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Chapter One

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Looking in from the outside, it would appear that high school has really been the best four years of my life. Every day people in our small town see the muscled arm of our school's star quarterback wrapped around me and friends surrounding me on all sides. The view from the outside, however, only scrapes the surface of who I, Scarlet, really am. The inside paints a much different picture; a picture that only my eyes see.

My boyfriend, Jack Dallas, captain and quarterback of our football team, is on his way to becoming an NFL superstar. He's got three state titles and has offers from colleges up and down the East and West Coasts. All the girls at school, including me, drool over his looks, southern charm, and the gentle accent that makes his voice sound sweet as honey. By chance, he and I hit it off from the beginning—I was just a girl in the crowd at his football game and he was just a player looking for a cute girl to give the winning ball to. After that, he and I clicked, and I waited for the day he would finally ask me to be his girlfriend, which took weeks of agonizingly flirtatious "just friend" hangouts. When he finally did ask me out, everyone at school called us the Cinderella Story couple of Royal Eastwood High School, just like the movie with Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray.

It happened moments after he and the rest of the Royal Eastwood Warriors won the play-off game last season against our rivals, the West Side Knights. I was in the stands with the rest of the student body, soaked to the core from the torrential downpour that started during the second half of the game. No one wanted to leave because we were down by only one touchdown. With seconds left, Jack ran the ball into the end for the win. The crowd went ballistic because we were going to the state championships; we were yelling and screaming his name, and amid all the chaos, he ran into the bleachers to find me, wrapped his arms around me, and kissed me. After that, we became the it couple.

Even now, sitting in the middle of the crowded cafeteria during lunch, all eyes are on us. Jack moves his arm from my shoulders down to my waist as he laughs with his best friend and go-to wide receiver, Bryce. I look at Jack and get caught up in his perfect smile. His teeth shine, his jawline is sharp, and his bright-blue eyes are slightly narrowed, yet they still find a way to sparkle.

"Nah, bro, I totally shotgunned mine faster than you!" Bryce says, slapping Jack on the back while talking about the party a few nights ago.

"Are you kidding, Bryce? I had mine crushed before you were even halfway through!" Jack says.

"I had three before that. Hell, dude, I went to my car to do another instead of taking my test first period."

"Bryce, how do you expect to take over your parents' law firm if the only thing you do is try to beat people in drinking competitions?" I ask.

"I'm not worried about it, Scar. It's not like my parents have anyone else to give it to. Being the only child has its benefits. I'm only seventeen—right now it's all about partying hard."

"Same. I bombed my econ test last week, but my dad didn't care. I'm getting the company no matter what," one of the girls in our group, Katie, says.

I tune out the rest of their ridiculous conversation; it's all posturing and bragging. Royal Eastwood is known for educating the richest teenagers in the area. We come from a wealthy section of Texas—Conroe County, about forty miles outside of Houston. We are known for Lake Conroe, where the wealthiest students live the waterfront lifestyle.

Living in a richer county leads to an expensive lifestyle, and going to a high school with wealthy kids feeds into that way of life. Everyone in Jack's clique has parents who own a major business—his dad owns the Houston Texans football team. And because they are all so rich, not a single one of them tries in school, as Katie summarized with her entitled econ comment. They have some sort of weird mind-set that they don't have to try to succeed in life.

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