Schooled

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Chapter 7

The second week of school I dragged my butt downstairs at seven thirty on Monday only to walk into an ambush.

Dylan Cameron, all six-one of him, complete with sleepy eyes and messy hair, was leaning against the railing at the foot of the stairs. The way his eyes connected with mine when I bounded down the stairs gave me the strangest feeling he’d been waiting for me.

“Morning,” he intoned. It wasn’t fair for a girl to be accosted with that visual before she’d even woken up enough to brace herself.

“Hi. Don’t you have a house? This one’s mine.” I blinked for a moment and glanced around. “Isn’t it?”

It turned out he hadn’t been waiting for me. Ava wandered toward the front door from the kitchen, an apple in one hand. “Mom and Dad said Dylan and I could share a car this year.” Evidently whatever irritation she’d felt toward her brother was overridden by the convenience of having her own chauffeur.

“Minor detail?” Dylan leaned toward me to whisper, close enough that I could smell him. “It’s my car.” The future billboard ads sprung to mind: Sin, by Dolce & Gabbana. The willpower I’d summoned was taking its sweet time to kick in.

“Need a ride to school, Lex?” Ava offered, ignoring Dylan’s comment.

I was about to say no, but Dylan nodded as if to say it was fine with him. I didn’t have a parking pass so would be taking the bus otherwise. Although I’d planned on grabbing a coffee downstairs, I was already dressed and somewhat put together.

“Uh, sure. Give me two minutes.”

It turned out that Dylan had agreed to drive Ava only on the days their schedules started at the same time, which were Monday and Thursday. Apparently this deal had been negotiated by Ava over the weekend when she found out their parents had chipped in to help with the work on Dylan’s restored Mustang.

“Which means it’s practically their car,” she whispered to me the same way Dylan had a moment ago. “And since they didn’t buy me one, it makes perfect sense.”

Regardless of whether the argument held water, I was happy to benefit from the situation.

The car in question was a black vintage 1965 Mustang, which I only knew because I asked. For some reason it seemed to suit Dylan perfectly.

Whether it fit me was another question—while the car was great to look at, it seemed built for two. Or maybe two people and two small dogs. It was worth the slightly hurried morning and knees squished to my chin to observe the fascinating dynamics of family relations. I had always enjoyed watching at the Cameron house back when we were young enough to all hang out together. Though Ava’s family had made me feel nothing but warm and welcome at dinners and weekends over the years, I couldn’t quite relate to the way they interacted—like they truly cared and wanted to be in one another’s company.

Ava and Dylan bantered back and forth like most siblings close in age. Though there was sometimes a bit of an edge, underneath it they were still family. But it didn’t mean they ever agreed on anything. From the substantive to the trivial, they were always fighting.

“Now we’re late,” Ava complained. “I don’t even have time to grab a coffee on campus before class. It’s going to screw up my whole day.” I was about to jump in since I was a contributing factor, but she didn’t seem interested in blaming me.

Dylan groaned. “I am seriously underslept. I deserve your sympathy, not your wrath.”

“What the hell does that mean?” Ava demanded.

“I think it means ‘get over it.’” I piped in from the back seat.

Dylan nodded approvingly at my translation.

Ava was quick to jump in. “Then maybe, brother dearest, you should start scheduling your late-night hookups on days you don’t drive me to school.”

I didn’t bother to correct her assumption; it wasn’t my place. Somehow I knew Dylan hadn’t lied to me that first night, but it was entirely possible his … status had changed since the start of school. Girls like Emily were apparently lined up to help him out with just that.

He turned to shoot a glare toward the passenger side of the car, then relented. “You’re only half wrong. Rick has brought a different girl home every night this week. At least, they sound like different girls. Most of them are loud, but they make different noises.” He shuddered. “I’m all for privacy, but last night I thought they’d bring the house down.”

Apparently there was an endless parade of short skirts and dyed hair through the guys’ house, courtesy of their football-star roomie.

“The thumping is bad enough. Then there are the other noises. Last night I thought I heard glass breaking, which freaked me out. But they kept going at it.”

Huh. A nineteen-year-old guy complaining about too much sex. I wondered if I should take a picture. Instead I opted for a diplomatic response.

“On the upside, if they do bring the house down I’m pretty sure your tenants’ insurance would cover it. Earthquake, right?” My gaze met Dylan’s in the rearview mirror. The corners of his eyes crinkled and I could sense the warmth even through the mirror.

“I like the way you think.”

He glanced down at the radio and switched it on, then resumed his focus on the road. We turned off the main drag and into the campus lot a few minutes later. It wasn’t until Dylan’s eyes reconnected with mine in the mirror that I realized I’d been watching him the whole time. “If the auditors ask, I’m pretty sure last night was a 3.0 on the Richter scale.”

I cringed and Ava just laughed.

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