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Authors: Beth Kery

Glow (27 page)

BOOK: Glow
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“Yes,” she sniffed.
Dylan is here
. She nodded her head against the pillow, fortified by that solid, wonderful truth.

*   *   *

ALICE
awoke several minutes before the dawn. The dream about the dinner gong and Alan Durand still clung to her. Moving carefully so as not to rob Dylan of those precious extra moments of sleep, she eased off the bed. He was up, however, when she exited the bathroom. The bedside light was on. He stood by his dresser, wearing a pair of jeans and pulling on a dark blue T-shirt. She smiled as she walked toward him. She liked him best this way: mussed and warm from bed, his jaw shadowed with whiskers.

“What are you smiling about?” he asked, pulling the edge of his shirt down over his taut abdomen. She reached out and touched a patch of his naked skin before it disappeared.

“You. I like you in the morning, when you look like this.”

He cupped her shoulder with one hand. “Then I guess that after camp is over, you'll have to get up every morning with me to ride, won't you?” he asked, a grin tilting his sexy lips. She went up on her tiptoes and kissed him.

“Is that a yes?” he asked gruffly a moment later, his hand now cupping the side of her head and their mouths brushing together.

“I'd like it to be a yes.”

“Then it is,” he said simply. He smiled, and she found herself smiling back, so
wanting
to be convinced by his absolute confidence.

“I'm glad you feel a little better,” he said.

Alice blinked when she felt him slide something against her palm. It felt metallic and cool.

“What's this?” she asked, taking a step back and staring at what he'd placed in her hand. But Dylan didn't need to reply. It was a beautiful silver vintage lighter. On one side, the silver was
smooth, on the other it was intricately chased. She ran her fingers over the tiny metallic grooves in wonder.

“It was Alan's,” Dylan said. “I figured after last night . . .”

“He smoked?” Alice asked dazedly. She flipped open the cap and gasped softly. The whisking sound of the hinges sounded familiar. She repeated the action.

“No,” she heard Dylan say. “I mean, he did, when he bought the lighter. He quit the day you were born. He kept the lighter out of habit . . . and because he was fond of it. He'd purchased it in Paris, when he and Lynn were on their honeymoon. He told me that once you discovered it in his pocket when you were three or so, and you became fascinated by it. So he removed the flint, so that it couldn't light. Then he felt better about giving it to you when you asked him to play with it.”

“Yes,” she said softly, running the lighter through her fingertips and whisking off the cap several times. It
did
feel familiar, the memory of the antique lighter a purely tactile one. The grooves in the metal felt good beneath her fingertips. No wonder she'd liked it as a child. Impulsively, she pressed it against her lips and nose and inhaled. There was no discernible odor, but she smiled anyway. She had the distinct impression she'd done that before. She looked up at Dylan.

“Is it okay? That I gave it to you now? Is it too soon?” he asked.

She shook her head adamantly. “No,” she assured him, going up on tiptoe again to put her arms around his neck. “It's perfect.”

When she lowered enough to see his face, she saw a shadow of tension on his face.

“What's wrong?” she whispered.

He shook his head, stroking her shoulders. “It's nothing,” he grimaced and inhaled. “No, that's not true. It's something.” He met her stare. “I wish this could have waited, but it can't. We need to talk about something important when I come back Thursday, okay?”

SEVENTEEN

T
hat morning, she was extra thankful for the distraction of running with Terrance on the beach when she returned to camp. Dylan had insisted that what they needed to discuss wasn't earth-shattering, and that he was confident she could handle it. But he wouldn't say any more. About that, anyway.

He
did
tell her that he wanted her to return to the camp and hit the ball out of the park in regard to her counselor duties.

“You've been a huge success here,” he'd said. “Now, just focus on going down there and sealing the deal.”

His support had meant a lot to her. Enough that she was pretty successful at focusing all her attention on Terrance that morning.

Terrance was doing a lot less huffing and puffing nowadays, even though he continued to waste an awful lot of breath by talking to her nonstop.

“I still think we were robbed with that
tie
with the Orange Team,” he was saying as he thundered along next to her. “We won the wall climb, Jill got top points for that painting she did, and Miguel even told her it was so good that he talked to a gallery owner he knows, and the guy said he wanted it for his gallery,” Terrance said, referring to Miguel Cabrera, the camp's talented art therapist. Alice was highly gratified over the fact that Jill had finally felt secure enough to leave her safety zone in her art. The result had been three unique and moving paintings, one of which Miguel considered fine enough to sell in a top gallery in Chicago.
Jill had gone speechless again for almost a whole day when Miguel told her. This time, her muteness had come from disbelief and happiness versus residual trauma. To see Jill so silently rapturous had humbled Alice, not to mention made her almost ridiculously proud.

“We dominated with that whole Bang thing,” Terrance continued. “Judith won the diving competition, and Red Team won all the football games for the week—thanks to me.”

Alice feigned shock. “And they had the nerve not to give us points for modesty.”

Terrance grinned slyly. “Why deny greatness?”

“Does that mean you've decided you're going to go out for football this year?” she asked casually. It was something she'd been subtly pushing for with him. Not only did she think it'd help Terrance's self-esteem enormously, she knew that the practices and a coach would continue him on a path of better health.

“Those guys are all white dicks.”

“All the guys on your school's team are white?” Alice asked, surprised.

“No, I just mean they've got the littlest . . . Sorry,” Terrance said quickly when he noticed her repressive scowl as he started to show a measurement with his thumb and forefinger. “I just mean they're losers.”

“Do you
really
know that?”

“The size of their dicks?”

“Terrance.”

He laughed. “I don't know any of them personally. But those guys who do sports are all, ‘Look at me, I've got a shirt with numbers on it. Look at me, I can walk in the douche parade at a pep rally.'”

Alice suppressed a grin. “So you think people who are part of an organized team with a common goal are losers?”

“Yeah,” he said, as if she'd stated the obvious.

“That's what you've been part of for the past few weeks,” Alice said, staring out at the glistening lake. “Seems to me, you've been pretty damn good at being a team player.”

“That's different—”

“No, it's not. Do you think I was the cheerleader, student counsel type in high school?”

“No, you were definitely a loner freak,” Terrance replied approvingly.

“Thanks,” Alice said, rolling her eyes. “My point is, you don't have to become some kind of mindless robot to be part of a team. You can grow stronger as an individual by working with other people. Look at what you guys accomplished on the wall climb. That was all through teamwork, but it made
you
feel good. It made you smarter, too. Better.”

Terrance grimaced as he stared fixedly at the beach ahead.

“Those guys on the football team aren't going to like me.”

“Screw them.” He glanced over at her sharply. Alice grimaced. She hadn't meant to sound so sharp or bitter. She'd automatically gone into defensive mode at just the thought of cocky teenage athletes being jerks to Terrance. Alice knew how cruel kids could be toward another kid who was different. Grasping for her elusive reasonable calm, she continued more levelly. “Even if they do act like jerks at first, they'll change their mind when they get to know you. You just have to work through that first difficult phase. It doesn't mean anything when people say cruel things except that they're immature and stupid. Let them think what they want in the beginning. Your skills will speak for themselves in the end. And if I haven't told you enough, you
have
the skills, Terrance, not just the heft. A coach will be able to polish those skills up better than I can. With some hard work, you could be amazing,” she said sincerely. “Besides . . . those other guys on the team will be scared that you'll squash them like a bug if they give you a hard time.”

He snorted with amusement.

“You've got to believe in yourself, Terrance.”

“I know,” he admitted, his grin fading. “Who else will, right?”

Alice thought of his absentee mother, of the fact that he'd essentially been his own supervisor since he first entered elementary school. She didn't reply. She didn't think she needed to. Terrance knew better than anyone that if he didn't step up to the plate and take care of himself, no one else was going to do it. He gave her a pointed sideways glance as they made a turn on the beach and headed back toward camp.

“Did you believe in yourself when you first came here, and had Brooke Seifert staring down her nose at you?”

“Well . . . I might have had a
few
dark moments when I wavered,” Alice replied with grim honesty after a moment.

“Yeah,” Terrance chuckled. “Okay, I'll do it.”

“You'll do what?”

“Go out for football.”

“Really?”
Alice asked, breaking her stride to do a euphoric little sideways leap.

Terrance grinned. “Brooke is at least the equivalent of the entire defensive line of Metro Tech varsity. I figure if you can do it, I can.”

Alice grinned.

“Look out,” Terrance muttered under his breath after a moment. “Psychotron ahead.”

“Huh?” Alice asked. She followed Terrance's stare. Just past the marina, the camp had a small fitness course on the beach. Terrance and she jogged past Sebastian Kehoe, who was doing rapid pull-ups with mechanical precision. Alice had to hand it to him. The guy was in major good shape.

She gave an obligatory wave as they passed. Kehoe never wavered an iota in his pull-ups, but his gaze was fixed on Alice, following her as she passed. The exertion he made in his show of considerable strength made his face look rigid and somehow out of alignment.

“What'd I tell you?” Terrance whispered once they were well past Kehoe. “
Psychotron
.”

Alice rolled her eyes. Privately, she was thinking that once again, Terrance was demonstrating his typical brilliant powers of social observation.

*   *   *

WHEN
she left the kids that night under Crystal's supervision, she didn't walk as briskly or purposefully as she usually did. Dylan was halfway across the nation tonight. She reached into her jeans pocket and slid her fingers across the cool metal of the lighter. She'd been doing it all day, finding the sensation reassuring. He'd given her the lighter to remind her of Alan Durand, but instead, it made her think of him. The feeling of the lighter in her pocket reassured her, but it also made her miss Dylan all that much more.

Farther ahead on the path, Alice saw Thad standing face-to-face with Brooke. In the light of the fading sun, she saw their hands clasped together loosely at their sides. Thad's head dipped and their mouths met.

So . . . they were no longer hiding their relationship. She thought of what Thad had told her, about how he and Brooke had hooked up every once in a while since they were teenagers. Would they continue to be a couple after camp was over? Something in their manner tonight, their comfort level with one another and their easy intimacy, didn't call to Alice's mind a convenient, casual sexual relationship.

Thad looked around before she had a chance to duck onto the path that led to her and Kuvi's cabin.

“Alice,” Thad called. She waved a greeting and reluctantly approached the couple. “I didn't get a chance to congratulate you last night at the bonfire. Nice job,” Thad said when she was a few feet away.

“Back at you,” Alice said. “Hi, Brooke.”

“Alice,” Brooke said. Her gaze ran over her. “Are you growing your hair out?”

“Oh,” Alice touched her hair self-consciously. She pushed it behind her ears. “I just haven't had a chance to get it cut here at camp.”

“Only a few more days left,” Thad said. He smiled, and Alice had the random thought that he seemed more like the Thad of old. A little more relaxed. She wondered if the fact that a limousine had arrived at the camp this morning and a tight-mouthed Sebastian Kehoe had gotten into it had anything to do with Thad's rediscovered easiness. Kehoe had left for Reno on the company jet today, Dylan at his side. Leave it to Dylan to alleviate his concerns about Kehoe by just picking him up and transferring him to another part of the country.

“Yeah. It's flown by,” Alice said.

“How are you going to feel about relocating?” Brooke asked.

“Well, assuming I get a spot, I'll go wherever Durand wants me,” Alice replied. She was a little uncomfortable talking about it. Would Thad, Brooke, Kuvi, and Dave—everyone at Camp Durand—think her disingenuous when the truth came out about Addie Durand? Would they look back on moments like this, talking to her, and consider her a lying fake?

And did Thad suspect at all, given what he'd overheard her saying in the castle hallway the night of the Alumni Dinner? If he had heard, did he understand what it meant? Was that why he felt uncomfortable? She and Thad had been largely avoiding each other ever since then. Alice felt awkward, knowing he knew about her and Dylan . . . knowing he didn't trust Dylan. Plus, Dylan had told her that Thad had admitted to following her at times. Was he still infatuated with her?

“You'll get a spot,” Brooke said, her sharp, annoyed glance reminding her of the Brooke of old. She'd noticed Thad was studying Alice closely. Brooke lifted Thad's hand, which she still held.
“So will you. The other seven slots are pretty much up for grabs, though.”

“That's not true,” Thad said somberly, dragging his gaze off Alice. “You'll get a spot. So will Dave and Kuvi. I'm sure of it.”

Alice agreed.

“Yeah, well not too long now before we know for sure, one way or another,” Brooke said, shrugging. She hitched her head toward the beach, looking pointedly at Thad. Thad nodded distractedly.

“You go on ahead. I need to talk to Alice about something,” he said.

Brooke's eyes widened. Alice sensed her disbelief and anger. Brooke opened her mouth, and Alice sensed whatever she said wasn't going to be pretty.

“It's not what you're thinking, Brooke,” Thad said sharply, preempting her fury. He held her stare. “I'll be down to the beach to meet you in a couple minutes. This won't take long. And it's important. Trust me?”

Brooke's mouth hung open. Alice thought she saw a hint of the vulnerability in Brooke's eyes that had been there when she confronted Alice about Bang.

“Okay,” Brooke agreed. She gave Alice an uncertain glance before she turned and walked away.

“That was big of her,” Alice mumbled, meaning it. Brooke was definitely miles ahead of her in the trust department.

“Yeah,” Thad agreed grimly. Alice couldn't think of what else to say when his gaze once again ran over her face. Alice felt like he was an artist studying her for a portrait.

“What is it, Thad?” she asked uneasily.

“I wanted you to know that I didn't understand at first. What I overheard in the hallway of the castle that night. But I do now.”

His meaning penetrated. She took a step back from him. Out of the corner of her vision, she saw movement at the far left of the
common area. She blinked at the vision of Sal Rigo standing on the path. It was as if he'd emerged magically from the trees somehow. He was staring at both of them, his features rigid. Thad noticed Rigo, too.

“What the fu—”

“It's okay,” Alice said sharply, cutting off Thad's indignant exclamation at Rigo's blatant intrusion on a private conversation. She waved at Rigo, the gesture both an acknowledgement of his presence and an assurance that she was fine, and he needn't approach any closer. She had difficulty meeting Thad's stare.

“Dylan has asked him to watch over me,” she said uncomfortably.

There was an awkward silence.

“Because you're Adelaide Durand? Because you're the Durand heiress that was kidnapped twenty years ago?”

His quietly uttered words struck her like bullets, denting her mental armor. Maybe a few penetrated. Her throat had closed. She couldn't reply. He put his hand on her upper arm.

“Alice?”

“You overheard me that night? You knew what it meant?” she asked in a quiet, choked voice. She still studied his T-shirt-covered chest, unable to look into his eyes. He was the first person outside of Dylan and Sidney who had confronted her with the truth. It felt intimidating, like her identity was too new, too fragile, and still forming to talk about it in the everyday world.

“After I overheard you and Fall talking, I just . . .” He looked uncomfortable. “I sensed how important it was, what you were saying . . . what was happening to you. But I didn't really understand it, at first. So I asked my dad about it. He didn't recall anything about the name Addie, but he did recall that the Durands had a daughter named Adelaide and that there was a tragedy that involved her. So I did some research, and I found some articles
about the kidnapping. Since Fall has been so focused on you and so protective, I put two and two together. Sort of, anyway. I still don't get how Fall found you.”

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