Baited Bound Series Book 3 by Jennifer Dean Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Normal seniors worry about if they will get rejected from their dream school, what they are going to wear to their last prom, or if it’s possible to stay close with the friends they grew up with after high school.
But Emma Morgan has come to learn that normality is a thing of the past. Especially when her eighteenth birthday is a mere reminder of the newly accepted deal she has made to lure a vengeful immortal named Thomas back into Alexander territory. A plan that will certainly make the humans of her world safer but comes with the risk of not living to see graduation.
Despite the coldness of my tone, I heard a few light chuckles around the room. My gaze shifted to the ground before I dared to look back up at the many bright, expectant eyes surrounding me.
“I know I can’t do much, but I can do this.”
“Are you sure?”
I turned back to Liam as I heard the concern in his voice. I imagined that if the roles were reversed, I would carry the same worry for him.
“Yes,” I said, squeezing his hand to convey my assurance.
Once again, I turned my body to face Jane, bouncing my eyes up with a readied stare.
“What do I have to do?”
“I need you to know that what I’m asking comes with risk.”
“No, you don’t,” Sean said. “By risk, she means you’re willing to accept that this help may come at the cost of losing your life.”
“He’s right,” Jane said. “I’m prepared to risk your life if it ultimately means bringing an end to Thomas.”
“Well…at least you’re honest,” I said with uneasiness.
“I may be a bitch but at least I’m an honest one,” Jane said.
It was hard to not find humor in her words, as if she were reading the tagline from a movie written about her.
“Look, as much as your presence annoys me, I don’t wish to see your death. But I need you to know that this plan is about commitment. That goes for me as well. I’ll need to play my part just as much as you will yours. At times, you may even question my loyalty. However, we must rely on trust because it’s all we’ll have until we see this through.”
“So, you’re saying it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
It wasn’t a question but a realization of the danger I was agreeing to dive into.
“Yes. This isn’t going to be easy. He’ll be seeking every opportunity for revenge for Liam’s betrayal. A revenge that will create a blood trail straight to you. One that could lead to your death.”
I caught sight of Mary’s bright stare across the room. Her first words to me echoed in my mind. Being with Liam means you will always be a target.
I bit my lip with squinted eyes of confusion as I looked back at Jane. Before I could speak, my brother’s outburst interrupted me.
“You want us to just sit back and leave her for him like some immortal bait?”
Sean’s voice cracked with incredulity.
“He has to believe he has the upper hand. The only way that can happen is if you play your parts in leaving her vulnerable. From the moment I leave this house, you must portray a belief that the threat is gone.”
“By leaving her to be killed!”
Jane closed her eyes in frustration before turning to face Sean. Her neck stiffened with impatience but she paused in speaking, as if waiting to gain the composure that one needed when speaking to a petulant child.
“Thomas is a sadistic prick who likes to play games. His immediate goal won’t be to kill her but to show Liam and you that he can if he chooses to. You have to make it seem as if he’s in control. Being overprotective isn’t an option, Sean.”
“I understand what you’re saying and I even agree with your theory but as her brother, I can’t just…”
Sean shook his head, clearly hoping to distract himself from the images circling his mind before turning a newly placed anger on Liam.
“You’re ok with this?”
“Of course not,” Liam said with an offended grimace. “I hate the idea of her being in any kind of harm’s way. But she’s going to do it whether I’m okay with this or not.”
As Sean rolled his eyes, Liam continued with a small grin, as if the behavior only proved his point.
“You only disrespect her by not allowing her to make this choice. So, regardless of your inability to accept it, I’ll stand by whatever she decides.”
“Thank you,” I said.
It was all I had time to say before a thud caused me to snap my neck back around. Sean stood facing the wall with his palms flat against it. He refused to look at anyone behind him. My eyes traveled up to a spot near his left hand, where I saw a deep hole the size of his fist.
The tension in the room lingered as I met his gaze. I had barely blinked before he moved to a kneeling position in front of me, his hands reaching out to hold mine with comforting warmth.
“Please don’t do this. I know you hate me and that’s fine. Hate me all you want. But please don’t make me have to risk your life this way. You don’t have to do this.”
I looked into his pleading eyes, knowing that even with my anger I could never hate him. I paused, squeezing his fingers without breaking his bright golden gaze. “No, I don’t have to do this but I want to do this.”
He lowered his head in defeat before rising back to his feet and turning his attention to Jane. He remained silent, his body tense as he resignedly stood and walked back toward Grace.
“I’m short on time so I must leave you all,” Jane said. Then she looked at me. “I hope you survive this, Emma, I really do. But if fate has other plans, please know your sacrifice will have been an honorable one.”
“Thank you,” I said.
I reached for Liam’s hand as Jane nodded with appreciation before she looked toward the leader of the Alexanders. Patrick gave one subtle nod of approval. It was enough verbal communication for Jane to begin walking backward in farewell.
Blinded Bound Series Book 2
Despite the attack that almost took her life, Emma Morgan has accepted the risk that comes from being in love with an immortal like Liam Alexander.
But continuing to seek the approval of her older brother is a whole different struggle, and when tensions finally reach a breaking point between the siblings, looming enemies take advantage of the distraction. And even though the Alexanders are quick to form a search party for their newest coven member, Emma learns that finding her brother may come at a high price.
I turned back to extend my ready hand into Liam’s, letting him guide me out the door. I let my fingers entwine with his as he led me down the steps.
“You look beautiful,” Liam said.
“Thank you,” I said. “You are looking quite dashing yourself.” Well, more than dashing, if I was honest. Despite having a suit on it didn’t change the fact that every time I laid eyes on Liam desire circled down my body like a cunning serpent. The Liam Effect, I called it. As we reached the bottom step he stopped, ready to swoop me up against his chest.
“Wait,” I said with my hand to his chest.
His eyebrows lifted in curiosity while his eyes waited patiently. “I know it’s cold but do you mind if we walk my human pace for awhile up to the Mansion?”
Liam grinned. “Not in the slightest.”
“Oh, and one more thing,” I said.
“Anything,” Liam said.
Without any thought, I raised on my toes letting my lips lead me to his just as my arms wrapped around his neck for a small support. I felt him rest his hands against my back while the other cupped my face intimately.
Finally after a few—too many—minutes we pulled away. His face held the same blissful grin as me. “Sorry,” I said. “I couldn’t help myself.”
He moved his thumb to trace my lips. “Never apologize for that.”
I smiled before looping my arm into his, beginning our walk toward the Mansion. We walked, arm in arm, for a few minutes until his closeness began to rouse my desire.
“You know, on second thought, you better get me there faster. I feel I might not be able to keep from kissing you if we keep at my human pace.”
Liam chuckled as his bright emerald eyes drilled into me. “I know the feeling,” he said. He swooped down, pulling me into his arms. I laid my cheek to his shoulder to avoid the chill air on my skin just before he took off into a run. A run that had ended seconds later as my feet hit the ground, and my hand entwined with the warmth of his again.
The sight of the mansion at night was beautiful, with many windows allowing light from the inside. I caught sight of Patrick walking out of the house and onto the porch. I began to smile but felt it drop along with my stomach as I took in his expression. It was as if he had been looking for us but hoping not to find us.
Liam’s furrowed brow at the oddity just as Patrick’s palm rose up in protest of any further steps. We stopped.
“What’s wrong?” I said.
I fidgeted nervously as my eyes bounced from Patrick to Liam. Suddenly, I could see Liam’s lips. They were moving fast but the words were at a volume I couldn’t hear. When I looked back to Patrick I found he was doing the same. They were having a conversation that no human could possibly detect.
I felt a twist in my stomach at the sound of Liam’s sigh. Slowly I let my eyes meet his emerald gaze. There was no smile anywhere on his face as his right hand moved to cup my cheek.
“Your invitation has been rescinded,” Liam said.
My eyes widened involuntarily at the words.
“What?” I said.
Liam closed his eyes, taking a few seconds to gain his composure. It seemed he needed the time to control his fury.
“Sean has decided that he no longer wishes you to join tonight’s event.” Liam closed his eyes briefly with a pause, as if he regretted the next words. “And it has been voted that, as his coven, we have to respect his wishes.”
I took a step back, out of Liam’s touch, needing space to clear my mind as my eyes darted around, searching desperately for Sean.
“But why now?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Liam said.
His last word set off a trigger as my head shifted back. I turned to Patrick’s still stance. He hadn’t moved an inch, only dropped his hand back to his side. I opened my mind, remembering my weapon. Something Sean had no choice but to listen to. Atleast have the guts to tell me yourself. Don’t send someone out to give me a message. Get out here and face me you ass.
Less than a second had passed after my mental curse before Sean’s feet led him through the door. His momentum kept him moving down the porch steps, but he still paused a safe distance away. Why?
“I don’t believe you’ll like the answer,” Sean said.
“I can handle it,” I said.
Sean narrowed his eyes in protest.
“I’ve started to find your presence indifferent.” I rolled my eyes.
“No, you haven’t.”
Sean chuckled without amusement. “You wouldn’t know how it feels as an immortal. The mind changes. Things that once consumed our human thoughts merely disappear.”
I said nothing, simply stared.
“I began to feel your importance slipping but I thought it was kinder to lie. But I think the lie has gone too far.”
“You’ve got to be kidding if you think I’m that naïve,” I said.
“Let me be clear. This event tonight is sacred to those of my kind.”
“Then you must realize that you are only here because it would be something I allow.”
“Does this have a point?” I said.
“Yes,” Sean said.
“I’m tired of walking the fence of my former life and new one. It’s like a heavy burden. And I am ready to just let go.”
I gulped. “You mean you want to forget me?”
“Yes. Just like our parents. Uncle Greg. My friends. The humans of my old life. The last, to forget, is you.”
I looked around to notice more had joined Patrick on the porch. My gaze sat upon Lillian’s narrowed glare at Sean. It was different than the anger from yesterday. An almost confusion. I wish Grace could tell me what was behind it. Swiftly I looked back to Sean.
“Don’t you think that…”
“No, even with the years Liam decides to keep you around I won’t be. You won’t see me after tonight. This is farewell.”
Sean’s interruption caused anger to flow up my veins into my now curled fingers. “Well, if my presence is nothing to you, then I guess there is no reason for me to be standing out in the cold.”
“Exactly my point,” Sean said.
“Screw you, Sean,” I said.
“At least you can be mature about it,” Sean said.
I wanted to punch him but knowing it was only likely to do more damage to me than him, I held my feet steady.
“You know if you’re trying to manipulate me into leaving Liam again then you can just save your breath with this ‘I don’t need you’ crap.” I watched as his eyes grew sterner with my words. I turned, storming back toward the front gate.
“Emma,” Sean said.
“Yes?” I said, whirling around, sudden hope at the sound of my name.
“Have a nice life.”
Just as quickly as he had appeared, Sean disappeared into the mansion within a blink. I looked to the ground, unable to bear the eyes of each Alexander in front of me. I felt Liam’s squeeze, lifting my chin to focus on only him.
“Do you have to stay?” I said.
“No,” Liam said.
I sighed grateful there wasn’t some immortal bound tradition that would force me to be left without him.
“Then please take me anywhere but here,” I said.
All I had to do was speak the words before Liam swept me up into his arms. As he ran I could feel the anger festering into something else I had felt earlier in the car with Grace. Only this time the sadness wasn’t going away. It was real.
Bound Bound Series Book 1
When fate leads Emma Morgan back to her small hometown of Washington, she learns that the life she knew three years ago has changed once she meets the charmingly, mysterious Liam Alexander. But when her brother Sean, voices his disapproval, Emma finds her loyalty in the way of her newfound curiosity of the youngest Alexander. Only the more she tries to avoid Liam the more she finds him in her constant company.
A risk that leads down a dangerous path for both once Emma begins to discover a secret about the Alexanders that no human should ever know.
You never prepare for the moment when it happens, and yet here I was. Why does it always happen when no one is around? I really hated lockers or the combination locks that felt more like prison guards to them.
I began to feel the swim of panic travel up my chest. It was like trying to get dressed in a hurry when you were already late. The more frustrated I became, the less I could concentrate. I sighed, ready to simply punch the locker open. As I debated the realistic situation that would probably only bruise or possibly fracture my hand, my eye caught sight of someone coming from around the corner. It was the boy from this morning. God what was his name? My mind felt like a rotating telephone catalog, cross-referencing different names for the male species. Something with an L. Isn’t that whatSean had said? Oh, Liam! Yes, Liam Alexander. Now I remembered.
I watched as he stopped at the drinking fountain near the boys’ bathroom. I needed to ask fast before he—crap! After a few seconds gulp of water, he had gone into the bathroom before I had time to think the word. I looked back to my locker, twirling the combination randomly as I bobbed my head left to right. What would I have said anyway? Hey, could you help me with my locker because I’m an idiot and can’t turn a simple combination lock.
I sighed with mockery of my low voice. I knew I didn’t have the nerve to ask anyway. I would just keep trying until fifth period was over. That was if I didn’t get some detention for being out in the hall. They didn’t still have hall monitors, did they?
“Oh jeez,” I said. My palm slapped my chest to prevent my heart from jumping out of my chest from fright. I had barely managed to hold on to my books in my left arm. I glanced up to see it was Liam Alexander.
“Sorry. I didn’t intend to frighten you,” he said. I could have sworn I never saw him even leave the bathroom. But I guess I wasn’t paying attention after I began talking to myself. “Do you need help with that?” he asked. His head tilted, gesturing toward my locker.
“Am I that obvious?”
“Well, seeing as you are the only one standing in the hallway turning that combination lock with what appears only mere frustration—”
“A simple yes,” I said cutting off his words.
My eyebrows rose with a small slice of irritation. Sometimes I preferred when people just used simplicity with their response. Anything else was a waste of minutes.
“Would you like some help?” he asked.
There felt like so many things I wanted to say, but I could only come up with one as my lips parted. “If you don’t mind.”
He shook his head once. “Not at all. What’s the combination?”
“2-2-9,” I said. The nine came out hesitantly. I looked down with
a grimace. The need to protect my locker felt somewhat stupid. Who would really want to commit locker theft anyway? There aren’t exactly a lot of items that we can store. Nothing worth stealing anyway.
As my eyes shifted up I noticed his own back on me. He had definitely noticed the awkwardness. But the glance was only brief before he turned back to twist the lock, pulling it down and out of the latch hole, with only his fingers. Within seconds, his hand had pulled up the latch and popped open the metal locker. He stepped back, gesturing with his right hand for me to go ahead.
“Thanks,” I said gratefully. “I thought I might be stuck out here till fifth period.”
“My pleasure,” he said.
It was the first time I really had a moment to look at Liam Alexander. His dirty blonde hair was cut short and styled in a slight flipped upward curl with subtle sideburns. It was a modern and yet old fashioned touch. But what held my longing gaze was the bright glow of emerald green occupying his eyes. I had seen many eye colors before, but these were on another cosmic level. Did guys wear colored contacts too?
I had to blink to keep myself from staring too long, even at the subtle sophistication of his clothes. But I knew I had expired the normal time of staring. My mental clock told me anymore and I was sure I would come across as odd. That would be all I needed. Immediately I shifted my gaze to the floor instead.
“Maybe next time we meet, I won’t need rescuing,” I said.
“Oh, you never know, Emma.”
My eyes shifted back up instantly with surprise. “How do you know my name?”
Sure, I had learned his name but how had he learned—“You’re Sean Morgan’s little sister,” he said interrupting my mental question.
“Oh,” I said with a disappointment. There it was. Something I had been used to all my life. I was more known for being called Sean’s little sister or baby Morgan than I was Emma.
“I just meant that I had heard around school that Sean’s little sister, Emma”—he paused to lift his eyebrow, a simple way of letting me know he picked up on the annoyance of most people never using my first name—“was back in Washington. And since I saw you walking with him this morning, I could only assume.”
“Didn’t they ever tell you what assumptions make?” I asked rhetorically. Liam merely lifted his left eyebrow.
“Am I wrong?” He tilted his head and narrowed his eyes. Not with arrogance but with true curiosity.
“Well, no. But that’s not the point.”
He grinned with amusement. I simply scrunched my lips to the side with small embarrassment. Sort of like that kind you get after you go into a long explanation only to realize that wasn’t what the person wasn’t going to ask anyway.
The moment almost felt like a cliché, and I had had enough. Plus, I was already embarrassingly late for class, if I wasn’t already beyond that.
“Well, I better be off to Spanish before I am any later. Aren’t you late for something?”
“Office Aid,” he said.
I rolled my eyes as I turned. Well, wouldn’t that have been a nice free elective to take. As I began to walk I thought of something. The reason why I couldn’t register to be an office aid myself this year. “Wait, I thought you had to be a senior . . .” My voice faded as I realized I was talking to myself again. Liam was nowhere in sight. I sighed with my small shrug before turning back down the hall.
I walked into the classroom and was reminded of my late arrival. I felt the stare of the class on me. Never a good kind of attention. As I looked to the slightly annoyed gaze of my new Spanish teacher, I cowered.
“I’m sorry. I had trouble with my locker,” I said.
The annoyance never really faded, but his posture straightened with a slight forgiveness. “I’ll let it slide on the first day, Ms.——?”
He went back over to his desk to grab a white sheet. The roll call.
One that I had missed.
“Morgan,” I said.
He looked down on his list, using his pen as a guide. He tapped a spot that was three-quarters of the way down the sheet.
“Yes,” I acknowledged.
The voice wasn’t Mr. Ocampo’s. It was a whisper I heard from my left. I turned to see it was Pamela Mercer, gesturing me over to the empty seat next to her. I didn’t hesitate to gravitate toward it after the silent nod of approval from Mr. Ocampo.
Even the way my old friend was sitting I could tell that she was taller than I was now. Talk about Twilight Zone again. When I had left, she had been into the short and sassy hairstyle. Now her beautiful straight brown strains had grown thickly down past her shoulder blades.
I smiled back to her with an awkward wave, not because it was awkward to be around her. It was just awkward that I couldn’t give her a proper hug without disturbing the class again.
“I thought Texas got a lot of sun, Emma? You don’t even look like you walked outside a day since you were there.”
There was nothing cruel in her teased whisper. And to be honest, she was right. With no surprise to me, my skin was still the same ivory color. Not a shade higher or lower. It wasn’t because I never went outside but more the fact that I rarely burned from the sun and certainly never tanned. So it made it mostly impossible for any change. But the advantage between me and most girls came from make-up. Unlike having to match up from the effects of summer sun or pale winter, my skin stayed consistent.
“Well, my skin has some resilience to sunlight. It’s like rubber. Nothing sticks to it,” I said. I was pinching my wrist and silently laughing at myself. “They also don’t ride horses to school either.”
I couldn’t resist the chance to tease after remembering that Pamela was the one friend to ask if I would be getting a horse. I wasn’t quite sure who had spread that rumor this far east. But she had been quite convinced that all Texans used the four-legged animal for transportation instead of vehicles. I hoped someone had informed her while I was gone that we don’t live in the 1800s anymore.
“Bummer!” She smiled while snapping her fingers. Thankfully, someone had, and she was able to laugh at herself. I’m not quite sure what my answer would have been if she hadn’t. I traded it in for something with better gas mileage?
I was grateful that Spanish had been the period before lunch. It meant I didn’t have to walk into the cafeteria alone.
“Volleyball tryouts for next fall are after school. Are you going?” Pamela asked. Her eyes widened with a sense of eagerness to see me play again. At least they were until she watched my shifted gaze and inward turn of my lips. I didn’t have to answer for her to know. “You don’t play anymore?” she asked.
I shrugged with the shake of my head. “No.”
Her eyes unintentionally narrowed as her head moved back in surprise. I couldn’t blame her reaction. Volleyball had been my life for six years. It had been where I made most of my friendships. But from the moment I left Washington soil, I left the desire to play. It was almost like without Sean there to support me, I didn’t care to play. Maybe it was a little bit of a depression, and I didn’t want to be involved with anything that reminded me of our separation. So I quit. But now that I was back, I could honestly say that any desire that was left for the sport had faded out. The damage had been done, and the once-athlete was gone.
“Erika is going to be so disappointed,” she said.
She was handing the lunch woman some money. By the look of her dropped shoulders, I could see Erika Reynolds wasn’t the only one disappointed. I looked away to grab a hamburger and a bottle of Red Diamond tea.
“Aren’t you Sean Morgan’s little sister?” a voice said on my right.
“Who’s asking?” My tone was somewhat bored and uninvolved to the question.
“The source himself.”
I turned to see Sean’s empty hands and charming smile. I rolled my eyes somewhat embarrassed to not have recognized his voice. Had that subtly changed too?
“Good to see you, Pamela,” Sean said.
She had that goofy smile that most girls got around Sean. He wasn’t popular by sports even though he was quite the natural athlete. He was even much better than me, even though I was technically the “family” athlete, a term my dad had come up with just to piss off Sean. Of course, it never worked because Sean didn’t care enough to listen. No, Sean’s popularity was always by default of his personality. He was charming, easy going, and friendly to everyone. Who wouldn’t want to be friends with my brother?
“Hi, Sean,” Pamela said. There was a nervous stumble in her voice as she looked back to me. “I’ll meet you at the table, Emma. I should break the news to them anyway.”
“Okay,” I said.
“What news?” Sean said. He was beaming like he already anticipated what I would say.
“That I’m not playing this year.”
I had unintentionally paused through the end of my sentence, when my eyes caught the attention of two girls behind Sean. It was almost like the room had been frozen for their entrance. Slightly a step ahead of the other revealed a girl with long naturally loose red curls. The light copper of her hair pulled out the paleness of her skin with beautiful flowing contrast. Though I could see she was wearing ballerina flats, it didn’t hide the tall frame that balanced perfectly with her thin curves. I expected she was the type of girl you would soon see on the next issue of Vogue, talking about her next big movie role.
Her petite friend, who I noticed stood at the same height— with the help from some questionable heels— had beautiful straight dark hair inches below her shoulder blades. But it was the grace in each stride she took that pulled my attention. It mimicked a royal princess’s. I even expected her to wave to the lunchroom crowd any minute as she and her ginger friend neared Sean and I.
But to my surprise they both stopped, letting the dark haired princess bend her head with a small nod toward Sean and me.
Immediately, I was drawn up into her bright electric sapphire eyes. Their unnatural beauty summoned me.
“Sean,” she said.
It wasn’t a hello but more of an observation of who she was looking at.
“Grace,” Sean said with the same observational tone. So, that was the girl’s name. Grace. How appropriate, I thought.
Suddenly as if she had heard my thought the blue of her eyes shined down on me like a flashlight. Wow, I thought.
“Is this your younger sister?” Grace asked.
Sure, she looked at me but continued to engage with Sean. Her soft voice held the intrigue of a historian’s, curious to know if her facts were correct.
“Yes, this is Emma,” Sean said.
His grin was friendly but nothing about his tone was inviting. It was enough to make Grace’s eyes flicker back over to Sean. The indifference of both seemed to bounce off the other. It was strange.
I couldn’t help but look in another direction, a direction that caught the attention of Grace’s friend, Ginger—a name that was fitting enough until I learned the real one— and her bright chestnut brown gaze.
And strangely, even though we didn’t know each other at all, the exchange felt more pleasant than Sean and Grace’s. Beneath the shine of the girl’s eyes was a genuine hello, a gesture that was followed by a curve of her lips. Unfortunately, when she broke the gaze to focus on Sean, it wasn’t with the same courtesy. In fact, I could detect a small annoyance through her newly tightened lips and narrowed eyes.
The moment between us all seemed hours long, though I knew better. It was probably not even but a few minutes.
“Well, Emma, welcome back to Washington,” Grace said.
It was not even a second’s worth gaze before she turned on her heel. As I watched the same stride, she had entered with, I thought how funny it was to discover her name. Almost like her parents would know that she would carry the name with an absolute truth.
I had only just looked back up to see Sean’s grin when he said, “See you after school.” He didn’t waste time with an explanation before leaving me behind.
In a matter of minutes, I was surrounded and the next I was alone. Okay, I thought. I shifted my eyes left to right, not really focusing on anything but hearing the sarcasm in my voice. That wasn’t weird at all.
I sighed before walking back over toward the center table where Pamela had gone. When I got to the table, I put my tray down, catching all the friendly smiles. Until fifth period, I had been dreading lunch all day. Even though I knew I still had Sean, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to take the offer. That felt like my fault, but the move was so sudden I barely had time to call Sean, let alone any of my old friends. It was good to know that small stress was over. I was just as welcomed as I had been when I left three years ago.
I noticed Lauren Stevens first. She was probably the closest of any of my old friends because we had the most in common. That or maybe because we had similar low-key personalities. She had cut her naturally wavy dark brown hair short and had added bangs. She was sitting on Pamela’s right side, across from Rebecca Davis. Becca had her long curly brown hair pulled back today in a ponytail. She hadn’t changed at all except for the curls in her hair that were looser.
I didn’t even mind that Heather Johnson was also there. It didn’t take me long to notice she had the same long light blonde hair, tall figure, and tan skin. My eyes followed her disappointment in my lunch choice. Right on time with the judgment. It was enough to remind me why she was never a personality I preferred to hang with outside of volleyball, something that had put us together by convenience, not choice. That and the odd coincidental fate that our fathers happened to be best friends in high school.
Yikes. Now, there was a man who just by remembrance made me think the words chip off the old block. I could see things hadn’t really changed on that for Heather. Of course, she had looked up with the other girls at my arrival but tried to pretend once I neared that it wasn’t anything special. She knew how to make someone feel welcome as long as it was beneficial to her. Good thing I wasn’t really new. I can imagine I could be quite intimidated by a girl like Heather.
“Pamela told us that you gave up volleyball. Really?” Erika asked. I hadn’t noticed until now that she was on my right. Her blue eyes and heart-shaped face stood out with her long wavy dark brown hair. Hair that was almost black. My self-esteem was always boosted when I saw Erika’s pale skin. It actually made mine look full of color. But since her hair was darker now, it actually made her look exotic. Her voice carried an incredulous tone. I felt my face scrunch with sympathy.
“Yeah. But I promise I’ll still come watch a few games when the season starts.”
“Well, that’s not exactly the answer I was looking for, but I guess I don’t have a choice in the matter.” She grinned with a small shrug that showed defeat and yet understanding.
“I see you caught the eye of the Grace Alexander,” Heather said.
“Which one is that?” I asked.
I hadn’t been sure if there were more than one girl named Grace. Or maybe I just enjoyed seeing that squirm from Heather. She turned around in a much pretentious way. Was that really necessary? But when I turned my gaze, I found that it was the girl I had met. Only there was something about the way Heather said caught the eye. What the heck did that mean?
“She looked at Sean too,” I said innocently. Because what could I have done to already have gotten a look from anybody?
“Yeah, but everyone looks at Sean.” True, I thought. I ignored Heather’s hidden insult as my mind began to register the girl’s last name. Alexander. Instantly, a set of bright emerald green eyes flashed into my memory. “Is that Liam Alexander’s sister?”
I noticed I had more than just Heather’s attention now. Even Erika, who was busy in mid-conversation, was gazing with the corner of her eye.
“Older sister,” Pamela said with her eyes beaming with curiosity. “How do you know Liam?”
I guess that meant Liam was in our grade. For some reason, I would have had that backwards. There was envy in Pamela’s eyes. Maybe it was more jealousy, but looking over to Heather I definitely saw envy.
“I’ve already met him…twice.” Well, technically the first time he didn’t say anything, but we interacted. That counted. “Tall, blonde with really green eyes?”
“Oh yeah, that’s him,” Becca said. “Definitely green,” she whispered. It was good to know I wasn’t the only one who questioned whether or not his eyes were enhanced with false color.
“You actually talked to him?” Heather asked.
The idea was inconceivable to Heather by her tone and raised eyebrows. She was used to that attention from any guy that she fancied. Well, except for Sean. But he wasn’t really into high school girls. I was thankful for that because being around Heather constantly would make me want to stick pins in my ears.
“He helped me with my locker,” I said. I was going to mention the pens, but there was no good way to start that without it coming across as weird. He picked up my pens or He helped me with my pens. Even in my mind the wording sounded odd. “Is he not usually friendly?” I was trying to decode what they were saying. It was like anyone getting an interaction with Liam was a rarity.
“No, he’s very polite. When he’s around,” Becca said. “Last semester he was absent a lot from class.”
“He did seem to disappear a lot,” I said.
“And we never saw him come to lunch once last semester,” Pamela added.
“I heard the teachers let him eat and do his homework in the lounge,” Becca said.
“No, they don’t,” Pamela said.
“Well, then where does he go?” Becca asked. She raised her eyebrows defiantly as if to say, prove me wrong.
“Well, maybe his parents sign him out because he has some illness. That’s why he missed a lot of class last semester.”
“That’s stupider than what I said,” Becca argued.
I resisted the desire to laugh by biting my lip. Even if their assumptions were a bit rumor wide, I couldn’t help my eyes shifting around for proof. I didn’t see him anywhere. No matter what the reason was, it was just strange. I looked toward the table Grace Alexander was sitting. There was Ginger sitting next to her, along with another similarly dark-haired boy. I noticed he sat intimately close with Ginger.
“Who is Grace Alexander sitting with?” I asked curiously.
“That’s her twin brother, William, and his girlfriend, Lillian Edwards,” Lauren said. “They only started here last semester.”
I enjoyed the non-biased voice. Along with the information that gave me a name to call the girl besides the adjective that merely described her hair color. This was the first real contribution Lauren had made to the conversation. Probably because she didn’t really follow the gossip. It just wasn’t her style. I had always liked that about her. She kept her personal assumptions private, only relaying the facts she knew.
“Where did they move from?” I asked.
“The Alexanders are from Raleigh and Lillian Edwards came from a small town up in New York,” Lauren said.
“Sadie Collins said she’s already top of her class,” Becca added. Uh-oh, I thought. Sean wasn’t going to like that. I’d have to remember to ask if he knew his valedictorian spot was in jeopardy.
“She’s so annoying,” Heather said.
“That’s only because you’re jealous that she is gorgeous and smart,” Erika said.
I turned to see that she had stopped talking to Rene Salmore—a mutual acquaintance— and joined in on the conversation.
“I am not,” Heather objected.
Erika tilted her head in disbelief as she lifted her eyebrows. “Oh, really?”
“Like I need to be jealous.” Heather said. “I’m sure William Alexander is going to get bored of her soon.”
“I don’t know, they seem pretty happy,” Becca said.
“Whatever,” Heather said. She rolled her eyes at the comment before turning away from the conversation as if to prove she lacked any more interest. She fooled nobody.
Lauren, who had already begun working on her French workbook, turned her lips inward to resist her grin. I had already lifted my curved hand under my nose, scratching the imaginary itch with my index finger, in order to hide the grin that formed from Heather’s sudden fluster. Once I was able to maintain my composure, I looked down to begin finishing my lunch.
After taking a swig of tea, I snuck a glance over at the table of the Alexander twins and Lillian Edwards. It was there I instantly locked eyes with Lillian herself. The chestnut brown of her eyes radiated an invitation from across the room while her lips rose with amusement as if she had been listening to the entire conversation. I was glad for her sake—or possibly Heather’s sake— that she couldn’t.
I politely grinned back for a few seconds before looking down to my food again. I knew there was time for more questions later. I had a whole school year for them. For now, I would simply sit and deliberate among the mental assumptions that began floating into my mind.
Like where Liam Alexander really went during lunch.
Jennifer has studied Creative Writing and Literature and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. To find out more about her and her novels you can visit www.jenniferdean.net.