Home > Stunning (Pretty Little Liars #11)

Stunning (Pretty Little Liars #11)
Author: Sara Shepard


Have you ever done something so shameful, so shocking, so unlike you that you wanted to disappear? Maybe you hid out in your room all summer, too mortified to show your face. Maybe you begged your parents to let you switch schools. Or maybe your parents didn’t even know about your secret—you hid from them, too. You were afraid they’d take one look at you and know that you’d done something horrible.

A certain pretty girl in Rosewood carried a secret around for nine long months. She ran away from everything and everyone—except her three best friends. When it was all over, they swore they’d never tell a soul.

But this is Rosewood. And in Rosewood, the only way to keep your secrets safe is to have none at all . . .

That summer in Rosewood, Pennsylvania, a picturesque, wealthy suburb about twenty minutes from Philadelphia, had been one of the hottest ones on record. To escape the heat, people flocked to the country club pool, gathered around the local Rita’s for extra-large strawberry ices, and skinny-dipped in the duck pond at Peck’s organic cheese farm, despite the decades-old rumor that a dead body had been found there. But by the third week in August, the weather suddenly turned. “A Midsummer Night’s Freeze,” the local news called it, because the temperature got down to freezing a few nights in a row. Boys broke out their hoodies, and girls donned their brand-new, back-to-school Joe’s jeans and puffer vests. A few leaves on the trees changed to reds and golds overnight. It was as though the Grim Reaper had come and ripped the season clean away.

On a chilly Thursday night, a beat-up Subaru cruised down a dark street in Wessex, a town not far from Rosewood. The glowing green clock on the dashboard read 1:26 AM, but the four girls inside the car were wide awake. Actually, there were five girls: best friends Emily Fields, Aria Montgomery, Spencer Hastings, Hanna Marin . . . and a tiny, nameless baby Emily had given birth to that day.

They drove past house after house, peering at the numbers on the mailboxes. When they approached number 204, Emily sat up straighter. “Stop,” she said over the baby’s cries. “That’s it.”

Aria, who was wearing a Fair Isle pullover she’d bought while on vacation in Iceland last month—a vacation she couldn’t bear to think about—steered the car toward the curb. “Are you sure?” She eyed the modest white house. It had a basketball hoop in the driveway, a big weeping willow in the side yard, and cheerful flower beds under the front windows.

“I’ve seen this address on the adoption form a million times.” Emily touched the window. “Two-oh-four Ship Lane. This is definitely where they live.”

The car grew quiet. Even the baby stopped crying. Hanna glanced at the infant next to her in the backseat. Her tiny, perfect pink lips were pursed. Spencer looked at the baby, too, then shifted uncomfortably. It was obvious what everyone was thinking: How could this have happened to sweet, obedient little Emily Fields? They’d been Emily’s best friends since sixth grade, when Alison DiLaurentis, the most popular girl at Rosewood Day, the private school they all attended, recruited them into her new clique. Emily had always been the girl who hated badmouthing people, who never instigated a quarrel, who preferred baggy T-shirts to tight-fitting skirts—and girls over guys. Girls like Emily didn’t get pregnant.

They’d thought Emily was doing a program at Temple that summer, much like the one Spencer was attending at Penn. But then, one by one, Emily had told each of them the truth: She was hiding in her sister’s dorm room in Philly because she was pregnant. Aria, Spencer, and Hanna had all reacted the same way when Emily broke the news: with jaw-dropping, speechless shock. How long have you known? they had asked. I took a pregnancy test when I got back from Jamaica, Emily had answered. The father was Isaac, a boy she’d dated last winter.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Spencer asked quietly. A reflection in the window caught her eye, and she cringed. But when she turned to stare at the house opposite them, a similarly modest brick ranch, no one was there.

“What other option do I have?” Emily twisted the pink rubber Jefferson Hospital bracelet around her wrist. The staff didn’t even know she was gone—the doctors had wanted her to stay an extra day so they could monitor the incision from her C-section. But if she’d stayed in the hospital a minute longer, her plan wouldn’t work. She couldn’t possibly give the baby to Gayle, the wealthy woman who’d paid a huge sum of money for her, so she’d told Gayle she’d pushed back the date for her scheduled C-section to two days later. Then she’d solicited her friends’ help to sneak out of the hospital shortly after the baby was born. Everyone had played a part in the escape. Hanna returned Gayle’s money. Spencer distracted the nurses while Emily hobbled toward the exit. Aria provided her Subaru and even found an infant car seat at a garage sale. And they’d succeeded: They’d escaped without Gayle finding out and taking away the baby.

Suddenly, as if on cue, Emily’s phone bleated, breaking the tense silence inside the car. She pulled it out of the plastic shopping bag the hospital had stashed her clothes in and looked at the screen. Gayle.

Emily winced and hit IGNORE. The phone quieted for a moment, then bleated once more. Gayle again.

Hanna eyed the phone warily. “Should you answer that?”

“And say what?” Emily hit IGNORE one more time. “‘Sorry, Gayle, I don’t want to give you my baby because I think you’re psycho’?”

“But isn’t this illegal?” Hanna looked up and down the street. There wasn’t a car in sight, but she still felt on edge. “What if she turns you in?”

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