The Consequence of Loving Colton

By: Rachel van Dyken

PROLOGUE

Summer 2009


“I can’t believe you’re really going to college, Milo.” Colton’s teasing smile flashed right in front of me, rendering me temporarily blind. Man, he was beautiful. His normally dark-brown hair had shots of gold from the summer sun. Dimples peeked out from his mega-white smile and I was pretty confident that I saw a twinkle in his green eyes meant just for me. He’d been home for two months since graduation and was already off saving the world one fire at a time. I watched his full lips curve around the mouth of his Corona. He and my brother Jason had organized a going-away party for me. Apparently me getting accepted into NYU was a big deal: they’d even gone so far as to get a Star Wars–themed cake from Dairy Queen and a princess tiara that said “Pretty” across it. It was always their joke with me. I was a complete and total tomboy—I loved picking fights and getting muddy—yet still demanded they treat me like a princess.

With a sigh I leaned back on the picnic blanket and looked up at the stars. My crown fell to the side of my head, causing my hair to fall all over my face. The party had been over for a few hours, leaving me, Colt, and Jason. I should have been happy: after all, who does that for his little sister? What brother would even care? Furthermore, the fact that it had all been Colt’s idea, someone who wasn’t even family, was huge. But . . . maybe that’s the part that left me feeling empty. I might as well be family to Colton. I was the little sister he’d never had—and secretly, I’d always wanted to be so much more.

“Aw, you messed up your hair,” Colton teased, lifting the crown with the tip of his finger and giving me a sexy wink.

“Whatever shall I do?” I huffed.

“I’ll save you.” His voice was just above a whisper. “I’ve always wanted to save a princess.”

“You did.” My grin was huge. “You saved me a least a hundred times when we were little—slew the dragon at the top of the stairs and did it all without getting a scratch.”

“Messy job.” He let out a long, exaggerated sigh. “I don’t know how I made it to my nineteenth birthday without getting singed.”

“Donald didn’t breathe fire. He was a fireless dragon, remember?”

“Oh, right.” His eyes twinkled. “How is the old dragon anyway?”

I shrugged and chewed on my lower lip. “Haven’t been in the attic since you guys left for school. I’ve been busy.”

“Too busy to play?”

I rolled my eyes. “Too busy graduating to play, yeah.”

“Where’s the fun in that?”

“Fun.” I snorted. “The last time I had fun was when we snuck into your parents’ pool and—” I clamped my mouth shut before the words could tumble out on their own. Crap. Crap. Crap.

“Skinny-dipped.” He finished my thought. “Yeah, that was a blast.”

“Hey, guys!” Jason called as he ran out of the house. “Dad needs me to grab Mom from work so I’ll be right back! Don’t do anything fun without me! I mean it!”

The loud roar from his truck filled the night air for a brief second and then slowly dissipated as the vehicle barreled down the driveway.

“You thinking what I’m thinking?” Colton asked.

If his thoughts were along the line of finally getting him alone, away from my brother? “Absolutely.” I grinned as he grabbed my hand and helped me off the blanket.

“Come on. Let’s go have fun.”

Curious, I followed Colt as we ran through a few backyards and finally ended up at his house.


“What are we doing?” I asked in a hushed voice.

“Having fun.” I swear his grin made my heart almost stop. “Now strip, Milo, we don’t have all night and Jason’s going to be pissed he isn’t with us.”

Laughing, I took off my shirt and shorts—I’d spent years swimming with the guys in my sports bra and underwear, though as we got older it became weird, but only on my end. It felt strange to strip down to nothing, knowing that my feelings for Colton were very real whereas his were nonexistent. I mean, it was Colton. Sure, I had a crush on him, but he never, ever thought of me that way. Ever.

“Last one in’s a rotten—”

I didn’t hear him finish—but I did beat him into the water. His mom and stepdad’s pool was always my favorite place to swim. It had a little waterfall in the deep end that you could swim under that always made me think of fairy tales and the movies. Then again, that could be because every time I broke through the water it was Colton’s face I saw, and his smile that drew me. He was my own personal Prince Charming.

Laughing, Colton splashed around, then hauled himself out of the pool and did a cannonball right by my face. I was glad that it was dark—I must have been beet-red. Man, the guy was ripped.

“Wanna race?” he asked, out of breath.

“Wanna lose?” I countered.

“Never.”

“Um, it’s an everyday occurrence.” I swam over to the edge. “Ready, set—”

“—go!” He ran instead of swam and then dove under water.

Bastard! Arms burning, I tried to make it to the other end of the pool. I usually didn’t open my eyes under water, but this time I did to see where I was going.

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