Authors: Heather Graham
Also by HEATHER GRAHAM
PICTURE ME DEAD
A SEASON OF MIRACLES
NIGHT OF THE BLACKBIRD
Watch for Heather Graham's next blockbuster
DEAD ON THE DANCE FLOOR
Available in hardcover March 2004
A different time, a different place
Darcy Tremayne hadn't expected her senior prom to be a dream
evening. But neither had she expected it to be the beginning of a
It started with Hunter being a total jerk.
She wasn't sure what started their argument, only that it
escalated into him saying that he didn't intend to speak to her
again until she apologized. She told him he'd better not plan on
speaking to her again ever then, because she hadn't the least
intention of apologizing. She hadn't done anything, other than
suggest that despite the fact that he had been given an award in
drama club, he hadn't needed to kiss his leading lady quite so
long, or so deeply, in the auditorium, in front of the world. Or
their small part of it anyway-the entire high school. When he left
her house that afternoon, she assumed that he'd call her and be the
one to say that he was sorry.
The call never came. She heard the next morning that he had
invited his leading lady, Cindy Lee, to the prom.
She avoided her friends, and allowed herself to indulge in some
well-earned tears. She argued with herself all afternoon.
Hunter was going to head straight out to California after
graduation and try to make it big in Hollywood. She was heading to
NYU, and she had been ecstatic about her acceptance there and the
small scholarship that would allow her to go. Eventually, living
across the country from one another, she and Hunter would have most
probably fallen apart. She should have accepted the fact long ago
that Hunter had an eye for other girls. He was young. So was she.
They should spend some time without commitment.
But she didn't really want to split. She had been in love with
Hunter since ninth grade. They had shared the years since. Very
long, good years, or so it had seemed.
In the end, Hunter did call her. He was so sorry. He'd ruined
everything, but he couldn't get out of going to their prom with
She accepted his apology with a maturity her mother assured her
was beyond her years. And it was her mother who suggested that she
ask her friend, Josh.
"Josh!" she'd said with surprise.
But it was only momentary. Josh was a loner. He was a genius
with computers, math, and science. He was painfully shy
himself, but delighted when she wanted to try out a song, a dance
move, or a monologue on him. They had lived down the street from
one another in their rather rural area for years, and had long ago
become friends. They didn't run in the same social circles, but
Darcy had steadfastly maintained her friendship with him, no matter
what anyone else thought. Over the years, some of her friends had
And amazingly, Josh had been able to warn her about many of the
pratfalls she might have encountered in life.
Go with Hunter
tonight for ice cream,
he had urged her once.
him go alone.
And she had done so, and Cindy Lee had been
there, flirting with Hunter, until she had realized that Darcy was
with him. There were other things. He'd made her stop her father
from driving to the store one day when it turned out that his
brakes were bad. Both her folks listened to Josh. She had learned
to do so, too.
Other people, she knew, were frightened by some of his
predictions. He had known when Mrs. Shumacher down the street was
about to die of cancer. He had known when Brad Taylor was going to
break his leg during a football game. A lot of the kids called him
a freak. But despite her little spat with Hunter, she had always
held her own in school. She could bring Josh to the prom, and he'd
be accepted, because he'd be with her. Oh, they'd talk about
her-and him-behind their backs, but what did she care? Hunter had
already hurt her just about as badly as she could be hurt; she was
cut right to her eighteen-year-old heart.
And besides, the whole high school thing was over. A new life
was about to begin.
Josh hemmed and hawed at first, skeptical. "Darcy, I'll just
look like the geek you dressed up and brought along."
But she'd laughed and assured him, "Josh, honestly, you're a
good-looking guy. Tall, lean, great eyes, and if you don't mind,
we'll shop together. But if you'd feel uncomfortable, we
won't go. We'll just see a movie or something that night. I
mean, if you're willing to keep me company."
He'd smiled at that. "I'd rather be in your company than anyone
else's, that's for sure. But you don't have to take me. Half the
school would go with you."
"That's doubtful and it doesn't matter. If you don't want to go,
I don't want to go."
At that, Josh had given her a strange smile. ' 'If you want to
go to the prom with the class nerd, lady, I wouldn't dream of
To her amazement, the planning was fun. Although he usually
dressed like a couch potato himself, Josh had a good eye for
clothes. Hand in hand they went shopping together. They ran into a
number of her friends at the mall, and she was delighted to see
their eyes widen at first, and then seem to focus more deeply on
Josh. He was able to help Cissy Miller with a math problem she'd
been dragging around for days, and over tacos at the food
court, he found a new friend in Brenda Greeley, a really beautiful
girl, and the head cheerleader.
When they got back to shopping, he made Darcy try on a dress she
hated on the rack, and loved once she slipped into it. It turned
out that one of Josh's computer buddies worked in the store, and he
was able to give her his employee discount, so she could
afford the gown. The young man's name was Riley O'Hare, and he told
Darcy he was actually in her auditorium class. She apologized
sincerely for never having met him, and when they left the shop,
she thoughtfully told Josh that she had never known that she could
be so rude or careless herself.
"Darcy, you? Never," he told her devoutly. "Rude and careless is
when you don't acknowledge someone when they talk to you, when you
can't even lift your hand for a wave. Or when you push over a thin
guy just 'cause he's not on the football team, or can't really join
in on a jam with a guitar. Darcy, you know that I love you, and
it's one hell of an overused term, but you're a special kind of
girl, you know?'' He looked embarrassed suddenly. ' 'Hey, come on,
we've got to find something for me. I can't take out a girl like
you looking the way I usually do."
So next came Josh's turn, and when she advised him on a shirt
and suit, somewhat funky and retro, he, too was delighted, thinking
that he looked something like a New Age Mozart.
There was only one fly in the ointment that day.
Mike Van Dam.
He was friends with Hunter, and dating Brenda. Darcy realized
later that he must have seen them in the food court, and seen
Brenda talking to Josh. When they were leaving the mall, the door
suddenly swung back on Josh, who was carrying the bags filled with
their purchases. Mike, broad shoulders thrusting forward, was
suddenly there, standing over Josh, who had wound up on the floor.
"Hey, there, geek-boy, having a problem standing?" He reached a
hand down, which was accepted by Josh, except that as soon as Josh
was halfway up, Mike released him. Josh fell again, hard, on his
"Mike, what the hell is the matter with you?" Darcy demanded,
infuriated, reaching down to give Josh a hand herself. Mike caught
her by the shoulders, spinning her around.
"What the hell is the matter with you, Darcy? Trying to make
fools of us all by taking up with the riffraff, the scum of the
She jerked free from him. "Mike, you idiot. What? Are you going
to live in your little high school tough-guy haven for the rest of
your life? Scared for your future, because football star and all,
you just might not get into college, and a decade from now, you'll
still be on the couch, an armchair quarterback, while Josh is
making his way up the ladder in a top law firm?''
That got him, and she knew it did. Josh was on his feet by then.
Mike stared at him furiously.
"I carry mace," Darcy warned softly.
Mike cocked his square-jawed head, blue eyes burning, cropped
blond hair seeming to stand on edge. He made a clicking sound and
pointed a finger at Josh. "You're a dead man," he told him.
Josh stared back at him, a strange smile of amusement and irony
curling his lips. "Maybe. But so are you," he said very softly.
Mike was about to go into another fit of rage. Darcy grabbed the
bags and pushed Josh out the door. For a moment, they could
hear Mike raging behind them. "What's that supposed to mean,
geek-boy? You'd better be careful, I'll-"
They never heard the rest of the threat. The door had swung shut
Darcy looked at Josh uneasily as she quickly led him to the car.
"What was that all about? You didn't have one of your little
premonitions there, did you?"
Josh laughed and shook his head. "No, kid, no. But he doesn't
Darcy laughed as well, delighted. Josh had probably managed to
scare Mike through the next many nights.
The night of the prom came. As long as Darcy had known Josh, she
barely knew his father. His mom had died when he was an infant, and
his dad had almost never been around. All Josh had ever said about
him was that he was the head of a company with offices in D.C.,
which was why he had to spend so much time away from their small
town in southern Pennsylvania. He was a nice enough man when Darcy
saw him, though he had seemed ancient from the first day they had
met. She hadn't realized, though, until Josh picked her up for the
prom just how much money his dad must make. Josh's graduation
present had been a brand-new Volvo, a sporty one at that.
Josh brought her the most beautiful corsage she had ever seen.
Her mother fussed around the two of them, taking picture after
picture while her father beamed.
Josh, she discovered that night, was also an amazing dancer.
Flushing, he informed her that he'd had some experience
because bis father had brought him to cotillion classes when he'd
been in junior high.
Her friends were good that night, especially Brenda, and even
the guys had to toe the line somewhat, since then-dates seemed to
accept Josh. Hunter, however, never approached her once. She
saw that he and Mike were watching them from a distance,
however, and that Mike looked as if he were about to explode when
she and Josh won the ' 'Wild and Wacky'' dance contest.
Hunter just looked sad.
Darcy smiled at Josh, and he looked at her, curiously arching a
brow. "Thank you," she told him.
"Me? Thank you! I'm like a male Cinderella tonight.
Prince-not-so-charming, feeling like the beau of the ball."
She shook her head. "No. You made me realize that my life wasn't
over without Hunter, and that there is a world ahead."
He caught both her hands, squeezing them tightly. "Don't you
ever forget that, Darcy, you hear? The world is out there, and it's
yours. It's a beautiful world." He spoke urgently, staring into
Darcy's eyes. "Even when things don't seem quite right. Some
people, just with a smile here and there, a kind word, make it all
a better place for everyone around them. You're one of those
people. Remember that. There are times in life to be sad, to feel
pain, but you're a giver. Don't ever let yourself be downed by
fear, hardship, or even sorrow that's so deep, you may not feel
like going on."
A chill swept into her. "Josh, you're scaring me."
"Sorry, Darcy." He seemed to return to himself again. "Hey, I
don't believe it. They're playing a Charleston! Want to try
"Why the hell not?"
In a while, she forgot his words, because they did just have so
She was vaguely aware of the amount of drinking going on, the
punch being spiked, and even the drugs. Brenda was upset because
she was sure Mike was getting smashed. She was uneasy about the
guys driving, but she had no control over any of it and decided
that she was just going to enjoy the miracle that occurred; Hunter
had thrown her over just before their senior prom, and she was
stiff there, and having the best time of her life.
At last, it was time to go. Darcy had booked a room at me hotel
where most of the kids were going after the prom, but she didn't
want to go. Josh agreed that a perfect end to the evening might be
watching a few movies, then seeing the sun come up. They were
in his brand-new Volvo and heading out of the parking lot when the
first warning that they were never going to make it occurred.
There was a tap against Josh's bumper. Just a tap. It barely
jerked them forward.
Josh turned around, swearing softly. "Too much alcohol in there,
or kids who just can't drive."
With lights blaring around them, they really couldn't see who
was behind them.
Josh pulled out on the road.
"Care if I rifle through the CDs?" Darcy asked him.
"Be my guest."
She was oohing over his Beatles collection when the next tap
against the bumper came. This one was harder, slamming against the
"Dammit!" Josh swore.
"What the hell...?" Darcy said, looking back.
She didn't really need to look back. A car pulled
alongside them. Mike was at the wheel, in his souped-up old
Chevy. The car was a battle-ax with an engine that might have made
the grade at the Daytona 500. His window was down. He had a beer in
his hand while driving.
"Ass!" Darcy said.
Josh was quiet, staring ahead. He didn't seem frightened.
Mike was making signs for her to roll the window down.
"Might as well do it," Josh said.
"He's an idiot. Just drive," Darcy told him.
She looked straight ahead as well. To her amazement, Mike
slammed his Chevy's tank side right against the Volvo.