Authors: Tate Layman
had definitely heard the rumors because he rolled his eyes, called Nolan an asshole, then turned and walked back to the party. Whit just stood there and sneered in Nolan’s direction, waiting for some sort of explanation. Who did he think he was, barging in on them like that?
Granted, she hadn’t wanted to be out here with Timothy, but Nolan still didn’t have any right to try to stop
her. He wasn’t her boyfriend or even her friend really.
Instead of explaining,
he just stood there looking at her. When the silence stretched past a minute, she turned and started to walk back to the party. His soft voice stopped her.
I know I said I was done apologizing, but I guess I owe you another one.”
“For what?” she asked because she really wanted to know.
Was he apologizing for the kiss, for lying about liking her, or for all the other girls?
Nolan rubbed his eyes
. “Everything,” he whispered.
“Okay,” Whit replied flatly
. She turned around again, only to be stopped a second time by his voice.
I don’t know what you want,” he said with a puzzled look and a wave of his hand. “What do I have to do for you to forgive me?”
Figure it out,” Whit replied, annoyed.
d forward until only a few inches separated their bodies. “I’ll just go ahead and tell you, then. I wanted to rip Timothy apart when I saw you guys disappear together. I thought about his hands on your body, his tongue in your mouth …” he growled. “All I’ve been able to think about since that kiss is getting my hands on you.” He stepped forward until their chests touched.
“You sure don’t act like it
,” Whit said, taking a step back.
“You mean Darby?”
He grimaced. “She’s the one chasing me, not the other way around. I came to this party for you.”
“If that’s true, then why didn’t you come find me?
Why are you with her?”
“I was nervous,” he whispered. “You ran away after that kiss, so I didn’t know
“Yeah, not sure I believe that
,” Whit said sadly. “Wish I could.”
“Why wouldn’t you believe me?”
“You’ve got to be kidding.
You’re with a different girl every day. You completely blew me off at the dance, then tonight you’re here with Darby. Do I need to go on?” she asked angrily.
Nolan grabbed Whit’s arms and pushed until her back touched
the trunk of a tree. He slowly leaned his head toward her until their noses touched. “I like you. I repeat, I really like you.” He swallowed and took a deep breath. “I know I can be a jerk, but could you give me a chance to prove that I can be different?”
ed her eyes but he was so close she couldn’t think straight. “I don’t know,” she said honestly.
, at least it’s not a no.” He smiled and lightly ran his hand across her cheek.
“It’s not a yes either,” Whit whispered. “Why should I give you a chance?”
“Because I like you!”
“That’s not good enough,” Whit said as she started to push away from him.
Then he shifted a step closer, placing his hands on her hips. “You’re different,” he said quietly.
“What does that mean?”
“I feel like I can talk to you about stuff and you’ll understand. You make me feel better when I’m around you,” he whispered, “like I don’t have to worry so much.”
Whit didn’t know what to think, but she didn’t think he was trying to charm her. She felt like he was telling the truth.
Before she could think to step away, if she even wanted to, he lowered his mouth to hers kissing her gently. He drew back, staring into her upturned face, almost like he was waiting for her permission to continue. When she didn’t stop him, his hands tightened on her hips and he traced her bottom lip with his tongue. With a whimper, her mouth slipped open, causing Nolan to groan as his tongue slid in and rubbed against hers. Her arms linked around his neck, pulling him closer, while her fingers began playing with the soft hair at the back of his neck.
“Whit,” he sighed as one of his hand
s slid up her side and stopped just beneath her breast. At the same time he removed his lips from hers and started nibbling his way down her neck. Her breath caught. His lips and hands felt so good, but he was moving a little too fast for her, and there was something about not wanting to get swept up in a relationship with him, though she couldn’t quite remember what it had been.
” she whispered, part of her hoping that he wouldn’t hear her. Nolan slowly leaned back, taking a deep breath. “This is going a bit too fast for me,” she said, blushing.
The two of them stood staring at each other, not knowing what to say.
Whit didn’t know what this meant, or even if it meant anything at all. She tried to lean back farther, but the tree bark was already scraping the back of her neck.
oes this mean you’re going to give me a chance?” he asked as he pressed his hands into the tree on either side of her body, effectively caging her in.
“I’m still deciding
,” she said. He was still so close that her brain was only working at half speed. Her answer caused him to press his lips against hers for a short kiss.
Okay,” he said as he laced his fingers through hers and started walking back toward the fire. “At least it’s not a no,” he said quietly.
On Monday, Whit and Mark entered the auditorium talking about the upcoming assembly. The headmaster had announced the assembly earlier the previous week, and most of the students had been guessing its cause. Maverick didn’t have that many programs, so when they did, it was a big deal. There was much speculation, from the idea that a new teacher was coming to the shocking thought that Maverick might start admitting regular students with no powers. However, it turned out to be about a competition that would begin in two weeks. It was called Dark Conquest.
Each team had five members, which could be
a combination of any of the special students that attended Maverick. Gender and powers made no difference. There was an age requirement though – all participants had to be at least sixteen. The goal of the game was to capture and hold as many of the opposing team as possible. The team who held the most captives when time ran out would be the winner. Students would be allowed to use all powers to deceive, manipulate, or distract the enemy, but they couldn’t cause any physical harm to another student. Each game lasted six hours. The competition would take place in a dark warehouse-type room. The dark space would be monitored by cameras enabled with night vision, to ensure that students stayed safe and played by the rules. If any student became dangerous, the game would immediately end, and that student’s team would be disqualified.
After briefly going over the description of
Dark Conquest, Mr. Tolman announced that team signups would begin in two days and games would start in the last two weeks of the semester. Any group interested could read the rules of Dark Conquest in an informational packet at signups. As an incentive for students to sign up and work together, he also explained that anyone who joined a team would be excused from Cooperative Learning until after holiday break. The program ended with the clarification that all games would be part of a tournament. One loss and that team would be out, no second chances. The final game would take place the last day before holiday break in December. He stressed that because of time constraints, there was only space for eight teams in the tournament, and signups were on a first-come basis. Mr. Tolman then dismissed students to lunch or back to classes, though most crowded into the hallways to talk amongst themselves.
Whit was intr
igued. This game sounded interesting and fun. Plus, she was happy to finally understand what those warehouse dreams were all about. It had to be Dark Conquest. In all of them, the room was dark and she was searching for something, while trying to use her abilities on others. This had to explain those dreams.
When she got to
the cafeteria, the chatter was outrageous, and all of it was about Dark Conquest. As she got in the spaghetti line, she overhead students at tables talking about getting teams together, or who they thought would make the toughest competitors.
Whit spotted Rory sitting at what was now
their regular table. She grabbed a plate of spaghetti and walked in that direction, seeing Nolan flop into the seat next to Rory. Whit couldn’t help but grin.
It had been three days since the party in the woods, and Nolan was definitely trying to
prove himself to her. He told her about his dad leaving and how his mother was a mess. She could tell though that he mostly worried about his little sister. She was ten and lived with his mom in Tennessee. He admitted that the guilt of being away when they needed him was making him miserable. Whit knew he was confiding in her and it made her believe that she really was different. They had spent Sunday studying together, and making out occasionally. She blushed just thinking about Nalini walking into their room and catching them in an embarrassing position. She had been basically sitting in his lap while he kissed her neck and rubbed his hand along her bare stomach under her shirt. Nalini had apologized and quickly escaped the room. Whit knew she ran straight to Darby, who had been intolerable these last few days with the insults and evil looks, but she didn’t really care.
Nolan had also sat with her at almost every meal.
He always asked about her day and tried to make plans with her for each evening and the upcoming weekend. But most importantly, she hadn’t seen him flirt with any girls. She suspected that he still flirted – that was just how he communicated with girls. She didn’t even know if he could help it. But he wasn’t doing it in front of her, and he wasn’t spending time with anyone except her. At least she didn’t think he was.
As she slid into the chair next to his, he immediately leaned over to place a quick kiss on her cheek. Whit couldn’t get over the complete turnaround in his behavior.
“So what do you think about this
Dark Conquest business?” Rory asked the table as more people joined them.
“It sounds pretty neat.
Have any of you played before?” Whit asked.
Nolan shook his head
. “Nope. From what I understand, the game used to be played every year until something happened. I think maybe a student got hurt. Possibly even killed. It happened like ten years ago, I think.”
“Yep, that’s what I heard too.
The school banned the game because it became too dangerous.” Rory frowned. “What I don’t understand is why they banned the game. Why not just punish the dangerous kid?”
Ellie had joined the table and overheard Rory’s questions.
“Because they couldn’t figure out who did it. And it happened five years ago, not ten. I was here. I remember it.” She glanced down at her food.
“So? What happened?” Rory asked a little too excitedly.
Ellie glanced around the table, then said quietly, “It was a girl. I think she was a senior. I heard when they found her body, her throat had been ripped out and she had several broken bones. The school never really told us what happened. The teams that were playing Dark Conquest when it happened were rushed out of the school. I guess they came back, but I was only twelve, and I don’t really remember. It wasn’t like I knew any of them. What I
remember is being scared. Everyone was. They investigated it, but never figured out who did it,” she finished with a shiver.
“How could they not figure it out? It had to be a player in the game, right?” Nolan asked.
“No, it wasn’t. At least, they didn’t think it was. From what I remember, they thought someone had snuck in,” Ellie recalled. “I’m actually surprised they’re bringing the game back.”
The table remained quiet whil
e everyone absorbed the facts. Rory finally broke the silence. “So anyway, who’s interested in teaming up with me? I want to play regardless of what happened five years ago.”
After much discussion, the table was divided
into two teams. Nolan and a bunch of his friends were forming an all-boys team, and Whit and Rory persuaded a very reluctant Ellie to join their team. The girls decided that they needed a caster and either a stalker or werewolf to complete their team. They agreed to spend the rest of the day looking around, then meet up later that night to discuss any prospects they’d found.
left the cafeteria, Nolan caught up and laced his fingers through hers. He apologized for not joining her team, but explained that Mark had already asked him to be part of his group. Whit was understanding, but teased him relentlessly about how he better be nice to her if their teams competed against each other.
“I told you it would happen.” Mrs. McFaddin grinned as Whit made a book hover in the air. She had waited until everyone left Mind Study to show the teacher, because she didn’t feel comfortable showing everyone else just yet. But Mrs. McFaddin had been pushing her and helping her all year. She deserved to know. Besides, Whit wanted to at least tell one person.