Bleeding Hearts Page 11

“Lucky!” Aunt Cass exclaimed. “That’s not it at all and you know it.” She sighed, rummaged through the bag, and withdrew a handful of packets she stuffed into her back pocket. Then she handed the bag back. “Here.”

Lucy grumbled all the way to her car. There were fake flowers glued to the roof inside. It was like driving with a ragged garden as a hat. She turned the ignition and loud music thrummed around us. I checked my cell phone as we went down the driveway, even though I knew my mom wasn’t allowed to have outside contact for another month at least. She was allowed to write me letters, but I knew she wouldn’t. And the staff would’ve kept any of mine until she was out of lockdown or whatever they called it. It was weird not to have contact, not to check that she hadn’t passed out on her back or left a candle burning. Not to help her stumble to the bathroom. Not to hold her hair and pass her tissues when she fell into a weeping fit about what a bad mother she was.

I didn’t have anything to do but go to a party.

A Jeep pulled out of the woods behind us, headlights flashing. Lucy stuck her arm out of her window and waved.

“It’s Nicholas,” she explained loudly, over the music. She squinted into the rearview mirror. “And Quinn, I think. I can’t tell from here.” The car swerved toward the ditch. I grabbed the dashboard.

“Hey, pay attention!” I squeaked.

She yanked on the wheel. “Sorry.” She winced sheepishly. “The Drake boys can do that to a girl.” We drove past orchards, a scraggly looking vineyard, and lots of pumpkin patches. We went past the only street into town and took a dirt road instead, winding around a sleepy neighborhood toward the lake. We parked next to an ice-cream stand, closed up for the season. I saw the fires already burning on the beach and the glitter of the lake. We could have been stepping into a painting, or better yet one of those poems about fairy queens and mermaids. The smoke made the air feel dangerous, like a rusted sword that looks innocuous but could still cut right through your skin.

“ ‘I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me,’ ” I quoted T. S. Eliot under my breath.

“Told you,” Lucy said smugly, unperturbed. She was as used to me quoting poems as I was to her quoting old John Hughes movies. “Sometimes, my friend Patrick brings his drum.” She went around and popped open the trunk, pulling out a guitar case as the Jeep screeched to a halt beside us, kicking up dust and pebbles.

“I didn’t know you played,” I said.

“I had kind of a stressful summer,” she answered. “So Mom gave me her old guitar. She decided I needed a creative outlet. Didn’t she give you her ‘creativity heals’ speech?”

“Thank God, no. But she knows I write poems.”

“Don’t leave them out—she’ll put them on the fridge.”

“What am I, six years old?”

“She put one up a few months ago.”

I blinked. “What? How?”

“I think your mom sent it to her.”

“My mom sent her one of my poems?” I wasn’t sure what to think about that. My mom knew I still wrote?

Nicholas unfolded from the front seat, grinning. “No folk songs,” he teased Lucy, reaching out to carry the guitar for her. She elbowed him. He glanced at me. “Her mom keeps teaching her all these old hippie songs.”

“That’s all she knows. I’m in a whiskey beatnik mood anyway,” she informed him loftily.

“Is that even a type of music?” I asked.

“Sure, it’s when I make my voice all scratchy and interesting.”

“Actually, she’s pretty good,” Nicholas’s brother admitted. “For a brat.” I thought he was Connor at first; he had the same blue eyes, the same jaw. But his hair was longer and the smile was all wrong. It was way too charming, for one thing.

“Christabel, do you remember Quinn?” Lucy asked as we started to climb down to the beach. “He’s Connor’s twin. And he’ll flirt with anything with boobs, so be careful.”

“She’s just jealous because I don’t flirt with her.” Quinn’s smile was lazy. “She’s territorial when it comes to us Drake brothers.”

I remembered all too well. Even when she was little, Lucy used to kick anyone playing with us who even looked at them wrong. I could never figure that out. It wasn’t like they were defenseless. For one thing, they outnumbered everyone else. Plus, their mother was kind of scary.

Quinn deserted us when we reached the sand, heading straight for a girl with long blond hair. Nicholas put down the guitar and reached for Lucy’s hand instead. The first fire was way too crowded; people bumped elbows and spilled drinks on one another. Others danced to tinny music trying bravely to blare out of cracked speakers. The lights of Violet Hill hung like lanterns through the trees behind us, drifting up the mountain before they went out entirely. Several different kinds of smoke braided together and hung thickly in the air. I drifted over to a smaller fire and sat on a bench, the red paint peeling away in strips.

I barely had time to pull out my novel when someone sat next to me on the ground, kicking sand over my boots. “Does your T-shirt say ‘Heathcliff is a prat’?”

I started. Connor Drake was suddenly taking up most of the space, his long legs nearly in the flames, his body crowding mine. He had a habit of taking me by surprise. His hair fell into his eyes, which were blue, even in the wavering, uncertain light of the fire. His smile was crooked and slightly self-deprecating, so different from his brother’s. It was hard to believe they were twins. He just screamed “good guy.”

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