Page 43 of Don't Look Back


Carson dropped his forehead to mine again. “Sam, you’re really making it hard to be a good guy.”

I placed the tips of my fingers on his cheek, and his lashes swept up. “What if I don’t want you to be the good guy?”

“I want to be the good guy with you.” He took another breath. “You deserve that.”

Oh.

“I don’t like Del,” he admitted, staring straight into my eyes. “He’s a dick, and you’ve always deserved better than him, but I’m not that kind of guy. At least, I’m trying to not be with you.”

“But I’m not his.”

His brows rose as he pulled back. His fingers found the silver chain around my neck. I caught my breath when the back of his knuckles brushed over my collarbone as he held the Tiffany’s heart between us. “This says differently.”

Chapter fifteen

Spring had greeted us with a brief rain shower on the morning of Cassie’s funeral, but then the dark clouds parted an hour before and the sun shone, casting light over the large funeral home. School hadn’t been canceled, but it might as well have been, as it seemed the entire student body was there, shuffling up the walkway that separated the old part of the cemetery from the new. Everyone was dressed in black. Some wore slacks while others had dug out black party dresses.

The service…it was what I’d expected, but worse. There were so many tears, even from those I figured Cassie would have never been nice to. I had to squelch the urge to get up and run several times. It was hard to breathe in there. Hard to even think with the remembrances and the songs played. But with Del keeping his hand clamped tightly around mine, and my parents behind me watching like hawks, I didn’t dare move.

For the hundredth time, I closed my dry eyes and dragged in a ragged breath. The sorrow for the girl I couldn’t remember built in my chest, but it wouldn’t break free. Just like I couldn’t break free.

I looked at the well-manicured fingers curled around mine, and in the middle of all this sadness, I felt guilt. Guilt for not being able to shed a tear—for holding this boy’s hand when I’d begged another to kiss me a few days ago. My life was a mess, but as my eyes were drawn to the casket’s polished mahogany, I knew that my life—as screwed up as it was—had to be better than no life.

Tulips surrounded the coffin, and a picture rested in a bed of baby’s breath. I hadn’t gone up during the visitation, but I could see the photo from here.

It was of us.

We were sitting on a bench at school, backs against each other, cheesing it up for the camera. It was the first time I’d seen the picture, and we looked younger in it, our smiles real, connected somehow.

“I took that picture,” Del whispered in my ear, catching me staring at it.

Nodding, I slipped my hand free. Scanning the front of the church, I caught sight of Cassie’s mom. The only reason I knew it was her was because she was sobbing, clutching a picture frame to her chest during the entire service. My heart broke for her.

Even with the tears, Cate Winchester was beautiful. Young. Her light brown hair was cut in a fashionable bob, accenting high cheekbones and a graceful neck. Some of Cassie’s features were there—the lips and the slender frame.

There was a moment of silence as the pastor returned to the podium. The back of my neck tingled. I twisted around in the pew, and my gaze slid to the back row. My eyes locked with Detective Ramirez’s dark eyes.

“Samantha,” my mother hissed, drawing my attention. She looked mortified. “Turn around.”

Scott rolled his eyes.

Biting my lip, I whipped around and faced the front. Del dropped a heavy hand on my knee and squeezed, causing me to jump. Veronica shot me a look over the rim of her sunglasses, and then her gaze dropped. Her plump lips thinned, and she stiffly turned away.

I took a deep breath and lowered my head in prayer. Familiar words resonated through the church. Del’s hand crept up my thigh, and my body locked up. Not just because it was completely inappropriate on about a thousand different levels, but because somewhere over the long weekend, I’d made up my mind that the two of us needed to have a serious talk.

Without any warning, my vision dulled, turning gray. The church, coffin, Del’s creeping hand—everything—broke away, leaving just Cassie and me.

She plopped down on a bed—her bed. “Stop bitching. You’re lucky to have a dad who wants to be in your life.”

I rolled my eyes, sitting on the edge of the bed as I stared down at my toes. A jar of red nail polish was in my hand. Everything else lacked life and vibrancy. I looked over my shoulder. “You can have him.”

“Really?” She rolled onto her side, flipping her long hair over her slender shoulder. “I’ll take him. And that supercute sweater you’re wearing. Oh, while we’re at it, can I also have Del?”

Annoyance flashed and grew in me like a weed. “You don’t even try to hide the fact that you always want what I have. And you aren’t getting my sweater.”

Grinning shamelessly, she watched me with catlike interest. “But I can have Del? Awesome.”

My eyes narrowed as I twisted the lid back on the polish. Standing, I placed it on her bedside table and picked up the music box. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

She sprang from the bed and grabbed the music box out of my hands. Holding it close to her chest, she smirked. “You don’t really want him, but you won’t let him go.”

For a moment, I thought she was going to clunk me over the head with the box. “I’m out of here,” I said.

Cassie laughed. “Don’t be pissy, Sammy. It brings out the lines around your mouth. Wouldn’t want to age yourself prematurely.”

“Don’t be a bitch,” I retorted, heading for the door.

She dashed in front of me, grasping my arms. Her eyes, greener than mine, filled with regret. “Don’t be mad at me, Sammy. I wasn’t being serious. You know that, right?”

I shifted my weight from one foot to the other. Part of me wanted to push her away. She thought I didn’t have my suspicions—that I didn’t know. But the other part of me, well, it felt bad for her. After all, I understood Cassie better than anyone else. Knew why she did the things she did, even to me—her best friend.

“Please?” She bounced on her heels.

Forcing a smile, I nodded. “Yeah, I’m not mad at you.”

Cassie let out a squeal and wrapped her arms around me. “You know, when we’re old and ugly, we’re still going to be best friends, right?”

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