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Me: Maybe these feelings are like a 24-hour head cold or something and they’ll go away.

Hang: No. Don’t think so. He’s more of a plague than a flu.

Hang: We decided to be sexfriends the night of his birthday. But he keeps hanging around and wanting to do things together and to hold my hand all the damn time. He’s even started teaching me how to play basketball. This is all wrong.

Me: Ok. Wow. What do you want to do about it?

Hang: I have the worst feeling I’m going to have to try getting serious with him. Doomed.

Me: He is cute.

Hang: No. Insanity is not cute…well a little maybe.

Me: At least he makes you laugh.

Hang: That’s true. How are you doing?

Me: I told John I loved him.

Hang: Yikes.

Me: I know. But screw it, life is short. Why not tell him?

Hang: Now he definitely knows you’re not avoiding the whole going public thing.

Me: I hope so.

Hang: And who knows, you could get hunted down by that pack of rabid Pekingese out to get you any day now. Then where would you be if you hadn’t told him?

Me: Dying from very small dog bites with regret in my heart.

Hang: Exactly. I think you did the right thing.

Me: Thanks. And I appreciate you taking my doggie doomsday theories seriously.

Hang: No problem. That’s what friends are for, right?

Me: Right. :)

Hang: Mom’s yelling at me to go to bed. Let’s reconvene on these issues tomorrow. Night. Xx

Me: Night. xx



Erika came up to me outside class, Friday afternoon—exactly what I didn’t need spoiling my happy thoughts of the weekend. Saturday night with John was so close and with just a little more work, Mom might give on the nine o’clock curfew. I might wind up cleaning our toilets until the end of the year, but it’d be worth it. Matt’s word regarding John and me spending our study dates actually studying had gone a long way toward her calming down. So had evidence of my grades improving.

Though there had been another box of condoms under my pillow when I went to bed last night. With the way she kept throwing them at me, you’d think she wanted to find him in my bed again.

“We need to talk,” said Erika, standing in my way.

“Going to have to disagree with you there.”

She grabbed my arm, trying to stop me from walking away down the hall. I just gave her hand a look. So tempting to push the bitch back a step, but I’d promised John to take it easy. Still, other students slowed to a halt around us, watching with eager eyes. God save me from drama lovers.

Erika released my arm, but still blocked my path. Obviously nervous, she licked her lips. “John won’t talk to me—”

“That’s his choice.”

“It’s about Dillon,” she said.

“You still trying to pass on messages from his brother?” I leaned in closer, getting in her face, because why not? “Has it occurred to you that you might be getting used?”

“It’s not that.” She shuffled her feet, fussing with the strap of her bag. You’d have thought we were doing a deal on some dark street corner with the way the girl was acting.

“Then what?” I asked. “What do you want, Erika?”

“I went over to Dillon’s last night and . . . he’s not doing well.” Her gaze roamed to the people watching and she frowned. “He was saying all sorts of crazy shit.”

“What sort of crazy shit?”

“Just . . . tell John to be careful.”

“What did he say?”

Turning her back on me, she got moving. “Just tell him.”

Huh. This, whatever it was, did not feel good. Dillon had managed to scare Erika into sounding like a genuinely concerned human being, instead of a haughty bitch. That was actually kind of frightening.

John had picked me up that morning so we could grab a mom-approved quick breakfast together on our way to school. After the weird chat with Erika, I found him waiting out by the beast, Anders busy spinning a basketball on his finger while Hang watched with an indulgent smile. Nothing going on between them, my ass. They were about as believable as John and I.

“Just had an interesting conversation,” I said, leaning my body against his and waiting for my welcome kiss.

He delivered it with a smile. “What?”

“Erika says to be careful of your brother.”

His gaze narrowed, lips flattening. “Really?”

“Really.” I wandered around to the passenger side and dumped my bag in the car.

“Bestie rides shotgun,” pouted Anders. “Everyone knows that.”

“Apparently she went over to your old place and he was saying some scary shit. She wouldn’t say what. Have you seen him since the fight?” I asked, ignoring the idiot in our midst. Some things were more important. “John?”

He slipped on his sunglasses, looking across the roof of the car at me with a blank face. “He stopped by the other week. Uncle Levi told him he’d sic the cops on him if he saw him near the house again. Nothing since then.”


With one finger, he scratched at the side of his nose. “I mean, he’s tried calling me a couple of times. But I don’t usually answer.”

“Usually?” I asked, voice tightening. “He beat you up, John.”

“He’s my brother and we beat each other up. Trust me, he didn’t come out of it looking too good either.”

I don’t think I was wearing my happy face.

“You’re an only child, Edie. You don’t know what it’s like,” he said. “I can’t just turn my back on him.”

Brows tight, I fished my own sunglasses out of my bag. The afternoon light was shining blindingly bright. “So he still wants you to deal?”

“It’s more complicated than that.”

Anders’s head swung between us, the basketball still in his hands. “Hang. Boo. Give me a lift home?”


“Talk to you later, loser.” He slapped John on the back, then picked up his bag.

“Saturday night?” Hang asked me.

“I don’t know. Old Cemetery Road okay with you?”

“You sure?”

“Mom shifted my curfew a little. But I don’t mind only catching the start of the party. It’ll give John a chance to do some boarding.”