15. drawls and dares

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"I'm exhausted," Ian announces the second we're out of earshot

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"I'm exhausted," Ian announces the second we're out of earshot. Sounds of the birthday party we just left bellow all the way down the street. We pile all our stuff into the back of our pink sedan. "What do you say we ditch practice tonight?"

I've never ditched in my life. Suddenly, I'm more suspicious of Ian's "sick days" last year.

"C'mon," he says in a wheedling tone. It's the kind of tone that is meant to work on weak-kneed, moon-eyed girls.

I can't wipe the frown before he sees it, so he changes tack, going from sweet to very, very reasonable.

"Kavya, practice already started half an hour ago. Poppy knew when she scheduled the party that we'd miss it."

"Our partners—"

"Amie already texted." He holds up his phone. Proof. "She's dancing with Adam. They already figured we weren't gonna make it."

"When did you two start texting?" My voice is withering.

He shrugs, all nonchalant and elegant. He can make even a shrug look princely. It's insanely unfair, not when I'm dressed like this. The scratchy fabric is giving my just-shaved legs a ferocious itch, and I'm pretty sure I won't be able to make it back to the Playhouse without using myself as a scratching post.

Truth be told, I'm ready to go home and supercharge myself with a well-deserved nap before going out with my friends to celebrate Catey and Blair getting the space at Luna Soleil, something that we all took for granted as a given. The interview is just a formality. Catey's food and customer service are amazing, and she has way higher ratings than the other two businesses. Between her dad's financial savvy and Blaire's excellence with a spreadsheet, the space was as good as hers.

"I guess I could use the rest," I say. I heave myself into the passenger seat, sucking my stomach in so it doesn't muffin-top over the crazy-tight waistband of the mermaid tail Amie still hasn't gotten around to adjusting. "We've been on our feet for three hours, and you have the grass stains to prove it."

"Hey, who am I to deny the kids?" One side of his mouth kicks up a smile that liquefies my insides. Confidence looks good on him; there's no trace of the falling-apart Ian who couldn't even get out of the car last week.

He gets in and we set off.

Luna Cove isn't that big, so it doesn't take long for the streets to turn familiar. Familiar enough to realize we aren't heading for the Playhouse. "Hey, this isn't the right way," I object just as Ian pulls into a Speedway gas station. "We don't need gas."

"There's a heat advisory and those cheapskates didn't offer us anything to drink." He unbuckles.

"I shared my water with you." My Nalgene bottle holds thirty-two ounces, and I'd split it with Ian even though the parents had frowned at us. Poppy's always stressed that our health comes first.

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