I wandered the path to the building and scanned the room numbers, but found the vending machines before I found my Algebra classroom. Four of them in a row, pushed up against the back of the building, facing a series of tiki huts that dotted the grounds. They reminded me that I'd skipped breakfast. I looked around. I was already late. A few more minutes couldn't hurt.
I set the papers down on the ground and dug in my bag for change. But as I inserted one quarter in the machine, the other one in my hand fell. I bent to search for it, as I had only enough money to buy one thing. I finally found it, placed it in the machine, and clicked on the letter-number combination that would provide my salvation.
It stuck. Unbelievable.
I clicked the numbers again. Nothing. My M&Ms were trapped by the machine.
I grabbed the sides of the machine and tried to shake it. No dice. Then I kicked it. Still nothing.
I glared at the machine. "Let them out." I punctuated my statement with a few more useless kicks.
"You have an anger management problem."
I whipped around at the sound of the warm, lilting British accent behind me.
The person it belonged to sat on the picnic table under the tiki hut. His general state of disarray was almost enough to distract me from his face. The boy—if he could be called that, looking like he belonged in college, not high school—wore Chucks with holes worn through, no laces. Slim charcoal pants and a white button down shirt covered his lean, spare frame. His tie was loose, his cuffs were undone, and his blazer lay in a heap beside him as he lazily leaned back on the palms of his hands.
His strong jaw and chin were slightly scruffy, as though he hadn't shaved in days, and his eyes looked gray in the shade. Strands of his dark chestnut hair stuck out every which way. Bedroom hair. He could be considered pale in comparison to everyone else I'd observed in Florida thus far, which is to say he wasn't orange.Source: Michelle Hodkin
He was beautiful. And he was smiling at me.
* * *
Her voice curls around my nerves.
An instantly familiar alto with a slight growl that gives her words a faintly sarcastic edge. The last time I'd heard it was at Wall with Kent, because he couldn't get in without me and I was bored and because fuck, why not.
The lounge was packed—the tourist hordes descended on South Beach in December like wild dogs—but I glided past George, Tyler, and Antoine, bouncers one, two, and three without difficulty. Kent had toted two Pine Crest friends along; I'd already forgotten their names. The trio stared open-mouthed at the girls—models, mostly—writhing to the synthetic music in a haze of fake smoke. A server led us to to the back. I slipped into the tufted leather lounge and flicked my black card on the table, leaning back and closing my eyes after we'd ordered.
I could feel the music beneath my skin. And though it was atrocious, I'd come to find the volume in clubs almost relaxing. It drowned out the sound of things I shouldn't be able to hear but could; racing hearts and breaths and notes of life blending together in a discordant soup of noise.
Our drinks arrive and I open my eyes to find two tall, angular blonds—twins, perhaps—twining around each other and dancing feet away from us. One flicks me a look, then speaks to the other in Russian. They press against each other, undulating with the music. Kent and his friends are spellbound; I am relentlessly bored. I rest against the seat, nearly supine, legs stretched out in front of me, and wonder if I could possibly sleep. But one of the girls moves in closer. She's watching me to see if I'm watching her.
I lift my glass and take a slow sip of scotch. The girl is now dangerously close, dancing between my legs. If I don't break eye contact, in six seconds she'll kneel.
At four, I look away.
The girl moves back, into the crowd, but throws a look over her shoulder. She's hurt.
Better this way. She wants connection, and I can't connect.
Kent says something obscene over the music and I consider hitting him to break the tedium, to say nothing of the fact that he's had it coming for so long. I manage to resist, barely, and take another sip. The burn soothes my tongue and my throat even though it soothes nothing else. I haven't been able to get properly drunk in two years, not since—that night. I miss it. What I wouldn't give to make time and thought slide away.
Minutes or seconds later, I don't know, I hear her voice. A quiet scream. A plea. Fear and rage twisted into three words:
Get them out.
My head throbs and aches and every muscle feels sore. I see nothing at first, then out of the darkness, hands. Pressed up against something—a wall, a ceiling—it's too dark to see. Small, dirty fingernails; slender, feminine fingers. I look at them as if they're my own. Push them against the wall.
The waking nightmare ends; number three. In the previous two I'd seen things as the killer and felt them as the killed. Thoroughly fucked up.
The thought makes me smile. As if I haven't been fucked up for years.
And now, nearly two months later, my issues seem to have developed a life outside my head. I don't look up to see who happens to be beating the shit out of the vending machine until I hear that voice, and when I do, I lean up and watch her. The girl is more angry than annoyed, as if the malfunction is some kind of personal injustice. She kicks it again.
"You have an anger management problem," I say. She whips around.
She stands there in dark jeans that would be indecent if she didn't wear them so casually, with a loose, faded black T-shirt that sets off her cream skin. Not from Florida, clearly new, and so beautiful I nearly laugh out loud.
And with this look on her face like she doesn't give a fuck what I think of her. Which only makes my smile broader.
She considers me for a long moment, and her brows draw together. Then she turns her head, looking over her shoulder. When she does, I slip away.
The girl had walked out of my nightmare and into my life. I needed to know why. I needed to know her.
Things were about to get interesting. About fucking time.