Slammed, p.3
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       Slammed, p.3

         Part #1 of Slammed series by Colleen Hoover
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  in Zombie mode again. He walks toward the car, but stops three feet short of the window.

  "How do I get to the closest grocery store?" I ask him.

  He rolls his eyes. “Seriously? I'm nine."

  Okay. So the resemblance to his brother is only skin deep.

  "Well, thanks for nothing," I say. "What's your name anyway?"

  He smiles at me mischievously and yells, “Darth Vader!” He’s laughing as he runs in the opposite direction of the car.

  Darth Vader? I realize the significance of his response. He's making a crack at the house shoes I had on this morning. Not a big deal. The big deal is that Will must have been talking about me to him. I can't help but try to imagine the conversation between them, and what Will thinks about me. If he even thinks about me. For some reason, I've been thinking about him more than I'm comfortable with. I keep wondering how old he is, what his major is, if he's single.

  Luckily, I didn't leave any boyfriends behind in Texas. I haven't dated anyone in almost a year. Between High School, my part time job, and helping out with Kel's sports, I hadn't had much time for boys. I realize it's going to be an adjustment, going from a person with absolutely no free time to a person with absolutely nothing to do.

  I reach into the glove box to retrieve my GPS.

  "That's not a good idea," Will says.

  I look up to see him walking toward the car. I make my best attempt to stifle the smile that is involuntarily trying to take over my face. "What's not a good idea?" I ask as I insert the GPS into its holder and power it on.

  He crosses his arms as he leans in the window of the car.

  "There's quite a bit of construction going on right now. That thing will get you lost."

  I'm about to respond when Brenda pulls up along side me with my mother. Brenda rolls down her driver window and my mother leans across the seat.

  "Don't forget laundry detergent, I can't remember if I put it on the list. And cough syrup. I think I'm coming down with something," she says through the window.

  Kel jumps out of the backseat, runs to Will's brother and invites him inside to look at our house.

  "Can I?" Will's brother asks him.

  "Sure," Will says as he opens my passenger door. "I'll be back in a little while, Caulder. I'm riding with Layken to the store."

  He is? I shoot a look in his direction as he's buckling his seat belt.

  "I don't give very good verbal directions. Mind if I go with you?"

  "I guess not," I laugh.

  I look back toward Brenda and my mother but they have already pulled forward into the driveway. I put the car in drive and listen as Will gives me directions out of the neighborhood.

  "So, Caulder is your little brother's name?" I ask, making a half-hearted attempt at small talk.

  "One and only. My parents tried for years to have another baby after me. They eventually had Caulder when names like 'Will' weren't that cool anymore."

  "I like your name," I say. I immediately regret saying it as soon as it comes out of my mouth. It sounds like a lame attempt at flirting.

  He laughs. I like his laugh. I hate that I like his laugh.

  It startles me when I feel him brush the hair off my shoulder and touch my neck. His fingers slip under the collar of my shirt and he pulls it slightly down over my shoulder. “You're going to need a new bandage soon." He pulls my shirt back up and gives it a pat. His fingers leave a streak of heat across my neck.

  "Remind me to grab some at the store," I say, trying to prove that his actions and his presence have no effect on me whatsoever.

  "So, Layken." He pauses as he glances past me at the boxes still piled high in the back seat. "Tell me about yourself."

  "Um, no. That's so cliché," I say.

  "Fine," he laughs. "I'll figure you out myself." He leans forward and hits eject on my c.d. player. His movements are so fluid, like he’s been rehearsing them for years. I envy this about him. I’ve never been known for my grace.

  "You know, you can tell a lot about a person by their taste in music." He pulls the c.d. out and examines the label.

  "Layken's shit?" he laughs aloud. "Is 'shit' descriptive here, or possessive?"

  "I don't like Kel touching my shit, okay?" I grab the c.d. out of his hands and insert it back into the player.

  When the banjo pours out of the speakers at full volume, I'm immediately embarrassed. I'm from Texas, but I don't want him confusing this for country music. If there's one thing I don't miss about Texas, it's the country music. I reach over and turn down the volume when he grabs my hand in objection.

  "Turn it back up, I know this," he says as his hand remains clasped on top of mine.

  My fingers are still on the volume so I turn it back up. There's no way he knows this. I realize he's bluffing; his own lame attempt at flirting.

  "Oh yeah?" I say. I'll call his bluff. "What's it called?"

  "It's The Avett Brothers," he says. "I call it 'Gabriella,’ but I think it's the end to one of their 'Pretty Girl' songs. I love the end of this one when they break out with the electric guitars."

  His response to my question startles me. He really does know this. "You like The Avett Brothers?"

  "I love them. They played in Detroit last year. Best live show I've ever seen," he says.

  A rush of adrenaline shoots through my body as I look down at his hand, still holding onto mine, still holding onto the volume button. I like it, but I'm mad at myself for liking it. Boys have given me the butterflies before, but I usually have more control over my susceptibility to such mundane movements.

  He notices me noticing our hands and he lets go, rubbing his palms on his pant leg. It seems like a nervous gesture, and I'm curious if he shares my uneasiness.

  I tend to listen to music that isn’t typically mainstream. It’s rare when I meet someone that has even heard of half the bands I love. The Avett Brothers are my all time favorite, though.

  My father and I would stay up at night and sing some of the songs together as he attempted to work the chords out on his guitar. He described them to me once. He said, "Lake, you know a band has true talent when their imperfections define perfection."

  I eventually understood what he meant when I started really listening to them. Broken banjo strings, momentary passionate lapses of harmony, voices that go from smooth to gravelling to all out screaming in a single verse. All these things add substance, character and believability to their music.

  After my father died, my mother gave me an early present he had intended to give me for my eighteenth birthday—a pair of Avett Brothers concert tickets. I cried when she gave them to me, thinking about how much my father was probably looking forward to giving me the gift himself. I knew he would have wanted me to use them, but I couldn’t. The concert was just weeks after his death and I knew I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it. Not like I would have if he were with me.

  "I love them too,” I say unsteadily.

  "Have you ever seen them play live?" Will asks.

  I’m not sure why, but as we talk, I tell him the entire story about my dad. He listens intently, interrupting only to instruct me when and where to turn. I tell him all about our passion for music. I tell him about how my father died suddenly and extremely unexpectedly of a heart attack. I tell him about my eighteenth birthday and the concert we never made it to. I don't know why I keep talking, but I can't seem to shut myself up. I never divulge information so freely, especially to people I barely know. Especially to guys I barely know. I'm still talking when I realize we’ve come to a stop in a grocery store parking lot.

  "Wow," I say as I take in the time on the clock. "Is that the quickest way to the store? That drive took twenty minutes.”

  He winks at me as he opens his door. "No, actually it's not."

  That's definitely flirting. And I definitely have butterflies.

  The snow flurries start to mix with sleet as we're making our way through the parking lot. “Run,” he says. He takes my hand in his and pul
ls me faster toward the entrance.

  We’re out of breath and laughing when we make it inside the store, shaking the wetness from our clothes. I take my jacket off and shake it out when his hand brushes against my face, wiping a strand of wet hair away that's stuck to my cheek. His hand is cold but the moment his fingers graze my skin, I forget about the frigid temperatures when my face grows warm. His smile fades as we both stare at each other. I’m still trying to become accustomed to the reactions I have around him. The slightest touch and simplest gestures have such an illicit effect on my senses.

  I clear my throat and break our stare as I grab an available cart next to us and hand him the grocery list.

  “Does it always snow in September?” I ask in an attempt to appear unfazed by his touch.

  He lays his jacket across the side of the shopping cart. “No, it won’t last more than a few days, maybe a week. Most of the time the snow doesn’t start until late October," he says. "You’re lucky.”


  "Yeah. It’s a pretty rare cold front. You got here right in time."

  "Huh. I assumed most of y’all would hate the snow. Doesn’t it snow here most of the year?”

  “Y’all?” he laughs.


  “Nothing," he says with a smile on his face. "I’ve just never heard anyone say ‘y’all’ in real life before. It’s cute. So southern belle.”

  “Oh, I’m sorry," I laugh. "From now on I’ll do like you Yankees and waste my breath by saying 'all you guys.’”

  He laughs and nudges my shoulder. “Don’t. I like your accent, it’s perfect.”

  I can’t believe I’ve actually turned into a girl who swoons over a guy. I detest it so much; I start to inspect his features more intently, trying to find a flaw. I can’t. Everything about him so far is perfect.

  We get most of the items on our list and head to the checkout. He refuses to let me put anything on the conveyor belt, so I just stand back and watch as he unloads the items from the buggy. The last item he places on the line is a box of bandages. I never even saw him grab them.

  When we pull out of the grocery store, Will tells me to turn in the opposite direction in which we came. We drive maybe two whole blocks when he instructs me to turn left-onto our street. The drive that took us twenty minutes on the way there takes us less than a minute on the way back.

  "Nice," I laugh as I pull in my driveway. I realize what he's done and that the flirtation on his end is blatantly obvious.

  I park the car, remove the keys from the ignition and grab my purse. Will has already rounded to the back of the jeep so I press the trunk lever for him. I get out and walk to where he is, expecting him to have an armload of groceries. Instead, he's just standing there holding the trunk up, watching me.

  With my best southern belle impression, I place my hand across my chest and say, "Why! I never would have been able to find the store without your help. Thank you so much for your hospitality kind sir."

  I sort of expect him to laugh, but he just stands there, staring at me.

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