“Please, I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Just hear me out and then I’ll shut up.”

“Fine.”

She nodded once. “Thank you. So here’s the thing,” she said again with a smirk in my direction. “He didn’t want to be Ryan. He didn’t want to choose a girl over a friend. He had just been on the wrong end of that and knew how it felt and he didn’t want to do it to someone else. To the only friend he had left after everything with Eve blew up. He needed to believe Spencer. But it doesn’t matter anymore because he confronted him. Like, really confronted him and the truth about you came out. And he’s a mess, Gia.”

“He hasn’t tried to call or text or anything.”

“Because he screwed up and he knows it. He doesn’t think he deserves a second chance. So please, you have to talk to him.”

“I shouldn’t have to be the one to initiate this.”

“I know, believe me, I know. But you told him not to call you. And now he’s playing the ‘I don’t deserve her’ card. I swear, I don’t know if all actors are this dramatic or just him but I’m ready to kill him. You have to forgive him before he drives me insane.”

“But I don’t know if I do forgive him.”

“Fine. I guess I have to kill both of you, then.” She pulled up the long dirt drive of Will’s house. We passed the truck we had thrown baseballs at last time and I thought maybe this trip was a bad idea after all because the memories came pouring in.

The four big dogs surrounded our car, barking. Bec honked but no one came out to put them away.

“It’s all you this time,” she said.

“What? You really are going to kill me? I thought that was a joke.”

“They won’t kill you. I can’t promise they won’t bite you.”

I looked into the backseat. “Where are the baseballs?”

“You know, I didn’t think I needed to bring a bucket of balls to school this morning.”

“I thought that’s why we took your car. Maybe we should just leave.”

“No, we’re here. There are always a few we accidentally leave behind. I bet there’s a couple inside our last target practice.”

I chewed on my lip, watching the dogs jump up on the car.

She patted the center console. “Can I borrow your phone for a sec? Mine ran out of juice.”

I dug my phone out of my pocket and handed it to her then watched her start to dial in a number. She noticed me watching, reached over, and unbuckled my seat belt. “Come on. Out.”

“Fine. When these dogs maim me, I’m giving your name to the police.”

She didn’t respond and I stepped out of the car. The dogs immediately jumped on me, knocking me several steps backward. I caught myself on the car.

“Show them who’s boss,” she said, reaching over and shutting the door I’d left open.

I grabbed one by the collar and led him toward the fence. The others followed, nipping at my heels and barking. They were so loud my ears rang. I was convinced Will wasn’t home or he would’ve thought an army was coming to rob his house. Once they were safely behind the gate, I turned with a proud smile to see that the car and Bec were gone. I walked slowly back to the road, thinking maybe she’d just parked it somewhere. I instinctively reached for my pocket to pull out my phone and remembered she’d borrowed it . . . stolen it! She’d set me up. For what I wasn’t sure, but I did not have to go along with this.

With my best friendly face on, I knocked on Will’s door, hoping I was wrong about him not being home. Maybe he just enjoyed watching his dogs terrorize people. His house may have looked older than dirt but he had to have a phone in there. Nobody answered. I peered through the dirt-smudged window to the right of the door and saw nothing but a darkened hallway.

How had people ever lived without cell phones? I was stuck in the middle of nowhere. I sank to the porch and put my forehead on my knees. Bec had to come back sometime. At the very least, someone would have to wonder where I was when school got out. Maybe. As I sat there, alone, I thought about what she’d said about Hayden. He was a mess, she’d said. That thought twisted my heart and for one moment I thought that maybe she was right. That I really did need to give him a second chance, give us a second chance. It’s what I was asking for from Claire. How could I not offer the same thing to someone else? But as soon as that thought came, the night on the beach pressed on my shoulders. This was different from my fight with Claire. He’d called me a liar when I’d never lied to him. He didn’t believe me after his friend had been a major jerk.

Anger surged through me. No. I couldn’t get over what had happened so easily. My eyes zeroed in on the ’68 Camaro across the yard. I pushed myself to my feet and went in search of some baseballs.

CHAPTER 36

The pile of balls I’d found littered the tall weeds by my feet. I’d found more than a couple. It took me about thirty minutes, but I’d collected at least twenty. I held one in my hand, poised to throw it at the Camaro. A memory of sitting in that car with Hayden came to my mind and I almost dropped the ball. Then another memory surged to the front to stomp it out, Bec’s words from that same day: “Did you use the ‘climb over me into the car’ move on her?” she’d said. He’d done that with another girl. Probably Eve.

I pulled my arm back and threw the ball with all my might. It hit the door with a loud clank then bounced off and rolled across the ground. The ding it left in the rusted door was hardly noticeable and only heightened my need to do damage. Real damage. I picked up another ball and hurled it. Then another.

Soon it wasn’t just Hayden I was trying to crush but Jules and my parents, Drew and myself. I reached down for another ball and felt nothing but dirt. I had thrown them all. My heart rate was high and my cheeks were wet with sweat and maybe a few tears.

I started to gather the balls when behind me I heard, “Do you want to throw a few at the actual person those are intended for or is the car satisfying enough?”

I whirled around. Hayden held out his arms like he was really giving me permission to pelt him. It was tempting.

My shoulders rose and fell several times. After the week I’d had, I just wanted to wrap myself up in him and forget what had happened. But I couldn’t. As I stood there staring at Hayden I wondered if he was playing a role right now. The calm and collected humble guy. Was he putting up a front for me? Because he didn’t look like the mess Bec claimed he was. I threw the baseball I held after all. Not hard and it didn’t even hit him but it almost did.

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