Home > Aflame (Fall Away #4)(13)

Aflame (Fall Away #4)(13)
Author: Penelope Douglas

After so long, I just wanted to see her.

Until I noticed the condoms.

She had a small box sitting in her makeup bag, and they damn well weren’t ours. After she’d gotten on birth control in high school, we’d stopped using them.

I pushed away from the sink and nearly ripped off the rest of my clothes, diving into the shower before I broke anything and everything in the bathroom.

I hated her. I wanted to hate her. Why did I still want her?


I kept my head under the hot water for a long time, the loud cascade of heat drowning out my thoughts as I slowly brought myself back down.

The condoms were a trigger—a reminder—that she was having sex with someone else.

I knew that, and she was free to do it. We weren’t together, and I shouldn’t be upset. She’d never judged me for all the ass I took before we were dating, and her life was none of my business. I shouldn’t be mad.

But that didn’t stop me. Reason never stopped me from trying to keep her in my orbit. After I got out of the shower, I emptied the box into the toilet and flushed, and whomever she was screwing could go fuck himself.

And that was even truer the second I heard her voice drift in from the bedroom when she’d arrived. I could tell by the one-sided conversation that she was on the phone, and I leaned down, bracing myself on the countertop, knowing she was about to walk in at any second. And then I lifted my head, she opened the door, and . . .

And I held her.

Everything flooded back. Every breath, every kiss, every smile, every tear, everything about her was mine.

Her stormy blue eyes, which have held me captivated since she was ten years old; the heavy rise and fall of her chest, which I’d held flush with mine so many times; and the ten different emotions that crossed her face, each of which had been directed at me at some time or another during high school. They all hit me at once.

I still loved her.

My pulse raced and I could feel it all through my body.

But then she’d stunned me. My natural inclination was to challenge her as I always had, and the words left my mouth without thinking. But she didn’t engage. She didn’t react.

I was used to Tate’s bite. She was a wildcat who pushed when you pushed, but this Tate was on a different level. She was condescending and almost cold. I didn’t know this game.

I left the room and charged down the stairs and out the front door, trying to push her out of my mind. She wasn’t the reason I was home after all.

My mother. My unborn sister. My friends.

I headed for the garages, having seen Madoc’s GTO finally sitting in the driveway.

The house featured four two-car garages, so I went for the open one and stopped at the entrance, crossing my arms over my chest as I glared at my best friend.

“You don’t even look for me when you get home?” I challenged, seeing him pause as he pushed a box onto a shelf.

Turning around, he met my eyes with his annoyed blue ones and arched a brow. “Yeah, that’s how it is, isn’t it?” His bored tone kind of made me nervous. “Everyone else has to make the first move with you?”

Stepping inside the garage, I kept my stare on him. Madoc wasn’t just my friend. He was my family, and no matter what we went through, that never changed. Anger, trouble, differences, and even distance and time wouldn’t take my best friend from me. I wouldn’t allow it.

“I made the first move,” I pointed out. “And the second and third. How many times have I called you, texted, e-mailed—who the fuck even e-mails anymore? But I did it.” I inched closer, lowering my voice. “You never wanted to talk to me. Why?”

He crossed his arms over his white-T-shirt-clad chest and dropped his chin, looking like he was searching for words. His blond eyebrows dug deep, and I was floored by how different he seemed.

Madoc never shut up. He could vomit story after story and argue any point at the drop of a hat, but now . . .

I shook my head. He was actually speechless.

Or there were things he clearly wasn’t sure how to say.

I heard footsteps behind me and turned my head to see Jax slowly stepping into the garage. He hung back and remained quiet, like he was waiting to see what was going to happen.

I twisted my head back around, narrowing my eyes on Madoc. “What the hell’s going on?”

Madoc’s eyes flashed to Jax, and then he looked at me, letting out a sigh.

Okay, screw this.

I got in his face. “Do you remember when Fallon showed up after high school and left you hanging? You left for Notre Dame and cut everyone off. No calls. No contact. Just gone. We had to track you down. You were our friend and we weren’t letting you go. Now I left and you don’t even show the same concern for me?” I bared my teeth. “What the fuck is going on with you?”

Madoc ran a hand though his hair and shook his head.

Finally, digging into his pocket, he pulled out his keys. “Jax and I want to show you something.”


As much as I hated riding instead of driving, I decided it was best not to challenge Madoc in his own car right now. Since Jax still drove my old ride, I could push him around, but Madoc and I weren’t at our old comfort level . . . yet.

He sped out of his ritzy community of upper-crust homes and down the quiet highway, the day’s last light still glowing through the trees on both sides of the road. Jax sat in the back, fiddling on his phone next to Pasha, who had insisted on coming—because she was bored—and Madoc still wasn’t talking to me. Framing Hanley’s “You Stupid Girl” played over the stereo, and I was still clenching my fists over the buzz running through my body after seeing Tate.

As we entered the more populated part of town and Madoc began navigating the residential streets, I figured out where we were going. We passed our old high school and the same street leading in where I used to watch Tate walking to and from school every day. The same corner where I used to catch the ice cream truck with her when we were younger.

And then we turned onto Fall Away Lane, and Madoc pulled to a halt in front of my old house, which now belonged to Jax.

I rubbed my sweaty palms down my pants, praying like hell that this was going somewhere good instead of bad.

But it took only a glance out the window before I noticed it.

I tried to speak, but my chest tightened and my words came out breathless. “What the hell happened?”

Not waiting for them to answer, I climbed out of the car and traipsed up the incline into the space between our houses. The closer I got, the more I didn’t want to face it.

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