I could better articulate myself, but with her, sometimes the words weren’t there.
That night, though, it was a five-hour dance session.
Nova and I hadn’t lasted the whole time, but it was painful to pull ourselves away.
It was on the third day when Quincey showed up in the kitchen, her phone in hand and a white stress line around her mouth. I could see she was biting the inside of her lip. Her hand was trembling as she shoved the phone to me. “Call them. Call him. I don’t care. Call someone.”
I took her phone, frowning at it until I saw the contacts she had pulled up.
Without giving her a second to back out, I pressed Graham’s name and hit speaker.
The ringing filled the room, and he answered a beat later.
Quincey looked ready to faint, so I started the conversation. Graham was quick to catch on, inviting us for dinner. At first, it was just him, his girlfriend, and the two of us with Nova.
Then Calihan found out about it and demanded to be included.
I knew this because I was included on the family text chain.
Quincey never okayed it, so I did.
Three hours later, the mom and stepfather were coming as well.
Quincey never okayed it, so I did it again.
She knocked on my door thirty seconds after I hit send and declared while hugging her phone against her chest, “Nova isn’t coming. Emily can babysit.”
And that was that.
Now that I was thinking about it, the dinner had been Graham. All Graham. Quincey just never said no, and throwing her a frown, I asked now, “Are you still wanting to do this? I can turn around.”
She didn’t answer.
So I took that as an answer.
I slowed down and hit the turn signal.
“What are you doing?” She jerked forward in her seat.
“You didn’t answer. I’m taking that as a response that you don’t want to go. I’m turning around.”
“But—what? No one does what I want.”
That was...a weird thing to say. I shot her a look, starting to turn off the road before doing a U-turn. We were still in our neighborhood, so traffic was sparse enough for us to do that safely. “I’m not going to make you do something you don’t want to do.”
She was twisting her hands together, and she looked down at them. “I thought that was the whole point. I don’t want to reach out to my family, but I have to for Nova.”
“Right. For Nova, but maybe we can rethink this in a way where you’re not twisted up in knots.”
She looked up, her eyes piercing mine. “You’d do that?”
She took another beat, just staring at me. Then she pressed her lips together, swallowed, and looked forward. “I can do this.”
She was still trembling, still white around her mouth, but she was looking forward with a different feel to her. Determined. And I caught an underlying fierceness from her.
I could work with this.
When we pulled up, my phone buzzed.
Quincey jumped. “What was that?”
I pulled out my phone, the screen lighting up with another text.
“Oh.” A distracted frown was sent my way as she began to straighten her hair for the thirtieth time. It was pulled all the way up in a bun, and she kept smoothing out the ends. They were already pressed flat. I didn’t think she knew she was even doing it.
Then I went back to the texts. They were all from Logan.
One from Mason.
Another from Matteo. Another friend of ours.
“I—hold on.” I opened the first.
Logan: Duke’s team reached out.
Logan: They’re making a motion that Quincey is mentally unfit.
“I need to read through these and make a phone call.”
Her pupils were dilated, and she bit down on her lip. “That’d be really self-involved of me if I asked if those were about me. They probably have nothing to do with me. Your friends all have full and busy lives themselves.”
I decided and sent a quick text back to Logan.
Me: Hold on. I’ll call in ten minutes. Need to handle something first.
My phone buzzed right away after, but whoever it was would need to wait.
I tucked it away and moved around the SUV to Quincey’s side. She was already out and looking like death warmed over.
She couldn’t tear her gaze away from the house, and she couldn’t stop biting her lip.
I moved in and touched her lip.
She went completely still, her eyes enlarging, and even though she didn’t move a muscle, I felt her shrinking back from my touch.
I pressed there, and she let it go. When she didn’t immediately bite down again, I moved back. “No more hurting yourself, please.” I ignored her slight groan and placed a hand behind her back. With a firm but gentle touch, I walked us inside.
I knew Graham would be watching for us, and he proved me right.
He took me in, then his sister, and whatever he’d been thinking or feeling was masked.
“How about it, Quince?”
“What?” She faltered, going up the first of the steps.
He pretended to whip out a microphone and began bouncing his shoulders up and down. He started to sing the song lyrics, at the same time bobbing his head to the right. “How about it? Family karaoke night? You and me? I need a partner. Cynthia doesn’t think I know who Lady Sovereign is.” He turned to face inside and raised his voice. “But HA! Little does she know that ‘Love Me Or Hate Me’ is my most favorite song EVER!” He threw me a grin, moving aside so we could enter. “What do you all think I listen to to warm up before my games? I didn’t get pumped up to Yanni.”
That grin went to his sister, and he moved to shut the door. “My girlfriend. Be nice to her. She’s meeting the rest of the family tonight.”
Quincey froze again. “Are you kidding me? You’re introducing her to the family tonight?”
“Yeah. Why not? It was in the text.”
“I thought when everyone else piled on that you wouldn’t bring her. This is the worst night to have her meet me.”
A golden retriever came barreling from the back, followed by a yell. “She got loose!”