And destined to remain no more than that. Apparently.

“Like you and Jordan,” Rachel says.

“Yeah,” I say, managing a smile—though I don’t know how. “Like me and Jordan.”

It isn’t her fault. I mean, she doesn’t know she’s just rubbing salt in the wound.

“Well, I better get going,” she says. “I promised Stan I’d snag one of those crab cakes for him….”

“Oh,” I say. “Sure. Bye.”

Rachel glides away on her very own cloud nine. I wonder if the rumor Pete heard, about Rachel getting a big fat promotion, was true. I wouldn’t be surprised. Nobody else on campus had had to feel for two different pulses in as many weeks. What could the college do to show its appreciation, other than promote her? A Pansy Award isn’t enough. After all, Magda said Justine had been nominated for a Pansy once because she’d let a student borrow her phone book.

“Hey, blondie!”

I ignore the voice from behind me, and stare at Cooper instead. He’s still talking to Marian Braithwaite, who’s looking up at him adoringly and laughing every now and then at whatever it is he’s saying. How do they know each other? Maybe Marian had hired him. Maybe she’d suspected her professor husband was cheating on her, and she’d hired Cooper, and he’d proved that she had nothing to worry about, and that’s why she’s so glad to see him, and keeps reaching out to touch his arm—

“Blondie!”

Someone taps my shoulder, and I turn in surprise, expecting to see one of the president’s aides, demanding to see my ticket…

…and find myself staring instead into his son’s laughing gray eyes.

21

Ask me

I know you want to

Ask me

I’m waiting for you

Ask me

I’d never make you guess

Ask me

Baby, I might say yes

“Ask Me”
Performed by Heather Wells
Composed by Roberts/Ryder
From the album Summer
Cartwright Records

“Hey,” Chris says, smilingly. “Remember me?”

I stare at him, so freaked out that I can’t utter a sound.

Christopher Allington. Christopher Allington had sought me out. Chris Allington is holding on to my upper arm and smiling down at me like we’re old friends bumping into one another at the bowling alley or whatever. He’s even offering me a glass of champagne!

Well, it would be rude to say no.

I take the flute from him mutely, my heart hammering hard in my ears. Christopher Allington. Christopher Allington. Oh my God. How can you stand there and talk to me like it’s nothing? You tried to kill me today. Remember?

“I met you outside Fischer Hall last night,” Chris prompts, thinking I can’t place him. As if I’m likely to forget! “That was you, wasn’t it?”

I pretend to suddenly recover my memory.

“Oh,” I say, vaguely—though there’s nothing vague about the tingly awareness I feel all up and down my arm, where he still holds it. “Sure. How are you?”

He lets go of me. His grip hadn’t been unpleasant. Not at all.

But isn’t that weird? I mean, shouldn’t it have been? Seeing as how he’s a killer, and all?

Weird.

“I’m fine,” he says.

He looks fine. His tux is much better-fitting than his father’s. Instead of a bow tie, though, Chris wears a regular tie. Somehow, on him, it looks exactly right.

“Actually, I’m a lot better now that I spotted you,” he goes on. “I really hate these things. Don’t you?”

“Oh,” I say with a shrug. “I don’t know. It isn’t that bad. At least there’s alcohol.”

I down the champagne he’d offered me in a single swallow, despite Cooper’s warning about drinking on the job. After the shock Chris has given me, sneaking up on me like that, I feel like I sort of deserve it.

Chris, watching me, laughs.

“So, who’re are you here with?” he wants to know. “Those tickets aren’t cheap. Are you one of the student reps?”

I shrug again. Detective Canavan had said that in his experience, people who kill are excessively stupid, and I’m beginning to think that in Chris’s case, this might actually be true. The fact that I’m almost ten years older than your average student government representative doesn’t seem to register on him…

…which is fine by me. I mean, seeing as how I’m trying to be all sneaky and undercover to get him to slip up and confess and stuff. Not that I have any idea how I’m going to do this, of course.

And at least Chris, unlike some people, seems to appreciate how I look in my borrowed dress. I see his gaze stray toward my cleavage several times. And not because my zipper is coming apart in the back and everything is hanging loose. I know because I check.

The band starts playing a slow tune. To my surprise, some couples actually wander out onto the library’s main floor and begin to dance…Chris’s mom and dad among them. I see President Allington lead his wife out onto the dance floor with a sweeping bow that has the trustees laughing and applauding.

It’s kind of sweet, actually.

At least until Mrs. Allington trips on her bell-bottoms and almost falls flat on her face. Fortunately President Allington whirls her around and makes it look like it was a fancy step he’d engineered on purpose.

Which is even sweeter. Maybe Chris isn’t as unlucky as I’d originally thought. In his parentage, I mean.

“Hey,” Chris says, surprising me yet again, this time by taking the champagne glass from my hand and setting it down on the tray of a passing waiter. “Wanna dance?”

My head whips around so fast to look at him, a long strand of my hair smacks me in the mouth and sticks to my lip gloss.

“What?” I ask, desperately trying to remove it. The hair, I mean. From my mouth.

“Do you wanna dance?” Chris asks. His grin is slightly mocking, to show me that he knows as well as I do that dancing at the New York College Pansy Ball is kind of…well, goobery. Still, he wants to let me know he’s game…

His grin is infectious. It’s the grin of the high school football captain, the handsomest boy in school, so sure of himself and his good looks that it never even occurs to him that some girl might say No way, Jose to his invitation. Probably because no girl ever has.

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