Prom King by Alexa Riley






Chapter One





Celeste





The sound of my mom’s laughter has me lifting my head and pushing my glasses up my nose to find her. She’s standing in line to order a drink, but I’m not sure why. She hates coffee, always has. She’s up to something.

The three women in front of her in line give her all their attention. Their eyes are wide, and they’re hanging on to every word she says. If my mom wants your attention, she’ll get it one way or another. She can control the energy in the room with a few words or movements.

Her blond hair shines in the light that’s coming through the windows at the front of the quaint coffee shop. Even the light has no choice but to give her notice. Some people think of her as magical or even supernatural. I think others might call her a con. If they could ever catch her, that is.

The reality is she can read the room even with her eyes closed. When I was little, I thought of it as a gift, but as I’ve gotten older, I’m not sure that’s the case.

Her head turns my way and then her smile changes to one that’s genuine. When she goes back to speaking to the women in line, they all take out their phones to save her number. We’ve been in the town of Craven Cove for two days, and she’s already luring people in. Even I can tell the ladies she's speaking to come from money. It won’t take Mom long to have them pouring it into her hands.

I go back to clicking through the website for my new high school. Mom said we’ll be staying here for the year, or at least until I graduate. She’s so determined to have me finish out my final year of high school in an actual school.

Personally, I think she has this whole idea of prom and me walking across a stage for graduation. This isn’t really a new dream, because we’ve been through this before. Just as she begins to put down roots somewhere, she’s telling me we’re on to the next adventure.

I’ve been in and out of schools all my life. Oftentimes I’m able to attend online. But that was more so when we traveled with that circus for a few years. Now it depends on where we land after we take off from the town before. Part of me is excited to stay in one spot for a whole year, but the rest of me is filled with an unease I can’t explain.

“Everyone here is so lovely.” Mom sits down in the chair across from mine and places a drink in front of me.

“Making friends already, I see.” Snagging the coffee she got for me, I take a giant gulp. She might not be a coffee lover, but I am. I picked up the addiction when I realized coffee could help me stay up and keep reading my books through most of the night.

“A girl’s gotta make a living.” She winks at me, making me laugh.

I have no clue how I’m her daughter. We couldn't possibly be more opposite in personality. She steals the spotlight while I never want to be anywhere near it. It’s not usually hard for me to make friends, but I’m still pretty shy.

“I think you’re fine on money, Mom.” We aren’t loaded, but I’ve never gone without.

She reaches across the table and plucks my glasses off my face. She cleans the lenses and looks around. “What do you think of this place?”

“It’s nice so far.” It’s really different from anywhere else we’ve stayed for an extended length of time.

You have to take a ferry to get on and off the island, which is nothing like anywhere we’ve been. Most everyone around here knows each other from what I can tell, and there seems to be a mix of classes as well. Some of the homes are breathtaking, complete with helipads to take them on and off the island. I’ve spotted a few of them, but then there’s modest places like the one we’re renting.

“Change is coming,” she says, handing me my glasses. What the heck does that even mean? I know my mom isn’t actually psychic. “I’ll meet you at home?” she asks, and I nod.

“Yeah, I’m going to roam around.”

“I know you are, honey.” She stands up and then leans over to kiss on the top of my head. “It gets dark early here, keep that in mind—”

“And stay away from the water.” I finish her words for her. “We’re on an island. That might be a hard one to stick to.”

“I was going to say to turn your phone off silent.”

“Liar,” I toss back at her. Mom can smell a lie from a mile away, but knows how to tell one without giving herself away. Too bad I know her better than anyone and can tell when she’s lying.