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Authors: Anastasia Hopcus

Shadow Hills (25 page)

BOOK: Shadow Hills
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I shook my head no. Zach immediately went into science mode like he had when he first explained the BVs. The look on his face was so serious—it was insanely cute.

“It’s a strong electromagnetic field in the earth’s atmosphere. Supposedly information passes—in these patterns like radio waves—from a person out into this field. BVs who’ve worked at advancing their abilities say that they can tap into the Akashic field and get into the subconscious minds of people who are sleeping.” He shrugged. “At least that’s the theory.”

It made about as much sense to me as quantum physics.

“I know. It’s hard to understand,” Zach agreed.

“So if you’d never done it before, how’d you know what to do? Why did you do it with me?” I realized too late how that sentence sounded. “I mean, um …,” I floundered.

“I didn’t try to do it. It just happened. I was thinking about you when I went to sleep.”

The image of Zach lying in bed sent a shiver through my body.

“And all of sudden, there I was in your dream. I asked Corinne about it the next day, and she said you’re very accessible when you dream; your subconscious is wide open.”

And now I was severely creeped out

“So Corinne was really there in my dream with you?” I asked, my voice rising.

“She was apparently tailing me in my dream, and she followed when I went into yours.”

Great. That’s not mortifying at all

“Don’t be embarrassed,” Zach responded to my unspoken thought. “She’s the one who shouldn’t have been there. That was between me and you.”

I slipped off the stool, not looking at Zach. “Do you want to do your pictures? Mine are probably dry.” It seemed ridiculous to talk about class projects after all that had happened, but they were still due.

“That’s okay. I’ll do mine tomorrow. Why don’t you grab yours, and we can go over to the SAC—if you want.”

“I want to,” I assured him. Truthfully, it didn’t matter anymore if I was doomed to get hurt, or if Zach and I were fundamentally incompatible. At this point I couldn’t stop myself from falling for him.

I went to the dryer and began to pull my prints from it. As I set the first photo in my folder, I noticed that there was a faint ring of light around Zach, like a body-wide halo. I frowned. I looked at the next photograph, then the next. They were all the same. When I had first done darkroom work, I’d had some problems with overexposure, but it never looked like this.

“Uh, Zach …”

“What?” He turned, and I held up the pictures.

“Oh.” He sighed. “Yeah … well.” He shrugged. “It’s the electric-field thing.”

“So you always look like Our Lady of Guadalupe in photos?” I turned, laying the pictures out on the cabinet side by side.

“No. It doesn’t normally show up. I can sort of meditate
to bring my body’s energy down.” He paused, then added, “It’s you.”

“Me? What does that mean?”

He came over and pointed at the prints I had lined up on the cabinet. I was very aware of how close he was to me. “If you look at them, you can see that it gets brighter in every picture.”

It was true. “Okay. But why?”

“Because I have trouble controlling it.”

I gazed up at him, suddenly breathless.

“The longer I’m around you, the less I can control myself,” Zach whispered, his face just inches from mine. He ran a hand under my hair, his fingers lightly skimming over the back of my neck. A tremor ran through me at his touch, and for a moment I forgot how to breathe. Zach brushed his thumb across my cheek and I shivered again; this time I had no doubt he had seen it. Zach’s eyes darkened. Every second was excruciatingly long, yet I didn’t want it to end.

He bent his head to mine, and every thought I had evaporated. His lips were velvet. I pressed myself against him, wanting more. His mouth opened slightly, and a fire burned through me, urgent and new.

It felt like I was spinning dizzily, like if Zach’s hands weren’t in my hair and on my waist, I would collapse to the ground. I melted into his body, and he lifted me off my feet as though I weighed nothing. The energy poured off us in waves. When he set me back down, my head was swimming, but in a wonderful way.

“We’ve only got fifteen minutes until curfew.” Zach brushed
my mussed hair back into place. “Want me to walk you back to your dorm?”

What I wanted was for Zach to be kissing me again; I wanted him never to stop. But that obviously wasn’t an option.

“Okay.” I could barely get out the word, my brain was so jumbled.

He interlaced his fingers with mine as we walked down the hall to the door. All my senses were heightened; even the night air on my face felt like silk. Nothing was ordinary anymore. The feel of Zach’s palm, his fingers shifting with every step we took, his skin softly rubbing against mine. It was more intimate than I would have ever thought holding hands could be.

Kresky Hall was far too close, and my heart sank a little as it came into view. I didn’t want this to end. I wanted to stay with Zach through the night, just to be close to him, to feel his chest rise and fall with every breath.

“I know.” Zach stopped walking and turned to me. “I wish I didn’t have to leave.”

My steps became awkward, the movements jerky and out of sync.

“I thought you couldn’t read my thoughts all the time.” I stopped walking and crossed my arms over my chest, consequently pulling my hand from his.

“I can’t—your emotions are just so strong right now.” Zach took my face in his hands.

“But you don’t have to be embarrassed.” He placed a soft kiss on my lips, and they tingled as blood surged to them. Zach’s
breath quickened, and I could feel the warmth of it against my cheek. At that feather-light touch, everything inside me responded, and I pulled him closer. I wanted to bind our bodies together so we could never be apart.

When we finally made it back to Kresky Hall, I was five minutes late for check-in. But Ms. Moore’s stern expression couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.

I remained in a state of euphoria all day Friday. Since Friday was our short day, I didn’t see Zach at lunch or photography, but I couldn’t stop thinking about him.

Kissing Zach had been incredible. I wasn’t sure if it was because of all the extra energy flowing between us or if this was the way everybody felt when they were falling in love. Either way, it was amazing. I couldn’t imagine ever kissing anyone else again. As I left the library that afternoon, I was still reliving every second of our evening together.

I’d been so involved in my own daydreams that I had blindly walked straight into someone.

“Better watch where you’re going, Goldilocks.”


“You wouldn’t want to get yourself hurt, now, would you?”

“Sorry,” I mumbled as I brushed past him. He reached out lightning fast and grabbed my wrist.

“You’re not sorry yet.” Trent’s tight grip burned my skin. “But you will be.”

I tried to wrench my arm away, but he was much stronger than me. “Let me go,” I said through gritted teeth.

“What?” Trent gave me an innocent expression. “It’s okay for Zach to touch you, but I can’t?”

“Exactly,” I spat the word out, hoping I looked pissed instead of scared. “Now, I told you to let me go.”

“You can tell me anything you want, Goldilocks.” Trent’s tone was menacing. “But I’m the one with the control. You should think long and hard before doing something I won’t like.”

“Excuse me?” I stared. Did this guy seriously think he could tell me what to do?

“I guess you changed your mind about going to the dance alone.” Trent went on, then deliberately looked me up and down. “It’s too bad you chose Zach; he won’t even know what to do with you.”

Revulsion and disgust flooded through my body, nauseating me.

“How’d he hook you, anyway? Did he give you that whole sensitive loner-guy act?” Trent asked mockingly. “Or are you just too scared to go out with a real man?”

I wanted to bend over in pain, the way my stomach was churning, but I wouldn’t allow him the pleasure of seeing me squirm.

“Answer me!” He squeezed my wrist so tight it was cutting off the circulation to my hand.

“Why would I want to be with scum like you when I can be with Zach?”

“Zach’s not as perfect as you think.” Trent’s eyes narrowed. “He’s no different than—”

A flash of movement caught him off guard, and suddenly Zach was between us.

“I don’t care what your problem with me is, but you leave her out of it.” Zach’s formidable stature dwarfed Trent, and he let go of my wrist.

“You afraid of what I might tell her?” Trent taunted, but I noticed he took a step back.

“Everyone knows you’re full of shit.” Zach was clenching his fist tightly by his side. “But if you ever touch Persephone again, I will end you.”

“You’re willing to beat down your own flesh and blood over some slut from Los Angeles?” A vile smile spread across Trent’s face, as if something had just occurred to him. I felt sicker at the sight of it. “She’s dirtier than the streets of the city she comes from. Fifteen years old, and she’s not even a virgin.”

Chapter Fifteen

The second the words were out of Trent’s mouth, Zach’s fist slammed into his cheek. I jumped back as a spray of blood flew from Trent’s face.

I couldn’t believe this was happening. To have private facts of my life thrown in my face—to have this be the way Zach found out—was unbearable. Bile rose in my throat; I tasted its bitterness on the back of my tongue, but I forced it back down.

“Don’t you ever talk about her again,” Zach hissed. “If you so much as say her name …” He let the unspoken threat hang in the air.

“Screw you.” Trent spit blood onto the grass, giving me one last hate-filled glare before walking away.

“Are you okay?” Zach turned to me.

I nodded, unable to speak.

I felt violated—stripped of all my power, my dignity. Trent had been pulling memories out of my head. Intimate memories.
What did Zach think of me now?
The way Trent had said it was so awful. If I had told Zach myself, at least I could have explained
the circumstances.
You can still tell him it was only that one time
. I pulled back and stared up into Zach’s eyes.

“About what Trent …”

“I know it’s not true,” Zach said before I could finish.

Unwelcome tears welled up inside me.

“Actually … it is.” I kicked at the ground with the toe of my black flats, not wanting to see his face.

“No. It’s not.” Zach tilted my chin up so I was looking at him. “Just because you slept with someone—which really isn’t my business—it doesn’t change how I feel about you,” he finished firmly.

“But it was a mistake. It was after my sister died, and I was all screwed up….” Everything in me was burning. Rage toward Trent. Embarrassment and regret. The emotions I’d pushed down bubbled to the surface.

Even now, I could feel the intense loneliness that had driven me to sleep with Paul. I’d longed to be close to someone, to have that connection. But it had been drunken and meaningless. I remembered how empty I was the next morning.

“You don’t have to explain yourself to me.” Zach stroked my hair, pushing it back from my face. His expression hardened a little then, and I wondered if he felt the remnants of that night inside of me. If he could feel how humiliated I’d been when Paul broke up with me—ashamed that I’d been stupid enough to think he was the right guy.

“I have to say it’s a good thing I’ll never meet the guy; he wouldn’t stand much of a chance if we came toe-to-toe.” Zach
ran his thumb down my cheek. “No one is ever going to treat you badly again—not while I’m around.”

The fierceness in Zach’s eyes was enough to make me believe him.

Before I could respond, he bent down and kissed me, pushing all other thoughts out of my mind.

As I walked into the dormitory, I met Adriana coming out of the hall bathroom.

“My, my. What have we been up to, Ms. Phe?” She arched her eyebrow suggestively.

I touched two fingers to my reddened lips. Zach and I must have been kissing in the courtyard for at least a half hour. I took a deep breath. I had been dreading the moment when I would have to back out of our plans, but now seemed as a good a time as any to break the news.

“I got asked to the dance, so I’m not going to be able to do the group date.” The words tumbled out of my mouth, and I waited for the outburst I felt sure was coming.

“Okay,” Adriana replied, shrugging one shoulder.

“I thought you were going to be mad.”

“Why would I be mad at you for having a date?” Adriana laughed. “I’d dump Chace Crawford if Zach asked me out. You are going with Zach, right?”

I smiled, not saying anything.

“Okay. Gossip time, my room, ten minutes,” she ordered.

“I’ll get Toy,” I supplied.

The three of us spent the rest of Friday evening talking and going through Adriana’s clothes to pick out a dress and accessories for Toy.

By lights out we’d agreed to meet around six the next day to get ready for the dance.

At seven on Saturday night, we were sitting in Adriana’s room doing manis and pedis. Toy giggled as I painted her toenails gunmetal gray. “That tickles,” she squealed, her foot jerking in my hand.

“If you don’t hold still, the whole top of your foot is going to look like a postmodern Impressionist art piece,” I warned.

“Primping is more entertaining than I imagined.” She steeled her leg.

“Have you ever had any female friends, Toy?” Adriana asked without sarcasm. In fact, she looked almost concerned.

Toy scrunched up her face. “I guess not.” She shrugged. “I pretty much hung out with my brother and his friends in New York, and ever since I came to Devenish, I’ve been friends with Graham and the guys who are in TechConnect.”

“Well, that all changes this year,” Adriana declared. “You now officially have girlfriends—we’ll do a lot of fun things that guys don’t do.”

“Like what?” Toy asked.

“Dance parties to cheesy eighties music. All-night
Sex and the City
marathons. Talking about cute guys for hours on end.” Adriana ticked the things off on her fingers.

BOOK: Shadow Hills
11.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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