she’d be attending parents’ weekend as well.

Logan snorted in laughter. “Are you kidding me? Pretty sure the formerly absent mother has returned back to her absent status.” He asked Mason, “What? She’s in Paris now?”

“Venice.”

Logan snorted again but in disgust. He let out a sigh. “I’ve lost my appetite now.”

For the only time that night, Nate’s mother lost her holier-than-thou air for a moment. She’d looked to be at a loss for words, but she’d folded her hands in her lap and kept her head down for twenty minutes after that.

Malinda pressed her lips together, still eyeing the other woman with hawk-like focus, but only reached for her wine. Nate’s father asked David how the Fallen Crest Academy football team was going to do for the rest of the season.

Things progressed a little more smoothly after that. Nate’s father and David conversed about football, asking Mason about his season so far, while Malinda informed Logan and Nate how Mark was doing at his college.

I remained quiet.

The whole dinner was unsettling. Nate’s parents never said or did anything wrong to me, but they reminded me too much of Helen’s disdain for me, which reminded me of Garrett and what my professor said. She knew my biological father, who I hadn’t heard from since leaving Boston last Christmas.

The time with him had been…okay. I was there. He was there. We’d shared a few dinners. I’d explored the coffee shop down the same block and the bookstore it was attached to while he’d worked at his office during the day. My nights had been spent on the phone with Mason and Logan. When Garrett dropped me off at the airport, the good-byes had been respectful. That was the best word to describe them. I wasn’t angry with him. I didn’t feel close to him, but he wasn’t really a stranger anymore.

I hadn’t thought about him until that night again, so when Summer dropped her bomb, it floored me.

Really floored me.

I gaped at her, my mouth hanging open. “Wha—huh? Say that again.”

“My father and stepmother have a house here, but my dad has a bunch of houses. He does business in Boston.” Her head was down. Her eyes were averted.

I watched how she tucked her hands under her legs, and her shoulders slumped down.

A bad feeling, a very bad feeling, started in my stomach.

I shook my head. “What? I mean, I’m still lost.”

“You talked about that professor who knew your biological father. Remember?”

“Uh, yeah.” Why was she remembering? That was the real question. “What does this have to do with your dad and stepmother?”

She looked up, biting her lip. The fear that crossed her face took me back. I quieted. My mind was reeling. I knew that Mason would’ve figured this out in one second. He would jump five steps ahead to the real reason Summer was suddenly so nervous. I wasn’t there. I was still back where she’d said her dad did business in Boston.

“Wait.” I held up a hand. She’d been about to say more, but I needed to go slow. “Your dad does business in Boston?”

She nodded.

I asked the second question, “But he has a house here, too?” What did that have to do with my professor? As she started to nod again, in mid nod, I asked my third one, “Does your dad live here? Or is it like a vacation home or something?”

“He lives here. My mom does, too, but he travels to Boston for business.”

Things were starting to connect, but I didn’t like the feeling I was getting. This was becoming too fucked up to be a coincidence. “Your dad knows Garrett, doesn’t he?”

She sucked in a breath but forced her head to slowly move up and down. The trepidation spreading over her face was a little too much for me. I had a sense I wasn’t going to like what else she would say. I had a sense I was going to hate it.

She said, “My father and stepmother invited us for dinner tomorrow at their house. Your father and his wife are going to be there. They’d like for us to come.”

She wasn’t telling me the truth. She wasn’t telling me what I really needed to hear.

I could forget about Garrett and why he hadn’t said a word to me about this, forget that he knew her parents or that they’d been in the same city this whole time, forget the fact that Summer never conversed with her parents—that I knew of. There was something nagging at me. I couldn’t get it out of my head.

I said, “Summer.”

She froze, hearing the sudden seriousness from me. She turned her head away.

“Summer.”

She didn’t look at me.

“Look at me.” It was an order, one that I needed her to obey.

And she did. Tears along with raw agony filled her eyes.

I didn’t let it faze me. I couldn’t. “What else are you keeping from me?” There was a link somewhere that connected everything. It would all make sense. I just needed to find it.

Her tears fell, as if my question had given them the final push to fall free. “Come to dinner tomorrow night. You’ll understand all of it then.”

That was the answer I got. Well then…

Mason had a game the next afternoon. I told David and Malinda there that Garrett was in town as well, and I was going to have dinner with him and his wife. They were quiet. I didn’t get the barrage of questions I’d assumed Malinda would have.

Instead, she murmured, “Well, that’s nice of him to come.”

David gazed at me. I felt the questions from him, but he didn’t ask them. During halftime, I went back to the dorm to get ready. Summer wasn’t in the room, but she texted with the time to be ready and when she would pick me up.

I sat on the bed and waited.

Nothing. No text message. No phone call.

After waiting another hour, I had enough. I changed back to jeans and a Cain University sweatshirt with Mason’s football number on the back. I was heading through the lobby to go to the game when my phone buzzed in my hand. I was tempted to ignore it. Fuck whatever shadiness my roommate was doing. I’d get to the bottom of it, but my parents were in town. I wanted to see them, not deal with people who were lying to me—including Garrett.

He should’ve called. Hell, he should’ve called a long time ago, like after I had flown back to Fallen Crest, or after I found out he wasn’t moving anymore and was going to stay in Boston. I got that golden nugget of information from Malinda who heard it via her friends at the Fallen Crest Country Club.

There’d been no word from Garrett at all, so I moved on.

David was my real dad. I didn’t need Garrett. Just like Analise, he wasn’t important enough to be a part of my life. The fact that both my biological parents were absent wasn’t lost on me. It was funny, in a sick and sad way. The parents that mattered to me weren’t blood, but they were my real family now.

A black vehicle pulled up to the dorm as I was coming out. I was passing by when the back door opened.

“Sam.” Summer was there, half coming out of the door. She paused there and waved for me. “I’m sorry I’m late. My car broke down, so I had to call for a ride. My mom sent the car, and it took longer to get here because of traffic on game day.”

Ah, yes, all the extra traffic because of my boyfriend’s football game.

I gritted my teeth. “Fuck this, Summer. I waited. I’m over it. I’m going to spend the day with people who don’t lie to me.” I turned to go past the car.

“Please, Sam.” The break in her voice had me pausing.

I wanted to curse again. I was turning back.

Fuck me. I was never going to learn.

But I went to the vehicle.

Summer lit up before she scooted back and made room for me. She said, as I climbed in and closed the door, “I promise that, after this dinner, I will explain everything. I mean, everything.” She reached over, her hand squeezing on my arm as she said that last word. “I’ve wanted to come clean about some things for a long time. After this, no lies. I promise.”

Considering the f

act that I hadn’t known there were lies, I was more than okay with that.

One dinner to hear the truth. That was easy. I could do that.

We were driven through the city and turned into a gated driveway before coming to a stop. Summer was nervous. That was obvious from how she was fidgeting with her hands, how she only glanced at me before skirting away again, and the number of times she readjusted her clothing. Her shirt was pulled up, then pulled down, and then flattened over her stomach. She’d repeated that process over and over and kept scratching her forehead.

I kept my mouth shut. I knew the answers were coming—or they’d better be.

Her house was huge, but I wasn’t surprised. Summer came from wealth. I hadn’t known it for sure, but I figured it out by the time we got there. It wasn’t any bigger than Mason and Logan’s house when I’d moved in with Analise. That place was a mausoleum, and so was this.

Summer led the way, casting me another look, before swallowing, rolling her shoulders back, and heading inside.

Marble tile, a statue of a nude woman on a horse, and the color of gold greeted us. The gold was everywhere. There were small gold flecks on the walls, but they sparkled and matched the gold that had been woven into the marble tile. The horse’s halter had gold in it, and so did the woman’s hair. There were hints of gold glitter on her body as well.

I felt like rubbing my eyes raw and dousing them with salt water. Too much gold, just too much.

“I know.” Summer moved around me to close the door. She glanced around the foyer and winced. “It’s a bit…much.”

“You live here?”

“Hell, no.” Her eyes got big. “I live in the dorm.”

“But before that?”

She stared at me, confused. Understanding dawned. “Oh, no. I lived with my mother. My dad recently had this built. The stepmonster has a complex, obviously.” She pointed at a flourish on the horse’s halter. “See? There’s even a goldfish in the middle of that swirl thing.”

I didn’t want to look. “Can we not? I…I’m not trying to sound like a bitch, but if this is all to impress me with your family’s 401(k), it’s not working.”

“What?” She blinked a few times. “Oh, no. I mean, sorry. Yeah. Let’s go in.”

It was a grand hallway. I was led past portraits of people and could recognize Summer in a few of them. Another couple—I guessed the father and stepmother—were in others. There was a family portrait with a boy, but I couldn’t get closer to study who he was. Summer hadn’t mentioned a brother. I took a step toward it. There was something about him…about how he was looking back at me…

Summer bumped into me. She said under her breath, “I’m so sorry, Sam.”

“What?”

I was about to ask more when I heard my name coming from farther down the hall, and I tensed. I had known, but it’d been so long since I last saw him.

Garrett was striding toward me. Instead of the business suit that I’d gotten used to him wearing in Boston, he was wearing a polo shirt and striped shorts. This was why I wasn’t impressed by Summer’s family. My biological dad fit right in with them. He was dressed down, but his clothes still screamed money.

My mouth pressed into a flat line.

He was getting closer, wearing a friendly smile, and he paused right at my side. He skimmed me over, but his smile didn’t fade. He turned to Summer. “Thanks for getting my girl.”

His arm was going to curve around my back.

I sidestepped him and shot him a glare. I wasn’t his girl. I was barely a blood relation.

Garrett’s smile dimmed. He said, “Samantha, I—”

“Can we talk in private?” I cut him off. To Summer, I asked, “Is there a place?”

Her eyes were like saucers again. “Yes, yes.” She scooted around and pointed to a side hallway. “Follow this all the way down to the last door. It’s my own study room. You can use that.”

I started off. I wanted to get this done and over with. I was going to call a cab and try to figure out where to tell the driver to pick me up.

Garrett said from behind me, “We’ll, uh…thank you, Summer. I’ll show her to the backyard when we’re done.”

“Okay, Mr. Brickshire.”

I paused. My back was turned. I was still livid, but she’d sounded so small there.

Garrett added to the betrayal when he said, “You’re the best goddaughter I could have. Thank you again for looking out for her.”

I’d been stuck by a hot poker. The end was dipped in fire, and it burned inside of me. I was robbed of breath. I could only stand there, my arms firmly crossed over my chest, and try to suck in air.

She was his goddaughter.

My roommate, who I had come to trust, knew my biological father more in the daughter sense than I did.

I was almost paralyzed.

That lasted two seconds.

A blast of fury flared up, shoving the betrayal from my body, and I was full-on raging by the time I heard Garrett coming behind me.

He thought he could come into my life and then disappear? Never. He thought he could do it again? Hell no. This was the third time.

He was done. We were done.

He paused beside me. I felt his uncertainty now. No doubt, he was seeing my rage. I wanted him to see it.

“Can we talk?” he asked again, his tone more wary.

Yes. My insides rejoiced. That small triumph was a lot, but the fury was still boiling in me. I clipped out, “Go ahead.” I indicated the door. “Let’s do this.”

He opened the door but paused at my last statement.

I swept past him. I didn’t pay attention to Summer’s own personal study room. There was a desk and a couch. The colorful room was clean, and she had all the technical toys I assumed a rich kid would have. I turned my back to all of it and waited for Garrett to shut the door.

As soon as he did, he looked at me.

I didn’t give him time to start. I started, “This is the third time.”

He didn’t ask what I meant. His head hung down. “She’s pregnant.”

My rage paused. “Who?”

“My wife.” Stark eyes looked back at me. “She miscarried twice, but she’s pregnant again. It’s why I haven’t called or e-mailed you.”

“No.” I started shaking my head. “No, no, no. You always do this. Always! The first time was because you didn’t know about me. The second time was because you went to get your wife back. And now this—this is the third time, and this is the excuse?”

My chest was heaving. My eyes were wild.

I was on a roll.

I kept going, “I cannot believe you. You’re having a kid. Congratu-fucking-lations! Now, you can do it right, maybe?” I started for the door but swung around again. “But here’s a tip. Don’t disappear. You’d be amazed at the relationship you could have if you were around to have one!”

I stormed out.

I was done, and damn it, I needed to call a cab to come get me wherever I was.

“Sam?” Summer was waiting, fiddling with her shirt. When she saw that I wasn’t going to stop, she jerked forward from the wall and hurried to walk with me. “What happened? What did he say?”

“He’s having a kid. They’re having a kid.” I kept going. Fuck him. Fuck any relationship with him. I already had a dad.

“What? That’s great. Sharon’s been…” She stopped, catching the warning I’d sent to her. She gulped. “Look, I don’t know your relationship with him. I mean, it’s weird. You never talked about him, but now seeing how mad you are, I’m sorry.” She tugged me to a stop. We were alone, right in front of the door again. Her hands twisted around each other, and she tugged at her sleeves, pulling them into a tangled mess. “Garrett knows my dad. They’re all friends. There’s a huge group of them, and there are others, too. But…” She glanced down to the floor before looking back up to me.

Tijan Books | Romance Books | Fallen Crest High Series Books
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