Crossroads: Book 1

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Chapter 6


As I start my way down the hall, I know that today will be a crazy day - not only because of Michael but also because I don’t have time for coffee. It’s tough to function without that stuff.

When I get back to the kitchen, Michael is standing by the door. He clears his throat, shuffles his feet, and runs a hand through his hair. “Uh, you never got your glass of orange juice. I poured you a glass.” He points to the countertop where a small juice glass awaits.

I give him a smile of appreciation. While I thank him, I bring the glass to my lips to drink up the chilled juice. When I finish, I rake my eyes over him. He either matured early or was held back a couple of years; this man is in high school? Michael cuts those emerald orbs away from my prying eyes and opens the door for me, clearing his throat once more.

Strolling to his driveway through the small breeze of the winter Georgia wind, I expect to keep going to wherever the bus- stop is; however, he stops to mount his motorcycle. He reaches behind him and offers me a white helmet. There is no way he is making me get on that thing. I have never been on a bike like that before, let alone with someone I just met almost three hours ago. He’s examining me as if I’m growing gills.

“We aren’t going to the bus-stop?” I ask, bewildered.

“Nope.” He smirks and pats the backseat of his bike. “We already missed the bus.” He studies the invisible watch on his wrist. “It left ten minutes ago.” He looks up at me and pats the backseat of his bike one more time.

Of course it did. “No, I’m not getting on that,” I argue and cross my arms over my chest to stand my ground.

“Why not?” He exacerbates while dropping the hand with a helmet to his side.

“Because they’re dangerous. Why can’t we take your truck?” I argue, eyeing longingly at his black pickup.

I’d feel safer in there.

“Kitten, if I wanted to take that, I wouldn’t be on Layla, here. Now come on, we’ll be late. I’ll take it easy on you, I promise.” He smiles, handing out the helmet and showing off those dimples. “Besides, the truck ain’t working right now. This is your only option unless you wanna walk.”

He named his bike. Is that normal? What’s his truck’s name? Does his truck have a girl’s name too?

I don’t want to walk. I kind of want to get on the bike - I’ve always wanted to know what it was like... but I’m still not so sure. I just met him!

Michael grins, showing that darn dimple again, and says, “I’ll be gentle. I promise. You’ll be safe... I know for a fact you’ll enjoy the ride.” He adds a wink for good measure. Was that an innuendo? Are we still talking about the bike? My cheeks flush at the play of his words. As quick as a frog’s tongue catching its meal, I strangle the idea and throw it in the back of my mind. There’s no way he’s into me like that; I am not that lucky.

Dad seems to trust him enough. I should have paid better attention during the introductions, but if he trusts him, then maybe I should too. My dad does not trust people on a whim... He wouldn’t just throw me into the lion’s den unless he figured I’d be in capable hands.

“Fine.” Giving up, I throw my arms in the air. As I yank the helmet out of his hand, I realize something...

“Wait, where’s yours?” I place and fasten the helmet to my head. If I had it my way, I would have knee pads, elbow pads, a chest guard, and shin guards, but this helmet will have to do.

“Kitten, I’ve been riding these things since before I could walk. I don’t need one.” He shrugs, placing a pair of aviator sunglasses on. The entire ensemble enhances how sexy he is as he holds out a hand for me.

“Come here, and I’ll guide you on.” There’s that smile again. Gazing down at his palm, I place my hand in his. It’s difficult, but I’m determined not to think about his calloused, warm, and large hand as it covers mine. He guides me closer to the bike,

motioning that I lean on him while swinging my right leg over the seat. He guides my left leg by the calf with his left hand and brings my foot to a peg, sending heat through me to my core. My breathing hitches as I move my other foot to its peg.

“Relax, you’ll be fine,” he speaks over his shoulder.

Oh, I am fine alright. I’m so relieved that he can’t see my face. It’s as red as a tomato, I’m sure.

“You’re gonna wanna hang on to me.” Before I can respond, he flips a switch, and the engine roars to life. The engine purrs and vibrates beneath me. With a slight sway of the bike, he lifts it off the kickstand. My hands think for themselves as they find his waist and dig nails into his sides. Michael laughs as he takes my hands in efforts to pull me forward. It forces my body to scoot closer to his as he wraps my arms around his waist. I try not to think about the hard abs beneath my touch.

It’s no use.

“Hang on tight. When we turn at a corner, lean in that direction a bit, okay?” he tells me. Nodding in response, I can feel his warmth between my legs, against my chest, and on my cheek as I press against him. He revs the bike, and before I know it, we are riding down the road.

There are no words to describe the experience. I can tell he is going slower than he would without me, but the whipping wind on my face is incredible. The word that comes to mind is: freedom; not that I ever believed I was trapped. In the moment of finally loosening up, I unglue the side of my face from his back to look around. I realize why people ride these things. It makes you feel invincible, happy, and unrestricted. It calms my nerves as I take in the smell of pine, crisp morning air, and the sights of nature, homes, and businesses that we zoom past. They seem so close without the protection of a car. I can’t help but smile at the wild sensation.

I glance into the side mirror of the bike and notice his amused reaction. Embarrassed, I duck my head behind him to use his body as a shield to block his gaze upon my reddening face. How does he do that? Why does he do that to me?

We pull into the school’s parking lot; there’s a sign saying ‘Long County High School.’ It is a rather large red brick building with blue doors and white trim around the windows. Michael drives us to a parking spot and backs in. As I look around, I get the rattled idea that everyone in the parking lot is watching us. I tense up, instantly getting the impression that I’m an undiscovered species in a fishbowl. I’m not used to having people gawk at me, especially like this. Hopefully, they aren’t even looking at me; maybe they’re just taking their fill of the hunk of a man I am clinging to.

“You can let go now – if you’d like. I mean, we can try and go to class like this, but it will be a little difficult,” he teases. “Although I do appreciate challenges.”

Those words cause me to blush for the hundredth time. “Oh, sorry.”

With reluctance, I remove myself from him. His hand reaches out to the side for me to use as I dismount the bike. I can still feel the echo of the rumbling motor on the inner parts of my thighs. While taking off the helmet and brushing out my hair with my fingers, I hear some loud giggling nearby. I peek over my shoulder and see a group of girls. They appear to be my age, ogling, pointing, and snickering amongst themselves, looking at my biker chauffeur. He seems to be oblivious as he strides over to me, motioning for us to head into the building.

He opens one of the blue doors for me, so I step inside. I try not to notice that a large, warm, muscular hand finds the small of my back. It’s difficult because his touch sends jolts of electricity to the rest of my body as he leads me down the hall through the sea of fellow pupils. The school has white and blue-tiled floors, white brick walls with a large painting of blue waves with “Home of the Blue Tide” written above it.

In the hall, a boy trips over his own feet, and his books crash all over the hallway. Before I’m able to think, Mike bends down to help the boy gather his belongings. One of the boy’s books lands by my feet, so I pick it up and hand it to him. The boy pushes his glasses up his nose and thanks us. My gaze falls on Michael as he pats the boy’s shoulder and says, “No problem.”

I smile at Michael for his kindness, but he doesn’t acknowledge me. Instead, he looks ahead to continue guiding us to the office. He opens the door for me, signaling I should enter first. I walk up to the front desk; there’s a pungent floral smell that tickles my nose. Once at the reception desk, I introduce myself as Elena Cochran and that I am a transfer student. It takes the receptionist a minute to search up my records; I can feel Michael’s watchful eyes. With caution, I turn my head. I was right. As soon as I make eye contact with him, he smiles at me. In the complication of almost forgetting to breathe, I smile back. As I twist back around, I briefly think about what it would be like to kiss him. To have his arms around me...

“Okay, Elena, here is your schedule, the room numbers are here on the left, and it lists your classes next to them on the right. Down at the bottom is your locker number and combination.” Her high-pitched voice diminishes my daydream, causing me to clear my throat.

“Uh... thank you.” I take my schedule and step to the side.

“I’ll be right behind ya.” Michael nods his head towards the door as if to push me along to my first class without him.

Having no idea where I’m going, I decide to seek out my locker. The little blue signs on the walls have the locker numbers to help students direct their way to the hall with their locker. It takes a while, but I find my hall. I scan the small black numbers on each orange locker until I find mine. The combination works on the first try.

With my bag on the hook, I take out a pencil and a notebook for my first class. Having butterfingers, the pencil slips from my grasp and rolls on the floor. I dive for it, but another hand picks it up. My eyes slide upward to see a boy smiling at me. He has black hair that just sweeps his forehead and the tops of his ears. His eyes are a deep brown, he has a clean, smooth face, and his physique is slender but with an athletic build. He offers his hand to help me up; it’s nice and warm. The boy helps me up to my feet. He stands a little shorter than Michael, but not by a lot -maybe a couple of inches.

“Here’s your pencil,” Brown Eyes says as he hands it to me, that sweet southern drawl escaping his lips.

“Thank you,” I say, a little embarrassed even though I’m not one hundred percent sure on why.

“I’m Declan Young,” he introduces himself.

“Elena.” I smile.

Declan takes a deep breath and continues our awkward conversation. “So, you’re new here? I haven’t seen you before.”

“Yeah, just moved,” I give him a brief smile while pressing down my sweater.

“Cool. Cool. Where are you from? Is that a ‘Yankee’ accent I hear?” He teases and seems very interested in me.

My nose scrunches at the word ‘Yankee.’ “Detroit, Michigan.”

His eyes open wider. “Wow, quite the move, then! Welcome to Georgia.” He smiles, and I thank him.

“So, what’s your first class?” he asks.

“Human Biology.” College-like courses are to help us prepare for university, but why does it have to be for human anatomy? I groan to myself as I can hear him chuckle at my expense.

“That class isn’t so bad. I had it last year. I’m willing to help you study if you ever want help.” Heat surges up my neck at that, not sure what’s going on here. “Who do you have?” He asks.

Looking down at the paper again, while trying to hide the red face with my hair–thank God I wore it down today. “Miss Jackson.”

“Oh! She’s great. You’ll be fine. She makes it fun. I’ll walk you,” he offers with hopeful eyes. As soon as I am about to agree - someone with a low voice answers for me.

“No, I’ll take her.” A deep ordering drawl comes from behind me. It’s from Michael. I’d know that gravelly voice anywhere. I turn my head, and he’s standing with his arms crossed and feet shoulder-width apart as he sizes Declan up. He looks... irritated or angry? When did he show up?

I turn to Declan with an apologetic smile, and he grins back. It doesn’t surprise me to find that he is a tad bit intimated, as his brown eyes widen.

“Okay, cool. I’ll catch you around, Elena.” He waves and turns on his heel to walk away.

Now I know why Michael doesn’t have many friends. I hit him on the arm with my notebook. “What was that?” I hiss.

The man didn’t even flinch when I whack him - he stands next to me unaffected. He glances at me as I try my hardest to look pissed off, but he chuckles at my efforts.

“Come on, let’s get to your class, you don’t want to be late,” he waggles his eyebrows.

Nearly stumbling on my own two feet as I try to keep up with him, I still can’t believe how he treated Declan. You were very rude; I can’t let it go. “Seriously, Michael, what was that back there?”

“What? Oh, having some fun,” he shrugs his shoulders. “By the way, call me Mike.” Faces, classrooms, and lockers blur my vision as we speed by.

“Mike, it was rude!” I shout.

“Oh, come on, it was harmless. I was rattling his chain to see what he’d do. He ran away... pussy.” He mutters the last word under his breath.

We suddenly stop in a hall that I followed him to, and I almost crash into his back. There’s a classroom door open with some students with their phones out, waiting for class to start.

“Well, I don’t appreciate you acting like that, especially when I am trying to make new friends,” I pout, trying to stick up for myself. He just gazes at me with those green eyes. They turn a little dark as he inches closer to me. Cranking my head back a little to keep eye contact with him, I try not to lose my nerve. It’s harder to breathe; my hands are trembling as they clench my notebook against my chest, my heart is pounding so hard - it might just jump out. Mike’s jaw tightens as he holds my gaze and hovers over me. His face is mere inches from mine - I can’t help but gulp.

In a low curt voice, he responds. “That little boy does not want to be your friend. He wants to fuck you.” I flush and cringe at his crude choice of words. He backs away with a self-satisfying smile. I let out a breath I didn’t realize I was holding.

How would he know that? Why does he think that? He’s rude and paranoid. I can’t stand him. Does he always have to use such words?

“Oh, really?” Before I can think, words come tumbling out like a tumbleweed. “What gives you the right to say that? You don’t know him! Maybe he was just being nice. You are so, so...” A pause lingers as I search for the right word. He cocks his head with amusement, showing off those gorgeous stupid dimples. “Conceited. Yeah, conceited... and cocky.” I poke a finger into his hard chest. Big mistake there. His smirk comes back. “Stop looking at me like that!” I bellow, yanking my finger away before it rests there for too long.

His grin widens. “You like it. I can tell.”

I feel myself begin to fume.

“We’re about to start class. Are you in this biology class?” A voice interrupts us, stopping me from clobbering Mr. Dimples. Turning around, I see an older lady with her brown hair in a bun, thick round glasses, a soft smile, white teeth, and a floor-length dress with a cardigan sweater.

“Yeah, I am,” I respond rather sheepishly.

“So am I,” Mike says while straightening himself with a coy grin.

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