From Book 1:
Secrets We Keep, is the gripping, dark, reverse harem, contemporary romance, by USA Today Best Selling Author, Angel Lawson, you've been searching for!
Small towns carry dark secrets.
It took me until my senior year of high school to discover exactly how dark.
Three years have passed since a vicious prank tore apart my group of friends.
Three years since Finn Holloway, football star and boy next door, broke my heart by choosing my best friend over me.
Three years since Ezra Baxter turned to crime; selling drugs and being chased by the law.
Three years since Ozzy Drake became isolated and lost.
In those three years they've changed; they're bigger, handsomer, and definitely sexier.
When the secrets of Thistle Cove start to unravel, revealing a dark twisted world of the taboo; arranged relationships filled with sugar daddies, sugar babies, sex, power, money and control. I'm instantly sucked in, wanting to know more. Wanting to know why.
The biggest question is what lines am I willing to cross to uncover the truth and will the boys come with me?
Perfect for lovers of Riverdale and Pretty Little Liars!
Download book one of this complete series today!
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I started senior year with football games, homecoming, and the SATs on my mind.
By then, I’d given up that Rose Waller would ever be my friend again.
Or that Finn Holloway would give me the time of day.
I was focused on the future. The promise of graduating in the spring and leaving the small town of Thistle Cove behind.
All of that was before Rose’s car was found abandoned on the bridge.
Before I found out the truth about my former friend and the secrets the town is hiding.
“Your desperation is showing,” Alice says, slamming the passenger side door. “At least pretend like you aren’t looking at him.”
“I’m not looking at anyone.” I drag my gaze away from the crowded parking lot and the flow of students toward the main building. Specifically, a purple and gold letterman’s jacket that just vanished into the front doors. I reach into the backseat to grab my backpack.
“Sure,” she says sarcastically. “You can fool a lot of people. You can even fool him, but not me, Kenley Keene.”
I catch Alice’s eye over the roof of the car. She may sound harsh, but I know she’s right. I hate it when she calls me out for my deep-seated insecurities about Rose and Finn.
Who, interestingly enough, did not walk into the school together. Finn, curiously, was alone.
I take a deep breath, grab my camera bag, and shut the door. “You agreed to let it go.”
“I did let it go, you seem to be the one stuck in the past.”
Alice and I meet at the front of the car, her hands wrapped around the straps of her purple backpack. The irritation in her hazel eyes has shifted to sympathy.
She removes one hand from the backpack and curls her pinky. “Let’s shake on it.”
“Shake on what?”
“Letting it go.”
I look at her finger, ready and waiting. Rose may have been my best friend once upon a time, but those days are gone. That ended with betrayal and a terrible prank three years ago. And my crush on Finn? Foolish. We’ve lived next door to one another for thirteen years. He’s made his choice.
It definitely wasn’t me.
I curve my own pinky and hook it around hers, squeezing tight.
“No one is going to mess up our senior year,” she says, grabbing my arm and leading me toward the school. “Not Rose Waller. Not Finn Holloway. Not anyone. I promise you that.”
I didn’t know it then, but some promises are best not kept.
* * *
“Who are you stalking now?”
“I’m not stalking anyone,” I say to Ezra Baxter, suddenly feeling like a stalker. I’m sitting at my desk in AP Lit, my camera in my hands. I bought a new lens, paid for by my summer job lifeguarding at the community pool, and I’m trying to figure out how to get it to focus.
“He’s just mad the last good photo he took was a mugshot,” Ozzy Drake says, sliding into the seat behind mine.
Ezra’s jaw tics, which gives off scary vibe, but it isn’t really a bad thing. He’s got amazing bone structure. Like, perfectly cut cheekbones and a straight, symmetrical nose. I’ve known him since he and his family moved back to Thistle Cove in the third grade. Back then, he was scrawny. In middle school, I had six inches on him. Now he has tousled, messy, almost black hair, warm brown skin, and a mysterious scar over his eyebrow. He’s good looking if you’re into juvenile delinquents. Which I’m not. He has a record. And a reputation.
I shift slightly and snap his photo while he gouges his pen into the ancient desktop.
Ozzy shifts behind me. Another classmate that I’ve known forever. Longer than Ezra. Oz and I were in preschool together. At four, we’d had an elaborate wedding in the treehouse back by Carter’s Creek. It had no chance of lasting. That was the year Finn Holloway moved in next door.
“Hey, Oz,” I say, getting a good look at him. He’d grown over the summer, returning from a creative writing program at the university a head taller than when he’d left. His shoulders stretch out the soft, cotton fabric of the Nirvana T-shirt he’s had since ninth grade. Brown hair curls out from under his cap.
“Keene,” he says, with a slight nod. He opens his mouth to say something more but then his eyes flick to the door.
Finn Holloway has arrived, drawing my attention away from everyone else. He’s alone. Second time today. I know Rose is in this class—it’s the only AP Literature class for seniors. He grabs a seat near the front—right where she would want to sit—and tosses his backpack on the empty chair next to him. His eyes dart around, fliting over my face and then Ozzy’s quickly. I give him a small smile, which he weakly returns, before hunching over and checking his phone.
I tilt my camera just so and snap a photo.
“Ezra may be right, you are a stalker,” Ozzy mutters under his breath.
I look at the digital screen. “Just testing my new lens.”
He rolls his eyes and tugs his trademark cap down over his ears. He’s always wearing it. Even when it’s still warm outside.
Juliette, Rose’s current best friend, walks through the door, mid-laugh. Her long red hair falls in soft, perfect waves over her shoulders. The color of her hair comes from a bottle, but the blue of her eyes is real. They’re just like her dad’s, and they zero in on Finn. Whatever made her smile a moment before is short lived, her lips tugging downward as she looks at the empty seat next to his.
“She never showed?” the redhead asks.
Juliette pulls out her phone. “No texts.”
She frowns and takes the seat on the other side of Finn. “Maybe she’s sick.”
“Or she had an appointment.”
Finn runs his hand through his hair, something he does when he’s irritated. “It’s just weird that she didn’t text me.”
I agree. It is weird.
Until freshman year, we did everything together. Me, Ozzy, Finn, Ezra, and Rose. A constant fivesome at each other’s homes, the pool, or just fooling around the neighborhood. Then Juliette Chandler moved to town, brought by the fact her father was the new varsity football coach, and everything changed.
At first, it was fun having someone new to hang out with. Someone exciting. But by the first day of school, Juliette and Rose were no longer my friends. Schedules split up the rest of us, different lunches, different classes and by Halloween, Ozzy had isolated himself, Ezra had his first suspension, and at homecoming, Finn asked Rose to the dance. They’ve been nauseatingly inseparable ever since.
My world flipped that year, shifting from being part of a group and having a best friend to having nothing much at all. It took time, but eventually I made friends with Alice, who’d been in school with us all along. It still hurt when I had to watch Rose pick Finn up in the morning, honking once on the shrill horn of her baby blue VW Bug. They’d had the same routine every school day for a year. Instead of watching them drive away every morning without me, I started going in early to the yearbook office and picking up Alice along the way.
I’m obsessing again. Alice is right. I do have a problem.
I turn around. Ozzy has his chin resting on his hands. His blue eyes watch me carefully.
“By the way, if you really want to add Yearbook to your list of clubs for college applications,” I say to Ozzy, “set up for the back-to-school bonfire starts at seven.”
He opens his mouth, ready to decline.
“It’s mandatory,” I add.
He sighs. “Fine.”
Mrs. Gimple, our teacher, rushes in the room, a pile of paper and books in her hands. She’s notoriously flighty but is definitely passionate about the classics. How she’s already disorganized on the first day of school is beyond me.
“Welcome to AP Literature,” she says, dropping the load onto the desk. “Put your phones away and your thinking caps on. It’s time to get the school year started.”
Ozzy groans behind me, sliding down in his chair so that his feet straddle my seat. He’s the smartest kid in the class, and I’d place odds on the fact he’s already read half the books on the curriculum. He tugs his cap down, covering his eyebrows, ready to take an early morning nap.
While everyone else readies themselves for the start of class, I take one last photo, of Ozzy. His eyes are closed, revealing long and thick eyelashes, that are shamefully wasted on a boy.
“I saw that,” he says, through shuttered eyes.
“Just commemorating the first day of our last year of school, it’s a major event. One day, you’ll thank me.”
I turn off the camera and put it in my bag, unaware that I’m right about one thing. Today is a major event.
We just don’t know it yet.
At my narrow locker, I shove my math book in between the thick literature and biology textbooks while trying not to drop my laptop. I use an elbow for leverage, but the whole thing starts to slide.
“No, no, no, no…”
A hand catches the laptop.
My eyes catch the letterman’s jacket first, then the tan neck contrasting off a clean, white T-shirt, up to the handsome, familiar face framed by copper-colored hair. Finn Holloway is holding my laptop while staring at me with worried green eyes.
I force myself to speak. “Thanks, Mrs. Parker would kill me if I break the yearbook laptop before the school year even started.”
“Sure.” His eyes dart around, like he’s worried someone will catch him talking to me. God forbid. “Have you seen Rose?”
I laugh. “Has hell frozen over?”
His lips form a thin line. “I’m serious.”
“Why would I have heard from her? You know she doesn’t speak to me anymore.” I grab the laptop from him. “Oh right, neither do you.”
“That’s not true. We’re talking right now.”
“Because you need something.”
He grimaces, unable to argue that.
I zip up my backpack. “Why are you so worried? Can’t go a whole day without her by your side?”
“Yes. I mean, no,” he says defensively. Too defensively, if you ask me. He runs his hand through his hair, making it spike up. “Something’s…never mind.”
He starts to walk away. I run after him and grab his arm.
“Something’s what, Finn?”
“Nothing.” The hallway’s crowded and he's visibly uncomfortable. Finn Holloway is never uncomfortable. Why would he be? He’s got the looks, the athletic ability, the girl… “She’s probably just screwing with everyone, you know? Making a dramatic stand or entrance or whatever she’s got going on.”
Drama is her favorite past time.
It’s just unlike her to mess with Finn.
I exhale. “If I hear anything, I’ll let you know.”
His green eyes soften. “Thanks, Kenley.”
I watch him walk away.
“What was that all about?” Alice asks from beside me. “He looked freaked out.”
“I’m really not sure.”
“Whatever it is, I’m sure he had it coming, jerk.”
I turn to respond, either to defend Finn or tell her what he said about Rose, but before I can decide, she’s already walked off. Alice Dalton doesn’t need to remind herself to let the two of them go. She already has.
I announce my presence in the locker room by dropping my bag on the wooden bench. Walking into a smelly, sweaty, hormone-infested high school locker room shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s not a big deal.
Unless you’re Ezra Baxter.
Holloway stands by his locker, furiously typing into his phone. Word is out that he’s looking for Rose, and she didn’t come to school today.
I check my phone for messages.
She didn’t text me either.
After shoving the phone in his locker, Holloway finally looks up and blinks twice when he realizes it’s me.
“What are you doing here?”
He pulls off his shirt, revealing a ridiculously ripped physique.
I open my locker door. “My dad and Coach Chandler have been conspiring. He said if I want to keep my motorcycle, I have to play a team sport.”
He snorts. “Do you think you’ll pass the drug test?”
I bite my tongue, because no, I probably wouldn’t.
And neither would his perfect little girlfriend.
She’s my biggest buyer.
“Speaking of drugs,” I say, eyeing his upper body, “you juicing? Because—”
“Shut up,” he says, glancing around to make sure no one heard me. “No.”
I laugh, because I believe him. Finn Holloway is Thistle Cove’s very own Captain America. His moral compass, and apparently now his muscles, run deep.
“What’s your secret, then? How’d you get so fucking cut?"
His entire body tenses, starting at his jaw and traveling down his defined back. “Self-control and working out every day will do it.”
I’d seen him on the Fourth of July—my dad invited his family, the Wallers, and Chandlers out on the boat. The whole situation was awkward. Finn and I aren’t really friends anymore, my business relationship with Rose is completely on the down-low, and Juliette alternates looking like she wants to hump my leg or slash my throat. So, while I pretended not to ogle the hell out of two hot girls greased up on Dad’s boat, I couldn’t help but notice Finn had toned up. He’d looked fit then, but in the last six weeks he’s shown major improvement. He must be living at the gym.
“Holloway,” Coach Chandler stands in the doorway of his office, shouting over the voices of the other players changing for practice. “I need to see you.”
“Yes, sir.” He yanks the purple jersey over his head, then slams his locker door. He’s in the office by the time I notice that he’d shut the door so hard that it bounced back open. His black, battered phone sits next to his cleats. The screen lights up with a message.
Counselors, social workers, the principal, and my parents all want to know the same thing.
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