The inky black canvas of the Montana night sky was broken only by the lights on Logan’s bike. He knew he would miss the silence once he got to New York, but right now, it was the last thing he wanted to hear. He longed for the excitement of the city, even though he’d never been anywhere bigger than Billings. He’d never even been outside of Montana.
His entire life, Logan had been listening to tourists from all over talk about how beautiful his home state was. Flathead Lake, especially. This summer he was finally eighteen, and old enough to be a server. Instead of hearing snippets of conversations as he bused tables, he could actually ask the questions that had been bouncing around in his head since the first time he saw Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist and the seeds for his escape were planted.
Along the quiet stretch of empty road, Logan pedaled hard. His heart was pounding, nearly drowning out the sound of his slightly staggered breath. The seven miles home from the restaurant were mostly flat, but he was going faster than usual tonight, energized from his shift instead of exhausted. He had spoken to a couple from Manhattan, who lit up when he told them he was starting at Columbia in the fall.
“New York will be a big change from all this natural beauty,” was the first comment they made.
Holding back his eye roll, Logan kept his smile on. People didn’t tip waiters who rolled their eyes.
“I can’t wait to finally see it. What’s the best part of the city?” His calm voice hid the pure excitement he’d been feeling ever since that big, blue envelope had arrived in the mail.
Logan’s heart sank a bit, however, when the couple launched into a list of the best restaurants, museums and theaters New York had to offer. Things Logan would never be able to afford. People with money had no idea what life was like for those without it.
The couple had tipped well, in the end, and now he was flying through the night with the promise of an endlessly profitable summer. If he could pull in three hundred a night, like tonight, then he might be able to check off a few things on his big list of “New York things to do.” Even a hundred a night would get him there. His full ride covered tuition as well as room and board, but the school required all students on scholarships to come with a little money saved. There were ways to get discounted books but for anything outside of school he was on his own.
Really on his own.
He’d have to buy a bike once he got there. It would be too expensive to ship this one, even though he loved it. His first summer job at fifteen had earned him the money for it, and he kept it well maintained. It had been his ticket to freedom back in Helena, and though he’d gotten his license right at sixteen he’d always been more comfortable on his bike.
Most kids at school had gotten cars as graduation presents. He’d gotten a new bike helmet and had been thrilled. His mom had probably gone without something she’d needed that month to be able to offer it to him.
As he turned a corner, the lake loomed into view: a deep, dark spread of nothingness save for the speckles of light along the banks where the houses were lit up. The same houses he spent every afternoon cleaning before his shift at the restaurant.
But tomorrow, he finally had his first day off since starting two weeks ago. He would be able to head to the lake to swim, unaffected by the cold the way the tourists were. He’d go down to Wayfarer Park maybe, jump off the cliffs like when he was a kid. After all, this was technically his last summer of being a kid.
His eyes and mind on the lake, Logan didn’t see the car’s headlights until they were almost right in front of him.
* * *
Cassie was reaching the limits of her patience and love for her family. She’d been up at the lake for a week now, alone with her dad. And if she had to sit through one more afternoon of fishing or yet another dinner in front of the TV watching the Mariners she would scream.
Not wanting to ruin her family’s summer vacation before it had even truly begun, she’d been texting her best friend Marissa all day, trying to convince her to come up for the night. It was a three-hour drive from Helena, but they’d driven longer for less urgent things. And this was pretty urgent.
Finally, around three in the afternoon, Cassie’s phone buzzed and she swiped it open eagerly.
“I took tomorrow off,” Marissa said, without even a ‘hello.’ Her voice sounded echoey. “I’m already driving up.”
“Awesome!” Cassie’s face broke into a smile and she got up out of bed for the first time that day. She had flat out refused to go fishing with her dad that morning, telling him she had cramps. That always got him out of her room in a hurry. “I guess I’ll actually have to change out of my pajamas then.”
“Nah, stay that way, you look hot,” a male voice spoke up.
Cassie’s heart sank.
“Spencer’s with you?” she whispered. Of course he could still hear her, but Cassie wanted to annoy her boyfriend. Her patience for Spencer had worn off long before summer had started.
Marissa laughed. Spencer said nothing, so Cassie knew it had worked.
“I can’t keep him away, sorry,” Marissa said, not sounding sorry at all.
Bringing him had probably been Marissa’s idea in the first place, since it meant she got to spend a few hours in the car with him. Cassie knew her best friend had always been into Spencer.
It didn’t bother Cassie one bit. After those first few weeks of dating when everything Spencer did or said was hilarious and cute, Cassie had been pretty lukewarm towards him, despite his killer looks that had every other girl in school swooning. Now approaching their one year anniversary, Cassie found herself part of a couple who everyone, except her, expected to stay together forever. Cassie hoped that with a little creative plotting this summer, Spencer would somehow fall for Marissa and break up with Cassie…so she wouldn’t have to break up with him.
She didn’t actually expect the plan to work. This wasn’t the first time she’d had a brilliant strategy to push Marissa and Spencer together and finally get rid of him. But every time she worked up the courage to try, her dad would say something to remind her how proud he was that she was dating a Huntington.
“Where do you want to go tonight, Marissa?” Cassie decided to pretend Spencer wasn’t there, as usual, and just talk to Marissa.
“We’ll talk when we get up there, Cass, we’re wasting precious road trip time that could be spent listening to music.” Spencer was the one who responded anyway, and Marissa giggled. Cassie let out a long, slow breath and counted to ten in her head.
“Fine, call me when you get to Finney’s Point.” That was about twenty minutes away and would give her time to put the finishing touches on whatever outfit she came up with.
“See you soon!” Marissa squealed.
With a slight pang as she ended the call, Cassie wished she was that excited to spend a few hours with Spencer. What had promised to be a fun break from her less-than-stellar start to the summer would now turn into the same old weekend party scene she wanted desperately to break away from, if only she could figure out how.
Still, she was excited to see Marissa, and would put up with Spencer if she had to. At least it would make her dad happy.
Her dad loved Spencer. He was like the perfect mix of sporty ruggedness that her parents surrounded themselves with, plus the added advantage that his insanely wealthy parents were members of the best country club in the state. Apparently belonging to the second best club wasn’t enough for her parents.
That was at least one good thing about being at the lake for the summer: No country club. And now, after a pretty chill week, things were finally about to get interesting.
Her dad had been the one to suggest an extra-long trip to their lake house this summer in order to spend time together as a family before she left for school. But he’d been grouchy and tense ever since they’d arrived, and her mom still hadn’t come up yet, too busy with a big charity event she was planning. Her older sister Diana would be here at some point but she didn’t know when. Everyone was busy this summer except her.
Cassie would just have to do what she’d always done and make do with what she had. To be fair, it wasn’t a bad life, not even close, and most of the time she was happy. She’d focus on her Marissa/Spencer plan tonight, and that would make her even happier.
Eight hours later, however, Cassie was back to hating everyone and everything. Spencer was drunk, and kept trying to reach under her skirt as she drove.
“Stop it!” she hissed for the fifteenth time since they’d left the bar. The bouncer hadn’t even looked at their fake IDs once they’d seen Spencer’s. He used his older brother’s, and the Huntington name was enough to get them in anywhere, thanks to daddy owning half the properties out here. “Marissa is right there.”
Spencer sniggered and looked in the backseat.
“She’s passed out! She won’t even know…” He slid his hand up her thigh again, and leaned across to nuzzle her neck.
“I need to concentrate, you asshole.” Cassie didn’t even try to sound cute. She was pissed.
She turned to shove him back into his seat, and punched his arm for good measure. He laughed hysterically, and she rolled her eyes before turning them back on the road. She opened her mouth to insult him again, but instead, a loud gasp escaped her lips.
A bike was headed straight for the car.