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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Excerpt | Prom Queen Perfect by Clarisse David

My young adult romance novella, Prom Queen Perfect, will officially be out in a few days (July 7, 2016)! I'm so excited that I decided to share a brief excerpt with you guys.

Without further ado, here it is:

***

If Asia Pacific Academy were a monarchy I, Alexandra dela Cruz, would be its queen. This institution of higher learning where the rich and famous sent their offspring?

It was mine for the taking.

I decided who the beautiful people were, and who had to sit on the cafeteria tables by the trash cans, forever branded as complete losers. It didn’t matter if my schoolmates were daughters of business tycoons or the grandsons of Iloilo City’s current governor.

I reigned over all of them.

Unfortunately, my social status meant nothing to Adam Cordero, this year’s student council president. The expression on his face, raised eyebrows and mouth in a straight line, told me I was in big trouble. I ignored him and strutted into the Student Council Office, my newest designer bag dangling from my arm.

“You’re thirty minutes late.” Adam pointedly glanced down at his leather watch.

“I know, and I’m so sorry,” I said, my voice whinier than usual to annoy him even more. I held up the paper bags full of Starbucks drinks for every single person in the room, from Adam himself to even the lowliest freshman class representative. “That’s why I bought coffee for everyone.”

“Thank you Jesus, Joseph, and Mary, and you, of course, Alex,” Stephen Ramirez muttered from one end of the conference table. In a blue shirt with the top two buttons strategically undone, he looked delectable this morning.

There was no doubt about it. Stephen was the prettiest boy in Asia Pacific Academy. Judging by the way he strutted around the halls like an overly colorful peacock, he knew it.

But since he was the student council’s treasurer, I needed him on my side whenever Adam and I had a disagreement about the budget. Beaming at him, I walked over to his end of the table. “Here’s your chai latte with an extra dose of sugar, Stephen. Just the way you like it.”

“I owe you one.” Stephen’s smile was so beautiful that you could almost imagine angels singing in the background. Trumpets blaring down from the heavens. The same smile caused the freshman representative to drop her pen and start crawling around for it on the floor.

I kept a smile plastered on my face and continued walking around the table, distributing everyone’s coffee and basking in their thanks. An americano for Sally the auditor, a caramel macchiato for the sophomore representative whose name I had forgotten, and so forth.

It paid to know little things like someone’s favorite Starbucks drink, because it made them feel special. And when you made people feel special, they were more than willing to do you little favors.

It was a fact of life.

“You’re the best, Alex,” Cory Santander said as I laid her strawberry frappe in front of her, her eyes drawn to my bag like two beady magnets.

With two cups remaining in my hands, I returned to the front of the room. When I placed the hot chocolate in front of Adam, he gave me a long, hard look that told me he knew exactly what I was doing.

It was such a shame that Adam was, well, Adam.

He was the only guy in school who could have given Stephen a run for his money when it came to making teenage girls all hot and bothered. A complete waste, in my opinion.

Adam had no time for deliberately messy hair and shirts with the top two buttons strategically undone. From the roots of his close cropped hair to the tips of his leather sneakers, everything about him was precise and in perfect order. His eyes were the only things that stopped him from being too stiff; they were deceptively kind.

“We were just wrapping up our discussion about our latest outreach program before you arrived, Alex.” Adam looked down at the open notebook in front of him, his brows furrowed in concentration. His handwriting was so neat it could’ve been a font for a yawn-inducing thesis. “Now, if there are no more interruptions, we can proceed to our next order of business which is—”

“Prom,” I finished for him.

Adam looked up so fast he almost gave himself whiplash. He narrowed his eyes at me. “Alex, I meant—”
“I knew exactly what you meant, Adam.” I took a maroon planner out of my bag, the same one Mommy, a real estate mogul, used for her business meetings. Before he could contradict me once again, I turned to face my fellow student council officers. “We all know that prom is an important high school experience, and it’s our duty to the juniors and seniors of this school to give them the best prom ever.”

A chorus of agreement followed my little monologue. Even the sophomore and freshman representatives were nodding in agreement, and they weren’t attending prom in at least another year or two.
But that wasn’t a surprise. They wanted to take my place when they became juniors, and the freshman representative whose name was Kathy or Kelly even had the same hairstyle I did, waist-length hair I straightened or curled into loose waves according to my mood.

Well, they both had big shoes to fill. Aside from being vice president of the student council and having the fifth highest grade point average in my year, I was determined to become prom queen, like my mother and sister before me. It was practically my birth right.

“After we decided on The Twenties as our theme, I proceeded to sort everything out, so you guys won’t have to do any work at all.” I opened my planner and smiled down at my notes. My handwriting could’ve been a font, too, but unlike Adam’s, it would be used for interesting things like wedding invitations and café menus. “I spoke to the manager at the Bayview Country Club. He’s willing to give us a great deal for—”

“Wait a second.” Adam held up a hand to stop the stream of words coming out of my mouth. “Bayview Country Club? Alex, our budget won’t stretch that far.”

“It will,” I said, confidence brimming from every syllable. “The manager knows my mother, and he offered us a huge discount on the venue and the food. They serve the most delicious paella, and we won’t even exceed our budget.”

That much.

“I’m still not sure about this.” Adam started jotting down notes. “I want to check out a few other venues before we make a reservation at Bayview.”

“But—”

Adam made my words retreat with a look that would’ve made any four-star general proud. I, however, refused to be cowed and rolled my eyes at him, sending the message that our discussion about the prom venue was far from over.

Things became less interesting after that. We started talking about things like recycling drives and the state of the boys’ bathroom on the second floor.

After we wrapped up our meeting at around 11:30 A.M., people began shuffling out of the room. Stephen gave me a mischievous wink before walking out the door.

Next to me, Adam let out a little snort.

He had passed me a note that simply said ‘stay’ fifteen minutes before the end of the meeting, so we remained in our respective seats. Once the freshman representative left and closed the door behind her, I crossed my arms over my chest and said, “Okay, let me have it for being late.”

Before answering, Adam took a sip of his now-cold hot coco. He hadn’t touched it during the entire meeting, which told me how annoyed he was. “Look, Alex, I know it’s a Saturday, and you’re busy planning your speech for when you win prom queen, but—”

“How do you know I want to be prom queen?” I closed my planner and turned to him.

“It was written all over your face earlier.” Adam smirked at me. “When you said you wanted to give this school the best prom night ever, you were, of course, talking about yourself. Like always.”

“Awww, you’re so cute when you try to be sarcastic.” I attempted to grab his chin, and he batted my hand away like I knew he would. This was standard operating procedure for us. “But you should try something with a little more venom next time, okay? Just a piece of advice.”

“Alex, trust me,” Adam said, holding on to his last bit of remaining patience. “If I wanted advice, you would be the last person I would ever ask. Since you’re clearly not letting this Bayview thing go, I’ll email you my schedule. We can look at other venues together.”

I decided to let our disagreement about the prom venue go for now, but there was no way in hell that I was letting Adam have the last word. Determined to piss him off even a little on a beautiful Saturday morning, I leaned forward on the table. “By the way, my mother’s having a garden party next weekend, and she specifically asked me to invite you.”

Adam stopped stuffing his notebooks into his backpack in an instant. I could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he scrambled to think of an excuse. In the end, he decided to go with the truth. “Forget it. I’m not spending another Saturday with a bunch of people I don’t even know.”

“You have to come.” I didn’t bother to pout this time, because that never worked on Adam. He had already seen every trick I had up my sleeve. And more. “My mother will be so disappointed if you don’t. She adores you, although only God knows why.”

“Your mother obviously has better taste than you,” Adam said in such a serious tone that I had to hold back a laugh.

If Adam and I were locked in a white room with no doors or windows, we would still end up arguing about the color scheme. As a result, most people often wondered why we still spent so much time together. I often had to assure them that there was a reasonable explanation for that phenomenon.

Four years ago, Adam’s older brother, Clay, married my big sister, Alice, in a spectacular wedding with a reception that involved fire dancers and fireworks. Since then, Adam and I had been stuck with each other at garden parties, anniversary celebrations, and other family occasions.

When it came to dealing with Adam, I had one policy: maximum tolerance. As much as possible, I tried not to argue with him, but dealing with someone who expected everyone around him to wake up at six in the morning everyday wasn’t easy.

We both stood up and headed for the door at the same time. Adam, who was considered the perfect gentleman by every female in Asia Pacific Academy, didn’t even bother to hold the door open for me.

On the contrary, he let it slam in my face.

More than a little annoyed by this, I wrenched the door open. I grabbed his arm and pretended to remove something from the back of his shirt.

“Oh, look, instructions,” I said, reading from an imaginary piece of paper. “In order for this machine to work properly, you must pull the stick out of its butt.”

In retaliation, Adam peered down at my forehead like he was reading something. “Oh, look, instructions. In order for this machine to work, you must feed it with credit cards and glitter.”

My brain was screaming at me to respond, but I was too shocked by the close proximity between Adam’s face and mine to come up with a decent retort. He had the longest eyelashes I had ever seen. No matter what type of eyelash curlers or mascara or combination of both I used, mine would never be that long.

God, Adam was gorgeous.

But then, he opened his mouth and said, “Don’t you ever get tired of being so selfish, Alex?”

“W-what?” I blinked a couple of times to get the image of his eyelashes out of my head. “What are you talking about? I am not selfish, like, at all.”

“You do want our school to exceed its budget just so you can have the perfect prom night you’ve always imagined.” Adam tapped the bridge of my noise with his pointer finger. “Think about that on one of your shopping trips.”

He turned around and left me standing there with my mouth hanging open, looking a lot like Cory Santander earlier when she saw my new bag. I tried to come up with something venomous, but to my utter horror, all I managed to say was, “You suck so much, Adam Cordero!”

Adam didn’t even miss a beat. Still walking, he turned around with an infuriating smirk on his face. “The feeling’s mutual, Alex dela Cruz!”

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