one: check in

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Cadence's neck was craned over her phone, her thumbs bouncing over the screen, though for once they weren't typing out an Instagram caption or scrolling through social media.

"Yeah, this is it. Huh. I can't believe this is really it."

Lucas had just pulled up outside of what was supposed to be our weekend Airbnb. With the four of us finishing exams a week early, we'd bet the rush of impending college-finishers swarming into the isolated beachfront town and booked our own little West-coast getaway ahead of time.

Only, from its pictures and price range we didn't expect it to be sitting on the literal beachfront, the small apartment building isolated on the edge of the cliff. Even though it was currently blocking ours, I could already tell it had a million-dollar view of the ocean. And, like we'd hoped, there wasn't a single other car in the block's parking lot.

Annie in the front seat—the skeptic of our group—reached over to squeeze Lucas' hand. "And here I was thinking Cadence had booked us a dungeon."

Lucas put the car into park and the four of us piled out. I'd been quiet the entire journey from our town, a combination of motion-sickness and the post-cramming energy deprivation brought on by the end of semester. But, the cold sea breeze slapping my cheeks seemed to inject me with a fresh dose of energy.

"Sierra, please tell me you packed your camera," Cadence said as she pulled her duffle over her shoulder. "This is going to be a bitching backdrop."

I did bring my camera. I adjusted its strap over my shoulder and shot her a reassuring grin. "I've got it."

Sometimes I suspected one of the few traits keeping me at the side of the incredibly popular Cadence was my ability to take a photo and my DSLR.

As the house-owner had instructed, Cadence found a combination lock in one of the safe boxes by the door, holding a key to the penthouse apartment.

I took a deep breath and rolled my shoulders, trying to relieve the last of the anxiety tightening my body. I was finally with my favorite people, miles away from the many stress sources of my life. But, even so, there was a knot misplaced in my stomach I couldn't untie, a heavy weight keeping me on edge.

The door opened to a darkened foyer. It took a few moments for automated lights to flick on. Granted, its communal interior was bare, but its small details were edged with golden flourishes and intricate designs.

"Cute," Cadence said, her tone granting approval as her hand found the bannister, her sandals slapping on the wood as she strutted upwards to the fourth floor.

If the other apartments were occupied, no sounds indicated it. Each numbered door was closed. A small window on each floor showed stellar views of the ocean, and I paused on the third to take it in, an endless carpet of blue leading to the horizon.

Annie and Lucas, as typical, were holding hands, their eyes hiding jokes between one another and conveying a language that only existed in their disgustingly affectionate world. I smiled to myself, despite the pang of jealousy. They were probably the only two people I knew who genuinely loved each other.

"Honey, we're home!" Cadence said dramatically as she flung open the door on the top floor. She gave a long, dramatic sigh and started dancing around the living room.

It was huge, decorated with modern furniture. A large living area opened up to a window consuming the entire far wall, the sea framing the apartment.

"Amazing," Lucas said, dropping his backpack at his feet.

"This is insane," I said in wonder. I kicked off my shoes and began pacing around, my feet sinking into thick carpet.

"Can we move in?" Annie added.

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