Chapter 16- Coffee with a Dash of Sin(clair)
“If something burns your soul with purpose and desire, it’s your duty to be reduced to ashes by it. Any other form of existence will be yet another dull book in the library of life.”
Poe raked his claws into my sneaker.
I rolled my eyes and bent to scratch his ears. “Okay, okay. I won’t forget your special treat.”
Raven sidestepped Poe and tapped her wrist. “Chop, chop. Demon Feline cat will unfortunately still be here when we get back.”
It was Wednesday, meaning I had Chemistry to look forward to. Outside, the temperature was abysmal, per usual. But I was wearing my favorite coat, and nothing short of an apocalypse was ruining my mood.
Raven gave me a squinty-eyed glance. “Why are you so chipper?”
I blinked innocently. “Whatever do you mean?”
“Stop, I feel like I need sunglasses to keep all that happy from blinding me,” she groaned.
The path curved, and I spotted two figures waiting. A small smile tilted my mouth. I pointed. “That’s why.”
We reached Landon and Jesse. I waved vaguely at
Jesse, knowing I should make small talk to make it seem less like I was anxiously waiting to talk to his friend, but life was too short to play games with no winners.
Instead, I headed straight to Landon.
He looked adorable. He had a beanie tucked low over his hair and a huge black jacket to protect him from the cold.
Landon grinned at me. “Hi.”
I beamed. “Hi.”
“OH GOD! IT BURNS!” Raven screeched.
Landon turned his head slightly and arched a brow.
“Did you not find enough Dalmatians to fund your wardrobe?”
Jesse rolled his eyes with exasperation and tugged a riled Raven aside.
Shuffling from foot to foot, I stuffed my hands into my jeans pockets. “If it makes you feel better, she probably hates my cat a little more than you.”
Landon handed me one of two Styrofoam coffee cups he was balancing. “I think she loves that I validate her sarcasm.”
I shook my head with amused exasperation. “You’re weird.”
He pursed his lips thoughtfully. I stared at his mouth.
I’d kissed those lips.
“If I’m weird, then you’re downright crazy.”
Landon pressed his hand into the small of my back, sending a jolt of pure energy through my spine. He guided me forward. “C’mon crazy, let me walk you to class.”
“What about…?” I hooked my thumb over my shoulder.
He snorted. “They’ve probably already forgotten we exist.”
I took a long drink of coffee, just to keep myself from doing something stupid, and allowed the warm liquid to heat my chilled bones.
“Dark chocolate,” I noted, licking a drop from my lip. “How’d you know?”
His gaze was focused squarely on the southern region of my face. “You showed up at dawn to Pedro’s and ordered everything with chocolate on the menu.”
I remembered the stack of chocolate pancakes and nodded with satisfaction.
I touched my chin self-consciously. “Is there something on my face? Why do you keep staring?”
Landon tugged off his beanie abruptly and ran his hand though his hair roughly. “You’re killing me here, buttercup.”
Hmm. I sipped my coffee, and caught another drop with my tongue.
Landon scowled. Suddenly, the coffee was snatched from my hand. He placed it on a bench and stepped so we were toe-to-toe.
“Do you want me to kiss you? Is that what you’re trying to do here?”
My face flamed, but I refused to let him intimidate me. “Huh, so you aren’t totally blind to social cues.”
Heat sparked between us, almost a tangible presence. The fact that I could be annoyed and still want to do rated-R things to him wasn’t helping defuse the situation.
A muscle pulled in Landon’s jaw, and my hormone’s leaped to the stratosphere.
“Stop looking at me like that,” he groaned. He shut his eyes tightly.
“Because it’s not helping my damn crusade.”
“And what, exactly, is this crusade?”
His eyes flashed open, burning and conflicted. “That I don’t destroy the first good thing to come into my life for a very long time.”
My annoyance partially melted. “Destroy me?”
Landon sighed. “I’m trying to be a gentleman or whatever. I don’t-I’ve never- Sophia, I’ve never had a healthy, affectionate relationship with a girl. I can’t kiss up to your friends, because the Cruella De Vil already wants to use my intestines as her latest accessories, and Madison likes everyone.”
Oh, for the love of caramel drizzled brownies. I grabbed Landon’s arm and prompted him to keep walking, because Professor G. would have a fit if I was late to her class again.
“I’m not grading you, Landon. I have very simple requirements, actually.”
Before he could follow up with a question, I did what I’d wanted to do for ages. I pushed his jacket to the side and wrapped my arms around his waist. The jacket settled over me, and I pressed my cheek into his shoulder.
Landon tripped slightly, but kept walking.
“I think I can manage that one,” he said lightly, pulling me closer.
I giggled. “You get an A for participation.”
We walked in comfortable silence for a few minutes. A couple of people glanced at us, but nobody started doing what I wanted to do, which was jump up and down and do the Macarena.
We reached the Chem door, and I pulled away with regret. “This is my stop. Do you-”
Landon tilted my chin up and pressed his lips against mine, a sizzling kiss that reached the tips of my toes. No coffee could rival that kind of heat.
He broke away with a wicked smile. “I was hoping that was the next requirement. It’s a deal-breaker.”
“Non-negotiable,” I agreed, still in a Landoninduced fog.
He backed down the hall. “Get to class, Michaels.”
“I’m a rebel, Sinclair!” I made a silly face and pumped my fist in the air.
Laughing, Landon rounded the corner and disappeared.
“Clueless” was playing in the lounge, and some of the girls were saying the lines of the movie right along with the characters. What was it about the movie that had girls of all ages watching it sixty times over?
Probably Paul Rudd.
I was sitting on the floor and Maddie was on the couch above me. She’d been playing with my hair throughout the movie, and it was making me sleepy. Raven was sitting beside me on her phone.
“I hate this movie,” she complained for possibly the millionth time.
Without moving my gaze from the screen, I reached over and placed the palm of my hand over her face. “Shhh…shhh.”
Raven slapped my hand aside and grumbled under her breath. Poe was prowling the room, getting some much needed exercise. The girls had grown more than used to him, and one absentmindedly reached over to stroke his chin.
Seeing Cher confide in her friends about the guy she liked (poor thing still hadn’t realized he was gay) caused a faint stirring of guilt. It had been days since my first kiss with
Landon, and still hadn’t told Maddie and Raven. I’d wanted to keep the magic to myself, but now it was a bit too much for me to carry.
I poked both of them and pointed to the fairly isolated bean bag area. Hoping they followed my example, I crawled from my spot and plopped on the furthest bean bag.
A minute later, they joined me, and we formed a private circle. Raven put aside her phone and both of them watched me expectantly.
I cleared my throat. “So, I didn’t tell you guys this, but…do you remember when I ran out of Grimm?”
“Well, Landon followed me.” I described the incident in detail, and Raven chortled at the part where I called him stupid.
“And then…um, he kissed me.”
Maddie looked delighted. Raven…I couldn’t tell if she was shocked or contemplating Landon’s instant annihilation.
Poe, jealous he was no longer the center of attention, huffily crawled onto Maddie’s lap and waited for her to commence petting.
Before they could say anything, because I could tell Raven was gearing up to deliver one hell of monologue, I said, “I kissed him today too.”
“Guys,” I whispered. “I think I really, really like him.”
Maddie reached over Poe to squeeze my hand.
“That’s not a bad thing, Soph.”
Raven sighed and pulled at her hair. “Personal distaste aside, he’s not a bad guy. Jesse absolutely adores him, so much I think if it came down to choosing between him and me…well, I’d be single.”
So there lay the root of Raven’s animosity. Her boyfriend might pick his best friend over her, and that rubbed her the wrong way.
“I mean, it makes sense, I would dump a guy in two seconds flat if he wanted me to choose between him and you guys, but it…I just don’t like the feeling of second best.” I opened my mouth, but Raven waved me aside.
“No, this is about you, not me. We’ll deal with it later. Do you want to date Landon?”
“And do think he’d make you happy?”
“Very, it’s just-”
Maddie grinned. “Honey, nothing matters after those answers. The ‘but’ is just an obstacle you can kick over when you get to it.”
“Landon is so much more experienced than I am. You know, with…the boom diggity boom.”
Raven couldn’t hide her horror. “What did you just call sex?” Maddie giggled hysterically, toppling sideways on the bean bag
“Guys! I’m serious!”
“That’s why it’s funny,” Raven chuckled, reaching over to prop Maddie back up on the bean bag.
I stared balefully until they quieted.
“Look Soph, he is definitely more experienced than you. He’s more experienced than the average college guy. It’s something you can just tell.”
And it was something I could mentally confirm, after Landon told me his sordid history with partying and drinking.
“Plus, you have zero experience whatsoever,” Raven continued. Maddie smacked her arm.
“That’s a great thing,” she told me. “Believe me, sex with someone you’re not head over heels in love with is just something you regret.”
My head was overflowing with information, and I needed time to absorb it. “Thanks guys. I’ll keep all that in mind.” I crawled to the corner of the room and laid flat on my back.
The real reason I was terrified of getting closer to Landon was because once I gave him my heart, I wouldn’t have the strength to ask for it back. Trusting someone not to take your heart and crush it …that required a courage I wasn’t sure I possessed.
Landon wasn’t a guy I could play games with. He was intense and vulnerable. For so long, he’d operated on his own plane of reality. The fact that he was willing to let me exist on it was a privilege I didn’t want to ruin.
I combed my hands through my hair and exhaled. My back pocket buzzed, and I pulled out my phone to see a text from Landon flashing on my screen.
Landon: So were you late to class?
Landon: If so, I’m not sorry.
Landon: Because I like your face.
Landon: And it’s your fault for being cute.
I burst into laughter as his barrage of messages continued, and Maddie winked from across the room. With a few badly pieced sentences, Landon had managed to quiet the worry storming in my mind.
If that wasn’t enough, I didn’t know what was.