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Home > Cross My Heart, Hope To Die (The Lying Game #5)(8)

Cross My Heart, Hope To Die (The Lying Game #5)(8)
Author: Sara Shepard

“Oh yeah, you going to knock me down like you did my girlfriend?” Ethan shoved him again, this time a little harder.

Thayer took a few steps back. A dangerous grin broke over his face. “I’m going to enjoy kicking your ass,” he snarled. Then he lunged. Soon the two were a tangle of limbs and dirt thrashing around on the ground.

“Stop it!” Emma cried, struggling to her feet. There was blood on Ethan’s cheek. Thayer’s shirt was torn at the collar. The referee’s whistle blasts kept breaking through the air uselessly. Spectators stood with their hands clapped over their mouths. People ran toward them, including Mr. Mercer.

“Break it up, boys!” he yelled. But only a few feet from the fight, a divot of grass snagged his foot. He went flying face-first into the turf, rolling a few feet before coming to a stop. A low groan of pain escaped his mouth. Ethan and Thayer stopped fighting and stared at him.

“Dad!” Laurel screamed, dropping to his side. Emma and Mrs. Mercer were just behind her.

Mr. Mercer let out another groan. Both of his shins were skinned, and blood trickled into the grass. He clutched his left knee, which had already swollen to twice its usual size.

“Oh, man,” whispered Thayer, wiping his own blood from his purpling nose.

Mrs. Mercer looked into the impotent crowd, her face pale. “Can someone help me get him to the car?” she asked firmly.

Thayer and Ethan scrambled to either side of Mr. Mercer. Between the two of them, they managed to get him unsteadily to his feet, guide him across the field, and angle him into the family SUV. Mr. Mercer groaned the whole way. Emma followed, her heart pounding loudly in her chest. She barely felt Madeline’s hand on her shoulder or heard Charlotte’s promises that he was going to be okay. She and Laurel climbed into the backseat, and Mrs. Mercer turned the ignition. No one spoke as they pulled out of the space.

Emma turned and stared back at the parking lot. Ethan and Thayer stood several feet away from each other, looking sheepish. Ethan’s arms were crossed over his chest. Thayer rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly.

“Still think they’re not fighting over you?” Laurel mumbled.

Emma didn’t answer. She didn’t want to be squabbled over like some medieval damsel. Maybe they’d learned their lesson since Mr. Mercer had been hurt.

Don’t count on it, I thought, remembering Thayer’s almost-kiss when he’d tackled my twin. The only way he’d stop fighting for me was to find out the truth—that I was dead and Emma was simply standing in.

4

KARMA’S A BITCH, AND SO AM I

News of the fight between Sutton’s two boyfriends was all over the school by Monday. Emma had to deflect constant questions about the quarrel, the details getting more exaggerated as the day wore on. Ethan had almost strangled Thayer to death. Thayer’s leg had miraculously healed, and he’d given Ethan a deadly kick to the groin. Thayer was going to hire a hit man from his shadowy past to finish Ethan off. Ethan now carried a gun to school.

Emma tried to shrug off the stories, but they dogged her even when she got to tennis practice that afternoon. As she joined the rest of the team on the courts, girls kept asking her about it as though she’d literally been caught in the middle of the fight. “I heard that Ethan and Thayer are going to have a rematch on Friday,” Clara Hewlitt, a sophomore, said wistfully.

“How very Clint Eastwood of them,” Emma joked. But she felt uneasy. She hadn’t said much to Ethan after the fight except to send him a few texts, yelling at him for being so rash. Ethan had apologized, as had Thayer. But Emma didn’t exactly like having the two of them fighting over her.

The late fall air was dry and hot, the sky a robin’s-egg blue beyond the mountains. The moon hung visible even in the afternoon, a pale disc in the cloudless sky. The courts were busy with girls warming up, adjusting ponytails and gossiping—probably about the fight.

Laurel nudged Emma. “Check out the new girl,” she giggled, thankfully changing the subject.

Emma glanced up at the thin, elfin-looking girl standing a few feet away. Her long blond hair was swept back in lots of little braids, and she had about a dozen earrings in her earlobes, and silver rings shaped like ankhs and Wiccan spirals and Celtic crosses on every finger. While the other girls on the team were doing deep, athletic-looking stretches and exercises, this girl stood on one leg in some kind of yoga pose, her hands at her chest in prayer position. She hummed distractedly to herself as she lifted her arms in the air, balancing perfectly. Emma recognized Joni Mitchell’s “Free Man in Paris,” which Ursula, one of her old foster mothers, used to play nonstop.

Charlotte snorted. “What’s she doing, balancing her chakras?”

Laurel laughed, and the girl’s eyes snapped open. She gazed at them as if she was seeing them through a deep mist and could just barely make them out.

“Be quiet, Charlotte, you’re disturbing the cosmic forces,” Laurel teased, slapping her friend lightly on the arm.

Emma shifted her weight, a twinge of guilt gnawing at her. She’d been the new girl often enough in her life to know how hard it could be. She straightened her spine and strode across the court toward the strange girl.

Practically everyone on the team stopped what they were doing. Nisha paused mid-push-up to follow Emma with her eyes. Clara, who’d been demonstrating a backhand grip to some low-ranked players, dropped her racket and openly stared.

It wasn’t the first time Emma had been struck by the power of popularity. When Sutton Mercer talked, people listened. Sometimes that influence made Emma uncomfortable—she’d never had that kind of sway in her own life, and she’d been on the receiving end of the popular kids’ cruelty a few times herself. But now she had the opportunity to use her role as Sutton Mercer to do some good.

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