An electrical current slams through me when Haley grabs my arm and drags me into the corner of the stairwell next to the fire extinguisher. Her fingers are cool against my now burning skin.
She lowers her voice. “You’ve had my attention for the past three days. The last time I saw you, you were bleeding on the street with a drug dealer offering to babysit. Do you know how many times I searched the newspaper to see if there was an article about you being dead?”
My shoulders roll back. “Drug dealer?”
Haley releases my wrist and steps back. “Yeah. Abby. Everyone knows she sells drugs. I mean, she’s your friend, right? Please tell me I left you with a friend. Oh, my God, she’s not your friend, is she? Crap. Oh, crap. Are you okay?”
Her eyes dart around, searching for signs of abuse. She’ll find them—the remnants of the two fistfights from Friday. What she doesn’t see is the internal bleeding from my argument with Dad. Haley stretches her hand to touch the yellowish bruise fading on my jaw, then hesitates.
I inhale and revel in Haley’s scent: wildflowers in bloom. The sights and sounds of the world dissipate—well, everything except those gorgeous dark eyes.
“Seriously, are you okay?” Haley drops her hand and I turn my head to breathe in anything that’s not her.
“I’m fine,” I say. “Are you okay? Did those guys hurt you?”
“I’m fine.” She sounds uncertain, so I cross my arms over my chest.
“I’m fine,” she answers again. “Honestly. What are you doing here?”
I ignore her. “What happened after I blacked out? Why did they leave my car?”
“Not important. Tell me, why are you here? To see Abby? For me? This school has a zero tolerance policy on outsiders. If they find you, they’ll call the police.”
“I go to school here now.” From my back pocket, I pull the schedule I picked up a few minutes ago from the office.
“West…” Haley’s level stare has all the makings of a firing squad. “What do you mean ‘now’?”
“I got expelled from my last school.”
“Fighting.” For the first time in my life, guilt heats the back of my neck. Man, she’s got to have a fantastic image of who I am. The problem? She’d be right and the fact that I care is weird.
She tosses her hands in the air. “Of course. Why not? I’m a magnet for you stinking people. Why wouldn’t I be surrounded by more?” Her head falls back and she focuses on the ceiling. “Hey, God? It’s me, Haley. Not funny.”
“Okay. All right. This can be managed. It can. I can manage this. This is entirely under my control. I can own this situation.”
“I don’t need to be managed.”
Haley tosses me an are-you-for-real gaze and her hair tumbles over her shoulder. It’s shiny and I bet if I ran my fingers through it, the strands would feel like silk. I like hair like that. I like kissing girls who have hair like that. My eyes flash to her lips and the memory of her stepping into me on Friday night sizzles in my mind: the walking, talking inferno. Kissing Haley would be a thrill-ride experience.
“West?” Haley motions near her eyes. “Attention here, please?”
“I wasn’t checking out your curves.” Though now that it’s mentioned…
“Go there and I swear to God you’ll have to check ‘other’ when asked if you’re male or female.”
I chuckle and rest my palm against the cool cinder block wall, crowding her. Haley shifts and practically shrinks into the corner. She’s shorter than me, but not by much. I’d say she was afraid, but the way she studies my biceps tells me differently.
“Haley?” She refocuses on my face. “Eyes up here please.”
Gaped. Open. Mouth. “Okay, look. Me and you. We’ve got problems.”
I agree. She wants to kiss me. I want her body underneath mine. Nothing a dark room and a bed couldn’t solve. “What are you doing after school?”
“What? No. Don’t tell me. I don’t care. Back to problems. Those guys that jumped us on Friday?”
My hand slips off the wall and I straighten. “Yeah?”
“They go to school here and I’m not exactly their best friend.”
My muscles tighten and I have to work to keep the smirk off my face. Payback is going to be sweet with those bastards. “Do you know where they’re at?”
“Stay away from them. They’re dangerous.”
I don’t give a shit if they play poker with the devil. They took me down. That doesn’t happen, and I won’t let that be the final say—especially since I’ll be spending the next four months in this hellhole.
Haley clutches my arm as if I were about to waltz into a minefield. “No!”
I lean into her—our heads less than an inch apart. The crazy ass bastard’s words echo in my head: I know where to find Haley. “Have they threatened you?”
Her fingernails attempt to dig canyons into my arm. “There are things in my life you can’t understand, okay? I know you meant well on Friday, but to be honest, you screwed everything up, so I’m begging you to listen to me now. Stay away from them, stay away from me and, for the love of God, don’t mention Friday to anyone.”
The warning bell rings. Haley releases me and runs up the stairs. What the hell?
God hates me. It’s the only explanation when West appears in my first-period class. My best girl friend, possibly my only girl friend, Marissa Long, lowers the book she’s been absorbed in since I sat at our science table.
“Wow” is the word that slips out of her mouth.
Unfortunately, I have to agree. The boy is fantastically pretty, that’s for sure. His golden-blond hair is cut short and is styled. Trendy yet not. Exactly like the rest of him. A combination of dangerous and steaming hot.
He wears jeans, the sexy kind. A bit baggy, not overly. Just enough that his black boxers peek out when he walks. And thanks to the clingy T-shirt, the world knows he’s on-fire ripped in every single delicious way.
I close my eyes and suck in air. Stop it. West is not hot. He’s a fighter. He’s trouble. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt and the associated heartache.
Marissa touches my arm, and, when I open my eyes, I find her camped in my personal space. “He’s staring at you.”
Sure enough, while our Biology II teacher shuffles through the drawers of his desk, West flashes me this glorious smile that causes me to melt into a puddle. Crap. Just crap. I am attracted to him. This isn’t good. Not good at all.