for you, and I say you stay in France.”

“I’m not staying in bloody France, all right?” St. Clair bursts out in English. “I’m not staying here with you! Breathing down my neck all the time!”

And that’s when it hits me. I’ve been fol owing their entire conversation. In French.

Oh. Holy. Crap.

“How dare you talk to me like this?” His father is enraged. “And in public!You need a smack in the head—”

St. Clair switches back to French. “I’d like to see you try. Here, in front of everyone.” He points at his cheek. “Why don’t you, Father?”

“Why, you—”

“Monsieur St. Clair!” A friendly woman in a low-cut dress cal s from across the boulevard, and St. Clair and his father both turn in surprise.

Monsieur St. Clair. She’s talking to his dad. That’s so weird.

She strol s over and kisses his father on both cheeks. His father returns les bises, smiling graciously. His whole manner is transformed as he


introduces her to his son. She looks surprised at the mention of a son, and St. Clair—Étienne—scowls. His father and the woman chat, and St. Clair is

forgotten. He crosses his arms. Uncrosses them. Kicks his boots. Puts his hands in his pockets, takes them out.

A lump rises in my throat.

His father keeps flirting with the woman. She touches his shoulder and leans into him. He flashes a bril iant grin, a dazzling grin—St. Clair’s grin—and

it’s odd to see it on another person’s face. And that’s when I realize what Mer and Josh said is true. His father is charming. He has that natural charisma, just like his son. The woman continues to flirt, and St. Clair trudges away. They don’t notice. Is he crying? I lean forward for a better look and find him staring right at me.

Oh, no. Oh no oh no oh NO.

He stops. “Anna?”

“Um. Hi.” My face is on fire. I want to rewind this reel, shut it off, destroy it.

His expression runs from confusion to anger. “Were you listening to that?”

“I’m sorry—”

“I can’t believe you were eavesdropping!”

“It was an accident. I was passing by, and . . . you were there. And I’ve heard so much about your father, and I was curious. I’m sorry.”

“Wel ,” he says, “I hope what you saw met your grandest expectations.” He stalks past me, but I grab his arm.

“Wait! I don’t even speak French, remember?”

“Do you promise,” he says slowly, “that you didn’t understand a single word of our conversation?”

I let go of him. “No. I heard you. I heard the whole thing.”

St. Clair doesn’t move. He glares at the sidewalk, but he’s not mad. He’s embarrassed.

“Hey.” I touch his hand. “It’s okay.”

“Anna, there’s nothing ‘okay’ about that.” He jerks his head toward his father, who is stil flirting with the woman. Who stil hasn’t noticed his son has disappeared.

“No,” I say, thinking quickly. “But you once told me no one chooses their family. It’s true for you too, you know.”

He stares at me so hard that I’m afraid I’l stop breathing. I gather my courage and lace my arm through his. I lead him away. We walk for a block, and I ease him onto a bench beside a café with pale green shutters. A young boy, sitting inside, tugs at the curtains and watches us. “Tel me about your father.”

He stiffens.

“Tel me about your father,” I repeat.

“I hate him.” His voice is quiet. “I hate him with every fiber of my being. I hate what he’s done to my mother and what he’s done to me. I hate that every time we meet, he’s with a different woman, and I hate that they all think he’s this wonderful, charming bloke, when real y he’s a vicious bastard who’d

sooner humiliate me than discuss my education rational y.”

“He’s chosen your col ege for you. And that’s why you didn’t want to talk about it.”

“He doesn’t want me to be near her. He wants to keep us apart, because when we’re together we’re stronger than he is.”

I reach over and squeeze his hand. “St. Clair, you’re stronger than him now.”

“You don’t understand.” He pul s his hand away from mine. “My mum and I depend on him. For everything! He has all of the money, and if we upset him,

Mum is on the street.”

I’m confused. “But what about her art?”

He snorts. “There’s no money in that. And what money there was, my father has control over.”

I’m silent for a moment. I’ve blamed so many of our problems on his unwil ingness to talk, but that wasn’t fair. Not when the truth is so awful. Not when his father has been bul ying him his whole life. “You have to stand up to him,” I say.

“It’s easy for you to say—”

“No, it’s not easy for me to say! It’s not easy for me to see you like this. But you can’t let him win.You have to be smarter than him, you have to beat him at his own game.”

“His own game?” He gives a disgusted laugh. “No, thank you. I’d rather not play by his rules.”

My mind is working in overdrive. “Listen to me, the second that woman showed up, his personality completely changed—”

“Oh, you noticed, did you?”

“Shut up and listen, St. Clair. This is what you’re gonna do. You’re going back there right now, and if she’s stil there, you’re tell ing her how happy you are that he’s sending you to Berkeley.”

He tries to interrupt, but I push forward. “And then you’re going to his art gal ery, and you’re tell ing everyone who works there how happy you are that he’s sending you to Berkeley. Then you’re cal ing your grandparents, and you’re tell ing them how happy you are that he’s sending you to Berkeley. And then you’re tell ing his neighbors, his grocer, the man who sel s him cigarettes, EVERYONE in his life how happy you are that he’s sending you to Berkeley.”

He’s biting his thumbnail.

“And he’l be pissed as hel ,” I say, “and I wouldn’t trade places with you for a second. But he’s clearly a man who believes in keeping up appearances.

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