Digging my supplies out of the closet, I nearly dropped the heavy load as soon as I walked back into the classroom. Jared sat at the teacher’s table up front.
He leaned back in the chair with his hands behind his head and one foot propped up on the edge of the table. His eyes gave nothing away, but his stare was focused entirely on me. That alone made the heat rise to my face and a cool sweat seeped out of my pores.
Damn him. Why did he have to look like that?
The softness of his lips, and his tongue hot and heavenly on my neck flashed through my memory. An anxious twitch started between my legs, and I really wanted to straddle him on that chair.
Shit. I was a walking time bomb of nerves.
I shook my head and averted my eyes as I carried my crate to my table. “Not now, Jared. I’m busy.” Honestly, that was the truth. I needed to focus, and as much as part of me wanted to indulge in this drama, I needed to be left alone.
“I know.” His smooth voice was strangely calm. “I came to help you.”
I stopped unloading the crate and stared at him wide-eyed. “Help me?” My tone dripped with sarcasm as I was sure this was either a joke on his part or an effort to sabotage my experiment. “I don’t need help.”
Dropping his arms, he stuffed his hands into the front pocket of his black hoodie. “I wasn’t asking if you did,” he replied, quickly and assertively.
“No, you’re just assuming.” Continuing to unload my materials, I avoided his eyes. That damn dream kept coursing through my mind, and I was scared that I’d give something away if I looked at him.
“Not at all. I know what you can do.” There was laughter in his voice, and I didn’t miss the double meaning in that remark. “I thought that if we’re going to be friends, this might be a good place to start.”
Getting off the chair, he walked towards me. I breathed in and out slowly.
Just take the beaker and flask and set them down slowly. Nice and slow.
“I mean, it’s not like we’re going to be able to go back to climbing trees and having sleepovers, is it?” he asked suggestively as his fingers grazed the lab table.
Sleepovers? My core started pulsing harder, and I knew my body was ready for what it needed. I felt it.
The idea of having Jared for a sleepover, even though he was joking, thrilled me. Damn, I’d love to let him keep me up all night doing things that we sure didn’t do as kids. I wanted his hands on me, bringing me close, and his mouth all over.
But I wanted him to care, too. And I didn’t trust him.
Blinking, I narrowed my eyebrows at him. “Like I said, I don’t need help.”
“Like I said, I wasn’t asking. Did you think that Porter was going to let you conduct experiments with fire by yourself?” He laughed bitterly and came to stand next to me.
“How do you know about my experiment? And who said we’re going to be friends?” I asked before bending down to grab my binder from my bag. “You know, maybe too much damage has been done. I know you’ve apologized, but it’s not so easy for me.”
“You’re not getting girly on me, are you?” he sneered.
Sifting through my binder, I pulled out notes and procedures I’d researched. I tried to read over the material, but having Jared so close made it hard to concentrate.
Turning to my left, I fixed him with my best bored expression. I didn’t want him thinking I was the least bit intrigued by his presence.
“Jared, I appreciate the effort you’re putting in here, but it’s unnecessary. Contrary to what your ego is blowing you up with, I’ve been surviving just fine without you for the last three years. I work better alone, and I would not appreciate your help today or any other day. We’re not friends.”
His cool façade faltered, and he blinked. His dark eyes searched mine. Or maybe he searched for something to say.
Feeling slightly guilty, I turned back to my binder but ended up knocking it to the floor in the process. Its contents, not secured by the three rings, floated to the floor. A wave of embarrassment spread over my body as my tough girl speech ended in a clumsy mess.
Jared jetted to my other side and bent with me to pick up the binder and its contents. “You’re looking at cars?” He eyed the printouts I’d taken from the internet to be prepared when my dad got home.
“Yeah,” I replied curtly. “I’m getting myself a birthday present.”
He held the information in his hand, not really looking at anything, but he seemed to be thinking about something.
“Jared?” I held out my hand to get the information back from him.
“I forgot your birthday was coming up,” he said almost to himself as I took back the papers and stuffed everything in my binder.
I wondered if that was true. Our birthdays were a big deal when we were friends, but in recent years he could’ve forgotten, I guess. I hadn’t forgotten his. It was October second.
Ugh, should I say something? I hadn’t done anything for Jared’s birthday the past few years, but now that the subject was up, I had no idea what to do.
Screw it. He would’ve forgotten mine, too.
“Does your dad know you’re looking to buy a car so soon?” Jared interrupted my thoughts.
“Does your mom know you provide alcohol to minors and sleep around on the weekends?” My remark came out way snippier than I wanted it to.
“‘Does my mom care’ would be a better question.” His sarcasm was a cover for the annoyed look I saw boiling underneath.