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Me:  What?!? *crying*
Melody:  OMG. I know you want to be a doctor but I can’t believe you WANT to cut open a disgusting dead reptile!
Me:  Amphibian
Melody:  Whatever!! I’m going to make Landon do ALL OF IT because Boyce is out sick too weirdly enough. Hey he didn’t get mono from you did he?? Haha! JK!!!
While we were out sick, our best friends each lost their only remaining grandparent, and neither of us could attend the funerals. By the time we returned to school, there was a different vibe between the two of them. I liked Landon well enough, but Mel had a boyfriend, and though we had escalating evidence of Clark’s douchebaggery, neither of us yet knew just how big of a tool he really was.
“Clark keeps asking me about Landon—like, suspiciously,” Mel said. “As if I’d cheat on him! I’m not a cheater. If anyone should be mistrustful, it should be me after some of the rumors I’ve heard.”
I’d heard them too—but Melody was the most beautiful girl in our school, they’d been together over a year, and gossip in a small town was often just chin-wagging jealousy.
“You believe me, right?”
“Of course,” I said, meaning it. “Cheating in a town this size would make no sense. Everyone would know by yesterday.”
What she was or wasn’t doing with Landon didn’t matter, though, because that was when Clark was filmed screwing the spring-breaking college girl. I arrived to find Melody ripping the teddy bear he’d given her into fluff-filled smithereens.
I picked up a severed arm. “Aww, poor Beauregard.”
“Fuck Beauregard!” She snatched an empty box from the floor and began loading bear fragments into it. Next in—jewelry he’d given her, accumulated homecoming mums, dried flowers and printed photos, all torn into tiny pieces. “Let’s go.”
I drove to the public beach where she marched up to Clark, who had a girl on his lap. From the box I held, she showered him with armfuls of petals and photo bits and bear parts. She threw a bracelet at him and called him a cheating bastard.
Feet away, on the other side of the fire pit, Landon watched her, eyes blazing, tense and ready for Clark to do something stupid, and Boyce watched me, a lit cigarette in one hand and a koozied beer in the other. We hadn’t spoken since that kiss, other than his usual juvenile quips during biology—the ones that drove Mel and Mr. Quinn insane and made Landon smirk and shake his head and had me biting the inside of my cheek to suppress my smile.
At first I’d been confused, then disappointed, and then angry. I’d worked my way to acceptance, like when I’d known I was drowning and there was nothing I could do. He’d merely gone back to being Boyce Wynn, who did what he wanted and who he wanted. And I’d gone back to being Pearl Frank—star student, social royalty, good girl.
But I couldn’t forget that kiss. The fixed glint of his eyes across the fire said that neither could he.
Chapter Eight
“The sandbar might work,” I said, staring at my boots and still thinking about the feel of Pearl in my arms that first time—her sweet, sweet mouth and her unexpected surrender to being kissed. I wondered what she’d do if I pulled her into my arms like that now, standing my kitchen. If I dared her to tell me no. Dared her to kiss me back.
She could have asked me to put my dad’s ashes in a rocket launcher and light the fuse right then and I’d have done it. I cleared my throat and shifted, raising my eyes to hers. “Maybe back in a marshy part.”
“Do you still have the boat?”
“Got a better one a few weeks ago—actual seats, no leaks in the hull.” I smirked. “It’s almost a damn yacht.” Her stepfather owned a Cruiser 275—which had a sofa and a bed and a damned bathroom on board. But for guys like me, ballin’ meant parking my ass on a padded chair for a day of fishing instead of a cold, hard metal bench.
“Mel’s going back to Dallas Saturday morning. Can it wait until then?”
Her question was an ice bucket of fucked-up reality. What the hell made me think anything would change just because we were adults? I was still her dirty little secret. I downed the rest of my beer, shoved off from the kitchen counter, and tossed the bottle in the green bin by the back door. “Sure. Unless I just flush him before then.”
Her laughter rang out, but the smile died off and her mouth fell open when she realized I might not be joking. “Boyce—you can’t… do that? To your father?”
“You know as well as anyone what a sadistic motherfucker he was.” My mother, wherever she was, knew. Maxfield knew.
I’d meant to unbalance her. I hadn’t counted on this goddamned hunger for her approval. Her sympathy even. What the actual fuck.
She walked to me, eyes searching mine, forehead furrowed, and I couldn’t move. Taking one of the fists at my side between her small hands, she said, “I know he made your life hell, Boyce, and it’s going to take you a while to work through it. I’m sorry I judged you—I didn’t mean to. You just shocked me a little, that’s all.”
My fist loosened between her palms. She saw right through me. She got me. It scared the hell out of me—how solidly she got me and how much I wanted her to, because that kind of need made me weak where she was concerned.
I nodded. “I wouldn’t do it.” Lie. If I hadn’t been concerned about the substandard plumbing running to and from this tin can, I’d have already dumped him.
She quirked a brow, her lips pursed like she wanted to make some smartass comment.
“Okay, yeah I would,” I admitted. “But he can wait till Saturday—he’s not goin’ anywhere. It’ll give me time to compose a eulogy and get flowers.”
“Right.” She chuckled, sliding her hands away from mine. “So… this place is all yours now. And the garage?”
I nodded. She couldn’t possibly be impressed with this shack masquerading as a home. “There’s some red tape to process. Mr. Amos—Dad’s old attorney—wanted me to look through his paperwork for a will, divorce papers, and anything to do with the business.”
“Did your dad even make a will?”
I shrugged. “No idea. So far I haven’t found anything but a bunch of useless crap. I took over running the garage almost two years ago—billing and accounts payable, dealing with the distributors, manufacturers we order from, that sorta thing, so that’s already separated out, thank Christ.”