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Chapter no 13

The Summer of Broken Rules

Later that afternoon, my mom decided to march me straight into enemy territory. Wit and I had stayed at Secret Beach for another hour or so before wrapping ourselves in towels and packing up our things to make some Assassin progress. Well, Wit could make progress—I remained in limbo, the Annex’s mailbox still empty. What the hell, Viv? I thought.

But even so, I led Wit to the storage shed and offered him Claire’s huge high-pressure multi-nozzle jetpack gun. I’d stick with the simple Super Soaker. This one would weigh me down if I ever tried strapping it on my back. It was that elaborate. “Word has already spread that you’re dangerous,” I told Wit. “Take it and flaunt it.”

“Are you sure?” he asked, admiring the water gun almost reverently. I nodded. Claire would want him to use it.

Wit kissed me—really kissed me. I ran a slow hand through his hair and smiled when I felt goose bumps grow on the nape of his neck. “We should go,” he whispered afterward. “I need”—he paused—“some time.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Some time?”

He nodded, cheeks coloring a little. “To collect myself.” I smirked. “Collect yourself?”

“Yeah, collect myself,” Wit smirked back, his hand going to the back of my head to smoosh my face into his chest. I could feel his heartbeat. “You know, refocus myself.” He cleared his throat. “For Assassin.”

“Sure,” I said, biting back a smile. “You do that.”

Although a wave of jealousy washed over me then. Because not only was I on the sidelines, but Wit and I had also reviewed our pact on our walk back from the beach: we wouldn’t help each other execute eliminations.

So I ended up in the Annex, where my mom promptly handed me a grocery list. “Julia and Rachel are going to the store,” she said. “I need you to go with them to pick up a few things.”

I froze. Aunt Julia and Aunt Rachel.

No.

No!

They were helping Ian, not me. Going anywhere with them could be a trap.

“Um, why can’t you go?” I asked.

“Because I think I finally found my chance to take out Nicole,” she replied and gestured to the door. “I said you’d meet them at the Camp.”

“Mom,” I whined.

She sighed. “Meredith.”

I grabbed my bike and took the longest route possible to the Camp, riding deep into the woods and racing along trails I wasn’t sure Ian even knew existed. By the time I made it to my aunts’ house, they already had Ethan and Hannah strapped into the minivan. I literally hit my brakes and dove into the car. “Meredith!” the kids cheered.

“Hi,” I said cautiously and checked the trunk as I buckled myself into the way back. Was being in a car the same thing as being inside a house? A safe zone?

I needed to text Wink and Honey. Thankfully, the trunk was empty.

“All right,” Aunt Julia said from the driver’s seat. Aunt Rachel and her swollen stomach barely fit into shotgun.

“Will this kid just get here already?” she mumbled.

Aunt Julia laughed, and then we were off. My insides swirled all three miles down the driveway, terrified that Ian would be waiting for us at the Stop & Shop. “Are you okay, Mer?” Aunt Julia asked when she turned onto West Tisbury Road.

“Yeah,” I heard myself say. “Fine.”

I was so paranoid that I had to suppress a screech when my phone vibrated on my lap, but I exhaled when I saw that @sowitty17 had messaged me. It kept slipping my mind to ask for his actual number.

Who, he’d written, is Anne O’Brien?

What? I thought. He’s already killed the Dupré cousin?

Margaret’s mom, I replied, wondering if Luli had eliminated my distant relation yet. How’d you get Michael’s cousin?

I’ll tell you when I have my arms around you, he said.

My breath caught. He was so casual, so easy with his affection. There was no stupid winky face emoji or a hundred obnoxious hearts following his words—he wasn’t teasing or even flirting. He was just being open and genuine.

Open and genuine were part of Wit’s brand.

Any advice? he asked when I didn’t respond. Oh, wise one?

Try the tennis court, @claires_sister told him. She and Honey play most afternoons.

Once I sent that, everyone in the car groaned—we’d arrived at the Stop & Shop. Or, as the Foxes called it, the “Stop & Plop.”

“Plop” insinuating that you weren’t moving anytime in the near future.

“Ugh,” Aunt Rachel said as Aunt Julia weaved the car through the supermarket’s packed parking lot. There were no empty spots to be seen. “Does being eight months pregnant count as a handicap?”

“Right there, Mommy!” Hannah shouted once we’d circled the lot a few times. “Someone’s leaving!”

“Good eye, Han!” I stretched forward to high-five her.

“Okay, kids,” Aunt Julia said once we’d parked and were crossing the lot. “You know the rules…”

“Hang on to the cart,” Ethan and Hannah recited.

Or else you’ll be swept into the stampede, I silently added, because the crowd of cars was just a warning for what awaited us inside: pure chaos. Now there was no time for me to be paranoid about Ian—I had to focus on navigating the store without getting trampled.

“We’ll meet back at the van?” Aunt Rachel asked me.

I nodded. It went without saying that with different shopping agendas, we would be separated. The grocery store was buzzing like a beehive. Music was probably playing over the speakers, but you couldn’t hear it. People were everywhere, some straight off the beach. One guy was shirtless, only wearing board shorts and an obnoxious bucket hat.

Here we go. I took a deep breath and inserted myself into the rush hour. The store was a gridlock today, only one shopping cart able to move at a time. The first item on my mom’s list was toilet paper.

So naturally, I worked my way toward aisle four, the breakfast food aisle. That was other major problem with the Stop & Plop: nothing was where it was supposed to be. I would push my cart past the Cheerios, Reese’s Puffs, and Golden Grahams only to find the Charmin next to the granola bars. The shampoo and conditioner were with the salad dressing, the coffee in the produce section among the fruits and vegetables.

Wit buzzed in again after I’d secured the TP (and a box of Nature Valley bars). In the middle of another traffic jam, I unlocked my phone to see: Eli’s

brother drives the tractor in the afternoons? Where?

Wait a second, I typed back. What happened to Auntie Anne?

Almost immediately: You said to go to the tennis courts, so I did.

I sighed. Wit was having a blast out there, and here I was, literally stuck. Maybe I should ransack the Camp for Viv’s target? Take matters into my own hands?

“Hey, miss!” someone behind me shouted. “You going to move or what?”

I looked up to see that I was blocking a whole line of shoppers. “Yes!” I squeaked. “Sorry!”

Forty-five minutes later, while I waited at the deli counter for turkey, ham, and cheese and listened to the lovable Ukrainian workers argue with one another in their thick accents, Wit DMed me again. I’m sitting in a chair outside the Pond House’s front door, it said, waiting for Sarah’s bridesmaid Haley. She has a

haircut in an hour.

I snorted. So Eli’s bro is no more?

Terminated, he confirmed. Shortly followed by Michael’s favorite uncle. WTF?

Claire’s monster of a gun, he replied. It’s been a game changer.

I snickered. You know the Pond House has more than one door.

Don’t worry, I’ve rigged the others, Wit wrote. Chairs under each knob.

I poked another hole in his plan by typing, She could climb out a window. The Pond House was a ranch house; you could easily escape through a window.

Okay, he said, I mean this in the nicest way possible, I really do, but I’ve been dragged to dinner with Haley…and she’s not going to think of climbing through a window. Her brand

is not your brand!

My deli number was called. “Seven-one-seven!!”

I’m touched, I quickly sent back, smiling at my screen. Have fun waiting her out.

* * *

After two and a half hours—yes, two and a half—Aunt Julia slowed the minivan to a stop in front of the Annex. My mom greeted us, looking totally stone-faced. “Did you get the Funfetti frosting?” she asked as we unloaded my bags.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said, even though it hadn’t been on the shopping list. It didn’t need to be; my dad was so obsessed with Pillsbury’s vanilla-and-sprinkles frosting that it went without saying—if you went to the

supermarket, you bought it. “What’s wrong with Dad?” I asked, since he broke out the frosting whenever he was stressed or upset.

“Just come inside,” Mom answered. “You’ll see.”

Plastic bags in hand, I found my dad collapsed on the couch with a spoon.

And a defeated look on his face…

Assassinated, I realized. He’s been assassinated.

“Who was it?” I ventured carefully once he was a spoonful or six into the frosting. My mom sat next to him, rubbing his back.

“Who was it?” He gave me a look. “Who was it?” My shoulders sagged. Damn.

Dad sprang up from the love seat. “He is on a different playing field entirely,” he said. “Brad called it.” He shook his head. “He has ten kills, Meredith—eight of which happened while you were gone.”

“Jesus,” I breathed. The last I’d heard from Wit was right after he’d eliminated Haley the bridesmaid. His plan had worked, and next on his list had been Aunt Christine’s sister.

“He’s wearing a bandanna, too,” Dad added. “To mask his face.” I quickly messaged Wit. A bandanna?

“And somehow he talked Wink into borrowing the binoculars.”

But of course, Wit responded. A little anonymity never hurts.

“Did you give him Claire’s gun, Mer?” Mom asked.

“Oh.” I felt myself flush as I tucked away my phone. “Um, yes, I did.” I looked at my dad. “Sorry.”

He scowled while Mom laughed. “I’m sure she’s happy it’s getting some good use.”

I couldn’t help but grin. “That’s what I thought, too.”

But eight eliminations, Wit? Really?

Perhaps a bit obnox—

Someone knocked on the kitchen door. My ears perked up, knowing right away it wasn’t a Fox. They knew the long-standing no-knocking rule. “It’s

open!” Dad called through a mouthful of frosting. “Always open!”

The door squeaked, but Wit had barely crossed the sitting room’s threshold before Dad flipped out. “But not to you,” he said and pointed outside. “Absolutely not.”

My mom moved to escort Wit through the screen door. “Too soon,” I heard her whisper. “It’s a little too soon, Wit.” She turned and nodded for me to follow him.

We met under the trees. “Aunt Christine is going to murder you,” I told him. “Literally, she’s going to assassinate you herself.”

Because while Wit’s red bandanna now hung around his neck, the top half of his face was not only freckled but also deeply sunburned. It was, to say the least, an interesting combination with his murky bruise.

tsk-tsked him. “Looks like someone didn’t reapply their sunscreen.”

“It slipped my mind,” Wit said as I traced the bridge of his nose. “I was busy.”

“Yeah, being a serial killer.”

“Well, isn’t that the goal of the game?” “My dad is pissed at you.”

“So it seems.” Wit scrubbed a hand through his hair. “Will he, um, stay

pissed at me?”

I hesitated a moment to build the suspense, then shook my head. “He’ll be fine once he finishes his frosting.”

Wit exhaled. “Phew.” He slid his arms around me, and I smiled.

“Now you have to tell me,” I said. “You have to tell me about each takedown. You said you would when you, and I quote, ‘had me in your arms again.’”

He blushed—through his bruise, through his sunburn. He blushed. “How about dinner?” he murmured. “How about I tell you over dinner tonight?”

“Dinner?” I slung my arms around his neck. “Like a date?” “Yeah, dinner.” Wit nodded. “Like a dinner.”

My fluttering heart wavered. So not a date.

Although it sure felt like one later when Wit opened the Raptor’s driver’s-side door for me. He smelled like his orange shampoo, freshly showered and wearing chinos with a lightweight blue button-down. It kind of billowed in the breeze.

“Where’re we going?” I asked once he was buckled up next to me. “I don’t know,” he replied. “How about anywhere you want?”

* * *

I chose Home Port in Menemsha, one of the Vineyard’s smaller fishing towns. The restaurant was famous for its lobster, and since I hadn’t been invited to Atlantic the other day, I was seriously craving some. Wit and I hadn’t made a reservation, so we strolled along the docks while waiting for a table. “Claire and I loved to race down these,” I told him. “She would always win, but I was close one time and probably would’ve won if I hadn’t tripped and skinned my knee.”

Wit took my hand.

In response, I tugged it away and sprinted ahead of him. Luckily, I wasn’t wearing my wedges tonight, just a pair of gladiator sandals.

But Wit caught up in no time. We ran toward the end of dock, and the race ended in a tie. Our reward was a text from the Home Port’s hostess, saying our table was ready.

She seated us by the windows, the natural-wood interior and usual blue water glasses a warm welcome back. There were four chairs at our table, and Wit pulled out the one next to mine. “What?” I said. “Don’t sit there.”

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because you should sit across from me,” I said. “So I can see your face.” “Meredith, my face is a wreck.”

I giggled. It was, but it also wasn’t.

“Besides,” Wit said, sitting down next to me, “if I sit here, I can do this…” He put his arm around my shoulder. “Or this…” He brushed his fingers through my hair. “Or even this…” His hand went to my knee. “But, I mean, if you aren’t—”

“Nope,” I cut him off, tangling our fingers together under the table. “You’ve made some valid points.”

We both ordered the lobster clambake: freshly boiled lobster with steamers, corn on the cob, and baby potatoes. Then Wit told me about today’s eliminations, including hiding under Moor House’s grill cover to overtake someone on a bike. The back of his neck was also sunburned from his stakeout at the Pond House, and he’d stalked my dad like a wolf in the woods.

“Did you get him from a tree or something?” I asked.

“Uh, not exactly.” He scratched his neck. “I actually”—he lowered his voice—“got him coming out of the outhouse…”

“No!” I let my forehead drop onto his shoulder, overcome with laughter. “You didn’t!”

Wit laughed, too, shoulders bobbing up and down. “Sorry, but I did.”

Our dinner came a few minutes later. Two big steaming plates of deliciousness. “I’ve been waiting two summers for this,” I said when we cracked open our lobster shells. “Oh my god.” I moaned with pleasure.

“Oh, wow,” Wit said. “Should I give you a minute?” He pretended to push back his chair. “You and your lobster?”

“Haha, so clever.” I rolled my eyes, but my heart was hopping. While Wit dunked his first bite in melted butter, I unlocked my phone and asked a passing busboy to take our picture.

“Okay,” the kid said when he had the camera positioned. “Smile.”

And I did smile—a smile so filled with happiness, happiness I hadn’t been sure I’d ever be able to feel again. But then out of the corner of my eye, I spotted butter dripping down Wit’s jawline, and I was overcome with the

need to lean over and lick it off. The busboy would take a burst of photos, after all. It wasn’t like we would post this one.

“Oh, hell yeah we will,” Wit said after we’d scrolled through all the pictures. We’d agreed to post one on Instagram. “It’s this or nothing.”

“But I’m licking your face,” I said, pointing to the screen. “I’m licking

your face.”

He smirked. “And what a beautiful face it is.” I snorted.

“Come on,” he said. “Post it. It’s us.”

It’s us.

What did he mean by that? Were we really an “us” if we weren’t meant to last past this week? I looked at the photo again—Wit’s hair roguishly mussed and those turquoise eyes electric but also alarmed. Alarmed because I had one hand on his chest and the other on the back of his neck to pull him close so I could lick up the melted butter. You could literally see tongue.

And a happy smile.

“Okay, fine,” I said, excitement shooting through my veins. “Let’s do it.” I tapped my screen a few times, having offered to do the honors. My first upload as @claires_sister. “What should the caption be?” I asked as Wit leaned over to see the screen. He rested his chin in the crook of my neck, and I ran a hand blindly through his hair. Hopefully we aren’t ruining too many dinners, I thought, knowing people must be judging our PDA. I’d felt some stares.

“No caption,” Wit answered.

“So just the hashtag?” I said. “Hurray She’s a Dupré?” He sighed.

“Sarah and Michael,” I reminded him. “It’s for Sarah and Michael.” “Wrong,” Wit said. “This is for us.”

Then he stole my phone, thumbs flying over the touchscreen. I nervously watched him scan whatever he’d written before he tapped to post the

picture. He smiled crookedly and handed back the iPhone. “Feast your eyes,” he said.

“Must I?”

He dug his chin into my shoulder. “Look at it!”

So I did. Underneath our ridiculous photo, there was an even goofier hashtag: #HitchMeToWitry.

My jaw dropped.

He laughed.

“Again,” I said slowly, since I could hardly speak, my heart was fluttering so fast. “Aunt Christine is going to hunt you down.”

“I know,” Wit said. “But I’m a Witry, not a Dupré.” He nudged me. “And we’re partners in crime.”

“Which I thought we previously agreed to neither confirm nor deny,” I said but then grinned before kissing him on the cheek. “You just totally—”

“Hey, lovers!” someone shouted from somewhere in the restaurant. “This is a family setting! If you wanna get it on, get out!”

* * *

Wit kissed me goodnight outside the Annex. It was late. By the time we’d gotten back from dinner, my dad had indeed finished his Funfetti frosting and forgotten his bad blood with Wit, so we’d spent the last couple of hours hanging out with my parents. I’d noticed that Wit was calm around them in a way that Ben had never been, from the way he relaxed in his armchair to the way he got really animated when he spoke. I don’t know—with Ben it had always felt like talking to my parents was all politeness and pleasantry, while with Wit, we were a family having fun together. At one point, he and my dad even recounted the whole outhouse scene. My mom laughed so hard she cried, and I smiled so hard from seeing her laugh so much. It felt good; it felt almost like old times. Not quite, of course.

But close.

“I’ll see you later,” I said, giving him one more hug. We melted together, both of us sweaty. Usually the Vineyard’s temperature dipped at night, but the air was still as balmy as it had been this afternoon.

“Later?” Wit hugged me back. “Or tomorrow?”

It was a good question. I’d spent almost every night this week in his room, whether by accident or on purpose. I glanced back at the cottage. “Tomorrow,” I said, since it would be very on purpose if I walked away with him now. My parents knew we were no longer just friends—instead of sitting in my own chair, I’d perched on the arm of Wit’s so I was only a reach away from ruffling his hair or putting my hand on his shoulder and shaking it.

“You really like him, don’t you?” my mom had asked when we’d gone into the kitchen for ice cream, and when I didn’t answer, she added, “I saw the Instagram post.”

“Yes,” I admitted, nodding. “I do.”

The look that flashed across her face was almost sad—sad that I would have to say goodbye to him at the end of the week. “It’s going to be difficult,” she said quietly.

“I know,” I whispered, and that was it. We scooped Moose Tracks ice cream into four bowls and brought them back into the sitting room.

“I’ll see you later,” I told Wit, and after watching him disappear into the night, I walked to the mailbox. Chances were Viv had still not delivered; I was going to text Wink again in the morning, but what was the harm in checking?

Third time’s the charm, I hoped, and I was stunned when I turned on my iPhone flashlight and pulled open the rickety door to find a message—my new target slip with a purple Post-it Note on top. It read: You got your dear old granddaddy involved? Grow up.

“Fuck you,” I muttered before shining my light onto my target slip. And at first, I was confused.

But I already…I thought. I already killed…

Then it dawned on me, and the shock set in; my face felt like it had been slapped. I read the paper again and again—there had to be some mistake. It had to be a mistake, because the name…

The name.

His name.

* * *

I stared at the ceiling from the top bunk, sweating in my T-shirt. The Annex had no AC, so my window was open, and I had two fans blasting. Tell me what to do, I said to Claire. Tell me what to do.

She was everywhere tonight. I swear I could hear her shifting on the mattress below.

But when she didn’t answer, I sighed, sat up, and after pulling my sweaty hair into a topknot, found myself sneaking barefoot out of my house and over to the Cabin. It was supposed to rain tomorrow, but the sky was enchanted with stars.

It sounded like Wit also had a fan whirring when I arrived at his room. No lamplight seeped through his blinds, so I suspected he was asleep. Do I go in? I wondered before I heard a sleepy, “I knew you’d come.”

That was all I needed to slide through his door. In the starlight that shone through the screen, I saw the fan on his dresser and Wit in bed, shirtless under only the sheet. The blankets had been kicked to the floor. Too hot.

I didn’t join him just yet. “How did you know?”

“Because when we said goodbye, at first you told me you’d see me tomorrow.” He yawned and propped himself up on an elbow. “But then the next time you said it, it was later.”

“Oh, I didn’t notice,” I lied.

He didn’t believe me. “Whatever helps you sleep at night.” My eyes welled up.

A beat passed.

“C’mere,” Wit said.

I blinked away my tears and crossed the floor to climb in with him…only to feel cold spots on the mattress. “Ice packs?” I guessed.

“Yep.” He rolled me into his arms. “Everyone’s eager to give them to me, so…”

A giggle slipped out, and I reached to touch his bruise. Wit let out an overdramatic yelp and jokingly jolted us both. More giggles escaped.

The best man banged on the wall.

“Sweet dreams, Gavin!” Wit called back, then whispered in my ear, “He’s upset because Danielle has ‘suspended’ things with him.”

“What?” I whispered back. “Why?”

“Dunno, but I’m sure they’ll be back together by the rehearsal dinner.” He tugged on my T-shirt. “Do you want a fresh one? This is soaked.”

“No, that’s all right,” I said and sat up to strip off my sweaty shirt before nestling back into him. Even with the ice packs, his body was a thousand degrees, but I wanted his sticky skin against mine. It made me feel safe.

“Well, I suppose you did say ‘later’ to this, too,” Wit said lightly, the scene at Secret Beach coming to mind: him asking to take off my bikini top, me saying yes but not until we were in private. Now Wit sketched something on my back before kissing my shoulder—it sent tingles all the way down to my toes. They even curled.

Soon I was on top of him, my hands running through his damp hair and his thumbs pressed into my hip bones. Spirals swirled under my skin.

“I didn’t mean to sound presumptuous earlier,” Wit murmured, breath warm between us. “I’m happy you came over.” He kissed along my neck. “I really wanted you to come over.”

For a second, I thought of what I’d found in my mailbox but quickly shook it away. “You did sound presumptuous,” I said, then admitted, “I really wanted to come over, too.”

Because god, I had—I’d wanted to come over. I’d needed to come over. It had only been a few days, but somehow, some way…

Even if this truly was just temporary, it felt like much more. Something special, something singular, something I’d been waiting for for a very long time.

So when Wit asked if I wanted to, I said yes without any hesitation. “Wow, quite enthusiastic,” he commented, voice magnificently melodious. It had this lilt to it that just made you melt.

“Do you have something?” I asked.

“Yeah, yeah,” he said and then slid us over to the edge of the bed so he could reach underneath. “The best man, uh, gave us ‘welcome packs’ when we got here on Sunday.”

“How thoughtful of him,” I deadpanned as he rummaged around in the dark.

He sighed. “If it helps, I wasn’t remotely expecting to use it.”

I laughed, and once Wit found what he was looking for, he used one hand to tickle me so that I had to suppress a squeal. My heart was soaring.

“Are you sure this is okay?” he asked a minute later. “Really okay?”

Not with anyone else, I thought. If Wit were anyone else… “Yes, it’s okay,” I murmured. “Like, way beyond okay.” Wit laughed, and then we tangled our bodies together.

* * *

“What’s wrong?” he whispered a while later, both of us drifting in and out of sleep.

A lump formed in my throat. “How do you know something’s wrong?” He shrugged, shoulders curved around me. “Just do.”

“I came here to be with you,” I told him. “But also because I can’t sleep there. I can’t sleep in that room without her.”

Wit was quiet.

“I still miss her so much,” I told him. “And that room…it brings everything back. Like Sarah’s story. I can’t stop thinking about it and how I didn’t even talk to Claire that day. We texted, but just about her plans—the restaurant, the French Quarter.” Tears started to spill. “I didn’t get to tell her I loved her, and she didn’t get to tell me. We called each other every night and said it before hanging up.”

I love you, Claire. I love you, Mer.

Again, Wit was silent, but the type of silent that felt like he wanted to say something. “She did love you,” he said eventually, sounding a little sorrowful himself. “She loved you very much.”

I nodded and continued to cry. He hugged me to his chest and didn’t let go even when I’d stopped crying. “Sleep,” he murmured. “Go to sleep, Killer.”

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