Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 59)

“Take whatever you want.”

I sank into the seat across from her, letting the dead weight of her bag slide to the floor with mine. At the other end of the long table, a group of seniors watched her with wide eyes.

“I’m curious. What would you do if someone dared you to eat food?”

“You’re always curious.” She made a face, then daintily tore the tip off a piece of pizza, popped it in her mouth, and started chewing with a martyred expression. After a second, she swallowed, then gave me a superior look.

“If someone dared you to eat dirt, you could, couldn’t you?” she asked.

I grinned at her. “I did once… on a dare. It wasn’t so bad.”

“Somehow, I’m not surprised. Here.” She shoved the rest of the pizza to me.

I took a bite. I wondered if it really tasted like dirt to her. It wasn’t the best pizza I’d ever had, but it was decent. While I was chewing, she glanced over my shoulder and laughed.

I swallowed quickly. “What?”

“You’ve got Jeremy so confused.”

“Tough.”

“He really let his mind run wild when he saw you get out of my car.”

I shrugged and took another bite.

She tilted her head to the side. “Do you truly agree with him?”

I had to swallow fast again, and I almost choked. She half-rose, but I held my hand up and recovered. “I’m fine. Agree with him about what?”

“Why I’m here with you.”

It took me a minute to think through the conversation. I remembered things I hoped she hadn’t been paying attention to—like the fact that apparently everyone knew I’d been obsessed with her from day one.

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

She frowned. “Obviously, it’s just some pity thing?” she quoted.

I was surprised that she looked irritated. “It’s as good an explanation as any.”

“And I’ll be getting bored soon, will I?”

That one stung a little—this was my biggest fear, and it seemed all too likely—but I tried to hide it with another shrug.

“Beau, you’re being ridiculous again.”

“Am I?”

She smiled a funny half-smile, half-frown. “There are several things I am currently worried about. Boredom is not one of them.” She cocked her head to the side, her eyes drilling into mine. “Don’t you believe me?”

“Um, sure, I guess. If you say so.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Well, that was an overwhelming affirmative.”

I took another bite of pizza, chewing slowly and deliberately this time. She waited, watching me with the intense little scowl that I knew meant she was trying to get inside my head. When I took a second bite without speaking, she blew an angry breath out her nose.

“I truly loathe it when you do that.”

I took a second to swallow. “What? Not tell you every single stupid thought that passes through my head?”

I could tell she wanted to smile, but she didn’t give in. “Precisely.”

“I don’t know what to say. Do I think you’ll get bored with me? Yeah, I do. I honestly don’t know why you’re still here. But I was trying not to say that out loud, because I didn’t want to point something out that you might not have thought of yet.”

The smile escaped. “So very true. I never would have realized it myself, but now that you mention it, I really ought to be moving along. That Jeremy suddenly seems alluringly pathetic—” And then she cut off and the smile vanished. “Beau? You know that I’m joking.”

I wondered what my face was doing. I nodded.

Her forehead creased. After a second, she hesitantly stretched her arm across the table toward me, leaving her hand in easy reach.

I covered it with mine.

She smiled, but then she winced.

“Sorry,” I said, pulling away.

“No,” she objected. “It’s not you. Here.”

As carefully as if my hand were blown from the thinnest glass, she rested her fingers on my palm. Copying her caution, I folded my hand gently around them.

“What was wrong just now?” I half-whispered.

“Many different reactions.” Her forehead wrinkled again. “Royal has a particularly strident mental voice.”

I couldn’t help it; I automatically glanced across the room, and then was very sorry I had.

Royal was glaring daggers at Edythe’s unprotected back, and Eleanor, across from him, was turned around to glower at Edythe, too. When I looked, Royal shifted his furious eyes to me.

My eyes darted to Edythe, the hair standing up on the back of my arms, but she was glaring back at Royal now, her upper lip pulled back off her teeth in a menacing scowl. To my surprise, Eleanor turned around at once and Royal dropped his threatening stare. He looked down at the table with a suddenly sulky expression.

Archie looked like he was enjoying it all hugely. Jessamine never turned.

“Did I just piss off—” I swallowed before I could finish. A bunch of vampires?

“No,” she said fiercely, then sighed. “But I did.”

I glanced at Royal again for a fraction of a second. He hadn’t moved. “Look, are you in trouble because of me? What can I do?” The memory of his livid eyes trained on her small body had a wave of panic rolling through me.

She shook her head and smiled. “You don’t need to worry about me,” she reassured me, a little smug. “I’m not saying that Royal couldn’t take me in a fair fight, but I am saying that I never have fought fair and I don’t intend to start now. He knows better than to try anything with me.”

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