“Jez, I’m not wearing this.”
Jez scowled at me. “I would’ve preferred you didn’t wear it, too, but it’s Mad’s order.”
Now it was my turn to scowl. I wasn’t a dresses’s person, and not only this dress was too formal in my taste, it was also tight as hell. It was black with slim sleeves and it almost strangled me with its tightness. Besides, it was too short, reaching my mid-thighs.
“Come on, O’Reilly,” Jez snapped. “Stop sulking already and let’s do something with this frizzly hair of yours.”
She somehow succeeded in braiding it into a tight plait, and when she was done, she breathed in relief. “Better,” she said. “Now – make-up.”
I also wasn’t a fan of make-up, but after years of friendship with Isobel, I’d already gotten used to it. So I’d let her apply me an eyeliner, mascara, cherry-red lipstick and dark blush, seeing as my skin was darker than usual redheads – or usual white people.
When she was over with this, she checked my looks in concentration. “You actually clean up pretty nicely,” she said. “The only thing that’s missing is some earrings.” She picked me a pair of silver hoop earrings I’d gotten from Gran to my last birthday. I loved them but never found an occasion to wear them to.
Jez stepped aside and let me see myself in the mirror. She was right; I cleaned up pretty nicely. Not as beautiful as she looked, with her own angelic-white dress and smoky make-up that made her sky-blue eyes even brighter, and her dark brown hair pulled into a high, neat ponytail. She looked just as beautiful as every day, only more so. I looked like a little girl trying to act adult, but it didn’t mean I looked bad. I always knew I had a cute face, just not as beautiful as Taryn or Jezebel. I looked more like someone’s little sister than a seventeen-going-eighteen-year-old girl.
“Now that you know you don’t look like a complete trash, put on the heels and let’s go.” Jez said and I did as ordered, wearing the black heels that made me taller – thankfully – yet were extremely uncomfortable.
Then, I walked with Jez to the entrance hall. It was close to eight fifteen, and when I pointed it out to Jez that we were late, she only grinned and said, “We’re the only girls in the residence, secretaries and servants notwithstanding. We’ve got the legitimation to make a fashionable late appearance.”
Sometimes, when Jez was this chatty, nice, wicked girl, I could find myself getting to like her. Such a shame she always caught herself at the last minute and returned to being a bitch. Just like she’d done now, when she sent me a glare worthy of the death of an army.
I hid my own grin. She didn’t want to open-up to me, but she couldn’t help herself. As she’d just said, we were the only girls in the mansion, and I guessed that after a long time she was the sole girl here, she missed some girly companion. I know I probably didn’t fit what she would’ve wanted as a girlfriend, but I was apparently enough. Yet she was still so keen to dislike me for some reason.
I wondered why, really. We’d already established that I was going to do whatever the Prestons told me to do, that I wasn’t a threat. So why keep treating me like the enemy?
Well, nothing I could do about it except of trying to get her to warm-up to me.
We were the last to arrive the entrance hall – unsurprisingly. Gunner, Ryder, Danger, Maddox and Henry were already there, talking among themselves. They all wore tuxes but each wore it another way. Maddox and Henry wore their black tuxes like a tux should be wore, both with formal gray ties. Ryder wore the tux with a bright-red bow, his own suit dark-ruby. Danger’s tux was dark emerald that emphasized his eyes, and his tie green and loose, also his jacket open and white shirt out of his pants. Gunner, much like Danger, wore his tux loosely, and his own tie was blue, while his suit was as jet-black as his hair.
When I looked at Gunner, I was reminded of what happened a few hours ago at the backyard. He was a teasing SOB and for some irrational reason, I liked it. Deep down, I liked being teased like that by him. I liked it so much, I almost couldn’t wait for the next time we were alone together.
But I knew I should avoid any chance of that. Because I knew myself, and I knew that once I would start hanging out with him constantly, I would fall for him.
And I couldn’t let that happen.
The guys realized we’d arrived after a few moments and raised their heads and turned to us. They all started with staring at Jez’s beauty, then, their eyes were averted to me, and I fought a blush and looked away. I felt their heavy gazes on me, and wished they would just return to Jez, who obviously looked better. I didn’t want to be ogled, and I knew I wouldn’t be anyway. Because when I chanced a look at Danger, I saw his heated gaze back on Jez. I knew then that what I’d thought was true; Danger had a crush on Jez. A major crush, seeing the look on his face.
After him, I chanced a glance at Ryder, who seemed now interested in something in his phone. Then Maddox and Henry, who looked surprised, just as Jezebel looked, that I could “clean up nicely”.
Then... I knew I should’ve avoided it, but I had to know, otherwise I would’ve gone mad. I glanced at Gunner, and he was staring right at me. My heart skipped a beat, and I blushed hard. His face stayed static, his eyes on mine, and then his sexy lips turned into a small, teasing, bulling smirk.
My face were probably redder than my hair by now.
Henry suddenly cleaned his throat and said, “Now that we’re all here, let’s go.”
Without another word, we all got out of the mansion and a black, sleek limousine waited for us in the driveway. We entered it, and I found myself plastered between Danger and Maddox, while Jez all but smeared on Gunner, who kept his nonchalance and ignored her.
It made me happier than I was comfortable with.
“Lookin’ good, redling,” Danger murmured to me, yanking me from my thoughts. “Didn’t know you had it in you.”
I sent him a glare. “I can pretty-up if I want to on a daily basis. I just don’t do it.”
He arched an eyebrow. “Why not? Don’t you want to impress boys or something?” he sounded seriously interested.
“There’s no one to impress,” I said and shrugged, but I knew it wasn’t the truth. My stupid body chose a guy it wanted to impress, but that said guy didn’t feel the same and teased my body to no end with even a simple look. Such a shame I couldn’t retrieve my attraction – or rather crush on Chase Montgomery. It would’ve been so much simpler.
Because then I would’ve known I had no chance. He wouldn’t even pay attention to me when I did crush on him. And Gunner... Gunner was also unreachable in wholly another level, but still made my body flame as if it were tuned to his acts.
I seriously hated that power he had over me.
“I’m sure there’s some lover-boy at your school,” Danger insisted. “Every girl your age has a crush or something.”
“Not me,” I pointed out dryly.
Danger gave up. “You’re a mystery, redling.”
I glared at him. “Will you stop using this stupid nickname?” I asked.
Danger grinned evilly. “Why? It’s already catching.”
Cursing mentally, I decided to just ignore him for the rest of the drive.
The restaurant where Henry booked us a table was enormous, expensive and high-classed. It was a three-floored restaurant with dance floor, private rooms, giant chandeliers and such. I’d never been to such a fancy restaurant before.
Our table was on the first floor, close to the dance floor, where a few couples danced, dressed in formal clothes like us. The restaurant itself was packed with rich and beautiful people, and I just couldn’t keep my mouth from gaping.
We sat down in a table that fitted all of us. Jez was sitting next to Gunner, of course, and on his other side, Maddox was sitting. I sat right in front of Gunner, with Danger and Ryder on each side of me. Henry took the head of the table, and I felt as though he was the king and the rest of us his minions.
“Shit,” Jez said all of a sudden, looking at a spot behind me. “I can’t believe she’s here!”
“Who’re you talking about?” Danger asked her, and all of us looked behind us.
Now it was my turn to curse. “Fuck it,” I muttered.
Ryder’s eyes widened as he took Taryn Torres’s beauty while she sat with her parents and two sisters, Trinity and Tara. Taryn probably felt our heavy gazes on her because she turned and looked at us, baby-blues wide with surprise, and a look of hatred when she saw me, sitting with Jez, Gunner and the other guys.
“Who’s that?” Henry asked as we all turned back to the table.
“Taryn Torres,” I answered while clenching my hands into fists. “Our school’s Queen Bee.”
“Queen Bee?” Danger looked confused.
“Local bitch, head cheerleader, slut, snaky, every guy’s fantasy coming true,” I responded in the driest of tones. “And she targets me and my friends all the time for unknown reasons. She also tried to recruit Jez as one of her minions, but Jez put her in her place.”
Jez looked at me oddly. “Well, she is kinda bitchy. Besides,” she turned to Gunner. “She tried to get you in her bed.”
Gunner shrugged nonchalantly. “She wanted to ask me, but I rejected her before she could open her mouth.”
“I would’ve wanted her opening her mouth before me,” Ryder murmured, glancing back at Taryn. “She’s a hot babe, alright.”
“That she is,” Danger agreed wholeheartedly.
I scowled in disgust. “If you want a slutty bimbo, then be my guest.” I took a menu, and started browsing it for something edible. I was starving, after all, and thoughts about Gunner and Taryn, tangled together in a bed, made me want to get this dinner over with already.
When a waitress came, ogling openly Danger, Ryder and especially Gunner, we all placed our orders. I chose for myself something that sounded tasty and hoped for the best.
Then the waitress was off and everyone started talking about all sorts of things. Danger was engaged in a conversation with Ryder and Henry about security or something, while Jez, Maddox and Gunner were discussing Maddox’s wife, Evelyn, who was a very successful businesswoman.
Like any meal I shared with the Preston Household, I found myself out. I didn’t even try to participate in any of those conversations because honestly, I just didn’t feel close to them. Besides, they were still killers in my state of mind. I still couldn’t trust them wholly. Especially Gunner and his infuriating attitude.
Honestly, I didn’t know what to do with him. He would be the death of me eventually, and I needed some training to help me save myself from him. I didn’t want him, not like a girl wants a boyfriend. I wanted him on a whole other level. Physically, I actually felt his absence. I wanted him to touch me, even grazing his lips over my neck. Just something.
But, as I’d already known, this attraction was one-sided. He knew it, too, and teased me wickedly about it. But he himself didn’t feel it, not even close.
That didn’t surprise me, not at all. And I was furious with myself for lusting after a killer like him, whether he killed to avenge or killed for killing’s sake.
The food arrived and saved me from another brooding thought, and when we all finished eating, Henry stood up, and like him, lots of other people in the restaurant, or rather the hall. “It’s dancing time,” Henry grinned. “Find yourself a partner. I have already spotted a lovely single woman.”
“Isn’t he married?” I asked Danger once Henry made his way to a good-looking woman around his age.
Danger shook his head. “Widower,” he replied, “Ever since we’ve met him and even before that.”
I nodded in understanding as Danger stood up. At the same time, Jez tugged uncaring – but not unwilling – Gunner to the dance floor. Gunner smirked a little as Jez took him, and I couldn’t stop my heart from sinking.
Danger picked on my disappointment. “You can dance with me if you want,” he suggested. “I know I’m no Gunner, but hey, I also need a partner.” he sent a rueful glance at Gunner and Jez for a second and returned his green eyes to me. I knew whom he would’ve preferred as a partner, but seeing as his beloved was dancing now with my own so-called “beloved”, he had no choice.
“Sure,” I mumbled and took his offered hand. Meanwhile, Maddox went to offer a dance to some elderly woman – probably because he was married and couldn’t dance with whomever he would’ve wanted – and Ryder paved his way to the Torres’s table. I couldn’t help a smirk.
Danger put his hands around my waist when we reached the dance floor and I wrapped mine lightly around his neck, because I couldn’t totally reach him. I was too short, and he was too muscled and big and tall. I felt so tiny, like a toy held in his hands, and he seemed very careful about not squishing me, I guessed.
From the corner of my eyes I saw Ryder asking Taryn for a dance, being the first to approach her. There were more than a few guys sending him the death-glares. Taryn hesitated at first, but got a nudge from her father, who seemed to want to be involved with the Prestons, seeing as they were a very wealthy and high-classed family. Taryn had no choice but to agree, and Ryder, who looked like he won a million dollars, escorted her to the dance floor.
“Ah, our little Ryder succeeded in luring Blondie to the dance floor,” Danger’s smirk matched my own.
I chuckled. “It’s probably his charm,” I joked.
Danger grinned evilly and we both chuckled. For the first time, I realized that of all the Prestons, I had much better time opening-up to big, bad, criminalistic-looking, ludicrously-named Danger. Also, he was the nicest of all the Prestons, the only one who was willing to try and open-up for me.
In my wildest dreams, I wouldn’t have thought I could be myself with a shaved-haired, tattooed man, but that’s exactly what happened
“You know,” Danger said, looking down from his lofty height, as if he realized the same thing I did. “You’re not that bad.”
I grinned up at him. “I just thought the same about you.”
It wasn’t anything romantic-like between Danger and me. There was no brutal attraction. In fact, when he held me like that in his arms, I didn’t fit there. I was too small to his bigger frame. Gran once told me that the perfect pair could be matched by seeing if they fitted to each other during dancing. I thought it to be a fairy tale at first, but now, that I actually danced with a guy, I could see the truth in that statement.
Even if Danger and I would’ve been attracted to each other, it wasn’t meant to be.
Danger and I kept our conversation light, chuckling at Ryder’s attempts to grab Taryn’s ass, or at Maddox, who was now dancing with another elderly woman. It felt like I had a new friend and frankly, I liked it.
But then, someone came and put his hand on my shoulder. The hand was warm, and I shivered as electricity erupted from the touch. Oh no, please no, God please don’t be so cruel...”May I?” The familiar voice asked from behind me.
My eyes big and begging, I looked at Danger and mouthed “no” with all my might. But Danger grinned, the devil, and pulled back. “She’s all yours, Gun,” he said, and secretly winked at me.
Then he was gone, I was turned around by sex-god Gunner, who wrapped his firm arms around my slim waist and pulled me tightly to him.
Oh God, it was definitely not my day today.