Chapter 1

Liberty of the Seas

Spencer Hastings was vacantly stirring her cup of latte as she watched yet another hot muscular surfer boy walk past the window of the Windjammer Café on his way back from the FlowRider surf simulator on Deck Thirteen. She had a feeling she should feel guilty about checking other guys out given that things were serious between her and Toby, but he was still back in Rosewood and she had nothing better to do right now. She had been nursing this cup of latte for almost a whole hour. This cruise felt much more like an overly-long lazy summer afternoon than a school trip. But even though she saw no academic worth in spending five days on the Liberty, Spencer could not complain. The cool sea air helped take her mind off all the troubles back in Rosewood. She still remembered Melissa's pained scream from the barn where Ian had killed himself, but it was barely louder than a whisper now, having been drowned out by the constant sounds of the waves crashing against the side of the ship. She needed this experience. It was calming.

"Hey," Spencer heard a familiar voice from behind her say, "mind if I join you?"

"Not at all," she turned to face a smiling Aria Montgomery, "but what if your mum catches us?"

The girls had been quietly ecstatic when Mr Fitz had announced a class trip to the Caribbean because it was a perfect opportunity for them to hang out together without their parents knowing. Everything changed, however, when Mrs Montgomery took over from her daughter's secret boyfriend as their English teacher. The girls had to limit their meetings even more now that they were practically imprisoned with a watchful parent in a much smaller space than Rosewood. Aria's mum had become more and more suspicious of their behaviour ever since the incidence with their therapist Dr Sullivan's office.

"Don't worry," Aria moved to sit down in the opposite chair, "she's preparing some class activities for tonight so we have a little time to ourselves. Oh look, here they are!"

Spencer turned to see her other friends Hanna Marin and Emily Fields approach the table.

"I got your text," Hanna began to say as they got seated in the remaining two chairs around the table, "almost thought it was from…"

"That's just it!" Aria said. "It's been a week and we haven't heard from A. No texts, no notes, no letters, no song dedications, nothing. You know what that means."

"Aria, we've already talked about this," Emily crossed her arms wearily. "Ian couldn't have been A."

"Back in the bell tower," Spencer reminded her, "A saved me from Ian."

"Still," Aria insisted, "now that Ian's gone and the police got the confession letter, maybe A's decided to leave us alone."

"I don't know," Hanna said vacillatingly, "a part of me wants to believe that's true, but I still think A's not done toying with us yet."

"Well, I'm hungry," Aria changed the subject, "wanna go grab a sandwich from the counter?"

"You guys go ahead," Spencer said, "I've already eaten."

As Spencer watched the three girls walk over to the buffet counter, the Liberty rocked suddenly and violently. Her cup of latte went flying off the table and the remaining stale coffee landed on her beige jacket. Seconds after the cup had collided with the varnished floor and shattered into a dozen pieces, all was calm again. Spencer slowly stood up and looked over at her friends, all of whom were wearing shocked expressions.

"What the hell was that?" Emily asked apprehensively.

"Oh, Spencer," Hanna exclaimed, "your jacket!"

"It's okay, guys," Spencer smiled reassuringly, "I'm sure it was nothing. I'll just go to the bathroom to clean up."

As Spencer turned to walk away, she could hear Aria say to the others, "We'd better leave, too. My mum's gonna be checking on us after that."