Until We Break(8)

By: Jamie Howard

Aspirin. I could fucking kiss her right now.

Archer breaks through the awkward silence. “Thanks, Sloane.”

She looks at him and smiles. “You’re welcome.”

As soon as she’s gone, I down them, not even caring that the coffee strips a few layers off my throat.

“Dude,” Archer says, “what’s your damage this morning?”

I lean back in the booth, folding my hands behind my head. “I’m pretty sure I’m still drunk, and it feels like I have glass in my eyes. My head is going to explode.”

When someone jumps onto the seat of my booth, I nearly lay them out right then and there. Somehow I manage to restrain myself, and it’s a damn good thing I do. On the very small list of things I care about, my little brother, Cash, is at the very top.

“Hey, Luke,” he says in a voice that stabs me in the brain. His squirrel teeth pop out as he smiles at me.

“What’s up, little dude?” I ask, ruffling his wavy brown hair.

“Going to the beach with Charlie and his mom, but I saw you through the window and wanted to come say hi. You didn’t come home last night.” His smile quickly transforms into a frown.

I don’t go home most nights. It’s better that way, or at least I try to convince myself that it is. “I’m sorry, bud. Was Evelyn there?”

He shakes his head. “Nope, just me.”

A seven-year-old shouldn’t be spending the night at home alone, but our home life has never been ideal. I do what I can, but I’m not any type of role model for anyone.

“You know if you need me, you can always call.”

My heart unclenches when the smile returns. “I know, that’s ’cause you’re the best big brother.”

His words physically hurt me. If you reached into my chest and clamped a vice around my heart, it would feel exactly the same.

Sloane chooses that moment to reappear. The balancing act she’s doing with our food is seriously impressive. As she bends to put the plates on the table, I finally get my first hint of cleavage. So they do exist.

Divvying up the plates, she does a double take at Cash.

“Hi,” he says, his eyes all wide like a freaking cartoon character.

She drops down into a squat so she’s not looking down at him. “Hi, I’m Sloane.”

“I’m Cash.” When she gives him a smile, an answering one splits his face. “This is my brother, Luke. Do you know him?”

She glances up at me and then away. “We just met this morning.”

“He’s the best.”

If I wasn’t watching her so closely, I would’ve probably missed the way her mouth tightens at the corners.

“I’ll have to take your word for it,” she says, and then stands back up. “Is there anything else I can get you guys?”

Archer shakes his head, unable to answer since he’s already shoveling food in his mouth. With that, she’s gone again. Cash’s eyes follow her the entire way, and I can’t entirely blame him. She’s more than nice to look at, and she probably tastes as good as she smells. But that fuck-off vibe she was broadcasting last night is back and directed right at me.

Cash bounces up from his seat. “Alright, Luke, I’ll see you later.” He dashes out the door, the laces from his untied sneaker flapping against the floor.

I eat my way through breakfast in no time flat, and as the aspirin kicks in, the tiny jackhammers in my brain call it a day. Thank God.

Chapter 4


“C’mon, Sloane, didn’t we already have this conversation?” Blaire asks.

I glare at her as I slip out of the bathroom. “Yes, actually, we did. So can we drop it already?”

“I don’t know,” she says. “Are you going to take my advice?”

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