“That’s good. If he’s trying, then he cares.”

“You think so?” Maybe I wasn’t ready to give up on a relationship with my brother after all. Hearing that he might care more than I thought made me happy.

“Yes, I do.” He leaned back on his hands and stared out at the ocean and I watched as several waves crashed on the shore. “I feel like I’m being selfish tonight. I really should get you home.”

“It’s only, like, eight o’clock.”

He lifted one side of his mouth in a half smile. “And shouldn’t the little high school student be going to bed soon?”

I laughed. “First of all, there is no school tomorrow. Second, you’re in high school too and we graduate in four weeks. Speaking of, why is your girlfriend throwing such an early graduation party?”

“I’m sure everyone is planning their parties for the end of the month and she wanted to be the first and the best. Plus she’s probably going somewhere foreign and exotic the second she graduates.”

“Right.”

“And she’s not my girlfriend.” He leaned forward and took off his shoes. “They’re full of sand,” he explained as he dumped them and set them off to the side.

A print of his hand from where he had been leaning was stamped on the sand between us. I traced a line around it then placed my hand inside of it.

“You have long fingers,” he noted, seeing that my fingertips almost reached the top of the print.

“I do. But the bottom part of your palm is missing from this imprint.”

“I don’t think so.” He held up his hand and nodded for mine.

I pressed my hand against his, aligning our palms. The top of my fingers barely reached his first joint.

“I guess you’re right,” he said. Our hands stayed pressed together for several breaths. “You have sand on your hand.” He took me by the wrist and began gently wiping it off.

My phone rang, making me jump. I left it in my pocket.

He let go of my hand. “Don’t you want to check that?”

“Not really.”

“What if it’s your parents?”

I pulled out my phone to see Bradley’s name flashing on the screen. Hayden and I stared at it until it stopped ringing.

“Still determining?” he asked after a moment of silence.

I shrugged.

He moved his fingers, gesturing for me to hand him my phone.

“You’re not calling him, right?” I gave him my phone.

“Of course not.” He opened my text messaging, entered a number and sent off a text. Then he handed me back the phone. I read the message.

I decided that Bradley is no good for me. I don’t ever need to talk to him again. He did dump me at prom, after all, and left me alone in the parking lot to find my own way home. Plus he’s way too old for me.

“Who did you send this to?”

Right as I asked, his phone chimed. He pulled it out, looked at the screen, then typed in something, and tucked it back into his pocket. He nodded his head toward my phone just as it chimed.

You are so smart. I completely agree. I’m glad you made the right determination. ~H (aka FIB)

I laughed. “You think so, huh?”

“Having been Bradley for a night, I can honestly say that he is no good for you. I mean, you caught him cheating with that other girl, remember?”

I pushed his shoulder. “I think that might have been his sister.”

“Yuck. Even worse.”

I smiled. “Well, if you’re going to determine things for me, then I get to determine things for you.”

“Okay, that’s fair. What’s the verdict?”

“You know what I’m going to say.”

He didn’t deny it.

“You deserve so much better. She really cheated on you with your best friend. You need to let them both go . . . forever.”

As if she sensed we were talking about her, I heard her voice calling out. “Hayden? Are you back here?” And without a second thought, I launched myself at him. I had just meant to jump into his lap, but my momentum sent him onto his back, me landing on top of him.

“Um . . . hi,” he said, looking up at me.

“Hi.” His eyes were amazing up close—crystal blue.

Eve’s voice was louder now, just around the rock, less than three seconds from discovering us.

He reached up and took my face in his hands. He pulled me toward him, the desire in his eyes spelling out his intentions.

“Don’t do it unless you mean it,” I whispered, inches from his lips. I had meant it as a joke but it came out breathy and serious.

He immediately paused, his eyes changing from desire to worry. He turned my head and kissed my cheek instead. I was both disappointed and relieved all at once. I reminded myself what we were really doing. If this didn’t make Eve jealous, nothing would.

CHAPTER 15

“Oh,” I heard Eve gasp. “Sorry.”

We sat up as if caught.

Hayden ran a hand through his hair, brushing off the sand and completely messing up my styling job. “Hi, Eve. Did you need something?”

“No. I mean, yes, um, Spencer is looking for you.”

Hayden’s eyes lit up. “Spencer is here?”

“He just got here. I told him you were coming.”

Hayden jumped to his feet then reached down to help me. He pulled me up so hard that I almost ended up on the ground again. Then he took off, looking back once to make sure I was following. I was trying to, but he was moving fast.

“They have a total bromance,” Eve said, and I realized she was keeping pace with me. “Well, I’m sure you already know that.”

“I haven’t met him.”

“No? They’re practically the same person. Although Spencer is a little over-the-top to Hayden’s go-with-the-flow routine.”

I watched Hayden throw his arms around a guy and they patted each other’s backs several times before separating. I could hear their laughter from where I had slowed to a crawl about thirty feet away.

“He’d want you to meet him,” Eve said, giving me a little push.

“Oh. Right.” I really didn’t want Hayden to have to extend this lie to people he actually cared about, but with Eve standing right there I felt like I had to. I walked forward until I stood next to Hayden. For the first time I had a clear view of Spencer’s face—dark eyes, almost black in this lighting—and I nearly took a step back. I knew him. Well, not really. He went on a date with Laney once two years ago and I had doubled. The only reason I remembered him was because he’d been a total jerk, mean to her the whole date then trying to make out with her when it was over.

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