Evanna bumped on the floor too hard. Her frantic hands gathered locks of hair that slid down his arm. She was too mortified to look at his face as she pushed her now restrained mane onto one shoulder.
"I'm sorry," she said breathlessly and made a show of adjusting her skirt, looking at anything but him.
"No worries," he said, his voice coming out husky.
She sucked in a lungful of air, infused with his distinctive woodsy scent, and willed her heartbeat to return to normal. Breathe, Ev. Let's not think about it now. Don't look at him. Don't let him unnerve you. Regain your composure. You can do—
"Your hair's beautiful."
Her breath escaped her in an embarrassingly audible puff. She couldn't help musing on the ease with which it was stated. Forgetting her advice to herself, she swiveled her head to stare at him.
She was taken aback by how close he was. His dark, penetrating gaze paralyzed her for a prolonged moment. Then her wide eyes fluttered away from his and inadvertently traced the contours of his face—the chiseled jawline and the shape of his lips, now turned up in one corner.
Regaining her senses, she emitted a weak "thanks" and averted her stare. In her peripheral vision, she spied him turn away as well and prop his arm up against the window, making a motion that was a cross between stifling a laugh and a facepalm—she wasn't sure which.
A minute of awkwardness passed by, and her ears tuned into the soundscape of distant footsteps and scuffing chairs. Her cheeks smoldered hotter than ever. Please devour me now, Earth.
"It's kind of hot today," she murmured, fanning herself with one hand.
Great, Ev. The bloody weather? Seriously? She couldn't help noticing that he had taken off his blazer. His shirt sleeves were pushed up to his elbows, and a pale sliver of a scar was just visible on one forearm.
"Mm, the sun people must be having a party," he said, humor coating his words.
"The stellar civilizations."
She threw a sidelong glance at him. The memory of an old biology class floated up—when she doodled fiery beings who lived inside stars. Annoyance overlapped her embarrassment, inching her lips into a pout. Why does everything that comes out of your mouth annoy me. Maybe not that hair bit, but...
"Are you making fun of me?" she asked with narrowed eyes, her voice laced with wariness.
"No, no," he murmured. "It's possible. Why not..."
"Life doesn't have a definition." He leaned his head against the wall, the subtle smile lingering on his lips. "Something like cells and self-replication might just happen under those pressures and temperatures."
She shot him a look. When he angled his head to lock eyes with her, she turned away with a mollified sniff.
Why does he have to say my name that way? She tried to adopt an air of indifference. "What?"
"Do you want to talk to me about," he said, his words taking on a serious note, "how you did it?"
"I dunno what you mean!"
"Calm down—you're gonna summon Mrs. Poth."
"Sorry," she muttered, drawing up her knees. Wait, he's been pondering it all this time then. What happened outside Olympus.
When no words of explanation were forthcoming, Shane sighed and closed his eyes. "I'll just imagine you're a witch for now."
A giggle escaped her, and the atmosphere lightened. Drawn to his scent, she breathed in and sensed a whiff of citrus over heart notes of cypress and mossy woods. A vivid image of sunlit forest sprang up, with fern fronds swaying in the breeze.
YOU ARE READING
𝗪𝗔𝗧𝗧𝗬𝗦 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟮 𝗦𝗛𝗢𝗥𝗧𝗟𝗜𝗦𝗧 · EDITOR'S PICKS · AMBYS 2022 WINNER · A quirky Asian high school story fused with sci-fi, romance and mystery | A lonely, small-town gamer girl dreams big when she enters Komoreby High in a glamorous eco-cit...