“Absolutely,” Mr. Marin said in a presidential tone.
Hanna and Mike exchanged a look and struggled not to laugh. Ironically, Mr. Marin’s cause célèbre was abolishing teenage drinking. Couldn’t he have focused on something that didn’t have a direct impact on Hanna’s life? Darfur, maybe? Better treatment for Wal-Mart employees? What fun would a party be without a keg?
Mr. Marin ran through his lines, sounding robust, trustworthy, and vote-for-me chipper. Isabel and Kate grinned and nudged one another proudly, which made Hanna want to puke. Mike gave his opinion by belching loudly during one of the takes. Hanna adored him for it.
Next, Jeremiah guided Mr. Marin toward the American flag background. “Now let’s do the family segment. We’ll splice this into the end of the commercial—everyone will see what a good family man you are. And what a gorgeous family you have.” He paused to wink at Isabel and Kate, who tittered faux-bashfully.
Family man my ass, Hanna thought. Funny how no one had mentioned that Tom Marin had divorced, moved to Maryland, and forgotten his old wife and daughter for three long years. Interesting, too, that no one had brought up that her dad moved himself, Kate, and Isabel into Hanna’s house last year while Hanna’s mother took a job overseas, nearly ruining Hanna’s life. Thankfully, they’d been kicked out after Hanna’s mother returned from Singapore, finding a McMansion in Devon that wasn’t nearly as cool as Hanna’s house on top of Mt. Kale. But their presence still lingered: Hanna still got whiffs of Kate’s Fig and Cassis perfume when she walked down the hall or sank into the couch.
“Okay, family!” The director, a long-haired Spaniard named Sergio, flicked the lights. “Everyone against the flag! Get ready with your lines!”
Kate and Isabel obediently walked into the hot spotlights and posed next to Mr. Marin. Mike poked Hanna’s side. “Go!”
Hanna hesitated. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to be in front of a camera—she’d always fantasized about becoming a famous anchorwoman or a runway model—but she didn’t want to be in a commercial with her stepsister like they were a big happy family.
Mike poked her again. “Hanna, go.”
“Fine.” Hanna groaned, sliding off the table and stomping toward the set.
Several of the directors’ assistants turned and stared at her confusedly. “Who are you?” Sergio asked, sounding like the hookah-smoking caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland.
Hanna laughed uncomfortably. “Uh, I’m Hanna Marin. Tom’s biological daughter.”
Sergio scratched his mop of long curls. “The only family members on my call sheet are Isabel and Kate Randall.”
There was a long pause. Several of the assistants exchanged uncomfortable glances. Kate’s smile broadened.
“Dad?” Hanna turned to her father. “What’s going on?”
Mr. Marin tugged at the microphone one of the assistants had threaded under his jacket. “Well, Hanna, it’s just that . . .” He craned his neck and located his assistant.
Swiftly, Jeremiah scuttled over to the set and gave Hanna an exasperated look. “Hanna, we’d prefer if you just watched.”
We? “Why?” Hanna squeaked.
“We’re just trying to spare you from more nosy press people, Hanna,” Mr. Marin said gently. “You were in the limelight a lot last year. I didn’t know if you wanted to bring more attention to yourself.”
Or maybe he didn’t want to bring the attention back to her. Hanna narrowed her eyes, realizing her dad was worried about the mistakes she’d made in the past. How she’d gotten caught shoplifting from Tiffany and then stole and wrecked her boyfriend Sean Ackard’s car. How the second A—the real Ali—had sent Hanna to The Preserve, a mental institution for troubled teens. And, the cherry on top, some people had believed Hanna and her friends killed Ali—their Ali, the girl who’d disappeared in seventh grade.
There was also what had happened in Jamaica, not that Mr. Marin knew about that. Not that anyone would know about that—ever.
Hanna took a big step away, feeling like the floor had dropped out from under her. Her dad didn’t want her associated with his campaign. She didn’t fit his wholesome family portrait. She was his old daughter, his castoff, a scandal-ridden girl he didn’t want to remember anymore. Suddenly, an old note from A flashed in her mind: Even Daddy doesn’t love you best!
Hanna spun on her heel and walked back to Mike. Screw them. She didn’t want to be in her father’s stupid commercial, anyway. People in politics had bad hair, pasted-on smiles, and horrible fashion sense—except for the Kennedys, of course, but they were the exception that proved the rule. “Let’s go,” she growled, grabbing her purse from the empty chair.
“But, Hanna . . .” Mike stared at her with round blue eyes.
“Hanna, wait,” her father called behind her.
Keep walking, Hanna told herself. Let him see what he’s missing. Don’t speak to him ever again.
Her father called her name once more. “Come on back,” he said, his voice dripping with guilt. “There’s room for all of us. You can even say a few lines if you’d like. We can give some of Kate’s to you.”
“What?” Kate shrieked, but someone shushed her.
Hanna turned around and saw her father’s eyes pleading with her.
After a moment’s frustration, she handed Mike her purse and trudged back to the set. “Tom, I don’t think this is a good idea,” Jeremiah warned, but Mr. Marin just shrugged him off. When Hanna stepped into the lights, he gave her a big smile, but she didn’t smile back. She felt like the loser kid the teacher made everyone play with at recess. Her dad was only asking her back because it made him look like an asshole if he excluded her.
Sergio ran their lines with the family, divvying up Kate’s lines between the two daughters. When the camera turned to Hanna, she took a deep breath, cast off the negative vibes around her, and got into character. “Pennsylvania needs a strong leader who works for you,” she said, trying to look natural, tamping down her wilted hopes. Sergio shot take after take until Hanna’s cheeks hurt from smiling so hard. An hour later, it was over.
As soon as the lights dimmed and Sergio declared it was a wrap, Hanna ran over to Mike. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
“You were really good, Han,” Mike said, jumping off the table.
“He’s right,” a second voice said.
Hanna looked over. One of Sergio’s assistants stood a few feet away, two large black suitcases full of equipment in his hands. He was probably only a few years older than Hanna. His hair was cut in a messy yet artfully arranged way, and he wore snug-fitting jeans, a weathered leather jacket, and a pair of aviator sunglasses, which were propped atop his head. His fawn-colored eyes grazed Hanna up and down as if he approved of what he saw. “Totally poised,” he added. “With a ton of presence. You kicked that other girl’s ass.”
“Uh, thanks.” Hanna exchanged a suspicious glance with Mike. Was complimenting the clients part of this dude’s job?
The guy rummaged through his pocket and handed her a business card. “You’re seriously gorgeous. You could be a high-fashion model if you wanted.” He pointed to the card. “I’d love to shoot you for my portfolio. I could even help you pick out some shots for agents. Give me a call if you’re interested.”
He hefted the suitcases higher and walked out of the studio, his sneakers slapping softly on the dusty wood floor. Hanna stared at the business card he’d given her. Patrick Lake, Photographer. On the back was his phone number, website, and Facebook page.
The door to the studio slammed. The rest of the crew packed up. Jeremiah opened the small gray pouch that contained Mr. Marin’s campaign petty cash and handed Sergio a wad of bills. Hanna turned Patrick Lake’s business card in her hands, suddenly feeling a bit better. When she looked up, Kate was staring at her, her brow wrinkled, her lips pursed. Clearly, she’d heard the exchange between Hanna and Patrick.
How do you like that, bitch? Hanna thought giddily, slipping the business card into her pocket. She may not have won the battle for daddy, but she still might win the pretty-girl war.
And now arriving from Helsinki . . .
“Is your new cologne made of potpourri?” Aria Montgomery whispered to her boyfriend, Noel Kahn, as he swooped in for a kiss.
Noel propped himself up on the couch, looking offended. “I’m wearing Gucci Sport. Like I always do.”
Aria took another sniff. She definitely smelled lavender. “I think you accidentally switched it with Grandma’s toilet water.”
Noel smelled his hands and winced, his soft brown eyes narrowing. “It’s the hand soap from the sink. I can’t help it that your mom puts girly shit in the bathrooms!” He slithered over to Aria and covered her nose with his hands. “You love it, don’t you?”
Aria giggled. It was late Sunday afternoon, and she and Noel were all alone in Aria’s mother’s house, lying on her couch in the family room. Since her parents’ divorce, the room had undergone a bit of a makeover to suit Ella’s tastes and adventures. Hindu-god statues from Ella’s trip to Bombay last summer lined the shelves, Indian blankets from her stay at an artist’s colony in New Mexico this past fall covered the couches and chairs, and tons of green tea-scented candles, the smell of which Aria’s father, Byron, had never liked, flickered everywhere. When Aria had crushed on Noel in sixth and seventh grades, she used to daydream about Noel coming over to her house and lying on the couch with her just like this—well, minus the leering looks from the many-armed Ganesh figurine in the corner.
Noel pecked Aria on the lips. Aria grinned and kissed him back, staring at his chiseled face; long, wavy, black hair; and pink lips. He breathed in and kissed her deeper, running his hands up and down the length of her spine. Slowly, he unbuttoned Aria’s leopard-print cardigan. “You’re so beautiful,” he murmured. Then he pulled his T-shirt over his head, tossed it to the floor, and reached for the zipper on Aria’s jeans. “We should go to your bedroom.”
Aria put her hand over his, stopping him. “Noel, wait.”
Noel groaned and rolled off her. “Seriously?”
“I’m sorry,” Aria protested, buttoning her sweater again. “It’s just . . .”
“Just what?” Noel gripped the edge of the coffee table, his posture suddenly rigid.
Aria stared out the side window, which offered a perfect view of the Chester County woods. She couldn’t explain why she’d been so hesitant to have sex with him. They’d been going out for over a year. And it wasn’t like she was a prude—she’d lost her virginity to Oskar, a boy in Iceland, when she was sixteen. Last year, she’d hooked up with Ezra Fitz, who happened to be her English teacher. They hadn’t slept together, but they probably would have eventually if A hadn’t outed them.