“For what?” I shot back.
“For reminding me of what a disappointing, self-serving bitch you are,” Jared gritted through his teeth as he got in my face. Heat rose to my head as I started to feel like words weren’t enough anymore.
My arms went stiff, my finger curling into fists. I was fantasizing about having Jared handcuffed while I punched the crap out of him.
Before I could respond with a snarky comeback, Madoc snapped, “That’s enough. Both of you.” He stepped between us, switching his glare from Jared to me. “Right now, I don’t give a f**k what the history is between you two, but we need asses in that car. People will lose a hell of a lot of money.”
He rolled up his sleeves as if he was going to personally throw us into the car. “Jared? You’re going to lose a lot of money. And Tate? You think everyone treated you badly before? Two-thirds of the people here tonight bet on Jared. When they hear that his first choice turned him down, the rest of your school year will be hell without Jared or me having to lift a finger. Now, the both of you, get in the goddamn car!”
Everyone stood there, shocked. Madoc never made sense, but he succeeded in making me feel immature and childish. A lot of people were counting on Jared’s win, and as much as I hated admitting Madoc was right, he made a valid point.
“He has to ask to me nicely.” I crossed my arms, keeping my expression impassive.
“What?” Jared blurted out.
“He has to say ‘please,’” I repeated for K.C., Madoc and Ben, not willing to address Jared after he’d just insulted me.
The others stood staring at Jared and me as if they were waiting to see which bomb would go off first. Jared shook his head with a bitter smile on his face and finally took a deep breath before responding.
“Tatum.” His voice was calm, but the underlying bitterness was there. “Would you ride with me, please?”
I eyed him for a moment, appreciating this rare show of humbleness, even if it was forced, before I held out my hand. “Keys?”
Jared dropped them in my hand.
As I bit the corner of my mouth to stifle a smile, I ran up onto the track with Jared following behind. I saw Roman hopping out of his car, having backed it into place behind the starting line for his girlfriend. I jogged up to Jared’s car, and the clusters of people around the track erupted in whispers and whistles at seeing me head for the driver’s side.
Jared climbed into the passenger’s seat, and I slammed my door shut after sinking into the cool leather. The impressive car was almost entirely black on the inside, and I immediately felt chills on my arms. Jared’s car sang of its power with its cave-like feel: cool, dark, and animalistic.
Turning the key, I backed into position as the crowd departed to the sidelines. The vibration through my thighs made my center tingle, and I immediately looked over to Jared, who was watching me.
His elbow propped next to his window, he leaned his head on his hand and peered at me with a mixture of curiosity and amusement. I wondered what he thought of me behind his wheel.
“You’re smiling,” he pointed out, almost as an accusation.
I stroked the steering wheel without meeting his eyes. “Don’t ruin this for me by talking, please.”
Jared cleared his throat and continued anyway. “So, your dad taught us both how to drive sticks, and the Bronco is a manual, so I’m assuming you don’t have any questions about that part, right?”
“None.” My pulse was hammering through my fingertips.
“Good. The turns are tight. Tighter than they look. The idea is to get there first, or fall behind to go after. Don’t try to make a left with Roman’s car, got it?”
I nodded. My eyes stared straight ahead, ready to get going as my foot anxiously tapped.
“At each left, let off the gas before you turn, and then accelerate after you’ve straightened out. If you feel like you need apply the brake on the turn then do it but as minimally as possible. Don’t accelerate until you’ve rounded the turn. You’ll spin out.”
I nodded again.
“Hit the gas in between turns. On the last leg, hit it hard.” His voice was commanding.
“Jared, I got it.” I looked over to him. “I can do this.”
He didn’t look like he believed me, but he stopped anyway. “Buckle up.”
Following his order, I glanced over to my left and saw Roman barking orders at his girlfriend while she nodded nervously. Zack walked between the two cars to take his position up front. Thankfully, it appeared he would send us on our way instead of the slutty jailbait from before.
As I looked out the front windshield, keeping my eye on Zack, I noticed what Jared had hung on his rearview mirror. I reached out and grabbed the oval shaped piece of clay, secured by a light green ribbon. Heat crept up on my neck, and my throat tightened.
It was the Mother’s Day necklace I’d made for my mom after she’d died.
Jared and I had made fossils of our fingerprints one year to give to our moms. Using air dry clay, we made a thumbprint and hung the small oval piece from a ribbon, making a necklace. He gave his to his mom, and I had put mine on my mom’s grave. The next time I’d visited her, the necklace was gone. I figured it was lost or the weather had worn it away.
Turns out it was stolen. I looked to Jared, partly puzzled and partly angry.
“Good luck charm,” he offered, not meeting my eyes. “I took it a couple of days after you left it there. I thought it would be stolen or ruined. Kind of had it with me ever since.”