The Divide


Chapter 1

Adam's car windows were foggy with the heat of their breath. It was a balmy night at dusk, and the air was scented with early signs of spring - a perfect night to roll down the windows and enjoy the breeze while they kissed.

But Cassie insisted the windows stay closed, for privacy.

Besides, she liked the feeling of being cocooned in such close quarters with Adam, insulated from the outside world by the steamy glass. They were going to be late for their meeting, but inside this cloud, she didn't care.

"We should go in," she said halfheartedly.

"Just five more minutes. It's not like they can start without you."

Right, Cassie thought, because I'm a leader. All the more reason not to be late because I'm making out with my boyfriend.

Boyfriend. The notion still made her giddy, even after all these weeks. She watched the way the setting sun brought out the multicolored highlights in Adam's tangled hair -

shades of burgundy and orange - and the crystal ine sparkle in his blue eyes.

He leaned in and softly kissed that spot on the side of Cassie's neck just below her ear. "Fine," she said. "Three more minutes."

Their first kiss as a couple had changed everything for Cassie. It meant something. Adam's lips on hers felt deliberate and momentous, like an agreement, and Cassie's whole body became aware of that fact. This was love, she'd realized.

Cassie assumed the sensation would lessen as the days passed, that their kissing would become routine and habitual, but it hadn't. If anything, its intensity increased over time. Parked now just outside the old lighthouse on Shore Road, Cassie knew they had to stop kissing, but she couldn't. And neither could Adam. The quickening of his breath and the pressing urgency of his grip on her hips made that obvious.

But it wouldn't look good to walk in late to her first meeting as a Circle leader. "We really have to go in," she said, pulling away and placing her hand up against Adam's chest to hold him still.

He took a deep breath and exhaled through his mouth, trying to cool himself down. "I know."

Reluctantly, he let Cassie disentangle from his embrace and make herself more presentable. After a few more deep breaths and a swift patting down of his wild hair, he followed her inside.

Walking across the long-grassed meadow that led to the old lighthouse, Cassie couldn't help but be struck by its worn, rustic beauty. Melanie had told them it dated back to the late 1700s, and its age was evident in its dilapidated appearance. The tower itself was constructed of grayed stone and brick reaching almost ninety feet high, but at its base was a small, crumbling wooden house - the lightkeeper's cottage. It had been built for the lightkeeper's wife and children, so they could be close to him while he saw to his duties upstairs. According to Melanie, the cottage was passed down through several generations until the lighthouse was finally decommissioned in the early 1900s. Since then, there had been talk of converting it into a museum, but it had remained abandoned for decades.

Adam smiled at her, and her breath caught in her throat.

She unlatched the cottage door and stepped inside, Adam just behind her. With an almost audible whoosh, the Circle's focus shifted to her grand, belated entrance.

It was immediately obvious that they'd kept the group waiting for too long, and that the group knew exactly what she and Adam had been doing. Cassie examined all of their faces, absorbing their different reactions and silent accusations.

Melanie's usually cool eyes contained a heated impatience, and Laurel shyly giggled. Deborah, sitting on the edge of the wooden bench in the corner, appeared ready to make a snide comment, but before she had the chance, Chris and Doug Henderson, who'd been playing catch with a tennis ball by the window, said in unison, "Well, it's about frigging time."

Nick, sitting on the floor with his back against the wall, looked at Cassie with a subtle pain in his eyes that forced her to turn away.

"Adam," Faye said, in her lazy, husky voice, "your lip gloss is smudged."

The room broke out with uncontrollable laughter, and Adam's face reddened. Diana stared straight down at the floor, humiliated for them, or perhaps for herself. She'd been gracious about Adam being with Cassie now, but there was only so much a girl could take.

"We call this meeting to order," Diana said, regaining her poise. "Everyone, please be seated."

Diana spoke as