Rich Prick

Page 49

I shrugged. “He was unhappy. You do shitty things when you’re miserable, but trust me, you got the better dad.”

“Whatever,” he snapped, looking back out at the beach. “I’m sorry for your shit, what you—never mind.”

I felt a kick at his words. We both knew what he meant, and yeah.

That was enough said on the topic.

Some other ATVs were starting to come our way.

None of them seemed to know what they were doing—driving around, jerking and awkward. Someone was going to spill.

Cross shook his head. “I saw you before. There’s a ridge down there, and I knew it was you. You’re good at this stuff.”

I didn’t answer, but he wasn’t waiting for a response. “Someone’s going to flip their ride and get impaled.” He laughed. “We’ll have to take ’em to the hospital.”

I grunted. Probably. Everyone liked to show off until they were in the back of an ambulance. And I was betting it’d be one from my group.

“I heard you’re going to Cain,” he said after a moment.

I frowned. “Who’d you hear that from?”

“Are you?”

I nodded. “I’m going to be on their soccer team.”

He cocked his head. “You play soccer?”

Another nod. “I rock at soccer.”

He didn’t reply, his face an impartial wall, but I was learning to read my brother. He was surprised, and a little impressed, if I was getting him right.

“Listen,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll talk to you again all summer. But we’re doing a party at the end of August. The four of us are renting a house. We’re doing a preview party for that project Aspen’s parents are working on. You’re invited.”

“You’re asking now to get Taz off your back, aren’t you?”

He jerked up a shoulder, shoving his helmet back on. “Maybe.”

I laughed. He was. And I knew I wouldn’t see him the rest of the summer. He’d live his life with his friends. I’d do mine with my friends. On the off chance we did see each other, we wouldn’t talk. That’s what this was about—setting a tentative peace. But no matter what we said today, we both still had issues to resolve. And those issues didn’t really have anything to do with each other.

And I didn’t want to deal with those right now.

I drew in a deep breath and reached forward, turning the engine on.

There were two ATVs right underneath us. I could jump them both if I had enough momentum.

Not saying another word, I began backing up until I had enough space.

It was like Cross knew what I was doing, because he waited, watching me.

I gunned my engine, shot past him, and flew in the air.

There were screams from beneath me, but I cleared both with a little extra distance. I left a wave of sand raining down, and I laughed, loving that.

After that, I headed back.

I wasn’t surprised when Cross wasn’t too far behind me.

We turned in our rides and gear, and oddly, we walked beside each other back to the campsite. We didn’t say a word, but it felt nice.

I’d admit that to no one.



By Saturday night, the trip was winding down.

Blaise had gone out early in the morning to ride, and later in the afternoon. I’d realized he enjoyed doing that stuff when no one else was around, but he’d said he was going to take me out in the morning.

I hadn’t been sure what to expect from this trip, but it was fun.

While Blaise was gone, Bren and Taz had come over and sat with me at our camper. When he came back, he and I went inside. He’d held me while I read until Zeke came over, and then Blaise had gone off with the guys. They’d taken a trip to town and came back with more food and booze.

A few people had started drinking early in the morning, but once the guys came back, party mode got cranked up a notch. The music blared, they fired up the grills, and the drinks were flowing.

Now it was the evening, and Blaise was drinking while I sat on his lap. We’d moved from in front of our camper to join Blaise’s friends around the fire. Bren and Taz stuck with their group, and they were laughing a lot. Taz sat on her boyfriend’s lap, and Bren sat close to Blaise’s brother. The other guys were eyeing a few of the girls on our side of the campsite.

At one point, I saw Mara Daniels break away from the main group, and I sighed, figuring maybe this was the time for our showdown.

I knew it was coming. Everyone had been waiting, or they had been in my head, at least. People watched whenever Mara came close to where Blaise and I sat. Blaise would stiffen too, until she moved to a different group. Then he’d relax. The other girls in her group had left me alone. I’d gotten a few dirty looks, but that was it.

Whatever Blaise had done, it had worked to warn them off.

But still, this was my fight. He couldn’t take this on for me. As I saw Mara head over to a camper by herself, I slid off Blaise’s lap.

He held me in place. “Where you going?”

I rested my hands on his chest. “I’ve got something I need to do.” I pushed off of him.

He started to stand, and I shook my head. “No. You stay. I need to do this alone.”

He growled. “I don’t like this, Aspen.”

I snorted. “I don’t care.” I gave him a smile and leaned down, brushing my lips over his. “I have to do this. Let me.”

He scowled, but stayed where he was.

“Keep him back,” I told Zeke.

He laughed. “Yeah, right. Good luck on that one.”

Blaise’s scowl shifted to his best friend.

Zeke shook his head.

I headed around to Mara’s camper, but when I looked back, I wasn’t alone. Her girlfriends were right behind me.

Penny raised her eyebrows. “You think we’re not going to rally around our girl? Blaise warned us off, but it’s different when you’re the one seeking her out. All bets are off.”

Well then. Lovely.

I eyed them. All four gave me varying hostile looks.

Then I heard a scrape behind me, and saw Bren and Taz walking to join us.

Penny raised her head. “This doesn’t concern you, Monroe.”

Bren snorted. “It’s a chick fight. Of course we’re coming to have Aspen’s back.”

Penny’s gaze turned wary. “We don’t fight like you do.”

“I hope not, but if you do…” Bren’s grin was a slight bit evil. I liked it. She added, “I got no problem wading in.”

Penny looked past her. “And if you do? What then? Your crew will come? We’re girls.”

“So let’s keep this just girls.” Bren shrugged.

The camper door opened, and Mara stepped down, taking everyone in before her eyes fell to me. Her demeanor was frosty, and she didn’t waste time. “Get the fuck out of my way.”

I readied myself, rolling my shoulders back. Chin up. That’s what you do when you’re about to fight, right?

“I’m giving you your shot,” I told her, already bracing myself because I didn’t really know how this worked.

She frowned. “Say what?”

“I’m right here. Blaise gets tense every time you walk by us or get near us, and I don’t know... I figure this is coming, so go for it. I’m here. Take your shot. If you want to hit me, do it. If you want to say something to me, do that instead. I can take it. I’m ready.”

Her eyes narrowed.

A brief image of a snake winding up, raising its head for an attack flashed in my mind… Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

But I still added, “I’m kinda tired of waiting, to be honest. Time keeps moving. Feelings will fade, and you might not get your shot later, so strike while the iron is hot. Right? That’s the saying?”

Someone snorted behind me. I wasn’t sure which side it came from.

“You’re an idiot,” someone else muttered.

Again, I wasn’t sure, but I was betting that wasn’t Taz or Bren.

Mara rolled her eyes. “I don’t have anything to say to you.”

What? I frowned. “Why not?”

She shook her head. “Are you always this stupid? I’m leaving you alone. Take this and shoo, bitch.”

But… That’s not how this was supposed to happen. “I don’t get it. Aren’t you supposed to lay into me or something? Make me bleed? Cry, at least?”

“Why?” Her eyes flashed, but they looked hollow, empty. It was gone in the next breath. “My problems aren’t yours. Blaise never lied to me, and it ain’t your fault he fell for you and not me. It’s my fault I didn’t keep him.”

I had no clue how to process this. This was really not going how I’d prepared myself for. I had psyched myself up for a fight fight. “But—”

“Dear God.” A hand took my arm and pulled me back. Bren frowned at me. “She’s trying to be a good person. Leave it alone.”

I swung my head back to Mara. “I don’t get this.”

“What the fuck do you want from me?!” she screeched. That was more like it. Her hands formed fists and she came at me, but only took a few steps before stopping. “You are rubbing salt in the wound by doing this. Back off! I have shit to deal with, and it has nothing to do with you. This ain’t a television show where I’m the mean girl and I’m going to write whore and your phone number in the bathroom or something. Bitch. Whore. Slut. Is that what you want from me? For the last fucking time, I got my own shit to deal with, but I’m not a bully. I never actually planned on doing anything to you.”

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