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Credence by Penelope Douglas


Credence

by Penelope Douglas

Self-Published


Three of them, one of her, and a remote cabin in the woods. Let the hot, winter nights ensue...


Tiernan de Haas doesn't care about anything anymore. The only child of a film producer and his starlet wife, she's grown up with wealth and privilege but not love or guidance. Shipped off to boarding schools from an early age, it was still impossible to escape the loneliness and carve out a life of her own. The shadow of her parents' fame followed her everywhere.


And when they suddenly pass away, she knows she should be devastated. But has anything really changed? She's always been alone, hasn't she?


Jake Van der Berg, her father's stepbrother and her only living relative, assumes guardianship of Tiernan who is still two months shy of eighteen. Sent to live with him and his two sons, Noah and Kaleb, in the mountains of Colorado, Tiernan soon learns that these men now have a say in what she chooses to care and not care about anymore.


As the three of them take her under their wing, teach her to work and survive in the remote woods far away from the rest of the world, she slowly finds her place among them. And as a part of them.


She also realizes that lines blur and rules become easy to break when no one else is watching.


One of them has her. The other one wants her. But he...


He's going to keep her.

Genre:


Triggers:

Trauma from childhood neglect, sexual situations with step-family, violence, hunting

 

I really wanted to like this.

After all the hype I've seen over this book, I really, really wanted to like it.

It's not even the taboo nature of it. I went into this book fully knowing what I was getting myself into.

I just really didn't like Tiernan.

I didn't love the men.

And it was too long. Too, too long.

I don't want to spend my whole time dumping on this book, because there were things I certainly liked about it. I do like Penelope Douglas's writing style, afterall. I didn't DNF it, so I didn't hate it.

It just wasn't what I was expecting.

First of all, I was expecting way more spice. Considering this is usually rated with 5 chili peppers on #booktok and #bookstagram, I was surprised by how little there was. I mean, there is sex, but I didn't feel like it was 5 chili peppers steamy.

I was always expecting for more of a forbidden element to the story, but really, it's not as bad as it's made out to be. Yes, the male love interests in this book are technically her step-uncle and step-cousins. But they had never even met. Never talked. There is no family ties there, just labels. And the ickyness I felt going into this book about a father and his sons sharing a woman, is quickly wiped away when Jake makes it clear that if she wants something with his sons, their sexual relationship would end, so there is none of that.

Whew.

The sex was predictable because it's so obvious Tiernan is desperate for love and connection, so it's not a surprise that she ends up with these men, all for different reasons. Mainly unresolved parental issues. She leans on Jake, because of those issues. Noah has always given off brother vibes. Teirnan never had a sibling, so I think that's why she leans on him more so for emotional love and support, as opposed to intimacy. I mean, there is attraction, and some intimacy, but it doesn't go anywhere. There is no trauma there for her to find an outlet to pour herself into. Then there is Kaleb, who she obviously connects with because he was traumatized in a different way from a parent, and has internalized his pain from that event like Tiernan had, but the damage was more extensive. It makes sense that she would bond with him, even with his very polarizing issues.

I think the thing I took most offense to in regards to the intimacy was the use of the word cherry.

I hate when virginity/a hymen is referred to as a cherry. Gross.


The story was okay. Kind of boring. Pretty predictable. The only character I really liked was Jake, because sue me, I love an age gap romance, and he was grumpy as all hell. I wanted to like Noah, but he came off as whiny. I have a love/hate thing for Kaleb, because he treats Tiernan like shit, but I liked him in the end. Tiernan got on my nerves. While I loved her journey of recognizing the trauma her parents put her through, and working through it, she drove me crazy.

Also, what the hell is with her always charging her phone when she doesn't even use it? Why is Penelope always pointing that out?


Ugh. This review is all over the place.

I'm ready to be done with this review, and forever done with this book.

It was okay. Just not what I was expecting and boring.






“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.” -Frederick Douglass


Jake: “You have pretty hands,”

he points out. I look down at them wrapped around the mug.

Jake: “Your dad did, too,”

he adds, and I can hear the taunt. I pinch my eyebrows together. Was that a dig?

Tiernan: “My dad had pretty hands,”

I muse, taking a sip without looking at him.

Tiernan: “So real men use chainsaws and pick-up trucks instead of Mont Blancs and cell phones?”

I ask. I turn my head, peering up at him, and he narrows his blue eyes on me.

Tiernan: “Well, he’s dead now. You win."


I turn my head toward him again.

Tiernan: “You’re not my father, you know? I came here of my own free will, and I can leave whenever I want.”

But instead of walking away or ignoring me, a hint of mischief hits his eyes, and he smiles.

Jake: “Maybe. Or maybe I’ll decide that you’d benefit from some time here and that you can’t leave, after all.”

My heart quickens.

Jake: “At least until I see you laugh. Or yell or scream or cry or fight or joke, and all in more than nods and one-word answers.”

I stare at him, and I feel my eyes burn with anger. He cocks an eyebrow.

Jake: “Maybe I’ll decide to honor your parents’ wishes and keep you until you’re of age.”

Tiernan: “I’ll be ‘of age’ in ten weeks.”

Jake: “We’ll be snowed in in eight.”

And he laughs, backing away from me.


Noah: “I would leave. I would leave in a heartbeat. You’re here, and you don’t have to be. I have to be here, but I don’t want to be.”

Tiernan: “It’s as good a place as any,”

I reply softly, placing some condiments back onto the door shelf.

Noah: “Why?”

Tiernan: “Because you’re still you, no matter where you go,”


Noah: “California girls are environmentally conscious, aren’t they?”

Noah laughs from the sink.

Noah: “No plastic straws. You have to bring your own bags to the supermarket. I hear they only flush the toilet every other time they go, too.”

I dig in my eyebrows so deep it hurts.

Tiernan: “Yeah, sometimes we’ll even shower together to conserve water. It’s awesome.”


But he just laughs under his breath, turns on the bike, and twists the handle, revving the engine.

Noah: “Climb on. I don’t bite,”

he tells me. And then he shoots me a mischievous look.

Noah: “My little cousins, anyway.”


Noah: “You ever been on a motorcycle?”

Tiernan: “No.”

I climb on behind him, situating my purse to my side as it hangs across my body.

Noah: “I’m gentle. Ask any girl.”

Tiernan: “I’m not any girl,”

I say, sliding my arms around him and locking my hands in front.

Tiernan: “You hurt me, and you still have to go home with me and deal with me.”

Noah: “Good point.”


Eight boxes of condoms. Eight. I shoot him a look, cocking an eyebrow.

Tiernan: “You sure you don’t need the economy size they sell online?”

Noah: “Can I get it by tonight?”

he retorts, looking down at me. I roll my eyes, but I kind of feel like I want to smile or…laugh, because he’s such an idiot.


Noah: “Dude, look at me,”

Noah barks at him. Slowly, Kaleb pulls his gaze away and finally meets his brother’s.

Noah: “It’s Dad’s… brother’s daughter,”

Noah explains, and I hear humor in his tone.

Noah: “Remember? The step-brother he hates? This is his kid.”

Noah gestures to me.

Noah: “She’s family. She’s staying with us for a while. You can’t fuck her.”

And then Noah releases him, laughing under his breath.

Tiernan: “This isn’t funny!”

I snap. And then I glare at Kaleb, now able to finally find my goddamn voice.

Tiernan: “What the hell is the matter with you? Huh?”

Noah: “Just cut him some slack. He’s always starving when he comes back from being in the woods this long.”

Tiernan: “Then eat!”

Noah: “That’s what he was doing,”

Noah shoots back, glancing at me.

Eating. Eating me. Oh, you’re fucking clever, aren’t you? Assholes.


But instead, I pick up the shaving cream, pour some foam into my hand, and start dabbing it on my face as he stops shaving to watch me. As soon as my cheeks are covered, and I look like Santa, I pick up my toothbrush again to use the handle as a razor.

Tiernan: “You got no idea how to raise girls,”

I tell him. He smirks at me in the mirror.

Jake: “Want me to make a man out of you then?”

Tiernan: “You can try.”


Terrance: “Relax. Not everything with a penis is a threat.”

Tiernan: “Which is exactly what someone with a penis would say.”


Noah: “What the hell would’ve happened if we hadn’t found you?”

Noah bites out.

Tiernan: “What do you think would’ve happened?”

Noah: “You both looked pretty close,”

he points out. Then he looks to his father.

Noah: “She was up at the lake with Holcomb.”

Jake: “I told you to stay away from the local boys,”

Jake tells me. I shake my head, my backpack clutched in my fist.

Tiernan: “I went for a hike,”

I explain in a hard voice.

Tiernan: “I didn’t invite him. He showed up. Are we done?”

And then I glare at Noah.

Tiernan: “I mean, Kaleb and the rifle? Really?”

I spin around, walking for the house again.

Noah: “You left the rifle on the beach!”

Noah growls at me.

Noah: “You left yourself unprotected.”

Tiernan: “What do you think he was going to do?”

I ask, spinning around.

Tiernan: “Attack me?”

Noah’s jaw flexes, and I can’t help myself.

Tiernan: “He might not have had to,”

I tell him, slipping my backpack over my shoulder.

Tiernan: “I was kind of liking him.”

He advances like he’s going to come after me, but Jake shoots out his hands and stops him, holding him back. I almost smile. My uncle turns, his patience gone.

Jake: “Go get your shower,”

he orders me. I turn and head up the stairs, hearing Noah’s angry bark behind me.

Noah: “You’re a Van der Berg here. If you give that asshole a piece of ass, I swear to God I’ll make sure you don’t sit for a week.”


I was happy for her. I wanted her to know that she was stunning, and I loved her movies. I wanted her to know that. Why did she never want to share the wonderful things that happened in her life with me, because she was the first place I wanted to run to as a child to tell her when a wonderful thing had happened to me. Before I stopped trying. I stood there, staring off. It’s okay. It wasn’t about me. This was her day. I had no right to demand attention. I heard the front door slam closed, the house, and everything in it, going still and silent. Like nothing lived here. Like, when they left, nothing did.


Jake: “Go grab the First Aid kit,”

Jake tells me as he starts to walk for the driver’s side.

Jake: “Kaleb needs help.”

Tiernan: “Yeah, professional help,”


Jake: “Everything with a dick is watching you two,”

Jake growls, looking down at me. Watching? Huh? It takes a moment, but I start moving my eyes around the bonfire, seeing people looking at Cici and me, especially a few groups of guys on the outskirts of the circle grinning and whispering to each other. I glare up at him, working my arm free.

Tiernan: “Would you have stopped us if I were dancing with a guy?”

Jake: “If you had been dancing with a man like that in public, I would've taken you over my knee."


Tiernan: “Your logic is flawed, you know?”

I tell him, staring at him through the mirror.

Tiernan: “If a woman claims you, then she’ll also do for you what other women do. But if you all are claiming me, you’re not doing for me what other men would do.”

Noah spurts beer from his mouth, choking and dripping alcohol everywhere as he looks wide-eyed over at his father and coughs into his hand. I bite back a smile.


Jake: “You’re going to look in the mirror at the seventeen-year-old girl in a fifty-year-old body and realize you wasted so much time being devastated at how those fuckers didn’t love you that you forgot there’s an entire world of people who will.”


Tiernan: “I’ll handle Bernadette, feed the horses and dogs, and pick all the tomatoes before I get started on breakfast. Would someone mind bringing a load of wood up to my room sometime today? It’s getting too cold at night.”

She leaves the room, heading back upstairs, and I stare at my dad, my mouth hanging open a little.

Tiernan: “I’m not feeding you until the stalls are done and Shawnee’s had her work-out!”

she yells as she climbs the stairs.

Tiernan: “Let’s go!”

My dad’s eyes go wide and he pops out of his chair, stuffing the last piece of bacon in his mouth as I laugh, downing a huge gulp of orange juice before rushing out of the kitchen. Yes, ma’am.


Noah: “Okay, okay,”

I say, getting serious.

Noah: “If you clean your plate first, I have breakfast duty for the rest of the week.”

She ponders it for a moment and then nods once.

Tiernan: “Deal.”

I pick up my steak knife and fork, seeing we both have the same cut of meat and the same scoop of macaroni salad. Her hands remain in her lap.

Tiernan: “Ready?”

Noah: “You don’t need utensils?”

She shakes her head, an unsettling smirk on her face.

Tiernan: “Nope.”

Okayyy. You’re so doing these two shots.

Noah: “Go!”

I yell. I shovel in a mouthful and look over, seeing her take her plate and set it on the ground. Huh? I freeze, watching Danny and Johnny scarf up everything on her plate, one taking the steak and the other tearing off half as they both escape to a corner to savor their spoils. What the fuck?

Noah: “That wasn’t the deal!”

I blurt out, food nearly falling out of my mouth.

Tiernan: “You said I had to clean my plate.”

Noah: “You!”

I reiterate.

Noah: “YOU had to clean the plate!”

Tiernan: “Semantics.”

She takes a swig of her beer, a look of self-satisfaction on her face.

Jake: “That was your dinner, honey,”

Dad warns her. She shrugs.

Tiernan: “Saving calories for breakfast in the morning.”

And then she looks at me.

Tiernan: “Pancakes, please. With sausage and toast.”


Tiernan: “First of all, my family’s personal shopper buys my clothes—or bought my clothes—and second of all…they look good.”

Jake: “You don’t need to look good. Looking good around here ends you up married and pregnant at eighteen.”

Tiernan: “Your sons definitely know what a condom is and so do I.”

I snort.


Tiernan: “Lust, learn, and love,”

she says, placing the condiments and touching her finger to the ketchup.

Tiernan: “My mother said the first boy—or man—is a crush. You think you love them, but what you really love is how they make you feel. It’s not love. It’s lust. Lust for attention. Lust for danger. Lust to feel special.”

She looks between us.

Tiernan: “You’re needy with number one. Needy for someone to love you.”

My father forgets the food he’s chewing as he gapes at her.

Tiernan: “The second is to learn about yourself.”

She touches the Heinz.

Tiernan: “Your first crush has been crushed. You’re sad, but most of all, you’re angry. Angry enough to not let it happen again. To not give yourself over so much this time. To not give up your power to be his booty call at midnight and there waiting whenever he decides to show up.”

She’s describing us, I take it.

Tiernan: “Number two is where you finally learn what you’re capable of,”

she continues, tucking a loose strand from her ponytail behind her ear.

Tiernan: “You start getting demanding. You grow bold, not afraid to start calling some shots. You’re also not afraid to be greedier in the bedroom, because it’s about what you want and not what he wants. Number two is to be used. In a way.”

My dad clears his throat, and I laugh to myself as I drop my fork and give her my full attention. She said bedroom.

Jake: “What the fuck did she teach you?”

he mumbles. But I want her to keep going.

Noah: “And number three?”

I ask, picking up the A.1.

Tiernan: “Love.”

She snatches the bottle away.

Tiernan: “When the lessons of your weakness with number one and your selfishness with number two sink in, and you find a medium. When you know who you are and you’re ready to welcome everything he is, and you’re not afraid anymore.”

She puts the bottle back in its place.

Tiernan: “You still might not have a happy ending, but you’ll engage in a healthy relationship and handle yourself in a way you’re proud of.”


Tiernan: “Anyway, nothing to worry about. I have zero interest in relationship drama, and even if I did, we’ll be deep in snow for months very soon. The perfect chastity belt.”

She walks over to the garbage, tossing her empty bottle and reaching into the fridge to grab another. Our eyes follow her, barely breathing as we watch her lean over in her three-hundred-dollar jeans to find a new bottle. I shift in my seat, the sudden bulge between my legs swelling.

Noah: “Yeah,”

I murmur sarcastically as I lift my bottle to my lips.

Noah: “Because there’s no danger here whatsoever.”

Dad shoots me a look. Pretty sure he knows by now that it’s going to be a long fucking winter.


Tiernan: “I didn’t want to disappoint you,”

she says, head bowed and staring at the ground.

Jake: “You didn’t.”

She jerks her head toward me, her fierce eyes piercing me.

Tiernan: “I did it, because I didn’t want to disappoint you. Why do I care about pleasing you? I don’t want to please you.”

She looks away again, pulling off her hat and looking disgusted with herself. Loose strands of her hair fall in her eyes, and I want to push them away. My voice sounds strangled as I whisper.

Jake: “Everything you do pleases me.”


Tiernan: “How many inches are we expecting tonight?”

I ask, knowing without looking at the weather that it’s going to snow. Noah lets out a chuckle as if I just told a joke, and Jake stops dead, cocking his head, and throwing him a look. And then it occurs to me. Inches. I roll my eyes and sprinkle some brown sugar on my oatmeal. Idiot. He looks at his father, holding up his hands in defense.

Noah: “I would’ve made that joke no matter what.”


Noah: “Have you ever seen snow before?”

I hear Noah ask.

Noah: “Oh, never mind. My mistake. You’re totally a Swiss Alps girl.”

Tiernan: “French, thank you,”

I say without looking up from my book. I take a bite, remembering the last time I skied. Another activity I could do alone, so I loved it. Winter and snow don’t suck if you’re having fun in it. I look up again.

Tiernan: “Yes, I’ve seen it,”

I tell Noah, joking aside.

Tiernan: “I haven’t played in it much, though. Or driven in it or lived in it. But I have seen The Shining, and I do know what happens to people cooped up at a remote location through a long winter in Colorado. It can be quite deadly.”

He chuckles, and I look back down at my food, but catch Kaleb’s eyes and stop for a moment. He watches me, his body still and his hot, green eyes hard on me. I clear my throat.

Noah: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Noah jabs me in the ribs, teasing. I squirm away in my seat.

Tiernan: “Stop it.”

Noah: “All play and no work means I got a new toy,”

he sing-songs and slides his chair over to mine, tickling me harder.


Snowfall isn’t like rainfall. Rain is passion. It’s a scream. It’s my hair sticking to my face as I wrap my arms around him. It’s spontaneous, and it’s loud. Snowfall is like a secret. It’s whispers and firelight and searching for his warmth between the sheets at two a.m. when the rest of the house is asleep. It’s holding him tightly and loving him slowly.


Tiernan: “I wasn’t going to stop,”

I tell him. I turn on my side, tucking my hands under my cheek as I look over at him.

Tiernan: “I just wanted to let go and have the moment. Even if you were using me to feel good, because I wanted to feel good, too.”

He nods slowly.

Noah: "Sucks, doesn’t it?”

A beautiful smile plays across his lips.

Noah: “Craving that fucking escape so badly, because someone else left you empty?”

I move in, placing my hand on his chest as my nose brushes his cheek.

Tiernan: “Nothing about you is empty. I can feel your heart.”


Opening up the dryer, I pull out my clothes. Comparative economic systems in various government types… This class might’ve been better taken in person. Not that it’s particularly difficult to follow, but I have questions and talking to the Van der Berg men about world issues would be like watching Yoda get a manicure.


I ball my fists, my arms feeling so empty all of a sudden. I take a step, slowly walking up behind Noah. And I slide my arms around his waist.

Tiernan: “Noah is always warm,”

I say in a low voice.

Tiernan: “He’s the one I love to talk to.”

He stills, and I rest my forehead in his back as my arms wrap around him and my hands touch his warm torso. I see you.

Tiernan: “He’s the one who smiles at me and always makes me feel like my lungs are full.”

The wind blows through the attic, creaking through the quiet, dark house, and he’s barely breathing.

Tiernan: “My arms fit around him perfectly, and I love to watch him cook. I just want to stay in the kitchen and watch him all the time.”

I smile to myself, breathing in his scent.

Tiernan: “He smells good enough to eat, and I didn’t want him to leave the shower that day before we went fishing. I wanted him to touch me.”

His chest caves, and I look down to see his fists curl into the wooden counter. I swallow.

Tiernan: “I even fantasized about it,”

I whisper.

Tiernan: “About us in the shower, hiding in there every morning and keeping our secret.”

He whips around, anger straining his face. He grabs me under my arms and lifts me up on my tiptoes. I gasp as he brings us nose to nose.

Tiernan: “I was so wet for you on the couch the night of my birthday,”

I whisper between us.

Tiernan: “So wet.”


I want that again. I want that a million more times, a lifetime’s worth. But I have a sneaky suspicion I’ll have a hard time finding it with anyone else.


Tiernan: “You got my present, right?”

She lets out a laugh.

Mirai: “Yes. Very generous. You saying I need a vacation?”

Tiernan: “Or an affair,”

I tease.

Mirai: “A raging, hot, and mad affair with a man. Or men.”

Jake turns his head, looking at me over his shoulder. I bought Mirai a trip to Fiji. Her and a plus one.

Tiernan: “What do you know?”

Mirai laughs again.

Jake: “Is she hot?”

Jake whispers to me. I glance at him, the aggravation on his face suddenly gone. I roll my eyes.


That’s me. I know he’s talking about me.   Found candy in the trash and kale on my pizza. She’s fucking weird. I laugh through my tears.


They’re such deep sleepers, they don’t hear you at night. Just me. When I touched your face, you quieted. When I tried to leave, the nightmare started again. So I stayed. I come in every night. You tuck your cold feet between my legs, and I hug you to me, resting my hand on your back and feeling your body calm as it nestles into me. Do I make you feel safe? I like taking care of you.


You make me shake. My hands shook at the tree with you today, and I don’t understand what it is or why it’s happening. I just feel it. I never want you to walk too far away from me.


You scare me. I scare you. Don’t let me hurt you anymore. Why can’t I stop wanting to hurt you? Just fuck them, okay? Keep fucking them, so I won’t want you so damn much. I’m a mess, because wanting you feels good, and I don’t know what to do when things feel good. Everything is a mess, and I’ll make a mess of all of it, but… I’m going to miss you. I’ll miss you.


Let’s not be friends. Let’s fight and laugh and make babies someday and go insane, because I’m fucking in love with you.


Credence. I’m close enough to read it now. It means ‘belief as to the truth of something’.


Tiernan: “Keep Kaleb away from me,”

I tell him in a low voice, but it’s more a beg.

Noah: “Sure.”

He sighs.

Noah: “I was in the mood to bleed today.”


Noah: “He loves you to death, you know?”

he says. Needles prick my throat as a tear spills down my cheek.

Tiernan: “He’s still in that car, Noah.”


Mirai: “You should be shot!”

I hear Mirai scream as I enter the house. I stop, pausing before gently closing the door as I listen. What the hell?

Jake: “Whoever designed this room should be shot,”

Jake spits back.

Jake: “These drapes look like the same shit that lines caskets.”

Jake? My heart lifts a little more. He’s here, too.

Mirai: “Ugh!”

she growls. Something crashes, shattering across the floor, and I tiptoe through the foyer and hide behind the wall to the sitting room.

Jake: “Whoops!”

Jake says.

Jake: “There goes a candy dish. Probably three-hundred dollars and never used, either, because this house hasn’t seen a carb since 2002.”


Tiernan: “I can’t believe you’re here,”

I tell him just above a whisper.

Tiernan: “You actually left Colorado.”

Kaleb: “It was time,”

he says. I suck in a breath, his words hitting me like truck. What? I slide off the tire and turn to face him not believing what I just heard. Deep but soft. Clear and strong. He spoke. Kaleb spoke. Walking around the tire, he steps toward me.

Kaleb: “My home is where you are,”

he says quietly.


Kaleb: “Do you hear yourself better now? Alone?”

I smile a little. He found my note. His eyes are still always formidable, but his tone… It betrays his insecurity. He’s worried I don’t want him anymore.

Tiernan: “I think I’m ready to hear both of us now. You?”

He nods.

Kaleb: “I needed to learn it, too. I needed to hear myself. I’m sorry…it took so long.”


Tiernan: “Keep talking,”

I beg. I love his voice. He chuckles, low and heady.

Kaleb: “What should I say?”

Tiernan: “Anything.”

I smile.

Tiernan: “Read to me, I guess?”

He grabs the backs of my thighs and lifts me up, wrapping my legs around his body.

Kaleb: “Show me your books,”

he murmurs against my mouth.

Tiernan: “They’re in my bedroom.”

He catches my lips between his teeth, a promise in his dark tone.

Kaleb: “I was hoping they were.”

I smile and hug him to me as he carries me into the house.


Tiernan: “Thanks for watching him,”

I whisper.

Tiernan: “We needed a night alone.”

I try to pull the kid off him. He needs a diaper change, no doubt. But Noah tightens his arm around him.

Noah: “No.”

He scowls at me.

Noah: “The little fucker and I bonded.”

I snort, prying my kid off him anyway.

Tiernan: “Get your own.”


Noah: “What the fuck is that?”

Noah asks, staring down at the bag. I pull out the plastic container, opening it up and grabbing the spoon.

Kaleb: “Some avocado and tofu shit,”

I tell him, scooping up a serving. Tiernan is determined he’ll be as much a California kid as a Colorado one. She can keep that delusion, because this kid will be all mine the moment he tastes barbecue ribs for the first time.

Noah: “He can’t eat tofu in Chapel Peak,”

Noah tells me.

Noah: “He’ll get bullied.”

Kaleb: “Shut up.”


I shoot my eyes left again, seeing Mirai exit his tent, see us, and quickly dive into her own, as if we’re all stupid. It’s amusing, though.

Kaleb: “She’s wearing your shirt. Better go get it.”

He shoots me a smile.

Jake: “I will.”


 
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