The Good Luck Sister (Wildstone #1.5)(3)

“I don’t know what game you’re playing,” she whispered. “But it isn’t funny. I think you should leave.”

“No game,” he said. “I’m signed up for this class, same as everyone else.” And with that, he went back to his seat.

She looked around, felt the awkwardness of the room. Her doing. She was an idiot. She did her best to shake it off, to completely ignore him. Pride dictated this. All the anger, hurt, confusion, and the hardest to take, betrayal, she’d shoved deep eight years ago and nothing could get to that. Nothing.

As she began to go through the curriculum with the class, she walked around the large art room, showing them the wide variety of equipment they had at their fingertips thanks to a recent grant. They had large monitors at twenty stations, but the 3D printer was her favorite, and she quickly sketched out some blocks, showing the students how they might use the printer as a part of an upcoming 3D project. She put letters on the blocks to spell B-I-T-E M-E, realized what she was doing and the scrambled the letters before hitting print.

But not in time apparently, because the blocks came out in perfect order. “Well,” she said. “It is a Monday, right?”

The class was cracking up and she took a discreet glance at Dylan.

He arched a brow.

She looked at the clock. Ten minutes had gone by. Forty more minutes to go.

When the bell finally rang and the students all began to exit the room, she turned away so she didn’t feel tempted to watch Dylan leave.

The ratfink bastard.

She busied herself putting her things back into her bag and checked on Leo. The little guy yawned so sweetly and smiled sleepily up at her, melting her heart. Scooping him up, she cuddled him to her, giving him a kiss on his snout. He smiled back and . . .

. . . Let loose with a warm stream. She felt it pool at her chest before dripping down her torso. Sucking in a breath, she pulled the pup away from her with a sigh.

He bicycled his little paws in the air, trying to get back to her, a smile on that deceptively adorable face.

“Okay,” she said. “I’m willing to concede that was entirely my fault. Let’s get you outside before this turns into a número dos situation.” She turned to go and came face to face with Dylan. “Dammit.”

He looked amused at her greeting. His gaze ran over her, caught onto the puppy, and he gave Tilly a small smile. “Cute,” he said, reaching out a hand to pet Leo.

Who bared his little teeth and gave a ferocious growl.

Okay, so it wasn’t ferocious, it was thin and wobbly, like he wasn’t quite sure how to growl, but he bared his teeth to show he meant it. Tilly was so stunned that she let out a startled laugh. Clearly she’d projected her feelings onto the pup. “Good boy,” she said. Shouldering her purse and grabbing the portfolio, she lifted her chin in the air and started to walk away.

“Not going to even say hi?” Dylan asked her back.

She had to close her eyes for a beat because of that voice. Once upon a time, that sexy, gruff voice could stop her in her tracks. She’d always known that, thanks to a tragically rough childhood, he had inner demons. But she’d always thought they’d fight them together.

He’d lied about that. He’d lied about a lot of things. “I have a different word for you,” she said. “It’s good-bye.” And with as much dignity as she could manage while dripping puppy pee down her shirt and pants legs, she did as he’d once done to her. Walked away.

Chapter 2

“Of all her childhood memories, her favorite was never having to pay bills.”

—from “The Mixed-Up Files of Tilly Adams’s Journal”

Ten years prior:

Tilly sighed and tossed and turned some more, stilling at a sudden ping of a rock on her window. Before she could get up, the window slid open and Dylan’s long, lanky body climbed in.

Her best friend in the entire world had a fat lip and a black eye.

“I told you to keep this locked,” he said. He was pissed.

And hurt.

Tilly drew him down to her bed to take care of him, like she did every time his asshole dad beat on him. She cupped his face, her eyes filling when she saw what had been done to him this time. “I want to kill him,” she whispered.

“Shh,” he said and closed his eyes. “If he touches my mom again, I’ll kill him myself.”

Fear for him made her legs wobble. His dad didn’t live with Dylan and his mom, he’d been kicked out of the house several years back and now lived two towns over from Wildstone in Paso Robles. Whenever he came to “visit”—aka steal money from Dylan’s mom—Dylan did his best to draw his attention away from her.

Brave. And terrifying.

Tilly got up and tiptoed into the kitchen where she grabbed an ice pack, and then on second thought also peanut butter and jelly, before heading back to her room.

Dylan hadn’t moved.

He was a year older than she was, a grade ahead of her, and on a different planet when it came to life experiences. He ran with a fast crowd and wouldn’t let her hang with them.

“You still have a shot at a good life,” he always said when she asked. “I’m not going to fuck it up for you.”

She sat crossed-legged on the bed at his side and gently laid the ice pack over his eye.

Jill Shalvis's Books