Authors: L.G. Castillo
Secrets & Surrender 2
Copyright © 2015 by L.G Castillo
SECRETS & SURRENDER 2
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without express written permission of the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Image and Cover Design:
Editor: Kristie Stramaski with EKS Edits
BROKEN ANGEL SERIES
STRONG & WILDE SERIES
[Cassie & Cody’s Story]
SECRETS & SURRENDER SERIES
[Mandi & Nic’s Story]
ristie Stanton had brought me a Porsche.
A freaking Porsche!
Mother was only too happy to pay for the sleek red beauty. “A belated graduation gift,” she’d said. Was it a coincidence that Kristie’s father happened to own several Porsche dealerships across the country and that one of them happened to be in Austin and that Kristie happened to volunteer to drive it down to campus?
I think not.
I would’ve been more excited about finally owning my first 911T if I didn’t think I was going die before I even had a chance to drive it.
My eyes darted around the table, and I silently thanked whatever higher power that had managed to miraculously get everyone out of the dorm, away from the kitchen knives, and to the San Marcos Café.
Mother was way too quiet. She sat on the edge of the worn seat, looking uncomfortable as she wiped the table with a napkin. The café was one of those rundown, hole-in-the-wall places that had great food. Apparently, other college students thought so too because it was packed, which was good for us because I highly doubted Mandi would kill me in front of witnesses.
Everything appeared to be going fine until Mother steered the conversation to a family trip we’d taken to Belize with the Stantons years ago.
“Oh, Nic, do you remember when we went snorkeling? You kept snapping the back of my bikini top until it broke!” Kristie giggled.
“Uh, not really.”
“Yeah, right,” Bianca snorted. “And you don’t remember when I found the Polaroids under your pillow, either.”
I should’ve come up with a better plan.
I sipped my iced tea, glancing warily at Mandi. She was still wearing that same scary smile she’d plastered on her face when she had come into my bedroom and announced that my fiancée was at the door. Her dark eyes were boring into me so hard, it made my head throb.
Yeah, my head’s going to explode any minute now.
Bianca was having way too much fun at my expense. Her eyes danced between Kristie and Mandi, just waiting for something to happen. I didn’t know what she expected. It wasn’t like Mandi was going to throw Kristie down in the middle of the café and rip her hair out.
“You still have the photos?” Kristie beamed.
Mandi’s eyes narrowed in on Kristie, a scowl marring her pouty red lips.
On second thought...
Kristie was clueless as she chirped on about how much she missed hanging out with Bianca and me since we were no longer attending the same private school and how excited she was that I had decided to attend SWT. She’d been accepted to SWT and other smaller colleges in the state. Then Bianca had told her I was enrolling at SWT, which basically sealed the deal for her.
I tried not to look into her baby blue eyes as she spoke. It was nearly impossible not to because she kept touching my arm every few minutes. It didn’t mean anything. She was just one of those touchy-feely type of girls.
I didn’t think Mandi saw it that way, especially since her jaw tightened every time Kristie touched me. It wasn’t like that between Kristie and me. Except for the snorkeling incident, I’ve always felt more like her older brother than a boyfriend. Kristie was sweet and trusted everyone. She’d been like that since we’d dated in junior high. That’s what I liked about her. She didn’t have a manipulative bone in her body. It was that same protectiveness that caused me to reach over to Mandi and place my hand over hers.
Her left eye twitched.
“So, Kristie,” she snatched her hand from under mine, “Tell me about your engagement with Nic. I mean, that’s a really nice ring you have there.”
Kristie wiggled her fingers, catching the sapphire ring encircled with diamonds in the light. “It looks real, doesn’t it? It’s cubic zirconia. He was so cute when he gave it to me. Remember, Nic? It was the night of our first junior high dance.”
Four pairs of eyes swung to me. I wanted to melt into a puddle on the floor. And if Mandi had her way, I’m sure the way she was staring daggers at me would have me cut to tiny Marcelli shreds in two seconds flat.
“Uh, yeah. We were kids,” I explained to a stone-faced Mandi. “Kristie said she’d always wanted to have a ring like Princess Diana’s. She was really upset about her parents’ separation back then.”
“That’s when Poppy moved back to Texas,” Kristie added.
“I wanted to cheer her up so I bought,” I gulped again as Mandi’s eye twitched faster, “I bought her the ring.”
“He was so sweet.” I groaned when Kristie rested her ring-laden hand on my bicep.
Mandi’s shifted, and her chair squeaked against the floor. I immediately scanned the café for the nearest phone, just in case I had to call 911.
Mother’s lips wore a whisper of a smile. She’d orchestrated all of this. How could she do this to me?
Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Mother loved Kristie like a daughter. And Father thought the world of her too. And of course, it helped that the Stantons were extremely wealthy. Her father owned the largest oil company in Texas. Porsche dealerships were just a hobby for him. Her mother was a New York socialite who traveled in the same social circles as my mother.
“I’m sure he was,” Mandi muttered as she turned her death-ray glare back to me.
“Oh, and tell Mandi what he told you!” Bianca gave me a wicked smile.
I scowled, knowing that she was in on this with Mother. I was sure Bianca didn’t have anything against Mandi, but she was Kristie’s best friend, and she’d always hoped to have her as a sister.
“Yes, Kristie, do tell.” Mandi swirled the straw in her iced tea as she spoke. “What did Nic tell you?”
“It was so romantic. I don’t think anyone else has said anything as romantic as that to me since then. He said that he got me the ring to show me how much he cared. Remember you said that made me your fiancée?
Somebody shoot me now.
“Yeah. You know I was kidding, right?”
“I know,” she sighed. “But you weren’t joking about your promise to always be by my side. No matter what.”
I gulped. “No.”
“Nic makes a lot of promises.” Mandi shoved her glass away. “Well, it was nice meeting you Chrissy.”
“Whatever.” She pushed back from the table. “Mrs. Marcelli, Bianca, have a safe trip back to Koppe. And thanks again for the help with finding my father a job.”
“It’s a pleasure,” Mother said, looking a little too smug for my comfort.
“Mandi!” I scrambled after her. “Please. Let me explain.”
“There’s nothing to explain.” Her voice cracked on the last word. She flung the café door open and hurried out.
“Mandi, talk to me.” I dashed after her.
“You don’t have to follow me.” She stared out into the horizon, determined not to look at me. “I can find my own way home, thank you very much.”
“I don’t understand. Why are you so mad?”
Her eyes darted to mine. She missed the end of the sidewalk and stumbled.
“Son of a—” she cursed under her breath, rubbing her toes.
Yeah, I shouldn’t have said that. I knew exactly why she was mad. And she knew that I knew that she knew why.
Good grief! I was starting to sounds like a bad Abbott and Costello act.
“Okay, bad choice of words.”
“Yeah, I’d say that.”
“Uh, where are you going?” For someone who was limping, she sure did move fast.
“Your parents’ house is that way.” I pointed in the opposite direction of where she was heading.
“I’m taking the scenic route,” she grumbled. “And you’re not going to butter me up with that cute grin of yours. Dimples are not buying your way out of this one.”
“I know you’re mad about the ring. It’s no big—”
My breath caught in my throat at the look on her face. She stopped and hurt eyes gazed back at me. It was the same shattered expression she’d had after the brunch incident with my parents. I had vowed to protect her from anything hurting her like that again, and here I was, the one causing the pain.
“You promised to be there for her. Then you promised yourself to me. You basically used the same lines. Why don’t you record it for the next girl? Use Memorex. I hear it’s almost as good as really being there.”
“It’s not the same, Mandi.” My voice was a whisper. I looked into her eyes, wishing I could erase her pain, hoping that she’d believe me. “Kristie’s just a friend. I’ve never thought of her as anything other than a sister.”
She raised an eyebrow.
“Stupid Bianca,” I muttered. “The snorkeling incident happened when I was thirteen. I was full of hormones and shit.”
She folded her arms across her chest. She wasn’t buying it.
“Look, I even had copies of
under my pillow.” Her lip twitched. “I was just trying to cheer her up. Kristie’s the type of person who believes in magic and unicorns. She didn’t know Santa Clause wasn’t real until she was twelve. And it really hit her hard when her parents divorced. I was helping a friend. You can understand that, right?”
She let out a breath. “Yeah, I guess so. But how can you basically say the same words to her that you did to me?”
“When I said them to her, I meant that I’d always be her friend. When I said those words to you, they had a different meaning. Because until I met you, I didn’t know what it meant to love someone. I mean, really love and care for someone like I love you. When are you going to believe me that when I say, ‘I love you,’ I mean you and no one else?”
She sucked in a breath and those beautiful dark eyes looked at me softly.
“I believe you.”
I reached out and pulled her into my arms, breathing a sigh of relief that she was allowing the contact. “You’re the most important person in my life. All I care about is you. I don’t care about the stupid car. I don’t care that Kristie is here and that, more than likely, it was Mother’s idea to have her enroll at SWT. I know Mother is still trying to play her games. If I have to, I’ll tell them all to get the hell out of my life. I’ll even give back the car.”
“No, don’t do that. Yeah, your family is totally manipulative, but they’re your family. And your mother did help out my dad, so I’ll give her that. And as for Kristie,” she took a bracing breath, “I can understand that she’s your friend. I would’ve done the same thing for Cody if Cassie hadn’t come back from Houston. And besides, I kind of told Cassie that Cody was hot.”
“Well, he is. You’ve seen him. He has this bodacious bod and—”
“Stop! That’s more information than I need to know.” She laughed at the freaked out expression on my face. I chuckled with her. “Does that mean we’re okay?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“Want to come for a drive with me? I want to take the Porsche for one spin before I send it back.”
“Oh my God, Nic. You should see the look on your face. It’s like you’re giving up a kidney or something.” She laughed.
“It’s a really awesome car.”
“You guys and your cars.” She rolled her eyes. “I’m not even asking you to give the car back.”
“Really? I can keep the car?”
“Don’t tease me, woman.”
“Nic!” She hit my chest softly, laughing. I grabbed her hand and held onto it. My face turned serious. “You know that I love you, don’t you?”
Her face softened. “I do. I feel it. I feel it whenever you touch me. I feel it whenever you look at me. I even felt it when you kept eyeballing the payphone on the back wall of the café.”