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I couldn’t help thinking about that night on the deck again. I could still remember the heat of his body, the taste of hard cider on his tongue, the way his hands gripped my waist and cupped my breasts.

I cleared my throat, staring at the TV. Though the movie played, I wasn’t tuned in whatsoever.

“How about some beer?” Clay asked, interrupting my thoughts. “I brought a six-pack with me. It’s in the car.”

Beer was bad. Me, Clay, and alcohol did not lead to good things, and I knew it…so why was I so damn hardheaded? Instead of turning it down, I said, “Dude. Why didn’t you say so sooner?”


“I picked these up on the way back from school so they’re not cold,” Clay said, shuffling through the kitchen cabinets for a bottle opener. When he found it, he cracked one of the beer bottles open and slid it across the counter to me.

“It’s fine,” I said.

When he ran out to his car, I hustled to the mudroom for a hoodie. Sure, I still had shorts on, but at least my nipples wouldn’t be staring back at him. “Remember when we used to steal beers from Grayson? He thought he was losing his mind.” I laughed.

Clay chuckled. “Yeah, don’t even mention that asshole. He deserved getting his beers stolen.” He took a swig of his own beer. “Can’t believe he cheated on Mom.”

“I don’t think Aria liked him all that much anyway. I think she dated him because he had money, and he was kinda cute. But she never really talked about him.”

“Yeah, she’s never been big on dating.” Clay shrugged, planting a large hand on the counter. I studied the veins running up from his forearms to his biceps and forced myself to look away as I sipped my beer. Leaning against the fridge, I attempted to play it cool, despite my heart thumping simply because of this little night we were sharing.

Something buzzed and Clay sighed, withdrawing his phone from the pocket of his shorts. He had on a red pair of basketball shorts now and these looked even better on him than the shorts before. He read something on his phone screen, then frowned before darkening the screen again and slipping it into his pocket.

“Uh-oh. I know that look. I thought there was no girlfriend.” I smiled behind the lip of my beer bottle.

“There isn’t. It’s just this one chick from college. Her name’s Katy. Met her at a grad party and she clearly hasn’t been able to let it go. We didn’t do anything though, just talked and stuff,” he added rapidly.

I pressed my lips, tapping a finger against my beer bottle. “You’re not into her?”

His head shook. “No. She’s…not my type.” I couldn’t help noticing as he said that, his eyes lowered to my legs. I stood up straight and moved across the kitchen to sit on the counter. I brought one leg up and folded it on the counter while my other dangled off the edge.

“I might move to California,” I said after a few sips of beer.

Clay’s jade eyes rapidly lifted to mine and his brows pulled together as he asked, “Why?”

“There’s a paid internship this mega popular therapist is offering. Her name’s Miranda Powell. She’s huge on Instagram and so many people recommend her. I applied for the position and got to speak to her last week. It seemed promising.”

“Oh.” Clay stood tall, bringing the rim of his bottle to his lips. After a heavy sip, he asked, “So, what, you plan on living there now?”

“I don’t know. It depends on how the job goes. This internship could turn into a full-time gig—well, that’s what Miranda says anyway.” I shrugged. “But even if it doesn’t, there’s a lot of opportunity out West. I might hang around for a bit.”

“And never come home,” Clay added, cocking a brow.

My brows stitched together. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“I mean, you’ve been trying to escape being here for years, Frank. It’s pretty obvious.” His jaw ticked and his knuckles turned white as he gripped his beer tighter.

“It’s just a job, Clay. I’m pretty sure I will come back.”

“If you do, you’ll make sure I’m not around, right?”

This time, I scoffed as I studied his face. His gaze was pointed to the floor and his jaw was still pulsing.

“Where is this even coming from?” I tried keeping my voice calm. The last thing I wanted to do was blow a fuse.

His green irises connected with mine and he huffed as he stood straight again. “Look, Frank, I know Mom isn’t going to live forever. And I know once she’s gone, you’ll have no reason to stick around here.”

My eyes felt tight as he spoke, but I didn’t blink. I was too afraid that tears would arrive, and I would cry. But I did look away.

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