The Insiders

Page 69

There were bake sales.

There were football games. (Football hadn’t started.)

There were basketball tournaments.

Softball. Baseball. Every single sport imaginable that I had never participated in, watched, or followed. I missed them all this past summer.

A pinball something. She didn’t know what it was, but I missed it.

The words should’ve been hurtful, but I knew she didn’t mean them. She was hurt and she’d been scared and she was rambling until she could deal enough to really talk to me. Everything else: air. Just air.

Kash listened to it for a while, waiting for a break so he could introduce himself. There was none. After an hour, I signaled that he could go to bed. His relief almost had me going with him, because I wasn’t relieved. I was envious. If I’d gone with him, Chrissy would have just brushed her teeth, still talking, changed into her pajamas, still yelling from the bathroom, and then crawled into bed with us.

She would have. That was no exaggeration.

Kash came back out from the bedroom in pajama pants and a white shirt. He bent down, kissed me lightly, the mint smell from his toothpaste lingering, and murmured, “You going to be okay?”

“Save me now.”

He chuckled, though we both knew I wasn’t joking. Running a hand down my hair, he asked, “Want me to stay?”

I did, but I knew he had things to do in the morning, and since Chrissy was still talking, I knew she wasn’t going to end until she passed out. That could be four … tomorrow afternoon.

I shook my head, my shoulders slumping. “Nah. I’ll probably pass out while she’s talking. It’ll be fine.”

“You sure?”

He was wonderful. I held his hand and nodded again. “I am.”

Another kiss, another hand smoothing down my hair, before he headed up the stairs to my room. We had been using my room all this time because he had crawled into mine. I hadn’t gone to bed in his. Now I was thinking that was foolish.


He paused on the landing above us.

“Let’s sleep in your room.” I motioned to my mom. “She can have mine.”

“You sure?” He tilted his head to the side.

“Yeah.” His bed was bigger. He was closer to the door, in case something happened. I was sure. And I wanted to curl up and snuggle in with sheets that held him, just him. His smell. His feel. His everything. My room wasn’t my room anymore.

He came back down, mouthing “Come to bed when you can” as he passed by.

As soon as his door shut, Chrissy stopped talking.

My head whipped to hers. “You’re done?”

Her eyes were on the room Kash had just disappeared into. She watched it for a second, then a new look found me. A determined look. A look that told me she wouldn’t be pacified, and I had better come clean about everything or I’d be grounded until I was sixty.

“Is he your boyfriend?”

That was a real question. Now we were starting. “What?”

Her eyes narrowed. “He’s your boyfriend.”

“Mom.” I shifted on the couch, tucking my knees against my chest.

She added, ignoring me now, “You have a very hot boyfriend.”


“Hot. Wealthy. Famous boyfriend.” She looked at me now. “He’s powerful.”

I began rubbing at my forehead. “Mom.”

“Not him.” She grunted, lifting a shoulder. “Well, him too. I was talking about his grandfather.”

Oh God. I really wanted to disappear now.

“Mom, please.” I was shaking my head. “Not now. Not after tonight.”

“Why not now?” She leaned forward, her arms resting on her legs, her focus totally and completely on me. “Because your half brother is in the hospital from overdosing at that fancy dirty nightclub?”

“Is that what the news is saying?”

“They’re saying a rich, entitled boy took drugs at a nightclub and is in the hospital. He’s not the big news. It’s you and your boyfriend. Your boyfriend, mostly.”

I looked down, hugging my knees tighter to me. I wanted a shield against this whole conversation. “He was poisoned.”

She was quiet a beat. Then, “They know by who?”

Crap. The answer confirmed the disdain that was dripping from her voice. I just shrugged. “They’re not sure yet.”

She snorted a laugh. “Always knew when you were lying. Can’t pull one over on your mother.”

“Really?” I shot upright, my feet straightening back to the floor, and I twisted around on the couch to face her more squarely. “You had no clue I was going. You were all excited about spending a free night in a lavish hotel.”

“You’re right.” Her voice raised. “I was.” She shifted, so her body was facing me squarely. “I thought I raised you better!”

I shot to my feet. “He knew about me.”

Those crystal-blue eyes stopped, then closed.

Her fight vanished. She seemed to shrink back into the couch.

I kept on. “You made the decision to keep me away. Not him. Not me. You. And you lied about it all my life.”

She cursed, soft and quiet, then stood up. “Let’s talk about this tomorrow.”

I blocked her from leaving. “No way.”

Then she threw at me, rearing back, “You think you know everything, but you’re wrong. All of this doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to be here. The kidnapping attempts aren’t real. It was all a hoax, an act to get you here.”


There was a crazed look in her eye. Her hair was a little undone, more than normal. A vein was sticking out from her neck, pulsating at a rapid pace.

I’d made my mom lose it.

“Mom.” I had done this. I couldn’t believe I’d done this.

I reached for her, but she turned away, her shoulder jerking back, rejecting my touch.


She folded her arms over her chest, her back to me, and bent her head down. She was settling in. When she got this way, it was useless to try to reason with her. I would have needed a sledgehammer—the drink and the tool—to make any headway.

I debated, and then decided. Screw it. I was going to try. I had to try.

I said it all to her back. “The attempt was real.” I laid it all out to her. She hadn’t been in the room with the cops. She had no clue how bad it had been. I told her about the guy who was my ally. About the supposed rape. About Boots, Rafe, Clemin. About Arcane. I told her how I had yelled for Mrs. Johnson.

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