Home > Harvest Moon (Riverbend #3)(5)

Harvest Moon (Riverbend #3)(5)
Author: Denise Hunter

“You’re new here,” he said a full three minutes later.

“That’s right.”

The teacher started class, leaving no room for further conversation. He went over class rules, then instructed them to open their textbooks to chapter 1.

“Who can tell me what the basic unit of life is?” Mr. Morton asked.

Her school had covered this in seventh grade. She slipped her hand up, and the teacher called on her. “Cells,” she said.

“Very good. Every living thing is made of these basic building blocks. Some organisms are made up of only one cell. Can anyone give me an example?”

Someone whispered behind her. A phone buzzed. Gavin raised his hand.

The teacher smiled at him. “Mr. Robinson.”

“Protozoa.”

“Excellent.”

Laurel raised her hand. “Bacteria,” she said when called upon.

“Very good.”

Later that day Laurel found that Gavin also shared her algebra class. This time she took care to keep her distance.

On the second day of biology, she entered the room to find him at the same desk. As much as she wanted to sit elsewhere, there was no way she would allow him to think he intimidated her.

And so it went.

Week after week they competed to answer the teachers’ questions correctly. When Laurel got back a test, she made sure to leave it on her desk where he’d see the 97 or 98 percent written in red ink. Sometimes when she glanced over at his test, his grade was a point or two higher. Sometimes a point or two lower.

So he wasn’t a stereotypical jock. But she knew she was the better student and intended to prove it daily. Whereas everyone in the entire school seemed to love him, he had nothing for Laurel but dark scowls and tolerant looks. That was okay. She wasn’t here to make friends.

If sometimes, when she was studying at home, the memory of that scowl made something flutter in her chest, she wasn’t about to admit it even to herself. If she took an extra-deep whiff when he passed her desk, it was only because she loved the smell of pine. And if she sometimes stole glances at him across the cafeteria, it was only because she was perplexed about what the other students saw in him.

Sophomore year passed slowly, and she made a couple of good friends to sit with at lunch. Her best friend, Mallory, still attended the private school Laurel’s mom could no longer afford since the voucher program got canceled.

“He is so hot,” Bethany said one day when she caught Laurel staring at Gavin across the cafeteria.

“Who?”

Bethany elbowed her. “Right. Like you don’t gawk at him every single day.”

“I do not!”

“Okay, whatever, don’t tell me about your secret crush on the cutest boy in our class. Whatever.”

“I don’t have a crush on him. He’s not even cute.”

Bethany snorted.

Okay, maybe she’d gone overboard with that one. But her strange fascination with him was embarrassing. He could have any girl he wanted—and he sure didn’t want her. “I’m keeping an eye on my competition, that’s all. I intend to be valedictorian of this class, and he’s ahead of me by 0.7 points. Plus, he’s kind of a jerk.”

Bethany’s hazel eyes widened. “Gavin? He’s the nicest jock in the whole school. He let me borrow his pencil in ninth grade. And he said hi once when we ran into his family at the Trailhead.”

Laurel rolled her eyes. “Whatever.” Maybe it was just Laurel he disliked. Was it because she’d come along and given him a little competition? Oh well. She glanced at him again to find him giving her another flinty look.

“Smokin’. Hot.” Bethany propped her chin on her hand and heaved a breathy sigh. “I’ll just sit here and pretend he’s staring at me like that.”

“He’s glaring at me.”

Bethany laughed. “Oh, girl. You are clueless.”

Maybe Laurel didn’t quite understand boys. After all, she didn’t have any brothers, and her dad had left without so much as a farewell when she was five.

Sophomore year passed quickly and before she knew it, summer arrived. She got a job at Owen’s Nursery, where she worked long days. But that was all right, because she also learned a lot about plants and trees and flowers. She planned to attend Clemson University on scholarship (fingers crossed) and become a horticulturist. Someday she would tend the grounds of the Biltmore Estate. Plus, her mom had her hours cut, and Laurel needed to pitch in.

Summer seemed to pass in a blink, and then it was junior year. Gavin was in her earth science and English classes, but she made a point of sitting far away from him and his disturbing scowls.

She was delighted to learn English wasn’t his strong suit. Whenever she took a test to the teacher’s desk to dispute the one or two questions she’d missed, she made a point of passing Gavin’s desk, test score in plain sight, of course.

In the halls the looks he gave her alternated between the glower and the one that screamed “You bore me to death.”

Junior year was more challenging than last year, and Laurel poured her heart into her classes. Gavin seemed to skate by with much less effort. She wasn’t sure how he balanced schoolwork with his rigorous sports schedule.

Laurel participated in concert band (violin) and did well. If her mom didn’t always make the recitals, that was okay. She had to take whatever hours she could at the deli she managed. Sometimes Mallory came to support her, and Laurel returned the favor by attending her friend’s art fairs. Mallory’s mother always showed her face at these events, but privately she caused her daughter a lot of grief.

Laurel also attended school baseball games because Riverbend had a championship team and all the students went. The Robinson clan was always there in full force to support Gavin. The guy seemed to have it all. Academics, check. Athletics, check. Big loving family, check, check.

But by the time May arrived Laurel’s and Gavin’s GPAs were neck and neck.

For the English final the students would be randomly paired for a month-long Shakespeare project. It was her best shot to pull ahead. She was brainstorming a list of possible projects as the teacher read aloud the pairings.

“Hope Benford and Janae Curtis . . . Gavin Robinson and Laurel Jenkins . . .”

Laurel’s gaze flew straight to Gavin. His spine lengthened, then he glanced over his shoulder at her and smirked.

Jerk. Idiot, she telegraphed. But if anything his expression grew even more impertinent.

Mr. Foster shoved his wire-rimmed glasses up on his nose. “Be sure and get with your partner this week. I’ll need a paragraph-length description of your proposed project by Monday.”

Laurel huffed. If she and Gavin worked together, they would receive the same grade—and she needed to score higher than him if she was going to pull ahead by the end of the year. Plus . . . a whole month of working with Gavin? No way.

She could dispute the pairing. But she wasn’t exactly Mr. Foster’s favorite student. He didn’t seem to appreciate that she sometimes challenged his grading. But she would simply explain that she and Gavin had irreconcilable differences.

Or better yet . . . maybe Gavin would ask for another partner—of course he would. He hated her. And Mr. Foster loved Gavin.

When the bell rang she gathered her books, peering at Gavin from beneath her lashes, silently begging him to approach Mr. Foster’s desk. Instead he exited the room with his gaggle of jocks, seemingly unperturbed by the pairing.

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