“I have a boyfriend,” I said, a bit snotty and maybe a little valley girl. Getting ganged up on did weird things to me.

“Who you haven’t seen in almost three months, and who’s canceled on you twice,” Raegan said.

“So, he’s selfish because he’s dedicated to his job and wants to move up the ladder?” I asked, not really wanting to hear the answer. “We all knew this was coming. T.J. was honest from the beginning about how demanding his job could be. Why am I the only one not surprised?”

Kody and Raegan traded glances, and then continued eating their disgusting chicken fetuses.

“What are you guys doing today?” I asked.

“I’m going to lunch at my parents’ house,” Raegan said. “And so is Kody.”

I paused midbite, and pulled the bagel out of my mouth. “Really? That’s kind of a big deal,” I said with a smile.

Kody smirked. “She’s already warned me about her dad. I’m not nervous.”

He shook his head, but seemed less confident. “Why?”

“He’s a retired Navy SEAL, and Raegan’s not just his daughter. She’s his only child. This is a man who has strived for perfection and pushed himself beyond his limits his entire life. You think you’re going to walk in the door, threatening to take more of Raegan’s time and attention from him, and he’s just going to welcome you to the family?”

Kody was speechless. Raegan narrowed her eyes at me. “Thanks, friend.” She patted Kody’s hand. “He doesn’t like anyone at first.”

“Except Cami. But she doesn’t count. She isn’t a threat to his daughter’s virginity.”

Kody made a face. “Wasn’t that Jason Brazil like four years ago?”

“Yes. But Daddy doesn’t know that,” Raegan said, a little annoyed that Kody said The Name We Shall Not Speak.

Jason Brazil wasn’t a bad guy, we just pretended that he was. We all went to high school together, but Jason was a year younger. They decided to seal the deal before she went to college, hoping it would solidify their relationship. I thought she would tire of having a boyfriend who was still in high school, but Raegan was dedicated, and they spent most of their time together. Not long after Jason began his own freshman year at ESU, the wonders of college, joining a fraternity, and being Eastern State football’s star true freshman kept him busy, and the change spawned nightly arguments. He respectfully broke it off, and never once spoke a bad word about her. But he took Raegan’s virginity and then didn’t keep his end of the bargain: to spend the rest of his life with her. And for that, he was forever the enemy of this house.

Kody finished his eggs, and then began the dishes.

“You cooked. I’ll do those,” I said, pushing him away from the dishwasher.

“What are you doing today?” Raegan asked.

“Studying. Writing that paper that is due Monday. I may or may not shower. Definitely not stopping by Mom and Dad’s to explain why I didn’t leave town as planned.”

“Understandable,” Raegan said. She knew the real reason. I had already told my parents I was going to see T.J., and they would want to know why he’d canceled again. They already didn’t approve of him, and I had no interest in perpetuating the dysfunctional cycle of hostility that was created when more than one of us were in the same room. Dad would be in a hostile mood like he always was, and someone would say too much, like we always have, and Dad would yell. Mom would beg him to stop. And some way, somehow, it would always end up being my fault.

You’re stupid for trusting him, Camille. He’s secretive, my father had said. I don’t trust him. He watches everything with those judgmental eyes.

But that was one of the reasons I fell in love with him. He made me feel so safe. Like no matter where we went or what happened, he would protect me.

“Does T.J. know you went out last night?”

“Does he know about Trent?”

“He never asks about your nights out. If Trent was no big deal, you’d think you’d mention it,” Raegan said with a smirk.

“Shut up. Go to your parents’ house and let your dad torture Kody.”

Kody’s eyebrows pulled together, and Raegan shook her head, patting his massive shoulder as they walked to her bedroom. “She’s kidding.”

When Raegan and Kody left a couple of hours later, I opened my books and laptop, and began to write my paper on the effects of growing up with a personal computer. “Who comes up with this shit?” I groaned.

When the paper was written and printed, I began to study for the psych test I had on Friday. It was the better part of a week away, but experience had taught me that if I waited until the last minute, something would inevitably come up. It wasn’t as if I could study at work, and this test would be particularly difficult.

My cell phone pinged. It was Trenton again.

This is new. I’ve never had a girl give me her number n then ignore me.

I laughed, and picked up my phone with both hands, punching in the letters.

Not until I’m done.

Okay, and then can we eat? I’m starving.

Did we make plans to eat?

K, then. You plan to eat. I plan to eat. Let’s eat.

K . . . THEN can we eat?

U don’t have to wait on me. Go ahead.

I know I don’t have to. I want to.

But I can’t. So go ahead.

I put my phone on silent, and slid it under my pillow. His persistence was as admirable as it was annoying. I knew who Trenton was, of course. We were in the same graduating class at Eakins High. I had watched him grow from a dirty, snot-nosed kid who ate red pencils and glue, into the tall, tattooed, excessively charming man he was now. From the second he got his driver’s license, he had made his way through high school classmates and Eastern State coeds, and I swore I’d never be one of them. Not that he’d ever tried. Until now. I didn’t want to be flattered, but it was hard not to be after being one of the few females Trenton and Travis Maddox had never attempted to sleep with. I guess this proved that I couldn’t be completely unfortunate-looking. T.J. was magazine-quality beautiful, and now Trenton was texting. I wasn’t sure what was different about me between high school and college that had caught Trenton’s attention, but I knew what was different for him.

Less than two years before, Trenton’s life changed. He was riding in the passenger seat of Mackenzie Davis’s Jeep Liberty on their way out to a spring break bonfire party. The Jeep was barely recognizable when it was hauled back into town on a flatbed trailer the next day, just like Trenton when he returned to Eastern. Swallowed by the guilt of Mackenzie’s death, Trenton couldn’t concentrate in class, and by mid-April, he’d decided to move back in with his father and drop all of his classes. Travis had mentioned bits and pieces about his brother on slow nights at the Red, but I hadn’t heard much more about Trenton.

After another half hour of studying and chewing at my barely there fingernails, my stomach began to growl. I ambled into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. Ranch dressing. Cilantro. Why in the hell is the black pepper in the fridge? Eggs . . . ew. Fat-free yogurt. Even worse. I opened the freezer. Score. Frozen burritos.