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“Come home. It’s time,” he demands rather harshly. I must not respond because his next statement knocks the breath out of me.

“My grandfather died last night, and all hell’s going to break loose.”

I drop my phone.TESS

Past – fourteen years oldMy mother bursts into my room, right as I finish packing.

“Tess, come on. You know I need to get you over to Caroline’s.” Pleading, she presses her palms together at her chest. “I can’t be late for this appointment—it took me three months to get this plastic surgeon.”

“I’m almost ready.” I try to smile at her. She looks so nervous, and without makeup, she almost looks normal… well as normal as she can.

“I swear to God, Tess Rose Gallagher, if you make me late.” She’s screeching now.

“Mom,” I snap. “I’m ready. Jesus, you are getting more surgery. And I’m not coming home for weeks. I have to make sure I have everything.”

I haven’t spent the night at Reed’s in probably a year. When we were little, I slept over at their penthouse all the time. Not so much as we got older and it became apparent that Reed and I were together.

“Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain.” I stop for a moment. I can’t help but laugh because really? My mom has a mouth like a truck driver! She glares at me.

“Why don’t you have Alex drop me off?”

“Because I need Alex with me.” She nervously pulls her bleached-blond hair into a messy bun on top of her head.

That’s weird, but whatever—my mom is weird. We run out of the house. Alex is waiting and helps me with my Louis Vuitton duffel. It’s my latest gift from my absent father.

He smiles, and his white teeth clash with his tan. It’s so startling because no one is that tan in Manhattan.

The traffic is awful and Alex is swearing away. My mom doesn’t scold him about his language. We sit in uncomfortable silence as I stare out the window. My mind is going a mile minute. I get at least two weeks with Reed. That means we get to spend twenty-four hours a day together. Just as I start to think about Reed’s full lips and the hot way he kisses me, my mom decides to appease her guilt and talk.

“So, Tess…” I roll my eyes. “I know I said it would be a couple of weeks, but it might be more like three, is that all right, Kitten?”

I hate when my mom calls me Reed’s nickname. It’s his and only his. Shooting her my best disgusted look, I turn back to look out the window. It’s gray as usual, and dirty, also as usual. We have lived in Manhattan for almost seven years now and I still hate it. If I didn’t have Reed and Jax, I would seriously be depressed.

“Whatever, Mother. Take as long as you need,” I mumble.

She sighs, fidgeting with her wedding ring. “Exactly, I mean I need to heal properly. Since your father is never home, you will be happier with Caroline and Brad.”I turn to glance at her, and she looks small even though she is not a short woman. She’s so skinny, she looks petite.

My father has been gone for months. He left one morning, claiming he had an urgent case in London, which makes no sense because I’m pretty sure he can’t even practice law in England.

That was six months ago, and even though she hasn’t said it, obviously they are having problems. As much as either one of them talks to me, they could be divorced and I would never know.

I snicker at the thought. My mom would rather swallow poison than divorce my father. It’s one of her few joys, tossing around his name, spending his money. See, he is a famous lawyer, or at least as famous as you can get in the legal world. He has won so many high-profile cases that he’s become a bit of a celebrity.

Yeah, they’re not divorced. He simply can’t stand her, and she won’t ever give him up. Pathetic!

“Tess?” Her nasal voice makes me cringe. Reed constantly makes fun of my mom in general, but her voice… He loves to imitate her voice. Now any time she sounds nasal, I have to fight back the laughter. Today, I can’t help but crack a smile.

“You know you will almost be on summer break when I’m healed.” Biting my bottom lip, I try not to burst into laughter. So, I look out the window for a moment, then back at her.

“Yeah?” Giggling, I can’t help it.

She tries to raise an eyebrow, but with all her Botox, it looks like her eyes are big. “Am I amusing?”

I shake my head no, not trusting myself to speak.

Staring at me for a second before continuing, she says, “Anyway, I was thinking we should go to Paris. You know, buy a whole new wardrobe. Maybe go to London and visit your father.” Her eyes light up—it’s the first real spark of interest I have seen in them in a while.