Pricked (Page 42)

“I think you’re a damn good tracer,” I say with a smirk.

The tattoo is of a sketch I did—a butterfly net. And I had it placed on the side of my ribcage, in the exact same place I put Brighton’s piece.

If I ever see her again, I’m going to tell her how I feel. And if she doesn’t believe me, I’ll have this to back it up.

And if I never see her again … I’ll have this piece to remember that beautiful butterfly I caught one summer who refused to fly away and instead chose to fall in love with her captor instead.

I dab some Vaseline over the ink and cover it with a bandage.

Standing in front of the mirror, in a way it’s like looking at a different person. I suppose in some ways, I am a different person. I’m certainly not the man I was earlier this summer, when Brighton Taylor Karrington walked into my shop.

And I never want to be that guy again.

I tug my shirt over my head and fish my car keys from my pocket.

“Where’re you going?” Pierce asks.

“Park Terrace.”

Going to catch myself a butterfly.



Cara drops Graeme and I off outside our arrival terminal at JFK. I lug my bag onto the curb while the two of them kiss and hug goodbye in the back of the cab we took from their apartment in the Meatpacking District this morning.

I wasn’t planning on doing Doctors Without Borders this time around since I’d just started a new job, but it turns out my father is good friends with the president of Hershman Medical Research and unbeknownst to me pulled a few strings so I could go. While I’m glad I get to join Graeme on another trip and help Hondurans in need, I wish my father wouldn’t have gone behind my back and arranged this.

I was finally getting comfortable in my position, ready to take on more responsibilities and new projects, when my boss pulled me aside and informed me that I’d been approved by the president of the company for twelve weeks of unpaid humanitarian leave—which I didn’t know was a thing.

She was under the impression that I’d requested it personally, so it’s not like I could turn it down.

Graeme joins me on the curb with his bag and we wave to Cara as she rides off in the back of a Yellow Cab.

“You ready?” he asks.

I nod and we head inside to check in for our flight.

A week ago, I left Park Terrace to come to the city to spend a few days here with my brother before leaving for our trip. Eben and Laurel were also in town so we made it a thing, all of us palling around the city and taking cheesy tourist pictures.

As much as I’m looking forward to helping people, I’m also looking forward to being a world away from home. I need to focus my time and energy on putting good into the world. Had I stayed home, I know all I’d have done is ruminate on Madden as much as I tried to convince myself I was over him.

Graeme and I check in for our flight and head to security, grabbing a quick lunch before making our way to our gate. When we get back to the States in twelve weeks, it’ll be the week of Laurel and Eben’s wedding—I’ll go from one distraction straight into another.

For now, I continue to experience that emotional rawness and physical soreness that tend to accompany broken hearts.

In those still, quiet hours, I find myself longing to relive so many of those little moments we shared, ones that didn’t seem like anything special at the time but looking back … they were magical.

They were everything.



I press the buzzer outside the locked gate in front of the Karrington residence.

“Hello, Karrington House, can I help you?” a voice responds.

I think it’s Eloise.

“I’m here to see Brighton,” I say.

She doesn’t respond right away. I tap my thumbs against the steering wheel as I wait, peering across my dash toward the expansive property.

“This is Mrs. Karrington.” Temple’s voice comes across the intercom. “Brighton no longer lives here.”

“Where can I find her?” I ask.

“She’s in Honduras.”

I scoff. Honduras? Seriously? For a second I think she’s making it up, and then I remember those photos in Brighton’s room and her telling me about the Doctors Without Borders trips she used to take with her brother.

“When will she be back?” I ask.

There’s no response.

I wait another several seconds before pressing the buzzer again.


But just before I’m about to give it one last ring, a voice comes through.

A whisper.

One word.


It didn’t sound like Temple—I’m willing to bet it was Eloise.

Shifting into reverse, I back out and turn onto the road, heading to Olwine. If I had a passport, I’d be on the next plane to Honduras. But for now I’ll wait … until December.

But honestly, I’d wait forever for her if I had to.


Three Months Later


I finish unpacking the last of my things and collapse on my bed, shoving my suitcase out of the way and wondering if my parents would notice if I took a fifty-hour nap.

It’s strange being home again.

I thought it would feel different. I thought I would feel different. I thought maybe time and distance would heal things a bit, but it was nothing more than a distraction and now I’m right back where I was the day I left Park Terrace.

Being home only reminds me I’m a mere thirty-minute drive from the man who still holds my heart in his teeth.

Still, I try to focus on the positives. I spent the last twelve weeks changing lives, making memories, meeting new friends. I had experiences I’ll never forget as long as I live.

The program stationed us at a mother and child clinic.

The irony wasn’t lost on me.

I’m half-tempted to crawl under the covers and attempt a nap when my door swings open and my mother appears.

“I know you just got home, but I’d love it if you could come downstairs and join us in assembling centerpieces,” she says.

It’s the week of Laurel and Eben’s wedding, and things are crazy around here to say the least. Florists and tailors have been stopping by. Friends and family have been flying in from all over the country all week, some of which are staying with us. The staff are all working double time to ensure the household runs smoothly and my mother’s as frenetic as ever, nitpicking every last detail and micromanaging everyone who comes within a five-foot radius of her.

As long as you have two functioning hands, she’ll put you to work.

“I’ll be down shortly,” I tell her, knowing that if I don’t help, I’ll never hear the end of it. I peel myself out of bed and make myself presentable. Voices carry from downstairs, people laughing and chatting. I probably couldn’t take a nap even if I wanted to. This place is a zoo filled with anyone and everyone my parents have ever come into contact with.

Heading downstairs a minute later, I stop at the landing when I spot a familiar face standing by the front door, hands in his pockets and a boyish grin on his face when he sees me.

“Brighton,” he says.

“Johnathan!” I throw my arms around him and he swings me around. “I haven’t seen you in forever.”

“Right. Last time I saw you was your high school graduation.”

Johnathan is the son of my mother’s best friend from college. Every summer growing up, they’d visit for one month. Johnathan was my first real friend.

And my first crush—at least until he told me in confidence that he preferred guys over girls …

But that was a lifetime ago.

And as soon as we both went off to college, I spent the summers overseas and he spent them back home in San Francisco.

“It’s so good to see you,” I say, giving him another squeeze.

He looks so grown now, all filled out. And gone are his wrinkled khaki shirts and American Eagle t-shirts. Now he’s dressed like he walked right off of a Tom Ford billboard in Times Square.

“I thought you weren’t coming to the wedding,” I say. “Mom said you were going to be in Milan.”

He winks. “Yeah, well I moved a couple things around. I wouldn’t miss a Karrington wedding for the world.”

From the corner of my eye, I catch my mom watching the two of us catching up, a hopeful smile on her face. As far as I know, he still hasn’t officially come out to his family yet, so I’m sure my mom looks at us and thinks we’d be the perfect fit.

While I may have thought the world of him once upon a time, I’m not exactly his type. And even if I were, kissing him now would be like kissing one of my brothers.

It wouldn’t feel right.

That—and he isn’t Madden.



It’s the middle of December, which means for the past fifteen days, I’ve been seeing Brighton everywhere I go.

Not literally.

But on at least five separate occasions, I’ve spotted a long-legged icy blonde and got my hopes up, only to have them dashed as soon as they turned around.

Still, I’m looking for her always.

Her phone has been off for the past three months and I even went so far as to check her Facebook a handful of times like a lame ass. Her profile is pretty locked down, but her profile picture confirmed that wherever she was, it wasn’t Park Terrace.