Stolen Hearts

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Isabel

I stare up uncertainly at the huge house from the pathway that leads up to it .

Maybe this was a bad idea. I’ve already bitten off a fingernail with the anxiety.

I get that it’s the last year of high school and everything and I need to try out the stuff I have been holding back on. But socializing isn’t really my forté and I’m not sure I want to work on it tonight.

Which brings me back to the question.

Why am I here?

I could be reading in my bed tonight, my copy of The Carrie Diaries has been neglected for the past two days since school has begun. I’ve just forfeited a night of blissful relaxation because I’m in love with the guy who asked me if I was coming to the party.

Peter’s house is imposing, to say the least. I haven’t been to a party since I can remember and my palms feel sweaty already. The chill in the air isn’t helping.

Roman had told me to let him know if I was coming and silly me, I had forgotten to tell him to give me his number.

I didn’t want to look too eager or anything, so I hadn’t gone across the street and rung his doorbell to check if he was at home. I had stared at his window, hoping that a light would flicker in it so that I’d know if he was home.

But it hadn’t.

So I left after convincing myself that I’d be fine on my own.

Clearly, I was disillusioned.

It is half past eight now so the place is almost crowded. Gathering up the remnants of my courage, I march up the steps and enter the house. Immediately I am swamped by the smell of beer and sweat.

The music playing from the speakers in the corner of the room is loud and thumping. The lighting is dim, but not so much that I can’t see where I’m stepping. I recognise a lot of faces from school. They are clustered into groups of three and four, scattered around the space of the living room and on the staircase that leads to the upper floor.

The centre of the hall is cleared of furniture and a couple of people are dancing together.

I can’t spot Louise anywhere so far. She’s probably somewhere with Gavin. I haven’t seen her since school started and by the looks of it, we won’t be hanging out much since her boyfriend seems to occupy almost all of her time now.

I catch sight of Delilah on the staircase, her arms around Freddie’s neck, whispering furiously to each other. Then she bites her lip, in that way that’s supposed to be seductive and I gag mentally.

Sweet Jesus, was this what I had to tolerate for the rest of the evening while I crave the guy who is way out of my league?

As if my thoughts have conjured him up, I see Roman walk out of a room at the left, probably the kitchen. He has a glass of an amber coloured liquid in his hand and his head is bent low, as he talks eagerly to some brunette in a hot pink dress.

The stab of jealousy I feel makes me halt in my tracks. She’s hanging on to every word he’s saying and I have an incredibly strong urge to wring her neck.

He doesn’t see me as she leads him away toward the staircase, no doubt leading him to one of the bedrooms on top.

It’s true that I’m obsessed with him, but until today, I’ve managed to fairly keep my claws to myself. I see girls around him all the time. They’re usually the clever ones, you know. Their hair perfectly parted to one side, their clothes impeccably tasteful and with a lot of brains.

Someone brushes my shoulder while passing by and I remember that I’m in the middle of a crowded room, staring like a lovesick puppy at a guy who doesn’t know I’m here and probably doesn’t care.

Who would?

Moving away toward one of the dark corners of the room, I spy an empty space between a group of guys and the table that has been spread out with snacks. I smile ruefully. At least I can eat stuff and make something out of this disaster. I pick up a few crackers and chips and put them into my mouth as ladylike as I can.

The inside of my ribcage is probably bruised with the way my heart keeps trying to get out of it with hard, hurting thumps.

I’m almost eighteen years old and I’m pining away after a guy who thinks I’m his little sister or something. Oh, high school sucks.

I turn around and glance at my surroundings. Nobody I’m remotely comfortable talking to, is here. I spot a few girls I usually speak to in laboratory, near the kitchen, but they’re busy chatting up some guys who look like they go to college.

I’ve worn a denim jacket over my purple t-shirt and jeans. My hair has been brushed behind my ears and I’ve tied the unruly mass into a messy ponytail.

I turn back to the snack table and I’m debating whether I should just walk out and put the whole thing behind me when I hear my name.

“Isabel?”

My eyes widen at the sound of his voice.

Roman is standing a foot away from the staircase, alone.

I hate the relief that spills into my chest when I see that Pinky has thankfully let him go.

“Hey.“, I wave out at him.

He smiles wide and comes to me.

“When did you get here?“, he raises his voice just a bit so that he is heard above the beat of the music.

I shrug, “A while ago.”

“I had to come directly from school.“, he explains, leaning down slightly to speak into my ear.

A tingle runs along my spine when I feel his warm breath on the shell of my ear.

“Why didn’t you call me?“, he asks, his cheeks turning a light pink.

I want to laugh.

We haven’t spoken more than two words to each other throughout our lives and now here I am, having the opportunity I’ve been waiting for so freaking long.

I take out my cellphone and wave it at the side of my face. “I don’t have your number.”

He grins sheepishly.

Then he pulls out his phone and gives it to me. I enter my digits and my heart is pounding like crazy. When I hand the phone back, he immediately types out a message and sends it. My phone vibrates in my hand and I look down.

Hey :)

I smile like a goof, before I realise I’m not alone.

Biting the inside of my cheek to repress the pleasure that’s coursing through my body just by looking at that simple text, I save his number in my contacts and slip my phone back into my jeans.

When I look up again, I see that he’s staring at me with a hint of curiosity and something else. His blue eyes seem darker right now and it’s all I can do to stay where I am and not push myself against him and have him kiss me like I’m dying to.

“Do you want to go out? It’s getting a bit stuffy in here.“, he gestures toward the door.

I’ll go anywhere with you!

“Yeah, sure.“, I hope I sound nonchalant and not like a child who has just been given candy.

He gives me a brief smile and then turns around, heading outside. I follow close behind him.

When we step out, the change in the air feels much better. It’s a cold night and I’m thankful I’ve worn the jacket. Digging my hands into the pockets at the side, I discreetly look over at Roman.

He’s dressed casually too, in the same tshirt he had on this morning and a jacket over it.

“Have you applied to colleges?“, he asks, looking at me.

I nod, “Yeah, I have. I’m hoping to get into MU.”

He looks surprised at my answer.

“What?“, I ask, puzzled.

“I’ve applied there too.“, his face brightens up in a huge smile.

I’m stunned.

And then I’m elated!

We could go to college together!

“Oh wow, that’s great!“, my voice comes out shrill with happiness.

“It is.“, he grins at me.

Then his gaze flickers to my hands in my pockets. I’m bunched up a bit, trying to keep the cold out.

“You look cold.“, he says, a frown marring his forehead.

“I’m fine.”

“Give me your hands.”

I freeze.

“What?”

He chuckles, even as his blush grows brighter.

“Here,“, he offers both his hands, palms up.

My stomach goes crazy, even as I remove my fingers from my pockets and slowly place them both in his hands.

A jolt of awareness runs through my body. His palms are warm, so warm. My fingers automatically curl around his wrists.

“How are you not cold?“, I feel like ice against his skin.

“I eat a lot.“, he teases and this time I blush.

He holds my hands almost gently, and I’m struck by how much I feel in that moment.

It’s so simple and yet so wonderful. We’re close to each other so that he’s looking down at me, a smile in his eyes. I can see my breath fog because of the cold. I’m suddenly too aware of him. Of how his hair falls perfectly off his forehead. Of how his lips are quirked up slightly and a hint of a smile still lingers on them. Those damned framed glasses hiding his eyes.

Unknowingly my hands slide up higher along his forearms, underneath the sleeves of his jacket.
I see him tense up and a flicker of something lights up in his eyes.

My gaze lands on his mouth. His lips look so soft and inviting.

I desperately want to kiss him.

A loud crash from the direction of the house makes me jump and our contact is lost.

My mouth slightly open, I look up at Roman and see stark disappointment just before he schools his expression.

Then he clears his throat, “Do you want to head home? I think I’m already sick of the party.”

I feel my warm fingertips which had been touching him just seconds ago.

“Me too.“, I say.

He begins to walk ahead. Then halts after a few steps.

I’m shocked when he turns around, comes back to me and takes my hand, placing it in the crook of his arm.

His cheeks are pink again and I’m pretty sure it isn’t because of the cold. I don’t look at him, but lean into his side and feel him relax instantly.

And then I smile till my cheeks hurt.

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