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Chapter no 7

The Summer of Broken Rules

By the time Wit and I returned to Paqua, my alliance had suffered its first casualty. “Dad, really?” I asked later as we headed to Wink and Honey’s for dinner. My parents each carried a bag of corn, and I had the pies. “You couldn’t have given Pravika more time?”

My dad sighed. “What do you want me to say, Meredith? She was right there. I know she’s part of your crew, but her guard was down, and I couldn’t waste that opportunity.”

Next to him, my mom stifled a laugh. I shot her a glare.

Meredith!!! Pravika had texted our group chat while I’d been biking home.

Your dad!!!

She was asleep on the beach, Jake explained, and let’s just say your dad woke her up.

Luli had then sent a video—filmed by Uncle Brad—of my father

sneaking over to Pravika’s towel and giving the camera a thumbs-up before ending her Assassin career by splashing her with one of the little cousins’ buckets. She’d jolted awake and, once oriented, screamed, “I hate you, Uncle Tom!”

The only good thing that had really come of it was that we all knew who my dad’s next target was. In the video, Pravika had rifled through her beach bag and angrily flung the slip of paper at him. It was another cousin.

Uncle Brad gave my dad another high-five when we got to the Big House.

He, too, had successfully killed his first target.

I set the pies far back on the kitchen counter, away from Wink and Honey’s golden retriever—Clarabelle was known for counter-surfing, ruining many a meal. The dogs somehow knew something was happening tonight, because they’d abandoned whatever adventure they’d been on to congregate in the kitchen. Even Loki, whom I hadn’t seen since this morning. “Behave,” I told him. He was named after the god of mischief, after all.

The kitchen was crowded; nobody had abided by the traditional definition of potluck. Everyone had brought food, but it all still needed to be cooked. Sarah was at the sink washing lettuce for a salad while Michael stood next to her chopping cucumbers. Wink and Aunt Julia were seasoning the steaks together down the counter. My mom had thrown herself into sprinkling basil on the tomato and mozzarella platter while Aunt Rachel checked on something in the oven. Sarah’s younger brother, Ian, was mixing drinks at the table. He’d just turned twenty-one and apparently fancied himself a bartender.

My stomach twisted into a knot. The kitchen was about to burst, but at the same time, it felt so empty. Where was she? Where was Claire, balancing plates, water glasses, and utensils so she could set the table? Where was she?

“Okay, okay!” Honey started shuttling the roughhousing Ethan and Hannah outdoors. “This corn isn’t going to husk itself!” She turned to me, and I forced myself to push away thoughts of my sister. “Show them, Meredith?”

“Yeah, of course,” I said but pointed down the hall. “I need to use the bathroom first.”

“I’ll keep an eye on them, Honey,” Kate, Peter’s wife, said before I escaped the kitchen. She handed off their babbling baby to her husband. “Pete has Nell.”

Perfect, I thought, but instead of ducking into the first-floor powder room, I crept up the Big House’s old oak staircase to the second floor and slipped into the bedroom where Great-Uncle Richard and Wife #3 were staying. They’d driven into Vineyard Haven for dinner, so the coast was clear. I swallowed and stared at the bay window across the room—a window that not only overlooked the ocean but was also big enough for a person to climb through onto the porch’s roof. “I know helping each other with execution isn’t part of our pact,” Wit had said at lunch, “but since you’re having dinner tonight, it seems like a prime time.”

I had hesitated at first. Yes, elimination assistance wasn’t what we’d agreed upon—just sharing intel, information, and potential threats. The end. Setting an actual snare together meant we’d immediately be labeled accomplices. My friends would be pissed.

But…

“I’ll open the window for you,” I’d told him once he’d explained his plan. “That’s it. I will open the window so you know which room it is, but that’s all.” I thought for a moment. “You also can’t do anything until I’m hanging out with everyone again. I can’t have this traced back to me.”

Now I sat on the bedroom’s cozy window seat and waited—waited for Wit to come sprinting into sight, pretending to be on his second run of the day. And when he did, he waved at the corn huskers and whoever else in my family had migrated out to the porch. “Witty!” I heard Michael call as I pushed the window open, praying his booming voice muffled the squeaking. Its hinges needed to be oiled. “On another tear, huh?”

Impartial, Michael! I thought. Don’t give anyone any ideas!

Wearing headphones, Wit simply smiled and waved again. He didn’t stop to chat; if anything, he picked up his pace. I took that as my cue to book it back downstairs, knowing Wit planned to race out of view but then loop around and sneak through the side door.

Which I was about to prop open with one of Honey’s painted rocks so no one would hear those hinges squeak either. They needed to be oiled, too. Pretty much all the door hinges on The Farm needed to be oiled, except for Lantern House. Aunt Christine kept on top of little things like that.

Wit raised an eyebrow when he found me standing in the doorway. “I thought you said no colluding,” he said, pulling out his earbuds and giving me a half smile, half smirk. “Doesn’t waiting here seem like colluding?”

I chose to ignore that comment. “Where’s your weapon?” I asked instead, very quietly. “Your water bottle?”

“Everyone knows I used it on Isabel,” he replied, even more quietly. “I couldn’t exactly run past a family of Foxes with it. It’d raise suspicions.”

“So?” I said. “What now?”

Wit pulled his tiny pink squirt gun from the side of his shorts. “Now get out there.” He motioned to the front of the house. “Let’s stick to our plan.”

Your plan,” I corrected.

Our plan,” he said with a wink and then was gone.

I rolled my eyes and tried to pull off a casual walk outside. Michael and Sarah were in the hammock, talking with Aunt Christine about wedding details (and wisely sipping cocktails), Honey was adjusting the place settings on the long porch table, and luckily, it looked like my little cousins and Kate hadn’t made much progress with the corn. They were sitting together on the porch’s wide steps, which was the best Wit could hope for; they weren’t under the cover of the roof.

But while I was gone, Peter had handed Nell back off to Kate. Nope, I thought, moving forward. No babies allowed in the line of fire.

“Oh, thank you, Meredith,” Kate said when I swept Nell out of her arms. “We forgot her bottle, so Peter ran back to Lantern to grab it.” She turned and smiled at Ethan and Hannah. “Now we can really get cracking on these. Watch me, Epstein-Foxes.”

This side of the Big House faced the water, but I settled in the grass with Nell in my lap and my back to the million-dollar view.

Because the billion-dollar view had begun. Pretending to watch my cousins learn to husk corn, I kept flicking my gaze up to the second floor, where Wit was now carefully maneuvering himself through the window and out onto the shingled rooftop. He stood there for a second, as if to take a deep breath, then dropped to his knees. When we made accidental eye contact, he blew me a kiss…and I swear I felt it hit my cheek, a light tickle followed by a rush of heat.

Shit, I thought, worrying someone would notice.

But it appeared everyone was oblivious, especially Wit’s target. “No, wait a sec, Han,” Kate was saying. “You gotta make sure you get all the silk.” She took Hannah’s piece of corn and demonstrated, tugging off the rest of the threadlike fibers. “Like this, see?”

Now Wit was doing a slow army crawl down the roof, pink squirt gun in hand. He’d move several inches, maybe a foot, then pause and listen to make sure all was still good. My heart was hammering when he stopped at the gutter line, lying on his stomach with Kate directly in his crosshairs. He was in position.

I felt giggles rising, but I forced myself to swallow them. No way could I ruin our plan. It was too freaking good.

But Kate didn’t feel the first squirt, still absorbed in Ethan and Hannah husking the corn.

So Wit squirted her again.

This time, her hand went to the back of her neck. She thinks she’s imagining it, I thought. Those tiny guns were as subtle as you could get with their water stream.

Wit obviously knew this, too, the side of his mouth quirking as he sprayed Kate a third time. He wasn’t going to announce himself as her assassin; he wanted her to discover him.

Kate rubbed her neck again, looked up at the blue sky, and then over at me. “Is it my new-mom brain,” she said, “or is there a sun shower happening? I feel this mist—”

Wit ambushed her. Squirt, squirt, squirt!

“Are you kidding me?” She sprang from the steps and turned to see him on the roof. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“What?” Peter came banging out of the house with Nell’s bottle in hand. “What happened?”

“My stepbrother assassinated your wife,” Michael said, now standing next to me in the grass. He smiled proudly, so not impartial. “That’s what happened.”

“No.” Peter shook his head and looked up to see Wit spinning the water gun around on his index finger. So obnoxious, but I couldn’t control the laughter that bubbled out of me. “No,” Peter repeated as Wink, Honey, and everyone else came out to see what was happening. “No, he didn’t, because ‘outside’ means at least ten feet away from a door.” He gestured from the screen door to the steps. “There is no way that’s ten feet.”

Kate nodded. “Not a chance.”

“I don’t know.” Aunt Julia eyed the distance. “It could be.”

“Hmm, Jules might be right,” Uncle Brad weighed in. “As much as I don’t want to agree with her—”

Aunt Julia rolled her eyes. “Shut up, Brad.”

“Hey, hey.” My dad tried to mediate like the middle child he was.

Michael and Sarah exchanged a look while Peter and Kate kept insisting the steps were only seven or eight feet from the door. Nine, tops.

Still on the roof, Wit shifted into an intimidating crouch. “Okay,” he said coolly, jutting out his chin a little. “Then let’s get a measuring tape.”

“Gladly!” Wink clapped his hands, beaming because of the disagreement.

It was his favorite part of being an Assassin commissioner.

And thus, the investigation commenced.

“Kate, dear,” Honey said once Wink disappeared inside, “please sit back down exactly where you were when Wit shot you…”

Kate sighed and took a seat on the porch’s top step.

“That’s not—” I started to say, but then Ethan chimed in from below.

“No, Kate.” He shook his head. “You were sitting down here with me and Hannah, remember? Teaching us to husk corn?”

Yeah, I thought, watching Kate reluctantly move to the bottom step. Take that.

Wit was now whistling to himself, seemingly not concerned in the slightest. Part of me wondered if he’d snuck over here to measure out the distance earlier today.

Wink reemerged from the house. “Okay, here we are.”

“How much?” I heard Uncle Brad mutter to my dad. “Ten flat?” “Ten and a half,” my dad muttered back.

“Twenty bucks?” “Deal.”

They fist-bumped.

Wink extended the tape measure from the house’s threshold to the back of his granddaughter-in-law’s neck. “Well?” Kate’s voice was shrill.

“What’s the verdict, Wink?” Peter asked.

I held my breath as my grandfather squinted to make out the measurement. “I think I need my glasses,” he said after a second. “Honey, could you—”

Everyone groaned, knowing he was joking. Wink didn’t wear glasses.

“Ten and a quarter,” he announced. “Ten feet and a quarter!” The tape measure snapped shut. “It’s a legitimate kill!”

“Boom!” Wit shouted from above and then proceeded to shimmy down one of the porch columns all the way to the ground. He went up to Kate and smiled at her. “Good to meet you, Kate. I’m Wit.”

“I know,” she said through clenched teeth, digging around in her pocket and producing her target slip. She handed it over with a grumble. “Best of luck.”

“Thanks.” Wit slipped the piece of paper into his own pocket, then saluted us. “I’ll get out of your way now. Enjoy your dinner.”

I caught Honey looking at Wink, and he replied with a nod. “Wait a moment, Wit,” my grandmother said. “Why don’t you stay? We have plenty of food, and as long you don’t mind a tight fit at the table…”

“A tight fit meaning you’d be sitting on the stool,” Sarah translated and gestured to the table. Since there were so many of us, it was a mishmash of outdoor furniture, kitchen chairs, a bench from the mudroom decoupaged with family photos, and at one corner of the table, a tall wooden stool. The infamously uncomfortable stool.

Claire had always volunteered to sit there.

“Oh,” Wit said. “That’s really nice of you.” He ran a hand through his hair like he was worried about intruding. “But—”

Michael stepped in and shook his stepbrother’s shoulders, then covered Wit’s mouth with a hand. “He’d love to stay, Honey,” he said. “Thank you for inviting him.”

“Yes,” Wit echoed after his stepbrother removed his hand. He elbowed Michael in the ribs. Both of them grinned. “Thank you for inviting me.”

* * *

Sure enough, Wit got stuck with the stool. Wink and Honey settled at the head and foot of the table, while I took my usual seat: the antique Edgartown Yacht Club captain’s chair from Wink’s small study. It happened to be right next to Wit. Claire’s stool stood taller than my chair, tall enough for Wit to eat with his knees if such a thing were possible. “I take it this is the seat of honor?” he said after he noticed me staring at him.

“Yeah,” was all I said, my voice a whisper.

“Well, I’m very honored,” he said back, whispering, too.

I forced a smile before picking at my salad; I’d never been a salad fan. Claire hadn’t either. “Rabbit food,” we used to call it and would always order soup over salad in restaurants.

Across the table, Sarah noticed me pushing around the lettuce, and even though she’d prepared the salad, she laughed. “Not inspiring enough for you, Mer?” she asked, every other conversation falling silent. My cousin’s sparkling laugh was impossible to ignore. If she laughed, you wanted to know why.

“No, no,” I said, shaking my head. “It’s good…really, uh, fresh.” I looked at Michael. “The cucumbers are a nice touch.”

Sarah leaned forward to grin at me. “Liar.” Then she straightened to address the entire table. “Claire did the funniest thing in New Orleans,” she said, smile now bittersweet. “We took her to one of our favorite restaurants for dinner with a bunch of people, and she was so overwhelmed by the menu that she let someone order for her…”

I put down my fork, appetite gone. It’s this place called Basin, my sister had said during our last text conversation. Sarah says it’s in the Garden District, but

afterward she and her friends are giving me the grand tour of the French Quarter! Bourbon Street! How jealous are you?

The French Quarter was the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, and

Bourbon Street was famous for its nightlife. Jazz clubs, bright lights, and bars with crazy cocktails. Our cousin was helping Claire celebrate New Year’s and her early acceptance to Tulane while I was stuck at home.

Ridiculously jealous, I’d texted back. Why aren’t I there?!

“Danielle had no clue about the salad thing,” Sarah told us, now in full storytelling mode, “and of course Claire was too polite to tell her.”

Most of the table laughed. “Our sweet Claire,” Honey said as I stole a glance at my parents. They were listening with pleasant expressions, but I

noticed my dad had put a hand on my mom’s shoulder. She kissed his fingers.

Sarah kept speaking. “So after inhaling her appetizer, the crawdad mac ’n‘ cheese—amazing—the oyster Caesar salad arrives, and I swear she didn’t take a single bite. She pretended. I forget who she was sitting next to…” She thought for a second, then shook her head. “But Michael and I watched her move her knife and fork around her plate, all the while keeping up a conversation with whomever. She was talking so much that they didn’t notice she hadn’t chewed or swallowed anything.” She giggled. “When the server came and collected our plates, it really looked like she’d eaten most of it!”

Again, laughter circled the table. My heart was aching. Do they not know? I wondered as I felt Wit shift next to me, probably uncomfortable on the stool. Are they pretending? Or do they truly not realize the timing?

“Rabbit food,” Sarah added, nudging my foot with hers under the table. “That’s what she told me right after we left. She said you two secretly call salad rabbit food.”

“Well, it’s not much of a secret anymore,” I tried to joke, but it came off as cold and deadpan…because I knew what had happened next.

Everything turned to white noise as I remembered my phone buzzing at 3:00 a.m. that night eighteen months ago. Somehow, I’d answered without opening my eyes. “Hello?” I said groggily, only to hear Michael at the other end of the line.

“Meredith, Meredith,” he said quickly. “Your parents. I’ve been calling your parents. Where are your parents?”

I yawned. “Knocked out asleep. We had a party, and my dad made his famous margaritas—”

Michael cut me off. “Please wake them up.” “What?”

“Wake them up!” His voice was frantic; he didn’t sound like Sarah’s composed fiancé at all. “Sarah,” he said. “My Sarah, and Claire.” He wavered like he was crying. “Claire…”

At the mention of my sister’s name, I snapped to attention, throwing back my covers and racing down our dark hallway to my parents’ room. “Mom!” I flicked on the lights. “Dad!”

My mom screamed after I handed her the phone, and even though I couldn’t hear what Michael was saying, I knew.

Claire is dead, I thought, falling to my knees with tears already rushing down my face. My sister is dead.

It had been a drunk driving accident. One cocktail had been enough for Claire during her Bourbon Street bar crawl, but apparently Sarah was three sheets to the wind, so she had handed my sister her keys. “You be my chauffeur!” Sarah had said. “I’ll even sit in the back!”

Together, they’d made it back to my cousin’s car, which was parallel parked right outside the French Quarter. Claire was a capable and careful driver, always double-checking everything before going anywhere, even if it was just pulling out of our driveway.

But that night, she didn’t get the chance to adjust the mirrors and assess her surroundings. Claire had buckled her seat belt, turned to check that Sarah had buckled hers, and then had barely put the key into the ignition before a massive SUV came hurtling out of nowhere and smashed into them. The driver’s BAC was three times the legal limit.

Sarah suffered several broken bones, a serious concussion, and was left with scars.

But my sister was killed instantly. Instantly.

The next day, my parents were on the first flight to New Orleans, but I stayed home, absolutely petrified. Ben came over, and I hugged him and cried until Wink and Honey arrived. “Sweetie,” my grandmother said, and

while I expected her to say more, she didn’t. She bit her lip and blinked back her own tears. Because really, what was there to say?

Claire was gone.

Now I felt my eyes stinging and Wit’s hand on my back, a few fingertips subtly and smoothly brushing through my hair. He intuitively knew I needed steadying. I wanted to reach for some part of him, too, even if it was only his T-shirt hem. But before I could, I heard my name. “Meredith!”

Luli was climbing the porch steps and waving her phone. “Why haven’t you been responding in the chat?”

“Because we don’t allow phones at dinner,” Wink answered for me. He motioned to the table, its centerpiece a tower of iPhones. “Family time.”

“Oh, understood.” Luli nodded, then refocused on me. “Your target—”

“Don’t worry, Luli.” It was Aunt Julia who spoke this time. “We all know who Meredith’s target is.” We made eye contact, a twinkle in hers. “No need for secrecy.”

Luli’s cheeks pinkened, realizing my aunt knew about our “shuffling the deck” strategy. “Anyway”—Luli cleared her throat—“apparently your target is in Edgartown, and Pravika thinks you can get them. Like, tonight.” “Wait, what?” I asked and looked at Wink before getting up from the

table.

He nodded. Permission granted.

“Daniel Robinson is in Edgartown with his girlfriend,” Luli repeated once we were alone in the kitchen. “Jake scooped their ice cream at Mad Martha’s, and Pravika is predicting they’ll visit her at Murdick’s next.”

“Okay,” I said. “Let me think a second.”

Daniel Robinson—this morning, Jake and I had joked that he was a John Doe, but after my dad had eliminated Pravika, she had appointed herself lead researcher for our alliance. I’d received a text earlier saying that Daniel was staying in Moor House, and an Instagram picture had also been included of him with Michael’s younger sister, Nicole. Of course I already

knew those details. Wit had also told me that Daniel was studying to be a marine biologist, so I was planning to off him by the Oyster Pond under the guise of showing him the horseshoe crabs. Understated but artful.

But now…I could get him now? Claire would get him now.

“All right,” I said to Luli. “Tell Eli to get the Jeep, and meet me outside the Annex.”

Because Claire would also say this mission called for the Super Soaker.

I took a deep breath and returned to the porch after Luli confirmed the plan with Eli. “Can you guys save me some pie?” I asked. “I’ve gotta take care of business.”

“Sure, sweetie,” Honey said at the same time Uncle Brad and Dad went, “No promises!”

I rolled my eyes and turned to Wit, still on the stool. Are you coming? I almost said, but then I remembered that we weren’t collaborating. Today had been a one-time thing. We weren’t known accomplices.

“I’ll save you a slice of strawberry rhubarb,” he told me when I’d looked at him too long, and I grinned in response, knowing that meant Good luck.

* * *

“Meredith!” Eli shouted. “Everything all right?”

We were speeding down Paqua’s driveway in Wink’s battered old Jeep, the car we had all learned to drive when we were still years away from getting our actual licenses. It had no roof and no doors, so the wind raged all around us. I was doubled over in the front seat with my eyes squeezed shut, hugging the neon-colored Super Soaker to my chest. Slow down, I thought, stomach in knots. Please slow down…

“Faster, Eli!” I heard Luli call from the back seat. “Pravika’s saying they walked into Murdick’s!”

The Jeep didn’t slow down until we rolled into Edgartown proper, with its white clapboard and cedar-shingled houses, the Old Whaling Church, the brick sidewalks, and the yacht club down by the water. Tonight, town was teeming with people wandering in and out of stores and licking ice cream cones. We could hear laughter from Alchemy Restaurant’s balcony. I used to think of it as our balcony, since the Foxes always celebrated big birthdays there. The last one had been Claire’s eighteenth. I’d made her wear this obnoxious light-up tiara. She was gorgeous.

“Okay, unbuckle,” Luli said once Eli turned onto North Water and we passed Mad Martha’s Ice Cream. Murdick’s Fudge was two doors up the street. “Unbuckle your seat—”

“Oh my god!” Eli interrupted, head spinning over his shoulder. “There he is!”

“Who?!” Luli and I said. “Daniel?!”

“No, the man of my dreams!” He craned his neck further, and the Jeep suddenly swerved. My heart did, too. “He’s back there, in the seersucker tie and blue blazer!”

“Eli, the road!” I punched his arm. “The road! Focus on the road!”

“Meredith!” Luli leaned forward and pointed to the Murdick’s storefront, where Nicole Dupré and the aforementioned Daniel Robinson had pushed through the doors, hefty white fudge bag in hand (I admit my mouth watered as I wondered what flavors they’d chosen). The couple looked like they were going to continue up the sidewalk, but then, lucky for us, they decided to jaywalk to the jewelry store across the street.

The rest happened in about three seconds:

Eli slowed the car to a crawl.

I unbuckled my seat belt and, before thinking twice, shot up into a standing position.

“Hey!” Luli shouted as I situated my water gun over the Jeep’s windshield. “Daniel!”

Daniel glanced over at us, at the Super Soaker now aimed straight at him.

His eyes widened. “Run, Dan!” Nicole pretty much shoved him. “Run!” But it was too late.

“Watch this, Claire,” I whispered and pulled the trigger.

* * *

Somehow there was plenty of pie left by the time we made it back to the Farm. I’d insisted on driving home, so I pulled the Jeep straight up to the Big House, right in front of the porch. “How’d it go?” my mom asked while I looked for Wit. His stool was empty.

“Bloody brilliant,” Luli said in her best British accent. “It was like something out of a James Bond movie.”

We ended up reenacting the takedown for everyone, casting Sarah and Michael in the roles of Nicole and Daniel. “She won’t stop texting me,” Michael said afterward when checking his phone. He turned to Wink. “She’s saying it’s not a valid kill because it happened in town, not here.”

Wink chuckled. It was his second decree of the day. “Remind her of the three rules, Michael.” He served himself more peach pie. “One, game play is twenty-four hours a day.” He plopped a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. “Two, all eliminations must occur outdoors.” He took a big forkful. “And three—”

“Nothing is to interfere with wedding events,” Aunt Christine finished for him. She sipped her wine. “Meredith’s takedown in no way conflicts with those parameters. There’s technically nothing that restricts Assassin activity beyond Paqua property lines.”

Honey patted my aunt’s hand. “You’re going to make a wonderful commissioner one day.”

Aunt Christine smiled.

Michael bit his lip as he tapped a text back to his sister and let out a deep sigh when she responded. “She still doesn’t think it’s fair,” he reported, “but

Daniel says he’ll drop his target off in the Annex’s mailbox later tonight.” He coughed. “Lots of angry emojis, too.”

We laughed. “Everyone better watch out,” Aunt Julia said. “Day one isn’t even over and Mer has two kills under her belt. She’s a threat.”

“Wait, two?” Luli’s eyebrows knitted together. “I thought Daniel was your first target? You didn’t mention anyone else at tubing.”

There was a beat of silence, my cheeks warming with shame. Why hadn’t I told my friends? They were my alliance! “Well, um, I also eliminated Aunt Rachel,” I said. “Early this morning.”

“While I was meditating,” Aunt Rachel added, definitely to defuse the tension. “I didn’t even see her coming and asked her to keep it quiet for a while.” She kissed Aunt Julia’s cheek. “I didn’t want to disappoint Julia so soon.”

“Oh,” Luli said. “So you weren’t really on a run with Michael and Wit.” I shook my head.

“But speaking of Wit,” Uncle Brad said, “he’s another one to keep an eye on—he did double duty today, too.” He gave us a look. “And that move earlier…”

“What move earlier?” Luli asked.

Kate, as the victim, took it upon herself to explain, and when we were walking home long past sunset, my dad brought it up again. “It was so clever,” he said, “and the execution was excellent. I wonder if he’s working with anyone…” He trailed off, and I felt him give me some serious side-eye. “I mean, how did he know? How did he know that we were having dinner tonight?”

My mom laughed. “Tom, everyone knew we were having dinner tonight!” “Okay,” he conceded, “but what about everything else? How’d he know that Kate would be outside and that Uncle Richard’s bedroom window was the perfect point of entry?” He sucked in a breath through his teeth as we

reached the Annex. “Brad’s right, the kid’s dangerous.”

“He doesn’t like being called kid,” I murmured. “What was that, Mer?”

“Nothing,” I said, then paused. My dad was holding open the screen door for me, but I didn’t want to go inside yet. Especially when I thought about sleeping in the bunk room alone…

It was silent and suffocating. “Meredith?”

I blinked. “I’m going to go out for a while,” I said, even though it was nearly midnight. “To, you know, hang out.”

My dad waved his hand across the horizon, his way of saying, Do what you will! I was eighteen; there weren’t any Farm rules for me anymore.

“Have fun!” my mom said after I’d checked the mailbox for my new target. She probably thought I was going to the circle of tents to be with my friends. Eli’s Nylon Condo Complex.

Which wasn’t entirely off base. I was going to see a friend. Just not one sleeping in a tent.

* * *

The Cabin was dark, the groomsmen definitely still partying in Oak Bluffs with the bridesmaids. Sarah and Michael had left the Big House to go meet up with them, but Wit…

I headed for the last room in the row, and once I saw light seeping through its blinds, I pulled open the door to see Wit in bed. He was under the covers reading what looked like a travel guide to New Zealand, but it fell from his hands when the door’s hinges announced my arrival. “Jesus, lady!” he said. “Ever heard of knocking?”

“Apologies, my lord,” I said, smiling. “But there is no knocking on Paqua Farm.”

Then I did a goofy curtsy.

Wit laughed and beckoned me over to his bed. “This is the second time you’ve been in my chambers today,” he commented when I joined him. He closed the New Zealand book and handed me the ice pack on his nightstand. “Come to tend to my wounds?”

“Yes, indeed.” I humored him by pressing the pack against his bruise, snorting when he moaned melodramatically. “Remember,” I told him, “your portrait is being painted come the end of this week!”

Wit smirked. “So what’s up? More target talk? I saw the video of you nailing Daniel.”

I raised an eyebrow. “There’s a video?”

He nodded. “Your friend Pravika took it, I guess. It’s all over Instagram.” “Hashtag HurrayShesADupré.”

“Quite.”

I smiled and shook my head at him.

@sowitty17.

“What’s up?” he asked again.

The corners of my eyes prickled. “I want to tell you something,” I said, my voice shaking some. “But you have to swear not to tell anyone.”

Wit was quiet.

My heart hammered. “Okay?”

“Okay.” He nodded and held out his pinkie. “I swear.”

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