Chapter One


She heard him climbing up the trellis and arose from her bed to open the window for him. A slight fog was rolling in over the backyard as lazily as the smile rolled onto his face. He ably climbed over the sill into her room.

"I think I saw a ghost," he said in a raspy voice just above a whisper. Reaching out, he pinched one of her face-framing strawberry blond ringlets between his fingers and held it for a moment, staring into her face with a vaguely intimidating expression.

Garnet ducked her face bashfully and slapped his hand away aggressively.

"A ghost?" She repeated. "What kind of stupid joke is that?"

"I went by Port's place, and there's some chick standing out on his porch," Declan stated, and sat on the bed, immediately making Garnet tense. "Wearing a goddamn white nightgown I could practically see the goodies through. Her face was just as white and she was holding onto a baby. I don't know if she saw me. At the time, I didn't want her to." He went from sitting to lying on Garnet's bed, stretching out and grabbing one of her pillows, nuzzling his face into it.

"I was afraid she'd tell me there was a killer in the house and I'd have to save them," he continued, voice slightly muffled by the pillow. "Except, see, they actually died two hundred years ago."

"Yeah, that baby's my new little cousin," Garnet said in a clipped voice. She watched Declan with a mixture of irritation and curiosity. "You don't remember me telling you about that? And the slutty chick in the nightgown is Port's rescue. You know, the one who got him the lake house by getting knocked up?"

Declan rolled over onto his back and shrugged. "Now, remember I don't care about your family that much. So don't get carried away with the venting."

Garnet's hands clenched into fists, hating the conflicted emotions he always caused in her. He didn't give a damn about any of the issues affecting her life. He only cared about one thing. And that one thing was...

She shivered.

Declan noticed. Surprisingly enough.

"You cold?" he asked.

She wasn't. She actually felt a flush at his words- coming over her face, and maybe through her chest.

"A little," she lied with a shrug.

"Then you'd better shut that window," Declan laughed. "Dumbass," he added, and yawned. She watched him close his eyes before she walked over to the window and noisily closed it to make a point, momentarily forgetting about her parents sleeping two rooms away.

"Careful," Declan reminded her without opening his eyes, as if reading her mind.

"What are you doing?" Garnet hissed, approaching the bed and smacking one of his ugly stained sneakers. "You can't sleep here. What, did the Lord lock you out? Is that your game?"

"Oh, I'm perpetually locked out of the Lord's house," laughed Declan. "But my uncle isn't even back yet."

Garnet bit her lip and sat down gingerly at the end of the bed. She began stroking Declan's legs. "Why don't we get to the point? I thought we were know..." She trailed off suggestively.

He opened his eyes, and sat up, pulling his legs away from her in the process.

"Oh, wow," he muttered after a slight hesitation. "Really?" He chuckled and shook his head. "Really? Jeez, have you ever got a one track mind," he said tauntingly. "How you gonna have a Vitamin D deficiency like that? Now, I usually keep you hooked up pretty good, don't I? But I said I wanted to talk tonight, Gary. Talk."

Garnet was seething. If she wasn't afraid of making a racket that would wake up the parentals, she would kick his ass for talking to her like that. Was he serious? Did he really view her as some kind of desperate creature? She had plenty of options, thank you very much.

Even if I am dying to make this jerkwad mine, Garnet thought to herself furiously, the physical side isn't the main part of it. In fact, I'd prefer a little less of that and a lot more actual dates. Or any dates...

"Talk? What could we possibly have to talk about? You and I don't talk," she retorted with a hair flip, intentionally letting the resent that she felt fill her voice. She wondered if he could guess why she sounded so annoyed. Probably not. Every single relationship hint there was or ever could be was too subtle for guys.

"So you don't want to go with me, then?" he asked, his voice a lilting tease.

"Go? Go where?" Garnet arched an eyebrow. Sometimes it honestly seemed like these powers Declan held over her were occult, and, well, they were definitely on point tonight. It was as though he could guess everything she was thinking. That was a first. Normally, he only knew how to keep her obsessed with him. If he could now see inside her head, too... see what she really wanted... Garnet couldn't decide if that would be a relief or terrifying.

"It's about the Lord, actually. He's coming back home this weekend," Declan scooted down the bed and dangled his long legs over the end. He was speaking rapidly now, excited about something.

Garnet moved to the side so she could watch his profile through her gauzy silvery bed curtains. It painted a dramatic picture she could just get lost in.

"You can't tell anyone about this, Gary."

"Don't call me that," Garnet complained. "And what can't I tell? That Doug's back in town? So what? He lives here- at least part of the time. He's always leaving and coming back."

Does he owe people money here now, too? And he doesn't want anyone to know he's back because he doesn't want anyone coming after him?

That's what Garnet's dad, Arnie Gibson, corporate lawyer extraordinaire and the height of respectability, would say. Garnet's dad hated financial irresponsibility. He and her mom had never liked or trusted 'Lord' Douglas Hubbard. And, well, Declan's uncle did seem like kind of a bum.

"No. Not that he's back. Just... don't tell anyone, Gary, you can't, or so help you... Don't tell anyone that when he gets back, he wants to talk to me about a job."

"A job?" Garnet raised an eyebrow yet again, utterly confused. She watched Declan's silhouette push a hand anxiously through his dark bushy hair. "Is that it?" She snorted. "I doubt anyone would care. What kind of a job is it? Are you sure you want a job right now? I mean, everyone else around here will be enjoying the last summer they have before they go to college. Or take their gap year, like me. Well, I guess Port just has a shitty entry-level job, but that's because he's an idiot and- "

"Garnet," Declan loudly whispered, her name cutting across her speech. "Are you sure about that gap year?"

"Huh? Yeah, of course I am," Garnet responded, startled. "Starting with the traditional backpacking around Europe this summer. I'm leaving next week. It's all planned out."

"Are you excited?" Declan asked. Was he trying to say 'excited' in such an... exciting way?

She came around to sit down beside him, purposely letting their thighs brush. It had been a frustrated type of movement, the act of plopping down as though out of exhaustion. In all honesty, she felt pretty wired. She was preemptively annoyed at whatever he was about to spring on her.

And she was upset at herself because, when he'd asked her if she was sure about her trip, it had immediately occurred to her, as it had before, that she was really going to miss him over the summer if she went away.

"Duh," was all she said simply, in response to his question.

"Even though you've already been there?"

Garnet almost bursted out laughing. "Yeah, because all of Europe's the kind of place you only go to once. Been there, done that."

If you had any money, you could come with me, Declan, and not worry about getting some stupid summer job.

"But you can still come with me and hear him out," Declan protested. He stood up, seeming agitated.

"I didn't have to invite you, but the Lord told me I could bring someone, and I kind of got the idea that maybe he wanted me, to, like, at least try to make an effort to have someone else there to hear him out..." he rambled on, pacing to the window and gesturing all around with his hands.

"I'm not going to work for your shady uncle, Declan. Getting into legal trouble for him does not sound like an appealing alternative to Europe," Garnet warned, sticking out her chin imperiously.

Bathed in the pool of moonlight shining in from her window, Declan aimed a glare her way. "Don't call my uncle names, Gary. You don't know anything. I feel like we've fought enough over you calling him a crook and dumb shit like that. Doug wouldn't have us do anything wrong. He's a good guy. Just because he might be a little eccentric, people have to gossip about him? He would never want me to do anything risky, but even if he did...why would I? I'm not sticking my neck out for anybody who obviously doesn't care about me."

Garnet looked down at her feet. She needed a pedicure. Her toenail polish was chipping.

And Declan made a halfway decent point. Even if he couldn't make her entirely trust 'Lord' Doug, it made her feel better that Declan wasn't going to go ahead and get himself wrapped up in something that could ruin him. Still...

"Okay, okay, Declan, I'm sorry. But...I still don't want a job with your uncle. Law-abiding or not. Why work this summer when I can play?" She moved over to stand next to him, just a little too close.

His eyes- guarded as ever- found hers. "Extra money..."

Garnet smirked and shook her head. "I don't need the money."

Declan snorted and his lip curled. "No, of course not. What was I thinking? Well, fine, then. You don't actually have to take him up on his offer, but maybe you could at least hear it? C'mon, I really don't wanna have to show up alone after he said I could bring a friend."

And you only hang out with me and Port, Garnet thought to herself with a possessive kind of satisfaction.

"Well, well, well, what's this?" she asked, giggling in his face. "Are you actually admitting that you need me?"

Declan's expression was humorless. "Well, it's not my fault if there's no good company to be had in this damn town. If I've ever mattered to you beyond being a piece of meat- "

Garnet felt a twinge of embarrassment and looked away with a dry laugh. Should she seem amused or insulted? Did she feel amused or insulted?

"'A piece of meat'? What kind would that be? Prime rib pays for itself."

"My skills are prime," Declan smirked.

"I bet you were a virgin before you met me,'" Garnet smirked back.

"Well, if you're in the business of placing losing bets, who am I to stop you?" Declan returned. "I hear it runs in the family. How much has Mommy lost lately to her little online gambling hobby? And your family wants to treat mine like it's trash..."

"Shut up!" Garnet snapped, practically yelling, and Declan went so far as to throw one leg over her windowsill, in preparation for climbing down, as the pair of them listened for any sign that Mr. or Mrs. Gibson had woken up.

Garnet bit her lip and felt herself flush with embarrassment and anger. She'd been foolish to cry out like that. She was smarter than that. After that one time when she'd had Declan in her bed, and she'd cried out for another reason entirely, you would've thought she'd learned her lesson. She still didn't know how he managed to squish under the bed with all the junk that was under there.

But Declan was wrong. Declan was wrong for treating her like she didn't care about him. Like she was just some shallow brat. Declan was wrong for calling out her mother, too. He didn't know what he was talking about, he didn't know her family, and her family...

"They don't think you're trash, Declan," she whispered at him furiously, once they were sure the coast was clear. "You assume too much, and you know what they say about assumptions."

Declan didn't say anything for a long beat. Then,

"Goodnight, Garnet. I'll try not to assume anything about the fact that you won't go with me to talk to Doug."

Garnet sighed. She stepped over to him and placed a hand on his arm.

What was the harm? Nobody could convince her to do anything she didn't want to, anyway.

"What time?"

"3 o'clock tomorrow." The barest hint of a smile. "Down by the docks. That sign you and me meet at sometimes." He reached out and cupped his hand against her side, holding her lightly around the waist. He looked at her suddenly like he wanted to devour her.

"I'll be there," she said, just a tiny bit breathlessly.

"Your pajama top is almost as see-through as that girl's nightgown," Declan muttered, and pulled his hand back with seeming reluctance. He gave Garnet a peck on the cheek and a quick wave before starting to descend back down the trellis.

"Remember- don't tell anyone!" he softly called up to her before he disappeared into the fog and the night.