He leaned in, his full lips turned up. “Well, I hope I’m remedying that tonight.”
“So far, so good.”
We left the restaurant and laughed as we walked around downtown, talking about plans for college. On the way back to our cars, I sucked in a breath as he leaned in to kiss me. Surprisingly, his lips were soft and gentle, and his warmth willed me to lean into him. I placed my hands on his chest as he wrapped his arms around me, and he didn’t try to force his tongue into my mouth. It was safe …comfortable.
Definitely not what it should be.
I hadn’t experienced any of the thrill K.C. talked about when being close to a guy you’re attracted to. Definitely not the kind of excitement I read about in the books about high school girls and fallen angels. And not the kind of pulsing heat I feel when I’m around….no, no!
I stopped my train of thought dead in its tracks. That’s not attraction, I told myself. It’s just adrenaline brought on by confrontation. My body’s reaction to him wasn’t something I could control.
“Can I call you?” he whispered.
“Yes.” I nodded, a little embarrassed that my mind was preoccupied on another guy.
I was interested in spending time with him again. Maybe the spark hadn’t been there tonight, but I was stressed, and he deserved another chance. Maybe it just took time.
Ben waited for me to get into my car before he pulled out. Grabbing my phone, I hurried to text K.C. and share the details of my date. Even with the slight doubt about my attraction, I had a good time and was excited to share good news with her.
Can I come over?
Did you have fun? she asked.
Yes, but I wanted to talk…in person. I am not about to have a whole conversation over text messaging.
Was he nice?
Yes! It was good. No worries. Just kind of excited and wanted to talk. My impatience almost made me start the car and head to her house without an answer.
I have to work late. See you tomorrow before class? My shoulders slumped slightly at her response. I was close to her work, but I wasn’t going to bug her there.
Yeah, that’s fine. ‘Night. I shot back.
‘Night! Glad you had fun.
Just then, I heard the rumble of a motorcycle engine cruise past my car and perform a U-turn ahead. It came to stop on the other side of the street, about fifty yards away, in front of Spotlight Cinemas—where K.C. worked. My fingers tingled at the sight of Jared, and everything else stopped. He left the engine running as he sat back, holding the bike in place with both jean-clad legs on either side of it. He took out his phone from his black hoodie and appeared to be texting…and waiting.
Not a minute later, K.C. came bouncing out of the theater, running up to him. She leaned in and touched his arm.
Holy mother son of a…
I was having trouble breathing. What the hell am I seeing right now?
I watched as she smiled up at him. He grinned back at her but didn’t touch her. She was so intimate with him. Taking off his helmet, he offered it to her with a few words. She wasn’t getting the smirks or threatening kinds of looks I received. She ran her fingers through his mussed hair before taking the helmet and putting it on her own head. He fastened the straps for her before she climbed on behind him and wrapped her arms around his stomach.
I instantly slouched in my seat as they sped past me. They both knew my dad’s car, but I was hoping they wouldn’t notice it. At any rate, it wasn’t like they were going to stop and say “hi.”
Needles dug under the surface of my skin, and my ears were ringing. My throat ached as I fought back tears.
He had won over K.C.
K.C. had lied about working late.
She had her arms around him.
I wasn’t sure which one I was most upset about.
After sitting in my car for more minutes than I cared to admit, I was calm enough to drive.
The entire time it took me to get home and stalk up my front porch I had several versions of internal conversations with K.C. and choice monologues directed at Jared, including all of my favorite expletives. The more I talked to myself, the more pissed I got. Screaming, crying, stomping on some bubble wrap—they all sounded good right now.
What was she thinking? Even if Jared had smooth-talked her, was it worth hurting her best friend over?
I now guessed what Jared’s move was. He was trying to turn my friend against me. K.C. was very aware of what Jared had done to me, but he had gotten to her. He brought it to her attention that her boyfriend was cheating and then swooped in to pick up the pieces. How else could she be so weak-minded?
She needed to know Jared was using her. But how the hell could I tell her that?
Keeping myself busy so I wouldn’t do anything stupid, I finished my Calculus homework, completed the assigned reading for Government, and cleaned out the refrigerator and cabinets of expired food. After I’d exhausted myself with enough chores so that I’d finally stopped talking to myself, I walked upstairs to take a bath.
About an hour after I’d gotten out of the tub, the whir of Jared’s motorcycle sounded down our street. I leapt out of bed to spy through the window. Noticing that the clock read midnight, I calculated that it’d been three hours since I’d seen him with K.C.
Three f**king hours! What’d they been doing?
He arrived home alone. That was good, at least.
As he pulled into his driveway, I noticed the headlights of another vehicle coming to an abrupt stop in front of his house. Jared hopped off his bike and removed his helmet but kept it secured in his hand. He raced to the curb to meet the car’s occupants. The driver and his passenger had already vacated the car and met up with Jared toe to toe.