“Damn, word here spreads fast. Do you guys have a text gossip notification system? If so, I need to warn the other guys she’s willing to molest anything with two legs and a dick. There’s something wrong with her. She doesn’t understand no.”
I giggle and let my fingers relax in his though I don’t understand why he’s touching me. We’ve been pulling off “together” without PDA.
“Maybe she’s testing you. You know, to see if you’re really into me.” Maybe, but probably not. The way Jessica stares death daggers over her shoulder tells me she’s not happy. Over what, I’m not sure. I’m assuming it’s because I’ve pretend scored a guy she wants.
He surveys the room. “Anyone else I should be aware of?”
“Probably everyone.” I’m not much competition when it comes to keeping a guy as gorgeous as West. Even though we would never work. Even though I shouldn’t want us to work.
The warning bell rings and Marissa chooses a seat in the back next to a hot guy. My lips curve up. Go, Marissa. Though the guy would probably notice her more if her face wasn’t glued to the inside of a book.
I rock our knotted hands on the table. “What’s with the hand-holding?”
A smile erupts on West’s face that transforms me into gooey brownies fresh out of the oven. “Besides the fact if I don’t your fingers will fall off from frostbite?”
“Ha, ha, ha.” My cheeks warm. “Besides that.”
His glorious smile fades, leaving me empty. “We’re in science. Consider it an experiment.”
He turns his attention to the front of the room. Matt walks in and the pure menace radiating from his glare causes me to yank away from our joined grip, except West doesn’t give. In fact, he holds on tighter. “On that.”
“Why are we sitting here?” Haley slams her lunch tray on the table and sinks into the chair across from me. Still pissed at our show of hand-holding during science, she stabs her fork into the chicken patty. I chuckle. I don’t need much of an imagination to guess what part of my anatomy she’d like to stick that fork into.
“Consider it a continuation of my science experiment.” I chose a solo table in the back for the two of us under the half-broken florescent light. It could be romantic, if I did romantic and we were an actual couple.
“By baiting the tiger? Really, West? Why don’t you pull out fresh meat, smack Matt on the nose a few times, then open the door to his cage? It’s like you want to cause problems.”
“Are we having our first fight as a couple?”
Her mouth twitches. “Yes.”
“Do you still have feelings for him?” I hold my breath while she answers, but try to act like I don’t care. Which I shouldn’t. We’re only faking a relationship.
“No,” she answers immediately. “Matt and I have history. I was young and stupid and now we have history. History that will never, ever be repeated.”
Satisfied, I settle into my seat. “Then why do you care if I bait him?”
“Because I like you enough that it would suck if you died.”
“I can take Matt.”
No response from Haley and I push down the urge to rattle her. What do I have to do to prove I’m capable?
I shove a forkful of corn into my mouth. Haley plays with hers and I can tell her mind is a million miles away. This morning, Jessica easily dismissed her and what has also been a shock is the way guys walk by her without noticing her existence. Haley’s gorgeous with all that sandy-brown hair and dark eyes that promise long nights full of kisses and laughter.
Maybe that’s what happens if you go to school with someone since birth and you only recognize them by their label. How many girls have I wrongfully overlooked at my old school?
Haley’s eyes meet mine. She slowly glances over her shoulder, then back at me. “What?”
She kicks my shin underneath the table and I laugh as I shake off the sting. “You’re hot and I like looking.”
Haley turns an adorable shade of red and she traces a make-believe line in her corn. Thinking of how Rachel hates to be embarrassed, I offer Haley an out. “What type of tournament am I facing? Knife throwing? Quilt making? Dueling pistols at sunrise?”
“Mixed martial arts.”
I scratch my chin. Now I understand why Haley didn’t want to discuss this in front of anyone else. If I had been thinking straight, I would have forced her to eat lunch at a separate table days ago, but my head’s been jacked up as I contemplated my own problem: the forecasted temperature plummet tonight.
I had hoped for boxing, but I had doubts it would be that easy. Not that boxing is easy, but MMA is a whole other animal. It’s the best of the best. The ultimate badass contest. It’s not just discovering who is the better man in boxing, but who’s the better man in boxing, jujitsu, Muay Thai, grappling and whatever the hell else combat fighting thrown in for good measure.
“Cage and all?” I ask.
“Cage and all,” she echoes. After a second, she peers at me from under those long dark eyelashes. Does she curl them or do they naturally have that sexy wave? “You don’t have to do this. You could transfer to another school.”
“How?” I snap. “My dad threw me out. I doubt he’d sign the transfer papers.”
Haley’s face falls and she drops her fork onto her plate. “That was awful of me to say—”
“Stop. I didn’t mean it that way.” I didn’t mean to upset her.
“If being stuck at this school is the reason why you’re taking this on, then I’ll figure out another way to fix this. Give me the weekend, I’ll think of something—”
“Haley, I’m in this and it’s not because I’m stuck at Eastwick.”
She opens her mouth to protest, but I cut her off. “I’m in this.”
“You never listen to reason, do you?”
“I listen to any reasoning that makes sense and yours doesn’t.”
“Impossible,” she mutters. After several beats she continues, “My grandfather owns a small gym in the industrial park. He’s given me permission to train you there. I get off at eight tonight, so I thought we could meet up at nine.”
Wow. Lots of things going on in that statement. I fork my own patty, then cut it up into pieces. “Where do you work?”