Trashed / Page 67

Page 67


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“Des, it’s so good to meet you.” She finally lets me go, and stands at a comfortable distance. “His full name is actually Torrence Adam Trenton. He went by Tory up until high school, when he decided it was too girly for him, and switched to Adam. But he’s been Tory to us his whole life, and he always will be, especially since it irritates him so much.” She smiles at me, her teeth flashing white against her dark mocha skin. It’s very faint, but I notice a lilt to her voice, the trace of an accent of some kind on certain words.

I turn to him and grin. “Tory, huh. You’d think this would have come up before now.”

He narrows his eyes at me, and the glare he gives me is a mirror to the one his sister just gave him. “Is that so, Destiny?”

I frown, because I don’t exactly have much to argue with on that score. I turn away from him and extend my hand to his father, who ignores the hand and moves toward me. He’s going to hug me too? What the fuck? Who hugs this much? It’s unnatural. My gut flips and my pulse hammers, because his mother is one thing, but Adam’s dad is almost as huge as his son, and I’m uncomfortable at best around anyone, men especially. But I don’t want to seem standoffish or anything, so I force myself to stay calm and let him get near me. It feels like it happens in slow-motion, and then his burly arms are around my shoulders, but he’s angled slightly rather than face-on, and there’s space between us, and somehow it’s strangely not as scary as I thought it would be. He smells like cologne and lets me go quickly.

“It’s nice to meet you, Des. Welcome.” He smiles, and I see where Adam got his eyes, the same pale, intelligent, piercing green.

“You too,” I say. “And thanks for having me here.”

That’s what you say in these situations, right? I don’t know. Whenever I was placed in a new home, I’d just say my name and everyone else would say theirs and then I’d find somewhere out of the way to hang out. No one hugged, no one told me welcome or that it was nice to meet me. Just “Hey, ’sup. How are ya?” And then back to the TV or the video game or the joint.

And then his sisters are in front of me, side by side, and they each hug me in turn, because clearly a hug is how this family greets new people, or maybe it’s just Adam’s girlfriends. I don’t know. But I make it through the hugs without panicking or freezing.

“Would you like a glass of wine, Des?” Lani asks, uncorking a bottle.

“Um. Sure?”

“Do you like shiraz?”

I shrug, mystified. “I…I’m not much of a wine drinker, so I honestly don’t know. Whatever you’re having is fine.”

I accept a huge goblet of ruby red wine, and when I taste it my mouth explodes. It’s thick, rich, and does something bizarre to my taste buds. I blink and force myself to swallow it.

Adam is watching my expression carefully, and laughs. “Yeah, shiraz’ll do that to you. I hate that shit, myself.”

Lani looks at me in concern. “Oh, I’m sorry. I guess I didn’t realize…here, would you care for something else?” She reaches for the glass, her expression so worried that it’s almost funny.

I shake my head and take another sip, which assaults my mouth just as violently as the first time, but it’s not entirely unpleasant, just…very different. “No, it’s fine. I’ll try it.”

Lani frowns. “Well, don’t drink it just to be polite, not if you don’t like it.”

The girls have glasses of something pink and bubbly, and I’m not sure if it’s alcoholic or not. Adam and his dad have beer, and his mom has a glass of the same wine I’m drinking, and then we all move outside to a long rectangular glass table beneath a pergola. Thank god for HGTV, so I at least know what a pergola is. Lani brings a plate of white, pungent cheese and another plate of hexagonal crackers, and the cheese is arranged in an intricate starburst pattern on the plate and the crackers are stacked in rows, and it looks like something out of a TV show, where people do fancy shit like arrange cheese on the plate before eating it.

I settle into a chair and take another sip, and this time it’s actually almost pleasant, the way the wine seems to occupy my entire mouth, exploding and changing as I swallow. I have a hand draped down at the side of the chair, and I feel something wet nuzzle my palm.

I glance over, and then jump so hard my wine spills over the edge of the glass and then I shriek. They have a bear. An actual pet bear. Okay, maybe it’s just a big dog, but it’s the size of a small bear, with floppy ears and shaggy gray fur.

“What the hell is that?” I ask, scooting my chair backward and moving behind Adam, who is laughing.

“That’s Iggy,” Adam says, pulling the enormous beast to his side. “He’s an Irish wolfhound. He’s big, sweet, and stupid.”

“Iggy?” It seems an incongruous name for such a massive dog. I move out from behind Adam’s chair and sit down again.

“He is not stupid, Tory!” Lizzy protests. “He’s just misunderstood. And a little slow.”

“Will he try to eat me?” I can’t help asking.

I’m not a dog person. Cats, maybe. Fish, lizards, very small birds…fine. Dogs the size of a grizzly bear? Not fine.

Adam laughs. “No. He might try to sit on your lap and crush you, though. Sit, Iggy.” He pats the dog’s backside, and he sits, huffing, tongue lolling, a mouth full of huge fangs dripping with saliva. “Iggy. Say hi.”

The dog barks, a loud woof of sound that has me startled all over again. “Hi, Iggy.” I reach my hand out tentatively, and the dog barks again and moves toward me.

I hastily withdraw my hand, but now the dog is in front of me. He’s so tall that, when I’m sitting, he can basically lick me in the face without having to lift up. Which he does. Vigorously. I stand up and back away, but Iggy just leaps up and puts his paws on my shoulders. His paws reach my shoulders, and his head is higher than mine. And now his breath is in my face and his tongue is lapping at me.

“Get him off!” I’d like to say that came out as a shriek, but it was actually more of a squeal.

“Ignatius, get down,” Erik snaps, and the bear-dog or wolfhound or whatever it is lowers his paws to the ground and stares up at me, tongue lolling, eyes happy and innocent, his head even with my navel.

I wipe my face, and then wipe the slobber from my hands on my pant-legs, trying to contain my disgust. When I finally look up, everyone is trying not to laugh.


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