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Finch turns away from me

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Finch turns away from me. With the corner of his sleeve, he wipes his eyes. It startles me to see him so vulnerable and I avert my gaze, feeling as though I'm intruding. I shift at the edge of the garden.

When he turns back around, false bravado is etched into every movement and he throws back a deep swig of golden liquid.

'What? You saw Sav and Brody together and couldn't wait to rub it in?'

His stance is antagonistic, as if challenging me to call him out. He wants to prove he's unbothered; wants a chance to regain face after I've seen his pain. But it's too late. Had he been someone else, I'd move in and comfort him, but my pain is still too fresh. Still too present.

'Don't flatter yourself, Finch. I didn't even know you were out here.'

'I can't believe I let her do it again,' he mutters, more to himself than to me. He kicks the wall, sending a flurry of dust scurrying along the pavement. I flinch, steeling myself for an argument. 'And with fucking Brody.'

I've never heard Finch swear before - his Mama's Southern manners are too ingrained to do so around me - and it unnerves me to see his façade crack. Bathed in moonlight, his eyes glisten with repressed tears. Without the confident swagger and bravado that ages him, he seems, for the first time, no older than seventeen.

'I wanted to try this time,' he says weakly.

I lean against the trellis and fold my arms. 'I'm sorry, Finch, but I don't plan on comforting you over Savannah.'

Guilt registers on his face, aware of who he's talking to. Dropping onto a low wall that boxes some full, red roses, he sighs and motions towards the thudding beat of the party.

'Taste of my own medicine, hey?'

'I don't think anyone deserves that. Not even you.'

He scuffs his feet against the wall. 'You shouldn't feel bad for me. I've dodged karma for a long time.'

'I never said I felt bad.'

He snorts and brings the bottle back to his lips. I glance at it - only a third left. God, how full it had been when he started? A twinge of concern nips at me.

'Drinking yourself unconscious won't stop her snogging Brody.'

His eyes widen when I cross the small courtyard, but he doesn't fight as I prise the bottle from his hand. I ignore his open-mouthed stare and seat myself on the wall, letting the cool breeze rustle my hair. Inside, the music swells and flashing lights seep through the windows. They cast dancing patterns on the floor of the rose garden, and I stretch out my legs to let the lights dart over the long, suede boots.

When I turn back, he's still staring.

'I'm not giving it back,' I say, putting the bottle on my other side.

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