We were in his mom’s car now, and he looked at me with an expression I’d never seen before. I couldn’t decide if he wanted to eat me or he was in agonizing pain. He leaned over the console separating us and pulled me to his chest. The snug arms around me offered a sense of security I’d known very few times in my life, but there was an urgency behind it that I wasn’t sure I liked.
He moved a hand into my hair, pushing a wayward strand out of my eyes. “Kailee, as long as we’re together things like this are going to happen. If you want out—”
“What are you saying? Are you saying—? ”
“Sweetheart, I’m saying I don’t want to do anything that’s going to hurt you. If spending time with me is going to cause people to talk about you like that—”
I sighed. It was time to tell the truth or lose something I wasn’t willing to give up. “They talked about me like that long before I met you.” It’s true.
“You’re willing to put up with this kind of bullshit to be with me?”
“It’s not about you.”
He let go of my hair and moved his hand to my cheek. He cupped my face and crushed his lips to mine. This was nothing like the guy I kissed the night we met. The urgency behind his kiss caught me off guard. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and more than once found myself digging my nails into him, but he didn’t seem to mind. The hunger behind the movement of our lips and tongues only grew. He pushed me against the back of the seat, and his hands tugged at my hair now. He dropped his hands to my shoulders stilling my body. He moved away, but his lips brushed my forehead before he returned to his seat.
“I’m sorry. I should have waited until we weren’t in public.”
“I’m only sorry you quit.”
“I was going to ignore what the guy said back there, but before I knew it you were attacking him with a cue stick. It was crazy. I was afraid you were going to get yourself killed, and at the same time it was cute. I couldn’t wait until I took you home to kiss you.”
“I’ve wanted to kiss you for a long time,” I admitted. “But you didn’t seem to like it the first time.”
“Kailee, you’re the only girl I’ve ever kissed. I didn’t want you to kiss me while you were in a drunken stupor over Caleb Miller, and I felt guilty for letting you kiss me while you were distraught.”
“I probably shouldn’t have kissed you that night.”
“I have to take my mom to work, but I’m coming over after that. We need to talk about a lot of things.”
Nothing good in the history of dating ever started with these words, but Abe wasn’t the kind of guy who would kiss me like that and break up with me in the same night. While I was nervous about our talk, I was too elated to let the nerves get to me. Because that kiss was the most passionate thing I’d ever felt, and I never once had to ask him to move his hands.
He dropped me off at home, and I let myself in the empty house. I trudged up the stairs, pulled my backpack off its hook, removed my Trapper Keeper, and set to work on my government project. It was a group project with Farrah and Lacey, but I’d do the whole thing. This was how every group project we’d had since the seventh grade had gone. Lacey wasn’t too bright, and Farrah didn’t care about school, because her fate was sealed. Her mother was a legacy at Baylor, so Farrah would be, too. In spite of being branded an airhead cheerleader, I’d maintained low A’s in everything but math and science.
From my room, I heard the front door hit the wall. God, what is Jackson mad about now? His boots were heavy as they hit the stairs coming up, and then my door burst open with Jackson blowing through it like he was ready to pull it off the hinges.
I dropped my notebook and jumped up from my desk chair.
“What the hell were you thinkin’?”
I had no idea what I had done. “What are you—?”
“Don’t play dumb with me. You know I have to live here, too.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
I moved for my door. I was going to push the dumbass out of it and lock it. I wasn’t dealing with my brother tonight. But moving for the door was a mistake, because before I could attempt to shut it, Jackson grabbed my arm and swung me into the hallway. He shoved me against the wall. “I’m talking about you runnin’ around town with that camel jockey. How could you do this to me? I still have to live here.”
I laughed. “You mean your jarhead friends get to tell me who to talk to?”
“Damn it, Kailee, those guys are crazy! Are you gonna let him prance you around with a towel on your head, too?”
“You don’t even know him. He’s not like that!”
“Let me tell you something. They’re all like that.”
“That’s not true. He’s not even Muslim. Don’t start telling me how to live. Jackson Wayne Hill, you owe me. I’m dodging calls from the police, and I’m sure it has something to do with you. So don’t go all dictator on me. And I’ll date whoever I damn well please.”
“Shut up, bitch!”
I stood up on my toes to get closer to his face. “Don’t call me that!” I yelled.
He swung a fist that I was sure would land in my face, but before I could think to duck or move his hand crashed into the wall. I cowered to the floor in tears.
“I’m sorry,” he said, backing away from me.
“I’m calling Daddy.”
He sighed. “I didn’t mean to do that. But, Kailee, when’s the last time you saw Dad?”
“We had breakfast together two days ago.”
“Well, he was here while I was eating breakfast.”
“That’s not the same thing. Dad wasn’t around when we needed him. He’s not going to pick up your call now.”
He was right, but I still felt a need to defend him. “He’s better than she is.”
“Not really. She was big enough to admit she didn’t want us.”
“You have got to get help, and if Dad’s not going to make you and I can’t, you’ve got to do it on your own.”
“I—I don’t need help. I just get angry sometimes.”
“Why do the police keep calling me?”
“Don’t say anything to the police. Don’t even take the calls!” he barked in the voice of a drill sergeant.
I forced myself to my feet again. “Don’t you think I have a right to know what I’m avoiding?”
“You’re better off not knowing.” He retreated to his room and slammed the door.
I followed after him and knocked on the closed door as I pushed it open. “Abe’s coming over tonight. He defended me when your jarheads called me a whore, so don’t trash him.”
“You cannot expect me to be okay with this. This is like being a Jew and inviting the SS into your home.”
“You don’t have to be okay with it. You just can’t tell me—or him—that you’re not. Because if you do, I’m going to call Officer McGarrett from the Austin Police Department and I’m going to answer every question he has. Deal?”
“You would sell me out over a—”
“Don’t you dare call him a raghead. I wouldn’t sell you out, but I won’t have you trashing the only person in the world that cares about me.” Jackson picked up a dumbbell and threw it. I pulled the door shut in front of me and sighed when I heard the weight pound into the door.