Recap: Corey’s parents had an argument about her and were found dead the next morning. Corey then meets Detective Skylar Adams. She is later adopted by Helen and Andy. Two years later, Corey is in school and meets a friend, Terese, and the class bully, Sandra. One day, two students are found dead and Corey meets Detective Adams again. Corey starts 2nd grade, which brings her face to face with a terrifying new teacher. As you can expect, her teacher does not last long. And then neither do her adopted parents, but things look up as Corey may have found a forever family. Corey moves in with Detective Adams and his wife and learns Terese lives across the street. One Friday night, Corey has a typical, happy evening with her mom, but seems out of sorts when Skyler comes home looking haggard. One night, Terese is sleeping over, but it doesn’t stop Skyler from working on the strange murder case. Corey and Terese get an interesting ski lesson and Corey provides some important information regarding the murders. Skyler and Dimitra go on an overnight trip, leaving Corey with a babysitter who does not meet with a happy end. School is back in session after winter break and the class gains two new students, twins Aiden and Cate.
Corey couldn’t help but look over at Aiden and Cate, curiosity in her eyes. The twins were standing off to the side of the school’s playground, seemingly having an argument. Next to Corey on the swings, Terese and Stacy were seeing who could swing the highest. Corey just sat there, making patterns in the sand with the toes of her shoes. She couldn’t keep her eyes off the twins.
Abruptly, Corey hopped off her swing and turned to her friends. “I’m going to go talk to Aiden and Cate,” she announced.
Terese turned her head, but didn’t stop pumping her legs. “Okay. See if they want to swing with us.”
Corey nodded and headed off to join the twins.
“Not now,” Cate was hissing to her brother as Corey approached. “Now is not a good time. Trust me!”
“Then when would be a good time?” Aiden demanded, folding his arms. His back was to Corey, so he didn’t see her approach.
“Definitely not right now, Aiden,” Cate said pointedly, staring past her brother. She smiled at Corey. “Hello.”
Corey approached them with a shy smile. They were in the same class, so she assumed they were about the same age, but the twins seemed so much older. They were also almost a good head taller than her. Aiden moved to stand beside his sister and his eyes seemed to burn into Corey, but not in an uncomfortable way. On the contrary, he seemed to immediately warm to her. His smile was easy and gentle and he seemed much less intimidating than he and Cate had when they had been introduced to the class.
“Hi,” Corey said shyly. “I’m Corey Adams.”
Aiden blinked. “Adams?”
He exchanged a look with his sister. Corey shifted her weight uncomfortably as she watched them. Cate shook her head and Aiden shrugged.
“It’s nice to meet you,” Cate said.
“Have we met before?” Corey asked bluntly. “You both seem very familiar to me.”
Aiden shook his head. “No, we haven’t. Our family just moved to the area a couple of weeks ago from across the country.” He gave Corey a crooked smile. “The cold has been quite unpleasant.”
Corey cocked her head to the side. “Now that you’ve mentioned it, I’m not that fond of the cold, either. I always have to be bundled up every time I go outside.” She flapped her arms, moving around in her thick, puffy jacket, and waved her mitten covered hands. “See? And I’m still cold.”
Aiden and Cate shared another look. This time, Corey put her fists on her hips and jutted her chin out.
“Why do you keep looking at each other like that?” she demanded.
As one, the twins shrugged and Aiden shoved his hands in his pockets.
“Just twin stuff, I guess.”
Corey waited, but he didn’t elaborate. They spent an awkward moment just looking at each other. Finally, Corey sighed and crossed her arms.
“Do you want to play on the swings with my friends and me?” Corey finally asked. “Terese wanted to invite you to join us. You don’t look like swing people, but you’re welcome to join us.”
Aiden looked at his sister and nudged her with his elbow. He gave her an inquisitive look and she nodded. Corey rolled her eyes. This twin thing was starting to get on her nerves.
“Well, if you want to swing with us, you know where they are,” Corey said before turning and marching off.
“Should we?” Aiden asked quietly as Corey walked off.
Cate shrugged. “I don’t see why not. We’re supposed to befriend her and get her to trust us. I don’t think we did a good job just now.”
“This friendship thing is so weird,” Aiden said emphatically. “I’m not sure if I’m ever going to get the hang of this.”
“That’s because you always fell asleep in class,” Cate said as she swept past her brother. “Come on. We have a second chance. And this time don’t screw it up. You’re the last person who can screw this up. If you do, everything changes.”
Aiden grumbled as he followed his sister to the swing set, but Cate wasn’t listening to him. They made their way over to the swings where Terese and Stacy were arguing over who won their little contest. Corey was just shaking her head, clearly keeping out of it.
“Hello,” Cate said pleasantly. “Mind if we join you?”
Terese and Stacy immediately dropped their argument and turned to smile at the twins.
“Sure!” Terese said. “Do you like the swings? We do! We always play on them.”
Corey gave the twins a small smile. “Sorry. I should have warned you. Terese is very enthusiastic. This is our friend Stacy.”
Stacy gave them a wave and then offered her swing to Cate.
“It’s been a while since I’ve done this,” Cate said as she took the offered swing. “We went to preschool with other kids and a playground, but then our parents decided to home school us.” She sighed heavily. “Unfortunately, our mother got a full-time job and couldn’t teach us anymore.”
“Tutors were really expensive, too, and, with the move, our parents just couldn’t afford it. So they sent us to school instead.”
“No wonder you seem so weird,” Terese said wonderingly.
Corey’s eyes widened. “Terese!”
Terese put a hand over her mouth, eyes wide. “Oops! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean what I said! I take it all back.”
Cate giggled. “That’s okay. It’s nice to know someone who speaks their mind.”
Stacy gave them a crooked smile. “Then you’ve come to the right place. Terese always speaks her mind. It’s a little…weird at first, but you get used to it pretty fast.”
“She’s also the best friend you’ll ever know,” Corey added.
Terese blushed at that and shook her head, sending her blond hair flying around her face. “Corey and I have been best friends since first grade. She would say something like that.”
Corey only smiled.
“Hi, Corey,” Aiden said as he and Cate caught up to her after school.
Corey was standing by the curb, waiting for Dimitra to pick her up. Terese had already been picked up and was off to art class. Stacy had left a few minutes before, so Corey was left to stand by herself. She was glad for the company.
“Hi,” Corey said brightly. “I hope Terese didn’t scare you off too much.”
Aiden smiled and leaned against the lamp post Corey was standing next to. “Of course not. Your friends are great.”
Corey beamed. “I know. I don’t know what I would do without them.”
“You’re very nice,” Cate said. “We’d love to be your friends, too.”
Corey looked at them with surprise. “I thought you were already my friends.” She gave them a crooked smile. “You like Terese and Stacy. That’s always good because I love them like sisters. They’re wonderful!”
Cate smiled. “That’s good. We’re glad to be your friends, too.”
“Were you really home schooled?” Corey asked curiously.
Aiden nodded. “Yeah. It was kind of fun, but we never had cool swings to play on or friends. I guess it was kind of lonely. We didn’t really come into contact with other kids our age until now.”
Corey nodded understandingly. “I know. It’s hard to make friends. It was hard for me when I was in first grade.”
Cate gave her a curious look. “Really?”
“Yeah,” Corey said, turning away. “My parents were killed when I was four and they still don’t know who did it. I was adopted a few months later by a nice couple, also dead. That’s the first time I ever went to school, so I was kind of scared. I didn’t know what to do because my parents never even let me play with the kids on our street. All of my classmates knew my parents were dead and I was the one who found their bodies. They kept away from me, except for Terese. Terese didn’t care; she just knew I needed a friend and she wanted someone nice to talk to.” Corey turned back to the twins and smiled. “But I probably shouldn’t tell you so many gruesome details from my past.”
Aiden shook his head. “It’s okay. I guess it’s important to know things like that about your friends.”
“So,” Cate said, interrupting her brother, “if your adopted parents are dead, who do you live with now?”
“Oh, another couple adopted me,” Corey said dismissively. She pointed. “My mom is here. I have to go.”
Dimitra pulled up alongside the curb and rolled down the passenger side window. She smiled at her daughter as Corey opened up the back seat.
“Make some space, Corey,” Dimitra said. “We’re taking home a couple of your classmates.” Dimitra leaned forward to take in the twins. “You must be Aiden and Cate. I met your mother this morning. Oddly enough, your mother and I are co-workers and we live next to each other. She has to stay late tonight, so she asked if I would take you home.”
Cate nodded. “Okay. I guess you’re a lawyer, too?”
Dimitra nodded. “Sure am. Hop in, you two.”
Corey was already settled on the far side of the car, strapped in with her backpack between her feet. Aiden and Cate climbed in and strapped in beside Corey.
“This is nice,” Cate said. “Thank you, Mrs. Adams.”
“‘No problem. Your mother is a lovely woman. And it’s convenient that your family lives right next to us.”
Dimitra put the car in drive and they were headed off. Corey stared out the window for a few minutes, her mind whirling with all the people who lived around her now. She had three friends living very close to her. Stacy was a few streets away, but it was only a five minute drive, so it wasn’t that bad.
“So, how was your first day at the school?” Dimitra asked of the twins.
Without anyone seeing, Cate nudged Aiden in the side. “It was great. Aiden and I were home schooled since preschool, so it was kind of nice to be back in a school. It was a little weird to be around so many other kids our age, but it was nice after a while. Corey and her friends befriended us really fast.”
Corey turned to look at them, her eyes large and luminous. All she said was, “You looked like you needed it.”