Taylor lifted my tote and slipped it over his shoulder. “Thanks.”

“Could I just…” I reached for the tote.

Taylor leaned down to give me better access. I pulled out my sweater, and Thomas helped me slip it on.

Taylor began walking, and Thomas reached back for my hand. I took his hand, and we followed his brother to the exit.

“I drove around for half an hour before I found a parking spot in the main lot,” Taylor said. “It’s spring break, so everyone is traveling, I guess.”

“When did you get into town? What are you driving?” Thomas asked.

Suddenly, I didn’t feel so bad. Thomas sounded more like FBI than I did.

“I’ve been here since yesterday.”

The moment Taylor stepped foot in the street, he pulled a box of cigarettes from his pocket and flipped one in his mouth. He dug into the pack again and pulled out a lighter. He lit the end and puffed until the paper and tobacco glowed orange.

He blew out a puff of smoke. “Have you been to Chicago before, Liis?”

“I’m from here actually.”

Taylor stopped abruptly. “Really?”

“Yes,” I said, my voice rising an octave as if it were a question.

“Huh. Millions of people in San Diego, and Thomas bags a girl from Illinois.”

“Taylor, Jesus,” Thomas scolded.

“Sorry,” Taylor said, turning to look at me.

He had Thomas’s same charming expression, one that would make the average girl swoon, and I was beginning to realize it was just a Maddox trait.

“Is Falyn at Dad’s?” Thomas asked.

Taylor shook his head. “She had to work. She’s meeting me in St. Thomas, and then we’ll fly back together.”

“Did Trav pick you up from the airport? Or did Trent?” Thomas asked.

“Honey,” I said, squeezing Thomas’s hand.

Taylor laughed. “I’m used to it. He’s always been like this.”

He walked ahead, but Thomas’s eyes softened, and he brought my hand up to his mouth for a tender tiny kiss.

Taylor nodded. “Shepley did. Travis is with Shepley all day, so I drove Trav’s car to come get you. He doesn’t know we’re in town. He thinks he’ll see us all in St. Thomas tomorrow, like the girls.”

“Are all the girls in St. Thomas?” I asked.

Thomas gave me a look. He knew exactly what I was asking.

“Not all the girls. Just Abby and her bridesmaids.” We walked into the main lot, and Taylor pointed straight ahead. “I’m all the way down by the fence.”

After hiking a hundred yards or so in the cold wind, Taylor pulled a set of keys from his pocket and pressed a button. A silver Toyota Camry chirped a few cars ahead.

“Am I the only one who thinks it’s strange that Travis has a car now?” Thomas said, staring at the vehicle.

A gold chain was looped around the rearview mirror and then separated into several strands. The ends were looped through small holes in white poker chips. They looked personalized with black-and-white striped borders and red writing in the middle.

Taylor shook his head, pushing another button to open the trunk. “You should see him driving it. He looks like a pussy.”

“Glad I’m selling mine then,” I said.

Thomas laughed and then helped Taylor load our luggage. Thomas came around and opened the passenger door for me, but I shook my head.

“It’s okay. Sit in the front with your brother.” I opened the back door. “I’ll sit back here.”

Thomas leaned down to kiss my cheek, but then he noticed I was gawking into the backseat. He stared as well.

“What the fuck is that?” Thomas asked.

“Oh! It’s Toto! I’m babysittin’,” he said with a proud smile that showed off a deep dimple in one cheek. “Abby would probably kill me if she knew I left him in the car alone, but I was only gone for ten minutes. It’s still warm in the car.”

The dog wiggled its entire back end, wearing a navy-and-gold striped sweater and standing on a plush wool pet bed.

“I…” I began, looking to Thomas. “I’ve never had a dog.”

Taylor laughed. “You don’t have to take care of him. You just have to share a seat with him. I have to strap him in though. Abby is kind of a fruitcake about this dog.”

Taylor opened the other side and secured Toto into the nylon harness. Toto must have been used to it because he sat still while Taylor snapped each clip into place.

Thomas rolled the seat cover under until it revealed a hair-free section of the seat.

“There you go, honey.” The corners of his mouth were trembling as he tried not to smile.

I stuck out my tongue, and he shut the door.

The seat belt clicked when I pushed it into the buckle, and I heard Taylor laughing.

“You pussy-whipped douche waffle.”

Thomas gripped the handle. “She can hear you, fuckstick. My door is open.”

Taylor opened his door and bent down, looking sheepish. “Sorry, Liis.”

I shook my head, half-amused and half in disbelief at their banter. It was as if we had fallen down a rabbit hole and landed in a frat house full of drunken toddlers. Suddenly, Eat Me had a whole new meaning.

Thomas and Taylor buckled in, and then Taylor backed out of his spot. The drive to the bachelor party was full of colorful insults and updates on who was doing whom and who was working where.

I noted that Trenton and Camille weren’t mentioned at all. I wondered how that went over with the family, knowing she’d dated both Thomas and then Trenton, and how they felt about her, if they disliked her at all because Thomas didn’t come home anymore to avoid causing awkwardness for them or further pain for himself. Shame washed over me when, for less than a second, I hoped they didn’t like her at all.

Taylor pulled into the driveway of the Rest Inn and then drove to the backside of the building. Twice as many cars were parked back there than in the front.

Taylor turned off the ignition. “Everyone is parking here, so we don’t tip him off.”

“Cap’s? The bachelor party we’ve waited a year to throw Travis is going to be at Cap’s?” Thomas said, unimpressed.

“Trent planned it. He’s taking classes again and working full-time. Plus, he’s on a budget. Don’t bitch if you didn’t offer to help,” Taylor said.