Worth reading 😎

Paranormals + a deaf main character = a very interesting and unique reading experience.

Synopsis

After moving from sunny California to the much cooler state of Maine, Maeleigh starts a new high school after years of homeschooling. Upon starting she meets Brianna and Gearden. At first, she takes them for the popular high school couple only to learn that Bri sees him only as a brother. Which is a good thing considering the attention Gearden has been showing her. Before the end of her first day, she’s escorted by Bri to the nurses office for a mind numbing headache. When the nurse calls Gearden to her office, he learns his suspicions are true: Maeleigh is a Druid.

Maeleigh discovers that wolves and druids co-exist as a single pack lead by Gearden’s father. As Maeleigh learns about them, she finds herself immersed in a whole new world. After a jealous boy from school begins to scare Maeleigh and challenge Gearden, stranger things begin to happen in pack territory. When they go on the hunt to search for the suspect, Maeleigh is kidnapped. Can Gearden find her in time? Or will new players in the game, get the best of him and take what he most treasures: his mate?

In The Hunt we have a main character, Maeleigh, who is deaf. I found it fascinating to read about as it really added another layer to the story. Since the story is partly told through her POV we had to rely on her other senses and it really made a unique reading experience. I also found that every time we read through Maeleigh's POV I felt a quiet calm in my head as if I also couldn't rely on my hearing through out the story.


We also get the POV from multiple characters which is one of my favorite features in books. I always feel it adds more to the story and makes it more rounded out. It was not a disappointment in this story and I felt like we really got some unique POV's that we don't normally see in other multi-pov books (like some side characters and the "bad guy").


Now, lets talk about what I didn't love about this book. My biggest complaint was the lack of information we get, and mainly the lack of information about the paranormals. This book features two: Druids & Wolves, and by the end I honestly can't tell you much about either of them. Us (and Maeleigh) are kept out of the loop a lot and other than knowing that they exist, we really don't learn much else. I am sure we will learn more in the next book, but I feel like we should have at least had a concrete definition of what each is by the end.


There was another smaller problem I had with the book, which is honestly an editing issue. Sometimes Maeleigh could hear a laugh or a deep rumble of a voice and we didn't get a clear explanation for it. At one point she mentions a hearing aid, but we never learned she had one before. It honestly just made things a little confusing. I also wish a little bit more happened in the romance department, but that is personal preference. I always want more there. I do wish there were some dates or something that they went on to explain her feelings for him better, because although the pacing of the romance is slow, we don't have an explanation of WHY she gets feelings for the guy.


Overall, I enjoyed my time reading this. There were some flaws, but I still read it until the end and wanted to know more. Would I read the next book: yes.

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Synopsis

After moving from sunny California to the much cooler state of Maine, Maeleigh starts a new high school after years of homeschooling. Upon starting she meets Brianna and Gearden. At first, she takes them for the popular high school couple only to learn that Bri sees him only as a brother. Which is a good thing considering the attention Gearden has been showing her. Before the end of her first day, she’s escorted by Bri to the nurses office for a mind numbing headache. When the nurse calls Gearden to her office, he learns his suspicions are true: Maeleigh is a Druid.

Maeleigh discovers that wolves and druids co-exist as a single pack lead by Gearden’s father. As Maeleigh learns about them, she finds herself immersed in a whole new world. After a jealous boy from school begins to scare Maeleigh and challenge Gearden, stranger things begin to happen in pack territory. When they go on the hunt to search for the suspect, Maeleigh is kidnapped. Can Gearden find her in time? Or will new players in the game, get the best of him and take what he most treasures: his mate?

Maeleigh






Another burst of light had me blinking to clear the spots from my eyes. I'd stopped counting the amount of pictures my mom had taken, but the darned flash was going to permanently blind me for sure if she didn’t stop the madness soon. I was already worried enough as it was that I’d trip on the stairs or something lame like that. The last thing I needed was to be struck blind by my own mother.

MOM, PLEASE STOP THIS, I SIGNED. WE HAVE TO LEAVE SOON.


“Okay. Okay. I’m sorry.” My mom signed one handed as she spoke aloud. “I just wanted to get the perfect shot.” She took a deep breath to control the tears that threatened. Really, it wasn't that big of a deal. First day of my senior year at high school. Okay, so maybe it was a new school in a new town and she was a photographer, but really, she had to have gotten this ever-desired "perfect shot" in the first ten photographs. 

My parents had moved us across the country just before the new school year-in Port Bell, Maine, off the coast of Penobscot Bay and Passagassawakeag River. The town thrived on tourism with fishing and lumber developments, but there was also a large university that my dad had put a transfer in to. Mom had found a job as a photographer for the local newspaper, too.

I missed my friends back in Stockton, California, but we'd promised to text each other daily. In fact, Janie had sent a text just that morning, waking me before the alarm, wishing me good luck. I’ll have to ask what she was doing up at three-thirty this morning. Just like my dad, I got bored with everyday stuff. Rearranged my furniture on a monthly basis and painted the walls in my old room more times than I could count. Thinking about the boring white walls in the new one upstairs, I decided to ask dad to stop by a hardware store after school sometime this week to pick up some paint chips. I loved change. When the movers delivered the furniture the previous day, I took my time arranging it. The bed was moved from the left side to the right a couple times before I settled with the left and the dresser on the right with my cozy colorful paisley chair by the single large window opposite the door. I know I'm weird, but I couldn’t wait to get to school. I should be all nervous about new people and places, but as long as I don't fall flat on my face, I'm golden and having spent the last week bored out of my mind sitting up in my bare room, I was ready to meet new people. 

“Alright, alright, sweetie," my dad said to my mom but signed for my benefit. 

THE WAY SHE’S GOING ON, WE’D BETTER LEAVE, SO I’LL MAKE IT TO CLASS ON TIME, I told him. 

Smirking, I turned to sling my backpack over one shoulder, the heavy weight making me hunch just a bit, but I knew it had everything I could possibly need for the day, including books. We had taken a tour of the school last Friday during registration. Met all the teachers and interpreters, prepping for the first couple of hectic days. With minimal arm twisting, mom had taken me to the mall in Waterville for a few new outfits, including sweaters, a warm jacket, knit hats, gloves and scarves. Seriously, how do people move with all that on their persons? I just hoped I didn't freeze this winter. It was already twenty degrees cooler here than back in Stockton. 

“Alright, alright. I’m through blubbering,” Mom said, giving dad a disgruntled look.

Dad and I both just gave her bored looks.

Notching up her chin, mom gave a dignified sniff as she picked up her purse from the table and my dad, Benjamin Thompson, grabbed up his insulated coffee cup and black leather briefcase bag. We all filed out of the kitchen through the back door, walking to the detached garage towards the back of the house and the side of the yard. Mom kissed me goodbye before climbing into her sky-blue Nissan Leaf and waved as she drove down the sloped driveway.

Setting my bag in the passenger floorboard of dad's old brown BMW, I slipped in and buckled up, noting that he must have vacuumed it out the day before. Again. Aside from his books, and me of course, the car was his baby. He broke from grading papers every Sunday afternoon to clean and polish it. Mom and I teased him when we caught him talking to it from time to time.

Pulling out, he turned down our old, quiet street. I spotted a couple leaves turning orange in the trees as we drove by a line of them. Fall would definitely look different this year compared to the ever warm and sunny California. Tall trees lined the sides of our street, sidewalks on either side. An older established community, it was well taken are of. No one had overgrown grass or chipping paint. Again, my dad’s OCD may have taken part in the house hunting when he and mom had flown out here a couple months ago. I slept over at Janie’s that weekend, but it wasn’t the same knowing why I was there, with my parents here looking for our new home, three-thousand miles away. 

Now, we lived close to the university, just a few blocks away, since dad sometimes worked long hours during the school year, but it was a couple more blocks farther from the high school. When he stopped along the curb outside the main doors of Belfast High, he rested his hand on mine when I reached for my backpack, gave it a squeeze, and kissed me on the forehead. Bright blue eyes met with mine when he pulled away to sign. GOOD LUCK, SWEETIE. KNOCK ‘EM DEAD. Straight white teeth flashed as he winked.

OK. BYE, I said.

Tiny ping-pong balls of excitement wanted to break free from my body as I climbed out of the car, shut the door, and slid my bag over one shoulder, vaguely aware of dad pulling away to allow the next car, a van, to pull up and unload a group of teens. Moving to get out of the way, I followed others up the steps, with mature maple trees on either side, to the brick building and through the massive metal doors.

Having memorized where my locker and first class were, I moved on to the right hall. I was a little thankful that it was between my first period class, AP English, and second period class, Algebra, since both would have masses of reading and study material I'd rather not lug around all day. After picking out the books I wouldn't need for the first class from my backpack, placing them on the bottom of the locker and shoving my lunch bag on the top shelf, I slammed the door and gave the lock a twist before walking the few doors down to my first class. 

Stopping just outside the door in the hall, I double checked the classroom number. In the two seconds it took to dig the class schedule out of my back jean pocket, a boy started to enter in front of me, only to stop when he looked up. 

“Hey," he said with a wide grin. On the tall side, he was maybe six or so inches taller than my own mere five feet and three. With blonde hair gelled and styled perfectly, a white polo shirt with white washed jeans, he looked like he'd just walked straight out of an Abercrombie and Fitch store. Complete with the god awful cologne. Breathing through my mouth for a second, not wanting to incur a full on allergy attack, I smiled back. The grin on his face made his only dimple on the right cheek pop. The excitement leaked away a little when something caught his attention behind me. 

Straightening to his full height, his gaze darkened from inviting to contempt at whatever, or whoever, was behind me. They now stood directly behind me, personal space obliterated. Their warm chest brushed my strawberry blonde hair that fell down to my waist in natural waves. I would swear their body heated the strands and sent a shiver up to my skull and down my entire body.

Swinging around, I nearly tripped to step backwards when I jerked my neck upward to look at the newcomer’s face. A guy, not to be confused with a boy from where I stood, frowned down at me. 

“Excuse me," he said.

Baritone. That’s the only explanation I had to describe his voice, because I would swear that I could feel it in my bones when he spoke those two words.

I flat out stared for a moment and I saw that only made him grow even more irritated. He inhaled deeply, as if someone had just waved a cup of premium hot chocolate under his nose enticingly. His chest expanded with his full lungs when he held it and then exhaled with a crease forming between his dark brows. It registered then that there were a few other kids standing behind him, pretending not to watch. Noticing that I was blocking the way, I quickly stepped to the side, feeling like a total idiot. 

“Sorry,” I said, still staring at him. He remained still, watching me. Though a look of caution etched into his strong features. 

His skin was tanned, but not the kind that came with birth. He probably worked outside a lot. The mountain trails were popular on this side of the country; maybe he was a hiker. The muscles I spotted under his plain navy blue cotton t-shirt were a hint to some sort of recreational activity. His eyes were the most penetrating forest green, which were only accentuated by his black hair that was considered long in today’s standards. 

Just then a willowy girl with blonde hair swinging free squeezed around the statue of a human being and followed his gaze. The smile she immediately shot my way was honest and welcoming. “Hi.”

I liked her already. I gave her my best shot at smiling back, “Hi,” only mouthing the word this time. 

“I’m Brianna, but you can call me Bri. Everyone else does.”

I caught the gist of the words from reading her lips. The I made a note to myself to ask her to write it out for me, including her boyfriend’s name, and what his deal was too.

Something caught their attention as they all jerked their heads to look past me and deeper into the classroom. I swung around, catching the tail end of what the teacher was saying, “…please join us.”

The blond, Bri, sent a hundred kilowatt smile onto him and promptly replied, “Yes, Mr. Boyen. We were only helping our new friend find her class." Giving me a sly wink.

“Ah, yes. Ms. Thompson. Good morning.” Mr. Boyen was a pleasant-enough-looking man. After meeting him last Friday, I was happy to see that his kind eyes and good humor followed into the classroom and wasn’t just pretense with the parents around.

I had no choice but to step into the room or be trampled by hulk behind me and the rest of the class that shoved their way in.

Once inside, I immediately looked for my assigned interpreter. 

Mr. Boyen moved to stand in front of me before saying, “Your interpreter wasn’t able to be here for this class. She's stuck in traffic. Apparently a rather bad accident occurred.” He notched up his own smile when my face fell. “No worries, though. You’ll be sitting in the front, and how about I repeat all the other students’ questions for you?” At least he remembered I was good at reading lips. Usually. If the person didn't mumble and they enunciated properly I could catch most of what they were saying. 

It was the best I was going to get. After all, Mr. Boyen was being very accommodating considering it was his first experience with a deaf student. Putting on a smile of my own, I signed "Thank you," and took a seat at the front. 

No one, at least in the front row, stared or gawked at me as class progressed. I was used to being the odd one out, getting rumored and talked about. And it was unavoidable when you were deaf, to draw outside attention. It only made me uncomfortable to have so many people looking at me at one time, drawing their own conclusions on what was "wrong with me." If they asked me straight out, that would be a whole other thing entirely. 

Mr. Boyen went over the semester's syllabus, expectations in the classroom and his personal rules for which he held us responsible to before getting down to real business. “Now, for the next few weeks, we’ll be working in groups of three for a project on Folklore. So go ahead and use the last few minutes left in class to select your partners and trade contact info.” He was refreshing, Mr. Boyen was. He proved to be an enjoyable teacher, obviously a man who loved what he taught. At least I didn't see anyone sleeping, that was always a plus.

Just as the room started to disperse into groups of friends and acquaintances, someone tapped me on the shoulder. Turning, I found Bri with another smile on her face.

“Want to be partners?” she asked.

It was then that I became aware that the same guy from the doorway was sitting next to her. He frowned in contempt at his friend, clearly not pleased with her choice of partners. I pretended not to notice his foot being stomped on, especially when he didn’t flinch. 

Bri continued to look at me, unfazed and waiting for an answer.

Giving a small smile of my own, I gave in. “Sure."

“Good.” She chirped, handing me a piece of paper. “Here’s my number.” 

I gave the graceful script handwriting a quick study as I dug out my cell from a pocket in my backpack to enter into my contacts. Done, I slipped it into the zipper pocket of my folder, then promptly typed out a quick message and hit send. 

When the phone at her elbow blinked, Bri picked it up and read, “I'm Maeleigh. Be sure to text.”

Bri looked up, saying, “Maeleigh? Cool name.”

I couldn't help the small chuckle that escaped at Bri’s excitement over something so simple as a name. "What's his name?" I signed and spoke simultaneously. Hopefully a little bit of sign would rub off if she wanted to be friends.

Bri jerked a thumb over her shoulder to the dude now slouching in his seat. "His name?” She gave the brooding boy a sidelong look, a sort of sadness darkened her expression. A silent communication between them looked like Bri was telling him to be nice and enjoy himself rather than be a stick in the mud. While it was apparent he wanted nothing more than for Bri to let off. Bri frowned, projecting her full disapproval. It seemed that her stare would last forever, if not for the bell to break the tension.

Shrugging, I let it go. Though I made one more note to myself, to stay clear of him and to make a point to find Bri at lunch.

I switched out my books at my locker and headed to math in the next building just on the other side of a short breezeway that probably came in handy shielding the students from inevitable rain and snow in the Fall and Winter months. My interpreter, Lisa, was just walking in as I set my book and folder on the desk Ms. Taylor had assigned to me. A younger woman, going to college at night to become a teacher, she interpreted for tuition and experience. She was quiet when we met up during orientation, but I didn't think it was from shyness. We stood chatting about what we both did over the weekend when someone rushed in, bumping into me in their race against the bell. Tipping to the side, my efforts to right herself involved flailing rather unflatteringly when he caught my arm, saving me from falling into an embarrassing heap onto the ugly white tile floor. Only to be burned. His flesh against mine was like a hot poker. I half expected to see steam rise from where his fingers were wrapped around her wrist. If his body heat weren’t something of a shock, then the strength he had in just his hand did. Control. That’s the only explanation I could manage as to why my arm didn’t snap when he snatched it so quickly. 

He didn’t move for a moment, just stared down at me with a peculiar look on his gorgeous face. I mentally shook the thought away. The idea of considering this guy as gorgeous was preposterous. How could a person so grumpy be gorgeous? Besides, no matter what my hormonal brain thought, he was obviously taken. Ugh, my friendship with Bri was already over before it even started. 

Again, he drew a deep breath into his chest, though now his expression had become lax, taking on a sort of unknown and waiting feel to it. He inhaled so deeply that his expanded lungs made his chest grow almost double in size, stretching his t-shirt. Once they were filled to maximum, he held it, savoring. His lips quirked into a half grin as he slowly exhaled through his nose and righted me securely on my feet. Long after I was obviously as stable as one gets on solid ground did he finally released me, only to hold out his hand.

“I’m ....” His hand remained extended, empty, as I continued to stare at his mouth, confused. “I’m sorry about last period, I’m not a morning person.” Still, I didn’t take his proffered hand, not sure if he was serious. It's possible I wanted to make him feel a little foolish, like he made me feel earlier. 

"How do you spell your name?" I asked.

“Gearden," he said, letting his hand fall to his side. Lisa spelled it out for me. 

My lips quirked as I met his eyes again and extended my own hand, which he took and gave a gentle but firm shake. Large and rough, his palm seemed to swallow my whole hand. Some of the tension left his shoulders when my palm met his. “I’m Maeleigh,” I offered officially.

Off balance was my initial take of him. Gearden, I was sure, would make for an interesting friend, just like his girlfriend.

Algebra II was only more enjoyable than AP English because I could understand all that was going on and didn’t have to guess at the words and fill in the blanks when I didn’t catch a word here and there. Of course, it could have had a little to do with the fact that I’d made two more friends in that class, added to the one she’d made in English with Bri. Not much for chatting to go on, but Gearden did laugh with me now and then when the teacher would try her hand at humor with a pointless joke, which only got a chuckle or two because her audience was a tough crowd. 

He walked with me to Biology, in another building across the quad. When we reached the door, he simply tipped his chin in my direction and continued down the hall. There was one other girl in this class who was hard of hearing, Juliette, and a different interpreter, whom I wracked my brain for her name while I took my seat. Interpreters were something of a rare find, so I tried to remember all the names of those who have interpreted for me. 

Sally, that was it. Sally Woodland. In her late thirties, she had an earthly, natural look to her. She needed no artificial enhancements like make up with her light brown eyes, surrounded by long coal black eyelashes, matching hair and olive skin. It wouldn’t surprise me if she’d been a model at some point in her life.

Paired as lab partners, I learned that science was not Juliette’s best subject, but it was, however, one of mine. I felt I knew enough to help us both get by as lab partners. Besides, she didn't seem like the kind to let others do all the work.

Too soon it was over. Loaded down with much anticipated homework and reading packets, I may have bounced out of the room, heading for the locker to switch out my bag for my lunch. While I thought on whether or not I’d have time to go over the packets that Mr. Rodriquez had given us, I was oblivious to someone trying to get my attention until they were walking along side me. 

“Hi,” he said, now that he'd clearly gotten my attention.

“Hey," I said back, recognizing him right away, the first boy I’d met outside of first period. The blonde. We’d arrived at my locker. "We have English together, right?” I knew my words weren't the clearest but I could see he got the gist of what I was saying. 

The scent of Abercrombie and Fitch’s fierce cologne tickled my nose. Before taking a full breath, I stopped short, keeping my smile plastered on my face. 

"Yeah, we do!” I smiled briefly and turned to twist the combo lock to open the locker door before looking back up at him. “I’m Derrek. Hey, so I was wondering, did you want to hang out with my friends and me at lunch? We have a good seat next to the fountain, best spot you could—“ His words trailed off when he spotted someone approaching behind me.

Turning, I found Gearden and Bri walking towards us. While Bri stopped to talk to another girl just a couple feet away, Gearden moved to stand as close as he did the first time I’d seen him that morning. As menacing as he looked then, it was doubled this time. 

It didn’t take a genius to see that he and Derrek were at odds, either. Stepping to the side to see them both clearly, I saw Gearden say to Derrek, “Sorry, Derrek, she’s already sitting with us.”

“What the hell, O’Connell? Why don’t you let her speak for herself?” Immediately, his eyes looked to me expectantly, while Gearden only continued to watch Derrek with an awareness that made me edgy.

“Hey, Maeleigh!” Bri popped up beside Gearden, a sack lunch in one hand and a can of Sprite in the other. Keeping his eyes boring into Derrek, Gearden reached over my head and removed my purple soft-sided lunch box, shut the locker door and started towards the quad. I just smiled apologetically at Derrek and said, "Maybe tomorrow?" before I followed where my lunch was headed. Bri moved along with me, threading her arm through mine as we walked, chatting about playing basketball in her second period PE.



The concrete table and bench seats that Bri and Gearden led me to were an extension of the fountain it seemed. Bodies flowed from the rim, which served seating all around, to the table. Every conceivable inch of sitting space was occupied and even some, mostly girls, were sitting or standing on the tabletop. Socializing was more important than sitting, apparently. 

Various grades were gathered, and none seemed to worry about the age difference, whereas the other tables and groups appeared to be separated by grades or sport affiliation. Happy that I’d worn comfy shoes that day, I accepted that I’d be standing this lunch period, so I was a tad shocked when a boy catching sight of Gearden tapped another boy beside him and promptly hopped down from the closest ledge of the table where they were perched. His partner followed suit, backing away obligingly all without missing a beat in their conversation. It was equal to relinquishing ocean front property on the West Coast.

Coming to stand beside the table by its newly vacated space, I took the lunch box that Gearden offered. Moving to open it, I nearly leapt out of my skin when he grasped me by the waist and plopped me gently on the edge of the table, in the exact spot the boys had relinquished. The gaping looks that a few people gave me reminded me of fish looking through the glass into the world beyond. Bri brought me out of my reverie when she hopped up next to me, peering down at my lunch curiously before jerking her head over to a pair of girls approaching us.

“Maeleigh, meet Kassady and Freya,” Bri announced, indicating a brunette with light brown eyes, Kassady, and a petite blonde, Freya. “Guys, this is Maeleigh, she’s the one I was telling you about.” Feeling the start of self-conscious dread begin to stir inside me, I waited to see if she would elaborate on what exactly she had told them about me. I stared at my peanut butter and jelly sandwich with less interest than I had two seconds ago, then glanced back up to the group.

“Hi.” Kassady said, setting her bottled water next to my hip and proceeding to peel her banana. “So, where are you from?” she asked before taking a large bite of the fruit.

“Yeah. Normally we know all there is on new people before they even arrive. Gossip knows no boundaries in Bell.” Popping a Frito chip into her mouth, Freya pinned me with her stunning blue eyes. 

“Frey.” Bri’s lips barely moved but, catching her scowl, Freya looked a little contrite.

“Don’t mind them, Maeleigh. They’re not used to new people. Sometimes they forget their manners.” Bri winked playfully at me.

Seeing that the girls took it in good humor, I giggled along with them, the awkwardness passing. I unwrapped my sandwich from the Cling wrap, ravenous for it now. “Stockton, California,” I answered finally before taking a hearty bite.

"Do you know how to surf?" Kassady asked hopefully.

A short burst of laughter escaped my lips at her excitement. "No," I said.


When the girls went on to talk about not everyone in California knowing how to surf and Kassady wanting to learn one day, I searched my pockets for the dollar I'd planned to get a drink with. Digging it out, I hopped off the table, aiming for the vending machine, only to stumble into – and bounce off – a hard chest. He only stared down at me for a long moment, apparently looking for some sort of explanation to my leaving, before asking, "Are you going for a drink?" Tucking a hand into his jeans, he stepped to the side, ushering for me to continue in front of him. When I reached the one with Pepsi products, Gearden waved my hand holding the money aside and entered his own bill into the slot. A look of askance prompted me to select. “Um, regular Pepsi. Thanks.” Not sure what to do with my hands, I tucked them into my pockets, watching as the machine kicked out the drink and Gearden retrieved it. 

He didn’t hand it to me until we were at the table and only when he needed to free his hands to lift me back onto it. Clutching the sweating bottle, I searched Bri’s face for any indication of resentment or anger, surprised to find that Bri was engrossed in a discussion regarding plans for an upcoming party of some sort, completely unaware of or unfazed by what Gearden had just done with another girl. Food and drinks seemed to be the main focus. From the amount they planned to order for both, they expected a large turnout, some sort of celebration that was going to bring a bigger crowd than last year's.

Finishing my sandwich, I continued to simply observe the odd group I'd been encompassed by. There were seventeen at and around the table of various grades and sexes. Gearden stood a good four inches above the rest of the group. Though one of the two boys that Gearden stood talking to came in as a close second. He too had dark hair, though his was close-cropped. They both towered over the other boy with glasses and light, wavy brown hair, carrying a heavy backpack. 

As if he could sense me watching, Gearden turned his head unexpectedly, meeting my gaze with a small smile kicking up the corners of his lips. Both of the other boys looked my way as well, Glasses looking more analytical and kind, while Gearden’s twin’s black eyes pinned me with suspicion. 

The desire to be anywhere but under his scrutiny was strong, compelling me to look down, not sure what his problem was. Glancing up from the corner of my eye, beneath a curtain of hair, I saw Gearden place a firm hand on the other guy’s shoulder, taking his eyes off me. Only nodding to him, Gearden left the two to their thoughts and strode towards me with a grin playing at his lips. His pace was slow, as if he were trying not to spook me, no sudden movements. The whole scene reminded me of a rancher approaching a skittish horse. Which was appropriate if I looked how I felt, heart racing in my chest like a frightened little mouse. I’d never had a panic attack, but I was sure this was the closest I’d been to having one. Which only made me feel ridiculous. He was only a boy; a boy who had my cheeks flaming under his gaze.

Movement behind him caught my attention. Bri, whom I didn't even notice was now gone from her spot beside me, had stepped behind to talk to the other guys, her back to me as they obviously listened to something she was saying. As one, they all nodded at the same time before she broke away from them. 

Returning my attention to Gearden, I saw that he now leaned against the table where Bri had sat, ravaging a sub sandwich, chewing in comfortable silence, while the girls continued to chatter about the upcoming events, until the bell rang. Gearden held his hand out to help me down from my perch. I actually considered pretending not to notice it, but then hesitantly accepted. The landing felt as if I’d only taken a small step instead of leaping down three feet onto concrete. Belatedly, I snatched my hand from his grasp and looked for Bri, who stood at my elbow opposite of him. Not completely sure I should feel guilty or not, I was surprised to find Bri sporting a sort of mischievous grin as she looked at us. Gearden grabbed up my lunch box and followed Bri and me after she linked her arm through mine, heading back to my locker. Turned out, Bri’s was only a few yards down from mine, giving me the opportunity to lay a staying hand on her arm when Gearden waved awkwardly as he continued to his last class.

I waited until Gearden was out of sight before asking, "Are you and Gearden a thing?" Signing as I spoke aloud. A burst of laughter escaped Bri's lips before she suppressed it.

Not amused, I waited for Bri to gain control of her hysterics.

 Bri finally answered, obviously trying to keep a tight rein on her laughter, “No. We grew up together. Slept in the same cribs most of our small baby lives.” Taking a deep breath, she went on with her tale. “Our fathers are best friends. Whenever they were together, so were we. He’s like a brother.” Finally, her expression turned sober. “The idea of kissing Gearden.” A small shudder wracked her body. "Ugh."

I just nodded and stared blankly at the beige tile between our shoes. Bri snapped me out of my reprieve by touching my hand and saying, “He likes you though. I know it.” Bri went on, taking my silence to mean I wasn’t convinced. “He usually stays away from girls.” When I frowned at her, confused, she explained, “He’s very goal-oriented. Takes after his dad. He views girls as a distraction.” Winking, she added, “Until now.”

With that said, Bri could see that she’d given me something to think about. As she headed towards the language building, I walked back across the quad to the girl’s locker room on the opposite side. The counselor had given me elective phys. ed. so I elected to do my routine running here. 

Running cleared my mind anyway. This way I could focus on the information packets from lab. 

This was exactly what I needed. It gave me time to process my thoughts on the day and the upcoming projects. Being the first day of school, not many people really had any homework yet, but I couldn’t wait to crack into those packets. Apparently not having to worry about finding a group of friends that I fit with may not be as difficult as I’d anticipated. Brianna appeared to be genuinely sincere with her bright and cheerful demeanor each time I saw her. I couldn’t even fathom a harsh thought coming from her.

Freya and Kassidy seemed nice enough too. Maybe I'd get an invite to whatever it was they were celebrating later. I'd have to ask about it the next time they mentioned it. They didn't purposefully alienate me in the conversation today, I just never said anything, having been distracted with something else. Okay, someone else. Bri's confirmation that they weren't an item only confused me more. According to her, he found girls to be a distraction. So what made me so special that he would make an exception? He was, in a word, gorgeous. And not in the Calvin Klein model sort of way. Except for the lack of a five o'clock shadow, he could easily pass for a twenty-one year old. Standing next to Bri, he looked so much older, and I'm sure I looked the same beside him as well to others looking on with him towering over me.

Though, now that I knew he wasn't taken, I was able to relive all that had gone down earlier with new eyes and feelings. Rather than feeling guilty for Bri's sake, I now experienced a rush course through me as I thought about the attention he had given me all day, the good and the bad. Knowing now that he didn't really like the dating scene, I could understand why he was so disgruntled in the beginning. If he had changed his mind, and it appeared he had, then should I expect him to ask me out later? 

Nope. Nope. Not going there. At least not yet. I didn't want to get too far ahead of myself only to be let down. Picking up speed to finish my second mile in a hard sprint, I headed to the lockers.


About the author

Between chasing after my three young kiddos, the small farm in the back yard and my husband, I am writing down the demons because they hate living in my head. view profile

Published on September 24, 2019

60000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Young adult

Reviewed by

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