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The Dating Dare by A.R. Perry (5)

Lily never responded to my text the other night and for the past couple of days had managed to evade me every time I was home. According to her Instagram, she decided to stay the night at Madison’s house and volunteer at the animal shelter during the day.

My gut reaction was to volunteer as well, but decided against it. Doing something I had never done before would tip her off. I would have her to myself for the next week and planned on using that time to win her over. I didn’t want to start that with her more irritated than she already was.

My dad had talked to her mom on Sunday and together they agreed that I could drive Lily up and my dad would meet us later that night.

So at twelve on the dot I walked up her front steps and knocked on the front door. I half expected her not to be home or to feign some sickness, but to my surprise she opened the door wearing the shortest pair of shorts I had ever seen on her. Sure, she matched it with an oversize Batman shirt, but still, I was taken aback. Lily chose that moment to toss her bag at me.

I almost didn’t catch it and once I did I wished I hadn’t. It wasn’t big, maybe the size of a gym bag, but she must have had it loaded down with bowling balls. I let out a grunt as it connected with my stomach. I stumbled back, as it almost sent me down the front steps.

Lily didn’t even try to hide her amusement as she locked up the door and strode past me. I trailed after her, swinging her bag up onto my shoulder.

“It’s about a two and a half drive. I got us a bunch of snacks.”

“Cool.” She rounded my car, never once glancing in my direction.

So she planned on icing me out the entire drive. Awesome. I tossed her bag into the open trunk then slammed it shut with a little too much force. The car dipped under the weight and Lily shot me an amused look as she slipped into the passenger seat.

She had her earbuds in by the time I climbed behind the wheel. Her gaze darted to the side, effectively cutting me off.

I sighed and started the car. She really was going to make this difficult, wasn’t she?

* * *

Forty-five minutes into the drive, four radio stations, and enough junk food to cause a stomachache had me going out of my mind. I had never made the trip to the lake house alone and with Lily in her sensory deprivation chamber that’s what I was doing.

I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel to the beat of the song blaring from the speakers and concentrated on the road. I hadn’t been to the lake since my mother died. My dad went up every year, but I always came up with some excuse. He was floored when I told him that not only was I going, but Lily was coming too. It used to be a big thing with both of our families spending a week up there every summer and a couple of Christmases here and there.

But the same year that Lily’s dad left, my mom had a sudden heart attack and passed away. The lake house lost all of its light and I avoided it like the plague from then on.

No clue what got into me when I blurted that out at the breakfast table. But the way her mom’s eyes lit up as if she was reliving all the good memories solidified my plan and I had a hard time backpedaling.

The moment I got in the car however, I felt all those memories punch me in the gut. Sure, they were happy, but they were also a reminder of things I would never get back. Like my mother or Lily’s friendship. This whole forcing her to date me suddenly seemed like the worst idea.

I reached over the center console and yanked out Lily’s earbuds.

“Hey!” she protested and reached for them, but I pulled away.

“I was just thinking…”

“Did that hurt?” Lily tried to take back her headphones again, but I held on tight.

“Cut the sass, I’m trying to tell you something.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and turned toward me with a deep-set frown on her face. “What?”

I focused my attention back on the road so we didn’t crash. “I think you were right. It’s kinda messed up to force you to fake-date me for the summer. After this week I’ll drive you home and we can just drop it.”

Lily scoffed, and I turned my head briefly to see her glaring at me.

Not the reaction I expected.

“So, what, you let me off the hook and then I get teased about it the rest of the summer and senior year? Yeah, I don’t think so, Hayes.”

“No, that’s not what I meant.” God, she could be so damn stubborn. She didn’t want to date me, but she didn’t want to not date me either.

“Uh-huh.” She tugged on her headphones, but I tugged harder, pulling them free from her phone and whipping the end into the windshield.

“Dude, what the hell?” she yelled and shoved my shoulder.

The car swerved, and I quickly righted it. Apparently safe driving was not something her mother taught her.

“Hey, driving here!”

“Hey, annoyed here.”

“Lily, I’m giving you an out.”

“Sure you are.”

“I’m serious. We can tell everyone we went through with it if you want, but whatever… you’re free.”

I felt her eyes on me. “Just like that?”

“Just like that.”

“Why don’t I believe you?”

“Because you have trust issues?”

Lily laughed her first genuine laugh with me in years. I smiled, feeling lighter but didn’t press the subject any further. If she needed us not to be dating, that was fine. I would have to win her over some other way. And I had a week to figure out how.

We spent the last stretch of the drive in relative silence. She didn’t attempt to talk to me, but she didn’t put her earbuds back in. Somewhere along the way she started up a game of punch buggy, but I had a hunch it was her way of getting out her aggression toward me. It seemed to have worked because by the time I pulled up the dirt road that led to my family’s lake house, she was laughing and singing along to the radio.

I almost felt bad cutting off her rendition of Ed Sheeran. It had gotten pretty animated.

Lily leaned to the side and stared up at the three-story house that had been in my family since before I was born.

“Wow. Did it get bigger?”

I smirked, holding back the comment I really wanted to say. It would only piss her off. “Must be you,” I said instead, stepping out onto the gravel.

It smelled exactly how I remembered.

“Is it weird to say it smells the same?” Lily asked from behind me.

“No, I was thinking the same thing.” We were too much alike sometimes.

“Hmm.” She strode past me headed toward the front door as if she owned the place. Judging from her purse dangling from her hand and nothing else, she also left her bag for me to lug into the house.

As punishment, I left her to wait on the front porch as I pulled the bags out of the car, taking my sweet ass time. A few times I heard an exasperated huff, but that only spurred me on. By the end of the thorough recheck of my bag, mostly just to irritate her, footsteps sounded on the driveway.

Lily rounded the back of the car, eyebrows arched when she took me in, bent over my bag, settling my shirts back in.

“Really?”

“What?” I asked, struggling to keep amusement out of my voice.

“I’m standing up there waiting for you to let me in. You could have done whatever you’re doing inside.”

I zipped up the bag and stood. “But it’s so beautiful out.”

“I have to pee!” She threw her hands up in the air and this time I couldn’t stop my laughter.

“You’re an ass!” she yelled and stomped her way back up the driveway with me in tow this time.

Guess I was an ass no matter what I did.

I shoved open the door with my foot and Lily disappeared inside presumably right to the bathroom. I had to give it to her, she still remembered the layout to the house. Although, she was right. It had gotten bigger. My dad threw himself into renovating it after my mom passed. He added a third floor that was now set up as a man cave or whatever he called it.

I had only seen it once after he was finished. He decked it out with a bunch of stuff he thought I would love including another deck with a hot tub and enough lounge chairs that every one of my friends could come over and sunbathe.

After I refused to come up that summer and every proceeding summer the past few years, it must have been covered in a layer of dust.

With Lily still MIA, I made my way to the back of the house where the spare bedrooms were. The split-level house was pretty cool. The entrance was on the second floor with the first floor leading right out onto the dock. Downstairs held the master bedroom and my dad’s bar. He would spend most of his time there so Lily and I would be left to the rest of the house.

Footsteps sounded behind me as I pushed open the door at the end of the hall on the left. It was the same bedroom she had always used when visiting, so I figured it would be the most comfortable.

Lily leaned against the doorframe as I tossed her bag onto the bed. A small smile tugged at my lips when I notice it was the same over-the-top floral comforter my mother picked out all those years ago. I guess my dad couldn’t get rid over everything.

“This room hasn’t changed,” Lily echoed my thoughts as she stepped inside and ran her hand over the bookshelf that housed the many books we read as kids.

“Yeah, looks like my dad didn’t change as much as I thought.”

“What do you mean? Haven’t you been up here the past few summers?”

I cleared my throat and avoided eye contact. It was a secret kept between my dad and me. Whenever he would come up, I would say I was too, but would go camping or on a road trip. Telling everyone that stepping foot inside the house where I spent so much time with my mom was akin to taking a knife to the heart wasn’t the type of information I doled out. It wouldn’t have made much sense anyway considering we still lived in the house I grew up in. But the lake, it was always something my mom and I shared. Something special about our love for the water.

“Yeah sure,” I mumbled as I made my way out of the bedroom. “I just never come in this room.”

“Oh.” Lily plopped down on the bed.

I crossed the hall to the bedroom I planned on using. My real bedroom, the one my mom designed for me, was a couple of doors down, the first bedroom in the hall, but I just couldn’t.

“Why are you staying in there?” Lily demanded from the hall.

Sometimes I forgot she shared enough of my childhood to read me. I wasn’t used to it and I certainly didn’t like it in this situation.

“Dad never got around to renovating my normal room.”

“Uh-huh.” She wasn’t buying it. Before I could stop her, she raced down the hall and flung open the door. “Looks livable to me. Looks the same actually.”

“Exactly my point.” I reached around her, making sure to avert my eyes and slammed the door. “It’s a kid’s room. Do I look like a kid to you?”

“You look like an ass.” She threw a smirk my way and leaned against the closed door. “Seriously, what’s your issue with this room? Monsters under the bed? Spider that got away?” Her mouth dropped open as she palmed her chest. “Bad breakup go down in there? Haunted by ghosts of girlfriends past?”

“I just told you, I prefer not to spend all my time in a kid’s room. It’s kind of a turn off for the ladies. Who needs a room decorated like the ocean when you have a huge body of water right outside?”

“You’re such a bad liar.” Lily pushed off the door and poked my chest. “I’ve seen you get it on in the back of a truck with a bunch of people around and—” She poked my chest again when I opened my mouth to defend myself. “—under the bleachers during a game. Seems to me that the types of girls you pick don’t have turn offs.”

“Wow, Holladay, seems to me that you’ve been keeping a close eye on my love life.” I deflected because I really didn’t want to get into it with her. Not with my emotions spiraling.

“I wouldn’t exactly call a hookup a love life,” she grumbled and smoothed down her hair. “And it’s hard not to hear the rumors or, you know, witness it when it’s going down at a party I’m attending.”

Remember that story for another time? Yeah, not my best moment.

“You make going to a party sound like class. You don’t attend a party. You have fun at it. But fun is a word you lost a long time ago, isn’t it?”

“Whatever, Hayes.” She brushed past me headed for her bedroom. “Let me know when your dad gets here. I need a buffer if you expect to live through the rest of this week.”

I smiled at her retreating back. There may have been one small detail I left out when I picked her up. My dad got called into a last-minute project with work. He wouldn’t be able to make it until the weekend, which left me exactly four days alone with Lily. Four days to turn her feelings of hate into something that resembled love. Hell, I would even take like.