“It doesn’t look a thing like our gym! GAH! How fantabulous does this place look?” Miranda swirled around to smile at us, extremely pleased with the decorations in the gym. She was right. They had done an excellent job making the gym into an oceanic starry night.
“It is impressive,” I agreed as Leif’s arm pulled me closer to his side.
“Do you feel like dancing?” he asked as the music changed from a slow song to Lady Gaga’s Just Dance.
I shook my head and glanced over toward the tables. “Can we sit this one out? I’m not sure my rib is up for that kind of movement.” He steered me toward the tables as Miranda grabbed Wyatt and pulled him onto the dance floor. I laughed at Wyatt’s pained expression and turned to say something to Leif when I realized his attention was focused on the entrance. There was a scowl on his face. Dank had just walked in, looking breathtaking in a pair of jeans, a black t-shirt, and army boots. It took me a moment to take my eyes off of him to notice Kendra was plastered to his side. She had been melted and poured into the red dress she had on. Either that or it wasn’t really a dress at all but something she had painted on her body. Jealousy flared up in my chest at the sight of Dank’s arm around her waist. I glanced back up at Leif who was still staring at the couple with dislike.
“Are you okay?” I asked, and he jerked his gaze away from Kendra and Dank.
He nodded, stopped, and studied me a moment. “You have some classes with Dank, and you’ve spoken to him a few times, haven’t you?” I nodded, not sure where this was going so I waited for more. “Something about him concerns me. Kendra has some issues that make her unstable and I’m beginning to worry that Dank isn’t the kind of guy she needs.
He seems dark and sinister.”
My jealousy was forgotten and quickly replaced by anger.
Leif thought Dank wasn’t good enough for Kendra, the town slut? I managed to hold an angry burst of laughter in and I glared out at the dance floor wishing I could somehow get away. I needed to calm down.
“What? You look mad. Don’t get me wrong I don’t like Kendra, Pagan. That isn’t what this is about.” He reached for my other arm and pulled me around to face him. His earlier hostile expression toward Dank had vanished. Now he was worried and for the first time I didn’t care about easing his concern. “Look at me. I don’t want her. You’re all I want. I love you Pagan. It isn’t like that with Kendra. I just don’t want her hurt. She has—”
“Issues, yeah, I heard you,” I said, cutting him off before I forgot myself and made a scene. I took a deep breath reminding myself I was taking this personally because of my feelings for Dank. “Look, if Dank Walker has any interest in Kendra then she should count herself lucky. From what I know of him he is intelligent, honest, talented, and compassionate.”
I glared back at Leif who seemed to be taking in my words. I wanted to say more and continue defending Dank but I knew I’d said enough. “I need something to drink. I’ll be right back,” I said before turning and walking away. It was abrupt but I needed to put some space between my anger and Leif.
Miranda waved at me as I passed by where she and Wyatt were dancing. I forced a smile but kept walking. Kendra’s skin-tight red dress caught my eye and I turned to see her wrapped around Dank, laughing and dancing in such a way that would have the chaperones on her within seconds.
Jealousy knotted in my stomach at the way Dank held and touched her in ways he’d never touched me. I didn’t head toward the refreshment table. Instead, I headed for the back doors. I needed to get away from Leif and Dank. I paused at the door. Being alone in the dark might not be such a good idea. Kendra’s laughter rang in my ears and I decided right now, I would rather face the touchy creepy blond soul than watch Dank holding Kendra.
The night breeze had cooled down in the last couple of weeks. I wrapped my arms around my waist and walked toward the deserted football field. The emotions churning inside me gave me a sense of bravado. I walked on, away from the music and laughter. I thought back to last summer at my aunt’s ranch and how easy things had been. I’d spent my time riding horses and helping my aunt deal with the death of my uncle. Mom had suggested I go visit her so she wouldn’t be alone. I’d agreed to go, thinking that being away from this town and my memories of Jay would help. It had, in a sense. After a few weeks, I’d come to realize Jay and I were never meant to be. Another pro about being on the ranch had been the wandering souls had seemed to be sparse. It had been a brief reprieve from my life. However, the last few weeks of the summer, I’d looked forward to coming home. I glanced back at the gym and thought of how crazy things had gotten since my return.
“Why aren’t you inside dancing with your date?” Dank’s voice broke the silence and I turned to see him leaning up against the cement wall of the stadium. I shrugged and ducked my head as if studying my feet. I didn’t want him to see the hurt or jealousy in my eyes. It was bad enough he probably already knew. “He’s looking rather forlorn sitting at a table all alone,” Dank said quietly into the night. A flicker of guilt deep in my stomach wasn’t enough to send me back inside. I shrugged again and didn’t meet his probing gaze. He chuckled and the low, sexy sound sent a shiver through me. “So, have you decided to try the ignoring me thing again, to see if I go away?” he asked with a touch of humor in his voice.
I bit my lip to keep from smiling and shook my head no.
“I know that doesn’t work with you.”
“Why are you out here, Pagan? What’s wrong?” he asked quietly. I reluctantly glanced up at him. He was so incredibly beautiful standing with his arms crossed in front of his chest.
The dark hair that curled at the ends seemed to dance in the breeze.
“Nothing that concerns you,” I lied. He tilted his head to one side and flashed me a wicked grin.
I nodded. “Really.”
His hands fell to his sides as he stepped away from the wall and took a step toward me. “Seeing me dance with Kendra doesn’t bother you?” he asked in a husky whisper. I shook my head and looked away from him, refusing to step back from his nearness. His eyes bore down on me so intensely it was as if he were actually touching me. My heart started beating hard against my ribs and I looked at him.
His eyes flickered from my dress back to my face. “I knew pale pink would suit you. Most girls can’t pull it off but on you it’s perfect.”
I swallowed, afraid my heart was about to pound right out of my chest. I didn’t want to think about the way his gaze made every cell in my body come alive.
“You think I don’t want to touch you the way I touch Kendra. You’re right.” His words washed over me like ice water and I stepped back away from him as if he’d just slapped me. My pounding heart constricted and I took a quick intake of air, afraid, for a moment, that I wouldn’t be able to breathe. His hand reached out, grabbed mine, and pulled me up against him. “When I touch Kendra I mentally cringe at having to continue to pull off the farce of being interested in her.”
I stopped trying to pull my hand out of his and stared up at him. This sounded like something I wanted to hear.
“When I can’t control my need for you and allow myself to touch you it ignites a monster inside of me that I’m afraid I’ll lose control over. You make me feel things I’ve never felt before. Something happens,” he paused and lowered his gaze from my eyes to my lips, “when I’m near you like this.” He touched my lips with his fingertip and I trembled. He closed his eyes as if in pain. “And when you react the way you do, I feel the clawing inside me to take what I want.” He opened his eyes and stared at me with an intensity that would have frightened me had I not trusted him so completely. “You’re the one thing I want the most in the world yet the one thing I cannot have. Because to have you completely would be impossible. You can’t go where I walk.” He stopped and cradled my face in his hands. “The purpose of my existence is not to have a mate. It is lonely and cold.
Until now it has been all I’ve known. Then you became the appointed and everything changed.” He dropped his hands from me and backed away as a pained desperation clouded his eyes. “Go, Pagan. Run, please, run. I am not what you think I am. I am not ‘intelligent, honest, talented, and compassionate’ although hearing you say those words in my defense felt like warm liquid pouring through my cold veins.
You want to know what I am and I can’t tell you. If you knew, I wouldn’t have to beg you to run.”
He snarled and turned away from me, stalking off toward the darkness. I couldn’t let him go. I ran after him and he turned abruptly. His angry glare stunned me and I froze. The anger seemed to leave him immediately and a tortured expression came over his perfectly-chiseled features. I gasped at the transformation.
“I don’t care what you are,” I said, taking a step toward him. “You can’t scare me off and I’m not running away. What is it the song you sing to me says? ‘Yet you stay. Holding on to me, yet you stay, reaching out a hand that I push away.
The cold is not meant for you yet you stay, you stay, you stay. When I know it’s not right for you’." I repeated his words to him in the darkness. His face contorted in pain.
“Go, Pagan. Now. I can’t control myself much longer,” he whispered into the darkness.
I took another step toward him. A low growl erupted from his chest and he seized me in one swift movement. His mouth found mine instantly. His teeth nipped my bottom lip and then he gently swiped his tongue over the bite. My first taste of him sent my world spinning. Somehow I’d known it would be like this. I grabbed handfuls of Dank’s shirt. I needed to keep him here against me, finally allowing me to have what I’d been craving. His arms tightened around me and I heard a moan in the darkness but I wasn’t sure if it was his or mine. My purpose in life was complete. There was nothing else I wanted or desired more than this. There was a darkness pulling at us, I couldn’t grasp what it was exactly but even through the haze of pleasure I knew it was there.
Dank trailed kisses down my neck and murmured words I didn’t understand. I released his shirt to grab his face, hungrily bringing his mouth back to mine. His hands slowly ran up my back and slipped over my ribs. My breath hitched as his thumbs grazed the bottom of my bra. Dank tore his mouth from mine, panting loudly. It thrilled me to see him as needy as I was for this.
“I can’t, Pagan. I want this so damn bad. But I can’t.” In the blink of an eye I was alone, sitting on the cold grass in the middle of the football field. My breathing was ragged and my head was spinning. Where was Dank? My eyes searched frantically through the darkness for him. Why had he left me? The feeling of euphoria had disappeared with him and my body ached from its loss.
“Pagan?” a worried voice called from behind me. I didn’t turn because I recognized Leif’s voice. He had come to find me and here I sat in my pale pink dress, bought for another guy, in the middle of a deserted football field. Maybe I was going crazy. He knelt down in front of me with fear and worry etched on his handsome face.
“God, you scared me. I came outside looking for you and I saw you faint or fall...are you okay? I’m sorry, Pagan, I didn’t mean to upset you. Please, please forgive me.” He was holding my hands in his, yet the warmth from his body couldn’t penetrate the cold that was seeping through me. I stared up at him, knowing I had to say something. But what could I say?
“It’s fine. I just don’t feel well. My head.” I touched my head for effect. “I’m sorry, but I just want to go home.” He stood and helped me up, wrapping his arm around my waist as a means of support. We walked in silence across the field and into the dark parking lot. I wasn’t sure if he was angry or hurt but right now I just needed to be alone. My mind couldn’t seem to wrap itself around what had just happened and I knew deep down I was hoping Dank would be in my room waiting for me.
We didn’t speak the entire trip home. I hated the silence but there was no way to explain what had happened. When he pulled into my driveway he turned the car off and then glanced over at me.
“I hope you can forgive me for upsetting you.” He let out a sigh of disgust. “Here I am all worried about Kendra’s personal life and I end up hurting the only girl I’ve ever loved with my stupidity.” He stopped and shook his head. “You’re still healing from something I caused. You never complain about it but I know you’re still dealing with after effects from your wreck. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to forgive myself for letting my stupid mouth upset you so much that you…” he motioned with his hand as if toward the football field miles away, “…go off alone and faint from the stress I inflicted.”
I couldn’t take him blaming himself for what happened anymore. I forced myself to snap out of my haze and take his hand. “Leif, listen to me. What happened tonight is not your fault. I’m not entirely sure what happened myself, but no one is to blame, except maybe me. You had nothing, and I mean nothing, to do with it.”
The small flicker of relief in his eyes wasn’t strong enough to compensate for his tortured expression. He pulled my hand up to his mouth and kissed it. “I love you, Pagan Moore.” He had been saying those three words a lot tonight.
I knew I couldn’t say the words he wanted to hear. Leif was special to me but I didn’t love him, at least not the way he wanted me to. I did the only thing I could think of. I leaned over and kissed him softly on the lips, and then turned, and got out of the car. I headed for the door without a backwards glance.
My bedroom was empty but somehow I’d known it would be. Something had happened tonight. I didn’t know what it was but I knew it was important. I walked over to the chair where Dank spent his nights and I curled up on it. He wouldn’t come tonight. I needed to be close to him and this seemed like the only way. The silence seemed to cut through me like a knife and warm tears trickled down my face. I missed his voice filling my room with warmth. I didn’t want him to leave me. The fear that he was gone hurt so much it constricted my airways. The blond soul that had frightened me no longer seemed important. The absence of Dank made my chest ache. I couldn’t take the silence anymore so I began to sing softly in the darkness.
“Yet you stay. Holding on to me, yet you stay, reaching out a hand that I push away. The cold is not meant for you yet you stay, you stay, you stay. When I know it’s not right for you.”