Home > Pricked(12)

Author: Winter Renshaw

“What’s that?” Devanie stares at the filled-to-the-brim Saks bags in my hands as we sit down in the social hall of the Boys and Girls Club.

Last Thursday at the mall, I couldn’t help but notice how tight and ill-fitting Devanie’s clothes were.

She’s a bit more mature than most girls her age, a bit more developed. Longer legs too. It’s as if she hit a growth spurt and she’s trying her best to make her current wardrobe work. Her tight jean shorts were clearly cutoffs and her wrinkled t-shirt was tight in the shoulders but loose around her waist, as if she’d tugged it in an attempt to stretch it out.

On a few occasions, we passed some groups of teenage girls who all gawked at Devanie, and not in a good way.

She didn’t notice. Or if she did, she pretended not to.

But it broke my heart knowing that such a sweet girl like her would make for such an easy target for bullies like them.

I know her mom’s a single mom who works a ton, and I’m sure money’s tight and back to school shopping is still a couple of months away, so over the weekend I went through my closet and collected anything and everything I thought she might like.

I hand over the bags and watch Devanie go through a few of the items on top. They’re mostly casual dresses and tank tops, a few pairs of shorts. I’m a little bigger than she is, but I threw a couple of belts in there to help with that until she grows into some of this stuff.

“Are these … for me?” she asks, holding one of the dresses against her torso.


“All of it?”

I nod.

“For real?”

I nod again, laughing, and she drops the dress before flinging her arms around my shoulders.

“If you don’t like some of the things, don’t be afraid to say so," I say. “We can donate them.”

“You’re the best.” She squeezes me tighter. “Thank you so much.”

“Of course, sweets,” I say. “You want to get Fro Yo? I passed this new place on the way here that looked good.”

“Um, duh!” Devanie gathers the bags in her hands and we head outside to the parking lot, where she all but sprints to my car like an excited puppy. I love this. I love everything about this.

Twenty minutes later, we’re sitting at a table for two at the Lemon Leaf Fro Yo Bar in a little town next to Olwine.

“So what are your friends like?” I ask.

“They’re nice,” Devanie says, stirring the M&M’s into her brownie batter frozen yogurt. “I have, like, a group of ten friends, but Mally and Cadence are my best friends. They both live across the street from me, so we hang out all the time.”

“Nice.” I take a bite of mine. “Have you been friends a long time?”

She glances at the ceiling for a second. “Like five years I think? We moved to our house when I was in second grade, so … yeah.”

“Do you like school?” I ask.

She snarls her lip and rolls her eyes. “Does anyone?”

I did.

I loved school.

But I’ve always been blessed with the gift of curiosity and an overachieving spirit.

“School is … school,” she says. “I like art class though. And music.”

“So you’re creative.” Good to know. There are some pottery and painting places in Park Terrace I can take her to.

“I guess. Sure.” She takes another bite. “Can I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

I laugh through my nose. “I do not. Why do you ask?”

She shrugs. “You’re just so beautiful. I thought maybe you did.”

Pointing my spoon at her, I say, “It takes a lot more than looks to land a nice man.”

“I know,” she says. “But you’re pretty, nice, and smart. What more could a guy want?”

She’s the sweetest. “I’m afraid it’s not that simple.”

“Have you had a boyfriend before?”

“I have,” I say. “Just broke up with him last month, actually. His name was Eric.”

“Why’d you dump him?”

I almost tell her the real reason, that he was too much like my father, and then I remember that hers isn’t around.

“We wanted different things in life,” I say. And it’s the truth. “What about you? Do you have a boyfriend?”

Devanie’s creamy cheeks turn a shade of pink and she hides a smile behind her spoon. “No. Not yet. My brother would straight up murder me if I had a boyfriend.”

I chuckle, thinking back to my own older brothers. Graeme is thirteen years my senior, Eben eight years older. Neither one of them were around all that often in my teenage years, but I always daydreamed about being one of those girls whose brothers chase off any guys who dare look her way.

“Your brother sounds like a good guy,” I say.

She blows a spiral of blonde hair out of her face and tucks her chin against her chest. “More like obnoxious.”

“Well, it sounds like he cares about you very much.”

“Too much.” She wipes the corners of her mouth with a napkin and shoves her empty cup to the middle of the table before sinking against the back of her chair. “I’m so full. I feel like I’m going to explode.”

She did fill her cup clear to the top with yogurt and various toppings. I laughed at first, thinking it was cute, and then I realized it wasn’t cute at all.

It was kind of sad.

In retrospect, she acted like she was starving.

Maybe as we get a bit closer, I’ll see if I can find out if she has food at home. I just want to make sure she’s not going to bed hungry at night and waking up famished every morning.

“You want to go swimming Thursday?” I ask.

“Yes!” She sits up.

“Might need more than two hours since Park Terrace is a thirty-minute drive from here. Just get permission from your mom and have her let the center know, okay?” I ask. “Should we get going?”

We clean up our table and head outside to my car.

“Can you just drop me off at my brother’s work?” she asks when we pull out of the parking lot a couple minutes later. “He just texted me and said he’s going to be late picking me up, and I really don’t want to sit around there for another half hour doing nothing.”

“Of course,” I say. “I’ll have to walk you in though. And meet him. Just to be sure … not that I don’t believe you, but ...”

“I get it. You don’t have to explain,” she says.

“So where are we going?” I ask. “Do you have an address?”

“It’s called Madd Inkk,” she says.

The four little words sink my stomach and turn my blood into an ice bath. My palms moisten against the steering wheel and my throat constricts.

“It’s on Fifteenth Street,” she says. “Just off the square.”

I don’t tell her I know where that is. “All right.”

The rest of the drive there is a blur, and I run the air conditioning on full blast because I can’t stop feeling like I’m two seconds from overheating despite the fact that it's a breezy eighty-one degrees outside.

Devanie’s nose is buried in her phone. She doesn’t notice, thank goodness. And as we pull up, I remind myself that she didn’t say her brother owned Madd Inkk—just that he worked here.

We pull up to the shop and I park the car. “You ready?”

“Yep.” She climbs out, bags in tow, and darts toward the front door despite the sign outside that clearly states minors aren’t allowed in. I guess when you know someone who works there, the rules are a little more flexible?

She’s already inside before I so much as reach for the door handle, and I peer in through the glass just in time to see her disappear in the back, behind a drawn curtain.

By the time I step inside, Devanie emerges from the back … dragging a dark-haired Adonis by the hand as she makes her way to me.

“Brighton, this is my brother, Madden,” she says. “Madden, tell her you’re my brother.”

“Hi.” There’s a glint in his coffee-brown eyes and the tiniest hint of a smirk on his full lips. His hands move to his hips and he studies me.

“Tell her,” Devanie says, nudging him.

“You’re Dev’s mentor?” he asks.

“I am.” My insides fill with swarms of butterflies at the mere sound of his velvet-smooth voice.

Devanie looks between the two of us. “Do you two … know … each other?”

He doesn’t answer. And maybe he can’t. Maybe there’s some kind of confidentiality or non-disclosure policy in place. So I do.

“I was here a few weeks back,” I say. “Your brother did my tattoo.”

Devanie splays her hands out. “Wait. You have a tattoo? You?”

I chuckle. “A small one. Hidden. But yes.”

Her jaw falls.

“Anyway,” I say, returning my gaze to Madden. “She asked me to drop her off here instead of at the club. I hope that’s all right?”

He licks his lips; his attention hasn’t left me once this entire time. “Yeah.”

“I should get going,” I say. Heat creeps up my neck and if I stick around any longer, something tells me it’s going to be deathly obvious that I’m growing more flustered by the minute in his presence. “See you Thursday, Devanie. Same time?”

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
Most Popular
» Pricked
» Soul in Darkness
» The Light We Lost
» More Than Words
» Scarlet Angel (Mindf*ck #3)
» Sidetracked (Mindf*ck #2)
» The Risk (Mindf*ck #1)
» The Risk (Briar U #2)