Then I let it go and walked past him.
I was overdue for some Aspen time, even though I knew I was leaving behind a seething friend and more waves than I wanted to create at this place—not Manny’s, but in Fallen Crest.
I was just past the first row of outdoor tables and circling to the right side of the parking lot when I heard a voice behind me.
“I’m surprised it’s taken a whole semester for that shit to start.”
I groaned, not even stopping. “Not today, Cross.”
He was alone, and he blocked me before I could get to my vehicle. His gaze focused over my shoulder, and he scowled at whatever he saw.
“Taz’s boyfriend tried to go it alone,” he said. “It didn’t work. He needed a crew to back him up. That’s what we did for him.”
“Well, gee. Thank you for the history lesson I didn’t ask for. I’ve got to be going now.”
I made a move to walk around him, but he blocked me again, stepping to the side.
He threw his keys up, catching them, but his eyes were still locked over my shoulder. He began to grin. “He never thought it through.”
I narrowed my eyes. “What are you talking about?” I turned to look at what he was seeing, and even I was surprised.
Zeke stood at the edge of the tables, a cup in his hand and his jaw in a firm scowl. He looked ready to march over and beat us down.
Cross laughed low. “He hates the thought of me. I bet he never considered that you and I might get along one day. Why would he? We can’t stand each other, but he doesn’t know what you and I both know.” His eyes turned my way, growing more wary. “We’re stuck with each other for the rest of our lives. You ain’t stuck with that prick.”
I wanted to rub my hand over my face with my middle finger. I refrained. “You getting to a point? Because I’m about at the end of my patience.”
“No point. I just liked stopping you to talk and making your boy all jealous. He came to one of our parties and leered at Bren. Turnabout is fair play, and I’m going to love screwing with him. He hates the thought of losing you as a friend.” He paused, frowning. “Why does he got such a hard-on for you anyway? I saw your confrontation, and we’ve been hearing, even in Roussou, how you’re starting to challenge him. Your boy is a bully. No way is he going to let this go for long, and what then? He gets all his boys to beat you up?”
What the hell?
Yeah. He was.
I winked at him, knowing it’d piss him off. “So that’s what you fuckers are nervous about? That my best friend might give me a beatdown and what? You’ll have to rally for me? ’Cause we’re brothers?”
Cross clenched his jaw. “’Cause Tasmin would never forgive me if I let that go, and yeah, I’ve been to war with your school already. I want an easy summer with my guys and Bren. That’s it. You getting your ass beat by your crowd won’t bode well for us.”
I rolled my eyes and patted his shoulder. “Then you’re off the hook. I get my ass beat, don’t worry. I won’t be calling you for vengeance. I’ve got a whole group of boys in New York who will gladly hop a flight out here to have my back. Unlike you, I don’t have just three people to back me up.” My tone turned mocking. “I have ten times that amount.”
With that, I got in my Wagon and pulled out.
My words echoed in my ears, and I tightened my hold on the steering wheel.
My words had sounded good. They’d sounded confident, but they were empty. I might be able to wrangle up a group to have my back, but that wasn’t the point. Zeke wasn’t the bad guy Cross thought he was, but he wasn’t a great guy either. That’s where I understood him when no one else did, because he and I were the same.
We weren’t all bad.
There were pockets of good in us.
Or maybe that’s just what I told myself as I turned my car toward Aspen’s house.
Keys and phone in hand, backpack on, I paused in my room. I’d been about to head to the store. There was a new camping security system I wanted to check out before buying.
Miss Sandy opened the door, a frown on her face.
She’d been frowning most the week. I was sure she was on to me and my whole “sickness,” but she’d never said a word. She kept doting on me. I got hot packs, warm washcloths, and tea. I got bowls of chicken noodle soup, boxes of Kleenex, cough drops, medicine for nighttime, and medicine for daytime. You name it, I got it, so I was feeling all sorts of guilt. But my parents were still in LA, so I only had a few more days until I was in the clear.
“Miss Sandy! Hi.”
Her eyes traveled over my jeans, sandals, and tank top.
I was busted.
But after a small sigh, all she said was, “There’s a young man at the gate asking to come see you.”
I frowned. A young man? Blaise? “Oh.”
It was daytime, so he would’ve gotten Mr. Carl at the gate. That meant Tucker truly hadn’t put Blaise’s name on the list, which was cool of Tucker, but not so cool now.
I bit my lip, tugging at one of my backpack straps. “I’m feeling better, so I was going to go to the store. I’ll just talk to him out there.”
“We should tell him to wait?”
I nodded. “Yeah.” I slipped past her and hurried down the hallway. “See you tomorrow, Miss Sandy. I’ll be back later, and I might be worn out, ’cause I’m probably not back to a hundred percent.” Cough, cough.
I was such a shitty actress, which was ironic, considering my parents.
Then I was down the stairs, through the kitchen, and out to the garage. My parents had taken my dad’s vehicle, so my mom’s was still in the first stall. She always got the first stall because she said if she brought groceries home, she needed close access to the kitchen.
I couldn’t remember the last time she went grocery shopping, but it was what it was. She got the first stall.
I headed past the next three empty stalls to Maisie.
When I got to the front gate, Carl pointed me over to the side.
Blaise’s G Wagon was parked and Blaise was waiting beside the road.
He jogged over, and I tried not to ogle, but damn, he looked good.
He tapped on my window.
I rolled the window down. “Hey. I was headed out anyway and figured it’d be easier this way. Miss Sandy didn’t seem too approving.”
He nodded, his hands going into his pockets. “Where are you going?”
I hesitated, but this was me. I had to be me. “There’s some new camping gear at Holliston. I wanted to check it out, see if they had the new security system.”
He frowned, his head tilted to the side, and I sighed on the inside because even that looked good on him.
“Let’s take Maisie back, and I’ll drive,” he said.
“Come on.” He tapped my window again, grinning—and my word, there was a dimple there. A dimple, folks. A dimple!
“I’ll follow you through, and then we can hang out.” His eyes darkened. His grin turned wolfish. “I need some Aspen time. Badly.”
I frowned, a little kick of concern tightening my throat, but I nodded.
He jogged back to his car, and I pulled around to explain the plan to Mr. Carl. He gave me a tight nod as his gaze looked back at Blaise. When we got to the house, I pulled Maisie into the driveway and hurried down to the road.
Blaise had brought his Wagon around, so I slipped in on the passenger side.
That’s when the nerves hit me.
I liked riding in Maisie, and getting in Blaise’s Wagon, I got all tongue-tied. This was a boy that had kissed me, made me explode, and I was in his vehicle. He was driving, and we were going to hang out. Was this an appropriate time to confess that I’d never been on a date?
Would he look at me weird?
Because I felt weird. I felt all sorts of what the hell am I doing? Blaise was so out of my league.
“Did you come from a party?” I asked.
He turned toward the gate, easing slowly so Carl could open it for us. “Huh?”
“What’d you do today?”
He glanced at me, then did a double take, his eyes narrowing. “What’s up with you?”
My stomach tanked. “What?”
“What do you mean what? Something’s up with you. You’re looking at me like my fingers have not been inside of you and I’m not sitting here hoping my dick will follow one of these days. Just spell it out.”
Jesus Christ. Forget my stomach tanking. He just brought his foot down hard on my stomach. I felt squashed, then the anger started in.
“You’re such a prick! You can’t talk to me like that.”
“Like what?” Both his eyebrows were up, but so were the corners of his mouth. He tried to hide his smile with his hand. “I’m being honest. I want to bang you. Badly. Most girls would love hearing that from me.”
“Well—” I jerked forward, but then I stopped.
I did like hearing that.