I sputter and shake my head. “No, far from it. You disgust me.”

He laughs. “Disgust? That’s a little strong—”

“No. Trust me, it’s real y not strong enough. If you’l excuse me, I have actual constructive things to do—”

“What in al of your altruistic training authorizes you to differentiate between hopeless and salvageable?” he asks, ignoring my attempt to dismiss him. Something about his choice of words and his deadly calm tone makes me look up as he towers over me.

I stand slowly. He’s at least eight inches tal er and we’re not two feet apart in the smal space, but this boy doesn’t scare me. I see right through his arrogant indignation, so accustomed to getting what he wants that denial is incomprehensible. In al honesty there might be something worthwhile in there, but it doesn’t matter because he’l never acknowledge its existence. I’m calm, because now I know why I felt such a wave of melancholy when I met him.

“Like you said—you don’t want saving, Reid. That makes any effort pointless, assuming I planned to bother trying—which I do not.” My voice is as composed as his, but my anger has fal en away while his stil radiates from him like heat waves off of pavement.

“Mr. Alexander, your car is here,” Roberta says from the doorway.

“Thanks,” he says without turning.

I squat down and dip into the thinset again, smear another glob on the wal and begin to smooth it out. Hyper-aware of the fact that he’s stil next to me, I refuse to acknowledge him further. He can stand there until his legs col apse for al I care.

“So you only rescue those who fit into your preordained notions of worth? Doesn’t seem like much of a victory.

Seems discriminatory and hypocritical, in fact.” He turns and walks out, the front door slamming a moment later.


So ends day three. Holy Moses, this is going to be tougher than I thought.

I didn’t mean to let it get to this point, I honestly didn’t.

Like driving in freeway traffic, Reid just brings out the devil in me.

Tomorrow, we’l prime the baseboards, doors, and bathroom cabinets. I’d like to finish tiling the master bath, but it’s foolish to perform tasks that require a steady hand when angry. The tile needs to be perfectly level, not a crooked mess. I take a deep breath, and then another. I have an hour or two until Dad gets here—plenty of time to push Reid from my mind and get a good start on this shower.

Except for a nagging insinuation, one I’m not even sure he’s aware of having made. I cal ed him a hopeless case, and he cal ed me a hypocrite for writing him off as someone not worth saving—right after tel ing me he doesn’t need saving.

I don’t like having to modify my position once I’ve chosen one, but that doesn’t make me incapable of doing so. So I can’t help wondering—was he merely set on winning a verbal battle, or did Reid Alexander just tel me he wants to be rescued from himself?

Chapter 7


You disgust me. This is such an unprecedented statement that I have no idea what to do with it. If she was anyone else, I’d reject it as prejudice because I’m young, famous, rich, entitled—I’ve heard it al , or thought I had. The only other reason for unreasonable animosity is the random girl who doesn’t turn out to be the love of my life after a hot one-nighter—and is somehow surprised by this. Please.

Could Dori be resentful that I haven’t made an effort to get into her unfashionable shorts? I thought I had her pegged as the sort who wants nothing short of respect, though she can take a fair amount of mockery and come back curiously unperturbed. She may be the most patient person I’ve ever encountered, besides George. No matter what I do, including showing up an hour late with a massive hangover, she tolerates it. Maybe that’s her weird way of showing attraction. Maybe there’s a girl under those ginormous t-shirts who just wants attention like the rest of them.

Or maybe I’d add a sexual harassment charge to the drunk driving conviction.

Three weeks and two days to go. I’ve worked on movie sets that were way more grueling, endured costars who were ridiculously unprofessional and survived directors whose tyrannical outbursts would send Dori running for cover. Three and a half weeks and I’l be back to my life.

John is about to chew through my last nerve. He and some other guys want to go out tonight. There are no unlame parties, so they’ve decided to bounce through a few clubs.

And since we’re al underage, they want me along because I can usual y get us al in anywhere, plus VIP treatment.

Most nights, no problem. Happy to oblige. Tonight, I’m dead—and I already had a couple of seven and sevens to cool down after that exchange with Dorcas. The last thing I need is noise, people and paparazzi. I just want to stay home and flip through the channels until I fal asleep, so I can get up again tomorrow and take a hired car to a pathetic unfinished house that I’m helping to build and landscape… God, what an out-of-character inclination.

John is having none of it. “Come on, man, just a couple of hours. Why not?” He’s like a whiny toddler. A self-absorbed, ful -grown, 19-year-old toddler.

“Because I’m exhausted and sunburned and have to get up at the crack of ass again tomorrow, not that you give a shit.”

“It’s summer!”


“Time to go out and party, not hibernate!”

“John, we live in Los Angeles. It’s never time to hibernate. Whatever. I’m dead. We’l go out Friday.”

“Fine,” he says, dejected. “If me and the guys are bored to death by then, it’s on you.”

I don’t bother answering beyond repeating, “Friday,” and hanging up. I have a backup of texts al basical y wanting the same thing. Parties I’m invited to, parties someone wants entrance to, requests to go out, people bored out of their minds and everyone wanting to score the next high to escape it. After making sure none of the texts or missed cal s are from George, I toss the phone on the table next to my bed and turn up the volume on the television before clicking it off again and walking around my room, clinking the ice at the bottom of my glass.

I’m restless, and I never get restless. At the first hint of it, I’m usual y out the door, not stalking around my room like a prisoner in a cel . What am I staying in for, anyway? So I don’t have a hangover tomorrow morning that Dorcas wil disapprove of? Why would I even give a shit what she sanctions as acceptable behavior—she’s probably at home knitting for chrissake.

I grab the phone and cal John, who’s on his way before I can change my mind.

A couple of nights ago I wanted to find the opposite of Dorcas Cantrel , but that didn’t exorcize her from my head.

Tonight I’m searching for her twin, as impossible as it wil be to find someone so plain in the hangouts we frequent.

Once I find her, I’l be damned if she isn’t begging me to screw her up against the bathroom wal before me and the guys take off.


“Hey, baby girl. When do you leave for Ecuador?” Deb must be exhausted, but she always makes time for me. I guess she could tel in our last few texts that I’m stressed. She can always tel . It’s like she’s had a wireless connection to me since I was born.

“Twenty days.”

“Got it down to days, huh?” I hear the smile in her voice.

“Are you counting down ’til you go to Quito or ’til you leave LA?”


“So… I hear you’ve got a daily celebrity sighting at Habitat.”

I sigh heavily and moan, lying back on my bed. “Let’s not talk about him.”

Deb laughs. “Oh, come on. You don’t want to talk about him even a little? Hmm.”


“I was eight when you were born, Dori; I know you pretty wel . If you don’t want to talk about him at al , he must be frustrating you in some profound way.”

“Trust me, there’s nothing profound about him. He’s as superficial and vacuous as you’d assume.” Great. I’m almost sputtering.

“Al right, al right, I’m just teasing.” Deb is rarely unkind.

She’s one aspect of my life that gives me the most joy and the most guilt. I have a loving and supportive family, always enough money for necessities—food, clothing, books—

while others have poverty, neglect, il ness, and the constant hunger of never enough. For some reason this line of thinking makes me think of Reid, which is absurd. He has every advantage and more, with no excuse for forcing his egocentricity on people who have so much less.

Pushing him from my mind, I ask Deb about her residency. After four years of col ege and another four years of medical school, she’s final y Dr. Deborah Cantrel .

To become the pediatrician she’s always wanted to be, she’l be working crazy long hours for the next three years, making barely enough to feed herself and begin paying back her student loans.

“You wouldn’t believe how many ER cases are drug seekers.” She sighs, frustrated. “They’re desperate for a fix, so they come in with phony symptoms. The more experienced doctors assume that everyone who gives

‘pain’ as a symptom is a fraud. We keep a list of the repeat offenders.”

I try to imagine my sister in that environment, with her social idealism and her ambition to help people. “Maybe you’re just what those other doctors need—a balance to the pessimism.”

“Wel , it’s going to be a contentious three years.”

“So… met any cute doctors?”

She laughs at my change of subject. “Yes, actual y—one of the attending physicians. But as luck would have it, he’s also the most cynical. Last night, he almost missed a possible placental abruption because the mother-to-be is a known addict. She claimed severe back pain, and he was about to send her out the door with Tylenol. I convinced him to let me do an ultrasound on her, for practice, and we had to do an emergency C-section. If she’d gone home, the baby would have died and the patient could have bled to death.”

“Wow.” I’m not sure exactly what she’s talking about, but it sounds intimidating. “You saved their lives, Deb.”

“Yeah, wel . She swore she hasn’t used since she knew she was pregnant, but to him, once an addict, always an addict.” She breathes an exasperated sigh.

“We know that’s not true.” Our parents have helped dozens of people kick al types of drug addiction through the years. Though a depressing majority start using again, some stay clean. Dad says he has to keep fighting for those few, because you never know who’s capable of kicking it for good.

“Bradford was brought up in a different environment than we were. He didn’t know much about addicts or poverty until he became a doctor. I got him to talk about it a little bit today. He grew up in an upper middle class suburb, and the worst thing he encountered was other kids who smoked pot or did a little X. To him, someone who’s hooked on cocaine or meth is forever hopeless.”

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