Tagged & Ashed

By: C.M Owens

Chapter One

Building the Lies


“So... you know this is stupid, right?” I drawl while staring at the massive house just minutes away.

“It’s not stupid, Ash,” Billy sighs, sick of me second-guessing his master plan. “The only time Rene ever notices me is when you’re around. I know you make her jealous. This weekend is my chance to finally close the deal. Now, do you remember the story?”

Rolling my eyes, I mumble, “Yes. We started dating a few days ago, but we’re seeing how this weekend goes before we commit to being a real couple.”

He smiles. “Right. That way, Rene doesn’t think I’m a cheater if I end up getting to be with her."

I just laugh. He acts like a small boy with a crush instead of a twenty-one-year-old man with a brilliant mind.

“So... what do I get out of this whole charade?” I tease.

“Free booze, free food, and a weekend of sunning by the sea. The wedding is Sunday, and it’ll be party central from now until the end of the reception.”

“That doesn’t seem like enough,” I say, feigning a sigh and teasing him more with the mockery of my breath.

“I’ve already bought you three dresses. Damn, girl. Quit being greedy,” he playfully adds with a smile that touches his light blue eyes.

I don't know why Billy has such an obsession with Rene. She's so... evil - that's the word that comes to mind. I really don't know why she thinks she's too good for him. He's rich, smart, funny, and loyal. If I didn't love him like a brother, then I'd probably be into him.

“How is it possible I’ve never met your brother? We’ve been friends since our sophomore year of high school. I know your mom, but that’s it. You’re practically a regular at my family dinners.”

He tightens his lips and shrugs.

“Your family is awesome. Other than my mom, my family is full of assholes. Take Wren for example. I’m his brother, and yet I’m just a groomsman - not the best man.”

The bitter scowl on his face brings a ridiculing laugh from me by accident. He shakes his head while stifling a grin.

“You know, you’re starting to sound like a woman scorned instead of a snubbed brother,” I mock.

He lets a touch of laughter free, and then he slows down as we turn onto the driveway of the gallant, unbelievably huge home overlooking the ocean. This is Melanie's - Billy's mother - newest home. It's not as close to Sterling Shore as most of her houses, but she prefers the cliff-side views. This home suits her. It's a glorious beast with a cliff beside it that overlooks the ocean.

“I know I’ve harped on it a while, but Wren should have picked me over Tag no matter what has happened between us throughout the years. I know he’s his best friend, but I’m still his damn brother. That should mean something," Billy grumbles, interrupting my silent reverie.

“How does someone end up with a name like Tag?” I muse as my mind blocks out his bitter rant.

"How the hell have you never heard of him?" he asks, turning his eyes toward me for a second before turning back to the road. "He's considered Sterling Shore's most eligible bachelor. Him and Dane Sterling. But Tag makes a bunch of the tabloids."

I shrug, not really caring about this conversation. "Since when do I read tabloids? Not to mention, I'm a bit of a hermit—thus the reason I work from home, and take online college courses. I've never seen or heard anything about Dane or Tag, except for when you bring them up. I think Kode Sterling should be the most eligible bachelor."

He gives me an incredulous look. "How do you know about Kode Sterling but not... You know what, never mind. That's not the point. The point is... what the hell were we even talking about?"

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