Crista McHugh Author Q: Did you base characters off those in high school?
Most of my inspiration for the characters in the book come to the local teens in my Seattle suburb. It’s a wonderful melting pot of mixed races and international influences, of the crazy rich and highly intelligent. It’s where the tech millionaires settle with their families, and those newly arrived in America put down roots. So many of my plotlines are actually derived from the conversations I overhear at my local Starbucks (or one of the local fro-yo joints), and I actually based the physical appearances of Brett, Alexis, Taylor, Summer, Sanchez, and the rest of the Eastline crew from real students I see walking around town.
Alexis Wyndham isn’t quite sure what to think about her “friendship” with star quarterback, Brett Pederson. Sure, he has more intelligence than the entire football team combined. Not to mention that fact he’s a great kisser. When he asks her to help him with his college admission essays, she isn’t sure if he’s doing it to spend more time with her or if he’s just using her for her brains. But after her nemesis, Summer Hoyt, makes it clear she’s not finished chasing after Brett, Alexis begins realize how hard she’s fallen for Brett. Now the war is on, and the head cheerleader will find out why she should never take on a Queen B*.
There’s a special place in hell reserved for those who wake me up before noon on a Saturday.
And Brett Pederson was on that list.
I’d forgotten that he was on my preferred contact list, so his call came through the Do Not Disturb feature on my phone. Two weeks of a school project with him and now he was ruining my first day without Junior, the mechanical mutant baby that had been the bane of my existence.
The phone wouldn’t stop ringing, so I was forced to pick it up. “Give me one reason not to make you the topic of my next blog post.”
“Aw, Lexi, you wouldn’t do that.”
“Don’t call me that, and yes, I would.”
After all, I was Alexis Wyndham, the Queen Bitch of Eastline High School. My blog, The Eastline Spy, was notorious for taking members of the in-crowd down a peg, and as the hottest guy in school, Brett would be an easy target.
Too bad he’d somehow earned a soft spot in my heart. It was not something my cruel, hard image as the Queen B* would allow, and even though I’d convinced him we were better off as friends, I’d started second-guessing my decision the moment he walked away.
“I was calling to make sure you were ready to go to the senior class carwash. I’ll swing by your house in ten minutes to pick you up.”
Before I could protest, he hung up.
I glanced at my alarm clock.
A) Where does Brett get off thinking that I want to have anything to do with the idiots I refer to as “classmates”?
B) Why in hell would he think I’d want to go to this event, let alone with him?
But the butterflies in my stomach overruled my brain. As much as I loathed the idea of getting wet all in the name of raising money for a stupid class gift, the idea of Brett picking me up was enough to make me crawl out of bed.
Besides, if I arrived with him, it would piss off my nemesis, Summer Hoyt, to no end. She wanted him, but he wasn’t interested. In fact, he seemed more interested in me. At least, if I believed yesterday’s conversation behind the scoreboard.
Brett wanted to be more than friends, but I wasn’t ready to go there.
At least, not yet.
I’d spent three years building a rep as the hardest bitch in school, and if the star quarterback started dating the Queen B*, then both of our positions in the high school social hierarchy would suffer.
But if we weren’t at Eastline…
My thoughts wandered to a few days ago, when we’d hidden in a janitor’s closet to keep Principal Lee from catching us in the girls’ locker room together. Brett had taken the opportunity to kiss me, and before I knew what was happening, I’d lost my shirt. At least now I understood how my best friend, Morgan, could lose her head over so many guys and end up naked in bed with them. Teenage hormones were powerful things, especially when you factor in a great kisser like Brett.
I rummaged through my drawers until I found the perfect T-shirt. The mid-September day promised to be warm and sunny, but the hickey on my shoulder prevented me from wearing a tank top, so I paired it with a pair of shorts and threw my frizzy hair up in a ponytail.
The doorbell was ringing as I ran down the stairs. I opened the door and pulled Brett in before someone could see him. “You must have some kind of death wish.”
“Just want to make sure you show that Eastline pride,” he said with a charming grin. “After all, I am SGA president.”
Brett was so perfect, I had to force myself to stay angry at him. He was more than a hot bod, although I’d seen enough of the muscles under the shirt to want to run my hands over them. He was more than a handsome face, although there were times I could lose myself while staring into his warm brown eyes. He was more than the star of the football team, although I admit I was beginning to have new appreciation for the sport since watching him play.
He was an annoyingly all-around good guy with a sharp mind and a personality that seemed to put everyone at ease, including me. He was the only person who could get past my prickly outer shell and make me swoon.
Of course, I’d never let him know that.
He handed me a rolled up T-shirt. “I brought you one of my Eastline shirts.”
“Why?” I unfurled it and made a show of wrinkling my nose as though I were disgusted. It was a standard Eastline football shirt with a number on the back—one I’d seen dozens of players on the team wear around town. But then I caught a whiff of his scent, and my pulse cranked up a notch. Dear God, the shirt smelled like him. I resisted the urge to cuddle with it, especially since the source of the scent was standing right in front of me.
“So when you’re sitting in the stands next to Richard, you’ll at least show some school spirit.” He winked before he closed the gap between us. “I thought you weren’t going to come to the game last night.
“Richard needed a ride,” I lied. In truth, I’d been the one to offer him a ride. I’d become a Brett addict over the last two weeks, and I couldn’t decline a chance to watch him play. Thankfully, Richard—my other best friend next to Morgan—was a huge football fan.
“I could’ve sworn I saw you cheer when I threw that touchdown pass.”
“I think you may have suffered a concussion when that lineman buried you into the turf.”
He chuckled, but continued to inch closer until his lips were a mere breath from mine. “Brushing up on your football slang?”
“Only because I have to listen to Richard.” My mouth was dry. My voice was shaking, and I wasn’t even sure I could form a coherent sentence, but I refused to give in to him. If he knew how attracted to him I really was, he might use my dark secret against me.
After all, that was what my former best friend, Summer, did to me in junior high.
A hint of a challenge danced in his eyes, making the golden flecks in them appear brighter than before.
My head swam, and my knees wobbled. Even though my mind was screaming Danger! I couldn’t look away. If he kissed me again, would I fold?
MORE IN THE SERIES
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Crista McHugh is a NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY BESTSELLING author of fantasy and romance with heroines who are smart, sexy, and anything but ordinary.
She currently lives in the Audi-filled suburbs of Seattle with her husband and two children, maintaining her alter ego of mild-mannered physician by day while she continues to pursue writing on nights and weekends.
Just for laughs, here are some of the jobs she’s had in the past to pay the bills: barista, bartender, sommelier, stagehand, actress, morgue attendant, and autopsy assistant.
And she’s also a recovering LARPer, (she blames it on her crazy college days).