Enchant Me

Here is the first two chapters of my book Enchant Me. I hope you enjoy it.

CHAPTER 1

As if I needed another reason to hate school; the last couple weeks had been particularly hellish. Crescent Point High had become my prison, and most of the senior class the evil guards that I did my best to avoid. There were times like today that it was impossible.

I had the dubious distinction of being the most hated junior, courtesy of my ex-boyfriend Nicolas Devereux. I rolled my eyes as I spied two of his best friends, Jenny Slater and Tanya Brown, bearing down on me from the other end of the locker filled hall. They were both cheerleader wannabes but without a high enough GPA to qualify for the team. I sincerely hoped they’d work on that because I really didn’t want to have to deal with them for another year until I graduated.

I fought the urge not to laugh and won, at their fried, bleached blonde hair, high heels and short skirts that even a call girl would hesitate to wear. As they got close I ignored their hostile looks and squared my shoulders, preparing for the inevitable impact when they accidentally bumped into me. But without warning the door to my sixth period yearbook class suddenly swung wide open and they smacked right into it– hard.

I didn’t know what was funnier, the surprised look on Mr. Agostini’s face or the two girls wheeling their arms like a pinwheels trying to stay upright and ultimately failing.

I was laughing so hard that I could barely walk into the classroom. Mr. Agostini gave me a harsh look for laughing while two students were laid out on the cold tile floor with bloody noses and potentially a black eye or two, but I let the door close behind me. He could take them to the nurse himself.

Making my way through the desks to mine, I tried to contain the laughter still bubbling up inside of me. I could feel everyone’s eyes on me, waiting to be let in on the joke. We were a close group and everyone here, seniors included, I would call a friend. Unlike Mr. Agostini and the rest of the teachers, they all knew the drama my life had become.

Looking around at my friends’ expectant faces, I smiled. “A couple of girls were about to accidentally bump into me, but rammed into our door instead.”

Everyone laughed with me, except Jim Johnson, a senior, who for the better part of a year had been nursing a crush on me. I could tell it bothered him that I was still being ostracized. I hated to admit it, but I was surprised that everything hadn’t blown over yet too.

Jim was sweet and smart with a blonde Zac Efron-ish look. Unfortunately I couldn’t dredge up any emotion but friendship towards him, and fortunately he wasn’t the pushy type.

It would probably make my mom crazy happy if I brought Mr. Cute-4.0-GPA- quarterback, home with me, although his traditional, conservative parents would call the cops if I showed up at their door. All they would see is my freakishly dark reddish hair, nose piercing, motorcycle riding, and liberal attitudes.

He looked at me with eyes filled with concern. “Maybe there is such a thing as karma after all.”

He started to lean towards me, like he was feeling the urge to touch me in comfort, so I put my hands underneath my desk and looked at Michelle, my friend and our team leader. She divided us up as usual, the writers, photographers etc. and I was glad that Jim was part of another group, and I didn’t want to even consider another boyfriend right now.

After class, Michelle caught up with me. She was tall and gorgeous, but was also one of the kindest people I knew. She looked at me with big, blue, worried eyes.

“You know, I really think you should confront the rumors. There is no reason you should have to deal with this for the last two months of school, or one and a half. Whatever,” she said; shaking her head as if that would help her to speak clearer.

I had no intention of spilling my guts to the whole student body, so I ignored her plea and considered that she and Jim would make a good couple, attractive, kind and successful. Hmm…

When we stepped outside, I couldn’t help but smile. It was one of those rare beautiful, sunny spring days in Washington. Even so, the cold breeze gave me an excuse to avoid her worried gaze and zip up my leather jacket. “Have you ever considered going out with Jim?” I asked without looking up.

When she didn’t respond, I glanced up at her. Her gaze had transformed into the penetrating gaze of the investigative reporter she was aspiring to be. I didn’t know which was worse, the overprotective friend or the reporter. I inwardly groaned.

“You will not distract me. Seriously, why won’t you defend yourself?”

I sighed and made a beeline for my motorcycle, my pride and joy, a Suzuki Hayabusa, one of the fastest motorcycles on the planet. After many years of babysitting and saving all the money I would get at the holidays, I had been able to pay the small fortune that it cost, and all the excitement and freedom I got from it made it all worth it. Except as fast as it was, I doubted even my Suzuki was fast enough to escape my troubles. But maybe I could get away from Michelle–or not. She was right on my heels, and apparently evasion wasn’t going to work.

Just then my best friend Tina walked up. I tried to keep my expression from saying, saved-by-the-Tina, but by Michelle’s raised brows, I hadn’t succeeded.

“Tina, convince her to deal with this.”

I looked over at Tina. I could read nothing from her expression, but then neither could Michelle.

“I’ll see what I can do,” Tina replied with a quiet determination that made me nervous.

“Argh, fine, but I am not letting this go.” Michelle tried to stomp off in frustration but she really was too graceful to pull that off.

“Hey Alexis, did you want to come over and have dinner with my mom and me tonight? Your mom’s going to be out man hunting tonight anyways.”

Tina referred to my mom’s newest crush on a local singer who had a concert tonight. While Tina was like a sister to me and I felt closer to her mom than my own, I had a feeling that I would be walking into a rumor intervention. Tina wanted me to deal with the rumors too. I wondered what had made her change her mind, and then decided I didn’t want to know. All of the sudden I could see Michelle running back up to us. Was I ever going to be able to leave the parking lot?

“Hey, I almost forgot. Could you go to the art show at Pierce College tonight and take some shots for Yearbook and the school paper? Crescent Point High has a couple of students that got top honors and are being presented with awards tonight.”

I nodded my head. “Sure, that sounds kind of cool. What time?”

“You should probably get there around 6:30, so you can find parking and the auditorium.”

“No problem, see you tomorrow in class.”

“Thanks Lex, you’re a lifesaver. When I become the editor for the New York Times I’ll make you my head photographer.”

I smiled at her confidence and watched as she loped through the parking lot back to her bus. Reluctantly I turned back to Tina.

As close as we were, Tina hadn’t missed my eagerness to skip dinner, but she also knew that it was nothing negative towards her or her mom Tracy. “Alright, you’re safe for the night but tomorrow you’re spending the night, so we can talk.”

“Alright,” I sighed as I put on my helmet.

“Promise?” she demanded.

“Yes, you have my word of honor. Now hurry up, you’re going to miss your bus, and I know you don’t want to ride with me.”

Tina still hadn’t gotten over her last ride with me going 150mph down an empty back road. Her look of horror had been comical even on her exotic model-like face. Her half-black, half-Japanese heritage had given her a look that I was sure could sell millions of beauty products all over the world, but she was completely unaware of it, and probably couldn’t care less. She was going to be a doctor and had already picked out her college, her specialty, and where she would intern. It seemed weird that she was still single. Tina was a little shy with guys but surely one of them would’ve snatched her up by now.

I watched to make sure she caught her bus and then rode off towards home. Men were idiots.

It seemed almost a sacrilege to have a bike like mine and drive at the snail’s pace required in Steilacoom, but one of the reasons my mom and I chose Steilacoom was because of how safe it was. Unfortunately, that also meant the cops had way too much time on their hands and were eagerly awaiting the unwary driver– or rider.

While driving down the hill I decided to skip going home right away. Quaint, waterfront Steilacoom was showing off. This was definitely one of those days that Washington State outshined any other state in the nation. Steilacoom was situated on a hillside facing the south Puget Sound, which was a gorgeous blue, reflecting the sky with just a few white fluffy clouds in it. Even more stunning was the Olympic Mountain range. It was crystal clear today, snow still stubbornly cradling its caps. I never got tired of taking pictures of this view.

But today I was more in the mood for seclusion, so I rode towards a small beach called Saltar’s Point. It didn’t disappoint; no one was there. I parked in one of the few public parking spaces, grabbed my camera and crossed the small bridge down to the beach.

I walked until I found an area where I couldn’t readily be seen, sat down on the gravelly ground, and leaned back on the driftwood behind me. It was days like this I wished I lived in California; only because I loved the sun so much. If only there were a way I could transport Steilacoom to somewhere near Santa Barbara or San Diego.

It was so quiet and peaceful here and the sun felt so good, lightly warming my face. I closed my eyes, feeling the wind gently lift and play with my hair, just luxuriating in the moment. I loved my hair being played with; it could be innocent or romantic. The very thought made me open my eyes and jerk upright. I needed to remember–I was boyfriend-less; there would be no hair playing or anything else for that matter.

Sometimes it was hard to believe how much had changed. Almost against my will, my mind drifted back to the beginning of the school year on that unfortunate day when it had all began. I had just finished developing my last picture for the day and was gathering my stuff to leave the darkroomwhen I had felt a presence behind me, blocking what little light was in the room.

Glancing up, my eyes connected with almost eerily light eyes. Ignoring the shiver

of excitement that ran through me, I let irritation take control. Besides sneaking up on me, he could’ve ruined my pictures.

“Lucky for you, I was done,” I huffed.

“Luck had nothing to do with it,” he said enigmatically with the barest trace of a

French accent.

Even in the dark, with that accent I knew him now, my only real competition in photography class, Nicolas Devereux. He was aggressive, intense and competitive. A real nightmare if you tried to go against him. I had seen him get in some explosive arguments with teachers when he had gotten a bad grade, especially if it was in art.

Confused, I stared up at him. How had he gotten into the room without me seeing or hearing him? I took a nice, safe, step away and then started to walk around him to the door. He wrapped an arm around me and pulled me back in front of him.

He leaned in close and whispered in my ear, “you don’t know it yet but I’m going to be your next boyfriend.”

I pulled away and looked up at him. Hoping that in the dimness of the darkroom he could see on my face how crazy I thought that idea was. I started to tell him that would only happen in his dreams when he snatched up my chin and planted the darkest kiss of my life on my lips.  

Mentally shuddering, I pushed the memory away. The way things were now, I couldn’t even remember the good times without panic threatening. The feeling of complete peace disappeared. Why did Nicolas have to make things so complicated and horrible? I grabbed a couple of pebbles and tossed them at the ocean. Things started so well and then he changed. Possessive and jealous to the point of being frightening, he quit his job and followed me to my dance class and anywhere else I would choose to go. He didn’t stop, even after I broke up with him. I had to eventually involve my mom, who loved playing the part of enraged, protective mother. She went straight to his parents and threatened a restraining order on Nicolas if he didn’t stop, which he did. Unfortunately we couldn’t put an order on his mouth. He dropped out of school after that, thank god, and no-one had seen him since.

Refusing to dwell any more on the past, I sighed, got up, and brushed myself off. Since I might get home late tonight, I needed to knock out all my homework before I left. I also needed to squeeze in yoga practice, shower, and get ready for the art show. I looked at my watch. I really needed to work on my time management skills.

Once I got home, I ran to my room and threw open the velvet curtains that hid my closet. Frantically, I searched for my most professional-yet-artistic outfit, tossing the rejects on the floor. After finally finding the clothes that screamed ‘wear me‘, I turned to jewelry, choosing one of my smaller pairs of chandelier earrings, a couple of moonstone rings, and a tiny diamond stud for my nose. Then there was my hair, my one undisputable vanity. A lot of care went into it, to keep it soft, silky and yet so un-naturally colored. A red so dark that in some lights it looked black, with a couple of lighter red highlights around my hairline.

My mom hated it; she had begged, and then demanded for me to color it, but I refused to cave. Some kids did drugs and alcohol; I played with my looks. I thought that was a pretty fair trade. I did a small basket-weave pattern on each side of my head to keep my hair out of the pictures and pinned it in, pulling a couple strands down around my face. Last but not least, I got some of my black skin-safe ink for my airbrush and picked a Celtic knot stencil, then did a quick temporary tattoo on my right wrist. Now I was ready.

Or I thought I was… Abruptly I felt dizzy, my thoughts like glitter in some gypsy’s crystal ball, swirling around and not settling. My temples started to throb and I collapsed on my bed. I found myself reaching for my cell phone and flipping it open before it even rang and put it to my ear.

“Hi, Grandma Ann.”

“How did you know it was me?” she asked. There was a weird note in her voice I couldn’t understand.

That’s when I realized what I had done. I became frighteningly still, lifting the phone away from my ear and staring at it like the phone could explain how I knew it was about to ring or who it was without looking at the screen. The dizziness and headache faded away.

“Oh, you have that caller I.D. of course.”

She sounded almost disappointed, which struck me as even odder, but I grasped the excuse like a lifeline. Grandma and I were close; a lot of people had crazy connections like that, twins, mothers with their children. As far as the headache and dizziness; I probably just hadn’t had enough water today.

“I was just about to go to an event for yearbook, what’s up?”

“I was wondering if you wanted to come over on Saturday. Have lunch and talk a little.” She made the last sound so pitiful I would’ve canceled a visit to Europe.

“Okay. How about around one?”

“See you then, sweetie. Love you.”

“Love you too.” I closed my phone and stared at it again. Humph… Shaking off the strange feeling, I grabbed my wallet, camera and keys and headed out the door.

Feeling guilty for not arriving at the suggested time, I snuck across the parking lot, like Michelle was going to leap out at me from behind a bush, catch me being late and ground me and my camera from any further events. It was almost seven pm as I entered the college and headed for the auditorium. I could hear the hum of many voices as I approached. It really wasn’t a hardship to be here, I craved all things creative and loved being around people who felt the same way, but before I got down to any major socializing I needed to do my job first. I quickly slipped into the room, pulled out my digital camera and searched for the Crescent Point High School honorees.

All the artists seemed to be separated by media. The first student I came across I didn’t recognize from school, but his card listed him as a senior, Miguel White. From the examples he had on his table, he did the most amazing pottery. I could tell he had used unusual materials to create unique designs and the detail was just ridiculously good. I waited until the small crowd around him thinned out. “You’re Miguel?” I asked. He nodded his head while looking me over.

“I am Alexis Maher–”

“I know who you are,” he interrupted.

My stomach soured at this. I turned to his work. “Your pottery is amazing.”

“Thanks, my grandmother taught me all I know,” he replied too warmly, all his

Latino charm present and accounted for.

I didn’t like the way he sidled up to me and seemed to use his height to look down my shirt. So I changed my angle and motioned imperiously for him to stand in front of his work. “I need to take your picture for yearbook, and possibly it could be put in the school paper too.”

“Really? How about this?”

The diversion worked. Like most artists and I did include myself in this, we had decent sized egos. You had to. He leaned against the table, almost toppling it over, and crossed his arms over his chest while trying to discreetly flex his muscles.

Resisting the urge to roll my eyes, I quickly took the picture. “Thanks, bye.” Bordering on rudeness, I didn’t wait for a response and quickly moved on to the next exhibit. Here the artists specialized in water colors. I recognized a fellow junior, Marie Summers, a quiet but nice, pale haired girl that kept to herself. It didn’t surprise me that her preference was for soft landscape pictures reminiscent of Monet.

“Hi Marie, your paintings are really lovely. Have you ever painted the Olympics from Pioneer Park?”

“No, I mainly stick to the big public gardens in the area,” she replied, her voice a mere whisper.

“What if I paid you for it?”

“Seriously?” she asked.

“I’m serious, I love that viewpoint.” Ripping a piece of paper off the small notepad I had, I wrote down my phone number and gave it to her. “Call me and we’ll get together.”

“Thanks I will,” she said with more confidence than when I first came up.

“Can I take your picture for Yearbook and the school paper?” This made her start to chew on her lip like she was nervous again. “I can take a profile shot of you with your work instead of head on if you like?”

A happy smile crossed her face at this and I quickly snapped the picture. She looked a little surprised but I quickly showed her the picture on the screen. “If you don’t like it I can take the profile shot, but I think this is a really great picture.”

She looked at me with a smile. “I can see why you are a photographer.”

“Thanks, and don’t forget to call me about the painting.” I moved away, happy that I seemed to have made a new friend. I passed by the glass artists. We didn’t seem to have anyone represented there, so I moved on to the oil painters. Looking over the cards listing names and schools first, finally I came across a Christian Marino, a senior of course. His name wasn’t familiar but he could’ve transferred from another school.

When I finally looked up at him–I felt my whole body still. I didn’t know how to begin to catalogue all the ways in which he was perfect. Thick dark brown hair that could almost be black seemed to be growing out naturally from a short cut, falling around his face, the bangs almost in the way of his dark golden brown eyes. I fought the urge to move it out of my way so it didn’t interrupt my view of his eyes. He was slender, but muscular with perfect symmetry, which as an artist I deeply appreciated. He also had the cutest nose; I don’t know why I thought so but I did. I hadn’t even gotten to his lips, they were a perfect shape and nicely full, like every kiss he gave you would be more than a kiss but a full enveloping caress. As I met his eyes again I realized I wasn’t alone in my fascination. He was staring at me just as intently.

For the first time, I suddenly understood what writers meant about the whole world coming to a standstill and not being aware of anything but the person in front of you. I had stopped hearing the other people around me; I didn’t see the exhibits or the auditorium anymore. Even my always active brain stopped thinking and just took in the wild emotions running through me. If I had a thousand years, I still don’t think I could do justice to explaining the depth of my feelings at that moment.

I felt a hand joggle my arm to get my attention, jarring me out of my stupor, and I looked around to find Stephanie, an acquaintance from school, looking at me quizzically. I watched her glance at Christian then back at me.

“What are you doing here Alexis?” she asked, looking at me in a sort of predatory way I couldn’t remember ever experiencing before, at least from a girl.

There was something about her tone I didn’t like. I looked down at her, which wasn’t hard since she was even shorter than my five foot five inches. I lifted my camera into her view. “Yearbook and school paper.”

“Oh.” Satisfied by my response, she took one last look at Christian and then moved on.

I wouldn’t consider her a friend, but we talked once in a while. Then it hit me. A couple weeks ago she had mentioned liking a senior and finally getting the courage to ask him out; he turned her down flat but she was still carrying a torch for him. Great… I remembered belatedly, she did say his name was Christian. I couldn’t blame her for falling so hard for him.

When I finally turned back to him, he was busily painting, his brows pulled together while he intently mixed a couple of red shades on his palette. Unlike the other artists he had turned his easel away from the crowd and so was facing us while he worked. I took the moment to glance at his other paintings displayed on the table. He was beyond talented, no wonder he was here. His portraits were beautiful, displaying more than the person or couples physical image, but something about them emotionally too. One in particular caught my eye, a little dark haired girl with laughing blue eyes. There was definitely a resemblance there. She must be a young relative. Next I looked at his landscape pictures. They were exquisite, with the kind of patient, finite detail even Miguel would have to appreciate.

When I finally dared to look back at him, I found he was looking at me too. Suddenly, I didn’t trust myself to speak intelligently to him. So I pointed at my camera, silently asking him if I could take his picture. He nodded and moved his stool a little to the side for me to get a better shot. At this point I actually noticed his clothes. He dressed older than his years with a style and taste that usually only came with age. A black button up shirt with the first two buttons undone, dark jeans and a leather wrist cuff that didn’t look like it was bought off the rack, but possibly done by an artisan. He had a couple of silver rings on and these too looked like custom pieces. My respect for him multiplied even while I accepted that he was totally out of my league.

I took as much time as I reasonably could, framing him in the screen and then taking the picture. Before he moved from his pose, I quickly zoomed in and got a close up of his face. When I lowered the camera and met his warm brown eyes again, I felt a hot blush start to develop. Horrified, I ducked my head in a quick thank you and made a hasty exit out of the auditorium.

I couldn’t believe–me–Alexis Maher, was blushing and speechless just because a gorgeous guy was looking at me. Well, to be fair he wasn’t just any guy, he was insanely beautiful and creative with seductive eyes that could melt the sun. But besides that, I was a creative, motorcycle chick that had belly danced for crowds in the hundreds at local festivals. How had he gotten to me? It didn’t feel like just attraction, it was like pure chemistry. That was it! The pleasure centers in my brain weren’t giving me a choice. I snickered out loud at this, and then quickly looked around to make sure no one had heard.

While driving home, I decided I couldn’t wait till tomorrow to talk to Tina. I didn’t care how selfish it was, I was going to call her as soon as I got home, no matter how late. The whole way there I kept feeling a stupid, giddy grin spreading across my face.

My mom was already in bed when I got there so after cleaning off my makeup and getting everything ready for tomorrow, I called Tina. “Hey, were you sleeping?” I whispered. Of course by her confused voice I could tell I had woke her up. A tiny bit of guilt passed through me but just as quickly exited a second later. “I have to tell you about the art show.”

“What? Nicolas didn’t show up did he?” She was waking up now; I could hear the worry in her voice.

“God no, bite your tongue.”

“What then?” She could finally tell that I was happy excited, not scared excited.

“I saw the most gorgeous guy tonight,” I confessed, and lost the battle to control my giggle.

“I thought you had sworn off men,” she said with amusement.

“I did? I don’t recall that. But you would so understand if you saw him.” I pulled my camera out and turned it on, quickly finding the two shots of him. “Dark hair, sultry eyes and a muscular body but not like he is obsessed with the gym; He is hot, hot, hot girlfriend.”

“Is he from Crescent Point?”

“Yeah, a senior, his name is Christian Marino. Have you ever heard of him?”

“No but that doesn’t mean anything. Assuming you took pictures of this paragon can we reconvene this discussion tomorrow?”

Even though I knew she couldn’t see it, I smiled sheepishly. “Of course, you know you really are the bestest friend a girl could have.”

“I know, good night Lex.”

“Good night.”

Getting up for school earlier than I would normally like, I went straight to my closet. I was going to put a little more care into my look than usual for school. I felt that same giddy grin start to develop as I thought about the reason why. Sitting down at my vanity, I opened my make-up kit and stared at my death warmed over complexion. This was going to take a lot of work. After throwing on the same jewelry as the night before and brushing out my hair, I was finally ready. I took one last look in my full length mirror, thankful for my curves–not bad at all.

I got to school early and I went straight to Tina’s first period class. She was already outside of her class waiting for me with a big smile on her face.

“Hey, so did you want to see the pictures?”

“You’ve got it bad, don’t you?” There was a little bit of surprise in her voice, and her dark eyes were wide with amazement. Ignoring that, I quickly found his picture in the camera, and showed it to her. “What do ya think?”

“Not bad at all,” she replied.

That was an understatement of a lifetime. I rolled my eyes and then looked at her. “I guess it is actually a good thing we don’t have the same taste in men.”

“Yeah,” she said smiling at me, most likely remembering all the guys she had crushes on that I just didn’t get the attraction.

“So, are you up for a little reconnaissance mission at the secretary’s office?” I asked.

“You mean for this?” She queried, holding out a piece of paper.

It was Christian’s class list. I started laughing. ”You really are the best. Does this make me a stalker?”

She laughed at this, and then pushed me towards my own first period class, which of course, I was running late for. “Yes it does, do you want to give me back the list?”

“No,” I said, and even gave a little shake of my head to emphasize the point, and ran nonstop straight to class, clutching the list against my chest. Her laughter seemed to follow me all the way down the hall.

CHAPTER 2

Preparing to sneak into class, I belatedly realized there was no need. Apparently Mrs. Love was running late too. I was about to dump the entire contents of my book bag onto my desk in search of my homework, when suddenly a white box with a dark red ribbon and bow, was shoved under my face.

Bewildered I stared up, and up, into a tall, brunette, girl’s face. I vaguely recognized her. She was a senior, not one I had a problem with thankfully. I glanced back down at the box as she dropped it into my hands. It wasn’t my birthday and even if it was, I didn’t know her. I looked up to question her, and she was gone.

I could feel a couple kids looking at me questioningly, but luckily I wasn’t close enough to anyone in this class for them to be comfortable to ask about it. I was completely surprised, which was pretty rare for me. Slowly I undid the ribbon, and lifted off the top part of the box. One look inside and I knew exactly who it was from. On a framed, miniature canvas, there was an exquisite Celtic knot design similar to the one still on my hand. Within its patterns, there were words in a medieval looking script. I had to keep rotating the canvas to read the whole message. Alexis, will you go to prom with me. Christian.

Taking my lip between my teeth to stop that giddy smile from happening again, I lifted out the miniature easel the canvas came with and placed it on there. This was probably the most romantic thing that had ever been done for me. I’ve gotten flowers, jewelry, even been serenaded outside my window, but this would’ve taken hours to do. What I couldn’t figure out is why did he want to go out with someone he hadn’t even technically met yet? Was he crazy? Hadn’t he heard the rumors about me? Gently I put both items back in their box to keep them safe.

Finally Mrs. Love came in, and having pity on us since we had Friday fever, she just gave us our homework, and let us work on it in class. That was my cue to finally look at Christian’s class list. I already knew we didn’t have any classes together, but it looked like our second and sixth period classes were near each other. I didn’t recall seeing him at lunch, but maybe he left school for that. I had to find a way to sneak a peek at him in second period, I knew I would have to reach my class first or be the last to leave it, to catch a glimpse of him.

Trying to be unobtrusive, I texted Tina and my other close friend Becca to give them the news, and asked them to meet me at lunch. After that, the hour seemed to drag and I couldn’t concentrate on my math assignment for my life, so I kept coming up with excuses to leave. First I needed to put the box in my locker; then I needed to go talk to the secretary, and then I needed to go to the restroom–for a little primping.

As I stepped into the restroom I immediately regretted it. Three seniors, all of whom I knew to be friends of Nicolas’s, were gathered in there. In one motion they all turned to look at me. There was one important lesson I had learned because of this situation with Nicolas — you couldn’t show fear. The seniors were like dogs. If you let them sniff your fear, they would rip you apart.

I returned their stares for a second then forced myself to casually walk up to the mirror. They started to whisper behind their hands. Reminding myself to remain calm, I freshened up my lip gloss, and then rummaged through my cosmetics bag for a brush. Abruptly I was hit with the same sickening sensations as yesterday, but stronger this time. For a split second I saw an image of one of the girls grabbing my brush, and attempting to rip through my hair. Shaking myself out of the weird feeling, I finished taking my brush out.

Without even looking I instinctively found myself snatching the girl’s wrist before she had barely extended it, startling both of us in the process.

“Don’t…ever do that,” I threatened, staring hard into her eyes.

For a moment she just stared at me, then ripping her wrist out of my grip she and her friends made a quick retreat, calling me every curse word they could think of on the way.

Once they were gone, I leaned against the wall, and forced myself to stop trembling. Whether it was because of my near fight with the seniors, or the strange vision I had, I wasn’t sure. Surely it had just been Déjà vu, although I had never heard of it being so strong, so real, or so physical. Hopefully that would be the last time those particular girls bothered me. After doing a couple of yoga poses, I felt calm enough to go back to class.

It seemed like the longest hour of my life when the bell finally rang. I was practically running out the door when I almost ran into him. Christian. I came to such a dead stop upon seeing him that I almost fell right over. Nope. I wasn’t dreaming; he really was that beautiful. “Hi.”

“Hi,” he replied, while looking me over. His brown eyes were warm, but curious.

I realized he was looking for his box, well–maybe not just the box. “I put it into my locker for safe keeping. It was really beautiful, thank you.”

I now took a turn looking him over. Even though he was more casual today with a black coat, t-shirt and dark jeans, he was still yummy.

“You’re welcome, can I walk you to your next class?” he asked, and stepped slightly to my side allowing me to walk just a little ahead of him.

“Sure.”

Once again, I felt an idiotic blush coming on. I dipped my head a little, so I could hide behind my hair. Without looking, I could feel him trying to lean forward and catch my eyes, his body so close that I could feel his heat all down my side. And I could swear his hand was hovering at my lower back, in that gentlemanly protective sort of way.

When I thought I had my blush under control, I looked up at him. He was tall but not too tall; I wouldn’t get a crick in my neck looking at him, nor have to find a footstool to kiss him. I couldn’t keep my gaze from lingering on his lips while I thought about that. He was just perfect, like cupid had taken my list for the ultimate guy, and sent him to me. Completely entranced, I walked right by my class until he gently grasped my elbow, and pulled me to a stop.

“This is your class,” he leaned in, and whispered. The look in his eyes was mildly amused, but I decided I wouldn’t take exception to it–this time.

I started to walk away when I felt him reel me back, all the way back, until my whole right side was pressed against the entire left side of his body from head to toe. His breath was warm against my cheek. “Alexis…the feeling is mutual.”

I pulled away and headed into class. As I got safely across the threshold I looked back, and gave him the sultriest look I could. “Of course.”

His soft, low, laughter stayed with me for the rest of the class. Mrs. Di’stefano eventually gave up calling on me, since every time she did she had to remind me what we were working on. I could feel the heated glances from that horrible Jenny Slater but I realized it didn’t bother me at all now. I was going to have a lot of homework to do on Sunday though, since I wasn’t getting anything accomplished at school.

Which reminded me, I was staying at Tina’s tonight. Lord, I hope she wasn’t going to spend all night trying to convince me to fight fire with fire or something like that. Only seniors were involved in the drama and they were going to be gone soon. If I could just hold out a little longer, it would all be over. Even if I tried to tell them the truth, they didn’t owe me any loyalty. I had only been around since Junior High but Nicolas had lived here all his life. Who were they going to believe, me or everyone’s favorite bad boy? When I had met him, he was everyone’s favorite guy, exciting, fun, loyal, and enough friends to fill a stadium. No one but me had experienced that other side. He had done an excellent job of ruining me. That’s what I get for dating a brilliant- -and in this instance, manipulative guy. Maybe next time I should date an idiot…

Of course it was too late. I was already falling for another dark-haired, intense, brilliant guy.

Finally another interminable class was over and I headed out the door to third period French. When I felt a presence beside me, I should have recognized him by his cologne alone, which was so delicious. I couldn’t stop the surprise that I am sure was all over my face.

He seemed to be fighting a smile. “I thought I better help you get to your next class just in case you have trouble finding it.”

I pretended to be affronted, and looked away. “I think I can make it.”

“None the less,” he replied, and assumed that slight position behind me as we walked. This time I could feel the heat of his hand on my back. When we finally reached my class, I turned to thank him but he spoke first.

“What are you doing for lunch today?” he asked. Since his head was dipped towards mine, his bangs had completely fallen forward, and this time I didn’t resist the urge to move them to the side.

I already had his complete attention but the effect of my small gesture had made it even more intense. Marveling at how his eyes had darkened, I had to think hard to bring myself back to the moment. “Nothing in particular, what did you have in mind?” I hoped my friends would forgive my lie.

“We unfortunately don’t have much time, so would McDonalds be ok for today?” He looked embarrassed just to suggest it.

“That would be great, where did you want to meet?”

“How about at your bike and then we can take my car.”

I blinked at the mention of my bike. He knew my bike and my classes? Maybe I wasn’t the only one who could do reconnaissance.

“Ok.”

I had intended to watch him walk away just for the pleasure of watching him walk, but as we stared at each other I realized he was patiently waiting for me to go into class. Bemused, I left him standing there, and I had a feeling he didn’t leave until I was seated.

Deciding that my school day was probably going to be a total loss at this point anyway, I spent the next hour texting Tina and Becca, giving them the news regarding lunch. They promised to grill me later, and I was actually looking forward to it. Thinking and talking about Christian was no hardship. I briefly considered the idea that I shouldn’t be running happily head long into another, what looked to be a possible serious relationship, but who was I kidding.

I dropped my bag off at my locker and quickly stepped into the restroom to check that my eye makeup hadn’t melted around my eyes. Passing inspection I headed to my bike at the back of the lot. I was not surprised to see him already there. He looked almost too good standing next to my bike with the wind lightly tousling his dark hair.

As I walked up he looked me over from head to toe before settling on my eyes. “What year is it?”

“2009,” I said, not surprised he was interested in my bike. All guys were.

“How fast does it go?”

I smiled kind of cockily at this. “Top speed… about 190mph.”

Now he looked at me like he couldn’t decide whether to be impressed, or worried for my safety. “What do you drive?” I asked.

Now it was his turn to look cocky. “A Mazda RX-8.”

He pointed towards a sleek black car across the lot. While we walked over to his car, Christian got into his now familiar position of being slightly behind me, with a hand lightly at my back. There was something slightly protective yet sensual about it.

He unlocked the car and opened the door for me, it looked just as good inside as out. It was one of the few cars I actually would drive, if I didn’t have my bike and–if I could afford it.

“It looks like we both like fast, expensive rides–but mine is faster,” I teased just to see how he would react.

“You’ll have to show me one of these days,” he smiled, and closed the car door. On the way there we were both quiet, primarily just enjoying being in one another’s company. I started to feel glad that he had wanted to take his car instead of my bike since it was starting to rain, and threatened to become an all-out down pour. That was the one downside to my bike; I was subject to every weather whim Mother Nature had, and in Washington, she had a lot.

After getting our food we finally found a table towards the back, and sat down. As I munched on a fry I considered all the questions that were burning in my brain. How did he know so much about me? I didn’t believe he was, or would be a stalker like my ex, but I wanted to be sure. I did think that Christian had a little too much confidence, ego, and a touch of vanity to want to pursue anyone that didn’t want him. So that was probably not an issue. Why did he ask me to prom? It would be his only chance at prom. Why would he want to take a girl he barely knew? Wasn’t he worried about the rumors?

I stopped contemplating my fries, and looked up. He was watching me with a sort of perplexed concern written all over his face, and I realized I was being a terrible date. I smiled to reassure him, and for me there really was only one way forward– to be honest.

“How did you know my classes and bike?” I asked trying to sound as casual as possible. I felt guilty for even asking him, considering that at this very moment his class list was hidden in my pocket.

He stared at me for a moment seeming to contemplate my question. Sighing, he leaned back against his seat. I watched as his confidence faded into being slightly bashful.

“I noticed you a long time ago.”

“Then why didn’t you…”

“Ask you out?” he finished for me, looking at me pointedly with a touch of irritation now. “You were with someone, remember?”

Yes, I was. I felt that damn blush threatening to come out, but I bit my lip until I was so distracted by the discomfort there would be no way that it would reveal itself. Damn, my pale Irish heritage.

Out of embarrassment, I hadn’t been looking in his eyes. If I had been, I would have been able to prepare for the shock of his thumb running across my bottom lip. “You’re going to hurt yourself,” he said, his dark golden brown eyes tender as he looked into mine.

I released my lip, and luxuriated in the feeling of his warm thumb as it passed over my lip one more time, before he sat back in his seat. I inwardly cursed myself for being such a jumble of nerves. Maybe I should date an ugly, stupid guy. Telling myself to relax, I looked back over to him. He was staring at his food, and I had a feeling he was giving me a moment to collect myself.

“Christian, why did you ask me to prom?”

He smiled at this. “Because I wanted to.”

As he looked at me, I found myself caught in his gaze and he in mine. I kept thinking of his gorgeous eyes as being a dark golden brown, but golden seemed too tame a term for his eyes. They were more like the essence of desire. No color could truly describe them. I probably would have to stay with dark and golden to describe their color, at least until I thought of something better.

“We gotta go,” he said reluctantly.

While we threw out our garbage and walked out the door, I got the impression again that he was embarrassed to have taken me to fast food. This was funny, since that was all the average teenager could afford. His parents must be really wealthy, or maybe he worked. He could be making money off his art too. Most likely that was it. I smiled to myself thinking I had a little piece of his brilliance for free.

“Thank you so much for taking me to lunch, I had fun.”

“Me too,” he answered, leading me to his car, and helping me in.

I was glad he was a gentleman, but I quite honestly didn’t expect anything less from any guy I dated. It suddenly occurred to me that I was quite possibly a little spoiled.

On the way back I felt sad the drive was so short, I enjoyed watching his hands while he drove, completely competent and controlled. While most guys his age were driving around like half-crazed NASCAR drivers on crack plus Ecstasy.

“What are you doing this weekend?” he asked softly, his voice filled with warmth as he took a quick glance at me.

I really liked his voice too. I did have it bad. “Did you really want to hear everything, or just when I am available?” I smiled and fluttered my eyes at him teasingly.

“I don’t mind hearing everything but since we are running out of time…”

I took pity on him, “late Saturday afternoon or evening?”

“How about both?” he queried.

“I think I can manage that,” I said, and smiled.

He pulled into the parking lot, parked and turned to me just as I was putting my hand on the door handle. “I appreciate you letting me open the car door for you, but would you mind waiting for me to let you out, too.”

“Sure.”

I smothered my laugh, I suppose it was a quirk in my personality that I never had the patience to wait for guys to do that part, and they usually adapted to it. When he opened my door, and held out his hand to help me out, I let my eyes roam over him from head to toe. Once again, I became a little concerned at how easily and quickly I was becoming enthralled. I’ve had my share of crushes, and infatuations, but none of them had felt like this.

Taking his warm hand, I let him help me out of the car, and then lead me to class. This must truly be what physical chemistry between two people was all about. I was so aware of where his body was in relation to mine, the feel of his hand on my back, the exact tenor of his voice, the smell of his warm breath when he leaned in close. This all left me wanting more, I wanted him to hold me, kiss me and press his wonderful body against me. I felt kind of glad when he interrupted my thoughts before I got too carried away.

“Lex, I need your phone number,” he leaned in, and whispered as we paused outside my class.

It felt like so much had already passed between us. It was hard to believe we hadn’t gotten past the usual preliminaries yet. He pulled out his cell phone and entered it, then looked at me like he was considering something. Then he granted two of my wishes. Gently he wrapped both arms around me, and pulled me in close. I loosely linked my hands around his neck and briefly leaned against him. I could feel the looks we were getting, but it was hard to care. He did feel as good as I thought he would, and smelled fantastic too.

It was almost embarrassing how out of it I was for the rest of the day. We gave each other quick smiles as we rushed into our sixth period classes, and I was glad that mine was yearbook since it didn’t require deep thought at all. Michelle noticed my abstraction, but thankfully didn’t say anything about it.

Finally the school day was over, and I went straight to my bike. With disappointment I noticed Christian’s car was already gone. I sighed internally, but I couldn’t complain, he had spent practically every spare minute with me.

After I picked up some clothes from home, and left a note for my mom, I headed over to the tiny rental house that Tina and her mom Tracy lived in. Tina’s eyes were huge with mischievousness as she let me in.

“So had a good day, did we?”

I looked at her, and started to feel a little wary. “Why?”

“I hate to tell you this, but the whole school is talking about you two.”

Dropping my backpack on the floor and sitting heavily on her slightly worn, thrift store couch I looked up at her.

I asked again, “Why?”

She had picked up on the worried tone of my voice, and her smile faded as she sat down next to me.

“It wasn’t all bad. People noticed how into each other you two were. It was cute, he is really into you.”

“Don’t distract me, what is the bad stuff?” Because I knew something was coming.

“I just want to prepare you. Now some people, meaning seniors, are saying that you were cheating on Nicolas the whole time with Christian, and are just now being public about your relationship.”

I took a deep breath. That was ridiculous. Was I truly the most exciting thing in school? Was there no new drama they could sink their teeth into? Could I create one?

“I am so tired of this.”

I watched Tina nod her head in agreement. “But–”

“Tina, you know this. Nicolas told everyone that I was stalking him, but that I was going to try and slander him by saying he was stalking me…frightening me. Even though that is the truth, none of the seniors are going to believe me. They also probably won’t believe that it was me breaking up with him either. There is nothing I can do. What’s sad is I would have never said anything to anyone. He never had to worry that he was going to lose face or whatever.”

Tina was looking at me with dark, sympathetic eyes. “I think it was more revenge than saving face.”

“I suppose… There is just nothing I can do about that rumor.” I didn’t want to have to think about how I would deal with the second rumor. It was a little too complicated, and full of potholes to fall into. “So could you tell your mom not to ambush me tonight about this too?”

“Yeah,” she said, her expression lightening. “So give me all the details about Christian.”

I smiled, and indulged in what was sure to be my new favorite past time, discussing Christian in all his multi-faceted glory. Tina, being the most perfect friend in the world, listened to every disgustingly soppy word.

The next morning Tina, her mom Tracy, and I went to a bowling alley. Thankfully, I had been able to talk them out of going to the newest horror movie that probably would’ve given me nightmares for weeks. I hated scary movies. Thankfully they fell in with my plan to go bowling in Tacoma, and we had so much fun I completely lost track of the time. I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt so relaxed and carefree. Even Tracy seemed to notice.

“This new guy must be good for you. I haven’t seen you this happy in a while.”

I quickly looked at Tina. “Wow that news got around fast.”

I smiled at them both, although I was envious of how close they were. Tracy had high expectations of Tina, but she was fair, fiercely protective– and fun.

“Oh! Alexis, it is already one o’clock,” Tina said, looking at me apologetically like it was her fault.

“What?” I looked at my watch, and fought the urge to pound my head against our table. I was going to be at least forty minutes late since I had to get all the way out to Graham, where my grandmother lived.

Quickly calling her, I apologized profusely. She didn’t seem all that surprised by my lateness though, which would be kind of insulting– if it wasn’t true.

Forty five minutes later, I pulled into the long, tree-lined, driveway that led to my grandmother’s farmhouse. I loved it here. She had almost three acres of practically untouched land, thick with trees, and even a waterfall and stream. There was also a narrow, but long dirt path that wound through the property, which was perfect for riding my bike when I just wanted to get away from everything.

After I parked and started up towards the big blue house, I looked for any new additions to her garden. My grandmother had a gift for all things green. Plants that shouldn’t survive in our climate seemed to flourish in her care. The gardens around the house didn’t remotely match the typical Washington landscape. There were tropical plants, desert plants. If it wasn’t native to Washington she would have it here. I noticed a potted Gardenia at the bottom of the stairs and leaned over and inhaled deeply. Besides Christian it surely was one of the most luscious scents on Earth. I smiled inwardly at the thought.

She opened the screen door as I approached; a smile on her face. “You finally made it.” Her lips were turned up at the corners.

“Yeah, I’m sorry. I got carried away, bowling with Tina and her mom.”

“I’ll forgive you this time, come on in.”

While I followed her to the back of the house where she had a small morning room, I noticed she had her long silver hair in several intricate braids that she had then wrapped around her head like a coronet. There were even, tiny orange blossoms tucked within it. It was easy to tell we were related by our common hair obsession. We sat down at the table which was already laid out with sandwiches, tea, and juice, and I immediately helped myself to them.

Noticing that she wasn’t plating anything for herself, I looked up at her quizzically. ”Did you already eat?”

“No,” she said a thoughtful look on her face. “There are just some really important things I need to speak with you about, and I am not sure how you are going to react to it.”

I sighed. This didn’t sound good. Before I started imagining all manner of horrible things, I gestured with my hand for her to proceed, might as well get it over with.

“You know most of our family still lives in Athboy, Ireland. Have you ever thought of visiting there?”

“Yes, I would love too. I just don’t have the money.” This didn’t sound so bad. Obviously my imagination was too hyper-active for my own good.

“I am glad to hear that.”

She was glad. Why did I feel like I just walked into a trap? She seemed more relaxed now, which only served to make me more nervous. What was going on in that mind of hers? I watched as she sat back in her chair, and gazed out the window to the garden.

Finally she turned back to me, a strange gentle look on her face. “Have you ever wondered how you seemed to just know things? Like that time we were driving down Meridian Avenue and you made me suddenly pull over, and within seconds of that, that drunk driver plowed through the lane we were just in? Or how, sometimes you know what someone is going to say or do before they do?”

I was confused, weren’t we just talking about Ireland? For the sake of argument I addressed her question at hand. “I just know. It’s so obvious.”

She looked at me very intently, and I could almost hear a command in her voice. “Did you ever wonder if it is only obvious to you for a reason?”

“What do you mean?” My meal was forgotten now.

She interlaced her fingers on the table and leaned forward. “Maybe you have a gift.”

I leaned back into my chair, away from her and her strange ideas as I could get. “What are you trying to say?” I could hear the alarm in my voice.

“You know what type of spirituality our family practices.”

I gave a slight nod of my head, “of course, Druidism. I know I have kind of stepped away lately but-”

“Stop right there. I am not trying to guilt you…” she said gently. “I know you have had a hard time at school lately because Nicolas took advantage of people’s misconceptions about our spirituality. That’s not the issue.”

“What is the issue then?” I asked.

“Some of us have gifts, and more importantly I think yours will be stronger than most,” she replied quietly.

Lurching up from my chair, I gave her a look, like I thought she was mental. “Are you trying to tell me you think I am some kind of psychic?”

“Alexis,” she said calmly, while watching me pace back and forth in her small kitchen. “I don’t know exactly what gift you will have. I am only certain that you have one. Not everyone in our family does, your father doesn’t. It’s not something you can escape, it just is.”

She was serious, and I felt both afraid and angry. I stopped and glared at her. “I don’t want to know what goes bump in the night, and I definitely don’t want to see dead people.”

She got up and came over to hug me, but I pulled away. “I don’t want to talk about this. I’m leaving.”

I was out the door before she took another step. I didn’t want to hear another ridiculous word. I contemplated telling my mom, but decided that would only start some family feud, but maybe I should tell my dad that his mother should be institutionalized.

On the ride home I felt frustrated at the sixty mph that I had to do most of the way, when what I really wanted to do was about one hundred twenty, maybe one hundred fifty. I couldn’t believe she thought I had some magic power. Just because I had good instincts, and was more observant than most people did not mean I had some mystical gift. I needed to shake this off. I didn’t want to ruin my date with Christian worrying about this nonsense. Once off the freeway and almost back in Steilacoom, I started to calm down. She had obviously been reading too many Irish folk tale novels, or spending too much time with her Druidic Grove. Next time I saw her I would have to bring some good old-fashioned true life murder mysteries. That should help.

I was glad that Christian and I had arranged to meet at Saltar’s Point. I needed to relax for a couple minutes before our date. Maybe even meditate a little. After parking, going down and finding my usual spot, I took off my coat, laid it over the gravel, and relaxed back against the driftwood. Taking a deep breath in and exhaling, I felt the same peace I always felt in Steilacoom. It was too peaceful and lovely to feel miserable for long. I was deeply appreciative that even though it wasn’t a sunny day, at least it wasn’t raining.

Feeling inspired, I pulled out my camera when I noticed one of the ferries making its usual leisurely trip across the water to Anderson Island. Which like most islands in the Puget Sound, rose gently from the water, and was covered by so many tall fir trees that it was a wonder that there was any room for houses and streets.

I could hear the crunch of gravel as someone approached, but I kept snapping pictures, figuring it would still be too early for Christian to arrive. Then suddenly pair of dark jeans was in my way. I panned with my camera all the way up the muscular body until I got to his stunning face and took the shot.

“Hi,” I breathed, letting my eyes travel up and down his length a couple times. He had a blanket slung over one shoulder, and a bag over the other. He looked adorable in the most casual look that I had seen him in yet, a dark, plaid button up shirt, over a deep blue t-shirt and jeans with hiking boots. The urge to jump up and plaster myself against him waxed strong. It must have shown on my face too because his eyes seemed to darken and become heavy lidded. Good Lord, help me. I think I am going to jump him.

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