Page 6 of Leo

My body goes into survival mode, letting go of the tray, turning around and crab crawling backwards, away from Denny, but through the spilled food. When I see that he is still in his seat, barely containing the laughter that is just behind his eyes and in the smirk on his lips, I rise slowly to my feet, feeling as if I'm somewhere just outside my body.

I am a mess of dripping food, milk puddling on the floor at my feet as the leaking carton empties its contents. I feel brittle as heat fills my cheeks and tears pool in my eyes. The laughter has already started, and now more are joining as my eyes dart around in panic. Finally, Denny gives in and lets out a loud guffaw. I briefly note that it sounds nasally and high pitched. I make eye contact with a few people who are staring at me with pity in their eyes and that's almost worse and so I look away from them quickly.

Suddenly, there is a hand on my arm, gripping me solidly and I hear a boy's voice say quietly, "Come on, Evie, I'll walk you to get cleaned up." I look at the hand on my arm and then my eyes travel up as if in slow motion and it's Leo McKenna, the boy who moved into my foster home last month. He's in the grade above me, even though he had a birthday a couple weeks ago and turned twelve. I don't turn eleven for three more months. I nod, jerkily, and move to step over the food at my feet, but Leo holds me in place. When I look back at his face, I see that he's looking thoughtfully at Denny Powell. Denny notices too and demands, "What are YOU looking at?"

"I was just trying to picture what you'd look like if you had half a brain in your head. Maybe a little different around the eyes… hard to say. Requires a vivid imagination."

Denny jumps up, his face going red, clenching his fists, "What did - " But that's when we hear the sharp click clack of heels hurrying towards the cafeteria. Denny stops where he is.

Leo looks around the room at large and says, "Anything can be funny as long as it's happening to someone else, right?" He makes a disgusted sound and then guides me to the door. The principal, Mrs. Henry, is just turning into the cafeteria and Leo says, "Evie accidentally dropped her tray. I'm walking with her to the restroom." "Oh, okay," she says, glancing at me worriedly. "I'll call the janitor to clean it up. You okay, dear?" she asks, and I just nod as we walk out, wondering why Leo didn't tell her what Denny did. I'm too embarrassed to say a word though.

Willow rushes up behind us in the hall, grabbing my elbow and whispering, "Evie, are you okay?" Willow always seems to be whispering, as if she thinks that if she talks too loudly, she'll alert someone to her existence. I look down at her and give her a reassuring smile.

We leave Leo in the hall and go into the girl's restroom and I clean up my shirt with wet paper towels as best as I can and wipe the food splatters off of my face and out of my hair. Then I stand in front of the blow dryer for a few minutes until my shirt is mostly dry. I sigh as I stand in front of the mirror, biting the inside of my mouth and looking at myself for several minutes. I know what everyone sees; bangs that are too long because no one takes me to get regular hair trims, old clothes that are getting too tight, the fact that I need a training bra (I'm too embarrassed to ask someone to buy one for me), and shoes that flap when I walk because the sole is coming loose.

My eyes move to the left to watch Willow looking silently at me, too. She smiles her shy Willow smile and says, "That boy likes you."

I raise my eyebrows. "Leo?" I smile back. "Nah, he just doesn't like Denny Powell."

"Probably not. But he still likes you." She grins.

I grin back and grab her hand as we leave the restroom.

Leo is standing against the wall across from the restroom with one leg bent, foot against the wall and his hands shoved in his pockets. He smiles as the bell rings and says, "Come on, I'll walk you girls to class." Then he reaches into his backpack and pulls out a small bag of peanuts, hands them to me and winks. My lunch.

**********

I'm sitting on the front porch of my foster home after school doing my homework when Leo walks up the front path. My eyes widen as I realize that he has a swollen, black eye and a bloody lip.

"Oh my God. What happened?" I whisper, standing and walking to him.

He grins though and so I stop, put my hands on my h*ps and look questioningly at him.

"Leo, what exactly is funny about getting beat up?"

"The fact that Denny Powell looks worse than I do."

"Leo! He's twice your size! He could have KILLED you. I can't believe you did that. Why?"

He purses his lips and looks at me as if he's irritated. "Because he had it coming, that's why."

I take a deep breath, reaching out to touch him but then drawing back. "Your face, though. It looks painful."

"This kind of pain is the easy kind," he says and brushes past me, into the house.

I know what he means, too. I think of that saying, "Sticks and stones can break your bones but names can never hurt you," and how it's all backwards. Sticks and stones and fists CAN break your bones, but it's the words that break your heart.

CHAPTER 9

The next day as I'm taking my break at work, I notice that I have a missed call and then I see a text from the same unknown number.

Call me when you get a minute, beautiful. JM

Oh Gosh! It's Jake! And he called me beautiful.

I dial his number, nervously and he picks up immediately with, "Evie."

"Hi, Jake." Why do I sound all breathy? Damn.

"Listen, I'm running into a meeting so I can only talk for a minute but I'd like to take you to dinner tonight."

"Oh." I say, surprised. "Um, I - "

"Evie, it's a yes or yes question," he says teasingly.

I smile. "I - yes, that will work," I say, suddenly feeling shy and out of my element.

I can hear the smile in his voice when he says, "Great. I'll pick you up at seven."

"Um, - " I stutter, stupidly

"See you tonight, Evie," he says and hangs up before I can stutter into the phone any more than I already have.

Holy hell!

**********

This is one of those times when I wish I had a tub. I'd freaking love to soak in a tub before my date with Jake. I'm not completely sure why. It just seems like something I should be doing before a date with Jake Madsen. A date with Jake Madsen!

I allow myself a moment of panic. I'm completely out of my element here. This doesn't feel safe at all. What if he tries to kiss me? Maybe I should cancel. I have no idea how to date.

I pull it together. It's just dinner. If I feel uncomfortable, I'll tell him I don't feel well and come home. Okay, I can do this.

I take a shower, shaving everywhere, and then moisturize completely, every inch. I take off my old toenail polish and brush on new candy apple red on my toes.

While my toenail polish is drying, I dry my hair carefully and then I take the curling iron to it until it's falling down my back in loose curls.

I take a little extra time with my makeup, brushing on mascara as usual, but also using a little bit of black eyeliner, blusher and a sheer berry lipgloss.

I pull on a pair of black lace panties and a matching bra and then head over to my small closet.

I have no idea where Jake is taking me to dinner so I hemm and haww for several minutes over what to wear before finally texting Nicole.

Date with Jake! What do I wear to dinner? Didn't tell me where we're going.

What??? You owe me a shitload of details tomorrow. Black slacks, cream, lace cami you wore to my birthday dinner and your black, strappy sandals. Black wool coat over cami. But keep it off when you answer door. ;)

K. You lifesaver. xxoo Talk tomorrow.

Uh, yeah we will. ;) Be good. Sneak a pic of Mr. Gorgeous for me. xxoo

Bcuz that wouldn't be awkward at all.

:p

I pull on the outfit Nicole picked and look at myself in the mirror. The black slacks are tame enough but the cream lace cami is all kinds of sexy and I fidget in front of the mirror, wondering if I can pull it off in front of Jake. It has spaghetti straps and an empire waist so it’s fitted on my chest and then flares out, further accentuating the swell of my br**sts.

I turn away from the mirror, taking a deep breath. I decide to open a bottle of wine and have a glass before Jake arrives to give me courage and calm my nerves.

I've just taken my fourth sip of wine when I hear a knock on my door. It's 6:53.

I pour my unfinished wine down the drain and rinse my glass quickly before I walk to the door. Jake smiles at me as I swing it open. My eyes run over him and his dark gray slacks, button down white shirt, black belt and black dress shoes. Oh my. He walks in without being invited and suddenly his hands are cupping my jaw and pulling me firmly to his body.

Hi.

There is a second where our eyes meet and I register the fire in his before his mouth crashes down on mine.

I make a noise at the back of my throat and lift my arms around his neck.

His tongue sweeps inside my mouth and I whimper as my own tongue meets his.

God, he tastes so good.

It's been a really long time since I've been kissed. And I've never been kissed like this.

My body presses into his to get more of him as his tongue plunders my mouth, our tongues dancing, drinking. It is delicious, demanding, and very, very hot.

One of my hands comes up to his soft hair and I run my fingers through it as one of his hands comes down to cup my ass and this feels very, very good and so I whimper into his mouth again to which he moans into mine and I feel that moan between my legs.

My knees are weak as I cling to him. His kiss has become my anchor to this earth, the very reason for my existence.

So when he tears his mouth from mine, breathing hard and stepping back, I make a sound of protest in my throat and my eyes slowly open to see Jake grinning down at me.

"Damn, you can kiss."

I smile shyly up at him, trying to get my bearings, breathing heavy and with every inhale, drawing his delicious woodsy scent inside me.

"Wow - " I say, stupidly.

"Yeah." He says, grinning again. "Hungry?"

I blink up at him and when his question registers, I say, "Yeah."

I lock up and shrug on my coat and he walks me out to his car, parked in front of my building.

"Doesn't the norm dictate that you were supposed to kiss me after our date?" I ask, smiling up at him.

"Couldn't wait," he winks. "It was either kiss you, or go insane."

Wow, I like that.

Jake lets me in the passenger side of his BMW as I grin up at him like a fool. I sink into the buttery leather seat, inhaling the new car smell. I've heard about this but never actually experienced it. I understand what all the hype is about now. I lean my head back and close my eyes.

Mmmm, new car smell.

He closes my door and walks around the car and slides in, and now I'm breathing in new car smell and Jake's delicious woodsy scent. Yum. As he pulls out onto the street, he takes my left hand in his and brings it to his lips. Then we hold hands between our seats as he drives with his left hand.

"So where are you taking me?" I ask, smiling.

"Do you like seafood?" he asks? "I thought we'd go to a restaurant on the river."

"Yes, I love seafood. Sounds nice," I smile.

We drive in companionable silence for a few minutes before my wheels start turning. I decide I need to know exactly what Jake Madsen's intentions are when it comes to me.

I already feel like Jake holds all the power here and I already know he's way out of my league, and despite knowing that, I am sitting in his car letting him take me out to dinner. I'm not a girl who is willing to take a lot of chances in life. That is who I am, who I have to be. And this man already has me all off balance and I've only known him a week.

I realize that Jake Madsen is the type of man that women want to call their own. I'm not immune. But I'm not stupid, either.

"So, Jake," I say, biting my lip. "Do you date a lot?"

"No," then he pauses, thinking, and goes on, "There have been a lot of women, Evie, but no, I didn't date many of them." He glances at me, gauging my reaction to that snippet of information, and then turns back to the road. "I'm not proud of that, but it's the truth. Does that bother you?" He seems troubled.

I’m not completely sure why Jake shared this with me, but I have an idea and it’s not good. I remain as expressionless as possible when I say, "Jake, I can't be your f**k buddy."

He doesn't look at me when he says, "I don't want that with you, Evie."

My stomach plummets to my feet. Oh, shit! I'm an idiot!

"Oh. I just thought…I mean, I… Because…" I stutter. Oh God, Can I please die now?

"Evie," he says quietly, finally looking at me, "What I mean is, when I f**k you, you're going to be mine. Is that clear enough for you?"

Oh!

I stare straight ahead, not knowing what to say. His words, unbelievably arrogant as they are, are shooting electricity straight between my legs. I clench my thighs together.

"Evie, look at me. You feel this too, don't you?"

And Jake is right because I know exactly what he means. The sparks between us are practically tangible. I have never felt this kind of physical heat and longing for another person. Not ever.

I nod at Jake, "Yes," I whisper, feeling like I've just agreed to something, but I'm not sure exactly what.

He smiles over at me as he pulls into a parking spot in front of a restaurant called, "The Chart House."

He shuts off the car and turns to me. His beautiful face is serious as he says, "Can I ask how many men you've dated, Evie?" He seems to be holding his breath.

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