Breathless Page 1


Nick Merrick sat on his bed and ran his thumb along the edge of the sealed envelope.

He didn’t want to open it.

He probably didn’t need to. It was thin, and thin letters from universities typically meant one thing: rejection.

It wasn’t his first-choice school anyway. He’d applied at University of Maryland because they had a solid physics program and it was an in-state school. If they rejected him, he didn’t really care.


He’d thought applying early at a few local schools would be a safe bet, just to get himself into the rhythm of it, seeing what kind of feedback he’d get.

Apparently it meant he’d get used to rejection right off the bat.

The worst part was the twinge of guilt in his stomach.

Not because he might have to go out of state.

The guilt was because he wanted to. Sort of.

A new town would mean anonymity. No one would know about his powers.

No one would know him as Gabriel Merrick’s twin brother, half of a unit.

A new town meant he could just be Nick.

Whatever that meant. Sometimes he worried that he’d get his wish, that he’d end up in some strange town, surrounded by new people, and he’d realize that there was nothing there, that his entire being was based on his brothers’ expectations of him.

Well, it wasn’t like he didn’t have options. A local school would have meant he could still stay home and help Michael with the business. If he couldn’t go to Maryland, he could go to the community college down the road. Nothing wrong with that.

Except . . . he didn’t want to go to the community college.

The colored balls in the Galileo thermometer on his desk started to shift, and Nick glanced up. He was changing the temperature. His blinds rattled against the window frame, too, as a gusty breeze tore through his room.

This was stupid. He should just open the envelope.

If only his powers gave him X-ray vision.

Not like he really needed it. He could imagine how the letter would begin.

Dear Nicholas, We regret to inform you that you’re a selfish bastard—

Yeah, right. Nick swore and shoved the letter between two textbooks on the desk. He could read it later.

Michael had asked him to reconcile a stack of invoices anyway. Better to let numbers steal his attention, especially since his oldest brother would be pissed if he got home and found a stack of paperwork still waiting for him.

The kitchen was empty, but he’d passed his youngest brother in the living room, along with his girlfriend. Chris and Becca were watching a movie, but from the glimpse Nick had gotten, there wasn’t a whole lot of watching going on. Not like Nick needed a glimpse: the air was more than happy to whisper about their activities.

Gabriel was out, doing something with Layne, and Michael would be on a job for another hour, at least.


Nick tore into a foil package of Pop-Tarts and fired up the laptop. With a toaster pastry between his teeth, he began to sort through the pile of carbon credit card slips, invoices, and canceled checks.

Michael was great about documenting what he was doing and how much it cost.

He wasn’t so great about making sure he was actually paid for it.

Nick had been doing most of the bookkeeping since he was thirteen. Now he could do it in his sleep.

His brain kept drifting to that letter, sandwiched between those textbooks on his desk.

At least he’d been the one to get the mail today, so no one else knew. God, that would have been a disaster. Hell, Gabriel probably would have put him in a headlock until he tore the envelope open.

Aw. Poor Nicky. They don’t want you.

Gabriel wouldn’t be upset. He didn’t want his twin to go.

That was another big part of the guilt.

He caught himself entering line items twice, and he pulled his hands off the keys to rub at his eyes. School was closed this week, thanks to the recent fire in the library, but he should probably be using the extra time to study. There was no money for college, so grades were everything right now.

His cell phone buzzed against the table, making him jump. The air had turned sharp and cold while he’d been going through these invoices, and he tried to make himself relax, knowing the air would do the same if he could mentally get himself to a better place.

He ran a thumb along the screen to wake it. A text message.

Quinn. His girlfriend.

Sort of.

Really, his relationship with Quinn was just one more thing that belonged on a list of all that made him feel insecure, uncertain, and guilty.

Any way you can pick me up at the Y?

Nick glanced at the clock. Gabriel had the car and Michael had the truck. Michael would be home first, but not for another twenty minutes. He typed back quickly.

Not for a while. You OK?

Fought with Mom again.

Nick winced. He texted back.

I can get you. 30 mins OK?

Sure. I’ll be in studio.

The studio was really just a room at the back of the Y, with half a mirrored wall and a barre bolted awkwardly into the patches of drywall. But Quinn’s parents wouldn’t pay for dance lessons, and Quinn had been kicked off the school dance team.

Unlike Nick, she knew exactly who, what, and where she wanted to be.

She just couldn’t get there.

He hadn’t met her parents yet, but apparently her mother had been put on this earth with the sole purpose of torturing Quinn, and her dad had nothing better to do than stare at the television—when he wasn’t running his mouth about how amazing Quinn’s older brother was. Quinn had a younger brother, too. He stayed out of the line of fire by hiding behind headphones and video game controllers.

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