I jerked the sheet back over my head.

“I’m kidding.” He pulled the sheet away again, grinning. “You know I love to tease you.”


I rolled my eyes.

Playing with the hem of the blanket, I swallowed the lump in my throat. “Jax will be here, then?” I asked, not looking at him.

“Jax will be at the Loop,” he shot back. “Adam will be here.”

Who …? Oh, right. Adam, his preppy friend. The one … I kind of ditched … when I got “lost” in the fun house. Yeah, class act right here.

Madoc rolled off the bed and walked toward the door, calling behind him, “Get dressed. Preferably in something Fallon can rip off with her teeth!”

“Madoc!” Fallon’s screech poured into the room, and I shook my head, burying my laugh in my pillow.

Tutoring had ended yesterday, so this was my first day without anything to do or to plan. I started back at the movie theater tomorrow, reclaiming my first and only job from high school, and as much as I enjoyed the job back then—hey, who doesn’t like free movies?—I was having a hard time getting excited. Spending the rest of the summer making minimum wage with kids who still went to high school felt like a significant step backward. But I knew it had to be done. I couldn’t live with Madoc and Fallon forever, and not only did I need a job, but I needed two.

My phone started buzzing, and I popped my head up, grabbing it off the charger on the bedside table.

“Hello?” I sat up, not recognizing the number.

“K.C.?” a woman’s voice asked. “Hi, honey. It’s Meredith Kenney. Your mom’s friend.”

“Oh, hi, Mrs. Kenney,” I greeted, puzzled as to why she was calling me. “How are you?”

“I’m fine. I was just calling to make sure your mom was okay,” she explained. “She’s missed the last two Rotary meetings, and when I’ve tried to call, I haven’t gotten an answer.”

I opened my mouth but then closed it again.

That was weird. My mother was always punctual, and I was sure she’d call if she needed to miss a meeting. Which never happened.

“Uh, well,” I stammered, “I don’t know. I’m sorry, Ms. Kenney, but I’m visiting with friends right now.” Chills spread down my arms as worry set in. “I’ll swing by the house, though, okay?”

“I’ve done that. No answer,” she said. “Now I’m worried.”

I shook my head, trying to figure out what could be up. I shouldn’t be worried about her. Had she called me since I came to get my journals? No, she’d abandoned me, and I shouldn’t care about her.

But she was alone. And I was different now.

“I’ll check it out and get back to you.” I nodded, throwing off the covers and standing up. “Thank you.”

“I’ll be waiting. Thank you, sweetie.” And she hung up.

Grabbing a white summer dress from the closet, I dived into the bathroom, got dressed, and brushed my hair.

Snatching up my purse and fastening the Gear to my wrist, I stumbled into the hallway, trying to put on my sandals. “Madoc?” I called. “Can I borrow your car?”

“No!”

“Thank you,” I chirped, jetting down the hallway and then the stairs, grabbing Madoc’s keys off the entryway table before slipping out the door.

I had to hand it to Jax about one thing. I was glad he’d taught me to drive a stick. It was the only thing these people drove.

The drive to my house—my mom’s house—took about twenty minutes, and even though it was hard not to speed in Madoc’s car, I took my time.

I wasn’t really worried about her. She always took care of herself.

But the truth was, I never worried about my mom. Her presence was constant, like a lamp or a car, and I hadn’t really thought about her having a life unless I was there to see it. What did she do with herself when I was away at college? What did she think about when she was alone?

Who hurt her to make her so vile?

And now, for the first time in her life, she was causing others to worry.

Pulling up outside the house, I slowly climbed out of the car and shoved the keys in my purse. The brick stairs to my front door loomed ahead of me.

I didn’t care. This wasn’t my responsibility.

But I walked anyway.

Climbing the stairs up my lawn, I took out my key and unlocked the front door, taking in the sight right away of unopened mail spilling over the entryway table and onto the floor.

I studied the heap, letting the door close behind me.

What the hell?

I shifted my eyes left and right, noticing that the rest of the downstairs seemed completely in order.

Clean house, polished floors, everything same as always. Except for the vacuum plugged in and sitting in the middle of the area rug.

Other than that and the mail, everything looked fine. She had to be out of town, and someone was collecting the mail for her.

My shoulders relaxed.

Well, since I was here … I still had clothes, some keepsakes from my father, and—if I could handle it—my vintage Nancy Drew collection that I could pack up and still be back in time for Madoc and Fallon’s party.

I set my stuff down on the round entryway table and jogged up the stairs. Swinging myself around the banister, I pushed through my bedroom door and jerked to a halt.

I sucked in a breath. “Mother?”

She lay on my bed, wearing her navy silk bathrobe, tucked in the fetal position, and I just stared as her eyes fluttered open.

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