Now I’m on my way home, deciding on whether or not to go fill Six in on the bittersweet happenings of day one, or go grocery shopping in order to get my caffeine fix before my daily run.
The caffeine wins, despite the fact that my affection for Six is slightly greater.
My minimal portion of familial contribution is the weekly grocery shopping. Everything in our house is sugar-free, carb-free and taste-free, thanks to Karen’s unconventional vegan way of life, so I actually prefer doing the grocery shopping. I grab a six-pack of soda and the biggest bag of bite size Snickers I can find and throw them in the cart. I have a nice hiding spot for my secret stash in my bedroom. Most teenagers are stashing away cigarettes and weed—I stash away sugar.
When I reach the checkout, I recognize the girl ringing me up is in my second period English class. I’m pretty sure her name is Shayna, but her nametag reads Shayla. Shayna/Shayla is everything I wish I were. Tall, voluptuous and sun-kissed blonde. I can maybe pull off five-three on a good day and my flat brown hair could use a trim—maybe even some highlights. They would be a bitch to maintain considering the amount of hair that I have. It falls about six inches past my shoulders, but I keep it pulled up most of the time due to the southern humidity.
“Aren’t you in my Science class?” Shayna/Shayla asks.
“English,” I correct her.
She shoots me a condescending look. “I did speak English,” she says defensively. “I said, ‘aren’t you in my Science class?’”
Oh, holy hell. Maybe I don’t want to be that blonde.
“No,” I say. “I meant English as in ‘I’m not in your Science class, I’m in your English class.’”
She looks at me blankly for a second, then laughs. “Oh.” Realization dawns on her face. She eyes the screen in front of her and reads out my total. I slip my hand in my back pocket and retrieve the credit card, hoping to hurry and excuse myself from what I fear is about to become a less than stellar conversation.
“Oh, dear God,” she says quietly. “Look who’s back.”
I glance up at her and she’s staring at someone behind me in the other checkout line.
No, let me correct that. She’s salivating over someone behind me in the checkout line.
“Hey, Holder,” she says seductively toward him, flashing her full-lipped smile.
Did she just bat her eyelashes? Yep. I’m pretty sure she just batted her eyelashes. I honestly thought they only did that in cartoons.
I glance back to see who this Holder character is that has somehow managed to wash away any semblance of self-respect Shayna/Shayla might have had. The guy looks up at her and nods an acknowledgement, seemingly uninterested.
“Hey….” He squints his eyes at her nametag. “Shayla.” He turns his attention back to his cashier.
Is he ignoring her? One of the prettiest girls in school practically gives him an open invitation and he acts like it’s an inconvenience? Is he even human? This isn’t how the guys I know are supposed to react.
She huffs. “It’s Shayna,” she says, annoyed that he didn’t know her name. I turn back toward Shayna and swipe my credit card through the machine.
“Sorry,” he says to her. “But you do realize your nametag says Shayla, right?”
She looks down at her chest and flips her nametag up so she can read it. “Huh,” she says, narrowing her eyebrows as if she’s deep in thought. I doubt it’s that deep, though.
“When did you get back?” she asks Holder, ignoring me completely. I just swiped my card and I’m almost positive she should be doing something on her end, but she’s too busy planning her wedding with this guy to remember she has a customer.
“Last week.” His response is curt.
“So are they gonna let you come back to school?” she asks.
I can hear him sigh from where I’m standing.
“Doesn’t matter,” he says flatly. “Not going back.”
This last statement of his immediately gives Shayna/Shayla cold feet. She rolls her eyes and turns her attention back to me. “It’s a shame when a body like that doesn’t come with any brains,” she whispers.
The irony in her statement isn’t lost on me.
When she finally starts punching numbers on the register to complete the transaction, I use her distraction as an opportunity to glance behind me again. I’m curious to get another look at the guy who seemed to be irritated by the leggy blonde. He’s looking down into his wallet, laughing at something his cashier said. As soon as I lay eyes on him, I immediately notice three things:
1) His amazingly perfect white teeth hidden behind that seductively crooked grin.
2) The dimples that form in the crevices between the corners of his lips and cheeks when he smiles.
3) I’m pretty sure I’m having a hot flash.
Or I have butterflies.
Or maybe I’m coming down with a stomach virus.
The feeling is so foreign; I’m not sure what it is. I can’t say what is so different about him that would prompt my first-ever normal biological response to another person. However, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone so incredibly like him before. He’s beautiful. Not beautiful in the pretty-boy sense. Or even in the tough-guy sense. Just a perfect mixture of in-between. Not too big, but not at all small. Not too rough, not too perfect. He’s wearing jeans and a white t-shirt, nothing special. His hair doesn’t look like it’s even been brushed today and could probably use a good trim, just like mine. It’s just long enough in the front that he has to move it out of his eyes when he looks up and catches me full on staring.
I would normally pull my gaze away as soon as direct eye contact is made, but there’s something odd about the way he reacts when he looks at me that keeps my focus glued to his. His smile immediately fades and he cocks his head. An inquisitive look enters his eyes and he slowly shakes his head, either in disbelief or...disgust? I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s certainly not a pleasant reaction. I glance around, hoping I’m not the recipient of his displeasure. When I turn back to look at him, he’s still staring.
I’m disturbed, to say the least, so I quickly turn around and face Shayla again. Or Shayna. Whatever the hell her name is. I need to regain my bearings. Somehow, in the course of sixty seconds, this guy has managed to swoon me, then terrify the hell out of me. The mixed reaction is not good for my caffeine-deprived body. I’d much rather he regard me with the same indifference he held toward Shayna/Shayla, than to look at me like that again. I grab my receipt from what’s-her-face and slip it into my pocket.
“Hey.” His voice is deep and demanding and immediately causes my breathing to halt. I don’t know if he’s referring to what’s-her-face or me, so I slip my hands through the handles of the grocery sacks, hoping to make it to my car before he finishes checking out.
“I think he’s talking to you,” she says. I grab the last of the sacks and ignore her, walking as fast as I can toward the exit.
Once I reach my car, I let out a huge breath as I open the back door to put the groceries inside. What the hell is wrong with me? A good-looking guy tries to get my attention and I run? I’m not uncomfortable around guys. I’m confident to a fault, even. The one time in my life I might actually feel what could possibly be an attraction for someone, and I run.
Six is going to kill me.
But that look. There was something so disturbing about the way he looked at me. It was uncomfortable, embarrassing, and somehow flattering all at once. I’m not used to having these sorts of reactions at all, much less more than one at a time.
I freeze. His voice is without a doubt directed at me now.
I still can’t distinguish between butterflies or a stomach virus, but either way I’m not fond of the way that voice penetrates right to the pit of my stomach. I stiffen and slowly turn around, all of a sudden aware that I’m nowhere near as confident as my past would lead me to believe.
He’s holding two sacks down at his side with one hand while he rubs the back of his neck with his other hand. I’m really wishing the weather were still shitty and rainy so he wouldn’t be standing here right now. He rests his eyes on mine and the look of contempt from inside the store is now replaced with a crooked grin that seems a bit forced in our current predicament. Now that I have a closer look at him, it’s apparent the stomach virus isn’t the root of the sudden stomach issues at all.
It’s simply him.
Everything about him, from his tousled dark hair, to his stark blue eyes, to that…dimple, to his thick arms that I just want to reach out and touch.
Touch? Really, Sky? Get ahold of yourself!
Everything about him causes my lungs to fail and my heart to go into overdrive. I have a feeling if he smiles at me like Grayson tries to smile at me, my panties would be on the ground in record time.
As soon as my eyes leave his physique long enough for us to make eye contact again, he releases the tight grip he has on his neck and switches the sack to his left hand.
“I’m Holder,” he says, extending his hand out to me.
I look down at his hand, then take a step back without shaking it. This whole situation is entirely too awkward for me to trust him with this innocent introduction. Maybe if he wouldn’t have pierced me with his intense glare in the store, I would be more susceptible to his physical perfection.
“What do you want?” I’m careful to look at him with suspicion rather than awe.
His dimple reappears with his hasty laugh and he shakes his head, then looks away again. “Um,” he says with a nervous stutter that doesn’t match his confident persona in the least. His eyes dart around the parking lot like he’s looking for an escape, and he sighs before locking eyes with me again. His multitude of reactions confuses the hell out of me. He seems close to disgusted by my presence one minute, to practically running me down the next. I’m usually pretty good at reading people, but if I had to make an assumption about Holder based on the last two minutes alone, I’d have to say he suffers from split-personality disorder. His sudden shifts between flippant and intense are unnerving.
“This might sound lame,” he says. “But you look really familiar. Do you mind if I ask what your name is?”
Disappointment sets in as soon as the pick-up line escapes his lips. He’s one of those guys. You know. The incredibly gorgeous guys who can have anyone, anytime, anywhere and they know it? The guys that, all they have to do is flash a crooked smile or a dimple and ask a girl her name and she melts until she’s on her knees in front of him? The guys that spend their Saturday nights climbing through windows?
I’m highly disappointed. I roll my eyes and reach behind me, pulling on the door handle to my car. “I’ve got a boyfriend,” I lie. I spin around and open the door, then climb inside. When I reach to pull the door shut, I’m met with resistance when it refuses to budge. I look up to see his hand grasping the top of the car door, holding it open. There’s a hard desperation in his eyes that sends chills down my arms.