“What?” She scrunched her nose. “He is not.”
“Seriously, he is.” I started doodling on the book, keeping my attention off the door. “He’s always staring at you.”
Stacey laughed. “He didn’t even bat an eye when he saw my skirt—”
“Or lack thereof.”
“Exactly. Now, if I wore a binary code on my legs, then he’d notice me.”
Mrs. Cleo shuffled in, ending our conversation. I almost keeled over, the relief was that powerful. I didn’t even care when Mrs. Cleo eyed me strangely. Roth was gone, I thought, drawing giant smiley faces all over a diagram. Maybe his stupid snake ate him.
Stacey’s arm thudded off the desk. “I guess today is just going to suck.”
“Sorry,” I chirped, twirling my pen between my fingers. “Wanna grab—”
The door swung open just as Mrs. Cleo wheeled out the overhead projector. Roth strolled into class, bio book in hand and a cocky smile plastered across his face. The pen slipped out of my grip, flinging forward and smacking the head of a girl sitting two seats in front of me. She whirled around, throwing up her hands as she shot me a dirty look.
Stacey popped up in her seat, emitting a low squeal.
Winking at Mrs. Cleo, he edged past her. She just shook her head and fiddled with her notes. All eyes were on Roth as he sauntered down the center aisle. Jaws dropped and girls turned in their seats. Some of the guys did, too.
“Hey there,” he murmured to Stacey.
“Hi.” Her elbows slid across the desk.
Then he turned those golden eyes on me. “Good morning.”
“My day is made,” Stacey whispered, grinning at Roth as he dropped his book and sat.
“Good for you,” I snapped, digging another pen out of my bag.
Mrs. Cleo flipped off the lights. “I haven’t graded the tests yet, since some of you will be making up those tests on Friday. Expect your grades and any extra-credit assignments to be handed out on Monday.”
Several students groaned while I pictured stabbing my pen into the back of Roth’s head.
What had I planned last night? Not a damn thing, because I fell asleep while plotting on the observation deck.
About ten minutes into Mrs. Cleo’s dry lecture about cell respiration, Stacey stopped bouncing in her seat. I still hadn’t taken my eyes off Roth. He didn’t even bother pretending to take notes. At least I held a pen in my hand.
He tipped his chair back until it rested against our table, planting his elbows on my textbook to support his precarious position. Once again, I smelled something sweet, like sugary wine or dark chocolate.
I considered moving his arms, but that would require me to touch him. I could poke him in the arm with my pen—hard. His sleeves were rolled up, revealing really nice arms. Smooth skin stretched over well-defined biceps. And there was Bambi, curling around his arm. I leaned forward, somewhat fascinated by the detail. Each ripple in the snake’s skin had been shaded so that it actually looked three dimensional. The underbelly was gray and soft-looking, but I doubted Roth’s skin would be very soft. It looked as hard as Warden skin.
The tattoo looked so real.
Because it is real, you idiot.
Just then, the tail twitched and slid over his elbow.
Gasping, I jerked back in my seat. Stacey shot me a weird look.
Roth turned his head. “What are you doing back there?”
My eyes narrowed on him.
“Are you staring at me?”
“No!” I whispered, lying through my teeth.
He eased the chair down, sparing Mrs. Cleo a brief glance before turning sideways in his seat. “I think you are.”
Stacey leaned over, grinning. “She was.”
I shot her a hateful look. “I was not.”
Roth eyed Stacey with renewed interest. “She was? And what was she staring at?”
“I really don’t know,” Stacey whispered back. “I was too busy staring at your face to notice.”
A pleased grin appeared. “Stacey, right?”
She leaned into me. “That’s me.”
I pushed her back to her side, rolling my eyes. “Turn around,” I ordered.
His eyes met mine. “I will when you tell me what you were staring at.”
“Not at you.” I glanced at the front of the room. Mrs. Cleo flipped over her notes. “Turn around before you get us in trouble.”
Roth dipped his head. “Oh, you’d love the kind of trouble I’d get you in.”
Stacey sighed—or moaned. “I bet we would.”
I clenched the pen. “No. We. Would. Not.”
“Speak for yourself, sister.” Stacey popped the edge of her pen in her mouth.
He smirked at Stacey. “I like your friend.”
The pen cracked in my hand. “Well, I don’t like you.”
Roth chuckled as he finally turned back around. The rest of the class went like that. Every so often he’d look back at us and grin or whisper something entirely infuriating. When Mrs. Cleo finally turned the overhead lights on, I was ready to scream.
Stacey only blinked, looking like she was coming out of some kind of bizarre trance. I scribbled hobag across her notes. She laughed and wrote virgin ice princess across mine.
When the bell rang, I already had my stuff packed, ready to make a clean exit. I needed air—preferably air that Roth wasn’t sharing. Surprisingly enough, he was already out the door by the time I stood, walking so fast he appeared to be on some sort of mission. Maybe Hell had called him back home? I could only hope.
“What is your problem?” asked Stacey.
I brushed past her, scooping long strands of hair out from underneath my bag’s strap. “What? I have a problem because I’m not in heat?”
She made a face. “Well, that just sounds gross.”
“You’re gross,” I threw over my shoulder.
Stacey caught up with me. “Honestly, you have to explain to me what your problem is with him. I don’t get it. Did he ask you to be his baby mama?”
“What?” I made a face. “I already told you. He’s just bad news.”
“My favorite kind of news,” she said as we filed out of the door, “is bad-news boys.”
I gripped my bag tighter as a sea of pink and blue souls filled the hallway. A banner hung down, interrupting the flow of the pastel rainbow. “Since when did you start liking bad boys? All your past boyfriends qualified for sainthood.”
“Since yesterday,” she quipped.
“Well, that’s really...” I stopped by the row of lockers, wrinkling my nose. “Do you smell that?”
Stacey sniffed the air, then immediately groaned. “God, it smells like raw sewage. Probably the damn bathroom’s backed up.”
Other students were starting to pick up on the scent of rotten eggs and soured meat. There were giggles, a few gags. Apprehension stirred in my chest. The smell was foul—too foul—and I couldn’t believe it was only now that I was smelling it.
I was going to blame Roth for that, too.
“You’d think they’d cancel classes with a smell like that.” Stacey started to tug her shirt up as a shield, but must’ve realized there wasn’t enough material there. She clamped her hand over her mouth, muffling her voice. “This cannot be safe.”