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I threw myself into work after Cyrus resigned hoping to keep myself busy so I wouldn’t have to think about missing him. Unfortunately, it took me some time to get to that point. I was off on my game. I would get so lost in thought about what Cyrus was up to at the moment that it led to me making some silly mistakes. Thank goodness I didn’t burn the lab down.

1853

I think my problem was that I felt so lonely. Before I used to have so many of my loved ones around all the time and now they’re all so busy doing their own thing. Gabriel goes over to a friend’s house after school practically every day and when he gets back home he goes straight to bed leaving us no time to talk anymore. He says his group of friends just do homework and study but I’m sure they are up to some other mischief as well. I can’t complain because his grades are good and he’s always home before curfew. Izzy is still getting a lot of out of town gigs which means I barely see her anymore and Jo and Terrance are still in their honeymoon phase which means they spend all of their free time locked up in their house. Some days I feel like I’m living by myself in this big old house.

That’s when I came up with a solution.

I was going to plan a family vacation!

I remembered the last one we took after Mum was released from prison. Johanna was still a kid at the time and Gabriel wasn’t even born as yet. It was so much fun and I think we all got a little closer from the experience. I did a little research and found a place called Granite Falls. It was known for its clear rivers, its tall green canopy of trees and gorgeous views of the mountains that surrounded it. A relaxing trip to the forest was exactly what we needed. What I needed.

“How are the vacation plans coming along?” Wolf asked. “Everyone on board?”

1854

“Yeah, we leave this Friday for Granite Falls.”

“That’s nice. My family used to take camping trips like that all the time when I was a kid back in Windenburg. It used to be so much fun. But then my Dad died and my mother started working all the time. My brothers never felt like doing stuff like that anymore and it’s kinda boring going camping by yourself.”

I was surprised by that because I wouldn’t have pegged him for an outdoor kind of guy. He looked like he would prefer hanging out at a café or a rock concert instead of roughing it in the woods. Wolf never talks about doing anything with friends or family but I know he likes hearing stuff about mine because he always asks. He didn’t have a girlfriend, he never talked about friends, and from the sound of it, he’s not close to his brothers. I felt bad for him.

“Do you want to come along?”

“Nah it’s your family trip…”

1855

“No one would mind at all. It’ll be fun to have another person there. Jo and I will be bringing our significant others so you can hang out with Izzy and Gabe. We’re not camping exactly, we’re renting a cabin, but it’s spacious and there’s definitely room for another person. What do you say? I’d really like it if you can come.”

He was still resistant but eventually I convinced him to come along.

It was a long weekend so it was going to be a three-day trip in Granite Falls. We all arrived at the rental house and quickly settled in.

1856

Terrance and Gabriel were out on the porch by the grill cooking up burgers while the rest of us hung out inside stuffing our faces. It was lunch time by the time we all found our rooms and put our stuff away and since none of us had breakfast before leaving Oasis Springs at the crack of dawn, we were all starved.

“Looks like Izzy and your friend are hitting it off.” Jo whispered to me with a grin on her face. I looked over my shoulder and saw Wolf and Izzy talking. And smiling a lot.

“They’re just talking.”

“Talking? More like flirting. Is that why you brought him here? For her?”

1857

“No. Izzy’s more than capable of getting her own guy. I invited him because he’s my friend and he wanted to come along.”

“She’s really into him. I can tell. She’s giving him that look.”

“What look?”

“That look like when she really likes a guy.”

She looked normal to me. “They met like two hours ago. I doubt she started liking him already.”

1858

Jo rolled her eyes at me and then continued to grin at them. I ignored her continued eating my burger. Isabel was just being nice to Wolf. I didn’t see anything else other than that.

Later that afternoon we all played a rousing game of horseshoes in the backyard. Terrance was winning as Johanna stood back cheering him on.

1859

Then that night Isabel and Cyrus entertained us by playing songs on some old guitars they found in one of the spare rooms. It seemed like the previous tenants left them behind because they were in good condition and they were already tuned up.

1860

After the performance, Jo and Terrance scampered into their room. I think they couldn’t wait to get away from the rest of us so they could woohoo.

Isabel, Wolf and Gabe decided to hang out by the campfire a little longer so I took the opportunity to hang out with Cyrus alone.

“You know, Izzy won’t mind sleeping in the same room with Gabe so you and I could share this room.”

“That’s not a good idea.”

1861

“But we don’t have to do anything. We can just sleep. Come on, don’t you want to cuddle and spoon with me? This is the first time we’ll be sleeping under the same roof. Why not do so together?”

“If I feel you lying next to me, I’m not going to want to just cuddle and spoon.” He grinned. “Good night babe, love you.”

Before I could protest he left. I threw myself back on the bed in frustration. I just wanted a way to be close to him. I thought this trip would be the perfect opportunity for us to have some intimacy even if we can’t go all the way. To make matters worse, I could hear Jo and Terrance going at it in the next room. I felt like they knew exactly what happened and they were mocking me!

The following morning I woke up with a rash that covered my entire body! I had no idea what could have caused it. No one else had it and we all ate and drank the same things yesterday. Perhaps I accidently touched some poisonous plant when I went looking for the lost horseshoe during the game.

“Whoa! You weren’t kidding about that rash. You look like you got the pox!” Cyrus laughed.

1862

“No, it must be an allergic reaction to something in these woods.”

“Well whatever you do, don’t come near me at all!” He laughed some more and it irritated the crap out of me more than the stupid rash did!

“Oh yeah, you would like that wouldn’t you?!”

1863

“What…?”

“Now you have a legitimate reason to keep away from me. To not touch me! You must be so glad!”

“What the…? I was just joking around.”

“Well, your joke sucks!”

“Do you have a fever or something? Because you’re talking crazy, Ivy!”

“I’m not crazy! I’m just itchy and I’m frustrated because you…” Then I realised I was behaving like a crazy person. I yelled at Cyrus for no good reason. The stares from Terrance and Gabriel confirmed it.

1864

I mean, yeah, I had a reason but they wouldn’t think it was a good one. I was tense and not just because of the rash, but this wasn’t a conversation to have right now, not while I was in such a bad mood and not while Terrance and Gabe were in earshot.

So I backed off and went and took the longest, coldest shower of my life which helped me calm down and helped soothe the rash. Then I carefully applied ointment on my skin. It stopped the itchiness for a while and for a moment I felt like I was back to my old self. That itchy psycho was gone and the real Ivy Sloane was back.

And then I walked into my bedroom to wake Isabel up because it was almost noon and I found Wolf there with her…under the sheets.

1865

I just turned and walked back out closing the door behind me. I could hear them giggling as they scrambled to put their clothes back on. I just stood there, a little sad and a little jealous. Was everyone else hooking up except for me? Wolf and Ivy barely know each other and they were already in bed together and I have known Cyrus for years and he won’t even kiss me in front of his mother!

1866

Wolf opened the door and walked out. He tried not to look at me but he was far from embarrassed. He was grinning from ear to ear. When I walked in and saw Isabel, she looked the same.

“What the hell, Izzy?!”

1867

“Sorry, I thought you went on that hike with Gabe and Cyrus already.”

“They went ahead without me. I didn’t want to go because of this rash.”

“Oh, well, Ivy let me tell you! Wolfgang is sooo amazing!”

“Ugh, don’t even start. He’s my friend, I don’t want to hear about how he is in bed.”

She scoffed. “It’s not like that. I think I’m in love!”

1868

In love? What the hell?! “You’ve only known him a day.”

“I know but…you know how they say love at first sight? Well, I never believed that crap until now. Ivy, I think this is the real deal.”

She was so happy. I’d never seen her like that. So what kind of sister would I be if I rained on her parade by complaining about how annoyed I was that she was woohooing with Wolf in our bed? What kind of a sister would I be if I told her how envious I was of her right now? Because she was getting the attention and affection that I wanted so badly!

So I lied. “I knew you two would hit it off but I didn’t think it would be this fast!”

1869

“So this was your master plan all along?”

“No. But I am happy for you both.”

“Thank you, Vee. I thought this would be so weird for you because he’s your co-worker. I thought you wouldn’t approve.”

“Iz, I always want what’s best for you. If he makes you happy then I’m happy.” That was the truth. I really was happy for the both of them. Even though I just wanted to crawl into bed and cry.

1870

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