Gunner didn’t say a word, and his face was inscrutable. Even his eyes didn’t show anything. I wished I could know what the hell was going on in that handsome head of his. I would’ve paid anything for that cause, really.
His hands around my waist, palms against the thin fabric of my dress, I felt his touch as if he touched my naked skin. He was tall, just like Danger but other than being overly-muscular, he was muscular alright, but his biceps didn’t seem intimidating, more like strong and sexy. He was all about sex and strength, actually.
We danced to the sound of the quiet songs. I put my hands on his broad shoulders, and searched his face and eyes for some indication that this whole situation was affecting him as well, but didn’t find any. I didn’t expect anything else, really. It was only me who was being silly and feeling too much. Physically feeling, I mean.
The song suddenly changed something Waltz-like, and he unwrapped one of his hands from around my waist and took one of my hands with his. At the sudden touch of his naked hand against my naked hand, my heart hammered so strongly in my chest I was sure he could hear, heat bloomed on my face, and my skin felt taut, like it was expecting something from him.
His hand clenched mine and he started moving to the sound of the Waltz. I wasn’t a dancer, but I had enough coordination to follow his lead. It felt almost surreal, being here with this man, dancing Waltz as though we had no worries in the world.
When I’d first seen him in the promenade, I would’ve never thought I would have the honor to dance with him. That, and seeing him again, in Taryn’s party, and then watching him as he killed Mr. Moore. But for some reason, when I thought about Mr. Moore’s murder, I didn’t feel the same anger at myself for being attracted to my friend’s father’s killer. For the first time, I really started suspecting that what Gunner had told me the other day about the Moores was true.
Opening-up to Danger, getting used to Jez, dancing with Gunner... I had already picked a side, whether I liked it or not.
I picked the Prestons over the Moores. Did that make me an unfaithful friend to Echo? Did that make me a bad person? Was I right in my decision?
Yes, I realized. I was right. My gut told me the Prestons weren’t at fault here, and I chose to believe it.
I jumped a little, suddenly back to the current situation. I looked up at Gunner, my dark brown eyes clashing with his greenish-blue ones. “W-What?” I asked, flush deepening, and I fought the urge to look away. I was no coward, and I would not let Gunner make me one.
“Focus,” he said, voice a little rough, eyes luminous. He suddenly pressed me firmly against him, my heels giving me enough height to reach to his collarbones so my body was pressed along the line of his.
“I-I am,” I stuttered again like an idiot.
He leaned close, lips at my ear, just like this afternoon. I felt the tip of his lips touching the sensitive skin in my ear and it made me shiver and my knees weaken. If he wasn’t holding me around my waist, I would’ve probably fallen humiliatingly to the floor. “You don’t,” he murmured, his low and deep voice making my heart almost leap out of my chest. “You’re distracted.”
“Am not,” I protested weakly.
“Do too,” he argued. “Now, focus.”
My nerves already on high alert, I tensed immediately and pulled my head back so I could look accusingly at into his endless eyes. I still couldn’t read him, but I wasn’t going to let him step all over me. Being attracted to him was one thing, but being ordered around like a dog was not on my agenda. “Why don’t you go and dance with Jez again if I suck so much?” I hissed at him.
His eyes narrowed, the first indication he’d given me of any normal emotion since we first started dancing. The tiny hairs on my nape rose in warning. His reply, though, wasn’t vocal. He pressed me even tighter to him and when the song changed into a Salsa one, he started moving, leading me just like he did in the Waltz.
I didn’t know it was possible to dance Salsa so close to each other, but Gunner made it possible. He twirled me and then pulled me back tightly to him. He made some Salsa moves and then he was behind me, pressing my back to him as he moved his waist, pressing one hand against my side of the waist and teaching it how to move, while the other hand took one of my hands. Our skins touched and it disturbed me on the most intimate of levels.
Yet I had no power or will to stop it from happening. It felt so good, so erotic, dancing this closely with hot, handsome, sex-god Gunner. His hands on my waist, on my back, around my shoulders, sometimes even on my bare hips. My skin was aflame, my face heated with lust, my heart hammering with awareness, and, as embarrassing as it was, I was so aroused.
Before, I’d read about sexual arousal only in books. But now... now I actually felt it. The taut skin, the electricity, that hotness, the lightheadedness – I was aroused by dancing Salsa with and being held by Gunner.
I had no idea if he was aware of my state, but if he was, he hid it well. I was quiet sure, though, he didn’t feel the same. As I’d realized, this wild attraction was one-sided, unfortunately for me.
The sexual tension in the air was obvious only to me, because I’d created it. And as the Salsa turned into a Samba, the thick air became even thicker. As we danced, both absorbed in the music and rhythm, and me in Gunner himself, I started wondering if it was really possible only for one side to create such a sexual tension.
But he wasn’t attracted to me, probably couldn’t... Or could he?
Don’t be stupid, Rae Marie. He’s too hot, too godly-looking to want someone like you. Think about it; even Taryn or Jez aren’t in his level. It only means he searches for someone as otherworldly perfect as him.
At the same moment that thought crossed my head, the song changed into something slower again and Gunner pulled back. “It’s time to go back,” he said in a rough, low, deep yet harsh voice. Without even looking at me, he let me go and started walking toward our table. The absence of his skin on mine physically hurt me, and I flinched with the sudden pain of it.
God, but my body was all but tuned to him. It wanted his touch, wanted his caresses, wanted him, as simply as that. And I was helpless enough to feel otherwise.
Except his name and nonchalance, I knew nothing about Gunner Murray. Yet here I was, my body aching for his attention. I was so fucked up.
When I arrived the table a few moments later, we were the last to arrive. Jez glared daggers at me, while Danger winked, Henry arched an eyebrow and Maddox smirked slightly. It told me that they were watching what had happened on the dance floor with Gunner. They’d probably seen my irrational sexual reaction to Gunner, and his nonexistent attraction to me.
I should’ve been humiliated, but instead I was just embarrassed at my lack of control. I needed to work on that, obviously.
Because Ryder was the only one who looked absorbed in his own world, I sticked to his side for the rest of the evening. When we drove back in the limousine, I listened halfheartedly to his endless rumbling about how Taryn was so beautiful, and how she “played” with him in his bad-boy-player game.
Ryder was definitely in love with Taryn. Poor him. Taryn was only interested in handsome boys – not that Ryder was bad-looking, but he wasn’t Gunner Murray or Chase Montgomery, obviously.
In a blink, I was back in my now-familiar room. I took a shower, slipped into my pjs, petted and hugged Flanny and got into bed.
I tried to sleep, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t. Thoughts of the evening danced Samba in my brain. I couldn’t take my mind off Gunner and his hands all over my body – for dancing only, of course. The thoughts made me hot and bothered, and I lay restless on my bed.
Around two A.M. it became unbearable. My sex was on fire from brutal arousal and it made me sweaty and sticky in all ways possible. And because I had no other way of dealing with it, I slipped my hand underneath my pants and panties and did what I only heard about doing. I masturbated.
God, it was embarrassing that I needed to get off that way. But I couldn’t help it; it was too bothering, too irritating, and I needed to do something about it. So masturbating was the perfect solution.
If Isy heard about it... I was so not telling her – or anyone, for that matter – about it. At least Isy had Marcus to help her settle her sexual needs. I didn’t have a Marcus, and the only guy that turned me on like that was out of my league.
Fate must hate me.
As I lay, masturbating, I moaned a little. I was too afraid to penetrate my virginal sex because I feared I would unintentionally tear my hymen, and I had no plans of losing my virginity that way. But I still managed to masturbate.
Eventually it had lessened my extreme need into a small, pulsing reminder. I didn’t orgasm or something like that, but it was enough for me. I took my hand out of my panties and after half an hour, finally fell asleep, feeling more embarrassed and humiliated than ever.
That was until I realized that when Gunner and I danced together, my body was fitted to his.
A few days had passed since the dinner night, and a routine started to build-up. Waking up, being driven to school by one of the guys – mostly Ryder, sometimes Danger – then being stuck to Jez’s side at school, while Isy and Marcus were distancing themselves from me, then Taryn trying to bully me but Jez put her in her place, coming back home, doing homework and training with Jez and Gunner, while Danger and Ryder were there, looking at my progress, then dinner, and then going to sleep.
I missed my grandmother like crazy. I didn’t have the time to talk to her those past few days, but I wished I could at least hear her voice. Meeting her was out of the question; I tried talking to Henry and even Maddox about it, but they didn’t allow me to at least visit her in the bakery or something.
In addition to her, I missed working in the bakery, or even driving my own car. I wondered if Irie Grace, the woman who worked with me in the bakery, was alright, and if Gran had found a new worker, now that she lacked one.
But what surprised me the most was that I didn’t miss Echo. I had a pretty good idea why; my mind had picked the Prestons’ side, not the Moores’. And after what Gunner had explained to me about them being a true mafia family... I suddenly didn’t want to face Echo and who she truly was.
And Gunner... I hadn’t seen much of Gunner, really. He trained me every morning and every afternoon, but that was all about it. Throughout the sessions, he was completely business-like, and when the sessions were over, he would just go out of the gym after saying a quick “see ya” and that was all about it. He stopped picking me up from school, stopped even talking or looking at me, and I didn’t need to be a genius to understand he was putting a distance between us.
Or was he? I couldn’t be sure with Gunner. Maybe he just didn’t find me interesting anymore and wanted to spend his time with other people... or rather girls.
Really, out of all the Preston Household, Danger was the most normal and nice and friendly. Jez still denied me as a friend, while Ryder was too busy looking for girls to screw or acting as a puppy-eyed man and Gunner was being an unreadable jerk. Maddox and Henry both were too busy to even try and put a nice façade, so all that was left was Danger. Shaved-haired, cattish-green-eyes, overly-muscular, tall and big Danger, who, when opened up, could be as nice as anyone who looked half his size. He was so funny and cunning yet loving and too nice for his own good, and he was crazy about Jez – whether he admitted it or not.
Whenever Danger and I talked about issues like his fellow “brothers” and “sister”, he always tried not to talk about Jez. But it was obvious he had a major crush on her, and the fact that she was all over Gunner annoyed him. But I didn’t press it, and waited for him to talk to me about it, if ever. Danger didn’t like to talk about himself – or, more specifically, about his feelings – and I, who also had a hard time with my own feelings, understood it perfectly.
Anyhow, it was Wednesday at early November that something unusual happened. In the morning, I woke up as usual, had my training session with Gunner, who was practical and nonchalant as ever, went back to my room, took a shower and then put on some jeans and hoodie and went to breakfast. Unsurprisingly, Ryder and Jez were already at the dining room, and both muffled a lazy “Good morning”. We ate, then drove to school. Ryder, as always, kept the conversation light and not very interesting and we were both relieved when we arrived to school. The school’s day went as usual; Isy’s only words to me were “Hey, what’s up?” and right afterwards she was stuck to Marcus’s side, Taryn sent death-glares at Jez and me, and Jez barely talked to me.
But when school ended, the abnormal something happened. I excused myself to the restroom before the drive back home, and Jez told me she would go ahead of me and tell whoever waited for me today that I was late. I thanked her and entered the restroom. I did what I needed to be done, and when I walked out and started walking down the hallway, I heard a familiar voice calling, “O’Reilly!”
I stopped in my track and turned around, eyes wide, to see Chase Montgomery, of all people in the world, looking at me while jogging toward me. Chase looked as delicious as ever, with his messy golden locks, deep-blue eyes, biceps, broad-shoulders and six-pack and his tanned skin. He was smoking hot and sexy, and I knew that when he reached Gunner’s age, he could compete with him then for good-looks.
But his hotness aside, something was very different here. I think it was the first time I saw him without his football teammates friends. He was completely alone, and he was coming to talk to me, out of all people.
“Yes, Montgomery?” I said back, crossing my hands and waiting for him to talk as he stopped two feet from me.
He smiled charmingly but I wasn’t affected by that anymore. Not since the Gunner Saga. “I was wondering if I could talk to you for a few minutes...?” He arched a perfect golden eyebrow in question.
I checked the time, and nodded. “Be quick, though,” I said and we both started moving toward the exit of the building.
“Sure,” Chase said and then took a deep breath. “I was wondering if you could tell me how’s Moore.”
That made me stop again, and I looked at him. His face was dead-serious, eyes searching me. I forced myself to relax; he was probably just worried that an admirer of his had stopped coming to school for almost two weeks now. “You mean Echo?” I asked to clarify and continued to walk alongside with him.
At his nod, I sighed. “I don’t really know,” I said, and it was not actually a lie. I had no idea how she was. “She only sent one letter to Isobel and me and ever since she hasn’t tried to keep in touch with each of us.”
Chase’s face fell. “I see,” he looked troubled. “I’m asking it because I passed the Moore’s house and saw that it was sold.”
That was news, but I wasn’t surprised. Echo was probably making sure she wouldn’t come back here with her family. “Oh,” I said with feigned surprise. “So they probably aren’t coming back.”
He nodded. “I just wondered if you knew something.” he smiled apologetically.
That made me cock my head in confusion. “Why not asking Isy? Or even Marcus?”
“Don’t know,” he shrugged. “You seem more knowing than them. Besides, when I tried to ask Isobel about it, she started crying and yelling that she didn’t know. Marcus was pissed at me and told me to drop it, so I had no choice but to ask you about it.”
“Why do you care about Echo so much?” I asked, baffled at Chase’s unusual interest in Echo.
He moved his hand through his hair nervously. “I, eh, don’t feel so well about what happened a few weeks ago,” he said with a shameful face. “When Taryn did what she did to her... I feel a little responsible for that. So when Moore stopped showing up to school, I was afraid she was so humiliated and hurt she couldn’t set a foot in this place again.”
“So you feel guilty,” I stated, feeling myself softening for Chase. He was truly, honestly concerned about Echo; no school’s star would’ve been that way, but Chase was. He was truly, fully good-hearted.
“Yeah,” he agreed, smiling ruefully. “But apparently, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
We were now out of the school’s building and on our way to the parking lot. I wondered if I should tell him what’s on my mind, and when he was quiet for a few moments, I decided that my social status aside, he deserved to hear that. “I don’t think it’s any of your fault,” I told him, and he snapped his head to me. “Echo has liked you for some time, and it’s understandable you were oblivious; after all, you have many admirers, and Echo was just another one. So I don’t think you should beat yourself about it because honestly, there’s nothing you could do about it. Echo’s feelings were hers, and that’s it.”
Chase opened his mouth at once – probably to protest, or cancel my statements – but then thought better of it. He took a deep breath, and smiled a little bitterly. “Yeah, I really am oblivious,” he muttered. “You’re right, O’Reilly.”
I couldn’t help but stating, a bit haughtily, “I know I am.”
He was caught off-guard and he looked shocked momentarily at me, and then laughed. My lips twitched a little bit, too. “Yeah, you are,” he said with a grin and we arrived the gate, where Danger was waiting for me, looking curiously at me, then at Chase, then back at me.
“Here’s my stop,” I told Chase when we were a few feet from Danger.
Chase regarded Danger and cringed. “He looks intimidating,” he noted.
“You don’t say,” I said dryly. “But don’t worry, he’s mushy inside.”
He chuckled. “I can’t imagine that,” he looked then back at me. “Thanks for listening, O’Reilly.” He said, suddenly serious again.
I shrugged. “Sure, anytime,” I said back then smiled the smallest smile. “Bye.” I turned and walked toward Danger.
“Bye!” He called from behind me, and I reached Danger, who raised both his eyebrows.
“Who’s that guy?” he asked me, and I knew the inquisition started.
I rolled my eyes. “Our school’s golden football team’s captain and Quarterback.” I replied.
“That’s cute,” he grinned and glanced behind us. “He’s still standing there, watching you go.”
I tensed a little. “Is he?” I asked as uncaringly as I could, but I was surprised. Chase was standing and staring at me? Why?
“Yup,” Danger replied with a knowing smirk. “And he looks contemplating.”
“Really,” I muttered.
“Aha,” Danger grinned, and I decided to glance back to see for myself... and sure enough, Chase was only now turning back and walking toward the football field.
An unusual encounter, indeed.