Perfect Couple

Page 33


His first ruling came when Brody tossed me the ball and I ran for the goal line. Noah stopped my run by picking me up with one arm around my gut-oof!-and setting me down facing the opposite direction, making the whole game with girls into a joke. I promptly spun and ran, not stopping again until I crossed the line.
"Score!" I hollered. "Noah didn't touch me with two hands."
Noah's side yelled, "Booooo." My side yelled, "Oooooh." Brody dashed across the sand, picked me up, and twirled me around in victory. I wasn't sure how much of this Kennedy saw. Six people already stood in front of him, arguing for their sides. I knew I'd won the point when my team cheered and Noah cried, "Damn it!" with his hands on his head.
"It has to be a two-hand touch!" Kennedy defended his call.
"You're just letting your girlfriend's team win!" Aidan exclaimed.
Kennedy shrugged and said slyly, "Privilege of being a referee." He winked at me.
Clearly he hadn't seen Brody twirl me around. I knew my current limbo between boys wasn't what healthy, wholesome relationships were made of, but at the moment I didn't care. I was mostly naked and testing my body along with lots of other mostly naked friends on a hot evening. Sand stuck to my skin with sweat. I tingled with exertion and the knowledge that two guys desired me. Whatever happened tomorrow, this was the night of my life.
"Pretty sunset," Kaye called.
We all stopped and looked out over the Gulf. Daylight had faded. The change had been so gradual that I hadn't noticed. Now the bottom edge of the orange sun balanced on the rippling surface of the ocean, then disappeared.
As the light grew tawny and soft, Will walked up behind Tia. He wrapped one arm around her. She backed against him until their bodies tucked neatly together as they watched the sunset. He kissed her neck.
I burned with jealousy-not of Tia, but of the sweet relationship she had with Will. In contrast, I was caught between dating Kennedy in name only-he held his ground on the sidelines of our game and hadn't bothered to come any closer to me during this time-out-and making out with Brody, who was more attached to Grace.
At least Brody wasn't enjoying the sunset with her, either. After the drunk cheerleaders' boast, I hadn't heard a single "Get fired up!" out of any of them. They lay on the towels and might have been asleep.
Once the sun started sinking below the horizon, it slipped behind bright pink clouds and into the ocean in a matter of minutes. "That's it for me," Brody announced. "It must be almost eight, and I have homework."
"Homework?" someone shouted. Another guy said, "Traitor!"
Brody held up his hands . "What can I say? I'm the school's scholar-athlete."
"You have, like, a three-point-one," Noah grumbled. "But I have to go too, or my mama will kill me."
Everyone else murmured their good-byes. We reluctantly disassembled the towel island. Gathering my towel and bag and two ice chests, I was surprised when Kennedy came up behind me. "See you in class," he said.
"Okay," I said brightly, as if I looked forward to it.
"And I need more of those Superlatives photos so I can work on the section," he added.
"Gotcha." That meant I would be up past midnight to put together something to show him, after I worked on the race photos. I watched him walk toward the parking lot, laughing with Quinn. I wondered whether the holiday had been worth it.
I'd hugged Tia and Kaye good-bye and had just realized with dismay that I would have to make two trips to lug the ice chests all the way to my car, when I saw Brody sauntering toward me with his towel around his neck. All the men in fashion magazines would be wearing the bulky terry-cloth scarf as haute couture on the runways next season. Brody made a beach towel look that good.
Yes, my holiday had definitely been worth it.
"Perfect," I lied. It still stung whenever I blinked. Probably I should wear my glasses to school tomorrow. Probably I wouldn't.
I wished Brody and I could pick up where we'd left off in the pavilion, but I wouldn't give him the satisfaction after he'd let Grace hang all over him. And I couldn't help but throw a little barb at him. "You're not driving Grace home, even though she's been drinking? Are you trying to get rid of her?" That would be the meanest joke if she lost a battle with a live oak tonight, but I couldn't imagine he'd really let her get behind the wheel.
"The drunks all rode here with Kaye."
He certainly seemed dismissive of his girlfriend, placing her in the collective of "drunks." He hadn't seemed so dismissive of her when he was holding her hips, or rubbing her shoulders while she sat between his thighs.
Without asking whether I needed help, he picked up one of my ice chests. "You haven't emptied this?" He pulled the plug in the bottom to let the water out.
"No!" When he looked up at me in surprise, I explained, "You're wasting water. If you're going to empty it, at least do that where the plants get watered." I nodded toward a palm grove.
"Anything that needs watering isn't native to the area," he said.
I laughed before I remembered I was supposed to be mad. "Brody Larson," I scolded him, "are you trying to out–environmentally conscious me?"

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