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If There’s No Tomorrow
I was the kind of person who thought things but never said them.
“I think he’s been really busy,” I said finally. “His dad wanted him to check out some of the universities down there and he hadn’t seen his cousins in years.”
Someone out in the BMW slammed on the horn and Skylar looked over her shoulder. My brows rose while I silently prayed that whoever was in the car stayed in that car. A moment passed, and Skylar tucked bone-straight hair behind her ear as she turned back to face me. “Can I ask you one more thing?”
“Sure.” Not like I was actually going to say no even though I was picturing a black hole appearing in the diner and sucking me into its vortex.
A faint smile appeared. “Is he with someone else?”
I stared at her, wondering if I lived through a different history of Sebastian and Skylar.
From the moment she moved to Clearbrook, population meh, she’d attached herself to Sebastian. Not that anyone would blame her. Sebastian came out of his mom’s womb stunning and charming everyone around him. Those two got together in middle school and had dated all through high school, becoming the King and Queen of Coupledom. I’d resigned myself to the fact I’d have to force myself to attend their wedding at some point in the future.
But then spring happened...
“You broke up with him,” I reminded her as gently as I could. “I’m not trying to sound like a bitch, but what does it matter if he’s with someone else?”
Skylar curled a slender arm across her waist. “I know, I know. But it matters. I just... Have you never made a huge mistake?”
“Tons,” I replied drily. The list was longer than my leg and arm combined.
“Well, breaking up with him was one of my mistakes. I think, at least.” She stepped back from the counter. “Anyway, if you see him, can you tell him that I stopped by?”
That was the last thing I wanted to do, but I nodded because I would tell him. Because I was that person.
Skylar smiled then. It was real, and made me feel like I should be a better person or something. “Thanks,” she said. “I guess I’ll see you at school in a week or so? Or at one of the parties?”
“Yep.” I fixed a smile on my face that felt brittle and probably looked half-crazed.
Wiggling her fingers goodbye, Skylar turned and walked toward the door. She reached for the handle but stopped and looked over her shoulder at me. A strange look crossed her face. “Does he know about you?”
The corners of my lips started to turn down. What was there to know about me that Sebastian didn’t already know? I was legit boring. I read more than I actually talked to people and was obsessed with the History Channel and shows like Ancient Aliens. I played volleyball, even though I really wasn’t that good at it. Honestly, I would’ve never started playing if it hadn’t been for Megan conniving me into it when we were freshmen. Not that I didn’t have fun, but yeah, I was as stimulating as white bread.
There were literally no hidden secrets to uncover.
Well, I was scared to death of squirrels. They were like rats with bushy tails, and they were mean. No one knew that, because that was super embarrassing. But I doubted that was what Skylar was talking about.
Jarred out of my thoughts, I blinked. “What about me?”
She was quiet for a moment. “Does he know you’re in love with him?”
My eyes widened as my mouth dried. I felt my heart stutter and then drop to the pit of my stomach. Muscles locked up in my back and my gut churned as that wall of panic slammed into me. I forced out a wheezing-sounding laugh. “I’m...I’m not in love with him. He’s like a...like a brother I never wanted.”
Skylar smiled slightly. “I’m not trying to get up in your business.”
Sort of sounded like she was.
“I saw the way you would look at him when we were together.” There was no bite to her tone or judgment. “Or maybe I’m wrong.”
“Sorry, you’re wrong,” I told her. I thought I sounded pretty convincing.
So there was something that I thought no one knew about me. One hidden truth that was just as embarrassing as being afraid of squirrels but completely unrelated.
And I’d just lied about it.
CHAPTER TWO (#u5ea2a9f1-2ef1-567e-9ddc-a86525520662)
I lived about fifteen minutes from the center of downtown Clearbrook, in a neighborhood that was within walking distance of the elementary school where I used to spend my time daydreaming. The streets had a mixture of small and large homes and all sizes in between. My mom and I lived in one of the medium-size ones—a house that Mom could barely afford on her own with her insurance-agent salary. We could’ve moved into something smaller, especially now that Lori had gone away to college and I’d be doing the same in a year, but I didn’t think Mom was ready to let go of the house. Of all the memories and all that should have been instead of what was.
It probably would’ve been for the best for all of us if we had moved, but we hadn’t, and that was a flood under the bridge now.
I pulled into the driveway, passing the used Kia that Mom had parked on the side of the street. I turned off the engine and breathed in the coconut-scented interior of the decade-old silver Lexus that had once belonged to Dad. Mom hadn’t wanted it, and neither did Lori, so I ended up with it.
It wasn’t the only thing Dad had left me.
I grabbed my bag off the passenger seat and climbed out of the car before quietly closing the door behind me. Crickets chirped and a dog barked somewhere on the mostly silent street as I looked over at the larger house next to ours. All the windows were dark and the limbs of the thick maple in the front swayed, rattling the leaves.
A year from now I wouldn’t be standing here, staring at the house next door like a bona fide loser. I’d be away at college, hopefully at the University of Virginia, my top choice. I was still going to carpet-bomb other colleges in the spring just in case I didn’t get in on early admission, but either way, I would be gone from here.
And that would be for the best.
Getting out of this town. Moving away from the same old same old. Putting much-needed distance between the house next door and me.
Tearing my gaze away from the house, I walked up the flagstone sidewalk and went inside. Mom was already in bed, so I tried to be as quiet as possible as I grabbed a soda from the fridge and made my way upstairs to take a quick shower in the hallway bathroom. I could’ve moved into Lori’s bedroom at the front of the house after she left for college. It was larger and had its own bathroom, but my bedroom had privacy and it had an amazing second-story deck that I wasn’t willing to give up for a multitude of reasons.
Reasons I didn’t want to think about too much.
Once inside my bedroom, I set the soda on the nightstand and then dropped the towel by the door. I pulled my favorite sleep shirt of all time from the dresser and slipped it over my head. After turning on the lamp on the nightstand and flooding the bedroom with soft buttery light, I picked up the remote and clicked on the TV, turning to the History Channel with the volume on low.
I glanced at the scribbled-on world map tacked to the wall above my desk. The map to everywhere I planned on eventually visiting. The red and blue circles drawn all over it brought forth a grin as I grabbed a massive red-and-black hardcover from my desk, which was pretty much used only to stash books now. When we first moved in, Dad had built shelves lining the wall where the dresser and TV were, but those bookshelves had been overflowing for years now. Books were stacked in every spare place in the room—in front of my nightstand, on both sides of the dresser and in my closet, taking up more room than the clothes did.
I’d always been a reader and I read a lot, usually sticking to books with some sort of romantic theme and a classic happily-ever-after. Lori used to make fun of me nonstop for it, claiming I had cheesy taste in books, but whatever. At least I didn’t have pretentious taste in books like she did, and sometimes I just wanted to...I don’t know, escape life. To delve headfirst into a world that dealt with real-life issues to open my eyes, or a world that was something else, something completely unreal. One with warring faes or roaming vampire clans. I wanted to experience new things and always, always, reach the last page feeling satisfied.
Because sometimes happily-ever-after existed only in the books I read.
Sitting down on the edge of my bed, I was just about to crack the book open when I heard a soft rapping coming from the balcony doors. For a split second, I froze as my heart rate spiked. Then I hopped to my feet, dropping the book on my bed.
It could be only one person: Sebastian.
After throwing the lock, I opened the doors and there was no stopping the wide smile from racing across my face. Apparently there was also no stopping my body either, because I propelled myself through the threshold, arms and legs moving without thought.
I collided with a taller and much, much harder body. Sebastian grunted as I threw my arms around his broad shoulders and practically face-planted on his chest. I inhaled the familiar fresh scent of detergent his mom had been using since forever.
There wasn’t a moment of hesitation from Sebastian as his arms swept around me.