“You want something to eat?” Mindy asked Eric, pulling the nachos toward him.

“Yeah, I’m starved,” the guy said. But he didn’t partake in the nachos. Instead, he looked across the table. “You gonna eat that hot dog?” he asked Chase.

With his mouth full, he didn’t answer before Mindy said, “Oh, he’s done. He already had one.” Before he knew what she planned to do, she popped up and stole Chase’s second hot dog and dropped it in front of Eric.

Chase chewed the bun and meat in his mouth with a little more gusto and stared at his sister.

She glared back.

Eric never seemed to notice the glaring match.

Before Chase could swallow and claim dibs on his lunch, the creep picked up the hot dog and practically pushed the whole damn thing in his mouth.

The guy’s cheeks puffed out. Oh yeah, Chase thought, realizing why big bites looked disgusting. The gawker/hot dog stealer now had a little mustard oozing from his lips, and with his cheeks stretched out like a chipmunk, he probably couldn’t even feel it.

“Are you ready to go have our palms read?” Tami asked, as if sensing the tension.

“Palms read?” Eric said, his mouth still full as he made a face. “That’s stupid.”

Chase leaned forward. “Then I guess we’ll see you later. Come on, Mindy,” he said, and when he heard his tone, he realized he sounded a bit like his dad. Deep and serious.

Tami stood up as if she completely understood and agreed with Chase’s plan. Then she picked up Mindy’s phone and dropped it in her pocket. “You ready?” she asked Mindy.

Mindy, however, didn’t answer Tami. She’d gone back to her favorite pastime of glaring at Chase.

“Hey, I think it’s stupid,” Eric said, still talking around Chase’s hot dog, “but I’ll go along for the laughs.”

“Good.” Mindy cut another cold look at Chase as if warning him not to come between her and the boy she obviously thought was going to be her Prince Charming. Not that there was one thing charming about the guy.

Chase almost spoke up right then and told the guy to take a hike or go hang out with his vampire buds, but another glance at Mindy’s tight-lipped, squinty-eyed glare and he knew she would raise all kinds of hell. He didn’t want Tami to get mixed up in their sibling rivalry. So he shut his mouth, snagged his soda cup, and stood up.

The hot dog thief could come, but Chase wasn’t going to take his eyes off him. Stealing a hot dog was one thing, but if he tried anything with Mindy, he’d have more than Chase’s eyes on him.

Chase had never started a fight, but he’d finished several. People always thought bullies picked on the little guys, and they did, but being big had make him a target of some of the bullies who wanted to claim they’d taken out the tallest kid in class.

Unfortunately, it hadn’t worked out for them.

Chase summed up Eric. Probably sixteen, he had a wide set of shoulders on him and probably a tad more muscle. Chase didn’t care if the guy was older, or if he was built like a brick house. If he stepped out of line one more time, he’d put him in his place.

***

“I’m kind of scared,” Tami said later while standing beside the palm reader. “You go first.” She shot Chase a sweet but vulnerable smile. He was hit again by how pretty she was. Her father was American but her mom was Hawaiian, and she had the perfect blend. Her skin tone was just a tad olive and her hair was a couple shades lighter than black, and her eyes dark brown. He couldn’t actually say she was his type. He didn’t know if he actually had a type. But Susie Muller had also been brunette with dark eyes, not that Susie held a candle to Tami.

“Do you mind going first?” Tami asked, making Chase realize he’d just been standing there staring at her like an idiot. Probably even had that goofy smile on his face, too.

“No, that’s fine.”

The palm reader sat at a table with a black tablecloth, her hands folded on top. A sign on the table read: CAUTION: I WILL TELL THE TRUTH, NO MATTER HOW GOOD OR BAD.

She had jet-black hair, coal-black eyes, and she was dressed in bright orange. She reminded Chase of a gypsy. And maybe she was.

“Just two of you?” the woman asked.

“Yes,” Chase answered. Because Eric thought it was stupid, Mindy had decided against getting her palm read. He could tell Tami wanted company getting hers read, and if it made her happy … He didn’t really mind. He didn’t believe in it, but for Tami he’d do it.

Chase pulled out a twenty to pay for their reading.

“I can pay for mine,” Tami said. “My dad gave me money. And your dad hasn’t let me pay for anything.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Chase said, and was thankful his dad had given him ample cash. As he stuffed the change back in his jeans pocket, he cut his eyes around again to check on Mindy.

When he didn’t see them his heart shot into his throat. Shit! Had he let the jerk get Mindy off by herself?

But another sweep around and he spotted them. They stood about ten feet away chatting. As they’d walked here, he’d seen Eric try to put his arm around her and she’d pulled back a bit and took his hand instead. He liked knowing that Mindy was no fool. She might like the jerk and didn’t mind him holding her hand, but she wasn’t going to take any shit from him, either.

Glancing back at the palm reader, the woman motioned for him to sit down. He dropped in the empty chair across from her. She motioned with her fingers for him to give her his hand. He stretched out his hand on the table.



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