“We met online.” Ian lunged at me, but his foot slipped on the gravel, giving me plenty of time to make it around to the other side of the car. He rose slowly, holding his hands up in surrender. “All right, all right. You win.”
“Ian, give me some credit. I’ve fought with you for sixteen years. You think I don’t know that the fake out is your go-to move?”
He just raised his hands higher. “Look, even if Mom and Dad do find out, that just means we’re even. I have to deal with the fallout of you messing around with Cubby, and you have to deal with the fallout of me staying in Ireland. Now give me the keys.”
“I told you to stop talking about Cubby,” I said. “And you being embarrassed in front of your friends is not a fallout.”
Rowan’s voice floated out the window. “Is Cubby your oldest brother?”
“No,” Ian said shortly, his eyes on me. “That’s Walt.”
“Oh, right. Walt.” Rowan cracked his door and got out, clutching a jumbo-size box of cold cereal that read SUGAR PUFFS. “Look, guys. As entertaining as this is, we all know you can’t keep this up forever. So why don’t we head inside and grab a real breakfast?” He shook his Sugar Puffs winningly at Ian. “Or something stronger if you need it. A pint? We could talk it through.”
I shook my head. “We aren’t old enough for a pint. And there’s nothing to talk about—”
In a flash of dark hair, Ian slid across the front of the car and clutched my wrist. We settled into a death grip, Ian fighting to wrench the keys from my hands while I curled up like a pill bug, channeling all my energy into keeping my fists closed. Another classic Addie/Ian fight move. In junior high we’d once maintained this position for eleven and a half minutes, and that was over an Oreo. Walter had timed us. “Ian . . . let . . . go.”
Rowan leaned back against the car, popping a handful of cereal into his mouth. “You two are the best argument I’ve ever seen for single-child families.” He crunched for a moment, then swallowed. “Okay, here’s a wild idea. Addie, what if you relinquish the keys to my custody and then join us on our first stop?”
“Not a good idea,” Ian said, leveraging his shoulder against mine.
“What do you mean join you?” My elbow plunged directly under Ian’s rib cage.
“Addie,” Ian groaned. “That hurt.”
“That one’s my signature move,” I said proudly.
“Hear me out.” Rowan raised his Sugar Puffs into the air. “The first site is not too far from here. Less than an hour. Addie, you can come with us and learn a little more about what Ian’s doing. Then you two can come up with a solid plan to avoid detection by your parents, and then Addie can be on her way. No death matches involved. ”
First site. Did that mean there was more than one? Curiosity bit into me, but I wasn’t about to start asking questions. Not about a trip Ian was not taking. And especially not when every bit of my energy was currently being channeled into maintaining possession of Rowan’s keys. “We can’t risk missing our flight,” I said, putting a heavy emphasis on the “we.” “Not seeing Lina is not an option.”
“My best friend.”
“Oh, duh. The one who moved to Italy.”
“What else did Ian tell you about me?” I asked, doubling down on the keys.
“Don’t flatter yourself,” Ian said. “Believe it or not, we don’t spend all our time talking about you.”
I spun away and tried to run for the hotel, but Ian executed a half tackle, and the keys flew out of my hands, jangling across the gravel. I scrambled for them, but Ian got there first.
He ran for the car. “Let’s go!” he shouted, tossing the keys to Rowan, but Rowan didn’t follow. Instead, he carefully placed the keys in his pocket, surveying me seriously. “Just come with us on our first stop. The airport’s a straight shot from the Burren. We’ll make it in plenty of time.”
Burren. Where had I heard that word before? You know where, buttercup, a little voice said. Guidebook Lady. Of course.
“Are you talking about the place of stone?” I asked.
He brightened, shoving his glasses up enthusiastically. “You’ve heard of it?”
“I read about it last night.” Ireland for the Heartbroken had a whole section on the Burren, right after the Cliffs of Moher entry. What were the odds that Ian’s first stop on his not-happening road trip was also in my heartbreak guide? My stance shifted. “You really think we’d make it on time?”
“Absolutely.” Rowan flashed me a friendly smile.
Ian made a strangled noise, then positioned himself between us. “Look, Rowan, I appreciate what you’re trying to do here, but this is a bad idea.” And just in case Rowan didn’t get the point, he kept going. “A really bad idea. We need to stick to the original plan.”
“It is not a really bad idea,” I protested.
“But we would be following the original plan, just with a minor detour to the airport. It wouldn’t put us behind at all.” Rowan’s voice was slow with uncertainty, his eyebrows bent. He didn’t have to say it for us to hear it: Why are you being such a jerk about this?
Ian’s shoulders sagged, and his right hand disappeared nervously into his hair. “But . . . there’s a lot of stuff in your car. Where would she sit?”
“Easy. She’s a little yoke. We’ll make room.” A little yoke? Rowan lifted his chin up to me. “You don’t mind a tight squeeze for an hour or so, do you?”
I leaned over to look through the back window. Ian wasn’t exaggerating. Not only did the car have the tiniest back seat in existence, but it was packed full the way Archie’s and Walter’s cars were whenever they left to start a new semester at college. A jumble of clothes, books, and toiletries. For once, being tiny was going to pay off. “I can make it work.”
Ian shifted back and forth between his feet, absentmindedly strumming the zipper on his jacket. He was torn. No matter what he said, he didn’t feel okay about abandoning me at the hotel. The big brother was too strong in him. I was going to have to use it to my advantage.
“Look, it makes sense.” Rowan held out the cereal box to Ian, but he waved it off. “What you guys need is some time to get used to this idea. Going to the Burren will give us that time. ”
“This is a bad idea,” Ian repeated.
“You already said that.” Two scenarios played through my head. Best case, I used the extra time to talk some sense into Ian. Worst case, I saw another guidebook site, and maybe got one step closer to healing my broken heart—that is, if Guidebook Lady knew what she was talking about—before continuing on to Italy alone. My mental Magic 8 Ball tumbled out an answer: All signs point to yes.
I took an authoritative step toward Rowan. “I need you to give me the keys.”
“Do not give them to her,” Ian ordered.
One of Rowan’s eyebrows lifted, a smile pulling at the corner of his mouth.
“I have to go get my suitcase. And I need insurance that you aren’t just going to leave while I’m gone.”
“Rowan . . . ,” Ian warned.
Rowan nodded thoughtfully and threw them to me in one smooth motion, his grin still playing on his face. His smiles felt like a payday. “Sorry, Ian. She’s right: I wouldn’t leave us alone in the parking lot either. And I’m a sucker for a well-thought-out argument.”
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com