15. Playing Games

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I slammed my palm on the table, glaring at Paige disbelievingly. How did she have the nerve to do this? "No. Way," I pronounced slowly, standing up and shoving my chair back. "I draw the line here."

Something inside me turned upside-down, though, as I glanced towards the counter and Riley. Was I actually considering this? Was I actually thinking about kissing Riley, not even as part of the dare, but because I wanted to? I disgusted myself. We were friends. Friends who had already given dating and shot and had given up on it because it just didn't work.

"Do it, or leave." Paige's eyes were icy as she stood up, too. We were standing nearly nose to nose, our eyes locked rebelliously in confrontation. "And trust me," she added, lowering her voice to a furious near-whisper, "you will be miserable for refusing me."

I took a shaky breath and made a decision. "You're such a bully," I snapped. "I said no."

Paige grinned, her dark eyes unnervingly bright. "Okay, then." She shrugged, and I stared at her disbelievingly for a few seconds. Was I really off the hook?

But she only narrowed her eyes at me until they were black slits and called, "Riley!"

In a millisecond, Riley's head turned in our direction. He took in the situation (me and Paige standing face to face in evident conflict) and he walked over to us. "What's going on?" he demanded.

Paige smirked and sat back down in her chair, staring up at Riley sweetly. "Ever wants to kiss you," she pronounced.

Dreading what I would see, I snuck a glance at Riley. His eyes were as wide as saucers, and he was staring at me, his lips twitching into a sort of smile. "I. Do. Not." I clarified, trying to speak without getting furious. If I got furious, my words would run together and it would spoil my claim. "Paige is lying. She dared me."

"Don't you want to kiss her?" Paige asked Riley. Something in her eyes sparkled with pure delight at doing this to us. She was enjoying this way too much.

"Knock it off, Paige," said Riley, instantly losing the smile and crossing his arms.

"Yeah," I chimed in. "I'm not following through with your stupid dare, so there." Hm. That rhymed.

Paige rolled her eyes, stopping to glare at each of us in turn before she said, "Okay, whatever. Have your way. But before you leave, Ever, I have two things to say." She locked eyes with me and stepped around the table to stare me down. "One: Riley totally wants to kiss you, I see it in his eyes."

I glanced over at Riley; he was looking down at the floor and refused to even so much as peek at Paige or me. His eyebrows were knit tightly together, and I couldn't see his eyes to try and find the truth.

"And two," continued Paige after she had given me enough time to process her first point, "you will be miserable from here on out."

With a bit of reluctance, I took a final glance at the eight-top where I'd been sitting peacefully only minutes before. I'd sat through enough of Paige's torture. She was trying to make us all pawns in her little game for power, and I wasn't having any part in it. "So be it," I said. "I don't care." And with that, I smoothed back my hair and picked up another sugar cookie before heading towards the door.

Finally. Finally I'd really, truly stood up to the Clique. Even if I would pay for it, it was worth it for those few seconds of glory. And I knew, glancing back at Paige's seething face, that I would definitely pay for it.


I was halfway out the door when a strong hand grabbed my shoulder. I whirled around and saw Riley in front of me, looking like he was about to say something but not sure how to say it.

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