Naturally Naughty

By: Leslie Kelly

Prologue





Ten Years Ago



HOLDING HER PINK taffeta dress up to her knees, Kate Jones trudged toward home wishing the ground would open up and swallow her. Live burial seemed better than spending one more night in Pleasantville, Ohio. Her cousin’s favorite expression came to mind—This town’s about as pleasant as a yeast infection.

Without a doubt, this evening would have a place on Kate’s list of all-time worst experiences. No, it wasn’t nearly as bad as when her dad had died, or when her mom had brought her here to live, a town where their family was treated like dirt. In terms of teenage experiences, however, tonight was bad. Kate had been resoundingly dumped. On prom night no less.

You should have stayed, a voice whispered in her brain.

Kate snorted. “Stayed? After being jilted by Darren for Angela Winfield, wickedest witch on earth? Right!”

Cassie wouldn’t have run away. No, her cousin would have popped Angela one, kicked Darren where it counted, and told them to stick it where the sun didn’t shine. Too bad she’d left early.

She passed another dark house. Its inhabitants were probably cozy in their beds, reflecting on their pleasant days. They wouldn’t think twice about her trudging in the street. Who’d expect anything else from a trashy Tremaine? Her last name might be Jones, but no one let her forget her mother’s maiden name. In spite of being a straight-A student who’d never gotten into any real trouble, people here believed Kate must have hit every no-good branch on her way down the Tremaine family tree.

Turning off Petunia onto Pansy Lane, Kate grimaced for the half-millionth time at the dumb street names. I’d love a giant bottle of Weed-B-Gone. She could think of a creeping pest she’d like to zap. Darren.

“Darren’s a conceited jerk.” Kate knew she shouldn’t have gone with him, especially since his mother hated her. But just for one night she’d wanted to be part of the in crowd. She’d wanted to be cool and popular, instead of the nice, quiet girl who tried to disguise her family’s poverty by getting good grades and working harder than anyone ever expected.

Tonight at the prom Angela had pawed all over Darren, urging him to ditch Kate and leave with her instead. The whole school knew Angela put out. And despite being a trashy Tremaine, Kate did not. Hmm, such a tough choice for Darren—Angela the tramp from the most respected family in town? Or Kate the pure, from the trashiest one? What was a horny eighteen-year-old boy to do?

He’d left so fast Kate’s head had spun.

Kate was nearly home when the rain started. “What did I do to deserve this?” she said as drops hit her face. She was long past the point of caring about her panty hose. Nor did she worry about her makeup smearing—her tears had accomplished that.

The rain was just one more insult in a rotten night.

Spying her family’s duplex, she prayed her mother was asleep, and Cassie home in the adjoining unit where she and Aunt Flo lived. If Cassie was home, Kate would knock on her bedroom wall, which butted right against Cassie’s in the next unit. They’d communicated by knocking on it since they were little girls. She’d signal her to sneak out back for one of their late-night gab sessions and fill her in about her lousy prom night.

Then she noticed a parked car out front. When her mother emerged from it, Kate wondered who Edie could have been out with so late. As a man exited she said, “Mayor Winfield?”

Yes, Angela’s father. Rich, jolly John Winfield who kept her mother busy cleaning his fancy house on Lilac Hill. Once again the mayor thought nothing of working Edie late in the night, as if she didn’t already spend forty hours a week scrubbing other people’s toilets. Kate raised a brow as the mayor played gentleman and walked her mother to the door.

Walk away, her inner voice said. But she couldn’t. Moving closer, she’d reached the steps when they began to kiss.

Kate moaned. Her gentle mother was having an affair with the very married mayor? John Winfield was the patriarch of the town, a family man, father of Angela and of town golden boy, J.J., who’d gone away to college years ago and hadn’t returned.

After their kiss Winfield said, “I don’t know what I’d do without you. You’ve made life bearable for me all these years.”

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