#Scandal
definitely know.”
    Wouldn’t I ?
    Ellie didn’t ask about Cole in her texts tonight, didn’t mention how cute he looked in the tux, but I assumed she was texting him directly, sending him the usual puppy-eyed love notes.
    I squeeze the dress in my fists. She was so excited the 51

    day she found it; she dragged me and Griff to this vintage store in LoDo to see it. If only she hadn’t gotten—
    “She’s not actually sick.” I open my eyes at the realization. The room stops moving, but Cole’s rubbing his jaw, his nonanswer all the confirmation I need.
    “I can’t do this,” I say. “Please take me home.” Even before he shakes his head, I know it’s impossible.
    We’ve been drinking, and anyway, his car isn’t here. He’ll have to borrow John’s and take me in the morning.
    Resigned, I flop on his bed, springs moaning and creaking, something scratchy poking my thighs. I reach under the fountain of chiffon and yank out a pair of fairy wings.
    Perfect. I just ass-pancaked my fairy godmother.
    Cole sits next to me, but I can’t look at him. I need to stay sharp, clearheaded. Looking at him only makes me replay that kiss. It was hard enough when I just imagined it, but now that I’ve had the real thing, I’ll never get him out of my head. And if it’s true about him and Ellie breaking up—
    No. No, no, no, no, no.
    “Why did you kiss Marceau?” Cole’s voice is laced with betrayal. “You said you didn’t like him.”
    “Why do you care? I don’t have a boyfriend. I can kiss anyone I . . .” Guilt makes my words evaporate. When 52

    I speak again, it’s a whisper. “Ellie’s your girlfriend—at least, she was. My best friend. We cheated on her.” The confession floats and curls between us like smoke, and my gaze drifts out the window to avoid it. The moon has shed its hazy coat; a white crescent shimmers above the ponderosa pines. Cassiopeia is hidden, and if she can see us from her perch in the sky, she isn’t saying a word.
    “Look,” he says. “I’m not trying to justify it, okay?
    Things with me and Ellie are over. I don’t know what she told you, but it’s true. Why do you think she bailed tonight?”
    The floor wrenches sideways again, and I put my hand on the dresser to steady myself. The walls are too close, the air thick with an earthy tang. There’s a baseball hat on the dresser, orange and dingy, a peeling pot leaf decal that’s basically scratch-and-sniff.
    “Looks like 420 stopped by,” I say absently.
    “Luce, look at me. Please.”
    His voice cracks. I want to look, but I can’t. Is he telling the truth? Whose idea was it that I go in Ellie’s place tonight? That I wear her dress and corsage?
    Why didn’t I just say no to her for once? I could be home slaying zombies, lips unkissed. Rules unbroken, lines uncrossed.
    Friendships intact.
    53

    “She’ll never talk to me again,” I whisper.
    “It’s not your fault. It was my mistake.” My head jerks up.
    “Oh . . . kay ,” he says. “Not a mistake? I mean, it wasn’t .
    I just—”
    “No. I mean yes. You’re right. We were caught up in the moment.”
    “And a little drunk.”
    “And a little drunk.” Yes, yes . I nod, but my stomach twists with guilt. And disappointment. Which triggers more guilt. A whole ocean of it now, prickly hot waves crashing between my shoulders. I stand again and pace the floor, excuses blowing away in the storm.
    I can’t keep this from her .
    A fresh wave sears my skin, but that’s the truth. Maybe Cole made the first move, but I didn’t stop him. Not until after I kissed him back. Even now, moments ago outside his bedroom door, I wanted . . .
    On top of the dresser there’s a crack. I slide my thumbnail into it and run it up and down, avoiding 420’s hat, imagining I’m carving a trench. Soon I’ll reach the clothes inside. Then the floor. The party below. The earth. The molten hot thing in the middle that keeps it all spinning.
    “Is that why you invited me to the

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