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       Such a Rush, p.1

           Jennifer Echols
Such a Rush

  Jennifer Echols

  “The Nora Roberts of the YA fiction world.”

  —Narratively Speaking

  “A tremendously talented writer.”

  —RT Book Reviews

  Going Too Far Forget You Love Story

  Romantic dramas you will never forget!

  “Superb.” –Chick Loves Lit “Searingly sexy.” —Girls Without a Bookshelf “Brave and powerful.” —author R. A. Nelson “Mesmerizing.” —Parkersburg News “Edge, tense, and seductive.” —Smart Bitches Trashy Books “Has everything a teen love story should have.” —Book Loons “Deeply rich.” —YA Reads “Unique and captivating.” —Confessions of a Bookaholic “Emotional and expressive.” —A Good Addiction

  A sexy and poignant romantic tale of a young daredevil pilot caught between two brothers.

  When I was fourteen, I made a decision. If I was doomed to live in a trailer park next to an airport, I could complain about the smell of the jet fuel like my mom, I could drink myself to death over the noise like everybody else, or I could learn to fly.

  Heaven Beach, South Carolina, is anything but, if you live at the low-rent end of town. All her life, Leah Jones has been the grown-up in her family, while her mother moves from boyfriend to boyfriend, letting any available money slip out of her hands. At school, they may diss Leah as trash, but she’s the one who negotiates with the landlord when the rent’s not paid. At fourteen, she’s the one who gets a job at the nearby airstrip.

  But there’s one way Leah can escape reality. Saving every penny she can, she begs quiet Mr. Hall, who runs an aerial banner-advertising business at the airstrip and also offers flight lessons, to take her up just once. Leaving the trailer park far beneath her and swooping out over the sea is a rush greater than anything she’s ever experienced, and when Mr. Hall offers to give her cut-rate flight lessons, she feels ready to touch the sky.

  By the time she’s a high school senior, Leah has become a good enough pilot that Mr. Hall offers her a job flying a banner plane. It seems like a dream come true… but turns out to be just as fleeting as any dream. Mr. Hall dies suddenly, leaving everything he owned in the hands of his teenage sons: golden boy Alec and adrenaline junkie Grayson. And they’re determined to keep the banner planes flying. Though Leah has crushed on Grayson for years, she’s leery of getting involved in what now seems like a doomed business—until Grayson betrays her by digging up her most damning secret. Holding it over her head, he forces her to fly for secret reasons of his own, reasons involving Alec. Now Leah finds herself drawn into a battle between brothers—and the consequences could be deadly.

  Jennifer Echols

  is the author of teen romantic dramas for MTV Books and teen romantic comedies for Simon Pulse. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her family. Please visit her online at








  Other romantic dramas by Jennifer Echols

  Love Story

  Forget You

  Going Too Far

  Available from MTV Books

  Thank you for purchasing this Gallery Books eBook.

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  Gallery Books

  A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  1230 Avenue of the Americas

  New York, NY 10020

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2012 by Jennifer Echols

  MTV Music Television and all related titles, logos, and characters are trademarks of MTV Networks, a division of Viacom International, Inc.

  All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Gallery Books Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

  First MTV Books/Gallery Books hardcover edition July 2012

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  Designed by Ruth Lee-Mui

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.

  ISBN 978-1-4516-5801-9

  ISBN 978-1-4516-5805-7 (ebook)

  For my dad and my son,

  whose love of flying inspired this book.



  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Reading Group Guide


  Heartfelt thanks to my brilliant editor, Lauren McKenna, for her enthusiasm; my incomparable agent, Laura Bradford, for making this book happen; my dad and my brother, both pilots, who patiently explained how to fly (and crash) an airplane; my partner in crime, Erin Downing, for reading it and getting it; and as always, my wise critique partners, Catherine Chant and Victoria Dahl, for their unwavering support.



  In each South Carolina town where I’d lived—and I’d lived in a lot of them—the trailer park was next to the airport. After one more move when I was fourteen, I made a decision. If I was doomed to live in a trailer park my whole life, I could complain about the smell of jet fuel like my mom, I could drink myself to death over the noise like everybody else who lived here, or I could learn to fly.

  Easier said than done. My first step was to cross the trailer park, duck through the fence around the airport, and ask for a job. For once I lucked out. The town of Heaven Beach was hiring someone to do office work and pump aviation gas, a hard combination to find. Men who were willing to work on the tarmac couldn’t type. Women who could type refused to get avgas on their hands. A hungry-looking fourteen-year-old girl would do fine.

  I answered the phone, put chocks under the wheels of visiting airplanes, topped off the tanks for small corporate jets—anything that needed doing and required no skill. In other words, I ran the airport. There wasn’t more to a smalltown airport than this. No round-the-clock staff. No tower. No air traffic controller—what a joke. Nothing to keep planes from crashing into each other but the pilots themselves.

  My reception counter faced the glass-walled lobby with a view of the runway. Lots of days I sat on the office porch
instead, taking the airport cell phone with me in case someone actually called, and watched the planes take off and land. Behind the office were small hangars for private pilots. In front of the office, some pilots parked their planes out in the open, since nothing but a hurricane or a tornado would hurt them when they were tied down. To my left, between me and the trailer park, stretched the large corporate hangars. To my right were the flagpole and the windsock, the gas pumps, and more of the corrugated metal hangars. The closest hangar was covered in red and white lettering, peeling and faded from years of storms blowing in from the ocean:






  In August I had watched the tiny Hall Aviation planes skim low over the grass beside the runway and snag banners that unfurled behind them in the air, many times longer than the planes themselves. By listening to the men who drank coffee and shot the shit with Mr. Hall on the office porch, I’d gathered that Mr. Hall’s oldest son was one of the banner-towing pilots. Mr. Hall’s twin sons my age were there to help too some Saturdays, piecing together the movable letters to make the banners. Alec was smiling and blond and looked like the nice, wholesome guy Mr. Hall seemed to think he was, whereas Grayson was always in trouble. He was slightly taller, with his hair covered by a straw cowboy hat and his eyes hidden behind mirrored aviator shades. I couldn’t tell whether he was gazing at me across the tarmac when I sat on the porch by myself to smoke a cigarette, but I imagined he was. My whole body suddenly felt sunburned even though I was in the shade.

  They were gone now—the twins an hour and a half up the road to Wilmington, where they lived with their mom, and the oldest son back to college. The tourists had left the beach. The banner-towing business had shut down for the season. It was the perfect time to approach Mr. Hall about a lesson. Hall Aviation brochures were stuffed into plastic holders throughout the office for visitors to take. I knew the high price for a lesson without having to mortify myself by asking Mr. Hall in person.

  But saving the money, and screwing up the courage to go with it, had taken me a whole month. I’d finally marched over to Hall Aviation and banged on the small door in the side of the hangar with the oo of SCHOOL painted across it. When Mr. Hall hollered from inside, I’d wandered among the airplanes and tools to a tiny office carved out of the corner. I’d sat in the chair in front of his desk and asked him to take me up. He’d given me the worst possible answer by handing me a permission form for my mother to sign.

  She hadn’t been home when I’d walked back from the airport that night. I had lain awake in bed, trying to figure out the right way to present the form to her. She still hadn’t come home when I’d left for school that morning. All school day, I’d worried about what I would say to her. I could point out that flying was a possible career someday. She talked like that sometimes, told me I would make something of myself. I was afraid her support would disappear when she found out I’d been saving money for an extravagant lesson instead of giving it to her.

  The scraggly coastal forest out the school bus window still seemed strange now that I’d spent a month in Heaven Beach. As the bus approached the trailer park, I hoped against hope my mom would be home and I could get this over with. Even if she said no, at least my torture would end.

  I slid one hand down to touch the folded permission form through the pocket of my jeans. My cash for the flying lesson was wadded beneath that. Losing the money at school would have screwed me, but I’d been afraid to leave the money or the form in my room, where my mom might find them if she got desperate for funds, like she did sometimes, and started searching.

  As I moved my hand, I felt Mark Simon watching me from across the aisle. He knew about my money somehow. He could tell that’s what I had in my pocket from the way I fingered it, and he would take it from me. That was always my first thought. I’d had a lot of things stolen from me on a lot of school buses.

  But I forced myself to take a deep breath and relax, letting go of my gut reaction. Mark wasn’t that poor. He was riding this bus because he worked for his uncle at the airport after school, not because he lived in the trailer park. And as I glanced over at him, his look seemed less like larceny and more like lechery. He thought he’d caught me touching myself.

  I was getting this kind of attention lately, and it was still new. Back inland near the Air Force base, the last place my mom and I had lived, I’d flown under the radar. I wore whatever clothes she found for me. I’d always hated my curly hair, so dark brown it might as well have been black except in the brightest sunlight. It tended to mat. I had broken a comb in it before. Then one glorious day last summer, I’d seen a makeover show on TV that said curly girls needed to make peace with their hair, get a good cut, use some product, and let it dry naturally. I did what I could with a cheap salon on my side of town and discount store product. The result was much better, and I’d made myself over completely in the weeks before we’d moved.

  At my new school, my makeover had the desired effect. Nobody felt sorry for me anymore because my mom wasn’t taking care of me and I didn’t know how to take care of myself. I took care of myself and I looked it. The downside was that I’d gotten stares like these from boys like Mark, which prompted girls to label me a slut and stay away from me. But I knew what I was. I held my head high. Exchanging sympathy for pride was a fair trade-off.

  Until I actually found myself entangled in a boy’s come-on, and then I wasn’t so sure. Supporting himself against the back of the seat as the bus rounded a bend, Mark crossed the aisle and bumped his hip against mine, making me scoot over to give him room to sit down. He glanced at my hand on my pocket and asked, “Can I help you with that?”

  If he’d asked me a few months ago, I might have said yes. He didn’t have that solid, handsome look of older boys at school who’d gained muscle to go with their height. But for a gawky fifteen-year-old, he was good looking, with sleepy, stoned eyes that moved over me without embarrassment, and dark hair that separated into clumps like he wasn’t showering every day because he stayed out late drinking and nearly missed the bus in the morning. He was the type of guy I always found myself with, the adrenaline junkie who talked me into doing things for a rush that I wouldn’t have done on my own.

  He reminded me of my boyfriend from the trailer park near the Air Force base, who apparently hadn’t minded that my hair was matted as long as he got in my pants. He’d convinced me to do it with him in the woods at the edge of the airstrip, with airplanes taking off low over us, exactly where they would crash if something went wrong. Through the sex and the rush and the sight of the streamlined underbellies of the planes, something had happened to me. And I had wanted more of it.

  But when I told him I was moving to Heaven Beach, he took up with my best friend the same day. I was through with boys “helping me with that,” at least for a while. I glared at Mark as I stood up in the narrow space between the seats. “Move. I have to get off.”

  He grinned. “Like I said, I can help you with that.”

  Now I got angry. A nice boy from a good family, or even a not-so-nice boy like Mr. Hall’s hot and troubled son Grayson, wouldn’t make a comment loaded with innuendo to a nice girl from a good family. If I were stepping down from the bus at the rich end of town instead of the trailer park, I wouldn’t have to watch every word I said to make sure it wasn’t slang for an orgasm. God. I tried to slide past him.

  “Come on, Leah. Why are you stopping here? Why aren’t you staying on the bus with me until the airport?” His words were a challenge, but underneath the bravado, I could hear the hurt. I shouldn’t push him too far and let him know I was avoiding him. For hurting his pride, he would make things worse for me at school if he was able.

  “My mom likes to see me between school and work,” I flat-out lied. No way would I tell him the truth. He would mess things
up just to get a rise out of me. The days I’d made the mistake of getting off the bus at the airport with him, he’d followed me into the office and lingered there, asking for brochures, asking for maps, threatening to set the break room on fire with his lighter if I didn’t pay him some attention, until he finally had to mosey over to the crop-duster hangar or get in trouble with his uncle.

  The bus squeaked to a stop on the two-lane highway and opened its door to the gravel road into the trailer park. Ben Reynolds and Aaron Traynor stomped down the hollow stairs. If I didn’t make it to the front in the next few seconds, I’d miss this stop. I’d have to walk through the airport with Mark and backtrack to my trailer. I would die if I found out when I finally made it home that I’d missed my mom.

  I banged into Mark again and said as forcefully as I could without the five people left on the bus turning around to stare, “Move.”

  Hooded eyes resentful, he shifted his knees into the aisle, giving me room to slide out. As I hurried up the aisle, he called after me, “Smell you tomorrow.” A couple of girls tittered.

  I felt myself flushing red. I did not smell. He probably did, judging from his hair today. But people expected me to smell. All he had to do was say the word at school, and everybody would believe it. In my mind I was already going through my closet for what to wear tomorrow, making sure it looked as hip and stylish as I could manage on no budget at all.

  I took the last big step down to the road and squinted against the bright sunlight as the bus lumbered away. Ben blocked my path into the trailer park. His fingers formed a V around his mouth, and he waggled his tongue at me. Aaron stood behind him, laughing.

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