Genre: YA Contemporary
Published: December 3, 2013 by Sourcebooks Fire
Series: #4 (Hundred Oaks)
Length: 304 pages
“They’re from two different worlds.
He lives in the estate house, and she spends most of her time in the stables helping her father train horses. In fact, Savannah has always been much more comfortable around horses than boys. Especially boys like Jack Goodwin—cocky, popular and completely out of her league. She knows the rules: no mixing between the staff and the Goodwin family. But Jack has no such boundaries.
With her dream of becoming a jockey, Savannah isn’t exactly one to follow the rules either. She’s not going to let someone tell her a girl isn’t tough enough to race. Sure, it’s dangerous. Then again, so is dating Jack..”
Jodi, the Goodwins’ chef, is pacing back and forth across the Hillcrest common room. Cindy still isn’t feeling well. She’s lying on the couch while Dad massages her feet and makes her drink water. He thinks she’s dehydrated. The other bad news is that we’re short-staffed for Mr. Goodwin’s fancy dinner party tonight.
If Cindy calls out of work sick tonight, it sure won’t make our family look good. It would truly suck if Dad lost his new job.
“Mom, let me help,” Ethan, Jodi’s thirteen-year-old son, says. “What can I do?”
“If you owned a tux maybe you could serve,” Jodi replies. “Let me take Cindy’s place,” I interrupt, standing up. Everyone stares at me. Working in the kitchens during a fancy Goodwin dinner is the last thing I want to do, but I can’t let Cindy get fired.
“You can be a server,” Jodi says, nodding at me. “Just follow Paula’s lead and you’ll be fine.”
“I’m so sorry,” Cindy says to me, clutching her stomach. Dad gives me a kind smile, looking grateful as he places his hand over Cindy’s.
“It’s not a problem,” I say, but it is. I can’t imagine serving Jack twice in one day.
Cindy loans me one of her maid uniforms, because unlike at breakfast, I have to put my Goodwin game face on. The blue dress hangs below my knees and if I look straight down, I can see my bra.
Super embarrassing. God, why did Dad have to get Cindy pregnant?
Up at the manor house, Ethan is helping his mom plate the salads while Mr. and Mrs. Goodwin greet their guests in the parlor. Paula is filling carafes with wine. Jack is hiding out in the kitchen, sneaking bites of everything Jodi is cooking. He pops a shrimp in his mouth and she smacks his hand. “For the third time, get out of my kitchen!” Ethan and I crack up when Jack steals a piece of cornbread behind Jodi’s back.
Jodi hands me a water pitcher and tells me to go fill the glasses in the dining room. I pour water into a glass and I’m moving on to the next place setting when a handsome guy I’ve never seen before stumbles through the doorway. He appears to be twenty or so. His black suit, blazing red tie, and shiny shoes just scream power.
“Where’s the goddamned bathroom?” he says.
“Down the hall to your left,” I reply quietly, taken aback by his behavior. I start toward the kitchen to see what else Jodi needs me to do but he takes me by the elbow and turns me around. I smell alcohol on his breath.
“I’m Marcus Winchester.” He puffs his chest out like he’s more important than Prince William then scans my body. “I can’t believe the Goodwins keep you hidden away.”
You have got to be kidding me.
“Excuse me,” I say, cradling the water pitcher against my chest, and try to head toward the kitchen, but he doesn’t let go of my arm.
He looks down at my uniform, well, more specifically, down my dress, because it’s way too big.
I have a sudden urge to throw this water on Marcus—but if I do that, my dad and Cindy might get fired and we would have to leave before the baby is born and we might not find more work and where would we live and oh holy God—help.
“I’m needed in the kitchen.”
“You’re needed here.” Marcus laughs softly, squeezing my arm harder. “Don’t you want a kiss? I’ll give you another chance, even though a bad girl like you doesn’t deserve my forgiveness.”
Who the hell does he think he is?
Marcus leans in and I’m debating whether or not to toss the water on him when Jack appears in the doorway.
“Jack,” I blurt.
Marcus releases my arm and I step away, panting, my tongue heavy and dry. I shake my head at Jack, trying to show him that Marcus is the last thing I want.
“Marcus, meet Savannah. She’s one of my good friends,” Jack says with the hint of a threat in his voice.
I step away, my hands shaking as I continue pouring water into glasses. I breathe in and out. It’s only a couple hours. I can handle a couple of hours. My hands go from shaky to earthquaky in a matter of seconds and I can’t imagine how pissed Mrs. Goodwin will be if I drop this glass pitcher on her hardwood floor.
“You’re friends with your servants?” Marcus asks, raising his eyebrows. His eyes are red and hazy. “My servants clean my toilet.”
Jack grabs Marcus’s elbow. “C’mon, we’ve got a great bourbon collection you should see.”
A minute later, Jack reappears by my side and takes the water pitcher from my hands.
“Did Marcus hurt you?” he murmurs, placing the pitcher on a sideboard.
I hate that Marcus questioned whether Jack could be friends with a servant like me. And all I can think about is how Jack looked at me today when he found out I’m not going to college. Like I’m this pathetic little bee, swarming around, with no thoughts and dreams of my own. Marcus Winchester and his I’m-a-rich-person-so-I-can-do-whatever-I-want attitude reminds me of horrible Mr. Cates.
“Why would you invite such a Neanderthal to dinner?” I ask.
“Dad’s working on a business deal with his father.”
Jack pulls a handkerchief out of his suit pocket and dabs it on my face, and I cover his hand with mine, searching his eyes. It feels nice being comforted by him, and I wish I could stay in this moment, but I can’t. I’m pissed.
“So it’s okay if Marcus humiliates me because your dad does business with his father? That sucks.”
Jack’s face drops and he furrows his eyebrows. He takes his hand off my face then walks around the table and finishes pouring water into each glass. Him taking over my chore is a nice concession, but can that really make up for what happened?
“You don’t have to do that,” I say.
“I know,” Jack replies. “But Dad’s always harping on me about how I should learn to do stuff for myself before college starts.”
“Is that why he tried to teach you how to do laundry?”
“You heard about that, huh?” He leans around the flower arrangement to grin at me.
“I hear everything,” I say, sniffling into his handkerchief. It smells like him. “The maids gossip about you all the time in Hillcrest.”
“Oh yeah, like what?”
“I heard about the walk through the rose garden with the country singer and you picking thorns out of your—”
“I’ve been looking for you, son.” Mr. Goodwin appears in the dining room wearing a gray suit like Jack’s. “I want you to talk to George about business school—” He gazes from me to the water pitcher in Jack’s hands. “What’s going on here?”
I hold my breath, biting down on the handkerchief.
Jack lays a hand on his father’s shoulder and speaks quietly to him. I hear the words “Marcus” and “dickhead.”
“Are you okay?” Mr. Goodwin asks me.
“Yes, sir.” I nod quickly.
“Do you wish to be relieved? I’m sure we can find someone else to serve us.”
“No, sir. I’m fine.” Cindy needs the money.
“Good. Why don’t you head back into the kitchen to see if Jodi needs anything.”
It’s not like I expected Mr. Goodwin to throw Marcus out of the house, not with a big business deal with Marcus’s father on the line, but I can’t help feeling a tiny bit betrayed anyway. But this is how our world works—rich people like Marcus and Jack can do as they want, while people like me serve them coffee and hope they will treat us nicely.
I leave the dining room and hide in the same cranny I did this morning to calm down, but also to hear what else they say in case they mention selling Star again.
“I see the way you look at Savannah,” I hear Mr. Goodwin saying quietly.
What?! How does Jack look at me? Mr. Goodwin goes on, “You better not do that tonight during dinner. You know how much I want this deal with Winchester… and I’d rather you not piss off his daughter by being more interested in Savannah than her.”
“I know Dad…Savannah and I…we’ve just been working on a school project together.”
“And that’s it?”
“What’s this project?”
A long pause.
“We have to tell the school where we want to be in five years.”
“And where do you want to be?”
“Getting my MBA and working for you. I hope I’ll have a winning horse by then.”
“What else?” Mr. Goodwin asks.
Jack pauses for several seconds. “When you were my age, where did you want to be in five years?”
I peek around the corner to see Mr. Goodwin checking his tie in the window reflection. “In a woman’s bed, I imagine.”
Jack laughs. “That’s where I want to be in five years too.”
“I dare you to write that on your project.” Mr. Goodwin straightens Jack’s blue tie and dusts his shoulders off. “Please be on your best behavior tonight. Don’t eat all the bread before anyone else gets any, okay?”
“You’re a cruel man, Dad.”
“No, I just really like Jodi’s bread.”
I rush to the kitchen, breathing in and out. I set the water pitcher down and bury his handkerchief in my apron pocket. Forget about him, Savannah.