It’s amazing how easy I got through the school day. That’s because it’s been impossible to forget Sebastian’s words. They’ve been cycling on repeat since he said them yesterday. The only thing that’s alternated with them is the way his green eyes flashed when he looked at me and the way my stomach twisted like I’d just survived a series of corkscrews on my favorite roller coaster.
Okay. I’d be lying to say that’s not followed by my mother’s words about just dancing. Those are followed by dancing with Sebastian. Then kissing Sebastian. Followed by very inappropriate images of Sebastian on top of me doing things I don’t even know how to do. His hands touching me in places no one ever has before. His lips on mine, and it’s so vivid, I can nearly feel their softness. Snap. Out. Of. It. Claire.
Just because he said those things doesn’t mean he means them. They were sympathy compliments. He felt bad for you. Besides, there’s no way he doesn’t have a girlfriend. It’s not like you’d know. We don’t even go to the same school.
“Claire. What are you looking all dreamy about?” Audrina asks. If it is possible Nicky was born with a fraternal twin sister that’s everything she’s not physically: tall, beautiful, etc., etc., then that would be Audrina. But personality wise, they’re exactly the freaking same. It’s like someone cloned their petty little minds. I sigh. Dang her for screwing up my perfect daydream.
“That’s not true. You’re most definitely thinking about something. I saw you talking to Sebastian last night.”
My eyes quickly avert to hers before scanning her. “So.” What’s her motive?
“So. What did he say to you?”
I shrug. “Nothing.”
Her lips curve into a wicked grin. “His mouth was moving, so I hardly think it was nothing.”
“You’re right. It was moving, but what he said is none of your business. If you want to know what he said, you can ask him. If he wants you to know, he’ll tell you.” Because if I tell her he said I’m pretty and a good dancer, she’ll laugh in my face, and frankly, I’m not in the mood for that. So, I push my books to the side. My feet make their way to the bathroom, my legs increasing their pace with each step, and my face reddening with each passing moment. Audrina is the ring leader of the mean girls’ cult. It’s on pretty good authority, she’s the reason I no longer have a best friend, and if it’s up to her, Sebastian will be next.
Since the studio is an old building, there’s only one bathroom, so it’s gender neutral. It’s around a corner in a little alcove with a wall of lockers, and as I turn to rush through the door, I plow into a steel chest. I inhale a whiff of cedar, water, and apple. “I’m…” My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. “I’m…” My palms are on his abs. I know whose they are, so I let them linger a little longer than I should, feeling the ripples beneath his ribbed black tank top. I gaze up, but I get stuck on his crooked grin before I find my way to his hooded green eyes. “I’m sorry. I just need the bathroom.”
I furrow my brows and swallow.
“Sorry,” he says. “Don’t be sorry.”
I let out the breath I’ve been holding, and the springs inside me coil.
He tilts his head and leans in. “Claire.”
“I’m gonna kiss you.”
His lips dip down and brush with mine. My feet arch and in an instant I’m on my toes, and I’ve never loved this position, this dance more, in my life. He pushes his tongue past my lips and it moves gracefully as it explores my mouth, while I suck on it and moan. His hands grasp my hair and he pushes me against the lockers. “Shh,” I whisper, thinking about Audrina. “Someone’s gonna hear us.”
“I don’t care.” He pushes me again, rattling the metal, deepening our kiss. “I hope they do.”
My lips curve beneath his and my heart skips in my chest. He thrusts his body into mine. I feel every bit of him, and while my daydream was hot, this is so much better. So. Much. Better. My limbs feel like noodles, and because I’m a dancer that never happens. I’m strong. But when my knees buckle, Sebastian becomes the best partner I’ve ever had—the only partner I’ve ever had—and he holds me up. He pulls my bottom lip with his teeth. “You’re so sweet, Claire. I’ve wanted to kiss you for as long as I can remember.”
“Why do you find that as surprising as the being pretty and a good dancer comment?”
“Where’s your confidence?”
I shrug again.
He pulls my chin up and kisses me once more. “He did this to you, didn’t he? Robins.”
My eyes immediately go to the ground, but it’s true, and he knows it.
“Look at me, Claire.” His fingers tug my face back up. “You’re so beautiful. So perfect just the way you are. I wish you could see what I see when you look in the mirror. I know he has a way of making your vision like those stupid fun house mirrors that aren’t so fun. Don’t let him do that to you, though.”
Shaking my head, I wrap my arms around my body. A small tear falls, not because he likes me or that it’s so far-fetched to think he would, but because it’s too late to keep Robins from ruining my perception of myself. I’ll never be able to see what Sebastian sees when he looks at me. I’m ruined. I’ll never have a thigh gap. My collarbone will never protrude beautifully. My hair will never be straight enough, long enough, tame enough. I’ll never be his partner because no matter how hard I try, Robins will never think I’m worthy. I’ll never be good enough.
Pointing to the bathroom, I push past him and swipe my face, refusing to look at him. “I have to go.” I sniff back the emotion starting to pour from me, locking it away in some safe place I hope to forget because Robins says we don’t cry. Even Sebastian said it. Crying is a sign of weakness, and there’s no place for weakness within these walls. Screw Sebastian for making me weak. I turn to close the door, and he’s staring at me with his hands grasping the strands of his silky hair, his tight black tank molded to his muscles, showing a small bit of his abs above the waistband of his workout sweats. My eyes hang there a little longer than they should before I close them, shaking my head. “What just happened here can never happen again.”
“Cla—” I close the door, and it’s not until I collapse against it that my stomach clenches as if I’ve just received a punch. Breathe, Claire. Just Breathe. My body bounces against the wood. “Claire. Please open the door. You have to come out eventually.” Class. I’ll have an hour of facing him in front of a mirror. An hour for him to stare at me like he did last night. An hour for me to replay his words in my mind, to daydream about his lips on mine, and his hands all over me—the way it felt when he pushed me against the locker. Some kind of electricity surges through me and causes me to squirm. “I won’t touch you again if you don’t want me to. I promise. Just open the door.”
Is that what I want? For him to never touch me again? Would that make me happy? For Sebastian’s hands to never be on my skin? His lips to never brush against mine? My breathing increases and heat consumes my body. I shake my head. This is all so confusing. Turning the knob, I open the door and breathe a sigh of relief. His arms are bracing the wood above his head. Even though I’ve opened the door, he has me completely trapped in the bathroom.
He smiles. “So.”
I exhale. I’m in so much trouble. My eyes are drawn to his lips. Only his perfectly pouty pink lips and his white teeth. My knees are already getting weak. How am I ever going to get through an hour of dance in the same room with him again? There’s no way I could ever be his partner. “So.”
He arches a brow. Not that I’m looking at his brow. Peripheral vision and all. “Is that what you want? For me to never touch you again?”
I shake my head.
He pushes my bangs to the side and squints his eyes as if he’s in pain. “Which one of them did this to you?”
“How’d you know about that?”
“Just an idea. Which one?”
I shrug. “It doesn’t matter. They’ll grow back. Do we have to talk about them?”
He strums my cheek. “Tomorrow’s the last night of the fair.”
“Yep. It is.” I laugh. This is a kind of awkward conversation.
“Do you like cotton candy?”
“Caramel apples, corn dogs, funnel cakes, sausage dogs with onions and bell peppers, and of course, cotton candy…should I keep going with the list of fair food I like?”
He grins. “Favorite ride?”
I glance at the ceiling and tap my chin. “Hmm. That’s a tough one. It’s a serious toss-up between the Gravitron, that caterpillar thing—what’s it called?” I snap my fingers, trying to think of the name and he chuckles. I roll my eyes and continue to ramble. “The Tilt-A-Whirl and the Scrambler.”
“No Ferris wheel?”
I shake my head vehemently. “Well. I don’t mind the ones with the big buckets so much, but those little ones with the two seaters that practically recline. Um. No.” I look up, close the distance between us, and arch my feet. He leans his head down and our noses nearly touch. “Why are you asking me all these random questions? Class is gonna start soon. I need to warm up.” Too bad my muscles can’t warm as quickly as my blood does with his proximity.
He laces the fingers of one of his hands with one of mine. My breathing hitches. Then he repeats it with the other hand. He lifts me. My very first lift. Ever. And it’s with Sebastian. Okay, it’s not really a legit lift, but who cares. He lowers his lips to mine. In between kisses, he whispers, “I wanted to know if I could carry you on a few rides tomorrow night at the fair.”
“Are you asking me out on a date?”
He smirks. “Would appear so.”