Summary: "How about a movie? Saturday night? Just you and me." I scowled. "How about you get the hell off my desk before I kick your fat ass off it?" He grinned at me, unfazed. "You just can't get enough of my ass, can you?" [ONESHOT]

· L i t t l e · M i s s · P e r f e c t ·

"How about a movie? Saturday night? Just you and me and an extra large bucket of Kernel's buttered popcorn."

I scowled at six feet of all male arrogance. "I have an even better idea. How about you get the hell off my desk before I personally kick your fat ass off it."

He grinned at me, unfazed. "You just can't get enough of my ass, can you?"

I screamed silently in frustration at his retreating back and may have muttered some very bad swear words that would put even sailors to shame as he turned back and winked. At me. The absolute nerve of that jerk!

If there was one universal law on this planet, it would be that I, Bronwyn Anne Hart, completely and totally abhorred Lucas James Hamilton (move over Murphy, there's a new girl in town).

It's as if he was put on this planet for the sole purpose of driving me utterly bonkers. In fourth grade, he purposely spilt red paint all over my brand new white overalls (no matter how many times he insists it was an accident) and poured an entire juice box down the back of my uniform in sixth grade as a dare. You'd think by high school he'd have matured slightly, but no! Who decided that it would be absolutely hilarious to see how many paperclips he could stick in my hair before I realised? Luke himself. (And before you ask, it was thirty-seven. I strode blithely around the school until lunch, looking like a human magnet.)

Over the years, I've put up with his taunting, his teasing, his oh-so-very-not-funny pranks, and his annoying little habit of asking me out every week when I know he's only doing it to provoke me (and I'm sorry to say that it works most of the time). And let's not forget he violated rule number two of Girl Code (rule number one being: the common yet despicable practice of looking up a girl's skirt.)

Because here's the thing: he stole my first kiss.

We were in second grade performing the annual school play and I won the part of Sleeping Beauty. Three guesses as to who was the Prince. Adrenaline and sugar charged on the day (sneaking into the cookie jar was my area of expertise), I was exhausted by the time the performance rolled around and fell asleep onstage – not that anyone had noticed, considering I was supposed to be in 'a deep slumber only to be awoken by true love's first kiss' (oh the irony).

All I remembered was being shaken awake by Luke, to the words, "Get up you bum! Everyone's staring," which wasn't in the least bit romantic, even by second grade standards. In the script, he was only supposed to kiss me on the cheek, but according to my best friend Rylee, he'd missed and got my mouth instead. Missed my ass! More like he did it on purpose! I don't even know what it felt like.

He had completely obliterated any romantic notions I'd ever had of my first kiss (not that they'd extended very far from a quick peck on the lips similar to the end of Cinderella, the movie) at the young and tender age of seven.

And so my hatred for Lucas James Hamilton was born.

I jumped as something hit the back of my head. I cast a suspicious eye around the classroom, only to be met with the smirking image of Luke two rows behind. Immature cow. Glaring, I turned back to the front of classroom. You would not believe how much self-control it took not to march over there and pummel him to death. Not that my fists would make much of an impact.

Over the summer of ninth grade, he'd shot up five inches, broadened out quite admirably (you could even say quite nicely) and had, all in all, come back from break looking, well, hot. (I did not just say that. You hear me? Blame it on the teenage hormones!) Not that he wasn't already considered good-looking, with 'those gorgeous amber eyes, messy honey-coloured hair, and crooked-yet-perfect smile'. (But it wasn't as if I shared any of these opinions.)

The bell rang and I shook my head trying to rid myself of all thoughts of Luke and his hotness. (Sorry, my mistake, I meant loserness).

"Did it hurt?"

I glanced up at the pair of laughing amber eyes staring down at me. Since when did Luke care about my health and well-being?

"You mean that stupid paper ball you threw at my head? I think I may have suffered from temporary memory loss. How old are you again? Five?"

"No." He waved away my jibe and continued. "When you fell down from heaven – because you have the face of an angel." He grinned and slapped high-fives with the guy spasming beside him, who was almost wetting himself with laughter. Real mature.

"Why, thank you, Lucas," I sighed with fake sincerity. "But don't you find it depressing?"

He stopped laughing and turned to stare at me, confused. "What?"

"Waking up every morning and seeing your hideous face in the mirror," I said, voice syrupy sweet.

Blue iPod Nano? Two hundred dollars. Seeing Luke's reaction as I took down his impressive ego a couple of notches? Priceless.

At my words, his friend doubled over and emitted a screeching noise not dissimilar to a pack of hyenas during mating season. (I think it was supposed to be laughter.) I shot one last withering glance in Luke's direction before storming towards my next class.

Because even though I may have found him slightly attractive, it didn't erase the fact that I hated him.

I shuffled tiredly towards my locker, rubbing my eyes. Staying up late to complete the third draft of my English essay was evidently not the best decision I'd ever made.

"Late night?" Rylee leaned into the locker next to mine, pixie haircut now dark red, as opposed to the electric blue it was last week.

"Yep. I was grinding my way through the dance floor and getting high at Larissa's birthday bash last night."

She didn't even bat an eyelid. "Sarcasm doesn't work when you're half-asleep, sweetie."

"Finishing English essay," I yawned.

She sighed and rolled her eyes. "What? Isn't this the fiftieth time you've rewritten it?"

"Third actually," I corrected.

"Whatever." She dismissed me with a wave of her hand. "I remember reading it the first time, and it totally kicked ass to me."

"So maybe I'm a bit of a perfectionist," I admitted.

"Perfectionist? More like obsessive compulsive," she snorted.

Sure, I tended to have psychological breakdowns whenever I got less than ninety-eight percent in a Maths exam, or forgot to do my Economics homework, but that didn't mean I was neurotic. I'd just set myself some future goals that came along with a set of high standards that I expected to live up to. Stop laughing.

"Hey!" I swung for a punch at her arm – which she dodged easily.

"Too slow," she grinned. Thank you, reflexes. I opened my mouth to retort, but was cut off.

"Hey, Hart!"

I automatically turned around at the sound of my name.

"Has anyone ever told you that you have beautiful eyes?"

I stared, dumbfounded, at Lucas, who had materialised out of thin air and was now leaning against my locker. His smouldering amber eyes held my startled blue ones and, for a moment, my heart fluttered as he tucked a stray strand of black hair behind my ear. I jerked as if he'd been holding two hundred volts of electricity, and stepped back.

"Has anyone ever told you that if you so much as glance in my direction one more time, I will ensure that not even modern medicine will allow you to reproduce," I snapped, annoyed at my response to his touch.

I could have sworn I saw something in his eyes flicker before he relaxed and returned to his usual light-heartedness.

"Well didn't someone wake up from the wrong side of the bed this morning." And with that, he continued down the hallway, whistling, as if by just one touch he hadn't turned my knees to jelly.

"You guys still in denial?"

I stared at Rylee like she was on the strongest crack known to man. "Don't even go there."

The silly girl was under the poor, misguided impression that, 'underneath all my burning hatred, lay a red-hot desire to ravish him' (her words, not mine). And it was exactly that – a poor, misguided impression. The only thing that lay beneath my burning hatred was the increasing desire to strangle him with my shoelace.

"I'm just saying that I think you guys would make the cutest couple," she insisted.

This from a girl who thought that our balding, fifty-plus-year-old English teacher bawling his eyes out during Titanic was cute.

"Newsflash: we hate each other. Luke loves pissing me off. Therefore I hate Luke. End of story," I growled.

"You keep telling yourself that, and maybe someday it will come true." She smiled at me sympathetically.

What's she feeling sorry for me for? I love my life! (Most of the time.) I love waking up to the sound of glass-shattering opera, courtesy of Mrs. Whinter-with-a-H next-door. I love every time the hot water runs out by the time it's my turn to have a shower (which is at least twice a week). I love the fact that my dodgy internet connection means it takes ten minutes just to get to Google.

I love the fact that every time Luke asks me on a date, a small part of me wishes he actually meant it.

Yeah, my life's all hunky dory. No need for a pity party at all.

I leaned back against the eucalyptus tree tucked away in the corner of the school oval, and reached into my backpack to check through the exam paper one more time. Don't you just hate how every time there's an error in the marking, it's never in your favour? Sighing heavily, I covered my face with my hands and let a wave of disappointment crash over me.

At the sound of approaching footsteps, I glanced up and groaned (feel my pain) as Luke strolled over and plonked himself down next to me like he belonged there. Foul beast.

"Are you okay? You look like the Principal just announced Maths is a waste of time."

I stared glumly at the ground, too depressed to respond to his jab. "I got eighty-two percent on my chemistry exam."

"What? Does that bring your average down from six-hundred percent to a mere three-hundred?"

"Not. Helping," I replied through gritted teeth.

He held his hands up in the infamous 'don't-shoot-me' pose. "Sorry. Just trying to work the Hamilton charm."

I snorted. Was he deluded or something?

"So . . . do you need anything? The periodic table? Some maths homework? A hug? A back-rub? A date?"

"You know what I could really use right now?" I sighed dramatically.

"No, what?" He sounded curious.

"For you to drop off the face of this planet," I snapped, before swiftly getting to my feet and walking away.

Ha! Eat my dust, Lucas Hamilton.

A hand fastened over my wrist, preventing me from leaving.

Or not.

"Hey. Don't go." His voice was soft and his eyes were boring into mine, making my stomach flip. "Don't worry. It was just a pop quiz. It doesn't even count towards our final report mark."

When Lucas Hamilton was right, it meant there was something seriously wrong with the universe.

And right now there was something seriously wrong with the universe.

I snatched my hand away and sat back down – only because my stomach was feeling queasy. Not because the touch of his hand had my legs turn into jelly.

We sat there, side-by-side for a few minutes, neither of us speaking. I racked my brains for any memory of the last time we'd been in each other's company, minus parents (which generally forced us to be civil to one another – virtually impossible if you ask me), without ripping at each other's throats. I bet that even when we were babies, he stole my pacifier and I retaliated by whacking him with my rattle. Good times.

He broke the silence first. "Why do you hate me?"

I squinted at him, attempting to discern whether or not this was another one of his hilarious jokes (note my extreme sarcasm). "Why do you ask?"

"Well, I honestly can't recall a time when we've actually willingly had a civil conversation." What is he? A mind reader or something?

"I – I don't . . . hate you exactly . . ." I muttered, staring hard at the ground, embarrassment causing me to blush. Stupid blood. Why do we need it anyway? Oh that's right – it carries oxygen around the body and is essential for our survival. Silly me.

I could feel his penetrating gaze, but I refused to look him in the eye. So maybe I lied to you before, when I said I hated him, but I didn't want you to think I was in love with him or anything. Because I'm not. Really.

"Why, thank you, Miss Hart. And if it pleases you to know, I don't hate you either," he said nonchalantly, causing a burst of warmth in my chest. Heartburn, obviously. Being around him was seriously damaging to my health.

I glanced over the fence at the gravestones lined up in neat rows, and exhaled loudly. Our school was situated next to a cemetery. As if starting the day with double physics wasn't depressing enough.

"You know what?" I mused.


"I think I would care if you died."

He stared at me like I'd just announced that Pizza Hut was having a free all-you-can-eat for seventeen-year-old males, before breaking into a smile. "See! I knew somewhere in your little, black heart, you had romantic feelings for –"

"Because your corpse would probably release highly toxic contaminants into the earth, causing unnecessary pollution in the natural environment and eventually leading to increased effects of global warming," I cut in quickly.

For a moment, he sat there, stunned. Then spotting my grin, he returned it with a laugh and a shake of his head.

Some things never change.

It was raining. Aside from the obvious, it also meant that I had two choices: a) make the half-an-hour walk home in torrential rain, sans umbrella or any other water-proof device, or; b) camp out on the covered front steps of the school until the rain stops (although judging from the way it was pouring down buckets, I'd be sitting here until the next Ice Age).

I glanced around and found the area deserted. Perfect. Not. Staying behind after class to discuss an extra-credit assignment meant I missed my bus and any opportunity to scab a ride off some good Samaritan with a car. I sat down with my back against the brick wall, figuring that if I was going to be sitting on the cold damp pavement, wearing a t-shirt and shorts, in ten degree weather (punishment for not checking the weather report), I might as well get comfortable. Within five minutes, I was a human icicle.

"Need a ride?"

And so appeared my angel in disguise, brown hair plastered to the side of his head, clothes dripping and basketball tucked beneath an arm.


(Did I say angel? I meant Satan himself). For a second, my heart skipped a beat, but I brushed it aside as surprise.

"What are you doing here?" I asked suspiciously.

His white shirt was clinging to his torso due to the rain, and it was doing ridiculous things to my insides. He spun the basketball around on a finger with ease. (Show off. The last time I tried doing that, I ended up breaking a window. Shut up. It's not that funny.) "Basketball training."

I took one last look at the sky still emptying the contents of the Pacific Ocean, and gave in. "Yeah. Okay."

He stayed silent for two heartbeats, then reached out and gently brushed the backs of his fingers against my cheek.

"You're freezing." I stopped breathing. The corner of his mouth turned up into a half smile before he murmured, "I'll just go get my car. Wait here," and bolted towards the car park.

Stunned, I lifted my hand to touch my cheek. It was burning. By the time he pulled up to the front of the school, my heart rate still hadn't returned to normal. What on God's green earth was wrong with me?

I slipped into the car, thankful for the cocoon of warmth. Luke reached into the backseat and pulled out a navy sweater that could have only belonged to a girl, and gave it to me. "Here. That should warm you up."

I gripped my seat, shocked at the wave of jealousy creeping up on me with the implications of a girl's sweater on the back seat of Luke's car. I bet you anything it was Lindsey's. That girl was all over Luke like a rash during summer camp. But then so was Melinda, and Harriet, and Janice, and several other girls – considering the fact that we were at the beach and Luke was topless, looking goddamn fine.

Oh God. I've officially lost it.

"It's my sister's." And just like that, all I could feel was relief flooding through me.

Mental institution, here I come.

"I really don't care," I replied shortly (so maybe I told one teeny tiny fib – but a little white lie never hurt anyone!), annoyed with myself for reacting, and annoyed with Luke for making me feel this way.

He responded with another half smile. "Okay," he said, and returned his attention to the road.

I studied him cautiously from the corner of my eye. This was not the usual loud, do-everything-humanly-possible-to-drive-me-into-an-early-grave Luke. This was the quiet side to him I rarely got a glimpse of. My eyes strayed to the water droplets dotting his arm and my fingers itched to just brush them away but I reined in the urge.

This was Luke. The guy who tugged on my ponytail throughout all of year four, until I finally cracked and got my hair hacked to chin-length. I gave myself a swift mental kick in the butt. Think electromagnetic spectrum. Think point-gradient formula. Think anything but the toned muscles in Luke's arm!

"Turn left at the intersection," I instructed, directing him towards my house.

"It's okay. I know the way," he replied, eyes not moving from the road ahead.

"How do you know where I live?" I demanded indignantly.

"I know lots of things about you, Bronwyn. I know the number of times you brush your hair in the morning, the colour of your underwear, all your deepest darkest secrets. I know everything. I've been watching you." His voice was low, almost menacing, and I was seriously contemplating screaming and throwing myself from the vehicle like they do in the action films just before the car explodes, when Luke threw his head back and laughed so hard he nearly ran a red light. "I'm kidding. You should have seen the look on your face," he managed, wiping tears from his eyes.

I attempted a scowl, but somehow my mouth twitched into a smile, and I couldn't help but chuckle along with him. Stupid traitorous mouth. His laugh was infectious. "Shut up."

He glanced towards me, eyes sparkling, and grinned wickedly, causing a hot flush to creep up my neck. "Nah. You were sick last term, so I used to bring over the work you missed." Noting my silence, he added, "And in case you still think I'm stalking you, Rylee gave me your address."

Rylee, that shifty little Rocky Road. (Gotta love my food analogies.)

I remembered – I couldn't get out of bed for a week and almost went into cardiac arrest at the thought of all the work I was missing. On my doorstep every day of that week was the work I needed, a thermos full of chicken noodle soup, and a small slip of paper with a knock-knock joke that never ceased to make me smile, despite its corniness.

"But I thought it was Sara who'd been delivering all that stuff!" I burst out, surprised beyond belief. Sara had been my lab partner until she moved to Melbourne in June.

He snorted. "Sara wouldn't even know how to boil water let alone cook."

"You made that soup?" I asked incredulously. The thought of Luke in an apron, behind a stove and cooking me chicken noodle soup, had me all but melting into a big gooey mess in the passenger seat of his car.

"Of course." Now he was the one surprised. "It didn't taste like it was straight out of the packet, did it?"

That was true. The soup was much too nice to have been made from just powder and hot water. "That was some darn good soup."

"I know. I made it, remember?" He grinned arrogantly, but I let it pass – after all, I'd be pretty proud too if I could make soup that good.

"Thanks." My voice was so soft I didn't think he'd catch it, but he turned and smiled at me.

"No problem." And for some reason, a large part of me wanted to reach over and kiss him.

Not that I did – kiss him, I mean. After all, this was Lucas Hamilton and even if I no longer hated him, there was no way on this planet I was remotely romantically interested in him – right?

Don't you just love self-denial?

"We're here." His voice drew me out of my mental argument.

I gazed out the window and flinched. The rain still hadn't ceased.

Before I could do anything, Luke got out of the car and took out an umbrella from the boot. He opened the passenger door and held it over my head so I wouldn't get wet.

Mouth? Message from brain: hanging open's not exactly what you'd call attractive.

I found myself speechless when he took my bag as I got out of the car. "Here, let me carry that."

Lucas Hamilton. Chivalrous? Had there been an apocalypse I didn't know about?

We made it to my front door and stood there staring awkwardly at each other. Well, at least I was awkward. Luke looked his usual cool, calm and collected self, shaking water droplets from his hair and leaning against the wall. Darn it! Sometimes life just isn't fair.

"So thanks, um . . . yeah . . . thanks for the ride . . . thanks . . ." I did not just say the word 'thanks' three times in one sentence. This was coming from the girl who topped the grade in English. Yeah, I wouldn't have guessed either.

He stood there looking amused. The jerk. "What's so funny?" I scowled.

"You're nervous." He smiled smugly and took a step towards me, but I barely noticed – I was so busy venting out my anger.

"Me? Nervous? Why the hell would I be nervous around you? You're just a brain-dead, miserable, fat jackass with no heart, who revels in making my life on earth a living hell!" I shouted, inflicting my deadliest glare upon him.

Which seemed to have no effect on him. Isn't life just peachy?

Because he took another step forward, leaning over, and whispered into my ear, "If I had no heart, then why would I be doing this?"

And then his lips came crashing onto mine.

There was only one word that could sum up how it felt to be kissed by Lucas Hamilton.


It was like New Year's fireworks exploding behind my eyelids and a choir singing "Love Is in the Air" in my ears. My heart racing at three hundred kilometres per second, my knees all but giving out, my stomach somersaulting, my mind completely filled with thoughts of only him – I was floating. Before I knew it, I was kissing him back.

And I felt it. All the way down to my toes.

Reality hit me like a tonne of bricks.

What was I doing?

I pulled away, blushing furiously as I untangled my fingers that had unconsciously found their way into his hair, and reluctantly removed myself from his arms. He was panting just as hard as I was, but his eyes were smouldering, and it was all I could do to not throw myself back at him.

Because I was an independent twenty-first century young woman who did not fling herself shamelessly at men. I'm female. Hear me roar!

"I – I h – have to go," I stuttered, wrenching open the door and slamming it shut before he could do anything to change my mind. Real smooth.

By the time I'd calmed down enough to move to my bedroom and glance out the window, he was gone.

He cornered me during the break between sixth and seventh period.

I'd spent the entire morning avoiding him, racing out of the classroom just as the bell rang, spending my lunch sandwiched between the romance and self-help section of the library (a coincidence, I tell you), and ducking behind doors at the sight of any six foot male with brown hair (I wasn't crowned Queen of Hide-and-Seek in year three for nothing, you know).

"Why are you avoiding me?" Well that was straight to the point.

I took one look at his thunderous expression and decided to come clean. "What are you talking about?" Okay, so call me a coward, but my mouth and brain clearly don't work on the same wavelengths.

"Don't play dumb with me, Bronwyn," he growled. My heart did a funny little flip as the sound of my name rolled off his tongue like a caress.

"You did not just call me dumb." I glared back at him. How dare he just march over here and call me stupid. Egotistical asshole. (Am I bipolar or what?)

"I believe I just did," he replied coolly.

That dim-witted, supercilious, freakishly tall fruitcake! (You can't fault me in originality).

Fuming, I took a few deep breaths to compose myself and blinked up at him innocently. "Could you do something for me?" I asked sweetly.

He stared at me, surprised for a moment, before answering, "For you I'd do anything."

"Could you buy yourself a one-way ticket to anywhere far, far away from me and never come back?" The moment I said those words I wanted to grab them back and stuff them into my big, fat mouth.

He flinched, and something in his eyes flickered. Anger? Disgust? Hurt? And then he just closed himself off from me; face expressionless, amber eyes usually sparkling with laughter now empty. And it scared the bee's knees out of me.

"Maybe I will." Even his voice was toneless.

He stared right through me. Like I no longer existed.

I'm an idiot.

No, not an idiot. I'm the biggest moron in the entire moronical world of moronic morons.

I opened my mouth, but not a single sound came out. What was I going to do? Apologise? Beg for forgiveness? I guess I was just so used to hurling abuse at him that I didn't really know how else to act around him.

Luke inclined his head slightly, as if accepting the situation, and strode away, leaving the feeling of guilt to sink to the pit of my stomach like a stone.

What had I done?

"What did you do?"

I stared in confusion at the almost comical image of Rylee standing at my bedroom doorway – hands on hips, red hair wild, face twisted into a furious scowl. I would have laughed – if I wasn't so depressed.

"Luke's been walking around like Krispy Kreme has just closed down, and you've been moping around looking like you've run over your neighbour's pet dog."

I winced and muttered defensively, "Oh that's right. Just assume I'm the one who's at fault."

She looked at me. And I cracked. It's a gift of hers – reducing people to a babbling mess with the intensity of her gaze. "So maybe I might have told him to go away in a not-very-pleasant way. . ." She kept staring. ". . . the day after we made out on my doorsteps in the rain." Okay! I admit it! I'm a cold, heartless bitch and a disgrace to the human race, but just stop looking at me like that, dammit!

"Bronwyn Anne Hart, out of all the stupid things you've done . . . ARGH!" she shrieked, face turning ten different shades of purple.

Rylee's going to kill me.

She marched towards me, eyes bulging.

Thank you, God, for the precious seventeen years I've spent on planet Earth.

She reached over and grabbed my pillow, gripping it so tightly her knuckles turned white.

To my parents, I leave all my money and worldly possessions (except my CD collection, which I already promised to leave to Rylee – even though she'll probably be in jail for my murder).

And she shoved her face into my pillow and screamed.

But I'm sure they have CD players in prison cells. Wait – so I'm not dead?

After two minutes (she's got massive lungs), she lifted her head from the material, looking considerably calmer. "Why would you do that, Bronwyn?" Her voice was freakishly placid, like she was having an out-of-body experience.

"Do what?" Was she referring to the kiss or the get-the-hell-out-of-my-life?

"Reject him like that." She still sounded eerily passive for someone who looked like they were about to commit first-degree murder a mere five minutes ago.

"I – I didn't reject him exactly . . ." I stuttered.

"You kissed him, then told him to piss off. What else would you call that? A proposal?" She didn't have to be so blunt about it.

"Because . . . it's just . . . he's an idiot!" The excuse sounded feeble even to me. She raised an eyebrow.

"Well sometimes I think you're an idiot, but you don't see me calling you a fat-arsed pig who should go and get plastic surgery to benefit mankind on a regular basis." Actually it was fat-arsed cow, but pig worked too.


She sighed and sat next to me on my bed. "Bronnie, you're the smartest person I know, yet somehow you're the only person besides Luke who hasn't realised your true feelings for him."

"You mean my feelings of hate?" She gave me the look. One day I'm going to design super-protective sunglasses, so that her stares will cease to have any effect on me. Then she'll be sorry! (Cue my evil cackling).

"You know what I mean."

I shifted uncomfortably, feeling my face grow hot. "No, I don't, actually."

"I've seen the way you gaze at him when you think no one's looking, the way your face lights up whenever he walks into a room, or whenever he asks you out."

My face so does not light up whenever he's around. She's seeing things. "But this is the guy who's done everything in his power to annoy me practically all my life," I reminded, in case she'd forgotten that he was supposed to be the bane of my existence.

"This is also the same guy who stayed with you all night and held your hand when you got homesick during year seven camp. The same guy who let you cry into his shirt at your grandpa's funeral, and didn't say a word when you told him that he smelled like a toilet and hated him. The same guy who bought you a bouquet of daisies and took you to see Enchanted when you thought everyone had forgotten your fifteenth birthday, even though he was the only guy in the theatre." Jesus, that girl had a memory of a steel trap. "You've been clinging to the idea that you hate him like a lifeline, because you're just too damn scared to admit that you're crazy about him."

It was as if I was seven all over again, playing the role of Sleeping Beauty and waking up to find my Prince Charming.

Holy bananas! Rylee was right.

"Maybe I might like him . . . just a little," I muttered, doing a rather impressive impersonation of a tomato. "I mean, he's quite . . . attractive . . . and he has some rather notable . . . qualities . . ." I trailed off, eyes straying to the figure at my doorway.

Someone shoot me now.

I could feel Rylee's stare jumping back and forth between my stunned this-is-so-not-happening-to-me expression and Luke's pensive gaze. "Is that the time? I really have to go. I have an, err . . . orthodontist appointment in, uh . . . five minutes. Got to go. Bye, Bronnie. Nice to see you, Luke," she shrilled airily, before flouncing past Luke and out my bedroom door.

Stupid girl didn't even have braces. The look I shot her could only be described as murderous.

"What are you doing here?"

"I –" This was the first time I'd seen Luke so unsure of himself. "I came here to . . . talk . . . your Mum let me in."

"Oh." The guy I'd just realised I no longer hated (in fact, quite the opposite) had been standing at my doorway for God knows how long, possibly overhearing my moment of self-actualisation and leaving me on the brink of an emotional crisis – and the only coherent response I could muster was, Oh. Me? A genius? I've never thought otherwise.

"You said you thought I was attractive." Oh God. He heard everything.

You? Up there? Just do the right thing and put me out of my misery.

"I'm pleading momentary insanity." I inched backwards as he walked steadily towards me, bringing a whole new level to 'deer caught in headlights'. Goodbye, cruel, cruel world.

"And you said you thought I had notable qualities." A bolt of lightning would do. But if you're having a little trouble with the thunderclouds, I could do with just a cave-in of the ceiling, or even a collapsed lung or something.

"Yes, well, everyone has some good traits. I mean, even Hitler thought what he was doing was right." Oh bravo, Bronwyn. Compare Luke to the poster-boy for genocide. Nice work!

By now my back was pressed against the wall and he stopped, barely a centimetre away from me. I could see each individual fleck of gold in his eye. "So if I was to draw a conclusion from the evidence I have right here before me, I'd derive that you don't hate me at all. In fact, Hart, dare I even say that you like me?" He grinned cockily, but his expression darkened as he realised I wasn't laughing it off or just plain insulting him – exactly what I'd been doing for the past, oh, ten or so years. "Do you like me, Bronwyn?" he repeated softly, his gaze wavering between incredulous and hopeful.

And that's when I exploded (figuratively speaking of course, because if I'd physically erupted, that would turn out to be rather messy).

"You've been terrorising me, annoying me, and been a darn right pain in the freaking ass since Kindergarten, and you have the absolute nerve to ask me if I like you?!"

He flinched, and his eyes flickered with something I might have identified as hurt if I wasn't too busy figuratively exploding, before his face took on that blank, expressionless mask that I was so afraid of. "I see." His voice matched the tonelessness of his face as he took a step back. Away from me.

"No, you don't see!" I shouted, practically tearing my hair out in frustration, face blotchy red, spittle probably shooting towards the moon (not a pretty sight, I tell you). I grabbed him firmly by the shoulders so he couldn't run away, and continued my ranting.

"You never see! You never see that every time you tell me I'm beautiful or smart or funny, that even though I know I'm none of those things, you have the ability to make me feel like I'm worth it. You never see that every time you talk to Lindsey or Harriet or Janice, all I feel like doing is throwing my maths textbook at your head for making me feel jealous. You never see that every time you laugh, it's like I'm fighting in freaking World War III with myself, trying not to grab you by the collar and kiss you. You never see that every time I tell you I hate you, what I really mean to say is that . . . is that . . . I love you."

My hands slid from his shoulders, and feeling light-headed, I inhaled some sweet, sweet oxygen. He was just standing there so straight and tall, looking like he didn't know what hit him. The sudden urge to giggle bubbled up my throat.

That's what he's reduced me to. Giggling like one of his bimbo groupies. I can already feel my brain cells deteriorating.

For three torturously long seconds, he didn't say a word.

I knew it. This whole thing was a mistake. My brain cells can't be deteriorating because I never had any to begin with. Of course he doesn't feel the same way. I mean, look at him. He could have had any girl he wanted. How on earth did I think for a minute that that girl could be me?

And then he opened his mouth to speak, and my mouth turned to dust, the air sucked right out of my lungs. His eyes were molten, burning – and I was so far gone there was no hope to return.

"You never see that every time I tell you you're beautiful or smart or funny, I mean every single one of those things. You never see that every time I talk to Lindsey or Harriet or Janice, I can't help but glance at you every five seconds just to see if you're looking. You never see that every time you smile, I have to practically chain myself to my desk so I won't grab you, because I'm terrified that I'll never be able to let you go. You never see that every time I ask you out or spin out one of my pathetic pick-up lines, what I'm really trying to say is that I am completely, irrevocably in love with you, and I have absolutely no idea what to do about it."

I saw stars. Millions of them. And they spread this warm, happy glow that left me tingling all over. In a good way. He loved me. I felt like shouting Shakespeare off rooftops. I felt like wrapping my arms around Rylee and telling her that she was the best friend a girl could have. I felt like I could swim the English Channel and still have energy to hike up Mount Everest.

Stupid boy has given me a multiple personality disorder.

I smiled shyly. "Well I might have an idea."

He slid his arms around me and pulled me flush against him, making me gasp. Someone had better dial triple 0 – I think I'm having a heart attack. "And what might that be?"

"You could place that delectable mouth of yours onto mine." I turned an even darker shade of red as his grin widened. I have no idea what he sees in me. I must resemble a beetroot.

"Miss Hart, I believe that's your best idea yet," he declared, and kissed me. And they say there's no heaven on earth. Liars.

I've changed my mind. If there is one universal law on this planet, it would be that I, Bronwyn Anne Hart, am totally, irrevocably in love with Lucas James Hamilton.

And guess what? He loves me too.

A/N: Edited - 11/07/09. No major changes. Just fixed up a bit of the grammar. Thanks for reading :)