Page 5

The pen she held in her hand stopped moving. She blinked, as if surprised, and then her lashes swept back up. “Dad’s been working all week, so we barely see him, and we have family time on Saturday with Uncle Will—” She cut herself off. “But I’m free on Sunday.”

Sunday seemed way too far away, but he’d take it. “Would you like to get lunch?”

Her rosy lips formed an O and then slipped into a grin. “Are you asking me out, Dawson?”

Before he could answer, Daemon strolled down the aisle, his acute gaze drifting over Bethany’s upturned face. He gave her a slight, tight-lipped smile. The smile he typically gave people before he ate them alive.

Bethany smiled back.

Dawson wanted to pummel his brother into the ground. The territorial reaction caused a gut check with reality that didn’t go unnoticed by Daemon. His eyes narrowed. Using the path of communication their kind favored, he sent his brother a little message. Knock it off, brother.

There wasn’t a flicker of emotion on Daemon’s expression. What am I doing?

Dawson started to fire back but stopped. What the hell was he warning his brother about? Looking at Bethany wrong? Daemon didn’t shy away from human females, but he also didn’t make a habit of going after them.

Deciding to ignore him for right now, because he was sure he’d have to explain himself later, he refocused on what was important. Bethany. “Am I asking you out? That’s what it sounds like.”

Behind him, Daemon sounded like he was choking, and then in Dawson’s head, What the hell, brother?

Dawson didn’t respond, but there was no mistaking the tension rolling off Daemon, nor the conversation Dawson knew was coming, but oddly, he really didn’t care.

He smiled at Bethany.

Chapter 4

Bethany was sort of shocked. Yeah, she expected Dawson to chat with her, maybe even flirt a little, but ask her out? Just like that? Color her surprised…and impressed.

“Good.” She glanced down at the pen in her fingers, wondering how she’d get out of the house with a boy. “Um, should I meet you somewhere…?”

A flash of satisfaction deepened the hue of his green eyes. “I can pick you up.”

Oh, no no no. She could see her mother’s shrewd stare now as Bethany prepped for the inevitable interrogation. The embarrassment was already wiggling through her, causing her fingers to tighten around the pen. “Um, I’d rather meet you somewhere. Nothing personal, but my parents—”

“Are strict? Totally cool.” He didn’t miss a beat, and she appreciated that. “There’s a diner in town. Nothing special, but the food is great. The Smoke Hole Diner—have you heard of it?”

She hadn’t, and Dawson quickly gave her directions. Nothing was too hard to find in Petersburg, as long as it wasn’t around a bunch of back roads that all looked the same to her.

While they talked, Bethany noticed several of the girls, namely a blonde in front of her, blatantly eavesdropping. The blonde had the perfect body and face—tiny, perky looking. Being close to five eight, Bethany felt like Godzilla just sitting behind her. And then she noticed Dawson’s twin.

He was also listening.

Over Dawson’s shoulder, he watched them with narrowed eyes. Something in his hard expression said he wasn’t too pleased with what he was hearing. The thumping muscle in his jaw kind of gave him away, too.

Whatever his deal was, Bethany didn’t know, but she decided it would be best to steer clear of him…and of the Barbie.

Class started. Pride and Prejudice was on the reading list. Grumbles came from most of the guys in the room as Mr. Patterson handed out the novels. She’d already read the book—three times—so the essay on underlying social issues of the time wouldn’t be killer.

Placing the novel on her desk, she willed herself to focus on the lecture, but her mind kept going to the boy behind her. His aftershave—or was it even aftershave?—was a woodsy, outdoorsy scent that reminded her of campfires.

A very nice smell.

Unique and nothing boyish about it. Hell, there wasn’t anything boyish about Dawson. He was obviously her age, sixteen, but if she’d run into him outside of her school, she would’ve pegged him for a college guy. He had extraordinary confidence, something that most boys lacked at this age.

Maybe she was out of her league on this one. Guys like him tended to have a whole harem of girlfriends. Girlfriends like Barbie. Not girls who usually had paint under their fingernails.

Looking down at her hand, she cringed. Green paint was under her pinkie from last night. Crimson stained her cheeks. Last night she’d painted Dawson’s face, even though she’d told herself not to go there.

But she went there and then some.

Dammit. Obsessions always started with painting someone’s face, didn’t they?

Biting on the cap of her pen, she pretended to stretch her neck left, then right. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw Dawson watching her with those intense eyes.

Their gazes locked.

And the air went right out of her lungs. Again, the concentrated power in his stare sent a shiver dancing over her skin. Like in the hallway yesterday, she felt the urge to move back. Because whatever was in his eyes…wasn’t normal; it was a real power that she couldn’t capture in the painting. An almost luminous quality she couldn’t get quite right.

He winked, and damn if it wasn’t sexy. Not skeevy at all or stupid looking. It was the kind of wink that movie stars did on the screen. Something no one in real life could pull off.

Yep, out of her league. Excitement hummed through her.

Grinning around her pen, she faced the front of the class before the teacher noticed her.

Dear God, she was seconds from melting into a useless pool of girlie girl.

When the bell rang, Dawson was already on his feet, standing beside her desk. His brother stopped behind him and remained there as Bethany shoved her books into her bag and stood. It seemed like something unspoken passed between the twins, because Dawson smirked at his brother.

The twin finally edged around Dawson, glancing over his shoulder with a lopsided grin. “Behave,” was all he said. Out loud, at least.

Bethany’s brows rose. “Uh…”

“Ignore Daemon. That’s what I do most of the time.” Dawson extended his arm, and she slid in front of him. “He has poor social skills.”

Unsure if he was joking, she decided to skip right over that one. “It must be cool, having a twin, though.”

“Ah, not sure if cool is the right word.” He flashed a grin. “But we’re not twins.”

Out in the crowded hallway, Bethany frowned. “You’re not? Could’ve fooled me and the world.”

His laugh was husky, deep, and really nice to hear. “We’re triplets.”

Her eyes popped wide. “Holy crap, there’re three of you?”

“We have a sister.” He walked close to her, so their shoulders bumped every few steps. She found that deliciously distracting. “She’s fraternal and a lot prettier than us.”

There were three of them but one was a girl. Triplets. Craziness. “Are you guys close?”

He nodded, following her up the stairs like yesterday. Apparently being on time to class wasn’t a big deal for him.

“Yeah, we’re pretty close. Especially Dee, my sister, and me. She’s a doll.” He paused, angling his body around a flock of students. “Daemon isn’t too bad, either. The boy would give his left arm for the two of us. Do you have any siblings?”

“A brother—half brother,” she said, smiling. When he spoke of his sister and brother, there was real love in his voice. So rare nowadays. Most of her old friends back in Nevada did nothing but bitch about their brothers and sisters. “He’s only two.”

“Ah, a little butt…”

Bethany stopped right in the middle of the hall. “What did you say?”

Dawson’s brows lowered. “Uh, I said little butt. I hope that wasn’t, uh, offensive?”

“No.” She stared up at him, which alone was a feat. “It’s just what I call Phillip—little butt. That’s his nickname.”

Dawson’s expression relaxed into a grin. “Really? That’s so funny. Daemon and I call Dee that all the time. She hates it.”

Folding her arms, she met his stare. “Do you watch a lot of TV?”

“Only when Daemon forces me to.”

Holy moley… “What about movies?”

The grin reached his eyes. “Not that big of a fan. I’m an outdoors kind of guy. I’d rather be hiking than sitting around.”

She thought of painting and how she’d rather be doing that than anything else. There was just one more thing. “Do you love sugar? Like, always have to eat a lot of sugar?”

He laughed. “Yeah, any more questions? The bell’s about to ring.”

Love of sugar had to mean true love. It just had to. A smile spread across her face, so big that she should’ve been embarrassed. “No. That’s all.”

“Good.” He reached out, tucking a strand of hair that had escaped her ponytail back behind her ear. The brush of his knuckles across her skin went through her system like a bolt of lightning. “What are you doing after school? Want to grab something to eat?”

“I thought we were doing that on Sunday?”

“Yeah, we are, but I just wanted to make plans for this weekend. That has nothing to do with today.”

Her mouth opened and a laugh snuck out. God, he was just…there were no words. Mom would be expecting her home right after school, and that’s what she should do. Plans had been set for Sunday, but that seemed so far away. Days away…

The warning bell shrieked, causing her to jump.

“Bethany Williams.” He said her name teasingly.

Her lashes lifted and she started to shake her head no. “Yes.”

Bethany should’ve known that Dawson Black was trouble with a capital T, all rounded up in six feet and then some of lean muscle and disarming smile, from the moment she’d spotted him.

Boys were so complicated.

And boys like Dawson? Ah, so much more complicated.

Most guys didn’t have an ounce of the charisma he exuded. No wonder she liked him and was already planning to tell her mom that she was staying after school to do some art stuff. An easy, believable lie, since she’d done plenty of extracurricular work like that several times a week in Nevada. That she was already so willing to lie about him only further cemented in her mind the fact that she liked him way too much. And they had only spoken a few times. Bethany wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing yet.

She hadn’t expected how quickly he got under her skin. And she really wasn’t prepared for the slightly empty feeling in the pit of her stomach as she watched him jog around the corner to his science class. God…she actually missed him.

She definitely wasn’t looking over her shoulder in the hallway for him when she stopped at her locker before lunch. Nope. Not at all. Her mind wasn’t wrapped up in a boy she’d just met. And she definitely didn’t keep comparing every color of green to eyes that shone like polished emeralds.