Rival Page 3

She jerked around. “Tais-toi! Je te détes—”

“What?” I interrupted her. “What was that? I’m hot, and you love me? Jared, did you know she had feelings—”

“Stop it!” he bellowed, shutting the both of us up. “Goddamn it, you two.” He threw his hands up in the air, looking between us like we were misbehaving children.

Tate and I were both silent for a moment. Then when she snorted, I couldn’t help but let out a laugh, too.

“Madoc?” Jared’s teeth were practically glued together. I could hear the tension in his voice. “Out. Now.”

I grabbed my cell off the seat and did as I was told, only because I knew my best friend had had enough.

I’d been trying to bait Tate all day by making jokes and distracting Jared. She was finally racing a real opponent, and even though Jared and I had been working with her, we knew things went wrong out there on the track. All the time. But Tate insisted that she could handle it.

And what Tate wants, Tate gets. Jared was whipped worse than cream when it came to that girl.

I walked back down the track to the driveway leading in to it. My silver GTO sat along the side of the road, and I dug in my jeans for my keys with one hand while I ran the back of my hand across my forehead with the other.

It was early June, and everything was already so miserable. The heat wasn’t bad, but the damn humidity made it worse. My mom had wanted me to come to New Orleans for the summer, and I gave her a big, fat hell-to-the-no.

Yeah, I love sweating my balls off while her new husband tries to teach me shrimping in the Gulf.

Nope.

I loved my mom, but the idea of having the house to myself all summer while my dad stayed at his apartment in Chicago was, no doubt, a much better prospect.

My hand tingled with a vibration, and I looked down at my phone.

Speak of the devil.

“Hey, what’s up?” I asked my dad as I came up on the side of my car.

“Madoc. Glad you answered. Are you home?” He sounded unusually concerned.

“No. I was about to head there soon, though. Why?”

My dad was hardly ever around. He kept an apartment in Chicago. since his big legal cases kept him working long hours. While often absent, he was easy to get along with.

I liked him. Didn’t love him, though.

My stepmom had been AWOL for a year. Traveling, visiting friends. I hated her.

And I had a stepsister . . . somewhere.

The only person I loved at home was Addie, our housekeeper. She made sure I ate my vegetables, and she signed my permission slips for school. She was my family.

“Addie called this morning,” he explained. “Fallon showed up today.” My breath lodged in my throat, and I nearly dropped my phone.

Fallon?

Putting my palm down on the hood of my car, I put my head down and tried to stop grinding my teeth.

My stepsister was home. Why? Why now?

“So?” I spat out. “What does that have to do with me?”

“Addie packed you a bag.” He ignored my question. “I talked to Jared’s mom, and you’re going to stay with them for a few weeks until my schedule frees up. I’ll come home then and get this sorted out.”

Excuse me? It felt like the phone would crack under my fingers as I clenched it.

“What? Why?” I yelled, breathing hard. “Why can’t I stay at my own house?”

Since when did she get the run of things? So she was home. Big deal! Send her on her way then. Why did I have to be sent away?

“You know why,” my dad answered, his deep tone threatening. “Don’t go home, Madoc.”

And he hung up.

I stayed planted where I stood, studying the reflection of the trees on the hood of my car. I had been told to go to Jared’s house, where Addie would bring me clothes, and not to go home until further notice.

And why?

I shut my eyes and shook my head. I knew why.

My stepsister was home, and our parents knew everything. Everything that happened two years ago.

But it wasn’t her home. It never was. It’s been my home for eighteen years. She lived there for a while after our parents got married and then disappeared a couple of years ago.

I’d woken up one morning, and she was gone. No good-bye, no note, and no communication since then. The parents knew where she was but not me. I wasn’t allowed to know her whereabouts.

Not that I f**king cared anyway.

But I damn well wanted to be in my own house for the summer.

• • •

Two hours later I was sitting in Jared’s living room with his half brother, Jax, biding my time until their mom stopped watching us like a hawk. The more I sat, the more anxious I got to go find some distractions. Jared had a ton of liquor up in his room that I’d brought over from my house, and it was time to start my Saturday night warm-up. Jax was slouched on the couch playing video games, and Jared had left to get tattooed.

“This is not how you handle it, Jason,” I heard Katherine Trent whisper-yell from the kitchen.

My eyebrows shot up. Jason? That was my father’s name.

She crossed the doorway as she paced, talking on the phone.

She calls my dad Jason? Not weird, I guess. That’s his name. It just seemed weird. Not many people got away with calling my father by his first name. It was usually “Mr. Caruthers” or “sir.”

Getting up, I inched into the dining room, which sat right off the kitchen.

“This is your son,” I heard her say. “You need to come home and deal with this.” I stuck my hands in my pockets and leaned back against the wall right by the door leading to the kitchen. She was quiet for a while except for the sounds of dishes clattering. She must’ve been unloading the dishwasher.

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