Frayed Page 80

’’Let me help Dad with that.’’ He glares at me.

She looks at him.

He points to me.

I shrug. ’’We had to clean some fish the other day before we cooked them over the open fire.’’

Surprisingly she laughs. ’’I like having everyone home.’’

I give her a smile, happy to be here but feeling as if a piece of me is missing. I\m just not sure what piece.

During dinner we all eat as if we haven\ eaten in years, and before I know it the sun is setting and I\m ready to head home, stuffed with turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, and apple pie. Serena hands me a bag to take home.

’’Hold on, I forgot the pumpkin bread,’’ she says, hurrying toward the kitchen.

’’I\m coming with you, Uncle Ben. Hold up for me,’’ Trent says from the top of the stairs.

’’You sure? I think your parents might want you to spend the night here.’’

’’I\m ready to scrub my eyes out from all the kissing going on in the kitchen earlier. I have to get out of here.’’

’’Fair enough. Let\s go.’’

Three hours later we\ e at my house with Trent sacked out on the couch and Caleb and me flipping through the channels.

’’Let\s get out of here,’’ he says.

’’Nah. I don\ feel like it.’’

’’Well, I do. I haven\ gotten laid in months. The no-fraternization policy is killing me.’’

I bow my head and drag my hands down my face, feeling exhausted.

’’Hey, what\s going on with you? I noticed when I was home in October you weren\ drinking and that today water bottles replaced beer bottles. What have I missed?’’

I mute the television and then spill everything I neglected to tell him whenever we talked on the phone. The picture of a playboy fantasy life I had painted was far from reality. I had told him Dahlia and I were talking, I just didn\ tell him how it happened that she had to bail me out of jail. While I was at it I went ahead and told him about Bell, the baby, and how I walked out on her twice. The second time because I figured out she was f**king her boss when she wasn\ f**king me.

He slumps back on the chair and runs his hands through his hair. ’’I\m sorry, man. You should have told me. What are you going to do?’’

’’Nothing. Move on. What else can I do?’’

’’Seems like you care about her,’’

I hiss a breath through my teeth and shrug.

’’You could go after her, you know?’’

’’Sloppy seconds aren\ my style.’’

’’What are you, Danny Zukko?’’

I raise an eyebrow. ’’You think I\m quoting Grease?’’

’’Yeah, I do. What are you going to do about it?’’

I lunge at him and this time when we wrestle on the floor I emerge the clear winner. I head to bed as he makes his way to the door and I call out, ’’I don\ need to learn your fancy martial arts moves to whip your ass.’’

’’I let you win,’’ he says under his breath.

’’F*k you,’’ I call.

He turns and grins. ’’Love you too, brother.’’

I leave Trent where he is and take the steps two at a time, thinking about what Caleb said about S\elle. I fall asleep with her on my mind just as I have done every night since I saw her across the ballroom.

My phone rings before I\m even fully awake. ’’Yeah, this better be good,’’ I answer without even looking at who it is.

’’Ben!’’

I sit up. ’’Beck?’’

’’Sorry to wake you, man, but we have a problem.’’

’’What is it?’’ I flop back on my pillow while I\m checking the time nine forty-five a.m. F*k, it\s late. I never sleep this late.

’’There\s a glitch in sending January\s issue of Surfer\s End to publication.’’

Cradling the phone to my ear, I scrub my face. ’’Did you call the systems analyst?’’

’’Can\ reach Eric.’’

’’Any idea what\s going on?’’

’’It has to be the new encryption program Australia sent us when we went live last month.’’

’’F*k! I\ll be right in.’’

I hop out of bed and take a quick shower. When I head downstairs it\s quiet. There\s a note from Trent saying he went to have lunch with Dahlia, and it looks as though Caleb never came home. I rush around looking for my keys and accidentally knock Caleb\s backpack off the coffee table. The contents spill and I spot it immediately the flash drive I gave him over a year ago. The same one he supposedly gave to Agent Bass during the drug cartel trial that the detectives said had a phone-book directory on it. I pick it up along with everything else but shove the drive in my jeans pocket before running out the door.

Traffic is light and I make it to the office in record time. When I reach Beck\s door, I can see Eric Ryan sitting at the desk with Beck hovering over him.

’’Well?’’ I ask.

They both turn their attention to me.

’’Found Eric.’’ Beck grins.

Eric drops his gaze and pounds the keyboard ferociously.

’’I see that. And?’’

’’I\ll have the syntax corrected as soon as I can concentrate,’’ Eric mutters, his baseball cap blocking any view of his face.

’’So, is it going or what?’’

’’Should be sent within the hour. Minor delay. Sorry I called you in,’’ Beck answers.

’’I\m going to grab a coffee. I\ll be back in a few.’’ Neither one of them acknowledges me.


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