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His job with Phil. Jason. Mateo. Blood in the driveway if Phil catches Mateo here. What the fuck is going on? But I’m afraid to ask. My life has so few good things in it, I really have no energy to solve this puzzle right now. So I settle on small talk. “I’ll still pay you back.”

“I’ll still be your friend if you don’t.”

“Friend, huh?”

He walks over to the old leather couch on the wall opposite the bed and sinks down, leaning into the cushions and resting his long muscular arms along the back. “We’re friends, right?”

“Yeah, we’re friends. But most guys usually want more, you know? Especially when they get invested in a girl.”

“Is that what most guys want? I guess I wouldn’t know. They don’t treat Rocky that way because I’d kick their asses. And if they treat you that way, then you’re selling yourself short, Shannon. I’m not most guys and I don’t want to pressure you into liking me.”

“I do like you.”

“I mean, as more than friends.”

I sigh.

“I’m not going to kiss you or make a move. It’s not my style. You like Mateo?” Danny shrugs. “I can’t stop that. Aside from what I think about him personally, I don’t think a relationship with a guy that much older than you is gonna work. But I’m only eighteen, so what do I know? It’s your life.”

“Thanks for that,” I say, placing my hand over my still tender ear. “I appreciate all of it, Danny, I really do.”

He gets up and grabs the three prescription containers off the side table next to the bed and hands me a water bottle. “You’ve only taken two doses since last night, and I couldn’t get you to roll over for the drops. So take these,” he says, shaking out a pill from each of the bottles and handing them over. “And I’ll put the drops in while you watch some TV.”

I take the pills and gulp them down and then lie on my side with the infected ear up. Danny grabs the drops and sits down next to me, gently moving my hair aside so he can see. “It looks a lot better today.” And then he drops the medicine in and I gasp from the cold sting. “Just call me Dr. Dan, the guy who fixes everything.”

I smile and close my eyes, enjoying the relief that comes from the drops.

The next time I wake, Danny is snoring on the couch and his face is lit up by the TV. I wonder what he meant by what he thinks of Mateo personally? He’s probably known him a long time. Phil must know him too, since Rocky made that remark about blood in the driveway if Phil catches him here.

But I’m not in any condition to think too hard right now. So I eat two more pills and put some more drops in before closing my eyes again, content to sleep it off and let the real world wait me out.

Chapter Twenty-Four

I’m wearing Rocky’s jeans—which are too long for me, so they scuff on the ground when I walk—and Danny’s Metallica t-shirt when I make it to design class and start unpacking my laptop the next morning. No one called my phone, not that I would’ve answered it, but still. Neither of the two assholes in my life even bothered to call, and while Jason can go fuck himself, Mateo doesn’t get a pass like that. Not after our date last Saturday.

Just what the fuck is his deal? He takes me to the beach, introduces me to his family, and then disappears for three days?

No. That’s not right.

“Shannon Drake?” Mrs. Sheridan, the teacher, calls from her desk.


“Mr. Bowman sent a request for you to see him in his office when you got in. Take the pass with you.”

I sigh and push back from my chair as I pack my laptop back up. I take the pass and head out to the main building.

Mr. Bowman is with a student in that giant room they call an office, and he points to a chair, ordering me to sit and wait in front of the attendance lady. I know her, I worked in the office last semester, so she sends me a sympathetic smile.

Ten minutes later Mr. Bowman is ready for me. “Let’s take a walk, Shannon,” he says, directing me out into the hallway.

I sigh again, like the teen I am, and follow him. He goes right out the front doors and stands at the top of the steps that look out on the traffic on Lincoln Avenue. “Is everything OK?” he asks.

“Yes,” I hesitantly say.

“Mr. Portman called and reported that you failed to show up for school last night.”

“Who’s Mr. Portman?”

“Your science teacher at Gilbert?” he replies, getting a little pissed off. “And you left school early on Tuesday too.”

“Oh,” I say. “Well, he never told me his name. And I missed class because I was really sick. I have a receipt from the ER. Danny Alexander had to take me in on Tuesday afternoon.”

“What about yesterday?” he asks, taking my receipt.

“I was still sick, Mr. Bowman. Look, I have three prescriptions for my ear.” I fish out my pills and drops and hold them out. He takes them, frowning at my codeine.

“Did you take this?” And now I can tell he’s mad.

“I was in pain, Mr. Bowman. I’m not a fucking addict, OK? Just because my sister OD’d on painkillers doesn’t mean I’m abusing them too, you know.”

He lets out a long breath. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t insinuating—”

“You were insinuating,” I say, standing my ground. Jesus Christ. I cannot cut a break.

“Well, you can’t have them at school, Shannon. If anyone sees these, you’ll be suspended. And I don’t need to remind you that you cannot afford a suspension if you want to graduate.”

“Well, I haven’t even been home since I got out of the ER. I stayed at Danny’s house. So I won’t bring them tomorrow, OK? God.”

He stares at me for a few moments and then his expression softens. “How are things going in science then?”

“Great,” I say. “I’m like more than halfway done with that stupid class. All the tests are open-book and you can do them at your own pace. I told you I didn’t need another science credit. It’s a waste of time and resources to make me—”

“Fine, fine. How is… Mr. Alesci?”

“OK, I guess.”

“I was told he had to leave town for work?”

“I have no idea. All I know is that I showed up on Monday and he didn’t.” I’m pissed about that and hell if I’m gonna cover for him when he didn’t even bother to tell me not to waste my time and money on the bus.

“It was work-related. There must’ve been a miscommunication. He called in that morning and said he was in Arizona for his graduate studies.”

“Noted,” I say.

“Are you going tonight?”

“I guess, if he’s going to be there.”

“He will.” And then Mr. Bowman gives me a long sideways glance. “Is everything OK with trig?”

I shrug.

“Has anything… inappropriate occurred?”

“What?” Fuck. Jesus fuck, fuck, fuck. He knows something.

“The janitor reported that he saw you get on his motorcycle on Friday evening. Did you?”

“Look, it was late and I didn’t have any money for the bus so Mateo—”

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