She releases him with a shove, then resumes walking forward. “Sorry, business negotiations. As I was saying, it’s amazing no one’s plugged a bullet into your head.”
Abby’s probably right. I pause outside the doorway to my class and she, not surprisingly, joins me. “Why are you telling me this? We hate each other.”
Her phone vibrates and she pulls it out, texting back instantaneously. “True. But I kinda like this fairy godmother, guardian angel bullshit, plus oddly enough I believe in karma. One last tidbit for the day before I return to mild-mannered drug dealer.”
I hold out my arms. “Lay it on me.”
Pushing Send, she refocuses on me. “Watch Matt. He’ll be gunning for you, but he’ll wait to see what your weaknesses are before he does. Jax and Kaden have always been protective of Haley and I don’t see that ending anytime soon, even if they are mad at her. Stay out of Isaiah’s way. He’s giving you a reprieve because your family kicked you out, but don’t test his patience. With Rachel in pain, he’s looking for an excuse to snap.”
Abby turns to leave, but I stop her. “How did you know Dad kicked me out?”
“When it comes to my neighborhood there isn’t much I don’t know. I heard that an Escalade has been at the park every night, all night. Then I saw you in the bar.” Abby shrugs. “I know kicked out and hungry when I see it.”
“Does Rachel know?” I stop myself from asking if my parents appear upset.
“Your parents are holding their cards close to their chest. Isaiah’s monitoring the situation because he doesn’t want anyone to tell Rachel. It’ll upset her.”
The ass**le has gained some of my respect. “Thanks. Can you keep it to yourself that I’m a Young?”
Abby rolls her neck. “Does Jessica know?”
“Then it doesn’t matter if I keep my mouth shut. Jessica doesn’t shut hers and, yes, I mean that in every way possible.”
“I’ll take care of Jessica. Will you keep it to yourself?”
“What, you’re so much better than this school that you can’t tell the truth?”
This from the self-proclaimed liar. “Being a Young here will create problems. Don’t Haley and I have enough of those?”
“And the boy has a point. I’ll keep your dirty secret…for Haley.” Abby releases a smile that causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end. “But now you’ll owe me a debt. Toodles.”
I just made a deal with the devil.
My legs are Jell-O. Actually, Jell-O is sturdier than I am. This is my fourth morning training at the gym and tonight I have to start training West.
This morning, I ran and ran and ran. Then I began on the sit-ups and push-ups. I crave a nap, a hot bath, then another nap. I fold my arms on my desk and rest my head on the makeshift pillow. A tension stretches across my shoulder blades. I worked out on the bags this morning. Tomorrow, the muscles in my back are going to be begging for death.
“Haley.” It’s a low whisper that has to be one of those strange illusions during that semiawake, semidreaming state.
My seat jerks beneath me when my head pops up. It’s not that the voice was loud this time, but it’s a shock when Marissa says anything louder than a whisper. Next to the two-seater science desk we share for Biology II, Marissa holds her books tight to her chest. “We need to talk.”
“Okay.” I rub my eyes and wait for her to sit, but she doesn’t. She remains standing, edging her books closer to her chin as if she’s contemplating hiding her face.
“What’s up?” I ask.
She glances to the left, to the right, then to the left again, like she’s preparing to cross the street, then leans toward me. “Jessica came on to West in the hall this morning. She touched him…and everything and well…he didn’t leave.”
The unsaid “everything” would include br**sts pushed out against any available male body part. Jessica likes to play with the male species. Sort of like how black widow spiders snack on their mates.
“Well, crap!” Half of the room turns and stares at me. The surge of anger is a shock and I’m not sure why I’m mad. It’s not like West is my boyfriend, but he’s supposed to be acting like my boyfriend and she’s supposed to be my friend and…and…
West enters the room. The moment our eyes meet, I look away. Jessica hit on him, which means he probably hit on her back. She’s pretty and forward and guys fall all over themselves so they can be near her and I’m…me.
I slouch in my seat, a hurricane combination of ticked off and hurt and confused.
If he’s smart, he’ll stay away.
If he’s smart, he’ll come over here and apologize for fake cheating on me.
Either way, I want to punch him and Jessica in the jaw.
Maybe I should rethink my stance on sparring.
“I’ve been looking for you.” I shut my eyes at the sound of West’s deep voice. Butterflies have a field day in my stomach. He’s not my boyfriend. He’s a friend—a complication—and he’s probably kissed Jessica. Butterflies are not allowed.
“Marissa, do you mind if I sit here today?” he asks.
“No!” I open my eyes and Marissa is MIA. For real? Are all my friends abandoning me? First Jessica makes a move on West; then Marissa flees at one request.
The chair beside me scrapes against the floor and the heat of his body caresses my left side as he takes a seat. If I inched my arm over a tad, I bet we’d be touching.
Jessica walks into the room and frowns. Warm, heavy fingers lace with mine on top of the desk and the heart that had picked up speed moments before is now supersonic.
I study our joined hands on the table and I have to admit I like the image. My fingers are dwarfed compared to his. At school, I’ve always been the fighter—the girl who’s not really feminine—but against West’s masculine hands, my fingers appear slim, graceful even.
And if I’m going to daydream for a sec, I might as well concede that I like the tingle in my blood. The skin of his fingers is rough but not sandpaper. Strong but not weighted. And warm. Very, very warm. If our entwined hands create such bliss, I wonder if his lips against mine would cause fireworks.
“Your friend Jessica is a piece of work,” he mutters and I pull out of my daydream.
Cautiously, I peek at him from the corner of my eye. I’ve seen Jessica work guys over before. Did West fall for it? “Rumor has it she’s been extremely friendly with you and not a friend to me.”