“Gee, I don’t know, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me.”
Anger flushed my skin, sharpening my tongue. “I know you’re paying Dianna to get her little hands on her daddy’s tests and she’s helping you cheat.”
He stared at me a long second, then laughed. “Okay. You got me. What are you going to do, Nancy Drew?”
My hands itched to slap him. “Cassie knows, and you know how terrible she is with keeping a secret.”
His jaw worked.
“I’m sure a little birdie will put it in the principal’s ears soon enough, and then you know what will happen.” I grinned then, loving the way his attention was completely on me—bad attention, but I had it. I had him. “They take cheating seriously around these parts. So does Penn State, I hear.”
Carson’s lips thinned. “Jesus, Sam...”
I pushed open the door, stepping out into the brisk March air. “You can kiss that scholarship good-bye. Shame.”
“You’re such a...”
“What? A bitch?” I glanced over my shoulder, meeting his eyes. “Ouch.”
“No. You’re not a bitch.” He followed me outside, eyes sheltered. “It’s sad, actually, when I think about how you used to be.”
Not what I’d been angling for, and beneath the anger, hurt waited. “I’m not sad.”
His lips twitched into a mocking smile. “Yeah, you are. Do your worst, Sam. And you’ll regret it.”
Jerking up, I clutched the blankets to my chest. Pressure clamped down on my throat, on my chest. The dark, poster-covered walls of Carson’s bedroom shifted unsteadily.
It wasn’t a dream. Oh god, no, it was a memory. I knew it in my bones, in every cell. Carson had been paying Dianna to do his essays, to fix his exams for the one class he was failing. And somehow I’d found out—I’d told Cassie and I’d threatened to expose him, ruin his baseball scholarship and his life.
Do your worst…and you’ll regret it.
Sickness rose in my throat. Had he…could he have been the third person on the cliff? My entire body went cold. It couldn’t be.
Oh my god…
Out of everyone, he had a reason to shut us up. Suddenly, I remembered the sense of wariness in his gaze when he saw me the first day back home, the way he didn’t really have anything good to say about Cassie, how he knew the cliff just as well as I did, and how adamant he was that I hadn’t been the one to hurt Cassie. The notes I was leaving myself—Don’t let him know you remember anything. Had my subconscious been trying to warn me?
To warn me to not let Carson know?
Heart pounding, my stomach rolled. I’d just given myself to him, told him that I loved him, and…I couldn’t even finish that thought. I needed to get out of here, to think this through, because it couldn’t be him—anyone but him.
Carson stirred beside me, slowly sitting up. “What is it, Sam?”
“I have to go.” My voice came out in a hoarse whisper.
“Okay.” He yawned, running the palm of his hand over his forehead. “Let me walk you back. It’s late.”
“No. You don’t have to.” I threw off the cover and found my dress in a pile.
Carson sat up, swinging his legs off the edge of the bed. “It’s not a big deal. I don’t want you to...” He trailed off, watching me tug the dress on over my head. Grinning, he reached for me.
I jumped back, tripping over his shoes. I caught myself on the wall.
His grin faded. “Are you okay, Sam?”
“Yeah.” Panic pawed at me as I managed to get the zipper halfway up my back. “It’s late. I just need to get back.”
He didn’t look entirely convinced now that he was wide awake. Worry furrowed his brows as I searched for my shoes, finally giving up when I couldn’t find them in the dark. Grabbing my clutch off his desk, I backed up toward the door.
“I’ll…I’ll see you later.” Emotion clogged my throat, but I couldn’t let myself think about what had happened between us and what he could’ve done without breaking down.
He stood, and it was a lot to keep my eyes trained on his face. “Wait. Why are you freaking out? Sam?”
Unable to say anything without bursting into tears, I reached for the door and blindly stumbled out in the narrow hallway. Bumping into shadowed objects, I ignored the flashes of pain and rushed to the front door. I winced at the whining sound the door made and slipped outside, closing it behind me.
I dragged in gulps of air. Sharp pebbles dug into my feet, and then blades of cool grass cushioned my steps. Was it Carson? Had it always been him? A splinter hit my heart, and then another.
My thoughts swam, going from the moment I saw him in my bedroom, up until the last, soul-burning kiss he’d given me before I fell asleep. Hurrying across the trimmed field, I balled my hand over my mouth to stifle my cry. It couldn’t be him. I trusted him beyond a doubt, and he’d been so kind toward me, even though I’d been sure I didn’t deserve it. Doubt blossomed under the confusion, trying to take hold, but those words…
Those words—they had to be a warning.
A strangled sob escaped me. I couldn’t face him, couldn’t even look at him without giving myself some time to reason this through.
Carson caught up to me before I even reached the halfway point. Catching my arm, he spun me around. He was bare from the waist up, pants not even buttoned in his haste to reach me.
“What’s going on, Sam?” he demanded, eyes wide and dilated.
I tried to wrestle my arm free. “Please, just let me go. Please.”
He held on. “What’s wrong? Did we go too fast? Just talk to me, Sam.”
My breath caught as my eyes met his, and another crack pierced my heart. “Did you do it?”
“Did I do what?” He reached with his free hand, brushing back my hair. “Talk to me, Sam. Help me understand what’s going on. Whatever it is, it’ll be okay.”
The tenderness in his voice caused my chest to squeeze. How could he be like this after what he’d done? It made all this incredibly surreal. “I…I remembered something.”
Confusion poured from him, so sincere I started to doubt myself. “Okay. What?”
“It was about you,” I said, my pulse pounding. “I knew you were paying Dianna—cheating on your history exams. I must’ve told Cassie, and I…I threatened you at school, when you were leaving the library. You told me that if I told anyone, I’d regret it.”