mr. Brown.

“Wyatt, what’s up, Slim,” Justin Gregory called out as he made his way toward us. He plopped his bag onto the desk across from Wyatt. For now, Wyatt’s attention was off me thanks to Justin’s interruption. As I turned toward the front of the class, my eyes once again found the soul. Leaning against the wall directly diagonal to my desk, he stood watching me. I glared at him and he seemed to find my obvious dislike entertaining. His dimple appeared and I hated the fact I found it sexy. This wasn’t a human, well not anymore. It took extreme willpower to turn my gaze away from him and focus my attention on the board where Mr.

Brown had written our assignment. I’d always ignored these pesky souls before and they’d gone away. I’d just have to get over the fact this one could talk to me. If I didn’t ignore him I’d be stuck with him stalking me.

* * * *

“Hate it, I mean, like hate it in a big way,” Miranda grumbled as she dropped her lunch tray down on the table with a loud clank. “If I have to sit through Algebra and Chemistry all morning, you’d think that I at least could’ve a little eye candy in one of my classes. But noooooo! I get Gretchen with her relentless sniffles and Craig with his gas issues.”

I choked on my sandwich and grabbed my bottle of water to take a quick gulp in order to wash down my food. Once I felt sure I wasn’t going to choke to death, I glanced up at Miranda’s concerned face. “Do you have to say things like that when I’ve got a mouth full of food?” I asked.

She shrugged. “Sorry, I’m just sayin’ is all. I didn’t mean for you to forget to chew your food.” She reached over and squeezed my arm. “There goes his perfectness now. Do you think he’s going to hook back up with Kendra this year? I mean they really had a bad breakup last year with all the cheating and stuff. Surely he’s going to move on.” I took another bite of my sandwich, not wanting to answer her question. I didn’t care who Leif Montgomery hooked up with but, yes, I felt most certain he would hook back up with Kendra. They happen to be the ‘golden couple’.

Everyone knew this and expected it. Their type always lived up to their name.

“Pull your tongue back in your mouth, Miranda. You look like a dog in need of water.” Wyatt sat down across from us, chuckling at his own joke while Miranda scowled at him.

“I don’t have my tongue hanging out, thank you very much.”

Wyatt winked at me and shrugged. “Looked like it to me.

What do you think, Pagan, was she drooling or what?” I crammed another bite into my mouth. I wasn’t getting in the middle of this one. Wyatt started laughing as I pointed to my overstuffed mouth. Miranda elbowed me in the side.

“Don’t go taking his side. He’s just mean.” With a large gulp of water I washed down my food, and then stared pointedly at Miranda. “You two can hash this out all you want but I’m not getting into this. Ever since you decided to take friendship a step further last year and it came crashing down around you, all ya’ll want to do is take cheap shots at each other. Not my fight. Leave me alone.” I quickly took another bite so I wouldn’t be asked to say anything else.

When the two of them realized that they drove each other nuts because they hadn’t gotten over one another, it would make my life easier. Then again, I’d be the one alone. My boyfriend, Jay Potts, had moved away months ago and I hadn’t spoken to him since before I’d left for my Aunt’s this summer.

“That’s not what this is about! I could care less that he couldn’t keep his tongue out of Katie’s throat when I wasn’t looking,” Miranda said angrily.

“I didn’t have my tongue down anyone’s throat but yours, Miranda, but you don’t believe me and I’m tired of defending myself.” Wyatt stood and yanked his tray of untouched food up before stalking away.

“Asshole,” she murmured, watching him relocate to the jock table.

I hated seeing them like this. The three of us had been friends since third grade. Back then, Wyatt had been all arms and legs. Now, he towered over everyone with his long, muscular body. Miranda hadn’t been immune to his sudden stud qualities last year. Now, she couldn’t stand him.

“Listen, Miranda, I was thinking, maybe if you two talked about what happened without you accusing him, things might work out.” I’d tried this before and she always ignored me.

Sure enough, she started shaking her head causing her brown curls to bounce back and forth. “I know what happened, Pagan. I don’t want to talk it out with him. He’s a big, cheating liar.” She took a violent chomp out of her Granny Smith apple and continued glaring in Wyatt’s direction. “Look at him acting like he fits in over at that table. I mean, really, who does he think he is?” I followed her gaze. Wyatt sat leaning back in a chair, laughing at something another basketball player was saying.

They all seemed pleased to have Wyatt in their presence.

Normally he sat with us. This year things would be different.

I sighed, wishing I didn’t have to be the one to point out the obvious to Miranda. “He is the only guy in this school who has college scouts coming to his basketball games to watch him play. That’s who he is. Leif may be the big Kahuna on the football field, but I don’t see any college scouts knocking on his door. You can be mad at Wyatt, but he belongs at that table more than anyone else.”

Miranda turned her glare on me and instantly it transformed into a frown. “Well, he can go to college on a basketball scholarship and cheat on all those cheerleaders, then. I should warn them all.” Her voice had taken on a defeated tone as she stood up and walked toward the garbage cans. I watched her, wishing I could find a way to fix this thing between the two of them.

Someone sat down beside me in the chair Miranda had just vacated. I turned in my seat, half expecting to see the soul. Imagine my surprise when it wasn’t the unwanted soul but the arrogant jock.

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