The First Lie Page 11

’’And I\'m supposed to believe you now?’’

I bite my lip. ’’I don\'t blame you if you don\'t. But ... hear me out, okay? I\'m the most popular girl at Hollier. I have best friends who think I\'m awesome. And compared to how I\'m treated at home, it\'s kind of an amazing feeling.’’

He sniffs. ’’How are you treated at home?’’

’’Sort of ... second best, I guess. Like I don\'t belong there.’’

Thayer lowers his chin. ’’I\'ve never seen any evidence of that.’’

’’Well, real or not, it\'s how I feel,’’ I say. ’’Maybe it\'s just my paranoia about being adopted getting the best of me. But Thayer, it\'s why I\'m so afraid of losing my friends. That\'s all I was worried about, that\'s why I didn\'t stop the prank and why I didn\'t tell the truth when they caught us. I didn\'t want them laughing at me. But then I realized how stupid that was. Like, unbelievably stupid. I should get to decide who I like.’’ I swallow hard, then raise my eyes to his. ’’And I like you.’’

There. I said it. There\'s no going back now. But I\'m still too terrified to really look at Thayer. ’’You don\'t have to forgive me or like me back. I understand if you want someone who\'s always been good to you, like Laurel. But I thought I\'d let you know how I really felt. You asked me if I\'ve ever been honest a day in my life, and with you, I do feel honest. And I\'m telling you something honest now.’’

Then I turn away, embarrassed by my little speech. I\'ve made it almost the whole way around before I feel Thayer\'s hand on my shoulder. He spins me back toward him. There\'s a serious look on his face, and for a moment, I can\'t tell if he\'s angry or not. He takes my hands and squeezes them hard.

’’I like you, too, Sutton,’’ he says.

My heart skips a happy beat, but quickly lurches to a stop when I see his pained expression. Something is very, very wrong.

He untangles his fingers from my own. ’’I\'m just not sure it\'s such a good idea for us to date publicly.’’

’’Why not?’’ I blurt.

Thayer sighs, running his fingers through his hair so that it stands up like an exclamation point on top of his head. ’’It\'s complicated,’’ he says finally.

I feel like I\'ve just been slipped some sort of mind-altering drug. ’’Well, of course it\'s complicated,’’ I say. ’’It\'s complicated for me, too. But why for you, exactly? Because you\'re Mads\'s brother? Because of Laurel?’’

Thayer meets my eyes, unblinking. ’’That\'s part of it, I guess. There are a lot of factors involved.’’ He looks away. ’’I\'ve never met anyone like you, Sutton. But you also kind of scare me.’’

’’What do you mean?’’ My voice quavers.

He pauses to think. ’’It\'s like you\'re two different Suttons,’’ he says, his speech slow, deliberate. Off in the distance, a car alarm shrieks. ’’The Sutton I saw the other night, in your kitchen, was incredible: funny, and warm, and honest.’’ He emphasizes the word, making me cringe. ’’I feel like that Sutton just ... gets me. Believe it or not, I don\'t go around telling people about my sleepwalking.’’

’’I don\'t ever tell anybody about my dreams,’’ I respond, my voice soft.

’’Right,’’ he agrees. ’’That Sutton and I have a connection. And it\'s amazing.’’

I cast my eyes downward, taking in the uneven stones that line the Vegas\' yard. ’’But ...’’

’’But the other Sutton, the public you she\'s not so nice. And I\'m not sure I want to be part of that world.’’

I stare at him. ’’But you love all the attention you\'re getting now. I know it!’’

He stops me with a raised palm. ’’I like having friends, sure. But I don\'t want to be part of the backstabbing, fast-moving, game-playing crowd of yours. It\'s not my style.’’

I swallow hard. ’’I\'m sorry about the prank we pulled on you. But I can be nicer I will be nicer. I can even end the Lying Game if you want. Things can change.’’

He places a firm palm on each of my shoulders, leaning so close to me that his eyelashes almost skim my forehead. ’’You just told me how badly you need your world. I\'m not going to ask you to change that.’’ He reaches out and brushes my cheek lightly. ’’I want to be with you, too. But I\'d rather keep it kind of quiet for the time being.’’ He looks at me imploringly. ’’Can you do that?’’

I blink, totally thrown. Never has someone told me that they don\'t want to be with me because of who I am usually that\'s what pulls a guy toward me. But Thayer also has a point. Deep down, I\'ve known for a long time that what the Lying Game does isn\'t exactly nice. We\'ve gotten caught up in it, though, fueled by it, and it would be hard to stop now. I picture trying to tell Madeline and Char that the club is ending. Will there be enough to hold us together? Will they move on to someone else and leave me hanging? What if they blame this change on Thayer;what if it causes a rift between him and Madeline?

Should I care that he wants this to be a secret? Or should I just throw caution to the wind? What if I never find something like this again?

I tilt my head up, winding my hands around his lower back and pulling him toward me. ’’Let\'s try it,’’ I whisper, smiling. Because whatever is happening between us, whatever this is, I want more of it. Lots more.

A cautious smile spreads across Thayer\'s face, and his lips find mine. He kisses me softly, then leans so his lips brush against my ear. ’’Okay.’’

He runs his fingers down my spine and I melt, kissing him again with more urgency, more emotion. There\'s nothing more to talk about now.

Having a secret boyfriend could actually be kind of hot. Of course, it\'ll just be another secret to keep, another lie to tell.

I have a feeling it will be the first of many. But if it means being with Thayer, they\'ll all be worth it.

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