Rival Page 7

This was why I needed Addie. I could talk her into getting Madoc home. I just couldn’t be too obvious about it.

“I’ll only be here for a week or so.” I took a sip of my juice and set it back down. “I’m going to Northwestern in the fall, but I’ll be staying with my dad in the city for the rest of the summer until school starts. Just wanted to visit before I start the next phase.”

She looked at me the way moms on TV looked at their daughters. The kind of look that makes you feel like you’ve got a thing or two to learn, because honey, you’re just a kid, and I’m smarter.

“You wanted to face him.” She nodded, her blue eyes locked with mine. “To resolve things.”

Resolve things? No. Face him? Yes.

“It’s cool.” I pushed the tray down the bed and climbed off. “I’m going for a run. Do they still keep that trail trimmed around the quarry?”

“As far as I know.”

I walked across the newly decorated room to the walk-in closet where I’d thrown my duffel bag yesterday when I got here.

“Fallon? Do you usually sleep in your underwear and a T-shirt too short to cover your ass?” Addie asked with a laugh in her voice.

“Yeah, why?”

I heard nothing for a few seconds as I bent over to get my bag. “Good thing Madoc’s not here after all then,” she mumbled in an amused tone and left me alone.

I got dressed, looking around my bedroom in the light of day. My old room with new décor.

When I’d gotten in yesterday, Addie had walked me up to my room, but the interior was very different than the way I’d left it. My skating posters were gone, my furniture had been replaced, and my red walls were now a cream color.

Cream? Yeah, gag.

I’d had a whole wall lined with bumper stickers. It now featured some impersonal mass-produced photographs of the Eiffel Tower and French cobblestone streets.

My bedding was a light pink, and my dressers and bed were now white.

My graphing table with my drawings, my shelves with my Lego robots, and my DVDs and CDs were gone. I can’t say I thought about any of that shit over the last two years, but I felt like I wanted to cry as soon as I entered the room yesterday. Maybe it was that I’d assumed they’d still be here, or maybe I was thrown off that my entire life could be thrown away so easily.

“Your mom redecorated shortly after you left,” Addie had explained.

Of course she did.

I allowed myself about two seconds to lament all of the hours I’d spent skating on boards that were now in a trash dump and building with precious Legos that were now rotting in the dirt somewhere.

And then I swallowed the ache in my throat and moved on. Screw it.

My room now was mature and even a little sexy. I still liked boys’ clothes and wild forms of expression, but my mom didn’t suck at decorating. There were no floral motifs anywhere, and the room was designed for a grown-up. The soft pink tones of the bedding and draperies, the innocence of the romantic furniture, and the black-and-white photographs in vivid frames made me feel like a woman.

I kind of liked it.

And I still kind of wanted to kill her for throwing away all of my stuff, too.

• • •

The best part about my mom marrying Jason Caruthers was that his house sat in the Seven Hills Valley, a huge gated community—if you considered it a “community” when your nearest neighbor was a half mile down the road in either direction.

Rich shits liked their country houses, their space, and their trophy wives. Even if they used none of them. When I thought of my stepfather, Richard Gere in Pretty Woman always came to mind. You know the dude who reserves the penthouse suite but can’t stand heights, so why the f**k did he reserve the penthouse suite?

Anyway, that was Jason Caruthers. He bought houses he didn’t live in, cars he didn’t use, and he married women he didn’t live with. Why?

I asked myself that all the time. Maybe he was bored. Maybe he was looking for something that he never seemed to find.

Or maybe he was just a rich shit.

To be fair, my mom was the same. Patricia Fallon married my father, Ciaran Pierce, eighteen years ago. Two days later, I was born. Four years later, they divorced, and my mother took me—her meal ticket—on all of her gold-digging adventures. She married an entrepreneur who lost his business and a police captain whose work turned out not to be glamorous enough for my mother.

But through him, she met her present husband and in him my mother found exactly what she was looking for: money and prestige.

Sure, my father had it, too. In certain circles. I had never truly wanted for anything. But my father lived outside of the law—far outside of the law—and to protect his family, he kept us hidden and quiet. Not really the glamorous life my mother was looking for.

But despite her selfish decisions, I liked where she ended up. I liked it here. I always had.

The estates all sat tucked away beyond large driveways and dense little neighborhoods of trees. I had loved running—or even walking—along the quiet, secluded roads, but what I anticipated more now was the way the community connected into the Mines of Spain recreational area that featured narrow woodsy trails and deep quarries. The sandstone all around, the greenery, and the perfect blue sky overhead made this the ideal place to get lost.

Sweat poured down my neck as I pounded the shit out of the dirt under my feet. Tool’s “Schism” played through my earbuds while I zoned out on the trail, and I had to remind myself to keep my eyes up. My father hated that I ran alone. He hated that I ran in quiet, unpopulated areas. I could hear his voice in my head: Keep your head up and protection on you!

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