Love Me(The Keatyn Chronicles #4)

By: Jillian Dodd

Tuesday, October 18th

The mark of true love.

7:40am



My phone vibrates with a text from Grandpa. I can picture him sitting at his desk, overlooking the rosebushes in his back yard.

But wait. Grandpa always emails me. When did he learn to text?



Grandpa: To answer your question about the difference between love and true love, I have a simple answer. True love leaves a mark. Sometimes with a frying pan. LOL



And when did he learn what LOL is?



Me: Grandpa, this is serious! Ask Grandma if you don’t know. And HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW?? You’ve been married to the same woman for 39 years!!!



Grandpa: True love is a crapshoot. Sometimes you get lucky and hit the jackpot. Sometimes you’re left wallowing drunk and broke.



Me: You are not much help.



But as I’m walking to class, I’m thinking about Grandpa’s message and wondering if true love does leave a mark. Like the way Aiden’s kiss seared my skin that very first time he kissed me. Is that what it was? The mark of true love. Some sort of invisible hickey?

Speaking of hickeys.

Riley’s neck is covered with them.

“What? Did you get in a fight with a vacuum cleaner last night and lose?” I ask him.

He flips his collar up against his neck. “You know what they say, True love leaves a mark.”

“My Grandpa just told me the same thing. That’s so weird you’d say that. But somehow I don’t think that’s what the great philosophers had in mind.”

“Philosophers said that? That’s funny. I always thought it was something my dad made up.” He grins naughtily at me. “You should see my chest. She wrote her name in hickeys.”

I laugh. “I take it you and Ariela are back together? Did you sleep with her?”

“Naw, we’re having too much fun doing other stuff right now.”



His words burn in my brain. We’re having too much fun doing other stuff. That’s what I missed with Dawson. I’ve never sucked on his neck long enough to give him even one hickey. Let alone written my name on his chest. I went way too fast with him. And I think because I did, we can’t really start over. I can’t take it back.

I feel like I should make a public service announcement over the loud speaker in school.

Note to all you daters out there:

Enjoy making out for hours.

Enjoy the way his lips feel on yours.

Enjoy embarrassing him with hickeys.

Enjoy holding his hand.

Enjoy the way he says your name when he tells you goodnight.

Enjoy when he shows up to walk you to your next class.

Enjoy how he licks hot fudge off your face.

Enjoy staring at the stars with him.

Enjoy feeling crazy in love.

Like you will die if you don’t see him.

Like you will die if you have to stop kissing him.

Enjoy letting him romance you.

Revel in the slow pace.

Let your relationship build.

Then fall in love.

If only I could actually do that myself. I think of Aiden’s sex survey. Since I broke up with Sander, all of my relationships have happened really fast.

My mind flits to my mom saying, You need to love yourself.

Do I love myself?

Of course I do. I work out. I eat healthy. I try to get enough sleep. I always wear sunblock so I won’t get sun damage or premature wrinkles. I always try to look my best. Maybe I didn’t love myself when I was being a bitch to Vanessa, but since I’ve been here at Eastbrooke, I totally love who I am. I’m confident. I’m in lots of activities I love. I’m making friends with a wide variety of people. I’m nice to everyone.

Why wouldn’t I love myself? I’m awesome.

Except . . .

I felt embarrassed when I told Aiden how fast I slept with Cush.

And Dawson.

At the time, it felt right. And I’d known Cush and Brooklyn for a long time. It’s not like I’d just met them.

Like Dawson.

I slept with Dawson fast.

Why?

Because I was hurt about B and needed to feel loved? Wanted? Adored?

Or was it just because he was so freaking hot that I couldn’t help myself?



The current state of your neck.

History



When class is almost over, the phone rings on our teacher’s desk.

He picks it up, listens, then frowns disapprovingly in my direction. “Mr. Johnson and Miss Monroe, your presence is requested in the dean’s office.”

“Do you think we’re in trouble?” I ask Riley as we walk down the hall.

“I can’t think of anything I’ve done to get in trouble.”

“I’m almost positive that the current state of your neck is against the school’s decency policy.”

“Probably, but you didn’t give them to me.”

We round the corner and run into Dallas.

“Did you get called to the office too?” Riley asks.

Dallas whispers, “If they saw the video, we’re screwed.”

“What do you mean?” I whisper back.

“I mean, we had our school blazers on. We could get expelled.”

“Seriously?”

I can’t get expelled. I’m safe here.

Plus, I like it.

The dean meets us at the door and says, “Have a seat in my office.”

We walk in and sit in the three chairs lined up in front of his desk.

“It has come to my attention that the three of you recently created a video.”

Shit. Shit. Shit.

He pulls out three pieces of paper. Pieces of papers with our signatures at the bottom and the words “Eastbrooke Code of Conduct” at the top. “Do you recall signing these at the beginning of the school year?”

We all nod.

“In this document, you all agreed to protect Eastbrooke’s reputation. In the video, Mr. McMahon and Mr. Johnson are wearing pieces of their Eastbrooke uniforms. Combine that with underage drinking, some unbecoming sexual behavior by Miss Monroe, and it all adds up to the three of you possibly being expelled.”

Please let possibly be a way out of this. I can’t let Riley and Dallas get expelled because of me.

“I can explain,” I say. “I’m sorry. I was really upset. Dawson and I broke up and the video wasn’t supposed to be seen by anyone but him.”

“Did the video serve its purpose?”

“Well, he was upset by it, if that’s what you mean.”

“Although I was disappointed with the video’s content, I was impressed by the overall quality of it.”

Riley grins.

“Mr. Johnson, did you create this video? Do the editing and such? Can you tell me about the process?”

“Uh, sure,” Riley says. “Basically we did shots of us singing the same song a whole bunch of times in different situations, different settings. Then I pieced it together.”

“Can I assume that none of you want to be expelled?”

We all nod.

“Then here’s what I expect. First, that video will be removed from YouTube before you leave my office. Second, I have a project for you. Eastbrooke understands the power of social media, and our upcoming Prospective Student Weekend does not have the number of participants that we would like. I’d like you to create a video showcasing the school. Give students a reason to come see what we’re all about. Obviously, it needs to be classy and uphold the Eastbrooke tradition, but maybe you can make it a little less stuffy than the informational video we have on the school’s website. Can you shoot the video, edit it, and have it ready for my approval by this afternoon?”

Riley nods his head yes, but I’m thinking about something else.

I just realized that uploading the video of me was really dumb. What if Vincent had come across it somehow? Actually, that’s silly. The internet is a massive place and since I wasn’t tagged in it with my name, he’d have better odds finding a needle in a haystack. But, still, the idea of me being in a video that could lead him straight here scares me.

“Um, do I have to be in the video? Can we recruit some other students?”

“Yes, Keatyn, you do have to be in the video. It’s better than the alternative, correct?”

“Yes, sir,” I gulp. I could mention that Vincent finding me would be much, much worse, but I don’t. I can’t. Riley and Dallas are my friends. I need to start being a good friend back. And a good friend wouldn’t let them get expelled.

“I don’t want you just getting your friends out of class,” he says, as he writes on a piece of paper. “But if you need additional students, use this pass.”



Every boy’s fantasy.

9:30am



Riley removes the slutty video before we leave the dean’s office. As soon as we get out of the building, Dallas says, “Getting expelled would not have been good.”

“No, it wouldn’t have been,” I agree.

Riley grins. “Let’s go get my camera.”

“Any idea what we’re going to film?”

“No. But you’re in drama. Write a script.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“The purpose of the video is to get students to want to come here. So let’s show them how much fun we have. I think I’m going to include clips of how Dawson asked you to Homecoming. The dean with a letter on his naked chest is a cool thing. And I have a bunch of footage that I shot during Homecoming. Then we just can include a little blurb at the end about the upcoming Greek/PSW weekend.”

“Maybe we need to get some of the Olympian gods to be shirtless.”

Riley grins at me. “You, start writing the script.” Then he turns to Dallas. “And, you, go get Maggie, Ariela, Aiden, Jake, and Logan out of class.”

“Why them?”

“If I’m going to appeal to 8th grade boys, I need hot girls. Plus, it’s every boy’s fantasy. A blonde, a brunette, and a redhead. All together, waiting for him at Eastbrooke.”

We get to his room. While he messes with his camera, I grab his laptop, sit at his desk, and pull up Eastbrooke’s website and perspective student video.

Eastbrooke: Honor. Tradition. Excellency.

It goes on about how great Eastbrooke is in a very boring fashion. There are still shots of kids in classes. At activities. One of a cheering crowd at a sporting event. Really, it’s pretty bland and impersonal. I can see why kids aren’t signing up for the PSW.

Hmmm.

I spin on Riley’s chair. “So what if we start with this shot. The beginning of the other video with the “honor, tradition, and excellency” thing, then make it look like we tagged it with graffiti. Like we’ve spray painted a big cougar paw over the top of it.”

“I like it. What do you think for a script?”

“I don’t know that just showing clips of Homecoming and stuff is a good idea. That’s what’s on the other video. Photos of people you don’t know. It’s really impersonal.”

“So, let’s make it personal. Talk about us.”

“Our story?”

“Yeah. Let’s take them through a day. Getting coffee and breakfast with our friends. Goofing around in the halls between classes. Dinner. Hanging out in our dorms.” He smirks. “Maybe you girls could wear your Mission: Impossible lingerie and have a pillow fight.”

“Very funny. But I think the idea of showing us girls hanging out in my dorm is a great idea. I mean, really, the dorm can be like one big slumber party.”

“Exactly. And I’ll get some shots of the guys, chilling in Aiden’s room, playing video games. Texting girls. Stuff like that.”

“That sounds good. And maybe dance practice, soccer practice, rehearsal. There’s a French club meeting at lunch and lit club after dance. We can recreate whatever we want to.”

“The dean is really cool,” Riley replies. “We’re lucky.”

“Yeah, we are.”

“Okay, so before everyone gets here, I want to record you. Let’s go outside where the lighting is good. Do you know what you want to say?”

“I think so, yes.”



We get situated outside of Hawthorne House. “Riley, you know, one of my favorite things about this school is how pretty it is. So let’s make sure we get shots of the trees, and we should get some shots of a pick-up soccer game in the common area.”

“Shirts and skins?”

“Absolutely! So what do you want me to do? Should I stand or sit on the steps?”

“Stand. I love those little thigh-high sock things you wear. Those ribbon ones are my favorite.”

Riley holds up the camera and says, “Roll that.”

Which causes me to crack up instead of talking.

“Maybe we can do some bloopers at the end.” He nods at me. “Go.”

I smile for the camera and start talking. “Hi, I’m Keatyn. I was sitting where you are, just a few months ago, watching videos, trying to decide where to go to school. You can learn all about academic excellence and tradition on the other video, but, in this video, we want you to experience Eastbrooke.”

He stops recording. “That’s good, I like it.”

“I want to introduce you and Dallas. Tell them how we met. Then we’ll follow all of us on our day.”

Dallas shows up with Maggie, Logan, Jake, Ariela, and Aiden. After Riley and Ariela suck each other’s faces off, we fill everyone in on what we want to do. Riley hands Jake the camera.

I speak to the camera. “This is Riley and Dallas. Say hi, boys.”

Dallas says, “Hey, y’all,” in his adorable accent. Riley, hotly, sticks out his tongue at the camera and yells, “What’s up?”



We spend the day filming all over school. Some scenes with just a few of us. Others with classrooms full of students.

After that, Ariela goes back to class, and the others are off recruiting guys for the pick-up soccer game.

I’m sitting in the grass waiting for them to show up.

I glance at the goal and think about Aiden, who, even though he’s been helping on and off today, has been acting weird.

Like, sort of standoffish, maybe.

Sometimes he gives me those looks. Like he wants to talk to me or say something, but then he doesn’t.

And I really don’t know what his deal is.

Maybe now he’s embarrassed about the stars?

Aiden is first to return. He has a soccer ball and is bouncing it off his knees over and over again.

“Wanna see if you can score on me?” he asks, finally saying a full sentence to me for the first time today.

“I probably wouldn’t do very well in these heels,” I reply, bending my knee to show him a cute shoe. “But I would like to play you again. Especially since you told me only, like, ten people have ever scored on you.”

“That was just in games.”

“Fine, then. We’ll consider it a game.”

“How will it work?”

“Hmm. I'll kick a penalty shot. No, I’ll kick twenty of them. If I get eleven of them past you and into the net, I win.”

“And what will you win?”

“Bragging rights are all I need.”

“No, it needs to be bigger than that. Let me think about it, B-Moi.”

“I’m not sleeping with you if you win,” I say immediately, knowing that’s what his shortened Baise moi is suggesting.

“I wouldn't want you to,” he says.

My face drops. He doesn’t want to sleep with me? I look down at the grass and start studying the blades.

Oh, I have so been friend-zoned. He just wanted to get rid of the stupid stars. That’s all it was.

I’m not the one. Not the dream girl.

I see Aiden’s shoes coming toward me. He kneels down next to me, but I refuse to look at him. If I do, I’ll probably start crying.

Oh, I hate him.

“Boots?” he says. I pretend to be really interested in the single blade of grass I just picked. He puts his hand under my chin and pushes it up so I have to look into his sparkling emerald eyes. “When we sleep together, it's not going to be because of a bet.”

I swallow.

And turn away quickly.

When we sleep together?

Is that what he wants? Is that why he wants to be my friend? Does he want to be friends with benefits?

Sorry, Aiden. Been there. Done that. Hacked the shirt with scissors, ripped it to shreds, then burned the effing thing to oblivion.

Fortunately, Riley runs by, flicks my hair, and steals the soccer ball out of Aiden’s hands, causing Aiden to tear off after him.

While they chase each other around, my mind wanders to what sleeping with Aiden would be like.

I’m pretty sure it would be like dropping the hairdryer in the tub while I'm taking a bath.

I’d probably be majorly electrocuted and die.

But I bet it would be worth the risk.



All the guys show up, so Riley goes into director mode. Saying who he wants on which team. Who should take off their shirts. And what to do.

I’m sitting in the grass next to Maggie, thinking about how fitting it is that this field be included in the video. It was one of the first things I saw when I got here. When I took a deep breath and finally felt safe. And, later, how crazy I was to run down the hill, steal the ball from Dawson, and kick it past Aiden’s head. Dawson bringing me here to ask me out. Aiden and me sitting on the bench outside the library, overlooking the field, and watching the sunset.

Maggie elbows my side. “So, tell me about the stars. What happened? Are you and Aiden gonna get together now? What are you going to do about Dawson? Did you see Jake was teasing me? I think I might like him. Should I like him?”

I smile at her. Maggie is such a beautiful girl, and I adore her fun personality. She and Jake would be cute together, but it also seems like there’s something going on with her and Logan. Something about the way they look at each other.

I grab her hand. “Before I answer all that, I just want to say that I’m so glad we’re friends. Sitting here reminds me of when school started.”

“I remember hearing about the crazy-ass girl who kicked a soccer ball past Aiden. I never imagined we’d become good friends. But I love you. You’re as crazy as me.” She grabs me and pulls me into a hug.

Riley, who has apparently caught our moment on tape, yells from across the field, “Make out!”

Maggie and I respond in the exact same manner at the exact same time, both flipping him off and then lying back in the grass and giggling.



After getting an appropriate number of shirts vs. skins shots, I take Riley into the dance locker room and then get the girls together to hang out in my dorm room. We change into pajamas and do all the stuff we usually do. Gossip, paint our nails, talk on social media, do homework, and eat.

Then we do the same thing with the boys. Show a football practice. Riley lifting weights. Dallas running. Then all the guys piled into Aiden’s room, eating and playing video games. Aiden and me studying in the library. Him slaughtering the French language and me trying to protect it.

After that, we go back to the dean to tell him we’re done filming, but that Riley will need tonight to edit it.

He asks us to have it to him by tomorrow morning at eight. Apparently, the school is going to email it to their prospective student list in hopes of buoying this weekend’s attendance.



Wrapped up in a relationship.

6:50pm



I get to rehearsal a little early. The director immediately pulls me aside.

“So, Miss Monroe, what did you decide? Are you going to give me a committed performance or are you going to quit?”

I smile. “I’m going to give you an amazing performance. I’m really sorry about last week. I kind of got caught up in a guy.”

“Who you’ve since broken up with, or so I’ve heard.”

“Yeah, but I was going to keep doing it even if that hadn’t happened. Acting is something I really want to do. Like, maybe even with my life. So, it’s important to me. I just, I sort of forgot to think about me. Have you ever done that?”

“Gotten wrapped up in a relationship? Sure. Everyone does sometimes. Learning that it’s okay to be yourself, have your own interests, and still be part of a committed relationship is part of growing up. And something I learned the hard way.”

“Really, how?”

“In college, I was in a one-act play. But the girl I was dating had a sorority function the same night and was upset that I couldn’t go. She was going to take another date, so I quit the play even though it was important to me.”

“Was the sorority thing that big of a deal?”

“Not really. And I held it against her, which then undermined our relationship.”

“The one that got away, huh?”

“Actually, no. I chose to get away because she wasn’t supportive of me. If it was a good relationship, she would’ve come to my play, then we would have gone to the last half of her formal. You have to want to make it work.”

I think about Tommy and Mom and how they won’t do movies at the same time in different locations. How they won’t be apart for more than a week. How supportive they are of each other. What Aiden said to me at tryouts flits through my brain. How, if Dawson loved me, he should be there supporting me. Watching me try out. Not making me feel guilty for doing what I love.

“That makes sense.”

He smiles at me. “And I do have some good news for you. Wednesday and Thursday, you get the night off. We’re going to be focusing those rehearsals on memorizing lines. Since you have yours down, you get a little reward.”

“Really?! Thank you!”

“No, thank you. It’s nice to work with a professional. You, Logan, and Jake are the only ones in the cast who are prepared.”



I take my usual seat in the back of the auditorium and pull out my homework. Might as well get started on it. I have a comparative essay due tomorrow for English, math problems, a science worksheet, and history chapter questions.

I’m tackling the essay when my phone buzzes. I expect it to be Aiden since it’s unusual for him to be late.



Dawson: I missed walking you to class today.



Me: We were working on a project for the dean.



Dawson: I heard. Was it fun?



Me: Yeah, sort of. The dean saw the video we made on the plane. This was sort of our punishment.



Dawson: That video really upset me.



His comment makes me feel bad and pisses me off at the same time. It’s like he’s trying to make me feel bad for making him feel bad when he made me feel bad.

Does that even make sense?



Me: I’m sorry it upset you. Obviously, I was pretty upset myself. Look, I’ve got to go. I’m at rehearsal and I have a ton of homework.



Dawson: I’m going to make it up to you.



Me: How are you planning to do that?



Dawson: I’m not sure. Is there anything I can do to make you get over it?



Me: Talking about it might help. Like if I really knew what you were thinking. Maybe. Part of me doesn’t want to know. Part of me would prefer to just stay mad. Being mad is easier.



Dawson: Please don’t stay mad at me, Keatie. Please. Can we talk tonight? Like after rehearsal?



Me: If I get out in time.



Dawson: If not, we’ll go to the Cave later or something. Okay?



Me: Okay.



Aiden strolls in around eight-thirty. I’ve done two of my scenes in the first act of the play and managed to get a rough draft of my essay done.

“I just stopped by to tell you that I can’t do tutoring tonight.”

“Yeah, I kinda already figured that,” I say, trying to hide my disappointment. I’ve come to enjoy hanging out with Aiden during practice.

“I’m glad I skipped out on the taping for a while and went to French. We had a pop quiz today.”

“How did you do?”

“Good, I think. Your tutoring seems to be working.”

“Well, that’s good.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

“Uh, sure. What are you doing tonight?”

He grins at me. Probably reading my mind and knowing that I’m dying to know what else he has to do. How much do you want to bet it involves a curvy cheerleader who he is friends with?

“I’m helping Riley and Dallas with the video. Riley’s worried that he won’t get it done. What he’s done so far, though, is really good.”

“That’s nice of you, Aiden. But I’m kind of surprised. I didn’t think you and Riley were friends.”

“We were friends during football camp, then we got into it in the locker room that one day.”

“As in the day he slammed you against a locker for talking shit about me and Dawson?”

Aiden hangs his head a little. “Yeah.”

“Riley’s a good guy,” I say.

“Yeah, I know. He’s not like Dawson.”

“Dawson is a good guy.”

Aiden rolls his eyes at me, shakes his head, and says, “See ya later, Boots.”

The way he says it sounds kind of dreamy. His voice. His mouth. Everything about him is just plain dreamy.

But then I remember another time he said those words to me.

After our 29 dances.

Which means I probably won’t hear from him for days.



Don’t stop kissing me.

9:45pm



We get out of rehearsal a little early, so I go see Dawson.

When I get there, he immediately pulls me onto his bed and kisses me.

We kiss, and kiss, and kiss.

He runs his hands up the sides of my shirt and pulls it off. Then he kisses my neck, my chest, and my stomach. Then he stops, puts an arm above my shoulder and leans close to my face.

“We haven’t been talking. I’m sorry. I’m having a hard time starting over. We should stop kissing and talk, right? What do you want to talk about?”

“I just have one thing to say.”

“What’s that?”

“Don’t stop kissing me.” I grab his shirt and pull him back toward my lips.

Which is all he needs. He kisses me passionately and does some other stuff that I very much enjoy. I start to feel that familiar yearning.

Why is it that I don’t want to have sex with him?

Is it because I want to punish him?

But isn’t that sort of punishing me too?

I want to. And, oh, my gosh. He is—well, he’s doing things to me that I also shouldn’t be letting him do, but I don’t stop him.

I can’t stop him.

I want to feel close to him again. I want to know if things have changed. He said things were different when he kissed Whitney.

Things are not different when we kiss.

I still feel the same desire. The same emotions. I’m ready to take things further, all the way further, and he’s definitely ready.

This is the point where we both know we want to.

Since that first time, we’ve never questioned it. It feels good, so we do it. And I’m ready for that. Expecting that. I’m guiding him toward me.

But he stops.

Again.

“Keatie, I want this more than you know. But I don’t want you to regret it. I never want you to regret what we do. I know maybe it sounds empty because of what happened, but I love you. I really do.”

He strokes my hair, runs the back of his hand down the side of my face, and sweeps it across my chin. I lean my head into his hand as he cradles my face in his palm and looks into my eyes.

I don’t break eye contact. I tilt my pelvis up a little higher, grab his hips, and guide him into me.

He’s a bit shocked by this, I think.

His eyes get big, but then he smiles and starts slowly pushing in and out. Then he leans down and kisses me.

Our kissing matches the rhythm of the sex. Slow and gentle to start, then deeper and harder and faster, until he can’t keep kissing me because it’s gotten so intense.

Finally, he collapses on top of me, breathing heavily. I hug him tightly as he sprinkles little kisses down the side of my cheek and across my shoulder.

“That was amazing.”

I laugh at him. “You always say that.”

“Sorry, I need some new adjectives. I’ll get back to you on that. I’m having a hard time thinking right now.” He grabs a strand of my hair and absent-mindedly twirls it around his finger.

“What are you thinking about?”

“How lucky I am. Does this mean we’re back together?”

“No, but we’re maybe starting over.”

“Yeah, but . . .”

“If you recall, when we started this happened pretty quickly.”

He smiles big. “I do recall. And I swear it won’t end like before. So are we going out again?”

“We’re not. Just like we weren’t then.”

“We’re taking it slow?”

I grin and shake my head because we both know that this is not taking it slow.

“Something like that. I might date other people. And you should too.”

He glances at the clock. “I doubt I will, but we’ll see. Probably better get you home. I don’t want you to be late.”

I glance at the clock and see that he’s right. We quickly get dressed, walk arm in arm back to my dorm, and share a long goodnight kiss.



I’m lying in bed, reading a steamy romance novel, when Katie says, “What happened with you and Dawson tonight?”

“We just, you know, we’re maybe starting over.”

“He just changed his relationship status,” she says, as my phone buzzes.

I pick it up and read what I’m supposed to approve: It’s complicated with Kiki Kiki.

And I don’t know who came up with that relationship status when they invented Facebook, but I’m thinking I couldn’t have described it better myself.

Because it is complicated.

And I’m pretty sure that my sleeping with him just made it even more complicated.



I decide to call Riley. “How’s the video going?”

“Almost done. We’ve got three computers with all the video, and Dallas and Aiden have been helping me find the footage I need. It’s turning out great. Are you going to be up for a little while? I’m putting some finishing touches on it and will send you the link in a few.”

“I’ll wait up. I can’t wait to see it. Um, Riley, uh, how come Aiden is helping you?”

“He offered.”

“Oh. Are you friends?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

A few minutes later, my computer dings with an email. I follow the link and watch the video.

I call Riley back.

“I, um, it’s really good, Riley,” I blubber.

“Are you crying?”

“I’m just, it’s just . . . really good.”

“Yeah, you said that already. It’s supposed to make you want to come here, not cry.”

“It will make people want to come here. It just . . .”

“It’s about us.”

“Exactly. I love you and Dallas.”

“What part made you cry?”

“Just all of it,” I lie.

“What part made you cry?” he asks again sternly.

“Aiden’s part. How people here inspire him to be a better person. About the sunsets.”

“And why did that make you cry?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Why not?”

“Because I slept with your brother tonight.”

“Is that what It’s complicated means?”

“Yes.”

“Baby, it’s okay with me if you like Aiden. I know you’ve liked him since school started.”

“Thanks, Riley, but I don’t like Aiden. I mean, I did, at first. But he doesn’t like me back. He wants to be my friend.”

“Oh, really? Your friend?” Riley chuckles.

“Don't laugh at me. I’ve been friend-zoned. It’s embarrassing.”

“Keatyn, I swear, you are clueless.”

“I am not clueless. He told me himself he wants to be my friend.”

“I want to be Ariela’s friend.”

“You also want to sleep with her. Aiden doesn’t want to sleep with me. Actually, that’s not true. He said we might sleep together someday. But I had a friends with benefits relationship before. I don’t want that. I want more.”

“And you’re getting more from Dawson?”

“Yes. No. Kinda. He says he loves me.”

“I’m learning that saying it and proving it are two very different things. Night, baby.”

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