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       Forget You, p.1

           Jennifer Echols
 
Forget You


  Everybody is talking about Going Too Far!

  “A brave and powerful story, searingly romantic and daring, yet also full of hilarious moments. Meg’s voice will stay in your head long after the intense conclusion.”

  —R. A. Nelson, author of Teach Me and Breathe My Name

  “Naughty in all the best ways . . . the perfect blend of romance, wit, and rebelliousness. I loved it!”

  —Niki Burnham, author of Royally Jacked and Sticky Fingers

  “A thoroughly engrossing look into two people’s personal stories of loss and strength, this atypical romance is a powerful one. The two characters grow and change together, and it is mesmerizing to read, whether you’re a teenager or adult.”

  —Parkersburg News and Sentinel

  “None of us in the office could put the advance copy down.”

  —Lipstick

  “Echols is a tremendously talented writer with a real gift for developing relationships between her characters.”

  —Romantic Times

  “Powerful without being over-the-top, and reveals universal truths while still being a very personal story. The past haunts us all, and this book addresses wonderfully the hold that it has over us.”

  —Teen Book Review

  “An amazing book that either had me laughing out loud or sitting on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next. . . . Going Too Far is a book you will still be thinking about days after you have read it.”

  —Flamingnet

  “What a powerful read. . . .”

  —Coffee Time Romance

  “The book was definitely a big roller coaster ride . . . a torrent of different emotions. . . .”

  —YA Book Realm

  “Fast paced, detailed, and addicting. . . .”

  —Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf

  “Going Too Far has everything a teen love story should have.”

  —Book Loons

  “An amazing writer. I can’t wait to read more of her books!”

  —The Book Girl

  “An absolute pleasure to read. I couldn’t get enough of it.”

  —Pop Culture Junkie

  “A compelling novel about the choices teens make, the consequences, and uncontrollable things that happen. . . .”

  —Ms. Yingling Reads

  “I stayed up late and most likely failed two tests simply because I could not physically put this book down. It was way worth it though.”

  —Addicted to Books

  “Deeply rich characters with many layers that need to be peeled back before the reader is exposed to the real Meg, the real John After.”

  —YA Reads

  “Edgy, tense, and seductive, with a very tough-tender, wounded heroine who is trying to figure out who she is, and an intelligent, thoughtful hero who thought he had that all figured out. It mixes humor and sarcastic wit (my favorite) alternating with terribly tender and sneakily seductive scenes.”

  —Smart Bitches Trashy Books

  Don’t miss Jennifer Echols’s first tale of romantic drama . . .

  GOING TOO FAR

  Available from MTV Books

  Gallery Books

  A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  1230 Avenue of the Americas

  New York, NY 10020

  www.SimonandSchuster.com

  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 © 2010 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 trade paperback edition July 2010

  GALLERY BOOKS and colophon are trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  For information about special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-866-506-1949 or [email protected]

  The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event. For more information or to book an event contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at 1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at www.simonspeakers.com.

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

  ISBN 978-1-4391-7823-2

  ISBN 978-1-4391-8047-1 (ebook)

  This book is for readers of Going Too Far who enjoyed it and

  told a friend. I appreciate you.

  Don’t miss an exclusive excerpt from:

  SUCH A RUSH

  By JENNIFER ECHOLS

  JULY 2012 from Gallery Books

  Acknowledgments

  Thanks to my editor, Jennifer Heddle; my literary agent, Nicole Kenealy; my friends and family who supported me in writing this book, Marley Gibson, Leanne Cianfrini, and Alan and Tammy Stimson; and as always, my critique partners, Victoria Dahl and Catherine Chant, who will not let me drown.

  1

  Every strong swimmer has a story about nearly drowning. This is mine:

  Late one June afternoon I was driving home from my summer job at my dad’s water park, Slide with Clyde, when my phone rang and Brandon’s name flashed on the screen. He knew I never answered my phone while driving. And everybody working at Slide with Clyde today had heard that my dad had gotten Ashley, the twenty-four-year-old human resources manager, pregnant. That meant all my friends knew, because I’d found Brandon a job there and my entire swim team jobs as lifeguards, all seventeen of us—everybody but Doug Fox.

  My dad had left work a little early—to tell my mom before she found out from another source, I guessed. So if Brandon wanted to talk to me now , it must be important. Maybe it had something to do with my parents.

  I parked my vintage Volkswagon Bug in the courtyard outside my house, between my dad’s Benz and my mom’s eco-friendly hybrid, and cut the engine. The Bug had no air-conditioning. The Florida heat had been bearable while I was damp from swimming and the car was moving. But my bikini had dried underneath my T-shirt and gym shorts. The sun beat down. The heat crept through the open windows like a dangerous animal unafraid of humans and settled on my chest.

  I picked up my phone and pushed the button to call Brandon back.

  “Zoey,” he said.

  “Hey, baby. Is something wrong?”

  “Everything!” he exclaimed. “You’re going to kill me. You know how I was telling you at lunch about Clarissa?”

  “Who?” I’d been distracted when I talked to him at lunch. I’d just learned the latest about Ashley.

  “Clarissa? The brunette who works at the top of the Tropical Terror Plunge? She’s in college. You told me I should ask her out anyway.”

  “Right.” I couldn’t believe he’d called me about this. We’d become friends because I was a good listener, and I gave him advice on his girl troubles—but surely he knew this was not the time.

  “Well, I asked her out, and she said yes. But then her big sister came to pick her up from work, and Zoey . This chick was on fire . I don’t know how much older she is than me. She might have graduated from college already. That’s kind of a reach, even for me. But I could go out with Clarissa this once, give it a few weeks to cool off, then try her sister. What do you think?”

  “I think you’re jailbait.”

  He laughed shortly.

  In the silence that followed, I heard how mean my comment had sounded. True but mean. I could not have a friendly conversation right now.

&
nbsp; “Brandon, can we talk about this later?” I asked. “I’m sitting outside my house, and I think my dad is inside telling my mom about Ashley.”

  “Oh,” Brandon said. He sounded like he’d really forgotten about the rumors at work today. “Are you scared?”

  “I’m . . .” I stared at the front door. “No, I’m used to the idea. Everybody’s been talking about my dad and Ashley since the park opened in May. I’m more relieved that I don’t have to be the one to tell my mom.” I held up my hand and admired how perfect and smooth my manicure looked against the ancient steering wheel. “That’s awful of me, isn’t it?”

  “Zoey, you could never be awful.”

  With that one sentence, Brandon melted my heart all over again. He was a player, but he meant well. Deep down he was truly a sweet person and a good friend, and he knew how to make me feel better.

  I ended the call with him and stood up in the courtyard. Sure enough, my parents’ voices reached me even here. I’d hurried home so I could support my mom through this. Now I wished I could unhear them screaming betrayal and divorce at each other. I’d sat on the edge of my seat up to the climax of this movie, but now that I knew it wouldn’t have a happy ending, I didn’t want to see.

  Instead of going inside, I scooted around the side of the house, ripping off the T-shirt and shorts over my bikini as I went, kicking off my flip-flops, pulling the ponytail holder out of my hair. I hit the beach running.

  A dark storm gathered on the horizon. Usually my beach here along the Florida Panhandle was gentle, only soft white sand underfoot, protected from sharp shells by the sandbars in deeper waters. Today the wind was full of sand, stinging my legs. Way down the beach I could just make out the red flags flying in front of the hotels, warning about strong surf and undertow. The flags were for tourists. They didn’t mean me.

  I splashed into the ocean. The water was warmer than the air. It soothed me, flowing under my suit and across my limbs. The waves were high with the coming storm, but I was stronger than they were. I swam straight out over them, into deep water, purposefully tiring myself out. If only I could sleep tonight. A long way from the beach, I performed a flip-turn against an imaginary wall and swam back toward shore.

  A wave crashed over my head, taking me by surprise, forcing salt water into my mouth, pushing me down. Cold jets curled around my ankles and towed me along. My knee skidded across the bare sandy bottom of the ocean.

  I kicked toward the surface—a few massive kicks that took all my strength. If I reached the surface and stayed there, I could skim along the tops of the waves, stroking parallel to the beach until I escaped the current that wanted to drag me under and out.

  I popped into the cold air. Just as I sucked in a breath, another wave plunged me under. In the roar I coughed water and strained against the urge to breathe more in. I tumbled along the bottom.

  With strength I didn’t know I had left, I pushed off the bottom, propelling myself to the surface. I would glide through the water, pop into the air again, take that breath I’d missed.

  The surface wasn’t where I thought it would be. I couldn’t fight the urge to breathe the ocean. That was when I realized I was going to die.

  The ocean tossed me into the air like trash.

  I breathed deep and long, already paddling before I hit the water. I knew the current would take me again soon. I didn’t waste my breath screaming. The beach was empty. No lifeguards patrolled this private section. Signs warned SWIM AT OWN RISK . Even if someone had come to my rescue, it would have been another foolish swimmer without a float. Both of us would have gone under, and it would have been my fault. I was the lifeguard.

  I swam until I couldn’t swim anymore. Then I kept swimming.

  Finally I escaped the current, stood upright on the bottom, waded to the shore, collapsed on the beach just as the storm broke over me. The rain beat me into the sand and seaweed.

  I lay there for a long time, eyes squeezed shut against the raindrops, breathing. It was over. I thought only of myself, so thankful to be alive. I walked home in the cold rain.

  But three months later, when my mom attempted suicide, I would look back on that afternoon as a warning. On coming home from work and hearing my parents argue, instead of escaping into the water like a troubled teen, I should have stayed and supported my mom. If I’d taken better care of her when she needed me, I could have prevented everything.

  A TINY CHIP HAD APPEARED IN the pink polish at the tip of my pointer fingernail, where it was most noticeable. I rubbed the pad of my thumb across it, hoping no one would see it before I could fix it. My mom had always stressed to me that outward appearances were important. Strong personalities would challenge you no matter what, but you could repel the weaker people who might take a swipe at you by presenting yourself as moneyed, stylish, organized, together.

  From across the emergency room waiting area, I heard a familiar voice, though muffled—a voice from school. I looked up from my fingernail. Doug Fox stood in the vestibule, framed by the black night outside.

  Doug was hot, with black hair that never streaked in the chlorine and salt and sun, and eyes the strangest light green-blue, exactly the color of the ocean here. They were mesmerizing, framed by long black lashes in his tanned face. I could see why his eyes were famous among the girls at my high school. A boy with an ego as big as Doug’s didn’t deserve eyes like that.

  I had a lot of classes with him this year. He was on the varsity swim team with me. And he hated me. He was the last person I wanted to see right now, when the doctors had told me my mom would live, but I didn’t know what would happen next.

  Instinctively I ducked my head—which would do me no good if he looked in my direction. My hair wouldn’t drape forward to cover my face. It was still pulled back in the ponytail I’d worn home from work a few hours ago, when I’d walked into the eerily quiet apartment I shared with my mom and found her. Anyway, Doug and I had known each other forever. He would recognize me instantly. My hair in my face would not save me.

  But he wasn’t looking at me. He talked with the policeman who’d responded first to my 911 call, who’d stood awkwardly in the apartment while I sat on my mom’s bed and held my mom’s hand until the ambulance came, and who had not abandoned me. My dad had been half an hour away in Destin, shopping the Labor Day sales for baby furniture with Ashley. He’d arrived only fifteen minutes ago and had burst through the hospital doors in front of me, into mysterious corridors that were off-limits to a minor like me. All this time, the policeman had sat with me in the empty waiting room. Or, not with me, but across from me. Not close enough to converse with me or comfort me like a friend, but in the vicinity like a protector. Around.

  Now he stood in the vestibule with Doug. Doug handed him a bag printed with the name of a local seafood restaurant: Jamaica Joe’s. And I realized in a rush that the policeman was Doug’s older brother, Officer Fox, equally celebrated by the girls in my school for his appropriate name. Doug had brought his brother dinner because his brother had stayed with me long enough to miss a meal.

  They spoke with their heads together, and now Doug did look up at me. His brother was telling him what my mom had done.

  I looked away again. The doors into the emergency room were white. The walls of the waiting area were white. The floor was square white tiles with gray specks.

  I couldn’t stand it. I looked over at the vestibule. The night was black, Officer Fox was dark in his uniform, and Doug shook his black hair out of his green eyes, piercing even at this distance. He said something to his brother and took a step toward me.

  Oh God, weren’t things bad enough without Doug here? I’d thought the shock of finding my mom had drained the life out of me for years to come. But my heart still worked, pounding painfully in my chest in anticipation of what Doug would say to make things worse.

  The emergency room doors flew open and banged against the walls before folding shut again. My dad stalked toward me, muscular and fit at forty-seven, his
handsome features set in fury. I shrank back into the vinyl seat, afraid he was angry at me.

  But maybe he was furious at the world for allowing his ex-wife to sink to this low—or better yet, furious with himself. He had realized on the drive here from the baby superstore that he had failed us. Now he would come to our rescue. Yes, there was the matter of Ashley being four months’ pregnant with his baby, but our family would get past that and he would come back to my mom.

  He lowered himself into the seat next to mine. His brow was furrowed in anger, but as he opened his thin lips, I was sure he would utter everything I’d longed all summer to hear.

  “You keep this to yourself,” he snarled.

  I blinked at him. My brain rushed through scenarios, painting him as the hero, and finally gave up. There was no way he could be our hero when his first words to me were a command to keep things quiet. I stammered, “Keep . . . How . . . ?”

  “They’re taking her to the loony bin in Fort Walton,” he interrupted me. “With any luck they’ll dope her up, and she’ll be back at work in six weeks. You want to spread it around town that she’s nuts and ruin her career, go right ahead.”

  I tried to hear pain in his voice, sorrow at what my mom had done, remorse for the hand he’d had in driving her to this point. Emotions like these must be behind his unsympathetic words.

  But all I heard was anger. Embarrassment that his friends and business partners and employees might dish about him and his tabloid-worthy private life. Fear that my mom would lose her job and he’d have to share the proceeds of his water park with two families instead of one.

  “Don’t even tell those little twins, you understand me?” He leaned forward and looked straight into my eyes as he said this. It was the closest his body had come to my body since he arrived. He would not hug me. He would only invade my personal space to emphasize that I’d better not spill this secret to my best friends.

  Without waiting for my answer, he stood. “Don’t move,” he barked, not looking at me. I assumed he meant me because I was the only other person in the room. He was already walking toward the vestibule.

 
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