“How do you think I got in?” I gave my boobs a little push.
Fletcher laughed. “I told you a bit of cle**age works wonders, didn’t I?”
“It certainly works for me,” said a voice into my ear. Max.
“Hey Coach,” sang another voice. Evan. He assessed the dress and frowned playfully, giving me the big-brother look. “I should send you home to get some clothes on.”
“Oh I beg you not to do that,” said Harvey to Evan. “The view is perfect.”
Evan shot him a warning look. “Note that she is much too good for you.”
“Harvey’s right, though, she looks absolutely gorgeous,” said Fletcher. “The only girl who has ever tempted me to go straight.”
Max ushered closer to me but I shrugged him off. “Sorry, Slap-head, but I’m going.”
“Where?” he asked, deflating.
“To the dance-floor, of course. And anyone here who isn’t on that dance-floor won’t see me all night.”
“Don’t think you’re leaving me behind,” said Fletcher.
At first I was surprised that the entire squad came to the dance-floor with me, but after a while I came to realise that a big reason for it was because I was getting approached by a lot of blokes since I was the only female in there. Evan’s warning gaze served as a great deterrent to the would-be-drink-offering-blokes as well.
I was dancing with Max when Evan spoke down my ear, “You probably won’t be pleased to know that Jared’s here.”
My heart did a little jump at the sound of his name. Maybe it was faulty. “I don’t care. He can go where he pleases, it’s nothing to do with me.”
“Do you realise that that’s near enough the same thing he said to me telepathically that night when you eavesdropped?”
I spun on my heel, giggling but offended. “I did not eavesdrop.” In truth, I hadn’t turned so that I could jokingly confront Evan. I wanted to get an idea of where Jared was. My senses reached out, alerting me that he was somewhere to my right near the bar. And not happy.
“I was just letting you know he’s here.”
I knew what he meant: be aware that Jared’s here and tone it down with Max or Jared might snap. I’d have disagreed, but Jared had told me telepathically that I’d saved Max’s life by saying no to him, though I never really understood why he was so mental over a bonk.
“Look,” began Evan, “maybe you should pretend you’re going to the bar for a drink and let him approach you.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because I can feel that he’s riled.”
So could I. That was the thing that got to me: I shouldn’t be able to sense his emotions so well. “It’s not my fault that Antonio wants me to lead the squad alongside Jared. I told Antonio I didn’t want to, he made it clear that it was an order.”
“So let Jared approach you, let him bring it up, and then tell him that. Let him get it off his chest.”
“Why should I reassure the plonker?”
Evan sighed. “Please, Sam?” He very rarely called me that. “Yeah he’s a pain in the ass but he’s also my twin brother. Maybe once he’s got it off his chest you two can start behaving civilly to each other again…you know, like grown-ups do.”
I couldn’t help smiling at that. I supposed it wasn’t very mature to snub your colleague when you have to see them and work with them every day. Plus, if we didn’t somehow sort this out how would we ever successfully lead the squad together? How could we ever protect The Hollow the way we were needed to?
Evan kissed my cheek when I sighed in defeat. I then left it to Evan to keep Max out of the way while we tested this theory that Jared had something to say. As Evan suggested, I went to the bar and ordered a drink. I then leaned my back against the bar as if having a brief rest, and kept my gaze forward as I sipped on the red grape NST. Only moments later I felt Jared approaching. Felt his eyes, felt his annoyance...and God that scent.
“I never thought you’d manage to pass as a guy.” His humour didn’t disguise his irritation very well.
“I never thought you’d manage to get entry either, considering you have to be an adult. Sulking is more a toddler thing.” I heard him take a long breath. It pleasantly tickled my skin as he exhaled.
“The squad was impressive at the arena.”
There was a slight emphasis on the word squad; the interpretation being that he believed it was them that deserved the glory, not me. I didn’t rise to that. The fact that was they were impressive and wouldn’t have been unless they had listened hard and tried hard. I was proud of them and wouldn’t take that away from them.
“I’ve noticed that they’re improving physically too,” I said. “Especially Max. You’re obviously training them right.”
He hissed slightly on hearing Max’s name. “You sound surprised that I am.”
I hadn’t sounded surprised at all. My tone had been completely flat. I realised then that he was trying to get an argument out of me. Oh he wanted to get things off his chest alright, but he wanted to argue while he did it.
“Antonio thinks highly of you, so why would I be surprised?”
“Antonio thinks highly of you, but I was surprised tonight.”
“Like you said, the squad was impressive.”
Another long, heavy breath. “Look at me.” It was said softly.
So I looked at him and, as I’d earlier expected might happen, my brain clapped out for a second. It had felt like so long since we’d actually properly made eye contact. He was doing his shameless staring thing again. I didn’t look away this time, but I couldn’t help that my pulse was racing madly.
“Antonio must have told you that he wants you to help me lead the squad when The Hollow is attacked.”
I nodded. “He did.”
“But you never brought it up? I thought you’d have been dying to throw it into conversation and tease me about it.”
“Then you don’t know me very well.” I had taken it as Antonio thinking I was good at what I did, not that he thought that Jared was crap.
“So tell me why you didn’t bring it up.”
“We weren’t exactly having conversations that anything could have been brought up in. And, besides, I had a pretty good idea of how that conversation would go, especially since Antonio had admitted that you weren’t happy about it.”