For the 5th anniversary of Serial Hottie, I decided to write a portion of the book from Seth’s point of View. Enjoy!
The following bonus content is intended for those who have already read Serial Hottie. It is an alternate point of view told of material within the book and will spoil the whole thing if you read it before reading the book. Please, for my sanity if not your own, read the book first
The girl of my dreams hated me. Worse, she was scared of me. It was my own fault. I totally messed up. I lost my temper with her sister and ruined any chance I had.
I moved into the piece of junk house I live in now literally just because I saw Ellie Westley at the house across the street. From the first moment I saw her, I knew I needed her to be my girlfriend. I’ve spent weeks trying to get her to give me a chance. It hasn’t been easy.
I’m pretty sure I was Ellie’s first real crush, and her feelings for me terrified her. She’d never had a boyfriend before. She’d never even dated or been kissed. I’m the first guy who’d ever even seen her as a girl. She’s a total tomboy, but she’s a beautiful one, and deep down, she has a girly side, she just hides it really well. But I see it. I bring it out in her because I see it. That’s what scares her about me.
Things looked pretty good on her birthday. Her sister threw her a huge surprise party and despite the numerous guys there who wanted to talk to her, she spent quite a bit of time with me. We had a few moments that felt real. For once, she was really talking to me and she wasn’t trying to run away. She was enjoying herself—enjoying my company. We were making progress.
I almost kissed her that night. I should have just done it. I wanted to, but I knew Ellie was really nervous, and we were in public. It wasn’t the right time or place to give her her first kiss. I showed miraculous restraint for probably the first time in my life, and it turned around and bit me in the ass. Just minutes after I passed up my opportunity to give her the kiss I’ve been dreaming about, her older sister, Angela, messed everything up by bringing Dave Holcomb into the picture.
Angela is a hopeless matchmaker and the second she realized Ellie had an interest in boys, she’d been trying to hook her up. That had played in my favor until the night of Ellie’s birthday because until then I’d been the guy she’d wanted to set Ellie up with. But for some reason she’d moved on from me to Dave and she’d been pushing Dave on Ellie all night. The problem with that was that Dave is an idiot and would do basically whatever Angela Westley told him to. She said kiss my sister and so the tool did exactly that. He kissed Ellie out of nowhere, shocking her and stealing the moment that should have been not just mine, but hers too. She deserved so much better than that.
I saw the look on Ellie’s face after Dave kissed her. She was upset. She was hiding it to save her dignity, but I saw it. She didn’t like it, either. And neither did he. He wasn’t into Ellie that way—never had been—and kissing her didn’t change that. The jerk actually told her right to her face that he wasn’t feeling it after the deed was done. I wanted to punch him. No, I wanted to kill him. I would have beaten him into a bloody mess, but two things saved him that night. One, Ellie would have really been scared of me if I’d done it, and two, Ellie didn’t like him that way. He stole her first kiss, but his lack of interest didn’t break her heart. If he’d hurt her, nothing would have saved him from my wrath.
I was still livid, though, and I still lost my temper that night. I spared Dave, but I ended up going off on Angela instead. Since then, Angela had gone from not trying to hook me up with her sister anymore to full on keeping her away from me. She was poisoning Ellie against me.
Over the last week I’d hardly seen Ellie, even from a distance. Angela had commandeered all of her time and kept her away from me on purpose. I know she was doing it on purpose too because she gave me nasty looks every time she saw me, and when I finally came to apologize to her, she lied to me that Ellie and Dave hand hooked up and were now boyfriend and girlfriend.
I hadn’t believed the lie for a second, until I came home later that same day and found Ellie and Dave playing hockey alone together in the street out front of our houses. Ellie played hockey in the street all the time, but she’d never once played alone with Dave. Could they really be an item? They sure were laughing together and having a grand old time when I drove up.
My heart shattered. How could she do it? How was it even possible? Dave was all wrong for her. And that kiss of theirs was disastrous. I knew it was. So how did they end up boyfriend and girlfriend? How did that idiot steal my girl?
I was too upset to stop and talk so when I parked, I briefly met Ellie’s eyes and then quickly turned to go into my house. Would I spy on them out my bedroom window? Absolutely. But was I going to stand here and make nice with them when Ellie knew how much I wanted her? Hell no.
At least that had been my plan, but I stumbled to a stop when Ellie called out to me. “Hey, Seth!”
I whipped my head her direction so fast I almost tripped over my own feet. Ellie never got my attention on purpose. When I met her gaze she surprised me with a bright smile and a happy wave. I blinked, certain I was imagining things. Just what was going on? Ellie didn’t smile at me. She didn’t wave at me and she definitely didn’t go out of her way to talk to me. Which is why it made no sense that when I stopped, she skated over to me, dragging Dave with her.
“Hi!” she said again when I was too stunned to speak. Was she pulling an Angela move? Was she showing off her new boyfriend and rubbing the relationship in my face? I wouldn’t think she was the type of person to do that, but she had spent all week with Angela. Who knew what horrible habits she’d learned?
I could feel the bitter smirk on my face as I looked between her and Dave, but Ellie seemed determined to play nice. “I haven’t seen you all week,” she said.
I willed my face to stay neutral. She seemed like she didn’t even know it was Angela who’d kept us apart. Hopefully she didn’t. Hopefully she was just being her oblivious self and couldn’t escape her sister’s devious clutches. But then…what was she doing with Dave? “Yes. I noticed you’ve been very busy this week.” Busy turning into an Angela clone and dating Dave Holcomb.
Maybe she wasn’t as oblivious as I thought. She picked up on the tension and her smile became strained, but she still kept it plastered on her face. “I know you guys saw each other at the party Saturday,” she said, gesturing to Dave, “but I didn’t think you’d been technically introduced.”
When the douche bag held out his hand all friendly like, I had no choice but to take it and play along. I wasn’t going to be the sore loser. At least, not to their faces. I shook his hand and gave him my best Hollywood smile—so beautiful you can’t tell it’s fake.
Sure enough, Ellie made introductions like there was nothing at all wrong with this situation. “Dave, this is Seth. He just moved here from California. Seth, this is my friend, Dave.”
So much for keeping my composure. My eyebrows shot up at her emphasis on the word friend. Just what was she getting at? Was she saying they weren’t together? And why was she going out of her way to let me know that was the case? She’d never spared my feelings before.
Dave gave her a similar look of surprise, and when he smirked at her, she glared at him. “Well, somebody has to stop all those rumors you started last weekend!”
He started? Maybe I was still feeling a bit bitter because I couldn’t stop myself from saying, “From where I stood, it looked like you guys were starting that rumor together.”
Dave laughed, but my snarky comment pissed Ellie off enough that she decided to quit playing nice with me. I wanted to take it back but I didn’t know how. Surprisingly, Dave helped me out when he said, “Lighten up, Westley.”
Once he spoke, I gently snagged Ellie’s wrist to keep her from leaving. She stiffened at my touch, but stopped moving. She didn’t try to pull away from me either. What was up with that? Usually she flinched away from me like my touch burned her. “Whatever,” she said, blowing some of the loose strands of hair away from her face.
I think that was her attempt to play things cool. But why was she trying? She never played things cool with me. Was it something to do with Dave? Why hadn’t she pulled away from me? Why hadn’t she made me let go of her yet? Needing to tuck her hair back was the perfect excuse to do it. It took more effort to blow it out of her face and it didn’t even work. What was going on here?
“Did you still want to learn how to play hockey?” Ellie asked me suddenly. “Dave and I were just playing a little one-on-one. We can teach you if you want.”
I didn’t care about learning hockey. I just wanted some time with Ellie. But I didn’t need time with Ellie and Dave. Ugh. I was about to turn down the offer when Dave gave Ellie a sly smile and said, “Actually, I gotta get going.”
I couldn’t believe it, but Dave had picked up on my interest in Ellie and was totally doing me a solid by bowing out. Damn. I was going to have to stop thinking of him as a douche bag now. He was just going to have to be a regular idiot. He gave me a friendly smile, which I easily returned this time, and said, “You don’t need me to teach you, anyway. Ellie really is the best in the neighborhood. If you figure it out, come with her to the park in the morning. Game starts at 7:30.” He turned to Ellie and gave her a stern frown. “Don’t punk out this time.”
I smiled at that. So he was here because she’d stopped playing hockey in the park this week after their awkward kiss. He’d come to make amends and save her from her sister. It was sweet.
Whatever. He was still a tool.
Just as Dave was about to leave, finally giving me some much-needed alone time with Ellie, Angela wandered out of her house like she’d been spying on us out the window. I grit my teeth, sick of Ellie’s sister and her meddling, but I was encouraged and surprised by the sigh that escaped Ellie. Was she getting tired of Angela, too? Could she actually want to hang out with me as much as I wanted to spend time with her?
“Having a party out here and no one thought to invite me?” Angela asked in her fake sugary sweet voice. She wasn’t fooling Ellie or me, but Dave laughed. Definitely still a tool.
Ellie rolled her eyes at me and muttered, “Five bucks says Dave doesn’t have to get going anymore.”
I chuckled. That’s my girl. There was nothing I loved more about Ellie than her feisty, snarky personality. No one brought that out in her more than Angela. Well, her stupid hockey camp friends, the J’s, also did but I wasn’t willing to think about them yet. Until they got home, they weren’t an obstacle.
Enchanted by Ellie and willing to take a risk since she was being amiable, I slid my grip down from her wrist to her hand and laced our fingers together. It was a bold move that not even she could mistake. I was holding her hand. It was a romantic gesture.
Ellie sucked in a sharp breath, but like before, she didn’t pull away from me. I glanced at her with a question in my eyes, and her cheeks turned a pretty pink. This was new. And highly encouraging. She was nervous, but she was becoming more comfortable with me. Hopefully soon she’d let me do a lot more than hold her hand. Like take her on a date. “We could make it a party,” I said to the whole group. The last thing I wanted to do was spend more time with Dave or Angela, but Ellie was probably more likely to go out with me if we weren’t alone. “We could double tonight. Go to dinner. Maybe catch a movie or something after?”
Ellie seemed to stop breathing, so I squeezed her hand. She came back to life then and when she looked at me all wide-eyed and shocked, I gave her my best smile. “What do you say?” I asked.
She gulped and holy crap, she looked at my mouth. Girls only do that when they’re thinking about kissing you. Was Ellie really thinking about that right now? Was she ready for me to kiss her now that she’d gotten her first kiss out of the way?
“Um…what?” she asked, blinking back from her thoughts. She blushed again. Definitely thinking about kissing me.
“Sounds good to me,” Dave said with a hopeful glance at Angela. I almost snorted. The poor moron. He didn’t have a chance with Angela Westley.
I could see Angela scrambling for a way out of the date without hurting Dave’s feelings. I was waiting, amused, to see how this would play out when Ellie shrugged and said, “I’m down.”
I was sure I hadn’t heard her right because there’s no way she would just agree to a date with me. But she was holding my hand, and she had just looked at my mouth…
It was so on. I was taking her out and I was kissing her goodnight at the end of the date. And then there would be no more of her running away from me after this. After tonight, Ellie was finally going to be my girlfriend. She’d be mine and I’d be able to kiss her whenever I wanted. Okay, whenever she let me, which probably wouldn’t be whenever I wanted. But still, it would be more often than now—which was never.
Angela glared at Ellie, angry that she’d agreed to go out with me. Ellie tried to play it off like she’d had no other choice, but she totally wanted to go. My chest felt five million times lighter now than it had all week. Ellie liked me!
But stupid Angela had to go and ruin everything again. I didn’t know what her problem was. I totally apologized for losing my temper with her, and she’d said it was okay. But it obviously wasn’t because she flat-out lied straight to Dave’s and my faces not bothering to hide it, and dragging Ellie into the lie with her. “Oh, that sounds like a lot of fun.” She had the nerve to pull Ellie away from me. I didn’t want to let her go, but what could I do? Get into a tug-of-war with Angela over her? “But Ellie and I can’t go. We already have plans.”
At least Ellie wasn’t willing to go along with Angela’s scheme. “What are you talking about? I don’t have any plans.”
Angela’s glare at Ellie turned murderous. She was really unhappy that Ellie wasn’t playing her game. I almost laughed. Go Ellie!
“Don’t you remember, Ellie?” Angela said through gritted teeth. “The sleepover at Brooke’s house?”
Could she be more obvious? Dave frowned, disappointed at being so obviously blown off. I wasn’t disappointed. I was pissed. Ellie wanted to come and Angela, the controlling witch, wasn’t letting her.
“Ooooooooh,” Ellie said, rolling her eyes. “Right. The sleepover. How could I forget?” she deadpanned.
I’d feel better about her sarcasm if she wasn’t giving into her sister. Angela was going to get her way. I was about to give her a piece of my mind when the most awful pop song rang out and Angela freaked. “Is that my phone?”
Ellie laughed as she nodded. “The freaking thing has been ringing off the hook for a week.”
Angela looked aghast. “Well did you think to answer it?”
Ellie snorted. “Why would I? None of my friends have this number. I don’t even know this number.”
Angela looked like she was going to tackle Ellie to the ground if she didn’t answer the phone. Ellie must have picked up on this too because she shook her head and handed the phone over saying, “Knock yourself out.”
Angela snatched the phone with a squeal and dashed across the yard for some privacy. I was going to use the opportunity to talk Ellie into coming out with me tonight anyway, but Ellie spoke before I could. “I apologize for my sister. I’m pretty sure she was dropped on her head as an infant. A lot.”
Dave and I both laughed. I opened my mouth to ask her out again and again I was cut off. This time it was Angela. “Ellie!”
Ellie actually growled in annoyance. “What?”
Angela returned and handed her the phone. “It’s for you.”
Ellie looked at the phone like it was an alien from outer space. “It can’t be. I told you I don’t—”
“He’s asking for you.”
Uh-oh. “He?” I asked. Who the hell was trying to steal her from me this time?
Dave was thinking along the same lines as me. “How many boyfriends do you have, Westley?”
Ellie glared at Dave, but I smiled to myself. He was counting me as one of Ellie’s boyfriends. Soon—tonight if I could help it—I’d be her only boyfriend.
“Hello?” Ellie asked into the phone sounding as curious as I was. She waited a second, frowned, and then said, “Who is this?
No one could ever accuse her of being polite.
I sucked in a breath. It was that jerk who crashed her birthday party? Why the hell was he calling her, and how did he get her number. No way Ellie gave it to him. As if we shared a brain, Ellie said, “I know who you are. How’d you get this number?” She shook her head. “No I didn’t.”
She huffed, completely annoyed with the jerk on the phone and said, “No can do, dude. Sorry. Can’t go out on Saturday nights right now. Serial killer on the loose and all.”
I was glad she was turning this loser down, and that she was being harsh about it, but my stomach churned at the reminder that tomorrow night was Saturday night. I wouldn’t be getting any sleep again. Every week it got worse for me. One of these weekends, Ellie was going to find me sleeping on her bedroom floor.
“Yeah.” Ellie snorted. “I’m sure. Sorry, I’m actually babysitting, so even if I wanted to, I can’t.”
Ugh, that guy just didn’t take a hint. If he was here, I’d punch him. I’d probably have to wait in line behind Ellie, though. She raised her eyes to the sky and groaned silently. “Uh, Travis?” she snarked. “Learn to take a hint. You’re a tool, and we’re not going out. Ever. Go drink a protein shake or something.”
Dave burst into laughter so hard he got tears in his eyes. I wanted to laugh too—it was moments like this that made me fall more and more in love with Ellie—but I couldn’t reach my humor. There was something off about this conversation.
“Go drink a protein shake?” Dave cried. “Dude that was harsh.”
Ellie shrugged, unrepentant. “I tried to let him down easy.”
She shouldn’t have had to let him down at all. “Did you really not give him your phone number?” I asked, finally figuring out what was bothering me most about the whole conversation.
She shook her head. “I told you. I don’t even know the number to this phone. He had to have asked around or something.”
Asked who? The guy didn’t live around here. He didn’t go to Ellie’s school. How in the world did he keep showing up at all these events anyway? “He wanted to take you out tomorrow night?”
Tomorrow night was Saturday night. That was the night the Slasher snatched up redheaded girls that looked a lot like Ellie. How could anyone what to take her out on Saturday nights? All I wanted to do was lock her up in her room each weekend and sit with her until morning. At least her father had some brains. Ellie really was not allowed to go out on Saturday nights right now. She mentioned babysitting though. I didn’t like that any more than I liked Travis’s interest in her.
“Yes to tomorrow,” Ellie said, wrinkling her nose, “but no to the going out. He wanted me to come over to his house because his parents weren’t going to be home.”
My hands clenched into fists. I was going to need a serious workout after this conversation. Thank heavens Ellie was a smart girl and saw right through that offer.
“Ew,” Angela said. “He actually said that? He could have at least pretended he wasn’t trying to get into your pants.”
“Agreed,” Dave added. “The guy’s a tool.”
Dave thought Travis was a tool? Hello pot meet kettle…
“Why do you hang out with him?” Dave asked Ellie.
See? Tool. Ellie didn’t hang out with him. She was being stalked.
Ellie huffed. “I don’t. I just met him for the first time at Rachel’s house. Now he won’t leave me alone.”
Yup. She was definitely being stalked. “I don’t like it,” I said. There was something seriously off about this guy and I was going to figure it out. Then I was going to make sure he left Ellie alone for good.
For some reason, Angela glared at me as if I’d said something horrible. “Well of course you don’t,” she snapped.
I almost went off on her again. Seriously, what was her problem? Did she honestly think I was jealous of Travis? Couldn’t she see he was bad news? Or did she just hate me that much that she was going to get mad at everything I said from now on?
UGH! I hated Angela so much. And I needed to get out of here before I said so to her face and ruined my progress with Ellie. I was so mad I couldn’t even say anything as I left. Nothing good would come out of my mouth. I stormed into my house, slamming the door behind me. I’d have to get Ellie alone another time. Sometime when I wouldn’t kill her sister.
I didn’t go out with Ellie that night. Once again, Angela had a group of friends over and Ellie was sucked into hanging out with them. And, once again, I was not invited. Not that I cared about missing the chance to hang with Angela and her clique, but I knew I wasn’t invited because Angela didn’t want me around Ellie.
Ellie, for some reason, just went along with her sister’s plan and hung out all night with a bunch of kids she didn’t seem to know or like that well. I didn’t understand why she was doing that. She didn’t let anyone else push her around, and she didn’t used to let Angela influence her. Angela had to have been messing with her head somehow. After obsessing about it all day Saturday while Ellie was at her new job, I decided I was going to get some time alone with Ellie next week even if it killed me.
I couldn’t see her tonight because she was babysitting for the Hankins family. I’d just watched her walk the eight houses down the street. I felt uneasy knowing she wasn’t safe at home, and I was completely restless within twenty minutes. The fact that it was dark and storming like something out of a bad horror movie didn’t help any. Aunt Janice had been gone and brought home a late dinner from this amazing Thai place we’d found, but even as hungry as I was, I was too keyed up to eat.
“Seth, what is the matter with you?”
I stilled my bouncing leg and tried to focus on the food in front of me. “Nothing. Sorry.”
Aunt Janice abandoned her plate and stared at me from across the small dining table. “You want to try that again without lying to me?”
I sighed. “Sorry. It’s not nothing, it’s just stupid.”
“Nothing is stupid if it’s got you this upset. I’ve never seen you pick at Thai food before. Usually you wolf it down. What’s going on?”
I winced. She wasn’t going to let me get out of this, and I knew she was going to have a field day with the truth.
“All right. It’s just…Saturday. I can’t help worrying about Ellie.”
Her face softened into her best concerned mom face. Well, her concerned aunt face. There is a difference. Aunt Janice has never replaced my mother. Not exactly. She’s not the most responsible parent and heaven help her if she ever had to deal with an infant or a toddler. But she’s always been my best friend. She’s always been there for me when I needed her, and she’s always loved me. I couldn’t ask for a better guardian. “Sweetheart, you know what Director Bowman said.”
My aunt and I were friends with the current head of the FBI, Director Gambini. We’d shadowed him on the job once as research for a book my aunt wrote. I took to the job so well that Director Gambini has been encouraging me to join the bureau after college ever since. He’s also asked me to come be his intern next summer after I graduate and turn eighteen.
When girls who look just like Ellie started dying in a regular pattern, I called him and asked him what he knew about the case. He’d only just learned of it and didn’t know much. I told him why I was interested and sent him a picture of Ellie. He understood my worry and actually hooked me up with the local bureau. I met with the director of the local office, Director Bowman, and not only did he try to ease my fear for Ellie, but Director Gambini had pulled some strings and had Bowman give me a copy of the case files to study on my own. I’d been going over them obsessively all week.
Director Bowman told me when he met with me that the chances of Ellie being targeted were slim to none no matter how much she fit the profile. See, all the victims were junkies or runaways. The Slasher has been pulling them off the streets or in clubs downtown for the most part. Ellie was not only not a runaway and didn’t do drugs, she didn’t leave her house on Saturday nights. Bowman promised me that the Slasher probably didn’t know Ellie existed and likely never would. It had gone a long way to ease my fears, but tonight was different.
“I know,” I said. “It’s just that she’s not going to be home tonight. She’s babysitting. She’s going to be alone all night, and she’s kind of being stalked by this creep. I don’t like it.”
“Stalked?” Aunt Janice flinched.
“Well not exactly, I guess. But there’s this guy who keeps pursuing her even though she keeps telling him no. He’s really persistent in a bad way. Like he got her number somehow without her giving it to him, and he crashed her birthday party without being invited. And he’s the kind of guy who might try to force himself on her, or get her really drunk and take advantage—a real jerk, you know?”
Aunt Janice blinked at me a couple of times and then pulled her brows low over her eyes. “Do you think we need to call the police?”
As much as I’d love to get Travis arrested, there wasn’t enough to go on. I shook my head. “No. The police wouldn’t take him in because he called her yesterday without her giving him permission.”
“But I don’t like that she’s alone tonight. She even told Travis that she was babysitting. I don’t think he could possibly know where—I’m not even sure if he knows where Ellie lives—I just can’t help worrying about her. It’s bad enough there’s a serial killer out there who would go after her in a heartbeat if he knew she existed. I can’t handle all the danger.”
“Well maybe you should go babysit with her tonight,” Aunt Janice said.
Aunt Janice picked up her fork again and started swirling noodles around it. She waved a hand toward the front door. “Ask her if you can sit with her tonight while she babysits. If you’re really worried about her safety, I’m sure the family she’s babysitting for won’t mind. I can even call and talk to them if you need me to.”
That was a brilliant idea. Not only would Ellie be safe with me there, but I’d finally get some time alone with her. “You’re a genius, Aunt Janice.”
She laughed. “So I’m often told. Now finish your dinner before you go over there.”
I started shoveling noodles in my mouth as quickly as I could. I already felt a million times better and I just wanted to get over there as soon as possible. My mind was already going over my argument for Ellie letting me stay with her, assuming I could get her to open the door at all. That might be a problem. Actually, it might be a big problem.
Face falling, I let my fork fall to my plate again. This time, when Aunt asked what was wrong there was more compassion in her voice. “Seth? What is it?”
I didn’t realize how crappy I felt about this until I was forced to meet her eyes. “Aunt Janice, do you think I’m a freak?”
She blinked. “Good heavens! What makes you ask that?”
Her surprise made me feel a little better. “It’s just Ellie.”
Aunt Janice dropped her fork with a thud and gaped at me. “Ellie called you a freak?”
I pushed my plate away, no longer hungry. “I’m not normal, Aunt Janice. I don’t act like the other kids my age, and I don’t get along with them. I’ve never gotten along with other kids. Ellie’s afraid of me.”
My aunt’s face softened. She rose from the table and took our plates to the sink. I closed up the takeout boxes. As I was putting the leftovers in the fridge, Aunt Janice wrapped her arms around me from behind and kissed the top of my head. She had to lift herself up on her tiptoes to reach. “You are a brilliant, talented, amazing young man,” she said. “You’ve had a unique life, and it’s made you special, not a freak. It may just take a special girl to appreciate you.”
I rolled my eyes even though my aunt couldn’t see it. Not that I didn’t appreciate her attempts to make me feel better, but she was my aunt and my guardian. Of course she was biased. She was being kind, but in reality, unique and special equated to freak.
I gently pushed her away and shut the fridge. “Ellie is special. I know she’d like me if she just gave me a chance. But I scare her. She says I’m too intense. She says I’m too forward and I don’t give people enough personal space. I am intense, though, and I don’t know how to lighten up. I don’t want to give her more personal space. I want her to be my girlfriend.” I buried my face in my hands and shook my head. “If I go over there tonight, I’ll just freak her out even more and she’ll never talk to me again.”
Aunt Janice peeled my hands away from my face and cupped my cheeks with her palms, forcing me to look her in the eyes. Guess I get my personal space issues from her. “Yes, you are intense, Seth.”
Gee, thanks. Great pep talk.
As if she’d plucked the sarcasm straight from my head, she frowned at me. “There’s nothing wrong with being intense. And from what I’ve seen of Eleanor Westley, she’s easily just as intense as you just in a slightly different way. Maybe that’s why you like her so much.”
I finally cracked a smile.
“Seth, honey, if that girl doesn’t like you, if she’s scared of you like you say, then it’s only because she doesn’t understand you. She doesn’t know why you act the way you do. She doesn’t know the kind of life you’ve had.”
My eyes widened and my mouth dropped open as I stood there in the kitchen gaping at my aunt. “Are you saying I should tell her about my parents?”
I’d never told anyone about my parents. Ever. Not since I moved in with Aunt Janice and started my life over. The kids in my school class when I was nine heard about my mom and me from the news and they treated me like I had the plague. I was the freak boy who got stabbed and watched him mom get murdered. I lost all my friends and everyone stared at me and talked behind my back.
Aunt Janice shrugged and started wiping off the table with a rag. “I know you don’t like to talk about it, but perhaps if Ellie knew, she’d cut you a little slack.”
“Or she’d really think I’m a freak and never talk to me again.”
I got Aunt Janice’s stern face for that comment. “She’s not ten years old, Seth. She won’t be like the kids in your old class. And if she can’t handle who you are, then she doesn’t deserve you. If you’re considering a real relationship with this girl, you can’t hide yourself from her forever.”
I scoffed as I plunked back down at the table.
“You are different from other kids,” Aunt Janice said, no more patronization in her tone. “If you want Ellie to not be afraid of you, she needs to understand you. She has a right to know why you can be so intense. And why you do things like that…”
She pointed to the knife in my hands that I hadn’t realized I’d pulled out of my pocket and was flipping in my fingers. Crap. I couldn’t even manage a conversation with my aunt. I’d never pull off normal with someone who makes me as nervous and as crazy as Ellie.
“Different isn’t bad, sweetheart,” Aunt Janice said, voice softer now. “It’s just different. You have plenty to offer any girl and if Ellie knew the real you, I’m sure she’d love the man you’re becoming just as much as I do.”
I couldn’t see any other solution than the one my aunt was presenting. Even though it was the last thing I wanted to do, I’d do it if it would really help me with Ellie. My stomach settled deep in my gut and my shoulders drooped. “So I should tell her.”
Aunt Janice gave me a small smile. “I think it’d be good for you both. And hey, if you do it tonight, that sister of hers you mentioned drives you crazy won’t be there. It’ll be just the two of you—the perfect time to talk.” Something in her gaze changed and she pointed a finger at me. “And I do mean just talking, young man. I’m sending you over there so you can keep an eye on her and work out your differences, not so you can spend the evening making out.”
“Ugh. Aunt Janice!”
“I’m dead serious. Keep your hands and lips to yourself.”
I threw my hands over my ears. Aunt Janice never hesitated to give a good birds and bees talk. “Gross. I’m not talking about that with you. I know, okay? I don’t need a lecture. I’ll behave. I promise.”
“I will. And even if I wanted to do that,”—which I totally did—“Ellie would never go for it.”
Aunt Janice smirked. “Good girl.”
I wanted to hold my frown, but I couldn’t with Aunt Janice teasing me like she was. I narrowed my eyes at her and put my hands on my hips when I stood up. “Whose side are you on, anyway?”
She only answered me with a grin and a wink. When I headed for the door she called out “Good luck!” behind me.
I sprinted as fast as I could to the Haskins’s house and was still soaked when I reached their porch. This was crazy. It rained in California, but not like this—with the thunder and the lightning and the wind. I had to ring myself off before knocking on the door. At least, that’s what I told myself. I wasn’t stalling because I was afraid she wouldn’t let me in. Not at all…
I rang the doorbell, and was surprised at how quickly Ellie opened the door. I wanted to be excited, but at the same time I was annoyed that she wasn’t taking her safety seriously. “You shouldn’t be opening the door for strangers on Saturday night,” I blurted like a jerk instead of saying hello.
I couldn’t help it. She’d opened the door and now I was really nervous that I’d say something wrong and she’d slam it in my face. She usually clammed up the most when I tried to get romantic, so a lecture came out instead.
“I didn’t open it for a stranger,” she huffed. “I opened it for you.”
My stomach unclenched a little, but I couldn’t get my hopes up too much, she could have just said that because she was annoyed by my criticism. “You knew it was me and you still opened the door?”
“I was feeling generous.”
She did her thing where she got busted and tried to play it cool with a shrug. Too bad for her, her blushing cheeks always gave her away. That was enough for me to gain a little confidence. Could it be that she was still feeling brave or curious or whatever it had been that made her not run from me yesterday? Could it be possible that a night with Angela hadn’t turned her against me again? I pressed my luck and tried to go for charming when I said, “Do I dare press my luck and ask if I can come in? I promise I’ll behave,” I added when she hesitated.
Those must have been the magic words, because she pushed the door all the way open and stepped out of the way so I could come inside. I closed and locked the door behind me even though I was sure no serial killer would be showing up here. Locking doors is a habit I have. It comes from getting car jacked. The day my mom and I were attacked, we’d been pulling out of a parking lot. The guy pretended like he was just crossing the street in front of us but at the last minute turned and came at the car. He pulled my mom’s door open and stabbed her before we even realized what was happening. If she’d kept the door locked she could have stepped on the gas and driven us to safety. My motto ever since is that you just never know, so better safe than sorry. Cliché, but effective.
“So, what are you doing here?” Ellie asked.
Her voice shook and she was entirely too tense as she led me to the back of the house where the family room was so I tried to lighten the mood with a joke. “I hear stalking redheads is the thing to do on Saturday night.”
That was the absolute wrong thing to say. I guess she was more worried about the Slasher than I realized. First strike of the night for me. Ellie whirled on me, so startled that I had to back away from her and throw my hands up in a gesture of surrender. “I’m sorry! You’re right. Not funny. I’m sorry.”
She still hadn’t relaxed by the time we reached the family room because when I moved to sit beside her on the couch, she jumped up and sat in Mr. Haskins’s armchair where I couldn’t get close to her. So much for all that progress I thought I’d made with her yesterday. She looked at me as if expecting a real explanation. I didn’t want to tell her I was worried about her being alone—she’d probably get mad at me for being overprotective or something—so I settled into the couch and shrugged. “I just wanted to see you without Angela around. She’s really starting to get on my nerves.”
I figured Ellie would take my side since she was always annoyed with her sister, but I was wrong again. She jumped to Angela’s defense, and she jumped to it quick. “What did you expect Seth? You scared the freaking crap out of her last week. She thinks you’re some crazy freak who’s obsessed with her baby sister.”
I was so sick of being called a freak. I glared at Ellie before I could stop myself then sighed when I realized I was losing my temper again. “Is that what you think?” I asked, needing to know the truth. Did Ellie hate me as much as Angela? Had she only let me in because she was too nice to leave me standing in the rain?
“Honestly?” Ellie asked.
Yes, I wanted an honest answer. I met her eyes and braced myself for the truth.
“I don’t have any idea what to think about you,” she said. “You can be very sweet. You are incredibly sweet.”
What? I couldn’t hide my shock. That was the last thing I ever expected her to say. It was…nice.
“But…” she continued, “most of the time you’re also…”
Her voice trailed off. She didn’t want to say what she was thinking. I knew it couldn’t be as simple as she thought I was sweet, so I urged her to finish. “I’m what?”
She hesitated still.
“Just tell me.”
She gave me a flat look that screamed, You asked for it. “Well you’re creepy,” she said. I thought that was it but she didn’t stop there. Oh, no, not Ellie. “In a likes-to-drown-kittens-for-fun kind of way.”
Holy crap! Was she serious? That’s what she thought of me?
“I don’t think you mean to be, but I don’t think you realize it, either.”
I didn’t even know what to say to that. Of course I didn’t realize I came across as a raging psychotic. If I knew that, I’d do something to change it.
She thought I’d like to drown kittens? That’s not just creepy, that’s deranged. Did she really think I was so messed up? I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t be normal, and Ellie would never give a guy like me a real chance no matter what my sob story was.
I must not have been able to hide how upset I was because Ellie apologized. And she look like she felt really bad. “I’m sorry. I was too harsh.”
She was pretty harsh. But I’d asked for honesty and I can’t deny she she’s been real. Brutally so, but she’d been straight up with me. “S’okay,” I lied. “I’d rather know how you feel even if it sucks. At least then I understand.” That she thinks I’m completely psycho.
I was still sulking when Ellie suddenly got up and held out a hand to me. “Come on.” I had no idea what she was up to and the offered help up somehow felt like a trap, but I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to hold her hand.
She dragged me to the kitchen counter and pointed at a row of barstools. “Sit,” she ordered.
I sat. I was licking my wounded pride, but I was intrigued. She said I was creepy, but she’d also called me sweet and was being nice to me. I swear the girl was bi-polar with her feelings for me.
She was also apparently hungry because she pulled a pint of ice cream from the freezer. But then she grabbed two spoons from a drawer and sat down next to me. I was so confused. Ellie wasn’t the type of girl to share her ice cream with people—especially not in such a romantic way as eating it straight from the carton together. This felt like such a momentous occasion. What in the world was she getting at?
“You’ll feel better, I promise,” she said, handing me a spoon.
So it was guilt ice cream. She felt bad for hurting my feelings. I supposed that was better than not feeling bad.
She didn’t wait for me before she started digging into the pint. I hesitated, but then decided to enjoy the moment she was allowing me. Who knew how long it would last or when the next time she’d let me get close to her again?
The atmosphere as we ate ice cream together was more comfortable than anything we’d had since I showed up, but it was nothing like the easy conversation we’d had at her birthday party. It was always two steps forward ten steps back with her. I wanted to talk to her, strike up a conversation that would make her relax, but I had no idea what to say.
Ellie suddenly startled me with a high-pitched scream. I followed her horrified gaze to the knife in my hand and cursed internally as I dropped it. “What the freak, Seth?”
She scrambled from her chair and ran into the kitchen where she put the counter between us as a safety barrier. “Ellie, wait! It’s not what you think. I’m sorry!”
“So am I!” she hollered. “Sorry I let you in the door!”
Great. Ten steps back again. How could I be so stupid as to pull out my knife when she’d just told me how creepy she thought I was? I was such an idiot. But I could make this better. I could. Aunt Janice seemed to think I just needed to explain. I didn’t know if I was ready to talk everything about my parents, but I could explain a little about the knife habit.
I tried to follow her into the kitchen but she screamed again and yelled, “Stay back!”
“I mean it, Seth, stay back!”
I backed up to give her some space, but I refused to retreat all the way. We’d been making progress and I wasn’t going to let such a pointless, stupid, unconscious habit scare her away from me. “Ellie, please. Just give me the change to explain.”
“I’m calling the police if you’re not out of here in five seconds.”
She was too worked up to think clearly. I needed to get her to at least not feel threatened. “Look, I’m putting it down,” I said softly as I closed my knife and slid it out of arms reach onto the counter. I thought putting it closer to her and further from me would work as a gesture of good faith.
Her eyes followed the knife like she wanted to snatch it up and fend me off with it. I wouldn’t put it past her to try. “I can explain,” I said again. “If you’ll let me.”
I stepped closer to her. Now I could reach out to her if I wanted. And I wanted to. I wanted nothing more than to pull her into my arms and hold her until she trusted me. But she looked like a cornered deer about to bolt. Touching her wasn’t an option just yet.
She waited, so I spoke again. “I don’t want to hurt you. The thing with the knife—it’s a nervous habit. That’s it. I didn’t mean to scare you. I would never hurt you.”
My words were drowned out by a crack of thunder that rattled the house. THe lightning that struck with it was so close it knocked the power out and we were plunged into darkness. I knew the loss of light would be too much for Ellie right now—she was still too afraid of me. She would really freak out now that she couldn’t see me, so I gave up my personal space arguments and opted for holding her until she calmed down.
I moved quickly, before she had time to run, or perhaps go for my knife and accidentally stab one of us. I grabbed her and gently, but firmly pulled her to my chest, locking her in my arms. My whole body melted the second she was there. All of my anxiety just disappeared as if Ellie was a magical cure for everything that was ever wrong with me.
“Seth,” she warned. “Let me go.”
I couldn’t do as she asked. I needed her. I needed what she did to me, how she made me feel. I needed this. With her. Always. I didn’t want to tell her about my parents, but if the only way to keep her was to explain, then I had no choice. Ellie needed to understand me, and then she needed to become mine. “I watched my mother get stabbed to death when I was nine years old.”
I kicked myself internally. I hadn’t meant to just blurt it out like that. But then Ellie did the oddest thing. Where most girls would have freaked out and gone all weird, Ellie relaxed in my arms. She forgot she was afraid and that morbid curiosity of hers took over. “What?”
I wanted to appreciate the difference between her and other girls, but I’d just brought up one of my most painful memories and now it was all I could think about. I didn’t like talking about it because when I did, it brought back the memories and I could see them play out in my mind. I couldn’t stop here though. I had to get this story out. Aunt Janice was right, I needed to share this with Ellie. I needed to tell her for me. I was tired of trying to be normal when I wasn’t. I just wanted to be myself with her, even if that was a little screwed up.
I let her go and slunk to the floor, leaning my back against the kitchen cabinets. She could have run from me but I didn’t have the energy to worry about her and tell this story, so I prayed her curiosity held out. “It was a carjacking in San Diego,” I explained. “The guy stabbed me, too, he just accidentally missed my heart. They found our car in Riverside, but they never found the guy who took it. That Christmas, Dad took his own life and I was sent to live with Aunt Janice.”
Ellie’s soft gasp of my name brought me out of my nightmare. I shook off the chills and told a tiny white lie. “It was a long time ago.”
I was still trying to pull myself together when Ellie, instead of running from me, chose to sit down beside me. I froze when she took my hand. Ellie had never initiated physical contact with me before. She couldn’t know how much that meant to me. Sharing my past wasn’t easy and she was the first person I’d ever told. To have her show me that she understood how big a deal this was by going out of her comfort zone to lend me a little support was enough to send my heart into overdrive.
I’d wanted Ellie so badly since the first second I saw her and there’d been so many times I thought I’d never ever have her. But here she was holding my hand when I needed to not be alone. I waited for her to take her hand back after she’d squeezed mine, but she left it there. When she went as far as to lace our fingers together, as if to reassure me that she wasn’t going to go anywhere, all of the air left my lungs. I’d waited so long for this, to know what it was like to really be Ellie’s friend. It was amazing, but I wanted more. Needed more.
I pulled her hand to my face, pressing it against my cheek, and greedily soaked up her affection. I didn’t have many people in my life that I truly cared about. I’d dated plenty of girls, but every relationship I’d ever had was just superficial. I dated girls because they were hot and it was nice to not be alone, but I’d never liked a girl as much as I liked Ellie. I’d never cared if a girl liked me back or was just using me the way I was using her. Sharing this moment with Ellie, letting her in and showing her a secret side of me was so different than anything I’d ever experienced before. It was intense.
“So, um…” Ellie’s voice was a little shaky. I couldn’t tell if she was nervous or just feeling the weight of the moment like I was. “How come the obsession with knives? You’d think after something like that you’d be scared of them now.”
I brought our hands back to my lap and held tight as I warred with myself to answer her question. I hated admitting weakness. Hated it. And I wasn’t completely convinced Ellie wouldn’t use my weaknesses against me sometime. But Aunt Janice said I needed to explain myself to Ellie. So far that plan was working. Ellie was sitting here in the dark with me, holding my hand, and she’d been the one to reach for me.
“When I came to Beverly Hills,” I said, “child services recommended counseling, but my Aunt Janice has never done things the conventional way. She said it was better for me to face my fears in the literal sense and gave me my first knife.”
“That one?” Ellie asked. She had to mean the one I’d left on the counter.
“Yeah. Aunt Janice found someone to teach me how to use it and then enrolled me in self-defense classes.”
“Did it help?”
I sighed. Yeah, it helped, but it began the oddities of my life that have made me so different from everyone else. I shouldn’t complain. I’ve always loved my life with Aunt Janice. It’s been an adventure. It’s just made it hard for me to relate with other kids my age. “The nightmares stopped,” I admitted. “I wasn’t afraid to leave the house anymore. Obviously it didn’t work entirely though, since I grew up to be so intense.” I let go of Ellie’s hand as I thought of all the names she’s called me in the past weeks that I’ve lived by her. “Or crazy. Or psycho. Or everything else you’ve called me in the last month.” Tonight’s gem being the worst. “Creepy in a likes-to-drown-kittens-for-fun kind of way?”
I cringed at the bitterness in my voice. It wouldn’t be there if it weren’t Ellie that had said that. She’s honestly meant it and I hated that she felt that way about me. She pulled me out of my pout, though, when she said, “You forgot pretty enough to be gay.”
I cracked a smile. Ellie might have been nervous around me or scared or even creeped out a little, but she was still attracted to me. At least I had that much going for me.
We fell into another silence, which Ellie broke with a soft, “I’m sorry.”
“No,” I said, sharper than I meant to. It’s just that I never wanted her to say those words to me. “Don’t be sorry. You’re the first person I’ve ever told this to, and I didn’t do it so that you would feel sorry. I just want you to understand. I don’t’ want you to be afraid of me.
The answer was simple and sincere. I asked her not to feel sorry for me so she wouldn’t. No drama. That was one of the greatest things about Ellie.
Things still felt tense as we sat there and when the power came back on, Ellie gave me an awkward smile and then got up. I had to hold back a sigh. Our moment was over and reality was back. Ellie wiped down the counter where the ice cream we’d abandoned had melted all over the place, and threw away the carton. She reached for my knife next and stiffly handed it back to me. I guess it was a good thing she was comfortable enough to give it back to me, but she looked like she wanted to crawl out of her skin from awkwardness. It was hard not to be disappointed. We’d just had this huge moment and a single flicker of the lights ruined the comfort we’d built between us. What could I possibly do to get her to relax?
“I don’t want you to be scared of me. You have no idea how sorry I am,” I said as she handed me the knife. I grabbed her hand before she could pull away and threw all the sincerity I had in me into my next words. “Ellie, I would never hurt you.” I needed her to believe that.
I waited for her to say something but had to settle for just a nod that didn’t look like she was fully convinced. It hurt when she pulled away from me, but I buried the pain and tried to act normal by going to sit on a bar stool again. Maybe if I gave her a little space she’d feel more comfortable.
The silence was unbearable, and telling her about my past seemed to help when the lights were out, so I continued my story without her having to ask. “After my parents died, I started having some trouble with the kids at school. My psychologist said that I’d developed a personality disorder. Aunt Janice thought that was ridiculous and pulled me out of school.” I cringed. “And therapy. I’ve had nothing but private tutors ever since.”
I love my aunt but I probably should have been kept in both school and therapy. Maybe I’d have turned out a little more normal that way. It couldn’t have been healthy to be raised alone and at the whims of my eccentric aunt. “I was reading about personality disorders not that long ago,” I admitted. “After you said I wasn’t normal.”
Obviously I have something wrong with me. You don’t’ just get called creepy in a likes-to-drown-kittens-for-fun kind of way if you didn’t do something to deserve it. And the worst part is that Ellie was right. I had no idea what I was doing to make people feel that way about me. I was completely unaware. “Maybe that guy was right.”
“I don’t know about that,” Ellie said, snapping me from my thoughts.
“It would explain the way you feel about me. And how I never get things right with you.” I hadn’t realized I was playing with my knife again. I closed it before meeting Ellie’s gaze. As she came out of the kitchen I said, “I’m trying, Ellie. I’m trying really hard. But it’s difficult, because all the intense feelings I have for you drive me crazy.”
My confession stopped Ellie in her tracks and made her move back to the safety of the kitchen. I couldn’t hold back my grimace. I wanted to jump up and shout See? I never get things right! What had I even said this time that was so horrible? Was it so wrong that I liked her?
“All I want is for you to like me.” I could have kicked myself for the desperation in that statement. “But every time I begin to get anywhere with you I screw up so bad, I lose more ground than I had to start with.”
This whole situation sucked. What else could I say aside from literally begging her to give me a chance?
While I sat there flipping my knife again and, admittedly, feeling sorry for myself, Ellie slowly came out of the kitchen. “You haven’t lost all your footing,” Ellie said, settling onto the stool next to mine. “I really don’t hate you, you know. I wouldn’t even say I don’t like you anymore. You just take some getting used to.”
I kept my eyes on the knife in my hands. I closed it, refusing to get my hopes up about that. She was just being nice to me again. She was like that, but it didn’t mean anything. “Saying you don’t dislike me anymore isn’t the same thing as actually liking me.”
Yes, I was pouting. Sue me.
“No,” she agreed. “You’re right. It isn’t.”
She smiled then in a way she’d never smiled at me before. It was a small smile, but it was playful. It was the smirk she gave all her friends all the time when she was about to say something witty. I loved that smile. What in the world was she giving me that smile for?
I waited, unable to even breathe, for what she was about to say to me. Then I nearly fell off my stool when she nudged me in the side and said, “But I don’t share my ice cream with just anyone.”
She was teasing me! I couldn’t believe it. Ellie didn’t tease me; she ran from me. She only teased her friends. Did that mean she considered me a friend? I was frozen in shock and so confused my head hurt, but I wasn’t going to look the gift horse in the mouth. If Ellie wanted to smile at me and tease me, I’d take it. I mean, she’d basically just admitted that she liked me. Obviously she didn’t mean she liked me the same way that I meant it when I said I liked her, but that she liked me at all felt like a miracle.
She looked away from me, blushing, and said, “I’m sorry, by the way.”
I shook my head quickly. “I told you, don’t feel—”
“Not about that—about last week,” she said. “That whole thing with Dave at my birthday party.” She ducked her face, trying to hide her red cheeks. “Angela said you were upset.”
Understatement of the century. I wanted to roll my eyes. “Angela also said that you and Dave spent the last week in Happy Couple Land.”
Ellie glanced up startled. “S-so you weren’t upset about Dave kissing me?”
I had to work hard to keep a poker face. I dare say Ellie seemed disappointed. What, exactly, did that mean? Did she want me to be disappointed that she was kissing other guys? From the look on her face right now I could almost believe it. And last week, at her birthday party when I’d almost kissed her, she’d been scared and not quite ready, but she hadn’t tried to stop me, either.
Did her disappointment mean she was sad I hadn’t kissed her? And did it mean she wanted me to finish what we’d started last week? Because I could definitely do that. If she really wanted me to, there’d be no stopping me. “Upset, “I said, gaining some of my confidence back, “is not nearly a strong enough word for what I felt watching Dave steal that kiss from you. If you hadn’t started kissing him back when you did, it wouldn’t have been the wall I pounded my fist into.”
Even thinking about it now was enough to make me want to hunt the tool down and knock some sense into him. The idiot probably had no idea what he’d done. “He doesn’t even know, does he?” I asked. Ellie gave me a blank look—as oblivious as that tool friend of hers. “He doesn’t have any clue that that was your first kiss.”
Ellie said nothing.
My anger vanished. I couldn’t stay mad when she looked so helpless and naïve. I decided to forget about Dave and focus on the person who really mattered—Ellie. “It shouldn’t have been like that.” Her eyes widened at the way my voice softened. That was highly encouraging. She once told me that she thought my voice was sexy. That was probably the wrong thing to say to me if she didn’t want me using it on her. “If front of all those people,” continued. “And with someone you didn’t even want to kiss.”
“If I remember correctly, you thought I wanted to kiss him,” she said.
“But you didn’t, did you?”
She’d taken on that cornered deer look again. Was it wrong that I loved that look about her? She could run if she wanted to. She could fight me off if she felt the need. But she never did. I think she liked the way I made her feel, even if it scared her.
“I saw the look on your face afterwards, Ellie. Why do you think I was so mad at Angela?”
Ellie broke the tension with a frown. “If you knew that kiss didn’t seal the deal with Dave and me, how come you left?”
Was she kidding? “I didn’t think killing one of your friends would help me win you over. I wanted to kill him, Ellie. I came close.” Or at least, I came close to beating him unconscious. “Too close. So I left before something bad happened.”
Apparently saying I wanted to kill him was wrong, or Ellie took me literally and Ellie was now imagining me stabbing the guy to death, because she was backing away from me with a horrified expression on her face. Didn’t she know wanting to kill someone was just as expression? Sighing internally, I grimaced and asked, “Creepy?”
She held up her finger and her thumb with a tiny amount of space between them and nodded. “Little bit.”
Great. Even just talking normally and I creeped her out. I was doomed. “I don’t know how to fix it,” I grumbled, my frustration seeping into every word. “I hate seeing you with other people. Whether it’s talking on the phone with your best friends, or playing hockey at the park, or even just bickering with your sister. You’re so natural with everyone—so relaxed. You’ve never been that way with me. Not once.”
Ugh. I sounded desperate. I was desperate. I hated that. I’d never had to chase a girl before. I loved and hated that I had to chase Ellie, but I was tired of it. I wanted to catch her. I just wasn’t sure anymore if that was possible. “If I knew how to be normal for you, Ellie, I wouldn’t. Even if it meant being more like that idiot, Dave Holcomb.”
Ellie laughed. “Seth, if you were normal, you would have moved in and immediately fallen in love with Angela like everyone else.”
I shuddered at the thought.
“If you were normal, I would treat you the exact same way I treat every other guy I know.”
Exactly. Why couldn’t she do that?
As if reading my thoughts, she smirked again and said, “Think about that. You do not want that.”
Yes, I did.
She shook her head. “Trust me, if you’re looking for anything other than friendship from me, being more like Dave would not be the best idea.”
Okay, maybe she had a point there. I’d hat to kiss her and get the look from her that Dave got when he did it.
“He’s not an idiot, though,” she added.
I rolled my eyes. “Is too.”
She rolled hers back. “Whatever. My point is, don’t worry so much about being normal.”
All thought in my brain crashed to a halt as I looked at Ellie. Just what exactly was she saying? She couldn’t mean what it sounded like she meant. I wanted to ask if she was really saying what I thought she was but I knew if I did, she’d never admit to it.
There was definitely something on her mind, though. I could see it in her eyes. I kept my mouth shut and my eyes locked on hers, waiting for her to say something. It took her a million years to spit out what she was thinking. As I waited, her cheeks turned a pretty pink. “So long as you’re not scaring me senseless…” she said, turning her face away from me. She shrugged her shoulders. “I kind of like that you’re different.”
It was what I hadn’t let myself dare hope all night. And she’d admitted it out loud. It was also the nicest thing anyone had ever said to me. Ellie was amazing. She saw my differences—my flaws—and she was not just willing to overlook them, she liked that I wasn’t like every other guy in the world.
I slipped off my stool and stood over her. Her eyes widened when I moved into her personal space, and I knew she was scared, but I couldn’t help myself. I needed to kiss her now. I needed this beautiful and different girl who liked me even though I wasn’t normal to let me claim her. “Ellie…” My mouth was dry at the thought of finally, finally making the physical connection I’d been craving. “I’m going to kiss you now. You may not like it, but I’m afraid it has to be done.”
I leaned in until our bodies were nearly flush together and Ellie’s gaze fell to my mouth. “Uh, pretty sure I’m going to like it,” she muttered.
I grinned. There was no way she meant to say that to me. “You’re thinking out loud again,” I told her.
She gasped, horrified, and I took advantage of her parted lips. I crushed my mouth to hers with so much passion that she gasped a second time. She was stiff at first, but as her shock wore off, she melted against me, relaxing into the kiss and allowing me to explore her mouth as much as I wanted.
A thrill went through me when she started to kiss me back. The pressure of her lips pushing back against mine, and her tongue shyly darting out to sneak small tastes sent my restraint over the edge. I pulled her tightly against me, dug my fingers in her long silky hair and deepened the kiss to one she’d never forget for the rest of her life.
Her knees began to shake, so I wrapped her in my arms, holding her body to mine. She was soft and hard all at the same time and everything I’d dreamed she’d be. I could stay here like this kissing her forever but I’d made a promise to my aunt to behave myself and I knew Ellie wasn’t ready for anything more than a kiss. This may not have been her first one, but it was her first real one. She’d need time to process it so I found the strength to pull away. I leaned my forehead against hers and smiled into her eyes as we caught our breath. “That should have been your first kiss,” I told her.
She blinked back at me in a daze. “Wasn’t it?”
I laughed. The stars in her eyes told me that everything would be all right. She’d kissed me like she really meant it, and it was clear she enjoyed it. It was only a matter of time before she was my girlfriend. If I was lucky, I might even be able to convince her tonight.