Today's Reading

What the hell, right? It would be time with Caitlin. That was what I was there for. Be the cool aunt. Do the fun stuff. Distract her from the car accident that had left her with nightmares and weekly therapy sessions, and left her mom with a shattered right leg. When I'd arrived in Willow Creek, gloom had hung low over their household, like smoke in a crowded room. I'd come to throw open a window, let in the light again.

Besides, helping out my sister and her kid was the best way to stop dwelling on my own shit. Focusing on someone else's problems was always easier than my own.

Stacey grinned as I started filling out the form. "Give it to Simon up at the front when you're finished. It's going to be great. Huzzah!" This last was said as a cheer, and with that she was gone, probably looking for other parental-type figures to snag into this whole gig.

Oh, God. Was I going to have to yell "huzzah" too? How much did I love my niece?

The form was pretty basic, and soon I followed the stream of volunteers (mostly kids—where were all the adults?) to the front of the auditorium, where they handed the papers to the dark-haired man with the clipboard collecting them. Simon, I presumed. Thank God, another adult. More adultier than me, even. I'd rolled out of bed and thrown on leggings and a T-shirt, while he was immaculate in jeans and a perfectly ironed Oxford shirt, sleeves rolled halfway up his forearms, with a dark blue vest buttoned over it.

Despite his super-mature vibe, he didn't look that much older than me. Late twenties at the most. Slighter of build than Mitch, and probably not quite six feet tall. Well-groomed and clean-shaven with closely cut dark brown hair. He looked like he smelled clean, like laundry detergent and sharp soap. Mitch, for all his hotness, looked like he smelled like Axe body spray.

When it was my turn, I handed the form in and turned away, checking to see where Cait had wandered off to. I couldn't wait to tell her I was doing this whole thing with her. That kid was gonna owe me one.

"This isn't right."

I turned back around. "Excuse me?"

Simon, the form collector, brandished mine at me. "Your form. You didn't fill it out correctly."

"Um..." I walked back over to him and took the paper from his hand. "I think I know how to fill out a form."

"Right there." He tapped his pen in a rat-a-tat-tat on the page. "You didn't say what role you're trying out for."

"Role?" I squinted at it. "Oh, right." I handed the paper back to him. "I don't care. Whatever you need."

He didn't take it. "You have to specify a role."

"Really?" I looked behind me, searching for the desperate volunteer who had coerced me into this gig in the first place. But she was lost in a sea of auditionees. Of course.

"Yes, really." He pursed his lips, and his brows drew together over his eyes. Dark brown brows, muddy brown eyes. He'd be relatively attractive if he weren't looking at me like he'd caught me cheating on my chemistry final. "It's pretty simple," he continued. "Nobility, actors, can audition for any of those. You could also try out for the combat stuff, if you have any experience. We do a human chess match and joust."

"I...I don't have any experience. Or, um, talent." The longer this conversation went on, the more my heart sank. Now I was supposed to have skills? Wasn't this a volunteer thing? Why was this guy making it so freaking hard?

He looked at me for a moment, a quick perusal up and down. Not so much checking me out as sizing me up. "Are you over twenty-one?"

Jesus. I knew I was on the short side, but...I drew myself up, as though looking a little taller would make me look older too. "Twenty-five, thank you very much." Well, twenty-five in July, but he didn't need to know that. It wasn't like he'd be celebrating my birthday with me.

"Hmmm. You have to be twenty-one to be a tavern wench. You could put that down if you want to help out in the tavern."

Now we were talking. Nothing wrong with hanging out in a bar for a few weekends in the summer. I'd worked in bars before; hell, I worked in two of them until just recently. This would be the same thing, but in a cuter costume.

"Fine." I plucked my pen back out of my purse and scribbled the word "wench" down on the form, then thrust the paper back into his hands. "Here."

"Thank you," he said automatically, as though he hadn't admonished me like a child thirty seconds before.

Gah. What a dick.

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