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He takes several deep breaths, in and out, in and out. Just like he used to teach Carey and me to do when we were younger. Being brothers, we used to fight a lot. No more so than other brothers, but back then, when Callahan Gentry was a father, he would do everything he could to teach us how to deal with our anger internally, rather than physically.

“Only you can control your reactions,” he would say to us. “No one else. You control your anger and you control your happiness. Get it under control, boys.”

I wonder if I should repeat those words to him right now.

Get it under control, Dad.

Probably not. He doesn’t want me to interrupt him as he silently attempts to convince himself that I didn’t mean what I said. He tries to tell himself that I only said it because I’m under a lot of stress.

Callahan Gentry is good at lying to himself.

If I had to paint him right now, I would paint him every shade of blue I could find. He calmly places his palms flat on the table between us. He stares down at his hands and fails to make eye contact with me. He inhales one long, slow breath, and then releases it even slower. “I’m posting your bail as soon as I can.”

I want him to think I’m indifferent. I’m not indifferent, though. I don’t want to be here, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

“Not like I have anywhere else to be,” I say to him.

I mean, I don’t, do I? I’d already be late if I were to even show up, plus there’s no way I could show up now and tell Auburn where I’ve been. Or why. Besides, I was more or less warned to stay away from her last night, so there’s also that.

So yeah. Who needs bail? Not me.

“Not like I have anywhere else to be,” I repeat.

My father’s eyes meet mine and it’s the first time I notice the tears. With those tears comes hope. Hope that he’s reached his breaking point. Hope that this was the last straw. Hope that he’ll finally say, “How can I help you, Owen? How can I make this better for you?”

None of those things happen, though, and my hope disappears right along with the tears in his eyes. He turns and walks to the door. “We’ll talk tonight. At the house.”

And he’s gone.

“What in the hell happened to you?” Harrison asks. “You look like shit.”

I take a seat at the bar. I haven’t slept in over twenty-four hours. As soon as my bail cleared a few hours ago, I went straight to my studio. I didn’t even bother going to my father’s house to discuss this situation, because I need a little more time before I can face him.

It’s almost midnight now, so I know Auburn is probably asleep, or too pissed off to sleep, because I never showed up tonight like I promised I would. It’s probably for the best though. I need to get my life straightened out enough for her to want to be a part of it.

“I was arrested last night.”

Harrison immediately stops pouring the glass of beer he was about to hand me. He squares up and faces me full-on. “I’m sorry . . . did you just say arrested  ?”

I nod and reach across the bar, taking the half-full beer from him.

“I hope you’re about to elaborate,” he says, watching me take a long drink. I set the glass down on the bar and wipe my mouth.

“Arrested for possession.”

Harrison’s expression becomes a mixture of anger and nervousness. “Wait a second,” he says. He leans in and lowers his voice to a whisper. “You didn’t tell them I—”

I’m offended he would even ask that, so I cut him off before he even finishes the question. “Of course not,” I say. “I refused to say anything about where the pills came from. Unfortunately, that won’t help my situation when I show up for court. Apparently they cut you slack when you rat people out.” I laugh and shake my head. “That’s fucked up, huh? We teach kids that tattling is wrong but as adults, we’re rewarded for it.”

Harrison doesn’t respond. I can see all the words he wants to say, he’s just doing his best to keep them in.

“Harrison,” I say, leaning forward. “It’s fine. It’ll be fine. It’s my first offense, so I doubt I’ll get much . . .”

He shakes his head. “It’s not fine, Owen! I’ve been telling you to stop this shit for over a year now. I knew it would catch up with you and I hate being the one to say I told you so, but I fucking told you so about a million goddamn times.”

I exhale. I’m too tired to listen to this right now. I stand up and set a ten-dollar bill on the bar and I turn around and leave.

He’s right, though. He told me so. And he’s not the only one, because I’ve been telling myself this would catch up to me for a hell of a lot longer than Harrison has.

CHAPTER SEVEN

Auburn

Do you want a refill?”

I smile and say, “Sure,” to the waitress, even though I know I don’t need a refill. I should just leave, but there’s still a small part of me that hopes Lydia will show up. Surely she didn’t forget.

I debate whether or not to text her again. She’s over an hour late and I’m sitting here, pathetically waiting, hoping I don’t get stood up.

Not that she’s the first person to stand me up. That award goes to Owen Mason Gentry.

I should have known. I should have been prepared for it. That entire night with him seemed too good to be true, and the fact that I haven’t heard from him after three solid weeks only proves that my decision to forgo guys was a smart one.

It still stings, though. It hurts like hell because when he walked out my door that Thursday night, I felt so hopeful. Not just about meeting him, but because it made me think Texas wouldn’t be all that bad. I thought maybe for once, things were going to go my way and karma was going to cut me some slack.

As much as it hurt to realize he was full of shit, being stood up by Lydia hurts a little bit more than being stood up by Owen, because at least Owen didn’t stand me up on my birthday.

How could she forget?

I won’t cry. I won’t do it. I’ve shed enough tears over that woman and she’s not causing any more.

The waitress is back at the table, refilling my drink. My nonalcoholic drink.

I’m drinking a pathetic soda, sitting alone in a restaurant, being stood up for the second time this month, and it’s my twenty-first birthday.

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