Crush, p.21
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       Crush, p.21

           Lacey Weatherford

  Chapter Eighteen


  Hunter was silent as he drove; the only sounds were the car engine and the low music coming from the CD player. He turned toward the hills outside of town, and I didn’t ask him where he was taking me. Regardless of what Clay thought, I trusted Hunter. I didn’t know why—there was just something secure about him. He was commanding somehow, authoritative. It seemed an odd way to describe him, but that’s how I felt.

  I stared at him. He was so incredibly good looking, but there was more. I couldn’t quite place my finger on it.

  “You seem older than you really are,” I spoke.

  He gave a chuckle, briefly glancing sideways before returning his attention to the road. “Really? You think so?”

  I placed my hand on his thigh. “I don’t mean that badly, or anything. Just sometimes you seem . . . smarter, or more sure, or . . . something. Sorry, I’m not making much sense. I want to know more about you.”

  A pained look passed over his face, and he slipped his hand down to squeeze mine. “You will. You need to believe me when I say I want to tell you everything, but there are still some issues I’m working through right now. I don’t mean to be cryptic, but I’m not ready to talk about those things yet. Please be patient with me. It’ll happen eventually.”

  “Take all the time you need.” I certainly wasn’t going to press him for whatever skeletons he carried. I was more than happy to wait for him to tell me whatever he needed. I was sure a lot of issues probably stemmed from the death of his parents, which would be very difficult for him to express. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like without mine, nor did I want to.

  “I know your uncle’s name is Chris, but what’s his last name? Is it Wilder?” I asked, wondering about the people in his life.


  “Napier. So he’s your mom’s brother then?” I assumed this was the case, since their names were different.

  “Um, yeah.”

  “Do you get along with him well? I mean are you happy you live with him?”

  “Yeah, we’ve always been close. He’s much younger than my mom, only seven years older than me actually. He’s more like a brother, and he absolutely hates it when I call him Uncle Chris, so I do it often.” He grinned widely, and it was infectious, causing me to smile too.

  “Will I get to meet him Saturday?” I asked.

  “He’s going to try to be there, but I can’t make any promises. It depends on his schedule.”

  “What does he do?”

  “He’s a computer systems analyst. He flies around the country helping companies set up their data to run more efficiently. Then he teaches their employees how to run the new technology. He goes where he’s needed so he’s gone a lot.”

  “That must get lonely for you.”

  He shrugged. “I manage okay.”

  “Why’d you guys decide to move here then? It’s kind of out of the way and not close to any big airports. Doesn’t that make it harder for him?”

  He laughed. “I’m not sure. He wanted to try it out. He likes new things every now and then. He flies his own Cessna as well, so he can get to the major airports easy enough, wherever he’s located.”

  “He must be making pretty good money then.”

  “He is.”

  “I don’t know if I could handle being alone that much.” I paused, unsure about what I wanted to ask. “Is that how you got involved in drugs and partying?”

  “No. I got started while I was looking for girls to hook up with.” He cast an appreciative gaze over my form. “But I don’t need a party for that anymore.”

  “I’m not the girl you’re looking for if you want a casual hook up, Hunter. That’s never been something I was interested in.”

  “That’s not what I want from you,” he replied, his hand tightening around mine again.

  “What do you want? I’ve never really been able to figure that out.” I bit my lip while I waited for his response.

  “I want for us to sit back and let things flow naturally. No expectations, no rush, let’s see what happens on its own.”

  I sighed and stared out the window as we came up on the hill—the lights of the city cast below us in a sweeping view.

  “What’s wrong?” he asked.

  “Nothing.” I smiled. “I’m here with you. Life is perfect.”

  “While I’d love to believe that, Cami, we both know life is far from perfect right now. I need to know what Clay said to you tonight. I don’t trust him.” He turned the car off and shifted in his seat so he could look at me better.

  “He would never hurt me, Hunter, he’s just confused right now. I’ve always understood him better than anyone else, even his parents. He thinks differently and has a different way of doing things. He marches to his own drummer because it’s what he understands and makes sense to his analytical mind. Like now, for instance—his whole style change and all these new clothes and stuff—where’d he get the money? Now he’s talking about getting a newer car, like a Mustang or something, and he wants me to start dating him. He’s been so . . . odd. I gave up on trying to figure him out a long time ago and instead concentrated on being his friend.”

  Hunter stared at me, appearing to ponder things for a moment. “What did he say?” He wasn’t going to let me get around this.

  “He told me you weren’t the first guy who was after me—Jordan Henley wanted me too. He said thankfully fate intervened to stop it, but now you were here to do the same thing. He told me I belong to him, and he’s waiting for me to wake up and see that. And when you’ve finished having your way with me, he’ll be there to pick up the pieces. Then I will understand how much he loves me.”

  Hunter’s face was a mask of cool control. He didn’t even flinch. After what had happened at dinner, I’d expected him to become angry again. Instead he stared into the night scene ahead of us.

  He slid a hand down his face. “He’s wrong about me, just so you know. I’ve never had any desire to use and abuse you in any way. I honestly care about you, and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you.” He paused. “It doesn’t surprise me that other guys are interested in you. In fact, I already knew it. I’d heard the rumors about Jordan from another source, and I know there are several guys at school who like what they see when it comes to you.”

  I narrowed my eyes. “I have to say I find that really hard to believe.”

  “Well, start believing. The truth of the matter is, no one asks you out because they don’t like Clay. Forgive the reference, but you’re a nerd by association. People don’t want to socialize with you because you’re always with him, and he makes them uncomfortable. I’m not saying any of this to be condescending. It’s just the way things are.”

  “If I’m so nerdy, then why’d you want to go out with me?”

  “I don’t care what other people think.”

  “Neither do I. That’s why I’ve always liked Clay. It’s also why I’m dating you . . . someone with a less than stellar reputation.”

  He smiled. “That’s what I love about you, Cami. You’re not afraid to lay things out there plainly, no matter how brutal.”

  I hadn’t meant it to sound brutal. His choice of words had me reeling. That’s what he loves about me? Surely it must’ve been a slip.

  “The way I see it, we have two ways we can play this. We can break up, so it helps to ease the tension between you and Clay. Hopefully this will allow him to straighten things out in his head because he won’t see me as a threat anymore. Or we can stay together, and you’ll have to promise me you won’t interact with him in any way. I’m not saying this to be mean, but he needs a clear message that there never was, nor ever will be, anything between you. You’re so kindhearted though, I don’t know if you can pull it off. What do you think?”

  “I think you’re overreacting. I don’t think Clay would ever do anything to harm me. We’re too close—at least we were.”

  “I don’t want to risk it
either way. The decision is yours, though. I’ll do my best to trust your judgment.”

  “Don’t break up with me. If you do, he gets exactly what he wants. It’ll give him false hope.” I sighed, hating how technical and forced everything seemed. “I want what you want . . . to play this by ear and see how it goes. He’s got to get used to that sometime in his life.”

  He leaned across the seat and lightly kissed my lips. “I agree. I’m sorry tonight was so upsetting.”

  “Don’t apologize. It’s not your fault.”

  He opened his door and climbed out, coming around to help me from the car. We walked to the front, and he leaned against it, wrapping me against him in his arms.

  “This is a gorgeous view,” I said.

  “Yes, it is,” he replied, bending to kiss the side of my cheek over my shoulder.

  I twisted so I could face him, and his lips found mine, kissing me deeply—only to be interrupted by a splat against our faces. We both looked up, blinking as several more raindrops fell.

  “Looks like we’re about to get wet,” I said, stating the obvious.

  He laughed. “I don’t care.” He grabbed me by the waist and turned, slipping me up so I was lying on the hood of the car, pinned there with his body. He ran his hands through my hair, spreading it. “So beautiful,” he whispered. He crushed his mouth to mine, devouring it. I felt the thrill of his touch shoot through my entire being, and I met him eagerly, wanting him to continue his delicious assault on my senses as I explored him as well.

  The skies opened up, delivering on their warning by pelting us with a cold rain—rain that did nothing to extinguish the intense heat burning between us. If anything, it only heightened the feelings coursing through me. Our clothing quickly became soaked, sticking to us, and the heat of our bodies was much more noticeable as we moved against each other.

  Hunter suddenly broke away and started laughing. “We need to go. We’re getting drenched. I don’t need you catching your death in the rain now. What is it with you and water?”

  I smiled, tracing the moist plains of his face. “I have no idea. Just lucky, I guess.”

  “Then we need to get you some better luck.” He lifted me off the car and carried me over the puddles to the passenger seat, quickly depositing me before running around and climbing in the other side. He shook his hair out like a dog, and I squealed, lifting my hands to ward off the spraying drops.

  “What? It’s not like you can get any wetter!” He laughed and leaned over plastering a damp kiss on my lips before he started the car and headed for home.

  I couldn’t stop grinning.

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