Finding Cinderella

Page 10


“Why are you here so early?” he asks. He doesn’t ask it like he’s accusing me of anything. He’s probably just making small talk but I already feel defensive.
“Chunk had to be at school early,” I say.
He nods and grabs the hem of his shirt, then wipes sweat off his forehead. “You still coming tonight?”
I think about his question. I think really hard, but I’m drawing a blank about what could be going on tonight that I would need to go to.
“Daniel, do you even know what the hell I’m talking about?”
I shake my head. “No idea,” I admit.
“Dinner at Sky’s house. Karen invited you and Val? They’re having a big welcome-back thing for Sky’s best friend.”
That gets my attention. “Yeah, of course I’ll be there. Not bringing Val, though. We broke up, remember?”
“Yeah, but dinner is still ten hours away. You might love her again by then.”
Sky walks up and hands Holder his bag. “Daniel, have you seen Six?”
“No,” I immediately blurt out.
Sky glances toward the school, not having noticed the defensiveness in my immediate response. “She must be registering for classes inside.” She turns to Holder. “I’m gonna go find her.” She reaches up and kisses him on the cheek, but Holder’s eyes remain on mine.
They’re narrowed.
This isn’t good.
Sky walks away and I begin to walk right behind her, toward the school. Holder’s hand lands on my shoulder when I pass him, so I pause. I turn around, but it takes me a few seconds to look him in the eyes. When I do, he doesn’t look happy.
I raise an eyebrow to match his expression. “Holder?”
“What are you up to?”
“I do not know what you are talking about,” I reply innocently.
“You do know what I am talking about because when you are lying, you do not use contractions when you speak.”
I ponder his observation for a few seconds. Is that true?
Shit. It’s true.
I breathe out a heavy breath and do my best to look like I’m giving him a confession. “Fine,” I say, kicking at the dirt beneath my feet. “I had sex with Val just now. In my car. I didn’t want you to know because you and Sky seemed excited that we broke up.”
Tension releases from Holder’s shoulders and he shakes his head. “Dude, I could care less who you date. You know that.” He begins walking toward the school, so I follow suit. “Unless it’s Six,” he adds. “You aren’t allowed to date Six.”
I keep walking forward, even though that comment makes me want to freeze. “I have no desire to date Six,” I say. “She’s not really that cute, anyway.”
He stops in his tracks and spins around to face me. He holds up a finger like he’s about to lecture me. “You’re not allowed to talk shit about her, either.”
Christ. Hiding our relationship from him may be more exhausting than it is fun. “No loving her, no hating her, no screwing her, no dating her. Got it. Anything else you want to add?”
He thinks for a second, then lowers his arm. “Nope. That covers it. See you at lunch.” He turns and walks inside. I glance back to the parking lot in time to see Six sneaking out of my car. She gives me a quick wave. I wave back, then turn and head inside.
I walk my tray toward the table and internally rejoice when I see the only available spot is right next to Six. She glances at me as I walk up and her eyes smile, but only briefly. I set my tray down across from Holder and find my way into the current conversation. Everyone is discussing the dinner at Sky’s house tonight, but I’ve had dinner there before. Karen doesn’t know what real food is. She’s vegan, so I normally turn down meals at their house. Not tonight, though.
“Will there be meat?” I ask.
Sky nods. “Yeah. Jack’s actually cooking, so the food should be good. I also baked a chocolate cake.”
I reach across the table for the salt, even though I don’t need it. It gives me an excuse to lean in ridiculously close to Six.
“So, Six. How do you like your classes?” I ask casually.
She shrugs. “They’re okay.”
“Let me see your schedule.”
She narrows her eyes like I’m doing something wrong. I give her a look to let her know she has nothing to worry about. Even if I wasn’t into her, I’m not an asshole. I’d still be making conversation with her.
“It sucks we don’t have any classes together,” Sky says. “Who do you have for History?”
Six pulls her schedule out of her pocket and hands it to me. I open it and make a quick scan of the classes, but none are the same as mine. “Carson for History,” I say, replying to Sky’s question. I hand Six back her schedule and give her a look to let her know we don’t have any classes together. She looks bummed, but says nothing.
“Can you speak Italian very well?” Breckin asks Six.
“Not well at all. I speak better Spanish than I do Italian. I chose Italy because I had enough funding and I’d rather have spent half a year there than in Mexico.”
“Good choice,” Breckin says. “The men are hotter in Italy.”
Six nods. “Yes they are,” she says appreciatively.
I immediately lose my appetite and drop my fork onto my plate. It makes a loud clanking noise, so naturally everyone turns to look at me. It’s quiet and awkward and everyone is still staring, so I say the first thing on my mind. “Italian men are too hairy.”
Sky and Breckin laugh, but Six purses her lips together and looks back down at her plate.
God, I suck at this.
Luckily, Val walks up and takes everyone’s attention off me.
Wait. Did I just say luckily? Because Val walking up is not a good thing.
“Can I talk to you?” she says, glaring down at me.
“Do I have a choice?”
“Hallway,” she says, spinning on her heels. She heads toward the exit to the cafeteria.
“Do us all a favor and go see what Val wants,” Sky says. “If you don’t meet her out there she’ll come back to the table.”
“Please,” Breckin mutters.
I’m watching all their reactions and I don’t know if they’ve always reacted this way when it comes to Val or if I’m only recognizing it for the first time because I finally have clarity.
“Why is everyone referring to Tessa Maynard as Val?” Six asks, confused.
Breckin points over his shoulder in the direction Val walked off in. “Tessa is Val. Val is Tessa. Daniel can’t seem to call anyone by their actual name, if you haven’t noticed.”
I watch as Six inhales a slow breath, then looks directly at me. She looks really disgusted. “Your girlfriend is Tessa Maynard? You have sex with Tessa Maynard?”
“Ex-girlfriend and had sex,” I clarify. “And yes. Probably coincided with the same time you were falling in love with a hairy Italian.”
Six’s eyes narrow, then she quickly looks away. I instantly feel bad for what I said, but I was only kidding. Sort of. We’re supposed to be mean to each other. I can’t tell if I really hurt her feelings or if she’s just a really good actress.
I sigh, then stand up and head toward the cafeteria doors in a hurry so I can get back to the table and somehow make sure Six really isn’t pissed at me.
I make it out to the hallway and Val is standing right outside the cafeteria doors. “I’ll take you back under one condition,” she says.
I’m curious what the condition is, but it doesn’t really matter at this point.
“Not interested.”
Her mouth literally drops open. It’s not even that cute a mouth now that I’m looking at it. I don’t know how I fell for it all those other times.
“I’m serious, Daniel,” she says firmly. “If you screw up one more time, I’m done.”
I let my head fall backward until I’m looking up at the ceiling. “Jesus, Tessa,” I say. She’s not really worthy of my nicknames anymore. I look her in the eyes again. “I don’t want you to take me back. I don’t want to date you. I don’t even want to make out with you. You’re mean.”
She scoffs, but stands frozen. “Are you serious?” she says, dumbfounded.
“Serious. Positive. Convinced. Enlightened. Take your pick.”
She throws her hands up in the air and spins around, then walks back into the cafeteria. I walk to the doors and open them. Six is staring at me from our table, so I make a quick glance around at the rest of the group. No one is paying attention, so I motion for her to come out into the hallway. She takes a quick drink of her water, then stands, making up an excuse to the rest of the table. I step out of view while she makes her way to the exit. When the doors open I immediately grab her by the wrist and pull her until we reach the lockers. I push her against them and crash my mouth to hers. Her hands immediately fly up to my hair and we rush our kisses like we might get caught.
And we really might.
After a good solid minute, she pushes lightly against my chest, so I pull away from her.
“Are you mad?” I ask her, almost blurting out the question between heavy breaths.
“No,” she says, shaking her head. “Why would I be mad?”
“Because Val is Tessa and you obviously don’t like Tessa very much and because I had a jealous moment and called Italian men hairy.”
She laughs. “We’re acting, Daniel. I was actually a little impressed. And kind of turned on when you got jealous. But highly unimpressed with the fact that Val is Tessa. I can’t believe you had sex with Tessa Maynard.”
“I can’t believe you had sex with pretty much everyone else,” I reply teasingly.
She grins. “You’re a jerk.”
“You’re a slut.”
“Will you be at my dinner tonight?” she asks.
“That’s a really dumb question.”
A smile spreads slowly across her face and it’s so damn sexy I have to kiss her again.
“I should get back,” she whispers when I pull away.
“Yes, you should. So should I.”
“You first. I’m supposed to be in the administration office clearing up an issue with my schedule.”
“Okay,” I say. “I’ll go first, but I’ll miss you until you get back to the table.”
“Don’t make me puke,” she says.
“I bet you’re adorable when you puke. I bet your actual puke is even adorable. It’s probably bubble-gum pink.”
“You’re seriously disgusting.” She laughs and reaches up to kiss me again. She pushes against my chest, then slips out from between me and the locker. She puts both of her hands on my back and pushes me toward the cafeteria doors. “Act natural.”
I turn and wink at her, then walk back through the doors. I casually make my way back to the table and take a seat.
“Where’s Six?” Breckin asks.
I shrug. “How should I know? I was busy making out with Val in the hallway.”