Chapter 42

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F O R T Y—T W O

      THREE DAYS. THREE days I've been acutely aware of Julian's presence during my free period. Three days he's been following me around trying to make conversation. Three days I've been awkwardly shutting it down.

      I felt bad, of course, but I didn't know how to be friends with him. It felt awkward, to say the least. Three days ago I wanted nothing more than to punch him in his little accented face. I still want to punch him in his face, even if we are on good terms.

      I let out a frustrated sigh and leaned my head back against the locker I was sitting in front of. I was pretty sure it belonged to Tyler, but I didn't much care about being spotted here. All three of the boys have long since dropped their facade of 'bullying' me in front of everyone, telling me repeatedly that I can come and talk to them at school and they won't let anybody mess with me. Even still, I remain to myself and occasionally sit at one of their lockers instead of the library or stairwell.

      I couldn't find it in me to sit at Ryder's. Jessica made a huge deal out of it when she saw me sit there the first time, nearly started a fight with me, then dumped coffee in my hair. The only reason I didn't pounce and attack her was because an unwanted arm wrapped around my waist. Guess what accented fellow's torso that arm belonged to?

      Yep, you guessed it. Julian.

      I slammed my head back against the locker. I needed a break from his attempts, and it seemed like the only way I was going to get one was to give in and hang out with him, or change my name and leave the country.

      The more rational part of my brain told me it was a bad idea to hang out wth him, that he was even more reckless than I was. The other, more troublesome side told me to go for it and have fun causing chaos. Then again, that was also the same side that enjoyed that dare from the other night that ended with mine and Julian's lips locked in a battle I could have gone without.

       I shivered at the thought, and not for the reasons you'd think. It scared me that I liked it. Julian infuriated me, and I wanted nothing more from him than a spot as an acquaintance or maybe, if he's really lucky, a spot as a sorta-friend.

      The sound of footsteps down the hallway pulled me from my thoughts and I lifted my head to see who was coming.

      Speak of the Devil and he shall appear.

      "Skye?" the rich, accented voice rang out as Julian stepped closer. His eyebrows pinched together in confusion, and I couldn't help but still find it strange to not see him constantly glaring at me. It made him look a lot more attractive when he wasn't making a face of distress and loathing. "What are you doing in the floor?"

      I lifted the book on my lap and sighed when my pencil rolled off a few feet away. Class was about to end, and a little sliver of hope led me to believe he might just go away and ignore me. "Homework."

      That hope was soon crushed when he stepped closer to crouch down and grab the pencil. I tried not to pay attention when his fingers brushed with mine as I grabbed it. "Well, yes, I can see that. Why do it in the floor? Plenty of people go to the library to work on homework."

      "I don't like people," I answered simply. It wasn't entirely the truth, but it also wasn't a lie. I didn't have many other places to sit besides the library or the empty cafeteria, but that would unfortunately chance a meeting with Jessica The Mantis Queen, and another one of those would ultimately end in violence.

      "Fair enough."

      I raised an eyebrow in confusion as he slid down the wall beside me. "What are you doing?"

      "Siting down," he answered simply.

      There was a pause. "Do you have to?"

      Julian snorted and sent a hand to his to heart with mock sadness. "Bloody hell, woman. I'm wounded."

      I tried to hide the quirk of my lips at his reaction, but knew I failed when his face lit up with a smile. "You'll be fine."

      "I don't know," he started dramatically. I looked down at my work as I tried to hide my amusement. Don't give him what he wants. "I think I'm pretty hurt. You might have to make it up to me."

      "How do you expect me to do that?" I didn't look up at him.

      He slowly lifted the book from my lap and sat it on the other side of him. "Do something with me."

      I tried to reach for my book, but Julian turned his body so I couldn't reach it. "I'm busy," was the immediate answer.

      "I haven't even told you when."

      Shit. "I'm always busy."

      Julian glared, his hand wrapping around my wrist to hold it in front of him. I tried to pull it away and reach for my book again, but he held tight. "Just listen."

      I sighed and switched my attention from my book to his rich, brown eyes. "What?"

      "Do something with me," he repeatedly hopefully. "You said we could start over, so let's do just that. Go somewhere with me. It's just for a few hours."

      "Why should I?" I asked, suspicion creeping in. What did he expect to do in this few hour time span? Julian didn't seem like the type to just sit around and watch movies. He would want to be daring, and I didn't want to like it, but I couldn't stop the little bit of curiosity that stopped me from immediately saying no.

      "What do you have to lose?"

      Before I could answer the question or even think up something to say as a response, the bell rang and startled me from the intense atmosphere between us.

      A quick glance towards the opening classroom doors left me with a pair of stormy eyes locking onto mine from across the hall and sent reality clicking back into place. I quickly pulled my wrist from Julian's grasp and reached around him for my book on the floor, not missing the way Ryder's dark eyes narrowed in Julian's direction.

      "I need to get to class—"

      "Just give me a chance," he pleaded. The sincere hope in his voice that I might give in made me hesitate. I knew I shouldn't, and that it would be a terrible idea to be anywhere alone with Julian, but for some reason, I found myself nodding my head and avoiding eye contact with him.

      "Okay," was all the response I gave him before rushing off to class.

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