Problem is, the night in the gazebo ended with me trying to ease Maggie's skirt up so I could see her scars. Maggie pushed my hand away. She didn't trust me. The night kind of went downhill from there.

In the suite, Erin and Trish are in the lounge area. I peek into the girls' room. Having Maggie mad at me isn't my intention.

Maggie is lying on one of the beds. Matt is sitting on the bed next to her. They're obviously in an intimate conversation, because they're alone and whispering. Oh, hell.

I retreat and head back to the guys' room, glad they didn't catch me watching them. Lenny is sitting on his bed, wearing nothing but his skimpy briefs. He's holding a personal mini-fan up to his chest.

"You do know the girls can walk in here at any second, don't you?"

The door wasn't closed or locked. Trish and Erin are sitting right outside the door, and if they crane their necks they'd probably have a good view of Lenny practically naked.

"I don't give a shit, Caleb. I'm fucking hot as hell." He proceeds to lift up the band of his briefs and faces the mini-fan toward his dick. "My poor ball sacks are sweatin' so bad I swear I won't be able to have kids. My boys are being cooked to death in there."

"Might be a good thing. I'm not sure you should be allowed to procreate anyway," I murmur as I turn away. I'm glad Damon isn't making me go to dinner with the group, 'cause getting a glimpse of Lenny fanning his sweaty nuts made me lose my appetite.

Seeing Maggie and Matt talking on her bed hasn't helped my appetite or mood, either.

"Just an FYI," Lenny says, his face still red from the nasty sunburn. "I've got a shitload of condoms in my duffle. Front pocket."

"For what?"

"Listen, if you don't know what condoms are for I'm not gonna teach you."

"I know what they're for, shithead. I just highly doubt you're getting any ass on this trip."

"Watch me," Lenny says. "My boy gets action all the time."

"Yeah, I bet your right hand is tired from all that action," I mumble as I walk to the bathroom.

"I'm a leftie!" Lenny calls after me. I try not to wince from thinking about it.

I take a quick shower to cool off, then change into jeans and a T-shirt. I don't have a chance to explain or apologize to Maggie, because she's too busy talking with Matt. Thing is, they deserve each other. Matt's a decent guy. I can't blame him for going for her. Maggie might not be the girl who stands out in a crowd or the one with a model's body, but once you get to know her, I mean really know her, you just see her ... a girl who wears her heart on her sleeve and is so genuine you're afraid every word out of your mouth will come out wrong. She's someone you don't have to worry will cheat on you, like my ex Kendra did. Maggie is-

I've got to stop thinking about her. It's like I'm torturing myself for no reason except to piss myself off.

After the group leaves for dinner and whatever additional festivities Damon has planned, I need some air. The suite is too hot even with the windows wide open.

I walk through the tree-lined Freeman University campus, trying not to think about how I got here and what I'll be doing after this program is finished. I've got nothing to look forward to.

I walk past a bunch of guys playing football on the quad. The quarterback has no aim and the ball flies right in my direction.

I catch it.

"Nice catch," one guy says. "We could use another receiver. Wanna play?"

"Sure," I say, shrugging.

I join one of the teams and play with them until it's too dark to see the ball and one of the guys tells the others they're late for their own frat party.

"What's your name?" the quarterback asks me as we walk off their makeshift field.


"I'm David. Listen, Caleb. My buddies and I are having a little get-together at our frat house. Come with us."

"Yeah. Come on," one of the other guys says as he tosses the football in the air. "It's the least we could do for having you help us kick Garrett's ass on the field today."

"That was suh-weet!" the quarterback agrees, and they give each other an enthusiastic high-five.

I follow the guys two blocks until we reach their fraternity house. It's impressive-a massive three-story house with four white columns in front. It looks like a damn mansion. A bunch of girls and guys are hanging on the front porch. Music blares from inside.

As soon as I walk in with David and the other guys, I realize their little party isn't a little party. It's a big one, and it's in full swing.

Before I know it, David shoves a red plastic cup in my hand. "So, Caleb, you a freshman? Haven't seen you around FU before."

"I'm not really a student," I say, then take a sip of whatever's in the cup. Beer. Cold beer. I'm sure Damon had some rule about drinking, but the alcohol tastes so good going down my throat that I'm not about to toss it. The fact that I know the more I drink the more I'll stop thinking about Maggie and Matt sitting on her bed this afternoon deep in conversation is a bonus. "I'm staying in the dorms for a stupid program I got stuck on."

"I hate stupid programs," David says.

"Hey, Davie," says a blonde girl with a short skirt and low-cut top. She finishes off the beer in her plastic cup, and I get the distinct feeling she started partying way before us. "Who's your hot friend?"

David drapes his arm on the girl's shoulders. "Caleb, this is Brandi. She's one of our frat house neighbors and our resident babe. Brandi, show my man Caleb here a good time." He excuses himself with a wink to me.

The girl looks me up and down, then flashes me a wide smile with a peek of tongue showing.

"Wanna dance?" she asks.

I finish what's left in my cup. "Sure."

She takes my hand and leads me to a crowded room off to the side. There's a keg and we both fill up our cups. Cup in hand, she starts moving her sexy body to the music. I hastily gulp my beer down and walk toward her. Our bodies grind together with the beat of the music, and one thought goes through my mind: tonight I need this girl.



here's Caleb?" I ask Damon as we walk to the pizza place a few blocks away from the campus. He said a high school youth group is meeting us there, so their members can talk to us and hear our stories.

"He's gonna stay in tonight," Damon says. "I think he needs time to cool off and think about why he's here."

I sigh, knowing the truth of it all. "He doesn't want to be a part of this group."

"Yeah, well, he needs to be here nonetheless," Damon says as his cell rings. "He just needs to get a grip on his emotions."

As Damon takes the call, Matt is at my side. "You okay?" he asks.

I nod. "I'm kind of glad Caleb isn't coming with us."

"Me too."

I flash Matt a questioning look. "Why?"

"'Cause you seem upset when he's around." He shrugs sheepishly. "I don't like seeing you upset."

I put my arm around Matt and smile up at him. "Thanks for being a good friend," I say, leaning into his chest as we follow the others.

He puts his arm around me. "No prob."

It's nice knowing I have Matt here. During physical therapy we'd talk a bit, and complain about Robert, our physical therapist. Robert loves to push his patients to the limit whether they like it or not.

"Caleb's not such a bad guy," I tell him.

"I know," Matt says. "Caleb's cool. All of us have screwed-up shit we have to work out. Caleb just seems to have sunk deeper than we have."

"You seem to be handling your problems better than most of us on this trip," I tell him.

"I fake it. Truth is, I'm glad I'm here, but I've got to admit that some of those kids last night looked at me like I was a complete moron." He pauses, then adds, "Then again, I was a complete moron, but it's like going through it all over again. I wonder if I'll ever get used to the looks and the stares."

"I won't," I admit to him. "At first I was super selfconscious whenever I'd walk into a room ... I noticed all eyes on me. I still get the pity stares, which might be worse than your moron stares."

"Come on, Maggie. We both have obvious disabilities, unlike the rest on this trip. And we're both trying to get over our past relationships."

Matt stops and lets the others go ahead of us. "Can you imagine us as a couple?" he asks me.

I'm not sure if he's wondering how people would react to seeing a limping girl and one-armed boy together, or if he really is wondering if I could imagine dating him.

I've never thought about it before.

Matt's sweet.

He's cute.

He's a good guy.

But ...

"That was rhetorical question, wasn't it?" I ask.

He brushes a stray hair from my face and tucks it behind my ear. "Maybe. Then again, maybe not."

He leans down and I know he's going to kiss me. I should do it, if for no other reason than to give Matt a chance and prove to myself that I'm open to being with someone besides Caleb.

His lips meet mine and he wraps his arm around me. It's not passionate and hot like Caleb's kisses, but it's nice and safe and warm and ...

I pull away. "I can't."

Matt looks sad. "Maybe we're not ready to move on after all."

My cell phone in my purse starts ringing. I don't know if Matt is right or wrong. I like Matt ... I've always liked Matt. He's a great guy that any girl should be proud to date.

So why couldn't I kiss Matt without thinking about Caleb?

My phone rings again and I fish it out of my purse. It's probably my mom, since I'd left a message for her after I charged my phone in the suite. But when I look at the Caller ID, I feel a jolt of surprise. It's Leah Becker, Caleb's sister. We stopped being friends after the accident, but after Caleb left Paradise, we started talking again. Leah's emotions run high, and they're right on the surface. She's emotionally fragile and no longer the best friend I once knew. I hope she'll snap out of it at some point.

"Hey, Leah. I'm glad you called." I watch as Matt joins the rest of the group, giving me privacy.

"Hey, Maggie," Leah says softly. She's still got a lot of issues regarding the accident, and even though I've forgiven her, she hasn't actually forgiven herself. "How's the trip?"

"Good. We've only talked to one group so far, but it was okay. Right now we're staying at the dorms at Freeman University, right by the Wisconsin border. What have you been doing?"

Silence. Leah doesn't talk as much as she used to, so I pretty much hold up our conversations now. It's okay. I know it's part of her own healing process.

"Not much," she finally says. "Just hanging around, mostly."

That's pretty much all there is to do in Paradise in the summer. Some people take vacations, but most people stay in Paradise and never leave. I know two people who left Paradise-my father and Caleb.

That thought freezes me in my tracks, and I just stand on the sidewalk as the rest of the groups walks ahead of me. I stare blindly after them while the reality hits me: I get left behind by the men in my life who are supposed to love me.

I blink, and focus on the restaurant a half a block away. Everyone is out front, gesturing for me to get off the phone. I can't hang up with Leah without telling her, "Caleb's here."