Destiny is no matter of chance.
It is a matter of choice.
William Jennings Bryan
~ Book One ~
IT IS SAID that our destiny is set, predetermined before conception. But I myself, have never been a believer…
Barefoot and wrapped in a towel, I padded my way to the closet, quickly deterred by the ring of my iPhone. I grabbed it from the nightstand and checked caller I.D. Perfect! Then slid my finger across the screen, unlocking it before I put it to my ear. “Good morning, Trista.”
“Good morning, Dani,” the familiar voice said on the other end. “How are you doing?” Her apprehension was easily heard.
“I’m good,” I lied, dressing into my favorite turquoise blue scoop neck and my ragged edged, white mini skirt. “I’m getting ready now. How about you?”
“I’m in the parking lot…” she paused, “I’m sorry, Dani.”
“It’s not your fault,” I lied to my friend a second time, softly cursing her in my head.
“Still, I’m real sorry I won’t be with you. I know how nervous you get.”
That’s an understatement! She’s humbly apologetic, and I know I should let her off the hook, because really it isn’t her fault. Trista Adams, my beautifully perfect, kind, and compassionate best friend, to which no one else could ever compare. Really, it’s her father’s fault; he’s where my curses should be directed. If he hadn’t taken that job transfer, they wouldn’t have moved five hundred miles away.
Ashamed of myself for letting Trista feel even a morsel of guilt, or that this is in any way her fault or choice, I reciprocated her apology. “Don’t be sorry. I’m the one who’s sorry, Trista. This has got to be harder on you.” I’m at least in familiar surroundings.
“I’m almost to my first class now.”
“Then I should hang up. I would hate for you to have your phone confiscated because of me.” I moved to my full-length mirror. Looking at my reflection it was hard to miss the resemblance to my mother; I share her pale blue eyes, fair skin, and long, dark curls. This has always pleased my mother, having me look like her—I guess I kind of like it too.
“Dani, before I go, there’s something I need to say.” She sounded serious. “I know how determined you are to stick to your plan…”
What’s wrong with my plan?! Study hard, play soccer even harder, slide through high school under the radar, and above all, avoid the distraction of boys. It’s a good plan, a solid plan, one that’s worked so far.
“This might be the year, Dani…”
I interrupted her. “Don’t! You’ve seen the boys at school.”
“I’m just saying, since we no longer have each other to lean on and are already pushed out of our comfort zone, why not open ourselves to new possibilities?”
“Ugh!” I groaned into the phone.
“Gotta go! Talk to you soon, Dani.” And the line fell silent.
I sat on the edge of my bed, instantly aware of the California sun blazing through my bedroom window. It feels nice now—warm against my skin—but not for long; it’s August in Redding, and soon to be a one hundred and twelve degree day.
I forced Trista’s suggestion from my head and closed my eyes, recalling how this morning began:
The single street lamp eerily flickering in the background of the night blackened alleyway, heat radiating off the asphalt and my clothes damp with sweat, as my back pressed tight to an abrasive brick wall.
My body too warped with fear to move, I helplessly watched two raven-haired vampires drag Trista into the hollows of the night—leaving the four fire glowing eyes and glistening fangs of the other two, hungrily coming at me.
As they neared, I couldn’t help but become captivated with their beauty: the moon shimmering across their honey hair, skin of translucent white, not an imperfection to be found. When my focus caught theirs, gazing between their eyes of fire, one took me in his trance, leaving in fear’s place a want, a want for him to come closer. He kept my eyes with his as he moved to my throat, and though the initial pierce of his fangs burned throughout, a tranquility soon followed, and I relaxed into his arm held at my back, welcoming the bite of the other vampire to my wrist.
The want for them to continue surprised me, as if I needed the pull of the warm blood to continue being drawn from my veins. Then suddenly, my sweet reverie was broken, and the beautiful honey-haired vampires were gone. In their place, I was in the arms of a lovely dark-haired angel, heading away from the dark alley into a glimmering bright light. My arms eagerly twisted around his neck—willing him not to vanish like the vampires had—as I relished in the feel of his strong arms and glanced to his face, excited to sneak a peek at his features, when a screeching noise abruptly blurred my moment with the angel, slipping him from my sight. I reached out, hoping to pull him back in my grasp, but I was too late, he was gone, drawn into the abyss of the light—a light that seemed to be getting brighter. I put my hand up, shielding my eyelids from the warm, golden glow.
That’s when the noise I’d heard became clear; it was music. And the golden glow, was the morning sun shining through my bedroom window. Swiftly realizing I’d been dreaming, I turned from the window, squishing my pillow over my head to drown out the remaining daylight, and gave my alarm a smack, ceasing the blaring music.
I wanted nothing more than to remain in the comfort of my bed, slip back into my slumber, and mend the broken fragments of my dream. But that wasn’t possible, not with the looming first day of school ahead. So I rolled from my bed and stumbled to the shower, glancing to my wrist along the way—those bites felt so real, I’d half expected to see marks.
Even now, as I open my eyes, knowing it was a dream, I have to fight the urge to check my wrist.
I slipped into my flip-flops and shuffled out of my room, the scent of sweet maple and hickory filling my senses and twisting my insides. My stomach’s not up for food, but there is no way my mother will let me leave the house without breakfast.
She came toward me with a hug, the way she greets me every day. “You look especially pretty this morning, honey.”
“Thanks,” I returned, then quickly sat before my dad noticed the length of my skirt. There’s no time to change if he feels my skirt is too short—which is a strong possibility.
I began my weak attempt at eating breakfast, my mind wandering to Trista and the enormous void her absence has left in my life. I’m not sure how I’m going to survive school without her; I’ve barely adjusted to summer life.
“Are you all right?” Mom asked me. “You’re usually excited on the first day.”
“I’m fine,” I fibbed, keeping my eerie dream to myself.
“So, you are not the least bit concerned about attending school without Trista?”
I sat wordlessly.
“I expect it will be different, Danielle, but you still have Kirby,” she continued. “Besides, soccer will fill up a lot of your time this year; you know how driven that coach is.”
“Hey, now,” my dad piped in. In addition to being the Athletic Director at my high school, Dad is also the Girls’ Varsity Soccer Coach. “That drive has won us the NAL Championship four years running.”
Playing on the varsity team is something Trista and I have looked forward to. I’ll miss her on the team, but this is one area where I can hold my own. I live for soccer—though, being the coach’s daughter may be a bit of a challenge.
“I’m proud to have you on the team this year, Dani.” This I know to be true, by the pride shown on his face whenever he speaks of me and soccer. My dad loves sports, all sports. He’s a fanatic. Having a job that allows him to live sports all day is perfect for him. Having his only child be a girl, an athletic girl, has always made him proud. “I’m excited too, Dad.” Now if I could just be as confident about the social aspects of school.
“A junior,” he sighed, “it’s hard to believe.”
“Feels like we just took you to kindergarten,” Mom added. “You were very apprehensive about school, Danielle. Thankfully Trista’s parents agreed to let her drive with us, to help you both transition.”
Kind of ironic that I find myself with similar feelings today, only now I’m forced to deal with the awkward first day alone—which I am positively dreading. But my mother doesn’t need to know that; she will worry, and I can’t handle that extra guilt today.
“And now, you’re driving yourself to school,” she reflected.
Oh my gosh, I totally forgot about my Jeep…and that I’ll be driving myself this year. To occupy my time after Trista moved, I got a job as a cashier at the cinema across town. I saved most of the money I earned in hope of finding a cheap car. I had no idea I’d be lucky enough to find something so perfect, so quickly. We noticed the Jeep outside the grocery store. I loved it the instant I saw it: bright pepto pink, a black hard top, and black and white zebra print seat covers. It definitely stood out. And since the guy was anxious to sell, the 1977 CJ-7 was mine for a great price. Best of all, it’s fun to drive. Remembering this made me more eager to get to school, along with wanting to share my dream with Kirby. I quickly excused myself.
“Good luck today, honey…and please drive safely,” Mom cautioned.
“Always do,” I assured her, and I was out the door.
My drive to Valley View High is serene; traveling rural highway forty-four, sandwiched between tree covered rolling hills and the occasional pasture.
On my way, I couldn’t stop thinking about that dream, nor could I shake the feeling of those vampires biting me and sucking my blood. I wondered if in actuality the sensation felt as amazing as it did in my dream—then again, of course not, vampires aren’t real.
I exited to the country road that leads to school, passing through the one stop light town before arriving. Welcome to Valley View High School, Home of the Cougars, the sign in front reads. About then, this morning’s pancakes began to remind me that I shouldn’t have eaten them on such a nervous stomach. I continued to the back lot, noticing numerous groups of students scattered around visiting—none of which I would feel comfortable approaching—which only made me more anxious, causing the flipping somersaults in my stomach to intensify. Really, I should be used to it—the large amount of students—this is my third year at Valley View. And though I know most of the students, I still feel awkward. I’ve never been one to hang with cliques, instead preferring the company of Trista and Kirby; a choice I am definitely rethinking, now that Trista is twelve hours away. Locating my slot, I turned off my Jeep and threw my keys in my book bag, catching Kirby swiftly walking my way. Thank God, a friendly face—and by Kirby’s expression, he was equally as relieved.
I’ve gone to school with Kirby Reynolds since kindergarten. He was a timid little boy back then, with his red hair and freckles. Trista and I noticed him standing alone during morning recess and pushed him to swing with us. We’ve been friends ever since. And though the red hair has darkened since then, and he’s past me up in height, the freckles and kind heart still remain.
“Hey, Kirby,” I smiled. As I stepped down he grabbed me, pulling me the rest of the way out. He hugged me so tightly it felt like my rib cage was crushing and cutting off my air flow. “Okay! Good grief, Kirby! I need air,” I spoke, fearful I might soon pass out from lack of oxygen.
He released his grip. “Sorry. I’ve been waiting for someone I know to show up.” His hazel eyes became curious, “Is the Jeep yours?”
“It is. I got it last week.”
“It’s awesome! And pink!” he declared. “It totally fits you.” I was happy to have Kirby’s approval. “I can’t believe you found such a sweet ride.” He peeked inside. “When do I get to see how she drives?”
“How about lunch, we’ll go to Rita’s?” I knew this would please him, Rita’s Taco Barn is Kirby’s favorite lunch spot—not to mention, the quickest option of the four choices we have.
“Works for me! You gonna let me drive?”
“Are you sure you won’t be embarrassed driving a girly, pink Jeep?”
“Of course not! Besides, that color is the only thing girly about it…” Kirby paused, looking to me as if he’d just seen me. “What’s wrong with you, you don’t look right?”
“I don’t know!” I snapped in defense, noting his expression—he wasn’t buying my answer. “I had the weirdest dream this morning; I can’t shake it,” I confessed. “These two vampires took Trista and I never saw her again. And there were two more—they bit me! I’ve been trying to figure out the meaning since I woke.”
“You’ve been watching vampire movies again, haven’t you?” he guessed. “I told you to stop that. You have nightmares every time.”
This is true; they do give me nightmares. “There was no movie…but there was a book, and I was reading it before I fell asleep.”
“Well, there’s your meaning. You had vampires on your mind when you fell asleep. As for them taking Trista, it doesn’t take a psychology degree to see that you were transferring your fear of being without Trista today and losing her friendship since she moved. Trista is not gone forever Dani, and you’ll manage at school without her…you have me!” He beamed.
“Okay Mr. Psychologist; you’re probably right about the vampires, and maybe even Trista. But there was more, and this was different. It was more like a dream this time, than a nightmare. The feeling of them biting me and sucking my blood, I could feel the pull of the blood tugging through my veins. I wanted it, and I liked it…a lot!”
“That’s kinda twisted.”
“Be quiet! You know how I feel about dreams. There is always a meaning behind them…” I broke, “…Plus, there was someone else…a dark-haired angel—he saved me.”
“Doesn’t sound like you needed much saving…a male angel,” he muttered with a low laugh. “You getting kinky on me, Dani…and do you always dream about random guys, or is this a fairly new thing?”
“Knock it off, Kirby! I’m being serious here. There was something familiar about this guy, the angel I mean. Just when I was about to see his face, my alarm went off and took him away. He reminded me of someone I know—not that I know anyone that beautiful at Valley View.”
“Oh, so now he was beautiful,” Kirby teased.
Before I could react, the air around us blared with a sudden roar, taking my attention with it. This wasn’t like the usual motors heard in the school lot, this was loud and thunderous, rumbling in my chest and vibrating through to my toes. When I turned, I saw a shiny, black motorcycle speeding through the lot; at that moment, I wasn’t sure if I was more surprised by the motorcycle, or by the thrill it gave me—it was exciting, dangerous—I’ve never seen a student arrive on a motorcycle before. My eyes traveled with the mysterious rider as he circled, parking beside the car directly in front of mine. My heart raced, wondering who he was; it was difficult to tell with the matching shiny, black helmet he had on, but I assumed he must be new, because I definitely would have remembered if I’d seen him before. In a quick look around, I saw my attention wasn’t the only he had drawn; the entire lot looked on in curiosity.
The rider dismounted, his back to me—he was exceptionally tall, with a strong build and broad shoulders—wearing faded jeans, low at his hips, boots, and a collared shirt. At last lifting off his helmet, he gave a shake to his wavy black hair, running his fingers through to move it into place as he turned. It was then that I noticed his beautiful, bronzed skin and emerald green eyes. “Wow! Gorgeous!” my mouth shot out, as if it thought on its own. I froze, filled with immediate regret, wondering if I’d really just said that aloud. I glanced to Kirby, knowing instantly by his look of shock and gaping mouth, that yes, I really had just blurted that out. How embarrassing. “I meant who is that? I’ve never seen him before,” I corrected awkwardly, deciding that moving on from my embarrassing comment was best, as I hoped Kirby would do the same. I held my tongue, keeping my next thought to myself, but this gorgeous guy sure looks an awful lot like the beautiful angel in my dream—though I’m not sure how that is possible.
“That’s Cayden, Dani,” Kirby’s tone showed his irritation.
“Cayden? Cayden Bridwell?!” My eyes widened. “Nooo?! It can’t be. Shy, brainy Cayden?! He was like five-foot-five at the end of sophomore year. No way could he have grown that much over summer, that’s only ten weeks!” Not to mention that he’d become completely gorgeous and my eyes couldn’t move from him.
“Danielle, that is Cayden Bridwell! He had a major growth spurt or something over summer break. I don’t see what the big deal is; you’ve known Cayden since grade school.”
Ignored him since grade school, is more like it. “I can’t believe how much he’s changed. He’s unrecognizable.” I was careful not to aggravate Kirby any further, but I was baffled, how is it possible for someone to have changed that much in such a short time? Cayden must be at least six-foot-five or six, and does not look like any high school boy I’ve ever seen. He looks more like a man; a beautifully, gorgeous man. And how in the world did he end up in my dream?
That’s when I noticed him walking our direction. There was no time to look away, he caught my eyes and stopped instead of passing. “Hello, Danielle,” he smoothly spoke, tugging at my insides with a knock-out smile. “It’s good to see you.”
“Hi,” was all I lamely could assemble; too stunned to speak, but happy for a chance to admire Cayden up close. His emerald eyes were mesmerizing. I could now see how his long, thick, black lashes set off the bright emerald green color, and that his coal black hair was perfectly tousled—I wanted to touch it, run my fingers through it—and his face, so beautifully sculpted, with smooth, perfect lips, all complimented by his tan skin. He was incredibly good-looking. Not a sign of the boy I’ve grown up with. Amazing!
Cayden’s attention turned from me. “How was your summer, Kirby?”
“Decent. Yours?” Kirby flipped back, switching into cool guy mode.
“Mine was eventful,” Cayden chuckled, amused at his own inside joke, “but it passed too quickly.”
“Sweet bike! Suzuki, right?”
“Yes, a Hayabusa,” Cayden answered, an added sparkle to his eyes. “The thing flies, I’ve got it up to one-ninety!” The motorcycle excited Cayden as much as it excited me; the difference being, for me it was the combination of him and the motorcycle. I didn’t give their conversation much attention—Cayden was a beautiful distraction—I just stood, loving the sight before me, realizing as I looked up to him that my earlier height assumption was accurate. Cayden stood eight to nine inches above my five-foot-nine frame, making him at least six-foot-five or six. This, combined with his strong, muscular build, made me feel unusually small in comparison.
It looks like my concerns about my school social life were unnecessary. This school year is beginning with great potential!
“Danielle…?” Cayden’s wickedly appealing voice interrupted my thoughts. He smiled, “Is this your Jeep?” His eyes once more meeting mine, I stiffened, again unable to speak.
Kirby’s elbow jabbed my side; my eyes swung to him and his wondering look, then back to Cayden. “Um…yes…the Jeep is mine. Since last week,” I answered nervously.
“Nice color.” I couldn’t quite tell if he was teasing, or serious. But with the way those faceted emerald eyes stared into mine, I didn’t much care. Cayden was talking to me, and the world surrounding us stilled. “You enjoyed summer break, I assume?”
“It was…okay; I worked, to occupy my time after Trista moved.” I was still trying to control my urge to gawk at him, but was pleased to at least be able to speak a few words and not become tongue-tied.
“I hadn’t heard she moved.” He inched closer, nearly stopping my heart. “Where’s she living?”
“…Southern…California,” I sputtered. “She likes it.”
“That’s good, that she likes it I mean. But how are you? The two of you were inseparable.”
His genuine empathy surprised me; Cayden is not only gorgeous, but caring as well, an ideal combination. “I miss her, we’ve always come together to pick up schedules. Then this morning, I had the weirdest…” I broke, definitely too soon to share the dream. “Luckily I ran into Kirby.”
“Speaking of schedules…” Kirby prompted.
Good grief! I was so taken with Cayden, schedule pick up totally slipped my mind. I turned to lock my Jeep, startled by a body standing in front of me.
“Hey, Kennedy!” Senior, Drew Stewart grinned before me, donning a football jersey. “You coming to the game Friday?” he asked me.
Floored into a stunned pause, my head shook in slow motion, suddenly feeling Kirby’s arm come around my back, his hand settling on my waist. This is new!
“Miller’s having a party afterwards,” Drew pushed, “you should come with me.”
This is not happening, not in front of Cayden. “I can’t Friday, but thanks.” I shrugged Kirby off; certainly do not want to give Cayden the wrong idea about Kirby and me.
“Offers open, if you change your mind; just meet me after the game,” he said in a rush, a dopey smile affixed on his face as he sped off.
“Since when is that imbecile on the football team?” Kirby charged.
“No clue,” I answered, uncomfortably staring ahead to avoid Cayden’s expression.
“Neanderthal,” Kirby muttered, pushing me onward.
As we wordlessly walked—Cayden hugging my left and Kirby my right—I was happy to not be awkwardly alone, and proud to be entering the campus with Cayden, who I am sure is the hottest guy at Valley View now. We approached an earsplitting mob of students in the quad.
“We’ll see you later, Kirby,” asserted Cayden, noting the lines were divided by last names.
Kirby’s face fell, clearly feeling the odd man out. “We’ll meet back here,” I suggested, and Kirby moved toward his line. To my surprise, Cayden placed his hand lightly at the small of my back—sparks igniting—holding close by my side and guiding me forward, as if to guard me from the horde of students. I was aware of the familiar faces looking our way, and quite certain they were wondering, as I had earlier, who Cayden was. His hand held at my back while we waited, causing my body to tingle and my stomach to flutter. I have to admit, Cayden is an excellent distraction from missing Trista.
He caught me off guard, whispering in my ear, “You’re beautiful.”
My insides twitched as the feeling of his soft breath sent shivers down my spine.
Cayden smiled, aware of his affect. “Danielle Kennedy and Cayden Bridwell,” he spoke out, at last our turn.
I like the sound of that, I thought, biting my lip to hide my grin.
Schedules in hand, Cayden led me through the crowd to meet Kirby—who wasn’t yet back. “May I?” Cayden gestured to my schedule. I handed it over and he quickly compared the two, holding them so I could also see. “We have Trig together first period, U.S. History fourth, and sixth period Chemistry!” The excitement in his voice shocked me. I glanced to him, noting a beaming smile, his teeth brilliant white against his tan skin, and those mesmerizing emerald eyes looking into mine. “Three classes together,” he murmured. “It’s going to be a good year for us Danielle!”
Holy cow, it seems the attraction may be mutual. My heart was throbbing, my stomach knotting up, excited, but concerned. Cayden is not only in one class, but three main subjects. How am I supposed to concentrate with him in my classes? Just being in his presence makes it difficult for me to speak, let alone concentrate and learn.
I looked away, checking for Kirby, knocked back by what I saw. To the back of the schedule line stood two raven-haired boys. My heart plummeted to the depths of my gut; these boys bore a startling resemblance to the two in my dream—impossible. Before I could turn my eyes away, they eerily smiled: one wiggling his fingers in a smug wave, while the other actually had the nerve to pucker his lips, giving me a mocking kiss. I shot my head behind me to see if they were looking to someone else. No such luck. I twisted back, half hoping they’d be gone, but there they stood, amused. Cayden, realizing he’d lost my attention, glanced up, glaring at the raven-haired boys—they returned his glare, as if locked in battle. It was amazing how Cayden’s gorgeous face could narrow into such a chilling expression. “You know them?” I asked, assuming he must, to be so fiercely angry with them.
“No…but I know their kind!” The raven-haired boys gave pleased grins, seeming to hear what was said. The resemblance to the two dark-haired vampires in my dream was startling; same ghostly white skin, shadowed eyes, and ruby lips. The only thing missing was the clothes of black; these two wore all white—very well I might add—down to their white caps and gloves; odd for Redding’s heat. “They seem to know you,” Cayden accused.
“They don’t!” I defended quickly. First Cayden appears, looking like the angel in my dream, now these two. What the heck! I’m pretty certain that Cayden is not an angel—especially with the evil look he just gave those boys—and even more certain the dark-haired boys are not vampires. By the time I answered Cayden and glanced back, the boys were gone.
Taking hold of my wrist, Cayden turned it to show the inside, touching the tips of his fingers over my skin with a spark.
I jerked my wrist back in reaction.
“You keep rubbing your wrist, I thought maybe you’d hurt it.” His gaze moved to my eyes.
I must have done so without realizing, reminded of that dream and the feeling of being bit. Looking into Cayden’s gaze and seeing he was expecting an explanation, I was thankful Kirby walked up and interrupted. Kirby had an odd expression on his face, seeming bothered. So I slipped toward him, putting distance between Cayden and me. But Cayden followed, his side melded to mine. “Let’s see your schedule,” I said to Kirby. He flipped out his class list and held it to ours. “We have second period Spanish 3, and we’re all three in History with Mr. Allen. Great, we can study together!”
“Sure,” Kirby muttered, “we can study together.” He was still looking over the schedules, mostly mine and Cayden’s now. “You guys have three classes together? Wow, what are the chances?” His speculative eyes swung to me.
“I know; it’s kind of weird. I don’t remember having any last year.”
“Actually,” Cayden sighed, “I was in English with you and Trista last year.”
“Oh, that’s right,” I lied, feeling badly that I’d never noticed him in the class. But then again, Cayden didn’t stand out then like he does now. And he is much more confident, almost too confident, forward even. Definitely not shy like he’d been before; as a matter-of-fact, there doesn’t appear to be a shy bone left in his beautiful body.
We parted with Kirby in the math wing. At our room, Cayden gestured me ahead, whispering in my ear as I passed, “You’re by far the prettiest girl here today.”
I gasped, my stomach jumping as his warm breath once more sent a shiver through my body, this time causing me need to steady myself when my knees faltered. I avoided his look—sure he was smiling, pleased that he’d caught me off guard again—and consciously tried to smooth my uneven breath.
We were nearly late, and most of the seats were filled. For a minute I feared we’d have to separate, but Cayden found an empty desk toward the back. Except, just as we neared, Drew Stewart sped in the back door and slid into one of the seats. Cayden immediately stopped in his step, his hand touching on my back while Drew’s eyes scanned the length of my body and he slid the chair out beside him, grinning his goofy grin at me.
Cayden’s emerald eyes darkened in their tense glare at Drew. Then suddenly he smiled, and turned to a saucer-eyed girl seated in the next row. She was excited, clearly thinking that Cayden was going to sit with her. “Excuse me, would you mind switching to this seat,” he asked instead, gesturing to Drew’s desk, “we’d very much like to sit together?” This girl was no match for Cayden’s wicked charm and dazzling good looks. She fell all over herself, scrambling to grab her things to accommodate us—well, to accommodate Cayden, rather.
Drew was furious. Serves him right, violating me with his eyes like he was.
“Is there a problem back there?” Mrs. Whitman shouted.
“No ma’am,” Cayden cheerily responded. “Everything is just as it should be.”
What’s that supposed to mean? And does he think he can just ride in and make decisions for me? Clearly so! He pulled out a chair for me, then sat himself. I only slightly smiled.
Cayden’s brows crinkled. “Are you upset with me?”
“I don’t know.” I folded my arms, stewing a minute, and then rolled my eyes to him. “I think I’m not…upset with you.”
He dazzled me with a grin.
“I should be,” I grinned back. “But I’m not.” I could feel heat radiating through me, my skin prickling at his nearness. No boy has ever affected me this way, I thought, suddenly sensing the unraveling of my solid plan.
The blonde seated in front of us turned to say hello. I knew her; it was Adrian Bishop from the soccer team. We met last year on J.V., and sort of became friends. She’s a cute girl—what I would imagine Tinker Bell to look like if she were to come to life—and a decent soccer player. We talked briefly, mostly about soccer, her eyes drifting to Cayden the entire time. I couldn’t tell if he noticed, but I was sure she’d ask me about him later.
Mrs. Whitman began class, passing around a few handouts—class syllabus, rules, etc. After which, she spent the remainder of class reviewing it, while we silently listened. Every so often my eyes would catch with Cayden’s and he’d give me a subtle smile, looking as bored as me.
When the bell rang Cayden wasted no time, standing before I had a chance to grab my book bag. He politely slid my chair back and gathered my papers, handing them to me without a word. I quickly stuffed them in my bag and we left, Kirby joining us in the hall.
I turned to Cayden when we got outside, “Which direction are you headed?”
“Your direction,” he murmured, his hand slipping low at my back.
I beamed, thrilled by the spark of his touch.
Our walk to Spanish was quick. I paused at the door with Cayden, pushing Kirby ahead.
“I guess I’ll see you in History,” I said, stumped for words.
Cayden smiled that beautiful smile and stepped toward me, his eyes set to mine. I gulped, unsure why he was coming closer. “I’ll be waiting for you,” he breathed.
I flushed at his whispered words and staggered into class, my heart erratically beating.
I melted into the seat beside Kirby. “So what’s with you and Cayden?” he blurted.
Huh? My head shot to him, my eyes wide, stunned with his bluntness. “What do you mean?” I asked with a tone.
“What do I mean?!” he echoed. “The two of you seem to be hitting it off well…really well. Do you like him?”
“Kirby!” My brows furrowed. “Jeez, don’t beat around the bush or anything! Gosh!”
“I’m just asking, seems to me you like him…a lot.” His face held a forced grin.
“I just…I don’t know.” I scanned about for eavesdroppers. “I guess we’re getting along well, but I just met him. And it’s a little weird talking with you about this.” To say the least.
“We’re close friends, there’s nothing weird about it,” he argued. “I’ve never seen you look at anyone the way you look at Cayden; the two of you seemed oblivious to everything going on around you when I walked up earlier.”
“Still, this is awkward,” I said, pausing to think it over. “All right—I might find him…a bit attractive…and the motorcycle, wow! But I don’t even know him.”
“You’ve known Cayden forever.”
“I knew the old Cayden; he’s different now,” I clarified. “Did you notice how confident and outspoken he is? How could he have changed that much? For all I know he has a girlfriend…or two. What if he’s a player now?”
Kirby chuckled. “I don’t think so, Dani. Cayden is still the same person, he just grew up. For the record, he’s into you!”
“Kirby?!” I cannot believe we are having this conversation. “Really, none of this bothers you? I saw the expression on your face in the quad, you looked bothered!”
He silenced a moment. “Okay, for a split second, because I was surprised; the two of you looked so…friendly. As long as I’ve known you, I have never seen you interested…I’ve never had to share you,” he confessed, settling back in his chair with his arms crossed.
“Something happened while we were waiting for you,” I announced.
“Between you and Cayden?” Kirby tested protectively.
“Not exactly…remember the dream I told you about.” He nodded, looking bewildered. “It’s going to sound insane, but the two that took Trista off, I swear I saw them in the quad.”
“That’s impossible!” he charged, careful not to draw Mrs. Fernandez’s attention.
“Kirby, they smiled…and gestured to me.”
“Of course they did, you’re a pretty girl; what teenage boy wouldn’t flirt with you.”
“Then explain why Cayden was the angel I saw in the dream!”
He stared at me, stunned. “You got me there.”
“That’s what I thought. It doesn’t make sense that I would see them in a dream before I actually see them in reality, does it?” I pressed, wishing he had an explanation.
“What’d Cayden think?”
“Are you kidding, I didn’t tell him?!”
“I can’t tell him yet, I’ll scare him off. Besides, I think Cayden might know those two guys. He assured me he didn’t, but the look he gave them said otherwise”
“Was it an angry look?”
“Fiercely angry.” My voice showed my surprise at Kirby’s spot on guess.
Amused, Kirby wore a smirk. “Sounds like Cayden was warning them to back off, making it clear that you are taken.”
My brows rose, “You think?!”
Our conversation ended there, with Mrs. Fernandez starting her class spiel.
I was eager to get to fourth period, knowing Cayden would be there. When the bell rang, I grabbed my things and flew out the door, right away noticing Cayden. I wasn’t sure how he’d managed to get to my class so quickly, but I was happy he had. Seeing him standing there with that illuminating smile on his unbelievable face, and those spellbinding eyes staring to mine, made my body grow excited; a spontaneous grin over took my face, my eyes locked in his hypnotizing gaze. “I thought you were meeting me at our class?”
“I couldn’t wait,” Cayden flirted, his voice silky smooth.
I smiled shyly, and he again slipped his hand to the small of my back and walked me to class.
Kirby was seated when we arrived. Beside him, to my shock, was Adrian Bishop. I sat in the chair Cayden slid out for me in front of Kirby. Before he sat himself, Cayden moved his chair closer to mine, prompting Kirby to chuckle from behind. I snapped back and gave him a nasty look. Kirby swiftly silenced his laughter, mouthing the word, “Stalker.”
Mr. Allen began the similar speech we’d heard in our last three classes, only this time I was keenly aware of Cayden’s alluring scent. It was driving me crazy having him so close, I couldn’t take it; I closed my eyes, breathed deeply through my nose, and let his tantalizing scent fill my senses. That, with the added thought of him—so dreamy and flawlessly perfect—was utterly blissful. It was then, in this blissful state with my eyes closed, that I felt a thrilling nudge and heard a whisper, “Danielle…are you all right?” My startled eyes popped open, rolling to the beautiful boy beside me, studying me with a smirk. “Are you all right?” he repeated. I pressed my lips together and nodded—swiftly dropping my eyes—feeling horribly embarrassed. Could he tell what I’d been doing? Good grief, I hope not.
“Later you’ll have to explain to me what that just was,” he demanded quietly.
“No!” I reacted, and then realized Mr. Allen had finished talking and was seated at his desk. “Is class over?”
Cayden chuckled, “No. Mr. Allen gave us the last thirty minutes to ourselves.”
“Really?” I remarked, noting Cayden’s impossible grin. I could tell he was holding back his laughter. “Stop it!” I insisted softly, causing him to lose it and laugh out loud.
I knew then that Cayden wasn’t going to let this go, not until I explained myself…
~ Destiny, Copyright © 2012 by Deborah Ann