His hands are braced on my arms. This is it. I'm going to kiss Alex and find out what it's like. He's dangerous and he mocks me. But he's sexy and dark and beautiful. Being this close to him makes my body shiver with excitement and my head spin. I loop my finger through his belt loop to steady myself. It's like we're standing on a Tilt-a-Whirl ride at the carnival.

"You're gonna be sick," he says to me.

"Am not. I'm . . . enjoying the ride."

"We're not on a ride."

"Oh," I say, all confused. I let go of his belt loop and focus on my feet. They look like they're moving off the ground, floating over the sand. "I'm dizzy, that's all. I'm fine."

"The hell you are."

"If you'd stop moving, I'd feel a lot better."

"I'm not movin'. And I hate to break the bad news, mamacita, but you're about to puke."

He's right. My stomach won't stop churning. He's holding me up with one hand while his other hand is wound in my hair, keeping it away from my face as I bend over and throw up.

I can't stop my stomach from roiling. I throw up and heave again. Disgusting gurgling and gagging sounds come from my mouth, but I'm too drunk to care.

"Look at that," I say between puking fits. "My dinner is all over your shoe."

CHAPTER 20 Alex

I look down at the chunks on my shoe. "I've had worse done to me."

She straightens, so I let go of her hair, which I couldn't help but save from falling in her face during her puking episode. I'm trying not to think of how that hair felt as it slid through my fingers like silky threads.

Thoughts of being a pirate and stealing her away to my ship race across my mind. Although I'm not a pirate, and she's not my captured princess. We're just two teenagers who hate each other. Okay, so I don't really hate her.

I slide the bandanna off my head and hand it to her. "Here, wipe your face."

She takes it from me and dabs the sides of her mouth as if it's a napkin from a high-class restaurant while I clean my shoe in the cold Lake Michigan water.

I don't know what to say or do. I'm alone . . . with a very drunk Brittany Ellis. I'm not used to being alone with sloppy-drunk white chicks, especially ones who turn me on. I can either take advantage of her and win the bet, which would be a slam dunk in her condition or . . .

"Let me get someone to drive you home," I say before my fucked-up mind thinks of a million ways I could violate her tonight. I'm buzzed from alcohol and high, too. When I have sex with this girl, I want all my faculties.

She purses her lips and pouts like a kid. "No. I don't want to go home. Anywhere but home."

Oh, man.

I'm in trouble. Tengo un problema grande.

She looks up at me, her eyes in the moonlight sparking like rare, expensive jewels. "Colin thinks I want you, you know. He says our bickering is foreplay."

"Is it?" I ask, holding my breath to hear her response. Please, please let me remember the answer in the morning.

She puts her finger up and says, "Hold that thought."

Then she kneels on the ground and pukes her guts out again. When she's finished, she's too weak to walk. She resembles a garage-sale leftover rag doll. I carry her to where my friends have built a huge bonfire, not knowing what else to do.

When she wraps her arms around my neck, I sense she needs someone to be her champion in life. Surely Colin isn't the one. I'm not the one, either. I heard her freshman year, before Colin, she dated a junior. The girl has got to be experienced.

So how come right now she looks so innocent? Sexy as hell, but innocent.

All eyes are on me when I get close to my friends. They see a limp, rich white girl in my arms and they immediately think the worst. I didn't mention that during the walk my chem partner decided to fall asleep in my arms.

"What did you do to her?" Paco asks.

Lucky stands, totally pissed. "Shit, Alex. Did I lose my RX-7?"

"No, dumbass. I don't do passed-out chicks."

Out of the corner of my eye I see a seething Carmen. Shit. I royally screwed her over tonight and deserve her wrath.

I motion for Isabel to talk to me. "Isa, I need you."

Isa takes one look at Brittany. "What do you want me to do with her?"

"Help me get her out of here. I'm wasted and can't drive."

Isa shakes her head. "You do realize she has a boyfriend. And she's rich. And white. And wears designer clothes you'll never be able to afford."

Yeah, I know that. And I'm sick and tired of being reminded of it. "I need your help, Isa. Not a lecture. I've got Paco givin' me his crap already."

Isa holds up her hands. "I'm just pointing out facts. You're a smart guy, Alex. Add it up. No matter how much you might want her in your life, she doesn't belong. A triangle can't fit into a square. Now I'll shut up."

"Gracias." I don't point out that if it's a big enough square, a small triangle can fit inside perfectly. All you have to do is make a few adjustments in the equation. I'm too drunk and high to explain it now.

"I'm parked across the street," Isa says. She lets out a big, frustrated sigh. "Follow me."

I follow Isabel to her car, hoping we can walk in silence. No such luck.

"I was in class with her last year, too," Isa says.

"Uh-huh."

She shrugs. "Nice girl. Wears too much makeup."

"Most chicks hate her."

"Most chicks wish they looked like her. And they wish they had her money and boyfriend."

I stop and regard her in disgust. "Burro Face?"

"Oh, please, Alex. Colin Adams is cute, he's the captain of the football team and Fairfield's hero. You're like Danny Zuko in Grease. You smoke, you're in a gang, and you've dated the hottest bad girls around. Brittany is like Sandy ... a Sandy who'll never show up to school in a black leather jacket with a ciggie hangin' from her mouth. Give up the fantasy."

I lay my fantasy in the backseat of Isa's car and slide in next to her. She snuggles up, using me as her personal pillow, her blond curls sprawled over my crotch. I close my eyes for a second, trying to get the image out of my head. And I don't know what to do with my hands. My right one is on the door armrest. My left one hovers over Brittany.

I hesitate. Who am I kidding? I'm not a virgin. I'm an eighteen-year-old guy who can deal with having a hot, passed-out girl next to me. Why am I afraid of putting my arm where it's comfortable, right over her midsection?

I hold my breath as I settle my arm on her. She cuddles closer and I'm feeling weird and light-headed. Either it's the aftereffects from the joint or . . . I don't want to think about the "or." Her long hair is wrapped around my thigh. Without thinking, I weave my hands in her hair and watch as the silky strands slowly fall through the V's between my fingers. I stop abruptly. There's a big, irritated bald spot on her scalp in the back of her head. As if she had to have a drug test for a job or something and they ripped out a big chunk for a sample.

As Isa backs up the car, Paco stops her and jumps into the front seat. I quickly cover Brittany's bald spot, not wanting to show anyone her imperfection. I'm not about to analyze my motives for that move, since it'll cause me to think too hard. Thinking hard in my condition will hurt badly.

"Hey, guys. I thought I'd come along for the ride," Paco says.

He turns around and sees my arm on Brittany. He tsk's and shakes his head.

"Shut up," I tell him.

"I didn't say anythin'."

A cell phone rings. I can feel the vibration through Brittany's pants.

"It's hers," I say.

"Answer it," Isa instructs.

I already feel like I've kidnapped the girl. Now I'm gonna answer her cell? Shit. Rolling her a bit, I feel for the bulge in her back pocket.

"Contesta," Isa whispers loudly, this time in Spanish.

"I am," I hiss, my fingers clumsy as I fumble for the phone.

"I'll do it," Paco says, leaning over the seats and reaching toward Brittany's ass.

I whack his hand away. "Get your hands off her."

"Geez, man, I was just tryin' to help."

My response is a glare.

I slide my fingers into her back pocket, trying not to think about what it would feel like without her jeans in the way. I slide the phone out inch by inch while it vibrates. When I have the phone free, I look at the caller ID.

"It's her friend Sierra."

"Answer it," Paco says.

"Estas loco, guey? I'm not talking to one of them."

"Then why'd you get it out of her pocket?"

That's a good question. One I don't know how to answer.

Isa shakes her head. "That's what you get for mixing with a square."

"We should take her home," Paco says. "You can't keep her."

I know that. But I'm not ready to give her up just yet. "Isa, take her to your house."

CHAPTER 21 Brittany

I'm having a nightmare that a thousand little Oompa Loompas are in my head, hammering my skull. Opening my eyes to bright light, I wince. The Oompa Loompas are still in there, and I'm awake.

"You've got a hangover," a girl says to me.

When I squint, I find Isabel standing over me. We're in what looks like a small bedroom with walls painted a pastel yellow. Matching yellow curtains are billowing in the wind from the open windows. It can't be my house because we never open the windows. We always have the air-conditioning or heat on.

I squint up at her. "Where am I?"

"My house. I wouldn't move if I were you. You might puke again and my parents will freak if you mess up their carpeting," she says. "Lucky for us they're out of town, so I get the house to myself until tonight."

"How did I get here?" The last thing I remember was starting to walk home. . . .

"You passed out at the beach. Alex and I brought you here."

At the mention of Alex, my eyes open fully. I vaguely remember drinking, then walking on the sand and finding Alex and Carmen together. And then Alex and I . . .

Did I kiss him? I know I leaned in, but then . . .

I puked. I distinctly remember puking. Not the perfect image I'm trying to project. I sit up slowly, hoping sometime soon my head will stop spinning. "Did I do anything stupid?" I ask.

Isa shrugs. "I'm not sure. Alex wouldn't really let anyone get close enough to you. If you want to call passing out in his arms stupid, then I think you've managed it."

I drop my head in my hands. "Oh, no. Isabel, please don't tell anyone on the squad."

She's smiling. "Don't worry. I won't tell anyone that Brittany Ellis is in fact human."

"Why are you nice to me? I mean, when Carmen wanted to beat my face in, you defended me. And you let me sleep here last night, even though you made it very clear we're not friends."

"We're not friends. Carmen and I have a rivalry that goes way back. I'd do just about anything to piss her off. She can't stand that Alex isn't her boyfriend anymore."

"Why did they break up?"

"Ask him yourself. He's sleeping on the couch in the living room. He passed out as soon as he carried you to my bed." Oh, no. Alex is here? In Isabel's house? "He likes you, you know," Isabel says, looking at her fingernails instead of at me.

Butterflies start flittering around in my stomach. "He does not," I say, even though I'm tempted to ask for details.

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