Chapter Twenty Nine
Why in God’s name did I do it? How stupid can I be? I am going to be all alone at the Masquerade – a dance I hadn’t even wanted to go to in the first place—with Tom Wallace. Every time he looks at me I usually bolt for the nearest exit. Now I am going to have to spend the next several hours with him.
Tom makes me nervous. I always have this insane notion he’s stalking me like a hunter does its prey. My instincts tell me to run, to flee. The wolf I think. I think she started stirring that first day when I saw him in the lunchroom. I’d always wondered what would happen if I let him catch me. Now I guess I get to find out.
He looks at me the way I wish Devon would. But no, Devon is with the hohag…just please, why does my life suck so much? What sin did I commit in my past life that warrants the mess I’m in now?
I finger the lace on the bodice of my blue evening gown. It’s very soft and demure. The sleeveless gown hangs in straight shimmering lines down my body, ending at about a half-inch off the floor. The blue mask was done in the same shade and there were feathers outlining the ends, making it almost exotic. Emma took me to the mall and helped me pick it out. Emma is almost as excited as Saidie. Poor Saidie, she’d wanted to go so badly. That didn’t stop her from cheering me on, though. She also said it would serve Devon right to see exactly what he’d given up.
She could be right. I hope so.
Jason is pacing back and forth in the kitchen when I come down. I frown. He should have already left to pick up his date.
“Jase, you’re gonna be late to pick up Suzie.”
His head snaps up when he hears me. His eyes widen and I think for a minute he might choke as he tries to pull air into his lungs. “You are not wearing that, Alexandria Nicolette Reed!”
“Jase, get a grip. There’s nothing wrong with this dress. Emma picked it out.”
“He’s too old for you.” Jason starts pacing again. “I warned him to leave you alone and you just had to go and ask him out, didn’t you?”
“Tom’s your age, Jason,” I remind him. “He’s only a year older than me.”
“He’s also my best friend, Alex,” he grouches. “Do you have any idea how weird it is thinking about the two of you together? And what happens when you two break up and he hurts you? I’ll have to say something, do something…”
“Jason, you’re jumping the gun. It’s only one date and besides, you can’t tell me who to date.”
“Yes, I can, Alexandria Nicolette Reed. You’re my sister and ….”
“And nothing,” I interrupt. He’s used my full name twice. Not a good sign. The boy is getting good and riled. “I can take care of myself. You taught me how remember?”
He stops pacing and sighs. “It’s just that you’ve been through so much already, Alex, and I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Been there, done that,” I mutter, thinking about how much Devon hurt me.
“Do you want me to break Devon’s face, Sis?” he asks me. “Just say the word.”
I smile at my brother. He looks so serious and I have no doubt he’d try to hit Devon, but I think Jason would end up as the bloody, beaten one. “Thanks for offering, but no, don’t break his face,” I say.
“Thank God,” he sighs. “Devon would have kicked my butt from one end of the parking lot to the other, but I’d try.”
“I know, Jase, and that’s what counts.”
The doorbell rings.
Dad answers it, glowering down at Tom.
“Mr. Reed, sir,” Tom greets him.
Dad stares at him, not saying anything. It’s the same look he gives Jason every time Jason asks to borrow money. O-h-h, best to get him out of here quick.
“Hi.” I slide between him and Dad. “Ready?”
“Not so fast, Alexandria,” Dad puts a hand on my shoulder. “I want to speak with Tom while you go get something to put on. You’ll freeze to death in that sleeveless thing.”
He gives me the Jason look and I fly upstairs to grab my black sweater. It’s in my closet which cost extra seconds and by the time I run back downstairs, Tom is fidgeting, his face a nervous mask. God, what did Dad say to him? Jason is grinning so I know it can’t have been good. Emma is glaring holes into my dad. She must have come in from the kitchen while I was upstairs. Why do parents have to be sooooo embarrassing?
Dad and Emma do the whole parent thing and take pictures. It’s my first official high school dance and they want to commemorate it. Tom stands dutifully by my side, giving Dad nervous looks. Jason looks smug. What did Dad say to him?
Tom holds my sweater while he waits for me to put on my coat and then escorts me out to his car. It’s a green 2008 Chevy Cobalt. He’d gotten the car as a present for his sixteenth birthday. Jason had gone on and on about it in hopes Dad would take the not so subtle hint that he too needed a ride. Dad of course had eventually gotten Jason a car – a blue 1997 Chevy Cavalier. It was a little beat up, but seeing as how it was his first car, he treated it like it was a Porsche instead of an OLD second-hand car.
I study Tom’s profile as he drives. He’s a handsome boy with milk chocolaty brown eyes and brown hair streaked with blonde highlights. He looks about as nervous as I feel. What did Dad say to him?
“So,” I say. “Dad didn’t give you too hard of a time did he?”
“No,” he shakes his head. “You look really nice.”
“Thanks,” I stammer. “So do you.”
“I wondered how long it would take you to stop running so I could ask you out.”
My face burns scarlet. So he had noticed my mad dashes for escape. “Was I that obvious?”
“Yeah, but don’t worry, it just made you look cute. Anyway, Jason told me you were off limits, but I’d already decided to ask you out if I could get you to stand still long enough to do it.”
I look up at that confession to see him smiling at me. He really is cute when he smiles.
“I know you’re probably still pretty upset over Cameron and I know you only asked me to the dance ‘cause you were mad at Janna, but I don’t care. I’m glad you did it. Saved me the trouble of trying to corner you,” he winks. “I promise if you just relax, you’ll have a good time. I’m not so bad.”
I smile tentively at him. Maybe he’s right. Devon has made his intentions clear. He cares, but not enough. Tom really likes me and he seems like a genuinely nice guy. I’ll give it a try, I guess. I really love to dance anyway, so why not enjoy myself?
He parks the car and leads me into the gym. I see Devon almost as soon as I come through the doors. Felicia has dragged him over to get pictures made. He looks perfectly happy to be there. Tom’s grip on my arm tightens and I force my eyes away from Devon’s face. Tom stares down at me with concern and I feel the first stirring of anger. Am I going to let Devon ruin my first real high school dance? So what if I’m here with Tom instead of him? I can ignore him just as easily as he does me. Maybe.
Tom had been right. Once I stopped thinking about everything and let myself relax, I started to have fun. Tom is really funny and I find myself laughing at his inane jokes. He seems so shocked that I know about football. My brother lives and breathes the sport so of course I know football. I get bonus brownie points for that
It’s a couple hours later when I spot Devon again. I’m just coming back to the dance floor when I see him. He’s dancing with Felicia—a slow song. He has her pulled close and she looks ecstatic. Jealousy roars to life. Vile hateful old hag. Then he whispers something in her ear and she giggles. Stupid, hateful Gypsy.
He kisses her and I want to run. Tears blur my vision at the pain in my heart just watching them. I need to get out of here before Tom sees me. He’s been so nice and I don’t want him to feel worse about my asking him out as a knee jerk reaction.
I escape outside and run around to the back of the building where no one can see me. I lean against the wall and try to catch my breath. The wolf stretches beneath my skin and I force myself to calm down. It won’t do to lose control here. My wolf seems to come out and play when I’m upset or angry. She’s been quiet the last few days, but I’ve felt her there, just waiting.
A cool breeze flows over me and I shiver as Devon’s power strokes my skin. “Go back inside, Devon.”
“Are you alright, Cara?” he asks, coming to lean against the building beside of me. “Your wolf is stretching.”
“I’ll deal with it,” I tell him shortly.
“You need help to “deal” with it, Alexandria,” he replies just as shortly.
“It’s not your problem, Devon,” I snap.
He sighs. “You are my problem, bellisima.”
“So I’m a problem now?” I turn and glare up at him. “If I’m such a problem why don’t you leave me alone?”
“I have never in all my born days encountered such a stubborn girl as you,” he glares back.
I gasp. “Oh you look here …”
“I’m only speaking the truth, Alexandria.” He gives me one of his patented bored looks. I so want to hit him. “You cannot control the wolf. I can.”
My hands ache to slap his beautiful face. “Leave Me Alone!”
Instead he pulls off his jacket and holds it out for me. I want to tell him where he can shove it, but I’m freezing. It’s about forty degrees outside and I’d fled the gym without my sweater or coat. I take the jacket.
“Sometimes I wonder if I made a mistake,” he says at last, his voice low and rough. My heart leaps with hope. “Should I have just stayed away, kept watch over you from a distance?” He dashes my hopes and my shoulders slump. “It would have been so much easier.”
“Devon, I’m sorry I’m such a bother. I don’t know why you don’t just leave...”
Like my mother. She left. Yeah, she had a reason, but she still left.
“I will never leave you, my Cara,” he whispers. His power ghosts across my skin, sending shivers through me. He has no right to do this to me, to make me feel like this.
I look up into his eyes and forget to breathe. A deep and aching loneliness is hidden in their emerald depths, an ageless wound. It is a reflection of my own soul or at least what it had once been. Morgan healed so much of that old wound with his presence as had Devon. As much pain as I feel right now, I owe him for helping to heal the old scars my mother left behind. But that doesn’t mean I’m not pissed.
“Why do you say things like that to me?” I demand. “I know you don’t want me. You made that clear. Sure you say you care, but not enough, not like I want you to care! So why?”
He lets out one of those long suffering sighs he usually reserves for Connor.
“No, don’t you ever call me that again,” I snarl, fighting tears. “I am not your beloved.”
His face softens and he reaches out a hand towards my face, but lets it fall back to his side. “I am sorry, Cara. This is my fault.”
You got that right buster.
“Just go back inside and dance with the hohag,” I tell him and slouch against the wall, sniffing his jacket. God, but it smells good. I don’t know what kind of cologne he wears, but it should be labeled as a lethal weapon in regards to women.
A smile flirts with his lips. “Hohag, Alexandria?”
“It’s not funny, Devon,” I glare and he laughs. The sound of his laughter wraps around me like a glove. “Please, Devon just go back inside and leave me alone.”
Another sigh. “You were not mistaken, Alexandria, when you thought I cared about you the way you wanted me to. I do.”
What kind of game is this? “Devon, I’m not in the mood.”
“No, I need you to understand. I did not want to hurt you, but it was necessary. I cannot be with you as you wish me to.”
“Why the hell not?” I demand. Crap, he made me cuss.
He purses his lips. “There are things that I cannot explain to you.”
“That’s not good enough, Devon,” I growl. “I’m sick to death of all these little cryptic remarks you make. It’s not fair!”
“Life is not fair, Alexandria.”
“Fine, don’t tell me anything,” I glower at him. “If you won’t go and leave me the hell alone, then I’ll do it for you.” I push away from the wall and try to leave. He reaches out and catches my arm and yanks me back.
“We’re not done, Cara.”
“Oh, but we are,” I fume and yank my arm. It’s like trying to pry out a rock embedded in concrete. Impossible. “Let go of me.”
“No,” he whispers and pulls me closer. “I will never let you go.”
“I don’t belong to you. You made that choice already. Remember the hohag?”
“Yes, I remember the hohag,” his smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. Those beautiful emerald orbs are sleepy with another emotion. My stomach tightens and the magic in my blood begins to tingle, to flare. The buzzing in my ears hums louder as I stare up at him. My magic calls to him, begs him to touch, to taste. It scares me.
“If you only knew how badly I want to let myself do what I really want to,” he whispers and pushes me back against the wall, his body pressing into mine, trapping me.
“What do you want to do?” I ask him softly.
He kisses me.