Crush, p.23
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       Crush, p.23

           Lacey Weatherford

  Chapter Twenty


  Gosh, she’s gorgeous, I thought as I sat staring at her from my desk chair in my room. She was asleep, her beautiful red hair spread across my black pillowcase. Her face looked peaceful, flawless in her innocence. She was so trusting. She’s the only girl I ever want in my bed again. The thought hit me hard, and I closed my eyes. I had fallen for her, and I knew it. I’d never had these kinds of feelings before, but somehow I’d expected it to take longer. I wasn’t prepared for it to come racing in this way, capturing me.

  I briefly turned my attention to the musical still playing on the television in the corner. We’d been cuddling on my bed while we watched it, but I kept getting distracted kissing her and not paying attention. She hadn’t seemed to mind much—fully reciprocating in fact.

  She had no idea how many secrets I had hidden away from her in this room, most of them buried in the bottom drawer to my left. I wondered for the millionth time what she would do when she found out the truth, how badly she’d feel betrayed.

  There was a soft knock at the door, and it opened slightly. “You here?” Chris called peeking in. His eyes landed on Cami, and a frown crossed his face. “Hunter . . . ,” he whispered emphatically, and I widened my eyes to shush him. “Out here, now,” he practically ordered.

  I got up and followed him into his bedroom at the end of the hall. He shut the door behind me.

  “What the heck is going on?” he asked and I heard the frustration in his voice.

  I sat on the edge of the bed. “I’m crazy about her, Chris, that’s what’s happening. I need your help.”

  “Hunter, she’s seventeen. She’s too young.”

  “I know how old she is!” I snapped, feeling my carefully maintained threads of control unraveling. I sighed trying to calm down. “I don’t think you understand. I don’t care if she’s seventeen or forty. She’s the one, Chris. I know she’s young, and her life is just starting, but I also know she’s the one I want. I feel it burning inside. It’s killing me to keep lying to her. I’m gonna blow everything.”

  “You can’t let your feelings for her get in the way, Hunter. If we don’t get these deals to go down right, we’re screwed. You’re putting her in danger too. What if she got caught up in the middle of a drug war? That’s bad news, and you know it.”

  “I’m aware of that, and I’m desperately trying to separate her from that part of our life. I tell myself to walk away, but I can’t keep my hands off her.”

  “So, I’m guessing the no-kissing policy didn’t go over so well?” he asked wryly.

  “That’s the understatement of the year.”

  “How close are you two?” he asked bluntly.

  “Close enough we’ve talked about how things will work out for us after graduation when we move back to Tucson. I’m not kidding. She’s the one I want.”

  He sank down next to me. “That’s not what I meant.”

  I sighed. “I know.”

  “Are you going to answer me?”

  “No.” What Cami and I were doing—or not doing—was no one else’s business but ours as far as I was concerned.

  He stared at me pointedly. “If you’ve slept with her, her parents could have you arrested since she’s a minor. We’d have cops swarming all over investigating us. Most police departments don’t take kindly to that sort of behavior, you realize. That’s the last thing we need.”

  I didn’t reply to his implied question. “How would you feel if someone was asking you to lie over and over again to Sheridan?” I asked, moving the subject forward by making it personal. “And how would you feel knowing those lies were placing her in a dangerous situation?”

  “It would kill me, man.”

  “Well, I’m there. This is my life, and I hate every second of it.”

  He sat there in silence, staring at his hands as if they’d somehow provide answers. “Are you sure this isn’t just some sort of infatuation? That can happen in high-pressure situations.”

  I chuckled wryly. “I’m sure. She’s not even aware there is a high-pressure situation, and I’m not that desperate. If I didn’t think it was real I wouldn’t be so concerned. There’s been something between us from the very beginning.”

  “Well, it seems we’re caught between a rock and a hard place here.”

  I nodded. “I’m aware.” He looked so disappointed. “I’m sorry I botched this all up. I guess we found out what I was made of and it wasn’t any good.”

  “Don’t talk that way. And you’re sure this is legit, not just because some other guy is after your girl?”

  “I wouldn’t do that, Chris. You should know me better than that.”

  “I do know you well, but you’re acting out of character. You’ve never been one to rule from the heart before.”

  “That’s because my heart never belonged to someone else.”

  “Does she know how you feel?”

  “No. I barely know how I feel. It’s too fast—too sudden—I don’t want to scare her off. I can’t tell her when she doesn’t really know who I am. If she says it back to me, who is she in love with? Me, or the person she thinks I am? It’s too screwed up right now.”

  Chris patted me on the shoulder. “I’m sorry, bro. I really am. Please know that even though things are weird, you’re first and foremost my brother—you have been since the first day your sister introduced us. I want you to be happy, and I want things to work in your favor. All I can do is tell you to keep hanging in there. I’ll do the best I can to help you, and we’ll see if we can work our way through this mess.”

  I sighed with relief knowing I wasn’t in this alone—someone was on my side and understood what I was going through. I was tired of this frantic, worried energy constantly running just under the surface.

  “There’s a possibility I can get a job at the theater working with her. Should I do it?”

  “I’d say go for it as long as your crush doesn’t interfere.”

  I gave a sardonic laugh. “A crush. Thanks for taking me seriously.”

  “I get it. Just do the best you can. And try not to do anything . . . stupid . . . relationship wise, I mean. That can only lead to more bad for both of us.” He glanced at his watch. “When do you need to have her home? It’s ten now.”

  “She has a midnight curfew, but she wanted to meet you.”

  “Well, go wake her up then, nephew, and let’s get this awkwardness over with.” He shooed me off the bed.

  “Yes, uncle,” I replied with a grin and he groaned.

  “I really hate that,” he complained.

  “I know. That’s why I love saying it so much.” I left and made my way back to my room.

  I hated waking her up. She looked so sweet lying there; I wanted to watch her for a while longer. I ran a hand through her curls, and she stirred slightly.

  “Cami, honey,” I whispered, leaning closer and brushing my lips softly against hers.

  She made a sweet whimpering sound, stretching a little before stilling again.

  “Goody, it’s time to wake up. My uncle’s here and wants to meet you.” I kissed her cheek and down her neck, nuzzling my face there.

  Her hand drifted up to rest against the back of my head. “Mmm, that feels so good,” she mumbled. “I wish you could wake me up this way every day.”

  I smiled against her skin. “So do I.”

  “It would be so nice.”

  Maybe someday, I thought. If we all get through this unscathed and you decide you can ever trust me again.

  “Did you hear me say my uncle is here? He’d like to meet you.”

  She stiffened. “Oh no! He came? He must think something terrible is going on with me in your bed this way.”

  I chuckled. “He was mildly alarmed.”

  She blushed. “I’m so embarrassed. I didn’t mean to fall asleep. I just got so relaxed I drifted off.”

  “Yeah, I know. It was devastating to my ego. I was right in the middle of kissing y
ou. It made me feel great.” I smiled and tweaked her nose.

  She made a nervous giggle. “I’m really sorry, Hunter. Honestly, I didn’t mean to.”

  “No worries. We did a lot today. You needed the rest. Besides, I enjoyed watching you sleep. You look very pretty in my bed.”

  “You’re a smooth talker, you know that, right? I can’t ever tell when you’re being serious, or messing with me. I bet all the other girls eat right from your hand, don’t they?”

  I shrugged. “I’m not trying to be a smooth talker, there are no other girls, and if I did want someone to eat from my hand I’d want it to be you. How’s that?”

  She shook her head and grinned. “Yep. I need to watch out for you—definitely a smooth talker.” She ran her hand down the side of my face. “Do you have a hairbrush or something I can borrow? I’d like to straighten up to meet your uncle.”

  “Right through the door there into the bathroom. Help yourself to anything.”

  I offered her a hand, pulling her to her feet before settling back into my chair as I waited. I wish she didn’t have to go home. I liked having her here. It was nice to spend the evening at home with someone for a change.

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