I was miserable. It was like someone kept punching me in the gut and there wasn’t any way to stop them. I kept seeing Mala kissing that asshole over and over in my mind and then my eyes would water and…shit. I couldn’t take this. I needed to get some time to myself. Usually on Sundays, I’d spend it with my siblings, playing with them, watching a movie or going to the dog park with our little puppy, Dolly. But I didn’t feel like doing anything. So I slept in until noon, ate a little, played on my keyboard and now, I got on my trunks, wanting to lounge at our pool in the backyard. By myself.
“Hello, stranger,” Mom said, noticing I’d been hiding out in my room all day.
My siblings were playing quietly, but I got a pang like I should be helping. Dad still wasn’t home. Next flight, my ass.
“Going swimming?” she said in a weird, perky way. Mom sometimes over did things to compensate for what was going on wrong around her. If she felt like crap, she’d throw on an over the top, happy smile which did the opposite in making anyone feel better because we knew it was an act.
“I was thinking about hanging out back but if you need help, I can stick around. Does Brandy want to eat? I’ll whip something up for supper.” Mom hated to cook. Even mac and cheese.
She threw me a plastic, Barbie smile. “No, bud, I got this. I’m the mom. Remember? You go have fun. Stop worrying about me.”
But catching a few rays didn’t help the awful, heavy feeling in my chest. I tried to distract myself on simstagram, but then I scrolled to Mala’s to check up on her.
She didn’t post anything since I stood her up yesterday. That was something. And she didn’t wipe me from her pictures. I whipped through the whole two years of who we were as a couple. My eyes blurred. What the hell? Did she not see how perfect we were together? I’d do anything for her. Did anything for her. Would that douchebag, Oliver, run back to school to get the books she’d forgotten to bring home? No way. But I did. So many times, I was picking up the purses she’d left or her cell phone she’d abandoned on counters at a store, a restaurant, the mall. I’d make sure she got to her piano practice on time–even if we were hot and heavy in her room. I did it all. Just for her. And she didn’t care.
She hated my guts.
And now, she was probably at the lake with that sorry piece of shit…God! Why did I care so much?
I hated myself for not ditching my mom and taking Mala to the beach like I’d promised. If I had, everything would be normal. She’d probably be here right now nuzzling my neck while I held her smooth, awesome body in this pool.
God, I’m such a jerk.
“Aww…looky at our mascot,” I heard one of my friends, Drew Hoff, say above me. “So serious. This is not allowed. Not on a gorgeous clear day.”
I squinted and saw him, Kaden Vargas, and Kai Kaluah, looking at me. And they were dressed in their swim suits. How’d they get the message I was brooding in my backyard?
“You know, your face will stay that way if you’re not careful,” Kaden said, his sunglasses glinting at me.
“I think he needs a dip in the pool,” Kai challenged. “That float is mine.”
This perked me up. Nothing like my best friends to clear my head. “Come on, dude. What are you waiting for? I bet your ass is in the water before mine.”
“Seriously?” Kai laughed. “You’re on shaky ground, my friend.”
He kicked my float, shoving me backwards. “Oh noooo!” I yelled.
I splashed into the water. My friends jumped in with me.
“Take that, losers!” I hollered, splashing them as hard as I could. Drew got the brunt of my onslaught.
“Dude! Chill! I’m not the one who launched your ass in the water.” Drew held up his hand, but I kept pummeling him with sheets of water.
“Boys. They’re sooooo predictable,” a girl’s voice rang out above me.
I stopped splashing immediately and looked up to see six gorgeous girls all dressed in slinky swim suits. Had I died and gone to heaven?
Three of them were my friends’ girlfriends–the ones standing. Carlee Langosta was Kaden’s. Justine Hawk was with Drew, and Ally Michaels and Kai had just made it official last week. The other three (who were stooped by the edge of the pool) were their friends: Rosalin Owen, Ginny Malcom, and Destiny Hoff (Drew’s sister).
“Why didn’t my boyfriend tell me he was having fun at a party?” Drew’s girl, Justine complained. “I had to hear it from Ally. Her boyfriend was kind enough for the invite.”
Ally put her hand on her cheek in a coy way. “I’ve got the best one of the bunch, girls. I’m sure you’re sooooo jelly.”
“You’re right, Justine, Drew is an awful boyfriend,” Drew’s sister, Destiny, moaned, making a face. “Why don’t you dump him?”
Ignoring the sibling rivalry comment, I asked, “Party? What’s going on?”
Drew snorted. “Surprise! It was your mom’s idea.”
“Now stop wallowing, Liam, and start having fun. Okay?” Ginny shot me a look. It was like I saw her for the first time. Big blue eyes or were they green? Long, shiny auburn hair. Cute as hell freckles. Rocking body. Had she always been this pretty or had I been in a cave this whole time and didn’t notice?
I arched an eyebrow at her. “Oh…you haven’t seen wallowing yet. I’m the owner of the wootube channel, Heartbroken Anonymous. You should check it out.”
She giggled, showing that trademark gap in her front teeth. I’d seen her smile in math class like a gazillion times, but why did it look so cute right now?
“Listen,” Kai waved his hand up at Drew’s girl, Justine. “I don’t want to be the reason for another break up. Drew was going to tell you.”
“Honest, babe,” Drew said. “Come here and let me make it up to you.”
“There’s only one way you can do that,” Justine said. “Come here and rub my feet.”
“After you play a round of chicken,” Drew countered.
I laughed. They’d been a couple for over a year and it showed. Although Justine liked to think she was in charge, Drew always got his way.
So, I found myself with Ginny Malcom’s legs surrounding me as I flung her at Justine.
“That’s it, Liam!” Kai cheered. “Way to make the most of Ginny’s arms!”
“Time to give up, Hoff. Ginny’s a fighter.” I didn’t know it, but she actually was!
She clasped onto Justine’s hands like a boa constrictor. “Help me out a little here, Liam!”
“On it!” I swatted at Drew’s head as I charged forward.
“Not fair, dude!” Drew yelled, struggling with the weight of Justine on his shoulders. Dude was way stouter than I was but I had a tiger on my team. “Just stay back!”
“Might as well give up, Justine. You’re about to go down!” Ginny pushed Drew’s girl hard.
“Oh my GOOOOD!” Justine howled. I watched gleefully as they plunged backward into the water.
“Way to go partner!” I slapped Ginny’s hand.
“Woop! All right, Team Giam!” Kai hollered.
“Ooooh, sounds like a ship name to me,” Ally cried. “I’ll board.”
My stomach plunged at the thought. I was still smarting from Mala. No way in hell was I going to get into another relationship no matter how hot Ginny was.
Just then I realized Ginny’s arms were wrapped around me. “Good job pushing Justine,” I said as my cheeks burned. “Didn’t know you were such a bruiser. Remind me never to make you mad.”
“You weren’t so bad yourself. Hitting Drew on the head was a stellar move.” Her lips were so close, it made me uncomfortable. I pulled her arm away.
“Hey! What was that for?” she cried, splashing me with water.
“I don’t bite!”
“That’s what happens when you cheat!” Drew called out to us.
“They didn’t cheat, babe. Liam’s just stronger than you.”
She looked up at me with a sexy gaze. Holy shit. What was she doing to me right now? I totally didn’t need to get tangled up with another girl. My heart was already mincemeat. A bleeding, bloody mess.
But damn. I didn’t know if it was the sparkle in her gorgeous green eyes or the pink in her lips but I couldn’t stop looking at her. And there was a moment like the world had stopped and it was just me and Ginny.
A girl I’d never even glanced at in math. She was always the gangly, studious teacher’s pet I knew growing up. Not this sex goddess making my head feel like it was stuffed with pillows.
And then my world shattered with the voice of an asshole.
I turned around to see the Murdick boys staring at me.
Dusty crossed his arms. “The party has just arrived. Where’s the food?”
Mala came, too. And she was wearing the bathing suit I’d picked out with her at the mall only two weeks ago.
“Can we talk, Lee Lee?”