Chapter no 10

The Summer of Broken Rules

Wit was leaning against the rustic wood wall but straightened up when he saw me. “Well, hello,” he said. “You get through the door okay?”

Ian is my assassin, I’d messaged him earlier. I got Ethan to tattle.

Six-year-olds coming in clutch, he DMed back and then: We’ll figure it out.

Not you’ll figure it out, but we’ll figure it out.

“Uh-huh.” I nodded. “Ian’s dealing with a situation back there.” I motioned over my shoulder at the doors. Sarah and Michael hadn’t given up yet, still arguing with my cousin.

Wit chuckled, and I couldn’t help but stare at him. The guys really did wear anything to this party—Jake was still in his purple, ice cream–stained Mad Martha’s shirt—but Wit had on slim jeans and a striped button-down. Dark green and white. It was unbuttoned with a gray T-shirt underneath, and the sleeves were rolled up to show his leather watchband. My pulse skipped like a stone across Paqua Pond.

“Hey, your bruise looks better,” I commented; the blue was beginning to fade to green. “Aunt Christine will be pleased.”

“That’s because I iced it last night,” he replied. I raised an eyebrow. “You iced it?”

Wit winked, and I just about sprung at him. With the string lights shining above us, his blond hair gleamed, and so did his fantasy-novel turquoise eyes.

Then I caught him checking me out, too—my long loose hair and backless dress. I waited for him to tell me I looked pretty.

He didn’t, and as strange as it sounds, that made me happy.

Instead, he said, “Are you sure those are the best shoes for tonight?”

“Oh,” I said and glanced down at my wedges. If Ian decided to chase me home, I wouldn’t stand a chance. “Well…”

Wit smiled and took a sip of what looked like red wine. “Wait, wine?” I asked. “Where did you get wine?”

“Nowhere,” he answered. “This isn’t wine.” He offered me his glass to taste. “It’s cranberry juice. I found it in the fridge.” He shrugged. “Beer isn’t really my thing.”

“Huh.” All the guys I knew liked beer. A beat of silence passed.

“Thank you for my gift, by the way,” Wit said, all casual. “I’m gonna sleep with it every night.”

I snorted with laughter, the sip of juice I’d taken almost coming out my nose. Hannah’s lobster stuffed animal. “You are not.”

He smiled wryly. “No, I’m not. I returned it while you were at dinner. You could genuinely hear the meltdown happening in the Camp.”

“I bet,” I said, thinking of Hannah’s high-pitched sobs—I was silly to think she wouldn’t notice the theft. Even with so many toys, the lobster was one of her favorites.

“How was the rest of your day?” Wit asked, leaning back against the wall. It put some distance between us, so I moved forward to close it and more. I kind of kicked his feet apart so that I could stand in between them. “My dad told me about the bocce scene,” he said, clearing his throat. “He appreciated your manners.”

“And I appreciated that he didn’t run away,” I replied before telling him about Viv. “I was jogging home, and suddenly, there she was on the phone, walking in circles under a tree…”

By the time I finished, one of Wit’s hands was resting on my waist. His fingers were warm through the thin fabric, setting off that spiraling sensation. I vaguely heard Pravika call my name and say that Luli and Jake were up for Ping-Pong.

“We should go watch,” Wit said, hand moving from my waist to my lower back. Both my heart and I leapt at the skin-to-skin contact. “Whoa, sorry.” He paused, then said smugly, “Cold?”

“Yeah, freezing,” I joked.

When we made it into the packed Ping-Pong room, we found ourselves in another corner. Luli and her brother were battling it out against Nicole and her boyfriend, with Eli as referee. I was watching but at the same time not watching. Wit’s hand had left my back, and now our fingers were mingling.

Hold my hand, I thought. Hold my hand…

“Do you want to go back?” I asked after the first half. My friends were ahead, and they had plenty of fans. “It’s getting a little loud.”

It wasn’t that loud.

Wit nodded, and soon we were back where we’d begun. My seltzer was untouched, so I abandoned it—I was already giggly and smiley enough. Wit’s lips were dark red from his drink, and they quirked at the corners when I reached out to trace them with a finger.

“You have very nice lips,” I said.

Amused, he put down his glass to encircle me in his arms. “I do?” “Yes,” I nodded, then whispered, “I kind of want to kiss them.”

“Kind of?” He laughed. “Only kind of?”

My breath caught. That was it. That was the cue.

But as I leaned in, Wit ducked out of the way. “Not here.” He shook his head and glanced toward the door. “Follow me.”

My heart fluttered, and I let him lead me and my giddiness to the sliders

—where Ian promptly blocked our path, his water gun jammed in his pocket. “Hey, Mer,” he said. “Leaving so soon?”

“No,” I said, moving to hide behind Wit. “Not yet.” I quickly bent down to unbuckle my wedges. Left foot, right foot. “Just a change of scenery.” I stepped out of my shoes. “Wit and I are going to hang on the deck.”

Ian followed us out there, of course; he hadn’t been born yesterday. “Where’s this going?” Wit whispered while I texted someone.

“Wait for it,” I whispered back.

Five seconds later, Pravika burst through the door. “Ian!” she exclaimed. “Get in here! Sarah and Michael are trying to break in through the back door!”

“Okay, run,” I said to Wit, tugging him down the deck steps while Ian stormed back inside to investigate. “Run!”

* * *

We burst into laughter after reaching the Cabin, both flopping down on Wit’s bed. “Ian’s gonna be out for blood,” Wit said once we’d calmed down some. “Pravika’s performance was Oscar-worthy.”

I agreed, and then it went quiet. Both of us knew what was going to happen next, but some of the earlier magic had dissolved. The fairy lights, the quiet corner, the flirting fingers. Escaping Ian had shifted the mood.

My way of finding it again was to stand up, gesture to my dress, and ask, “Do you mind if I take this off?”

Wit’s eyes widened, and he fumbled to stand, too. “Uh, sure,” he said. “If that’s what you want.” He scratched the back of his neck. “There’s no pressure…”

I laughed and shook my head. It was fun watching him sweat. “No, you idiot,” I said. “Maybe in your dreams.” I pointed to his dresser. “May I borrow a T-shirt?”

Wit nodded and moved to sift through his top drawer. He tossed me something blue.

“Turn around, please,” I said.

He obliged.

Already wearing a pair of spandex shorts, I let my dress fall to the floor and quickly pulled on his shirt. “Okay,” I said. “Ready.”

Wit pivoted around, but again, it was like neither of us knew how to proceed. He was just standing there across the room.

I tiptoed forward.

Then stopped.

He caught my drift, taking a couple of steps himself. I took a few more.

He took a few more.

My stomach was swoop, swoop, swooping when we met in the middle, especially when Wit half grinned and began gently tracing my face with his fingertips. My eyebrows, my eyelids, my nose, my cheekbones—he saved my lips for last. “I kind of want to kiss you, too,” he murmured. “Would that be all right?”

“Yes,” I murmured back. “Definitely all right, and preferably soon.” “Hey.” He held up his hands. “I’m being chivalrous.”

I sighed. “Preferably now, Wit.” “Okay, no need to beg—”

I didn’t let him finish, instead scrambling into his arms and locking my legs around his waist so I could kiss him myself. He laughed, and I felt his lips smile against mine as I started running my hands through his thick hair. He tasted sweet, like the cranberry juice he’d been drinking earlier, and something burst beneath my skin, small spirals and then seismic waves rippling through my body. A groan escaped when we finally broke apart.

Wit smirked. “I’m going to take that as a compliment.” I blushed.

His smirk spread into a crooked grin. I kissed it.

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