“That was super hot,” Rose, the redhead in our group says. She is the artist. “Go and do it again.”
“No.” Jesus Christ. That guy is a sexy, pompous dickwad. “It wasn’t hot and I’ll not repeat it.”
“Yes, it was,” Taylor, the brunette, supports. She is the geek among us and the smartest. I finish the rest of her chapman and her eyes narrow in fake anger. She ditched her glasses for contacts tonight and she keeps squinting. “But it wasn’t a real kiss.” To me, it was. Rose makes kissy faces at me. “I wanted to watch you two kiss. Muah. Muah.”
“I think he likes you, Cathy,” Amelia says.
It is her first time talking since I returned to the table. I ignore her. She set me up for this.
“Don’t know. He wants me to follow him,” I say to no one and everyone. Rose hands me my bag. She is seated on my left. “His hotel is behind the pub.”
Taylor retrieves her phone from her purse. For the next few seconds, she types on her phone while I nurse my empty glass. The stranger is still there, staring at me openly. Sexy asshole.
“Yep,” Taylor says. She pushes her phone into my face to show me pictures of the hotel right behind this pub. “He didn’t lie. There’s one.”
Good for him, I guess.
Rose stirs her colourful drink with a straw. She looks up and I shake my head before she says a word. Because she can get away with staying out late doesn’t mean I can. My dad will kill me.
“Are you going to go with him?” she asks.
“Fuck you, Rose. Are you insane?” Rose laughs like that is not the craziest suggestion ever. I look around the table. Three pairs of eyes are staring at me in anticipation. “Jesus. He’s a stranger danger.”
“So? A bad bitch will go with him. Nicki is a bad bitch,” Amelia says to provoke a reaction out of me. Fuck this girl because she’s right about that part. “It’s only a kiss. We will wait for you.”
I push down the voice of reasoning in my head screaming at me to say no. There are four of us and just one of him. What’s the worst that can happen? Taylor nudges me with her knee. Rose bats her lashes and Amelia pouts. Only a kiss.
“You will wait for me. Promise?”
“Promise,” Amelia replies. “Your dad will kill us if we don’t have you home by 11 pm.” My dad is the principal so they know better than to mess with him when he has their future in his hands. “Just don’t go doing more than a kiss, okay?”
We will see about that.
Taylor strikes a conversation about Lucien, our school’s captain. She has been crushing on him since forever but hasn’t worked up the courage to ask him out. I tune them out as the hot stranger’s eyes find me. Even with his sunglasses, I feel his stare. He shoots to his feet and I grab my purse for lack of something to do.
The stranger slaps a bill on the counter, says a few things to the bartender and starts for our table. The pub isn’t crowded tonight so all eyes turn to him. He’s sexy and he knows it, that’s why he actually slow-walks towards us like a model on the runway.
Rose giggles when she notices who I’m staring at. “He’s hot, you have to admit,” she whispers.
True. But I don’t have to admit it out loud. I avert my gaze when he stops at our table. His sunglasses are still intact and I have to wonder who in their right thinking mind wears a pair of sunglasses at night. And to a pub. Amelia tells the stranger something but my heart is beating too fast for me to make out their words. He replies. It must have been funny, the whole table laugh. Rose snorts. If she’s snorting, then he has to be really funny.
I look up to his eyes that have been waiting for me to acknowledge him. “Hi,” I say.
“Last chance,” he replies.
Another look at the girls and they all give me an encouraging nod. I stand but I don’t move another inch. “How am I sure you won’t kill me?”
He laughs. I hate that his laughter is as gorgeous as he is. Wait, can laughter be considered gorgeous?
While he’s thinking up his reply, Amelia tilts her head to survey him. “You kind of look familiar.”
“I get that a lot.”
“Very familiar,” Amelia adds.
“That too, I get it a lot.”
Rose, Taylor and I share a glance. They shrug. No familiarity. We don’t see what Amelia is seeing. She is the oldest in our clique and we respect her a lot but we don’t see it.
Mister Stranger’s gaze finds me again. “What do you say?”
“You didn’t answer my question,” I mumble.
“Amelia has my number,” he says. I dart her a glance and she nods. Just what did they discuss in the short time that I blanked out? He raises his phone and it rings with a familiar number flashing on the screen. “So?” I draw in a breath. He isn’t so bad or my best friends wouldn’t have agreed to this ludicrous idea. But what do a bunch of teenagers even know? I step out to stand beside him, keeping a tiny distance between us. “I’ll get her to you in one piece. Nice to meet you, girls.”
“Nice to meet you, C,” they chorus.
C? How long did they talk? I follow C outside the pub and the chill air hits us first. I snicker at our dresses. Very inappropriate for the weather.
“What’s funny?” C asks.
“We are not dressed for the occasion.”
“Yeah?” He offers me his hand and I slip mine into it. It’s strangely nice. Tugging me forward, away from the pub, he says, “It’s this way.” I am quiet as we take a turn that leads into a path illuminated by the streetlights. The logo of his motel shines from the distance, working out the knots in my joints. I almost relax completely. He wasn’t lying. “Your best friends really wanted you to get a kiss, huh?”
“I guess so.”
Our footsteps echo in the dark. We are the only ones out on the street and I keep looking around us. C doesn’t do the same. We stop at the motel and he lets go of my hand for the first time. Not-so-strangely enough, I miss his body’s warmth.
The receptionist barely glances up as we walk past the counter. C takes my hand again and leads me up the stairs. We continue in silence till we are at a door he opens within seconds.
A switch goes off inside and light floods the room. C steps in before me and I follow behind, wary. Coming here sounded like a great idea at the bar. It always sounds like a great idea when you have had too much to drink. He stops in the middle of his room and grins. I force myself to reciprocate it.
“Welcome to my humble abode,” he says.
Some of the arrogance from the bar seems to have worn off. Same way the buzz from taking those diluted shots disappeared on the walk down here. His room is as normal as a hotel room should be and it’s neat. Neater than most guys’ rooms are.
Mirror. Bed. Chair. Vanity. Everything is intact. C stalks towards me and I see the guitar leaning on the blue wall. Does he play? I almost ask but I swallow the urge. Just a kiss and I’ll be gone.
“Alright. It’s time.” I force my eyes to his face and my breath leaves my lungs. The sunglasses are gone. There’s a cut on his eyebrow I didn’t notice earlier. I bounce on the heels of my feet as his eyes trail my body, stripping me with his gaze. For some reasons, it doesn’t irk me. I puff my chest to give him more to look at. “It’s time for my kiss.”
“Right away? You don’t want to talk?”
“Do you pick random girls from the pub, then ask them to follow you to your room to talk?”
“No, this is my first.” C cocks his head, eyes taking in all of me like he can tell the secrets in my heart. My thighs clench. “What about you? Do you follow random guys from the bar to their room?”
“My first too.”
C drags a chair towards me and crumples to the floor, sitting cross-legged. I occupy the chair.
“Your friends said I had twenty minutes.” C looks behind me to the old clock. “We have about fifteen minutes of that time left. So let’s talk about you.”
“Me?” I point at my chest. C nods. His gaze dips to my arm and flicks back to my face. I drag my sleeves over my wrists. “No. Let’s talk about you.”
C grins like he expected that remark from me. Clasping his hands under his jaw, his eyes flash with interest. “What do you want to know?”
“What does your tattoo mean?”
“Used to be in a band,” C says without thinking twice. That explains his guitar. “Was so excited to belong somewhere, I tattooed the name on my arm.” He rolls his shoulder for me to get a better look at it. I don’t see a name. I see a big rose, if that thing can be called a rose. “We separated so I had to use a bigger tattoo to cover it up. It looks cool, yeah? No one would know it’s a cover-up.”
There’s a date under the rose lookalike. But I don’t ask him about it. “Yeah, it looks really cool.”
“What about you?” He takes my left hand and pushes my sleeves up to reveal the tattoo on my wrist. I wear long sleeves to hide it because it’s a painful reminder from a foolish time. His thumb circles my wrist. “How did you get this?”
“I’m not telling,” I reply. He only lifts a brow as I retract my hand to hide the tattoo of a semi colon on my wrist. “Um… how did you get the cut?”
He touches the cut on his eyebrow to be sure what I’m talking about. I nod. “I’m not telling.” Against my wish, I smile. “You have a pretty smile, Miss Stranger.” I offer him a full blown smile. C takes my hand again, traces the outline of my tattoo. “You really should smile more often.”
“Thanks, C?” He drops my hand and rises to his feet. I swallow tight when he pulls me up. He is taller. My palms become clammy. He closes the tiny gap between us, his fingers brush my cheek and a seed of nervousness germinates in my belly. His head lowers. His breath warms my face. I lick my lips. “C? Is that really your name?”
A flick of his thumb against my pink lips and my heart skips a beat. “No names, remember?”
“I… I do.”
He steps away momentarily. “I’m about to kiss you, pretty stranger.” And I want him to. “You can say no and your friends will never know.”
I bring his hands to cup my face. “Kiss me.”
There are three things you must never do. One, kiss a stranger. Two, kiss a hot stranger. Three, kiss a hot stranger you might never see again. Why? Because if the hot stranger is a good kisser, you will never forget about it. And for the rest of your life, you will compare the kiss with others. I groan into the pillow and drag myself out of bed. C has ruined my life. I kissed Jackson on the first day of school but it was different. It didn’t feel like C’s soft lips. It wasn’t demanding and gentle. Hot and needy and delicate. It was just Jackson. I push down those thoughts once I’m in the bathroom. Amelia will start honking like a little angry bitch if she gets here and I’m not ready. I round up to the room for a change of clothes and finish off in front of the mirror. The dark roots of my hair contrast with the pink flowing down my shoulders. Dad hasn’t gotten over my new hair colour. Dani, my stepmom, thinks it’s cool. I think she’s cool. My phone vibrates on the vanity and
“What do you think about your new brother?” Dad asks once we are inside the car. He doesn’t start the car. I wish he would so we can be out of here and away from anything that reminds me of Calum. “Your brother seems cool.” The relief I’ve been feeling since we left the house melts away. I click my seatbelt into place and tuck my bag between my legs. “He’s not my brother.” All it takes is one stern look from my dad for me to say, “I don’t think anything about him. Can we just go already?” Dad’s hand reaching for the key in the ignition drops. My head hangs in shame. “Sorry, Dad.” “Sorry for what?” “For raising my voice at you.” Since that day, he has been so conscious. Both of us. We have to hold each other accountable. He doesn’t look away and I lift my gaze to blue eyes matching mine. I have naturally black hair while he has brown. Dad takes my hand, the one with the tattoo. His finger hovers above the semicolon tattoo but he doesn’t touch it. He knew when I got it. “I just wa
The tall building of Carlton’s High stretches into the blue sky. Dad drives on to park his car, a smile on his lips as he tells me to have a good day. I walk up the stairs but the door opens before I reach it. Rose steps out first. Taylor is right on her heels. They flank me on each side, linking their hands through mine as we fall into step. “Amelia called us, she’s not coming today,” Rose says with a pout. “Who drove you?” “My dad.” They snicker. I elbow Rose in the rib but Taylor jumps out of my reach. I might have complained once or twice about my dad’s long talks during the rides to school. “It was not that bad.” As a matter of fact, it was going well until he-who-shall-not-be-mentioned showed up. Just the thought of him and the teasing kiss make my cheeks warm. What if Dani had stumbled in? “Next time, call me,” Rose says. I pout and she pinches my cheeks. “I’ll come pick you up, alright?” “Yeah, thanks.” The three of them might dare me to do the most ludicrous thin
“You’re late. Both of you,” Calum murmurs. His expression doesn’t crack as his gaze rakes over us. I’m newly reminded of his handsomeness and a blush rises to my cheeks. It’s unfair to be tortured this way. What’s he doing here? Rose grabs my hand. Calum’s head jerks up. “Excuse me?”Did I say that out loud?“Yes, you did,” Rose whispers. Her cheeks redden with second-hand embarrassment. Body flush against mine, she asks, “Do you have a death wish?”Calum watches our interaction for a bit. Feeling the annoyance rolling off him, I lace my fingers behind my back. “Are you done, both of you?”He keeps saying both of you but I think he means only me. “Yes, sir.” Sir feels so wrong coming from me but I’m not sure how to address him. And the main question still remains, what’s he doing here? Rose pokes me. “We&rsq
Never ever get your choir director upset if you already lied to him once. I’m learning that the hard way. And Dad can’t help me in this case. Dinner is a tense affair. Calum is seated beside me. Dad and Dani are on the other side of the table. I roll the spaghetti around my fork, half-waiting for Dad to say something in my defence or use his position as principal so Calum rethinks my punishment. “Calum,” Dad finally says. I try not to get too excited but a grin spreads to my lips. Dani catches my eyes and looks away but I see her smile before it disappears. “Don’t you think Cathy’s punishment is too harsh? Maybe reduce it to a week or two?” My stepbrother takes a bite from his dinner, then drops his fork on the plate. He clasps his hands on the table and levels Dad with a look that might have gotten me into trouble if I did the same. “Would you appreciate it if someone told you how to do your job?” Too low. Too fucking low. Dad raises his hands in surrender and my heart dips to
CALUMHow do you punish a liar? By ignoring her or taking away her most valuable items. In this case, it’s the choir. With her dad on my side, there’s no pressure to put that miscreant back on the team. In her absence, today’s practice goes by without any hiccups. The students are already warming up to me. I didn’t think that would happen so fast. But everything has been moving so fast since I agreed to come here. All Pete wanted to know after Mum told him about letting me handle the singing was if I had any music experience. I had ton shit of that. And it almost ruined me. Didn’t it? This is my first real gig since Mending Hearts crashed. The choir wasn’t part of my plan. My plan was to be low-key until I sort my shit out and decide my next move. But Mum hopes it will get me to sing and play again. So far, it’s working. Being a choir director involves showing off what you’ve got so the choristers can believe in themselves. I haven’t played the gui
One week later and I’m still not allowed to join the choir. This was not how I envisioned my last year in high school turning out. Rose claims practice is going on fine without me. How’s that possible when their lead solo singer is missing?Calum is a meanie. My stomach tightens at the thought of him. He has been ignoring me. He’s gone before I wake and only returns late in the evening to smoke. I should have reported him to Dad but I haven’t. He wanted to kiss me again that day. As much as I strongly dislike him, I like his lips. So, I wouldn’t have minded another kiss.I force one foot in front of the other till I’m at the door of my chemistry class. Mr Andy is at his desk waiting for the rest of the students. I am too early for the class and as I watch the bald man through the narrow pane of the door, I seriously consider running out of the school.Chemistry is too complicated. Maybe if Calum taught chemistry, I
Shock stops Amelia from acting fast. She shifts gears but it’s too late to do anything, so we are forced to stay put. I try to play it off with a smile but my heart is in my throat. Sweat breaks out on my forehead as Calum’s car slows to a stop directly beside ours. I look away. We are in big trouble. “Are you stalking me?” he asks, still in his car. This is our chance to race out of here. Calum slams his door shut and storms towards my side. No. I’m not the one driving. He should face Amelia. He wrenches the passenger door open. “Get out of the car.” I plant my foot firmly on the car floor. “No.” “Well, I asked nicely.” A scream escapes me as he drags me out of the car like I’m a ragged doll. I swallow my fears and force my face into a neutral mask when our eyes meet. His eyes are wide with anger and I know I have something to do with his temper. “I’ll ask again, were you stalking me?” “No. We came here for Rose.” “Rose, huh?” I nod again because it’s all I can do with