The Fill-in Boyfriend

Chapter 16

We pulled up to his house and he turned off the engine and hopped out of the car before I could stop him. When he got to my door and opened it, I said, “Sorry, I should’ve mentioned that I need a ride home.”

“Oh.” He looked up and down the street like he’d see a car waiting for me there. “Did my sister get you?”

“Yes.”

“She’s so sneaky.”

“Yes, she is.” I stayed sitting in his car, waiting for him to shut the door and go back around to his side.

He didn’t. He nodded toward his house. “Do you need to get home right away? My sister is going to want a report. I bet you’ll give a more satisfying one.”

The clock on the dash of his car said ten p.m. I had two hours until curfew. “Okay, sure.”

We walked the path to the front door and Hayden unlocked it and stepped inside. Bec was sitting on a couch in the living room and she immediately turned off the television and looked between us. “So?”

Hayden put his arm around me. “You’ll be happy to know that there were many head games played tonight and much jealousy floating about. I’m not sure exactly who was playing all the games or who was the most jealous, but Gia did all the things that you made her swear to do.”

Bec turned to me. “Okay, now I want to know what really happened. None of this vague crap.”

At that moment an older woman came sweeping into the room. Her hair was pulled back into a loose bun, held by a pencil. Tons of flyaway strands had escaped the arrangement, leading to a windblown look. “Hayden, I thought I heard you. I need your face.”

“Mom, I have a friend over.” Hayden pointed at me.

She smiled my way. “I don’t see how this affects anything. You can bring her.”

Bec stood and followed after her mom, who was already walking down the hall without waiting for a response.

“It’s pointless to argue,” Hayden said. “She always wins.” He led me down the hall and around a corner. Inside a large room with double doors and hardwood floors were tons of paintings. Some finished and hanging, some halfway done, others blank canvases. One rested on an easel, a large sheet covered in paint splatters on the floor beneath it, as if someone had abandoned it right in the middle of painting. We all entered the room.

“This is Gia, by the way, Mom.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, where are my manners?” She extended her hand to me. “I’m Olivia. I’m sorry for stealing this boy away but I need his gorgeous face. I mean, tell me that face doesn’t inspire creativity.”

Both Hayden and Bec rolled their eyes.

“She says that every time she pulls us in here and then she creates things like that.” He pointed to a painting of a half-insect, half-zebra face splitting open to reveal a blooming flower. “My face did not inspire that.”

“It really did,” his mom said.

“She just gets lonely in here,” Bec said.

“My children mock me, but they are my muses.” She studied me then. “I think you could be my muse as well. Your bone structure is amazing.”

“Don’t let her fool you,” Bec said. “What she means is that she wants to paint bones. Probably dinosaur bones or something while she stares at you.”

Olivia did not seem offended by the banter. She just laughed and began to paint while Hayden sat on the stool in front of her. By the way she studied him, it seemed she was using him as a model, but I could see her canvas and it was most definitely not Hayden.

Bec looked at me. “So spill. Tell us everything that happened tonight.”

I glanced at their mom, not really sure I wanted to admit to the act of lying in front of her.

“My mom already knows,” Bec said. “And while she doesn’t condone it, she can see why our immature brains might feel it necessary.”

“You are misquoting me, Rebecca. I said that revenge is the product of misdirected emotions but that I had a few emotions regarding Eve as well.”

“You did not say ‘misdirected,’” Bec said loudly. “I specifically remember you saying ‘immature.’”

“Maybe I said ‘underdeveloped.’”

“Same thing,” both Bec and Hayden said together.

Olivia applied a broad stroke of navy-blue paint to her canvas right beneath the crooked purple eyes already painted there. “My point was that revenge is never the answer.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Bec waved her hand at her mom then turned to me. “So anyway, tell us about the revenge.”

I looked at her mom and wondered if she was upset that they were fighting. She didn’t seem bothered at all. “Okay, so Eve was there with Ryan.”

“I knew it!” Bec yelled. “They’re still together, aren’t they?”

I nodded. “But you were right, she wanted Hayden too.”

“She did not,” Hayden said.

“Then why did she hug you and sit so close and put her hand on your leg?”

“She put her hand on your leg?” Bec’s expression went hard.

“She did?” Hayden asked.

“Oh, please,” Bec said. “You know she did. Don’t try to play all innocent, Hayden. And you probably liked it.”

Hayden just met her stare with an even expression that I couldn’t read.

“So please tell me you got back at her,” Bec said, looking at me.

“There was hand-holding and hugging. We danced.”

“And Gia jumped on top of me,” Hayden said.

I gasped. His mom turned toward me.

“I did not . . . sort of. It was an accident. I didn’t mean to knock you down.”

“Tell me she saw,” Bec said, smiling.

“She did.”

Bec spun in a circle once, her arms outstretched, then she grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. “You are awesome. Revenge is awesome.”

Olivia cleared her throat.

“Because I have a very, very immature brain,” Bec added.

“Tomorrow we are all going to be better people,” Olivia said, which was almost the same thing Hayden had said earlier. I caught his eye and he nodded once.

Better people. The way they had both said it made me want to try.

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