and married to his brother.”

When I slide into the backseat of the car, there is the neces-sary interval of waiting while Nic and Vivien make out. I hum under my breath, trying to ignore the kissing noises and rustle of clothes. After a couple of minutes, I lean forward, tap each of their shoulders. “I’m right here,” I whisper.

Nic looks back, wiping Vivien’s shiny peach lip gloss off, winks at me. Vivien just smiles in the rearview mirror, eyes bright. Then she reads my face. “What’s wrong?”

“The Robinsons are coming back,” I say flatly, digging in my pocket for the mascara I grabbed from the bathroom.

She blows out a breath, ruffling the little strands of hair stealing out of her pigtails. “When?”


“Shit,” Vivie says, turning the key in the ignition, squeal-ing backward with a jolt. Nic and I brace ourselves, his hand against the dashboard, me with my feet flattened against the back of the driver’s seat. Viv jerks the car forward and revs the motor like she’s in the Indy 500. She flunked her driving test three times.

“Yeah,” I mutter.

Nic’s leaned back now, his elbow resting on the sill of the open window. “Don’t worry about it,” he says.

I swallow, shrug, scratching at a mosquito bite on my thigh.

Vivien roars into the driveway of Hooper’s house, narrowly missing the mailbox, and leans heavily on the horn, blasting so loudly I expect it to blow leaves off the nearby trees. Without looking, Nic reaches over, lifts her hand, and kisses it. “I think you’ve made your point.”

Hoop bounds down the steps, his hair sticking up in all directions. As usual he looks like he dressed in the dark—plaid shirt, ratty striped shorts. He whacks Nic on the back, then slides in next to me, too close. “Yo Gwenners!” he says, nudg-ing me with a pointy shoulder.

“Hey, Hoop, whoa, can I have some space?”

“Sure, sure.” He slides a fraction of an inch farther away, then smiles at me goofily. We peel down the hill, headed for the less ritzy of the Seashell beaches. The summer people stick to Abenaki, which is shielded from the open sea, has gentler waves and a less rocky beach. That’s where they moor their boats. But Sandy Claw is where the local kids go, the place for illegal fireworks and loud music from someone’s car speakers.

In fact, the sound of the music as we drive close is so loud Vivien has to shout to be heard. “This catering thing, tomorrow? It’s got a black-and-white theme. The uniforms work fine for us, Gwen, but Nico, you’ll need a dinner jacket.”

Nic groans. “Tell me no tux. Please, Vee. I lose half the cash I make renting the damn thing.”

“If I have to wear a monkey suit, I’m out,” Hoop says. “Turns off the ladies.”

Vivien’s eyes widen at me in the rearview mirror, comi-cally large. Five-foot three-inch, clothing-challenged Hoop, the chick magnet. Maybe if he’d stop calling them “the ladies.”

Sandy Claw’s already crowded when we get there, kids we’ve grown up with milling around the bonfire and the shore.

Hoop springs out of the car and heads for the cooler, brush-ing aside the cans of Coke and orange soda with single-minded purpose, rummaging for the beer. Vivien hauls a plaid picnic blanket from the back of the truck. She hands it to Nic, giving him her glowing, mischievous smile. After laying out the blanket, they immediately begin doing their thing. It’s a testament to . . . something about Nic and Vivie that no one even bats an eye at them macking all over each other. Nic calls to me as they lie down, “Grab me a brew, cuz?”

“To drink or should I pour it on you?” I call back. He ignores me, all wrapped up—literally—in Vivien.

Pam D’Ofrio walks over next to me, says only, “Really keeping it PG tonight, aren’t they?” in her flat, deadpan voice.

We’re joined by Manny Morales, Marco’s—the head main-tenance guy’s—son.

We talk for a few minutes about summer jobs—Manny’s doing dishes at this place called Breakfast Ahoy, Pam’s work-63

ing at Esquidaro’s Eats, one of Castle’s rival restaurants.

“It beats babysitting,” Pam says. “Last year I sat for the Carter twins. They were four and so crazy their mom insisted I put them on those leash things when I took them out. My first day, we were walking to the playground and they wrapped their leashes around a telephone pole, tied me up like a spider with a fly and ran off. Took me ten minutes to undo the knots. Little SOBs.”

“Didja quit?” Manny asked.

Pam shakes her head. “No guarantee what I quit for wouldn’t have been even worse.”

Manny asks, “You gonna rat me out to my dad if I snag a beer?” He’s sixteen and Marco’s strict.

We shake our heads.

He comes back, settling down heavily next to us against the waterlogged old tree trunk that’s been on the beach forever.

Nic and Vivien carry on like our own private floor show.

“Must be nice,” Pam says. “Being comfortable doing that. In public.” She shakes her head. “Can’t imagine.” Pam has been with Shaunee, her girlfriend, since eighth grade.

Manny drains half the bottle, wipes his lips with the back of his hand. “At least they’re putting a ring on it,” he says, lifting his elbow at Nic and Vivien.

“What? ” I ask.

“Getting hitched, right?”

I scoot back in the sand, staring at him. “What?” I say again.

Then laugh. “No way. Why would you think that?”

“My brother Angelo works at Starelli’s Jewelers, in the mall.

Nic and Vivien were in this weekend, checking out engagement rings.” Manny scratches the back of his neck, looks uncomfortable, like he just said more than he should have.

I peek over at Vivien and Nic. He’s smoothing her hair back and giving her these nibbling kisses along her jawline.

It can’t be true. Vivien’s incapable of keeping anything to herself about Nic ( way more than I want to know about my cousin). And Nic, while he doesn’t tell me everything . . . he’d never keep a thing that big from me. Ever.

Manny’s pushing at the sand with his feet, avoiding my eyes, and I realize I should have said something in return, but I can’t even find words.

Getting married?

That’s crazy.