Crush, p.6
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       Crush, p.6

           Lacey Weatherford

  Chapter Three


  I stretched out in the poolside lounge chair, trying to catch some of the warm, spring rays, and get a jumpstart on my tan for the year. Once again, I thanked the genetics of my parents. Even though they’d given me the curly, red hair of my mother, I had at least been blessed with the warm skin tones of my father—skin that loved the sun.

  Clay, who was not so blessed, sat beside me and continued to slather sunscreen over every inch of his white, glowing body.

  “I think you’ve got half the bottle on you now,” I joked as I watched him rub it in vigorously.

  “Not all of us are gifted with the complexion of a supermodel, like you are.”

  I laughed. “Actually, most models avoid the sun. They’re probably as pale as you.”

  He considered this for a moment before flexing his mid section. “But do they have my great abs of steel?”

  I snorted as I stared at him. He wasn’t flabby by any means, but I certainly wouldn’t call his stomach abs of steel. When I pictured a body like that, I saw someone like . . . Hunter Wilder. I groaned and hid my eyes behind my arm.

  “That bad, huh?” Clay sounded defeated.

  “No, no, no!” I hurried to reassure him. “Your comment just made me think of something that happened.”

  “Oh, well fill me in then.” He finished rubbing his sunscreen in and settled into the seat.

  “It’s nothing really. Are those new swimming trunks?” I tried to change the subject. “I don’t remember seeing them before.” I gestured to the plaid shorts he was wearing. He’d had a serious obsession with plaid for as long as I could remember. Sometimes a little was okay, but when it came to Clay, he always managed to overdo it.

  “Don’t you even try to dodge me. We’ve been best friends since kindergarten, and I know when you’re hiding stuff. You’ve been quiet and reflective all day. Tell me what’s going on.”

  I laughed again. “Are you this bossy with your girlfriend?”

  “No. It’s hard to tell Marcy what to do when she lives three hours away.”

  “Well, at least you’re close enough to see each other once in a while. That’s nice.”

  He made some sort of noncommittal sound in the back of his throat. “Back to the original subject. What’s going on?”

  “Nothing. I just had a weird moment with Hunter Wilder. I’m not sure if he was trying to discretely be insulting or if he was flirting with me.”

  Clay’s eyebrows furrowed. “If I were you, I wouldn’t have anything to do with him. He’s not your kind of guy. In fact, I advise you to stay far, far away.” His tone had taken on a decidedly agitated quality.

  I narrowed my eyes and observed him closely. “You sound upset. Do you know him?”

  “Not really, but I know enough. Rumor has it he’s hardcore into the drug scene. He also has “womanizer” written all over him.” He scratched his head as he scowled. “He’s one of those guys that girls just lay down in front of. He can have his pick of anyone.”

  “Oh, I get it. You’re saying you don’t think he was flirting with me. Thanks a lot.” I made a screwed up face.

  He shook his head. “No, I’m saying I know he was flirting. I’ve seen him look at you. Trust me, Cami. He wants you to be another notch on his headboard.”

  My breath caught, surprised at his remark. Clay had never spoken to me this way about other guys. He seemed truly upset.

  “I’m not the notch-making kind of girl, in case you’ve forgotten,” I snapped, suddenly irritated by his remark.

  “Of course I haven’t.” Clay reached over and slid his hand down my arm. He grasped my hand, squeezing it. “And I want to help you stay that way. Who knows how this guy would try to take advantage of you?”

  “He can’t take advantage of me if I’m not interested.”

  “You’re interested. You know you are. I’ve seen the way you look at him too.” He sighed and released me.

  I grabbed him back and laced my fingers with his. “I don’t need any guy in my life besides you. Things are perfect just the way they are.”

  He visibly relaxed and smiled, looking at me sweetly. “I agree. Stick with me, baby,” he added in an exaggerated attempt at a suave voice, and I laughed hard.

  It always amazed me that no one noticed how cute Clay was. Well, I mean I guess Marcy did, but she wasn’t around to show it. Clay met her when he was staying at his aunt’s house during winter break, and he was constantly talking about and texting her.

  True, Clay had no sense of fashion whatsoever, but when he was laying here like this—mostly undressed, no glasses, his blond hair spiked from being in the water—he actually looked kind of adorable. I would’ve probably been impressed with his attempt at abs even if I hadn’t been in such recent proximity to Hunter. Clay had obviously been working out; he was getting some definition to his physique. I didn’t know why, but the mental image of him lifting weights made me snicker.

  “What?” Clay asked, lifting his head a little to squint with one eye. “What’s so funny?”

  “Nothing.” I grinned and bit my lip.

  “Don’t make me come tickle it out of you.”

  “You’d have to be able to actually see me for that to happen. I know you’re nearly blind as a bat without your glasses,” I teased.

  “I’m not that bad.” He looked upset by my remark.

  I nudged his arm. “I’m just kidding.”


  “That’s it.” I moved and tickled him first.

  He jerked away in surprise over my attack and laughed before coming back after me.

  I squealed and curled up in a ball to protect myself. He rolled over from his chair onto me, tickling me all over as I wriggled. I tried to get away, but he grabbed my hands and pinned them up over my head.

  “I surrender!” I shouted, unable to stop my fit of giggles.

  “Good choice,” he replied as he stared down. His smile slowly slid from his face and he was suddenly serious.

  I squirmed underneath him trying to get free, and he shifted, looking uncomfortable. “Time for a dip, I think.” He stood up and scooped me off the chair while I kicked and screamed. Then he jumped into the ice cold water, drowning us both.

  “You haven’t been around as much, Clay. How are you liking your classes this semester?” my mom asked as she cut some more of her famous chicken salad sandwiches into fourths and slid the heaping plate toward us.

  Clay shrugged, fidgeting a little with the hem on his shorts. “It’s more of the same, I guess. They’re all right. I wish I had more classes with Cami, though.”

  “Aw, that’s sweet!” I leaned against him, and he wrapped his arm around me, giving my shoulders a squeeze.

  He smiled radiantly. “Classes are always more enjoyable with you.”

  “I feel the same way. I’m glad we have band and chemistry together at least. We’ve had lots of good times in those.”

  “And lunch! Don’t forget that,” he added, making a gagging motion.

  “Of course not. I need someone to make fun of the cafeteria food with me. We’ve made some great sculptures with that stuff.”

  “Things worthy of a science project on occasion.”

  “The food there is a science project.”

  “Hopefully the school board will decide to let us have open lunches again.”

  A solemn wave washed through the room, and I thought about the crack down by the school after Jordan Henley had died. They were worried about the kids doing drugs and had closed the school campus in an attempt to make things safer.

  “I’m assuming you’ve decided not to attend the fundraiser. What plans do you two have for this evening?” Mom asked, deftly changing the subject.

  “I thought maybe we could go see the newest, latest, and greatest action movie that’s out,” Clay said and turned to me. “What do you think? Are you up for that?”

  “Sure. It’ll be fun to get out and hang with you for a lit
tle while again. We haven’t been able to do that much. You’ve been really busy lately.”

  “Just trying to keep up on all my assignments, like you.”

  “And talking to Marcy,” I teased, winking.

  His face colored. “And working at the theater, like you. I wish Jen would arrange the schedule again. I liked our shifts on the same nights.”

  I shrugged. “So talk to her. Maybe she can put in a word for us with Jon and get it switched back.”

  “Maybe,” he mumbled. “I better go home and get ready. Do you want to grab a burger or something before?”

  I nodded. “That sounds good. Is that okay with you, Mom?”

  “As long as you two are home by curfew.”

  “Alright,” Clay said with a grin. “I’ll pick you up at six.”

  “See you then.” I wrapped my arms around him and gave him a bear hug. “Thanks for coming over today.”

  “It’s been my favorite thing to do since I was five.” He hugged me back tightly. “See you tonight.”

  I resumed eating my sandwich, swinging my dangling legs from the barstool like a child.

  My mom glanced up from the food she was preparing for herself with a puzzled expression.

  “What?” I asked.

  She gestured toward the door. “I wonder if you’ve noticed that the dynamics between you and Clay have changed. He likes you.”

  “He better like me. He’s my best friend.” I took another bite.

  She shook her head. “No, I think you’re missing the point. I think he likes you, likes you—more than a friend.”

  I choked on my last bite and started coughing. “No way.” I kept coughing as she hurried and got me a glass of water. I took a heavy drink before placing the cup on the counter and staring at her. “You aren’t serious, are you?”

  My mom sighed as she continued chopping a tomato for her salad. “I’m just calling it as I see it. You haven’t noticed the changes? Working out more, wearing nicer labels of clothing—even if they are still plaid. He finds reasons to touch you a lot more often too.”

  I couldn’t help my gaping mouth; my world was turning upside down. Suddenly I was afraid. “I hope you’re wrong about this, Mom. It will ruin everything.”

  “So, I’m guessing that means you don’t reciprocate?”

  I groaned. “Not. In. The. Slightest.” I replied, emphasizing each word. “What should I do? Should I call him and cancel our plans? I think of him like a brother, and I don’t want to lead him on.”

  “I don’t think so. I may be seeing something that isn’t there. I’d go and see what happens with him tonight.” She stared at me pointedly. “Just be careful. He seems different to me for some reason.”

  “Okay.” I pushed my plate away, my appetite suddenly gone. “I’m going to go get showered now. Thanks for lunch, Mom.”

  She gave me a sorrowful smile, and I left. I closed the door to my room behind me and flopped onto my bed with a groan, burying my face into the pillow. This was so not what I needed to hear right now. I hoped she was wrong, but she seemed to possess an uncanny sense of intuition about things.

  If she was right, I was going to have to find some way to put the brakes on, but I didn’t want to come right out and crush him. Images of our tickle fight and holding hands by the pool popped into my head. Suddenly, actions that had seemed so intimately friendly took on another quality all together.

  I got up and wandered over to my closet, trying to decide what to wear. Normally, I’d have thrown any old thing on to hang out with Clay, totally happy to be my comfortable self. However, tonight I was torn. Did I dress down to discourage him? Or should I dress up with the hope of flirting with some other guy there. That would show him I wasn’t into him romantically. Actually, that might not be a bad idea. Maybe I needed to try and do some things with other people so he wouldn’t think we were having some kind of exclusive arrangement.

  I reached into the closet to get my newest outfit I’d been saving for something special.

  “Oh, Clay. Why’d you have to go and change? It ruins everything,” I said aloud. I hugged the clothes to me before laying them on my bed and heading into the bathroom.

  I was going to hate doing this to him.

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