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At some point during the afternoon, Melody, visions of Landon in her head, came up with the idea of having a private pool party.
“There’s no way Landon will come if Boyce doesn’t,” I said, hoping to deter her.
“You’re right. Crap. I’ll just have to convince both of them.”
Later that night, we were on the beach with practically the entire senior class, and my brain was flooded with second thoughts. A party? In my parents’ house, while they were out of town? Which would undoubtedly include sexual activity, alcohol consumption, and possibly drug use? I closed my eyes. Aside from being parentally and legally prohibited, it was just so clichéd.
Before I could back out, Melody began issuing verbal invitations. Shit. The party was happening. If I wanted something to happen with Boyce, it was now or never.
“There they are,” Melody said, starting forward as my stomach lurched like the bottom had dropped out of it.
Boyce’s eyes were already on me, ignoring Mel in her black bikini and sheer tank dress, glossy blond hair swept into a flawlessly mussed updo. Floral-patterned board shorts hung low on his hips, the dark orange and hot-pink blossoms the perfect adornment for a body that was nothing but hard and ripped and male. His pulled-low Astros cap shaded his face but couldn’t hide the glint of his eyes. My hands fluttered down the center of my chest—ascertaining that I was still wearing the protective navy sundress—and I burned wherever my fingers touched, as if he’d touched me.
“Hey, Landon.” Mel grazed Landon’s arm with her manicured fingertips.
“Miss Dover.” Landon clearly didn’t give two flips. He looked more annoyed than tempted, but she wasn’t ready to give up.
“We’re throwing a spontaneous graduation party at Pearl’s pool in half an hour. Her parents left for Italy right after graduation—so they won’t be around. If y’all wanna come over, that’d be cool. PK and Joey are bringing vodka. Bring whatever you want.”
Eyes on her, I still felt Boyce’s gaze sliding over my skin again as certainly as I felt the warm breeze off the gulf. That wink during my commencement speech had replayed itself in my mind all day, driving me insane. I’d worn the fuchsia bikini under the sundress, at which point Mel had scowled and said I was almost-seventeen going on forty. Somehow, under Boyce’s penetrating inspection, I felt naked anyway. I pretended to watch some semi-intoxicated boys screwing around near the bonfire.
“We’ve got a beach, in case you girls didn’t notice,” Landon said. “Bonfire lit, beer in hand. What would we want with a pool?”
I heard the trace of rancor in his voice and felt embarrassed for Mel, but he exchanged a brief glance with Boyce and then shrugged.
Boyce, ignoring Melody, addressed me as if he’d caught sight of my internal struggle and meant to challenge it head-on. “All right. We’ll be over in a bit. Don’t start the party without us.”
They turned to go, and I released a cautious breath, nervous about my impetuous seduction plan, trying to approach it as logically as possible. I had no delusions about what a night with Boyce would mean to him. I just wanted what I wanted, before I went away to college to begin the eight years of intense coursework staring me in the face. Before Boyce fell in love or knocked up some girl and moved beyond my reach forever.
That thought made my chest tighten possessively, which felt an awful lot like panic.
There were at least two dozen people in the house by midnight. I’d locked the doors to my parents’ bedroom and Thomas’s study before anyone arrived and opened the french doors of the living area to the shale-paved patio. Dancing with my friends, I held a stereotypical red cup, still half-full. I took a sip from it and grimaced. Cheap beer didn’t improve at room temperature.
Scanning the partiers for Boyce, I saw his friend Mateo smoking a bowl with Rick Thompson, whom I’d rather not have in my house. But there Rick sat, on my sofa, along with Brittney—still a stoner chick, still dumb as dirt. She laughed, uninhibited and openmouthed like a little kid. I tried not to glare at her. Brit had slept with Boyce multiple times over the previous three years, and she’d never been secretive about it. The only reason I didn’t full-out despise her was the fact that she was mindlessly unaware how it hurt me to hear her spouting the torturous details in the hallways or the girls’ restroom at school, in line at the coffee shop, on the beach…
Living in a small town could really suck.
Melody’s eyes met mine from across the room. The party had been going for a couple of hours, but Boyce and Landon hadn’t shown. When she’d invited them, they’d agreed to come right before walking off toward the beach road, where Boyce’s black Trans Am was parked. If they were coming, they’d have appeared long ago.
Chapter Ten
The numbers had been telling me for months that garage business had picked up, but I thought the difference was a passing irregularity. Folks catching up on overlooked maintenance work, not an actual increase. When I entered the initial end-of-month numbers last night though, there it was—six months straight of higher revenue. Several new local customers too—more likely to be repeats.
More money I could appreciate. More work was pushing me to the limit. Hiring help would make more sense than turning away business, so I made a note to contact my old auto-shop teacher to see about employing a kid to do simple but time-consuming shit, clean up, and schedule appointments. Boyce Wynn: boss man. Huh.
I didn’t check the message alert on my phone until I took a five-minute break. After taking a leak and grabbing a Pepsi, I checked my notifications. The text I’d ignored, thinking it was likely Vega bitching about the Astros crapping out way early from any possible chance at the playoffs for another year, was from Pearl.
Pearl:  Mel is on her way to Dallas. Is today still good for you?
Me:  Sorry. Busy as hell today and just got a break. Tonight works better. Want to get something to eat first?
Pearl:  Why don’t I bring something over? Whataburger? ?
Me:  You know I can’t turn that shit down.
Pearl:  Avocado bacon? Vanilla shake, extra thick?
Me:  You trying to seduce me, Miss Frank?
Pearl:  You are perpetually sixteen. What time?
Me:  7 okay?
Pearl:  See you at 7. ?
I’d known I was going out on a limb, suggesting that we go out somewhere together—in public. It would have been more of a shock if she’d said yes. That’d only happened once.