Broken Wings (An Angel Eyes Novel)
Author:Shannon Dittemore

7

Brielle

Kaylee’s waiting for me on Tuesday when I wrap up my tap class. I’m working to detangle one of my teeny tiny dancers from the stereo cord when I see Kay standing in the doorway. I have to laugh. She’s on the carpeted side staring at the hardwood dance floor like a first-time swimmer about to launch into the deep.

“You can come in, Kay. The water’s fine.”

“This place terrifies me,” she says, watching my students file past her and into the arms of their parents waiting out front.

“Why?”

“Everyone here’s all coordinated and stuff.” Coordinated gets air quotes.

“Not everyone,” I say, winking at the little dancer I’ve finally freed from the stereo.

Kay and I leave the studio, crossing the street and heading up Main. We pass The Donut Factory and the Photo Depot. Jake’s inside, his head bent over his work. I’m tempted to feign some sort of dramatic predicament just to pull him away—we’ve done nothing but text since Sunday—but I settle for knocking on the window and waving. Of course, Kay’s not content with that. She presses her face to the glass, leaving a smear of lip gloss that someone will have to clean up later. Probably Jake. But he laughs at her and smiles at me. His eyes linger, making me reconsider that dramatic predicament idea. But I’ll see him tonight. We have plans. And according to the text he sent me at 3:14 this afternoon, he has that surprise all ready for me.

Kaylee tugs me on. We pass a real estate office and the Auto Body before turning down a side street that will take us up to the community center. I heft my duffel bag higher on my shoulder and let her step in front of me as we approach the center. I love Kaylee dearly, but she hasn’t shut up about the wonderment that is Olivia Holt. I just nod and blink, a realization setting in as we climb the steps to the front door.

Getting rid of Olivia isn’t going to be an easy thing. Her money’s found a home here, the city council is practically falling all over themselves for her time, and closer to home, Kaylee is madly in love with anything and everything the woman touches.

“I have to show you what Liv got donated for your dance classes, but first things first.” Kaylee makes a big sweeping gesture with her arms, and I look up. “Meet Teddy.”

We’re in a foyer of sorts. To the right is Kaylee’s office. To the left are the bathrooms, and there above the entrance to the multipurpose room is what appears to be the head of a dead animal.

I squint into his marble eyes. “What is it, exactly?”

“I don’t really know,” she says. “It’s like a deer or a moose. Maybe a yak. I really have no idea. I bet your dad would know.”

“I bet he would,” I say, tilting my head. “His nose is too wide or something.”

“I know. And the antler thingys are gigantic.”

Our laughter echoes off the walls, and a scissor-wielding scrapbooker pokes her head out of a room to our right.

“Sorry, ladies,” Kaylee says, lowering her voice. “So, Teddy. The mayor had him installed yesterday. Some kind of tribute to the history of the center. I guess he used to hang in the Elks Club that was here before us.”

“He’s an elk!” I say.

She gasps, “He is!”

This time our laughter is silenced by a man in an apron. “Sorry, sorry. How are the muffins turning out, Mr. Hamilton?”

Kaylee pulls me across the basketball court and onto the stage, the same stage I danced on Saturday afternoon.

She makes another mad gesture with her hands. “Aren’t they awesome?” She’s talking about the portable ballet barres lined up in the wings. “I don’t have a clue what to do with them, but Liv says they’ll be helpful for your class.”

I frown at them, at just how much easier they’ll make our volunteer efforts here at the center.

“Oh gosh, Elle. They’ll be helpful, right? Are they all wrong? I should have asked you first.”

I put a hand on her arm, stilling her, stopping the panic. “They’re perfect. They’re just perfect. Tell Olivia thank you.”

That last sentence cost me. I smile bravely for Kay.

“You can tell her yourself. Tomorrow.”

“What’s tomorrow?”

“Fourth of July, crazy. We’re doing a picnic thing out at the lake. Liv said you and your dad were coming.”

Liv said? Why is she speaking for my family? I scratch at my nose, irritated. But I’d forgotten tomorrow was the Fourth, and there are no plans to fall back on. “I didn’t know anything about it,” I say.

“Oh, please say you’ll come! I already talked Delia into closing Jelly’s for the day. And I bought her a bathing suit.”

“Oh my. I’ve never even seen Delia’s legs.”

“Right. It’s time she unleashed them upon the world. So see, I’m invested in this thing—fifty-four dollars—and if you don’t come it’s going to be me and a bunch of old people.”

“Olivia’s not that old, Kay.”

“Please, please, please.”

“Okay. Sure. Of course. I mean, Dad and I usually spend the Fourth together, so if he wants to set off fireworks at the lake, I guess I’m in. I’m just . . . I’m not a huge fan of Olivia.”

“Because she’s canoodling your dad? I totally get that, but I swear you’ll love her. You just have to get to know her. She’s got these ideas on how to secure donations and raise money. She’s a mad scientist, you know? She knows how to push buttons and get folks to cough up cash. And her ideas . . .”

“I get it, Kay. She’s got ideas.”

“Yes! Ideas!”





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