Chapter 24: Dangerous Revelations

Disclaimer: I don't own TDI and its characters.

"Relationship is an art. The dream that two people create is more difficult to master than one." -Don Miguel Ruiz


When he woke up Sunday morning, Duncan was greeted by the smell of French toast and bacon from downstairs. He could hear his mother downstairs, humming.

Why the hell was she making French toast out of nowhere? It wasn't like to her to- Oh, yeah.

Duncan grinned.

Kristian would be coming today. Of course his mother would do something special when the boy arrived.

Feeling recharged with enthusiasm, Duncan took a quick shower, threw on a t-shirt and sweats and hurried downstairs.

"Morning, sweetie," Mrs. Mariano called from the kitchen as Duncan slid down the stairs via railing.

"Morning," Duncan said, coming into the quaint and sunny kitchen. "It smells great in here."

"Food tastes great, too," Mr. Mariano said from the kitchen table. He was tucking in on a plate of French toast, bacon and eggs. "Good morning, champ."

"Hey, Chief," Duncan said to his father, who was dressed up in his police officer attire. Duncan looked his father up and down.

"Ugh." Duncan didn't try to hold back the shiver that ran down his spine. His father rolled his eyes good-naturedly. For some odd reason, Duncan always felt a sense of trepidation when he saw his dad dressed like that.

"Duncan, get over here," Mrs. Mariano said. "Watch over the eggs for me while I eat some cereal."

"What, I don't get to eat first?" Duncan complained, though he went over to the stove obediently.

"Flip the eggs when it starts to get brown on the bottom," Mrs. Mariano said, pouring herself a bowl of Special K. "I'm getting sick of eating this," she complained, poking glumly at the bran.

"Still on that diet?" Duncan asked.

"I'm afraid so," Mrs. Mariano sighed. "It's been more than 2 weeks and I still haven't seen any change."

"I'm telling you, honey, that Special K crap is all bogus," Mr. Mariano said from the table.

"Miriam did it and she lost the weight!" Mrs. Mariano said hotly. "It should work for me, too!"

"Maybe if you stopped with the chocolate ice-cream at night, you'd lose weight faster," Duncan mumbled under his breath.

"What was that?" Mrs. Mariano said, rounding on her son sharply.

"Nothing." Duncan idly checked under a sizzling egg.

Mrs. Mariano shot her son a glare as she filled the bowl with skim milk. "Anyway," she continued, placing the gallon of milk back into the fridge. "Are you planning to take Kristian anywhere today? You've got a whole week off to do things together."

"I'm planning on having him meet some of my friends," Duncan said, flipping over an egg. "Well, one, to be exact."

Duncan had no intention of having Kristian meet anyone else other than Courtney.

"That's nice," Mrs. Mariano said, nodding.

"I don't want you two going off and doing things that are against the law," Mr. Mariano said. "You hear me?"

"Dad, come on," Duncan rolled his eyes. "What makes you think that?"

"Last time Kristian went over for Christmas, you two went streaking at your school's football game!"

"Pa, it was a celebration!"

"Celebration or not, I don't want you to go around doing anything stupid this week, all right?" Mr. Mariano said dismissively. "That means no spray-painting, no vandalizing, no… well, no nothing of whatever it is that you do to pass the time."

"You know Duncan wouldn't do that with Kristian; Kristian's level-headed," Mrs. Mariano said placidly as she sat down besides her husband.

"That boy's got a wild streak of his own, Camille," Mr. Mariano warned.

Duncan grinned. It was Kristian's idea, after all, to go streaking at their high school's biggest football game of the season.

"I promise, Pa, no tricks," Duncan said solemnly, putting up a hand while the other one pressed the flipped over another egg. He secretly crossed his fingers. And his toes, for good measure.

At that moment, the door bell rang.

"That must be Kristian," Mrs. Mariano said, starting to rise from her seat. But a blur passed her by before she could make it out of the kitchen. The spatula dropped with a clatter on the counter.

Duncan swung open the front door and gave a yell as he saw his best friend standing there on the front step, duffel bag in tow.

"Duncan!" Kristian yelled, promptly dropping his bags and holding his arms wide open.

"Kristian!" Duncan shouted joyfully, foregoing the hug as he leapt on his best friend and gave him a long-awaited noogie. "Man, I missed you!"

Kristian fought valiantly to escape from Duncan's clutches but failed. He emerged a few moments after, his hair in shambles.

"You grew taller," Duncan said approvingly, comparing Kristian's height with his. "You're almost there, buddy!"

"What are you saying; I'm almost taller than you," Kristian laughed, shoving Duncan playfully.

Kristian had hardly changed since the last time Duncan saw him; he was still gangly and tall, and his skin still had that same old Hawaiian-boy tan.

"Hello, Duncan," Mrs. Delacruz said, coming up from behind Kristian. "How've you been?"

"Fine," Duncan grinned. "How about you?"

"Oh, getting by," she said breezily.

"Oh, Rosie! I've missed you!" Mrs. Mariano exclaimed, going past Duncan to give her friend a hug.

"Me, too, me, too," Mrs. Delacruz said, hugging Mrs. Mariano tightly. "You look skinnier!"

"I do?" Mrs. Mariano asked, looking delighted. She turned.

"Special K?" Mrs. Delacruz asked, grinning.

Mrs. Mariano gasped. "How did you know?"

Duncan rolled his eyes.

"Ladies, please," Mr. Mariano said, coming up from behind Duncan. "Get in the damn house already; you're making a scene."

"Charming as ever, Charlie," Mrs. Delacruz said dryly.

"Hey, there's a good breakfast waiting on the table that I got to attend to," Mr. Mariano said, ushering the ladies in. "I don't have time to be charming." He grinned at Mrs. Delacruz.

"Duncan, take Kristian upstairs and show him his room. Put away his luggage for him, too," Mrs. Mariano ordered. "And don't take too long; there's food waiting down here."

"Gotcha." Duncan grinned at Kristian as he heaved the luggage over his shoulder. "C'mon." The two went upstairs.

"So," Kristian said casually. "Where am I sleeping?"

"In the guest room." Duncan elbowed the door open. "Right next to mines."

"Great, I get to hear your god-awful snoring in perfect clarity." Kristian looked around the spacious guest room, smiling reminiscently. "Man, I missed this room."

"Hey, there's memories in here," Duncan said, tossing the luggage onto the bed. He grinned at the window by the bed. He and Kristian always snuck out from this very window; it was situated conveniently by a tree from which the two could climb down.

It was getting back up that was always a problem.

"I miss this bed, too!" Kristian said, smoothing out the covers, grinning. "Same old, same old."

Kristian and Duncan had sleepovers back in the golden days of elementary and middle school; this guest room was nearly always inhabited by Kristian every Friday and Saturday.

Kristian looked at Duncan. "And you- You haven't changed a bit. Though your hair might need some retouching." He eyed Duncan's faded green hair.

"Yeah. About that." Duncan touched his head. "My mom's gonna force me to take it out."

"What?" Kristian looked shocked. "No way, man; you've had that since 9th grade!"

"I know. But I grew out of it, I guess." Duncan shrugged. "It's all right. Nothing big." Not really, anyway.

"Well, it's your head," Kristian said bracingly. "Anyway, what's our plans for today?"

"I want you to meet a special someone," Duncan said mischievously.

"Aah. Courtney Mann?" Kristian asked shrewdly.

"The very one."

Kristian raised an eyebrow. "How do you even know if she'll agree to see me or not?"

"She's not gonna have a choice," Duncan said, grinning back.

"What? You're gonna make her meet me by force?" Kristian asked sarcastically, opening up his luggage.

"Hmmmm," Duncan hummed. "Yes."

"What?" Kristian slowly lowered the t-shirt he was taking out of his luggage.

"You'll see." Duncan smacked Kristian's back fondly. "Come on. Let's go get some breakfast. And then change into something decent, cause we're going on a field trip."

"A field trip?" Kristian asked, frowning.

A very ominous and smug look grew on Duncan's features. "You ever seen a New York mansion?"


"Humor results when society says you can't scratch certain things in public, but they itch in public." -Tom Walsh


On a typical Saturday morning, you would find Courtney at home, either doing homework or studying or out doing community service.

Today, however, was the beginning of spring break, and there was no work or service to be done. James was out with his friends for the weekend, and their mother was currently at her company, trying to finish up some work. That left Courtney home alone.

Of course, she would have to do something, too. So, she decided to call up Bridgette and Gwen and head to the mall.

It's been a long time since the three went shopping together. Some retail therapy would do Courtney some good anyway.

"Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping." -Bo Derek


"Dude, where are we going?" Kristian demanded as he climbed into front seat. "You know I don't like surprises."

"Blah blah blah, just shut up and we'll go where we're going," Duncan said impatiently, starting the car.

"God, you're unbelievable," Kristian muttered. "Haven't changed a bit…"

"Seatbelts on?" Duncan asked, checking the rearview mirror.

"Yeah, yeah, quit your nagging."

Duncan might be wild on his motorcycle, but a car was a different thing. Believe it or not, Duncan was a very meticulous driver. Probably because he was taught by his father…

Duncan shivered. That was a summer he would never want to experience again.

Now, Duncan frowned as he entered the highway. If he recalled correctly… her house was on the next exit.

"People seem to get nostalgic about a lot of things they weren't so crazy about the first time around." -Anonymous


She checked herself over in the full-length mirror.

Since it was spring, Courtney allowed herself to wear shorts, paired with a gauzy, diaphanous white chemise. And some killer heels, Courtney thought, admiring her brand new Balenciagas.

So far, so good.

She snatched up her purse and headed downstairs to wait for Bridgette and Gwen (who were going to drive her to the mall).

It was awfully quiet in the house without James or her mother around, Courtney thought, as her heels echoed about the large, empty space.

She sat down primly on the sofa, fixing up the cushions so that they were nice and straight. Then, the doorbell rang.

"Coming!" Courtney called, getting up. It was probably Bridgette. "Took you long enough," Courtney said impatiently as she swung the door open, "I thought you were caught in tra-"

The words died in Courtney's mouth as she caught a full view of the caller.

It was, by no means, Bridgette.

"Top of the mornin', darling," drawled Duncan, leaning against the door frame.

"Flirtation: attention without intention." -Max O'Rell

"Duncan?" Courtney gasped. She furrowed her eyebrows, trying to comprehend what was happening. "What the hell are you doing here?"

Duncan grinned. "Feel like going to the beach?"

"What?" Courtney stared at Duncan. "No, I don't feel like going to the beach! What is wrong with you?"

"Well, you've got no choice, beautiful, cause I've got someone who really wants to meet you," Duncan said, tugging on Courtney's wrist. "And, hey, you look like you're about to head to the beach, anyway- just throw on some flip-flops and we're good to go!"

"You're out of your mind!" Courtney protested. "These kind of things take time to plan! And I'm already going to the mall with Bridgette and Gwen-"

"So call and cancel," Duncan said easily. "Better yet—" he reached into Courtney's purse and pulled out her Blackberry. "I'll call them for you."

"Duncan!" She was bewildered. Never before had Duncan attempted a forceful stunt like this; she was almost at a loss of words. She watched in horror as Duncan put the phone to his ears while holding Courtney at bay.

"Hello, Bridgette?" Duncan said cheerfully, carefully tilting his head out of Courtney's reach. "Yes, I am Duncan and yes, I am on Courtney's phone." He paused, listening to Bridgette, one hand keeping Courtney at bay. "Yeah, about that—she isn't gonna go the mall with you today. No, sir. She's going out with me." Duncan grinned. "Oh, yeah, she just jumped at the chance. Yeah, of course, I will. Don't worry. All right. Say hi to Gwen for me. Later."

Duncan hung up, a satisfactory look on his face.

"Here you go." He handed the phone back to Courtney, who in turn, yanked it from his hand, absolutely fuming.

"You're unbelievable!" Courtney yelled. "Who do you think you are, stealing people's phones and making false statements and accusations-"

"Just get in the car, sister," Duncan said exasperatedly. "Trust me, you'll have fun."

"I'd rather jump off a cliff," Courtney scowled.

"Unfortunately, there is no cliff around here for you to verify that statement," Duncan said, grinning wickedly. "Now, run in the house and get some flip-flops; we're going to the beach."

Courtney crossed her arms stubbornly. She wouldn't follow his orders that easily.

"Or," Duncan added, his tone impish, "Would you rather I go ask the beautiful Kristina to go instead? I'm sure she'd look gorgeous in a string bikini."

Courtney glowered at him. "I hate you."

"Do you know how sexy you get when you hate me?" Duncan asked, almost adoringly.

"Ugh!" Courtney gnashed on her lips, contemplating on what to do next.

Bridgette certainly wouldn't pick her up, now that she knew Duncan was involved—Courtney could always just blow Duncan off, but she didn't want to spend her Saturday alone.

And who was this person that Duncan wanted her to meet, anyway?

Well… she was curious.

She could allow herself a little trip, Courtney reasoned.

"Well?" Duncan asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Give me a moment," Courtney said curtly, heading back into her house.

"Sure," Duncan said at once. "Go get whatever you need. You know, I could help you pick out a bikini if you want—"

Courtney slammed the door in his face.

Duncan sighed affectionately.

"Gotta love that woman," the delinquent said, shaking his head.

"When love is not madness, it is not love." -Pedro Calderon de La Barca

When the door opened barely a minute later, Duncan was speechless to see Princess all decked out in beach attire—beach bag, flip-flops, sunglasses, water bottle… She had changed her outfit, too.

"That was fast," Duncan managed. How the hell did she change and gather all that crap in one minute? Hell, Courtney could have a future as a burglar if she wanted.

"I like to be prepared," Courtney said primly, turning around to lock her door.

Duncan patiently waited until she finished.

"Who is this person you want me to meet, anyway?" Courtney asked, tucking the keys neatly into her pocket.

"A great friend, a compadre," Duncan said grandly, throwing an arm over Courtney's shoulders. "You could call him my best friend."

"What, is he a criminal, too?" Courtney asked, distastefully shrugging off Duncan's hand.

"No, babe, nothing like that," Duncan said, grinning. "You'll like him. He's a Princess like you, too."

Courtney frowned. "I'm not sure I want to meet him."

"Hey, come on," Duncan said, taking out his cell phone. "He came all the way from NJ to see you; have a heart." He flipped on his cell phone. "I gotta make a quick phone call to somebody, so just go ahead and get in the car." He nodded at the car parked across the road. "I'll be there in a moment."

"So chivalrous," Courtney said sarcastically, walking off. He didn't even bother to open the door for her.

"Hey, Uncle," Courtney heard Duncan greet on the phone. "It's me, Duncan…" His conversation faded away as Courtney neared the vehicle.

When Courtney opened the car door, she was pleasantly surprised by how clean the interior was. The seat was free of crumbs and other residue, Courtney noticed, as she settled herself into the seat. She neatly placed the beach bag at her feet. No trash lying about, like she would've thought…

She turned around to inspect the backseat.

"Hey there"

Courtney gasped, visibly startled.

Sitting in the back was a young man about her age. He looked Filipino or something of the sort, since his skin seemed naturally dark. He was quite handsome, Courtney admitted. His features complemented each other well.

"I'm Kristian," the young man offered, holding out a hand. "You must be Courtney, right?"

"Yes," Courtney said, hesitantly taking the proffered hand.

This guy did not look like he could be Duncan's best friend. Kristian seemed like he was the polar opposite of Duncan. He had gentle brown eyes and golden-brown skin, which stood out in stark contrast against Duncan's sharp teal eyes and pale complexion. And unlike Duncan's conspicuous faux-hawk, Kristian's jet-black hair was simply styled up with gel.

Even his clothing made a glaring difference to Duncan's. Duncan's style exuded rebellion, danger… a very James Dean kind of aura. Kristian looked more like a laidback, Tommy Hilfiger or Calvin Klein kind of boy, what with his red long-sleeved flannel shirt and tan cargo pants.

"Sorry if I scared you," Kristian apologized, "Duncan made me sit in the backseat 'cause he wanted you next to him," he added, a little sourly.

Courtney couldn't help but smile in spite of herself.

"Anyway, you're just as pretty as Duncan says you are," Kristian said, beaming. "He's constantly bragging about you."

"Really?" Courtney asked delicately. "I find that hard to believe."

"He thinks very highly of you."

Courtney's cheeks were hurting from smiling so much.

"Okay, I'm back," Duncan said as he opened the car door. "Have you two gotten acquainted yet?"

"Yeah," Kristian said, leaning back in his seat. He grinned at Courtney and put a finger to his lips in a "shushing" gesture.

Courtney took it to mean he wanted her to keep mum about the conversation they just had about Duncan.

"I just called up my dad's old pal, Ralphie," Duncan said as he started the car, "He manages this boardwalk kind of place behind the beach—He said he'll hook us up with an all-day pass to the attractions."

"Attractions?" Courtney asked.

"Yeah. They have, you know, rides and carnival types of games," Duncan said breezily, slowly driving down the neighborhood. "We can go to the beach, chill there and then go and have some fun."

"Man, I miss old Uncle Ralphie," Kristian sighed. He and Duncan always got free passes into the boardwalk because Uncle Ralphie always provided their tickets.

"Exactly how long will this car ride take, Duncan?" Courtney asked, narrowing her eyes.

Duncan pondered for a moment. "Uh, like, what do you think, Kris—an hour or so?"

"I reckon it'd be about there," Kristian lazily said from the back.

"An hour long!" Courtney exclaimed. That was much longer than she had bargained for.

"Heeeyyy, toots, it's spring break," Duncan said, looking at Courtney with amusement. "Relax and enjoy the scenery, won't ya?"

Courtney scowled at him, but quickly stopped, realizing she was in the presence of someone civilized.

Duncan's amused grin grew wider.

The delinquent met Kristian's eye in the rearview mirror. They grinned at each other.

Kristian gave him a thumbs up.

"Sometimes it's a form of love just to talk to somebody that you have nothing in common with and still be fascinated by their presence." -David Byrne


"We're here!" Duncan exclaimed, opening the car door.

The beach sparkled a quarter of a mile away. Behind it was the boardwalk; he could see the Ferris wheel and the rides.

Kristian took a deep breath of the salty beach air.

"Man, I missed this smell," Kristian said appreciatively. "Don't you love it, Courtney?"

"I do love it," Courtney said, giving Kristian a smile that was a bit too friendly for Duncan's liking.

Duncan scowled. He was a little taken aback (and jealous) by how well Kristian and Courtney got along. They had talked with each other amiably the whole entire car ride.

Duncan knew that the two would be compatible with each other… but not this compatible.

"He-e-e-ey," Duncan said, going in between the two. "Come on, no time for chitchattin'—we got a beach to catch." He pulled Kristian to the side, out of Courtney's range of hearing.

"Man, you are seriously cramping my style," Duncan hissed.

"What?" Kristian asked, bewildered.

"Look, I love the fact that you guys get along and all," Duncan said, looking at Courtney over his shoulder. She was watching them with narrowed eyes. "But I don't want her falling in love with you or anything like that—so do me a favor and keep your gentlemanly charm at a low, all right?"

"I was just being myself," Kristian protested. "What the hell do you want me to do?"

"Stop being yourself, then."

"You're crazy."

Duncan opened his mouth to respond when a voice called out from somewhere by his shoulder, "A-hem."

He whirled around and hastily stepped back; Courtney was standing right behind him, arms crossed, foot tapping impatiently on the floor.

"Excuse me, but I don't appreciate whispering behind my back," she said crossly. "Now are we done here?"

"Yes, we are," Kristian said, looking at Duncan meaningfully.

"Yeah, we are," Duncan said, smiling congenially down at Courtney. "Hey, let's go, yeah?"

"Finally," Courtney said impatiently. "Took you long enough."

Kristian loyally traipsed a few steps behind Duncan and Courtney as they headed towards the beach.

"Here, let me carry that," Duncan said, taking the decidedly feminine beach bag from Courtney's hands. He tried to carry it with as much manliness as possible, but knew that he was failing.

"Duncan!" Courtney said, looking surprised. "Are you actually being chivalrous?"

"Hey, I don't want you getting tired," Duncan said off-handedly.

"Well-" Courtney looked flustered. "Well—thank you."

"No prob."

"I don't know what's gotten into you today, Duncan," Courtney said, though she seemed flattered. "You're being awfully ni-" Her expression suddenly darkened into suspicion.

"What?" Duncan asked after a moment of staring at Courtney.

Courtney looked at Duncan with narrowed eyes. "You're planning something, aren't you?"

"No, I'm not," Duncan protested. "Damn it, woman, can't I do something nice without you thinking that I'm-" Duncan clamped his mouth shut as a yelp of pain threatened to escape.

Kristian, who was besides Duncan, had discreetly reached out and pinched his best friend's arm.

"What was that?" Courtney asked, her eyes bright and steely like they were apt to be when she was mad.

"I-I mean," Duncan quickly caught himself and backtracked. "I mean… Um, no, Courtney. No. I am not planning anything at all. I just felt like it's time I treated you to something, uh, nice."

God damn it. He rubbed his arm.

"I see," Courtney said a little warily.

Duncan looked back, feeling uncomfortable.

"Hey," Kristian said suddenly, breaking in between Duncan and Courtney, "What do you guys want to do first? Go to the beach or the boardwalk? Hm?" He threw an arm around Courtney and Duncan both as the trio walked.

Duncan's sharp stare went to Kristian's arm thrown over Courtney's shoulders. She didn't look like she minded.

Duncan cleared his throat. Without missing a beat, Kristian slipped his hand off Courtney's shoulders.

"Jealousy is the dragon in paradise; the hell of heavens; and the most bitter of the emotions because associated with the sweetest." -A.R. Orage

When they arrived at the boardwalk, the first thing Duncan did was call up his uncle's friend (again).

Good old Uncle Ralphie came out in a moment as the trio waited by the entrance.

Uncle Ralphie wasn't actually Duncan's uncle, but when you're Italian, everyone's family. Even the grocer down the block is your uncle. Funnily enough, Uncle Ralphie was also an Italian. So, he always referred to Duncan as his 'kid'. Which Duncan didn't mind so much.

"Hey! How you doin', son?" Uncle Ralphie exclaimed, hugging Duncan. His voice was thick with a Brooklyn accent; the type where instead of saying 'car', you say, 'cah'. He was quite a character, Uncle Ralphie: stout, middle-aged man, portly and loud with a hell of a laugh. Duncan loved him.

"You're looking awesome, Uncle Ralphie," Duncan said, patting Uncle Ralphie's hard stomach.

"All right, quit that BS," the man chortled. "You're makin' me blush." He turned to Kristian.

"Kristian! I missed ya, kid—been a while since you moved to NJ, eh? Ya like it there?"

"Not as much as I love New York, sir," Kristian said respectfully.

"Ach, I don't blame ya, kiddo, what's New Jersey to The Big Apple, right?" Uncle Ralphie's gaze landed on Courtney. "Oh? And who's this pretty lady?"

Duncan opened his mouth to explain, but Courtney beat him to it.

"Hello. I'm Courtney Mann," she said professionally. She reached out her right hand. "Pleased to meet you."

"Oh? Courtney Mann? Great to meet you, too," Uncle Ralphie asked, shaking Courtney's hand enthusiastically. He grinned. "Hey, there, you got a pretty strong grip. I like that. You look like you got potential."

Courtney's lips curled into a smile.

"She's my friend," Duncan offered. He shot Courtney a glance. She could've introduced herself as that, at least.

"Well, a friend of Duncan is a friend of mine," Uncle Ralphie said gracefully. "I'm proud to give you this ticket. Free of charge." He reached into his pocket and pulled out three crisp wristbands. "They're applicable to all the rides and attractions, so go crazy, yeah?"

He handed one wristband to Courtney, the other two to Kristian and Duncan.

"Thanks, Uncle," Duncan said, hugging Uncle Ralphie again. "You're the best. I mean it."

"Anything for Charlie's kid. And hey," he pulled Duncan aside. "Tell me the truth now. Is there anything going on between you and this Courtney gal?"

"What do you think?" Duncan asked, grinning.

"You better work hard, boy, cause a girl like that," he gestured his head at Courtney, who was now conversing with Kristian, "isn't gonna wait around for a guy like you for very long. She's a high-class girl."

"What, are you trying to say I'm not good enough for her?"

Uncle Ralphie held up his hands in denial. "I don't need to say nothin'."

Duncan rolled his eyes. "Geez."

Uncle Ralphie laughed, his voice rich and deep. "I'm just playin' with ya. You'll do fine. Now I gotta go; there's files and papers to be looked over. Don't get me broke now."

"Hey, you gave us free tickets," Duncan said. "There's no guarantees."

"All right, fine," Uncle Ralphie slapped Duncan on the back genially. "You three get on outta here. Have fun." He ruffled Duncan's head before walking away.

"The essence of pleasure is spontaneity." -Germaine Greer

"So, what first?" Duncan asked, shifting Courtney's tote bag on his shoulder.

"Let's go on a roller-coaster ride," Kristian said enthusiastically. "How about the Fireball?" He gestured at the attraction. "Looks like fun."

Screams emitted from the ride as it whooshed past the trio.

"Sounds like fun," Duncan said. "You up for it, Courtney?"

Courtney's usually tight and pursed lips relaxed into what could almost be called a genuine smile. "When am I never up for anything?"

"All right, then," he said jovially, throwing his arm around Courtney's shoulders.

He was surprised when she didn't throw his hand off.

"I've gotta walk away while there's still hope, learn to erase the love I know, and let you go." -Anonymous

It was a wonderful day. They had laughed, taken pictures, played games—like a real trio of friends. It was like as if they all belonged together.

They were ending the trip with a final visit to the beach. Duncan and Courtney were on the beach together. Save for a few stragglers, hoping to catch the last good waves of the day, they were alone. In order to give Duncan few moments alone with Courtney, Kristian had left under the ruse of getting them pretzels and drinks.

He was a great wingman, that Kristian.

Cool sea water lapped at Duncan's ankles; he couldn't help but smile at the sensation. Duncan couldn't remember the last time he felt so happy and at peace.

There was no tension between the two delinquent and the C.I.T as they watched the sun set against the evening sky streaked with vibrant orange and red.

"Today was really fun, Duncan," Courtney said, breaking the peaceful silence. She paused. "Thank you."

"What is this?" Duncan asked, grinning. "Is the great Courtney Mann actually showing gratitude?"

"Yes," Courtney said, turning a little red.

"Yeah, well, I'm glad you had fun. I had fun, too." Duncan smiled slightly. "And I'm sure Kristian enjoyed today, too."

"He's actually a pretty good guy," Courtney said. "I never thought you'd be friends with someone like him."

They were standing at the edge of the ocean, allowing a light flow of water to wash over their feet.

"I told you you'd like Kristian," Duncan said.

"I never said I wouldn't," she argued. "He's a wonderful person."

"Don't tell me that you have a crush on him," Duncan teased.

"What?" Courtney looked flustered. "Of course I wouldn't; why would you think that?"

"He seems like the kind of guy you would like."

Courtney fell silent. She didn't meet Duncan's gaze. "That's not true."

"All right then," Duncan said, his voice quiet, "What kind of guy do you like?"

Did she want a sophisticated guy like Justin? Someone who had money, brains? Whatever she wanted him to be, he would be. In that moment, there was nothing Duncan wouldn't do for Courtney.

"I don't know," Courtney said after a moment passed by.

"You don't like Justin, do you?" Duncan asked, shoving his hands into his pockets.

Courtney's lips pursed. "I already told you," she said impatiently, "The answer is 'no'."

Duncan nodded, though he wasn't thoroughly convinced. He would've preferred it if Courtney answered something along the lines of, "No, I don't like Justin; I'm madly in love with you!"

Well, he could wish.

"Do you like Kristina?" Courtney asked after a moment of silence passed.

"Huh?" Duncan turned to Courtney. She didn't look him in the eyes. "Kristina?"

Courtney nodded mutely.

Duncan stared at Courtney, who was uncharacteristically quiet as she awaited his response. A devilish grin came over his face when he realized that this was a perfect chance to goad Courtney into admitting she liked him.

"Well," Duncan said, sneaking a look at Courtney, "She is really pretty. Gorgeous, actually. Don't you agree?"

Courtney nodded woodenly.

"Who wouldn't like her?" he added wickedly. "She has eyes you can just lose yourself in. And those lips—Angelina Jolie, right?"

"All right, I get it!" Courtney snapped. "She's amazingly beautiful—I think that's already established!"

Duncan's grin grew wider. "What would you do if I did like Kristina?"

"Nothing," Courtney said viciously. "What would you expect me to do?"

"Oh, I don't know," Duncan said easily, stepping a little closer to Courtney. "Declare your undying love for me and beg me to stay?"

"In your dreams," she said, moving away from Duncan's touch.

"Fine, I don't need you," Duncan said, holding up his hands in surrender. "I've got Kristina already." He shot her a furtive glance.

"Ugh! You're so vile," Courtney spat. "The moment I start seeing you as a decent human being, you go and screw it all up! Just like a Neanderthal!"

"So does this mean you like me?" Duncan asked, that lopsided grin still on his face.

"No! It means that I hate you." Courtney crossed her arms over her chest, expression stormy.

Duncan attempted to snake an arm around Courtney. "Aww, let's kiss and make up."

Courtney swatted his hands away like as if they were poisoned. She took her foot and drew a line on the wet sand.

Duncan raised an eyebrow.

"Don't cross this line," she said haughtily with a toss of her glossy head.

Duncan stared intently at the shallow and rough line that Courtney drew.

It symbolized so many things for him. Things that he could not have, things that he could not touch.

He did not want that boundary any more.

Duncan stepped easily over the line, hands in his pockets. Courtney watched him, her eyes narrowed. "I thought I said-"

Courtney stopped in the middle of her sentence, eyes wide as she looked up at Duncan. There was something about his gaze that held her frozen.

"You should know me by now, Courtney," Duncan said quietly. "I don't like boundaries."

Courtney's green eyes were locked onto his teal ones. A pale hand crept up her slender arm. She did not move away.

He leaned closer to her; he could feel the gentle exhalation of her breath on his cheeks.

"Lines are meant to be crossed, I think," Duncan said, one hand cupping the back of Courtney's neck. He pulled her closer to him.

She seemed shocked into silence as a feral grin grew on Duncan's face. "Don't you think so, Princess?"

He didn't know what he was doing. He was hardly even thinking.

Maybe he was just drunk off of the happiness of this day.

Yeah, that was it. He was drunk with bliss. And with that, Duncan's lips pressed against Courtney's.

"We welcome passion, for the mind is briefly let off duty." -Mignon McLaughlin

He was in ecstasy for a short moment as Courtney's mouth opened slightly into his, her body leaning into his chest.

She tasted better than he could have ever imagined, it was intoxicating. He wanted it to last forever.

Unfortunately, the moment didn't last long. Courtney pushed against his chest hard, breaking Duncan out of his reverie.

Their lips regrettably parted as Duncan stumbled back, caught off-guard by Courtney's push (which, admittedly, knocked the breath out of his chest).

"What are you doing?" Courtney hissed, breathing heavily. Her face was flushed with his kiss.

"I don't know," Duncan rasped, his chest still hurting from Courtney's shove. His heartbeat was rapid staccatos against his chest. The kiss had gotten his heart pumping.

Duncan licked his lips. He tasted her fruity lip balm.

"I'm sorry," Duncan apologized, realizing what a stupid move it was to kiss Princess like that. Knowing Courtney, she probably didn't appreciate the surprise. "I wasn't thinking."

"Damn right you weren't." Courtney glared at him, her eyes glittering in the light of the setting sun. Her lips were red and swollen from Duncan's kiss, hair mussed from his touch. Duncan had to look away, unable to stand how seductive she looked.

"Hey, the kiss was enjoyable for me," Duncan said, attempting to sound light-hearted.

Courtney only continued to glower at him.

Duncan took on a new approach.

"Look, let's just forget this ever happened," he said, shaking his dark head. "I was just caught up in the moment-"

"I can't believe you!" Courtney cut in, her hands balled up into fists. She looked incensed. "That was my first kiss, Duncan! And you—you just took it from me! Without my permission!"

Duncan thought it wise to not tell Courtney he had already kissed her a long time ago. She was asleep at the time—not to mention drunk.

She didn't need to know.

"I said I was sorry!" Duncan snapped, feeling defensive now. "And you should be honored that I was your first kiss!"

A thunderous expression crossed over Courtney's face.

Damn. Duncan should have kept his mouth shut. But he felt a need to defend himself and his ego.

Duncan was a little wounded by Princess's negative reaction to his kiss. He thought the kiss was nice. He was so sure she had enjoyed it, too.

Courtney looked furious. Her hands snapped out, grabbing Duncan's shirt collar.

Oh, crap.

Courtney yanked Duncan towards her with strength that was unfitting for a girl of her petite stature.

He felt utterly helpless as Courtney pulled Duncan close to her; her hands still fisted into the fabric of his collar.

"What—what are you doing?" he asked, powerless in Courtney's grasp. Her eyes were blazing—passionate, Duncan realized with a start.

"I'm taking my kiss back," she said fiercely.

And with that, Courtney gave one last tug. And Duncan's lips fell upon hers.

The delinquent was in shock as Courtney's hands let go of his collar, snaking up around his neck. She clasped her fingers around the back of his neck, pulling him closer to her.

Duncan's eyes fluttered as Courtney opened her mouth under his. Instinctively, Duncan's hands encircled Courtney's trim waist, holding her tightly against him. Their tongues touched.

And Duncan swooned.

"I kissed my first girl and smoked my first cigarette on the same day. I haven't had time for tobacco since." -Arturo Toscanini

Author's Note: Well, it cost me buckets of sweat and blood and tears, but I have finally updated AT LAST! IT has taken me more than a year, and I apologize to all the readers who have patiently waited for my updates. I really don't deserve wonderful people like you *cries* I hope this chapter lives up to expectations. If it doesn't...well, I tried my best! Please, read and review. I'm working on the next chapter as we speak so hopefully it'll be up soon! Once again, thank you to everybody for sticking with YDYD; you've all inspired me to work on this project again!