“Reid…” She buries her head beneath my chin, her body folded up like she’s trying to crawl inside of me. “He… he…

I…” Her breathing is quick and shal ow and I’m scared to death of what she’s going to say, because so help me God, if she tel s me that guy forced himself on her, I’l have no choice but to find him and kil him.

My arms surround her and I fight to keep my voice level, unwavering. “Tel me.”

“I can’t.”

I stroke her hair. “Yes, you can. Trust me, Dori. You can trust me.”

Her face is pressed to my shirt and she’s shaking. “I got pregnant.” Reverberations hum through my chest, like it’s me who’s crying. “Except for Deb, no one ever knew. Not my parents, not Colin, not my friends. Only Deb.” Oh, hel . “You never told him?”

Words muffled by her knees and my chest, she shakes her head. “He was already… with someone else. He wouldn’t have cared.”

Five-second Epiphany: I did this to Brooke, who did come to me, who did tel me. Even if she had been with another guy—or guys, the relationship was her and me, as failed as it was. I left her with a wretched choice to make and no way out of making it. I checked out, because I could.

Damn, damn, damn. I shove this realization aside for now, because what I owe Brooke, some guy owes Dori—but I’m the only one here to pay it.

“If no one knew, that means you decided not to...” I stop.

“Not to have it.”


Her sobs are the only answer I get. So this Colin guy dumps her, then she finds out she’s pregnant, and her sister helps her take care of it. She’s probably been raised on abstinence, and pro-life to boot. And to top it off, her sister—the only person in the world who helped shoulder this burden—is now one step up from a coma, with no interaction, no emotional connection to be had.

Christ, no wonder she went off the deep end.

Speaking of which, I am in way over my head.


I can’t believe I’ve just dumped al of this on him. Minutes ago, we were making out, and he said what he said, and I told him about Colin, and there it was, this secret, beating on the wal s inside where I thought I’d locked it away forever.

Deb and I didn’t discuss it again, after the decision was made and carried out. She tried, once, but I promised her that I was fine and swore I’d rather forget it and get on with that I was fine and swore I’d rather forget it and get on with my life, because that was the reason for the decision in the first place. To get on with my barely fifteen-year-old life.

I faked the flu for a couple of days before going back to school. And then I survived the remaining weeks of my freshman year—seeing Colin in the hal s with his entourage, or his new girl, always smiling, not a care in the world. I learned to cry soundlessly, locked in a bathroom stal , doubled over, the heartache so bad it made me physical y il . I skipped class when I could get away with it, had trouble concentrating when I was there.

Maybe he had no idea what he’d done to me. Maybe he was just a careless boy, with no idea that I would be emotional y crippled by his offhand dismissal. At the time, it felt orchestrated to crush me.

Submerging myself in an endless loop of depressing music and isolation, I was hol ow and faded, a ghost haunting her own life. When summer began, I started spending most of the day in bed with the blinds closed. I contemplated suicide briefly, but couldn’t wrap my head around carrying it out.

Deb had just finished her first year of medical school, and her plans hadn’t included coming home for summer.

Suddenly, though, she was there in her old bedroom across the hal —her tidy shower caddy stored under the sink, her off-key serenade of pop songs in the shower echoing down the hal way every morning. She also resumed volunteering for community service projects—something I’d always been too young to do.

On her third day home, she plopped onto my bed with On her third day home, she plopped onto my bed with her cup of coffee, brushing the hair from my face. “C’mon, lazy butt. Get up. I need your help. These benevolent deeds aren’t gonna do themselves.” I moaned into my pil ow, but didn’t budge. I remember the feel of her fingers pul ing gently through my hair. Maybe not from that morning, exactly, but because I couldn’t remember a time when that wasn’t part of her wake-up-Dori protocol. “Dori, honey.

Listen… maybe you can’t keep this to yourself any longer.

Maybe you need to talk to Mom and Dad.”

I turned over. “You’d be in trouble if they knew.” She shook her head. “I’m a grown woman of twenty-three, and I can take care of myself with our parents. I’m worried about you. Staying in bed al day, not seeing your friends, barely eating anything. You sleep nonstop and stil look exhausted.”

Mom and Dad must have cal ed her. I was the reason she’d come home. They knew about the breakup, because there was no hiding the fact that Colin stopped coming to pick me up on the weekends. When asking me what happened only resulted in tears, they stopped asking. They must have gotten worried when the depression got worse instead of tapering off.

“I’m fine. I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to go on with my life like he never happened.”

She bit her lip. “Okay. If you get up. If you keep getting up every day, eat normal meals, sleep normal hours.” She sniffed lightly. “And if you shower daily, because lord knows you smel like a puppy rol ed in poop right now.” I couldn’t help smiling. It had been so long since I’d smiled that the movement felt unnatural. She leaned her forehead to mine, whispering our declaration of devotion, spoken countless times over many years: “I love you, baby sister of mine.”

“How much?” I played along, whispering back as she swam, blurry through my tears.

“As many grains of sand as there are on al the beaches in al the world,” she recited the words like a tender incantation.

“For how long?”

With the edge of her soft pink robe, she wiped away the tear that escaped at the corner of my eye and murmured,

“Forever and forever and forever.”

Reid is dressed like a doctor—lab coat and stethoscope—

and he’s talking to God. Or someone wearing a shimmering white robe and looking an awful lot like God.

“Yes, sir, I understand. She wil . Bye.”

At the snap of my cheap flip phone shutting, I open my eyes. I’m lying on the sofa in Reid’s media room.

Everything comes into focus slowly. “Who were you talking to?”

He slips my phone back into my bag. “Your dad.” I frown. “My dad? Why?”

He crouches down next to me so we’re at eye level. “I guess we fel asleep. It’s real y late. I heard your phone ringing, so I answered it—I figured it was best for them to know you’re safe. I told him you’d be home in the morning.”

“What did he say?”

“A lot of dad stuff. Don’t worry about it now. C’mon.” He takes my hand and leads me across the hal and into his room while I’m thinking about everything I told him earlier.

At the edge of the bed he stops and his eyes travel the length of me. “I think you’d be more comfortable in something of mine.” From his dresser, he chooses oxford striped boxers and a blue t-shirt, frayed at the neckline and sleeves, soft and faded from hundreds of washes. Putting the clothes into my hands, he stops me, one hand on my arm. “Dori. Are you al right?”

I nod, certain I’m lying. I am so, so far from al right. I should feel weird that I’m about to sleep in Reid Alexander’s bed. For the second time. But I forget, sometimes, who he is to the rest of the world.

“I’l , um, change in the bathroom.”

When I come back into his room minutes later, the lights are very low—just bright enough to see my way to the bed.

The clock reads 3:11 a.m. I climb in and hesitate before moving into his arms. His hands stroke up and down my back, his lips at my hairline. I feel exactly what I felt earlier—

I need him to hold me so badly that I don’t care what comes with it. Maybe that sounds weak-wil ed, but it isn’t, because I want al of it. I just know that at some point, my wanting wil exceed his ability to give, and that wil be that. Until then, I don’t want to think or analyze anymore. I just want to feel. I tip my face up and nuzzle the underside of his jaw, and he shifts slightly and kisses me. So careful, deliberate.

My eyes are adjusting to the dim light when I move to brace above him, my hair streaming down like a screen around my face. His hands are at my waist, on top of my shirt—his shirt—fingers drifting back and forth across the smal of my back, as though they’re stuck in a loop, waiting for me to release them to wander with some magic word.

I don’t know, exactly, what he wants from me. But I know what I want from him, and I lean down to claim it, my mouth slanting over his. Not until my tongue reaches out to lick the soft, ful part of his lower lip—once, twice—does he trace the interior of my mouth, gently, with his own. I run my fingers through his hair, marveling at the baby softness of it at the nape, and he fol ows suit, winding strands of my hair around his fingers, tugging me closer. When my hands slip below his shirt, tracing the planes of his chest with my fingertips, he strokes the curves of my breasts, mimicking every move I make.

“I can’t see your ears clearly enough,” he murmurs, hooking my hair behind my ears. Heavy and uncooperative, it fal s right back into its previous position, bordering my face.

“My ears?”

“Yeah. They’re very perceptive. They blush when the rest of you won’t.”

“I don’t feel much like blushing.”

“Oh?” he says, bemused. I sit up and back, straddling him, trembling and anxious. My apprehension isn’t going to stop me. The sheet fal s away behind me. “Dori?” He rises to his elbows as my hands find the hem of my borrowed tshirt, trace the edge back and forth.

“Reid,” I whisper, “do you have condoms?”

He stares at my face for just a moment. “Yes,” he answers, low and sexy. “But—”

Before he finishes, before the fear sinks in, before I change my mind, I grasp the bottom of the t-shirt, duck my chin, and pul it off in one fluid movement, dropping it over the edge of the bed. Fighting the urge to cover myself, I force my arms to stil at my sides, my hands braced on my thighs.

I can’t breathe.

Chapter 45


I can’t breathe.

I won’t say I haven’t imagined sex with Dori, because I have and I do imagine it, but I didn’t expect it to go this far tonight. That night at the club, I’d have given odds of thirty to one that she wasn’t a virgin. But I didn’t see the heartbreak connected to that fact, or how it would play out. Even stil , her restraint has always seemed like a part of her genetic makeup. I assumed if I let her set the pace, it wouldn’t happen for a while.

We’ve been hanging out here two or three times a week for the past five weeks—watching movies, playing video games, talking… We’re not reckless every time she’s over, though it’s happened more often the more she trusts me.

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