“Fine.” She sighs, sounding completely put out. “I promise.” Her voice is small and I feel a twinge of guilt for putting her through this.

But then I push right past it.

“Okay, good. I’m calling to let you know I’m all right. I got your texts and I know you were worried but I swear, everything’s fine. I’ll be home soon,” I tell her in a rush of words.

I can’t admit the real reason I called her. That I was scared when I came to after I passed out—something I don’t really remember even doing—and found myself lying on the beach, two medics hovering above me and checking my pulse, cleaning my wound and making me yelp in pain. I was so disoriented and scared and I had no one. Absolutely no one to stand by my side and reassure me that everything was going to be all right.

I was alone. I didn’t even have my mystery rescuer to help me out. He’d ditched me the minute I passed out, I guess. The hotel employee didn’t catch his name; he had no idea who he was and neither did I.

They put me in an ambulance and took me to a nearby hospital despite my weak protests. Luckily I didn’t need stitches, just a few butterfly bandages to keep the gash closed and my hand wrapped in white gauze and a weird fishnet-looking covering that kept everything in place. They put me on antibiotics and pain meds, filling the prescriptions right there in the hospital pharmacy before they sent me on my merry way.

It had been a terrifying experience. So horribly real, when I rarely, if ever, have to deal with the real world. It’s as if I’ve lived my entire life playing pretend and when shit finally got ugly and I couldn’t run, as per my usual mode of operation, I didn’t know how to handle it.

That’s why I reached out to Rose. I needed to hear her voice, needed her to ground me and remind me that I do have someone I can count on.

And right now that person is also super pissed at me.

“You’re damn right I was worried. I know you’ve done this sort of thing before, just … taking off on a whim and not telling anyone, but you haven’t answered my texts for days,” she says, stressing the last word.

I hold in the sigh that wants to escape. She’s exaggerating, something she’s really good at. “It’s only been a couple of days,” I point out.

“It felt like longer. I cried last night, Lily. I didn’t know where you were, my hormones are all over the place and Caden held me, trying his best to console me while I cried over you.”

And I thought Violet would lay on the guilt. “You’re not even an official mother yet and look at you. Making me feel like shit for not contacting you sooner.”

“I am an official mother, even if this baby isn’t born yet,” she says with a huff. “So yeah. If I want to make you feel guilty, I have every right to do so. And just to let you know, Violet’s been beside herself, too. I can’t believe you won’t let me tell her you called.”

“You absolutely cannot tell her,” I reiterate, my voice firm. I’m going all mean-big-sister on her and I don’t care. I have to protect myself. “She might mistakenly tell Daddy, and then the shit would really hit the fan.”

“What does it matter if he knows? What’s he going to do? Demand you come back home? You’re a grown woman—you can do whatever you want.”

Yeah, all while spending Daddy’s money. Well, it’s my money, too. All three of us have our own trusts, but at least Violet works for Fleur. And Rose used to. Not me, though. I’m the lazy sister. “Maybe,” I say, my voice faltering. He’s not the one I’m worried about finding out where I am.

It’s Pilar that I’m hiding from. And I can’t tell Rose that. Then she’ll start asking questions. Questions I can’t answer.

Correction: more like questions I don’t want to answer.

“Are you at least going to tell me where you are?” she asks softly. “And when exactly are you coming back home?”

“It’s best you don’t know. And I’m not sure.” I lean my head back into the pillows and close my eyes, exhaustion settling over me. Maybe it’s the pain meds or the antibiotics. Maybe it’s the scary adrenaline-filled rush I went through from the day’s events. All I know is that I’m suddenly overwhelmed with the need to take a long nap.

“Oh, come on! Why are you being so mysterious?” Rose is yelling. And she never yells, not really.

“Rose, it’s …” I can’t tell her what I did. Hacking into someone else’s life and then trying to mess with it. And I’m not just talking about Pilar, either—there are other people involved, not just her. “It’s complicated,” I say lamely, bracing myself for another outburst.

But one doesn’t come.

I remember the last conversation I had on the phone and how much it freaked me out and spurred me into action. The minute I hung up I grabbed my suitcase and threw in my clothes, booked my ticket to Maui and got the hell out of there. I was scared. When I think about it, I’m still scared. I want to tell Daddy what I found but I’m afraid he won’t believe me. I’m the little girl who cried wolf one too many times in his eyes. He’d believe whatever that slut Pilar had to tell him before he’d consider listening to me.

“I know we all have our secrets,” Rose says, sounding much calmer. “We all have something to hide. The longer you hide those secrets, though, the more they’ll consume you. And eventually strangle you.”

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