The flight from London to Aberdeen had been a long and arduous one, two hours crammed into premium economy with a screaming baby one aisle over. Rhea’s head still ached as she sat in the waiting room outside the counsellor’s office. It had started not long after she’d got on the plane and hadn’t waned during the flight or the hour car ride that followed. Arriving at Aldridge had been like a bad dream, the reoccurring nightmare she’d been having, now playing out in real time. The school was as grand and as old as Rhea had anticipated, crawling with wealthy, entitled students and pretentious, overpaid staff. With her cashmere jumper and Coach handbag, she shouldn’t have looked out of place amongst them. But the slick of eyeliner, short skirt and slightly-present French accent had drawn attention immediately. Guys had stared at her as she’d walked through the grand entrance hall that morning, girls had glared at her and one mousy teacher had had the nerve to ask her to tone the makeup down. Rhea’s response had been less than pleasant and she’d found herself marched up to counsellors office a few minutes later.The secretary had surveyed her with similar disdain, Aldridge’s new problem child, an expulsion waiting to happen. Rhea had simply given a shake of her glossy dark hair, crossed her legs and folded her hands in her lap. Let them try, she thought. Rhea’s father had made no secret of the donation he’d given the school, enough to cover the new library and sweeten the deal of taking on his riotous daughter. She took quiet pride in how difficult she’d made it; and the sheer effort it had taken for Peter Aspinall to get her a place at the school. Now all that remained was for her to get out of it. Rhea glared at the oak panelled walls and reached for her phone. There were a few notifications on the home screen, well wishes from her friends in France, a couple of twitter updates and a text from her new service provider. Nothing from her Dad, not so much as a ‘behave yourself’ or a ‘good luck’. Rhea sighed though her nose and chucked her phone in her handbag. Screw him and screw this place. Folding her arms across her chest, she swept her gaze over the regal office space. Rhea didn’t even bother to roll her eyes at the motivational posters lining the walls; a series of corny slogans that made her want to spew up her breakfast. Rhea was just considering composing a tweet about them when the counsellor’s door opened and young boy walked out, sniffling. He couldn’t have been more than thirteen, thin and gangly with a mop of dirty blonde hair. The secretary offered him a tissue and then ushered him into the opposing room. Rhea pretended to be thoroughly interested in her nails when the woman returned, knocked on the counsellor’s door and announced, “Mr McCloud, your 11 ’o clock is here.”Rhea raised an eyebrow as the secretary pushed open the door and prattled on to the man inside. “I’m afraid this one arrived a little earlier than expected, she swore at Ms Anderson in the entrance hall. The deputy head saw it and sent her straight here.” This time Rhea did roll her eyes. The secretary jerked her head towards the office door and Rhea got slowly to her feet. Slinging her bag over her shoulder, she stalked across the room and slipped through the open door. The man sat behind the desk was quite unlike any counsellor Rhea had seen before and she stopped abruptly just inside the room. “You’re the counsellor.” She blurted. It wasn’t a question. And underneath the faint French accent, her words were laced with sarcasm. Rhea barely noticed the door click shut as she eyed the dark haired man in front of her. He looked too young to be qualified...and too handsome to be taken seriously. Rhea almost smiled. Breaking this one was going to be easy.
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