Schooled

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Chapter 12

The weekend was busy with schoolwork and Travesty stuff with Ava. Her computer thankfully materialized on Friday under a pile of clothes and notions in her room. She had the decency to look contrite when she found it.

I didn’t think much about Dylan’s weekend in Mexico. I left the house before he came to drive Ava to school Monday because I wasn’t ready to be regaled with stories of partying. Or to have him avoid the subject and leave me guessing what he’d been doing for the last seventy-two hours.

Dylan’s text came in the middle of law class.

Need your help… It’s an emergency

Get busted at the border?

Very funny… can you just come over?

Still in class

What’s wrong?

It can wait until tonight

OK I’ll come by later

He had piqued my curiosity. Despite the harsh words we’d exchanged the other day, I still wanted to see him.

Classes ended at five that day, which gave me time for a quick treadmill run. It did feel good to move my butt after the long hours in class. At home, I showered and threw on some jeans and a black T-shirt. As a small concession, I blow dried my hair and put on some lip gloss. I looked less fashionista than Stanford grad, but no future investors or Fashion Television reporters would be trolling the streets tonight.

I drove to Dylan’s and pulled up at the curb. The big house had a double-wide driveway in which Dylan’s and another car were parked.

Knocking on the door didn’t yield anything, so I let myself in. Voices were coming from the kitchen at the back of the house.

“Hey, Lex.” Kent and another guy I didn’t know, introduced as Brock, were seated at the table when I came in, and we talked for a few minutes. By Kent’s interest and the way Brock kept looking between us, I assumed nothing was going to happen with Kent and Ava. Too bad, because she’d spent the whole night after dinner talking about how she had always wanted to hook up with a surfer. She’d even dragged me shopping for rash guards. I didn’t bother reminding her that she’d quit swimming lessons in third grade because she didn’t like how the salt dried out her skin.

I heard feet on the stairs, and Dylan appeared in the kitchen doorway a few moments later.

“What’s the emergency?” I asked, pushing off the counter. “Come on, Dylan. You’re taking me away from the compelling world of incorporation law.” He grabbed my hand and proceeded to pull me upstairs without a word of explanation.

“See you, Lex!” Kent called after me. I waved over my shoulder.

Dylan dragged me into his room and closed the door. He stood there, watching me, as if unsure of where to start.

I broke the ice. “How was TJ? Bring me anything?”

“It was good. And no. I didn’t think you were a sombrero kind of girl.”

I didn’t laugh.

“Listen, I know you don’t like it. But I did want to say thank you. For … I don’t know. Caring enough that it bothered you.”

And despite my intentions, the irritation started to fall away.

“You’re welcome.”

I hadn’t heard from him in four days, which wouldn’t have seemed like a lot only a few weeks ago but did now. Part of me wanted to ask for the details of his weekend, but I worried about what would happen if I heard something I didn’t like.

“So what’s the big emergency?” I cleared a spot for myself on the bottom corner of his bed. Sat down and crossed my legs.

He followed my lead, sitting opposite me. “I need to ask you something.”

“Shoot.”

“It’s a bit outside the scope of our friendship. But I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.” What did that even mean?

“Dylan, there’s nothing you can ask me that would be weird.” Maybe I was being a bit cavalier, wanting to prove a point. To which of us, I wasn’t sure.

“OK good.” His eyes relaxed but I could still see a muscle working in his jaw. “In that case, do you remember the conversation we had at your party?”

My heart started beating a little faster. Traitor. “Vaguely. What part of it?”

“Not the kiss,” he said, as if to reassure me our forgetting about it was still in place. “The sex part.” He looked at me as if waiting for a response.

I arched an eyebrow. No, I totally forgot about that. “I guess?”

He had some serious five o’clock shadow going on. It made him look older than usual. “So I went out with this girl last week. And we were … kissing.” His voice dropped on the last word.

I ignored the little pang of something in my side. It was left over from running. Being out of shape did that to a person.

“I’m pretty sure she was into it,” he went on. Did she have a vagina? Then probably. “And when things started to … go further, I stopped it.”

An image of him with some girl appeared, unwanted, in my brain. I tried to focus on the humor of the situation instead of the visual of her tongue down his throat. It bothered me that I needed to, and that I couldn’t.

“So let me get this straight. You went out with this girl. You like her. She likes you. Now you’re worried about sex?”

“Not worried. I just…want it to be good, you know?”

I was already regretting my earlier comment about being willing to talk about anything.

Still, wasn’t this what I wanted? For him to be so unaffected by me? Yes. No.

Dylan seemed to sense my hesitation. I hoped he was ignorant of the full-on tug-of-war taking place in my brain, the reason for it.

He leaned back on arms corded with muscle, eyes on mine. Despite the casual posture, undercurrents of something I couldn’t decipher ran through his gaze. An intensity that felt out of place given our conversation about him and some faceless girl.

I was having trouble keeping my eyes on his face and not on the muscles in his arms that held him up. Or the way his shirt stretched across his chest. Or—

“Just tell me what I should do.” Dylan’s words hauled me back to reality. His voice was still low but steady. “Not the sex ed version, the …” he glanced down at the bedspread as he grasped for words “… editorialized version.” Those bottomless eyes pulled me in with a question, trapped me with something else. Something that burned darker.

“You want me to tell you how to be awesome at sex?” I found my voice but the words came out slowly, like I was talking to a five year old.

He nodded, eyes locked on mine. They held a question, and a challenge.

“What makes it good? What do girls want?” Dylan continued, his engineer’s brain trying to analyze, while my brain was fast-tracking past logic and toward darker places.

I shrugged but he refused to let me off the hook.

“What would you want?”

I swallowed.

If I wasn’t willing to go there, admitted I couldn’t match Dylan’s supreme casualness, would he sense that I was hung up on him somehow?

Was I hung up on him?

I pushed the questions away. Tried to think of something breezy. Came up empty.

“Can’t you just watch porn or something?”

“No. It’s not the same.” His answer was immediate and dismissive.

I glanced down, willing myself to respond. When I looked back up, his eyes were running over my face like he was looking for something.

Just like that, the fight in me started to give. “Dylan, I can’t talk to you about this.” I pushed off the bed to stand.

“Why? Because it’s hard to describe?” His mouth turned up at the corner in something not quite a smile. “You could just show me. I’m more of an experiential learner anyway.”

Then the image of some girl and Dylan was long gone, obliterated by one of me and Dylan. What could have happened on my bed. On his. Against the car. They flashed across my brain with breathtaking intensity.

This was more than I could take. I’d skipped out on my planned study session to respond to a supposed emergency only to find myself in this situation. I was feeling foolish all over again, right after convincing myself I had everything under control.

The color of his eyes deepened. I couldn’t tell if it was self-mocking or something else. “What? Come on, Lex, you said it yourself. We’re friends. Nothing here.” Dylan mimicked my gesture from that first night, motioning to the air between us.

His eyes were inscrutable for the longest moment. Then as if he’d changed his mind about something, he shrugged and collapsed back on the bed, folding his hands behind his head. He took up an inspection of the ceiling, brows furrowed like he was trying to figure out what to do next. For a long moment it was like I wasn’t even there.

I needed that moment.

Enough. This guy was scrambling my brain. There wasn’t anything going on between us and yet this was exactly what I’d set out to avoid this year. It ended now.

“I’m sorry you’re having girl problems. But you’ll work them out. I have somewhere I need to be.”

He opened his mouth to say something, stopped when I held up a hand. As I walked down the stairs and out to my car without a backward glance, I knew that whatever the hell had just happened, I needed less Dylan Cameron in my head.

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