Unbound

By: Kimberly Derting

EMERSON



I came to a dead stop in the middle of the sidewalk, asking myself how it had come to this. How I’d failed my best friend in the whole wide world so miserably. Did she really believe in fairy tales? “You sure you wanna do this?”

Lauren stopped too, midstep, as her shoulders slumped forward. “Em, we’ve been through this. I’m not abandoning you.” She dropped the box she’d been lugging and came back to where I stood. This whole beach-house-for-the summer thing had been her idea in the first place. A way to celebrate that college was finally behind us. She tilted her head to the side, studying me as she placed her hands over mine as I clung to the carton marked “BATHROOM” in bold black Sharpie. “It’s not like I’m skipping town or anything. I’ll be less than a mile away.”

I shot a meaningful look to where Will—Lauren’s new roommate—had gone over and plucked her abandoned box from the walkway and was hoisting it into the back of his pickup truck. I lowered my voice, trying my best to be discreet. “I mean, are you sure you wanna move in with . . .” I gave a quick nod his way and resorted to pig Latin. “ . . . im-hay? He looks etchy-skay.”

She took the box I was holding and passed it to Will, too. He managed it with one hand as he winked at me, not bothering to pretend he wasn’t eavesdropping. “Me? I’m sketchy as hell,” he agreed, flashing me the dimple that had surely done Lauren in. “I plan to do shady things to your friend here.” Then he smacked her on her ass with his free hand, and she blushed.

Fuck. It was too late. I’d already lost her.

I let out an exaggerated sigh. “Fine. Whatever. Go on, then. But don’t come crying to me when it all goes to shit.” I scowled as I imparted my wisest words on her. “And it sure nuff always goes to shit.”

“Be careful, your Texas is showing.” She grinned, and then cast a calculated glance over my shoulder to the house next door—Lucas’s place. “Like you’re one to talk . . .”

I settled my hands on my hips, preparing for battle. “If you have something to say, spit it out already.”

She opened her mouth, looking like she was about to launch into another explanation about how I might not be keeping a toothbrush over at Lucas’s house, but that I’d hardly spent a single night at our place in the two months since we’d moved here.

She was starting to sound like a broken record. This was the exact same discussion we’d had when she’d dropped the bomb on me that she’d be shacking up with Will.

Eight short weeks. That’s all the time she’d known him and already they were moving in together. Not enough, if you asked me; not that she had.

Thankfully, Will laid on the horn, letting us both know he had better places to be than stuffed inside the hot cab of his truck watching the two of us say our farewells. Instead, she wrapped me in a hug. “Not everyone is your parents, Em.”

I wiggled out of her sappy embrace. When had my best friend become such a cliché? “And not everyone is yours, Lo.”

She blew me a kiss as she climbed into the pickup. “I’m only a mile away,” she reminded me cheerily, before riding off into the sunset with her white knight.





Me, I’d always been less about sunsets and white knights, and more about Sex on the Beach (the drink and the extracurricular activity), and as of late, one seriously hot surfer boy.

I tried to tell myself I didn’t need Lauren—I was livin’ the dream. But who was I kidding? She’d been gone less than an hour and already I missed her. I’d spent the better part of that hour wandering our teensy summer rental, trying to imagine what my last few weeks would be like without her. It wouldn’t be the same.

If this was what getting dumped felt like, I’d take a hard pass. No wonder there were so many cheesy country songs about it.

That was the real reason I was here now, waiting on my hot surfer boy at his place. Lucas’s roommate, Zane, had picked up a double shift at the bar, so it would just be the two of us tonight, and I didn’t plan to waste a minute of our alone time.

Lucas Harper was h-o-t with a capital H. Meeting him had been an unexpected complication to my summer plans, which had been simple: to slut my way up and down the West Coast, indulging in the sampler platter. One of everything California had to offer as a way of congratulating myself for surviving college and (finally) getting my best friend laid.