My cheeks burned, because yeah, I sort of did. “You better go.”
Jensen chuckled before he dipped his head, kissing me like it was the first time and the last time. My heart was going crazy in my chest by the time he broke away and climbed back out my window.
And it didn’t slow down.
Not when he showed up to take me to school or when he folded his hand around mine as we walked inside. He seemed oblivious to the questioning stares. Some were confused, as if they couldn’t figure out what he was doing with me. Others just openly gawked.
Linds was waiting for me at my locker, her head tilting to the side as we drew closer. Her gaze dropped from my face, to our hands, and then back to my face again.
“Did I miss something?” she asked.
Jensen grinned. “Miss what? Me? Yes.”
“There has to be a newsletter that I haven’t subscribed to.” She pinned me with a look. “Because you two are holding hands.”
Who knew holding hands was such a big deal?
Across from Linds, Wendy and Brock were standing together. Whatever conversation they were having with one another had grinded to a halt. I shifted, uncomfortable with the extra attention. I started to pull my hand free, but Jensen wasn’t having it.
“That we are,” Jensen said.
Linds’ eyes widened to the size of mini spaceships. Beyond her, Wendy jabbed her elbow into Brock’s side, who was now joined by Mason. We were gathering an audience.
My cheeks heated, and my tongue twisted around the simple words that explained what Jensen and I were, but apparently he was more of a show than tell kind of guy.
His knuckles brushed under my chin, tipping my head back to meet his lips. The kiss was not quick or chaste, and really not school appropriate. Not when my lips parted, and he took that kiss to a whole new level.
Wendy’s inhale was like a crack of thunder, and I knew I should’ve pulled away from Jensen. Kissing like this was not something we should be doing at the given moment, but the taste and feel of him had this wonderful ability of making the world disappear around us.
“Holy crap,” Linds said, her voice an excited whisper.
My face was flaming as Jensen pulled back. “Does that answer your question?” he said.
“That and then some,” she replied, grinning at me.
I had the wild notion to laugh, and I didn’t know why, but I smiled and turned, my gaze colliding with a pair of dark eyes.
He was staring like one or the both of us had walked up to him and punched him in the gonads. His face was pale, the shadows under his eyes darker. His expression tightened, and then he wheeled around, stalking off in the opposite direction.
LINDS HOUNDED ME for details on Jensen and me the moment I walked into art class. She was convinced that we’d been having this torrid, secret love affair, and that did sound more interesting than the truth.
Miss Reed, art teacher extraordinaire and guidance counselor of the year, was making a beeline straight for our side of the classroom, her hands smoothing over her paint covered smock. I tried to make myself as small as possible. At the beginning of every class, she sent two students to the storage room to grab the paintings we were working on, and I was feeling incredibly lazy.
Her gaze landed on Wendy. “You and Mason can go grab the paintings, please.”
Wendy’s breath huffed out. “I’m not feeling well. Can someone else do it? Please,” she whined.
I rolled my eyes.
“Ella? Mason?” she said, planting her hands on her full hips. “Your turn. You know the drill.”
Linds wrinkled her nose. “Lucky you.”
There was nothing ‘lucky’ about the way she said that, and Mason cut her a look. “I heard that.”
She smiled sweetly. “And I don’t care.”
Eyes wide and lips pursed, I stood and headed for the door before I got caught up in their royal rumble. Mason ended up in front of me, smacking the door open and letting it swing back. I caught it before it knocked me on my butt.
“Thanks,” I muttered.
He glanced over his shoulder, his blond hair swinging. “Sorry,” he grumbled, and I thought he might’ve sounded a little sorry.
We headed back toward the drama classroom, where the entrance to the storage room and the backstage of the theatre was. Knowing my luck, half the paintings would still be wet.
“So you and Jensen hooking up or something?” he asked, punching open the door.
I frowned at his back. Hooking up in guy lingo could mean a lot of things. “We’re dating.”
“Dating?” He actually held the door for me this time. “That’s interesting.”
My brows furrowed as I walked behind him, heading down the narrow hallway. It smelled like mold and turpentine back here. “Why’s that interesting?”
He shrugged as he thrust a hand through his hair. “I don’t know. He just doesn’t date girls, you know? He hooks up with them. That’s about it.”
I resisted the urge to tell Mason that was not the case with us, but the lengthy explanation would be wasted on the brain cells he’d smoke away later.
He headed into the storage room, walking past the easels and stacks of paintings marked with earlier class periods. “I think it just took everyone by surprise ‘cuz didn’t he like invite you to the eighth grade dance and then stand you up?”
“Wow,” I said, staring at him as I came to a complete stop. He remembered that? “Way to just throw that out there.”
“Sorry.” This time he didn’t sound sorry. He sounded smug. “I mean, it’s just weird.”
It was weird. I got that. It was also probably why Gavin was so shocked that I was even friends with Jensen after that, but I knew the truth now.
Sighing as those ugly memories managed to resurface, I tucked my hair back behind my ear. That was in the past—a past that I had all wrong.
Except no matter how much I told myself that, my chest felt heavy. It didn’t take a lot to remember how I felt, how heartbroken I’d been. I always thought it was a nice, hefty dose of karma after what I’d done to Penn.
The sound of footfalls intruded, which was weird, because Mason had stopped and I wasn’t walking. I looked over my shoulder, frowning as I scanned the room. Tubes and cans of paint were stacked waist high among the paintings, props from plays, and costumes.
A wicked sense of déjà vu hit me upside the head. My skin crawled like a hundred ants had descended on me, their little legs digging into my flesh. It was the same feeling I had in the farmhouse, right before I’d found Vee’s body.
Chills skated down my arms as I stared at the costumes hanging from wire racks, half expecting them to jump out at me. Nothing was out of place. Nothing happened, but the sensation of being watched gave me the creepy crawlies.
“Here we go,” Mason announced, finding the stacks of paintings from our class. I turned, finding him staring at me like I needed to be patted on my head. Of course, someone was watching me. Mason. Dumbass. “I can probably get most of these. I just . . . holy shit!”
I gaped as he jumped back from the paintings, his hands rising up like he had a fleet of cops pointing guns at him. “What?”
He shook his head, pointing.
I followed his gaze and felt the floor under my feet shift. The paintings, they were all destroyed, the canvases slashed open with something jagged and sharp. Red paint had been splattered across them, like a gruesome crime scene. But that wasn’t the most messed up thing.
Oh no. Not at all.
I stepped back, my eyes following the row of paintings. Placed side by side, they spelled out two words.
No one knew who or how the paintings got destroyed, only that it shook up an already nervous student body.
The staff claimed it was a prank yet again—a stupid, misguided prank from someone who had absolutely no class. That was possible. After all, how could it be something else—someone with truly nefarious intentions? Because if the same person responsible for the attacks did it, how would they have known who would go pick up the paintings?
Anyone could’ve picked them up, reading the ‘You’re Next’ message sprawled across them in red paint, so it couldn’t have been left there for just one person.