“What are you doing?”
“Motherfucker!” I press back on the driver’s seat and glare at my baby brother.
Leo braces one hand on top of the ‘stang and stares in my open window.
“How did you know I was here?”
“Dropped Amy at school and didn’t see this shit-heap.” He bangs the roof twice. “Thought I’d find out why.”
“Get in.” I jerk my head toward the passenger side before snatching his sleeve. “And don’t dare call it a shit-heap again.” I resume watching the property down the street while Leo makes his way to the other side of the vehicle.
I might have gone a little overboard last night.
“So.” He drops into the leather and bangs the door closed. Might as well rev the engine too and really make sure they know I’m here. “Why are you watching Phoebe’s place?”
“Because the fuckin’ Sheriff walked in half an hour ago and hasn’t come back out yet.”
“So?” He slides down the seat and bends both legs to place his shoes on the dash.
I smack them down with a growl. “So,” I taunt. “He walked in with that new shrink.”
“The not-so-new new one?” He sits higher again, newly interested in my stake-out.
“Gina’s mom. Yeah.”
“Right?” I reach for the pack of smokes on the dash and then shake out a stick. “She’s only supposed to be here to investigate the deaths. The shit that doesn’t matter.”
“Because the dead don’t speak,” he mumbles. “Dad will flip his shit if Phoebe talks.”
“Still want to know why I’m here?” I light the cigarette and give him a snarky look in the process.
“How does watching the house help?”
“I wanted to know if he’d make it a quick stop for a report, or if he’d use the shrink on this.”
“And since they’ve been in there so long, you think he’s using the shrink.” Leo flattens his lips into a tight line. “I’ll visit tonight.”
“Visit who?” I tap the ash out my window and take another long drag. It does fuck all to ease my nerves. I’ve never fucked up this bad. Not without being able to rectify the problem myself.
“Phoebe.” Leo runs a hand over his head, gaze dying to that cold fucking stare I see him use on the old man all the time. He hates this. As do I. “I’ll play the concerned friend and sort it out.”
“They won’t let you in there.”
“Uh, because it was your brother who left her like that?” I roll my eyes. He’s naïve, sure, but not usually this stupid.
“Who said I was going to use the front door?” He gives me the same look.
I smirk. “Proud of you, little bro’.”
“Yeah? Well, don’t go thinking it makes me feel great or anything.” He sighs. “I’d rather you weren’t.”
Exactly. Because for me to be proud of him, means he’s just like me. Immoral. Fucked up.
I want better for him too.
“How do you plan on fixing it?” I ask, seriously considering chewing the cigarette instead for a more direct hit. As I said—fucked.
“How do we normally fix things?”
“The wrong way.” I tap the cigarette despite the fact no ash needs to fall. “You want to make it so she won’t speak, either?”
“I think that would be a dumb fuckin’ thing to do after what’s happening right now, don’t you?” Leo gestures to the house. “I’ll try the sweeter approach.”
“Like I said,” I grumble. “It won’t work.” The bitch wants me. Always has. Used Leo plenty of times in her desperation to claw her way up the Ambrose ladder.
After last night, I’m fairly sure she knows I’m not interested.
“It’s not past recovery.” Leo rolls his head to face me. “If I dangle the right kind of carrot, she’ll chase after me.”
“And what sort would that be?” Using pointer finger and thumb, I flick the redundant cigarette butt into the middle of the road.
“Aren’t big brothers always trying to steal what their little ones have just to fuck with them?” He smirks before returning his attention to the residence of interest.
“She might take the bait.” I roll my bottom lip between my teeth while I ponder the concept. If Leo makes Pheobe believe I’m the kind of asshole who takes girlfriends out of sheer spite, then she’ll be first in line to warm his bed for the chance at dancing the horizontal tango with his cunt of an older brother. “Try it.” I need this woman subdued before she blows the lid on a whole other basket of chaos.
Leo nods and then motions to his non-existent watch. “Don’t suppose you could get me to second period on time?”
I readjust my seat with a groan and reach to turn the key in the ignition. “Only because I need to leave befo—” Jaw frozen halfway through my word, I zero in on the Sheriff as he walks down Phoebe’s front path toward his cruiser. Fuck. Too late.
Following too far behind to simply be a tag-along is the shrink. She holds a folio to her chest with one arm, shoulders back, and a smile on her lips while she talks to Phoebe’s mom. Sheriff Maloney rounds his SUV and disarms the vehicle, opening his door before he hesitates to watch the tail-end of the interaction.
“She’s totally involved,” Leo whispers beside me, seemingly as infatuated with the show before us.
Body language can tell a person so much, and the shrink’s movements scream that she’s just finished a consultation with these people. Fuck. The woman starts towards the cruiser, and I snap back into action. With a flick of a wrist, the Mustang roars to life, and I thrust the shifter into reverse. The Sheriff has enough time to turn his head and step back to see around the cruiser’s door before I manage to propel the car backward up a hedge-lined driveway.
I don’t stop there.
Fuck knows who lives at this house, but I keep maneuvering the Mustang in reverse until I have it curled around the back of the building and onto their lawn. Leo ducks his head to check for any sign of angry residents. I step out to check the road.
Sure enough, the cruiser idles to a stop at the end of the driveway. I stay obscured by the wall of the house, watching the black and white of his paint job through the break in the plants until it slowly carries on.
Without a search warrant or probable cause, he can’t pursue me onto private property. If he can’t see me, then he can’t prove I’m here. And the last fucking thing I want is for him to know I waited and watched while he questioned the girl I beat to within an inch of hospitalization.
Satisfied the fucker isn’t about to reverse back into view, I stride to the waiting car and my impatient brother. “You ready to get your deviant ass to class, or what?”
He chuckles, arm out the window to slap that fucking palm on the roof again. “Giddy up, pony.”
“What the fuck is this bullshit?” I whack the back of my hand against Leo’s chest, drawing his attention away from the phone in his hand to the pairing that moves between buildings.
Striding from the main halls to the smaller arts annex is none other than the new girl. Gina. The fucking anomaly in our perfectly dysfunctional town. And who would be trailing like a rain cloud, failing miserably at hiding its shadow, but our goddamn sister.
“Fuck’s sake, Amy.” Leo groans, rolling his head back on his shoulders before starting toward her with long strides.
I lean against the hood of the Mustang and pluck a cigarette from the pack.
Heads turn as Leo approaches, the students predictably parting to give him a direct path, the girls’ gazes lingering a second too long. Amy stalls, arms straight at her sides as she mimics Leo’s earlier gesture, rolling her head back to stare up at the sky while she groans in discord. The two are more alike than they admit. Everyone pays heed to his approach. Everyone, that is, except Gina.
I spark the end of the smoke and then push off the fender to find out why.
I barely note Amy fighting to sidestep Leo as I approach the shrink’s daughter, Leo doing a good job of staying in our sister’s fucking way. Amy has no business getting her ass tangled up with this uncut diamond. I know she’s desperate for friends; it’s just an issue at her age—the need to feel accepted. But this girl does not hold the answer to that problem.
“You can fuck right off.” Half a dozen steps ahead, Gina doesn’t slow or look back. I have no doubt she directed the comment at me.
“Public property.” I close the gap.
“Actually, it’s private. Which means I can have you for harassment.”
She takes a step sideways and then halts.
I overshoot her e-brake maneuver in my haste to catch up and then swing my ass around to face her. “What are you doing with my sister?”
“What am I doing?” One dark eyebrow shoots skyward. “She’s the one who trails me like a lost puppy.”
“Why the fuck don’t you show some respect and talk to her, then?”
A beat passes before Gina decides to answer in a monotone murmur. “I did.” Her gaze narrows. “Strange conversation to have with you, don’t you think?”
I tilt my chin higher and scowl down at her, folding my arms across my chest.
“You’re the last person I’d expect to be concerned about respect.” She makes a move to leave.
I catch her by the arm. “Respect is earned.”
Her vitriol-laced gaze drags from our point of contact to meet my eye. “Which is why I owe you none.” Gina wrenches her arm free and resumes her path toward wherever the fuck she’s headed.
“Under control?” Leo appears at my side.
“Utterly.” I glance back to where Amy stands, arms folded and a foul look twisting her fair features. “You?”
“She’ll keep.” He sighs. “She wants friends, Tris.”
Problem is, people like us don’t get the luxury of having things like friends.
We’re lucky if we manage to keep the same enemies.