Is he disappointed? He takes a moment before replying. “Then I’l go with you.”

“Nate’s gonna be mad.You should go to bed.”

But he marches over to Nate’s room and knocks. A minute later, Nate opens his door. He’s barefoot and wearing an old T-shirt and boxer shorts. I look

away, embarrassed. He rubs his shaved head. “Ungh?”

I stare at his diamond-patterned rug. “I locked myself out.”


“She forgot her key,” St. Clair says. “Can she borrow your spare?”

Nate sighs but motions us inside. His place is much larger than ours, with a private bath, a sitting room, and a ful -size (though tiny by American

standards) kitchen in addition to a separate bedroom. He shuffles over to a wooden cupboard in his sitting room. It’s fil ed with brass keys hanging on

nails, a painted golden number above each one. He grabs 408 and hands it to me. “I want that back before breakfast.”


“Of course.” I grasp the key so hard it dents my palm. “I’m sorry.”

“Out,” he says, and we scurry into the hal . I catch a glimpse of his condom bowl, which brings back another uneasy Thanksgiving memory.

“See?” St. Clair switches off the dragonfly lamp. “That wasn’t so terrible.”

The lobby is cloaked in darkness again, the only light coming from the screen saver on the front desk’s computer. I stumble forward, patting the wal s for guidance. St. Clair bumps into me. “Sorry,” he says. His breath is warm on my neck. But he doesn’t adjust his body. He stays close behind me as we

stumble down the hal .

My hand hits the stairwel door. I open it, and we shield our eyes from the sudden brightness. St. Clair shuts it behind us, but we don’t walk upstairs.

He’s stil pressed against me. I turn around. His lips are only a breath from mine. My heart beats so hard it’s practical y bursting, but he falters and backs away. “So are you and Dave ...?”

I stare at his hands, resting on the door.They aren’t little-boy hands.

“We were,” I say. “Not anymore.”

He pauses, and then takes a step forward again. “And I don’t suppose you’l tell me what that email earlier was about?”


Another step closer. “But it upset you. Why won’t you tell me?”

I step back. “Because it’s embarrassing, and it’s none of your business.”

St. Clair furrows his brow in frustration. “Anna, if you can’t tell your best mate what’s bothering you, who can you tell ?”

And just like that, I have to fight to keep from crying for a third time. Because even with all of the awkwardness and hostility, he stil considers me his best friend. The news fil s me with more relief than I could have imagined. I’ve missed him. I hate being mad at him. Before I know it, the words spil out about Bridgette and Toph and prom, and he listens attentively, never taking his eyes from me. “And I’l never go to one! When Dad enrol ed me here, he

took that away from me, too.”

“But . . . proms are lame.” St. Clair is confused. “I thought you were glad we didn’t have one.”

We sit down together on the bottom step. “I was. Until now.”

“But ... Toph is a wanker.You hate him. And Bridgette!” He glances at me. “We stil hate Bridgette, right? I haven’t missed anything?”

I shake my head. “We stil hate her.”

“Al right, so it’s a fitting punishment. Think about it, she’l get dol ed up in one of those satin monstrosities no rational girl would ever wear, and they’l take one of those awful pictures—”

“The picture,” I moan.

“No. They’re awful, Anna.” And he looks genuinely revolted. “The uncomfortable poses and the terrible slogans. ‘A Night to Remember.’ ‘This Magic Moment’—”

“‘What Dreams Are Made Of.’”

“Exactly.” He nudges me with his elbow. “Oh, and don’t forget the commemorative photo key chain. Bridgette is bound to buy one. And it’l embarrass

Toph, and he’l break up with her, and that’l be it. The prom picture will be their complete undoing.”

“They stil get to dress up.”

“You hate dressing up.”

“And they stil get to dance.”

“You dance here! You danced across the lobby desk on Thanksgiving.” He laughs. “There’s no way Bridgette will get to dance on a desk at the prom.”

I’m trying to stay upset. “Unless she’s trashed.”


“Which she probably will be.”

“No ‘probably’ about it. She’l be bombed out of her skul .”

“So it’l be real y embarrassing when she loses her dinner—”

He throws up his hands. “The terrible prom food! How could I have forgotten? Rubbery chicken, bottled barbecue sauce—”

“—on Toph’s shoes.”

“Mortifying,” he says. “And it’l happen during the photo shoot, I guarantee it.”

I final y crack a smile, and he grins. “That’s more like it.”

We hold each other’s gaze. His smile softens, and he nudges me again. I rest my head on his shoulder as the stairwel light turns off. They’re all on


“Thanks, Étienne.”

He stiffens at hearing his first name. In the darkness, I take one of his hands into my lap and squeeze it. He squeezes back. His nails are bitten short, but I love his hands.

They’re just the right size.

Chapter thirty-eight

Now I know why people are always carrying on about Paris in the springtime. The leaves are bright green with birth, the chestnut trees are clustered with pink buds, and the walkways are lined with lemon yel ow tulips. Everywhere I look, Parisians are smiling. They’ve shed their woolen scarves for scarves

that are thinner, lighter, softer. Le Jardin du Luxembourg, the Luxembourg Gardens, is busy today, but it’s a pleasant crowd. Everyone is happy because

it’s the first warm day of the year.We haven’t seen sunshine in months.

But I’m grateful for a different reason.

This morning, Étienne received a phone cal . Susan St. Clair is not going to be the protagonist in a James Ashley novel. Her PET/CT scan was clear—

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