Home > Crave (Crave #1)(6)

Crave (Crave #1)(6)
Author: Tracy Wolff

“I’m so sorry I couldn’t meet you at the airport. A couple of kids got hurt, and I had to take care of things here.”

“Don’t worry about it. Are they okay?”

“They’re fine.” He shakes his head. “Just a couple of idiots being idiots. You know how boys are.”

I start to tell him that I have no idea how boys are—my last encounter is proof of that—but some weird instinct I don’t understand warns me not to bring up the guy I was just talking to. So I don’t. Instead, I laugh and nod along.

“Enough about the duties of a headmaster,” he says, pulling me in for another, quicker hug before leaning back to study my face. “How was your trip? And more importantly, how are you?”

“It was long,” I tell him. “But it was fine. And I’m okay.” The phrase of the day.

“I’m pretty sure ‘okay’ is a bit of an overstatement.” He sighs. “I can only imagine how hard the last few weeks have been for you. I wish I could have stayed longer after the funeral.”

“It’s fine. The estate company you called took care of almost everything. And Heather and her mom took care of the rest. I swear.”

It’s obvious that he wants to say more but just as obvious that he doesn’t want to get into anything too deep in the middle of the hallway. So in the end, he just nods and says, “Okay, then. I’ll leave you to settle in with Macy. But come see me tomorrow morning, and we’ll talk about your schedule. Plus, I’ll introduce you to our counselor, Dr. Wainwright. I think you’ll like her.”

Right. Dr. Wainwright. The school counselor who is also a therapist, according to Heather’s mom. And not just any therapist. My therapist, apparently, since she and my uncle both think I need one. I would argue, but since I’ve had to work really hard not to cry in the shower every morning for the last month, I figure they might be on to something.

“Okay, sure.”

“Are you hungry? I’ll have dinner sent up, since you missed it. And there’s something we really need to discuss.” He narrows his eyes at me, looks me over. “Although…how are you doing with the altitude?”

“I’m okay. Not great, but okay.”

“Yeah.” He looks me up and down, then harrumphs sympathetically before turning to Macy. “Make sure she takes a couple of Advil when she gets to your room. And that she drinks plenty of water. I’ll send up some soup and ginger ale. Let’s keep things light tonight, see how you’re doing in the morning.”

“Light” sounds perfect, since even the thought of eating right now makes me want to throw up. “Okay, sure.”

“I’m glad you’re here, Grace. And I promise, things will get easier.”

I nod, because what else am I going to do? I’m not glad I’m here—Alaska feels like the moon right now—but I’m all for things getting easier. I just want to go one day without feeling like shit.

I was hoping tomorrow would be it, but since I met Tall, Dark, and Surly, all I can think about is the way he looked when he told me to leave Katmere. And the way he glowered when I refused. So…probably not.

Figuring we’re done here, I reach for the handle of one of my suitcases. But my uncle says, “Don’t worry about those. I’ll get one of the guys to—” He breaks off and calls down the hallway. “Hey, Flint! Come here and give me a hand, will you?”

Macy makes a sound halfway between a groan and a death rattle as her father starts down the corridor, presumably trying to catch up with this Flint person.

“Come on, let’s go before Dad chases him down.” She grabs two of my suitcases and practically runs for the stairs.

“What’s wrong with Flint?” I ask as I grab my last remaining suitcase and try to keep up with her.

“Nothing! He’s great. Amazing. Also, superhot. He doesn’t need to see us like this.”

I can see how she could think he doesn’t need to see me like this, since I’m pretty sure I look half dead. But, “You look great.”

“Um, no. No, I don’t. Now, come on. Let’s get out of—”

“Hey, Mace. Don’t worry about those suitcases. I’ll get them for you.” A deep voice booms from several steps below us, and I turn around just in time to see a guy in ripped jeans and a white T-shirt charging toward me. He’s tall—like, nearly as tall as Tall, Dark, and Surly—and just as muscular. But that’s where the resemblance ends, because everywhere that other guy was dark and cold, this one is light and fire.

Bright-amber eyes that seem to burn from within.

Warm brown skin.

Black afro that looks amazing on him.

And perhaps most interesting of all, there’s a smile in his eyes that is as different from the other guy’s iciness as the stars just outside the windows are from the endless midnight blue of the sky.

“We’ve got them,” Macy says, but he ignores her, bounding up the stairs three at a time.

He stops next to me first, gently eases the handle of my suitcase from the near death grip I’ve got on it. “Hey there, New Girl. How are you?”

“I’m okay, just…”

“She’s sick, Flint,” my uncle calls from below. “The altitude is getting to her.”

“Oh, right.” His eyes blaze with sympathy. “That sucks.”

“A little bit, yeah.”

“Well, come on then, New Girl. Climb on my back. I’ll give you a ride up the stairs.”

Just the idea has my stomach revolting even more. “Uh, what? N-No, that’s okay.” I back away from him a little. “I can walk—”

“Come on.” He bends his knees to make it easier for me to grab on to his super-broad shoulders. “You’ve got a long three flights ahead of you.”

They are a long three flights, and still I would seriously rather die than climb on a random stranger’s back. “Pretty sure they’ll be longer for you if you’re carrying me.”

“Nah. You’re so little, I won’t even notice. Now, are you going to get on or am I going to pick you up and toss you over my shoulder?”

“You wouldn’t,” I tell him.

“Try me,” he says with an endearing grin that makes me laugh.

But I’m still not getting on his back. No way is one of the hottest guys at the school going to carry me up these stairs—on his back or over his shoulder. No. Freaking. Way. I don’t care how much the altitude is bothering me.

“Thanks for the offer. Really.” I give him the best smile I can manage right now. “But I think I’m just going to walk slowly. I’ll be fine.”

Flint shakes his head. “Stubborn much?” But he doesn’t push the issue the way I’m afraid he will. Instead, he asks, “Can I at least help you up the stairs? I’d hate to see you fall down a flight or two on your very first day.”

“Help how?” Suspicion has me narrowing my eyes at him.

“Like this.” He slides his arm around my waist.

I stiffen at the unexpected contact. “What are you—?”

“This way you can at least lean on me if the steps get to be too much. Deal?”

I start to say absolutely no deal, but the laughter in his bright-amber eyes as he looks down at me—expecting me to do just that—has me changing my mind. Well, that and the fact that Uncle Finn and Macy both seem totally fine with the whole thing.

“Okay, fine. Deal,” I say with a sigh as the room starts to spin around me. “I’m Grace, by the way.”

“Yeah, I know. Foster told us you were coming.” He heads toward the stairs, propelling me along with his right arm across my back. “And I’m Flint.”

He pauses at the foot of the stairs for a moment, reaching for my bags.

“Oh, don’t worry about the suitcases,” Macy says, her voice about three octaves higher than it normally is. “I can get them.”

“No doubt, Mace.” He winks at her. “But you might as well use me if I’m volunteering.” Then he grabs two of the bags in his left hand and heads up the stairs.

We start out going slowly, thankfully, as I’m struggling to breathe after only a few steps. But before long, we’re moving fast—not because I’ve gotten used to the altitude but because Flint has taken on most of my weight and is basically carrying me up the stairs with an arm around my waist.

I know he’s strong—all those muscles under his shirt definitely aren’t for show—but I can’t believe he’s this strong. I mean, he’s carrying two heavy bags and me up the stairs, and he isn’t even breathing hard.

We end up beating Macy, who is huffing and puffing her way up the final few steps with my last bag, to the top.

“You can let me down now,” I tell him as I start to squirm away. “Since you pretty much carried me anyway.”

“Just trying to help,” he says with a wiggle of his eyebrows that has me laughing despite my embarrassment.

He lets me down, and I expect him to pull away when my feet are finally back on the ground. Instead, he keeps his arm around my waist and moves me across the landing.

“You can let go,” I say again. “I’m fine now.” But my knees wobble as I say it, another wave of dizziness moving through me.

I try to hide it, but I must do a bad job because the look Flint is giving me goes from amused to concerned in the space of two seconds flat. Then he shakes his head. “Yeah, until you pass out and pitch over the railing. Nope, Headmaster Foster put me in charge of getting you to your room safely and that is what I’m going to do.”

I start to argue, but I’m feeling just unsteady enough that I decide accepting his help might actually be the better part of valor. So I just nod as he turns around and calls to my cousin, “You okay there, Mace?”

“Just great,” she gasps, all but dragging my suitcase across the landing.

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