<p align="center"><big><b>CHAPTER 1<p align="center">The Secret's Out</b></big><P>After pouring the beans from the saucepan and grabbing the Tabasco sauce, Charlotte scanned the kitchen. She and her father had everything staged and ready to go. Now all they were missing were the guests. She scurried down the mammoth staircase to the foyer to wait. The giant grandfather clock on the landing seemed to be tick-tocking in slow motion.<P>Suddenly, Charlotte heard car doors and voices. "They're here!" she shouted to her father as she raced to pull open the front door before Maeve even had a chance to ring the bell.<P>"Charlotte! You scared me!" Maeve exclaimed, her hand instinctively going to her heart.<P>"Maeve! Mr. Taylor! You're here!" Charlotte cried, ushering them inside.<P>"Are we late? The invitation said eleven, right?" Mr. Taylor asked, taken aback by Charlotte's urgency.<P>"Yup! Eleven. Right on the button. Come on in. I'll take your coats," Charlotte said excitedly, helping Mr. Taylor out of his black overcoat.<P>"Look at my hair!" Maeve moaned as she pulled down her hood. "Frizz City! I wish it was snow; rain just ruins my hair."<P>As soon as she'd hung their coats in the foyer, Charlotte spotted Isabel coming up the walk with her Aunt Lourdes. "Go ahead upstairs," Charlotte motioned to Maeve and Mr. Taylor. "My dad has some really delicious breakfast burritos ready."<P>"Isabel! Ms. Ortiz," Charlotte said, opening the door while they were still on the porch steps.<P>"Oh, please, Charlotte, you know you girls can call me Aunt Lourdes. I'm sorry, but Isabel's mother couldn't make it this morning. She sends her best. I know the invitation said you wanted parents to attend. I hope it is all right that I have come instead."<P>"Of course. Of course!" Charlotte eagerly welcomed Isabel and her aunt into the cavernous foyer. "Here, let me take your coats." Suddenly, the doorbell rang again.<P>Immediately, Marty let out a howl from somewhere upstairs. The doorbell always sent the BSG's little terrier mix into a frenzy. He came flying downstairs, convinced that anyone who came to the door was there to see him. Marty spun around in excited circles, jumping at the door.<P>"Just a minute," Charlotte sang out, trying to pull Marty back, afraid she might bonk him as she opened the big door.<P>"MARTY!" Avery shouted when Charlotte opened the door. Her rain jacket sprayed droplets in every direction as she rolled around on the floor, wrestling with her favorite pooch.<P>"Good morning, Charlotte. What a lively party," Mrs. Madden laughed as she and Charlotte stared at the scene in front of them.<P>"Where's Happy Lucky Thingy? Let's get it!" Avery shouted as she and Marty rocketed past them up the stairs.<P>"Charlotte!" Maeve suddenly reappeared at Charlotte's side, grabbing her friend's arm and pulling her upstairs to the table in the dining room. "Denim place mats and bandanna napkins! And the place cards! Über cute. You did this? And you spelled our names out with little pieces of rope?"<P>"It's really only twine, but it looks like rope, doesn't it?" Charlotte was proud of her handiwork.<P>"So cute! But what does it all mean? Come on, Char, spill it! What IS the special occasion?" Maeve asked, lowering her voice to a conspiring whisper.<P>Charlotte opened her mouth, but the doorbell rang again and she had a good excuse to break away.<P>"Gotta get the door, Maeve. You'll find out soon. SOON!" Charlotte breathed a sigh of relief. <I>That was close!</i><P>Katani was waiting at the door with both parents. "Hello everyone," Charlotte greeted Mr. and Mrs. Summers and her friend. "Come on in."<P><I>At last,</i> Charlotte thought as she pranced up the stairs behind the three Summerses. <I>All the BSG are here. We can sit down, eat...and TELL.</i><P>Unfortunately, Mr. Ramsey was busy talking to Mr. Taylor about the weather. <I>The weather! Who cares about the weather?</i> Charlotte thought as she sat down. She glanced at Isabel across the table and shook her head impatiently.<P>"Dad," Charlotte complained as she nudged him under the table.<P>"You don't want me to wait until we're finished eating?" Mr. Ramsey asked with a grin.<P>"DAD!" Charlotte gave her father a look that meant <I>enough, already!</i><P>"Okay," he said to Charlotte, squeezing her hand as he tapped on his juice glass to get everyone's attention.<P>"You all are probably wondering why Charlotte and I asked you here this morning," Mr. Ramsey said affably. "Well, as you know, I'm a travel writer. Books mainly, but I do fill in here and there with freelance work for travel magazines." Mr. Ramsey paused to take a sip of coffee and Charlotte looked around the table.<P>"<I>International Travel</i>, a magazine that I've written for before, would like me to do a piece on a resort in Montana," Mr. Ramsey continued.<P>Maeve was still admiring the decorations, but Charlotte could see that an idea was clicking in her head. Charlotte nudged her dad again. She wanted him to get to the point.<P>Mr. Ramsey winked at her and went on. "My daughter is getting impatient, so here it is, folks. Big Sky Resort wants to attract families, so they invited me to write an article about their activities for older kids and teenagers. I explained that I only had one daughter, but if I could bring her friends, I could really get an idea of what the experience would be like."<P>On the word <I>friends</i>, Maeve sucked in a huge breath. Her eyes latched onto Charlotte's. "Does this mean what I think it does?" Maeve gasped.<P>Charlotte gave all her friends a megawatt smile.<P>"So that's why I invited you all here today," Mr. Ramsey announced. "I am hoping that all of you will give me your permission to take the girls on a little Beacon Street Girls adventure -- so to speak -- to Big Sky Resort in Montana."<P>"O-o-o-o-oh, ho-o-o-o-ome, home on the range," Maeve crooned. The whole table giggled. Always the performer, Maeve <I>would</i> be the one to burst into song.<P>Marty seemed to know this song too, because he began to yowl along in perfect harmony.<P>Even Avery stopped mid-bite. That said something. Athletic Avery was famous for her appetite. "Seriously? A trip? All of us together? <I>Yippppeee-ki-ayyyy</i>! So it's like a dude ranch, right? That means horses and skiing and snowboarding and snowmobiling and -- "<P>Katani grabbed onto Charlotte's wrist. "You knew this all along, didn't you! I can't believe you didn't tell us!"<P>"It was so hard to keep quiet," Charlotte confessed, relieved at last that the secret was out. And what a commotion it was causing!<P>Everyone started talking at once. Avery's shouts of "Yippee-ki-ay!" mingled with Maeve and Marty's unique version of "Home on the Range" as the parents at the table discussed the specifics of the trip.<P>Charlotte beamed as she looked around at the happy gathering. It hadn't been easy keeping quiet about such a big secret, but this moment was totally worth it. She couldn't wait to fill in her friends on all the incredible details!Copyright © 2007 by B*tween Productions, Inc., <BR><BR><i>Continues...</i> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Ghost Town</b> by <b>Annie Bryant</b> Copyright © 2009 by Annie Bryant. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. 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