Read Watercolor Online

Authors: Leigh Talbert Moore

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary

Watercolor (2 page)

For a second, the car only coughed and then went silent. My eyes blinked to his face, and I noticed his jaw clench.

“Second time this week,” he muttered, giving the key another turn.

Still, it didn’t start. He let out a low growl, and my shoulders tensed. “Piece of shit car,” he swore.

“You love your car,” I argued, hoping to be encouraging.

My excited mood faltered as he turned it once more, but the car roared to life. I quietly exhaled the breath I didn’t realize I was holding.

“There,” his brow relaxed, and he shot me a smile. “Good thing. I’ve got zero cash for car shopping.”

“I’ll pick you up if you ever need a ride to school or anything.” I took his hand. He gave me a little pull, and I scooted across the bench seat, pressing my body into his side.

“Thanks, but I was hoping to be driving you to school. And we’ve got that art opening in Darplane next week. You still my date?”

“Wouldn’t miss it.” I rested my head on his shoulder. “I’m just saying, I’ll help you whenever.”

“My angel.” He pressed his lips against my head. “But I’ve got things I want to do for you now.”

I studied his profile. “You don’t have to do anything for me.”

His eyes were on the road. “I want to. After the opening, more stuff should start selling in Newhope. You just wait.”

I shook my head, watching the road. I didn’t want him to spend the little money he earned on me, but it was no use telling Julian what to do.

 

Down by the water, Brad Brennan was waiting with his girlfriend Rachel. He had built a small fire on the beach, and he was sitting on a huge driftwood log with her right in front of him. Brad was the quarterback for our high school football team, and Rachel was head cheerleader. They were the perfect cliché, but Fairview was a small town. They had been together since middle school, and while I never thought I’d be close friends with someone like Rachel, this year had changed everything. We were even planning to be roommates next fall if I got into college in New Orleans.

Julian and Brad had been inseparable since their near-fatal car crash fall semester, and knowing the history of their dads, I couldn’t help wondering if some humans were destined to be friends.

Julian held my hand as we walked to join them, and Rachel’s eyebrows rose at the sight of us together. I smiled, feeling my cheeks warm. It was our first public appearance as a couple.

“Hey, what’s this about?” Brad teased us, nodding my way as he bumped fists with Julian.

“Yeah, we’re together,” Julian said, sitting and pulling me onto his lap.

A huge black guy sat nearby on the other side of the fire. He looked vaguely familiar to me, and I tried to remember if he was on the football team with Brad.

“Cool,” Brad said as we sat. “You know Montage?”

Julian waved toward the guy. “Hey—Tamara’s little bro?”

Montage nodded back, and instantly I recognized him. “Hey! Tamara does my hair,” I said.

He nodded, and I wondered why he was here. Tamara had mentioned her little brother, but he lived in Crystal Shores, the next town over.

“Mo’s transferring to Fairview to finish out the school year,” Brad said.

“Kind of late to switch schools.” Julian’s arm went around my waist. My back was pressed against his chest, and it felt warm and right.

Montage studied the fire, his expression serious. “Stupid shit’s going down at Crystal Shores. I’m moving in with Tamara.”

Brad glanced at him. “You don’t have to worry about anything happening at Fairview. Coach Wilson keeps a close eye on things, and his uncle’s a cop. First cousin’s the mayor.”

“The school’s just so spread out,” our new friend said.

My brow creased. I didn’t understand what they were talking about or why Montage would be worrying about the layout of our campus, but I didn’t like it. His switching schools at the very end of senior year meant it was probably something serious.

“What’s going on?” I asked. Julian’s arm squeezed my waist.

Montage shrugged. “A guy at Crystal Shores says I intentionally hurt him last season in a game. Killed his chance at a scholarship. Now he wants revenge.”

“He made some serious threats,” Brad added. “But it’s all bullshit. This time next year, it’ll be ancient history.”

Julian’s chin was on my shoulder, so his voice was close to my ear, as if he were speaking just to comfort me. “If the principal and the coaches know, they’ll be watching out for you.”

“Wait—you think some guy might try and hurt you at Fairview?” Rachel studied Brad and Montage’s faces, her brow creased as well.

“I’d like to see him try.” Brad’s voice reminded me of his dad’s, all tough swagger and arrogance. It did little to ease my growing concern. “Football’s a tough game. Deal with it.”

Montage shook his head and looked forward. “I’m just hoping it stays back there.”

Julian jumped in, giving me a quick squeeze before standing. “I say we don’t borrow trouble. If something happens, we’ll handle it, and it’s more likely nothing will.”

Brad made a noise of agreement and pulled out a flask from his coat pocket. “Here’s to the last days ahead.” He took a shot and motioned to Rachel. She waved it away, and he tossed the thin silver container to Julian.

He grinned and took a quick hit. I pressed my lips together, but he kissed me fast before tossing it to Montage. Montage just held it a moment and then shook his head. “I don’t need any more trouble.”

Brad took the flask back and slapped him on the shoulder. “We’ve got you covered, my man.”

He took another drink and with that, the guys were talking about senior bowl and who’d be in Sterling in a few months representing the college teams. Brad had surprised everyone by opting to go to Tulane in New Orleans instead of one of the big state schools that had been after him. I thought about the journals and what I’d read about his dad. The Brennans could be unpredictable fellows. Montage was headed to State, and judging by his size, I figured he’d been recruited just as hard as Brad.

Rachel’s brow was still lined, and she listened to them talking in silence. I could tell she was as troubled by what the guys said as I was, but they were too busy swapping drinks and talking football to notice. Before long, Julian was back sitting beside me. Rachel was talking about the events remaining for the year. In addition to head cheerleader, she was chair of the party planning committee and senior liaison for prom. They were working on a spring dance, a bonfire to kick off spring break, of course prom… It sounded like she’d be working nonstop as she listed all the social activities they had planned before graduation.

“We’re hoping the bonfire will be the start of a class tradition,” she said, and I didn’t even realize I was falling asleep until my head dropped forward on Julian’s shoulder.

“Hey,” he caught my chin, and I felt my cheeks flush. He laughed. “Rachel, you’re putting everybody to sleep. We’re taking off.”

“No, she’s not,” I said, shaking my head, but Julian pulled me up. I waved, and we all said goodnight. This time the car cranked without hesitation, and before long we were back at my house standing outside Julian’s car.

“The one bad thing about sneaking out is getting back in,” he said, staring up at the tree.

My eyes traveled to my window. I was way too tired for climbing. “I’ll get the hidden key and use the door.”

“Where’s the fun in that?” Julian teased, catching me around the waist and pulling me to him. My hands went to his shoulders. “See you tomorrow?”

I nodded, threading my fingers into the soft hair just brushing the top of his collar. He leaned down. “Thanks for coming out.”

His warm lips met mine, pushing them apart and sending a wave of sparkling happiness straight to my stomach. His tongue curled to mine, and the chills made a little noise come from my throat.

“Mmm,” he breathed, resting his forehead on mine. “You use the door, I’ll meet you upstairs.”

My eyes were closed, and electricity hummed just under my skin. “We can’t stay awake all night,” I whispered.

“I could.” He lifted his head and kissed my nose, eyes shining. “But you’re right. School tomorrow.”

I nodded, slowly backing toward my house. Our arms stretched out, fingers laced until we were too far apart to hold on anymore, I smiled and dashed to the door, giving him one last look before reaching into the ivy for the hidden key.

 

Chapter 2

 

Rachel was the first person I saw at school the next day. “So you and Julian,” she said, eyebrows up. “And where does that put Jack Kyser in the rankings now?”

My pace skipped a beat as I followed her into the building. “You know we broke up,” I said, not wanting to think about my days last fall with Mr. Kyser’s well-known son.

Her head rocked side to side. “And then you got back together and then you broke up and then—”

“All right, but now it’s definitely over.”

She grinned, pushing a lock of straight blonde hair behind her shoulder. “If you say so, but you were
way
into him. I remember.”

“First, you’re being super uncool, and second, you know how long I’ve liked Julian.”

She nodded. “You think you can keep up with Julian?”

“What do you mean?” Privately, I had already been thinking the same thing.

We stopped at her locker. “Renee and I are friends, so I know how he is. He’s not one to say no. To anything. And you’re, well…”

“A nun?”

She made a teasing face. “I was going to say ‘new at all this.’”

I shook my head. “Says the girl who’s dated the same guy since middle school.”

“Brad and I mesh well,” she winked. “Very well.”

“Okay!” I breathed, leaning back against the locker beside hers. Now all I could think of was Renee, Julian’s former hook-up buddy. “What’s the opposite of a nun?”

Rachel laughed, but I was serious. “Actually, things between us are great. We’re taking it slow. And, well, I’m not planning to tell Julian no.”

My friend’s eyebrows rose as she slammed her locker door. “Okay, then. I guess that’s settled.”

I shrugged, walking with her the short distance to my locker. “I’m just taking it as it comes.”

“Are you going with him to Darplane?”

I nodded. “Of course.”

We were at my locker now, and I spotted Julian headed our way with Brad. “Ready for the final round?” he said, leaning beside me.

“Hey, Julian,” Rachel said then she elbowed me. “Here’s to a memorable spring.”

She twirled off with Brad, and Julian nodded, watching them go. “Too bad spring means no more uniforms.” Then his eyes landed on mine, shooting that warmth straight to my core. “So how come you never joined the squad? You’d look great in one of those skirts.”

I pressed my lips into a frown. “Renee Barron sure held your attention in hers.”

“Hey,” he caught my waist. “Why are you bringing her up?”

“Rachel did,” I shook my head, looking down. “I don’t know why I said that. I’m sorry.”

“Accepted.” He kissed the side of my neck, and I almost squealed.

“But I’m not sorry she graduated early and moved on,” I added.

“To Fulton community college,” he teased. “That’s just right up the road.”

My eyes narrowed. “You planning to look her up?”

He laughed. “That’s nuts. Ridiculous. But I like how green your eyes are today.”

“Shut up.”

The truth was, Renee did bother me—not because I was afraid Julian was still into her, but because of what I imagined he was used to getting from her. I was majorly inexperienced compared to Renee, and even though Julian hadn’t attempted anything yet, I was nervous about embarrassing myself with my naiveté.

Montage stopped to speak, and his story from last night flashed through my mind. They joked around, and I wondered how serious those threats the massive linebacker had mentioned were. Julian might be strong enough to lift me, but he was no match for guys like Montage.

Turning to my locker, I wondered what Julian’s dad would say if I told him about it. Could he help without the truth coming out? And if the truth did come out, would Julian be super-pissed at me? The swirl of problems in my head was triggering a migraine when…

Julian touched my cheek. “Anna?”

My worried eyes snapped to his. “Yeah?”

“Why are you looking like you found a severed head in your locker?”

I forced a laugh, not about to tell him where my mind was. “I’m not! I’m just…” searching for anything, “What’s the deal with us going to Darplane? What day and when?”

“Tuesday. The letter said it starts at 6:30, so I guess we should leave by 5:30 to get there on time. Are you thinking your parents won’t let you go?”

“I’m almost positive Mom will push me out the door.”

The bell rang, and he gave me a quick kiss. “Great,” he said, catching my waist. “And don’t worry about that deal with Mo.”

My eyes flickered down. “It’s kind of hard not to.”

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