I didn’t do this.
I went to class. I talked to students for projects. I did what I had to do to get through my studies, but talking between classes? No. And we were two weeks away from graduating. What was she doing?
I eyed her, frowning. “Uh. It was fine. Why?”
She glanced toward the front of the school, shrugging. She held her books, ready for class. “So, do you, uh, do you have plans for graduation?”
I frowned even harder. “Like going to the ceremony?”
I’d always heard Nate complaining that he wished he’d skipped his graduations, so I wasn’t telling anyone, but I was planning on adopting his philosophy. My parents had no clue when I’d be graduating. I was hoping to break the news to them when it was too late for them to rally and attend, or to throw a party for me. They were so involved with their latest project, I knew I had about a ninety-percent chance of pulling that off.
She flushed. “No, like afterwards. Are you going to any parties?”
Dear Lord, this girl really didn’t know me.
I raised my eyebrows, opening my locker and stowing my backpack inside. “Um…” I pulled out my book, put my phone into my pocket, and made sure to grab the right pencil and pen. I toed my locker closed and faced her. “Parties aren’t really my thing.”
She blushed even harder. Her face was going from a definite pink to red. Her forehead looked a little sweaty too. “I know. I just… I’m having a party, and I wanted to invite you.” She pulled out a piece of paper and offered it to me.
I almost jumped back.
My stomach churned.
There’d been parties at Hillcrest. But those were in the dorms, and it wasn’t really the same thing. Dorm parties were easy. You walked through the stairs and hallways, then entered a room. You mingled. Sometimes people went to the community room, sometimes the quad. There was a lounge set up for people to hang out. Sometimes a car took everyone into town for more hanging out.
I wasn’t a complete hermit. I’d done those events, but I knew those people.
This was my first invitation to an actual party at FCA.
I wasn’t sure if I was disappointed that I hadn’t gotten through the entire year without having to make the decision about attending one of these, or because it took until two weeks before graduation to get an invite to a party.
I was a mess of emotions, and it was uncomfortable.
I took the invitation and read it over.
Her address wasn’t in one of the wealthy areas. “Are you a scholarship kid?” The question came out before I’d realized I was even asking, and I felt bad as soon as her face closed off.
“Uh...” She turned away. “Never mind. I mean—”
“No.” I grabbed her arm. “Sorry. I’m just surprised. It doesn’t matter to me.” I pointed to myself. “Like I give a crap. I’m not popular. I don’t have any friends. So, loser. Me.” I laughed, and it came out forced because now she was looking at me with pity, and that wasn’t my intention at all. “I mean…” Oh boy. I was messing this up.
Making up my mind, I shoved the invitation back at her and rushed off. “I don’t do parties. Sorry.”
What was my issue?
I cursed myself, but wait.
I almost forgot.
What had I been thinking?
I almost missed my favorite part of the day.
Right before swinging into class, I stopped and looked back.
Hearing the commotion in the hallway, I knew it was already happening.
I couldn’t help myself. My stomach went all warm and fluttering, and I moved to lean against the nearest locker. Hugging my book and computer to my chest, I let myself indulge.
Blaise DeVroe had arrived.
“Dude,” Zeke greeted me, his hand in the air as I got out of my G Wagon.
I reached up, and we slapped hands.
“You snuck out this morning?”
“Yeah.” I grabbed my bag, slung it over my shoulder, and shut the door. Locking it, we started for school. A few others trailed behind Zeke, falling in line behind us. Brian, Branston, and this time it was Jamie Conway and Oliver Ashlome next to them. The B brothers were useless to me—couldn’t even respond when I asked how they were. Jamie and Oliver actually seemed to have their own minds.
This school, it was something else.
“Had to run home for a change of clothes,” I added as we hit the sidewalk leading up to the doors.
Zeke gave me a cocky smirk. “Daniels sneak out with you?”
I shot him a look.
The guys snickered behind us.
I heard one say, “Dicksy Daniels.”
The other laughed. “She likes those cocks, man. That’s for sure.”
“Shut it.” I tossed a look back.
Brian drew up short at that. “Excuse me?”
I wasn’t having this. Not today. I snapped and went right at him.
He was about to say more shit, give me more attitude, and his arms were on the way up.
I was there before they came even halfway. I fisted my hands in his shirt and shoved him against the wall. There were students around, but they beat it real quick.
I was in his face, grinding my teeth. “Yeah. I said shut the fuck up. Why are you making me say it again?”
Fuck. I wanted to fight. I wanted to fight so badly.
I didn’t care who this asshole was. He could’ve had my non-bio dad’s face, my half-brother’s face. He could have my real dad’s face. I didn’t give two fucks. I just wanted to hurt because I was so sick of everything.
A crowd formed around us.
I didn’t give a fuck about them either.
Crowds formed. It’s what they did.
“Hey, man.” Zeke tried to get between us. “Hey. Hey, brother. Come on.”
Brian looked relieved to have him there.
Nope. It didn’t matter. I was pissed, and I didn’t care who was trying to come to his aid. I was ready to burn the school down.
A deeper growl ripped from me, and I pulled Brian from the wall, only to shove him back even harder. My hands ripped his shirt, and I was still in his face. Hands tried to pull me back, but it was pointless. No one could move me when I didn’t want to be moved.
“You got something else to say to me?”
Brian’s eyes were wide. I saw a flicker of anger before Zeke pushed himself between us once more. Then it was gone. Brian held his hands up, as if surrendering. “Nah, man. I’ll shut it. I didn’t know you were gone on her, that’s all.”
Gone on her? Jesus Christ.
I’d started to let go of him, until those words.
I clocked him in the face and stepped back as he moved over. The force of the hit was enough that he bent over, in serious pain, but I hadn’t hit him hard enough to go down to the floor.
I leaned over and said, “One kick to your knee, another hit to your head, and you’d be down for the count. I don’t owe you any fucking explanation, but I’m getting really tired of the shit you and your stupid-ass brother say about women. Grow the fuck up, dude.”
Yeah, yeah. There could be an argument made about me—how mature was it to throw a punch? But I was tired of this bullshit. I didn’t want to go to Rape School, and those were the dynamics fucking Zeke was putting in place, whether he meant to or not.
“Hey.” I felt an assertive pat on my arm, and Zeke hauled me backward. He wasn’t using enough force to piss me off, but he did put himself firmly between us. He turned to face me. “Let’s chill, okay? We don’t need internal fighting.”
I shoved him. “Get the fuck off me.”
Everyone went quiet at that one.
Zeke was still considered king here. I got more leeway than others, but still…
However, as I mentioned, I was tired of this shit. I’d heard how he talked to girls, and knowing I had a sister out there changed things for me.
I went at him, not caring that everyone else had grown eerily still. “You’ve been setting the tone here.” I pointed at Brian, then Branston. “They take your cues. They’re followers. You’re leading them. Lead better. Do better. You got a sister, dude. You want your sister to deal with someone like you?”
His eyes went flat.
Zeke was protective of his sister.
Then his nostrils flared and he dropped his tone, moving in closer to me. He made a show of putting his hands in his pockets, but his words were meant for me, and I knew they were a warning. “Walk, best friend. We can talk about this later.”
I snorted. Zeke didn’t talk. He’d either organize a beatdown on me or he’d let it go. Studying him, I was guessing the latter, but one never knew with this kid.
“Yeah. Right.” I looked at Oliver and Jamie, but didn’t say anything else. They hadn’t stepped in to help Brian, and they hadn’t moved in to back Zeke up. But that didn’t mean they wouldn’t have. I didn’t know where their heads were.
I moved down the hallway, and a second later, I saw them following.
I didn’t say a word. Neither did they. I wondered if Zeke told them to tail, but then Oliver nodded at me.
I took that to mean something. I just didn’t know what. As I moved past a classroom, I caught sight of someone slipping inside. They had disappeared by the time I fully looked.
I kept going.
I wasn’t looking forward to the wave of whatever I’d just set in motion.