Page 9

Author: Tracy Wolff

Which is exactly where I want them.

“How many snowballs do we have ready?” I hiss at Ophelia, bending down to look at our pile.

“Twenty or so,” she answers as she continues to scoop up snow.

Not enough, but they’re closing in. We’ll be pinned down in seconds, and then there really will be no escape. At least not without a faceful of snow.

“Get ready,” I tell her, gathering up fistfuls of snowballs.

She nods, does the same.

“On the count of three, launch everything we’ve got at Luc and Ash. Got it?”

“Yeah.” She moves from her knees to her feet but keeps low in a crouch so that I can still cover her. I like that she does that, though I don’t know why it matters.

I count off, and at three we both explode into action, lobbing snowball after snowball straight at my two best friends. It turns out Ophelia has one hell of a throwing arm, because she nails them both in the face, again and again.

When they’re both covered in ice and snow and are too busy wiping their faces to pay attention to us, I lob two last snowballs straight at them, then grab Ophelia’s hand and slip around to the other side of the tree. Shouts echo as Cam’s snowballs suddenly make contact with Ash and Luc now that we’re not in the way anymore.

We run full out across the park, bobbing and weaving, dodging snowballs and curses and laughing so hard that we nearly fall down two different times. Ash and Luc can’t keep up, though, and soon we’re closing in on the safety zone the four of us established years ago, when we were just kids.

We’re almost there, so close that I can taste victory, when Ophelia suddenly steps on a slick patch of snow and her feet go sliding out from underneath her. I try to catch her, but our legs get tangled together and we end up going down hard, together. I shift her so that I’m underneath and take the brunt of the fall while she is stretched out on top of me.

“That was—that was—” She’s laughing too hard to finish, her long, curvy body pressing itself to mine as she shakes with amusement.

Her green eyes are staring into mine and I know she expects me to laugh with her, but the feel of her body against mine is setting off another whole set of alarms, ones that have nothing to do with laughter and everything to do with sex. She feels good, really good, and as she squirms to sit up, I get hard.

It’s inappropriate and crazy and kind of unexpected considering that we’ve just been running around together like a couple of kids, but I can’t help my response. She’s right f**king there, her sex burning hot where it brushes against my cock. So hot that I can feel it through her jeans and the boarding pants I’ve been wearing ever since I took a header on the half-pipe hours ago. Luc and Cam hadn’t seemed inclined to give me time to change before going to the hospital, and with my head feeling like it had been split in half, I hadn’t been inclined to argue.

Now, however, I’m cursing them up one side and down the other. If I were in jeans, I’d be able to feel her so much better. Her heat. Her wetness. My dick actually twitches at the thought, and Ophelia’s breath catches in her throat.

She doesn’t pull away, though, like I expect her to. She doesn’t slap my face, doesn’t stand up, doesn’t do any of the things I think she will. Instead she sits up and grinds herself, slowly, carefully, determinedly, over my cock. And embarrassing though it is, I swear I almost come at just that touch. Which is crazy, except—in my defense—the girl does one hell of a hip swivel.

Of their own volition, my hands go to her hips and I hold her in place for one second, two. Every urge I’ve got tells me to thrust up into that heat. I’ve been sexually active since I was thirteen years old and I’ve learned a lot in the last eight years. It wouldn’t take much to send her over the edge, right here. Right now.

Except Luc, Ash, and Cam are running straight at us, and while I don’t normally mind a little PDA, something tells me that once I start f**king Ophelia, I’m not going to want to stop. At least not for something as boring as listening to my friends gloat over their damn snowball fight victory.

Which is why I ease Ophelia off me, even though it takes every ounce of willpower I have. She blinks a little as I set her down on the ground next to me, and suddenly the lust in her eyes clears, becomes something else. The second it does, she scrambles backward, away from me, before jumping to her feet. This time her legs hold her, but I think that’s more miracle than actual skill.

“Ophelia.” I sit up, reach for her hand. I don’t know what I want to say, but I know I can’t leave her like this. With her eyes wild and her arms wrapped around her waist, she looks completely freaked out. Worse, she looks empty. I’ve had enough experience with the feeling to recognize it in her.

But before I can do anything more than say her name again and climb to my feet, the others are on us.

“You okay?” Luc asks her as he wraps a comforting arm around her waist. “That was one hell of a fall.”

“I’m fine,” she says, and though she’s still stiff, I notice that she doesn’t jerk out of his hold. Instead, she stands there, her body sagging a little against his, looking completely comfortable. Way more comfortable than she looked when we were together.

It pisses me off. Then I get pissed off about being pissed off. Luc is my best friend, and Ophelia’s just some girl, some bet. And yet I can’t stand the way he’s touching her, can’t stand the way he ducks his head and murmurs something only the two of them can hear. Even if it’s nothing, even if he’s just checking on her, I still don’t like it.

I jump to my feet, shove my hands in my pockets. Focus on the fact that this latest fall has aggravated all the aches and pains I got from my earlier swan dive in the half-pipe. My leg has started aching again and the bruises over my ribs throb in time to my heartbeat.

The hospital offered me a script for painkillers, but I didn’t take it. I know the nurse thought I was crazy—or a recovering junkie—but the truth is, the pain is part of the reason I do the things I do. It grounds me in a way nothing else can.

“Are you all right, Z?” Cam lays a gentle hand on my arm. “You didn’t hit your head again?”

“I’m all good,” I tell her, shrugging off her touch. It feels like she’s offering so much more than friendship with that hold, and it’s not something I want any part of. With anybody, really, but certainly not with her.

“So, what’s next?” I ask. “One of those parties or—”

“I’m going home,” Ophelia says.

I glance at my watch. “But it isn’t even ten o’clock yet!”

She shrugs. “I’ve got work in the morning.”

“So do we, but you don’t see any of us punking out early!”

“Guess I’m just not as cool as you, Z. But then, who is, right?”

Ash makes a big point of coughing to cover a laugh, so I shove him and then flip him off. Whose side is he supposed to be on anyway?

“If you really want to leave, I’ll walk you to your car.” It’s dark in the park, but I can still see her eyes. They’re wide and a little startled, and I decide not to push her anymore.

“Oh, that’s not necessary,” Ophelia answers. “It’s just a couple of blocks that way, right?” She gestures toward the park’s entrance.

“Actually, the clinic’s parking lot is that way.” I point in the exact opposite direction. “About three blocks.”

“Right. Cool.” She tosses her hair, tries to act like she’s not flustered at all. But I can tell she’s spooked. Right now, tough-as-nails Ophelia is anything but. “Thanks for letting me hang with you guys tonight. It was fun.”

She gives a little wave, starts to walk toward the other side of the park. I fall into step beside her, while Cam, Ash, and Luc bring up the rear. Now that they know we’re okay, they’re back to boasting about how they kicked our asses in the snowball fight.

We would have been home free if Ophelia hadn’t slipped, but I don’t bother to correct them. I’m too busy trying to ignore the way she smells—all sweet and warm, like peaches in the summertime. It’s a good smell, one that’s doing nothing to help my dick deflate even though it’s obvious I’m not going to be getting any action with her tonight.

“You don’t have to walk with me,” she tells me, sounding irritated. “I can find my way back to the clinic, you know.”

“No doubt. But it’s dark, and while most of the tourists are tucked up in their beds at the resorts, you don’t know who’s out wandering the streets. It’s safer if we go with you.”

“I don’t need a protector, Z.”

“No one said you did.” I glance at her. “Besides, does it look like I’m applying for the job?” With my tattoos and piercings and all-black wardrobe, no one looks less like a white knight than I do, and believe me, I know it.

She looks me over from head to toe, and for a second it looks like she might say something else, but in the end she just shakes her head and keeps walking.

We make the rest of the three-block trip in silence, the only sound that of our boots crunching in the snow and the laughter of my idiot best friends, who are still behind us. I try to think of something else to say, but for the first time ever I’m at a total loss for words. I don’t have a clue how to talk to this girl.

Once we get to the parking lot, Ophelia says, “My car’s parked right over there.” She points vaguely toward the left side of the lot. “Thanks for walking me.”

“No problem,” Ash tells her.

“You okay driving back to the lodge on your own?” I ask suddenly. It’s snowed some since we’ve been out, and the roads are slick and a just a little icy. No big deal for me, but Ophelia’s a southern girl. Icy streets are a whole new ball game for her.

My friends turn to stare at me—I guess they’re not used to me giving a shit about anyone but them—but I ignore them. I may be a loser and a fuck-up, but I’m not a total dick. Or at least, I don’t think I am.

She rolls her eyes at me. “I’m good, Z.” She gives me a little push. “Go get your car at the movie theater and go to that party or whatever. I’ll see you around.”

Then, after giving the others a little wave, she starts across the cleared and salted parking lot with long, sure strides.

I watch her go, her confident gait eating up the distance between her and the dark blue Honda sitting under one of the huge parking lot lights in the first row. She doesn’t look back once, but still, I wait until she reaches the car and fumbles her keys out of her purse before I turn away and head back up the way we came.

“So,” Luc says as we head back to my car. “What was all that rolling around on the ground with Ophelia?”

“Shut up,” Cam snaps at him, sounding totally annoyed. “They fell.”

Ash snorts. “Yeah, right. That totally looked like a fall. If, you know, a fall is another word for foreplay. You better start looking for another board, Luc. I think you’re going to have to kiss your Flow Darwin good-bye.”

“I don’t know about that. It’s been twenty-four hours since they met and Ophelia’s driving herself back to the lodge, with no invitation for Z to follow. That has to be a first.”

He’s right, it is, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. Part of me wants to just f**k her and get it over with, but another part is growing a little more interested in her, in who she really is, each time we meet. Ophelia never says much about herself, but I can see that there’s more to her than the tough-girl attitude and the snappy comebacks. I just wish I knew what it was—and whether or not finding out will f**k me up more than I already am.