Crush, p.15
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       Crush, p.15

           Lacey Weatherford

  Chapter Twelve


  I couldn’t help my disappointment as I followed after Hunter. I wasn’t going to lie to myself. He was hot, and I desperately wanted him to kiss me with those amazing looking lips of his. For some reason though, he still seemed reluctant, but I couldn’t fathom why. If you liked someone you did what you had to do to be with him or her. Right? I wasn’t any big expert on relationships, but it seemed easy enough.

  I sighed with frustration, and the sound came out a little louder than I intended, causing Hunter to pause and look at me. He waited until I was beside him, and he loosely draped his arm around my shoulders, giving me a gentle squeeze.

  He didn’t say anything as we continued toward the field, but his actions spoke of attraction. He clearly didn’t care who saw him with me, and I wondered if there was a way I could up my game, maybe tempt him into action a little faster.

  That scared me, though. Given the tiny bit of information I knew about his past, I imagined he was probably a fire that would light fast—so quick it would consume me whole. Maybe I should be content to stand back and let him work through whatever issues he had. Let nature take its course, so to speak.

  Hunter dropped his arm and faced the school, taking a picture of the wide sweeping grounds and buildings, which sprawled behind us. He adjusted his location and took some more of the athletic fields and structures. I wasn’t sure what he found so fascinating about the place, but I lifted my camera and started looking through the view finder for things I found interesting, snapping the occasional picture of trees and plant life before casually turning and firing off several of him standing with his camera up to his eye.

  He lowered it. “Did you just take a bunch of pictures of me?” he asked, a sly grin spreading across his face as if he were extremely pleased.

  “I don’t think so . . . ,” I replied innocently. “ . . . unless I caught you by accident when I was focusing on those buildings over there.” I pointed past him, and he looked at the jumble of plain, brick walls across the parking lot.

  “Uh huh. Sure.” He lifted his camera and pointed it directly at me, clicking several times in succession.

  I smiled and he continued to shoot away. “What’re you doing?”

  “I’m taking your picture.” He paused. “Did you hear that? Your picture—not the ugly buildings behind you. I just want to show you how it’s done.”

  My goodness he could make me feel so giddy. I couldn’t stop smiling as I walked onto the track, shrinking down to take some images of the hurdles lined up on it.

  I heard him beside me and looked over as he continued clicking.

  I shook my head. “Mr. Adams is going to be mad that you used up all your film on me.”

  “So, I’ll buy him more film.” He shrugged it off as if it were no concern. “I like taking pictures of you.”

  “Well, I hope they don’t turn out too scary.”

  “Not possible,” he said assuredly before lowering the camera. We started walking around the track together, making our way to where the giant pole vaulting pad was set up. “You should grab the pole and pretend like you’re gonna go for it, and I’ll take a shot.”

  I laughed, running over and jumping on the giant foam mattress, flopping back against it. “This is about as close as you’re gonna get! I have no desire to attempt a pole vault.”

  He looked at me with a smoky stare I could feel all the way to my toes. “This works too.” He lifted his camera and took one single shot. “Do you have any idea how beautiful you are with your hair spread out around you like that?”

  I shook my head very slowly. “Nope. Guess you’ll have to show me.”

  He swallowed thickly, removing his camera from around his neck and setting it carefully on the ground. “That could be dangerous.”

  “I thought you liked danger. Wasn’t it you who accused me of not having a real life just a few days ago—making fun of the parties I attend and the friends I have?”

  “That was wrong. I shouldn’t have said those things.” His eyes never left me, and I noticed he was clenching and unclenching his fists as he stood watching. He looked hungry, but hungry more like a predator hiding in the grass, waiting for the perfect time to pounce on his victim. It both thrilled and scared me.

  I was no queen of seduction, but suddenly wished I was—wished I knew how to make him close the distance between us. “Hunter,” I whispered, not knowing what else to say.

  That was the magic word.

  He was on the pad in an instant, stretched beside me, leaning over as he slid his hand up my arm and into my hair. “You’re so gorgeous.” I felt his hand trembling, and he lowered his lips toward my mouth, but at the last second he quickly lifted them to brush against my forehead instead.

  I was so confused and frustrated. No one had ever looked at me the way he did—no one had ever made my insides flip the way he could. Yet, he seemed so reluctant to seal the deal. I was tired of beating around the bush.

  “Kiss me, Hunter,” I demanded, not caring if it was the right thing to say anymore. I slid my hands up his muscle-lined arms, linking them around his neck.

  He groaned, releasing a big sigh. “I want to, Goody. You have no idea how much I want to.”

  His words made my heart sing.

  “I can’t kiss you, though.”

  And my heart crashed.

  “Why not? What would be so terrible about kissing me?”

  He laughed wryly. “Nothing I can think of.”

  “Then for heaven’s sake, what’s stopping you?” I felt like a little girl stomping her foot because she wasn’t getting what she wanted.

  He moved closer, and I could feel his breath on mine as he stared at my lips. I knew the exact moment he decided, and I lifted my mouth to meet his.

  “Well, isn’t this cozy?” Clay’s voice interrupted, and I fell back onto the mat with an exasperated groan as Hunter turned toward him, releasing me as he sat up.

  I’d never wanted to punch Clay so badly.

  “Can we help you with something, Bradley?” Hunter asked as he looked him over.

  I sat up, seeing Clay standing there in another set of designer clothes. His body was tense, face flushed, and his mouth was set in an angry grimace.

  “What are you doing out here with him, Cami?” he demanded. “We discussed this.”

  “Excuse me?” Hunter asked, and I could see things were quickly going from bad to worse.

  “I’m here because I want to be. Why are you here, Clay?” I scooted over, sitting at the end of the mattress.

  “Why? Because someone needs to protect you, and it’s obviously not going to be him. You are aware half the school can see the two of you canoodling here together, aren’t you?” He waved his hand in the direction of the heavily windowed buildings before turning back to Hunter. “You moved in for the kill pretty fast. I told her you were only after one thing.”

  I thought my eyes were going to bug out of my head, I was so incredible angry.

  Hunter folded his arms casually and studied Clay. “You have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said rather calmly. “But this is my advice—walk away before you make things any worse.”

  Clay was livid, his face almost purple with rage. “And leave you to pick up where you left off? I don’t think so.”

  “Actually, I was referring to the damage you’re doing to your friendship with her right now.” He looked at me. “Cami, was I forcing you to do anything?”

  I blushed and shook my head. “No. It was probably more the other way around—me forcing you to do something you didn’t want.”

  Hunter placed his hand on my arm. “You weren’t forcing me. I’m going to leave you here so you can discuss things with your friend. Are you okay with that? I’ll stay if you need me.”

  I blew out an exasperated sigh. I didn’t want him to go, but I knew Clay and I needed to have this out. “I’ll be fine.”

  Hunter stood and grabbed his camera o
ff the ground, glancing between Clay and me. “Text me later, okay?”

  I nodded, watching him as he walked away. I waited until he was out of earshot before I spoke up.

  “You have the worst timing ever. What possessed you to come barging out here like that?”

  He joined me on the mat, hunching over dejectedly. “I didn’t like what I was seeing. I was running something to another teacher, and I saw you two walking together, emerging from a hidden corner, him wrapping his arms around you, taking pictures. I knew he was after you. Do you see it now?”

  “What you saw, Clay, was me trying to coerce him, not the other way around. I wanted him to kiss me.”


  I gave a choked laugh. “Because I like him. I thought that was obvious.”

  “He’s a player, Cami.”

  “No, he’s not. You’re the one who’s placing that label on him.”

  “The whole school says the same thing.” He looked at me incredulously.

  “And what does the whole school say about you? Does that mean it’s true?”

  His face fell as he considered my words.

  “Do you know why I’ve been friends with you all these years?” I asked.

  He shook his head.

  “Because I like you. I don’t care what anyone else thinks about you, I think you’re fabulous. I don’t care what anyone else thinks about me, either.”

  “You care what he thinks about you,” he replied, loosely gesturing to where we could still see Hunter’s retreating figure walking across campus.

  “I do, but only because I like him. I can tell you right now that yes, he has his hang ups. I know he’s not perfect, but I like him, and I don’t care what anyone else says about him. I’m going to form my own opinions.”

  He stood up and faced me. “I don’t understand. You claim to like me and know me, then why can’t you see what’s right in front of you?”

  “What do you mean?” I knew where this was heading, and I wished there was some way I could correct the course.

  “Have you really been that blind? I’m crazy about you, Cami. I have been for years.” He stalked away.

  “What about Marcy?” I asked grasping at straws.

  He snorted. “You want to know about Marcy? Fine, I’ll tell you. She isn’t real! Just a figment of my imagination made up with the hopes of making you see me in a new light!”

  My head was spinning. “What? That’s not true. I’ve seen the texts she sends you. You were talking to a real person!”

  “Yeah, my cousin, Shannon, agreed to play the part to help me out. Nothing like getting a little lovin’ from a relative, is there?”

  I was going to be sick. “Why would you do that? Why not just tell me how you felt?”

  “So I could go through the humiliation I’m experiencing right now? Gee, I don’t know . . . let me think!” He shook his head in frustration. “You claim you know me, but you couldn’t even see what was most important to me—you! I’ve done everything I could think of to make you notice. Just when I thought I was finally getting through, then Hunter comes riding up on his white horse and snatches you up and carries you off into the sunset. I waited too long.”

  He dropped back down mournfully beside me, sliding his hand up my arm, over my shoulder, until he slipped it around behind my neck. “Please, pick me instead, Cami. Let me be the one who holds you in his arms and stares at you like that. I love you. I have for a long, long time.”

  I was frozen by his declaration, glancing at my clasped hands as I fumbled with what I should say. I looked up just in time to see his lips before they pressed against mine. He slipped his hands to both sides of my face, holding me there until I pushed him away.

  “Please, Cami,” he pleaded with tears in his eyes. “I’ve wanted you for so long.”

  I looked at him, feeling tears of my own and wishing there was something I could say to make him feel better. “I can’t, Clay. You’ve been my very best friend, but I don’t feel that way about you. I’d still like you in my life, but I think maybe it would be best if we spent some time apart from each other for a while. There’s a girl out there for you somewhere. It’s just not me.” I stood, my heart twisting in knots. “Sorry. I’ll call you if I want to talk.”

  I walked away, unable to look back and see the devastation I knew was written on his face.

  “I don’t want another girl, Cami!” he called after me.

  I burst into tears and started running.

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