Saying yeah feels like a complete defeat, so I just nod.
When we return to the table, everyone is gone. The plates are scraped clean and the chairs are empty. We exit the restaurant and spot Rose and Lily by a taxi van that hugs the curb. They hold Styrofoam to-go boxes and wait for us. Connor has the passenger door opened, speaking to the driver over the seat.
Daisy climbs out of the cab, her eyes set on us. She jogs to reach our sides. “So Connor couldn’t get the limo service to come pick us up early,” she says, catching her breath. “They were all booked, but I hailed a cab—”
“Why’d everyone leave?” Ryke asks.
Daisy gives him a stern look. “We weren’t going to let Melissa go home by herself. We’re in Mexico.”
I can’t help what I say. I’m so pissed at everything and everyone. “That’s funny, last time you were in Mexico, you had no problem leaving Lily and your friends to go jump off a f**king cliff.”
Ryke shoots me a glare to drop it.
“That was different,” she says to me. “I wasn’t storming off angry. And I already apologized…I didn’t mean to upset anyone.”
“It’s fine,” Ryke tells her. “Where’s Melissa?”
“In the back of the cab, waiting for you,” Daisy says, “I calmed her down a little. She’s no longer looking at flights to go home, and I think if you make out with her, she’ll forgive you.”
Ryke rolls his eyes. “Are you serious?”
“She wants to know you care.”
“I do care!” he shouts, frustrated.
“You don’t act like it,” Daisy says. “Girls want to be the sole focus of your attention. They want to be all you think about, all you look at and see. You’re more fixated on chicken tacos than Melissa.” She pauses. “But if you’re sick of her, you know, you don’t have to do anything. She’ll just leave…”
Ryke stares at Daisy for a long moment, his features hardening.
I think he does want Melissa gone, but that will give Daisy the wrong impression—that he’s saying goodbye to Melissa for the youngest Calloway girl. And I don’t think that’s it at all. I think Melissa is annoying as hell, and he’d rather be alone than deal with her any longer.
He meets my hot gaze. He only has one choice, and the fact that he’s considering leading Daisy on makes me want to go back into the bathroom and strangle him.
“Fucking fantastic,” he says under his breath and walks past both of us towards the cab.
Daisy shakes her head repeatedly, but she stares at Ryke’s back, her eyes pinned to the spot even after he climbs into the cab. Maybe Lily is right—the farther you push two people away, the more they’ll pull together.
When we reach the cab, I kiss Lily on the cheek and take the box from her.
“I saved your fish tacos,” she says.
I’m glad since I had nothing to eat. I was too concentrated on unnecessary drama than my food. She keeps her hands cupped in front of her, but I’d like nothing more than to wrap her in my arms and kiss her for a long, extended moment.
She bites her bottom lip, which shallows my breath and beats my heart. All my anger suddenly depletes as I imagine what I can do to her. How I could take her so hard and so fast that she’ll cry in such searing pleasure.
I am used to hav**g s*x with her every single day. And I know she fears that I’ll resent her for withholding sex, but the new frequency only makes the next time we f**k even headier.
I draw her to my chest and lean my head low, my lips brushing her ear. I want to whisper how she makes me feel and how I plan to take her so many different ways. But I can’t promise her things that won’t happen. I can’t even bring her to the beach to screw because that would be considered public sex.
So I just land on the truth, “I love you,” I whisper.
She stands on the tips of her toes and kisses me sweetly on the lips. I run my hand through her hair and then bite her shoulder playfully before setting an equally chaste kiss on her neck. She shivers in my arms, and I don’t tempt her anymore. I fear that one kiss may drive her to want more. It hasn’t since her public humiliation, but I know it can be all too easy to go back there.
We climb into the cab, Lily and I on the middle seat, and Daisy squeezing beside her sister. Rose and Connor take the front, and Ryke and Melissa are happily snug in the back.
Ryke has Melissa pinned against the back of the seat. I can barely see her behind his broad shoulders. Sitting up, her legs wrap around his waist, and his body melds into hers. His hand disappears underneath her shirt, and his lips devour hers hungrily. She can’t stifle a sharp breath as he sucks her neck.
She grips his back, lost to his hands and his tongue. Lily is going to be jealous. Fuck, I’m jealous. While Melissa has her eyes shut, Ryke’s are open, and he meets my gaze while he bites her bottom lip. And he glares at me, basically saying, I hate that I have to do this. But it’s the right thing to do. And frankly, I don’t care that he’s pissed about it. Leading Melissa on—that’s fine (all she wants is sex anyway). Leading Daisy on—that’s not okay.
I turn my back to him just as Daisy leans over to slide the door closed. If she notices Ryke and Melissa’s make-out session, she doesn’t say a word about it.
The cab bumps along the uneven street, the strip lit up in the darkness, club signs blinking and twinkling. Constantly calling me.
I open the to-go box and pull out a fish taco, taking a bite while Lily rests her head on my shoulder.
Connor spins around in his seat to face us. “Did you get your test score back?” he asks Lily.
She sits up immediately. And I curse him for causing her to drift from me. Even though Lily is technically the cheater here, studying old exams. “I’m doing well,” she says vaguely.
“That’s not really what I asked.”
Her cheeks redden. “Yeah, I got the test back.”
“That bad, huh?” He turns to Rose. “I told you that Sebastian isn’t that smart. He bought his way into Princeton. You should have let Joseph Kim teach her.”
“Sebastian is smart,” Rose refutes. “You don’t know him like I do.”
Connor wears a blank face, but if he’d show true emotion at all, I think he’d be upset by that.
“I actually did well,” Lily says.
Connor can’t hide his frown. “What’s well? A 75?”
I cut in, hating to beat around this bush, but Lily is too nervous to come out and say it. “She made a 95 on her Statistics exam.” Before Connor opens his mouth, I add, “She didn’t want to hurt your tutoring feelings.”
Rose beams and tilts her head at Connor. “What were you saying about Sebastian?”
“Wait…” Connor holds his hand at her face. Rose’s eyes grow, incensed by the hand. I think she’s going to bite his fingers off. “Was there a curve?”
“No,” Lily says.
Rose grabs Connor’s hand. “Why can’t you believe that Sebastian is a good tutor?” she asks.
He covers her mouth with his other palm, not done grilling Lily. “Did you take Adderall?”
Rose smacks her purse at Connor’s chest, beating him with the damn clutch until he drops his hand from her mouth. “That was unnecessary.” She points a finger at him.
And I swear, he tries not to smile. I think he’d like nothing more than to tackle her on the seat and make out with her as much as Ryke is doing to Melissa. “Rose, darling,” he whispers. “Let’s not jump to conclusions because of personal bias. I don’t know Sebastian like you do.”
“Exactly,” she says as though she won.
He ignores that and nods back to Lily. I think he may be a tad bit smarter than Rose. If I told her that, she’d probably rip out my lungs.
“Lily, did you take Adderall?” Connor asks again.
She shakes her head quickly. “Nonono,” she slurs together. “I studied, Connor. The normal, natural way like you taught me.”
“And Sebastian clearly helped,” Rose adds.
Connor shakes his head. “No…something’s not right.”
Rose pokes his arm. “You can’t admit that you’re wrong. That’s the problem.”
“I know when I’m wrong, Rose, and I don’t think I am here.”
“How many times have you even talked to Sebastian?”
“A couple,” Connor says. “He runs out the door the minute I walk in, and he barely looks me in the eye. Only liars and cheaters can’t meet my gaze.”
Lily sinks deeper into her seat.
“Lily didn’t cheat,” Rose snaps back, her glare darkening.
I chime in, afraid that we’ve suddenly fissured their relationship, “Lily isn’t as stupid as you think. Is that really so hard to believe?”
“Yes,” Connor says. “I spent months tutoring Lily, and she never did better than a C.”
“Maybe I’m just good at Statistics,” Lily shrugs.
“You bombed your first two exams.”
Rose raises her hand to cut in like we’re in class. “Or maybe,” she says, slinging her cold voice back at Connor, “Sebastian is just a better tutor than you.”
Connor cocks his head at her like she’s being foolish. “No, that can’t be it.”
She lets out an exasperated growl. “You’re impossible.”
“You love me,” he says matter-of-factly.
She gapes. “I never said such a stupid thing.” That’s her go-to response. But she has turned bright pink.
Connor raises his brows at her and then pins his attention back on Lily. “Did you cheat?”
Instead of interrupting, Rose waits for Lily to answer this time. Lily needs to stay strong here. Even if we’re inadvertently siding with Sebastian rather than Connor, those tests are important for her future at Princeton. We spent years lying to people about our addictions. We’re f**king good at it, but I remember all the times where I had to calm her down, to placate her anxiety about fibbing in front of Rose and her parents. Lying eats her up inside more than it does me.
Lily clutches my hand tightly, and with a steady voice, she says, “I’m being honest, Connor. No cheating, no drugs, no nothing.” She nods to herself. “Things have changed. I’m just more focused now.” Her tone is sincere, something hard to reject.
I put my arm around her shoulder and watch Connor go quiet. But he doesn’t look a hundred percent satisfied. I’d say he’s at least forty percent, which is good enough for now.
Before he says something more, Rose smacks Connor on the arm, and the two begin arguing in French. I can’t make out any of it, but I’m sure they’re flinging curse words.
Lily cringes, watching Rose’s eyes puncture holes into Connor, her words sounding nasty. And he’s quick to retort back. Lil leans into my side and whispers, “I don’t like lying to her.”
I squeeze her arm. “We’ll make it right.” Eventually.