Authors: Tori Brooks
Copyright © 2014 Mike’s Basement, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from Mike’s Basement, Inc. For permission requests (outside of the scope of “Fair Use” doctrine), contact:
This book is a work of fiction. The characters and events described are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events or people, living or deceased, is purely coincidental.
For Mobi Editions
My special thanks to my husband and family for their continued support. A word of advice to my teenagers (as parts of this series has been discussed in their presence): don’t get any ideas. I’m
ready for you.
Leaving for college was making Devin Giles a wreck. He’d wanted to go to MIT since he was still young enough to want to build robots to take over the world. Dev wasn’t interested in robots so much now, or taking over the world. Instead, Dev was a hacker. Technically he was a
in that he was doing his small part to rid the Internet of the pieces of code that most people didn’t find as interesting as he did. He just didn’t really like the term cracker. It was a snack. So more often than not he still used the term hacker instead when he considered what he was doing. Not that he spent as much time considering his illicit hobby as he did dwelling on the flight he was now on.
Now that he was finally going to MIT, Dev had an irrational fear he wasn’t good enough. He had nightmares about going to class and not understanding what his professors were teaching. Nightmares about his classmates shunning him and refusing to let him participate in group projects. About all his assignments
group projects. Normally, Dev would turn to his best friend, Bryan, with his concern, but that just wasn’t possible in this particular case.
Dev met Bryan when he joined the band four years ago, and had shared his problems with the older boy for nearly that long. His band mates didn’t know about his secret life as a hacker. They wouldn’t understand, and wouldn’t want to know. Now that they all lived in the celebrity spotlight with an album and top ten singles under their belts, they’d panic at the thought of Dev’s little hobby.
Talking to Bryan was out of the question, but Dev could turn to his girlfriend, Lindsay. Except he couldn’t do that either. Lindsay was outrageously proud of Dev’s computer skills. In fact, that was the first thing that attracted her to him and still possibly the main thing she liked. If he confided this fear to her, she’d likely wheedle his paranoia out of him about how his new classmates were going to react when he walked into class. His face had been in fashion ads for years and now graced the covers of teen magazines. It wasn’t like in high school where his peers had known him before his picture was plastered everywhere.
He hated it when people fawned over him because of the band, particularly girls. What if his classmates recognized him? What if they didn’t? Dev wasn’t sure which would be worse. While he hated the attention, not having anyone recognize him at this point would just be insulting. What if his new classmates recognized him, but hated his music? Lindsay was paranoid Dev was going to find a new girlfriend in college, so the idea of classmates recognizing him would likely make her break down in fits of hysteria.
Sitting in his seat on the plane beside his housekeeper, Dev quietly turned his body away and pulled a small, yellow anti-anxiety pill from his pocket and swallowed it. He unsuccessfully tried not to remember he’d stolen them from his late mother’s medicine cabinet. That his stepfather insisted Greta accompany him to college was something he actually
vent about to both Bryan and Lindsay. In the end, Dev decided it wasn’t because he didn’t turn eighteen until April as Flynn suggested. It was just another way Flynn was trying to annoy him.
Dev let himself relax in his seat and closed his eyes. Forcing the concerns about school from his mind left room for worries about Lindsay to intrude. He squeezed his eyes tightly shut and shook his head in an attempt to clear it. Kenny and Jess had told him so often that they considered her ill-suited to be his girlfriend that they’d even come to blows over it. Lindsay’s little nympho confession when Dev told her he was leaving for college in January almost made him agree. He tried not to think about that conversation and the uneasy feeling it gave him.
As Lindsay fled his mind, she was replaced by Kenny’s concerns for the band. With Kenny, it was always about the band. Dev set up a webcam and amp so he could play his guitar in Cambridge and it would be just like he was in the basement with them in Seattle. At least it would sound like it. He wired Bryan’s drums and ran Kenny’s guitar lead and Jess’s microphone through a computer, so on his end it should sound good. Sure, Jess wouldn’t be able to physically pick on him like he frequently did, but Jess would just have to cope. So would Kenny. Dev tested it. With the help of one of his illicit associates, he even overcame the lag time problem. This would work.
Not that Kenny believed him. Dev trusted Bryan to talk them into it. Somehow, Dev was pretty sure he wasn’t going to have time to fly home all the time just to humor Kenny’s need to jam every weekend. He also trusted Bryan to rebel if Kenny tried to get them to fly out to join him too often. If Bryan didn’t politely decline, Dev would make a point of inviting Bryan’s wife, Brenda. She made Jess twitchy and the odds of getting them in the same house on a regular basis was fairly slim.
Content he had that potential problem addressed, Dev’s mind wandered to Flynn. He hated his stepfather and didn’t want to think about him. Pushing Flynn aside, Dev considered Sophie. The eleven-year-old his mom and Flynn adopted as newlyweds was upset to see him go, but Dev wasn’t worried about that. He promised to call and email her all the time; she’d come around. And Lindsay said she’d befriend his little sister, so that should cover it.
Sophie kept trying to get him to hold Gunter when he was at home, but Dev was away now, so that would stop. He could probably look forward to her sending him pictures of the baby their mom gave her life for. How Sophie could cuddle up with the baby and not see what the real cost of having him was eluded Dev, but he never found the courage to confront her about it.
Dev frowned. It wasn’t worth it. He’d have to train Sophie to not mention the baby, and he didn’t want to see pictures. Lindsay might help him get the point across. She’d helped him get Sophie to stop trying to make him be friends with Flynn.
Worrying about school was preferable to thinking about Flynn, Gunter, and his mom. Pulling his phone from his pocket, Dev saw he still had three more hours until they landed. Beside him, Greta was absorbed in a book, leaving Dev to his own thoughts. In an effort to stave off the need for another anti-anxiety pill, Dev pulled up a map of MIT on his phone and concentrated on memorizing it. Whether his new classmates were fans or not, at least he wouldn’t be reduced to asking for directions when he got there.
Lindsay lay in bed, staring up at the pattern on her ceiling. Dev’s flight left almost two hours ago. He was gone. Where was he now? She wasn’t really sure and it didn’t matter. In the air somewhere.
Getting up, Lindsay found a poster of the United States and some thumbtacks. She stood on her bed and tacked the poster to the ceiling over her pillow, causing little bits of plaster to crumble away from the edges of the shapes there. Lindsay had no idea what that patterns in the plaster she was previously staring at were supposed to be anyway. Flowers? Amorphous blobs? She didn’t know and frankly didn’t care.
Flopping back down on her bed again, Lindsay stared up at the map. Now, where was her boyfriend? If the flight from Seattle to Boston took six hours, and he left two hours ago, he’d be . . . over the Rockies? Lindsay didn’t know, but it sounded good. Actually, no, it didn’t. The whole idea of Dev leaving for college in Boston sounded absurd. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT – had been Dev’s goal since before she knew him. She didn’t begrudge him that. He was smart enough to go anywhere. She’d feel better if he were going to Harvard. Somehow it struck Lindsay that Harvard was a more serious school. More uptight probably. Dev would get into less trouble there. At least fewer girls would probably swoon over him because they were too busy being uptight themselves.
“How crazy is this? Let me count the ways,” Lindsay muttered to herself, then she sighed and wiped a wayward tear from her cheek. He wasn’t ready. Screw that,
When Dev showed up on her doorstep that insane night in November, Lindsay expected him to be coming to tell her he had a new baby brother or sister. She was hoping for a sister. His mom deserved another girl in the house and it would simplify things for Sophie, the little sister Dev already had. His news couldn’t have been further from what Lindsay wanted to hear. Not only did Teri have a boy, she died in the process. Lindsay was surprised to hear that even still happened. The baby was early, months early, but that should have been a danger to him, not Teri. Dev was furious that Flynn got the son he wanted at his mother’s expense.
Lindsay didn’t even try to reason with Dev. He disliked Flynn before, and it was pretty obvious his feelings for his stepfather had intensified into outright hatred now. She promised Dev once that she’d be supportive, so that’s what Lindsay vowed to be, just supportive. Dev didn’t come over so she could tell him he was overreacting, he was there to vent. Being supportive meant listening and letting him vent. And pace, he did a lot of pacing.
She’d wondered several times when exactly Dev hatched the idea to graduate from high school early and leave for college in January instead of the following fall. Knowing him, he had plans in place before the funeral. Definitely before Gunter came home from the hospital after Thanksgiving. He didn’t talk to her about it until it was settled or she would have tried to talk him out of it. Lindsay wondered if Dev somehow knew that. He sprung it on her, just like he sprung it on Flynn. They both reacted badly. The only difference was Dev was still angry with Flynn and he was babying her. For now.
When Dev surprised her with his plan to leave, Lindsay decided it was time for full disclosure. Mostly full disclosure. Dev was painfully shy around girls when she met him. She’d been leading him along and gently getting him comfortable with her invading his personal space, holding hands, talking about increasingly personal things. It was time to come clean and admit she was a nymphomaniac. The idea was for him to be ecstatic with the idea he was about to get lucky with his girlfriend of six months. It didn’t work out that way, and it was her fault for not paying attention. She gave him a chaste kiss once and thought he was going to have a stroke. Lindsay forgot about that until she looked into his bright green eyes that reminded her of a deer caught in headlights.
Dev might be a hot musician to most of the world, but Lindsay knew he was really a shy geeky genius. Just because shy geeky geniuses didn’t
experience with kissing and sex didn’t mean they didn’t
shy geeky genius seemed to be the exception. Teri raised him ‘right’ by some old-fashioned handbook and Dev answered her admission with one of his own, explaining what she least expected to hear: abstinence. Lindsay wanted to scream. Except that wouldn’t help her get her way.
He’d be past the Rockies she decided, still staring at the map on the ceiling. Lindsay wondered if it was a direct flight.
Since Dev wasn’t going to sleep with her, allowing Lindsay to gain his commitment to her that way, she convinced him she was only making progress battling her ‘condition’ because being around him helped. Lindsay somehow persuaded him that leading him by baby steps helped her. It was absurd that Dev believed it, and incredible that it was sort of true. She’d been in therapy most of her life already. Now her naïve boyfriend was determined to fix her, and she went along with it out of sheer desperation because it was the only plan she had to maintain his loyalty.
Lindsay sniffled and wiped away another tear. This was a house of cards. Her only hope of holding onto her boyfriend was because he thought she was broken and wanted to help her. That and she knew his little hacker secret and loved him for it while Dev was convinced he’d have to keep it hidden from anyone else he met. Somehow Lindsay doubted that would be the problem he thought it was. Dev was a rock star and way cute. Plus he was really sweet. Women would be pretty forgiving of Dev being a hacker, especially since he was of the white-hat variety. His hacker group had an unofficial fan club, for crying out loud! Not that she was going to point that out to him.
She hated the way things were between her and Dev now. It was sketchy at best, although she was his first relationship so Dev didn’t understand that. Lindsay rolled over toward her bedroom door where a poster of A Thousand Words was taped up behind the door. She had to put it there so the door covered it when it was open, that way her dad wouldn’t see it. Jack loved Dev and wouldn’t mind her having posters of him taped up. This particular poster was different – it was a poster of the whole band and she liked to throw darts at Jess and Kenny. Her dad
mind the holes in the wall. There weren’t holes in Dev though, Lindsay never missed. Bryan was safe too, he was nice to her.
Come to think of it, Bryan was Dev’s best friend, and he was on her side. Well, Bryan was technically on Dev’s side but Bryan’s wife, Brenda, thought Lindsay was good for Dev and she doubted Bryan was going to cross his wife.
Lindsay grinned. The first time she met Jess and Kenny, Brenda kneed Jess in the groin for not listening to her. That pretty much told all the boys in the band just who was in charge. At the time, Lindsay felt bad for Jess and thought Brenda must be out of her mind. Since then, she decided Jess had it coming and Brenda was extraordinarily patient not to have taken extreme measures sooner.
If Dev got himself in any sort of situation in Boston that he wouldn’t tell her about, he’d go running to Bryan. What Bryan knew, Brenda would almost certainly find out. Lindsay vowed to strengthen her friendship with Brenda.