Holder cuts his eyes away from mine and turns around to walk away, but stops abruptly. He spins back around and looks at me. “Track tryouts are Thursday after school,” he says. “Go.”

Then he’s gone.

Too bad Grayson isn’t.

“You busy this Saturday?” Grayson says in my ear, pulling me against him.

I push off his chest and pull my neck away from him. “Stop,” I say, irritated. “I think I made myself pretty clear last weekend.”

I slam my locker shut and walk away, wondering how in the hell I’ve escaped drama my entire life, yet I have enough for an entire book from the last two days alone.

Breckin takes his seat across from me and slides me a soda. “They didn’t have coffee, but I found caffeine.”

I smile. “Thank you very bestest friend in the whole wide world.”

“Don’t thank me, I bought it with evil intentions. I’m using it to bribe you so I can get the dirt on your love life.”

I laugh and open the soda. “Well, you’ll be disappointed, because my love life is nonexistent.”

He opens his own soda and grins. “Oh, I doubt that. Not from the way bad boy has been eyeing you from over there.” He nudges his head to the right.

Holder is three tables down, staring at me. He’s sitting with several guys from the football team that seem excited to have him back. They’re patting him on the back and talking around him, never noticing that he’s not even a part of their conversation. He takes a drink of his water, his eyes keeping their lock on mine. He sets his drink down on the table a little too forcefully, then nudges his head to the right as he stands up. I glance to the right and see the exit to the cafeteria. He’s walking toward it, expecting me to follow him.

“Huh,” I say, more to myself than to Breckin.

“Yeah. Huh. Go see what the hell he wants, then report back to me.”

I take another drink of my soda, then set it on the table. “Yes, sir.”

My body stands up to follow Holder, but I leave my heart at the table. I’m pretty sure it jumped out of my chest as soon as he indicated for me to follow him. I can put up a good front for Breckin all I want, but dammit if I can’t have a little control over my own organs.

Holder is several feet in front of me and when he swings the doors open, they swing shut behind him. I place my hand on the swinging doors when I reach them and hesitate a moment before pushing out into the hallway. I think I’d rather be heading to detention right now than to talk to him. My stomach is tied up in so many knots it could make a boy scout envious.

I look both ways, but I don’t see him. I take a few steps until I get to the edge of the lockers, then round the corner. His back is leaned up against one of them and his knee is bent, his foot propped against the locker behind him. His arms are folded across his chest and he’s looking right at me. The baby blue hue of his eyes isn’t even kind enough to mask the anger behind them.

“Are you dating Grayson?”

I roll my eyes and walk to the lockers opposite him and lean against them. I’m really getting tired of his mood swings already, and I just met the guy. “Does it matter?” I’m curious as to how it’s any of his business. He gives me that silent pause that I’ve noticed comes before almost everything he says.

“He’s an asshole.”

“Sometimes you are, too,” I say quickly, not needing near as much time as he does to come up with a response.

“He’s not good for you.”

I let out an exasperated laugh. “And you are?” I ask, throwing his point right back at him. If we were keeping score, I’d say it’s two and zero in my favor.

He drops his arms and turns around to face the lockers, hitting one of them with a flat palm. The sound of skin against metal reverberates in the hallway and straight into my stomach.

“Don’t factor me into this,” he says, turning back around. “I’m talking about Grayson, not me. You shouldn’t be with him. You have no idea what kind of person he is.”

I laugh. Not because he’s funny…but because he’s serious. This guy that I don’t even know is seriously trying to tell me who I should and shouldn’t date? I roll my head back against the locker in a wave of defeat.

“Two days, Holder. I’ve known you all of two days.” I kick off the lockers behind me and walk toward him. “In those two days, I’ve seen five different sides of you, and only one of them has been appealing. The fact that you think you have any right to even voice an opinion about me or my decisions is absurd. It’s ridiculous.”

Holder works his jaw back and forth and stares down at me, arms tightly folded against his chest. He takes a challenging step toward me. His eyes are so hard and cold, I’m beginning to think this is a sixth side of him that I’m seeing. An even angrier, more possessive side.

“I don’t like him. And when I see things like this?” He brings his hand to my face and gently runs his finger underneath the prominent bruise on my eye. “And then see him with his arm around you? Forgive me if I get a little ridiculous.”

His fingertips trailing across my cheekbone have left me breathless. It’s a struggle to keep my eyes open and not lean in toward his palm, but I hold fast to my resolve. I’m building up an immunity to this boy. Or…at least I’m attempting to. That’s my new goal, anyway.

I take a step away from him until his hand is no longer touching my face. He curls his fingers up into a fist and drops his hand to his side.

“You think I should stay away from Grayson because you’re afraid he has a temper?” I tilt my head to the side and narrow my eyes at him. “A bit hypocritical, don’t you think?”

After another few seconds of studying me, he lets out a short sigh with a barely noticeable roll of the eyes. He looks away and shakes his head, grabbing at the back of his neck. He stays in this position, facing opposite me for several seconds. When he slowly turns around, he doesn’t look me in the eyes. He folds his arms across his chest once again and looks down at the floor.

“Did he hit you,” he says without any inflection in his voice. He keeps his head trained to the floor, but looks up at me through his eyelashes. “Has he ever hit you?”

Here he goes again, inducing me into submission by a simple switch in demeanor. “No,” I say, quietly. “And no. I told you…it was an accident.”

We stare at each other in complete silence until the bell for second lunch rings and the hallway fills with students. I’m the first to break my gaze. I walk back to the cafeteria without looking back at him.

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 6:15 a.m.

I’ve been running for almost three years. I don’t remember what started it or what made it so enjoyable that I became so disciplined at it. I think a lot of it has to do with how frustratingly sheltered I am. I try to stay positive about it, but it’s hard seeing the interactions and relationships the other students have at school that I’m not a part of. Not having internet access wouldn’t have been a big deal in high school a few years ago, but now it’s pretty much social suicide. Not that I care what anyone thinks.

I won’t deny it, I’ve had an overwhelming urge to look Holder up online. In the past when I had these urges to find out more about people, Six and I would just look them up at her house. But Six is on a transatlantic flight over the Atlantic ocean right now, so I can’t ask her. Instead, I just sit on my bed and wonder. I wonder if he’s really as bad as his reputation makes him out to be. I wonder if he has the same affect on other girls that he does on me. I wonder who his parents are, if he has siblings, if he’s dating anyone. I wonder why he seems so intent on being angry with me all the time when we just met. Is he always this angry? Is he always so charming when he isn’t busy being angry? I hate that he’s either one way or the other and never in between. It would be nice to see a laid back, calm side to him. I wonder if he even has an in between. I wonder…because that’s all I can do. Silently wonder about the hopeless boy who somehow burrowed himself into the forefront of my thoughts and won’t go the hell away.

I snap out of my trance and finish pulling my running shoes on. At least our tiff in the hallway yesterday was left unresolved. He won’t be running with me today because of it, and I’m pretty relieved about that. I need the quiet time to myself today, more than any. I don’t know why, though. It’ll just be spent wondering.

About him.

I open my bedroom window and crawl outside. It’s darker than usual for this time of morning. I look up and see that the sky is overcast, a perfect indicator of my mood. I take in the direction of the clouds, then glance at the sky to the left, curious if I have enough time to run before the bottom falls out.

“Do you always climb out your window or were you just hoping to avoid me?”

I spin around at the sound of his voice. He’s standing at the edge of the sidewalk, decked out in shorts and running shoes. No shirt today.

Dammit.

“If I was trying to avoid you I would have just stayed in bed.” I walk toward him with confidence, hoping to hide the fact that the sight of him is causing my entire body to go haywire. A small part of me is disappointed he showed up today, but most of me is stupidly, pathetically happy. I walk past him and drop onto the sidewalk to stretch. I spread my legs out in front of me and lean forward, grabbing my shoes and burying my head against my knees—partly for the muscle stretch, but mostly to avoid having to look at him.

“I wasn’t sure if you’d show up.” He drops down and claims a spot on the sidewalk in front of me.

I raise up and look at him. “Why wouldn’t I? I’m not the one with the issues. Besides, neither of us owns the road.” I practically snap at him. I’m not even sure why.

He does that staring and thinking thing again where his intense gaze somehow renders me unresponsive. It’s becoming such a habit of his I almost want to give it a name. It’s like he holds me with his eyes while he silently thinks, purposefully giving no tells in his expression. I’ve never met anyone that puts so much thought into their own responses. The way he lets things soak in while he prepares his own response—it’s like words are limited and he only wants to use the ones that are absolutely necessary.

I stop stretching and face him, unwilling to back down from this visual standoff. I’m not going to let him perform his little Jedi mind tricks on me, no matter how much I wish I could perform them on him. He’s completely unreadable and even more unpredictable. It pisses me off.

He stretches his legs out in front of me. “Give me your hands. I need to stretch, too.”

He’s sitting with his hands out in front of me like we’re about to play patty-cake. If anyone was to drive by right now I can just imagine the rumors. Just the thought of it makes me laugh. I place my hands in his outstretched palms and he pulls me forward toward him for several seconds. When he eases the tension, I pull back while he stretches forward, only he doesn’t look down. He keeps his gaze locked on mine in his debilitating eye-hold while he stretches.


Tags: Colleen Hoover Hopeless Romance
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