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Mia's Heart (The Paradise Diaries), Page 2

Courtney Cole

  To: Mia Giannis > [email protected]

  From: Reece Ellis > [email protected]

  Subject: I miss you too.


  I miss you, too. I think we’re coming back for Christmas break.

  And like you said, Dante is Dante. He can fit in anywhere.

  Regarding Quinn, you should get to know him. There’s a reason that I used to be so totally in love with him—he’s a pretty good guy. I’ve known him since we were in diapers. And yes. He is hot.




  What color are the stripes now?


  To: Reece Ellis > [email protected]

  From: Mia Giannis > [email protected]

  Subject: No joke.


  No freaking joke. Tell me something I don’t know.




  The stripes are blue.

  I run my fingers through the blue streaks in my hair and sigh before I close my laptop. Life sucks without Reece and Dante here. This year will freaking suck without them here. Going to school will suck without them here.

  But today’s the day. And there’s nothing I can do about it.

  Except get my butt into gear and take a shower.

  And get ready for the first day of school.

  I sigh again.


  Chapter Three

  The Piranhas are circling.

  I watch them casually as my leg dangles from my open car door.

  They are brightly colored, all with razor sharp teeth, all swarming in for the kill.

  And they all have something in common. All of them think that they are better than everyone else because they have rich or important parents. Big deal. So do I. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

  I should know. My life sucks.

  In fact, I sort of hate my life.

  Actually, not sort of. I do.

  And I can’t make myself get out and join them, not yet.

  Because they might not be actual piranhas, but they may as well be.

  The superficial girls are batting their eyes at cocky and arrogant boys, there is endless flirting and way too many noses in the air. Each one of those girls would stab me in the back quicker than they would even look at me. I know that. And it’s all too much to deal with before breakfast.

  Thankfully, the second bell hasn’t even sounded, so I still have some precious alone time for just a few minutes more. I don’t have to deal with these freaking barracudas yet.

  “Hey Mia,” a cheerful voice interrupts my solitude.

  So scratch that. Alone time is over. But at least I haven’t lost it to a barracuda.

  “Hi Gavin,” I turn and find Gavin Ariastasis.

  As one of my best friends, I trust him because he’s from the same exact position in life that I am in. Almost exactly. His father is Caberra’s Minister of Interior, while mine is the Minister of Defense. Our lives are seriously effed up because of this. In fact, we might as well have our own little effed up club where we air out our own little effed up issues.

  “Are you ready for our last year?” I ask absently, as I watch the fray in front of me. There’s a certain first-day-of-school energy in the air today.

  He laughs in response. Gavin is always laughing, actually. He’s one of the happiest people I know. The world is a joke to him, a comedy, a play. And he’s always in the center of the stage. But I like that about him. Everyone likes that about him. He doesn’t take anything, including himself, too seriously.

  “I’m ready for anything. Always,” he announces to me.

  One of the things I love the most about Gav is that he is so freaking cocky and self-assured. But he pulls it off in a likeable way, unlike most of these other cretins. That’s why he’s so likeable.

  I laugh and stare up at him. He’s good-looking in a very Caberran way. He’s dark-haired, dark-eyed and carefree. And tan because he’s always out in the sun. Like many of the other Caberran boys, he is a surfer. He was born to live in the sun. His eyes are almost always sparkling at some unsaid joke. But for some reason, I’ve never been attracted to him even though he’s gorgeous. I don’t know why because it would be so convenient.

  But I guess hearts don’t care about convenience.

  “I see you’ve altered your uniform,” he observes.

  I glance down at myself. I have the blue plaid skirt on, the black knee socks and the white button-up shirt on like I should. But I’ve unbuttoned the top several buttons of my shirt and a black camisole peeks out. It’s my homage to the rest of my wardrobe. Black, black, black. It fits my mood most of the time.

  I even dye my hair jet black. Usually, much to my parents’ chagrin, I add colorful streaks to it. Right now, as I told Reece, I have bright blue streaks. I figure I might as well coordinate with my school uniform.

  I nod. “It’s just a little thing.”

  A little tiny way to be an individual. But even a little of that kind of effort is considered too much around here.

  Kolettis Academy does not exactly encourage individuality. It was founded by Antonio Kolettis, a Prime Minister from a few hundred years back, as the first private school in Valese. It is the private school now. Only the very rich, the very influential or the very powerful can get their kids in.

  It’s ironic that I spend my days day-dreaming about getting out.

  But then, I’m contrary like that. Or so my parents say.

  Gavin nods. “Just a little thing,” he agrees. “Just a little thing that Kanaris might send you home for.”

  He does have a point. The headmaster, Constantine Kanaris, does not deviate from the rules. Not for any reason, not at any time. It’s exhausting. But it’s a little bit fun to play with. He can’t expel me. My father is the MoD of our entire country.

  But that doesn’t mean that Kanaris won’t send me home to change. He’s done it before, many times. He only wishes that the policy had some specifications about hair color. But it doesn’t. So I can color my head like the rainbow if I choose to.

  Take that, asshole.

  Gavin holds out his arm. “Come on,” he urges me. “You can’t stay out here all day.”

  I stare up at him. “I can’t?” I ask. “Are you sure?”

  He grins. And entire countries could be leveled with that charming grin, I am sure. And once again I ponder why I’m not attracted to him. It’s probably because I’ve seen him in diapers. That tends to squash sex appeal.

  “You can’t,” he reiterates cheerfully.

  I sigh.

  Then sigh again for good measure, just to make sure he heard me. Then I grab my bag, slam my car door shut and finally take Gavin’s arm.

  “Okay, fine,” I tell him. “Let’s get it over with.”

  He stares down at me, his dark gaze twinkling. “Well, when you put it so charmingly, how can I resist?”

  I roll my eyes and he laughs. It’s the story of our lives. I’m the sarcastic one with the dry wit, he’s the endlessly happy one.

  One foot in front of the other.

  That’s what I tell myself as we wind our way through the throngs of chattering kids and into the halls of our school.

  One foot in front of the other and then before I know it, the day will be over and I’ll be back home. Which will be miserable too, but not as miserable as school.

  I hate my life.

  It’s official.

  “So, have you heard from Dante?” Gavin asks me as we stand in line to receive our locker numbers.

  I shake my head. “Not this week. But I got an email from Reece this morning. They don’t start school until next week. Luckies.”

  “I don’t know if they’re so lucky,” Gavin says as he drops me off at my locker. “Apparently, Kansas is hotter than Hades right now. And dusty. I got an email from Dante a couple of weeks ago. He said he’s never seen so much dust outside of a desert.”

; “I would feel sorry for him, but… I don’t,” I say firmly. “He chose to go there. He could be here with us. It was his own decision.”

  Gavin looks at me with amusement. “I don’t think he’s feeling sorry for himself,” he tells me. “He’s pretty happy. I think he’d be happy anywhere Reece is, though.”

  I know that’s right. If anyone was made for each other, even while being complete and total opposites, it is Dante and Reece. I can’t help but wonder how smooth, polished Dante Giliberti is fitting into a rural Midwestern American school. But then I put the thoughts aside. Dante can handle any situation. He was bred for it. I’m sure he’s totally fine.

  Me, on the other hand…

  I look around.

  I’m surrounded, completely and totally, by kids that I can’t stand.

  Heaven help me.

  I put my stuff into my locker except for my Trig book and slam it closed. Whoever gave me Trig for my first class of the day, before I’ve even had an ounce of caffeine, ought to be shot.

  Right after they are drawn and quartered.

  With those charming thoughts in my head, I make my way toward class and slide into a seat by the window.

  One thing about Kolettis Academy, is that it is very, very nice. We have state of the art equipment, top notch teachers and the very best of everything, all situated in an ancient, beautiful building. We still use the original stone school building, although the interior has been fully remodeled several times throughout the years. The windows are large and allow me to fully see outside, to get a perfect view of the beauty that I am missing this morning. I can see the sea from here, I hear the sea gulls flying overhead and I can hear the water. It makes me sigh. Because I’m not there.

  I’m here.

  In prison.

  “Miss Giannis?”

  Uh-oh. Mr. Priftis’ tone leads me to believe that it’s not the first time he’s called for me.


  I turn my attention to him.

  “Are you awake, Miss Giannis?”

  Luckily, Mr. Priftis seems amused. I nod quickly.

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Very well,” he smiles. “I need you to share your textbook with Mr. McKeyen until I am able to order him one.”

  My heart lurches into my throat as I notice that Quinn, the one and the same, is seated next to me. He is all sprawled out, somehow fitting his large body into the smallish desk. How had I not noticed him arriving in this classroom? It’s such a small room for such a big body.

  My startled gaze is snared by his and I find amusement there. Calm down, I tell myself. He can’t read your thoughts.

  Or can he?

  The amused expression on his face almost makes me think that he knows exactly how flustered he is making me.

  “Miss Giannis?”

  Mr. Priftis is less amused now and more concerned, his forehead wrinkled.

  “Yes,” I answer quickly. “Of course he can share my book.”

  “Excellent,” Mr. Priftis answers as he returns to his desk. I turn to Quinn, Mr. RodeoGodHimself.

  “If you scoot your desk over, you’ll be able to see,” I tell him.

  Quinn extracts himself carefully from the desk and moves it, then sprawls out once again, but this time right next to me. I can smell him now, that freshly showered man smell and my stomach quivers.

  I’m annoyed with myself.

  I do not react like this to a guy. Not ever.

  Quinn grins lazily at me and my stomach quivers again.

  GodBlessIt. Freaking traitorous stomach.

  And I realize that he’s not wearing his hat. Probably because it’s against school rules to wear a hat on the premises. His hair is definitely sandy blond and it curls up slightly at the nape of his neck. It’s also slightly unruly, but I suspect that’s a good reflection of his personality. Unruly. Rebellious. Ornery.

  His white button-up shirt is slightly loosened at the top and his navy blue tie is not quite straight. He’s wearing his boots and they are currently crossed at his ankles. He manages to look casual and sexy in this sterile classroom setting. I decide it must be an art.

  “I like the stripes,” he tells me, his dark eyes twinkling.

  I stare at him for a moment until I realize that he means my hair. And before I can stop myself, I self-consciously run my fingers through a blue tendril.

  “Thank you,” I answer. I have no idea if he meant the compliment or if he was just using it as a way to point out that he noticed.

  “You’re very coordinated,” he adds, gesturing toward my school uniform. I flush now. Because now he’s teasing me.

  I roll my eyes at him.

  “What?” he asks innocently. But I can tell from his grin that he is anything but innocent. I flush again.

  He looks at me quizzically, but Mr. Priftis starts his lecture and I turn my attention to him. It’s difficult to ignore Quinn McSexy sitting next to me, particularly when I can feel his soft breath on my arm at times.

  I gulp.

  He smiles.

  I die.

  He winks.

  He should look completely out of place. Because he is out of place even though he’s wearing a uniform like everyone else, although his boots completely add a note of uniqueness to his outfit.

  “Do you own any other shoes?” I whisper to him.

  He stares down at me.

  “Of course. I own football cleats.”

  “We don’t play American football here,” I tell him.

  He looks chagrined.

  “I know. They didn’t tell me that before I came here though.”

  I’m sitting next to an American cliché. A big, muscular, hometown football hero, probably.

  To satisfy my curiosity, I ask, “Did you play quarterback?”

  Because that would be the ultimate cliché.

  But he shakes his head.

  “No. I play full-back.”

  I have no idea what that is, but I nod as though I do.

  And then the bell is ringing and I am grabbing my books, saved from having to pretend that I know something about a topic that I actually know nothing about.

  As everyone bustles into the hall, Quinn is surrounded by people trying to talk to him. He is new here; a curiosity, a distraction. New always equals interesting, at least for awhile. And I find myself feeling jealous when I see a throng of other girls milling about him.

  I saw him first.

  I can’t stop the uninvited territorial feeling from welling up inside of me. As if I know him and have a claim to him. And then I shake it away. He’s not mine. That’s ridiculous. He’s not anyone’s. He’s a stranger here, just trying to fit in and get through his senior year in a strange and foreign place.

  But Quinn stands a head taller than most people and as he turns his head, his gaze meets mine. And there is something there, a familiar pull, almost like he is clinging to me from across the hall because he is surrounded by strangers and he feels like he knows me.

  But he doesn’t.

  And I don’t know him.

  So I break his gaze and walk away.

  And I am surprised by how hard it is to do.

  Chapter Four

  From: Reece Ellis > [email protected]

  To: Mia Giannis > [email protected]

  Subject: First day?


  So how was your first day?? Did you see Quinn? How is he fitting into life on Caberra? I bet he sticks out like a sore thumb. I can sympathize, though. I was the same way.

  It’s hot here. Really, really freaking hot. Dante understands now why I call it Hell’s Kitchen. School here starts next week, so Dante and I are school shopping today. I told him that he can’t wear slacks here to school if he wants to fit in. But honestly, I can’t picture him in Levi’s, either. I’ll take pics though and send them to you so you can see. It might be hi-lar-ious.

  He came over yesterday and helped us throw hay bales. OMG. Regardless of what I tell him, he truly can f
it in anywhere. My grandpa loves him.

  I love you bunches and I miss you.



  My heart warms up as I read her message. I love that girl. She’s my very first BFF and it doesn’t matter that she’s halfway across the world. But Christmas seems like a lifetime away right now.

  I sigh and close my laptop.

  I miss them both so much I can hardly stand it.

  And now I’m being pathetic again.

  I can’t seem to help it. Since my parents are always so wrapped up in their political and social bullshit, and they don’t allow me to hang around with anyone who isn’t “appropriate”, my circle of support is very limited. Dante, Reece and Gavin are all I have.

  And that’s not really that pathetic, I decide.

  Because everybody needs somebody. No one is an island.


  As if on cue, my cell phone buzzes from the pocket of my jeans which are in a pile on the floor. I reach from my bed and scoop it up.


  “How’d you know it was me?”

  I can hear him smiling through the phone. And his eyes are probably sparkling. But that’s a safe bet, because they’re always sparkling. Gavin is always amused by something.

  “I’m magic,” I say glibly. “See, there’s this cool new thing technology. I can see a person’s phone number when they call.”

  “You’re hilarious, do you know that?” Gavin grins again. Even though I can’t see it, I know. I can’t help but smile back, even though he can’t see me.

  “I know,” I tell him. “What’s up?”

  “Nothing,” he answers. “Just thought you might want to hang out today. Want to go diving?”

  The answer to that question is almost always yes.

  Day or night.

  I love scuba diving or snorkeling or pretty much anything that involves me swimming beneath the surface of the sea.

  Today is no different.

  “Sure thing,” I tell him. “I’ll meet you at the pier in half an hour.”

  Which might be tricky since I’m supposed to be grounded for mouthing off to my mother the other day about my stupid nose ring.