Authors: Anna Katmore
“The very same.” His smug grin pricked my nerves like little needles.
“Why are you listening to my CD?”
“I could tell you, but you might not like the answer.”
I dared him to explain with my lifted eyebrows.
Chris leaned a little closer and said softly in my ear, “Because you gave it to me.”
The guy was driving me up a wall. I wanted to knock myself unconscious with a hammer, but maybe that was a bad idea, considering I stood in the door of Don Juan’s room. Not only equipped with the body of the infamous seducer, Chris clearly had the ego to match.
“That, as well as my number,” I growled, keeping a lid on my anger, “you should have passed on to Ethan. Why didn’t you?”
He twirled a swath of my hair around his finger, almost stroking my cheek with the move. “I wanted to learn what taste you have in music, so I know what to put on when we make out on my bed.”
I smacked his hand away. “In case you haven’t figured it out all by yourself, let me make it clear now: You have a screw loose. More importantly, it’s considered rude to hit on someone who actually came to see your brother.”
“Why? You think he’ll be mad?” His mouth curved up. “You think he’ll date you?”
Well, he invited me over and called whatever we missed yesterday a date. So, yes, I was under the impression, which is why I came over today. What I said out loud, though, was, “Why, don’t you?”
Chris stroked his chin with his thumb and index finger. “In fact, I think I’ll just watch for a while and let myself be entertained by how things go from here.” He winked at me, grabbed my shoulders, and spun me to face the door. As he leaned around from behind to open it, I caught a whiff of mint that must have been his breath way close to my face. Steering me out into the hallway and to the left, he opened the other door and gently pushed me into the room.
The exact copy of the guy behind me, only dressed in a washed-out, green t-shirt and actual jeans, sat on the bed in the corner playing some video games. When he looked up and saw me, his mouth stretched into an immediate smile.
“You’ve got a visitor,” Chris taunted and moved me farther into the room. He let go and left without another word, but erupted into fits of laughter on the way out.
I shut the door behind him and dropped against it, releasing a long exhale and making a mental note to never again enter the room on the left in this hallway.
“Hey there, you okay?” Ethan asked and got off his bed, walking toward me with a puzzled frown.
“Mm-hmm.” I nodded but still felt too shaky to leave my safe spot by the door. Now I couldn’t hang out with Ethan ever again without imagining that exact same six-pack on him that Chris had displayed. Crap.
“You look a little out of breath.”
“I walked into the wrong room.”
“Why do you think?” I folded my arms over my chest and scowled, blaming him for misleading me. “He’s playing my music. Why did you give him the Volbeat album?”
Ethan laughed at me as he parked his butt against the corner of his desk, gripping the edge. “I didn’t. You did.”
Jeez, could these guys stop rubbing it in already? “But only so he’d give it to you.”
“Well, he refused to. At least he’s playing it loud enough that I can listen, too.”
As if that was his cue, Chris turned up the music in his room again. We could hear it at a low volume through the wall. “See?” Ethan flashed a brilliant half-smile that I just so happened to fall in love with that minute.
“So, um, what do you want to do?” I asked, to take my mind of the encounter with Chris, and tucked my fingers in my tight pockets with a shrug.
He clearly hadn’t put much thought into that part of me being here when he’d invited me over. His face was a blank wall. He pursed his lips thoughtfully to one side, but not so much as a single idea came out.
Straining my neck, I glanced over his shoulder at the widescreen TV a little away from the foot end of his bed. “What were you playing?”
. You know what that is?”
“Are you kidding me? I play it all the time with Nick. Care for a match?”
Ethan’s eyes started to glow. “Sure. Make yourself comfortable. I’ll get you something to drink and”—he paused and studied me like I was a whole different race—“popcorn?”
When I looked at him in those baggy pants and the washed out t-shirt, I was thinking
, but I didn’t say that out loud. “Popcorn would be great.”
While he was gone, I settled on his bed, took the controller, and continued the game he’d started. He came back with a bottle of mineral water, soda, and a bowl of warm, buttered popcorn. Yum. I made room for him to join me on his bed and he picked up a second controller, placing the bowl between us.
“Don’t think just because I’m a girl you stand a chance at winning,” I bantered and picked my team—the Netherlands.
Ethan picked the Ukraine. “I’d never dare to think that.” He shoved me with his elbow and chuckled.
We played for a while. It was one of the funniest afternoons I’d had in a long time. And I hadn’t exaggerated when I told him I was good at this game. Ethan was going down in flames! Only, he was a sore loser and tried to cheat by reaching for my controller.
“Hey, stop that, you!” I tossed a single kernel of popcorn at his face.
Charlie Brown took that as a challenge, grabbed a handful from the bowl, and called out, “Eat that, Miller!”
Lips pressed shut, I tried to wiggle away, but he didn’t let me. His controller dropped to the floor, mine slid between the bed and the wall, and the bowl went flying with popcorn snowing down on us. I laughed so hard that I opened my mouth and was immediately fed popcorn.
“Go away!” I shouted, chewing what he managed to shove into my mouth.
“Only when you admit that I’m the winner.”
“Some loser you are! I won this game fair and”—I grinned—“easy. You totally suck!” That was a mistake, though. Ethan pursed his lips. He wagged his brows once, and I knew whatever was to come wasn’t going to be good. His fingers found my sensitive sides and he started tickling me until I was choking from laughter and coughing out popcorn crumbs.
I shoved hard at his chest, but my
for him, because he didn’t budge an inch.
“Surrender!” he demanded, smirking down as he lay half on top of me, pinning my wrists on the mattress now.
“Never!” I screamed at his face, only it didn’t come out as a scream at all. It was a hoarse whisper, induced by the hot tingle his nearness caused inside me. We both stilled. His face was close enough that our noses would have rubbed against each other at the slightest movement. His eyes were as wide as mine, but they switched down to my mouth the next instant. I didn’t know why, but this made me lick my lips. And he did the same.
My heart jumped from a light jog into race mode. Oh my freaking goodness, this was it. Ethan was going to give me my first kiss. How in the world was that happening on our first date? And it wasn’t really a date anyway, but just us playing some stupid Wii.
All of a sudden, Chris’s words pressed back into my mind.
I wanted to learn what taste you have in music, so I know what to put on when we make out on my bed.
I was crazy to think about that right now, but the memory of his smirk when he’d said it wouldn’t go away.
And here I was, about to make out with his brother. A mocking
na na na na na na
chanted though my head—and Chris deserved it for being so overly bold and arrogant. Swallowing, I focused back on Ethan.
The moment for my first kiss couldn’t be more perfect, though I wished Ethan wouldn’t lie on top of me like this, because now he would notice each of my hitched breaths and find out exactly how nervous I was. He would know in an instant that I hadn’t been kissed ever before, and somehow that made me freak out even more. Looking at this perfect copy of a god above me, all I could think of was how many girls he must have kissed already in his life. Nice girls, good kissers, no wallflowers like me. What if I sucked at kissing?
Ethan’s gaze moved back to my eyes. His breathing came a little strained as well now and the tiniest crease formed between his brows. He hesitated.
I didn’t know much about kissing in reality, but I did know that one should look excited, smitten, or even relaxed when about to do it—not wary. “I’m sor—” he began, but he never got to finish the sentence, because there was a sharp knock on the door and it opened at the same time.
“Hey, E.T.,” Chris said in a casual voice as he walked into the room. “I’m going to order pizza—” That’s where he stopped not only speaking but walking too, and gaped at us with his chin smacking against his chest. “You’re shitting me.”
Hello? Could you find anything more awkward to say?
With a cough, Ethan sat up, letting go of my wrists, and ran nervous hands through his hair. I scrambled up, too.
For some reason, Chris couldn’t stop staring at us like he’d just caught his brother making out with a monkey. What the hell was his problem? A mere hour ago, he was the one predicting he’d have me next on his list.
Since he’d successfully ruined this perfect moment, could he please get out now? But then I remembered Ethan’s reluctance and wondered what his brother really had interrupted.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were still here,” Chris told me in a shaken voice, something that made absolutely no sense to me—especially since it was so far away from the arrogant, confident voice he’d had when I was in his room. Finally turning on the spot, he walked out.
Ethan stumbled to his feet and shouted after him, “Pizza sounds good.” He turned to me and freaking
a smile. “Want to eat with us?”
Is that what happens when a kiss goes wrong? Everyone behaves weird afterward? “Um…” I glanced at my watch and, with a jolt, shot off his bed. It was six minutes to seven. “Dang!”
“I have to go.”
Ethan followed me out of his room to the front door. He sounded troubled when he said, “Look, if it’s because of what—”
“No, it’s not,” I assured him quickly, trying to save us both from an embarrassing situation. However, part of me wondered if he actually might kiss me if I stayed longer. “Mom needs the car and I’ve got about three minutes to make it back home.”
“Oh.” An easy smile slipped to his lips and his cheeks turned a soft pink.
Somehow I had the feeling I should be the one blushing after what had happened in his room, but I was too stressed out right now, so I blurted, “Hey, it was nice. We should totally do that again.” Playing Wii, of course, not fooling around on his bed with no real outcome. Crap, I wanted to slap my forehead for that thought. “I mean—I—”
Chris leaned around the corner from a different room, maybe the kitchen, with a skeptical expression—one I didn’t appreciate. Could he just keep his nose out of this, please?
“Ah, heck, I guess I’ll see you,” I said to Ethan and pulled the door open, but I didn’t get a chance to leave. He grabbed my wrist and held me back, swinging me around to face him once more.
“It was nice, Susan. Come over again tomorrow?” His smile was unsure. “Or let’s go have that soda we talked about.”
After a halfhearted sigh, I nodded. “Okay. Call me after school.” I smiled back at him and pulled my hand out of his. Remembering who had actually called me today, I nailed Chris with a scowl down the hallway. “Give him my number, dickhead!”
Chris, who was still staring at his brother like he’d lost his marbles, nodded, and I walked out the door.
ON THURSDAY MORNING, I repeated to Lisa and Simone all the details about my visit to Ethan’s, which I’d already told Sam on the phone last night—minus the encounter with Chris. That was just too embarrassing to mention
My friends squeezed my hands and squealed like little guinea pigs, full of hope that there might be something budding between Ethan and me. Considering the fluffy feeling in my stomach when I chased that thought, I couldn’t even blame them for their outburst of excitement. If only they’d be a little more subtle about it. Half the crowd in the hallway was giving us sidelong glances.
It was a good thing their guys came along and pulled the girls away so I could head on to science. Only, I wasn’t walking alone for long. As I rounded the corner, someone casually draped his arm around my shoulders and said, “Hey, Sue.”
Looking up, I found a set of flashing, blue eyes trained on me. My smile was inevitable, but the next instant I stiffened in wariness.
, I told myself. So with a distrustful frown, I asked, “And you are…”
“Chris.” He rolled his eyes as if tired of me not being able to tell him and his brother apart. Heck, how could I? It was like trying to tell one grain of sugar from the next. Impossible—until one of them opened his mouth, I thought grimly.
“What do you want, Chris?” I snapped, not bothering to hide my disappointment about walking through the hallway with the wrong guy by my side. And to make my point clear, I picked his hand up with two fingers and removed his arm from my shoulders.
Instantly, Chris slid in front of me, blocking my way. He leaned against the metal door of a locker and folded his arms. Sporting a black leather jacket and ragged jeans, he didn’t look like a
character one bit, so maybe that was the way to tell them apart.
“I’m curious,” he said with a crooked smile that rendered me speechless for a second.
One look at his face, and I knew he was trouble. I got that bad feeling deep down in my gut, almost like when you’re facing a Rottweiler and you know it’s going to bite you at your next move. Maybe it was just his black leather jacket producing that visual, but most of it probably had to do with his wicked invitation to make out on his bed.
He tilted his head, locking gazes with me. “Did you and Ethan kiss yesterday?”
“Keep your drool in, Spike,” I managed to say after I figured out how to use my vocal cords again. “What happens between your brother and me isn’t any of your business.”
Chris only laughed at that. “I knew it. He didn’t have the guts.”
What the hell was that supposed to mean? The longer I stared at Chris’s face, the more he got on my nerves. Or maybe the little chills did, the ones he ignited with his look. Anyway, I decided not to question that last comment but pushed past him, knocking against his shoulder with mine.
“Have a nice day, little Sue,” he cooed after me, and I was once again tempted to flip him off over my shoulder. Ah, actually, why not? My middle finger was the last thing he saw of me before I rounded the corner.
Unfortunately, my history teacher, Miss Hayes, saw it too, and she didn’t hesitate to pull me aside and tell me I had detention.
Punished because of that moron, Chris Donovan? I was steaming with fury as I slipped into science class, my face hot and red also because I was terribly embarrassed by the prospect of having to sit through an extra hour after school for the first time in my life.
I didn’t tell Nick or Sam about it, but I was still angry when first period was over. Outside class, I hooked my arm through Sam’s and walked down the hallway with her, trying to shake off Nick for a moment. “Ethan’s brother is a dick,” I snarled.
“Chris? Why?” Sam asked.
“Because he thinks Ethan doesn’t have the guts to kiss me.” And because he got me in freaking detention, for Christ’s sake!
Sam’s messy, layered hair swung around her chin as she cut a glance at me. “How do you know?”
“He waylaid me before class and said some crap about yesterday. About when he caught Ethan and me on his bed.”
“And you think he’s right—about not having the guts, I mean?”
I let my arm slip out from hers when we had to part for our next classes. “I don’t know. But I hope not, because I really,
want Ethan to be my first kiss. He’s cute,” I whined, “and super sexy, and he makes me laugh.” Hopefully, he’d stick to his promise and meet up with me again after school today. Well, after school
With drooping shoulders and a growl erupting from my throat, I went to second period, which was French with Miss Lewis. Oh joy. I chewed on my nails twice as hard in her class this morning.
No more incidents occurred before lunch, which gave me some time to cool off and accept my doom. It wasn’t so bad after all, was it? I’d probably meet Alex Winter there. He was in detention all the time for either forgetting his homework or talking in class. At least that’s what I’d heard about him.
The girls and I headed into the cafeteria together. A line had already formed in front of the food counter, and it would take us ages to get there. Luckily, Nick, Tony, and Ryan stood quite a bit ahead in the line. They called to us, offering to take our food on their trays, so we didn’t have to line up at all.
“Pizza and kiwi for you?” Nick asked me, reciting my usual.
“Yeah, but grab an extra kiwi, please,” I told him, following my friends to the long table by the window that was known by all as the soccer table. Hoping Ethan would join us, since he’d temporarily taken my place on the soccer team, I searched the room for him and found him sitting with a bunch of seniors, two rows away from the science club table. On the way to my seat, I had to pass him. It was nice how he cracked a smile when he saw me. He also reached for my hand and stopped me.
“Meet at Charlie’s today?” he asked and winked.
Yeah, I have to admit, I kind of melted a little right on the spot. The sigh that came out of my throat was unintentional, but it couldn’t be taken back. “Five okay?”
“Want me to pick you up?”
A million thoughts shot through my head at once, all of them connected with my parents having another argument and Ethan walking into the middle of it. No way! “Um, why don’t we just meet there? I need to get a few things from town anyway.”
“Cool. See you then. And please, Susan…” At his dragging out my name, I swooned a little more. “Don’t stand me up again.”
Our short conversation earned him some curious looks from his friends, but none of them said a word. At least not in front of me.
“I won’t,” I said with a smile and headed off to my friends.
In my usual place, Nick had already put down a plate with two slices of Hawaiian pizza—ham and pineapple, my usual toppings. “What’s the extra kiwi for?” he asked me as he tossed both fruits, one at a time, across the table.
Flames of shame licked at my face. Lowering my head, I mumbled, “It’s for later.”
Since I couldn’t just ignore his question, I said with some hesitation and my voice as low as possible, “I have detention.”
I swear all the kids at the table turned their heads and their disbelieving gazes on me.
“Very subtle, guys,” I muttered, aware of other heads now turning in our direction as well. Grabbing the fork on my plate, I scattered the heap of pineapple pieces on my pizza, put the fork down and took a bite. “Miss Hayes caught me saluting someone with my middle finger this morning, so she put me in detention. It’s no big deal.” The food in my mouth muffled my voice. “Alex is kept after school every other day.”
Alex Winter laughed at me. “But I’m not flipping people off in the hallway.”
“Yeah, and that’s totally not like you,” Lisa said. “What happened?”
I swallowed and sipped from my bottle of Sprite. “Some dick got on my nerves. Never mind.”
“Ooh, language, Miller,” Tony said and chuckled as he bumped his shoulder against mine. “All you need now is a tacky tattoo in a striking place and you’ll have a rep as the school’s new bad girl.”
Everybody burst out laughing at that visual. Only Ryan kept it low with a chuckle and a teasing look at me, as though he might have an idea about just who the mentioned dick was. I neither denied nor agreed to his suspicion but kept munching my pizza. Once done, I peeled and cut one of the kiwis into slices. The other one I slipped into my backpack.
Simone and Lisa pestered me about my punishment in PE until I told them how it was Ethan’s stupid brother who got me into trouble. Loyal friends they were…they giggled their heads off again.
My final class of the day was journalism. Lisa was in it with me. We sat down in our front-row seats and watched the rest of the students filing into the room. Ted came in last. He said “hi” when he passed and took the seat behind me.
“Hey,” I replied, turning around, and tilted back with my chair, leaning one arm on his desk. “Are you working at Charlie’s today?”
“Yep, all week through Friday.”
“Cool. Ethan and I are swinging by this afternoon.”
“What?” He gave me a mocking smile. “You and Ethan are showing up
“Ah, shut up, you.” I stuck out my tongue at him and faced front again just as the teacher walked into the room.
The lesson went by fast enough and while most of my friends went home after seventh period, I trudged through the hallway back to the room in which Mr. Ellenburgh usually taught English. Now he was sitting at his desk, keeping an eye on renegades like me.
“Hi, Mr. Ellenburgh.” I waved when I entered.
As he looked up from his newspaper, he did a double take. “Susan! What in the world are you doing in this class?”
I grimaced. “I guess I belong here. If you check your list, I’m sure you’ll find my name on it.”
Mr. Ellenburgh ran his finger from top to bottom on a sheet under his newspaper and, certainly enough, said in a baffled voice, “Susan Miller. Here it is.” His gaze skated back to me. “What reason did Miss Hayes have to send you here?”
The wrong ones, obviously. At this point, I was pretty sure if I told Mr. Ellenburgh it was all a mistake and I did nothing wrong, he would let me walk right out the door. But I wasn’t a liar. “She caught me in a weak moment. Don’t you worry, Mr. Ellenburgh”—oh, my favorite teacher of them all—“I don’t intend to make this a habit.”
“Fine. Take a seat then, Susan.” As he gestured for me to choose a place in the room, his compassion for my unfortunate situation showed in his eyes, and it made me like him even more.
I kept my gaze low as I walked down the aisle between the rows of desks, so nobody would notice or recognize me. Of course, that was a stupid thing to hope for, but I just couldn’t look at any of these gangsters’ faces. It gave me a feeling of complicity.
In the far back, I sank into a chair and pulled out my math book to do my homework. All around me, the guys and girls started to chatter away, having a great time.
Mr. Ellenburgh didn’t call them to order or make them shut up. Obviously, at this time of the day, no one really cared what people did. Who knew that detention wasn’t all about punishment and discipline but could be fun? I started to grasp why Alex never complained about being kept after school. It was a shame he wasn’t here with me today, but getting a head start on my homework was fine with me.
I’d started working on the second algebra problem when something orange teased the corner of my eye. A moment later, a basketball slowly rolled across my desk, from right to left. It was so surreal that I didn’t even think about stopping the ball and instead gave a tiny shriek of surprise when it dropped with a bang to the floor, bouncing up and down a few times next to me. My pen had slid from my fingers, too, and rolled over the edge of the desk.
I bent down to pick up both the pen and the ball. When I straightened again, one of the Donovan twins stood in front of me, and by his roguish smirk I decided it had to be the infamous and less likable of them.
“Hey, Sue,” Chris said and took the ball from me. “Never seen a basketball?” His white muscle shirt sported a flashy green
Grover Beach Dunkin’ Sharks
brand across the chest, accompanied by the image of a cartoon shark tearing a basketball with its teeth. So, on a wild guess, I assumed he was on our school’s basketball team.
It could’ve been that he was also one of the guys who got a little rowdy every now and then and played basketball in the halls during school hours, which was an absolute no-no. The thugs on the other side of the room grinning at him—definitely his friends—confirmed my assumption.
“My name is
,” I corrected him with a growl. His calling me Sue, or even worse, “sweetness” was becoming a real pain in my neck.
The chuckle that followed was proof enough that he didn’t give a damn about my name. “I’m wondering…does my brother know that his girlfriend is in detention?”
“If you tell him, I’m going to shoot you.” My glare manifested my intention of really doing that. “And I’m not his girlfriend,” I added with a huff.