Marina Berghman is a classical piano prodigy, with parents who’ve had her life mapped out since she was in diapers. But their plan leaves no room for her secret love of alternative rock, or Sean, the edgy guitarist who recently moved to town.
When Marina buys a lottery ticket on her eighteenth birthday via the new Windfall app, she expects it to be nothing more than a rite of passage. But she wins—the grand prize of five thousand dollars a day for life. Suddenly given the means to break free from a life she never felt in control of, she’s quick to cut her family ties and turn her back on everything she knows.
But her lottery win was no lucky break. Her prize comes with strings attached, and Marina soon finds herself at the center of someone else’s life or death game. When she discovers evidence linking her dad to the intrigue, she turns to Sean for help. But he’s harboring secrets of his own.
Now Marina must sort out who to trust and who’s pulling the strings, before her prize turns into a noose.
14+ due to adult situations
“Marina, you won Windfall! You won the freaking lottery!” Darya was jumping up and down and soon I was too. We held hands and squealed like a couple of little girls. It was too crazy to believe. But the numbers didn’t lie and there they were, right on my ticket.
Darya gasped. “You have to sign it.” She dropped my hands and fumbled around in her purse. She produced a pen.
“I already signed it.”
The pen dangled from her fingers in the space between us. “You … already signed it?”
“Yeah. The instructions said to sign immediately so I signed right after I bought it.”
Darya grabbed the ticket from me and flipped it over, like she didn’t believe me. “Nobody follows those instructions, you know, people only sign if they’ve got a winner.”
Darya squeezed my hand and squealed. “Ohmygosh, how are we going to celebrate? Should we go find some live music? Or, I know, let’s go to the Seward Street slides! Winning the lottery totally warrants trespassing.” She pulled me toward the banquet hall, where the silent auction was wrapping up. “Let’s go tell our friends. Jenna and Lexi are working the drink table.”
I planted my feet, jerking Darya to a stop. “No way, are you crazy? We can’t tell anyone, not even Jenna and Lexi. Word will spread. Everyone will want a piece of it and I need this money … for college.”
Darya clamped a hand over her mouth. “You’re right. I’m so sorry.” She mimed zipping her lips, but we both knew there was another reason I needed the money. Darya was the only one outside my family who knew I’d been on scholarship since the start of the year.
Darya’s eyes went wide. Very wide. She was the only person I knew who actually looked like one of those anime characters with the really big eyes. “We have to turn it in. You have to get a lawyer. My dad has a friend, I bet he’d be—”
“A lawyer?” a too-perky voice said from behind us.
Both our heads whipped around. Lana Perkins stood in the hallway with us. Stood there like she’d been born there.
How long had she been there?
Lana advanced toward us, her stilettoed steps looking smooth and practiced. Which, of course, they were. Swimwear models had to rock their heels. “My father is a lawyer,” she reminded us, gliding forward with the ease of a jungle cat. “He’d be happy to help you settle up.”
My throat tightened. She knows. She knows I won the lottery.
But did she know how much I’d won?
Wait, how much had I won? In Windfall, you win a set amount of money every day for the rest of your life. But was it a hundred dollars a day or a thousand? I couldn’t remember.
I tucked the ticket into my wristlet, arranging my features into what I hoped was a mask of indifference. “Yeah, I matched a few numbers, isn’t that great? I’ll keep your dad in mind if I need a lawyer.”
Lana’s eyes narrowed.
She wasn’t sure how much I’d won either.
She tossed her bottle-blonde hair over her shoulder. “Fantastic. I’ll tell him to expect your call.”
A microphone crackled to life inside the ballroom.
“I’d better go wrap things up for the auction,” Lana said. “Duties, and all.” She blew us an air kiss and glided away.
Darya and I headed back to our table, where we found our parents already seated. Ms. Cole, Valer’s dean, stood at the podium with Lana. In addition to being a model, Lana was also the senior class president. Brains not required, apparently.
Ms. Cole tapped on the microphone. “Attention parents, students, and patrons. I’d like to take this moment to thank you all for coming out tonight and for your generous support. Together, we raised nearly two hundred thousand dollars.”
Ms. Cole continued. “This money will be put back into the school and will ensure that our classrooms, resources, and staff are all cutting edge, providing your children with the very best education. Thanks also to our talented student musicians who performed for us tonight, and for those who gave so selflessly to make this evening a success. Lana, do you have anything you’d like to add?”
Lana flipped her hair and took the mic. “As senior class president, I’d also like to say thanks. You know, for all the generosity shown here tonight. And for the fab donations and stuff. Now”—she leaned closer to the mic, gripping it with both hands—“before you all leave, I have a tidbit of news. One of our classmates has had a fortunate stroke of luck and I want you all to be the first to know.”
I sucked in a breath. No. She wouldn’t.
Lana lowered her voice, like she was sharing a secret of epic proportions. “Marina Berghman.”
I froze. The smile on my face froze. My blood froze.
Oh, yes she would.
“Marina, where are you?” Lana put a hand over her eyes to block out the spotlight and searched through faces.
“What a little tramp!” Darya muttered.
A-Ma gripped my arm. “Is she talking about Juilliard? Have you heard something and not told me?”
Of course A-Ma would think the news was about Juilliard. For her, the world revolved around me getting in. And I would. Probably. Hopefully.
When Lana’s eyes found mine, she smiled. Like the little flesh-eater she was. “Would you round out the amount raised tonight with a donation from your Windfall win? The lottery is, after all, a pot added to by the community. The best way to show your thanks is by giving back, am I right?”
Two seats down from me, my dad stiffened. His face drained of color. “You played Windfall?” he hissed. It was no secret that Dad thought the lottery was evil.
“Dad, it was no big deal. I just bought a ticket for my birthday.”
From the stage, Lana’s voice crackled through the microphone. “Is that a yes? I think that was a yes, people. Let’s have a round of applause for Marina, for winning the lottery. I’m sure we will all benefit from her good luck. A fortune that big is meant to be shared, am I right?”
I wanted to punch her stupid face and tell her she was not right.
The applause that followed Lana’s speech sounded bewildered at first. People weren’t sure what had just happened. Had Marina Berghman really won the lottery?
But as heads turned and eyes fell on me, the applause grew in strength. The room full of brilliant entrepreneurs, trust-fund recipients, and unlikely heiresses were realizing that the little Asian girl who played the piano now had money.
Which meant I suddenly mattered.