Sweet Heat at Bayside(9)

By: Addison Cole

“Horny jerks?” Emery suggested. “I’ve got three brothers. Trust me, I have heard it all.”

“They’re just unaware,” Mira said diplomatically. “Drake was more serious than most boys, but when it came to girls…” She shook her head.

“Luckily, that swoony, stupid crush didn’t last long,” Serena said. At least not in a way anyone else could see. Secretly, it had taken far too long before she could even imagine being with any other boy. She’d faked moving on for Mira’s sake, and eventually she had moved on. Mostly anyway. But it hadn’t been quick or easy. “You know that feeling when your insides are churning and you can feel your blood heating up inside your veins? In that moment, under the stars, I remember feeling like I couldn’t breathe or hold on to a single thought. Like my whole body was on overdrive.”

“I love that feeling,” Emery said.

“Yeah, well, I’ve never felt it for anyone except him.” Serena’s thoughts lingered on those memories. The excitement and nervousness that had made her entire body tremble felt as real and present as the hangers in her hand.

“Is that true?” Mira asked.

Serena realized everyone was looking at her like she’d just exposed her deepest secret, and she mentally replayed what she’d said. Shootshootshoot. “I meant I hadn’t felt it for anyone except Drake until then.” She waved her hand as if she hadn’t slipped up and revealed the truth. “There have been plenty of men since that awful night.”

“I can attest to that,” Chloe said. “The girl was determined to get over her crush.”

Serena gave herself kudos for pretending to move on so well.

“You go, girl,” Emery said. “Don’t let being ditched hold you back. There are always more fish in the sea. But I still want to hear about how he ditched you.”

“It was that night, right after that crazy, breathtaking moment when we both leaned in. I was sure he was going to kiss me. I saw it in his eyes, could feel it in my bones. And then suddenly he pulled back without kissing me. He looked almost mad, which was confusing as heck to a ninth grader thinking I’d finally landed the guy I was crushing on. Then he broke my heart. He told me he couldn’t do the duet and that he shouldn’t have agreed to it.”

“What a jerk move,” Emery snapped. “Sorry, Mira. I love your brother, but really? An almost kiss and then he backs out a week before the event?”

“Right?” Chloe rolled her eyes. “When she finally told me why she was so upset, I confronted him, and he said he’d overcommitted and the band thought it would hurt their chances to win if he entered twice. I gave him all my fury.”

“You and me both.” Mira laid another blouse over Serena’s arm. “I gave him a hard time on a daily basis even after the talent show. Serena was devastated, and it was as infuriating as it was embarrassing that my brother was the one who had hurt her.”

“I never held it against you.” Serena picked through another rack of skirts to try to push those sad memories away. She chose a few styles, loading them into her arms. “It was a long time ago.”

“And he’s amazing to you now, so clearly you guys have worked through it,” Desiree said. “That’s what matters most.”

Sure, if by worked through it you mean never spoke of it again.

Desiree held up a black wrap dress with a red sash. “I know Vi doesn’t wear dresses, but don’t you think she could pull this off for the wedding? I know she won’t wear anything that’s not black.”

“She’d probably use that sash to tie a man to her bed, so yeah,” Emery said. “I think she’d wear it for that reason alone.”

Serena’s mind chased that tie right back to Drake, and she felt her cheeks heat up. She dipped her head so the girls wouldn’t notice.

“Oh my gosh.” Chloe gave Serena a deadpan look. “You’re still thinking about Drake tying you up, aren’t you?”

Serena cringed.

“What?” Mira’s eyes widened.

“He made a comment the other day. Obviously I never should have told Chloe about it.” Serena glared at Chloe. “Way to go, sis.”

“Wait. Is there more to you two than you’re letting on?” Mira asked.

“Secret tryst,” Emery said in a singsong voice.

“No!” Serena insisted. “What is wrong with everyone this week? We were joking! I said something about him chaining me down in the office so I wouldn’t leave, and he said he didn’t have to chain women down.” She lowered her voice and said, “He ties them down, but only when they ask.”