Siren’s Song

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Luke stands next to me, and I swear I hear him inhale again. Tendrils of excitement take root in the simple brush of his arm against my hair. My heart pounds and my stomach back-flips. To hell with apathy! I spin toward him and barely control my gasp at his closeness. I lean back slightly so I can focus on his face. Time to take the offensive.

“So what? You were interested,” I throw up little quotation marks with my fingers, “the other night. But now you’re ignoring me?”

“It’s complicated.” He stares into my eyes as if willing me to just take his word for it.

I nod and repeat. “It’s complicated.” I frown. “Life’s complicated, or hadn’t you heard?”

He almost smiles. “I’ve heard that, actually.”

“So what’s so complicated that you’re not interested anymore?” Ah, the big question. I should get points for kick-ass bravery.

He shakes his head, sending the thick, perfectly casual mane swinging around his strong jawline. His dark, blue-black eyes catch mine again with an intense, hooded look. “Interested?” A low chuckle comes out more like a growl and I feel a prickle spider-walk along my shoulders. “More like obsessed.”

I blink. Did he just say he’s obsessed? With me? “O-okay. Lost here.” And a little creeped out.

“It’s better that way.” He turns to his locker and grabs a lunchbag. He walks away.

“Hey.” I can’t just let him go when he is finally sort of talking. “Did you bring me dinner last night?” A blush heats up my neck into my cheeks.

He turns back with a smile. “You like mushrooms. My mom makes a killer lasagna.”

“So, you broke into my house, fed the dog, left dinner, and turned on the lights for me. I almost called the police.”

He leans back against the lockers and glances at the ceiling like he is beseeching heavenly help. “I want to…I need to make sure you are…taken care of.”

My eyes narrow as I try to understand his words. “And you have decided to take on the assignment? Why?”

A sad smile touches his mouth as his head rolls across the lockers so he can look at me again. “I believe I mentioned being obsessed.” His face suddenly seems tired, older somehow, like he has lived a long time and is tired of the whole thing, like he is hopeless.

“How old are you?” I ask.

“Seventeen.”

“How long have you been seventeen?” I know it’s a ridiculous question, but my heart slams in my chest and I hold my breath, waiting for his answer. There is just something strange about him, something dark, and yet I’m drawn to him, want to know all about him.

He laughs and this time the smile reaches his eyes. “Since last October thirty-first.” He steps closer to me. I freeze as his warm palm cups my cheek, covering the whole expanse. “See, I’m warm.” He drops his hand. “And I eat lasagna, too. Lots of it.”

October thirty-first? Halloween? “Your cousin, Taylin, her birthday is October thirty-first, too.”

Luke’s smile fades and his gaze moves to a spot on my forehead, like he can’t look me in the eyes. “It’s complicated, Jule.” His eyes move down to meet mine. They are narrowed, fierce and sad again. He drops his voice even though the hall is virtually empty. “You and I,” he shakes his head, “we shouldn’t be together. I’m…dangerous.”

“You leave a dry towel for me on the porch, but you’re dangerous?” My eyes are narrowed right along with his now.

Luke swallows and glances away. “I can’t go into it. Just know that we,” he looks back, “we can’t be together, ever.” With that, he pivots on his heel and heads toward the outer doors, away from the cafeteria.