I don't mean for it to come out like a question, but Kota's wide eyes tell me that I got the point across, nonetheless.

"I mean, if the situation calls for it, I guess that we could-"

We both jump when Owen's voice calls out in our ears, "Absolutely not, Miss Freeman. Dakota knows how to sell it without making out in public. If and when you are ready to kiss anyone, Sang, it will be because you wish to do it, and not because the situation dictates it to be so."

I let out a tense chuckle, and I can tell that Kota forgot that we were wearing the earpieces too. I want to think that it's my imagination, but I think that I detect a hint of panic, no, jealousy, in Owen's tone.

"Um, thanks," I recover from the shock of hearing him so suddenly. "That's good to know, but your non-formal addresses could use a little work, Mr. Blackbourne. Calling Kota "Dakota" is almost worse than calling him Mr. Lee."

I hear Owen laugh in my earbud, and Kota winks at me and signs, "True, only my mom calls me Dakota, and usually only when I'm in trouble, but I think I like it coming from your mouth."

I feel butterflies twist in my stomach from the look that he's giving me, and I start to think that I wouldn't mind kissing Kota...I think I'd like it, actually. Something clicks into place, and a surprising thought occurs to me.

"Are you flirting with me?" I sign in astonishment.

A lopsided smile spreads across his face and he nods. "Why does that surprise you? You've got to know how incredible you are...everyone else does."

With that, he turns forward and pulls out of the parking lot.

***

The party is at a large, but run-down house toward the edge of town. It looks like it might have been a farmhouse at one time or another, and the nearest neighbor is at least a mile down the road. It's cut away from view of the road by a line of trees that make it the perfect setting for one of Nathan's horror movies, and I feel the little hairs at the back of my neck prickle at the analogy.

"Wow, this place is creepy," Kota remarks, mirroring my thoughts. "It's a perfect location for what we think they're doing out here, though."

We both exit the car and Kota takes my hand in his. I give him a tremulous smile. "You'll be great, Ten. Do you trust me?"

"Of course," say without hesitation.

"Good," he replies as we near the front entrance. "Because I believe in you, and if you trust me, then you trust in my judgement." He smirks at his logic and I do begin to breathe just a bit easier.

A deep bass thumping reverberates through the door, and we walk right in, realizing that there's no way that anyone will be able to hear the doorbell over the music. The front room is filled with gyrating bodies and strobing lights. Its almost primal, and I feel a deep desire to join them. Kota, who still has my hand firmly grasped in his, pulls me in the other direction, and I remind myself that I'm not here to dance. We have a job to do, and I follow him closely, keeping my eyes peeled for danger or any surprises that might come our way.

We stop in front of a table of cups, and Kota picks up two, but fills them at the kitchen faucet instead of with any of the offered beverages. He puts his lips to my ear and wraps an arm around my waist as he hands one to me. "Keep your cup in hand, and if you lose contact with it, even for just a moment, don't drink it, okay? This is a drug house, after all."

I nod my understanding, and we weave our way back into the dancing room. "We've got to look like we're partying," Kota shouts into my ear over the music. I nod and drag him right into the thick of things. His eyes widen in panic, but I don't let him pull us back out of the room.

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