Read Crushed Online

Authors: Kasi Blake

Tags: #Teen & Young Adult, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Paranormal & Fantasy, #Paranormal & Urban

Crushed (9 page)

BOOK: Crushed
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His feelings for her were genuine.

Of course, he would have to continue pretending to be enchanted, at least until she removed her spell.

They exited the mall and continued down the sidewalk. He saw the crowd waiting in front of the theater three blocks away. Another awkward silence settled over them like a dark cloud. He couldn’t think of a single thing to say to her. What was wrong with him? Why did this girl have him tongue-tied and practically shaking in his boots every time he got near her?

“My mom called this morning. She wants me to move to New York after I graduate and take a year off before going to college. My dad would have a cow if I even thought about blowing off school. I think he’d disown me.”

Zach stopped walking for a second and stared into her eyes. “And what do you want?”

“Huh?”

“You keep telling me what your parents want you to do. What do you want?”

Instead of answering, Kristen rested her head against his shoulder again. He wrapped an arm around her and held her close as they continued to walk. It felt incredible to know that he was her sole confidant. She hadn’t told anyone else about her worries over her future. The revealing talks should be bringing them closer together, but his secrets were keeping them apart. He was beginning to see something amazing in this girl, but he couldn’t allow himself to fall in love with her.

Because of Morgan, he couldn’t fall for anyone.

###

The movie wasn’t that great, but it wasn’t awful, either.

Zach shared a big bucket of popcorn with her, and their hands bumped a couple of times when they both reached for some. She giggled an apology and realized the movie probably wasn’t that bad. She just couldn’t seem to focus on the screen with Zach sitting beside her. It was kind of cool in the theater, but she felt suffocated by the waves of heat coming off his body.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him turn in her direction. He looked at her but didn’t say a word. She couldn’t see his expression clearly. Was he smiling or frowning? Did he like her or didn’t he?

She took a deep breath, swallowed the lump in her throat, and looked his way. His eyes were on the screen again. Maybe she’d imagined the whole thing, and he hadn’t even glanced at her. Or maybe he was just trying to find the popcorn.

Disappointed, Kristen returned her gaze to the screen. She couldn’t keep up with the characters. There were too many, and she didn’t think their gags were funny. She should have suggested a bloody horror film instead. That would have suited her mood better.

Her peripheral vision told her he was staring at her again. Or was he? Maybe she should invest in some glasses. She grabbed a handful of popcorn and stuffed part of it into her mouth. Carefully, she tilted her head in such a way that his face became clearer without looking directly at him. Oh yeah, he was checking her out. Definitely.

That made her smile.

She looked at him.

Once again, his eyes were on the movie.

Kristen sighed, tired of the game. It was like playing phone tag without the phone. Determined to put an end to it, she turned sideways in her seat and blatantly stared at him until he decided to take another look at her. She only had to wait a few seconds. He slowly turned his head, and his eyes widened in surprise. His lips curved.

“Hey,” he said.

Her breath caught in her throat. “Hey yourself.”

He had to lean closer because the movie was almost loud enough to make their heads explode. With his cheek against hers, he spoke directly into her ear. “You don’t look like you’re enjoying yourself. Do you want to leave?”

“Not unless you do. I mean, I’m not having a terrible time, but I’m okay with leaving if that’s what you want.”

What was wrong with her? Since when was she polite and evasive? She should tell him exactly what was on her mind.

“I like being here with you,” he said.

One of his hands rested on her bare wrist, sending a shiver up her spine. His thumb absently stroked the skin. Her pulse raced, and she wondered if he could feel it.

He admitted, “It would be nice to just sit somewhere and talk.”

She nodded. “Yeah. That’d be good.”

For a long, awkward moment, he didn’t say another word. His hot breath tickled her ear. Finally, he asked, “Would it be too weird if I kissed you right now?”

He wanted to kiss her? She almost swallowed her tongue.

Kristen’s mind raced in frantic circles. What should she say? He wasn’t under a spell, so it should be okay. It wasn’t like she was making him do it. He wanted to. Zach Bevian wanted to kiss her because he liked her.

She pulled back so he could see her smile and nodded again. More than anything, she wanted to kiss Zach. Her grandma had told her that a kiss could reveal a lot about a person, shed some light on their true feelings, and let you know if there was any chemistry.

They moved at the same time, mutual consent, and their mouths met in a feather-soft kiss. His gentle fingers touched the sides of her face and held her steady as she trembled from head to toe. It was her first real kiss, and it was the most incredible thing ever to happen to her. She felt like she would float right out of her seat if she didn’t hold onto something.

His teeth lightly nibbled on her lower lip.

Her hands went around his neck, and she pulled him closer. Not sure of what to do, she tried to remember seeing other people kiss and what they did. She pressed her mouth against his.

It was a good move. With a groan, he kissed her harder. A fierce hunger she hadn’t expected grew in the pit of her stomach. It frightened her a little bit. She wondered if he knew she wasn’t the type of girl to go all the way on the first date. Or the second, for that matter. Or the third.

His hands cupped her face, holding her steady as the kiss went on and on. His tongue parted her lips. An incredible feeling of bliss lit up her insides like the Fourth of July. Oh yeah, this had definitely been worth the wait.

A bloodcurdling scream filled her ears.

She jumped out of his arms and straight to her feet in the crowded theater. Her heart thundered in her chest at a painful rate. A few people shouted at her to get out of the way. Eyes wide, she visually swept the theater, searching for and finding a familiar face. The scream had been for her ears only. Brittany sat in the back row, alone. Her narrowed eyes pierced Kristen’s soul.

Kristen retook her seat as her blood turned to icy slush. She went numb all over. Her life was over. She was so dead. There wouldn’t be any reasoning with Brittany, not after she’d seen them kissing. Guilt mounted upon guilt. Kristen didn’t know what to do. Reaching for popcorn, she scooped a handful and brought it to her mouth. She chewed automatically without even tasting it.

“Are you okay?” Zach asked. “You look like you saw a ghost.”

She kept chewing, no comment. There wasn’t anything she could say to explain the change in her demeanor. Her mind was such a chaotic mess she couldn’t even think of a good lie.

“Do you want to leave?” he asked.

Did she?

What would be the point? Brittany had already seen them together. The damage was done. No matter how angry her sister was, Kristen was relatively sure the other girl wouldn’t attack her in front of this many witnesses. She settled back in her seat and said, “I’m watching the movie. I don’t want to leave until it’s over.”

Zach leaned in again and whispered in her ear. “Did I freak you out?”

Heat suffused her cheeks. “No. I’m not a baby.”

“I didn’t say you were.” He sighed. “I should have waited until our second date to do that. I’m sorry, but your mouth is so very hard to resist.”

His husky voice made her nerve endings tingle. She turned to look at him. Their hungry gazes met and held. He wanted to kiss her again, and she wanted it, too, only Brittany would collapse the roof on top of them if their lips met a second time. With a great deal of effort, she tore her gaze off Zach and looked to the screen. How would it end?

Not the movie.

Her life.

 

For the next three weeks, Kristen continued to work hard at school in spite of what her mother had said. Every time she tried to slack off, she nearly had a panic attack. Letting go of her good-girl image was proving harder than she’d thought. Then there was Zach. After their date, she’d been sure he wasn’t crushed, but he’d behaved like a person under a spell at school. He followed her orders, every one. Something was definitely wrong. He hadn’t licked the sidewalk on their date, but he did everything else she asked him to do.

Either he was playing games with her, or the spell hadn’t worked.

Confused and scared, she turned to the one person she knew would be able to help. Grandma Noah. Her paternal grandmother lived in San Diego, a three-hour drive from Sol Moreno, so she borrowed her father’s car without permission. He was away on a business trip, and she didn’t want to face an interrogation from her sisters. She didn’t want anyone to know where she’d gone, especially not Brittany. Besides, her car had a LoJack on it. At least this way her father would never have to know she’d broken one of his major rules.

It was beginning to get dark outside. Kristen waited for Grandma Noah to pour the hot tea into two dainty cups. They were beautiful, yet fragile. Kristen remembered staring at the floral pattern as a child, wondering what kind of flowers they were and wishing she were old enough to have afternoon tea with her grandmother.

Grandma Noah lifted a small plate of cookies and held it out to her. “They’re oatmeal raisin. Made them myself. Have one, dear.”

Kristen took a cookie as her stomach rumbled. She ate part of it before setting the rest on the edge of her plate. Worry stole her appetite. If she didn’t find out what was wrong with Zach, she was going to lose her mind.

“Well, I am so happy you’re here, dear.” Grandma Noah’s blue eyes twinkled from the other side of the table. “However, I am not an old fool. I know you didn’t drive all the way down here by yourself just for my company. Why are you here?”

Kristen didn’t know where to begin. She took a sip of tea and carefully returned the cup to the saucer. “Do you remember when you told us we were witches?”

“Of course I do. I’m not senile, dear, not yet. As I recall, you were twelve at the time. Strange things were happening at your house, and it spooked your father, so he called me. I was both pleased and dismayed to hear you three girls had inherited the family gift.”

“You told us if we ever had any questions about our powers, we should ask you.”

Grandma Noah’s eyes narrowed. “What’s on your mind? Spit it out, child, while I’m still young enough to hear it.”

“I was just wondering if there was any reason why a person might be immune to spells.”

Grandma Noah was the opposite of senile. Sharp as a freshly ground axe, the woman could still do difficult math in her head. “You tried to put a spell on someone, and it didn’t take. What sort of spell did you use, and whom did you cast it upon?”

Kristen shifted in the chair, suddenly uncomfortable. She couldn’t lie to her grandmother, but she didn’t want to spill the whole truth, either. Grandma Noah thought it was okay to practice using their gifts as long as they didn’t do anything stupid. Kristen hesitated a second too long.

“If you don’t tell me, child, I’ll find out some other way. You know all I have to do is pick up the phone and call your sister. Cyndi will tell me everything.”

And then some. If Grandma Noah got her hands on Cyndi, the girl would confess to everything short of JFK’s assassination. Better to just spill the truth now. “Fine. It’s a boy at school. I tried to use a love spell on him, and I don’t think it worked.”

Grandma Noah gasped. “I told you a million times not to mess with love spells. They are unpredictable and useless. You can’t make someone love you. I am in shock right now. Total shock.” Her hand went to her chest as if she were expecting a heart attack. “Why in the world would you feel the need to use a love spell? You’ve told me a hundred times that you like being unattached.”

“It’s kind of complicated.”

“There is no excuse to use a love spell, and I am still waiting to hear a credible explanation as to why you did it. You could have any boy you wanted with a simple smile.”

Kristen lowered her eyes, ashamed. “It’s part of a game.”

Grandma Noah threw her hands up in the air. “Oh, you girls! What in the world were you thinking?”

“Grandma, please, just tell me why it didn’t work. Are there people out there who are immune to our powers?”

The elderly woman nodded her gray head. “There are three types you don’t want to be messing with.”

Kristen leaned forward in her chair. “Who are they?”

“Vampires. You sure don’t want to go messing with one of them. They have dark souls, and half of them would love to convert a pretty girl like you.”

“I don’t think he’s a vampire ‘cause he goes to my school during the day and doesn’t catch fire.”

“The second type is like us. The more powerful the witch or wizard, the less likely the spell will work right. Take me, for instance. I am quite powerful in my own right. If someone used a love spell on me, it would have some effect, but wouldn’t enchant me entirely.”

Kristen slowly shook her head. “I don’t think that’s it, either. Nothing strange has ever happened around him.”

“The only other option is someone who has been enchanted already.” Grandma Noah shrugged her bony shoulders. “Perhaps another witch got to him first.”

Another witch?

Kristen didn’t think that was possible. She and her sisters would know if another witch were at the school, unless the witch in question
was
one of her sisters. Brittany had admitted to having a thing for Zach. She could have used the spell on him outside of the game, hoping to trap him into a romantic relationship.

That didn’t seem right, either. Zach wasn’t panting after Brittany. He didn’t melt when she was around or follow her with those electric blue eyes. He didn’t even like her. If he were enchanted, it was by a witch unknown to them.

“Are you quite certain your spell didn’t work, dear?”

She wasn’t sure about anything. “He just doesn’t act like someone who’s been cru… put under a spell.”

Her grandmother’s eyes narrowed at the word her tongue had tripped over, but the elderly woman let it pass. “Tell me exactly how he behaves.”

Kristen took a deep breath and began slowly, trying to remember every detail of Zach’s suspicious behavior. “Well, I kind of pushed it and asked him to do something right away that he normally wouldn’t do in a million years. There was a long hesitation, but then he did it. He gave me his precious leather jacket. He even did an embarrassing little hopping thing in front of our whole gym class.

“Later, when I asked him for a simple favor, to carry my books, he looked at me like he wanted to rip my throat out. Then he asked me out on a date. I didn’t make him do it. I swear. He took me to a movie, and he was sweet and seemed to want to get to know me. He even kissed me, which is against all of our rules.

“I don’t know what to do. I really like him, but I don’t want him to be with me because he has to be, because he’s under a spell. Then again, he may not even be under the spell. I tested him when we were on the date, but he didn’t do what I asked. I am so confused, Grandma. Sometimes I think he’s under the spell, and sometimes I think he’s just pretending. Sometimes I get the feeling he’s playing his own little game with me.”

Grandma Noah looked deeply distressed by the statement. “Remove the spell. Immediately.”

“What?”

“It’s the only answer, dear. If it’s true that he isn’t under a spell, removing it won’t matter. If he is, then you need to remove it because something has gone terribly wrong.”

Kristen wished it were that simple. “I wanted to remove the spell a long time ago, Grandma, but Brittany won’t let me.”

“Just exactly how is she stopping you?”

“She won’t let me enchant anyone else, and I’ll lose the game.”

Grandma Noah shook her head. “I don’t know what is the matter with you three girls, but this nonsense needs to stop now. Tell your sisters I know about the game, and I am going to end it if you don’t. I mean it. If I have to, I’ll have a very revealing talk with your father.”

“There’s one more thing.” At her grandmother’s increasingly red face, she blurted out, “I need something for protection.”

“Protection from what?”

Kristen swallowed hard but didn’t answer. She couldn’t tell her grandmother that she was afraid of Brittany. The well-meaning woman would lock them in the same room until they worked it out, which wasn’t going to happen. “Uh, if there’s a new witch in town, I need to protect myself. Right?”

“There’s no sense in getting worked up over something that
might
happen.” Grandma Noah shrugged. “I have something you can use, but it’s in my safe-deposit box at the bank. I’ll get it for you sometime this week, and you can come back for it.” Her eyes narrowed. “Unless there’s a reason I need to retrieve it now.”

If she showed her grandmother how freaked out she was, the woman would insist on hearing the whole story. Kristen knew she had to keep her mouth shut. Hopefully, Brittany (or the new witch, if one existed) would wait for a while before attacking her again.

###

On the drive back to Sol Moreno, Kristen blasted rock music in the car’s dark interior. Led Zepplin played one of her favorites. She sang along while navigating the winding road. There was a hill to the right and a deep plunge to the ocean on the left. Every time the singer got to the best line in the whole song, she added her voice to his.

“And she’s buying the stairway to heaven.”

Kristen shifted gears like a racecar driver, enjoying the feel of all that power at her fingertips. Her dad’s car handled better than hers. An expensive sports car, it had three times the power under the hood. She loved driving at night, just her and the open road. As she drove, she replayed the long conversation with her grandmother. If they didn’t drop the game by the next time she spoke to them, she was going to have a talk with their father.

Their dad had no idea they were witches. He didn’t know about his mother, either. She had kept it from him because there was no sense in upsetting him when he didn’t need to know. Daniel Noah was a hardline, by-the-numbers guy. He didn’t have time for foolish fantasy. Hearing that not only were witches real but also that he was related to four of them would give the poor guy heart failure.

Lost in thought, Kristen didn’t notice the owl until it struck her windshield, cracking the glass on impact. She screamed and wrenched the steering wheel to the right without thinking. Lines stretched across the windshield from the center point of impact, forming a spiderweb design. Brakes squealed, and the car started to skid out of control.

Her car zoomed off the road and just missed a tree. She stomped on the brake, desperate, and jerked the wheel in the other direction. There were too many trees to avoid. Everything moved past the windshield in a dizzying blur. It happened too fast for her to think logically, too fast for her to figure out the best way to save her life and her dad’s car.

That was her last coherent thought for a while.

She slammed into a thick tree trunk.

An explosion of noise deafened her. Twisted metal, breaking glass, and a loud scream filled her ears. The airbag deployed, smacking her in the face with the force of a speeding train. It knocked all thoughts from her head but one. She was going to die.

After things settled, she sat there, stunned, unable to think or move. She tasted blood. A few pieces of glass fell with soft, clinking sounds. She took a couple whiffs of air, paranoid that the car was about to explode, but she didn’t smell gas or smoke. That was a good sign. When she moved, it was slow and cautious, an inch at a time. She wiggled her fingers. They seemed to be okay. She slid a hand from her throat to her legs, checking for broken bones.

Bruises and cuts, but nothing broken. Later she would be in a lot of pain, but for now the adrenaline from the near-death experience had her feeling she could get out and walk without any trouble.

Her entire body quaked in the aftermath of the crash, and she felt like she was going to throw up. She lowered her head against the steering wheel for a moment. Her shoulders shook as she sobbed uncontrollably. She didn’t know what to do. Then, she remembered her cell phone. It was in her purse.

BOOK: Crushed
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