Rich Prick

Page 39

The more I’d listened to Aspen talk last night, the more furious I’d become.

This fucker. He and his parents—all fucks.

“Graduation is tomorrow,” I growled.

His nostrils flared, but that was only his reaction.

“She’s gotta go. She has to do it for him.”

He still didn’t say a word.

I snorted. Whatever. This guy was going to help Aspen make a mistake she’d regret.

Fine. Moving on ’cause I had more. I had a whole bunch more.

“Your parents know Aspen hasn’t been in school the entire last week? I’ve slept here more than I should’ve been without one of them knowing, and guess who has noticed? Sandy. Guess who hasn’t told the people who should be told? Sandy.” Yeah. I was saying shit I shouldn’t be saying. Aspen would be so pissed at me, but I was seeing red.

I was seeing the girl she must’ve been after her car accident.

I was hearing her words in my ears.

“…I wished it’d been me, not him.”

“…why I was proud of having no one.”

I was gritting my teeth.

Anger, furious and blistering white-hot anger was racing through me, boiling my blood.

“It’s better to have no one to lose than … wish it’d been you instead.”

“She needs her family. She needs to not be proud not to have anyone.”

His jaw was clenched. He was scowling at me.

I forced myself to stop, because crap, I’d said too much. I showed her hand, my girl’s hand and she could be royally livid with me if she wanted.

I prayed she wouldn’t. I hoped she’d understand.

“When’s it my turn to get pushed away?”

I winced, hearing her words against me come back again.

Never, I vowed. I’d never push her away. I’d hold on, hold on as long as I possibly could keep her.

I had to get out of there or I’d say more and anything I’d say now would not be beneficial for my relationship.

“She’s smart, you know.”

I turned back.

He looked down his nose at me, holding his coffee and leaning against the counter as if he hadn’t a worry in the world.

He took a sip, speaking like I was dirt. “She’s smarter than you’ll ever be. She’s the genius in the family.”

“I’m aware.” I flashed him a hard grin. “Smarter than both of us.”

He grunted, but his mouth twitched. “Look, she’ll be tortured if she goes to that ceremony tomorrow. And I get why she didn’t want our parents to know. She and Owen were close, like, really close. It’s the only reason I was able to leave them, ’cause I knew they’d have each other.”

Anger sparked in me. “But that’s not a thing now, so where the fuck have you been all year?”

He went still, eerily still. “You might want to watch your tone with me.”

“You might want to clue in about your sister. She’s been alone all year.”

His nostrils flared again, and his head lowered.

He thought he could pin me down? Make me scared?

He’d never dealt with me.

“She’s got no friends—had no friends,” I continued. “And where is her family? Miss Sandy. Benny. They’re her family. They’re the ones who’ve met me. I’ve had meals with them. They know how I like my coffee.” I lifted my chin. “And you’re a special class of brother if you think she should skip her own graduation because of the brother who’s go—”

“What?” he suddenly demanded.

I paused.

I’d gone too far.

His voice came back low. “Her graduation?”

I paused.

I frowned. “Yeah. Her graduation. She graduates tomorrow.” Then it fell into place. He didn’t know. “She was moved up a year. She told me last night.”

His hand jerked, spilling coffee over his shirt.

He didn’t move. He didn’t seem to notice the coffee.

“She’s graduating tomorrow?” He looked down. “When?”

Dude. “Tomorrow.”

He looked back up. “Not the graduation, dipshit. When did she move up a grade?”

I opened my mouth…

And Aspen answered from the doorway. “The year after you left us.”

Damn. Regret seared through me, and I turned to her.

Her eyes weren’t on me, though. They were on her brother, and they were full of pain.

“Aspen.” I moved toward her.

She held a hand up. “You told him I don’t have friends. You told him everything. That wasn’t your information to share.”

I held still.

I had.

If I held still long enough, could I turn time backwards? Could I take that back?

“I’m sorry.”

She shook her head.

I’d fucked up. Big time.

“I already knew,” Nate said.

“I’ve always been like this.” She turned to him. “It’s why they moved me up a year. You left, and I was having… I don’t actually think it was about how smart I was.” She looked away, hugging herself. She looked like she wanted to disappear. “They moved me up a year so I’d have Owen.”

Nate coughed, his voice sounding strained. “Aspen. I didn’t know.”

She lifted a shoulder. “To be blunt, it wasn’t your problem. It was Mom and Dad’s.” She bit out an ugly laugh. “It was my problem. No one else’s. I should’ve… I should’ve dealt with it a long time ago.” She rocked back and forth, biting her lip.

I recognized that look.

“Tell him about after,” I said.

Her shoulders went rigid, and she shook her head. “Don’t, Blaise. Don’t push that.” She swung back to me, and I could see a ghost in her eyes. “I lost my parents. I lost my older brother. I lost my best friend. I’ve lost everyone in my life. What can you say about that? You’ve got people in your life. You lost an abuser, but you gained two siblings. You gained a new father. Do you know how many times I’d die for that chance again? To have Owen back?” She wiped away a tear. “You have no idea, and you keep pushing them away. Stop. I’ve cyberstalked your brother and sister. They’re both really cool people. I met him, and he was kind to me. There aren’t a lot of kind people out there.”


I knew.

Because I wasn’t one of them.

Pain radiated through me, and I couldn’t do a damn thing to take away hers. Nothing. I was fucking helpless as I watched the girl I loved cry in front of me. And some of that pain was my fault.



Yes. Love. Loved. I loved this girl.



“Stop.” She turned away. “I’m good for the day. I know you probably have parties you want to go to—”

“Don’t do that.” I moved toward her.

“Watch it,” Nate said.

I ignored him, standing right behind her.


She wouldn’t look at me.

“I’m sorry I spoke about you to your brother. I know it doesn’t mean much, but it’s because I care. It’s because…” My chest was so tight. She still wasn’t looking at me.

I dropped it.

I didn’t want to tell her when she was like this, when she was hurting. Those words weren’t meant to put a Band-Aid over a wound. They were more. They meant more to me.

She meant more to me.

This girl, who was curled in on herself and looking like she wanted the world to swallow her whole, had the power to gut me. One look from her. One touch from her. One word from her, and I could be on top of the world or ready to dive into hell—all for her and all because of her.

“Hey.” Her brother straightened from the counter. “Let’s, um, let’s table this for now. Your name is Blaise?”

I jerked my head up. “Yeah.”

He looked suddenly tired, and he ran a hand over his face. “If you don’t mind, could I have some time with my sister?” He watched her a moment. “It seems like we have a lot to discuss, things I need to make amends for.”

Aspen’s head fell.

I wanted to take her in my arms.

I wanted to take her away from here, back upstairs, somewhere private. I wanted to kiss her, make her feel good, but fuck—I’d felt helpless before. There’d been a lot of dark times, and this was one of them. And I should’ve had the words to make it better. I didn’t.

When Aspen didn’t say anything, I went to her.

“I got things I want to say to you too.”

She drew in a breath, her teeth clenched.

I pulled her close and pressed a kiss to her forehead.

My chest was full, tight. There was something I wanted to say, but I didn’t. I didn’t know if I could.

I left.



“Nice guy.” Nate grinned at me. “He’s got a bright future ahead of him.”

I swore at him. “Like you were any better?”

He let out a sputtering laugh. “I think I just met myself.”

I shrugged. “He’s got reason to have that attitude.” I moved around the kitchen island, pulling out a mug. Nate stepped aside so I could pour some coffee. “You had attitude too. Remember that?”

He eyed me, taking a sip of his coffee. “How old were you then? How do you remember?”

I grinned, pulling out some creamer. “I idolized you and Owen. I remember everything you guys did.”

He groaned. “I’m actually embarrassed.”

I laughed lightly.

It felt good.

It felt…right. And that was weird.

I sipped my coffee. “Why’d you come early this weekend?”

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