It is three months into senior year for popular East High Wildcats Troy, Gabriella, Chad, Taylor, Sharpay and Zeke. All of them are working hard to keep their grades up for college submissions while finding time for fun, friendship, and romance. Things for the graduating class of 2008 are looking great!

Chapter I

"Taylor Ann McKessie! Have you lost your mind?" Gabriella Montez practically shouted in disbelief at her best friend over the phone. "Please tell me that you are not seriously considering going out on a date with one of our teachers?"

"Calm down girl before you bust something," Taylor laughed. "I never said I was going out on a date with Julian Blanchard. What I did say is that I'm meeting him for coffee so we can discuss strategy for this year's academic decathlon."

"Well to me it translates into a date, especially since this guy has been macking on you since the first day he walked into our advanced trig class as Mr. Wilson's teaching assistant," Gabriella reminded with a disapproving tone. "Tay this guy isn't looking to just be your friend or don't you get that?"

"I'll tell you what I do get Brieā€¦all this mama bear huffing and puffing on your part comes across like you're trying to protect Chad because you think this meeting with Julian is my way of getting back at him for the whole Marissa/debutante thing," Taylor calmly explained.

Gabriella was annoyed by the analysis but couldn't deny that this was partly the reason for her disagreeable attitude about the situation. That and the fact that although Julian was handsome and seemed nice enough, there was just something about him that rubbed Gabriella the wrong way. She definitely knew she didn't like the way the guy had been zeroing in on Taylor since day one of the new school year and using any conflict, no matter how small, between herself and Chad to his advantage. This meeting for coffee was just the latest in a long line of little things that made her more than suspicious and a bit fearful for her best friend.

"So you admit that the only reason you are meeting up with Julian is to give Chad a taste of his own medicine because Marissa DeLeon is determined to use every means possible to get her hooks into him and away from you?"

"No. That's your version of events missy. I'm meeting Julian because we've been given a task to complete by Mr. Wilson. This has nothing to do with Chad or his obligations to an ex-girlfriend and her family."

"You mean the ex-girlfriend from hell that hates you and would do anything to break up your romance with Chad because she knows how crazy he is about you," Gabriella corrected. "We both know that the only reason he went along with things is because his folks, especially his mom, pushed him into it."

"Do we?" Taylor questioned sounding slightly unconvinced.

"Yes. We do," Gabriella replied with matter-of-fact confidence.

"Whatever. The point Brie is that irregardless of this debutante thing Chad's caught up in with Marissa, trust when I say that there is absolutely nothing going on between myself and Julian. He's a teaching assistant in a class where I'm a student. We aren't dating, flirting or anything. We are just meeting for a cup of coffee and a quick chat on how to ace this year's decathlon. That's it."

"Maybe that's your interpretation of this little get together but what about him?"

"Brie would you please just let it go. I'm telling you it is so not worth all this drama," Taylor pleaded with frustration.

"Fine. So I guess this means you won't have a problem telling Chad all about your little innocent escapade with an older man when he comes home from Chicago tomorrow right?" Gabriella asked.

"Not unless you want to break the news to him first," Taylor replied looking at her watch. "Brie I hate to cut you short but I need to get some chores done before I meet up with Julian in our hotel room."

Gabriella almost dropped the phone in shock when she heard those words. "Oh my God! What did you just say?"

Taylor couldn't help herself from laughing at the expression she just knew her best-friend had to be wearing at that precise second. "Gotcha!"

"You are so not funny McKessie," Gabriella snapped irritably. "I so can't wait for Chad to come home and kiss some sense into you."

"Look Brie I've really got to go. I will call you later on when I get back. Okay?"

"Okay," Gabriella agreed, reluctant to let Taylor go. "Just promise me Tay that you will not let that guy's smooth moves blind you to his games. He wants you and away from Chad just like that little rah-rah hussy wants Chad away from you. I just feel it."

"Thanks. I'll keep that in mind. Bye."

Taylor hung up and sighed as she sat there on her bed with Gabriella's words of warning dancing in her head. God she missed Chad something terrible.

Taylor began to think back to last Thursday afternoon. She and Chad had gone for a walk out to the football bleachers right after class. They both agreed that they needed to take some alone time to talk about the recent drama that had been going in their relationship due to Marissa's unappreciated intrusion all because her family and Chad's had been long time friends. But, unfortunately, things hadn't gone as planned and what started out as promising soon turned into a huge fight with angry words and hurt feelings on both sides. Chad had eventually stormed off leaving Taylor an emotional wreck, later heading off to Chicago with the cheerleading witch and her family who treated Chad like he was the second coming. Taylor had gone home and cried her eyes out, ignoring the 10 frantic calls from Gabriella that evening after learning from Troy about the big blow up between them.

The next day Taylor met up with Gabriella who was able to help her put things into perspective, reiterating how much McKessie and Danforth were meant for each other. By the time the girls headed off to trigonometry class that Friday afternoon, Taylor was feeling hopeful that when Chad came home on Sunday they would have a chance to clear the air. Of course it was right after class ended and Gabriella had run off to hook up with Troy, that Julian made his move and asked Taylor to meet him for coffee on Saturday supposedly to discuss Mr. Wilson's suggestions for the 2008 Scholastic Decathlon.

Taylor knew she was nobody's fool and probably should have declined Julian's invitation for the simple fact of how it might look just as Gabriella had implied. But she couldn't ignore that Julian had been really nice and helpful from the moment he'd joined the class, not just with her but with everyone. And, as shallow it sounded, it also didn't hurt that he had these amazing greenish-gold eyes that made saying no to his charm rather difficult not just for Taylor but for most of the other girls in the class too. Gabriella it seemed was the only one invulnerable to the spell he could cast.

And, if Taylor was being totally honest with herself, she would admit that meeting Julian for coffee even if only for a half an hour, was better than sitting at home stewing over Chad off doing God knew what with Marissa or feeling like a third wheel hanging out with Troy and Gabriella. Before she and Chad had become a couple it hadn't mattered if she was just part of the group. But now things were different and these days Taylor rarely wanted to be without Chad by her side when they hung out with their friends.

For now, in spite of her best-friend's concerns or her boyfriend's absence, Taylor was okay with the little bit of distraction Julian was offering since she knew that for her was only a friend and nothing more. She needed to do something, anything to keep her from thinking about Chad if only for a little while. The funny thing though was that deep down Taylor knew she wasn't fooling anybody, least of all herself.