“You keep that self-deprecating attitude up, you’ll have nothing to worry about.” He looks over at Honor. “You guys have odd names. What’s up with that?”
“Says the guy named Luck,” I reply. “What was your mother thinking?” As soon as I say it, I regret it. He’s probably still grieving her recent death and here I am bringing her up. “Sorry,” I mutter. “That was insensitive.”
“No worries. She was a terrible person. I haven’t seen her in years.”
“I thought you lived with her. And that’s why you came here, because she died.”
He raises a brow. “No, I told you that’s what I told Victoria. But I haven’t lived anywhere since Victoria kicked me out. Hopped on a bus to Canada to stay with a friend of mine. A few months and a fake ID later, I got a job on a cruise ship. Been doing that for the last five years.”
“You’ve been working on cruise ships?”
He nods. “I’ve been to thirty-six different countries so far.”
“That explains the sporadic accent.”
“Maybe so. I liked reinventing myself on every cruise. The work and routine were monotonous, so I would pretend to be someone different on every sail. I have about fourteen different accents nailed. It went on for so long, I get confused now when I try to talk normal.”
I stare at him for a moment, watching him watch the water. “You’re . . . interesting.”
He straightens his back and slaps his hands on his knees. “That’s one way to put it.” He hops out of the pool and stands up. “I’ll be back in a little while.” He grabs a towel, then walks out of the pool room with no further explanation. I watch until the door closes behind him. When I turn around, Sagan is the only one in the pool and he’s swimming toward me. I try to find something else to look at, but I just make myself feel more awkward. I force myself to make eye contact with him and try to ignore the sudden chaotic hammering of my pulse.
“Why aren’t you getting in?” he asks.
“I was talking to Luck.” I feel exposed not being in the water. I jump into the pool and allow myself to sink to the bottom before coming back up to face him. When I finally do break the surface, I push my hair back and open my eyes. Honor is walking out of the pool room.
“Where’s she going?” I ask, turning to him.
“She has to pee.” He moves to the shallowest part of the pool and sits. It’s only a few feet deep, so his shoulders are still above water. I sit next to him so I don’t have to look at him. My chin barely breaks the surface. The room is a stark, silent contrast to what it was just moments ago. The quietness is only making my pulse worse, so I force myself to break up the silence. “What’s your story?”
He spins in the water so that he’s facing me. There are drops of water on his lips, but they roll off when he smiles. “Can you be more specific?”
I swallow hard. “Why did you move in with us?”
“Does it bother you that I live with you?”
I shrug. “Honor is only seventeen. It’s a little soon for her boyfriend to move in.”
“I’m not her boyfriend.”
He says that like he’s okay with the fact that she’s keeping her options open. “You aren’t dead enough for her to want to make it official?”
He doesn’t laugh. I knew he wouldn’t. It was a low blow. He moves back to the wall and I’m thankful. Conversations with him are much easier when he’s not in my line of sight.
I still can’t take the quiet and find myself wishing Utah and Honor would return. I try to bring up a subject that has less of a chance of reminding me that he makes out with Honor on a daily basis. “Why were you named Sagan? Are your parents fans of the astronomer?”
He looks at me with slightly widened eyes. “I’m impressed you know who Carl Sagan is. And no, I wasn’t named after the astronomer, although I wouldn’t have minded it much. Sagan was my mother’s maiden name.”
I lift my arms in front of me and push the water away from me in waves. “I don’t know a whole lot about Carl Sagan, but my father used to keep one of his books on our coffee table. Cosmos. I would flip through it sometimes as a kid.”
“I’ve read all his books. I think he’s fascinating, but I could just be partial because of the name.” He disappears beneath the water and then comes back up, smoothing his hair back. “What’s your middle name, Merit?”
“I don’t have one. Our parents were planning on having one daughter and naming her Honor Merit Voss. But there were two of us, so they just gave us each a first name and didn’t even bother with middle names.”
Sagan stares at me with a tilt of his head, his expression full of curiosity.
“What is it?”
He smiles a little and then says, “You have a speck of brown in your right eye. Honor doesn’t have one.”
I’m surprised he noticed. Very few people notice. In fact, I’m not sure anyone has ever pointed that difference out before. He’s very observant. Which makes me question the drawing I found in his notebook and what motivated him to draw Honor and me stabbing each other in the back. I dip myself underwater again to ward off chills. When I come back up, I wrap my arms around myself and look at him. I can’t think of anything to say, though. Or maybe I have way too much to say and I don’t know where to start.
Sagan smiles at me appreciatively for a moment, then lifts his hand and slides away strands of my wet hair that are stuck to my cheek. “That’s the most you’ve spoken to me since we met,” he says casually.
His fingers don’t linger at all, but the feel of them does. And his stare. And the chills that crept up my arm after he touched my cheek.
I nod, a little embarrassed by his comment. “Yeah. I’m not much of a talker.”
“So I’ve noticed.”
I feel two things at once. I feel the weight of my attraction to him. It’s so heavy, it feels like an anchor wanting to pull me under the water. But I also feel very defensive of my sister. If I had a boyfriend and he touched Honor’s cheek like Sagan just touched mine, I’d find it highly inappropriate.
A person can’t help their attraction to another person, but a person can help their actions toward another person. Brushing hair from my cheek while looking at me the way he was looking at me was definitely an action he should have controlled. I know this, because since the moment I found out he was Honor’s boyfriend, I’ve done everything in my power to fight my attraction for him out of respect for my sister. But he doesn’t seem to be fighting it very hard because he’s looking at me right now like he wants to pull me under water and breathe his air into my lungs.
I glance over my shoulder, back at the door, waiting for one of them to return. Any of them. I’d even take Utah at this point. It’s suffocating being the only one in the room with Sagan.
I face forward again and force myself to ask him more questions. Maybe I’ll find out something terrible about him that will make me stop feeling this way. “You never said why you moved in with us.”
He forces a tight-lipped smile. “It’s kind of a depressing story.”
“Well, now I’m even more curious.”
He narrows his eyes as if he’s sizing up my trustworthiness, but then he just gives me a clipped answer. “My family situation is a little complicated right now.” He doesn’t elaborate.
“You mean they’re worse than mine?”
“Your family isn’t so bad,” he says.
Of course he believes that. He’s not the one who’s forced to live there. He’s there by choice. “Yeah, well, stay in your corner because from my perspective, they aren’t much to brag about.”
His expression leaves no hint of his thoughts. He just stares at me as calmly as the water has become around us. Our knees touch briefly and it sends a shiver over me. I notice the same chills climbing up his arms when his gaze drops to my mouth. Just like it did the day he mistook me for Honor and created this monster inside of me with his kiss. I need him to back up a few miles. Or lunge for me.
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