Falling for the Wrong Guy (4 page)

BOOK: Falling for the Wrong Guy
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Chapter Four

“I
still say let’s look at whether EMF affects plants and bugs,” Brad, one of the guys in Ruby’s science project group, insisted.

The science teacher had made them sit in their groups in the lab and start to brainstorm ideas. Unfortunately, that was easier said than done as Ruby’s group couldn’t agree. Everyone had different ideas. Well, everyone apart from Drew, who slouched behind his desk in stony silence, content to watch them all with those unfathomable green eyes. The rest of the group had tried half-heartedly to include him, but when he’d made it clear he wasn’t going to say anything beyond negative and affirmative grunting, they’d let him be.

Brad continued to argue passionately for his experiment, causing Jess to counter loudly that it would expose them all to microwave radiation, which would give them all cancer, and then Brad would have to pay their medical expenses. Ruby tuned out the drama, mainly because she didn’t need any more in her life. She glanced over at Drew as he pulled the hood of his black sweatshirt over his rumpled dark hair, his lean legs sprawled in front of him. What was it about guys acting like hoodies were some kind of protective armor?

Although for Drew, they probably were, since the hood hid the scars on the left side of his face and neck.

Ruby looked away, checking out the other groups, who all seemed to be getting down to business, judging by the air of quiet concentration that had come over all of them but her group. Then again, they didn’t have Brad, the walking, talking textbook in their group. Despite the fact that Jess was neck and neck with him for valedictorian, Brad still gave off the vibe that he thought he was smarter than them all. He probably was, except for Jess, but that didn’t mean he had to ram it down their throats. Ruby hoped that wherever he went to college, they’d make him take a course in interpersonal skills before he graduated and inflicted himself on the real world. She couldn’t wait for the end of class so she could go to Starbucks.

Starbucks.

She sat upright as an idea popped into her head. “I’ve got it,” she said, a broad smile on her lips. “Caffeine. Let’s look at whether caffeine enhances performance. In sport. In class. Wherever.”

And she was more than happy to be one of the volunteers. Right now.

“No,” Brad said, waving his hand dismissively. “We’re juniors, not in eighth grade.”

Ruby ground her teeth. She might not have his IQ, but there was no need to belittle her ideas. “I hardly think eighth-grade students would do anything with caffeine, since no parent wants to make their middle schooler even more hyper,” Ruby retorted. Normally, she wouldn’t care what they chose for a project, but Brad’s smugness brought out the competitor in her.

“I need a good grade for this project,” Brad said. “Which means doing something with gravitas.” He folded his arms across his chest and had a self-satisfied expression on his face.

“What?” Ruby spluttered. She’d always known Brad was full of himself, but really? “
Gravitas
. Who talks like that?”

“You know what I mean. We have to do something worthwhile. And there’s nothing worthwhile about testing caffeine.” Brad sneered, his top lip curling up.

Ruby could feel her stupid, sensitive face going up in flames, but she wasn’t going to be walked over. “I don’t agree. Testing the effects of caffeine is useful
and
worthwhile, considering a sizable portion of the US is probably addicted to it.” She resisted the urge to slam her palm on the desktop for emphasis. This was chemistry, not
Law and Order
.

“I agree. Let’s do it.”

Drew. That was Drew’s voice. Coming from inside Drew’s hoodie.

All four of them turned and stared at him in stunned silence. Jess’s heart-shaped mouth actually dropped open from the shock.

Ruby was the first to recover. “Thanks.” She grinned at Drew, but her sense of the two of them as co-conspirators disappeared as he quickly averted his eyes. Not stopping to think about why that hurt her feelings a little, she turned to the rest of the group. “Anyone else like the idea?”

“I’m with Drew. Let’s go with Ruby’s idea,” Jess interjected. Even though Ruby knew she probably just wanted to jab at Brad, she couldn’t help but feel grateful that Jess had actually acknowledged Drew’s presence by saying his name. It was more than most of their classmates had done.

Ricky quickly nodded in agreement, and Brad glared at Ruby.

“Majority rules. Sorry, Brad,” Ruby said, trying desperately to hide the smirk tugging at the corners of her mouth.

“It better work,” Brad said, just as the bell for the end of school rang. “We’ll meet tomorrow in the study section of the library thirty minutes after school ends and work out what needs to be done.”

Ruby was so high on her triumph over Brad’s ego, she didn’t even care about him trying to save face by ordering them to meet after school instead of asking if everyone could make it. And okay, a little bit of it had to do with the fact that she’d also managed to pull Drew Scott into the light, even if only for a few seconds.

D
rew pushed open the door to the library, glad to have an excuse not to go home right away. The previous night, his mom had been really bad, even by her standards. He’d found her fast asleep on the bathroom floor, having fallen off the toilet. She had stunk so bad of vomit that he’d had to hold his breath for the entire time from when he had picked her up off the floor until he reached her bedroom, where he left her lying on her bed. On her side so she wouldn’t choke if she threw up again.

His father was nowhere to be seen, as usual, until he’d staggered in just after ten. Drew guessed that he’d spent the previous few hours in his favorite downtown bar, after getting off of work. If it wasn’t for the fact that his dad worked for himself, he’d have lost his job a long time ago. He owned a well-established and successful insurance brokerage, and Drew suspected that his employees covered for him much of the time so they could keep getting their paychecks.

Drew headed toward the tables in the back, planning to do some of his homework before the others arrived. Just as he turned into the study area, he came to an abrupt halt. He wasn’t the first to arrive. Ruby sat at one of the tables.

He ran his fingers through his hair. What was it with that girl that she always seemed to be wherever he was? It seemed like she had some sort of GPS locator inside her brain and knew exactly where he would be at any given time. It was bad enough that they were going to be working together on this project. He was half an hour early, so there was no reason for her to be around right now.

As he stood there, wondering if he should go study in one of the carrels on the other side of the room, Ruby glanced up.

“Hi,” she said, smiling at him. Like she was actually happy that he was there.

When he didn’t respond, a flicker of uncertainty showed in her eyes. Maybe she’d realized she shouldn’t be talking to him outside of the group. Because of Blake.

Every time he saw her, he thought of Blake. Of what he’d done to him.

“Hi,” Drew muttered. Unable to be rude and walk away, he pulled out a chair and made a big deal of taking out his math book from his messenger bag. According to the clock on the wall, there was still another twenty-five minutes to go before the others arrived. He needed to catch up on his math. A year of not doing any had meant he’d gotten behind and couldn’t remember all of the formulas he was supposed to know before starting algebra II. He opened his book and tried to focus on working out the equations, except he couldn’t. Ruby was too distracting. He sneaked a glance at her a couple of times, like a moth drawn to a bug zapper. Engrossed in her copy of
The Scarlet Letter
, she seemed not to notice. On the third time, she looked up and caught him, so he quickly averted his eyes.

She closed the book and tossed it on the table. “Thanks for supporting my idea for the project,” she said, forcing him to look at her.

“That’s okay.” Drew shrugged. “The other ideas were crap, and it beat spending hours staring at plants and bugs.”

Ruby grinned. “Exactly. What’s not to love about my idea? I could think of a lot worse things to do than sit drinking coffee every day.” Her previous awkwardness had disappeared, and it felt like the old Ruby was sitting across from him. The one who’d been his friend.

“It’s more involved than that,” Drew offered, wishing he could shake his own awkwardness.

“I do know that. I’m not a total idiot.” Her gaze flicked upward, a look of mild annoyance crossing her pretty features, even though she was still smiling.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean that you were.” He rubbed the back of his neck, which felt so tense and rigid, he felt more like a wooden puppet than a human. God, would he ever know how to interact with people again without being a socially inept disaster?

“I know.” The corners of Ruby’s mouth turned up, and he realized that she’d been teasing him. It had been so long since anyone had done that, that it had flown right over his head. He could feel the tension gradually easing away from his body when she full-on grinned at him.

Drew resumed his math, but again he couldn’t focus. He wasn’t sure how much Blake had seen the other day in Echoes but was convinced that he wouldn’t want them talking. Drew didn’t want to come between the two of them. Ruby loved her brother, and it would hurt her if something drove a wedge between them.

“What are you working on?” Ruby asked.

Drew looked up from under his eyelashes. “Nothing.” He cleared his throat and then refocused on his book. The numbers in front of his eyes blurred and smashed together, meaningless to him. He used to like math. The logic of it appealed to the way his mind worked. But now, it felt like he’d forgotten everything he was supposed to know about the numbers before him.

“It can’t be nothing. You’ve been frowning and looking puzzled ever since you sat down.” Ruby leaned forward and rested her arms on the table.

“Why are you so interested?” Drew felt drawn to her long, pale, perfect neck. His fingers itched to trace a line from her chin downward, along her collarbone.

Every muscle in his body tensed as he tried to shake off the feeling. She was Blake’s sister, for God’s sake, and definitely off-limits.

“I just wondered if it’s anything I can help with. That’s all,” Ruby replied, chewing thoughtfully on her pen cap, her bottom lip jutting out just slightly to convey that her feelings had been hurt.

It reminded Drew of how she used to act when she’d been a lot younger and couldn’t get her older brother to let her have her own way. She’d have ridiculous girly tantrums, which made Blake and him laugh so much that they had inevitably given in to her demands. She’d really known how to play the both of them.

“Algebra? Really? Math has never been your strong point.” Drew laughed. He couldn’t help it.

“How do you know?” Ruby leaned back in her chair, looking really indignant.

“Because you were always asking Blake or me for help with your algebra homework when you were a freshman. And I think I remember you bribing me once with a bucket full of chocolate-chip cookies to do your geometry your sophomore year.” Drew arched an eyebrow.

“Well, that was in the past. I’m fine with math now.” Ruby tossed her head, causing her curls to swing softly about her shoulders.

“If you say so. In which case, what about these quadratic equations? Can you remind me how to do them?” Drew slid his textbook across the table fast, and Ruby just managed to stop it with her hand before it careered off the table. She picked up the book and stared at it in silence for a few moments.

“Um—um—” The way her cute button nose twitched had Drew mesmerized.

He inwardly shook himself. This fixation with Ruby had to stop. It was wrong on so many levels.

“So that’s a no, then?” Drew asked, shaking his head.

“I’m taking trig. I hate algebra,” Ruby said, going a light shade of pink. “I won’t remember how to do quadratic equations until Mr. Ernst goes over it again next year.” As juniors, they could either take remedial algebra, algebra II, or trigonometry, and then they’d have the choice of algebra II or pre-calculus their senior year.

They looked at each other and started to laugh at the same time. It almost felt like the fire had never happened, and things were exactly as they had been a year ago.

A loud bang made Drew start, and he jumped back in his chair. His laughter hung in midair as he saw Blake standing at the head of the table. He’d thumped it hard with his fist, and was about to thump it again.

“What the hell?” Blake growled. A vein in his temple throbbed, and he stared daggers at Drew and then at his sister.

“Blake, what are you doing here?” Ruby asked, blinking rapidly. She started twisting a small silver ring around and around her finger, seeming to shrink into herself.

“I’m watching my sister stab me in the back. Care to explain?” Blake leaned forward and rested his hands on the table.

“We’ve got a meeting for our science project. We’re in the same group,” Ruby said, her voice barely above a whisper.

Drew’s insides clenched. He couldn’t have imagined a worse scene if he’d tried. And, as usual, he couldn’t blame anyone but himself.

“Well, it doesn’t look much like a meeting to me,” Blake replied, pointedly glancing at the empty seats at their table.

“We’re waiting for the others to arrive. We were just talking about algebra, weren’t we?” Ruby looked to Drew as if for support. He felt like complete shit for coming between the two of them like that.

“Yeah, bro. That’s what we were doing,” Drew said, trying to sound relaxed and hoping he wouldn’t make things even worse.

Blake finally looked at him. “Don’t
bro
me. I’m not your bro. And never will be. Why don’t you fuck off back home? How many times do I have to tell you? You’re not wanted here. Get it?” Blake’s eyes blazed with anger as he turned and stormed off.

Drew’s only reaction to Blake’s anger was sadness. He missed his best friend. And the fact that he didn’t have one anymore was his own fault.

BOOK: Falling for the Wrong Guy
8.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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