A/N: i've just been having the urge to write a oneshot lately. hope you enjoy!
A chorus of high-pitched giggles erupts to my left. I turn my head slightly, and my gaze meets a group of 6 or 7 girls all clutching coffees and flicking their blonde hair about mindlessly. I roll my eyes and grit my teeth, doubling my pace. The faster I walk, the sooner I'll get out of the hearing range of their ear-splitting giggles.
I'm willing to bet both of my legs that not one of them has ever willingly picked up a book in their entire lives. They came in here for one reason only, and it had nothing to do with Barn's and Nobel's intended purpose. It did, however, have everything to do with the tiny Starbuck's nestled into the back of the large store.
Fine. Whatever. Get your damn coffee. The part that bothers me so much, is the fact that they can't simply just get their coffee and leave. Oh no.
They then find it necessary to wonder in their little pack and carry on loud conversations about their boyfriends, about how they actually thought their best friend was a bitch ("but, like, don't tell her I said that,") about how they could never ever get through a 100 page book, no matter how much someone paid them. And they'd giggle, giggle, giggle, giggle. Hatred shocks through my system, and I walk faster still, towards my preferred section.
Finally, the store's sound is reduced back down to the quiet murmur of other customers and soft music. As it should be.
I skim through the shelves of titles before me, occasionally plucking out one or two and reading their summaries. Soon finding one that interested me, I take it and settle on one of the over-stuffed armchairs that litter the store, curling my feet up under me and diving into the first chapter.
It has an interesting start, and after a few pages, I become pretty absorbed.
"Well well well, look who's here."
The voice shatters my concentration. I blink and look up, scowling at whomever they are. I really don't take well to being interrupted when I'm reading. I can feel my scowl become more pronounced as I identify this person.
Of course. I should have known it would be James Cole. Why the hell he never left me alone I'll never know. Ever since my first day at the beginning of this school year, he's poked and prodded and tugged at my last nerve.
If he wasn't walking beside me in between classes making stupid remarks about something or another to try and make me angry, he was poking me in class, tugging my long, wavy black hair. Things that really were more suitable for a kindergarden classroom instead of a junior high one.
"What do you want James?" I demand, my patients as short as it could be.
He raises an eyebrow that disappears under his messy, dark auburn hair. His grey eyes hold that same wicked gleam of amusement it does every time he knows I'm angry with him…which is pretty much all the time. His long, lean frame leans gracefully against the nearest bookshelf, and he crosses his olive-toned arms.
"You aren't happy to see me, Grace?" He asks me, making his tone playfully hurt.
"I don't think it's very typical for a girl to be happy when she's cornered by her stalker." I tell him coolly.
James smiles widely, displaying his straight white teeth, "Ouch."
I roll my eyes and look back down at my book, trying to find the sentence I'd left off on.
"Urgh, you always have to have your face buried in a book, don't you? Would it kill you to put down the text and be civil with me for once?" He teases in his deep voice.
As always, I don't think he's funny. I think he's infuriating.
"I'm sure it would kill me. Suicide."
"Well you're on a roll today, aren't you?" He asks.
"Only because, like always, you're being more annoying than I can stand." I snap, not looking up from my search to find that last sentence. It would be a lot easier to do without his eyes on my every twitch.
"Hmmm…you know, you're about the only girl who can resist my charm." He tells me smugly. "I wonder why that is?"
I grind my teeth and don't look up. "Probably because there's no charm to resist."
There's a short pause, then I hear him chuckle softly. "Well they seem to think otherwise."
Even though I have a pretty good guess of who 'they' are, I look up anyway, prepared for the worst. And sure enough, Ashley from my math class and her ditsy posse are approaching, drawn to James like moths to a porch light.
"Hi James!" Ashley drawls, trying desperately to be cute. Then, she spots me on the chair, and I look back down to my book, ignoring her.
"Did you come here with Grace?" She asks. But with the disapproving tone she was using, she might as well have asked - why would you want to come here with Grace?
"Y'know Ashley, I'm surprised you've lasted this long in here." I tell her, looking up, "Being surrounded by all of this knowledge has to be painful for you."
Ashley's face contorts into a nasty grimace, mirroring the looks of her friends. Out of the corner of my eye, I see James press his lips together, trying not to laugh.
"You're such a bitch," Ashley retorts.
"I don't really see why that bothers you. After all, they say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery." I tell her, getting to my feet.
That time, James laughs out loud.
I can't stand it anymore. If I don't leave now, I know I'll end up doing something worse than just muttering insults. This book is good enough, I'll just buy it and get out of here.
I start off in the direction of the cash register, which is unfortunately on the other side of the large store.
"I'll see you guys tomorrow," I hear James tell Ashley and her friends. It gives me the smallest twinge of satisfaction to know that he's blowing them off to come after me of all people. The new, anti-social, angry wallflower.Of course, I'd much rather he just leave me the hell alone, but at least Ashley will be disappointed.
I pretend I can't hear James's footsteps pounding closer and closer as he jogs to meet me.
"You've got to be the only girl in the school who has enough guts to talk to Ashley Schwinn like that." I hear James chuckle beside me, his long legs keeping up easily with my haughty stride.
"Get away from me." I demand, not looking at him.
"No, I don't think I will. You amuse me too much."
"Go find another source of amusement." I murmur angrily.
"Why? When I've got one right here?"
"One that actually wants you around them." I snap.
"Y'know, I'm willing to bet that you don't dislike me as much as you let on." He tells me, that damned amused edge still in his voice.
"You're right. I don't dislike you. I hate you." I say through clenched teeth, my fingers tightening their grip on the book I'm holding.
" "Hate" is strong word."
"That's why I used it." I retort coldly as we pass the brightly colored children's section.
Out of my peripheral, I see James suddenly stop and turn around. My feet come to a halt too, and I twist to look after him, surprised. Had what I said finally gotten to him? Had that been the key all along, telling him that I hated him? I wish I would have thought of that sooner! It would have saved me a lot of headaches.
If I were smart at all, I would take this chance and run for it before he changes his mind. But I'm curious…why is he going into the children's section?
My eyes are glued to him as he walks up to a small girl with a head full of blonde ringlets. She is unsteadily balanced on the tips of her little white shoes, her tiny arm struggling to get a book that is out of her reach. A small wave of sympathy washes through me, and I take a step forward to go help her. However, James has already beaten me to it.
He crouches down on the balls of his feet and pulls a thin blue book from the shelf, handing it to the little girl. Her small round face lights up as she smiles, and she turns to point a tiny finger at another title, saying something that I can't hear. James laughs and reaches for another book, this one a large picture book, and hands that one to her as well.
James says something to her, and she giggles before running off as fast as her wobbly little legs can carry her. She comes to a halt in front of a younger woman conversing with another mom and yanks on the hem of her skirt.
My eyes turn back to James, who stands to his full height again and spots me staring at him. Who is this kind, thoughtful guy and what has he done with James? He surprises me even more when a light blush colors his cheeks as he walks towards me.
"I thought you'd kept walking." He tells me, actually seeming embarrassed by the fact that I'd caught him being nice for once.
I just continue to stare at him.
"Why do you look so shocked?" he asks, raising an eyebrow.
"Because that's the first time I've ever seen you act like a decent human being, that's why." I say. "Why do you look so embarrassed?"
He blushes even more when he realizes that I've noticed, but then shrugs.
"Because you probably think I'm a pansy." He tells me with a small smirk.
I frown at him. "No, I thought that was really sweet actually. Why do you care what I think anyway?"
Without waiting or really caring for an answer, I turn around and start off toward the cash register again.
"You'd be surprised about how much I care what you think." I hear him quietly mumble.
I stop dead and I feel my eyes widen. What did he just say? I pivot again, looking at him.
He just shakes his head and turns, strolling into the "Young Adult" isle. "Forget it. I'll see you tomorrow McClellan."
Oooh no, he's not getting off that easily. For the first time all year, I'm the one going after him. I follow him to the end of the isle, and he looks up from the shelved book he's examining, though his face looks too distracted to possibly be taking in anything he's reading. He looks mildly surprised to see me standing here.
"I thought for sure you'd leave after that one." He says.
"I'm curious." I confess, leaning to the left against the nearest shelf of books.
"About what?" he questions smoothly, playing stupid.
" "You'd be surprised about how much I care what you think?" " I quote him, raising my eyebrows. "Where did that come from?"
James looks at his feet and sighs quietly through his nose. I wait impatiently for an answer.
"That's a good question," he mumbles to the floor. "I don't even really know…I just looked at you one day and realized that…I cared. Too much."
My mind was frantically trying to make sense of what he was telling me. Two minutes ago he was as arrogant as ever, intent on making me furious. And now…now he cares? It just didn't fit.
"Well you've got a funny way of showing it." I say, crossing my arms.
James looks up at me, and for the first time I see that his face is clear of any arrogance, of any smugness, of any of that over-bearing confidence. New emotions were now displayed there. Kindness, vulnerability, uncertainty. My stomach gives a tiny jump, and I get angry with it. I mean, this is James after all!
"Yeah, I know. I just…" He groans in frustration and turns away from me, only to turn back around. " I've been a real idiot, I know. I just had it in my head that, I dunno, that you'd maybe like that sort of thing because, well, you're sort of…"
"Mean?" I finish sourly.
"It's more than that," he tells me with a very small, joking smile. "You're always so confident and uncaring. I didn't think you'd notice me unless I was-"
"A relentless, unbearably arrogant asshole?" I finish.
He sighs, "More or less."
I just continued to stare into his grey eyes as relentlessly as he was staring into my green ones, trying to figure him out. My brain just couldn't digest it. There was no way that James could actually like me. He was just another popular jerk at school who liked to make outcasts like me squirm.
"So, in plain English, what exactly are you trying to tell me?" I question.
My answer was obvious, I wasn't stupid. But for some reason, my mind still just won't accept it. I need further, more solid confirmation. It's like there is a big, DOES NOT COMPUTE sign flashing on my brain.
"You're dead-set on making me humiliate myself even more aren't you?" He questions darkly.
I just look at him, my fingers drumming on the cover of my book, waiting. He sighs again, and then strides closer to me. I have to look up to see him now, and I resist the urge to step away.
"I'm trying to tell you that I'm sorry. I'm trying to tell you that you're different from any other girl I've ever met. You know that there's more to life than gossip and drama and all of that other mindless crap teenagers find so important. I'm trying to tell you that it kills me to see you so unhappy here. That I'd give anything to see you to smile now and then. I'm trying to tell you that even though you can't stand me, I can never stop thinking about you." His grey eyes bore deep into mine, housing some sort of burning emotion. "I'm trying to tell you, Grace, that…I think I'm in love with you."
It feels like my brain has fizzled to a complete stop, all the gears jammed. I'm barely aware that my mouth is slightly hanging open, my eyes wide in disbelief. There is no way, no way, that he just said that.
James gives me an embarrassed smile. "Wow. I didn't think I was capable of being that cheesy," he tells me with a small, nervous chuckle.
"I don't believe you." I manage to choke out, my voice not as strong as I want it to be. This all has to be a cruel trick. It has to be.
"I really didn't expect you to." He murmurs, his grey eyes reflecting the sadness he's hidden from his face. "But don't you think you could at least try to? Instead of immediately shoving me away?"
I felt my eyes narrow then, coming back to my senses a bit.
"I should shove you. You really think you deserve that much from me?" I ask harshly.
In response, that look of pain in his eyes increases. I'm filled with sudden remorse for putting that look there, only to be quickly swallowed up by rage. Why in the world should I feel bad for him?! He's done nothing but play the devil in my own personal hell for the entire year now!
Quickly, I pivot and stalk towards the end of the isle. I have to get away from him before I feel anything more irrational, unwelcome emotions.
I knew it had to be coming, so when his hand lightly grasps my wrist to restrain me, I'm not surprised. I am surprised, however, by the tiny volt of electricity that sparks through my stomach at his touch. I loath him for making me feel like that.
I yank my hand fiercely out of his grasp without turning, and pick up my pace. Despite my efforts, traitorous thoughts shove their way into my mind.
No he's not. Not really. I try protesting with myself.
He wants you to be happy.
He loves you, Grace.
No! He doesn't!
James really isn't that bad at all.
Believe him, I know you want to. He loves you. Believe him.
I fell like I'm going mental. With all of the jumbled thoughts jostling in my head, I don't even try to pull away when I feel James's grasp on the both of my shoulders.
He spins me around to face him, looking determined now. Determined, yet still that new, vulnerable James that I wasn't used to. That I was beginning to hate more than the old one.
"Grace, please, will you just…at least try to hear me out?" He asks, annoyed and pleading at the same time.
It feels like the fury in my glare should physically hurt him. I just continue to stare, too angry with my own feelings to answer. I'm pretty sure I'm leaving fingernail imprints on the cover of the book I'm clutching. He doesn't remove his hands, and his face bows down closer to mine.
"Look," James continues, staring me dead in the eyes, his irises like liquid silver. "I know I've been horrible, and awful, and egotistical, and whatever else you'd like to call me, I deserve it. But Grace that wasn't me. That's not who I am. That guy who helped the little girl reach her books, the guy who's talking to you now, that is me. That's me without the act, that's me not trying to impress you. Why can't you see that I'm not lying to you?"
It's there in his eyes. And in his voice. I see it written in every feature on his face. He's telling the truth. And then, as soon as I accept this, it was like It's like I'm seeing him for the first time.
He has always been ugly to me, because I've never been able to see past his infuriating personality. But now, I see that he is anything but. Looking reluctantly over his messy auburn hair, down the trail of his almost perfect nose, onto his full lips, there is no denying that he's beautiful, as much as I hate to admit it to myself.
However, accepting that he's being truthful doesn't make me accept him. My mind stubbornly tries to clutch to the past, to the hatred, but the hold is getting feebler.
"Tell me what you're thinking." He asks me suddenly, a soft edge of hysteria to his voice, like he can't stand the silence. "And don't try to tell me you're not thinking anything, I can see a battle raging in there." The corners of his mouth twitch like he's trying to smile, but he doesn't quite succeed.
"I'm thinking that I want you to let go of me." I snap, though I don't sound nearly as threatening as I had aimed for. I sound sort of pathetic actually, too quiet. The jerk I gave to break his hold didn't work as it should have either. Just another pathetic attempt, he didn't even have to move his feet to keep me steady.
"Let. Go." I demand through my teeth, letting as much acid as possible leak into my voice. He doesn't move a fraction, and discovery suddenly lights up his features.
"You accused the wrong person earlier Grace. I'm not the one who's lying. You are." James tells me quietly, his eyes still mercilessly boring into mine.
"Shut up!" I snap, frozen to the spot. I am not lying. I don't like him. I'll never like him.
But if that were true, why was I arguing so fiercely with myself? Why did I feel, deep in my chest, the truth that I was trying so desperately to bury?
"You're lying to yourself. I can see it in your eyes. I can hear it in your voice. I can feel it in your actions." James continues, attacking the weak link in my armor.
"You're wrong," I say, shaking my head. My voice sounds slightly hysteric, desperate.
Then, I feel his palm press to my face, stopping my shaking. He leans in closer to me, his face only inches from mine.
Move! Back up! Do something! The weaker, resilient part of my being screams, but for the life of me, I can't move.
"Tell me I'm wrong again. Mean it." James demands in a raspy whisper that sends unwelcome chills oozing down my spine.
My minds scrambles desperately, trying to recall the memory of speech, and how it works.
"You-you're wrong." I stutter, my voice just a whisper of the confidence I was going for.
One side of his mouth pulls up into a wry smile that jams my airways.
"That's what I thought." He says in that same rough whisper. He bends down, his lips aiming for mine. The fury that wells in my body in that split second gives me the strength to think clearly. Fury caused by the overwhelming physical need he produced in me as he bent closer.
He let go of me instantly with a grunt expressing both his surprise and pain. I seized the chance.
I shoved my book roughly into the shelf next to me, not caring that it was out of place, and started running to the end of the isle. I was going to run straight out the doors and to my car. I was going to turn my CD up so loud that it would make it impossible for me to think. I was going to go straight to bed when I got home, and tomorrow at school, everything was going to be normal again.
I want to scream when I feel his hands on my shoulders again, dragging me back to him. But, if I'm being completely truthful, I find that only part of me wants to scream. The other part is glad that he'd come after me. What is wrong with me?
He spins me around gently to face him, not breaking his fast stride as he walks me backward towards the dead end of the isle.
He doesn't look at where he is going; he just stares intently down into my eyes, ignoring the angry pink handprint on his left cheek. The part of my mind that allowed me to slap him is so weak that I can barely hear it anymore. As a matter of fact, my mind is pretty much numb all together – struck dumb by his intense grey stare.
I feel the hard wooden shelves press against my back at the same time that his soft lips press onto mine.
My stomach lunges tremendously, and my conflicting mind goes completely blank. I let out a breath I didn't even know I was holding through my nose slowly, my whole body pulsing with desire. His lips start to move slowly, brushing feather-light against mine and my body shivers with pleasure.
Without my permission, my limp hands surge to life and snake their way up James's hard chest. They continue slowly upward, savoring every contour in his firm, discreet muscles, and to my mild surprise, I feel him shudder under my palms. My fingers finally twine themselves in his auburn locks, yanking him closer to me.
This seems to be the kind of response he is waiting for, because suddenly his arms wind around my waist, pulling me impossibly close to his body. His lips start moving faster, pressing harder to mine. He runs his tongue along my lower lip, and I quickly let him explore my mouth further. My bones feel like their softening, taking on the consistency of warm clay, and my stomach is flipping so much that it actually hurts.
I snag his lower lip between my teeth, tugging gently. I hear him groan softly, and he mashes his lips back onto mine. I feel the shelves behind me dig further into my back as James presses even closer against me. Our bodies are so tightly compressed I doubt we could even be counted as two people anymore.
I don't notice I need to breathe until my lungs start burning, so I reluctantly break apart from our fiery kiss to gasp down some air. His body not moving a fraction away from mine, I feel James trail slow, passionate kisses down my jaw and onto my neck. It feels maddeningly wonderful.
"I told you," James kisses my neck again, "that you where lying." His voice is that sexy, raspy whisper again. It makes me want to moan from the pleasure of just hearing it.
Every other emotion besides passion and longing is still numbed by James's touch, but now that his lips are off mine, I'm able to think just a little bit clearer. A tiny voice shoves it's way into my brain, telling me that James is absolutely correct. I was lying to myself. There's no denying that now. Just like there's no denying that I'm desperately attracted to this new side of James, despite the very short time I've known it. I can feel my brain, like turning gears, starting to function again. The gears are sluggish – he is still kissing my neck, trailing along my collarbone, – but grinding on nonetheless. And, along with my placid confessions comes my anger.
That tiny, weak dose of my former rage gives me enough strength to detangle myself from him and take a small, reluctant step away.
How could I let this happen? After having all of my friends wrenched away from me again, after my family and I moved, again, I'd decided that it was pointless to try and make friends. More than that, I'd made an effort to stay away from forming attachments. It wasn't worth that pain.
And yet, here I am, thrusting myself on James! What if I become even more attached to him? What would I do when my dad's job shipped us elsewhere?
To my utter bewilderment, my eyes go blurry with tears, and a burning lump in my throat chokes me as I look at James. His face changes from hurt in response to my rejection, to pained shock when his grey eyes follow the tears rolling down my cheeks.
"Grace," James says softly, holding out a hand as if he wanted to take mine, but then he pulls it slowly back.
"Please don't cry," he pleads with me, looking tortured. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have…I though I was sure you wanted that as much as I did. I never wanted to upset you."
His soft, sincere voice only makes the tears run faster. I try desperately to shut myself up, to swallow that lump in my throat, but I had no such luck.
"That's th-the problem," I choke out, my voice sounding horribly pathetic. "I do w-want you."
I see James's beautiful face relax, and in one smooth motion he catches me up in his arms, holding me gently against his chest. I lay my face against him, my tears staining his dark green shirt. What was the point in resisting him any more tonight?
"Why does that make you sad?" He whispers tenderly.
I've never told anyone of my fear of letting people get close to me. Mostly because I hate letting people see that I actually do fear something. It's strange, but I like the reputation I've earned – a tough, uncaring girl whom no one wants to approach.
But suddenly, I feel an impulse to confess this all to James. And only to James. I couldn't explain the sudden desire to get my fears off of my chest.
"I've been ripped apart too many times James." I speak into his shoulder quietly. "My family and I are constantly moving because of my dad's job. My parents are already talking about finding a house in England. I can't let myself get attached to you; it'll just hurt too much when I have to leave."
I try halfheartedly to pull away form him, but he just tightens his grip on me.
"Who says I need to disappear from your life when you move?" He questions gently.
"Long distance relationships are harder than you think." I tell him, sniffing as quietly as I could.
He's silent for a few moments. I guess he must be thinking.
"When are you moving to England?" James finally asks.
"Summer after senior year," I respond bleakly.
"Then I'll follow you." He tells me simply, as if it were as easy as deciding what outfit he wanted to wear tomorrow.
I look up at his face, and I can feel the disbelief etched in my features. He stares back down at me with a curious expression.
"You'll follow me to England?" I ask, sounding as skeptical as I could with tears still lazily trailing down my face, raising an eyebrow. "Just like that?"
His curiosity at my reaction vanished, replaced by intensity. He takes my face in both of his big hands, using his thumbs to gently caress away my tears. His liquid silver eyes burn into mine, and my stomach churns.
"I have never met another girl like you Grace, and I know that I never will again. I will not let you walk out of my life. If moving to England after senior year is what it takes to stay with you, it's a very small price to pay." He tells me, his low voice dripping with undeniable sincerity.
Right then, as I stare into his eyes and see his expression and listen to what he's telling me, that is when it really hits me.
"You…you really do love me don't you?" I ask him softly. My voice sounds surprised, disbelieving.
He smiles wryly at me, and hugs me closer.
"Very much," he whispers, laying his head on my hair.
I just couldn't wrap my mind around it. James loves me. James loves me. Me. I could repeat it a thousand times in my head and still not take in the true meaning. But that didn't matter, because I feel it. Even though my head has trouble grasping it, my heart feels the truth. My soul feels the truth.
"…So what now?" I murmur as I stand in his embrace.
"Now…" he thinks for a second. "We start over."
I feel him pull away from me, and I look at him questioningly. He extends a hand.
"James Cole," he introduces formally, a small, joking smile playing around the edges of his mouth.
I can't help but laugh at him as I take his hand in mine, shaking it. "Grace McClellan."
His smile grows wider, and his grey eyes seem to sparkle. "That's the first time I've ever heard you laugh. You sound beautiful."
I can't believe James is making me blush. It's so unlike me. But regardless, I feel my cheeks heat up slightly.
Then, dropping all of the joking formality, he uses the hand he was shaking to pull me closer, not stopping until he lowers his lips to mine for a soft, gentle kiss.
"How about you go buy that book," James tells me softly, his lips so close that they brush against mine as he talks. "and then we'll jump on the Kawasaki, and I'll buy you dinner?" he asks.
I shiver with excitement at the thought of riding on the back of his slick green motorcycle, which I had to admit I thought was sexy even when I hated him. We could come back for my car later.
"Only if you let me drive on the way back." I negotiate with a mischievous smile that he is much too close to see.
He chuckles. "You really are one-of-a-kind." He tells me softly, kissing me again. I take that as a 'yes.'
A moment later he releases all of me but my hand, pulls my book from its haphazard resting place, and hands it to me.
"That's going to take some getting used to," I comment, taking the book and walking with him to the line of registers.
"What is?" he asks.
"You being so nice."
He snorts, his good mood remaining untainted, "I could say the same thing about you."
I can't believe I've accidentally stumbled upon what most women spend their lives searching for. Here's a man who is willing to leave the country for me. Who already loves me more than he has reason to. I can't fathom my luck.
I don't love him, not yet. It's purely lust now. But I have a feeling, a strong one, that the lust is only going to be with me shortly. And for the first time in a long time, I embrace my true feelings, and that eventual love, with open arms.
A/N: hope you guys enjoyed it! i'd absolutely love a review! thanks for the read!