“Did you listen to the World Series?” the guy asked.
Spencer leaned toward him. “I could have gone to the World Series. My dad has season tickets.”
He frowned. “Why didn’t you?”
“I donated them to a charity that helps inner-city kids.”
The boy scoffed. “Either you’re an extreme do-gooder or you’ve got a really guilty conscience.”
Spencer flinched, then straightened up. “I did it because it looks good on college applications. But if you play your cards right, maybe I’ll take you next season.”
The guy’s eyes twinkled. “Let’s hope they make it.”
Spencer held his gaze for a moment, her pulse speeding up. He was definitely flirting, and she definitely liked it. She hadn’t felt this much of a spark for anyone since she’d broken up with Andrew Campbell last year.
Her companion sipped from his glass of beer. When he set the glass back on the bar, Spencer quickly grabbed a coaster and placed it under it. Then she wiped the edge of the glass with a napkin to keep it from dripping.
The guy watched with amusement. “Do you always tidy glasses of people you don’t know?”
“It’s a pet peeve,” Spencer admitted.
“Everything has to be just so, doesn’t it?”
“I like things done my way.” Spencer appreciated the double-entendre. Then she stuck out her hand. “I’m Spencer.”
He shook, his grip strong. “Zach.”
The name resonated in Spencer’s mind. She took in his high cheekbones, his cultured way of speaking, and his suddenly familiar steel-blue eyes. “Wait. Zach as in Zachary?”
He curled his lip. “Only my dad calls me that.” Then he retracted, suddenly suspicious. “Why do you ask?”
“Because I’m having dinner with you tonight. My mom and your dad are . . .” She opened her palms, too weirded out to say the word dating.
It took Zach a moment to digest what she said. “You’re one of the daughters?”
He stared at her. “Why do you look familiar?”
“I knew Alison DiLaurentis,” Spencer admitted, gesturing toward the TV. The story about Ali’s death was still on the screen. Wasn’t there more important news to obsess over?
Zach snapped his fingers. “Right. My friends and I thought you were the hot one.”
“Really?” Spencer squeaked. Even compared to Hanna?
“Wow.” Zach ran his hands through his hair. “This is wild. I really wasn’t looking forward to this dinner. I thought the girlfriend’s daughters would be . . .”
“Snobbier?” Spencer provided. “Blander?”
“Kind of.” Zach smiled guiltily. “But you’re . . . cool.”
Spencer felt another flutter. “You’re not so bad yourself.” Then she pointed at his glass of beer, remembering something. “Have you been here the whole time? Your dad said you were at a study group.”
Zach ducked his head. “I needed to unwind before I went in there. My dad kind of stresses me out.” He raised a brow. “So you’ve already met him? Is my sister there, too? Are they being enormous douche bags?”
Spencer giggled. “My mom and sister were equally as lame. They were all trying to out-impress one another.”
The bartender set Zach’s bill face-down on the bar. Spencer noticed that the clock on the wall said 6:45. She’d been gone for almost fifteen minutes. “We should go back, don’t you think?”
Zach shut his eyes and groaned. “Do we have to? Let’s run away instead. Hide out in Philly. Hop a plane for Paris.”
“Or maybe Nice,” Spencer suggested.
“The Riviera would work,” Zach said excitedly. “My dad has a villa in Cannes. We could hide there.”
“I knew there was a reason we met,” Spencer teased, shoving Zach playfully on the arm.
Zach shoved her back, letting his hand linger on her skin. He leaned forward and slightly moistened his lips. For a moment, Spencer thought he was going to kiss her.
Her feet barely touched the ground as she waltzed back into the dining room. But as she passed through the archway, something made her turn around. Ali’s face flashed on the TV screen again. For a moment, the picture seemed to come to life, grinning at Spencer as though Ali was looking out from inside the small, square box and seeing just what Spencer was up to. Her smile seemed even more sinister than usual.
Zach’s comment suddenly rang in her ears. Either you’re an extreme do-gooder or you’ve got a guilty conscience. He was right: Last fall, Spencer had donated her World Series tickets because she felt she didn’t deserve to go, not after what she’d done. And in the first few moments after she’d gotten into Princeton, she’d considered declining, not sure she deserved that either, until she realized how insane that sounded.
And it was crazy to think that the girl on the screen was anything more than an image, too. Ali was gone for good. Spencer gazed squarely at the TV screen and narrowed her eyes. Later, bitch. Then, rolling back her shoulders, she turned and followed Zach to the table.
Oh, those insecure pretty girls
“Surprise!” Mike whispered on Monday afternoon as he slid into an auditorium seat next to Hanna. “I got us Tokyo Boy!”
He unveiled a large plastic bag full of sushi rolls. “How did you know?” Hanna cried, grabbing a pair of chopsticks. She hadn’t eaten anything at lunch, having deemed everything in the Rosewood Day cafeteria inedible. Her stomach was growling something fierce.
“I always know what you want.” Mike teased, pushing a lock of black hair out of his eyes.
They ripped into the sushi quietly, wincing at a sophomore rehearsing a song from West Side Story on the stage. Normally, study hall was held in a classroom in the oldest wing of Rosewood Day, but a leak had sprung in the ceiling last week, so somehow they’d ended up in the auditorium—at the same time the Rosewood Day junior girls’ choir rehearsed. How was anyone supposed to get any homework done amid the horrible singing?
Despite the bad voices, the auditorium was one of Hanna’s favorite places at school. A wealthy donor had paid for the place to look as tricked-out as any theater on Broadway, and the seats were plush velvet, the ceilings were high and adorned with ornate plasterwork, and the lighting on the stage definitely made some of the chunkier choir girls look at least five pounds thinner. Back when Hanna was BFFs with Mona Vanderwaal, the two of them used to sneak on the stage after school and flounce around, pretending they were famous actresses in Tony-winning musicals. That was before Mona turned crazy-town and tried to run her over, of course.
Mike skewered a California roll and popped it into his mouth whole. “So. When’s your big TV debut?”
Hanna stared at him blankly. “Huh?”
“The commercial for your dad?” Mike reminded her, chewing.
“Oh, that.” Hanna ate a bite of wasabi, and her eyes began to water. “I’m sure my lines were edited out immediately.”
“That might not be true. You looked great.”
On the stage, a bunch of girls were now trying a harmony. It was like listening to a gang of wailing cats. “The commercial is going to be all about my dad, Isabel, and Kate,” Hanna mumbled. “That’s exactly what my dad wants. His perfect nuclear family.”
Mike wiped a piece of rice from his cheek. “He didn’t actually say that.”
His optimism was getting on Hanna’s nerves. How many times had she told Mike about her daddy issues? How many times had he been up close and personal with Kate? That was the thing about guys, though: Sometimes, they had the emotional depth of a flea.
Hanna took a deep breath and stared blankly at the heads of the study hall students in front of them. “The only way I’m going to end up in a commercial is if I do it on my own. Maybe I should call that photographer.”
Mike’s chopsticks fell to his lap. “That poseur who was drooling all over you at the shoot? Are you serious?”
“His name’s Patrick Lake,” Hanna said stiffly. He’d said she was amazing on camera, and had badmouthed Kate right in front of her. That part was her favorite.
“Why would you say he’s a poseur?” she asked after a moment. “He’s totally professional. He wants to take pictures of me and hook me up with a modeling agency.” She’d googled Patrick on her iPhone during lunch, gazing at his Flickr photos and Facebook links. On his website, Patrick listed that he’d taken photos for several Main Line magazines as well as a fashion insert for the Philadelphia Sentinel. Plus, he shared a first name with Patrick Demarchelier, Hanna’s favorite fashion photographer.
“More like professionally sleazy. He doesn’t want to turn you into a model, Hanna. He wants to do you.”
Hanna’s mouth dropped. “You don’t think I’m capable of getting signed by a modeling agency?”
“That’s not what I said.”
“You pretty much did.” Hanna angled her body away from Mike, feeling a flush of anger. “So basically, anyone who approaches me just wants to bone me, right? I’m not pretty enough to take seriously.”
Mike shut his eyes like he suddenly had a migraine. “Would you listen to yourself? Only pretty girls get hit on—and that’s you. If you were a dog, he wouldn’t be after you. But that dude was nasty. He reminded me of that artist freak who had a thing for Aria on our trip to Iceland.”
Hanna stiffened, knowing immediately what artist Mike was talking about—he’d plunked down next to them at a bar in Reykjavik and deemed Aria his new muse. “Let me text Aria,” Mike went on, pulling out his phone. “I bet she’ll tell you the same thing.”
Hanna caught his hand. “You’re not texting your sister about this,” she blurted. “We’re not really friends anymore, okay?”
Mike lowered his phone, not even flinching. “I already figured that out, Hanna,” he said evenly. “I just didn’t think it would take you so long to admit it.”
Hanna swallowed, surprised. She’d figured he just hadn’t noticed. He probably wanted to know why Hanna and Aria weren’t speaking, too—but she couldn’t tell him that.
Suddenly, Hanna couldn’t bear to be in the same room as Mike. When she stood up and grabbed her bag off the floor, Mike touched her elbow. “Where are you going?”
“Bathroom,” Hanna answered haughtily. “Am I allowed?”
Mike’s eyes turned cold. “You’re going to call that photographer, aren’t you?”
“Maybe.” She tossed her auburn hair over her shoulder.
“You can’t tell me what to do.”
Mike crumpled up the Tokyo Boy bag in his hands. “If you do, you can forget about me coming to any more of your dad’s campaign events.”
Hanna couldn’t believe it. Mike had never issued an ultimatum before. The whole time they’d been dating, he’d treated her like a queen. Now, it looked like someone had forgotten his place.