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“Yes, you can,” Bree says, her big silver hoop earrings moving with each tilt of her head. “I know the bouncer. He’ll let us in as soon as we get there so we don’t have to stand in line. You need this, Monika.”

I look over at Ashtyn, who’s always been the voice of reason. Surely she’ll realize that me going out is a bad thing.

“Ash, don’t make me do this.”

My best friend, the one who always has my back, grabs my blanket and yanks it off the bed. I should have remembered she’s a football player on the boys’ team—she’s not weak, and she’s been trained by the toughest coach in the Midwest. “Sorry, Monika,” Ashtyn says. “Bree’s right this time. You’ve been holed up in your room, and you need to get out and have some fun. No excuses this time.”

“I don’t want to have fun,” I tell them, wringing my hands together in an effort to lessen the joint pain always present. “I just want to lie here and sulk the rest of my life.”

“Yeah, well, only losers do that, and I’m too cool to be friends with a loser,” Bree says after she puts down the offending cup of water and scans my closet. “So get your ass up and take a shower so you don’t smell like old sushi. We’re leaving in an hour, whether you’re wearing those ugly sweats or not.”

“They’re comfy,” I say, defending my wardrobe choice.

“We’re not going for the comfy look. We’re aiming for the hot-and-sexy look.” Bree holds up a little red dress with the tags still on it. “Listen, we’re here to rescue you. Now you can choose to be a dud or join us. Which is it?”

Sometimes you have to go out of your comfort zone to truly feel alive. That’s what Vic told us when he did the polar jump in Lake Michigan last winter.

I told him he was crazy.

In response, he picked me up and jumped into the frigid water with me—and my clothes. Trey was amused—until Vic coaxed him into the water, too.

Vic constantly told me that I lived my life safe and predictable. As I squeeze into the tiny red dress Bree picked out for me, I wish Vic could see me now. Tonight I’m not playing it safe or predictable. I’m going to go out and forget about Trey and his secrets. I’m going to forget about Vic and his warm lips and passion that oozes from his every pore.

I take a shower and check myself in the mirror. When I bend over the sink to put my eyeliner on, my back starts to ache. I take a pill to relieve it.

I wonder what Vic is doing right now. He hasn’t been in contact with me since I kissed him. Regret settles into my chest, especially because I can’t get him out of my mind.

What’s wrong with me?

Just the thought of kissing Vic sends a tingling sensation throughout my body. I don’t want to feel anything for Vic, but attempting to ignore that something’s brewing between us doesn’t make the feeling go away.

I wish he’d talk to me about it instead of pretending I don’t exist.

Before we leave my room, Ash and Bree examine me. They have no clue that my heart is aching.

“You’re gorgeous,” Ash tells me. “Now remember, this night is for you. Have fun. Lose your inhibitions. Forget the crap of the past month and focus on your happiness for once. Promise me you’ll do that.”

I put on a big, fake smile. “I promise.”

Tonight is about me, about going out of my comfort zone and forgetting Vic and everything else. I take a deep breath. I can do this.

I think.

When we get to Club Mystique, loud music is pounding from inside the club and there are a ton of people in line to get in. Girls wearing sexy dresses, dark makeup, and long hair are a staple here. I can usually fit in, but I’m feeling self-conscious, and the painkiller is starting to kick in. It’s making me loopy.

Suddenly I wish Vic were here with me. He always seems confident in everything he does. It’s actually annoying. I wish I were that confident. I can act the part though. Bree takes acting lessons. She says you have to become the role that you’re playing. You have to commit or quit.

Tonight I’m going to commit.

I can do this. I can be like Vic and be confident. Blending in won’t be a problem.

A couple of girls are on the sidewalk walking toward the club. They’ve got iron-straight hair and fake nails that are way too long to actually be able to do anything productive except attract boys. And they’ve all got stilettos that make them tower over me.

When we step in front of the line to talk to the bouncer guy who Bree knows, we get dirty looks from some of the people waiting in line. But Bree doesn’t care, especially when we’re immediately let in the club.

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