By: Tijan

Kevin had left me. Again. Déjà vu hit me. I felt like I had three months ago when I’d woken up the morning after and he was gone. I’d just covered for him, and he went off to take shots with his fraternity brothers. I frowned, not liking how that sat with me. The fucker.

“Why?” Marcus spat the word at me, his jaw clenched. “Just, why? I know you saw her. You must’ve.”

Guilt spread in me, but I didn’t say anything. What could I say? He was right.

Caden sighed. “Leave her alone. He’s her family.”

He reached a hand out to rest on Marcus’ shoulder, but Marcus dodged and turned on him, his eyes flashing.

“I get it. He’s your fraternity brother, but I’m your real brother. One of these days, you’re going to have to pick a side, Caden. Fuck Dad. Fuck him and his stupid fucking fraternity.” He seared us both with an accusing look. “I don’t give a shit who covers for Matthews. It’s going to be an all-out war.”

Now Caden was pissed.

I didn’t know the guy, but I knew that much. He didn’t strike me as the type who let someone talk to him like that and walk away. I stepped back, expecting a punch, but none came. There was just silence. Brother glared at brother, both with clenched jaws.

Then Caden glanced in my direction, and it dawned on me: They weren’t saying anything because of me.

“Oh.” I flashed a grin and a wave. “I, uh, I should probably go call my dad. Because, you know, that’s what Kevin said to do.”

Marcus snorted. “Right.”

Caden just observed me, his stare unrelenting. I backed up a few feet, and he still watched me. It shouldn’t have bothered me, but a little fluttering feeling bloomed low in my stomach. I started to turn around, then paused halfway with my head bent. I could still feel him. I didn’t like that sensation, not at all. It was…unnerving, just like him. I glanced up one last time, and my shoulders immediately sagged in relief. They were gone.

I pressed a hand to my stomach to calm the unwelcome fluttering going on in there.

I went in search of Kevin. This time, the plan to avoid Caden/Asshole was in full effect. Kevin was probably fast on his way to getting drunk, or sneaking back out to find that girl again. I wouldn’t put either past him, but I really did want to see him. Only the reason had changed. Instead of wanting to see him because of us, I needed to find out if I really did have to call my dad.

…Or that’s what I told myself.

I snuck back in the way Caden had told me to sneak out and darted for the basement when the coast was clear. I didn’t expect Kevin to be there. I planned to get into his bedroom, then text him that that’s where I was. He’d have to come down to talk to me. He wouldn’t want me around in case the Asshole found me and took another shot at interrogating me.

I was wrong.

Kevin’s door was open just a crack, and I could see him sitting on his bed, his phone pressed to his ear. I paused just outside.

“You got home okay?” he asked. A pause. “Good…yeah, he was pissed. No. No, he didn’t hurt me. I know.” Another pause, longer this time. “Yeah. I know. We’ll figure it out. I promise. What?” He groaned. “Uh, that girl was my stepsister, actually.” I could hear a feminine laugh from the phone, and he chuckled with her. “I know. I know. No, she won’t narc. She covered. Yeah. She’s good like that.”

I reached for the doorframe. My fingers curled tight around it.

“Don’t worry. I mean it, Maggie. She won’t say anything. She loves me. We’re family. She’s not like that.” His voice dropped, growing husky. “I love you, too, and I mean it. Everything will be fine. I got your back. I promise.”

My nails dug into the wood.

“Okay. Okay. Yeah. I should get back up. I’ll check on Summer—that’s her name. I’ll text her right now. Love you. Bye.”

I heard the beep when he ended that call and had just a moment before I felt my phone buzzing. It was in my pocket on silent, as was my habit, and before I pulled it out, I took a moment to collect myself.

He was an asshole, and this time I didn’t mean Caden. Kevin slept with me a little over three months ago, and he’d led me to believe he’d been involved with no one else seriously since then. I thought this would be our time, now that we’d be in school at the same place, but he was in love with another girl—one who had another guy fighting for her.

My throat burned, and I blinked back the tears.

I wouldn’t cry, not for Kevin.

I had the answer I came for.

I pulled away from the door, leaving my phone in my pocket. I wouldn’t even look at it. I made my way back up the stairs. I was turning down the hallway for that side door when I heard a familiar voice behind me.

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