GREAT NEWS, EVERYONE! Emily & Austin of the #YAcouplegoals category are BACK and their new rom-com (with just a little bit of a Shakespearian twist) is hitting shelves in FOUR DAYS!
So, we figure it’s only fair to share a sneak peek. Scroll down to read an excerpt of If I’m Being Honest!
I hear the word under Autumn Carey’s breath behind me. I guess I earned it by daring to walk ahead of her to reach the dining hall door. I cut her off while she was examining her reflection in her phone’s camera, trying to decide if her new bangs were a bad choice. Which they were. Part of me wants to whirl around and tell Autumn I don’t have the entirety of lunch to walk behind her, but I don’t.
Instead, I tilt my head just enough to tell Autumn I heard her, but I don’t care enough to respond. I have things to do. Autumn’s not remarkable enough in any way to hold my attention, and I’ve been called that name often enough, under enough breaths, for it not to hurt. Not from a girl like her. It’s hardly an uncommon thought here. Cameron Bright’s a bitch.
I throw open the door and walk outside. The sun sparkles on the fountain in the heart of the courtyard, encircled by low hedges and lunch tables. It’s about a billion degrees out because it’s September, when Los Angeles gets apocalyptically hot. I head for the stairway to the second-story patio, under the red-tiled roofs and cream-colored arches of the school’s mission architecture.
I notice heads turn in my direction. The girls watch me with half worship and half resentment, the boys with intrigue. In their defense, I do realize I’m . . . well, hot. I’m a natural blonde, and I have the body that comes with running six miles a day.
A sophomore girl stares from the railing with the undisguised interest of someone who doesn’t realize she’s been noticed. I give her a what? glance, and she drops her eyes, her cheeks reddening.
I’m popular. I don’t entirely know why. I’m hardly our school’s only hot girl, and it’s not like I’m rich. I’m not. My dad is, but he’s lived in Philadelphia since the year I was born, which is not a coincidence. He sends a check for my tuition and my mom’s rent, and nothing else. And I’m not popular because my parents have won Oscars or played for sold-out stadiums or were groupies for Steven Tyler. My mom could be considered an actress, but strictly of the washed-up, C-list variety. She had roles in a couple of commercials and stage plays when I was in elementary school. From there, it’s been a downward trajectory to watching daytime soaps on the couch and job searching on the internet.
I’m uninteresting among my classmates, honestly. Beaumont Prep—the top-ranked, priciest private school on the West Coast—is full of the children of the rich and famous. Actresses, entrepreneurs, athletes, musicians.
Then there’s me. I live forty minutes away in Koreatown. I drive a Toyota I’m pretty certain predates the Clinton presidency. I don’t set trends or post photos of myself on Instagram that get thousands of likes around the world.
Yet I’m popular. Undeniably and unquestionably.
I find our usual table overlooking the courtyard. Everyone knows the second-story patio is ours, the best view to see and be seen. No one’s here yet, which gives me the opportunity to pull my notebook from my bag and write down a quick list, organizing my thoughts.
To Do 9/8
- Pick up peer-reviewed Wharton essay
- Conditioning run
- Econ homework
I know there’s a fourth item. I’m itching to remember it, and it’s not coming. I use lists to unwind because I get edgy when things feel disorganized and out of my control. The way I feel right now, trying to remember the final thing I have to do today—
“You could come over tonight . . .” croons an obnoxious male voice, unmistakably Jeff Mitchel’s. Two bags drop to the ground at the table behind me. I roll my eyes as a female voice replies.
“You’re not going to Rebecca’s party?” The girl’s tone is bashful and obviously flirtatious. I wince. Jeff Mitchel is the worst. Rich, spoiled, and just attractive enough to make him insufferably entitled. He gets straight Ds, smokes pot instead of going to class, and enjoys impressing girls by “treating” them to five-hundred-dollar dinners at Daddy’s restaurant.
“Not if you’re coming over,” Jeff replies. I hear fabric rustling, telling me there’s been physical contact. Of what form, I don’t want to know. But I have a list to finish, which won’t happen with this playing out behind me.
Gritting my teeth, I round on the two of them.
I find Jeff in his popped-collar glory, one hand on the white-jeaned knee of Bethany Bishop. Bethany, who’s had her heart broken by nearly every one of Beaumont’s dumbasses of record, a string of careless rich guys and philandering athletes. I have neither the time nor the inclination to watch this one cross the starting line.
“Really?” I drag my eyes to Bethany. “You’re flirting with him now?”
Bethany flushes, glaring indignantly. “No one asked your opinion.”
“You just got dumped.” I ignore her. “The whole school knew. You ugly-cried by your locker for weeks. I’m not interested in having to walk past that again on my way to Ethics every day, and Jeff’s a worse guy than your ex—”
“Hey,” Jeff cuts in.
I fire him a glare. “Don’t get me started on you.” I turn back to Bethany. “Honestly, you’re decently attractive. I mean, your wardrobe needs updating, and you have a really annoying laugh. But all things considered, you’re a six-point-five for Beaumont. Jeff”—I fling my hand in his direction—“is a two. You could be doing way better,” I tell her encouragingly.
Bethany grabs her bag. “Screw you, Cameron.” She walks off in a huff, not realizing the huge favor I’ve done her.
Nobody ever does. When they’re not calling me bitch, people have told me I’m overly honest. I know. I know I am. When you grow up with a dad like mine, whose unwaveringly direct commentary came with every one of the rare visits and phone calls we’ve had throughout my childhood, it’s just an instinct. He’s never wrong, either, even when his words hurt. Which they do—I know he’s a jerk. But he’s a successful jerk, with Fortune 500 profiles and penthouses on two continents. With every critique he’s given me, I could wither under his words and feel inferior or I could rise to them and become a better version of myself. I’ve always appreciated his honesty for that.
Bethany clearly sees things differently.
“What the hell?” Jeff asks, irritated. “Bethany was one hundred percent going to put out. You owe me.”
“Please. You owe me the ten minutes of my life I’ll never get back.”
He eyes me, his expression changing. His raised eyebrow makes me gag. “I could give you ten minutes,” he says in a voice he must imagine is seductive.
“I’d rather die.”
“Damn, Cameron,” he says. “You need to loosen up. Do the world a favor and get yourself laid. If you keep up this ice-queen routine, eventually there won’t be a guy left who’d do the job.”
“As long as you’re first on that list.” I’m ready for this conversation to be over.
“You don’t mean that. Come on, you’re coming to Skāra tonight, right? I’ll be there. We could—”
But I don’t hear whatever it is Jeff Mitchel wishes we could do tonight, because his offer, while thoroughly disgusting, reminds me of the missing item on my list. I return to my notebook and start writing.
- Find out if soccer team is going to Skāra
I may be a renowned “ice queen” on campus, but I won’t be for much longer. Not if a certain member of the soccer team comes to the North Hollywood nightclub where one of the cheerleaders is having a huge party tonight.
“Are you even listening to me?” Jeff whines, demanding my attention.
“Of course not.” I look up in time to see my two best friends approaching. Elle Li levels Jeff a look of such pure disgust she doesn’t even have to utter a word. Jeff picks up his backpack and finally gets out of my sight. I swear, she has a gift.
“Permission to rant?” I hear characteristic exasperation in Elle’s voice. She drops down across from me, Jeff entirely forgotten. I close my notebook as she and Morgan place their lunches on the table.
Morgan has her brilliantly blonde hair in an elaborate braid. She’s wearing a Dolce & Gabbana dress, but Morgan LeClaire could wear sweatpants and she’d look like a movie star. Because she pretty much is one. Her mom’s a record executive, and Morgan’s hung out with the Donald Glovers and Demi Lovatos of the world her whole life. She decided she wanted to act when she was ten, and a year ago her agent began booking her roles in local indies. On the bench next to Elle, she looks bored, and I get the feeling she heard the first half of Elle’s rant on the walk over from the dining hall.
Elle flits a perfectly manicured hand through her short, shiny black hair. She’s five foot two, and yet everyone—teachers included—agree she’s the most imposing person on campus.
Which is why I’m not about to interrupt her. “Permission granted,” I say, waving a hand grandly.
“MissMelanie got the Sephora sponsorship,” Elle fumes, her British accent coming out. She grew up in Hong Kong until she was ten and learned English at expensive private schools. “I made multiple videos featuring their lip liner. I even did a haul video where I spent seven hundred dollars of my own money on makeup I don’t need. I wrote kiss-ass-y emails to their head of digital promotions—for nothing. For them to go with an idiot like MissMelanie, who mixes up ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ in her comments.”
Ellen Li, or Elli to her 15 million YouTube subscribers, is one of the highest-viewed makeup artists for her online weekly tutorials. Every week she creates and models looks for everything from New Year’s Eve parties to funerals. She’s been on Forbes’s Highest-Paid YouTube Stars list twice.
Despite my complete and utter lack of interest in makeup or internet stardom, Elle and I are remarkably alike. She’s the only other person I know who understands how desperate and careless 99 percent of this school is. Elle’s unflinchingly honest, and she’ll do anything to achieve her goals. It’s why we’re inseparable.
And it’s why I know she can handle a little attitude in return. I cut her a dry look. “You know you’re acting incredibly entitled, right?”
Elle hardly even glances in my direction. “Obviously,” she says, hiding a smile. “I’m entitled to the Sephora sponsorship because of my hard work, just like I’m entitled to have you listen to me unload without complaining because I’ve come to every one of your interminable cross-country races.”
To be fair, this is true. Elle and Morgan have come to pretty much every race I can remember. They’re often the only people in the bleachers for me. They first came when I was a freshman, when I’d invited my dad because he happened to be in town for the week to woo investors for an upcoming stock offering. I’d gotten my hopes up he’d come and see me win. When I crossed the finish line, he wasn’t there—but Elle and Morgan were. They surprised me by coming, and it was the only thing that kept me from being crushed.
“You two are terrible,” Morgan says, shaking her head. “I don’t know why I’m even friends with either of you.”
Elle and I don’t have to exchange a look. We round on Morgan in unison. “You’re an honor student, you’re nice, you have cool, rich parents,” I start.
“You’re an actress, and you’re gorgeous,” Elle continues.
“You’re too perfect,” I say.
“No one but us could handle being friends with you,” Elle finishes flatly.
Morgan rolls her eyes, blushing. “You guys really are the worst.”
I shrug. “But you love us.”
“Debatable,” she delivers with a wink. She pulls out her phone, probably to text her boyfriend, Brad.
I catch the time on her screen. Shit. There’s only ten minutes left in lunch. I have to drop off the essay I peer-reviewed and pick up mine from the College and Career Center. I shove my notebook into my bag and stand. “Morgan,” I say, remembering the final item on my list. “Would you ask Brad if he knows if the soccer team’s coming to Skāra tonight?”
Two pairs of eyes fix on me immediately. It’s a reaction I knew well enough to expect. “What do you care about the soccer team?” Elle inquires. “You’re not considering ending your two-year streak of lonely Friday nights with a hookup, are you?”
“What’s wrong with a little window shopping?” I reply lightly. I throw my bag over my shoulder and leave, eager not to be interrogated.