The First Time Ryan Says, “I love you.” (Ryan POV)
I don’t mean to brag or anything, but, Jamie Baker, world’s only superhero and hottest girl in the known universe? Yeah, she’s my girlfriend.
Not that she accepted this label gracefully, or anything. It took me weeks to wear her down, and when she finally relented she used the word stupid and was sort of yelling at me. In fact, I think she might have only agreed to it because she was sick of me hounding her. But whatever, the specifics are irrelevant. The important thing is that she’s my girlfriend now.
I kept waiting for her to try and take it back, but every time I saw her between classes she surprised me by looking as happy as I felt. Seeing Jamie smile, and knowing I was the reason for that smile, was enough to make me die happy. Which, considering my girlfriend has deadly powers that have a tendency to prove unstable at times, is a legitimate possibility. Not nearly as big of a possibility as Jamie likes to think it is, but enough that I have to be careful. Still. Jamie is worth the risk.
I think I was literally high on hormones—or pheromones or whatever—all day because nothing could dampen my mood. Nothing. Half the school was mad at me, including my two best friends, but I didn’t care. Nothing mattered except that Jamie was back from wherever she’d disappeared to, she was safe, and she was mine. FINALLY.
I’ll admit I spent the morning in my own little Jamie Baker world but even I couldn’t ignore the static in the atmosphere when Jamie and I entered the cafeteria as a couple at lunch. I knew people would whisper and stare, but I refused to let it get to me.
I was proud of Jamie regardless of whether or not the rest of the student body understood her, and I was determined to let everyone know that. As we walked through the lunch line, my arm securely—and obviously—around her waist, I met as many curious gazes as I could with reassuring smiles. That’s the only reason I noticed the girl in front of me slip in time to catch her.
“Thanks,” she said a little breathlessly as I set her back on her feet.
“It was my pleasure,” I said, still a little giddy from my awesome Jamie-is-my-girlfriend high. “I’m a quarterback, you know? I never get to catch.”
The girl laughed until something caught her eye and her face went instantly white. When I followed her gaze she was looking at Jamie. I had to hold back laughter when I realized what the problem was.
In making myself Jamie’s boyfriend I’d basically stamped CAUTION: PROPERTY OF THE ICE QUEEN on my forehead. I was more than okay with that, but it did make me somewhat unapproachable now. I mean, people may not have known all the different ways Jamie could kill them without even trying, but they still knew better than to mess with—or flirt with—the Ice Queen’s boyfriend.
Not that Jamie would actually hurt them. In fact, I doubted she’d even care about the flirting. Jealousy didn’t seem her style. But I was the only one who knew that. As proof of that, the girl who’d just fallen into my arms mumbled a quick, “Sorry,” Jamie’s direction and then practically sprinted back to her seat.
Jamie and I both laughed a little as we sat down. “Poor thing,” Jamie said, snickering.
“Yeah. I remember the first time I had to interact with you. It’s pretty scary.”
“Oh yeah, I’m sure you were real terrified as you were asking me to make out with you,” Jamie said sarcastically. “But that’s not what I meant.”
What else could she have meant? Jamie laughed at my confusion and then nodded her head toward the girl we’d just scared off. “That poor girl just slipped on potato salad and fell in love forever.”
I rolled my eyes when I got her meaning, but as I cut a glance back to the girl in question she was watching me with a dreamy expression. It was true. Jamie noticed my smirk so I said, “She’ll be over it by the end of lunch.”
Jamie laughed. “Right. Just like Amy Jones got over it? Or like Paige will ever be over it? You do realize you could have your pick of any of them, right?”
“Yeah, I know,” I admitted, smiling to myself because Jamie completely missed the fact that I already had taken my pick of all of them. I picked her.
And I got her.
“So why me?” Jamie asked. “If any girl in this school would go out with you, and all of them would have given you less trouble about it than I did, and none of them risk killing you if you get too close, why go through all the trouble?”
It was baffling to me that Jamie could honestly not know the answer to this. Once we got her powers under control, my next job as Boyfriend was going to have to be to make her understand how amazing she is.
“That’s easy,” I explained. I didn’t even have to think about it. “Because you kissed me that day.”
I had no clue why she was so appalled by that response, but she clearly was.
“Because I kissed you?” she asked. It was practically a screech. “Seriously? You only like me because I’m a good kisser?”
I almost laughed at her misunderstanding, but it was more fun to let her go on with her rant.
“That’s it,” she said. “We’re not doing this. I’m not letting you risk your life just because you can’t think with your upstairs brain.”
Now I did laugh. I couldn’t help it. “No, you twit,” I teased. “Because you kissed me that day. I expected the ice queen and got a funny, go-with-the-flow girl that didn’t care what anyone thought about her. A girl willing to stir up gossip just so that I could win a date with someone else.
“You didn’t have to help me. In fact, you probably should have been insulted, but you weren’t. You kissed me, you smiled, and then you wished me luck. No one’s ever surprised me like that. I couldn’t figure out why you did it, and I just had to get to know you after that.”
I took a breath. Somewhere in the middle of that speech I’d stopped messing around. I wasn’t teasing anymore. I think it was the genuine shock in her expression that was sending my brain into overdrive. It was like she was only just now realizing that I liked her. I resisted the urge to sigh.
There’s a difference between vulnerability and a lack of confidence. When Jamie looks at me all vulnerable like and silently says, “Here’s my heart, please don’t break it,” I could seriously die. But I hate her insecurity. I understand where it comes from—it’s got to be hard being so different from everyone else—but I don’t like it. It makes me sad.
On the bright side, I had from now until forever to help her see herself correctly, because now that she’d agreed to a relationship I wasn’t going anywhere.
“After that day,” I said, suddenly serious, and desperate. My heart was pounding and there was adrenaline pumping through me that hadn’t been there minutes before. I had to make her understand.
“Every time I was with you I got glimpses of the real Jamie, the one who is dying to break out, and she was this fun, relaxed, smart, funny, caring girl. Finding out the truth about you only made you that much more incredible. You’re so strong. You’ve gone through so much, you’re going through so much, but you never stop trying. You’re amazing.”
She wouldn’t look at me, so I lifted her chin. The second our eyes met, I knew. I knew because of the complete serenity that suddenly washed over me. We were in the cafeteria, but we may as well have been in Gene’s Zen garden because no one and nothing else existed except for one simple truth.
“I love you, Jamie Baker.”
I’d never said those words before. Not in the sense that I’d just used them. I’d told my family I loved them, and Becky, but that was different.
I always thought I’d be scared to say it the first time, but the moment I’d realized it was true I had to tell her. I wanted her to know. Needed her to know. It didn’t even matter if she didn’t love me back yet.
I watched Jamie’s eyes gloss over with a layer of moisture, and waited, heart in hand, for her to respond.
I had no expectations from her, because I hadn’t expected to tell her I loved her, but she still surprised me by throwing herself at me in almost the exact same fashion as she’d done the first time we met. We were even in almost the exact same spot, with the entire school was watching the spectacle. And just like the first time we met, that kiss blew me away.
Jamie hadn’t returned the words, but the love was there, in that kiss. I could feel it. I loved Jamie and she loved me. I knew it, and I was pretty sure she knew it. And I was going to have fun getting her to admit it.