Storm Page 39

’’How about my face?’’ said Quinn, smacking him under the chin. ’’How\s that look?’’

He grinned and made a show of ogling her chest. ’’If you wanted an answer to that, you shouldn\ have worn this dress.’’

If a boy had said it to her, Becca would have grabbed a sweater. Quinn just laughed. ’’Come on, Romeo, before Bex has to mop up your drool.’’

Quinn kissed her on the cheek and was out the door.

Becca smoothed her skirt and sat on the edge of the couch again. She kept thinking of Chris\s comment in class. He\d hardly said a word since Wednesday, since she\d apologized. And told him that pentagram was gone.

So you don\ need to worry about us anymore.

Light arced across the living room wall as a car pulled into the driveway. Hunter.

Becca tried to keep herself on the couch, but her heart leapt and shoved her toward the door. She flung the door open before he\d even made it up the steps.

God, he looked hot. If she was being honest with herself, she\d been a tiny bit afraid that he\d show up wearing one of those stupid tees with a shirt and tie printed on it. But he was wearing a black suit with a charcoal shirt left open at the neck, and no tie. It fit him well.

Really well.

Becca almost felt like she should go back in and change. He looked sleek and se*y and dangerous. She felt like she should be heading out to teach Sunday school.

He looked up in surprise;then his face broke into a smile. He came the rest of the way to the top of the stairs. ’’I hope you\ e not in that much of a rush to kick my ass.’’

She brought her hands up and balled them into fists. ’’Too bad,’’ she teased, willing her heart to slow. ’’We\ e starting with violence.’’

’’Yeah?’’ His expression shifted, his eyes bright and challenging. ’’Bring it.’’

So she swung at him.

He brought a hand up to deflect her hit, which she expected. But he used her momentum to trap her wrist and pin her arm behind her back.

None of it hurt. And it put her chest right up against his, his face right above hers.

The chiffon was thin. She felt the line of his body matching her own. He had to be able to feel her heartbeat.

He smiled. ’’Now what are you going to do?’’

’’Gouge your eyes out with my keys.’’

Hunter laughed. ’’I should have trapped both hands. I didn\ realize you\d be such a lethal date.’’

’’The night\s still young.’’

’’The pretty ones are always the most dangerous.’’ He reached up with his free hand and brushed a tendril of hair off her forehead. ’’And you look very, very pretty.’’

That made her blush. He still hadn\ let her go, and she found her body relaxing into his. She rested her free hand on his shoulder. ’’This is nothing. Wait \ il you see Quinn.’’

’’So you\ll let me keep my eyes a little while?’’

’’Maybe.’’ She hoped she didn\ sound too breathless. ’’If you promise to be good.’’

’’I\ll try.’’ And he kissed her.

His mouth was soft, gentle. An innocent kiss. But the pretend fighting, the banter, the heat of his body it lit her up like a live wire. Her lips parted and her hand tightened on his shoulder, sliding to his neck, pulling him closer.

But he broke away, turning her loose, holding nothing but her hand.

He tapped a finger on her lips. ’’You can\ make me promise to be good, then do that. We\ll never get to the dance.’’

She almost didn\ care. She actually almost said that, but then her brain kicked into gear.

Hunter must have gotten the gist anyway, because he chuckled and kissed her palm. ’’Come on, beautiful.’’

Then he turned to move down the steps, and, attached to his hand, she followed right behind him.

Every year, the school tried really hard. But no matter what they did to it, the gym still looked like a gym, just with the halogen lights turned off and red and blue streamers everywhere. The acoustics sucked for a band, but the deejay seemed to have a handle on the sound system, because Becca could actually distinguish lyrics from the throbbing bass line.

Becca spotted Quinn right off, her friend\s dance skills on full display. She and Rafe had carved out a space near the center of the dance floor, and the jewels on her dress caught the light and flared with color.

Becca leaned into Hunter and said, ’’See what I mean?’’

’’I don\ know what you\ e talking about,’’ he said. ’’That\s totally subtle.’’

Rafe took Quinn\s hand and spun her, and the dress flared, generating plenty of catcalls and a few insults.

’’She\s crazy,’’ said Becca.

’’She\s just having fun. Come on.’’ Hunter pulled her into the crowd of people.

Neither her dress nor her dance skills were enough to buy Becca the kind of room Quinn enjoyed. Kids pressed in around them, nameless faces she barely recognized under the strobe lights. Hunter didn\ seem to mind, keeping her close for fast songs and closer for slow ones. She had no idea if he was a good dancer. She just liked the feel of his body against hers.

Like that live wire feeling on the porch, she felt electric tonight, charged by the music or the energy or the emotion in the air. It reminded her of that moment when Nick sent wind whipping across her driveway, like something tangible flickering just out of her reach. All she had to do was grab hold.

’’What\s with you tonight?’’ said Quinn when they had a moment alone. The boys had gone to fetch sodas, and she and Quinn were giggling and swaying to some eighties hit by the side of the crowd.

’’I don\ know,’’ said Becca. ’’What?’’

’’You\ e, like, glowing or something wait. I know.’’ Quinn reached out and took her chin, tilting her face up and down, then sideways, as if looking for something. ’’You\ e happy. I didn\ recognize it.’’

Becca knocked her hand away. ’’You\ e crazy.’’

’’Pine all you want for Chris, but New Kid actually put a smile on your face.’’

’’Damn it, Quinn, I\m not pining for ’’

’’Oh. Okay. So it won\ bother you if I tell you he\s over there with Monica Lawrence?’’ Quinn pointed.

Becca whipped her head around before realizing it probably wasn\ a good idea. Quinn was right. There stood Chris by the edge of the indoor bleachers, his face half in shadow. He had a drink in one hand, and Monica had her entire body up against his.

He didn\ exactly look like he was fighting her off.

’’Is it me, or is she humping his leg?’’ said Quinn.

’’Shut up,’’ Becca muttered. Then Hunter was back, holding out a cup of soda. She drank the whole thing in almost one swallow.

Hunter watched this feat with a bemused expression on his face. ’’You know that\s just Diet Coke, right?’’

’’Maybe I\m just warming up,’’ she said.

And then she kissed him.

She caught him by surprise but that didn\ last long. His lips parted for hers, and her fingers tangled in his hair, holding him close. Hands caught her waist, strong and sure through the thin chiffon.

She could swear she saw starbursts, like that night on the bridge. Wind in her hair, fire on her lips, the ground beneath her feet, parquet over concrete stretching into the earth below. And water water everywhere. The first flare of sweat on her skin, the taste of Hunter on her lips, the ice in the cup hanging from her fingers.

Ice. She felt that same cord of power she had felt with Nick\s wind in the driveway.

Chris.

She jerked back from Hunter.

His breathing sounded a bit quick, his cheeks flushed. The entire front of her body felt warm.

Just how closely had she been pressed up against him?

’’So, Bex,’’ said Quinn, her voice kind of strangled, ’’most people wait until they\ e in a room or at least in the dark ’’

’’I\m sorry,’’ said Hunter. His eyes were wide.

He was sorry? She\d practically mauled him in front of the whole gym. At least most of the people around them seemed to be following their cue. Not that she wanted to watch half her classmates make out, but it was better than them watching her.

She remembered that connection she\d felt, the ice in her cup. Had Chris done something? Had his brothers?

Becca looked for him in that darkened corner. Would he be making out with Monica, striking her back for the little show she\d just put on with Hunter?

No, but Chris was leaning close, brushing hair away from Monica\s ear to whisper something then looking very deliberately in Becca\s direction.

Monica giggled and clung to him. They walked away from the bleachers and disappeared into the crowd.

Becca swallowed.

This was stupid. She wasn\ some wallflower to be mocked she was here with Hunter.

Hunter, who was stroking a thumb across her cheek now, leaning in to brush his lips across hers very gently. ’’Don\ do that again,’’ he murmured, and she heard a smile in his voice.

’’Why?’’ she whispered back, feeling her heart leaping around her chest. ’’Don\ tell me you\ e scared of kissing me now.’’

He hesitated, then laughed against her lips. ’’Your kisses just might be addictive.’’ Then he caught her hand and spun her into the music.

She wondered if someone had spiked the soda. Her body felt weightless yet strong. She kept up with Quinn, dancing with her friend when the boys ran out of stamina.

’’Becca.’’

The voice spoke from over her shoulder, perfectly timed for that break between songs. She couldn\ tell whether it was Hunter or Rafe since the crowd was so loud, but she was glad of the distraction. Her perfectly curled tendrils had dampened with sweat, and hair clung to her neck in places. She could use a soda.

So she turned, ready for just about anyone.

Except Drew McKay.

Drew\s face was still bruised from the beating Gabriel had given him, a dark wash of shadow across one cheek and around one eye. He\d paid good money for that suit, but it seemed to hang from his frame awkwardly, as if he\d lost some weight or some muscle or just couldn\ be bothered to button it right. He looked pathetic.

’’Gee,’’ she said loudly, over the music of the new song. ’’That black eye looks really painful.’’

He fidgeted for a second. ’’Becca, I need to talk to you.’’

’’You need to leave her alone.’’ Hunter must have come up behind her, and now she felt his hand on her shoulder.

She hadn\ told him about Drew, but the rumor mill must have carried the story full circle. She was tempted to let Hunter chase him off. It would be easy.

But she\d already done this the ’’easy’’ way. And Hunter wasn\ her keeper he wasn\ even her boyfriend yet. She suspected that the new attitude she was getting around school had more to do with Gabriel Merrick\s reputation than her own. If she kept letting guys defend her, she\d never find the type of respect she desperately needed.

For her own good.

So she turned and looked up at Hunter. ’’I can handle this.’’

He stared back at her. She could tell he was remembering the altercation in her driveway, their discussion at lunch.

Then his eyes flicked to Drew, and she read the dislike there. Hunter dropped his hand. ’’All right.’’

’’Besides,’’ said Becca, turning back to Drew, ’’I\m not going to listen long unless he\s going to start spouting an apology ’’

’’I am.’’

He didn\ even look at her for those two words, and they sounded like they\d been choked out of him.

’’Let\s hear it,’’ she called over the music.

Now he looked up, and she caught a hint of his familiar scowl. ’’Can we go outside or somewhere I don\ have to yell? I don\ really want to announce this to the whole school.’’


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