Some friendships never die
Have you ever known someone with nine lives? Like that daredevil who broke seven bones in his body last summer but somehow led his team in goals this lacrosse season. Or the two-faced girl who sat next to you in geometry—even though she cheated on tests and backstabbed her friends, the bitch always landed gracefully on her feet. Mrow.
Relationships can have nine lives, too—how about the boyfriend you fought and made up with for two years straight? Or the conniving BFF you forgave again and again? She was never truly dead to you, was she? But maybe it would be better if she was.
Four pretty girls from Rosewood find themselves faced with an old frenemy they thought had gone up in flames—literally. But they should know by now that nothing in Rosewood is ever really over. In fact, some long-lost besties live on to get exactly what they want.
“Last one off the cliff buys dinner!” Spencer Hastings double-knotted the strings of her Ralph Lauren bikini and scampered to the edge of the rocks overlooking the most beautiful turquoise ocean she’d ever seen. That was saying a lot, considering the Hastings family had been to practically every island in the Caribbean, even the tiny ones that required a private plane to reach.
“Right behind you!” Aria Montgomery called, kicking off her Havaianas flip-flops and winding her long, blue-black hair into a bun. She didn’t bother taking off the bracelets on each arm or the feather earrings dangling from her earlobes.
“Out of my way!” Hanna Marin smoothed her hands over her narrow hips—well, hopefully they were still narrow after the massive plate of fried clams she’d eaten at the welcome-to-Jamaica fish fry that afternoon.
Emily Fields pulled up the rear, leaving her T-shirt on a large, flat rock. As she reached the edge and peered down, a wave of wooziness hit her. She halted in her tracks and covered her mouth until the feeling passed.
The girls jumped off the cliff and hit the warm, tropical water at exactly the same time. They surfaced, giggling—they’d all won and lost!—and staring at the The Cliffs, the Jamaican resort high above their heads. The pink stucco building, which housed the rooms, yoga studio, dance club, and spa, towered into the clouds, and several people loitered on their shaded balconies or swilled cocktails on the deck. Palm trees swayed, and island birds cawed. The faintest tinkling of a steel drum rendition of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” floated through the air.
“Paradise,” Spencer whispered. The others murmured in agreement.
This was the ideal spring break retreat, the complete opposite of Rosewood, Pennsylvania, where the four girls lived. Sure, the Philadelphia suburb was like a picture-postcard, resplendent with thick, lush woods, expansive mansions, idyllic horse trails, quaint old barns, and crumbling seventeenth-century estates, but after what had happened just a few months before, the girls needed a change of scenery. They needed to forget that Alison DiLaurentis, the girl they used to admire and adore, the girl everyone wanted to be, had almost killed them.
Forgetting was impossible, though. Even though two months had passed since it happened, the memories haunted them, visions rising up like ghosts. Like how Alison took their hands and told each of them she wasn’t her twin sister, Courtney, as her parents had claimed, but their best friend back from the grave. Or how Ali invited them into her family’s Poconos house, saying it would be the perfect reunion. How, shortly after they’d arrived, Ali led them to an upstairs bedroom and begged them to let her hypnotize them just like she had done the night she disappeared in seventh grade. Then she slammed the door, locked it from the outside, and slid a note underneath telling them exactly who she was . . . and who she wasn’t.
Her name was Ali, all right. But it turned out they hadn’t been friends with the real Ali at all. The girl who wrote that note at the Poconos house wasn’t the same girl who’d plucked Spencer, Aria, Emily, and Hanna out of obscurity at the Rosewood Charity Drive at the beginning of sixth grade. Nor was she the girl with whom they’d swapped outfits, gossiped, competed, and crushed on for a year and a half. That had been Courtney all along, posing as Ali, stepping into her life shortly after sixth grade began. This Ali, the real Ali, was a stranger. A girl who hated them with every ounce of her being. A girl who was A, the evil text-messager who’d killed Ian Thomas, burned down the woods behind Spencer’s house, got the girls arrested, murdered Jenna Cavanaugh for knowing too much, and killed her twin sister Courtney—their Ali—the fateful night of the girls’ seventh-grade sleepover. And she planned on offing them next.
As soon as the girls read the last horrible sentence of the letter, their noses twitched with the scent of smoke—the real Ali had doused the house in gas and lit a match. They’d escaped just in time, but Ali hadn’t been as lucky. When the cabin exploded, Ali was still inside.
Or was she? There were lots of rumors that she’d made it out alive. The whole story was public now, including the twin switch, and even though she was a cold-blooded killer, some people were still fascinated with the real Ali all the same. There had been claims of Ali sightings in Denver, or Minneapolis, or Palm Springs. The girls tried not to think of that, though. They had to move on. They had nothing to fear anymore.
Two figures appeared at the top of the cliff. One was Noel Kahn, Aria’s boyfriend; the other was Mike Montgomery, her brother and Hanna’s boyfriend. The girls paddled for the steps carved into the rock.
Noel handed Aria a big fluffy towel that had THE CLIFFS, NEGRIL, JAMAICA stitched at the bottom in red thread. “You’re so sexy in that bikini.”
“Yeah, right.” Aria ducked her head and stared at her pale limbs. Certainly not as hot as the blond goddesses just down the beach who’d spent the whole day rubbing tanning oil on their long arms and legs. Had she caught Noel checking them out, or was that just her jealous paranoia getting the best of her?
“I’m serious.” Noel pinched Aria’s butt. “I’m holding you to skinny-dipping on this trip. And when we go to Iceland, we’re getting naked in those geothermal pools.”
Noel elbowed her. “You are excited about Iceland, aren’t you?”
“Of course!” Noel had surprised Aria with tickets for her, himself, Hanna, and Mike to go to Iceland this summer—all expenses paid by the über-rich Kahn family. Aria certainly couldn’t say no—she’d spent an idyllic three years in Iceland after Ali, their Ali, vanished. But she felt a strange resistance about the trip, an eerie premonition that she shouldn’t go. Why, she wasn’t sure.
After the girls slipped on their sarongs, beach dresses, and, in Emily’s case, an oversized Urban Outfitters tee with the words MERCI BEAUCOUP printed across the front, Noel and Mike led them to a table at the tropical rooftop restaurant. Tons of other kids also on spring break stood at the bar, flirting and doing shots. A knot of girls in mini-dresses and high, strappy heels giggled in a corner. Tall, sunburned guys in board shorts, snug-fitting polos, and sockless Pumas clinked beer bottles and talked sports. The air had an electric pulse, sparkling with the promise of illicit hookups, drunken memories, and late-night swims in the resort’s saltwater pool.
The air throbbed with something else, too, something the four girls noticed instantly. Excitement, certainly . . . but also a hint of danger. It felt like one of those nights that could go either wonderfully right . . . or terribly wrong.
Noel stood. “Drinks? What do we want?”
“Red Stripe,” Hanna answered. Spencer and Aria nodded in agreement.
“Emily?” Noel turned to her.
“Just a ginger ale,” Emily said.
Spencer touched her arm. “Are you okay?” Emily wasn’t a big partier, but it was weird that she wasn’t splurging even a little on vacation.
Emily pressed her hand to her mouth. Then she rose clumsily from the table and wheeled toward the small bathroom in the corner. “I just have to . . .”
Everyone watched as she wove around the kids on the dance floor and shoved hurriedly through the pink bathroom door. Mike winced. “Is it Montezuma’s revenge?”
“I don’t know . . .” Aria said. They’d been careful not to drink tap water here. But Emily hadn’t been herself since the fire. She’d been in love with Ali. To have the girl she thought was her best friend and longtime crush return, break her heart, and try to kill her must have been doubly devastating.
Hanna’s cell phone buzzed, breaking the silence. She pulled it out of her straw beach bag and groaned. “Well, it’s official. My dad’s running for Senate. This dork on his campaign staff is already asking to meet with me when I get back.”
“Really?” Aria looped her arm around Hanna’s shoulders. “Hanna, that’s amazing!”
“If he wins, you’ll be a First Daughter!” Spencer said. “You’ll be in the society magazines!”
Mike skootched his chair closer to Hanna. “Can I be your personal Secret Service agent?”
Hanna reached for a handful of plantain chips from a bowl on the table and shoved them into her mouth. “I won’t be the First Daughter. Kate will.” Her dad’s stepdaughter and new wife were his true family now. Hanna and her mother were the rejects.
As Aria playfully slapped Hanna’s hand, the bracelets on her wrist rattled. “You’re better than she is, and you know it.”
Hanna rolled her eyes dismissively, though she was grateful to Aria for trying to cheer her up. That was the one good thing that had come out of the Ali disaster: The four of them were best friends again, their bond even stronger than it was in seventh grade. They’d vowed to remain friends forever. Nothing would ever come between them again.
Noel returned with the drinks, and everyone clinked glasses and said “Yeah, mon!” in faux-Jamaican accents. Emily staggered back from the bathroom, still looking seasick, but smiled cheerfully as she sipped her ginger ale.
After dinner, Noel and Mike wandered over to an air hockey table in the corner and began to play. The DJ cranked up the music, and Alicia Keys blasted over the stereo. Several people writhed on the dance floor. A boy with wavy brown hair and a buff physique caught Spencer’s eye and beckoned her to join him.
Aria nudged her. “Go for it, Spence!”
Spencer turned away, blushing. “Uch, skeevy!”
“He looks like the perfect Andrew cure,” Hanna urged. Andrew Campbell, Spencer’s boyfriend, had broken up with her a month ago—apparently, Spencer’s ordeal with Ali and A was “just too intense” for him to handle. Wuss.
Spencer gazed at the guy on the dance floor again. Admittedly, he was cute in his long khaki shorts and laceless boat shoes. Then she spied the insignia on his polo. PRINCETON CREW. Princeton was her top-choice school.
Hanna brightened, noticing the polo, too. “Spence! It’s a sign! You guys could end up being dorm mates!”
Spencer looked away. “It’s not like I’m going to get in.”
The girls exchanged a surprised glance. “Of course you will,” Emily said quietly.