Noah smiled and squeezed my hand. "Alright, you ready?"
"Yeah, I guess. This should be easy, right?"
"Of course." Noah opened my front door and we walked into my kitchen. I let go of his hand immediately. Vince and my dad, the two people we wanted to talk to, were sitting at the kitchen table. I would definitely hold Noah's hand in Vince's present, but I knew my dad didn't even like my associating with Noah. Being his girlfriend was out of the question.
"Hey, Dad," I said, sitting next to him at the table. Noah sat next to Vince, across from me.
"Hey," Dad replied, eyeing Noah and me warily.
"Mr. Adams," Noah started, sounding as sure as can be, "Summer and I have something important to tell you. We wanted to let you know about this, because we felt it was important for you-."
I was getting restless. Noah didn't know my dad; this was not the way to approach the subject. So, I just came out with it. "Dad, Noah and I want to find out who killed Elizabeth."
Both Vince and my dad looked confused.
"Um, what happened to slow and steady?" Noah asked quietly, referring to our previously discussed plan of how to present this to my father and my brother.
"What?" Vince asked.
"Could you elaborate?" Dad asked.
"Well," I said, "Noah and I want to actively search for the person who killed Elizabeth. I guess you could call it an informal investigation."
I looked at Noah, who looked just as tense as I felt. I didn't like all of the silence that followed every time I said something.
Dad laughed. "Ha ha, nice try, Summer. I don't think so."
"Dad!" I said.
"Summer, how can you expect me to condone this? This is police business- leave it to them. Besides, I don't want you playing 'Law & Order' all over town with this boy. You can't trust him."
I sucked in a sharp breath of air. "Dad," I whispered, looking at Noah. He was trying to pretend that he hadn't heard, but his jaw and his fist were clenched.
I could not believe that my dad had just said that. He was just as bad as everyone else in town. Before I knew it, he would be accusing me, too.
"Dad, this is obviously important to them, and they felt it was necessary to share it with us," Vince said. "You could at least hear them out."
Dad sighed. "I just don't think this is a good idea. I mean, how are the two of you going to go about this? How are you even going to start? Do you even have any evidence?"
I looked at Noah, but he was still trying to restrain his anger.
"No, but we will! Dad, please just let us try. She was Noah's best friend. He owes it to her."
"Well if he owes it to her, what do you have to do with any of it? Why are you helping him?"
I looked at Noah again, and this time, his steely gray eyes met mine. "Because I want to," I said, still looking at Noah. I wanted him to know that I was in this with him, no matter what my dad said.
Dad sighed exasperatedly. "I'm sorry, Summer, but I can't allow this."
"I mean no disrespect, sir," Noah started, "but it's not your permission that we need."
Dad's eyebrows rose and his eyes were dark and cold when he looked at Noah. "Well, if not my permission, then what is it that you need?"
"Your support," Noah said.
"And your help," I said. "We need an adult to back us up, just in case things get…"
"Dangerous," Noah finished.
"Oh, so you admit things will get dangerous?" Dad asked, sounding satisfied.
"Things might get dangerous," I corrected. "And yes, we are well aware of that! But we're not going to get in over our heads. We know our boundaries."
Dad sighed one more time and stood up. "I'll think about." He looked at me, then Noah, and back at me. "But I can't make any promises." With that, he walked out of the kitchen.
I stared after him in vain and then looked at Vince. "Can you-?" I started.
"I'll talk to him," he said. "But, if I do, I have to know that you guys are serious about this. Are you?"
Noah and I both nodded.
"Then you two better not get yourselves into trouble with this," he said. "The town already doesn't like you." He pointed to Noah. "And people are starting to turn on you, too." He pointed to me. "Summer, you have to promise me that you'll be careful."
"Of course I will."
"And, Noah, that's my little sister. I'm trusting you to make sure that nothing happens to her. Can I trust you?"
Noah nodded. "Of course. I would never let anything happen to her."
Vince nodded. "I believe you. Well, I support you guys in your endeavor. And I'll talk to Dad for you." He stood from his chair and began to walk out of the kitchen.
"Vince?" Noah said.
Vince turned and looked at Noah.
"Thanks, man. It means a lot to me."
"To both of us," I said, grabbing Noah's hand across the table.
"Don't thank me yet," Vince said. "Like he said, can't make any promises." He left the kitchen, and Noah and I were left alone at the table.
Noah got up and walked toward the front door without saying anything. I raced after him, and followed him in silence to his front porch.
"Noah, it wasn't a no," I said, leaning against the porch railing and looking up at him. "Once Vince talks to him, he'll change his mind."
Noah shook his head. "That doesn't matter. He'll never trust me. He said that."
I rolled my eyes. "So?"
"So, he hates me, Summer. He's your father, and he hates me just as much as everyone else in this godforsaken town does. My girlfriend's father hates me."
"So what? The whole town hates you. One more person can't be that big of a deal."
He looked at me. His gray eyes were stormy. "It's different when that person is the father of your girlfriend. It makes things really hard."
I knew he was thinking about Elizabeth. She was never his girlfriend, but she was the closest thing, and her whole family hated him.
I took his hand and he looked at me. "It doesn't matter what my dad thinks. I like you and that's not going to change." I leaned my head against his shoulder. "Besides, my brother likes you, so my dad will eventually like you, too."
"Not if he finds out about us," he said, letting go of my hand and turning to face my house. "It's pretty obvious that he would not approve."
"Well, that makes it even more fun, doesn't it?" I said, poking his shoulder.
He smiled at me- that amazing, genuine smile that I loved so much- and took my hand. He opened his front door and led me through the kitchen. His mom was sitting at the table, reading the newspaper. She put it down and smiled when we walked by.
"Hello, Summer," she said.
"Hi, Ms. Davis. How are you doing?"
"I'm fine. Where are you two going?"
"Living room," Noah said, pulling me in that direction.
I waved at Ms. Davis as Noah pulled me into the living room. He sat down on the couch, and pulled me close to him and put his arms around me. He was warm and comfortable.
"She loves you," he said.
"Who?" I asked.
"My mom. She is so happy about us being together. When I told her, she almost cried with joy."
I chuckled and looked up at him. "Rachel's really happy about it, too."
"Well, that makes everyone," Noah said. "Except your dad, that is."
I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, him." Then, a thought occurred to me. "My mom probably wouldn't like it either. Not that I would tell her."
Noah's face fell. He looked so upset that I felt bad.
"But, I mean, she'd probably be okay with it," I said, attempting to cover. "It's just that, there was this one other time and she was not happy with it." I probably shouldn't have said that either. Now, Noah was looking at me with a look mixed with curiosity and just a little bit of jealousy.
"What other time?" he asked.
"Um-." My cell phone cut me off before I could stall some more. It rang in my pocket, and Noah pulled it out and handed it to me. It was Alice, again. I wanted to answer it, but not in front of Noah again. He would just ask questions that I didn't want to answer. At least, not yet.
But not answering was just as bad as answering it, because Noah tilted his head and smirked once it had stopped ringing.
"Why didn't you answer it?" he asked.
I shook my head. "I just didn't feel like it."
He tilted his head some more and I sighed. I scooted out of his arms and looked at him. "Noah, I want to spend time with you, not talking on the phone."
"Bullshit." His eyes twinkled. "Come on, who is this Alice person? And why don't you want to talk to her in front of me? You know you can tell me."
I knew that I could tell him, but I didn't know if I wanted to just yet. After everything that had happened between me, Alice, Aiden, and my mom (and Mrs. Galloway, that bitch), I just wanted to put it all behind me and never speak of it again. Noah deserved to know, but he would just have to wait until I was ready to tell him.
"I want to tell you, I really do, and you deserve to know. But it's a really long story, and it's kind of embarrassing, and I'm just not really ready to tell you yet. But I promise, I will tell you, soon."
Then, I leaned in and kissed him. Apparently, he was fine with that, because he kissed me back. I grabbed his shirt and leaned back until I was laying on the couch and he was over me. His hair tickled my face while he kissed me. I was hoping his mom wouldn't come in and interrupt us.
He broke away with a content sigh and looked at me. We were both still laying down and he was still on top of me.
"You know, I was thinking," he said, slipping his arm around my waist and bringing me up with him. "When you mentioned your mom, I remembered that there's something I wanted to tell you."
"What is it?" I asked half-heartedly. I was focused on Noah's lips. Whatever he had to tell me better have been important if he was willing to stop kissing me to tell me.
"You can't get mad at me," he said.
I smiled. I was never actually mad at Noah. Even when I should have been mad at him, I wasn't. "Of course I won't."
"I doubt that, but, okay." He sighed. "I really think you should just call your mom, apologize, and end this stupid thing going on between the two of you once and for all." Noah watched me warily, no doubt waiting for my impending blow-up.
But, I wasn't going to blow-up this time. I mean, Noah's my boyfriend, so I had to at least think about his suggestion. Not that I wasn't thinking along the same lines. My brother had been pounding the idea into my head forever, and it did suck not talking to my mom at all. But, I really didn't want to apologize to her before she apologized to me. That just felt like giving up.
"I'll think about it, Noah. I really will."
"Okay. That's all I want. Summer, are you actually okay with all of this?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I'm talking about this whole Lizzie thing. It's a lot to take on. And with this thing with your mom and your dad hating me and this giant secret that you're still not ready to tell me, I know it's stressful."
"Noah, I'm not-."
"Even if you're not showing it, I know it's stressing you out. I know I've already asked you, but I have to ask you again: Are you sure you want to help me find Lizzie's killer? Because I could do it on my own."
I grabbed Noah's hand and squeezed it lightly. "Noah, you're the one who asked me to help you, remember?"
"Yeah, but that was before you were my girlfriend." He rubbed his thumb along my hand. "Things are different now."
"No, they're not. I'm helping you with this, Noah. You can't get rid of me yet."
He smiled and kissed my nose. "Good cuz I don't want to."