“We can’t,” I said flatly. “You go from threatening me one day to kissing me the next. I don’t switch gears that fast.”
“Kissing you? You kissed me back… both times. And now you’re off to the school dance with Madoc. You might say I’m the one with whiplash here.” He stuck his hands into the pocket of his hoodie and leaned against the window sill. His eyes were challenging me, and I barely had a response for his comeback. He was right. I dated Ben, was going to a dance with Madoc, and kissing Jared.
“I don’t have to explain myself to you.” My response was pathetic.
“You shouldn’t go.”
“I want to,” I lied. “And he asked me.” Dismissing him, I turned to my work.
Jared came up behind me as I tried to look busy sorting my papers. “Has he been on your mind, Tate?” His breath fanned my hair. Placing both hands on either side of me, locking me in, he taunted me. “Do you want him? Or is it me you dream of?”
I closed my eyes, remembering my dream the other morning. What the thought of him did to me, and now he was right behind me.
“I said that when I put my hands on you, you’d want it. Remember?”
I turned to look at him. He moved his head up to meet my eyes. “I don’t think it’s any secret that I like it when you touch me. When you’re ready to tell me everything you’re holding back, then maybe I’ll trust you again. Until then…”
His eyes narrowed on mine and anger descended like a black cloud on his face as he backed away.
His back straightened and his fists clenched. Knowing I’d said exactly what I needed to say, I turned back around to my work. My heart was caving to him, and I couldn’t look at him anymore without the fear of giving in. If he wanted me as a friend or for more, then he’d have to give me more. As enticing as his offer of moving on without looking back sounded, I knew that Jared’s story made him the man he was now. I needed to know him.
“Jared?” a female voice whined from the doorway. “There you are.”
I looked up to see Piper with her cheerleading skirt pulled down to show off her hip bones and flat stomach. I think I just vomited a little in my mouth.
“Weren’t you giving me a ride home today?” She brushed her long, dark hair over her shoulder and bit her bottom lip. Oh, please.
“I’ve got my bike today, Piper.” Jared sounded bitter from behind me. He was pissed. With who? I wasn’t sure, but I could guess.
“I can handle it,” she asserted. “Let’s go. It doesn’t look like you’re busy here anyway.” Her gaze fell on me, and anger heated up my cheeks.
Jared was quiet for a few moments, and I felt his eyes on my back as I continued to sort materials for today. Every move was slow and methodical as I struggled not to drop anything else. But pretending not to pay attention was as impossible as not paying attention.
“Yeah, I’m not busy,” Jared finally replied coolly as he walked past me towards the door.
“So, Terrance…” The idiot girl acted like she didn’t know my name. “You didn’t go and give your Homecoming date a black eye, did you? He can barely see. You should really stop beating up on guys or people will start thinking you’re a dyke.”
She was trying to bait me, but I was at a loss. I had no idea what she was talking about. Someone had given Madoc a black eye since I’d see him at lunch?
“She didn’t give Madoc a black eye. I did.” Jared walked past her and opened the door, now not sparing either of us eye contact.
“Why?” Piper’s nose scrunched up as she turned around to exit the door he held open. Jared raised an eyebrow at me and swung the door shut with enough force for the vibrations to travel up my legs.
Staring at the closed door for several moments, I finally realized that Jared had punched Madoc over me.
What the hell?
Well, this definitely wasn’t some joke between the two of them, then. Madoc was interested in spending a little time with me, and that drove Jared crazy.
I let out a hard laugh. I wasn’t interested in Madoc. But, if it bugged Jared, I might be interested in having a little fun, after all.
Slipping in my ear buds, I spent the rest of the afternoon in a great mood.
“Hey, Dad,” I chirped after clicking the Accept Call button on my laptop. “What are doing up so late…or early?” Germany was nine hours ahead of us. I had just returned from a run and beating thoughts of Jared, Madoc, and everyone else out of my head. It was after six, and I’d heated a ham and cheese Lean Pocket for dinner.
“Hi, Pumpkin, I just got off a flight from Munich and am heading to bed now. Thought I’d check in to make sure you’re doing alright without Grandma.”
He looked weary and disheveled. His gray hair stood in half a dozen different directions as if he’d spent the last twenty-four hours running his hands through it, and bags hung under his blue eyes. His white collared shirt was unbuttoned at the top with his tan and blue tie loosened.
“Munich? I didn’t know you were going there,” I said with my mouth full.
“Just a spontaneous daytrip for a meeting. I took the red eye back to Berlin. I have today free, so I’ll sleep late.”
My dad’s idea of sleeping in was seven o’clock in the morning. If he didn’t emerge from his room by then, something was wrong. “Okay, well make sure you actually sleep late. You work too hard, and it’s showing. How will you get a date looking like you do?”