Home > Burned (Pretty Little Liars #12)

Burned (Pretty Little Liars #12)
Author: Sara Shepard


Ever told a lie to save yourself? Maybe you blamed the dent in your parents’ Mercedes on your brother so you could still go to the spring formal. Maybe you told your Algebra teacher you weren’t part of the group of kids who cheated on the midterm, even though you were the one who stole the answer key from her desk. You aren’t normally a dishonest person, of course. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

Four pretty girls in Rosewood told some very dark lies to protect themselves. One of those lies even involved walking away from a crime just miles from their home. Even though they hated themselves for leaving the scene, they thought no one would ever know about it.

Guess what. They were wrong.

It had been raining for eight days straight at the end of June in Rosewood, Pennsylvania, a wealthy, idyllic suburb about twenty miles from Philadelphia, and everyone was beyond fed up. The rain had drowned perfectly manicured lawns and the first blooms in organic vegetable gardens, turning everything to mud. It had waterlogged golf course sand traps, Little League baseball fields, and the Rosewood Peach Orchard, which had been ramping up for its beginning-of-summer bash. The first sidewalk chalk drawings of the season swirled down the gutter, LOST DOG signs turned to pulp, and a single wilted bouquet on the cemetery plot containing the remains of a certain beautiful girl everyone thought was named Alison DiLaurentis washed away. People said such biblical rain would surely bring bad luck in the coming year. That wasn’t welcome news for Spencer Hastings, Aria Montgomery, Emily Fields, and Hanna Marin, who’d already had more bad luck than they could handle.

No matter how fast the windshield wipers on Aria’s Subaru swept across the glass, they couldn’t brush off the driving rain quickly enough. Aria squinted through the windshield as she headed down Reeds Lane, a twisty road that bordered thick, dark woods and the Morrell Stream—a bubbling creek that would most likely flood within the hour. Even though there were upscale developments a stone’s throw away over the hill, this road was pitch-black, without a single streetlight to guide them.

Then Spencer pointed at something ahead. “Is that it?”

Aria hit the brakes and nearly hydroplaned into a speed limit sign. Emily, who looked tired—she was getting ready to start a summer program at Temple—peered through the window. “Where? I don’t see anything.”

“There are lights near the creek.” Spencer was already unbuckling her seat belt and springing out of the car. The rain soaked her immediately, and she wished she’d worn something warmer than a tank top and workout shorts. Before Aria had picked her up, she’d been running on the treadmill in preparation for this year’s field hockey season—she hoped she’d be an early decision shoo-in for Princeton after completing the five AP classes she was set to start taking at Penn, but she also wanted to be Rosewood Day’s star field hockey player to get that extra edge.

Spencer climbed over the guardrail and peered down the hill. When she let out a little scream, Aria and Emily looked at each other, then bounded out of the car, too. They pulled their raincoat hoods over their heads and followed Spencer down the embankment.

Yellow headlights shone over the raging creek. A BMW station wagon was T-boned into a tree. The front end was smashed and the airbag dangled limply on the passenger side, but the engine was still humming. Windshield glass littered the forest floor, and the odor of gasoline eclipsed the smell of mud and wet leaves. Near the headlights was a slight, auburn-haired figure staring dazedly around as though she had no idea how she’d gotten there.

“Hanna!” Aria yelled. She ran down the slope to her. Hanna had called them all in a panic just a half hour before, saying she’d been in a crash and needed their help.

“Are you hurt?” Emily touched Hanna’s arm. Her bare skin was slick with rain and covered in tiny shards of glass from the windshield.

“I think I’m okay.” Hanna wiped the rain from her eyes. “It all happened so fast. This car came out of nowhere, knocking me out of the lane. But I don’t know about … her.”

Her gaze drifted to the car. There was a girl slumped in the passenger seat. Her eyes were closed, and her body was motionless. She had clear skin, high cheekbones, and long eyelashes. Her lips were pretty and bow-shaped, and there was a small mole on her chin.

“Who is that?” Spencer asked cautiously. Hanna hadn’t mentioned that anyone was with her.

“Her name’s Madison,” Hanna answered, brushing off a wet leaf that had just blown against her cheek. She had to scream over the sound of the pounding rain, which was so violent it was almost like hail. “I just met her tonight—this is her car. She was really drunk, and I offered to drive her home. She lives somewhere around here, I guess—she gave me directions piecemeal, and she seemed really out of it. Does she look familiar to any of you?”

Everyone shook their heads, slack-jawed.

Then Aria frowned. “Where did you meet her?”

Hanna lowered her eyes. “The Cabana.” She sounded sheepish. “It’s a bar on South Street.”

The others exchanged a surprised look. Hanna wasn’t one to turn down a cosmopolitan at a party, but she wasn’t the type to go to a dive bar alone. Then again, they all needed to blow off some steam. Not only had they been tortured the previous year by two stalkers using the alias A—first Mona Vanderwaal, Hanna’s best friend, and then the real Alison DiLaurentis—but they were also sharing a terrible secret from spring break a few months before. They’d all thought Real Ali had died in a fire in the Poconos, but then she’d appeared in Jamaica to kill them once and for all. The girls had confronted her on the roof deck at the resort, and when Ali had lunged at Hanna, Aria had stepped forward and pushed her over the side. When they ran to the beach to find her body, it was gone. The memory haunted each of them every day.

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