Hawk's Way Rebels Online - Joan Johnston

CHAPTER ONE

CHERRY WHITELAW was in trouble. Again. She simply couldn’t live up to the high expectations of her adoptive parents, Zach and Rebecca Whitelaw. She had been a Whitelaw for three years, ever since her fifteenth birthday, and it was getting harder and harder to face the looks of disappointment on her parents’ faces each time they learned of her latest escapade.

This time it was really serious. This was about the worst thing that could happen to a high school girl. Well, the second worst. At least she wasn’t pregnant.

Cherry had been caught spiking the punch at the senior prom this evening by the principal, Mr. Cornwell, and expelled on the spot. The worst of it was, she wasn’t even guilty! Not that anyone was going to believe her. Because most of the time she was.

Her best friend, Tessa Ramos, had brought the pint bottle of whiskey to the dance. Cherry had been trying to talk Tessa out of spiking the punch—had just taken the bottle from Tessa’s hand—when Mr. Cornwell caught her with it.

He had snatched it away with a look of dismay and said, “I’m ashamed of you, young lady. It’s bad enough when your behavior disrupts class. An irresponsible act like this has farther-reaching ramifications.”

“But, Mr. Cornwell, I was only—”

“You’re obviously incorrigible, Ms. Whitelaw.”

Cherry hated being called that. Incorrigible. Being incorrigible meant no one wanted her because she was too much trouble. Except Zach and Rebecca had. They had loved her no matter what she did. They would believe in her this time, too. But that didn’t change the fact she had let them down. Again.

“You’re expelled,” Mr. Cornwell had said, his rotund face nearly as red as Cherry’s hair, but not quite, because nothing could ever be quite that red. “You will leave this dance at once. I’ll be in touch with your parents tomorrow.”

No amount of argument about her innocence had done any good, because she had been unwilling to name her best friend as the real culprit. She might be a troublemaker, but she was no rat.

Mr. Cornwell’s pronouncement had been final. She was out. She wasn’t going to graduate with the rest of her class. She would have to come back for summer school.

Rebecca was going to cry when she found out. And Zach was going to get that grim-lipped look that meant he was really upset.

Cherry felt a little like crying herself. She had no idea why she was so often driven to wild behavior. She only knew she couldn’t seem to stop. And it wasn’t going to do any good to protest her innocence this time. She had been guilty too often in the past.

“Hey, Cherry! You gonna sit there mopin’ all night, or what?”

Cherry glanced at her prom date, Ray Estes. He lay sprawled on the grass beside her at the stock pond on the farthest edge of Hawk’s Pride, her father’s ranch, where she had retreated in defeat. Her full-length, pale green chiffon prom dress, which had made her feel like a fairy princess earlier in the evening, was stained with dirt and grass.

Ray’s tuxedo was missing the jacket, bow tie, and cummerbund, and his shirt was unbuttoned halfway to his waist. He was guzzling the fourth can of a six-pack of beer he had been slowly but surely consuming since they had arrived at the pond an hour ago.

Cherry sat beside him holding the fifth can, but it was still nearly full. Somehow she didn’t feel much like getting drunk. She had to face her parents sometime tonight, and that would only be adding insult to injury.

“C’mon, Cherry, give us a li’l kiss,” Ray said, dragging himself upright with difficulty and leaning toward her.

She braced a palm in the smooth center of his chest to keep him from falling onto her. “You’re drunk, Ray.”

Ray grinned. “Shhure am. How ’bout that kiss, Cher-ry?”

“No, Ray.”

“Aww, why not?”

“I got thrown out of school tonight, Ray. I don’t feel like kissing anybody.”

“Not even me?” Ray said.

Cherry laughed at the woeful, hangdog look on his face and shook her head. “Not even you.” Ray was good fun most of the time. He drank a little too much, and he drove a little too fast, and his grades hadn’t been too good. But she hadn’t been in a position to be too picky.

She had dreamed sometimes of what it might be like to be one of the “good girls” and have “nice boys” calling her up to ask for dates. It hadn’t happened. She was