Chapter 14

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The day after Noah and I had argued over religion he'd dropped straight into bed, so I found myself with even more time than usual to kill. I donned my new coat and headed out for an early morning walk along the beach.

It wasn't nearly as invigorating as a flight, but at least I got some badly needed fresh air. The morning was cool, the ocean oddly calm as I wandered barefoot through the shallows. The water lapped my ankles, shockingly cold, then easing to bearable.

The area around the guys' house was almost deserted. It was almost five minutes' walk between properties; each house was set back and high from the beach, built for seclusion. During my hour long wander, I only came across one other person; a powerwalking woman in her fifties in a purple velour tracksuit. Wearing headphones and concentrating on her breathing, she paid zero attention to me. I could see why Pop had chosen to settle here. The privacy was perfect.

Back at the house, I washed the sand from my feet and decided to have a quick sleep. I crawled under my sheets and had a brilliant power nap.

When I woke up, I felt refreshed. Even if things with Noah were still weird and I still had so much new information to process, the day was clear and I was happy. It was after lunch and my stomach informed me of this fact very loudly. I headed for the kitchen.

Leigh was there, singing loudly with his head in the fridge. "I'm givin' it my all. I'm not the guy you're taking home. I'll keep-"

"Dancing On My Own!" I yelled in delighted recognition.

Poor Leigh. He'd had no idea I was there. My shout startled him and he jumped, whacking his head hard on a shelf. "Ow!"

"I'm sorry," I cried, horrified. "Sorry, sorry, I just heard you singing, and I love that song. Are you okay?" I went to him and ran my fingers through his curly hair, looking for blood and finding a small lump. Leigh went slack at my touch, but flinched when I located the sore spot.

"Yes, I'll live. Buddha, that hurt." He rubbed his head with the heel of his hand, his eyes watering.

"Buddha?" I questioned.

"This is not a house where casual blasphemy tends to go down well. Alternatives are hard to come by." He grinned. "Sometimes, 'fudge' or 'bother' just don't quite cover it."

I grinned back and reached past him for a yogurt. "You have a great voice."

"Thanks," he said, genuinely happy for the compliment. "I love to sing. I'll tell you a secret." He motioned for me to come close, and I gave him my ear.

"What?"

Leigh's voice was gleeful and soft. "Noah can't sing!"

"What!" I gasped in mock horror. "That's it, he's dumped."

A shadow passed over Leigh's face quickly, but then he smiled wickedly. "Sometimes I sing loudly just to annoy him. It's pretty funny, my brother, the genius, musical virtuoso, and he can't carry a tune to save himself."

"Is there any other area you can outdo Noah in?" I asked, sitting at the table and peeling open my yogurt.

Leigh waggled his eyebrows at me. "Yeah, there is," he said suggestively. "Just ask the ladies."

"Pass."

"Fine," Leigh sighed. "Well, Noah got the smarts and the creatives. But I got the voice and the physical. I'm a pretty good athlete; I've got a couple of martial arts under my belt. Noah can't throw or catch at all, but I can."

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