Filthy Foreign Exchange

By: Angela Graham & S.E. Hall

Chapter 1


My body tenses at the rumble I hear in the distance, each boom sounding closer. A storm is rolling in.

I close my eyes and focus my mind, pushing my muscles to swing me higher, undeterred. Can my anger outlast, even defeat, that of nature?

Absolutely.

“Gonna take more than a few rowdy clouds to scare me,” I scoff, reopening my eyes. “Like facing my dad when he gets home. Now that’s terrifying.” I cringe at the thought.

“Then you should’ve gone with them,” Savannah grunts through her panting. A moment later, she flip-kicks into my awaiting grip, and I catch her with little effort.

“Why would I make that trip again?” I ask as I hang upside down, now holding both our weight. “I was just at the airport this morning to see Sebastian off!”

“Still, the guy’s gonna be around, and for a while. You are part of his host family. Might’ve made things easier to start off on a friendly foot.”

“Eh,” is my dismissal of her point. “Ready?”

I flex my back, using the trained muscles to build momentum, then attempt to swing Savannah up and over me to gain her a seat on the static bar.

My optimism disappears as quickly as she does, into the catch net below us…again.

“Savannah!” I snap. “We almost had it that time! You have to use our momentum, not work against it!”

I release my ankle hold around the bar handles and drop to join her. From my back, I stare at the top of the tent and sigh. “A duo trapeze act with two girls is rare. It could bring in a helluva crowd—maybe even a bigger one than Sebastian and I did. We’ve got to nail this!”

Savannah nods, exasperation clear in her heavy brow.

“Again,” I demand as I find my footing in the net and make my way over to the ladder, ready to climb back up to the platform. “Come on. My parents will be home soon, and then I’ll have to go play nice with this Kingston guy. What the hell kinda name is that, anyway?” Despite a full day of bitching, I seem to have no off switch as I continue to scale the ladder. “Hoity-toity, if you ask me. Hope he doesn’t think I’m gonna treat him like a king, or he’s in for a very rude awakening.”

When I receive no reply, I glance back down at Savannah, who’s never been this quiet in her life and is currently not even halfway up the ladder behind me.

“Hello, did you hear me?” I ask.

“Oh, I didn’t think you wanted an actual response to your crazed rambling.” Her laugh is strained as she scrambles faster, finally making it to the platform. She sits, flushed and sweaty with exhaustion. “Do you even hear yourself right now?”

I slide down beside her as I hear raindrops on the roof of the tent. But apparently they aren’t loud enough, because yes, I can hear myself. And maybe I am getting a little annoying.

“Honestly, ‘Echo’ isn’t exactly the most normal name.”

I toss a heated stare her way, only to laugh the second it connects with her goofy grin.

“Plus, I think ‘Kingston’ sounds kind of…sexy.”

“Sexy!?” I shout, the muscles in my jaw ticking. “Did you really just say that to me when you should be…oh, I don’t know…donned in black and mourning the loss of my brother? You remember Sebastian, your boyfriend, right?”

Her laughter ricochets off the canvas walls surrounding us. “‘Donned in black’?” She lifts a leg. “Do my leggings count?”

I fight a smile. Admittedly, I am being a bit dramatic.

She crosses her legs and exhales slowly. “I love Sebastian. Everyone knows that. He’s on his way to England, not the pearly gates. And let’s be real, we both know he’ll be noticing a few ‘sexy’ foreigners of his own.”

I defend my brother without hesitation. “Doubtful.”

Her eyes close briefly, only to reopen with a dramatic roll. “Fine,” she huffs, standing and staring down at me with her hands on her hips. “You’re right. Sebastian will have nothing but completely pure thoughts about everyone other than me for the entire year at that university! Mr. Perfect wouldn’t dare let his eyes wander.”

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