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Trystan looks over the seat at Katie. “What do you think I should do?”

Her jaw drops and she blinks repetitively, batting her eyelashes. Katie presses her hand to her heart and drops her bagel. Her voice drips with sarcasm as she speaks. “Are you really asking me? Oh my God! Day Jones is asking me a question!” She sounds like a crazed fan, and then laughs, falling back into the seat, and taking another bite of her bagel. “Seriously, Scott. Get over yourself. What do you think is going to happen if people know?”

Trystan realizes that he likes Katie more than he thought he did. She spars with Seth so much that he’s hardly gotten two words in when she’s around. He didn’t expect her to react this way, and that’s good. Mari needs friends like that. Hell, I need friends like that, he thinks, and grins at her. “Okay, wiseass, try again. What happens if I confess and sing? What happens when they know without a doubt that I’m the online legend?”

Mari cuts off Katie. She sees where he’s going with this, and that he needs to think it through. “The agents that tried to sign you show up, the record labels do the same—”

Seth adds, “Except they go to your house, because they think your dad isn’t an a**hole—”

Mari nods and continues, “Then, they find out your stuff is gone. Your dad is a wild card—he could claim you or disown you and say you never lived there—and since he threw out all your stuff—”

Katie cuts her off. “Your dad threw out all your stuff?”

Trystan doesn’t answer. Seth gives Katie the drive-by version. “Trystan’s dad is a shithead and abused him, on and off, forever. Mari almost killed the old guy with a brick the other night, which is what has Trystan on edge. He thinks the press is going to find out and it’ll ruin Mari’s life.”

Mari turns and looks at Trystan as Katie’s jaw hits the carpet. “You’re afraid for me?”

He nods, avoiding her gaze. “I can’t keep them from finding any of that.”

“They won’t find it, Trystan. My files are gone, my dad probably had them all burned. You know how he is. He didn’t want to sue because he didn’t want to leave a paper trail that could come back and haunt him.” The words stick to the back of her throat, but she manages to spit them out.

“What if they know we were together last night?” He takes one of her lose curls and tucks it behind her ear. “If someone saw me come or go, then you’d get in trouble and I don’t want to make your life harder than it already is.”

“Trystan, don’t worry about me.” Smiling kindly, Mari tilts her pretty face to the side. “The worst thing that I had to worry about was Brie, and if this is the best she can do, then I’m overjoyed. Go meet with the suits and pick one. You’ll be good at this Trystan, but you have to want it. You have to own it the way you do when you’re on stage. They’ll love you—all of them—and you’ll be unstoppable no matter what skeletons from your past are aired out.” By the time she stops speaking, Mari has her head tipped in and pressed against his. “Your next move is to let the world know that you’re Day Jones and that you have more songs that are even more awesome than the first.”

Trystan’s blue gaze is locked with hers. His hand is on her back with his thumb sweeping in slow circles. “I can’t do it your expense—”

“It’s not. My path is already set. Trystan, I didn’t mention this before, but I applied to a little college not too far from here. They accepted me. Actually, they offered me a full ride—full tuition, fees, room and board—everything. I didn’t mention it because I didn’t think I could go through with it, but…” her words trail off as a smile creeps across her lips.

Katie butts in, “But she’s going through with it. Little Miss Secrets here just submitted an application for early graduation. She’s ditching me.”

“No shit?” Seth’s breakfast stops half way to his mouth and he stares at Mari.

She nods and flashes smiles. “Yeah, I did.”

Trystan asks, “What about your Dad?”

Katie’s is the one who answers. She’s sucking on a piece of bacon and removes it from her mouth like it’s a lollipop. “Her dad is going to shit bricks—”

“Katie!” Mari yells at her, but she’s right.

“What? It’s the truth.” She chomps on the bacon and starts fighting over the remaining pieces with Seth.

Trystan turns Mari’s face towards his. There are so many emotions flooding through him that he can’t figure out who he feels. “Are you really going to do it?”

“I don’t know. Are you going to admit that you’re Day Jones?”

His eyes flick to Seth as the guy snort-laughs. Trystan says to his friend. “I walked right into that, didn’t I?”

“Yup. She played you, lover boy.” Katie uses the moment to her advantage. She grabs a fist full of bacon before Seth can stop her and shoves the slices in her mouth. “Ah! You bitch! You ate all the bacon!” The greasy meat hangs out the sides of Katie’s mouth. She grins and waves the tips of her fingers at him, laughing. “Fuck it.” Seth turns around and pulls a piece from between her lips and eats it.

“You’re disgusting!” The words come out of Katie’s mouth garbled as she blinks at Seth in shock.

Trystan laughs and squeezes Mari tight. “Yes, he is. And you—Mari Jennings—you’re diabolical.” She laughs as Trystan tickles her. The little movements of his fingers make Mari jerk around on the front seat like a squirrel on a string. She tries to tickle him back, but Trystan has the better angle. There’s no way to get away from him. Katie and Seth are busy telling them how disgustingly cute they are, and someone threatens to douse Trystan and Mari with juice so they stop.

Trystan is smiling wide, “So, we’re both going to do it?”

Mari is grinning at him. “Apparently.”

“Psh,” Katie interrupts, “that was weak, Mari. Own it, woman!”

Mari clutches her hands and screams, “I’m going to college early! Wahoo!” Trystan laughs and hugs her.

“Wahoo?” Seth makes a face. “Isn’t that what the fox says when he falls off a cliff?”

Katie kicks the back of his seat with her big ass boot. “You’re such a moron.”

They continue to bicker, but Trystan doesn’t care. He can’t keep his eyes off of Mari’s. Seth notices. “You guys are going to get slobber all over the leather. I’m getting rid of her now. Where’s your house, Mari?”

Before Mari can object, Trystan slides her into the seat next to him and gives the address. When Seth stops in front of her house, Trystan gets out first and holds the door. Mari slips out and before Katie can crawl out of the backseat, he closes the door. Leaning in through the window, Trystan informs them, “I’m hanging out with Mari. See you at the school tonight.”

“Mari! You can’t leave me with Seth!” Katie has her face in the little gap between the seat belt and the window. She extends her hand. “Save me!”

Trystan wraps his arms around Mari and presses a kiss to her cheek. Seth revs the engine. “Trust me, Katie, you don’t want to hang out with them right now. They’re going to be all lovey dovey and shit. Let’s go find something else to do.”

Seth hits the gas before anyone can reply. As the car travels down the street, Katie turns around and smooshes her face against the back window and gives them both the finger. Trystan laughs and waves at her. “She’s going to kill you later.”

“Me? You’re the one who waved. She remembers stuff like that.”

Trystan makes a mental note to never piss off Katie again. Then he turns to Mari and takes her hands. “So, we have an entire day to ourselves. What should we do?” Stepping closer, he slips his hands around her waist and closes the space between them.

“I might have a few ideas.” She looks up shyly and then laughs.

In that moment, Trystan is so happy that his chest might combust. “Oh? I thought your parents were home during the day?”

“They usually are, but today there’s a meeting and some other stuff that they told me about. The general gist was that they wouldn’t be at the house today or the school tonight.” She mimics her dad’s voice, “Because acting is a waste of your talents.”

Trystan leans in close enough to kiss her. “So, that means that we both have until six o’clock tonight with no parental supervision? That’s a really long time.” His eyes shift to her lips. “Got any ideas?”

Grinning, she pecks him on the lips, and then tugs him toward the front door. “I plan to kick your ass at Guitar Hero for the first hour. Your ego will be so bruised that you won’t be able to look me in the eye after that—” The rest of her verbal jabs are lost in giggles as Trystan presses her against the front door and attacks her with tickles.

“Bruised ego, my ass.”

“I like your ass.” Mari spurts, between bouts of laughter. Suddenly, Trystan’s body is pressed to hers. He steps closer, pressing her back against the door, before kissing her until she forgets to breathe.

CHAPTER 6

TRYSTAN

The bed is soft and it feels good to have Mari against his chest. She’s laying on her side, snuggling into him on top of her comforter. They’ve been lying like this since lunch. Trystan doesn’t remember how they got into the position. They’d been talking, sitting side by side, and now she’s laying in his arms. Tightening his hold around her narrow waist, Trystan feels content. No, it’s past that. For the first time in his life, he’s happy. He can see a way out, a path that leads to something good, and he’s glad that it includes Mari.

“So,” Trystan says, “When were you going to tell me about the early graduation thing?”

She shrugs. “I don’t know. I guess I was saving it for when you decided to tell everyone that you’re Day. Have you thought about how you’re going to do it?”

They talk about it a little bit and decide it should be after the play. Otherwise they fear that the cast will have worked so hard for nothing. Trystan doesn’t want to overshadow them, especially Mari. Plus, kissing her on stage is a moment that he doesn’t want to pass up, and there are several hot kisses in the little production. “Not really. What do you think I should do?”

“Mmm, as much as I hate to say this, I think Seth is right. You have to own it. Spill the whole thing.”

“How? I know I should, but knowing it and saying it are two different things.” Her long hair is draped over her shoulder. She shifts and looks up at him.

“What if we helped? Like me, Seth, and Katie. What if we each said something about why you wouldn’t come forward, so that way when you say that you’re Day Jones, it makes more sense? People are going to wonder why you’re saying it now.”

“Because they found me. If they didn’t know where I was, I wouldn’t say anything.” Trystan rolls onto his side and leans on his elbow. “I wouldn’t have risked this.” He gestures between them. “It’s too important to me.”

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