Prologue December 31, 2012 San Francisco Bay
The limo had seemed excessive. That was even before Devon boarded the 250-foot mega yacht—where she handed her overnight bag to her personal butler, slipped on a hand-beaded Marchesa gown, and requested a song from the children’s choir singing the Rolling Stones catalogue: “Moonlight Mile.” It seemed an appropriate song for the moonlit waters of the San Francisco Bay on New Year’s Eve.
Cleo called the yacht party “Dad’s New Year’s Circus Spectacular.” For Devon it might as well have been a trip to the moon itself. A welcome one. After everything that had happened on the Keaton hillside, Devon needed an escape. With twelve bedrooms for guests and enough bunks for twenty crewmembers, the yacht was a study in Cleo Lambert’s world, full of secret compartments and hidden rooms. Already Devon had accidentally turned on a television (the screen took up the entire wall of her bedroom) and found a room full of scuba gear just by trying to flip on a light in the bathroom. Everything onboard, from the cup holders to the infinity swimming pool, had the ability to be tucked away, strapped down, or folded up. If only experiences could be compartmentalized as neatly.
Outside on the second-level deck, Devon could watch the choir singing on the smaller deck above. Their conductor, scruffy looking but with infinite patience for his twenty young singers—probably an elementary school teacher in his regular life—had donned a black tux, but Devon noticed he wore frayed black Converse. A nice reminder that most people weren’t dining on $500 white truffle risotto balls at home. But tonight wasn’t about the constant class war Devon fought to ignore at Keaton. Tonight, she was happy to forget. Yes, these people tipped their gardeners more than her mom probably made all year. But tonight she was one of them, part of the 1 percent. She would gladly play her Cinderella role at the ball knowing pumpkin time was inevitable.
There was a sharp elbow at her side.
“They are pouring Dom like it’s Jay-Z’s birthday,” Cleo said, juggling three
“Took you long enough,” Devon ribbed, relieving Cleo of one of the glasses.
“Hey, manage the ’tude. I had to squeeze this dress past all of these bloated idiots, flirt with the bartender, avoid my dad, and
make it back up to this deck without spillage. Now, a toast to an awesome 2013 full of bigger, better, and brighter. À la vôtre.
” She clinked glasses with Devon. “And to maybe a little less drama this year, too, n’est-ce pas
.” Cleo clinked glasses again.
“Cheers.” Devon smiled in agreement. “Less drama would be nice.”
Both of them glanced at the puncture mark still healing on Devon’s wrist. The thin sleeves on her dress couldn’t fully hide the red scar that might never fade.
“But this is exactly what the doctor ordered, right?” Cleo said, as if speaking louder would keep their heads from going there
the night Devon was working hard to forget. There
the realization that they had drawn out a murderer. There
the memory that Eric Hutchins has killed his own younger brother, Hutch. There
Devon finally accepting the loss of her first love, the guy that all future guys would be compared against. There.
Knowing Eric was behind Hutch’s death didn’t bring Devon the satisfaction she had hoped for. Whatever answers Hutch was looking for, they were beyond Devon’s reach. All she could do now was let go. Let it all go.
Cleo flicked a nail against Devon’s glass. “Got somewhere else to be?”
Devon fought to stay present, but the storm cloud of thoughts kept swirling, building pressure in her head, as they always did. Eric Hutchins had murdered his only brother, universally loved, to protect his share of the land on the Keaton hill. And their grandfather, Reed Hutchins, had warned Devon of an impending battle between the Hutchins and Dover families. But why? Eric Hutchins and Maya Dover had been hiding their relationship—naturally because of Maya’s pregnancy.
When Devon confronted Maya with what she knew about Eric, their age—
Maya still under eighteen) seemed to be the least of Maya’s worries. The battle between their two families loomed largest. Devon still didn’t understand how that was possible. If she
were pregnant in high school, the last thing she’d care about was her family history. Then again, she didn’t come from a family with history like Maya’s. (Or like Cleo’s, for that matter.) Devon still felt like she had blinders over her eyes so she could only see the small bits of information in front of her. There was so much more on the periphery. Every time she turned her head to get a better look, the most vital parts remained just out of her vision. Whatever it was, whatever this elusive thing that had divided two families, pitted brother against brother, whatever it was . . . Hutch had died for it.
“This is great. Really,” Devon forced herself to respond. “Although I’m going to start thinking that all champagne is supposed to taste like this.” She took a big sip, resisting the dry tickle of bubbles behind her nose.
“Doesn’t it?” Cleo laughed. “Okay, so what’s the game plan? The bartender on the lower deck is totally cute, and we had a little eye-contact moment. But did you see that cater waiter in the entertainment room?”
Devon could only laugh, too. Entertainment room. This whole yacht is one big entertainment room.
“Was that the room with the spiral staircase?”
“No, try to keep up. The entertainment room had the pinball machine and eight-foot flat screen.”
“Right, how could I forget?”
“No, seriously, the waiter walking around with the tuna tartare. Blond. Dimples. I’m a total sucker for a guy with dimples. And tartare.”
“Say ‘tartare’ one more time,” Devon said.
“Tartare.” Cleo shrugged. “Why?”
“I just wanted you to hear yourself.” Devon broke into a fit of giggles.
“You’re avoiding the subject. We’ve got to find someone to kiss at midnight, or else our year will be boy-less. It’s a New Year’s rule or curse. I don’t know. One of them.”
“I thought you already had a boy.” More than ever, Devon envied Cleo’s lightness, her ability to float between people and places without getting stuck or bogged down in anyone else’s sticky issues.
“Bodhi?” Cleo took a long swig of her champagne. “Yeah, he’s been fun, but he’s not here, is he? And we need to appease the gods of New Year’s Eve. Must kiss a boy at midnight or be forever cursed. Drink up.”
Devon couldn’t help but look around just in case. “Are you sure your dad is cool with this?”
“Ha! You think my dad has time to stop and care about us having a glass or two—”
“Or three on New Year’s Eve. He’s making all his deals for next year tonight.” Cleo downed her champagne and split the remaining third glass into their flutes.
Devon exhaled at the refill. “I’m getting a little light-headed.” She tried to hand her glass to Cleo.
“That’s the point,” Cleo said, pushing the glass back. “What good is peer pressure if it doesn’t work? Finish up. Then let’s find you a waiter to kiss at midnight. I got dibs on Dimples.” Cleo gave Devon a quick wink, grabbed a handful of her black billowing gown, and led Devon below deck.
The party was deafening downstairs. A deejay danced in front of his computer, and hidden speakers pumped jazzy techno (was that even a real genre?
into the dense room. Devon took in the herd of gray-haired men in black tuxes, clinking ice cubes and golden liquor. The women were all clones, too: sculpted hairstyles and jewel-colored dresses, always laughing at the right times, an eye on their men for the correct social cues.
Cleo pulled Devon toward a mirrored hallway behind the staircase. “I think the waiters are using the deck off the navigation room as a smoking lounge,” she said. “And if they’re taking a break, they’ve got time to chat with us.”
Devon let go of Cleo and caught a glimpse of herself in the chorus line of reflections down the hall. Uh-oh. She now realized what the wind had been doing to her hair. That’s what I get for trying to copy an updo from YouTube.
“Be right there,” she called.
She attempted to tuck the flyaways back into the knot on the top of her head. The party chatter outside was getting louder, and Devon could hear splashes of water. But the splashes sounded like they were coming from inside the boat. How was that possible?
Devon gave up on her hair and continued along the hallway toward a double door.
Where had Cleo disappeared? The mirrors echoed Devon’s reflection into infinity. Maybe she had to walk through these doors?
Devon tiptoed into a bedroom suite that seemed to be designed exclusively for architectural magazines, rock stars, and movie drug lords. A creamy white bedspread and perfectly pressed pillows. White lacquer walls lined with drawers and cubbies. A white leather bench beside a stocked wet bar. The ceiling made entirely of glass . . .
With a laugh, Devon realized she was looking up at the bottom of the swimming pool on the deck above. Bare legs kicked and rippled through the water. Waves of purple-and-red light danced across the bedspread, blasted from the outdoor lighting. A silver plastic Happy New Year!
kazoo drifted to the bottom of the pool and rested next to a broken tiara simply stating Happy New Y.
Another splash, and another girl went into the water. Her red dress fanned out around her like a life-size lily pad. A silver sequined heel clunked down against the bottom of the pool in slow motion, landing with a muffled thud. Devon reached up and could almost touch the glass above. It was like being inside a snow globe, except this snow globe was filled with leather banquettes and a revolving liquor cabinet.
“Pretty insane, right?”
A waiter in a white jacket stood at the entrance to the room, an empty tray hanging by his side. Devon dropped her hands, feeling like she’d been caught doing something wrong. But no, she was the guest here.
“Yeah, I guess. I mean, once you’ve seen one glass-bottomed pool on a yacht, you’ve seen them all, right?”
The waiter laughed a little, revealing a perfect dimple on each cheek. Cleo’s waiter.
But where was Cleo?
“You don’t know where the navigation room is, do you? I got a little lost down here. I’m Devon, by the way.” She hurried across the room to shake his hand. Best to be formal.
“Eli,” he said with a puzzled smile, giving her hand a quick shake. “You mean, this room?” He pressed a panel in the white lacquer wall next to Devon, and it popped open. “I gotta get back to the bar, but happy New Year, Devon.”
Eli gave Devon one last glance at those dimples before disappearing back into the hallway. Typical Cleo
, she thought. Of course there was a secret door and she didn’t tell me. Probably watching from some hidden camera while I figure it out.
Devon stepped past the panel. Screens glowed in the small dark room: black-and-white footage of various parts of the yacht. Another screen, all in blue, displayed graphs charting the yacht’s trip, knots traveled or something else water related. Devon didn’t speak “yacht.”
On a shelf at eye level was an antique spyglass. Copper with hints of green, fighting the oxidation from the salty sea air. In her imagination, yachting still involved things like spyglasses and rum and wooden legs. Okay, maybe she was just thinking of pirates now.
She looked again at the screens, where a blinking dot slowly moved in the bay. She shook her head; staring at the screens was making her vision blurry. Or was it the champagne? She felt a chill from the outside air. There across the room was another door, and beyond it probably Cleo sitting on a balcony, flirtatiously taking a drag off a waiter’s cigarette. Devon steadied herself against the wall of monitors. She wished Cleo had warned her that wearing heels while yachting was a bad idea. Is yachting even a real verb?
“Were you trying to lose me?” she asked as she opened the balcony door.
But she was talking to empty sea air. No Cleo. No smokers’ lounge for the waiters. The party continued to roar on the other side of the boat, and the wind whipped past her ears, loud and cold. Before she could turn around, Devon felt a hard crack against the back of her skull. The pain deep, yet distant. As a tremor shot through her body, the moon went fuzzy, and everything sounded thick, an underwater dream in Devon’s personal snow globe. A flicker in her vision, and the green metal spyglass flew overboard and landed in the water. The splash was absorbed by the moving boat. Shoes squeaked on the deck behind her. White, rubber. White sleeves opening a door. Someone had hit her and left. And now the metal railing was coming toward her. Fast. Put a hand out. Catch yourself!
she commanded her body. But her hands didn’t respond. And when her cheek connected with the railing, the pain was immediate. A flash of red light, the image of the Happy New Y
tiara. Happy New Y, indeed
. Just before everything went dark, Devon could have sworn she heard a snippet of that song she loved: “I’m just about a moonlight mile on down . . .”
Excerpted from Hero Complex: A Keaton School Novel by Margaux Froley. Copyright © 2014 by Margaux Froley. Excerpted by permission of Soho Teen, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.