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Chapter 19

I spent the weekend working on Travesty. One of the big things hanging over our heads was a website. I wasn’t the least bit tech savvy but threw myself into it, researching until I had a to-do list, a domain name, and some local developers who could send us quotes. The new information pouring into my half-willing brain helped delay the inevitable until the following week.

Of course I had to go and have the best sex of my life with Ava’s little brother. Less than two months into the “no boys” year. Maybe this is what the hookups clause was for, a voice piped hopefully. Nope—I was pretty sure even a liberal interpretation wouldn’t extend to this particular scenario. I couldn’t imagine the look on Ava’s face if she found out.

I had almost fully rationalized that it was a one-time thing to blow off steam. But I couldn’t seem to quit the instant replays. And reprises. And adaptations.

I’d had no idea I could have chemistry that intense with someone. Now that I did, it was like I’d unleashed something that was wreaking havoc with my insides.

Monday morning I slept through my alarm because I couldn’t sleep Sunday night. When Ava came to get me I told her I was sick and to go ahead without me. She looked skeptically at me from the doorway of my room. The problem with best friends was it was nearly impossible to lie to them, and just trying felt soul-crushing.

When I finally made it to business law, the professor cold-called me right in the middle of class. I had completely missed what he’d asked. I was gazing off into the distance, imagining myself leaning over the desk with Dylan thrusting into me from behind.

“Um.” I must have gone as red as my hair. “Negligence?”

“I’m sorry, Miss Caine?”

“Ahhh … could you repeat the question?”

My neighbor slid a sheet of paper across to my desk and I glanced at it. “I mean, if the business has no substantial assets, they should consider filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.” Which was quite possibly in my future if I didn’t get my shit together.

“That is correct, Miss Caine. Now unless you’re planning to marry Mr. Durst here so you can always be joined at the hip—” he gestured to the boy who’d passed me the note, who flushed “—perhaps a little less daydreaming and a little more studying in your future?”

Asshole. Even if he was totally right.

That night Ava ambushed me to come and help with some of her designs. “If you’re feeling better, of course.” I guiltily agreed.

She was finalizing the pieces she’d send for the fall fashion show and wanted to see how they’d look on a runway. I brought Jane, which would no doubt endear me to Ava for the foreseeable future. Our roommate Emily was the third conscripted. Jen was more into sports than fashion, and hadn’t needed to beg off as she was already out with Jace.

Ava might not have been a bookworm but she was a perfectionist when it came to the clothes. She insisted on seeing how they hung, how they moved, and how they looked one after another. No detail escaped her.

Emily was lounging on Ava’s bed, waiting her turn to get suited up, regaling us with hilarious stories about the guy she’d been dating until recently. “I’m not even joking. He tried to get me to take off my stilettos because he was worried they’d scratch the interior of his car. But when we went back to his place, which we only did once, he wanted me to leave them on.” She ended with a laugh.

Nearby Ava was pinning green fabric of a dress so it hung just right while I stood on a stool. She piped in. “Erdv mrdam verdem.” We all looked at her and she rolled her eyes and took the pins out of her mouth. “I said, I’d have made the perv wear them.”

Emily and I laughed hard, Jane chiming in a little late. She was a bit more conservative than the rest of us. I hoped we wouldn’t corrupt her too much. But she seemed like she could probably take it, even if she didn’t entirely relate to things like fetishes. I figured Chase was pretty straight-laced.

“What about you? You look awfully dazed the last few days.” Ava narrowed her eyes up at me. “This playing sick thing? Pshh.” Her gaze turned serious. “Don’t tell me you and Jake had a little for-old-times’-sake action? You know what we agreed, Lex! It’s fine if you want to blow off some steam, but exes are off limits. Exes come with feelings, and feelings mess with heads, and messed heads mess with business. You convinced me of that.”

“Yeah, I know,” I mumbled.

Emily looked over with interest and Jane pulled her face out of the magazine she was reading while sitting on the floor next to the bed. “Come on, Lex, let’s hear it,” Emily implored. Her eyes were sparkling, probably because she was at least in part Team Jake. “I have not gotten my share of gossip yet this year. Own up.”

“There’s nothing to tell.” And there wasn’t—at least about Jake.

“What about Kent?” Jane asked, pulling my thoughts back to the present. “He was cute and seemed into you.” I snuck a look out of the corner of my eye at Ava, worried I might get stabbed with a pin before I even answered. She anticipated in that psychic best friend way. “Not to worry, I’m so over that,” Ava responded breezily. “And he does seem like a good recreational prospect.”

There had to be a way to get out of this unscathed. “He is cute. But no, I haven’t. And I haven’t seen Jake in a while.”

“Alright, but we’re onto you!” Emily chimed back in. “We’re your roommates. You can’t keep secrets for long. Between Jane and us, we see you 24/7. If there’s some hottie you’re secretly banging, we’ll know about it.” She winked. Super.

As long as I could keep anyone from finding out what had happened between me and Dylan that night, and keep it from happening again, I was in the clear.

No sweat.

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