Sage Czinski is trying really hard to be perfect. If she manages it, people won’t peer beyond the surface, or ask hard questions about her past. She’s learned to substitute causes for relationships, and it’s working just fine… until Shane Cavendish strolls into her math class. He’s a little antisocial, a lot beautiful, and everything she never knew she always wanted.
Shane Cavendish just wants to be left alone to play guitar and work on his music. He’s got heartbreak and loneliness in his rearview mirror, and this new school represents his last chance. He doesn’t expect to be happy; he only wants to graduate and move on. He never counted on a girl like Sage.
But love doesn’t mend all broken things, and sometimes life has to fall apart before it can be put back together again…
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Mustering all my courage, I tap lightly on the door. Immediately, I hear movement inside and I brace for one of his parents to yell at me. Instead, Shane cracks the door, then freezes, staring at me in utter astonishment. The first thing I notice is that he has a second bruise, a newer one, to match the black eye Dylan gave him a few days back. And he didn't get it at school.
“What're you doing here?” he demands.
Yeah, he's not happy. I decide only absolute honesty will serve. “I was worried about you. And I brought your homework.”
“Thanks.” His anger blurs into confusion. Shane looks like he can't decide what he wants to ask next, a series of questions flickering on his face, but eventually he steps back. “You may as well come in, now that you're here.”
Inside, it's cleaner than I expected. The kitchen has old linoleum and there's scratched paneling all over the place. Everything is worn, old-fashioned, and threadbare, but somebody looks after this place. I'd bet money that person is Shane. A small living room adjoins the kitchen. I imagine there's a bath down the hall, which ends in two small bedrooms.
“Your parents won't mind?” I ask, stepping in.
“My mom's gone. And my dad isn't here.”
By which I presume 'gone' means for good and 'not here' indicates at the moment. So he lives with his father, who's probably the one who messed up his face. Otherwise, he doesn't seem sick, so he must've skipped to hide the evidence. I close the door behind me, then dig into my backpack. First I produce his list of assignments, as promised. Next, I get out the drinks and food I brought, not much, just some chicken soup sealed in a cup, bottles of juice, and two pieces of fruit. He watches with an expression of blank astonishment.
Finally, he gestures. “Is that for me?”
“The soup and juice are. And the orange. I thought you were sick.”
“God,” he whispers. “What am I supposed to do with you?”
I try a smile. “I hope that's a rhetorical question.”
“Seriously, how did you find me? And why did you ride all the way out here?” His jaw ticks and he glances away. I barely hear his last mumbled question. “Why do you care when nobody else does?”
About Ann Aguirre:
Ann Aguirre is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author and RITA winner with a degree in English Literature; before she began writing full time, she was a clown, a clerk, a voice actress, and a savior of stray kittens, not necessarily in that order. She grew up in a yellow house across from a cornfield, but now she lives in sunny Mexico with her husband, children, and various pets. Ann likes books, emo music, action movies, and she writes all kinds of genre fiction for adults and teens, published with Harlequin, Macmillan, and Penguin, among others.