Home > Crave (Crave #1)(14)

Crave (Crave #1)(14)
Author: Tracy Wolff

I start to tell her I’m not thirsty—the low-grade nausea is back—but she doesn’t wait for my answer before she slips her hand in mine and draws me across the room to the buffet tables.

At one end, there are two huge teapots and an arrangement of teacups along with two open coolers filled with icy water bottles and cans of soda.

I start to reach for a cup—I’ve been freezing since I first landed in this state. But then I notice several orange and white five-gallon sports thermoses set up on a separate table. “What are those?” I ask, because I’m curious. And because there seem to be an awful lot of drinks for the number of people in this room. I really, really hope this doesn’t mean that a bunch more students are going to be showing up. We’re already over my comfort level with the number who are already here.

“Oh, those are just water,” Macy says breezily. “We always keep a bunch on hand in case the temperature drops suddenly and the pipes freeze. Better safe than sorry.”

It seems to me that they’d have special pipes and extra insulation for places in Alaska to make sure that doesn’t happen. But what do I know? I mean, it’s only November and it’s already below freezing outside. And that’s normal. It makes sense that a particularly harsh winter could really mess things up here.

Before I can ask anything else, Macy bends down, pulls a Dr Pepper out of the cooler, and holds it out to me. “I made sure Dad told them to order Dr Pepper for the party—and the cafeteria. It’s still your favorite, right?”

It is my favorite. I thought I was in the mood for tea, but there’s something about that maroon can that gets to me. That reminds me of home and my parents and the life I used to have. Homesickness wells up inside me, and I take the drink, desperate for something—anything—familiar.

Macy smiles at me, nods encouragingly, and I realize that she knows what I’m feeling. Gratitude helps chase away the homesickness. “Thanks. That’s really cool of you.”

“It’s nothing.” She knocks her shoulder against mine. “So, who do you want to meet next?” She nods to two guys lounging in red velvet armchairs near the back of the room. They’re dressed in the richly patterned button-ups that mark them as members of Macy’s group. “That’s Cam and his best friend.”

“Cam?” She said the name as though I should recognize it, but I don’t.

“My boyfriend. He’s been dying to meet you. Come on.”

Pretty hard to say no to that, so I don’t even try, though I know Cam and anyone else who is “dying to meet” the new girl are destined to be disappointed. I’m just not that interesting.

“Cam! This is the cousin I was telling you about!” Macy squeals before we even get next to her boyfriend.

He stands and holds out a hand. “Grace, right?”

“Yes.” I shake his hand, and as I do, I can’t help noticing how pasty his skin is. “It’s good to meet you.”

“Good to meet you, too. Macy’s been talking about you coming for weeks now.” He grins at me. “Hope you like snow, surfer girl.”

I don’t bother to tell him that I’m not much of a surfer. God knows I’m guilty of stereotyping, too—before I got here, I was half certain I’d be living in an igloo.

“I don’t know if I do or not,” I tell him. “Yesterday was the first time I’ve ever seen it.”

That gets his attention—and his friend’s, too. “You’ve never seen snow?” the other guy asks incredulously. “Ever?”

“Nope.”

“She’s from San Diego, James.” Macy looks, and sounds, exasperated. “Is that really so hard to believe?”

“I guess not.” He shrugs and sends me a grin that I can tell is meant to be charming but grossly misses the mark. I’ve always hated guys who look at girls like they’re food meant to be gobbled up. “Hi, Grace.”

He doesn’t extend his hand, and I definitely don’t extend mine. “Hi.”

“So what do you think of Alaska so far?” Cam asks as he loops an arm around Macy’s waist. He doesn’t wait for an answer before he sits back down, pulling my cousin onto his lap as he does.

Before I can answer, he’s got his face buried in Macy’s neck and she’s giggling, her hands threading their way through his sleek brown hair as she burrows into him.

Which is pretty much my cue to leave, as things suddenly get really awkward. Especially since James continues to stare at me like he’s waiting to see if I’m going to plop myself down on his lap—which, for the record, I most definitely am not.

“I, uh, need another drink,” I tell him, awkwardly holding up my still mostly full can of Dr Pepper.

“I can get it for you,” he offers, starting forward, but I take a big step back.

“You don’t have to.”

“You okay, Grace?” Macy breaks off her giggling long enough to ask, completely serious.

“Yeah, of course. I’m fine. I’m just—” Once again, I hold up my Dr Pepper. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

Cam must do something super sexy to her, because Macy’s laugh changes, gets lower, about the same time I lose all her attention.

I don’t wait for James to offer again—or worse, insist. Instead, I take off across the room like a shot. But I barely make it to the drinks table before two very large, very warm hands land on my shoulders.

10

Turns Out

the Devil Wears

Gucci

I freeze, my heart running wild as NotJames NotJames NotJames runs through my head like a mantra on overdrive. I mean, seriously. Don’t I have enough on my plate right now? Do I really need some jerk trying to make me his afternoon snack as well?

But before I can figure out what to say, the guy leans forward and—in a low, rich voice—asks, “Want a piggyback ride?”

And just like that, the tension dissolves, leaving nothing but a cautious joy in its place. “Flint!” I whirl around to find him grinning at me, amber eyes dancing wickedly.

“Hey there, New Girl,” he drawls. “Having fun?”

“Absolutely.” I hold up my Dr Pepper. “Doesn’t it look like I’m having a good time?”

“It looks like someone can’t take a hint, so I thought I’d lend a hand.” As one, we shift to watch James—who, as it turns out, did follow me to the drink table—sulkily make his way back to Cam and Macy, who are still wrapped up in each other.

“Thanks for that. I appreciate it.”

“Gratitude is so last year.” He says it in a fake, high-pitched voice that sounds remarkably like every mean girl everywhere.

The voice, along with the ridiculous hand gesture he uses to accompany it, has me laughing so hard, I nearly snort. And that’s when I realize that half the room is still staring at me—while the other half is very deliberately not staring at me. Their disregard would be a relief if I didn’t know they were doing it to make sure I understand how insignificant I really am to them.

Which, duh.

“So do you want to grab something to eat?” Flint asks, nodding behind us.

Before I can answer, both of the room’s heavy wooden doors fly open. They slam against the wall with a bang that makes everyone in the room jump. And then turn to look.

On the plus side, that means no one is paying attention to me anymore. Because they’re all looking at him. At Jaxon. And really, who could blame them when he walks in like he owns the place—and everybody in it.

Dressed all in Gucci black—silk V-neck sweater, wool pinstripe pants, shiny leather dress shoes—with his scarred eyebrow furrowed and his dark gaze as cold as the snow-covered ground outside, he shouldn’t look sexy at all. But he does. God, he really, really does.

On the negative side, all that coldness—all that darkness—is focused directly on me. And Flint, whose arm has somehow found its way around my shoulders.

I try to glance away, but it’s impossible. Try not to look Jaxon in the eyes. But he’s just as captivating—just as mesmerizing—today as he was last night. And that’s before he starts to move, all languid grace, all rolling shoulders and leading hips and legs that go on for freaking ever.

It’s overwhelming.

He’s overwhelming.

He’s just a guy, I remind myself even as my mouth turns desert dry. Just a regular guy like everyone else here. But even as I tell myself that, I know it’s a lie. Jaxon is anything but regular. Anything but ordinary, even here, among the blatantly extraordinary.

Next to me, Flint chuckles a little, and I want to ask him what’s so funny when I notice Jaxon heading straight toward us, with an icy blankness in his eyes that makes a shiver run straight through me. But I can’t get the words out, can’t get anything out of a throat that has closed up tight.

I take a strangled breath, hoping it will chill me out a little. It doesn’t work, but then I never really thought it would.

Not when all I can see is how he looked last night, sucking my blood off his thumb.

Not when all I can hear is his voice—low, wicked, wild—warning me to lock my door.

Not when all I can think about is kissing that mouth, running my tongue along the perfect bow of his upper lip, dragging his lower lip between my teeth and biting down just a little bit.

I don’t know where the thoughts are coming from—this isn’t like me. I’ve never thought about a guy like this before, not even my old boyfriend from back home. Even before we went out, I never stood around imagining what it would be like to kiss him.

To wrap my arms around him.

To press my body tightly against his.

Because I can almost feel him—almost taste him. I try to make myself think of anything else. Snow. Tomorrow’s classes. My uncle, who is supposed to be here but is currently MIA.

None of it works, because all I can see is him.

My skin heats up under his gaze, my cheeks burning with embarrassment at the thoughts flitting through my head. And at the way he’s looking at me, like he can read every single one of them.

   
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