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“She’ll be fine. I’ll back off.”
He gave me a dirty look then and said, “Do not touch that girl, Mason. She’s not like you. She’s innocent.”
I smirked at that, but replied, “I’m not planning on it. She’s a refreshing break from the rest of the chicks.”
Kate popped her head in the doorway at that moment. She stared at us, then jerked her head to the hallway. “I need to talk to you.”
Whatever. “Meet me in the south stairs.” She nodded and disappeared. I turned to the teacher. “The assigned seat is fine. Trust me.” I gestured to where Kate had gone. “I have to deal with her. My new table mate is like getting cake during class. I doubt I’ll have to deal with any drama from her.”
He shook his head. “You’re perplexing. Are you aware of that?”
“Do I care? That’s the question you should be asking and no, I don’t.” When I left, I headed to my locker and saw Logan was already there. He was leaning against my neighbor’s locker with his arms crossed. A few girls were watching him from across the hall. As I got there, he flashed them a grin and a few of them began laughing.
I stopped. Shit. He was flirting with them.
He saw my reaction and tensed. “What?”
“You’re flirting.” He hadn’t flirted in months.
“Yeah. I’m a dude.”
I frowned at him. “You haven’t flirted in a long time.”
“What are you talking about? You were lecturing me this morning on not becoming a man whore.”
“Hooking up and flirting are different.” It was easy to grab a girl and have sex with her. It took work to flirt. I didn’t flirt. Girls got the wrong idea then, but Logan was doing it again. That meant he was getting better.
“So what? Maybe I like flirting?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Just don’t get a girlfriend right now.”
“Maybe I want regular sex? Is something wrong with that?”
“You get regular sex already. You don’t need a girlfriend for that.”
“What’s your problem?”
What was my problem? I was on edge and then I glanced at the girls beside us. It was them. It was their games, even now I felt it. They had moved closer to listen in. “I’m sick of this shit.” Gesturing to them and around the hallway. “If I want them, I’ll pick one at a party, but they cling during the day. They’re annoying. They think they’re funny when they’re not and they try to manipulate you, like if I say hi to them, then that means I want them. I don’t. I might’ve said hi because, for once, I didn’t feel like being an ass.”
I didn’t want another one to hurt Logan. Studying him now, I saw it happening. He wanted to cover the pain up. So far he had only used sex to do it, but he was considering dating again. I saw it in his eyes. It wouldn’t work. I knew my brother too well. He had loved Tate and she had shattered him. I didn’t want him to depend on another girl, be used, and get hurt all over again.
The entire group of girls was now listening to us, not just the few who’d been flirting with Logan. They all wanted something. I could feel it. I always felt it. The more my status grew in school, the worse it got. I said to them, “Yes, I know I’m being an ass again, but it’s true. You all just want something from us. You want to be our girlfriends. You want the attention we can give you. You want to be powerful and popular.” They were like pigeons, just waiting to see if I would throw them some breadcrumbs. “Go away. Find me at a party and I’ll be nicer, but not in school. I don’t have the patience in school to deal with this.”
I skimmed over Logan. He’d been flirting, maybe I shouldn’t stop that? Fuck. I didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t get hurt again. All I knew was that enough damage had been done.
Ethan came down the hallway and pointed at me. As he went past us, he said, “Supposed to tell you that Kate’s waiting for you.”
“See. That shit.” I shook my head. “I’m not her boyfriend. I don’t come when she barks.”
Logan asked, “Does she want a quickie?”
“Who the f**k knows.” I grabbed my bag from the locker, then shut it. The girls were still there. They didn’t go away. They would scatter at times, but they never went far. “I’m not in the mood.”
He asked, “Are you going?”
“No.” I gestured to the parking lot. They weren’t leaving so we’d have to go. “Let’s get some food before practice. We got an hour to wait and I don’t want to deal with Kate.” She’d come looking. She would want something, demand something, and I’d have to be an ass**le yet again to get her to back off. It was tiring.
Logan laughed and as we headed for our cars, I saw Marissa at her locker. She was different and perplexing. She didn’t want anything from me. She didn’t even want me to sit with her. She wasn’t like the rest. Even now, she stood out from the others. There were cliques all around her. Girls were giggling, whispering together, but she wasn’t. She stood alone with her back turned to us. She wasn’t even paying attention to us. She was focused on a book she was holding, but she wasn’t putting it in the locker. She wasn’t reading it. She was staring at it with her head down.
Logan saw her too. “Who’s that?”
“Mr. Rooney assigned seats today.” I pointed at her. “She’s my table mate, but I’m not supposed to talk to her.”
He snorted. “You were talking? To a stranger?”
“She’s different.”
As we headed farther down the hallway, we glanced back. She saw us, then gasped, turned red, and whipped back around. Her head hit her opened locker door, but she didn’t do anything. She buried her head inside her locker as if she hadn’t hit it. Then we turned the corner and Logan nodded at me. “Yep, she is. That’s for sure.”
I was okay with that. When we were almost to the door, we saw Tate was coming back in. Her path came across us and she stopped. The blood drained from her face, and she jerked back as if she’d been hit. We stopped and I glanced at Logan. Pain flashed over his face. I’d been right. He was covering it up. He looked away and walked around her. Nothing was said. The encounter was filled with tension and hurt. At seeing that, at seeing how much it still hurt him just to see her, I gritted my teeth. She had hurt my brother. It was time for her to know.