It was the breeze. It was totally the breeze.
“Oh, you get to look at that every day?”
I rolled my eyes. “No, I have to look at that every day. Whose side are you on, anyway?” My whine was meant as a joke, but I wasn’t sure it came out that way.
“The boy doesn’t have to talk for me to look. I’m appreciating from afar.”
“You have Liam, remember?” It bugged me that she was drooling over Jared, even if it was jokingly. He was beautiful, but it didn’t need to be pointed out like it actually mattered. His personality sucked.
“How’s everything going with you and Liam?” I hadn’t seen him, except in passing since being back to school.
“Oh, we’re fine. He’s gotten his Camaro ready for the Loop, and he’s been hanging out down there a lot. I’ve gone once, but it’s boring hanging on his arm while he discusses cars all night. He doesn’t even race yet. Apparently, there’s a waiting list, and even then you’re behind proven cars that get first dibs, because that’s who the audience wants to see.”
I hated to ask, but it spilled out anyway. “How’s Asshole performing out there?” Why did I need to know that?
“Jared? He’s one of the ones that doesn’t have to wait. He can usually just race whenever the mood suits him. According to Liam, he’s out there either on Friday or Saturday nights but not usually both.”
“Are you spending enough time with Liam?” I’d noticed a change in tone and demeanor when I’d brought him up.
She shrugged. “I feel bad, because I should take an interest in his hobbies, I guess. It’s just that, if he’s not going to race, I feel like I’m wallpaper standing at his side. I don’t know many people or anything about the car scene.”
“Well, maybe you could just go once in a while? Tough it out for him now and then?” I suggested as the weight of my head increased with the amount of honey she piled on.
“I don’t know.” K.C. walked around me to the doors and peered out. “I’m thinking of coming over to your house more instead.”
I gave her a light kick on the leg.
“Mmm.” She devoured Jared with her eyes as she backed up to my hair. “I hate to say it, but I wonder what it’d be like to have him.”
“K.C.! Stop it. You’re my friend,” I scolded.
“I’m sorry, okay? It’s just that he wasn’t that bad while you were gone. Honestly. He wasn’t the hell raiser he was before you left.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know. I don’t even know if it had anything to do with you. He seemed moodier for a while but then got better. It’s just that I got to see him with different eyes. Before it was always about how he treated you—which was horrible,” she rushed to add. “But after you left, he seemed different. More human.”
The idea of present-day Jared as human was incomprehensible to me. He was driven, confident, and severe. That’s the only side of him I’d seen since we were fourteen. I hadn’t seen him happy in years, and I thought for sure he’d be pleased as punch to be rid of me for a year.
But why had he acted moodier after I left? It didn’t make sense.
Was he having a hard time entertaining himself without his favorite chew toy?
Aww, poor baby.
“Ugh!” I let out a guttural moan into the darkness as I stared at my ceiling that night, which was lit up by the headlights of another arrival next door.
It was after one in the morning, and the bombardment of party noises coming from next door wouldn’t relent. The pillow brought up to both of my ears to drown out the sounds hadn’t helped. Texting K.C. to text Liam to text Jared hadn’t helped. Calling the police and filing a complaint an hour ago hadn’t helped.
If it wasn’t the loud music or the constant arrival and departure of muscle cars with their sorry exhaust systems, then it was the shouting or laughing coming from Jared’s yards. I liked loud music, but a party in the middle of the night that was keeping the whole neighborhood awake should be shut down.
Throwing the covers off, I stomped out of bed and stood at the French doors. His whole house was lit up and bustling with noise and activity. Some people stumbled around the front yard, which was littered with red Solo cups, and some gathered in the backyard either smoking or enjoying the hot tub.
He is such a dick! My hands were on my hips, gripping harder than usual. What kind of person had no regard for anyone else? The self-absorbed asswipe living next to me, I guess. I had a video chat with my dad in six hours, and I wasn’t going to be up all night just because they wanted to get drunk and high.
Screw it. I slipped on my purple Chucks and black hoodie and headed downstairs.
I opened the door in the kitchen leading to the garage and went to my dad’s workbench, still as organized as we’d left it. Grabbing the big bolt cutters from the bottom tool-box drawer, I maneuvered them up my right sleeve. With my free hand, I opened another drawer and picked a padlock out of the three extras. Sliding that into the front pocket of my hoodie, I headed out.
I rounded the corner of my house and strode to the rear, my heart beating faster with every step. Finding the hole I had made in the hedge years ago, I swiped the new growth aside and slipped through. As I took a right and continued to walk, I could hear the partygoers in his backyard on the other side of the hedge. I was about five feet away from them, but there was no way they could see me.