But Mom’s love wasn’t enough. My and my sister’s love was never enough. In the end, Dad still left us. All of us.
And, God help me, I was a lot like my father.
I looked like him, except I was more of an...average version. Same mouth. Same strong nose that was almost too big for my face. Same hazel-colored eyes, more brown than any other interesting shade. My hair matched his, a brown that sometimes turned auburn in the sunlight, and it was on the long side, falling past my breasts. My body was neither thin nor overweight. I was somewhere stuck in the middle. I wasn’t tall or short. I was just...
Not like my mom, though. She was stunning, all blond hair and flawless skin. Even though life had gotten way harder in the last five years, she persevered and that made her all the more beautiful. Mom was strong. She never gave up, no matter what, even if there were moments where she looked like she just might want to pack it all in.
For Mom, our love was enough to keep going.
Lori got the blessed side of our genetics, taking after Mom. Blonde bombshell to the max, with all the curves and pouty lips to back it up.
But the similarities ran deeper than the physical for me.
I was a runner, too, and not the healthy kind. When things got too rough, I checked out, just like Dad had. I made an art form of looking toward tomorrow instead of focusing on today.
But I was also like my mother. She was a chaser. Always running after someone who didn’t even realize you were there. Always waiting for someone who was never going to come back.
It was like I ended up with the worst qualities of my parents.
Heaviness settled in my chest as I went upstairs and got ready for bed. This November would be four years since Dad left. I couldn’t believe it had already been that long. Still felt like yesterday in a lot of ways.
Throwing back the covers on my bed, I started to climb in but stopped when my gaze fell on the doors leading out to the balcony. I should lock the doors. Sebastian probably wouldn’t stop by, and besides, even if he did, that...that wasn’t good.
Maybe that was why no one else interested me.
Why Andre hadn’t kept my interest.
Scrubbing my hands down my face, I sighed. Maybe I was just being dumb. How I felt about Sebastian couldn’t change our relationship. It shouldn’t. Putting a little distance between us, setting up some boundaries, wouldn’t be a bad idea. It was probably the smartest and healthiest thing to do, because I didn’t want to be a runner or a chaser.
I was moving off the bed before I realized what I was doing.
I walked over to the doors and unlocked them with a soft click.
I half awoke to the feeling of my bed shifting and the soft whispering of my name.
I rolled onto my side and winced as I blinked open my eyes. I’d fallen asleep with the lamp on and I could feel the hard edges of the book now pressing into my back. I wasn’t really thinking about the book, though.
Sebastian was sitting on the edge of my bed, his head tilted to the side and a small grin on his lips.
“Hey,” I murmured, staring up at him with sleepy eyes. “What...what time is it?”
“A little after three.”
“Are you just getting home?” Sebastian didn’t really have a curfew. I did during the school year, but as long as he was scoring touchdowns, his parents pretty much let him come and go as he pleased.
“Yeah. We got into a mad game of badminton. Loser out of five games has to wash the cars.”
I laughed. “Seriously?”
“Hell yeah.” The grin kicked up a notch. “Keith and his brother versus me and Phillip.”
“Do you really need to ask that?” He reached out, gently shoving my arm. “Phillip and I did, of course. We made that birdie our bitch.”
I rolled my eyes. “Wow.”
“Anyway, our win involves you.”
“Huh?” I squinted at him.
“Yep.” Lifting his hand, he knocked a hank of hair off his forehead. “I plan on getting the Jeep as dirty as humanly possible, and I mean I want it to look like one of those abandoned cars on The Walking Dead. So how about we ride out to the lake this week and mess my baby up.”
Grinning, I pressed my face into the pillow. Sebastian wanting me to go to the lake with him shouldn’t mean anything, but it did. It meant too much. “You’re terrible.”
“Terribly adorable, right?”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” I murmured, sticking my arm under the blanket.
Sebastian leaned onto his side, stretching his legs out on top of the covers. “What did you do with your night? Read?”
“Such a nerd.”
“Such a jerk.”
He chuckled. “How was practice today?”
Wrinkling my nose, I groaned.
“Coach thinks I shouldn’t work,” I told him. “Not like it’s the first time he’d brought it up, but he brought up Dad, and that just...well, you know.”
“Yeah,” he replied quietly. “I know.”
“He did say he thought I had a chance at landing a scholarship if I focused more on playing.”
Sebastian flicked my arm. “I’ve told you a million times you’ve got skill out on the court.”
I rolled my eyes. “You have to say that because you’re my friend.”
“Because I’m your friend, I’d tell you if you sucked.”
I laughed softly. “I know I’m not terrible, but I’m nowhere near as good as Megan or half the team. There’s no way a scout is going to pay attention to me. And that’s okay,” I quickly added. “I’m not banking on that kind of scholarship anyway.”
“I feel you.” His grin started to slip away. His expression turned pensive, and as I watched him, the last of the sleepiness faded away.
I gripped the edges of the blanket, tugging it to my chin. A heartbeat passed. “What’s going on?”
Scrubbing a hand down his face, he exhaled heavily. “Dad...he really has his heart set on Chapel Hill.”
From previous experience, I knew to proceed with caution with this conversation. He wouldn’t talk about his dad a lot, and when he did, he quickly reached the point where he would just shut down about the whole thing. I always thought he needed to talk about it. I totally got the irony of that, since I wouldn’t talk about my dad, but whatever.
“Chapel Hill is a really good school,” I started. “And it’s really expensive, right? If you get in on a scholarship, that would be pretty amazing. You’d also be close to your cousins.”
“Yeah. I know that, but...”
He rolled onto his back and thrust his hands under his head. “I don’t want to go there. I don’t really have a good reason. The campus is freaking cool as hell, but just not into it.”
Knowing that Sebastian was as close to Keith and Phillip as he was to Cody, I figured maybe it had something to do with them. “Where do the guys want to go?”
“Keith and Phillip are hoping to get on at West Virginia University. Phillip really wants to play ball for them. Thinking Keith wants to go there because of the parties.” He paused. “I think Cody is set for Penn State.”
For years, WVU had been the number one party school in the United States, and I was sure it was still up in the top five, so it would be a great fit for Keith. “Do you want to go there?”
I wiggled down, getting comfortable. “Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know.”
“Sebastian.” I sighed. “You have to know. This is our senior year. You don’t have much time left. Scouts are going to be coming to the games and—”
“And maybe I don’t care about the scouts.”
I snapped my mouth shut, because there it was, the thing I’d been sensing about Sebastian for the last year.
He turned his head toward me. “You don’t have anything to say to that?”
“I was waiting for you to elaborate.”
A muscle worked in his jaw as he stared back. “I... God, even in the middle of the night, in your room, I still don’t even want to say it. It’s like my father is going to pop out of the damn closet and lose his mind. Instead of Bloody Mary, he’d be Bloody Marty.”