There were people I liked and people I didn’t like. People I loved and people I hated.
But there was only one person I loved to hate.
“Why are you doing this?” I heard a whiny female voice ask as I rounded the hall to sophomore P.E.
I immediately halted, locking eyes on a red-faced Tatum Brandt as she faced off with my douchebag stepbrother, Madoc Caruthers, and his friend Jared Trent. They stood in the hallway next to the lockers with flat expressions, looking bored, while she clutched her backpack straps for security.
“You barked at me yesterday,” she continued, pinching her eyebrows together at Jared as Madoc smirked from behind him. “And then all of your friends followed along. It’s been forever, Jared. When are you going to stop? Why are you doing this?”
I sucked in a long breath and completed my usual awesome combination of eye-roll-head-shake.
I really hated turning corners. I hated closed doors. I hated not seeing the path ahead.
Corner #1: Your dad and I are getting divorced.
Corner #2: We’re moving. Again.
Corner #3: I’m getting married. Again.
Corner #952: I don’t really like you or my husband or his son, so I’m going to take fifteen vacations a year by myself!
Okay, my mom never really said that, but I’m damn good at interpreting shit. And corners sucked.
I hung back and stuck my hands into the pockets of my skinny jeans, waiting to see what this girl would do. Would she finally grow some balls, or at least take the little ones these idiots had? I kept hoping she would step up to the challenge, and she always disappointed me.
Tatum Brandt was a wimp.
I didn’t know much about her. Only that everyone called her Tate, except Madoc and Jared; she was a rocker on the outside, but played it safe on the inside; and she was pretty. Like cheerleader pretty.
Long blond hair? Totally.
Big blue eyes? Absolutely.
Long legs, full lips, and big boobs? Even at sixteen.
She was the perfect package, and if I were my stepbrother, I wouldn’t have any problem sticking my tongue into her mouth. Hell, I might do it anyway.
I chewed the corner of my lip, thinking about it. Yeah, I could be a lesbian. Maybe. If I wanted.
No, never mind.
The point is . . . why Madoc and Jared tormented her rather than tried to date her was a mystery to me.
But for some reason I was interested. From the start of freshman year, they had both bullied her. They spread rumors, harassed her, and did everything they could to make her unhappy. They pushed, and she retreated time and again. It was starting to piss me off so much that I was about to go knock their heads together to defend her.
Except I barely knew her. And Tatum didn’t know me at all. I stayed so far off the radar that sonar couldn’t pick me up.
“Why?” Jared answered her question with a question and jutted into her space with a cocky swagger. “Because you stink, Tatum.” He scrunched up his nose in mock disgust. “You smell . . . like a dog.”
Tate straightened immediately, and the tears in her eyes finally spilled over.
Kick him in the balls, bitch!
Exhaling a furious breath, I pushed my glasses back up the bridge of my nose. It’s what I did before I braced myself.
She shook her head. “You don’t even remember what today is, do you?” She folded her trembling lips between her teeth and looked down at the ground.
And without even seeing her eyes, I knew what was there. Despair. Loss. Loneliness.
Without looking at him again, she turned around and walked off.
It would’ve been easy to hit him. To toss an insult back at him. And while I despised her weakness, I understood one thing that I hadn’t before. Jared was an ass, but he was an ass who could hurt her.
She was in love with him.
Crossing my arms over my chest, I walked over to the lockers where Jared and Madoc stood staring after Tate.
Madoc spoke up behind him. “What did that mean? What’s today?”
Jared shrugged off the question. “I don’t know what she was talking about.”
“It’s April fourteenth,” I piped up over Madoc’s shoulder, causing him to spin around. “That mean anything to you, Shit-for-Brains?” I directed at Jared.
Madoc raised a dark blond eyebrow at me, a hint of a smile in his eyes. Jared twisted his head only enough so that I could see the side of his face.
“April fourteenth?” he whispered and then blinked long and hard. “Shit,” he murmured.
And Madoc reared back a hair as Jared slammed the palm of his hand into the nearest locker door.
“What the hell?” Madoc scowled.
Jared ran his hands down his face and then shook his head. “Nothing. Never mind,” he growled. “I’m going to Geometry.” Stuffing his fists into his pockets, he stalked off down the hall, leaving Madoc and me.
Between my stepbrother and his friend, I respected his friend more. They were both Grade A ass**les, but at least Jared didn’t care what people thought of him. He stalked around like a weird cross between a jock and a goth. Popular and foreboding. Dark but extremely coveted.
Madoc, on the other hand, cared what everyone thought. Our parents. The principal. And most of the student body. He loved being loved, and he hated his association with me.
As sophomores they were already starting to wield power that was going to be out of control by the time they reached senior year.
“Wow, your friend is a loser,” I teased, sliding my hands into the back pockets of my jeans.