Home > Breakable (Contours of the Heart #2)(10)

Breakable (Contours of the Heart #2)(10)
Author: Tammara Webber

‘I’d like to kick that punk’s ass,’ her father growled.

Caleb’s eyes widened. He was constantly encouraged not to say ass.

‘I understand the sentiment, believe me, but what would that solve?’ Cindy set her plate on the granite counter and turned towards the staircase leading to her daughter’s room.

‘It would make me feel a damn sight better,’ Heller muttered.

Carlie’s pitiful wails grew louder when Cindy opened the door upstairs, and all three of us winced.

‘A breakup?’ I guessed. Obviously, this wasn’t about volleyball. I hadn’t even known she was dating anyone, unless – ‘The homecoming guy?’

He nodded. ‘Ditched her for one of her friends, no less. Two-for-one heartbreak.’

That smug little ass**le. I’d only met him once – when he’d arrived to pick Carlie up for the dance. Sliding an orchid on to her wrist and posing for pics, he’d seemed cocky next to her wide-eyed artlessness, inevitably reminding me of Kennedy Moore … which made me think of Jackie Wallace. Dammit.

‘Brutal,’ Caleb observed, his mouth full of noodles. ‘I’ll help with the ass kicking, Dad. We can give him a two-for-one ball breaking.’

Heller harrumphed. ‘Don’t let your mother hear you say that, or we’ll both get our asses kicked.’ His words admonished gently, but he offered a closed fist in solidarity, and Caleb snickered and bumped it.

I’d always defined jealousy as coveting what someone else has. Like me, wanting Kennedy Moore’s girlfriend. There was only one of her. If she was mine, she wouldn’t be his.

So I didn’t know what to call how it felt to watch Charles with his sons, or with Carlie. A form of jealousy, I guess. But they all shared him as a father, and they shared their mother, too. If I’d been born a Heller kid, none of them would have lost a parent for it.

They’d never begrudged me my relationship with their parents, and I was more grateful for that than I could express. Yet as often as we all pretended I was part of their family, Cindy wasn’t my mother, and Charles wasn’t my father. Neither of them could take the place of what I no longer had, as much as they strove to fill those empty spaces.

Upstairs, the sobbing had calmed. Barely audible sniffles were all we could hear between Cindy’s empathetic murmurs and her daughter’s muffled replies. Caleb chortled at another of Charles’s opinions concerning Carlie’s ex – who would be wise to never show his face near the Heller men again if he wanted to keep his nuts intact.

Carrying my plate to the sink, I crushed the envy I wasn’t entitled to feel with the only weapon on hand – my shame.

You’re the man of the house while I’m gone. Take care of your mother.

I’ve never faulted anyone for wanting to be part of a group. Just because I shied away from frats and other campus organizations – exception: those with career-geek networking potential – didn’t mean other people felt the same, and that was fine.

Still, some people on this campus couldn’t seem to dress themselves in the morning without their Greek affiliation stitched or glued on to some article of clothing. The girl speaking with Kennedy Moore before class was one of these. She was doll pretty – but every time I’d seen her, she wore a T-shirt, sweatpants, shorts, jacket or shoes with the letters of her sorority prominently displayed. Sure enough, today was a lettered baseball cap with a sleek ponytail pulled through the back.

She leaned in to say something to him, laying a hand on his forearm, and he cast a glance over nearby socializing classmates. His gaze glided right past me – and everyone else, so I assumed he was looking for Jackie. He caught sight of her just after I did. Back to him, she was laughing with a friend across the hall, out of earshot.

He removed ZTA girl’s hand from his arm but held on to it a degree past appropriate. I’d seen this girl talking to Jackie before. Maybe they weren’t close friends – but she had to know that what she was doing was out of line. As I came closer, their conversation became audible.

‘Come on, Ivy,’ Moore said, glancing towards Jackie again, ‘you know I have a girlfriend.’ There was a note of regret in his voice. Regret. Son of a bitch.

The girl flicked a sidelong glance towards Jackie and back, too, before batting her eyes at him. ‘I wish you didn’t.’

As little as I thought of the guy and as much as I didn’t believe he was worthy of the girl I couldn’t get out of my head, I hoped he’d surprise me and say something to explicitly dismiss this girl’s ill-mannered wish.

But no. His eyes grazing over her head to toe, he murmured, ‘You know you’re too sweet for me. I can be kind of a dick.’

Her eyes sparked. ‘Mmm. Promise?’

I turned sharply into the classroom and dropped my backpack on the floor. Not my business. I clenched and unclenched fists that wanted to pummel him. How could that lucky bastard have a girl like Jackie committed to him and see anyone else, let alone entertain that kind of suggestion?

Five minutes later, he and Jackie entered the classroom together, his hand at her lower back as they moved down the steps towards their seats. Ivy slid into her chair a dozen seats away and a row up from them, her gaze lingering on Moore. When Jackie twisted to grab her textbook, he turned to smile over his shoulder. Ivy’s expression altered to a quick, saccharine smile when their eyes connected.

I returned my stare to the sketchbook on the desktop in front of me, pulling the pencil from behind my ear. Shading the illustration of a guy I’d seen skateboarding up the drag this morning, I made every effort to convince myself of the thing I knew to be true: Jackie Wallace’s heart was not mine to defend or protect against treacherous friends or disloyal boyfriends. Nothing about her, in fact, was my business.

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