|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Her debut novel Trade Winds, a historical romance and adventure story, was short-listed for the Pure Passion Award for Best Historical Fiction 2011. Her second novel, The Scarlet Kimono, received the Best Historical Fiction prize for the Big Red Read 2011. Her novels Highland Storms and The Gilded Fan both won the Historical Novel of the Year award (Highland Storms in 2012 and The Gilded Fan in 2014), while The Silent Touch of Shadows (time slip) won the Festival of Romance award for Best Historical in 2013.
Christina also writes contemporary YA and New England Rocks was shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year award in the YA category in 2014.
Her hobbies include genealogy, archaeology (the armchair variety), listening to loud rock music and collecting things. She loves dogs, reading and chocolate.
Read an Excerpt
Just over a week later, Rain found herself outside the local high school in Northbrooke, a tiny New England town a couple of hours north of Boston in the United States. Since this was where her parents currently lived, attending this lowly establishment was to be her punishment for getting herself expelled from Blakeborough. Judging by the exterior, a punishment it would surely be, she thought.
'Why can't you just find me another boarding school?' she had demanded of her father, Sir Anthony Mackenzie, when he told her she was moving. It wasn't as if he couldn't afford it – he was director of a UK banking corporation and currently working in Boston, but even if he hadn't been earning a massive salary that way, he'd inherited a fortune at an early age. Money had never been an issue. 'I'm sorry for what happened, but it was just a prank that got a bit out of hand and you're paying them like squillions each term. Surely they can overlook what I've done and give me another chance?'
'Possibly, but here's the rub,' he'd replied. 'I'm not prepared to shell out "squillions", as you put it, on your education if you're not going to take it seriously. This wasn't the first time the headmaster has had cause to complain of your behaviour. I'm becoming rather bored with hearing about your exploits, you know. The fact is you had your chance and you blew it, basically. Now you have to accept the consequences of your actions.'
Rain thought he was being unnecessarily harsh and hoped to change his mind soon, but in the meantime, this was where she had to stay. Purgatory, by the look of it.
Northbrooke High couldn't have been more different from Blakeborough if it had tried. Where her former school consisted of a collection of beautiful old red brick buildings in the classical style, this one was all modern, squat and, in her opinion, dead ugly. She sighed and stomped off in the direction of the entrance. After all, it made no difference what it looked like.
There were hordes of teenagers everywhere – in the parking lot, on the front steps and inside the building – but she totally ignored them even though everyone seemed to be staring at her. She had no intention of talking to any of them. What's the point? She wasn't planning on staying long. Besides, she didn't want any friends. Not if they were going to behave the way her so-called friends at Blakeborough had. Selfish bunch of tossers who ... She balled her fists and stopped the thought right there. She refused to even think about them now.
Just inside the main doors, she bumped into someone coming the other way. She raised her eyes to glare at whoever it was, but blinked instead when she realised she'd collided with one of the hottest guys she'd ever seen.
'Whoa, take it easy, babe.' He put out a hand to steady her, but she shook it off.
Straight black hair, fashionably spiky, above intense blue eyes. Chiselled cheekbones and jaw, perfect nose and mouth, and an eyebrow piercing. Rain was a sucker for those. Yep, seriously fit. She almost gasped, especially since she had bounced off his substantial chest. She looked up at him, noticing how big he was at close quarters. Not just tall, but broad-shouldered with nicely defined biceps and arms that were covered in dragon tattoos all the way down to his wrists. The sleeveless T-shirt he wore showed these off to perfection and she couldn't seem to drag her gaze away.
'Like what you see?' he asked in a lazy voice, his blue eyes twinkling with teasing laughter when she looked up again.
'No,' she said curtly, but felt herself blush, which made her furious. He chuckled and she knew he probably hadn't been fooled. She had liked what she'd seen, very much so, and she wished it wasn't so obvious. Damn him, she thought. He must get that reaction all the time. Well, too bad, she wasn't going to fall for him, wicked blue eyes or not. She wasn't falling for anyone ever again.
He seemed to like what he was looking at too and she had to swallow a curse of outrage when she saw the direction of his gaze. He was so tall he could see straight down her top to her lacy lilac bra, as his next words confirmed. 'Purple, huh?' he commented with raised eyebrows. 'Nice.'
'It's lilac, actually, not that it's any of your business.' She swept past him with her head held high and made a mental note not to wear such low cut tops in future. At five foot ten, she was usually on the same level as most boys, but she'd obviously have to be more careful around this guy. He had to be six foot two at the very least, so even with heels on, she was shorter than him.
'Whatever,' she muttered, annoyed with herself for even caring. What did it matter? She wasn't staying long and their paths probably wouldn't cross much in any case.
Finding her way round Northbrooke High didn't prove too difficult and Rain was soon standing before the principal's secretary. She'd entered the room without knocking and waited with arms crossed until the woman stopped talking on the phone to someone.
'Yes, can I help you?' The woman's expression was wary.
'I'm Rain Mackenzie. Apparently I'm starting at this school today.' Rain didn't bother to hide her annoyance. She couldn't care less what anyone here thought. If she wasn't going to sit her A-level exams in the UK this year, she'd have to go back to do them at a crammer school or something. So whatever she did or didn't do here was irrelevant. In fact, she could go the whole year without doing any homework whatsoever because she'd have to do it all again next year. That made her feel even angrier than before. What a bloody waste of time!
'Ah, yes, your father rang me on Friday, right?'
'Just hang on a sec and I'll see if Dr A has time to see you.'
'That's right, Dr Allburn, the principal. He has a PhD in child psychology, you know.'
Rain rolled her eyes. Like I care?
'Wait here, please.' The woman went to knock on the door to an inner office and disappeared for a short while, then came back. 'Okay, you can go in now.'
Rain wasn't sure what she'd expected, but Dr Allburn certainly didn't fit her image of a principal. The ones she'd had in England had either been of the stern old lady type or doddery professor lookalikes, all of them with distinguished features and an air of dusty academics. Dr Allburn was nothing like that. He was tall and built like a brick wall, and deeply suntanned with a wide smile of impossibly white teeth. His thick hair, although slicked back neatly from his face, was tied into a small ponytail at the back. Rain tried not to stare.
'Hi there, welcome to Northbrooke High.' He had a booming voice that suited his large frame and he shook her hand vigorously. 'I'm Dr Allburn, but the kids all call me Dr A so I hope you will too. Have a seat, please.'
Slightly shell-shocked, Rain sat on the chair he indicated while he seated himself behind his huge desk and smiled at her again. 'So, you've come to join us for a while, huh?'
'Looks that way,' Rain said. Talk about stating the obvious.
He grinned. 'I understand this is your first time in the US.'
'Yes, yes it is. My parents only just moved over here.'
'Well, it's not so different to the UK. You'll soon catch on, don't you worry about that.'
'I'm not worried at all, and just so you know, I'm not here of my own free will.'
'Right. Good to get that point cleared up.' She narrowed her eyes at him, not sure if he was making fun of her or not, but he continued blandly. 'So I hear you had a small problem back at your boarding school. That right?'
She snorted. 'You could say that. I don't know what Dad told you, but whatever it was, it's not true. Well, the tequila part is, but not the rest. And I was so not the ringleader, or any kind of leader, and it wasn't my idea, no matter what that ratbag Milo told everyone. He's just a scaredy-cat little shit who's afraid of his dad and blamed it all on me. Very convenient.'
'Hey, hey!' Dr A held up his hands as if to stop her torrent of words. 'We don't blame anyone here for any past misdemeanours, so keep your hat on, okay? You'll be judged on what you do from now on, maybe you could keep that in mind.'
Rain shrugged. She had no intention of doing anything much here at all, but he didn't need to know that right now.
'I'd better get someone to show you around and —'
'That's not necessary,' Rain cut in rudely. 'I can find my own way, thanks. If you just give me my locker number and a class list, I'll take it from there.'
'Ooh-kaaay.' He drew out the word as if he was thinking about it. 'What classes are you taking?'
'How should I know? Whatever I have to, I guess.'
'Well, you're in the Senior year so you can pretty much choose for yourself.' He handed over a piece of paper. 'Here's a list of subjects. You'll have to do one English course of some sort and a math one, but other than that, it's up to you. Minimum six subjects.'
Rain studied the list and quickly made her choices. This is going to be a doddle. 'Fine. I'll do Futuristic Literature for English ...' Futuristic Lit? She almost laughed as such a subject would never have been taught at Blakeborough, only boring old classics. The list said it consisted of reading sci-fi books and writing a few reports on them, so that should be easy. That's what I read for fun! '... uhm, geometry for math ...' She'd done that before, so that would be easy too. '... French and Spanish ...' She was fairly fluent in both from the many holidays spent in the South of France and the Costa Blanca with her parents. '... typing ...' Typing? Doesn't everyone know how to do that these days? '... and maybe Home Ed? Is that, like, cooking?'
'Sure is, honey.'
'That's it, then.'
'Great. If you go back out to Mrs Langan and tell her your choices, she'll draw up a schedule for you and you can head straight to your homeroom.'
'First class of the day starts with roll call, announcements, that sort of thing. Doesn't take long.'
Rain stood up and turned for the door. She knew she was being impolite, but she didn't care. Dr A might be a nice man, but she still didn't want to be at his poncey old school, so she didn't give a toss what he thought of her. Just as she reached for the handle, however, he spoke again.
'Oh, I almost forgot. We have a new policy this year – all the Seniors have to participate in an extracurricular activity after school, like team sports or helping out with the Yearbook and stuff. Your choice again, here's a list.' He held out another piece of paper and she walked over to take it reluctantly.
Great, so now I'll be forced to spend even more time in this place every day. Just what she needed. 'Whatever. I'll do football,' she said, after a cursory glance at the sheet.
'Huh? No, that's too violent for girls. You could get seriously hurt.' His eyebrows had risen halfway to his hairline, which looked kind of comical, but Rain suppressed the smile she almost gave him. She didn't want to smile. Not now. Maybe not ever.
'No, I mean football as in soccer.' Rain clarified.
'Oh, right, of course, sorry.' He laughed. 'I forgot that's what you guys call it.'
'Good, then I'll do that, like I said.'
'You sure 'bout that? The thing is, we don't have a girls' team this year. There weren't enough of them interested, so you'd have to try out for the boys' one.'
She shrugged again. 'So? I've played before, at Blakeborough. I was better than some of the boys there, plus I run pretty fast. Or is it a problem? I mean, are girls not allowed or something? Because, you know, that's kind of sexist.' Rain crossed her arms over her chest and adopted a challenging stance, ready to fight her corner. If there was one thing she hated, it was when girls weren't allowed to do something the boys were. She'd always been a tomboy and knew she was just as good as any boy at most things.
'No, no, I don't think there are any rules against having girls on the team. I just thought you might like to know, that's all. Don't be upset if the coach doesn't pick you for the team.'
'Well, it doesn't bother me.'
'Fine, you go right ahead, then. Tell Coach Rivers I said it was okay. Practice sessions are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays after school, out back on the playing field. You can go try out this afternoon.'
She nodded and headed for the door again. 'Bye,' she said, then added grudgingly, 'Thanks.'
'No problem.' She could almost hear the smile in his voice, but didn't want to see it, so she didn't look at him again.
Mrs Langan produced a schedule after much faffing around, which made Rain want to jump up and down with impatience. When the woman had finally finished, Rain only just had time to run to the classroom designated as her 'homeroom' and even then, she was the last person to enter because it took her a while to find it. The Futuristic Lit teacher, a man called Mr Aiden according to Rain's timetable, looked up in surprise. Everyone else fell silent and stared at her. Rain swept the room with a disdainful glare, and almost groaned out loud. At the back of the room sat the guy she'd run into earlier.
Oh, great, that figures. He would have to be in this class, she thought, but she refused to let him distract her. Without looking at him again, she walked up to the teacher's desk.
'I'm Rain. I'm just starting today.' She held out her piece of paper to show him and he glanced at it, before smiling politely and pointing at a desk in the front row.
'Right. Welcome, er, Rain, have a seat. I'm just going to check attendance and then we'll have a discussion about the word "grokking" in Robert Heinlein's novel Stranger in a Strange Land. Maybe you can just listen for today and I'll give you a copy to read later so you can catch up.'
'That's okay, I've read it,' Rain said. Her older brother, Rob, passed on a lot of his sci-fi books to her as they both enjoyed the genre, and this had been one of them.
'Oh.' He looked surprised. 'Well, that's good. Then perhaps you'd like to start the ball rolling?'
'No, I wouldn't.' Rain frowned at him while snickering broke out behind her. She ignored that and concentrated her gaze on the teacher who seemed a bit disconcerted. Well, what did he expect? Honestly, do I look like the kind of person who'd want to start a discussion for him on my first day? What is he, thick?
His smile faded. 'I see. Yeah, okay, I guess I shouldn't throw you in at the deep end. Not fair. I'll come back to you.'
After making everyone say 'yes' or 'here' as he read out the names of the class, he got down to business and pointed to a guy in the front row, obviously one of the class nerds. 'David, give me your comments, please.'
A few of the geeks started a lively discussion on Heinlein's meaning of the word 'grok', making it seem much more complicated than it actually was, but Rain didn't pay any attention. When asked for her opinion again some time later, she just shrugged and said, 'As far as I could make out, he just meant that it was a way of absorbing information deep into your soul and processing it until you understood fully so that you become a part of whatever you're trying to grok.'
'Good, concise way of putting it. Thank you, er, Rain.' The teacher looked relieved that she'd said something sensible, but the way he kept hesitating before her name irritated the hell out of her.
'Is there a problem with my name?' she asked, fixing him with another glare. Cue more giggling from the back of the classroom. She turned around to scowl in that direction too and was momentarily sidetracked by the sight of the gorgeous guy with black hair. He smiled in lazy acknowledgement of her interest and she forced herself not to stare at him. She was so done with fit guys. They were nothing but trouble.
'What? No, n-not at all,' Mr Aiden stammered. 'I mean, it's unusual, to be sure, but I think your parents made an excellent choice in naming you after something so, uhm, evocative as the weather.'
'They didn't. My real name is Reine, r-e-i-n-e' — she rolled her r and pronounced the word with a perfect accent — 'which is French for "queen", but I prefer Rain, as in water.'
'Right. Thank you. I'm glad we've got that straight.' The teacher took a deep breath and pulled at his tie as it if was a bit too tight around his windpipe. 'Now let me give you all your next assignment.' He turned away and began to write on the blackboard. Rain didn't bother to make a note as it was only to read to the end of the book, and as she'd told him, she had already read it.
Excerpted from "New England Rocks"
Copyright © 2013 Christina Courtenay.
Excerpted by permission of Choc Lit Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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