Crush, p.25
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       Crush, p.25

           Lacey Weatherford

  Chapter Twenty-Two


  I cried, burying my face in the pillow, not wanting to see the picture, but not being able to look away either.

  I told U so, Clay’s text read underneath the grainy photo, which showed Gabrielle on Hunter’s lap, her hands on his bare chest, his shirt pushed up as he stared at her through heavily lidded eyes. It was amazing how fast a text could spread.

  My phone buzzed again. It was Hunter. I’m sure U’ve seen it by now. It’s not what it looks like, Cami. Please believe me.

  I didn’t answer either of them, instead letting the phone clatter to the floor beside my bed. I couldn’t stop the tears from leaking out. Having Hunter tell me about it had been one thing, but seeing it with my own two eyes was something else. He looked like he was enjoying it.

  I heard my phone buzzing with more texts, but I didn’t want to check them. Pretty soon it started ringing. I ignored it still, staring at the wall instead.

  There was knock on the door.

  “Yeah?” I called.

  My mom opened in the door. “Are you feeling okay, honey?”

  “Yeah, just tired,” I replied not wanting to look at her.

  “Oh, okay. Well, here’s the phone for you. It’s Hunter. He told me you were upset with him, but he’d really like to speak with you.”

  I faced her. “He called the house?”

  She nodded with a sympathetic gaze. “I think you should talk to him. He sounds really upset.”

  I sighed heavily and held my hand out.

  “Do you want me to stay?” she asked.

  I shook my head. “No. I’ll be all right.” I waited for her to leave. “Hello?”

  “Please, listen for one minute and then if you want to hang up on me you can,” he said in a rush. “I swear, I mean I truly promise you, with every fiber of my being nothing happened. Look at the picture. I was sleeping, dozing off and on really. I even dreamed I was with you. I woke up and she was there. Ask anyone who was there. They’ll tell you I didn’t want anything to do with her. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know someone took a picture. Seriously, I feel like she set me up or something to make you mad. I told her I was with you.” He paused, and when I didn’t say anything he continued. “I swear on my own life, Cami, I’d never betray you this way.”

  He sounded desperate for me to believe him. I wanted to, but I was still feeling hurt by the whole drug thing.

  “Cami?” he questioned again.

  “I heard you. I think I’m going to need a little time to sort things out in my head right now. Okay? Give me some space.”

  “Please don’t.” The pain was evident in his voice. “You have no idea how much you mean to me.”

  “I’ve got to go. My parents will bring your car back to you tonight. I don’t need a ride in the morning.”

  “Cami . . . ,” He sounded sick.

  “Bye, Hunter.” I clicked the phone off, numbly got up and walked out the door. I took it back to its stand and returned to my room, picking up my cell phone. I read through the earlier texts from Hunter before looking at the new one from Clay.

  Hope U’re ok. Coming over 2 check on U. I need 2 apologize.

  I sighed. I wasn’t too excited about that, but I supposed it was inevitable. At least he wasn’t coming to gloat.

  It wasn’t long before I heard his familiar footfalls on the stairs, and the door opened.

  “Hey,” he said, and for some reason I was relieved to have him there—in spite of everything that happened.

  “Are you here as my friend?” I stressed the word.

  “Yes, if you’ll have me back.”

  I stared at him for a moment before I scooted over and patted the spot on the bed next to me.

  “I’m sorry, Cami. I know I’ve been a pompous jerk, but I’ve had it in my head for a long time that you and I are a team, inseparable. When we started getting older my feelings for you started changing. I was attracted to you, and I wanted you to feel the same. When that wasn’t happening, I thought I could become what you wanted. Then Hunter showed up, and I saw you looking at him the way I wanted you to look at me. It made me crazy. I couldn’t stand to see you two together, because you belonged to me.”

  “I don’t belong to anyone, Clay, except myself.” I hoped he would understand.

  “I get it, Cami. I’m just tired of not being part of your life anymore. It’s been horrible.” He looked so sad.

  “The only reason I asked you to stay away was because of the whole wanting-to-be-my-boyfriend thing. What are we going to do about that? I know you can’t automatically turn your feelings off.”

  He nodded and gave a big sigh. “Will you hear me out on this, and talk to me frankly about it?”

  “I’ll try.” I was super nervous all of the sudden.

  “I still want to be your boyfriend, Cami.”

  I opened my mouth to speak, but he quickly raised his hand and stopped me.

  “Let me get this out first, okay?”

  I took a deep breath. “All right.”

  “Knowing you might not ever feel the same way . . . well . . . it kind of kills me a little if I’m being honest.” He chuckled wryly. “But being nothing to you is worse. I don’t like being without you. I miss my friend.”

  “I’ve missed you too.” That was the absolute truth.

  “So I propose a compromise. Let’s go back to being great friends, but I’d like you to not completely shut out the idea of our relationship changing, either. I know I sprung it on you too quickly, but I like the new me, and I want you to like it too.”

  “Clay.” I shook my head. “I don’t want to give you any kind of false hope. Even if it were possible to change the way I feel about you, my heart isn’t free.” I looked at him apologetically. “I have very strong feelings for Hunter.”

  “Hunter?” He seemed completely confused. “I figured you two were over after that picture.”

  “No. I’m taking a little break to evaluate some things, but I really want to be with him. He has issues with drugs and stuff. I was mistaken in thinking he’d quit pursuing that lifestyle. It’s obviously a big deal for him. I need to sort out what’s more important to me and whether or not I can overlook his bad habits. Plus, he’s still pretty closed mouthed about things in his life. There’s a lot more to know, but he’s not willing to share them with me. It’s hard to be with someone who keeps secrets.”

  Clay’s face clouded over briefly.

  I laughed. “What? Don’t tell me you have secrets.”

  He shifted uncomfortably and smiled. “Who me?” He nudged me with his shoulder.

  “Yes, you!” For one moment it seemed like old times.

  “My secret is I’m crazy about you, but you know that already.”

  I closed my eyes and released a big breath. “I’m sorry I don’t feel the same. I know you had big hopes.”

  “Just try, Cami. For me. Please.” His expression was so full of sorrow. “I’d do anything for you.”

  I observed him carefully, taking in his transformation and really looking at him. He was really attractive. I’d always noticed cute things about him but never as something or someone I’d be interested in. I’d placed it over onto other girls, wondering why they didn’t’ like him. I was guilty of the same thing though, counting him off as a nerd, not someone with the emotion and desire to be loved.

  I was a hypocrite.

  “I won’t write you off as a definite no.” I gave in, hoping I wasn’t leading him on. “That’s the best I can give you right now. I really want to see if I can figure things out with Hunter.”

  “Fair enough.” He grinned widely, and I could tell he was happy. “Now tell me what this jerk has been up to and if I need to go rearrange his face.”

  “Hey, that’s mean!” I complained. “I just told you how much I liked him.”

  “Doesn’t mean I have to,” he grumbled.

  I gave a nervous laugh. Why did life have to be so complicated?
  Hunter looked miserable, and it was killing me. He kept his distance, but it didn’t stop him from watching me constantly, hunger always present in his eyes. Our classes together were uncomfortable to say the least. He didn’t press me to talk to him, and I didn’t try to.

  I was doing my best to pretend he wasn’t right there, but it wasn’t working. I’d look up and catch him staring then glance away quickly. Other times he’d catch me watching with longing, and there was always this giant pregnant pause filling the space between us.

  Evaluating my feelings for him was leading me in one firm direction. I was falling head over heels for him but didn’t know if he felt the same way, or if he just missed the physical attraction, which was constantly pulsating and throbbing between us with a life all its own.

  Trust was also a big issue. I placed a lot of value in it, and there were definitely things I didn’t trust about him. The drugs scared me. I couldn’t ever forget Jordan’s face the night he died. I couldn’t bear to lose Hunter that way, and it seemed there was a real risk of it happening.

  There was also the fact he was clearly hiding something. He’d never tried to volunteer any information on whatever it was he kept so close to his vest. I knew he seemed to be in some kind of trouble, but I couldn’t figure out what it was, and although I wanted to believe in him, it was hard.

  That was really all this boiled down to. Could I be with a guy I didn’t fully trust? It was a large leap.

  “Hey! Cheer up! You look so sad,” Clay said, placing his arm around me and squeezing during our Chemistry lab. I heard Hunter’s chair shifting from the table behind us.

  I could only imagine what his face looked like right now. The tension between him and Clay was almost palpable whenever they were in the same room together. Everyone could feel it, it didn’t matter who you were.

  “So are we still on for the Masquerade this year? It’s always been our thing,” Clay spoke in low tones, leaning in close.

  “Um, yeah, sure. You did ask me to save all of them for you our freshman year, if I remember correctly.” I smiled.

  “I did. I wanted a guarantee to get at least one dance with you a year. I knew other guys would be snatching you up.”

  I snorted. “Yeah, they were really crawling out of the woodwork.”

  He chuckled. “Not my fault if they’re all stupid.”

  I was a little disappointed. I’d actually hoped Hunter would ask me to the dance. But it was true, Clay had asked a long time ago, so I couldn’t back out.

  “Come over after school, and we can look for our costumes together.”

  He smiled widely, squeezing me again as he laughed a little.

  There was a quiet cough I couldn’t ignore behind me. I looked over my shoulder and found Hunter and Russ staring.

  “Can I talk to you after school, Cami?” Hunter asked.

  I glanced at Clay who was openly glaring.

  “Um, I’ve actually made plans with Clay. Maybe later? He has to work at five so I’ll be free after that.” Clay made a snarling sound, and I bit my lip, trying desperately not to roll my eyes.

  “Sounds good. I’ll be there. Thanks.” He didn’t smile, but his posture seemed to relax a little.

  Actually, I couldn’t wait. It was funny how close we’d grown in such a short time. Suddenly imagining my life without him seemed unbearable. I wanted to do whatever we needed to fix things. Hopefully he would feel the same way.

  Facing forward again, my eye caught Gabrielle sitting in the middle of the room. She was turned in her seat, looking at me, a secretive grin plastered on her face. She got up and stalked toward me, then slipped a note across the table.

  I stared at it, not wanting to touch it and was saved by Clay grabbing it. He opened it and read, his face coloring before he quickly folded it back up.

  “What does it say?” I asked, curiosity getting the better of me.

  “You don’t want to know.”

  I reached over and took it, unfolding it to reveal a note written in lipstick.

  “Hunter Wilder is the best I’ve ever had.”

  My face flushed with anger. I crumpled the note in my hand, grabbed my books and headed for the door, dropping the paper in front of Hunter on my way past.

  “Miss Wimberley! Sit down please,” the teacher called.

  I left and didn’t look back.

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