Axel crossed his arms. “Name it.”
I could never think of anything good enough on the spot and he knew it. Then it came to me, and an evil grin spread across my face. “No chicharones on the road trip.” I almost patted myself on the back. Fried pork skins were something that I couldn’t stomach. Even if both he and my mom swore they were positively delectable.
His mouth dropped open. “What! You’re talking about messing with a road trip tradition. That’s sacred stuff.”
I crossed my arms. “They’re disgusting.”
“You’ve never even tried them.” He narrowed his gaze. “They’re delicious.”
“I don’t need to try them to know I won’t like them. Eating pig skin in any form is revolting.” I stared him down. “And they stink.” It might not seem like a big deal, but on a road trip halfway across the country, it was huge. Multiple bags could be avoided. Two days of a chicharone-free car ride was more than adequate reparation for one vision. “Do we have a deal?”
He left my room.
Great. Now I actually wanted the deal, and he was bailing. I wouldn’t give in. If I knew my brother at all, he’d be back in ten, nine, eight, seven—
“Just kidding.” He appeared back in the doorway. “Let’s do this.”
I started out the door and then ran back. I’d only left a few pairs of gloves unpacked. I grabbed the heather gray cotton pair and slid them on, doing up the apple buttons along the forearm as I walked into the hallway. I would’ve changed, but there was nothing nicer for me to put on. My jeans, white peasant blouse, and leather flip-flops would have to do. “Ready?”
I only had a second to think about how much fun using my visions for something useful would be before I hit the bottom stair and stopped.
This had to be a fire code violation.
A few people clogged the bottom of the stairwell that emptied into the living room. The party planner must’ve taken out some of the furniture to make room, but there was still not enough. There were people in every square foot available, and—except for the few actors who everyone would recognize—I didn’t actually know anyone.
Waiters dressed in black pants and white button downs made their way slowly through the room, offering up hors d’oeuvres or drinks, depending on what their silver platters held. Speakers stood in the corners of the room, playing non-intrusive electronic music with a steady beat but I didn’t spot the DJ. He had to be set up outside by the pool.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and entered the madness. It wasn’t long before I heard Dad’s voice above the din. “There she is!”
So much for no one seeing us. I wanted to hit Axel. So I did.
Dad shook his head at me. “Come here, Tessa,” Dad mouthed. His blonde hair hid most of the gray that had started appearing a few years ago. I always wished I had his blue eyes, but got my mom’s brown ones instead. He was wearing a tailored navy suit, and I suddenly felt way underdressed.
I brushed against someone and their jealousy burned through my mind. I shook it off and focused in on Dad. He was watching my careful navigation through the crowd with worry. Dad knew about my “gift,” but chose to ignore it for the most part. Luckily Mom understood it more, most likely because my abuela had the same one. She always said it made it really hard to be a rebellious teenager when her mother could read her mind. I’d say actually having the abilities made it hard to be a teenager. Period.
Dad pulled me to his side, and I tucked close to him to avoid any touchy people. I got a few flashes from him, but thankfully nothing that drew me in.
“We’re so sad your dad’s leaving us,” said some lady in a super-tight dress. “What are you going to do in Texas?”
I shrugged. “Eat a lot of bar-b-que and go to school?”
She laughed and her fake boobs nearly popped out. I looked for my brother. He was flirting with some young girl who looked way too skinny. Must be an actress. “Help,” I mouthed as soon as I got his attention.
He made his way through the sea of people. I tuned the lady out as Axel grabbed my gloved hand. “Tess-aaah,” he practically shouted, drawing my short name into two long syllables. “There’s someone over here I want you to meet.”
Dad’s hand brushed my arm as Axel pulled me away.
Dad was talking to his boss, a silver-haired man in a slick suit. His tie was a little undone.
“Jesus, John. Are you serious?”
“I wish I was joking.” Dad sat heavily on the couch across the room from his boss. “I know I’m leaving soon, but this is a lawsuit waiting to happen. She’s a liability. You need to get rid of her.”