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Kiss and Tell

By:Jacqueline Green


Kiss and Tell - Jacqueline Green
PROLOGUE


The cliffs were slick with snow, and she slipped as she climbed higher, slamming hard onto her knees. Pain reeled through her, but she refused to stop. In the distance, a round beam of light broke through the snow. A flashlight.

The killer was here.

She pushed herself further. One foot, then the next, then—ice .

Her foot slid out from under her. Suddenly she was careening forward, the edge of the cliff much too close. She cried out as she caught herself on a jagged rock. She stretched a toe out, searching for a safe pathway, but at every angle she was met with ice. This high up, it coated everything.

Behind her, the flashlight burned brighter. She was trapped.

She looked out over the cliff. The storm was colorless: stark white brushstrokes against a black sky. Down below she could hear the ocean roaring and crashing. She wrenched the sapphire ring off her finger. She was breathing hard as she threw it over the cliff.

She was nearly at the edge now. Just a few more inches and, like the ring, she, too, would fall into nothingness.

The icy crunch of footsteps rang out through the night.

There was nowhere left to run. Nowhere left to hide.





CHAPTER ONE


Sunday, 11:37 PM


Sydney was driving much too fast. The scenery blurred outside her window, but it didn’t matter; she could dredge up every inch of it from memory. The sprawling Cape Cod–style homes. The paved walking path that wound alongside the ocean. The taut stretches of golden sand, dotted with seagulls. On the surface, Echo Bay looked like a picture-perfect beach town. But things weren’t always what they seemed. Sydney had learned that the hard way.

Her phone buzzed from inside the car’s cup holder. Instantly, her muscles tensed, but she forced herself to relax. It can’t be from the darer, she reminded herself. Earlier that morning, she, Tenley, and Emerson had destroyed their cells, running over them with Tenley’s car. Sydney was now using an ancient, beat-up phone that had once belonged to her mom—probably back when smartphones were first invented. The upside was that no one but her parents, Emerson, and Tenley had her new number.

She grabbed for her cell at a red light. 23 minutes till MOT, Tenley had texted.

MOT: Moment of Truth. It was what Tenley had taken to calling tonight ever since they’d sent a threat to the darer on Facebook that morning: It’s over. There’s no more tracker, no more phones. If you want us, you’re going to have to come get us. The pier, tonight at midnight. It’s show and tell, remember? And it’s finally time you show.

Sydney slammed on the gas as soon as the light changed, making her car lurch forward. She was sick of being played and tortured, taunted and teased. She was ready to catch whoever was sending the dares.

Dares. The word made rage boil under her skin. Every time her focus slipped, the memory would assault her: Delancey’s lifeless body dangling from the beam last night. She’d looked so young up there in her homecoming dress, and so scared, her eyes frozen wide with horror. Bile rose in Sydney’s throat. Delancey would never be in school again. She’d never run another Purity Club meeting or choose another photo for the yearbook or spend another lunch period whispering with Abby Wilkins. She would never graduate from high school or go to college, leave Echo Bay or get married. She would be a high school senior forever, just like Caitlin and Tricia—and it was all because of one person’s sick, twisted game.

For over a month now, someone had been after them: sending them threatening notes and punishing them when they disobeyed. Caitlin had paid the ultimate price, dying out on the ocean, and now Sydney, Emerson, and Tenley had been promised a similar fate. They’d blamed Tricia, then Delancey. But it turned out that those two were just puppets. There was a mastermind behind them both, pulling their strings.

Sydney screeched to a stop on Hillworth Drive. Tenley was already there. She wore black jeans and a black sweater under her dark coat, her long chestnut waves swept back in a ponytail. With Sydney’s own all-black ensemble and ponytail, they almost matched: a spying uniform. “You drove?” Sydney asked. Tenley lived a short walk away, in one of the oceanfront mansions that lined Dune Way.

“Leg’s sore.” Tenley gestured to her left leg. Her pants covered the injury, but Sydney had seen it before it was bandaged: an angry red burn slicing across Tenley’s calf. Last night at the homecoming dance, the darer had lured Tenley onto the auditorium’s catwalk, where a spotlight had been rigged to fall on her. Tenley had been lucky to walk away with just that burn.

Tenley lifted up a long-lens camera. Sydney recognized it as one of Guinness’s, but she quickly pushed the thought away. She couldn’t let anything distract her right now. “You have yours?” Tenley asked.

Sydney responded by crawling into the backseat of her car. Her hand brushed against her RISD scholarship application, making her jaw clench up. It was due tomorrow. “My two best,” she said as she climbed out with the cameras she’d brought. Their lenses glinted under the beam of her car’s headlights.

“You should probably…” Tenley nodded toward the lights. Their plan was contingent on the darer never seeing them. It was why they’d parked five blocks from the pier. Sydney switched off the headlights, and darkness spilled in, making the hair on her arms stand on end. “Do you really think this will work?”

“It has to,” Tenley said softly, and again Sydney saw it: Delancey’s crooked neck, her feet swinging in her high heels. “If we can get a photo of the darer—actual, hard evidence of who this person is—then we’ll finally have something we can lord over him or her.”

Sydney nodded. Earlier that day, they’d taken a small step in figuring out more about the darer. So many crimes had plagued Echo Bay over the past ten years—the deaths of the Lost Girls, Caitlin’s kidnapping in sixth grade, and now their own stalker—and each incident seemed tied to one another. It had made them wonder: What if the same person had been tormenting Echo Bay residents for all these years?

But how could they go to the cops? Last night, when the police came for Delancey’s body, Tenley had blurted out that it was murder, even though they’d been warned against it. The cops had explained that wasn’t possible: Delancey had left behind a suicide note. Immediately after, the darer had texted Tenley. Tsk, tsk, Ten. Looks like I have another girl to silence.

Even if they could convince the police, it would take the cops weeks to hunt down the culprit—plenty of time for the darer to exact retribution. But if the girls took in a photo of their stalker, then the police would have a real lead, which meant they wouldn’t have to waste time searching.

A pair of headlights flashed in the distance. The car flew toward them without slowing, its lights blinding. Sydney shielded her eyes, her brain frozen on a single thought: Darer. Next to her, Tenley grabbed Sydney’s arm, her hand cold and clammy.

The car skidded to a stop a few feet away. The headlights switched off, and Emerson Cunningham climbed out. She, too, wore all black, but in her leather jacket and cashmere scarf, she still managed to look photo-shoot ready.

Sydney sagged with relief as she handed Emerson a camera. “Phones on vibrate?” Emerson asked. Sydney nodded. So did Tenley. “Okay, then.” There was a tremor in Emerson’s voice. “Let’s do this.”

They were silent as they walked the five blocks to the pier. Sydney’s pulse raced faster with each step. “I guess it’s time to split up,” she said hesitantly. None of them moved. Sydney felt for Tenley’s hand in the dim light of the pier. “M-O-T,” she said.

They all turned away at once. They’d chosen their individual stakeout spots during a run-through earlier that day; they were each to cover one section of the pier. Soon the darkness swallowed up the others, leaving Sydney all alone. It was cold by the water, and she wrapped her coat tighter around her as she located the boat she’d chosen earlier. Small and tethered close to the pier. A perfect hiding spot.

She clutched her camera to her chest as she climbed into the boat. It rocked under her feet, making her stomach flip as she knelt beneath its rim and dropped her purse next to her. Minutes crept past, the only sound the shriek of a seagull overhead. The ocean slapped against the docks, punctuating the silence.

A clock on the boat glowed. 11:56. What if no one showed? Sydney’s chest hitched. Or what if someone did—and her hiding spot wasn’t good enough?

Her grip tightened on the camera as time ticked by.

11:59.

There was a sound.

Sydney froze, every nerve suddenly on high alert. There it was again—a footstep! It came from above. Sydney lifted her camera, her gaze landing on the country club’s pool deck, which jutted out over the ocean at the end of the pier. Her hands shook as she trained her camera on the deck. But the darkness formed a barricade; she couldn’t see past it.

Her finger rested on the camera’s shutter button. She could press it—set off a flash and clear the cobweb of darkness. But what if it wasn’t the darer? Or what if it was and the flash scared him or her away before she could get a clear shot?

A loud scuffle up on the pool deck gave her a start. Her finger slammed against the button before she could catch her balance.

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