Page 5


“Stop it!” It comes out a little breathless, even to my own ears.
He laughs, but continues in a less sexual tone. “It’s… the color of a goddamned melted Hershey bar is what it is. I can’t imagine you were a redheaded child, so Shortcake doesn’t make sense, and Finn’s a pretty logical guy.”
“I was carrying a Strawberry Shortcake backpack when we met,” I finally mumble.
“Excuse me?” He looks genuinely thrown for a minute, glancing at me as the car moves through traffic.
“I was carrying a Strawberry Shortcake backpack when we met.”
He moves the hand from his thigh to his mouth. I’m not sure why, because he’s laughing too hard to cover it up.
“I was six, asshole!”
He calms himself and nods. “I need a pet name for you then, if I’m going to compete with Finn for your affections.”
“There’s no competition.”
“You’re right. Finn isn’t competing, so the game’s mine.” He shoots me a wink and I groan. “Commando.”
“I’ll call you Commando,” he replies. “Since we’re doing nicknames based on first meetings.”
It takes me a second to process what he’s saying. “I’m wearing underwear!”
He nods. “Good. Tell me about them.”
“No! You’re really aggressive, you know that?”
“Coming from you I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“Yeah, okay,” I say dismissively and cross my legs. I tap on my phone screen wondering if I can calculate how much longer I’m going to be trapped in this car.
“What?” I wonder if there’s something wrong with him. Isn’t there a disorder that causes people to randomly blurt out words that make no sense? That’s probably what he has. I’m gonna check on WebMD.
“I’ll call you Boots,” he says, nodding at my legs. I’m wearing brown knee-high boots, my jeans tucked into them. My legs look incredible. I planned this outfit from head to toe. For Finn. “Since you vetoed Commando, we’ll go with Boots.”
I blow out a breath. “Fine.”
Six Years Ago
“Chloe, zip me up, please.” I turn my back to her, holding the front of my homecoming dress against my chest to hold the dress up.
“Done,” she announces and I move to the mirror to check my reflection. Jewelry’s on. Hair’s done. Killer high heels I’ve had to negotiate for since school started are on my feet. I turn my attention to Chloe. She looks perfect, but she’s tugging at her dress in a way that betrays her discomfort.
“Stop fidgeting. You’re beautiful. Own it.”
She drops her hands and stands a little straighter, then darts a look in the mirror to verify what I’m saying. Chloe would happily do nothing but study and pad her college resume with volunteer projects if it weren’t for me forcing her to experience high school. She is beautiful, when she’s not hiding behind an oversized sweatshirt and a stack of textbooks. Her hair is almost red, but not quite—too much brown intermixed to make her truly a redhead—but she’s got a sprinkling of freckles, true to her Irish heritage.
“Let’s go downstairs and wait for Tim and Dave. They should be here any second and Mom will want a million pictures.” I check my clutch to make sure my lipstick is still there. Then I check Chloe’s for her because she’d never think to put it there in the first place.
We’re on the bottom step when I hear him. Finn Camden is here. My heart pounds and I pause abruptly in the foyer, causing Chloe to bump into me. I haven’t seen Finn in two years. Not since the summer after he graduated from college. I couldn’t have planned this better if I’d tried, and believe me, I’ve tried. There’s no way he can’t notice me looking like this. Notice me. Like I’m a woman, not a little kid. Not Eric’s little sister.