Rival Page 25

“Here’s a change of clothes for after he swims.” She handed Madoc the backpack. “There’s sunscreen, a snack, and some water, too. You’ll have him home by dinner?”

Madoc nodded. “We may stop at a bar, but definitely after that.”

“Awesome.” She smiled and shook her head at him as if she were used to his cracks. “He’s so excited,” she continued. “Call if you have any problems.”

Madoc bent down and put an arm around the kid.

“Ohhhhh, Mooooooom,” they both whined as if her concerns were silly.

She rolled her eyes and held out her hand to me.

“Hi, I’m Grace. And you are?” Good mom. Making sure your kid is safe.

“Hi.” I took her hand. “I’m Fallon. Madoc’s . . . um . . . stepsister,” I stuttered, hoping she didn’t hear Madoc’s snort.

Technically, I wasn’t lying.

“Nice to meet you. You all have fun.” She waved and walked back up the steps.

Madoc spun around, and I couldn’t get over how he and the kid not only got along, but how much they looked alike. Both were dressed in long, black cargo shorts with T-shirts. But while Madoc wore black leather flip-flops, the kid wore sneakers.

“Fallon, this is Lucas.” He introduced me finally. “He’s my little brother. As in the program. I’m his big brother.”

I exhaled. Okay, good. I was glad he’d explained. Because that was weird there for a while.

“Wow, they trust you with kids?” I asked, kind of serious, kind of not.

“What?” He placed his hand on his chest, appearing hurt. “I’m awesome with kids. I’ll be a great dad someday. Tell her, Lucas.”

Lucas looked up at me and didn’t even blink. “He taught me how to tell when a woman is wearing a thong.”

I burst out laughing, putting my hand over my mouth.

Madoc pulled the kid in by the neck as we walked to the car. “I told you, women are the enemy. They don’t understand skills like that.”



“Will Jared and Tate be there?” Lucas piped up from the backseat.

“Hey, man. Don’t kick the leather,” I teased, reaching behind me to stop his feet from digging into my seat. “And yes, they’ll be there.”


We sat there, bobbing our heads to the music, and I couldn’t help but peek at Fallon next to me. What was she thinking? She seemed to get a kick out of Lucas but seemed really surprised to meet him.

Was it so unusual that I would spend time with a kid that didn’t have a dad? Fallon always condemned me for being pretentious, self-absorbed, and whatever other words struck her on a particular day, but now I gathered that she really did believe it.

She sat there, staring out the window and completely weirded out by the situation.

Or maybe it was facing what we’d done last night in the light of day. She used to have a thing about the dark. Being alone in her room, no light, it was as if what we were doing wasn’t real to her.

While she always fully participated, things changed in the daylight. She’d act like nothing happened. She’d go back to not making eye contact. She’d barely even say my name. I caught on to how she worked pretty quickly and rolled with it.

Hey, I was sixteen and had a hell of a sex life. I wasn’t going to complain that she wouldn’t let me touch her any other time. I was simply happy that I got what I got at that age.

But now, touching her, listening to her panting . . . everything we did last night in the rain was even better than I remembered. I used to pace my room, waiting for Addie to close up the house at night so I knew that it was safe to go to Fallon’s room. I was happy and alive when I was with her. I hadn’t felt that for a long time.

When Fallon left, I crumbled. Like Jared when Tate left for France for a year; I didn’t lose control like he did, but I acted out.

Her mom had told me that she and my dad found out what was happening, because Fallon ratted us out. Patricia said that Fallon felt uncomfortable and pressured by me. All the confidence I’d built was ripped apart.

I didn’t handle it well.

She and I might have lived in the same house, but we had never seen each other as stepsiblings. We had never even spent much time together, so I never felt like what we were doing was wrong. I loved all of it and wanted more of it. But over the past two years my hatred toward her grew.

Every girl paled in comparison, and the only time I’d felt right was when I had been with Fallon. And then last night, she tells me that she never lied to the parents. Never told them anything. I was overjoyed and pissed off at the same time. My heart pumped fire again, knowing she wanted me, but I’d spent the whole night thinking about all the time we lost—what they took from us—and I wanted shit to hit the fan.

And it would. Soon.

If I confronted my dad now, he’d come home and Fallon would be out. So if I couldn’t convince her to stay longer, then I only had a few more days with her until she left for Chicago. I’d deal with my dad after that.

• • •

We parked in the lot right next to Jared’s car. Grabbing Lucas’s backpack, I handed that and some towels from the trunk to Fallon while I retrieved the cooler and picnic blanket.

“Tate, stop!”

I jerked my head up out of the trunk, hearing Jared’s voice.

“Tate!” He stomped after his pissed-off girlfriend.

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