Bring Down the Stars (Beautiful Hearts Duet #1)(5)

“You got a spare?” Connor asked.

“Fuck off.”

He held up his hands. “Hey, just trying to help. I have extra, and my house isn’t far from here. If we left now, we can be back before bell.”

I narrowed my eyes at him.

“It’s either that or you go the rest of the day looking like an extra in a bad horror movie.”

Connor’s friendly grin was seemingly a permanent fixture to his face.

“Why would you help me?”

He frowned. “Why wouldn’t I?” He stuck out his hand. “I’m Connor Drake, by the way.”


Connor laughed and lowered his hand. “Come on. You need to change, right?”

I clenched my teeth. “I guess.”

“Let’s go.”

He started walking. I followed.

“You’re new, right? You weren’t here last year.”

“No shit. I’m Wes Turner, the charity case.”

Connor’s dark brows came together. “Charity case… Oh, that was you? The essay winner? That explains Kingsley’s nickname. Hey, don’t let him get to you. He’s not all bad. We’ve known each other since kindergarten.”

“Has he been a prick that long?”

Connor laughed. “Pretty much.” He lifted his chin at the security guard at the front door. “Hey, Norm. Just running home to get something for my friend, here.”

Norm the Security Guard opened the door for Connor Drake, like a doorman in a fancy hotel. “Be back before bell.”

“Will do.”

“How did you do that?” I asked, as we stepped out of the school and into the light of a September afternoon. “Lunch is closed.”

“My parents donate a lot of money,” Connor said with that mega-watt grin. “A lot of money.”

He walked us around the corner and down Dartmouth Street, which led toward a neighborhood of old, elegant row houses in tawny sandstone and black ironwork. Connor and I walked along red brick sidewalks and passed old-fashioned street lamps. The entire block looked like one giant castle.

“Hey, congrats on the scholarship, by the way,” Connor said. “I heard a lot of kids tried for that. Your essay was really good.”

My shoulders hunched. “You read it too?”

“My parents can’t get over it. Made me read it twice.”

Fuck me sideways.

“It was all right,” I muttered. I waited for Connor to give me shit about that goddamn sock. He didn’t.

“It was better than all right,” Connor said. “You’re lucky; I can’t write to save my life. And wouldn’t you know it, I have Mr. Wrightman for English.”

“I have Wrightman too,” I ventured. “He’s tough?”

“The toughest,” Connor said. “He assigns a crap-ton of papers, long stories, short stories… Hell, I heard he even makes us write poems. Fucking poems.”

I stepped a little lighter. “Yeah, that sucks.”

“Tell me about it.” Connor glanced at me. “But you should do all right. Is that what you want to be when you grow up? A writer?”

The day before I might’ve said yes, but Sock Boy had shown me that I wasn’t ready to deal with the repercussions. Writing was something I’d keep to myself where it couldn’t hurt me again. I was worn out from being hurt. My dad taking off showed me with brutal clarity the cost of having feelings, of caring too much. I still wanted to write, but making a habit out of bleeding my heart out and having it thrown back in my face was not going to happen. Not ever again.

“I’m not sure yet.” I glanced up at him. “You?”

His grin widened. “I want to open a sports bar in downtown Boston. Like Cheers, you know? I want to stand in the middle of it all, with a game on every TV. I love baseball. Do you like baseball?”

Before I could answer, he went on.

“I could talk baseball all day. And hockey. I want to make a place where people can hang out, talk sports or watch a game, and just have a good time.”

I nodded. “Seems like you’d be good for that.”

Hell, Connor Drake, even aged twelve, seemed like he was put on this earth to open a sports bar. But his grin dimmed.

“Tell my parents that. They think I should go to an Ivy League college and do something ‘big and important.’ Doesn’t help that my brother, Jefferson, is all about big and important.”

I didn’t know what to say. The idea of doing something ‘big and important’ seemed impossible for a poor kid like me. If I could get into a good college, get a decent job to help my Ma out a little, I’d consider it a miracle.

“You’re from Southie, right?”

“Right,” I said.

“What’s that like?”

My hackles went up. “What’s what like? Living in a crappy apartment and needing charity to pay for a decent school?”

Connor wasn’t put off by my hard tone; a trait that would endure years into our friendship. The glue that would hold it together many, many times.

He shrugged. “I don’t know, maybe. Sometimes it seems like everything around here is so complicated…when it doesn’t have to be. I like simple, you know?”

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