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He rears back like I’ve struck him, and I don’t think he even realizes that he touches his scar as he says, “Yeah, right.”

Which…come on. “You have to know that scar makes you sexy as hell, right?”

“No.” It’s a short answer. Simple. Succinct, even. And yet it reveals so much more than he’d ever want anyone to see.

“Well, it does. Sexy. As. Hell,” I repeat. “Plus, there’s the way everyone pretty much kisses your ass all the time.”

“Not everyone.” He gives me a pointed look.

“Almost everyone. And you never get cold.”

“I get cold.” He burrows a hand inside the blanket, presses his fingers to my arm. And he’s right; he is cold. But he’s also nowhere close to being frostbitten, which is what I would be if I’d stood out here this long in just a hoodie.

I give him a look and try to pretend that, despite the chill, his hand on my arm doesn’t flood every cell of my body with heat. “You know what I mean.”

“So let me get this straight. Because I: one, am the hottest person alive”—he smirks as he says it—“two, make everyone genuflect, and three, don’t get cold very often, you’ve decided I’m an alien.”

“Do you have a better explanation?”

He pauses, considers. “I do, actually.”

“And it is what exactly?”

“I could tell you…”

“But then you’d have to kill me?” I roll my eyes. “Seriously? We’ve reverted to tired old Top Gun lines?”

“That’s not what I was going to say.”

“Oh yeah?” It’s my turn to cock my head to the side. “So what were you going to say?”

“I was going to say, ‘You can’t handle the truth.’”

He totally deadpans it, but I burst out laughing anyway. Because how can I not when he’s quoting A Few Good Men to me? “So you’re an old-movie buff? Or just an old-Tom Cruise-movie buff?”

“Ugh.” He makes a face. “Definitely not the second. As for old movies, I’ve seen a few.”

“So if I mentioned starving women and making a dress out of their skin, you’d know I meant—”

“Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs? Yeah.”

I grin at him. “So maybe not an alien after all.”

“Definitely not an alien.”

Silence stretches between us for a while. It’s not awkward. In fact, it’s kind of nice to just be able to be for a little while. But eventually the cold works its way through his magic blanket. I pull it more closely around myself and ask, “Are you going to tell me what we’re doing out here?”

“I told you I was going to show you my favorite place today.”

“This is your favorite place?” I look around with new eyes, determined to figure out what he likes about it.

“I can see for miles up here, and no one ever bothers me. Plus…” He glances at his phone, then very deliberately looks up at the sky. “You’ll figure it out in about three minutes.”

“Is it the aurora borealis?” I ask, trepidation replaced instantly by excitement. “I’ve been dying to see it.”

“Sorry. You’ve got to be up in the middle of the night to get a look at the northern lights.”

“So then what—?” I break off as what appears to be a giant fireball streaks its way across the sky. Seconds later, another one follows it.

“What’s going on?” I wonder aloud.

“A meteor shower. We don’t get many up here because they tend to take place in the summer, when we’ve got daylight most of the time and can’t see them. But when we do have one in the winter, it’s pretty spectacular.”

I gasp as another three meteors fly by, leaving long, glowing tails in their wake. “That’s an understatement. This is incredible.”

“I thought you might like it.”

“I do. I really do.” I glance at him, suddenly shy, though I don’t know why. “Thank you.”

He doesn’t answer, but then I’m not expecting him to.

We stand out on the parapet for a good half an hour, not talking, not even looking at each other much, just watching the most brilliant show I’ve ever seen light up the sky. And I love every second of it.

It’s weird, but something about being out here, looking at the vast night sky overlooking the vast, snowy mountains…it puts things in perspective. Reminds me of how tiny I really am in the grand scheme of things, of how fleeting my problems and my grief are, no matter how painful and all-encompassing they feel right now.

Maybe that’s what Jaxon intended when he brought me out here.

When the shower ends, it comes with a burst of seven or eight comets in a row. I can’t help oohing and aahing as they burn their way across the sky. When it’s over, I expect to feel let down—like what happens at the end of a really good movie or fireworks show. That little pang of disappointment that something so wonderful is over forever.

But with the meteor shower, I feel…as close to peaceful as I have in a very long time.

“We should go in,” Jaxon says eventually. “It’s getting colder.”

“I’m okay. I just want another minute or two, if that’s all right.”

He inclines his head in an of course kind of gesture.

There’s so much I want to say to him, so many things he’s done for me in the very short time we’ve known each other. But whenever I try to come up with the words, they don’t sound right in my head. So eventually, I settle for “Thank you.”

He laughs, but it’s a sound completely devoid of humor. I don’t understand why until I look in his eyes and realize they are completely blank again. I don’t like it at all.

“Why do you laugh when I thank you?” I demand.

“Because you don’t ever have to thank me, Grace.”

“Why not? You did something really nice for me—”

“No I didn’t.”

“Um, yeah you did.” Under the blanket, I hold my arms out in the universal gesture of look-at-all-this. “Why don’t you just admit it? Take the compliment and move on.”

“Because I don’t deserve the compliment.” The words seems to burst straight out of him without his permission, and now that they’re hanging there, he looks a little sick. “I’m just doing my…”

“Your what? Your job?” I ask, my stomach clenching at the thought. “Did my uncle ask you to be nice to me or something?”

He laughs, but there’s still no amusement in the sound. No joy. Just a soul-deep cynicism that has my eyes watering all over again but for very different reasons. “I’m the last person Foster would ever ask to be friends with you.”

If I were more polite and less concerned about him, I’d be inclined to drop the subject entirely. But politeness has never been one of my virtues—I’ve got too much curiosity for that—so instead, I call him on his shit. “And why is that exactly?”

“It means I’m not a nice person. I don’t do nice things. Ever. So it’s ridiculous to compliment me on your perception of what I do.”

“Really?” I shoot him a skeptical look. “Because I hate to be the one to break it to you, but cheering up a sad girl is a nice thing to do. So is carrying her back to her dorm when she hurts her ankle and chasing off guys who think pranks that can kill people are funny. So is charming the cook into making an injured girl waffles. All nice things, Jaxon.”

For the first time, he looks uncomfortable, but he still won’t back down. “I didn’t do it for you.”

“Oh yeah? Then who did you do it for?”

He doesn’t have an answer. Of course he doesn’t.

“That’s what I thought.” I grin up at him, all cocky and obnoxious because, on this, I can be. “Looks to me like you’re just going to have to accept the fact that you did something sweet. You won’t burn at the stake, I promise.”

“They only burn witches.”

He sounds so serious that I can’t stop myself from laughing. “Well, I’m pretty sure we’re safe, then.”

“Don’t be too sure about that.”

I start to ask him what he means, but a violent shiver racks me at the same time—blanket or no blanket, it’s freaking cold out here—and Jaxon takes the decision into his own hands. “Come on. Time to get you inside.”

Hard to argue when my teeth are about a minute away from chattering. But when I glance up at the window we came out of, I can’t help wondering, “How exactly are we going to get back in? And by we, I mean me.” Dropping three feet out of a window is one thing. Boosting myself back up is another thing entirely.

But Jaxon just shakes his head. “Don’t worry. I’ve got you, Grace.”

Before I can figure out why those words sizzle through me like a lightning bolt, he’s grabbing onto the windowsill and swinging himself inside. The whole move takes about one point four seconds, and I have to admit, I’m impressed. Then again, nearly everything Jaxon does impresses me, whether he means it to or not. He impresses me.

More, he makes me feel not so alone at a time when I’ve never been lonelier.

He’s back in moments, poking his head and upper body out of the window. “Give me your hands.”

I lift my arms up without a second thought, and he grabs onto my forearms, right below the elbow, and pulls. Seconds later, I’m back through the window and standing an inch, maybe two, from Jaxon.

And for once, his eyes aren’t dead. They’re on fire.

And they’re focused directly. On. Me.


All’s Fair

in Love and


I stare back at him, not sure what to expect…or what to do. There’s a part of me that thinks he’s going to back up and a part of me that really hopes he doesn’t. A part of me that wonders what it would feel like to kiss him and a part of me that thinks I should run for the hills, because Jaxon might not be an alien, but he’s not like any boy I’ve ever met, either. And I am more than honest enough to admit that, much as I may want him, there’s no way I can actually handle him.