Fifteen-year old Brianna St. Clair sucked in a deep breath and blew it out when the limo her father, Henry, was driving parked in front of the Constance-Billard School. A million thoughts raced through her mind about the wealthy students who attended this school. Could the daughter of two hybrid blue collar-like workers for Charlotte Rutherford, the matriarch of the largest hotel chain in the country, actually rub elbows with these muckety mucks pretending to be one of them? Or would the infamous Gossip Girl blow the whistle on her?
She gave a weak smile. This so-called know-it-all seemed to report every update about the main players in the school. Nothing like this had ever happened in Paris where she lived before they moved to the United States with Mrs. Rutherford. This Gossip Girl reporting was definitely something new to her. And it appeared playing the game was important for acceptance; otherwise, the entire student body would read about it. Frankly, she had no idea how this gossiper got her cell phone number to even send messages. Although it did start after she’d registered for school.
She brushed it off as that being the way they did things in American schools. Fortunately for her, it was to her advantage, because GG had recommended her blog as a resource for information about the lead players she was about to meet at school. At least, she knew enough about them to partially fit in. And most of what she’d read wasn’t all that flattering to those she’d gossiped about.
She swallowed hard when she heard her father’s door shut. Her nerves kicked in and the pounding of her heart against her rib cage sounded like a bongo drum signaling the beginning of her role in Act One. Hopefully the things she’d learned from watching Charlotte in her daily life, was enough and no one would suspect she wasn’t the real deal.
Brianna looked up at the school and sighed. If it hadn’t been for her parents’ contract with Charlotte making her education a condition of their move, she wouldn’t be attending this posh school. Brianna gave another hefty sigh and started to open the car door herself when her father opened it for her.
“I could have done it, Père,” she said in their native French.
“It is my pleasure, Chérie.”
She pushed forward in her seat and gave a weak smile when her father’s hand pulled her to her feet. Now eyeing the steps leading up to the entrance, her heart was thudding double-time inside her chest knowing everyone would be staring at the new girl. Could she make it to the top without stumbling? God, she hoped so.
“Don’t be nervous, Chérie. ” His face took on a serious expression as he tilted his head to the side. “Just remember,” he said in a firm voice, “you’re every bit as good as they are.”
“I know, but . . .”
“No buts. Come, you can do this. Remember the things you’ve learned and you’ll be fine. Now smile.”
She took a nervous step forward. “Okay,” she mumbled. She knew her father was right. If she was going to fit in, she had to adapt to this new mode of operation by pretending to be someone she wasn’t. She’d been through worse things than this and still survived. She’d get through this one too.
As expected, all heads turned in her direction. Adjusting her skirt and nervously smoothing the fabric with her hands to remove the wrinkles, her stomach felt like a million butterflies were playing bumper cars.
“Smile, Chérie,” he said. She managed a weak smile, took one last swallow and shifted her eyes to her father. “Père, please don’t ask me to kiss you in front of everyone.”
He snickered. “I wouldn’t think of it, Chérie.” He shut the door. “Remember, head held high and study hard. Pay attention in class and don’t get distracted by all these boys staring at you.”
“Yes, Père.” She wet her lips, said a silent prayer, and mounted the stairs while her father looked on with pride. Dressed in the school’s plaid uniform, Brianna wore a burgundy headband with thigh-high boots to match. Both were to accentuate the color of her long red hair that lay curled on her shoulders—a real showstopper in and of itself that would have drawn the attention of everyone around even if she hadn’t been pretty. Fortunately, she was and had a beautiful figure to go with it.
As soon as she made it to the landing without making a fool of herself, she felt a sense of calmness wash over her and she regained her confidence knowing she could pull this off. Her father’s reassurance and some serious self-talking along the way had prepared her for the role of a lifetime. Reaching out to pull the main door open, a handsome boy with short dark hair beat her to it.
“Well, well. What do we have here? A new beauty to grace the halls of Constance Billard?” he asked wryly. He extended his hand. “I have a feeling my days are about to get better.” She grinned and recognized him as Chuck Bass, known by most as a womanizer. “We haven’t met yet, Miss Beauty Queen.” He reached out and twirled his fingers through the ends of her hair. She pulled it back. “I’m Chuck Bass, commonly known as the “bad boy” who doesn’t give a crap about what other people think.”
Game on, she told herself. “You don’t look like a bad boy,” she flirted.
Chuck gave her a sexy look right back. “Oh, la, la,” he said with flair. “Is that a French accent I’m hearing? Is that where you’re from?”
“Oui. We just move.” She was on a roll. She gave him a flirtatious wink that brought a wide smile to his handsome face. “Brianna St. Clair,” she extended her hand in greeting. He took her hand and brought it to his mouth and kissed it.
His brows rose, “I have friends named St. Clair in Boca Raton? They have a beautiful daughter named Rosalind, but she’s not as beautiful as you and certainly doesn’t have your mesmerizing green eyes or killer smile. Are you related?”
“Are they French?” she asked.
“Then they must be relatives.” She raised her palms in the air. The overhead warning bell signaled the start of school. “I go see the headmistress.” She gave him a wave and hurried down the hall, grinning as she walked. Maybe this was going to be fun after all.
She pulled her cell phone from her purse and did a quick scan at her ‘reminder’ list of details she’d written about each of the players. She repeated some of the points again to memorize: a trick, Mrs. Rutherford had taught her when meeting new people.
Chuck’s father Bart, was a self-made billionaire, his mother died giving birth to him and his relationship with his father was tenuous. Typing the notes into her phone after reading the details was one thing, but actually meeting the person and seeing a different side of them was more complicated. GG had some pretty bad things to say about Chuck, but despite the long list of reasons not to like him, she did. Maybe it was his flirtatious style, but he was definitely a charmer. Sadness washed over her knowing he didn’t have a loving mother to nurture him, and the fact that he didn’t get along with his dad, was like having no parents at all. But in spite of those two missing pieces, he seemed happy.
Further down the hall, several students passed by and were quite friendly as they smiled at her. Excitement welled inside her core. If this was an indication of how the rest of the day would go, she was in good shape.
But her biggest test would be Blair Waldorf. She was the Queen Bee in the school and anyone who dared to betray her, paid dearly. She’d gotten a glimpse of Blair when she’d walked inside the school. She was the pretty dark-haired girl standing by the entrance when Chuck opened the door. At first, Blair’s glaring made her slightly nervous. The girl was standing in the center of a circle with several other female students, commonly referred to as her ‘posse’ as defined by GG. Brianna knew their calculating looks meant they’d meet later on the steps and decide whether she was worthy. Brianna tossed a hand in the air deciding to avoid dwelling on any negativity.
Nevertheless, she was fascinated by GG’s account of Blair, who was known to have many flaws, but the simple truth was she’d found a way to get what she wanted, however unorthodox. Brianna told herself if she wanted to be accepted, she had better march to the beat of Blair’s drum. Brianna humpfed. How did someone Blair’s age manage to pull off such a feat? Could she do the same? Was she starved for affection? She wasn’t, but maybe Blair was and competition didn’t seem to be her thing. Despite the silly rules, once she passed this test, she hoped the rest would be easy.