The Book of Ivy / Page 39

Page 39


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I smile, slip off my shoes, and join him. I sit across from him, the food-laden table between us.

“Dig in,” he says with a grin. We don’t bother with plates, creating little sandwiches, piles of meat and cheese, right on the tablecloth. Bishop pushes the entire carton of strawberries toward me and although I give a halfhearted protest, I end up eating them all. By the time we’re done, most of the food is gone and what’s left I couldn’t fit in my stomach anyway.

“Oh, I’m stuffed,” I say, leaning back against the couch behind me.

“That was the idea,” Bishop says.

“What are the candles for?” I ask, nodding at the table.

“I figured we could light them and pretend we’re at summer camp.”

I can’t tell from his face whether he’s teasing me or not. “I never went to summer camp.”

“Never?”

I shake my head. My father didn’t like Callie and me being away from him for that long. A less generous person might say he didn’t like it when we were out from under his influence. Either way, I was never allowed to attend the summer camp in the woods for kids aged ten to fourteen, not even for a single night.

“Well, now we have to light them,” Bishop says. He kneels next to the table and lights the candles, three short, fat pillars and two tall, slender tapers. Once they’re lit, he scoots back against the opposite sofa, his long legs breaching the space between us, so they lie almost against mine, his toes at my hip.

“What did you do at camp?” My voice sounds slightly breathless and I’m not sure why. I don’t want to think about why.

“Stupid stuff, mostly. You know…” Bishop pauses, gives me a lopsided grin. “Well, I guess you don’t.”

I roll my eyes at him.

“At night we sat around the campfire and told ghost stories. Sometimes we’d try to get away with spin the bottle, but the counselors didn’t like that. They weren’t fans of all those pesky attachments.” It’s the first time I’ve heard Bishop speak of the lengths the adults go to in order to keep children from forming any kind of romantic bond with each other prior to the marriage ceremony. It makes arranged marriages a lot smoother if the participants aren’t all in love with other people already. Bishop’s father and my mother being prime examples of the chaos that can ensue.

I don’t look at him as I ask, “Did you have an attachment to someone?”

“No,” Bishop says. “I played the occasional game of spin the bottle. But there was never a particular girl I hoped the bottle would land on.” The last of the sunlight is fading from the sky and the candles chase away only the edges of the gloom on the porch, putting half his face in shadow. We stare at each other and I know I should be asking another question or saying something, anything, to break the silence, but all my words are dead on my tongue, my heart galloping against my ribs.

“My favorite game was truth or dare, though,” Bishop says finally.

“What’s that?” I ask. I take a sip of water from my glass on the table to clear my throat.

“You’ve never played truth or dare?” Bishop’s eyebrows are in danger of disappearing into his hair.

“I’ve never played a lot of things,” I inform him. “My family wasn’t big on games.”

“It’s easy,” Bishop says. “If it’s your turn, you say whether you want truth or a dare. If you pick dare, then I give you a dare and you have to do it or you lose. If you pick truth, I ask you a question and you have to answer truthfully or you lose.” He grins at me, his eyes dancing. “Want to play?”

Oh, this is such a bad idea on so many levels, but when I open my mouth, “Yes,” comes out instead of “no.” “But you go first.”

“Okay, then.” Bishop looks up at the ceiling as if he’s considering his options. “Truth.”

Truth. I can ask him anything and, in theory, he’s supposed to tell me the truth. There are a million things I want to know about him and a million ways those answers can hurt me. I should make an excuse and go inside, but I’ve tamped down my curiosity about him for too long. My longing to know him is trumping everything, even my good sense. I should, at least, stick with meaningless questions.

“How many girls did you kiss when you played spin the bottle?” I ask. I laugh like it’s a joke, but the sound is forced.

“Not very many.” He sounds amused. “Are we talking a real kiss? Or a peck?”

“A real kiss.” I don’t tell him that, for me, they are the same thing, considering I’ve never kissed anything other than my father’s and Callie’s cheeks.

His face is serious, his eyes locked on mine like he’s trying to figure out what’s behind the question. “I’ve kissed three girls in my life. One when I was thirteen, a spin-the-bottle encounter. Another at camp when I was fourteen, which involved the overzealous use of tongue.”

I laugh, and this time it’s genuine. “Yours or hers?”

Bishop holds up both hands in mock surrender. “I plead the Fifth.”

Now I’m laughing hard, and Bishop has the strangest look on his face. Like he’s heard the best news in the world, a huge smile spreading across his face like sunshine.

“What?” I ask between fading giggles.

He’s still smiling. “Nothing.”

“You didn’t say anything about the third kiss,” I remind him.

“That was two years ago. Right before I was supposed to marry your sister. It was a girl from school. And it was more than one kiss.”

“Did those involve too much tongue?”

“No. Those were much better.”

His words slice at me, although I know they shouldn’t. He didn’t even know me then and even if he had, it shouldn’t matter to me what he felt for some other girl. “Did you like her?” I ask and immediately want to kick myself.

Bishop hesitates for only a moment before he says, “Not the way that I like you,” his voice deep and even, gaze steady. Not embarrassed. Not nervous. Sure and simple. And there it is. The thing I’ve wanted him to say for weeks now and the one thing I absolutely cannot bear to hear.

“Bishop…”

“You’re only supposed to get one question and you’ve asked me about a hundred,” he says, cutting me off. “It’s your turn on the hot seat. Truth or dare?”

“Truth,” I say, when I know I should say dare. The reckless side of me pulling out a chair and taking a seat at this party.

I brace myself for a question I will not be able to answer truthfully. Something about my father or how my family really feels about his. But instead he grins and asks me how many boys I’ve kissed.

It’s an easy question, given the alternatives, but it’s surprisingly difficult to make myself answer. I consider lying, but with all the other lies and omissions swirling between us, it seems only right I should be honest when it’s possible. “None,” I say. I keep my head up, but my cheeks wear a pink stain I’m hoping the candlelight hides.

Bishop doesn’t laugh or tease me. He just nods. “Was it lack of opportunity or lack of desire?”


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