Thank you for reading the first 500 words of my crossover YA thriller, EXPENSIVE SECRETS.

Shannon French hates her job as a teenage secret agent. The only thing that could make it worse would be if she was posted to the one place where she is not her best – a school – doing the one thing she hates – socialising.

To top it off, Shannon’s been partnered with her secret crush Romney, who’s hated her since they were kids.

Their mission? Keep an eye on the boarding school’s newest student, Livya, who has ties to one of the most dangerous terror organisations in Britain. But when Shannon falls in with a group of diverse and unfailingly loyal friends, her goals start to get away from her. Turns out it’s easy to forget why she’s there when caught up with A-Level coursework, impromptu fencing matches and late-night drunken debates – tastes of a life she’s never had.

But as her two worlds become dangerously entangled, Shannon is forced to choose which is more important: the case, or her new friends she’s putting at risk.

EXPENSIVE SECRETS features LGBT+ romance, found family and discussions of class in the UK, pitched as THE SECRET HISTORY meets ONE OF US IS LYING and SKYLARKS.

I’m a bisexual, bilingual, working-class Brit. Never been a teenage spy, though. Not that I haven’t dreamed about it a lot.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration,

Emma Derwent

 

Chapter 1

‘Shannon-sodding-French?!’

We choose our own names when we become agents, and I was pretty sure “sodding” wasn’t part of mine. Though it was probably the closest I’d heard Romney Hychurch get for the last few years.

‘I’m not working with that incompetent little –!’

There was a loud crashing noise, God knows what that was, and I scuttled further down the hallway in case Romney came storming out of Louisa’s office.

When I found out I’d been assigned to work with Romney, my first thought, obviously, had been apprehension – this was the sort of case I would usually turn down without a second thought – but my second? A warm froth of golden bubbles spreading out from my stomach and along my over-long limbs until my entire body was warm and tingly.

A case with Romney!

Surely the dream of any agent here. Yet I had this unreasonable feeling that I was permitted to harbour this dream more than any other, due to our connected pasts. Somehow, despite his scoffs, his clear disdain for conversation with me, and the fact that he was consistently in the company of smarter, better, more confident agents, I had managed to convince myself that we had a connection. That every odd look perhaps meant something.

Well. It hurt to have that rug pulled out from under me quite so sharply.

Louisa found me hovering over a framed newspaper article about a big drugs bust in South America, choking back my tears.

‘Romney’s– well,’ she faltered. ‘I don’t know how much you overheard –’

‘N-nothing.’

Louisa was my favourite mission controller, but she tended to handle bigger cases than the ones usually given to me. For this reason, it was with equal parts concern and pleasure that I had made my way up to her office that morning.

‘He’s dealing with some personal stuff at present. He didn’t want to be put on a case.’

‘He didn’t want to be put on a case with me.’ I could hear how pathetic I sounded, even to my own ears, and I hated myself for it.

‘Well, maybe he didn’t. But you’re worthy of this case, in the same way that he is.’

‘I’m nowhere near –’

Louisa sighed. ‘You proved yourself in Nevada, Shannon. You’re a competent young woman. And you will, make no mistakes, be working on this case with Romney Hychurch.’

‘What’s the case?’

‘How long have you been here? Six years? Seven? And you think I’m going to disclose case details out in the corridor, do you?’

‘Basically proved your soundproofing is useless.’ It was a mutter, barely. But Louisa doesn’t miss much.

‘I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that. Wait outside my office, I’m going to go and retrieve Romney from wherever the hell you whiny adolescents hide when you’re rebelling against the people who pay you.’

‘I’d try the gym, maybe.’ Louisa gave me an odd look over her shoulder. I shrugged. ‘He’ll be battering the stuffing out of a Kendo dummy.’