Chapter 21

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My stomach somersaults

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My stomach somersaults.

Did Cupid just use the Ardor arrow on Jack?

Cal's words from earlier creep back into my mind.

The Ardor is much more severe than the last. It consumes a person - some will stalk the person they believe to be their match. Others will die of longing.

Across the crowded dance floor Cupid slowly sweeps his hands together as though brushing the ash from his fingers. He doesn't take his eyes off me - they glitter pink under the Love Shack  neon lights.

No-one around him seems to have noticed the arrow that has just turned into dust.

I spin back round on my stool to talk to Cal.

He is no longer sat beside me. I catch only a glimpse of him powering through our classmates towards the exit.

"Oh. my. God." Says Charlie - her eyes bright with excitement."Can you believe it? Jason and Jack? And did you see Cupid?!"

I raise my eyebrows.

"What about him?" I say - hoping for a moment that she saw the arrow too. 

Charlie's eyes widen.

"What about him?!" she repeats "Only that he beat Jason down. He. is. SO. hot."

I roll my eyes - momentarily disappointed - and notice an odd expression flash across James' face.

"What's up with Cal anyway? Where did he go?" she continues. "And where's Cupid gone?"

I turn my head briefly and do a quick sweep of the room to locate him.

Like Cal - he is no longer there. I shrug in response.

 I wonder if I can catch up with either of them. If Jack has been hit by the arrow - who knows what could happen to him. I feel a surge of anger at Cupid. Surprisingly I feel angry at Cal too for leaving me here. 

"Listen," I say, slowly raising myself from the tall stool. "I think I'm going to head off. But let's do the party tomorrow. OK?"

Charlie beams and James begins to stand.

"Want me to walk you out?" he says.

I shake my head.

"No it's OK - you stay - keep Charlie company," I force a smile then make my way across the sticky floor and out of the club.

It's dark as I step into the alleyway; lit only by the tacky Love Shack sign behind me and a buzzing street lamp in the square ahead. The scent of lavender still drifts in the air.

Suddenly my phone buzzes. My heart beats faster for a moment and I look down. 

It's a text from an unknown number.

Meet me in the square. I'll drive you home. It's not safe. Cal.

I roll my eyes as I continue walking- he was the one who disappeared in the first place.

The town square is deserted when I reach it and I head to the middle -  perching myself on the edge of the tired looking looking fountain as I wait for Cal. A few minutes later he pulls up in his red Lamborghini and opens the passenger door for me to climb inside.

"Where did you go?!" I ask as I fasten my seatbelt.

Cal smoothly turns round the car and drives out of the small square.

"I had to check something out," he says darkly. "I don't know if you saw - but Jack was hit by the Ardor."

I nod and Cal looks uncharacteristically surprised as the shadows between street lamps flicker across his face.

"Humans don't usually notice," he says, his eyes focused on the road.

I shrug.

"It was Cupid wasn't it?" I ask.

Cal nods seriously.

"The evidence certainly suggests so," he replies.

I frown.

"So what can we do?" I say "The Ardor is serious right? Jack could be in danger."

Cal nods.

"Jack is in danger," he says. "But from what I saw he was hit in the leg - which is not as severe as being hit in the heart. Getting hit in the heart is permanent, but there is a good chance in this case it will wear off within a couple of days."

He pauses thoughtfully

"But that doesn't mean he won't cause any trouble. Especially for that girl - Laura  - the one they were fighting over. Victims of the Ardor often take to stalking techniques."

I frown as something I heard earlier comes back to me.

"I overheard two girls talking today," I say. "They said Jack was practically stalking her."

We pull up outside my house and Cal pulls the keys out of the ignition. I don't even bother asking how he knows where I live - or how he got my phone number.  I recall my time at the Cupids Matchmaking Service.

We have everyone's details Cal had emphasized to me at the time.

He shrugs.

"That is to be expected," he says slowly as though I'm not keeping up with the conversation.

I shake my head.

"No - you don't understand," I respond. "They said that before what happened at the Love Shack."

Cal furrows his fair eyebrows and turns his head to look at me.

"Oh," he responds darkly. "In that case....well... we are in trouble then."

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