“Because you weren’t home,” he adds.
She waves a hand. “You didn’t come home last summer either.”
“Again, because you were on vacation.”
She rolls her eyes. “You never, ever make an effort to see us anymore, Shepard. Are you coming home this summer? You never really did answer that question and I’ve been hounding you for months.”
He sends me a look, one full of nervous apprehension and I wish I knew what he was thinking. He seems worried about…me? But why?
Pressing his lips together, he turns to face his mother once more. “I don’t think so, Mother. I’m going to stick around here again for the summer. Play on the soccer league and hopefully hang out with…Jade.”
Wait a minute. What?
I didn’t mean to spring it on her like that. Hell, I haven’t even asked Jade if she wanted to stay with me for the summer and that’s been my plan all week. But like a gutless wonder I kept losing my nerve every time I opened my mouth. I just…I couldn’t ask her. Too afraid she might say no.
And fuck, that would hurt more than I care to admit.
Jade’s looking at me right now like I’ve lost my mind and I part my lips, ready to say something, anything to take away that shocked look on her face.
“Prescott, party of four!” screams the hostess, and I’m saved from having to say anything at all.
“Let’s go grab our table,” Dad says as he strides toward the hostess who’s waiting for us, clutching four giant menus in her hand. “I’m starving.”
I follow after him and Mom, taking Jade’s hand. She’s still looking at me, I can feel her gaze on my face but I refuse to look in her direction. I’m trying to come up with the proper way to ask her to stay with me for the summer.
Though I sort of blew that plan all to hell.
“What do you mean exactly, by spending the summer with me?” she finally asks.
My stomach sinks, and my appetite disappears. I didn’t want to have this conversation now. “We’ll talk about it later,” I whisper, squeezing her hand.
She pulls her hand out of my grasp and the sudden distance between us feels as large as the Pacific.
Damn it, I should’ve done this sooner. I’d planned to. I wanted to ask her while we were in bed, just drifting off to sleep, when she’s usually draped over me and I have my arm around her shoulders, drawing circles on her skin with my fingers. It’s that time between wakefulness and sleep, when we’re both mellow after multiple orgasms.
I could’ve been all romantic and shit, explaining to her how I couldn’t stand the thought of spending the entire summer away from her and I know it’s last minute, but hey instead of going home, you should stay with me, Jade. The house is huge and Tristan won’t be around, so that would give us plenty of privacy. I could even give you your own room if you want. We could have fun, just me and you. Lots and lots of fun.
But instead, I hit her with it in front of my freaking parents. So stupid.
We’re seated at a table with a gorgeous ocean view and I think of my favorite restaurant, the little shack near the beach. The place I took Jade on our first date. The food is way better and cheaper and the atmosphere can’t be beat. This place is pretentious as hell. I feel underdressed for not wearing a tie and I can’t remember the last time I wore one.
One of the many perks of not living at home anymore, I guess.
I pick up the menu and scan it, as does everyone else at the table. It’s an uneasy quiet and I peek over the top of the menu to see everyone’s head bent, hiding behind the giant pages of their menu. I’m tempted to laugh.
But I don’t.
Instead, I try to figure out what the hell I want to eat and pray for the server to come soon so I can order a fucking drink. It’s about the only thing that’s going to get me through tonight, I swear.
Within minutes the server is at our table, ready to take our drink order. Mom orders a bottle of wine—surprise—and dad and I both order a beer.
“Do you want something, Jade?” Mother asks, flashing her that barracuda smile. The one that says she’d love nothing more but to tear my new girlfriend—yeah fine I’m claiming it—to shreds.
“I’ll just have a glass of water, thank you.” Jade smiles up at the server.
“You don’t want any wine?” Mother continues.
Jade shakes her head. “I’m not of legal age to drink yet, I’m afraid.”
The server makes his escape and my mom turns on Jade like she smells blood in the water. “Exactly how old are you?”
“Nineteen. I’m just finishing my freshman year,” Jade admits, then sinks her teeth into her lower lip. She looks…petrified.
Fuck. I just want to wrap her up in my arms and protect her from the barrage of questions Mother is going to throw at her. Poor Jade. Poor me.
Poor all of us.
“Only nineteen?” Mother’s lip curls as she swivels her head to aim her gaze right at me. “Awfully young, don’t you think, Shepard? This can’t be a serious thing. She’s a baby.”
“We’re only two years apart,” I say through gritted teeth.
“Two years can be an awfully long time, especially now, at such a crucial point in your lives.” Mother returns her gaze to Jade, the smile on her face more like a baring of teeth. “I’m sure you’re enjoying yourself with my son. You’ve probably never been with a boy like him before. Shepard is loads of fun. Very charming. And he has a ton of money. But you know this sort of thing won’t last.”
Jade’s jaw drops open. Her lips move as if she’s trying to say something but no sound comes out. I think my mother’s words just stole her ability to speak.
Me? I’m stunned. I can’t even fucking move. Why the hell is she being so awful?
Oh, I know. Because she’s my mom. And she’s always been awful. I haven’t been around her for a long time so I sort of forgot.
“This is really none of your business,” I start but Mother cuts me off with a look.
“This is very much my business, considering you are my only son and heir to an absolute fortune. She may look sweet and demure in her cheap little white dress but I’ve seen girls like her before. She’s only with you because of your money.” Mother leans across the table, lowering her voice to a harsh whisper. “She’s harboring all the signs of a gold digger.”
My blood is fucking boiling. So no girl would really want to be with me, it’s only because of my money? No wonder I said almost that exact same thing earlier to Jade. I’ve been hearing it my entire life. “What did you just say?”
Mother rolls her eyes. “A gold digger. I’ve already told you numerous times, you need to be like your father. When we started dating, I knew how much he was worth, but I also knew how much I was worth. It was a match. A perfect match.” She sends the still silent Jade a withering stare. “This girl is obviously not a good financial match. Very middle class. Possibly even lower middle class.”
Her insulting words make me flinch and they’re not even directed at me. I’m tempted to tell Mother to shut the fuck up but I hold it in. No need to make a scene at the restaurant. I don’t want to embarrass Jade.