I blink and look out the window. Sure enough, the driver has brought us to the circle drive at the entrance of an upscale mall.

I straighten and start to back away, but he holds me fast, his grip on my ass firm enough to make me think of a hundred ways we could spend the next hour right here in this limo.

“I missed you too,” he says, voice gruff. “I thought leaving was the hardest thing I’d ever have to do, but it turned out staying away was so much harder.”

My heart pinches, and I draw in a sharp breath. “Marston—”

He presses a firm kiss to my mouth. “Later. We’ll talk later.” He moves me off his lap just as the driver opens the door.

Chapter Four


October 5th, before

“Come on,” Liam says, stroking his hands down my arms. “I’ll be real sweet. I promise.”

I shrug out of his grasp and shake my head. Again. I’ve been politely declining the invitation to join him in his car for the past ten minutes, and yet we’ve somehow made it all the way from the dance floor in the middle of the gymnasium to the back door. “I said no. I’m not interested.”

“You know what you are, Brinley? A cocktease. You make promises with those pretty eyes and short skirts, and then shut down when it’s time to follow through.”

Promises with my eyes? What does that even mean? My cheeks burn, and I tug on my dress and glare. “I didn’t promise you anything, Liam.”

“Pretty soon that shit’s going to catch up with you,” he says. “Then you’ll be sorry you didn’t just give yourself to a nice guy like me.” He doesn’t wait for me to respond before turning around, pushing out the door, and heading toward the parking lot.

I nearly forget Liam when my gaze snags on the tall, dark-haired boy sitting on the hood of a beat-up Honda Civic and smoking a cigarette. He smirks when he catches me staring, and I blink at him as the door floats closed again.

I stand there and argue with myself. I could dance with my friends and tell them what an ass Liam was, but I’m afraid they’ll say he’s right and I should loosen up. Or maybe I should go home. I’d need to find a ride, since Liam’s the one who brought me here, but if I did, I could keep Brittany company. The doctor wouldn’t release her to come to the dance, so she and Mom are doing a movie night.

Neither option appeals to me. And maybe this makes me a bad friend or a bad sister, but what appeals to me is the guy sitting in the parking lot just beyond that door. Marston Rowe.

He’s a senior at OV High, so I don’t have any classes with him. But I’ve seen him in the halls since he started here last month, and he’s barely acknowledged my existence. I’d say he’s avoiding me, but that’s ridiculous. I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m not one of those popular girls who maintains her status by stomping on other people. I’m nice to everyone. But maybe . . . maybe he thinks I’m uptight too. Or maybe he hated kissing me?

I should stay away. If he wants to avoid me, that’s his business, not mine. It was just a kiss. It probably didn’t mean anything to him, and it shouldn’t mean anything to me. But . . .

When I take a deep breath and push outside, I’m relieved to see he hasn’t moved from his spot. He’s not in dress clothes like the other boys. Marston’s wearing torn-up jeans and a button-up shirt. He’s undone the top buttons and rolled the sleeves to the elbows, exposing thick forearms and a tattoo around his right wrist.

I stride to him, pretending we’re friends and he doesn’t intimidate the hell out of me. “I’m surprised you came.” I look over my shoulder toward the gymnasium doors. I didn’t see him in there earlier, and I’d bet money he didn’t set foot inside tonight. Since my attention goes to him anytime he’s anywhere close, I don’t think I would’ve missed him. “If you want some company, I could go inside with you and introduce you to some people.”

“Nah.” He takes a drag off his cigarette and turns his head to exhale a long stream of smoke. “I’m good.”

I bite my bottom lip, then take a chance and hoist myself onto the hood beside him. “Hasn’t anyone told you that’s a deadly habit?”

When Marston turns back to me, he arches a brow. “Do you need something?”

The day was sweltering, but the heat faded with the setting sun. The October breeze is a welcome, cool caress on my hot cheeks. I shrug. “I was bored in there, so I might as well keep you company out here.”

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