Scandalous

Chapter Twelve: Feels Like Home

© All Rights Reserved

xx

A/N: Recap:

Alison, the beautiful girl with an ugly secret, is used to being taken advantage of. Her vicious best friend Caroline has a few secrets of her own regarding her bad boy cousin Jude, who has just returned from boarding school.

xx

Crisp, crinkly autumn leaves crunched under Jude's feet as he lazily brushed a rake back-and-forth over his front lawn. Not that he was actually doing any real raking. Surprisingly enough, though, trying-to-look-like-he-was-arduously-raking-the-yard-while-actually-doing-a-minimal-amount-of-work was turning out to be a hell of a lot of work in itself.

A brisk October breeze lifted the leaves off the ground, making them swirl in the air before settling back down in different spots.

"Fuck," Jude swore under his breath. Now all of his (not-so-hard) work had been undone.

As he ambled around the yard trying to rake the stray leaves back into his original pile, he contemplated how the fuck his life had been overturned to the extent that he was doing something as ridiculous as raking leaves for his father on a random weeknight. Just over a month ago, Jude had been doing as he pleased, left to his own devices up at boarding school. Then, out of nowhere, his father Ted had whisked him back home, so he could "keep an eye on Jude" for the remainder of his senior year. Ted didn't have many expectations for his oldest son, probably because Jude was the ultimate fuck-up, rebelling against his family and societal constraints just because he could. But the one thing Ted still hadn't last hope for was Jude getting into Ted's own alma mater, Wharton. Apparently, Ted was still laboring under the hilarious, in Jude's opinion, impression that Jude would one day take over the Arlington family business from him.

Hell to the fucking no, Jude thought wryly. Never gonna happen.

And tonight, as part of the "Master Plan," as Jude had privately termed Ted's delusional schemes to try to get his son into Penn, Ted was going out to dinner with one of his old friends on the university's board. In fact, he was there right now, probably making up outrageous lies about Jude's "passion for academics" and "work ethic." Ted had tried to convince Jude to come along with him. That had led to one of their more explosive fights in the past week, soothed over only by Jude's stepmother Anna's intervention. Anna had brokered a compromise: Jude would rake the front lawn if he didn't have to go to the dinner with Ted and his friend. While Jude would never have actually done chores for his pretentious asshole of a father under normal circumstances, literally anything was better than listening to two self-important old pricks reminisce about their old school days.

Jude's musings were interrupted by the sound of a car pulling into the Arlingtons' long driveway. He glanced up indifferently, hoping for any distraction from the seemingly interminable task of raking his too damn large lawn.

He wrinkled his eyebrow when he realized that it was none other than his cousin Caroline's car in his driveway.

What the fuck is she doing here? Ted might have been gone, but Anna was home all night, so Caroline couldn't be babysitting Lyddie and Teddy. And the notion that Caroline would have come to hang out with Jude – ha. It was laughable.

Caroline had been religiously avoiding Jude ever since Saturday night, when the two had gotten into an enormous fight at their school's homecoming dance. She was pissed at him. Like, seriously pissed.

Sure enough, Caroline got out of her car, clutching a shopping bag in her right hand. She blanched a little when she registered Jude's presence in the front yard. Jude leaned casually against the rake, appraising her coolly.

Without a word, Caroline merely narrowed her green eyes at him in a venomous glare. Well. Looked like she was still pissed about Saturday, then. Jude raised his eyebrows in response. Wrenching her eyes away from him, Caroline stomped past him up the driveway and toward the front door.

Jude observed as she rang the doorbell, and a few moments later, his stepmother answered. Caroline and Anna hugged each other, and then Caroline disappeared into his house.

He watched the front door for a few moments after it closed behind them.

Things used to be easy between Jude and Caroline. The two cousins had been partners in crime all throughout childhood. Sure, as a kid Caroline had been hopelessly bossy and difficult to get along with, but then again, Jude was much the same. They got each other like no one else did, never letting pesky things like morals or rules get in their way, forever looking for their next great adventure, always sticking up for each other if the other got into trouble (which happened quite frequently).

When they had started high school together, Caroline had started to push Jude away. Jude had always figured it was all part of her quest to rule the school, so he forgave her. By the time they were sophomores, though, she could hardly look at him without dishing out some vicious comment or insult.

Jude had still had hopes of fixing things with his favorite cousin then. He'd started being extra nice, or what passed for nice with him anyway, to her. But then, of fucking course, he'd gotten expelled and sent to boarding school. When he'd left town two years ago, his relationship with Caroline had never been worse.

Until now, that is. When Jude moved back home, Caroline had been crueler than ever, despite Jude's attempts to mend their fucked-up relationship. It was almost like she was purposely trying to push him away, he sometimes thought. And so Jude's anger at how bitchy she was acting, his frustration with how fucked-up their relationship had become, his bitterness at how much she'd changed since childhood, it had all exploded into that disastrous fight at the homecoming dance.

Jude hadn't realized how lost in his thoughts he'd gotten until he heard the front door open again.

"Have a good night, Aunt Anna!" Caroline called over her shoulder.

"You too," Jude heard his stepmother say from inside the house. "Drive safely!"

As Caroline closed the door behind her, she glanced up and started when she noticed how intently Jude was staring at her. She rolled her eyes and stomped off of his front porch and down the front walk.

As he watched her make her way to her car, never sparing a word or even another glance in his direction, Jude realized just how shitty everything had gotten between them. We're cousins, for Christ's sake, he thought bitterly. How fucked-up is it that we can't even speak to each other?

And then the ultimate cocky bad boy, the incredibly stubborn Jude Arlington did something he would never do for anyone but Caroline.

He begged for her forgiveness.

"Wait!" Jude called out on an impulse, before he even knew what the hell he was doing. "Caroline!"

Her head whipped around to face him, her eyes glaring fiercely.

"Wait!" he called again.

She merely shook her head derisively at him and turned around to continue her path toward her car.

But Jude wasn't about to leave things like this between the two of them again. He let the rake fall to the ground as he quickly took a few long strides across his yard until he was right in front of Caroline.

She tensed at his nearness.

"Come on, please," he told her in a low voice, unfamiliar with the way that last word sounded coming out of his own mouth. "Just hear me out."

Caroline looked like she was about to turn away from him once again, but he was ready for her this time. He reached out and easily wrapped his large hand around her thin wrist.

She flinched at the contact.

"I know you're mad at me because of homecoming," Jude told her seriously, trying to hold her gaze for more than a second, which was really fucking hard since the bitch kept looking away from him.

Finally, Caroline spoke. She rolled her eyes and smirked. "No shit," she told him facetiously. She tried to wrench her arm out of his grasp, but Jude just grabbed onto her wrist tighter. And her strength was no match for his.

He knew this had to be fucking suicidal, deliberately forcing a confrontation with a livid Caroline, but hey, what did he have to lose, anyway?

"Please, Caroline, just listen to me," he tried again, looking solemnly at her. "I fucked up, okay? I know that. Those things I said to you…I was an asshole. I shouldn't have done that."

"You think?" Caroline responded bitingly. "God, it's like, I was finally happy for once in my goddamn life and of course, you just had to show up and make me feel like –"

"I know!" Jude interrupted. "I know, Christ, and I'm sorry. I guess I just…fuck, I don't know. I'm not used to talking about my emotions like this like a fucking pussy."

Caroline sighed. "Wow, Jude, what a heartfelt apology. That was really beautiful," she remarked sarcastically.

Jude rolled his eyes. "For fuck's sake, will you let me finish? I was going to say…well…ever since I got back, I've been trying to fix things between us."

Caroline narrowed her eyes. "What do you mean?"

"What the hell do you think I mean? We barely ever talk anymore, and when we do, we're constantly fighting with each other. When we were kids, we used to do everything together, remember?" he told her passionately. "Everything."

Her face began to soften as she thought back to their childhood.

"And I guess I just, I don't know, I miss that or whatever. We were the only sane ones in our fucked-up family, you know? But now we don't get along with each other. You hate it when I'm around and you constantly insult me. I was just angry…at you," he admitted. "You've been, now don't get mad at me, here, you've been such a fucking bitch lately," he told her honestly.

Caroline glared at him and tried to pull her arm away from him again. Ah, fuck. Just when it seemed like I was making some progress.

"Come on, Caroline, you know it's true. I know you, I know what you're really like. And sure, you can be mean, but you're not that ice-cold bitch you pretend to be. You didn't used to be so aloof, so stuck-up. I don't want you turning into one of those snobby, fake bitches I hate. You're better than that. And I was so mad at you, so frustrated with how much you seemed to have changed…I guess I took it out on you that night."

He looked at her and was cheered to see that she didn't have that I'm-going-to-kill-you-slowly-and-painfully look in her eyes anymore. That's gotta be a good sign.

"You didn't have to be such an asshole," she told him sharply.

"I know. Christ, I don't know why I was so hard on you," he replied. As he thought back to that night, he really couldn't remember why he was so cruel to Caroline after she'd won Homecoming queen. Maybe he just wanted to see some emotion out of her, finally? Wanted to prove that his passionate, human cousin was still alive underneath that icy veneer? When he thought about it, Jude couldn't quite explain what he'd been feeling when he'd let that argument escalate into the war it had become. It was like…he'd just had some inexplicable urge to fight with her.

Caroline opened her mouth to say something, but Jude spoke before she could, eager to say everything he wanted to get out. "I'm not going to do that shit anymore, though, I swear to God," he declared. "I'm not going to argue with you anymore, I won't. I want things to go back to how they used to be. I miss how things used to be." He paused, taking in the strange yet unreadable expression on his cousin's face. "I miss the old you. I miss Liney," he finished, using their family's childhood nickname for Caroline.

When he called her that, Caroline closed her eyes for a brief moment, a secret smile spreading over her lips. Then, as quick as it had appeared, it vanished. But she looked up at Jude with a somewhat pleasant expression, at least. "No one calls me that anymore," she told him, but she didn't sound angry.

Jude chuckled. "I know, remember back when you were about nine or ten and you would yell at anyone who tried to use that nickname? Because you wanted to be 'mature.'"

The left corner of Caroline's mouth quirked up. "You were the only one brave enough to keep calling me it."

The cousins stood for a moment, looking at each other, until even Caroline couldn't fight it anymore, finally breaking out into identical grins. Under normal circumstances, Jude would feel like a fucking moron, standing there with that idiotic grin on his face. But it felt so good to see the perpetually pissed-off Caroline with that wide smile on her face, looking like herself once again, finally.

Jude realized that he was still gripping her wrist, so he let it go gently. Caroline blinked in surprise and looked down to where his hand had fallen to his side.

As she stared at his hand like it was some kind of mutant being, Jude took in her appearance.

"Are you going riding later?" Jude asked wryly. With her navy blue knit oversized sweater, brown suede pants, and boots, she looked like the snobby girls back at boarding school who used to ride horses all the time.

Caroline looked up at him, narrowing her eyes. "Oh, ha ha," she responded contemptuously. "I suppose I can hardly expect you of all people to know the first thing about fashion."

"What the hell's that supposed to mean?" Jude smirked at the reappearance of Caroline's characteristic haughty behavior.

Caroline raised her eyebrows. "Do I really have to go on? I mean, look at you," she gestured at his old, worn jeans and plain T-shirt, his typical outfit.

He rolled his eyes. "I guess some of us have better things to do with our time than spend hours agonizing over our closet for the perfect thing to wear."

"Clearly," she replied, obviously not impressed.

Jude didn't mind, though. Sure, they were bickering, but this was the playful banter they'd always had, not the bitter attacks he'd gotten used to as of late.

All of a sudden, he remembered something. "Hey, why did you come over here, anyway?"

"Oh," she said, "I was just returning a pair of Aunt Anna's Louboutins that I'd borrowed."

At Jude's vacant expression, she clarified, "Shoes. They're shoes, Jude," she laughed. Then she jumped. "Oh, shit, I forgot. I'm supposed to meet Alison at Abernathys for dinner. Fuck, I'm gonna be late if I don't get there, like, now." She turned to go.

Jude's face fell. He wished she wouldn't leave so soon, not when they were finally getting along for once.

"Wait a minute," Caroline said, turning back to look at Jude. "Why were you raking the lawn? That's the real question here."

Jude chuckled. "That shocking, huh?" he drawled.

Caroline nodded. "Uh, yeah. I never thought I'd see you willingly doing chores."

"Trust me, it's not willingly," Jude explained. "It was either this or go out to dinner with Ted and some douchebag he knows from Wharton."

"Ah," Caroline nodded. Even the frighteningly ambitious Caroline knew how obnoxious such a meal would be.

She glanced around the yard. "Well, it looks uh…well…" she sniffed disdainfully.

"Hey!" Jude exclaimed. "Are you insulting my leaf-raking abilities?"

Caroline bit her lip in laughter. "No," she told him, unconvincingly.

"Well," Jude put on an affected voice, "I never. Young lady, you do realize that I am a world-renowned raker? I alone have raked more leaves than anyone else in the state!" He puffed up his chest in imitation of his self-involved, arrogant father. "Why in fact, just last month I was commended for my raking abilities by a very affluent, powerful fellow raker, I'm sure you've heard of him –"

Caroline was doubled over in laughter at Jude's flawless imitation of Ted. "Stop," she gasped, laughing.

Jude cracked a smile, ending his mockery of his father. "But seriously, I'm offended that you find my raking subpar," he told her. "So offended, in fact…" Before Caroline could catch onto what he was doing, he reached down to the large pile of leaves near them, picked up some leaves, and flung a handful at Caroline.

"Jude!" Caroline shrieked, reaching up to brush the leaves off of her shoulders and head.

He chuckled at her predicament. It was always fun to mess with Caroline, to prove she wasn't as cool and composed as she made herself out to be.

"What the hell?" she yelled at him.

Jude raised an eyebrow. "That's what you get," he told her.

"Ugh!" Caroline exclaimed. "They're messing up my HAIR!"

Jude shook his head. She seriously needed to learn how to loosen up a little. Right now, Caroline was acting way too uptight and high-maintenance.

"Here," Jude said, advancing toward a flustered Caroline. "Hold still. I'll get them out of your hair."

She froze when he approached, tensing up as he reached his hands up to her head. But then, instead of plucking the crisp leaves out of Caroline's hair, he reached back and pulled out her elaborate braid.

"Jude!" Caroline yelled again, this time even more angrily. "What the hell is wrong with you?" She shoved him away from her.

Jude simply shrugged in response. He knew he was on thin ice with Caroline at the moment, and it probably hadn't been the best idea to mess up her prized hair on top of everything else. But then again, Jude never played it safe.

He stared at Caroline daringly, waiting to see how she would react. Would she laugh it off (yeah right)? Start another massive argument (likely)? Call him an asshole (highly likely)? Kill him right then and there with nothing but her bare hands (definitely a possibility)?

Instead of any of those things, though, Caroline began to advance toward him, a guarded look on her face. Jude backed away slowly. He wasn't scared, exactly…he just valued his life…

And then, suddenly, Caroline reached out and shoved him backward. Hard. He was so taken off guard and astonished at her strength that he fell down. Luckily, she must have been feeling somewhat charitable that evening, as Jude felt himself land in the big pile of leaves he'd raked earlier.

He looked up to see Caroline smirking triumphantly, an unbearably smug look on her face. Jude had flashbacks to when they were younger and the old ongoing rivalry between the two cousins to constantly best each other.

Apparently that need to win hadn't died in either of them. As Caroline gloated, "How does it feel down there?" Jude reached up, grabbed her arms, and yanked her down into the leaf pile along with him.

Caroline shrieked in surprise. She glared at him, speechless, as the same smug look she'd been wearing seconds ago reappeared on Jude's face. He shrugged in self-satisfaction. "Well, it feels pretty good, now that you're down here with me."

Huffing in annoyance, Caroline picked up a few leaves and hurled them at Jude.

Jude chuckled at his cousin, whose expression had all the fierceness of an Amazon warrior. "Uh, hate to break it to you, but that didn't exactly mortally wound me," he told her teasingly.

Narrowing her eyes, she picked up an even bigger handful of leaves and threw them at Jude once again.

He batted them away lazily. "This may be shocking to you, I know, but against all odds, I'm still alive after that."

At that, Caroline couldn't help but laugh. "I'm not trying to kill you, Jude. Jesus, how evil do you think I am?"

Jude raised his eyebrows. "Do you really want me to answer that?"

Caroline gasped. "Hey!" she yelled, lunging forward to tackle him deeper into the leaves.

Jude laughed heartily for what felt like the first time in years as she shoved him down into the pile.

After a while, having had enough of her "abuse," Jude deftly reached up and flipped her onto her back, rolling them over so that he was on top of her now. Caroline cried out in surprise as he flung a handful of leaves at her.

He glanced down at Caroline, her cheeks rosy from the biting October air, her green eyes shining, her usually perfectly coiffed brown hair tousled messily around her face.

She beamed up at him. "You are a menace to yourself and others, Jude Arlington."

He faked a pout. "Aw, really? And here I thought I was a model citizen."

She laughed and tried to shove him off of her, though of course she wasn't nearly strong enough.

"Aw, Liney," he said, "When are you going to learn? You can't beat me."

Caroline smirked. "Yeah, I guess you're right…" Then she quickly shoved a few leaves into Jude's mouth.

He sputtered and tried to spit them out onto her as her head fell back in laughter.

"Ew!" Caroline yelled. "You're disgusting!" But she was laughing as she said it.

Jude grinned down at her, admiring how relaxed and carefree she was at the moment. It wasn't often that the mighty Caroline Arlington fell from her throne. But when she did, it was a beautiful sight to behold.

xx

Pulling out her phone to check the time, Alison sighed. Caroline was almost half an hour late. It wasn't like her to be so late, unless she had gotten into a fight with her sister or something.

Alison was seated at their favorite booth in Abernathys, a popular diner, especially among teenagers, in their city. She had already ordered, and finished, a chocolate milk while waiting for Caroline to show up. As they'd left school that day, the friends had planned to meet for dinner in a few hours. Caroline had maintained that her parents were getting on her nerves (not that that was anything unusual), and Alison never passed up a chance to go to Abernathys.

Drinking the milk so fast meant she now had to pee, so Alison slid out of the booth and ambled her way to the bathroom, waving at the regular customers she recognized on the way.

When she exited the bathroom, the noise level of the restaurant had increased considerably. Alison glanced around for the source of the commotion and spotted a large group of rowdy, muscular boys.

The football team.

Oh, thought Alison. She couldn't quite explain why, but she suddenly wished she could go back into the bathroom and hide there for the rest of the night.

I'd better just hope they don't see me, she thought. Unfortunately, she'd have to pass by their table in order to get back to hers and Caroline's booth. Alison ducked her head, letting her long blonde hair form a curtain shrouding her face. She tried to tiptoe across the sticky diner floor, sneaking unobtrusively through the dinner guests.

She thought she'd made it, too, when she heard a boisterous shout typical of the football players. "Hey, look, it's Alison!"

Alison cringed, still not looking at the boys.

"Fuck man, I don't believe you," responded another player. "Where is she?"

"She's right over there, dude! Look!"

She glanced up at them amidst shouts of "Ali P.!" and catcalls.

Alison sent a shaky smile their way, walking toward them slowly and hesitantly. It would be rude to ignore them, after all. Caroline would do it, but she was, of course, late, leaving Alison on her own.

The captain of the team, Dylan Everett, let out a low whistle when he saw her. "Looking good, Ali P.," he grinned lasciviously at her.

Alison fisted a handful of her floral print dress in her hand, biting her lip anxiously. Why, oh why, did Caroline have to be so late? Her eyes flickered briefly toward the door, hopefully, but her best friend was nowhere to be seen.

"So who's the lucky guy who's here with you tonight?" asked Greg Cauldwell, a loud-mouthed junior.

"Nobody," replied Alison coolly.

"You're shitting me!" exclaimed Greg, looking like his birthday had come early. "You're here by yourself?"

"Yes," answered Alison.

The eyes of the entire team lit up. Alison felt supremely uncomfortable.

"But," she hurried to amend, "I'm just waiting for Caroline to get here. She's supposed to meet me."

"Well, she's not here yet, now is she?" remarked Dylan, smirking up at her from his seat.

"Well, no, but –"

"Then sit down with us while you wait!" ordered Dylan.

Alison shook her head hurriedly. "No, I really –"

"I insist," Dylan interrupted smoothly.

"Yeah!" seconded Greg. "A gorgeous girl like you shouldn't be alone even for a second."

Frowning anxiously, Alison made to walk away, but Dylan pushed the boy sitting next to him out of his chair, and another one of the players rose from his seat to guide Alison toward the seat.

She didn't really have a choice, so she slid reluctantly into the seat next to Dylan. Alison felt like an animal at the zoo or a painting at a museum as all the boys around the table ogled her. She felt like she was on display, and she didn't like at all. Twirling the ends of her hair nervously, she tried her hardest not to think about how many of these boys might have bought her pictures from Henry, or paid to be told when to "conveniently" pass her window at night.

Alison felt so awkward being stared at in silence that she finally decided speaking was better than trying to stay quiet and unnoticed. Like there was any chance of that happening, anyway. She meekly asked, "Um, so, did you guys come here after practice?"

They nodded. One of the boys at the far end of the table said, "Yep, Coach nearly killed us today with all those drills, so we decided we deserved a feast!"

"We're gonna order everything on the menu!" exclaimed another player, a freshman by the looks of it.

"Except the salads," put in the first boy.

Alison felt sorry for their waiter or waitress.

"You want something?" Dylan asked her, leaning down closer to her face. Alison leant backward, away from him. "You can share with me."

Alison shook her head no. "No, thank you," she responded politely. "I'll wait 'til Caroline gets here."

Please hurry, Alison willed.

Dylan smirked at her. "Man, you girls do everything together, don't you?"

Alison shrugged.

Greg cackled from across the table. "Yo, man, I think it's cute," he told Dylan. "BFF's!" he squealed in a high-pitched voice, then practically fell on the floor laughing at his own "joke."

Dylan rolled his eyes at his teammate. "You know," he murmured to Alison, leaning even closer to her, "we could go on a double date with your friend and van Vooren sometime. That would be fun, huh?"

Alison's insides twisted fretfully. Dylan's smooth voice and forceful look made her feel sick inside. She swallowed hard and shrugged noncommittally in response.

But that wasn't good enough for Dylan. "Well?" he pressed. "What do you say?"

Alison looked down at the worn tabletop. He reminded her of so very many boys and men she'd known in her lifetime, boys who'd stared at her for too long, men who'd made inappropriate comments to her when she was still practically a little girl.

She bit her lip. "Dylan, I'm flattered, but…I think we are better off as friends?" she told him hesitantly, afraid to look up at him.

"What?" Dylan exclaimed angrily.

Greg, having apparently overheard their exchange, burst out laughing once again. "Rejected!" he crowed. "Sucks for you, Everett."

Alison finally looked up from the table cautiously.

"But hey, Ali," Greg went on, "if he's not your type, what do you say to hanging out with me this weekend? I know how to show a lady a good time," he waggled his eyebrows.

Alison grimaced.

"Hey, fuck you, man," Dylan snapped at Greg. "Back off."

Greg raised his eyebrows. "It's not like you own her, Everett, she just rejected you in front of all of us."

Dylan's anger was palpable. Alison shied away from him in her seat, a little scared of what he would do.

"Yeah, dude, she is hot," the boy next to Greg put in. "Like, really damn hot. I bet any guy at this table would pay to go out with her."

At the mention of "paying," Alison went white. He was just a dumb football player, he couldn't be hinting at Henry's "business"…could he?

By some miraculous stroke of luck, just then the waitress arrived at the table. "What can I get for you boys today?" she asked boredly. Alison took advantage of the boys' distraction by discreetly sliding out of her seat and scurrying back to her original booth.

Alison sat with her back facing the football team and slouched down, so no part of her was visible over the walls of the booth. She heaved a sigh of relief at her close escape, shivering a little and hugging herself to calm down.

After a moment, she slid out her phone again and glanced at the time. Caroline really was unbelievably late! Alison was so going to yell at her when – if – she finally showed her face.

Alison hid out in the booth like some covert spy, sneaking glances at the door. Finally, after what seemed like forever, she saw Caroline walk into the diner.

Alison sat up and waved happily. She had never felt so relieved to see her best friend in her life. Once Caroline reached the booth, Alison jumped up and hugged her.

Caroline laughed. "Jesus, it's not like I just saw you a couple hours ago or anything, Al," she teased.

Alison pulled away and sat down, watching as Caroline slid into the other side of the booth. The brunette's cheeks were flushed from the autumn air, and she looked happier than Alison had seen her look in weeks. "Where were you?" she asked. "I've been waiting for forever!"

"I know, I'm sorry," Caroline replied. Her green eyes twinkled. "I just…lost track of time, I guess," she grinned.

Smirking, Alison took in Caroline's messy hair pulled back into a ponytail, her rosy cheeks, her bright eyes. "Oh, I want to be mad at you so badly, but who am I to stand in the way of young love?" she teased.

Caroline's eyes snapped to look at Alison at lightning speed. "What?" she questioned sharply.

Alison giggled. "You and Anders, silly," she explained. "It's obvious you were just 'losing track of time,'" she made air quotes, "with him."

"Oh," Caroline responded after a moment, glancing down at her lap. "Yeah. Anders…" she trailed off as she grabbed a menu and began examining it with great concentration, her previous exuberance faded. "I'm starving," she declared.

Alison shrugged and picked up her own menu. "Me too."

xx

A/N: Thanks to Melissa for writing a lovely review and featuring this story on A Drop of Romeo! Thanks to my other reviewers as well. And if you've taken the time to story alert or favorite this story, please also take a second to leave a quick comment.

As for the results of the astrological sign quiz, they are:

Xander – Aries, Alison – Gemini, Jude – Leo, Caroline – Scorpio, Cate – Sagittarius, and Belle – Capricorn