CHAPTER FOUR

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It doesn't sink in that Teddy's going through with this until Bennett pulls onto the highway, heading north. Maybe he's being paranoid, but it feels like the atmosphere changes between them—and it doesn't help that at first Bennett busies herself with her phone instead of talking.

"Just so you know, I give great lectures on texting and driving," Teddy says.

"I know, I'm sorry." Her eyes dart between her phone screen and the windshield for a few more seconds before she puts it down. She starts messing with the radio next, settling on a scratchy Led Zeppelin song.

Teddy points at the dash. "What's up with this station?"

"It sounds better the closer you get to the lake. It's all we listen to there, so I apologize in advance if you're not a fan."

"Lake?"

"Oh—yeah." She throws him a quick glance. "We kind of live on a lake."

Oh. Casual.

"Anything else I need to know before you take me home to meet the fam?" Teddy asks.

Bennett pretends to mull it over. "As long as you don't mind dogs and you're not a picky eater, you should be good."

"How far away is your house from Charlotte?"

"Thirty minutes, tops."

"And, uh—how many people are going to be there?" he asks, but what he means is, does she have a younger sibling who watches a lot of MTV? Are her parents into movies and might recognize him from his? Does he need to call up Rita for another PR lesson on how to deal with the masses?

"Just my mom and my dad, and my older brother, Tanner," Bennett says. Teddy relaxes for a moment until she adds, "My aunt and uncle and cousins will be there tomorrow for dinner—actually, never mind. You're leaving tomorrow."

Teddy wonders what the rest of her family's going to be like.

"Should I just call your mom and dad, 'Mom' and 'Dad' then?" he asks.

Bennett snorts. "And you call me a smartass. Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell. Or Tom and Libby. Whatever you're comfortable with."

"Bennett Caldwell," Teddy says, trying it out.

She gives him a skeptical look. "Teddy Sharpe?"

"Correct. But do you know my full name?" he asks, wondering if he's always been this bad at boyish charm and witty banter, or if this doofus act is a new thing.

"Can't say I do."

"That at least proves you're not a psycho stalker fan girl. Any respectable Teddy Sharpe stan would know that it's Theodore Maxwell Sharpe."

Bennett laughs. "Yikes. And I thought Mary Bennett Caldwell was a mouthful."

Teddy's about to fire off another crack about her running a fan blog when something occurs to him, and it's like the world's biggest light bulb turns on over his head.

"Hold on a second," he mutters, his mouth barely keeping up with the jump his brain makes from Mary Bennett Caldwell to M. B. Caldwell. "What the—holy FUCK."

"What?!" she startles, gripping the steering wheel with both hands and looking over at him like he's nuts.

"You wrote the book the movie I just auditioned for is based on?" Teddy asks. "You're the author of Parachutes?"

Bennett blushes, confirming the answer, and it certainly all makes sense now: Why she was sitting with the director during his audition, why she's not allowed to talk about casting . . . Teddy's been casually hanging out with the creator of the YA film franchise he just auditioned for, and this is just now occurring to him.

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