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Authors: Beth Bishop

Tags: #YA, #young adult, #contemporary, #romance, #Skye Daniels, #heart, #pendant, #Irstwitch, #Cluck Moo, #Fairest, #Beth Bishop, #Eternal Press, #9781615729517

Fairest

Fairest
By
Beth Bishop
Credits Page

Eternal Press
A division of Damnation Books, LLC.
P.O. Box 3931
Santa Rosa, CA 95402-9998

www.eternalpress.biz

Fairest
by Beth Bishop

Digital ISBN: 978-1-61572-951-7

Print ISBN: 978-1-61572-952-4

Cover art by: Amanda Kelsey
Edited by: Andrea Heacock-Reyes

Copyright 2013 Beth Bishop

Printed in the United States of America
Worldwide Electronic & Digital Rights
Worldwide English Language Print Rights

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any form, including digital and electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the Publisher, except for brief quotes for use in reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Dedication page

This book is dedicated to my husband and mother—my most loving audience and editors.

Chapter One

I never got into trouble, so I worried when Doctor Heisen asked me to stay after class. As I waited for my classmates to file out of the room, I stared out the window. Trig was my last class of the day, and it being January, the sun set early. I hoped this talk wouldn't take too long. I planned to have an early dinner and get back to my dorm before the slush refroze.

When the room was clear, I hitched my backpack on my shoulder and walked up to stand before Doctor Heisen's desk. Seated there with his reading glasses perched near the end of his nose, he looked up at me and asked, “Have you ever considered tutoring math, Miss Daniels?” Before I could answer, he glossed over my ability and talent and went straight for the meat. “I see you're lacking in community service.” He glanced down at a sheet of paper on his desk before removing his glasses.

Judging by the memo notes at the top, it had come from the office of Irstwitch School's counselor for second-year girls, Doctor Jennings. I shifted my backpack onto both shoulders. “Yes, sir.”

“You haven't joined any clubs?”

“No, sir.”

He nodded. “You could use the credits, then. This will be an easy way for you to get them.”

I purposefully steered clear of anything that involved me spending time with other Irstwitch students. I was friendly and wanted friends, but there were only two social classes at Irstwitch: the blue-blooded rich and those on scholarship. I am
nouveau riche
—an outcast from both groups.

Doctor Heisen eyed me, and then his expression softened. “I know it's tough for you, but you really need these credits.”

“Yes, sir. I'll do it.”

“Good. I'll let Whitney know to meet you in the library this evening at four. Three or four times a week should suffice.”

“Yes, sir.”

That meant I would be out after dark. Since I would be out anyway, I decided to postpone dinner and go back to my dorm for a warmer sweater and a scarf. In the time between class and meeting Whitney, I could work on my Latin or Biology.

Shoulders hunched against the cold and attention, I left the building and made the five-minute walk to my dorm in only four. When I passed through the study hall on my floor, I saw five third-year girls sitting at one of the tables, gossiping more than they were studying. In a year and a half, I had grown used to the sniggers and whispers that often came in my wake.

I liked the school itself. The classes challenged me and would prepare me for any university, Ivy League or otherwise. My daddy insisted that, since he could afford it, I would have only the best. That is how I wound up at Irstwitch. His sizable donation and ability to pay my full tuition guaranteed a spot for me in the classrooms as well as in the newest girls' dorm and a rare, single room.

I had already started down the hall to my room when Sicily, a third-year, called, “Hey,
blue
Skye,” in a fake southern accent. The other girls broke into a round of giggles, and one of them said, “Dead mother,” in a loud whisper.

“Hey,” I mumbled as I unlocked my door.

After closing and locking the door, I flopped onto my bed and stared at the smooth, white ceiling.
Stupid, mean girls
, I thought.

On a campus of barely 600 people, with about 150 people per grade level, I had crossed paths with just about everyone in my grade and quite a few others. Even so, I wasn't friends with any of them. The girls in my year didn't live in my dorm or study with me, so they didn't make friends with me. The third years…well, they treated me the same way Sicily did—like trash. All because of how my daddy made his money.

Through the door, I heard clucking and mooing as someone passed my room. I wrinkled my lip at the door and rolled away from it to look out the window. It was a typically gray, cold Connecticut winter day. I longed for the crowds of New York, where my father kept an apartment near his executive office. Irstwitch was only an hour away, but buried in the woods, it felt much further than that. Even more so, I longed for the sunshine and warmth of Savannah, the city I where I grew up. The city I considered home, even if our house there didn't feel like it.

After an hour of staring at clouds and not doing homework, I brushed my hair and smoothed my wrinkled blouse, skirt, and the wool coat that I hadn't bothered removing. I decided against the sweater but wound my school scarf around my neck before hefting on my backpack.

Staring at my feet, I walked from my room straight to the library. Inside, I staked out two chairs at one of the long, wooden tables, took off my backpack, scarf, and coat, and I sat down to wait on Whitney.

Thirty minutes later, I took out my volume of Edgar Allen Poe and read. It was a nice volume, leather bound, and only ten bucks on the discount aisle at the bookstore. I probably could've gotten a similar price for it on my e-reader, but I liked having real books. I smiled a little, thinking that the frugal attitude I'd been raised with stuck with me even after it was no longer necessary.

When an hour was up, I decided this Whitney girl wasn't going to show. I slipped my volume of Poe into my bag and stuffed my notebook underneath it.

As I slammed the cover of my Trig book closed, I heard, “Hey! Skye Daniels, right?”

I looked up to find this guy who looked like he just stepped off the cover of a J. Crew catalog, striding toward me with this charming, white-toothed smile. I gulped and said, “Yeah.”

“Whit Hastings.” He hurled his backpack onto the table and gracefully fell into the chair next to me.

I blinked. Not some
girl.
This was Whitney Hastings IV—a blue-blood whose father owned an auction house and art gallery for the
fun
of it. A little more than a year older than me, he was already seventeen. I'd heard the girls talk about him at study hall. He played soccer and other fields.

“Crew ran late.” He wiggled out of his coat and chucked it on top of his backpack.

I flipped open the cover of the book and said, “I was about to leave.”

He shook his head. “Wow, that southern accent.” I smirked at him. “Where were you going?”

Instead of taking his books out of his pack, he propped his feet on the table. Some dead grass and a glob of mud dripped from the one of the soles onto the tabletop.

I shrugged. “Get my dinner. I don't know. I hadn't given it a lot of thought.” I pointed at his feet. “I'm sure you are well aware that it's bad manners to put your feet on the table.”

Whitney smiled and dropped his feet back to the floor. “I could eat.”

“According to Doctor Heisen, you could use some help with Trig.”

“Okay, you teach me Trig, and I'll treat you to dinner at The Joint.”

“Can't,” I said with a headshake.

The Joint was the nickname of a café/burger place near campus that made most of its profits off Irstwitch students who wanted a break from the school cafeteria. I'd never been, since I couldn't drive. Besides, the cafeteria had a world-renown chef, so I figured no sandwich that The Joint made could compare.

“Why?”

I took out my pencil. “That would be like a payment, and this is part of my community service.”

His eyebrows flicked up at that. “I'm your
charity
?” I crossed my arms over my chest, and he laughed at me so loudly that the librarian shushed him.

“Based on your grades, I'd say you need it,” I snapped. He snorted, leaned back in his chair, and waved a hand at me. “Don't dismiss me. Do you really want people to think you graduated from this place because of who your daddy is?”

“I don't really care, but I'm sure you do, Miss Cluck Moo.” I loved my daddy's fast food franchise, but I hated the nickname it provided for me. Whitney lifted his chin at me, and I glared at him. “Sounds kind of dirty. Almost like I'm saying, ‘fu—'”

“Look,” I interrupted, “Doctor Heisen said you needed help. If you didn't want it, you shouldn't have told him that you did. I can find something else to do with my time.” I closed my pencil in my book and slid it into my pack. “Spoiled twit.”

I made it all the way outside the building before he caught up to me. “Hey, Skye,” he called after me. I stopped near the bottom of the steps and waited for him to come down to me. “I'm sorry about that. Doctor Heisen is right. I
do
need help.”

I eyed him, and when I determined he was sincere, I said, “Then, I'll help you.”

I went past him up the stairs, and he followed me back into the library. Once we settled, we spent two hours on Trig, mostly reviewing definitions he should've known. Two hours—that was the extent of Whitney's ability to focus on difficult tasks and the limit of my patience. We called it quits for the day and set an appointment for the following week.

Even though I wanted to try The Joint, I turned down his second dinner offer. He looked offended, and I apologized but stood firm. He had the reputation of a playboy, and with all the strikes I had against me, I didn't need “Whitney Hastings's next conquest” added to the list.

After packing up our backpacks, we walked in silence to the dining hall. There, without a word, Whitney kept going, and I went inside. As I stood in line to get my food, I felt relieved that I wouldn't have to deal with him for another week.

* * * *

The following Monday, I passed Whitney as he stood with a group of boys. I knew better, but my upbringing made it hard for me not to attempt some show of social politeness. Trying to be friendly, I waved. His response was to not wave back and look at me as if I were insane.

The other boys with him joked or laughed at him. One of them clucked and another mooed, making my face burn with embarrassment. When the one whose name I knew—Lincoln Moore—said, “Yeah, I'll take a burger, a chicken
breast
sandwich, and a bucket of wings,” I practically ran to my dorm.

I berated myself. Things would go much more smoothly if I kept to myself. I reminded myself that just because Whitney was sort of nice to me the one time I had tutored him, it didn't mean that he meant it or that he would repeat it.

When we met Thursday, neither of us mentioned it. I tutored him as if nothing had happened, and he tried to learn. When time was up, we said civil goodbyes and parted ways outside the library.

* * * *

After the rocky start and the awkward scene, Whitney and I settled into a comfortable working relationship. I met him three days a week to work on his math and Latin. Outside the library, he ignored me. It was just as well. On top of helping him, I had loads of my own work to do. I didn't have the time or inclination to have a non-working relationship with anyone.

The times I saw him with his friends, he was the center of their attention. If he was flirting with a girl, he smiled and found ways to touch her. Sometimes, a friend or a girl would be waiting for him outside the library, happy to see him and ready for whatever they had planned. Most of them paid me no attention.

Lincoln Moore was an exception. If I ever saw him waiting for Whitney, I excused myself to the restroom until I was sure they were long gone. It was cowardly, but Lincoln's name-calling and jokes were the hardest to take. Whitney never seemed to notice.

Charismatic best described Whitney. He just wasn't that way with me. It was impossible to ignore that he was cute, and when he came from class still wearing a suit and tie, he was downright handsome. He had a tie that matched his eyes—the deepest blue of an autumn sky.

When winter turned to spring, Whitney's days spent in the sun highlighted his light brown hair with gold the way the girls paid salons top dollar to streak their hair. Along with his change in hair tone, his grades improved. Even though Whitney didn't thank me for it, Doctor Heisen did.

The girls in my dorm liked to talk about Whitney's eyes, hair, body, everything. More than one of them had made out with him, and they often spent study hall comparing notes. While he sat next to me in the library and worked problems for me to check, I wondered if the things they said were true. Since it was none of my business, I didn't ask. We spent a lot of time together, but no rumors ever sprang up about us.

To his credit, Whitney wasn't rude to me. From time-to-time, he attempted to engage me in personal conversations. He would tell me about spending summers at camp and going on trips to various places in Europe. Inside the library, he treated me like a friend. He asked me about Savannah and my father. He was so different that I couldn't know who the real Whitney was. Since I didn't want to give him any more ways to hurt me, I told him very little about myself.

He was so busy with crew and soccer, I tutored him after dinner and during what should have been our free time. His dorm was on the way to mine, and since it was dark when we finished studying, he kindly walked with me as far as his dorm. Once the season got underway, he invited me to a few soccer games, and I made excuses not to go. It was bad enough that he ignored me when we weren't studying or walking back to our dorms at night. I didn't want to deal with being mocked for coming to a game to cheer for him.

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