Today's Reading

"Whatever," Emma replied airily. She tossed her long, blond hair. I wasn't fooled—the gesture was something she did when she wanted attention rather than when she was genuinely upset—but it was enough to get Darren to take his right hand off the steering wheel to rub her thigh in apology.

"I'm just joking," he assured her.

His hand continued to run up and down the length of tanned skin from her knee to the hem of her skirt. Since I was stuck in the tiny middle seat, his fondling fingers were directly in my field of vision. I counted to ten in my head while I waited for him to cut it out, but he didn't, so I twisted to my right and contented myself with staring past Dougie's profile, becoming hypnotized by the dazzling sunlight and green of the countryside. Feeling me shift in his direction, Dougie turned to look at me. The corners of his lips quirked up, putting a matching pair of dimples in his cheeks. I loved those dimples, just as I loved his eyes—blue and warm and looking right at me. I lasted three seconds under his scrutiny before I had to turn my head and fix my stare out the other window to hide my burning cheeks. This time Martin eyed me quizzically, registering the heat in my face, but him I could ignore.

The view wasn't as good from this side: the rolling hills and farm fields were interrupted by two lanes of traffic charging in the other direction. Safer, though. It'd do until my pulse stopped pounding.

"Pit stop," Darren announced from the driver's seat, and I felt the car swerve as he peeled off onto the exit ramp at the last second. Emma squealed dramatically and gripped the seat as he floored it up the hill. I did likewise, although much more quietly, my nails digging into Martin's leg to stop myself from being pushed over into Dougie's lap.

"Sorry," I muttered as Martin massaged the bruised skin.

He smiled briefly at me, telling me I was forgiven, then shot Darren a look. I smothered my own grin. Since we'd set out that morning, I didn't think Martin had exchanged more than ten words with Darren. He'd referred to him (outside of Emma's presence) as a meathead—"that muscle-bound moron." But it was Dougie's birthday, and that meant making nice.

Initially, it had been just the three of us going camping, but my parents had gotten all funny about me going off with two boys. Dougie had been the one to suggest we invite Emma and Darren along (because Emma would never have come without him). I'd been disappointed at first, worried their presence would ruin things, but Dougie convinced me we'd still have fun, we could still do everything we had planned. And Darren had a car, so we were able to head farther afield, out to the middle of nowhere rather than just the outskirts of the city.

"What are we stopping for?" Dougie asked over my shoulder.

"Supplies." Darren swiveled around to wink in the direction of the back seat.

I raised my eyebrows. The car was already chock-full of stuff for the trip. We had enough to stock a bunker and survive a nuclear winter, never mind four nights in a tent.

"Right." Darren cruised into a supermarket parking lot far too fast, causing a woman in a Kia to steer herself hurriedly into the curb. "You guys stay here. Dougie and I will get stuff for everyone."

"What?" Emma complained. She stared beseechingly at her boyfriend. "Why can't we come?"

Darren squealed into a space, then turned off the ignition as he shot her a grin that revealed two rows of dazzling white teeth. No dimples, though.

"Because I'm the only one with a good fake ID, and if I go loading up a cart with you all trotting along behind me, they won't serve me. Then we'll have to drink seawater all weekend."

Or cola, or orange juice, or any of the eight types of soft drinks squashed into the trunk. But Darren had something a little harder in mind. Beside me, Martin shifted on the seat, clearly disapproving but not wanting to say anything. I kept my mouth shut too. I wasn't a big drinker—mostly because I wasn't allowed—but I was curious and not so pure that I'd turn down the opportunity.

Fresh air tickled my side as Darren and Dougie threw their doors open in tandem.
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