rubbing shoulders. “Isn’t that just like Sloan?” Kathy sniped to Lani. “She kicked Jarred to the curb like dog doo and wormed her way into another ‘lucky guy’s’ life.”
After their fight in the gym, Lani kept her thoughts to herself around Kathy. Saying nasty things about Sloan wouldn’t change things, nor would it make Lani feel better about the “Dawson and Sloan together forever” scene.
“Did you know Dawson’s dad is a doctor?” Kathy said, pausing at the water fountain.
“She thinks she’s so freakin’ hot. But she isn’t. Won’t take this Dawson guy long to figure it out. Anyway”—Kathy sniffed—“Jarred had a way cooler car. I could hear him coming from blocks away. Dawson’s car sounds like a windup toy.”
Lani bent, took a drink from the fountain. She and Kathy had been friends since second grade, but now Kathy had turned into someone Lani wasn’t liking very much. She thought again of the hospital’s volunteer program and the upcoming seminar and saw a future beyond high school. She was going into that future, away from this one, to a place where more mattered than a guy’s wheels.
For the first time since being forced to move to Tennessee, Dawson was flying high. With the band and Jarred out of the picture, Sloan was his. The one casualty was Paulie. Paulie told him, “It’s okay. I get it. Girl comes first,” but Paulie’s look of rejection belied his upbeat tone. Dawson was sorry about it, but there was no going back to lone-wolf status for him.
Sloan was unlike any girl he’d ever dated, or even known. She was able to come and go as she pleased—no parent dumping curfews on her like Franklin did on him. She went all out on anything she did and left him breathless and off balance with her sense of daring. His days started and stopped with wanting to be with her. He picked her up for school, brought her home, hung with her before, after, in the halls, at lunch. He did weekend chores swiftly so they could be together. She loved driving his car very fast on the rural back roads with all the windows down no matter the weather.
“Speeding ticket’s on you!” he shouted whenever she jammed down the accelerator.
“Cop will have to catch me first!”
Somehow they got lucky, never got a ticket, never had an accident. Not that they would have survived one at the speeds Sloan liked to drive.
They studied together, always at his house. Franklin never let him slack off on schoolwork, insisting grades and test scores mattered more than girlfriends. Dawson wanted to go to college. Sloan did not. She wanted to break out, become a singer. She wanted fame. So if Sloan didn’t crack the books with Dawson, she hunkered down with headphones or brought her guitar and retreated into a private world he didn’t enter.
Let her sing.
For Sloan, Dawson took her away from her despised real-life world. He had money to spend, and he was willing to go and do things Jarred never could afford. If she wanted to see a certain movie, Dawson took her. Grab a bite?
Bowling, paint ball, laser tag—Dawson went for it. He bought her little gifts, made her happy. But the most surprising part to her was that he didn’t ask for anything in return. Like sex. Not at all like Jarred, who had pushed her for sex anytime they were alone. Dawson held her, kissed her, tasted her, touched her body, but always pulled back. The only thing she missed from the days before Dawson was singing in the band and the adrenaline high that performing for an audience brought with it. Dawson Berke couldn’t give her
One afternoon, Dawson brought her home from school so she could grab a change of clothes, and LaDonna drove up. Sloan’s stomach knotted, but she was trapped and knew there was nothing she could do about having Dawson meet her mother, something she’d been avoiding. She only hoped LaDonna was sober.
“I’m sick. Got a killer headache. Had to leave work and