Maci Feldman charged me once Ben and I had arrived at the bonfire. “That was awesome! My brother is like so unbelievably happy he won that bet.”
Bonfires were held on Marcus Hitchens’s property, on the banks of Swansea Lake, practically every week, especially following races and football games. The bitter cold of January and February was the only time when little happened, both at the lake and the Benson farm track.
“I’m glad I could help,” I responded. And it was true. Racing tonight had been the best time I’d ever had. “But I only won because the other girl had no idea how to drive a manual.”
Why did I say that? I rocked that race whether or not the twit knew what she was doing.
She hooked my arm, while Ben had his hand around my waist. Others came up to greet us, either to say “hi” to Ben or to congratulate me.
“Well, I for one would love to see you race again. How about you, Ben?” Maci addressed my date as he turned his attention away from his football buddies.
“I think I’m a lucky guy.” He peered down at me, and it didn’t escape my notice how he evaded the question. I wondered if it embarrassed him to have his date doing something the guys typically only took part in.
As it was already ten-thirty, I committed to staying for an hour before having Ben take me home. With the meet in the morning, I’d have to get home and rest whether I liked it or not.
“Great race tonight, Tate.” Jess Cullen patted me on the shoulder as she passed by.
“Thanks,” I exhaled, feeling unsettled with the attention.
“You alright?” Ben pulled me close.
“Absolutely,” I choked out before inching towards the refreshments. “Can we get something to drink?”
He held up his hand to keep me put. “Stay here, I’ll be back.” And he walked off to the keg.
Clots of people stood around the fire or sat on boulders, while others circulated. K.C. hadn’t arrived yet, that I could see, and I assumed she drove with Jared. I stood there, feeling uneasy about my place. I guess I could thank Jared for me being more comfortable around a small group than lots of people. Because of him, I’d never been invited to these things.
I shook my head slightly to clear my thoughts. I needed to stop blaming him. It was his fault that I’d been black-listed in the past, but it wasn’t his fault that I’d accepted it. This was on me now.
Looking over to the group of girls giggling near the water, I recognized one from my cross-country team.
“Screw it.” I shrugged my shoulders and decided to dive in. I took a step towards the group when a voice stopped me.
Goose bumps spread over my body as I turned around to face Jared. He held a cup in one hand and his phone in the other. He appeared to be sending a text while waiting for my reply. He slipped the phone into his back pocket and raised his eyes to me.
The hair on my arms felt electrified with static as if it were drawn to Jared. Rubbing my hands up and down my arms, I turned my head back to the fire, trying to ignore him. I still wasn’t sure where we stood. We weren’t friends, but we weren’t enemies anymore either. And having a normal conversation was still out of the question.
“You’re cold.” Jared pulled up beside me. “Does K.C. still have your jacket?”
I sighed, unsure about what was causing my annoyance this time. Maybe it was because every time Jared was around me, the nerves in my body became a springs pulsating heat, whereas Ben made me feel like curling up on the couch to watch American Idol.
Jared probably never watched T.V. Too mundane of an activity.
Also, I found it ridiculous that Jared acted concerned about me being cold when earlier this week he’d said he didn’t care whether I lived or died. He’d apologized for nothing, and I couldn’t forget that.
“Well, she was wearing my jacket when you brought her here, wasn’t she?” My snippy remark was greeted with a smirk.
“She didn’t come with me. I don’t know if she’s even here yet.” His head turned and his eyes looked down to me.
“What do you mean? You left the race without her, didn’t you?”
“No, she caught a ride with Liam. I came here alone.” Jared’s low, husky tone washed over me, and I fought back a smile hearing his last words.
It looked like K.C. and Liam were on the road to recovery.
I cleared my throat. “And that was okay with you?” I asked.
“Why wouldn’t it be?” He asked me point-blank, a confused expression on his face.
Of course. What was I thinking? Jared didn’t date, and there was no way he was invested in K.C. I dug into the small bag resting on my hip and searched for my phone.
“If I see her, I’ll tell her to find you.” Jared started to walk away but stopped after a few steps and turned back to me. “I’m going to need the fossil back.” He gestured towards the necklace around my neck.
I realized he was talking about his good luck charm. “Not going to happen.” And I directed my attention back to my phone.
“Oh, Tate. I always get what I want.” His low, flirty tone made me freeze. My fingers were paused above my cell screen as if I’d suddenly forgotten how to send a text. I looked up in time to see him smile and walk away.
Watching him head to Madoc and others in his crew, I was more puzzled now that I was earlier this week. I’d wanted Jared to become more human, and I’d wanted him to treat me well. Now that he’s showing signs of both, I was sick with unanswered questions. Old feelings seeped through the cracks of the wall I’d built to keep him out.