Even with his reputation, he takes it too far when he uses a textbook to save the track star, Braeden, from a goose attack. Braeden is everything Jeff is not. Tall. Charming. Has 20/20 vision. And would never, ever wipe his mouth after a girl kisses him.
Braeden insists on getting to know Jeff. Jeff vacillates between wanting to know him and wanting to punch him in the mouth. Then he discovers the darkness rippling beneath Braeden’s deceptively easy-going persona. As Braeden confides his secrets, Jeff does the one thing that’s socially suicidal:
He falls in love with the very popular, very straight Braeden Britely.
14+ due to sexuality, violence, and adult situations
As he typed in his student password, the chair beside him scraped back on tile so old it had begun to powder. An increasingly familiar voice said, “Everyone says I should thank you.”
What the hell does he want from me? Jeff stared straight ahead. While it was one of the better computers, it still took forever to log in. All he had to watch was a swirling circle icon. “Huh.”
“It would seem”—Scrape, scrape, went the chair—“that you saved my”—Long legs swung over the seat—“quote beautiful face unquote”—Two fingers mimicked the quotation marks—“so I owe you one.” And Braeden was sitting backward on the rickety metal chair, well within Jeff’s periphery. Jeff felt the track star’s gaze bore into him, green and hot and burning so Braeden brightly.
With the barest of glances, Jeff said, “Think you need a second opinion.”
“I’ve saved prettier faces.”
Braeden laughed. It was loud and deep, and affected Jeff far more than he wanted to admit. The muscles bunched at his neck.
“I bet you have,” said Braeden.
“What do you want?”
“Like I said, I owe you.”
Jeff shook his head. “You lost to a bird. I don’t want that kind of pathetic equivalent in my debt.”
Braeden’s responding smile was toothy. “Are you always this nice?”
“Precisely this nice.”
“I can dig it.”
Jeff’s fingers curled into a ball beside the keyboard. “Didn’t ask you to.”
“That’s the spirit!” The bell rang, cutting off Jeff’s retort. Braeden stood and winked. “Guess you’re my personal Napoleon in shining armor, huh?”
“Oh, real clever,” said Jeff. “A short joke. Ha, ha.”
“Mr. Young,” snapped the teacher. “The bell rang. Sit down.”
He hadn’t realized he’d stood. Jeff pressed his lips tight together and shot Braeden a dirty look. From where he’d retreated to the back, Braeden grinned and waggled his good fingers. Jeff sat, hating that every stare was on him, and hating Braeden for it.
Once class started, the teacher retreated to his computer while the seniors chatted about next month’s issue. Jeff had resigned himself to research for another project when a blinking notification popped up in the task bar. With a frown, he clicked on it and a small window emerged.
No1TrackStar: hey ;)
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” said Jeff under his breath. He dared a glance toward the back, but Braeden was casually chatting with the girl next to him. Through the gaps between other computer screens, Jeff noticed a large, tanned hand resting on a mouse—like Braeden was ready to click on something at a moment’s notice.
He almost closed out of the window. Instead, he wrote back.
JeffY: Nice username. Real modest.
There was a long pause. After the pause turned into a minute, then two, then five, Jeff closed out of the window. He wasn’t sure if the unfurling sensation in his stomach was relief or annoyance … or even disappointment.
A few minutes later, a new notification came through. His stomach began to inch toward his chest. Jeff reluctantly clicked.
Jeff covered his mouth to hide a bemused smile. He glanced around. Nobody was watching. His brief moment of infamy was gone, just like that. Had Maya’s comment spread so quickly, actually done him a favor?
JeffY: Yeah, actually.
This time, the responses were faster.
No1QuackVictim: you gonna tell me why you hate me so much?
JeffY: Never said I did.
No1QuackVictim: you really are just this rude to everyone?
JeffY: I thought I was clear about that.
No1QuackVictim: lol ok fair but then why save me?
Jeff rubbed his mouth. Why, in that moment, had Brenda’s kiss come back to him? And why had the memory nosedived into a fantasy, where Brenda’s lips had become wider, firmer, drier? Why was her jawline more angular?
And why did it excite him this time? He wasn’t even sure he liked this dude. Could all this fuss be so simple as physical attraction?
He drew a couple slow, deep breaths to calm himself.
JeffY: No one else was doing anything. Figured you wanted all your fingers.
No1QuackVictim: lol yah 8 is better than 0
A small smile tugged the corner of Jeff’s mouth.
JeffY: Don’t be dramatic. At most you’d have lost five.
No1QuackVictim: naw man once they taste human blood they dont go back
JeffY: That’s sharks. And bears. Not geese.
No1QuackVictim: ill trust your judgment napoleon
Well, thought Jeff irritably, that camaraderie hadn’t lasted long. He exited out of the window and resumed his research. A new tab blinked a few times, but he ignored it. It kept his mind on Braeden, though, and his normally linear thoughts kept doing little whirls into chaos.
Attractive upper-tiers are always arrogant. Who does he think he is? I can’t help being short, but he can help being an asshole. Who cares if he has the greenest eyes I’ve ever seen?