CHAPTER 24

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"Dakota," Sean said.

I skidded to a stop on the sidewalk leading to my dorm. He stood beneath a light, leaning on the metal pole, his arms crossed over his chest.

I hugged my backpack chest and glanced around.

The sky exploded with pink rays from the setting sun. The summer temperatures were already hitting the nineties, but a chill prickled at my skin as I stood near Sean.

"Haven't seen you much," he said.

"Considering I was stuck in the medical clinic for three days, had to handle Charles' funeral, and have been recovering from a solid beating, I've been a little busy the last couple weeks."

He looked downward as he shoved his hands into his front pockets. His blond curls shuffled forward, and he kicked at the grass near the edge of the cement of the sidewalk. "I'm sorry. It's just hard, you know?"

"What?" I said.

"We were together almost every day, then all of a sudden we're not."

"You have a new partner. He's your concern now, not me. Let's just hope you take better care of your partner than you did Charles."

He took in a sharp breath.

"Sorry. I'm still really upset about that. First Sasha, then Charles. And while you were drunk no less."

"Don't remind me. I haven't slept a full night since it happened." He shook his head. "I just can't believe how much everything's changed in the last couple months."

Didn't I know it? Especially with me and Sean. I was once so hung up on him, but now, he hadn't been much of a blip on my radar.

"Hey. Look. I know I've been a jerk. Seriously. I screwed up. But we're friends. Can't change that."

I looked skyward. "Sean-"

"No. Seriously. Three years I've known you. That's way longer than your Tom has known you. I miss you. I miss talking to you. Hanging with you."

"Should have thought about that before you tried to attack my boyfriend. Oh, and then even before that, you lied to me saying I was different, kissing me, then hanging on the next girl that came along while I was in the bathroom, oh, and then letting your partner get killed while you screwed a chick in a bar restroom."

He looked down, and his shoulders slumped. His once strong, confident stance seemed broken.

"I just wanted to tell you I'm sorry, Kota. Really. I screwed up with you."

"Thanks." I went to move toward the dorm.

He stepped in front of me. "Wait. So, can we hang once in a while? You know, as friends? Just to catch up, like, just hang? I don't have anyone I trust like you."

"Nope." I stepped around him.

His fingers wrapped around my bicep, and the next thing I knew, he dragged me onto the grass. "What? Your new boyfriend got you on a leash? Won't let you hang with friends?"

"Let go of me, Sean." My heart slammed against my chest. I wore a tank top, so he'd grabbed exposed skin, I could zap him, but I didn't want to. He was Sean, after all.

He glared at me, his blue eyes dark. His eyebrows furrowed, and his jaw clenched.

He let out a breath. "I can't read you."

"Let go of me, right now," I said.

"Why can't I read you any more? How are you doing that? What has he done to you?"

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