21 - Where the Bait is Dangled

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         That look alone left me pondering for the rest of the day until dinner, when he’d wrested my plate from me the moment I finished getting my food, and forced me to sit with him in a secluded corner.

         “What are you doing?” I snapped, over his little breathing failure during the hike and giving him a slap. “Give me my dinner.”

         “Not the nice nurse anymore, are we?” he muttered in a tone that made me wonder whether he’d been faking his injury. He set my tray down on the table and sat across from me, holding down the plate when I tried to take it from him.

         “Sit, Jasslyn.”

         I slid into the seat with many an irritated glance at him. “What is it?” I picked up my fork and began to slice off pieces of lasagne.

         “I want to ask you one more time to come with me,” he said without a beat of hesitation or abashment, for that matter. “You saw the condition Jack was in—”

         “Yeah?” I interrupted hotly. “And what does that prove?” Not wanting Jacoby to think of it as a rhetorical question, I barrelled on, annoyed he was still trying to convince me to go. “It proves that going with you, running away, is exactly what I shouldn’t do.” I couldn’t believe him.

         “No, you don’t understand, Jack had no idea where he was going, he was groping around blindly when he set off with Lissy, and he found the Guider too late to do any good,” he argued. The more I let him talk, the more steam he would gain.

         I slammed my hand down on the table.

         “No,” I said, my fingers itching to push his face into his plate of lasagne. I was fully prepared to argue him to the ground.

         But all he did was stand up slowly, placing his fork onto his plate and holding it in one hand. “Sorry,” he mumbled, his eyes flickering into mine before darting away again. “For bothering you.”

         I didn’t know how to feel about him. He was guilt-tripping me whether he knew it or not. He never gave up. He was a fighter, an arguer, and more stubborn than I was if he felt like it.

         Choosing not to deal with Jacoby and all the complications he brought, I turned around and searched the crowded tables for any sign of Nic. I spotted her a ways off, near the entrance. But before I took my dinner and went to find her, I touched Jacoby’s arm. He glanced at me—or rather, my knee.

         “Listen, I’m sorry for being so blunt. But I can’t go with you when everything in me says not to.”

         I could’ve left it at that. It was a good finish. But no, I had to keep talking.

         “I mean…I want an adventure,” I blurted, somehow losing control of my jaw muscles as I rambled on. “It’d probably be the coolest thing I’d ever do in my life, to run away with someone, and just kind of…do something without giving it days of thought, something crazy and impulsive.”

         I can’t believe I just said that out loud.

         It was too late to reel my words back in. Jacoby had already registered them, his eyes had already widened, and I just couldn’t stop talking. So instead of trying to take back my words, I sped on, trying to contradict myself, not caring that it made my argument invalid. I had to at least try and fix my own mistakes.

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