Today's Reading

"What were you doing heading off so early, anyway?" Addie says, as Deb pulls away from the side of the road. "You hate driving early."

She's putting on makeup, using the mirror in the sun visor above the passenger seat; I watch her blend a paste from the back of her hand into the cream of her skin.

"You're a little out of date," Marcus says, trying to get comfortable in his seat, and elbowing me in the ribs in the process. "These days Dylan has very strong opinions about why road trips absolutely must start at four a.m."

I look down at my knees, embarrassed. It was Addie who taught me how much better a road trip is when you leave in the thick quiet before dawn, the day still heavy with hope, though she's right: when we were together, I always complained about how early she made us set off for a long drive.

"Well, it's a good job we started early!" Rodney chirps, checking his phone with his elbows tucked as tightly to his sides as possible.

Marcus is making no such sacrifices to my comfort: he is spread-eagled with his knee carelessly thrown against mine and an elbow half in my lap. I sigh.

"We'll be tight getting to the family barbecue as it is, now," Rodney goes on. "Over eight hours of driving and it's already five thirty!"

"Ah, you're coming to the pre-wedding barbecue?" I ask.

He nods. The question is a blatant attempt to work out what Rodney is doing here, but I'm hoping it passes for friendliness. For one awful, lead-weight moment when they first got out of the car, I thought he was coming to the wedding as Addie's plus-one—Cherry had said a few months ago that she might be bringing somebody. But there's no obvious sense of connection between them; Addie seems to be largely ignoring him.

She's largely ignoring everybody, actually. After those first few heart-jolting, gut-wrenching moments of eye contact, she's been studiously avoiding my gaze every time I try to snag her attention. Meanwhile Marcus is tapping a loud, inane rhythm on the car window; Deb flashes him an irritated look as she tries to concentrate on joining the Chichester bypass.

"Can we get some music playing or something?" Marcus asks.

I know what's coming before Addie's hit play; as soon as I hear the opening notes I have to swallow back a smile. I don't know the song, but American country music is undeniably distinctive—you only need a few chords to know you'll be hearing tales of late-night kisses on porches, trips to the honky-tonk, long drives with pretty girls in passenger seats. Addie and Deb have loved country music since they were teenagers; I used to tease Addie about it, which was particularly hypocritical of me, as a man whose "Long Run" playlist is almost exclusively populated by the works of Taylor Swift. Now I can't hear the twang of a banjo without thinking of Addie dancing to Florida Georgia Line in one of my old shirts, Addie singing along to Rodney Atkins' "Watching You" with the car windows down, Addie undressing slowly to the tune of "Body Like a Back Road."

"Maybe not this one," Addie says, hand hovering over the phone.

"I like it! Leave it," Deb says, turning it up.

"What the hell is this?" Marcus says.

I watch Addie's shoulders square up at his tone.

"It's Ryan Griffin," Addie says. "It's—it's called 'Woulda Left Me Too.'"

I wince. Marcus snorts with laughter.

"Oh, is it now?" he says.

"It's on the Country Gold playlist," Addie says; a pale pink blush blossoms on the skin of her neck, uneven, its patches like petals. "And that's what we're going to be listening to for the next eight hours. So you better get used to it."

Marcus opens the car door.

"What the—"

"Marcus, what the fuck—"

There's a scrabble in the backseat. Marcus elbows me off. The door is only open a few inches but the wind rips through the car, and Rodney is leaning over me now, trying to reach the handle and pull it closed, until there's four or five hands clawing at the car door, and we're scratching one another, Rodney's greasy brown hair in my face, my leg somehow tangled over Marcus's—

"I'll hitchhike!" Marcus is yelling, and I can hear the adrenaline in his voice, the buzz he gets from doing something stupid. "Let me out! I can't do eight hours of this! Turn it off!" He's laughing even as I slap at his hand so hard it stings the skin of my palm.

"You're insane!" says Rodney. "We're going at sixty miles an hour!"

The car swerves. I catch sight of Deb's eyes in the rearview mirror: they're narrowed in grim concentration as she tries to hold her lane position. On our right cars flash by in a stream of overbright headlights, leaving yellow-white streaks across my vision.

Addie pauses the song. Marcus closes the door. Now the music is off and the wind isn't roaring through the door you can hear every noise in the car: Rodney's labored breathing, the sound of Deb relaxing back into the driving seat. With the rush of physical adrenaline from the scuffle comes a startling desire to punch Marcus on the nose.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" I hiss.

I feel Addie turn to look at me then—surprised, maybe—but she's back to the road before I can meet her eyes.

This excerpt is from the paperback edition.

Monday we begin the book Devil in Disguise by Lisa Kleypas.

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