Authors: Skye Warren
I’m just trying to survive.
I have to hurry to keep up with his long strides, even though I know he’s slowing down for me. “After school some people meet up at the diner or the park behind the school.”
He shoves his hands into his jeans pockets, going half a beat slower. “But not you.”
“No, not me.” How does he know that? Everything I said and what I didn’t say. “I’m not that social.”
“Hmm.” His expression is doubtful.
My heart thumps once, as if afraid of losing him—a warning signal. “Except with you, of course. I like you.”
Now he looks wry. “Uh-huh.”
I lift my chin. I might be bullshitting in the general sense, but I don’t like him calling me on it. Besides, I do actually like him.
“You don’t believe me?”
A shrug reminds me just how much taller he is than me. “You don’t really know me, so I don’t think you can like me or dislike me.”
“Very philosophical,” I say, matching his wry tone. “Except I’m sure Matthew dislikes you plenty.”
A snort. “I’ll try not to wake the house when I cry about that.”
Something in me wants to challenge him, to push him, to find out exactly how far he’ll go in pursuit of me. “You should be worried. Matthew isn’t a foster kid. He’s their son.”
He looks amused. “You worried about me, beautiful?”
The word rushes over me, a spring brook over hard rock, smoothing my edges. “Maybe I am.”
A shadow darkens his eyes. “I’m worried about you too. He shouldn’t fuck with you like that.”
“Hey,” I say quietly. “You stopped him.”
I trail my fingertips along his forearm, the first voluntary touch from me to him. He’s warm and solid. His skin is softer than I would have thought, the muscle underneath as hard as brick. His body is a contradiction, and I think the person underneath is too.
He pulls his hand from his pocket to hold mine. “What about when I’m not there?”
A shiver runs through me. That time could come any minute. Foster kids are constantly shuffled around. Matthew might be convincing his parents to send Blue away right this minute. We only have this moment together. We only have now.
I pull the lighter from my pocket and hold it up. “I’m not totally defenseless, you know. Next time he won’t catch me off guard.”
Blue raises his eyebrows. “Is that his?”
A wink. “It’s mine now.”
“Really.” His voice is reluctantly impressed. “So you’re Oliver Twist now.”
Looks like someone did his required reading this summer. “I don’t know about the gruel thing, but I can pick a pocket. That much I can do.”
I don’t add that I can’t help it most of the time. When I’m stressed or afraid, I tend to steal without even realizing until after.
“Stealing, huh?” he says, musing, leading us down the slope of white rocks that line the bay. It’s slippery, and I have to grip him tighter so I don’t fall. “I didn’t think you had it in you.”
That makes me laugh. “Because I’m such a good girl.”
He stops, and I almost slam into him. Time seems to stop as he takes me in from head to toe. His gaze is sharper than I’m comfortable with, cutting right through my lip gloss and blue glitter toenail polish. “Yeah,” he says slowly, almost solemn. “Because you’re such a good girl.”
My chest pinches, and I give him my best flirty smile to make it unclench. I curl my body against him like a cat. “I’m not good. In fact, let me show you how bad I can be.”
I push up on the balls of my feet and lean in. Something keeps me from going the last inch, but he takes over, brushing his lips to mine. They’re at once gentle and possessive.
My whole body seems to come alive from just the touch of his lips. I ache in places I have barely felt before, needing things I can’t quite name.
I’ve been kissed before. I’ve been felt up. I’ve even had sex.
I’ve never been kissed like this, like I matter. Like I mean something.
This is the first time I’ve felt cherished.
He breaks away, his expression almost dazed. Slowly his gaze focuses on me. Even then he doesn’t let me go. He holds me against his chest, his fingers loose in my hair. It’s as if he doesn’t want this to end.
And neither do I. I could drown in that dark gaze—and I do, sinking deeper into the intensity. My body is flush against his, his hands holding me tightly, but it feels like we’re one person. Like nothing can split us apart, even though I know that’s an illusion.
He smiles, slow and sure. “Damn, beautiful. I could get addicted to you.”
And I know it’s already too late for me. I’m already addicted to him. To his taste, to his touch. To the way he treats me. I don’t ever want him to stop, but he doesn’t keep kissing me. He certainly doesn’t lay me down on the white rocks and have sex with me.
Instead he pulls back, letting the cool air rush between us.
“What’s wrong?” I whisper.
A shadow crosses his eyes, and I shiver. He tucks a strand of my hair behind my ear. “Nothing. Nothing at all.”
or the next
three weeks we spend every afternoon together, talking and kissing.
Kissing and no further.
We kiss for hours, until we’re both breathless. Sometimes I rock my body over his, feeling how hard he is, riding his desire, but we never even undress.
Part of me basks in our time together, grateful for the moments of bliss even if they will only end in devastation. Happiness is rare enough around here not to take it for granted when it shows up in a worn butter-soft leather jacket.
The other part of me dreads how this will end. We have no control over our lives. He could be taken from me at any moment. I have survived years alone, but the thought of being without him now feels like acid on my skin, flaying me open.
And I know Matthew is in the background, scheming, waiting for his chance.
There is something else looming over my time with Blue like a storm cloud—the rumors about him and what Lucy had said. The way even the bullies give him a wide berth.
If you touch her again, I’ll kill you.
One afternoon I can’t ignore it anymore.
I rest my chin on his chest, fingers playing in his hair. “Is it true?”
“Is what true?”
“What they say about you.” I don’t need to spell it out, but he’s making me. “That you killed a kid at your last school.”
His eyes are dark. “People talk too much.”
My heart lurches. “So it’s true.”
He shrugs, which shifts his large body underneath mine. He’s cradling me, one hand on my back, the other on my ass. We’re nestled in the attic, hidden away. I feel completely safe—the exact opposite of how I should with what he’s just admitted.
I’m scared too. I don’t know what he’s capable of or why. I don’t know what will set him off. For now he seems to like me. And for now, that’s enough.
“Is your name really Blue?”
He makes a face. “Really?”
I like this lighter side of him, the one that isn’t so serious. The one who isn’t about death. The one who isn’t dangerous. “I just want to know something about you. Something real.”
“Then tell me something real about you, Hannah. That’s my price.”
“Okay.” I play with the bristles on his chin, distracting myself. “My mom killed herself.”
Surprise registers in his eyes. “That’s heavy.”
I look away. So much for keeping things light. “Yeah, well, it’s real. Now you tell me something.”
“Eugene,” he mutters.
My gaze snaps back to him. “What?”
“My name is Eugene Blue.”
I can’t help it—I laugh. It’s dangerous to laugh at a boy like this, one who’s killed, one who admits it without even looking guilty. But the corner of his lip turns up.
“Can I call you that?” I tease him.
He tries to look stern. “Not if you want me to answer.”
It’s a little piece of him, his name, something only for me. I nuzzle his chest, and he lifts my chin. His eyes are serious. “I’m sorry about your mom.”
I swallow hard. “Thanks.”
He leans forward, and his lips touch mine. He doesn’t move them or push his tongue inside. We stay like that, lips against lips, breath mingling.
When I pull back, he touches his forehead to mine.
“Why did you do it?” I whisper.
This time he doesn’t make me spell it out.
“Because he called me Eugene,” he says with a straight face.
It’s wrong, but I laugh. He is the only boy who makes me laugh. “For real though.”
His expression gets hard. “It’s real simple. The people outside—the judge and the jury. They don’t know what it’s like. It’s kill or be killed, and fuck if I’m going to let anyone touch me.”
My breath catches in my throat. I wish I had that kind of conviction.
I wish I had that kind of strength.
“Why aren’t you in jail?”
He shrugs. “I’m a minor, and there were mitigating circumstances. That’s what they call it—mitigating circumstances.”
“Oh,” I say, not really understanding.
“They’d been kicking me around, and it was documented by the caseworker. So it got labeled self-defense. I just have to keep my nose clean until I’m eighteen. Then I can get out of this shithole town. And I’m never coming back.”
I look down, drawing circles on the gray T-shirt he wears, feeling his steady heartbeat underneath. He wants to get out of this
Of course he does. “Oh.”
“Do you think I’ll hurt you?” he asks softly.
“No.” I swallow past the knot in my throat.
His smile sends a shiver down my spine. “Then you don’t really know me.”
The truth is that I don’t know him that well. He asks a lot of questions about me—about my history and my foster homes, about my favorite movies and what kind of ice cream I like.
Casablanca and mint chocolate chip.
He doesn’t talk much about himself. All I know is that he’s been kind to me, protected me, even without taking what is due.
“No,” I say, stronger now. “You’d never hurt me.”
“I want to.”
He’s just teasing me. Testing me.
That’s what I tell myself. Or maybe he’s just punishing me for asking him directly about the rumors.
“I don’t believe you,” I say. My voice sounds braver than I feel.
“No?” He studies me lazily, from my arm slung over his chest down to my leg bent over his knee. “You have no idea what goes on in my head at night. The things I dream about doing to you.”
My breath catches. “Like what?”
His look seems to strip me bare—past clothes and nakedness, to the core of my being, where I’m both frightened and excited by his words. “Like bending you over and taking you from behind. Like tying you up so I could do anything I want to you.”
That heavy beat is my blood rushing faster. He’s strong and violent—he doesn’t even hide that. And I’m tangled up, my limbs entwined with his, caught in a spider’s web. “What makes you think I would let you?”
The corner of his mouth tilts up. His eyes look like they’re lit from the inside out, a knowing light he must have hidden from me all this time—along with his dark desires. His voice is barely a whisper. “What makes you think you could stop me?”
Fear clenches my chest, and I scramble away, half expecting him to hold me there. He lets me go, though, and I scoot a few feet back. I’m afraid, but I know that if I really thought he’d hurt me, I’d be running. Instead I crouch on the dusty floorboards and hug my knees.
“You’re just saying that to scare me,” I say, accusing.
He sits up too, much more leisurely. “Maybe I am. Doesn’t mean I’m lying.”
No, I have the uncomfortable feeling it’s not a lie. Except he hasn’t done those things to me. “Why haven’t you touched me?”
His hot gaze sweeps over me. “I’ve touched you, beautiful.”
“Not under my clothes. And you definitely haven’t—” Anxiety and something else rises in my throat. He hasn’t taken me from behind.
He hasn’t taken me at all.
“You haven’t tied me up or any perverted shit.”
He smiles, ducks his head, looking almost shy and boyish at the word
“Because you aren’t ready for that.”
“What do you care?” I can’t help the bitterness that seeps into my voice. “I’m just some random girl at some random foster house. Any one of us could get moved tomorrow, and we’d never see each other again.”
His expression grows solemn. “Is that what you’re worried about?”
There’s a dollhouse up here, old and cracked from disuse. I run my finger across a faded white porch railing. “We’re like the dolls in this house. They move us around wherever they want, like we don’t matter.”
“You’re right,” he says softly. “They don’t care about us. They don’t understand. But I care, beautiful. I care about you more than I should.”
The words burrow inside me where I can keep them. No matter where I go after this, no matter how far away I am from him, I’ll always remember this. “Me too,” I whisper.
He puts two fingers under my chin and tilts my face up to his. “And I’m waiting because I’d rather not have you at all than hurt you.”
“I thought you wanted to hurt me.”
“Only when you want it.”
I have to laugh. “You’re crazy if you think I’d ever want
Sex is one thing. Tie ups are another.
He just shrugs, easy with my denial. He wasn’t going to push me before this conversation, and he isn’t going to push me now. He isn’t going to demand sex now, isn’t going to demand any of that kinky shit now either. He’s content to talk to me, to kiss me, and something eases inside me at the knowledge.
A beat passes, and I scoot closer to him. He wraps his arm around my shoulders and pulls me close—he’s always touching me when I’m near. Careful touches. Heated touches. Possessive touches. This one feels achingly tender.
From this spot in the cramped attic we can look through the grimy window and see the city stretch out—the high-rises with lights blinking off and on. They might be ants living in little glass squares.
That’s just an illusion. The people downtown are rich and powerful.
We’re the small and insignificant ones, liable to get crushed under their shoes if we’re not careful.