Alice in zombieland, p.13

Alice in Zombieland, page 13

 part  #1 of  White Rabbit Chronicles Series

 

Alice in Zombieland



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Page 13

 

  His friends surrounded him, though there weren’t as many this time. Every single one of them sported a bruise somewhere—face, neck, arms, knuckles—some worse than others. Both of Frosty’s wrists were bandaged, hiding his tattoos.

  Okay, seriously. They had to be part of some kind of fight club.

  “Hey, Ali. ” Oops. Frosty had caught me staring at him. Rather than chastising me, he gave me a sunshine-happy grin. “Lookin’ good today. ”

  “Thanks,” I replied, trying not to shift nervously. Okay, so I’d dug out my best jeans and a flowing gray-and-white lace top that made me look chestier than I actually was. So what. It didn’t mean anything.

  “Why don’t you make our dreams come true and come talk to us?” he added, all smooth charm and cotton candy sweetness.

  I returned my attention to Cole, wondering if he would encourage me to come closer, too. He was now peering at me as well, but he wasn’t grinning. He was scowling.

  The moment our gazes met, the rest of the world washed away—

  —we were in the middle of the now-empty hallway. His strong arms banded around me, dragging me closer to his body. Heat enveloped me, followed by the scent of sun-dried laundry and sandalwood. No strawberry lollipop this time, but that hardly mattered. He still made my mouth water.

  Violet eyes drank me in, as if I were the most beautiful thing in the entire world. “Hold on to me. ”

  Immediately I complied, tracing my fingers up his chest, around his neck and into his hair. No hat. No injuries. “Like this?”

  “Yeah, that’s the way. ” And then he pressed our lips together, his tongue sweeping inside my mouth and taking control.

  Our heads tilted to opposite sides, allowing deeper contact. A shadow of stubble on his jaw scratched at my skin, but even that was exciting and wonderful and utterly tantalizing.

  My second kiss, I thought dazedly, and it was even better than the first. He tasted like mint and cinnamon, and I decided the combination was my new favorite flavor. A necessary start to each and every day. And his hands…oh, the things he did with his hands.

  He knew exactly what he was doing. Obviously he had experience, a lot of experience, playing a girl like a piano.

  Playing…the word reverberated through my mind. Was this a game to him? Or something more? Like a relationship? Would he talk to me when the kiss ended? Or would he want nothing to do with me? Would his friends think I was easy? Look how quickly I’d fallen into his arms. Would I be known as the Asher Slut, giving tongue to whoever wanted it?

  Great. Just my luck. My thoughts could now intrude on my whacked-out hallucinations and I—

  “Yo, Ali!”

  —I blinked, the dream-kiss vanishing and the rest of the world swooping back into focus. I saw a thinning crowd, heard the slamming of lockers mixed with the pounding of footsteps. Smelled a collage of different perfumes, some sugary, some spicy.

  A frowning Kat stood in front of me. “There you are,” she said. “Back from your mental vacation. Do you know you’re, like, hovering in the middle of what I’ve deemed social Siberia, blocking traffic?”

  “Sorry,” I replied.

  A sigh left her. “I know people say apologizing is a sign of weakness, but I think it’s a sign of strength—when people do it to me. Just do me a favor and capture my next words like the beautiful butterflies they are and never let them go. If you don’t wipe Cole Holland from your mind, you’ll end up on the SS Miserable with me. ”

  I couldn’t help myself. I glanced over her shoulder. Cole was—

  Striding toward me, determination in his every step. A fierce scowl marred his features. His hands were fisted, and I could see the scabs on his knuckles. He must have done a lot of punching last night. I felt sorry for whomever he’d fought.

  You’re just standing here! Do you want him to reach you? He would demand to know why I kept eye-stalking him.

  I thought I’d put on my big-girl panties today, but no. Like a coward, I threw out, “Thanks for the advice. It’s great, and I’ll be sure to run with it. ” Literally. “I’ll see you at lunch, okay?” Before Kat could rapid-fire questions at me, I spun and headed in the opposite direction, taking the looong way to the ladies’ room in front of my first class. Thankfully, Cole never caught up with me. Or maybe he hadn’t even tried, which was more likely. With muscles like his, I bet he could outrun a cheetah.

  At the sink, I splashed cold water on my face, dried myself with a paper towel before a single droplet could wet my shirt and studied my reflection. My cheeks were rosy, my bottom lip red and swollen. I must have chewed it during the vision thing.

  Better than Cole chewing it, right?

  No time to work up a believable answer. Mackenzie Love sailed into the bathroom, clearly on a mission. Today her dark curls were twisted on top of her head, several tendrils falling around her face. Her makeup was perfect, except for a blue-and-yellow smudge on her left cheek. A smudge that looked suspiciously like a bruise. She wore a long-sleeved button-up top and soft, flowing pants. Stylish, comfortable, yet completely inappropriate for the heat outside.

  Every inch a predator, she narrowed her eyes and closed the distance between us. This must be the “corner and threaten” routine Kat had warned me about.

  “I don’t know who you think you are or what you think you’re doing,” she snapped, “but I will bury you if you hurt one of my friends. ”

  Yep. It was. “I think my name is Ali Bell, and I think I’m standing here, minding my own business. You should try it. ” Because Mackenzie was a few inches shorter than me, she had to look up to meet my gaze. For once, my height made me deliriously happy.

  She scowled and flashed perfectly straight white teeth. “You better watch yourself. You do not want to see me angry. ”

  “Or, what? You’ll grow a few inches, develop muscles and turn green?” Sorry, but I wasn’t someone who was easily intimidated. Except by someone with black hair and violet eyes, of course.

  Mackenzie sputtered as she tried to think up a reply. I was willing to bet I was the first person to ever stand up to her. Although, I couldn’t imagine Kat cowering or backing down no matter who her opponent was.

  “I don’t want to be late to class,” I said, deciding to end things here and now, “so maybe find me later and tell me whatever insult you think up. ”

  I breezed past her—she was still sputtering—and saw Cole at the end of the hall. Wonder of wonders, he had followed me.

  He spotted me and bounded into motion. I just couldn’t catch a break, could I? The bell rang as I hurried toward him. Yes, toward him. Good news was, I wouldn’t have to deal with him. Before he could catch me, I reached my class and soared inside, shutting the door behind me.

  Of course, I was late again. Mr. Butthole made me stand in front of the class and apologize. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but through the window in the center of the door, I could see Cole glaring at me. Either glaring was his expression du jour or I was in big trouble.

  Only when I slid into my seat did I lose sight of him. What a relief! I’d successfully avoided two confrontations with him. Now to avoid him for the rest of my life. No way could I ever explain what had twice happened in that hallway. Not without bursting into actual flames of embarrassment. No way I could explain why it had happened, or even how.

  I didn’t see him on my way to second or third block, and somehow, someway, I managed to keep my vow to Ms. Meyers. Score! When the bell rang to signal it was time for lunch, I kind of expected Frosty and Bronx to be waiting for me. They weren’t. Double score! I kind of expected Cole to fly out of nowhere and try to flag me down, yet he didn’t. Win! I’d already been forgotten, I guess.

  After stuffing my book and notes into my locker, I trudged to the cafeteria. Kat would demand an explanation for my behavior this morning, and leading with I was imagining getting freaky with your ex’s friend wasn’t going
to fly. She’d ask more questions, and I still had no answers. Well, other than I am seriously screwed up.

  Just before I reached the open double doors, Mackenzie stepped into my path. I barely stopped myself from slamming into her.

  “You’re not going anywhere,” she said. “Not this time. ”

  “Do we really need to have another discussion?” I asked on a sigh. I’d only been smart-alecking—yeah, I’d just turned that word into a verb—when I’d told her to find me later.

  “Yes. We need to ‘have another discussion,’” she mimicked in a shrill voice. “I saw Cole chasing you outside the bathroom. You ran from him. Why?” She didn’t even try to hide her fury. “Are you playing hard to get? Because it’s a little late for that. The way I hear it, you can’t keep your eyes off him. ”

  Heat burned up my throat and scalded my cheeks. Cole had said something to his friends or they had said something on their own. Either way, people had noticed. “Why do you care?” I snapped, going for bravado. “The way I hear it, you’re not dating him anymore. ”

  A bomb detonated in her eyes, flames crackling. “You have no idea what’s going on between me and Cole. ”

  “You’re right. And it doesn’t concern me,” I said, no matter that a little part of me might want to know the truth.

  Dark lashes fused, hiding those fiery jade-green irises. “Earlier I told you I’d hurt you if you hurt him. That’s still true. But now I’m telling you to stay away from him or I’ll wipe the floor with your face before I do the hurting. ”

  Okay, that did it. She’d pushed me right over the edge of my patience. “If you want me to cry and promise to do whatever you want, try a more original threat. ” A saner, more rational person would have mentioned the fact that Cole and I had never actually spoken a word to each other—and clearly had no plans to do so.

  But I wasn’t exactly sane or rational lately.

  All about the intimidation, she rose to her tiptoes, putting us nose-to-nose. “I am capable of things you can’t even imagine. ”
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