Second Chance (Original Heartbreakers #4) by Gena Showalter

PROLOGUE

                SOME PEOPLE EXCELLED at high school. Other people…didn’t.

                Dorothea Mathis sucked so hard she made everyone else in the “didn’t” category look like rock stars.

                Fighting the urge to vomit, she entered the hallowed hallways of Strawberry Valley High, home of the mighty Stallions. Today marked the first day of her sophomore year.

                I’ll do better this go-round. No matter what. She would be strong and brave and stand up to Harlow Glass, the school bully; she wouldn’t run away. She would talk to other students at lunch, and she would make new friends; she wouldn’t hide in the band room. Somehow, she would convince everyone to use her given name rather than the nickname her family had cursed her with—Dottie.

                Or Spotty Dottie. Or Dot dot dot, followed by laughing and pointing at the freckles on her face. Or her personal favorite, Dottie the wannabe hottie.

                Today she forged a new path. I can do this!

                Oh, crap! What if I can’t do this?

                Insults she’d heard adults whisper behind their hands claimed center stage in her mind.

                Bless her heart. Her face would turn milk into sour cream.

                Poor girl. She could make a freight train take a dirt road.

                Heaven’s above. She’s probably got to sneak up on a glass of water just to get a drink.

                What did looks matter? So she was technically considered obese. So her eyes were too big for her face, and her teeth were crooked. Well, her teeth used to be crooked. The braces were definitely helping. So she had a mass of frizzy corkscrew curls and looked like the human version of a Dalmatian. So the heck what. She was a good person with a good heart. Nothing else mattered.

                I can do this, she repeated.

                Squeals of happiness rang out as kids reconnected with friends. Dorothea smiled and waved at everyone, whatever their clique, but hardly anyone acknowledged her. No biggie. Right? Improvement took time. RIGHT?

                She forced herself to trudge on, head high. If only her besties were here. Lyndie Scott and Ryanne Wade. They would build her confidence.

                You’re beautiful.

                You’re so freaking smart.

                You have the best sense of humor around.

                A few months ago, Lyndie’s dad married Ryanne’s mom. They were a real family now, sisters on paper as well as heart. This year, the lucky girls were being homeschooled. Ryanne’s mom enjoyed having her only daughter nearby, and Lyndie was so quiet and reserved she functioned better in a contained environment.

                When Dorothea had asked her mom about the possibility of being homeschooled, Carol had responded, “In order to feed and clothe you and your sister, I have to work two jobs. I can’t take on another responsibility, honey.”

                Carol owned and operated the Strawberry Inn. Unless there was a festival in town, very few guests ever stayed overnight. For extra spending money, she waitressed at the all-night diner just down the street.

                Dorothea had pouted. “You don’t understand, Momma. Without Lyndie and Ryanne, I’ll have no friends. I’ll be tormented.”