The Book of Ivy / Page 20

Page 20


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But the closer I get to home, the faster the euphoria fades. Because in my haste to prove myself to my father, to prove something to Bishop, I forgot what finding the guns means. It means my father is one step closer to the final step of the plan, to killing Bishop and President Lattimer. I believe in my father’s cause, I do. But I’m beginning to realize there is a difference between letting someone die and being the one who pulls the trigger.

The living room and kitchen are empty when I get home, a pan of chicken resting on top of the stove. The door to the screened porch is open and Bishop is stretched out on one of the wicker sofas, his long legs taking up the entire cushion.

“Hi,” I say. I put my bag on the floor and sit cross-legged on the sofa across from him. My fingers tie nervous knots in my lap.

Bishop’s gaze takes me in. “Hard day?” he asks.

“Yeah.”

“That’s two in a row.”

I nod. I’m poised right on the edge of tears, for no reason I can name. I have a sudden fierce wish that the man at the jam stall had been gone for the day, that my message was not already on its way to Callie.

“I wish we hadn’t had a fight,” I find myself saying. “Last night.” I didn’t know it was true until the words left my mouth.

Bishop raises his eyebrows, gives me an easy grin. It’s the opposite of the presidential smile he gave Callie on our wedding day. This one is the real Bishop, less perfection, more warmth. “That wasn’t a fight. It’s not a fight unless we give each other the silent treatment for at least a week.” His mouth is still smiling, but his eyes are sad. I think of his mother’s impersonal gaze, her stiff embrace. I’m guessing Bishop knows firsthand the pain of growing up in a house where an icy wind is blowing. “But I am sorry for what I said about listening to your father,” he continues.

“I’m not a complete idiot, you know,” I tell him. “I do think about alternatives if things were to change in Westfall.”

Bishop swings his legs off the sofa and sits forward, facing me. “I have never, not for a single second, thought you were an idiot, Ivy.”

“You listen to your father, too, don’t you?” I ask him.

Bishop looks down at his clasped hands, then back up at me. “Sometimes. I just think that because of who we are…the president’s son and the founder’s daughter…” He rolls his eyes, making me smile. “It’s doubly important that we think for ourselves. We’re not our parents. We don’t have to agree with everything they stand for.”

“But what if I do agree with my father?” I ask, because it seems like I should, like it is important I reaffirm my belief in my family’s cause.

“Then great. More power to you,” Bishop says. “But I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because of who we are, because of who they are, we owe them more than we do. We’re still free to choose who we want to be.”

“Really?” I ask. “Because I didn’t get to choose much of anything.” All my life, my father and Callie made my decisions for me. Any dissent on my part was taken as disloyalty. Then Bishop’s father determined who and when I would marry, setting the course for the rest of my life.

Bishop takes my sarcasm in stride. “Well, obviously a lot of things are out of our control.” He wiggles his ring finger, and the early evening light catches the gold band, making it gleam. “But no one controls who we turn into but us.”

“And who do you want to turn into?” I mean the question to be mocking, but that’s not how it comes out. I sound interested. I reach down and scratch my leg, trying to hide my embarrassment.

Bishop looks at me. “Someone honest. Someone who tries to do the right thing. Someone who follows his own heart, even if it disappoints people.” He pauses. “Someone brave enough to be all those things.”

A boy who doesn’t want to lie, married to a girl who can’t tell the truth. If there is a God, he has a sick sense of humor. “What about you?” Bishop asks. “Who does Ivy Westfall Lattimer want to be?”

This is all new to me. The back and forth, the give and take. I would suspect it was a trap, but no matter what Callie warned me about, I can tell Bishop is genuinely interested in me and what I have to say. It’s scary and thrilling at the same time. “I don’t know,” I say quietly. My throat aches. “I’ve never really had the chance to think about it.”

“Well, now you do,” he says simply. As if figuring out who I want to be is as easy as deciding to do it. Maybe for him it is. He stands and holds out his hand to me. “Let’s have dinner. And tomorrow we’re going to do something fun.”

I put my hand in his and let him pull me to my feet.

“Saturdays are for sleeping in,” I inform Bishop at eight o’clock the next morning as he makes sandwiches at the kitchen counter.

“Sleep is for wimps,” he replies.

“At least tell me what we’re doing. Does it involve a nap?”

Bishop laughs, a rich, warm sound. “No naps,” he says. “But you won’t want one. Trust me.”

He grabs two small jugs of water from the icebox and puts them into his backpack, along with the sandwiches, a couple of apples, and some cookies from the market. “Ready?” he asks.

“As I’ll ever be,” I say with a long-suffering sigh, which nets me only a grin in response.

“You’ve got a swimsuit under there, right?” he says, pointing at my tank top and shorts.

“Yes.” I ignore the heat in my cheeks. Ridiculous to be embarrassed by such a mundane question.

“All right, then.” He swings the backpack onto his back. “Let’s go.”

I follow him out the front door and as we head side by side down the front walk, our neighbors’ door opens and Dylan comes out. We make eye contact across the lawns, and it seems rude not to stop.

“Hi, Dylan,” I say. Bishop slows next to me.

Dylan crosses his lawn into ours, his hand already outstretched. “Hey, Bishop,” he says. His voice has a false heartiness that grates on my nerves. “Don’t know if you remember me. I was a couple years behind you in school.”

“Refresh my memory,” Bishop says as they shake hands, and I have to bite back a smile as some of the enthusiasm dies in Dylan’s eyes.

“Dylan Cox.” Behind him, their front door opens again and Meredith comes out. I inhale sharply at the sight of her, and Bishop looks from me to her. Her left eye is blackened and she’s walking with a slight limp.

I dart around Dylan toward her. “Meredith,” I say. “Are you all right? What happened?” Although I’m sure I already know what happened. My hands ball into fists.

Her gaze flits to mine and then away. “Oh.” She gives a breathy laugh. “I’m such a klutz. I fell down the basement stairs and hit my face on the railing.”

Dylan comes from behind me and wraps an arm around her shoulders, pulling her against him tightly. “She went down there at night without turning on the light. Can you believe that?”

“So stupid of me,” Meredith says. She keeps her eyes on the ground.

Bishop is beside me, his bare arm brushing against mine. “You should have let us know,” he says. “We would have been happy to come over and help.”


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