I laughed.

Megan drew in a deep breath. “I like thinking about boys, Phillip in particular, and I’m actually smarter than most people, especially those people who’d call me boy crazy. I can think about boys all I freaking want and still have a life outside of doing so, so screw that. Don’t get down on yourself because, for right now, you’re focused on what is important to you at this moment in your life. That happens to be a guy. Tomorrow it could be something else.”

Staring at her, sort of shocked, I started to smile. “Wow, Megan. I kind of want to have you repeat that whole rant and record it.”

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t, because it won’t be as good the second time around.”

Abbi rolled her chair over to us. “I’m going to say it again—Megan’s right.”

I flopped backward on the bed, almost landing on the package of Oreos. I stared up at the ceiling as the tightness in my chest eased a little. Sadness still lingered like a shadow, as did a whole truckload of confusion over Sebastian, but it had lessened. Because of them. Because of my girlfriends. “Guys,” I said, “I actually feel a little better. That means I may not eat all seven leftover meatballs while curled up on the couch, sobbing.”

Abbi coughed out a laugh. “That’s good to hear.”

“Can I have a meatball?” Megan asked, nudging my arm with her hand. “I feel like I could use some meat with all the sugar I just consumed.”

Abbi sighed.

“Okay. I’m about to sound super cheesy,” I warned, not moving. “But we’re going to be best friends forever, aren’t we? Because I have a feeling this won’t be my only episode of pure, unedited stupidity.”

Megan giggled. “That was cheesy, but yes, yes, we are.”


“Don’t forget Dary,” Abbi said, knocking her foot against mine. “The four of us will always be the four of us. No matter what.”


After the girls left, I picked up my phone and walked out to the balcony. Leaning over the railing, I looked over at Sebastian’s house. I could see his mom out in the yard, on her knees, digging in the dirt. She was wearing one of those floppy straw hats, and only a few wisps of brown hair were visible.

Her entire body shook as she jabbed the spade into the landscaping surrounding their patio. Several bright blue and red peonies were still in their cartons beside her. My gaze flipped to their brick patio, and their fire pit sat in the middle. It hadn’t fallen apart like ours had.

Sebastian’s mom was quiet. Out of all the years I’d known him, and all the times I’d been in and out of their house, well over a thousand times, I’m sure, I’d probably held just a handful of conversations with his mom.

She was always kind, always said hello, asked how I was and how my mom was or how Lori was doing at college, but that was it.

Sebastian’s dad did all the talking.

Exhaling heavily, I looked down at my phone. This whole time, Abbi and Megan had suspected what I felt for Sebastian was more than a friend thing. I knew Dary probably also guessed it. The fact that they’d kept it to themselves and hadn’t pushed me on it was huge. They knew me too well.

I backed away from the railing and plopped down in my chair, planting my feet on the edge of the seat. With my phone clutched in my hands, I considered my options.

I could ignore it and pretend it never happened. That had been my MO for, like, forever. I would swear to myself that I would take care of things tomorrow. But I knew how I operated. Tomorrow was always full of possibility and potential for me, but when it came, I pushed things off until another day.

I couldn’t do that.

Chewing on my lip, I opened up my texts and found the last one from Sebastian, the one from the past Friday. My stomach took a tumble as I typed out the words Is everything okay between us?

Several moments passed before I worked up the nerve to hit Send, and when I did, I almost immediately wished I hadn’t. I couldn’t take it back, though, so I stared at my message for twice as long. I knew football practice was over. Sometimes he hung out with the guys afterward. Other times he came straight home.

When he didn’t immediately respond, I rested my forehead on my knees.

I was still a little surprised by the fact I had texted him. My natural response would’ve been to do nothing, let Sebastian eventually come to me or let it work itself out. But I just couldn’t do that.

I considered going next door to see if he was there, but I’d just texted him, so maybe that was a wee bit much. Unable to sit, I got up and walked out onto the balcony and started down the steps. I stopped halfway down, unsure of what I was doing.

I looked to Sebastian’s yard again. His mom was almost done with the flowers. Only the bright pink ones were left in their cartons. I pivoted, went back up the stairs, went inside, then went downstairs to heat up some meatballs. I ate four of them while perched on the arm of the couch, watching the news.

When I’d finished, Sebastian still hadn’t texted back.

Back upstairs, stomach painfully full, I stood in the middle of my room with my phone in hand. Too much restless energy was buzzing around in me to sit down and read. Maybe I could clean something.

I was that desperate to distract myself.

I set my phone on the nightstand and moved over to my closet. Jeans and books were scattered everywhere. Half of the shirts and sweaters were hanging partway off their hangers.

Yeah, I wasn’t that desperate.

I closed the door and pivoted to face-plant on my bed, which did nothing to help my stomach.

I groaned and muttered, “I suck,” into my sheets.

My phone chirped and I launched to my knees. In an instant I’d snatched my phone off the nightstand. Air caught in my lungs. Sebastian had responded. Finally.

Yeah. Why wouldn’t it be?

“Why?” I whispered when I really wanted to scream it at the top of my lungs. “What do you mean why?”

I started to respond with exactly that, but I stopped, my fingers hovering over the screen. My heart was racing like I was running sprints.

I could be up front and point out exactly why I was asking that question. I could say a million things, to be honest. Ask what he thought about me kissing him, or ask why he’d then freaked out. I could ask him if he wished I’d never done it. I could even text him and tell him that when I kissed him, it felt like coming home.

I didn’t type any of those things.

My phone dinged again.

Everything is okay with you, right?

No. It wasn’t.

I’d been in love with him since I could remember, and now I was afraid our friendship was ruined and everything was going to be awkward as hell from here on out.

I didn’t type any of those things either.

Instead I typed, Yeah. Of course. Then I tossed my phone onto the pillow. Groaning again, I fell backward onto the bed.

“I’m such a coward.”

* * *

I was so ready for Feyre to kick some serious ass.

I slapped the hardcover shut and pressed my forehead against the smooth cover. My heart pounded in my chest. The last five chapters had been a nonstop heart attack, and I prayed that the third book was already out. If not, I was going to pitch myself off the balcony.

Lowering the book to my lap, I shifted my weight in the old Adirondack chair. It wasn’t exactly the most comfortable, but with the throw pillow under my butt and my legs resting on the railing, it made for a perfect little reading spot.

A warm breeze swept through the balcony, moving over my bare legs and lifting the thin wisps of hair around the nape of my neck. Another book rested on the floor beside my chair. This one was the contemporary.

I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the Saturday before school started than doing nothing but reading and eating.

I switched my hardcover for the paperback with a shiny gold crown on it and rested it in my lap as I quickly checked Facebook on my phone. No private messages. I had a few notifications from Snapchat, so I watched one of the football players drunkenly stumble down a sidewalk last night. Another snapped a pic of himself eating breakfast. There was a snap from Dary of the Washington Monument, followed by a series of street signs. She had this thing with street signs.

I moved on to Instagram, scrolling mindlessly through selfies and end-of-the-summer beach pics. I was about to close the app when I started to recognize a theme from everyone’s recent pictures. All the girls were in bathing suits. Guys were in swim trunks. Everyone was holding red plastic cups. And all the pictures were all at night.