The three teens sat on the end of the rickety wooden dock at the pond.
“Today’s my thirteenth birthday,” Daphne Petty told the boy at her side, giving him a coy look and winding a bright red lock of hair around her finger. “You know what that means, right?”
“That it’s Audrey’s birthday, too?” Cade glanced around Daphne’s shoulder to smile at the quieter twin.
Audrey gave him a shy smile, flustered that he’d remembered her. She sat on the opposite side of her vivacious, flirty twin, saying nothing. That was usually how it went. Daphne commanded attention and Audrey just sort of stood by her side. Not that she minded much. Daphne was also the bad twin, and Audrey liked being the good twin. You got into trouble a lot less when you were the good twin, and if there was one thing Audrey hated, it was being in trouble.
“That’s not it,” Daphne said with a pout. She nudged his shoulder. “Pay attention to me.”
Instantly, Cade’s amused gaze went back to Daphne. “I am paying attention to you.”
“No, you’re paying attention to Audrey. Don’t you like me, Cade?” She continued to twist that lock of hair around her finger, imitating a move they’d seen their older sister Gretchen pull, to great effect. Gretchen always had interest from boys, and Daphne wanted to learn everything she knew.
“I like both of you,” Cade said in a cheerful voice, then ruffled Daphne’s hair like she was a child. “You two are my friends.”
“Best friends,” Audrey said shyly,
swinging her legs.
Daphne rolled her eyes at her twin. “We can’t be best friends with a guy. Guys can only be boyfriends.”
Cade choked on a laugh. “You two are too young for me. I’m fifteen now. You just turned thirteen.”
“Well, it’s my—” she turned to look at her twin “—our birthday and you need to give us a present.”
Cade tugged on the frayed collar of his shirt. It was faded and worn, much like everything he owned. No one talked about it, but the Archers were the poorest family on a rather low-end block of the neighborhood, poorer even than Audrey and Daphne’s parents, who worked long hours for little pay. “I don’t have money, Daphne. I can’t get a job until next year, remember?”
“It’s okay,” Audrey said. “You can give us something that doesn’t cost anything.”
A kiss, Audrey thought dreamily, staring at Cade’s handsome blue eyes and blond hair.
“You could teach us how to make out with a boy,” Daphne said slyly, that wicked tone in her voice. “I need to practice so I’m ready for my first boyfriend.”
Cade sputtered. “Make out? I don’t think so. You two are like my little sisters.”
That was not the first time he’d referred to them as his little sisters. It crushed Audrey’s heart a bit, but she could tell her twin was undeterred. Daphne usually didn’t take no for an answer.
“Maybe just a hug, then?” Daphne asked sweetly.
“Of course,” Cade told her,
leaning in and reaching an arm around Daphne.
Daphne immediately wrapped her arms around Cade and thrust her mouth against his, trapping him into a surprise kiss. Audrey’s jaw dropped in shock as her twin kissed—no, mauled—the boy she knew that Audrey had a crush on. Their friend.
Cade made a noise of surprise and tried to pull away, but Daphne clung to him like a leech.
“Daph, stop it,” Audrey hissed. Anger began to bubble inside her. How dare Daphne make a scene with Cade. It was bad enough that she monopolized him constantly. “Just stop it!”
But Daphne didn’t stop. She made a loud mmmmm in the back of her throat, just to goad Audrey.
So Audrey shoved her twin into the pond.
Daphne fell with a splash and a yell, and Cade barely managed to scramble backward onto the dock. He stared at Audrey in surprise.
That was okay, because Audrey was pretty surprised at her actions, too.
Dang it. There went her impulsive temper. Audrey tried to keep it under control, she really did, but sometimes it got the better of her.
Like right now.
Daphne surfaced in the pond’s scummy water, screeching as she flailed. “Audrey, you suck!” she yelled. “Cade, help me out!”
“That was not cool, Audrey,” Cade told her, leaning over the side of the dock and extending a hand to Daphne. When she continued to flounder in the water, he sighed and looked over at Audrey, who stood on the dock, frozen in horror.