23 | Close Call
“You realize that there are a few things we need to talk about before tomorrow, right?” Kai finally stopped me outside of the third store.
I glared up at him, catching the twinkle of amusement in his eyes. He knew I was trying to avoid it.
It wasn’t that we hadn’t been talking, we had, well, he had, mostly, and I’d actually almost been enjoying myself. But every time he tried to bring up something about me or our relationship, I’d shut him down and changed the subject.
I knew he was right, and it was stupid that I was trying to avoid the inevitable, but I guess I just wanted to postpone it as long as I could.
“Okay.” Kai grinned a little. “Since you don’t have any objections, let’s start with the first thing. Pictures.”
What the heck? “Pictures?”
“Yup.” He nodded. “You can pose for a picture, right?”
I glared at him again. “Why do we need pictures?”
“Instagram? Snapchat? Legitimacy?” Kai looked at me as if I were stupid, which at the moment, I was feeling pretty stupid. “Hayden, couples take pictures together. We’re a couple now, remember?”
I pulled my phone out and snapped a candid selfie of the two of us. “Boom. My new Insta profile.” I said sarcastically.
Kai gave me a look. “I’m serious, Hayden.”
“I know.” I glanced around at the people passing by. I knew everyone would soon know about us, but I still didn’t want to run into anyone we knew. “So what are we doing then?”
Kai held out his hand. “Here, give me your phone.” I looked at him warily and he sighed. “C’mon Hayden, you have to trust me a little.”
He was wrong about that, but I reluctantly handed over my phone. I didn’t have to trust him at all. Why should I?
Kai leaned in behind me and reached around me to take a selfie of the two of us. He snapped two pictures before abruptly stepping back and sighing.
“Really?” He handed my phone back to me. “You could at least pretend to be enjoying yourself.”
I snorted. “I was smiling.” Here he was, trying to tell me what to do again!
“You looked bored to tears.”
“Well maybe that’s my natural look!” I retorted.
Kai looked at me for a moment before pulling out his own phone.
“What are you doing now?” I groaned. I wasn’t really annoyed with him in the moment, I’d been enjoying myself enough that I’d forgotten all the shit he’d done to me, but I still didn’t like the arrangement and I definitely did not want to take pictures with him.
Kai showed me his phone. “I’m showing you what your natural look is.”
It was a picture of me sitting in the corner of the library at school, on the floor, with my earbuds in and my eyes shut, a peaceful smile on my face.
“Wait…” This had been taken the day I wore shorts… The day Hunter slapped me on the ass. My head snapped up to look at Kai. “You took a picture of me on Tuesday!?” He hadn’t even talked to me until Thursday!
“Pictures, plural.” Kai swiped over to show another picture. This time I was in the cafeteria talking to Nadia and Mckenna. Kai swiped over one more time to show me at my locker. “You didn’t think I picked you randomly, did you?”
I pursed my lips and glared at him. “You’re a creep.”
He winked. “A creep that got you out of a lot of trouble with Damen.”
“Your playboy charm won’t work on me, Rivers.” I snorted.
“This?” Kai scoffed. “This wasn’t supposed to be charming, but I guess you think it was.”
I stared at him. Was he legit trying to flirt with me?
Kai cleared his throat. “I’m joking, Hayden. But we still need those pictures.”
“Fine.” I rolled my eyes. “I’ll pretend I’m enjoying myself.”
“Or you could not pretend.” Kai looked at me for a moment. “I don’t know why you’re so afraid of having fun.”
“Excuse me?” I gave him a look. “What is that supposed to mean?”
Kai just looked at me. “You’re forgetting that I’ve been watching you.” He said after a moment. “Like, really watching you.”
My eyes narrowed. “What does that mean?”
Kai sighed and sat down on a bench. “Look, I can’t say anything for sure. It’s just if a guy asks you out, you practically rip off his head. If a girl invites you to sit with her at lunch, you make up some excuse not to. If someone invites you to their house or to hang out after school, you’re busy, even though you actually have no plans. It’s just a little odd; you’re new and most new girls try to make friends. But not you.” He finished, watching me closely.
I didn’t say anything, just stared ahead. He said my behavior was odd, but what he described could also just be classified as introversion. I didn’t need to defend myself for being private, and I didn’t like that he was implying that I did.
“Let’s just take the fricking picture.” I snapped, sitting on the opposite side of the bench from him.
Kai nodded, a thoughtful look on his face. “Okay, yeah.” He slid over and put his arm around me. “Just pretend I’m your best friend.”
Images of Demi with my dad flashed in my head and I stiffened.
Kai mush have noticed because he pulled away slightly. “Okay, not your best friend. Pretend I’m Damen.”
I glanced at him briefly. Now I was pretending to be in love with Damen?
“You ready?” Kai asked, raising his phone.
I plastered a smile on my face and nodded.
Kai snapped a few photos of the two of us and then glanced at me. “Okay now goofy pic!” He stuck his tongue out and rolled his eyes back.
He looked so ridiculous that I almost laughed.
“Come on! You’re making me look stupid!” He sputtered between laughs. Moments later, his hand came up and he squished my cheeks between his thumb and fingers.
“Stop!” I squealed, now laughing. I squirmed a little, uncomfortable with our closeness.
Kai just laughed. “You look ridiculous.”
I pulled his hand away and made a pouty face. “You hurt my cheeks.” I said as my pouty face faded into a grin.
Kai raised his eyebrows at me. “Okay serious again.”
I immediately dropped the smile and pursed my lips, trying to look serious and keep from laughing.
I had to admit, doing this, pretending to be in love, was more fun than I’d though it would be. I was almost enjoying myself.
An idea popped in my head and I turned to Kai. “Shut your eyes.”
“What?” Kai’s eyes narrowed.
“Just do it.”
Kai sighed, but did as he was told. “What? Are you gonna leave while my eyes are shut or something?”
“Yeah, something like that.” I leaned in close to his ear. “Just take the damn pictures.” I whispered.
I pressed my lips to his cheek, reminding myself that I was doing this so people would believe we were together.
“Whoa.” Kai inhaled quickly and a smile spread across his face. “You’re not exactly leaving.” He whispered, turning toward me slightly.
I moved over a little so our faces were inches apart. “Yeah, I was just too tired to leave.”
A smile danced across Kai’s face and his eyes shot to my lips.
Of course he was thinking about kissing me. That was what he did after all; make out with all the girls.
I stared at him for a minute before leaning in a little more.
Kai held his ground but didn’t advance like I thought he would. “What are you doing, Wagner?” He whispered.
I glanced away briefly. What was I doing? I didn’t want to kiss him and I didn’t want him to kiss me. I grinned and looked back at him. “This.” I stuck out my tongue suddenly and slid it up the side of his face, licking him.
“Hayden!!” Kai jerked away from me, wiping his face with his hand.
“I so got you!” I gloated, giggling as I scooted away from him.
Kai looked at me and grinned. “Ohhh! I’m so getting you back!” He stood up and slid his phone into his pocket. “You’d better run now.” He warned.
I moved to stand up and run, but it was in that moment that I realized what was happening.
He thought I was flirting and playing games with him.
“No.” I said flatly. I was not going to let him think I was another one of those girls. I was here for one reason: as much as I hated it, I needed him.
Kai made a face. “What?”
“No.” I slumped against the back of the bench. “Look, I didn’t mean it like that.”
Kai wrinkled his eyebrows. “Mean what? What just happened?”
I sighed. “Nothing. Can you just take me home?” I stood up and gestured towards the exit.
“Are you kidding me?” Kai asked. “No fucking way!”
I blinked in surprise. “Excuse me?”
Kai looked shocked and mad. “Fuck it, Hayden, we were having fun and all of the sudden you hate me?” His face hardened a bit and his tone turned cold. “You agreed to this, it’s too late to back out.”
Great, so now he hated me. “I’m not trying to back out, I just want to go home.” I said softly.
Kai’s eyes flicked to mine and then quickly away. “You’re spending the night, remember?” His tone was annoyed at best.
“Yeah, at my friend’s house.”
His eyes narrowed. “What friend?”
“Why does it matter?” I lifted my chin attempting to disguise the fact that I was just stalling for time. The whole spending the night thing had been a spur of the moment thing. I was actually going to the fights tonight.
“It matters because you’re supposed to walk into school tomorrow as my girlfriend.” Kai practically spat out the word. “And I can’t have you doing anything to mess that up for me.”
“Right.” I stared at him. He was worried I would mess up his not-so-perfect plan when he was the one with the jail record and notorious reputation of sleeping with a different girl each night. I almost laughed. I didn’t really care, he’d just given me enough time to come up with a solid cover. “Fine, I’m staying with Wesley.”
I’d picked Wes mainly for two reasons: 1) I knew it would piss off Kai to know I was spending the night at a guy’s house and he couldn’t do anything about it, and 2) he was the only one I could really count on to cover for me if I needed it since he was the only one who’d actually know where I’d been.
An added bonus was that I didn’t think Kai and Wesley were friends. I was counting on that because it would just save me a whole lot of trouble if Kai didn’t ask Wes about it. I hadn’t seen them talk before, but even if they were acquainted, it’s not like I’d said Wesley Knight. There were probably a lot of guys named Wesley at school and Kai couldn’t know which one it was.
An odd expression flashed across Kai’s face. “Knight?”
Shit. “You know Wes?” I tried to sound more surprised than disappointed. The way Kai had said it made it seem like they were best buddies. I guess I’d thought more Wesley.
“Yeah, but I didn’t know you knew him.” Kai’s expression changed suddenly, as if he’d just thought of something. “Wait, why the hell do you think I’m gonna let you spend the night at his house?”
“Let me?” I couldn’t believe him. “You can’t stop me.”
“You sure about that?”
I lifted my chin but didn’t say anything.
“The way I see it, I’m in control here.” Kai gave a little smirk. “I mean, all I have to do is suggest to Damen that you decided not to stay over after all and you’re out of a cover story.”
I squeezed my hands together and glared at him, just itching to beat the smug look off his face. “What are you trying to do here?”
Kai ignored my question and sat back down on the bench. “So then what’s the deal with the two of you? Are you like, seeing each other?”
I blinked in surprise. “Why the hell would you ask that?” I should’ve seen it coming, but somehow, I hadn’t.
“Damn it Hayden!” Kai shrugged in frustration. “I’m trying to figure out what I’ve gotten myself into because as far as I can tell, your life is almost more complicated than mine.”
It was on the tip of my tongue to deny any relationship like that between Wes and I when I thought of the picture Nadia had sent me.
Kai had kissed me.
That was not okay. What was stopping him from trying again? I needed something to make him see me differently than his other girls. Something to make sure he knew I didn’t like him and it wasn’t okay for him to touch me. And I had an idea.
I took a deep breath. “Okay yeah, Wes and I are kind of a thing.” I glanced at Kai briefly trying to appear guilty. “But it’s complicated.”
Kai looked unconvinced. “Well why not use him for your cover with Damen? What are you covering anyway?”
“I just thought it would be better at this point if Damen didn’t know about Wesley. Some weird shit has gone down between them.” I hated myself for covering one lie with another, but I was in too deep at this point. No one could know.
Kai nodded. “So does he know about us then?”
“Wes?” I hesitated.
It was all a lie, so it technically didn’t matter what I said, but I had to be careful with Kai. He kept fishing for things like he thought something was up and I couldn’t let him catch me slipping.
“Wes knows, yeah.” I fidgeted with my phone. “He gets it and he’s cool with it.”
Kai looked at me closely. “You sure he’s cool with it?”
I stared at him. Was he offering me an out? If I “admitted” that Wesley wasn’t okay with the two of us fake dating, this could end right here?
Kai’s face said he was genuine, but what the hell? Why would he give me an out? He’d saved my ass with Damen, but what had I done for him?
The picture of the two of us kissing popped into my head and I suddenly had an awful feeling in my stomach.
He’d lied to me! It was so obvious! He had slept with me!
The whole fake relationship thing had probably just been a game to get me drunk so he could sleep with me and now that he had, he was trying to get me to break it off so that he wouldn’t have to!
How had I ever believed him! He’d probably never even intended to make it to Monday.
I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to sort through my thoughts.
There was no way I was letting him get away with it. He would either own up to what he’d done and break it off himself or keep his end of the agreement.
It pissed me off that I’d fallen for his game, but I had to admit that he wasn’t the only one who’d benefitted. He had saved my ass with Damen and well, there were worse ways to lose your virginity.
“Are you okay?” Kai’s voice broke my train of thought and I found him sitting next to me, looking pretty concerned.
I swallowed and smiled bitterly. “Peachy.”
I might not completely regret ever meeting Kai Rivers, but I definitely wanted to break his nose.