Excerpt Alert: LOOK
Start reading LOOK by Zan Romanoff!
Meet Lulu. There are three things Lulu Shapiro’s 5,000 Flash followers don’t know about her:
• That the video of her with another girl was never supposed to go public.
• That Owen definitely wasn’t supposed to break up with her because of it.
• That behind the carefully crafted selfies and scenes Lulu projects onto people’s screens, her life feels like a terrible, uncertain mess.
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Cass’s car is a few blocks away from Patrick’s house, taking up half of the street behind the bend of a blind turn and sitting directly under a no parking anytime sign. “Whoops,” she says as she unlocks it. The car is a boxy Volvo, not ancient but definitely not new. Cass grabs an armful of stuff off the passenger seat and gestures for Lulu to sit.
She doesn’t consult her phone’s GPS, which impresses Lulu. “You know your way around this neighborhood?” she asks.
Cass shrugs. “Reception sucks in the hills,” she says. “And I have a pretty good sense of direction.”
“Oh,” Lulu says. And then, to have something else to say: “I don’t.”
“You seemed to know your way around that house pretty well.”
Lulu steered them down the way she’d come up, taking a back staircase and then a side door, slipping them out the front gate without anyone seeing them go. She messaged Bea: hey feeling weird heading out talk tmrw? Though Cass is right about reception: When she looks down now, she sees that it didn’t send. She hits retry.
“I’ve spent a lot of time exploring at Patrick’s,” Lulu says. “And houses are different, anyway. There are walls.”
“Yes, there are,” Cass agrees.
Lulu knows that was dumb, and she moves to explain, to defend herself—there are limits is what she means, there are borders to guide you—but Cass doesn’t seem to be dwelling on it. Instead she keeps driving, fast and certain, taking them up and up and up.
She says, “We’re not far from where we’re going, by the way. I didn’t just, like, lure you into my car on false pretenses.” She keeps her gaze on the road but raises an eyebrow suggestively. “I’m not that kind of girl.”
“Me neither,” Lulu says. Which—whatever. Whatever. That isn’t a conversation she needs to have with Cass right now, especially if Cass doesn’t already know.
“See,” Cass says. “Look, we’re here.”
Here is a dark gate so tangled in vines that at first Lulu isn’t even sure that there’s anything underneath them. Someone has cut away a patch, though, to allow for the swing of the hinge, and the metal glints faintly in the car’s headlights. Cass leaps out to tap a code into the keypad. The gate swings open at her command.
Beyond the gate is a long, tree-lined drive. Unkempt branches laced together overhead turn the night’s darkness dense with shadow. It should look menacing, but instead it’s dreamy. Cass gets back in and eases the car forward, her foot light on the gas.
The gate swings closed behind them.
“So this is the hotel,” Cass says.
“The Hotel? Is that, like, its proper name?”
“For now. Do you want to hear a story?”
“Sure.” Lulu settles back in her seat and cranes her head up so she can look out the window at the trees. She can’t tell whether the flashes of light she sometimes catches through them are lights that have been woven through the branches, or if she’s high enough up that somehow, she can see the stars.
“Avery Riggs built this place around the turn of the century,” Cass says. “You know the name, right? As in Lowell’s Riggs Science Center, or—”
“It’s the Riggs Library,” Lulu says. “At St. Amelia’s.”
Every private school child in Los Angeles knows the Riggs name; over the course of a handful of generations of increasingly lawless progeny, the family has donated a wing or at least a building to almost every campus improvement project in the city. Plus, one of the Riggs heirs, Roman, was in her sister Naomi’s class in high school—at least until he dropped out at the beginning of their senior year to run a start-up that became Flash.
“Exactly,” Cass says. “Avery was the one who made all of that money in the first place. He came out here at the very beginning of Hollywood to try to be a king of cinema. Movies didn’t end up working out for him, but real estate did. This place was his first big success.”
They come out of the tree canopy and all of a sudden Lulu sees it: The Hotel. Its white face is lit by the car’s headlights and Los Angeles’ ambient glow, and it looks almost luminous, gleaming, against the black of the hillside at its back. Floor-to-ceiling glass enclosing the first story shimmers. The floor above it is punctuated by the iron railings of balconies, dark against radiant white.
Cass doesn’t exactly park. She just pulls the car to a stop and turns it off. A black Range Rover is sitting right next to the front door, but no one’s in it. Since there doesn’t appear to be anyone else here, Lulu figures it doesn’t really matter where they leave the car.
“Is it . . . open?” Lulu asks.
“For us,” Cass says. She unbuckles her seat belt and opens her door. She stands and stretches into the night, raising her long, bony arms to the full white moon, which is sweet and heavy overhead. Her shirt pulls up so that Lulu can mark the points of her hipbones, and imagine the shadow at the curve of her waist.
Cass notices that Lulu hasn’t moved. “We aren’t going to get in trouble,” she says. “I promise.”
“I don’t know what kind of girl you are,” Lulu says. “But breaking and entering, that’s really not—”
“You aren’t going to get in trouble,” Cass repeats.
“How can you be so sure?”
Cass rolls her eyes. “We’re not breaking to enter. I had that code, didn’t I?”
Lulu gets out of the car.
This is what she’s been craving: something completely new.
The night air is cold on her skin, sharp and shivery, and even with the moon it’s surprisingly dark. She’s out here alone in a place she’s never been with a girl she doesn’t know.
Anything could happen. Anything at all.
Lulu turns to Cass. “This is your favorite place in Los Angeles?”
“Shhh,” Cass says. She holds an actual finger to her lips.
“Hear that?” Cass asks.
Lulu shakes her head.
“You like that it’s quiet?”
“I like that it’s private,” Cass corrects. She takes a step forward and starts to say “Look—” but that’s as far as she gets before a light on one of the balconies flips on, flooding them both in buzzing fluorescent bright. Lulu’s heart spasms in her chest. She ducks instinctively.
When she looks up, Cass is still standing, an arm thrown over her eyes. “Ryan!” she yells.
On the balcony there’s a figure in silhouette—a boy, Lulu thinks. He drags something heavy into place and stands on it, fiddling with the base of the lamp that’s hung there. “Sorry,” he calls down. “Sorry, Cass, I forgot about the motion sensors.”
“I thought you were going to turn those off!”
“I did in Three,” the boy—Ryan—says. “But then I fell asleep in Four.”
“Why don’t you turn all of them off?”
“Then what if some random creeps came sniffing around?”
“Are you just hoping to blind them to death?”
“The security cameras, Cass. Can’t record a creep you can’t see.”
The light finally flicks off, and the dark that follows seems to swallow them all.
“You still there?” Ryan calls.
Cass scuffs the toe of one of her flats in the dirt. “Be hospitable,” she says. “I brought someone with me. Come meet your first real guest.”