Jack was in the basement entertainment room playing video games with some of the guys at the party when Lacey suddenly toppled over the back of the couch and landed in his lap.
She was completely topless except for a blue bra.
He jumped up without thinking, and she tumbled to the floor.
She squirmed, trying to roll over like a turtle that had found itself on its back. Jack quickly pulled off his sweatshirt and helped her to her feet as he draped it around her shoulders. He hustled her around to the back of the couch where the other boys couldn’t see her.
“Hey, what are you doing?” she asked, smacking away his hands as they tried to zip the sweatshirt.
“You can’t just run around in a—” He looked around to make sure none of the other girls in the room would overhear him saying the taboo word aloud. “—bra.”
“Well, why not? Chalice let me borrow it. It’s called a push-up. Don’t my boobs look huge in it?” She squished her chin against her neck so she could peer down at them. “They’re like cantaloupes!”
Jack looked away as any gentlemen would. “Lacey, please just zip the sweatshirt.”
He turned to Ace and Vivienne for help, but they were too engrossed in their pool game with two other girls to notice what was happening. He turned back to Lacey, but his eyes met her chest and he looked away again.
He needed to convince her to zip up the sweatshirt.
“Lacey, how about we make a deal?”
“What kind of deal?” she asked suspiciously.
“If you zip up the sweatshirt, I’ll . . . I’ll buy you a new goldfish.”
“And you can name it whatever you want.”
Jack heard her zip up the sweatshirt, but he checked out of the corner of his eye first for good measure before facing her. “I’ll get it tomorrow. It’s too late now. None of the pet stores will be open.”
She held out her pinky to him. “You have to promise.”
Jack looped his pinky with hers. “I promise.”
“And you know what happens if you break a pinky promise, don’t you?” she asked. “You die.”
Jack’s expression must have been shocked because she laughed.
“I’m just kidding,” she said. “But do you think I could come with you to the pet store? I have to make sure you pick out the right one.”
Jack wasn’t sure if there was such thing as a right goldfish, but he didn’t see the problem in letting her come. “Sure.”
“Guess how many drinks I had.”
Well, alright then. “How many?”
Snickering, she held up five fingers. “Have you ever heard of Schnapps? That’s what one of the boys upstairs gave me. It tasted like peaches.”
“Okay, how about no more alcohol for you then?”
“You know what,” she said.
Oh, God, Jack thought. Here we go.
“I wish I could fly,” Lacey told him. “Do you think witches ever get sad because they can’t actually fly on broomsticks?”
Jack laughed, and shook his head. “I don’t know. Why don’t you ask one?”
“I think they do. Because I would, if I were a witch.”
“Would you give up running fast to fly?”
Lacey considered it, and then she opened her mouth to reply. She never did though because instead her eyes went wide and she clamped a hand over her mouth. She darted for the bathroom, and the door banged open against the wall.
It swung shut behind her, but didn’t close all the way. Jack ran after her as soon as he heard the retching and coughing, waving away Ace and Vivienne, who had finally looked up from their game when Lacey had gone by.
“Lacey?” He eased the door tentatively open.
She was on her knees in front of the toilet, one hand clutched to her stomach as the other tried to hold back her hair. She’d missed a few strands though, and they dangled in front of her face.
Jack saw her heave and grabbed all of her hair, including the strands she’d missed, as she was sick once more. He rubbed his free hand in soothing circles against her back as she whimpered and sniffled and spat over the edge of the toilet seat.
Lacey sat back.
“You done?” Jack asked.
She nodded, and he reached his hand around to flush the toilet. He tucked her hair behind her ears and ripped a few pieces of toilet paper off the roll on the wall. He wiped at Lacey’s face, and she continued to sniffle.
“I don’t even like peaches,” she moaned.
“Neither do I.”
“Did I get anything on your sweatshirt?” She couldn’t look down because he was still wiping her face.
Jack shook his head. “No, the sweatshirt is fine.”
“Okay. Thanks for letting me borrow it,” she whispered. “It’s really soft.”
“You’re welcome. Now why don’t we get you upstairs, and you can take a nice shower and then go to bed?”
Lacey nodded several times. She clung to the sink as she pulled herself up, but as soon as she let go, her legs gave out. Jack caught her before she could hit the floor. Her grays eyes stared up at him miserably.
Jack bent and scooped her up into his arms.
She was light as a feather and fit snugly against his chest. Her long dark hair fell across her like a silky blanket. He’d never noticed how pretty she was until then.
“You don’t have to do this,” she mumbled, but it didn’t sound very convincing.
“Just imagine that you’re flying,” Jack told her, and a fragile smile formed on her pale lips.
He didn’t think of Shay once as he carried her up to her room.
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