Home > Without Merit(13)

Without Merit(13)
Author: Colleen Hoover

“Victoria is your sister?”

He perks up. “You know her?”

I hand him back his phone and grip the steering wheel. I press my forehead against it. Five seconds later, a car behind us honks. I look in my rearview mirror and the guy behind us holds up his hands in frustration. I put the car in drive. “Yes, I know her.”

“You know where she lives?”


Luck faces forward again. “Good,” he says. “That’s good.” He starts tapping his fingers on his leg again. “And you’re taking me to her house? Right now?” He seems nervous again.

“Isn’t that where you want to go?”

He nods, but even his nod seems unsure.

“Does your sister know you’re coming?”

He shrugs his shoulders as he stares out the passenger window. “There’s not really a correct answer to that question.”

“Actually, there are two potential correct answers. Yes and no.”

“She may not be expecting me today. But she can’t abandon me without expecting me to show back up at some point.”

I had no idea Victoria had a brother. I’m not so sure my father knows Victoria has a brother. And he’s so . . . different. Nothing like Victoria.

I turn onto our road and then pull into our driveway. I put the car in park. Luck is staring at the house, still tapping his leg and bouncing his knee, but not making an effort to get out of the car.

“Why does she live in a church?” He pronounces church without the r. Chuch. All of his annoying confidence is gone, replaced by an equally annoying amount of vulnerability. He swallows and then reaches to the floorboard to pick up his container of beef jerky. “Thanks for the ride, Merit.” He puts his hand on the door and glances back at me. “We should be friends while I’m in town. You want to exchange numbers?”

I shake my head and open my door. “That won’t be necessary.” I pop the trunk and get out of the car.

“I can get my own stuff,” he says. “You don’t have to help.”

I open the trunk. “I’m not. I’m getting my dog food.” I struggle to pull the bag out from beneath all of Luck’s belongings. Once I have a secure grip on it, I head for the front door.

“Why are you taking your dog food to my sister’s house?” When I don’t stop to answer him, he starts following me. “Merit!” He reaches me just as I stick a key in the front door. When it unlocks, I face him. He’s still staring at the key in the door.

“Your sister is married to my father.”

I wait for him to absorb that information. When he does, he takes a step back and tilts his head. “You live here? With my sister?”

I nod. “She’s my stepmother.”

He scratches his chin. “So that makes me . . . your uncle?”

“Step-uncle.” I walk through the front door and toss the bag of dog food onto the floor. Luck stands in the doorway as he runs a hand through his hair and then grips the back of his neck. “I already pictured you naked,” he mutters.

“Now would be a good time to stop doing that.”

Luck glances back to the car and then peeks his head inside the house. “Is my sister home right now?” he whispers.

“She doesn’t get back for a couple of hours. Get your stuff and I’ll show you where to put it.”

While he heads back to the car, I drag the dog food through the kitchen and set the bag next to the back door. I find a couple of old bowls and fill them with water and food, then take them out back. Wolfgang is halfway out of the doghouse, lying on his stomach. His ears perk up when he hears the back door shut, but he doesn’t move. His ears go limp again when he sees me. He just watches as I set the bowls down next to his doghouse. He makes no move to devour the food, even though he’s been a whole day without it.

I reach out and pet his pathetic head. “Are you sad?” I’ve never seen a grieving pet before. I didn’t even know they could grieve. “Well, you can stay here as long as you need to. I’ll try to hide you from my father as long as I can, but you better not bark all night.”

As soon as I stand up, Wolfgang lifts himself off the ground, just far enough to reach his food bowl. He sniffs the food and then the water, but he lies back down again and whimpers.

Luck appears next to me. “Has he eaten that brand before?” He’s still holding his suitcase, trash bag, and backpack. I look back at the house.

“Why didn’t you just leave your stuff inside?”

He looks down at his stuff and shrugs. He nods his head toward the dog. “What’s wrong with him? Is he dying?”

“No. His owner died yesterday. He showed up in the middle of the night last night because he used to live here.”

“That’s impressive,” Luck says, tilting his head. “What’s your name, dog?” Wolfgang’s eyes scan over Luck, but he doesn’t move.

“He can’t answer you.” I think that goes without saying, but I’m not convinced Luck comprehends how reality works. “His name is Wolfgang.”

“What?” Luck grimaces. “That’s a terrible name. He should have been named Henry.”

“Obviously.” I’m being sarcastic, but again, I’m not sure Luck comprehends that level of communication.

“Are you in mourning?” Luck asks Wolfgang.

“Will you stop asking the dog questions?”

Luck looks at me, perplexed. “Are you always this angry?”

“I’m not angry.” I turn and walk toward the house.

“Well you aren’t not angry,” he mutters from behind me.

Once we’re inside the house, he follows me to Quarter Two. I take him to the spare bedroom across the hall from me. “You can stay in the guest room.” I open the door and pause in the doorway. “Or not.”

There’s stuff all over the guest room. Shoes on the floor, the bed is unmade, there are toiletries on the dresser. Who’s staying here? I walk to the closet and open the door to find several of Sagan’s shirts hanging up. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

How could my father allow him to sleep in the same house as her? This is further proof that he doesn’t care. He doesn’t even care if Honor gets knocked up at seventeen!

Luck slides past me and walks to the wall opposite the door. Several sketches are lying on the dresser. He focuses on a sketch of a man hanging from a ceiling fan by a string of feathers. “Looks like I have a very morbid roommate.”

“You don’t have a roommate,” I say. “He doesn’t live here. I don’t know why all his stuff is here.”

Luck picks up a toothbrush on the nightstand. “You sure he doesn’t live here?”

“You can sleep in my father’s office.” I have Luck follow me to the end of the hallway. “There’s a sofa bed in here. When Sagan leaves, you can have the guest bedroom.”

“His name is Sagan?” Luck follows me into the room and drops his backpack on the sofa. “I can see why you find him intriguing. His art is . . . interesting.”

“I don’t find him intriguing.”

He laughs. “You said in the car you found him intriguing. Is Sagan not the guy who’s dating your sister?”

I close my eyes and release a frustrated breath. I only told him that because I never thought I’d see him again.

Luck props his suitcase against the desk and looks around the room. “It’s not much, but it’s already better than where I’ve been sleeping.”

“You better not repeat that,” I say to him.

He looks at me like I’m the weird one of the two of us. “That this is better than where I’ve been sleeping?”

“No. The other thing. I only told you about my sister’s boyfriend because I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.”

Luck smiles. “Relax, Merit. Your love life doesn’t interest me enough to repeat it.”

I don’t know why, but I believe him. “Thanks. You want a tour of the house?”

He nods. “Eventually. I’d like to unpack first.”

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