Page 90 of The Dirty Ones

She straightens up, her attention already on my father. “He’s fine. He’ll be fine.”

“What’s wrong with me?” I ask.

“You got drunk yesterday,” my father says, squeezing my shoulder. “Camille and Bennett gave you quite a shock. But you’re sober now, son.” He squeezes again. “You’ll be fine. Just read the speech Steven prepared and you’ll be fine.”

Somehow… I don’t think that’s true.

“Are you sure he doesn’t need another dose?” my father asks the gold-and-black-dress woman.

“Another dose of what?” I ask, pressing my fingertips into my forehead.

“I think he’s good. One more dose and we might…”

But she doesn’t finish.

I glance up and find her and my father sharing a look.

“Honestly, Christopher. Another dose is pushing it. He’s fine.” I’m sure her voice is familiar. I’m sure I know who she is. “After the speech we can dose him again and—”

“Dose me with what?” I say, some clarity coming back now. “What the fuck is happening?”

“You’re at my house, Connor. I’m Dr. Livingston,” she says. “Remember? I’ve been your psychiatrist for years.”

I study her face again. Because I can see Louise in those features. And that is Louise’s voice, I decide. But this woman… “You can’t be Louise. You’re old.”

“Connor,” my father says. “That’s enough. Now get up and let’s go. You have an announcement to make.”

Someone grabs me by the shoulder and urges me to stand. But there’s a moment when I wobble a little. Like I’m the one who’s drunk and not Camille and Kiera.

Wait.

I shake my head.

That was a dream.

Wasn’t it?

Was it? Emily’s whisper in my head asks.

It was Kiera Bonnaire who caught my attention that night of the Legacy Alumni Party. I’d been watching her since freshman year. Her and her aloof nature. Her wild, long, blonde hair. Her Vermont attitude and woods-y clothes. Her notebook and pen.

What did she write in those notebooks?

Sometimes I’d catch her watching me from across the lunch pavilion. Then she’d look away and furiously scribble for several minutes. Like a mad woman with an obsession for me.

I’d wanted her for years. Not just the way most guys want girls they can’t have. I wanted to know her. Keep her. Make her mine.

I watched that night. Watched her watching my father with her mother. Wondering if she saw what I saw. Wondering if she was gonna write it down in the small notebook she was hiding in her clutched fist.

So when Sofia and Camille joined her—started whispering things, led her away—we followed.

Hayes was just there, that’s all. Drunk already. High too. Making rude jokes about my father and her mother. Rude, but true.

I took the flask he offered, drew a long gulp of some smooth whiskey, and we followed them. Found their shoes sticking out of a bush leading into the woods.

I knew what we’d find at the end of the path. This wasn’t the first time I followed my father into the woods with a woman, but it was the first time I’d get there before him.

Bennett was there too. Kissing Emily Medici up against a tree, his hands wandering under her dress, her head back with neck exposed as he whispered dirty things in her ear to keep her attention.

The late summer night was warm and they were both flushed and sweaty.

They pulled away from each other as we approached, Emily fixing her hair, Bennett tucking in his shirt, playing it off. Weird Emily Medici wasn’t anyone’s first choice for a romp in the woods, but whatever. Hayes and I were busy following the girl with the notebook.

Bennett joined up, Emily trailing behind him because he had her hand. He wanted to know what we were up to, but he wanted sex too.

The whole fucking thing was an accident.

We found the girls standing in front of the Arlington family mausoleum, trying to get in. It was locked, but guess who was here? An official member of the family with the combination.

The whole fucking thing was fate.

We entered, all seven of us. Laughing, whispering, shushing each other. Bennett was grabbing Camille, trying to make her scream. Apparently he’d forgotten all about Emily. Hayes was leaning into Sofia, trying out some rude one-liners. She slapped him once or twice, but he took it as a challenge. I was next to Kiera, leading the way.

“Over here,” I said, low and hushed. I took her hand, found the one with the notebook, so I took that too.

“Hey,” she protested.

“I’m not gonna steal it,” I said. “I just want to hold your hand.”

She let me.

Hayes made a joke about that, but we ignored him. I took her past the raised tomb that held my great-great-grandfather and around another corner where the rest of the family was buried. We sat down, all of us except Emily, who was pacing and clearly pissed about being tossed aside by Bennett in favor of Camille, and started passing Hayes’ flask around.

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