Page 64 of Undercover Agent

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“Watching movies, making popcorn, spending the day on the beach.”

“Like we did yesterday.” I looked up at the sky. “I’m going to admit something I probably shouldn’t.”

He propped his head on his bent arm. “Yeah?”

“Don’t get too excited…it isn’t what you think.”

“I read your thoughts, not the other way around.”

I laughed. “I had a good time yesterday. I liked you being here. With me. With my family. Having Stephen and Nora and their family here. It was nice.”

It was actually a lot more than nice. I didn’t want to think about him leaving and how quiet, lonely, and boring it would be once he was gone.

“It was nice,” he murmured.

“It was like in the movies. The boy and girl meet over summer vacation, and then at the end of it, they go their separate ways, but they’ll always have the memory of that one magical time together.” I needed to change the subject; I’d put myself on the verge of tears.

“When you used to spend summers here as a child, what were your daydreams? When you closed your eyes, how did you imagine your life would turn out?”

“That’s quite a question, but not at all the way it did.”

“How is it different?”

“I never imagined that I’d graduate from high school when I was fifteen. I sure didn’t imagine that I’d go to Stanford, all the way on the other side of the country.”

“What was that like? How’d you manage?”

“My parents rented a house, and my mom lived there the whole time I was enrolled. Dad came out when he could. Ricky…my brother…” Did I really want to talk about this? It was the beginning of the end. “He stayed in Boston because it was his senior year.”

Lynx looked into my eyes. “And then what?”

“He was a football player. The first game of the season, he got hurt and had to have surgery. Mom flew out right away so she could be there. I don’t remember where Dad was. Anyway, she made it before they took him in to operate. His recovery was rough. He was in a lot of pain, but instead of being with him, Mom flew back to take care of me.”

“That’s when he began taking fentanyl.”

I nodded and closed my eyes. “If Mom had been with him, she would’ve monitored how much he was taking.”


“No, she would’ve. It’s how she is.”

“The way it played out wasn’t your fault.”

I shook my head. It was, because it didn’t end there. My parents spent as much time as they could in California with me. They’d tried to talk my brother into applying for colleges there, but he refused. He wanted to stay in Massachusetts near his friends.

He’d dropped out of college after the first year, and that’s when they realized there was something very wrong. His first stint in rehab later that year was in a facility less than an hour from Stanford. I sat up and turned my back to him.

“It wasn’t your fault, Emerson,” Lynx repeated.

I tried to stand, but he wrapped his arm around my waist.

“It wasn’t your fault,” he said a third time.

I bent at the waist, with his arm still encircling it, and cried.

“Let it out,” he soothed as sobs racked my body. This certainly wasn’t the first time I’d cried over my brother, but it was the first time anyone other than my parents held me while I did.

I tried to stop, but I was too far gone, so I did as he said and let it out. Lynx stayed behind me, whispering all the while that it was okay, I was okay, and it wasn’t my fault that my brother overdosed.