Storm Page 36

No, this was stupid. He was just being Hunter, as direct and challenging as ever.

She ducked under his arm. ’’We have class.’’

Becca readied herself for an apology to Chris. He had saved her life. He\d come to offer her a ride to school, not to fight with Hunter.

But Chris wasn\ in World History, either.

When she opened her notebook, it fell to the last page where she\d written. Where she\d told Chris she was going to ask for another partner.

Becca swallowed and turned to a fresh page. Then she took two sets of notes, writing fast until her hand ached.

She booked it out of the classroom ahead of Hunter, hoping to find some familiar sanctuary with Quinn at lunch.

But Quinn wasn\ at their usual table.

This sucked. Becca couldn\ figure out who to apologize to and who to fight with, and the mental debate was exhausting. She had Chris\s History notes in her bag, a flimsy excuse to drive over there after school. She got the distinct impression that her welcome at the Merrick house might have worn well past thin. Could she call him? And say what?

Gabriel played sports. Hadn\ Chris said something about watching practices after school so he had a ride home? The last place she wanted to go was the soccer field, but maybe the players would be engrossed in drills and scrimmages or whatever, and she could just talk to Chris.

Quinn appeared beside her when she turned the corner behind the gym.

Becca jumped a mile. ’’Quinn! You scared the crap out of me.’’

’’I called your name, like, three times.’’

Becca turned her head to look at Quinn. Her friend looked tired, her eyes shadowed and dark. She wore a long-sleeved crop top that showed her abs, with aged denim capris that sat at her hips. Quinn had dropped some weight somewhere along the line, but Becca couldn\ decide if that was a good thing. With that weathered look on her face, Quinn seemed ... worn.

’’You all right?’’ Becca said.

’’You care?’’

Wow. Becca felt the end of her rope coming up quick. ’’Yeah, Quinn. I care. So either tell what\s going on with you or don\ , because I\ve got ’’

’’Forget it.’’ Quinn turned away.

’’Stop.’’ Becca caught her arm.

They stared at each other for a long moment.

Becca decided she might as well start with Quinn. ’’I\m sorry. It\s been a crappy week. I totaled the car last night, and then Hunter spent the night, and with my dad in town ...’’

Her voice trailed off, and Becca realized she was waiting for Quinn to interrupt her with an exclamation of surprise, or a gasp, or something more than just standing there staring.

’’I heard you were in that accident,’’ Quinn finally said.

’’And you sound so concerned.’’

Quinn looked her up and down. ’’You\ e not hurt. You didn\ even call me. Rafe\s dad works at the hospital. I heard about it from him.’’

Becca let go of her arm. ’’I\m sorry.’’ She paused. ’’Really, Quinn. I\m sorry.’’ Then she realized what Quinn had said. ’’You were with Rafe last night? Are you guys getting serious?’’ She felt like Quinn had checked out of her life for a month.

’’Yeah. Why, did you call dibs on all the guys in school or something?’’

Becca jerked back. Her throat felt tight. ’’What does that mean?’’

’’What do you think it means?’’ Quinn\s voice was fierce, her breathing quick. ’’You\ e supposed to be my best friend and I don\ even know which guy you\ e dating! You\ e always with someone else, you don\ talk to me anymore, you don\ want me around nobody wants me around ’’

And suddenly Quinn was crying.

Becca lost a second to complete shock. Then her bag dropped to the ground and she threw her arms around her friend.

Quinn didn\ fight her off which was another shock in itself. Becca had never seen her friend cry. Not when her mom hit her, not when her dog died. Not when Rick Jakubowski took Quinn\s virginity in ninth grade and then refused to acknowledge she existed.

Becca held her, murmuring stupid things that made no sense not that it mattered, as hard as Quinn was sobbing against her shoulder.

Quinn swiped her eyes. ’’God. I must be PMS-ing. Let\s pretend this didn\ happen.’’

Becca hesitated. ’’You want to tell me what did happen?’’

’’They threw me off the dance team.’’

’’Just now? But you\ e an incredible dancer! How could they ’’

’’They don\ care about that, Bex.’’ Quinn wiped her eyes again. ’’I\m too mouthy, and too fat, and too ’’

’’You are not fat!’’

’’Well, that\s what Miss Harkins said. I don\ have the right \ody type,\ and my attitude needs work, and since I\m not willing to be kind, maybe I should look into other sports.’’

’’What did you say?’’

Quinn sniffed and shifted her bag higher on her shoulder. ’’That the school must have a double standard on body types since they let a woman with an ass like hers coach dance team.’’

Becca couldn\ help it she laughed. But Quinn cracked a smile, too.

Becca sobered quickly. ’’I\m really sorry, Quinn.’’

’’Me too.’’

’’Not just about the dance thing.’’

Quinn nodded. ’’I know.’’

Becca bit at her lip. Quinn loved dance and it loved her back. Becca\s mom had once made a comment that she was glad Quinn had a physical outlet for all the anger she carried around, especially one that channeled it into something expressive.

’’Stop looking at me like that,’’ said Quinn.

’’Sorry,’’ said Becca. ’’Where were you going, anyway?’’

Quinn made a face. ’’To watch soccer practice. I promised Rafe I would.’’

’’He plays?’’

’’He gets splinters in his ass. The only reason he\s on varsity is because he\s a senior. Why were you going this way?’’

Becca felt heat crawl up her cheeks. ’’To see Chris.’’

’’Didn\ you just say Hunter spent the night?’’

Becca shrugged and looked off toward the fields again. ’’Yeah, well, it wasn\ like that. At all.’’

Quinn was silent for a long moment. ’’So ... you going to tell me about it or what?’’

Their friendship teetered on those words. Becca could feel it. If she shrugged Quinn off now, their friendship might not recover.

’’Come on,’’ she said. ’’I\ll tell you while we walk.’’

She told Quinn everything that had happened since they\d left school yesterday afternoon everything except the Guide\s involvement. It was surprisingly easy to stick to the mundane. She remembered Chris telling her how easy it was to cover up what they were.

’’So Chris hit him?’’ said Quinn, when they were getting close to the bleachers. ’’Jesus, I love when guys fight.’’

’’Yeah, it was great,’’ Becca returned flatly. ’’I should have made popcorn.’’

’’Seriously. When they\ e all slow and tentative and circling, and then ka-pow, they just explode with power. It\s totally se*y.’’

Becca was trying to figure out if Chris was one of the guys on the bleachers. There were a couple cheerleaders doing cartwheels or something, but it didn\ look organized;more like goofing off than actual drills. The soccer team wasn\ practicing yet, but most of the guys were in the middle of the field. About ten people sat scattered on the section of bleachers behind the cheerleaders, enjoying the sunlight.

When they got close enough to make out features, she stopped short. They were approaching from the side, so they hadn\ been spotted yet. Chris sat with one of the twins on the bleachers. They had textbooks open beside them and notebooks on their laps. It had to be Nick since the other had a foot up on the lowest rung and was lacing his cleats.

Quinn grabbed her arm and dragged Becca along. ’’Come on. If they\ e jerks, I\ll punch them.’’

’’Great,’’ said Becca. ’’It\ll be totally se*y.’’


Gabriel seemed to be having trouble tying his cleats. It might have had something to do with the fact that he was trying to watch the cheerleaders.

’’I still don\ see what you\ e talking about,’’ he said, and Becca could hear a bit of a taunt in his voice. ’’Show me again.’’

The girls giggled and did some weird cartwheel handspring combination that looked disorganized at best. They did some silly cheer right along with it, though the routine didn\ seem to match. But all that activity made their skirts go up, and some guys high on the bleachers whistled.

That made the girls giggle harder. Becca didn\ recognize either of them.

’’Don\ you see?’’ said one. ’’It\s supposed to end with a handspring into a back tuck but it doesn\ work right.’’

’’Do it again,’’ said Gabriel, a wolfish smile on his face. ’’Maybe I\ll get it.’’

’’Why don\ you just tell them to take their clothes off?’’ said Quinn. ’’Save time.’’

Oh, good. Quinn was going to make this go smoothly.

Becca watched Gabriel notice her, but he didn\ lose the smile. Maybe he didn\ want to show his mean streak in front of potential conquests. ’’Just doing my part,’’ he said.

’’Yeah,’’ said Quinn. ’’I\m sure you\ e all kinds of worried about \your part.\ ’’

Now Nick laughed. Chris hadn\ said a word hadn\ even looked up. He seemed to be studying his Trig book extra hard. Becca\s lips didn\ want to work. It felt like she\d been chewing on sawdust.

One of the cheerleaders leaned on the other one\s shoulder. It made them look like they were rehearsing for a Maxim photo shoot. ’’Ohmigod you\ e so helpful,’’ the blonde said to Quinn in a flat voice. ’’Please. Keep being a bitch.’’

The other, a lanky brunette, just looked at Quinn. ’’You think you can do better?’’

Quinn didn\ say anything, just dropped her bags next to the bleachers and kicked off her flats. She backed up to give herself some room, then sprang forward into the routine the girls had just demonstrated. She added an extra handspring, and even did the call though that carried a bit of mockery. Every beat matched perfectly, and she finished with a flourish.

Most of the people on the bleachers clapped. Quinn got more whistles than the real cheerleaders had. She blushed.

Becca grinned, forgetting her nerves for a moment. ’’I had no idea you could do that.’’

The blond cheerleader scowled, then flicked her hair and flounced off. ’’We\ e late,’’ she called over her shoulder.

’’How\d you do that?’’ said the brunette.

Quinn was reclaiming her things. She shrugged. ’’It\s all in the counting. You guys didn\ have enough beats.’’

’’You cheer for the rec league or something?’’

Quinn snorted. ’’No way.’’

The other girl was halfway across the field, calling her friend. The brunette glanced after her, then looked back at Quinn. ’’You should come try out next week. We\ e down two girls.’’ She looked Quinn up and down, then started to turn to follow her friend. ’’We need more strong people who can do the power stuff like that.’’

Now Quinn was just staring at her.

’’She\d love to,’’ said Becca.

Quinn whipped her head around. ’’I do not want to be a cheerleader,’’ she hissed.

’’Look for the signs,’’ the girl called. ’’Next Thursday!’’ Then she was off, jogging across the field, cheerleader skirt bouncing, a dark ponytail flying behind her.

Gabriel watched her go. ’’God, that Tamar is one hot piece of ’’

’’Easy,’’ said Nick. Becca noticed he was still watching Quinn. ’’That was pretty good,’’ he said.

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