When I opened my eyes again, there was a strange metallic taste in my mouth. Rain smacked off the roof and thunder rolled in the distance. Lightning struck somewhere nearby, filling the air with a fine current of electricity.

When did it start raining? The skies had been clear, blue, and perfect the last I remembered.

I drew in a shallow breath, confused.

My shoulder was pressed against something warm and hard. Turning my head, I felt the object rise up sharply and then slowly ease back down. It took me a second to realize it was a chest my cheek was pressed into. We were on the swing, his arm around my waist keeping me securely pinned to his side.

I didn't dare move.

Every inch of my body became aware of his.

How his thigh was molded to mine. The deep, even breaths moving his stomach under my hand. How his hand curved around my waist, his thumb moving in idle, soothing circles at the hem of my shirt. Each circle inched the material up a little, exposing my skin until his thumb was against the curve of my waist. Flesh against flesh. I was hot and shivery. A feeling I had little experience with.

His hand stilled.

Pushing up, I looked into a pair of startling green eyes. "What...what happened?"

"You passed out," he said, pulling his arm away from my waist.

"I did?" I scooted back, putting distance between us as I brushed my tangled hair out of my face. The metallic taste was still on the roof of my mouth.


He nodded. "I guess the bear scared you. I had to carry you back."

"All the way?" Dammit. I missed that?

"What...what happened to the bear?"

"The storm scared it. Lightning, I think." He frowned as he watched me. "Are you feeling okay?"

Suddenly, a bright streak of light blinded us for a moment. Moments later, booming thunder overshadowed the rain. Daemon's expression was cast in shadows.

I shook my head. "The bear was scared of a storm?"

"I guess so."

"We got lucky then," I whispered, glancing down. I was drenched as was Daemon. The rain was coming down even harder, making it difficult to see more than a couple of feet off the porch, giving the sense we were in our own private world. "It rains here like it does in Florida." I didn't know what else to say. My brain felt fried.

Daemon nudged my knee with his. "I think you may be stuck with me for a few more minutes."

"I'm sure I look like a drowned cat."

"You look fine. The wet look works for you."

I scowled. "Now I know you're lying." He shifted beside me, and without a word, I felt his fingers lift my chin toward him. A crooked smile lifted his full lips. "I wouldn't lie about what I thought."

I wished I had something clever to say, maybe even a little flirty, but his intense stare sent any coherent thought scattering.

Confusion flashed in his eyes as he leaned forward, his lips parting slightly. "I think I understand now."

"Understand what?" I whispered.

"I like to watch you blush." His voice barely above a murmur as his thumb traced circles on my cheek.

He lowered his head, resting his forehead against mine. We sat like that, the two of us, caught in something that hadn't been there before. I think I stopped breathing. My heart seemed to take several stuttered steps and then freeze, anticipation welling up through me, threatening to spill over in any given second.

I didn't even like him. He didn't like me.

This was insane, but it was happening.

Lightning struck again, this time much closer. The following snap of thunder didn't even startle us. We were in our own world. And then his crooked smile slipped from his face. His own eyes were confused and desperate, but still searching mine.

Time seemed to slow, every second stretching out before me, tantalizing and torturing every breath I took. Waiting, wanting to show him whatever he was looking for as his eyes darkened to a deep green. His face strained, as if he were waging an internal battle.

Something in his eyes made me feel very unsure.

I knew the second he made up his mind. He took a deep breath and his beautiful eyes closed.

I felt his breath against my cheek, slowly moving to my lips. I knew I should pull back.

He was bad, bad news. But my own breath caught in my throat. His lips were so close to mine, I desperately wanted to meet him halfway, to rush forward to test if his lips were as pillow soft as they looked.

"Hey guys!" Dee called out.

Daemon jerked back, sliding in one fluid movement and putting a healthy distance between us on the swing.

I sucked in a sharp breath, surprise and disappointment churning in my stomach. My body was still tingling as if it had been deprived of oxygen. We'd been so absorbed in each other, neither of us had noticed the rain had stopped.

Dee came up the steps, her smile fading as her gaze went from her brother to me. She squinted her eyes. I was sure my face was blood red, making it obvious that she'd interrupted something. But she only stared at her brother, her lips forming a perfect, pouty O.

He grinned at her. The same lopsided grin that gave the impression that he was secretly laughing. "Hey, there, sis. What's up?"

"Nothing," she said, eyes narrowing. "What are you doing?"

"Nothing," he replied, jumping from the swing. He glanced at me over one broad shoulder. "Just earning bonus points." His words whipped through the pleasant haze as he hopped off the porch and ambled toward his own house. I glanced at Dee, wanting to chase after Daemon and dropkick him. "Was almost kissing me a part of the deal to get his keys back or to keep you happy?" My voice was tight. My skin hurt.

Dee sat beside me on the swing. "No. That was never a part of the deal." She blinked slowly. "Was he about to kiss you?" I felt my cheeks burn even hotter. "I don't know."

"Wow," she murmured, her eyes wide.

"That was unexpected."

And this was awkward. I didn't want to even think about what would've happened if she hadn't showed, and definitely not while she was sitting here. "Uh, you went to visit family?"

"Yeah, I had to before school started. Sorry I didn't get a chance to tell you. It kind of happened all of a sudden." Dee paused. "What were you and Daemon doing earlier...before the almost-kissing part?"

"We went on a walk. That's all."

"That's odd," she continued, watching me closely. "I had to steal his keys, but he got them back."

My face scrunched. "Yeah, thanks for that, by the way. There's nothing like a boy being blackmailed into hanging out with you to boost the self-esteem."

"Oh, no! It wasn't like that at all! I thought he needed...motivation to be nicer."

"He must really value his car," I muttered.

"Yeah...he does. Has he been spending a lot of time with you while I was gone?"

"We haven't spent that much time together.

We went to the lake one day and then just today.

That's all."

A curious look crossed her features, and then she smiled. "Did you guys have a good time?"

Unsure of how to answer, I shrugged.

"Yeah, he was actually pretty decent. I mean, he has his moments, but it wasn't all bad." If I didn't count the fact he was being forced into spending time with me, had almost kissed me for b onus points.

"Daemon can be nice when he wants." Dee pushed back on the swing, using one foot on the floor to keep it moving. "Where did you guys go for a walk?"

"We followed one of the trails and talked, but then we saw a bear."

"A bear?" Her eyes widened. "Holy crap, what happened?'

"Uh, I sort of passed out or something." Dee stared at me. "You passed out?" I flushed. "Yeah, Daemon carried me back to the porch and yeah, well, the rest is whatever."

She was watching me closely again, curious.

Then she shook her head. Changing the subject, she asked if she'd missed anything else while she was gone. I filled her in while my mind was completely elsewhere. Dee mentioned something about watching a movie later before she left. I think I agreed.

Long after I'd gone inside and pulled on a pair of old sweats, I was still confused over Daemon. He'd seemed almost likeable during our hike before flashing back to Super Douche.

Flushing and frustrated, I flopped on the bed and stared at the ceiling.

There was a network of tiny cracks in the plaster. My gaze traveled over them as my mind replayed the events leading up to the "almost kiss." My stomach flipped thinking about how close his lips had been to mine. Worse yet was the knowledge that I had wanted him to kiss me.

Like and lust must not have anything in common.

"Let me get this straight." Dee frowned from where she'd perched herself on the old recliner in desperate need of being reupholstered. "You have no idea where you want to go to college?" I groaned. "You sound like my mom."

"Yeah, well, you're entering your senior year." Dee paused for a second. "Don't you guys start applying as soon as school starts?"

Dee and I were sitting in my living room flipping through magazines when my mom had oh-so-casually walked in and dropped a stack of college brochures on the coffee table. Thanks, Mom. "Shouldn't you be applying? You're one of 'us,' too." The interest that had been sparkling in her eyes dulled. "Yeah, but we're talking about you."

I rolled my eyes and laughed. "I haven't decided what I want to do. So I don't see the need to pick a school."

"But every school offers the same thing.

You could pick a place - any place you wanted to go. California, New York, Colorado - oh, you could even go overseas! That would be awesome. That's what I'd do. I'd go somewhere in England."

"You can," I reminded her.

Dee lowered her eyes. She shrugged. "No, I can't."

"Why not?" I pulled my legs up and crossed them. It didn't seem as though money was a problem for them, not when you looked at the cars they drove or the clothes they wore. I'd asked her if she had a job, and she'd said she had a monthly allowance that kept her cushy.

Parental remorse at always staying in the city for work and all. Nice gig if you can get it.

Mom was great at giving me cash if I needed it, but I sincerely doubted she'd ever pony up three hundred bucks a month for a fun, new car for me. Nope. I'd have to keep on loving my little sedan, rust and all. Point A to Point B, I always reminded myself. "You can go wherever you want, Dee." Dee's smile was tinged with sadness. "I'll probably stay here when I graduate. Maybe enroll in one of those online universities."

At first I thought she was joking. "You're being serious?"

"Yeah, I'm kind of stuck here." I was intrigued by the idea of someone being stuck anywhere. "What's sticking you?"

"My family is here," she said quietly, looking up. "Anyway, that movie we watched last night gave me nightmares. I hate the whole idea of a haunted house with ghosts in it, watching you sleep." Her swift change of subject didn't pass me by. "Yeah, that movie was pretty creepy."

Dee made a face. "It reminds me of Daemon. He used to stand over me when I was sleeping, because he thought it was funny." Her delicate shoulders shuddered. "I'd get so mad at him! I don't care how deep of a sleep I was in, I could still feel him staring at me and I'd wake up. He would laugh and laugh." I smiled at the image of Daemon as a little boy teasing his twin.

That picture was completely replaced by the full-grown Daemon. I sighed, beyond frustrated, and closed the magazine.

I hadn't seen him since the evening on my porch, but it was only Monday. Two days without seeing him seemed commonplace. And it wasn't as if I wanted to see him.

Looking up, I watched Dee flip to the back of her magazine. She always did that, going to the horoscopes in the back. She held her right hand against her chin, tapping her lips with one painted purple nail.

The finger blurred, nearly fading out. Air around her seemed to hum.

I blinked several times. The finger was still there. Great. I was hallucinating again. I threw the magazine aside. "I need to go to the library. I need new books to read."

"We can plan a trip and go book shopping." She hopped in her chair, excited all over again.

"I want to check out that book you reviewed on your blog the week before you moved here. The one with the kids with superpowers." My little heart did a happy dance. She'd read my blog. I didn't even remember telling her the name.

"That would be fun, but I was thinking about going to the library tonight. I can't beat it when it's free. Do you want to come with me?"

"Tonight?" she questioned, eyes widening.

"I can't tonight, but I can go tomorrow night."

"It's no big deal if you can't go. I've been thinking about going for a couple of days, but I keep putting it off, and I need brain candy before I have to read school stuff."

Dark hair swung around her impish face as she shook her head. "Oh, it's no big deal. I don't mind going with you. I can't go tonight. I have plans already. If I didn't, I'd go."

"It's ok, Dee. I can go to the library alone, and then we can go shopping later. I pretty much know my way around town now. Not as if I can get lost or anything. It's only like...five blocks." I paused, and then quickly asked about her plans for the evening, trying to change the subject.

Dee's lips were firm. "Nothing, just friends are back in town."

My innocent question obviously put her on the spot, and she seem-ed reluctant to say what she was actually doing. She shifted on the recliner, focused on her nails. I felt like I'd pried, but I didn't understand how that question could have made her uncomfortable. There was also a part of me hurt and disappointed I wasn't included.

"I hope you guys have fun tonight," I lied.

Well, not a real lie. But at least half of a lie. I'm not proud of it, but there you have it. Right or wrong, I felt left out.

Dee squirmed in her seat as she watched me.

Her eyes squinted, much like they'd done the day on the porch. "I think you should wait until I can go with you. There have been a couple of girls who've gone missing recently." Going to the library wasn't going to a house that cooked meth, but I remembered the missing poster I'd seen the other day and shrugged. "Okay, I'll think about."

Dee stayed until it was nearly time for my mom to go to work. On the way out, she stopped at the edge of the porch. "Really, if you can wait until tomorrow night, I'll go to the library with you." I agreed once more and gave her a quick hug. I missed her the moment she left. The house was too quiet without her.

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