Home > Pricked(15)

Author: Winter Renshaw

People unafraid to be themselves.

Unencumbered by societal expectations placed on them, dictating anything from how they’re to behave at all times to what topics of conversation are appropriate in that setting.

Must be nice …

Rolling to my side, I squeeze my eyes tight and force myself to think of something else, anything else, but ultimately it drifts back to him every time.

The sound of water rushing through pipes in the guest room travels between the walls. She must be getting ready for bed. Part of me feels bad for keeping a secret from him. He obviously cares about her more than anything in the world.

But a promise is a promise.

And I’ve yet to break a single one.



I pull into Mom’s driveway shortly after eight Saturday morning, parking behind her dented Taurus. I’m not usually up this early, especially on the weekends, but I couldn’t sleep last night. It was one of those nights when I tossed and turned and my mind wouldn’t shut off. I’m lucky if I got maybe four hours total, but whatever. I’ll survive.

Grabbing the McDonalds bag, I head inside to wake Dev.

The house is still, quiet. Pitch dark save for some dimmed sconces along the hall walls. Mom’s door is shut. Dev’s is wide open. I pop my head in.

“Hey, you up?” I ask before spotting a crumpled pile of covers and no Dev.

Heading to the bathroom, I find that door open too, the light off. I check the rest of the house—even going so far as to check the fucking coat closet.

But Devanie’s not here.

Running my hand through my hair, I settle in the middle of the living room, dragging in lungfuls of air as my blood boils beneath the surface of my skin.

I knew this was going to happen if I got her a phone. I knew she’d get a taste of freedom and autonomy and try to pull some sneaking out shit.

Collapsing in the worn leather recliner, I pull out my phone and tap on the tracking app so I can see where the hell she’s been and where the hell she is.

First I’m going to find her. Then I’m going to bring her home. And after that, I’m going to rip my mom a new one for coming home and not realizing that her goddamned daughter was gone.

The app is loading when the crunch of driveway gravel beneath tires draws my attention to the front of the house. I head to the living room window, peering out from behind cigarette-scented curtains, only to find my sister climbing out of a shiny white Volvo.

The fuck.

She was with Brighton?

Tearing outside, I’m met with a sheer look of terror on my sister’s young face, and Brighton’s car jolts and settles, like she’s just shifted into park.

“The hell, Dev?” I come at her, my hands in the air. “Where were you?”

She avoids eye contact at first, slinging her bag over her shoulder before shrugging.

“I stayed at Brighton’s last night,” she finally answers.

“Why?” I ask, realizing there are worse places she could’ve been. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

The driver’s door opens and out steps Brighton. But before she has a chance to say anything, Dev steps forward.

“It’s not her fault,” Dev says. “I asked if I could stay with her last night. I was bored.”

I look between the two of them, and their poker faces drive me fucking mad.

“Go inside, Devanie.” My jaw clenches and my stare lands on Brighton.

“It’s okay, Devanie,” she says. “I'm just going to talk to your brother for a second. See you Tuesday, okay?”

Devanie lingers, hesitating, and then she storms inside with the temperamental stride of a preteen.

“What the hell, Brighton?” I ask after the front door slams and my sister’s inside. “You can’t just pick her up and take her to your house and not tell anyone.”

“I made her text your mom,” she says.

I roll my eyes. Like that means anything. Though knowing Dev, Brighton doesn’t have half a clue what a winner our mother is. It’s not something either of us have ever broadcasted, especially to people we hardly know.

“What really happened?” I ask.

“You’ll have to ask her,” Brighton says. “I promised to stay out of it.”

“A little late for that. You pick her up, you’re part of it.”

“Either way, I promised I wouldn’t say anything to you,” she says. “You’ll have to talk to her about it.”

“I don’t care what you promised. She’s a damn kid. You can’t promise shit like that.” My words are sharp and curt and every part of my body is tense.

The last time I felt like this was the night I walked in on Veronica blowing Horatio, though this is a different brand of betrayal and exclusion.

“What if something would’ve happened to her?” I ask.

“I’d never let anything happen to her.”

“From now on, if my sister asks you to pick her up, you contact me first,” I say. “Give me your phone.”

I hold my hand out, and she glances at it before her golden gaze returns to mine.

“What? Why?” Her perfect, straight nose crinkles.

“So I can give you my damn number.” I flatten my palm. “Come on.”

She retrieves her phone from her car and hands it over. I program my number in and give it back.

“The Boys and Girls Club requires that I only communicate directly with legal guardians,” she says.

“I don’t care what the Boys and Girls Club says. I want you to keep me in the loop at all times.” Pulling my phone out, I tap on my Contacts icon. “Give me your number.”

Brighton exhales before rattling off ten digits, and a minute later, I’ve added her as The Girl with the Butterfly Tattoo because right now everything about her, including her fucking name, is like nails on a chalkboard.

I’ll change it when I calm down.

“She’s a good kid, Madden,” Brighton says as she walks to the driver’s side of her car. “You should really give her more credit.”

With that, Brighton ends our conversation, and a second later, she’s backing out of the driveway.

I head inside, finding Devanie sitting on the sofa, her knees drawn to her chest and her phone in her hand.

“Got you breakfast,” I say. I’m pissed as hell at her, but it doesn’t mean she needs to starve.

“Already ate,” she says.

My hands rest on my hips. “Of course you did.”

Her attention lifts to me. “Brighton’s chef made us Nutella crepes this morning and the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever had.”

There’s a glimmer in her ocean eyes, an undercurrent of excitement.

“You should see her house, Madd.” She rests her phone on the cushion beside her. “It’s like a palace.”

I don’t give two shits what her house is like. “What happened last night?”

The light in her eyes dims and she swallows before responding. “Nothing happened.”


“No, seriously. Nothing happened,” she says. “Nothing happened because I called Brighton and she picked me up before anything could happen.”

“I’m going to need you to elaborate.” I take a deep breath. “Or I’m taking your phone back.”

Her jaw falls for a second and she shakes her head. I imagine she’s weighing her outcomes.

“I was hanging out with a friend and they invited some other friends over and then more people showed up and ...” her voice trails. “Some of those friends were smoking pot.”

My fists clench at my sides. This is exactly the kind of shit I was afraid of. She’s twelve fucking years old.

“I left,” she says. “I waited outside and called her and she came and got me right away.”

My frustration toward Brighton subsides, but only a little. “Why didn’t you call me?”

Dev scoffs. “Are you serious right now?”

“As a heart attack.”

“Why would I call you? Look at how you’re acting right now!”

“How I’m acting? I’m acting like someone who gives a shit about you, that’s how I’m acting.”

Her arms fold across her chest and her eyes narrow as she shakes her head. She can give me attitude all she wants, it’s not going to help her cause.

“Dev, you know you can call me anytime you need anything. And especially when you’re in trouble. It’s why I got you that damn thing in the first place.” Well, partly. I also wanted to be able to track her at all times.

“You would’ve freaked out, Madden, and you know it.”

She isn’t wrong.

I take a seat in the recliner and rest my elbows on my knees. Maybe Brighton’s right. Maybe I need to give Devanie more credit. I mean, she did do the right thing. She easily could've stayed and I’d have had no idea any of this happened.

“Dev.” I exhale her name, pinching the bridge of my nose. “You did the right thing, okay?”

My sister grabs her phone but leaves the screen dark as she studies me. “I know why you’re like this.”

My gaze flicks to hers. “What are you talking about?”

“You think something’s going to happen to me.” She swallows. “Like Dallas.”

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