Since it's been a month since I've posted…it's a long one, y'all! Hope you enjoy. I had fun writing this chapter. You get to see Laken's sappy side in action! ;) Read and review, please! - Jenna

-Chapter Ten-

"Did your parents come? I didn't get to meet them!" I am perched on a couch next to Lyric as she paints her nails.

She looks up from her manicure and rolls her violet eyes so hard, I can almost hear it. "No."

"Why not? Did something happen? Are they okay?"

She makes a face. "They're fine. They went backpacking through Europe- the jerks. Mom called me last night to apologize for bailing. She said it was a 'last minute' thing." Lyric air quotes the last part of the sentence. "It's whatever. I mean, they haven't seen me in six months and I'm their only child, but you know…let's go backpacking in Europe. Something they've done at least 2 or 3 times already."

"Dang, I'm sorry. I didn't realize." I give her a hug as she holds her hands out away from her to avoid me touching her wet nails.

"I'm used to it. My parents have never really been all that 'parental.' They're more like friends…or...even better…a distant aunt or uncle. It's so stupid though, cause I fall for it every time. It literally took the whole day Saturday for me to realize that they bailed on me…again." She grabs my left hand and yanks it towards her. I don't normally paint my nails, but I let her paint them a particularly garish neon color because I know she needs to get her mind off things.

Now that I'm taking a closer look at her, she looks a little…wilted. "Anything else going on?"

She freezes, her eyes darting like a cornered animal. I gently remove my hand from her grip and place it on her leg. "Hon? What's wrong?" Her expression is pinched, like she's holding back tears. That isn't like her. Lyric is the most emotionally free person I know. People we aren't even friends with can tell what she's feeling at any given time. I wait for her to open up. It doesn't take long.

Her eyes fill with tears and she falls forward into my arms. "Finn and I got into a fight last night. A bad one."

I rub her back soothingly. "Lyric…it's you and Finn. Nothing is ever so bad between you that a little making out won't fix." I aim for a playful tone to lighten her mood, but it doesn't work.

"You don't get it! We never fight!" She wails, her tears soaking my shirt. "I don't know what to do. We're not even speaking to each other."

"What in the world did you fight about?" I'm having trouble processing this one. Out of all of us, Lyric and Finn seem completely incompatible in every way, but that's why they work so well. She is right, I don't think they've ever even said a harsh word to each other. It seems miraculous considering our close quarters, but it's true. It helps that Finn is the sweetest guy I think I've ever met.

"I can't tell you. It's so embarrassing." She snorts into my shoulder.

"Lyric Jayde…tell me right now. We've seen each other through some pretty embarrassing and life changing stuff." I gently push her back so I can look into her eyes. "What is going on?"

She avoids my gaze. "itoldfinniwanttohavesexbutheturnedmedown." She mumbles.

I'm not sure I heard her right. "Wait…you two haven't…." Now I'm truly thrown for a loop. Apparently, I've been really wrapped up in this whole new thing with Lake, because I did not see this coming.

She shakes her head slowly. I feel like a horrible friend because I just assumed that they were already sleeping together. I never even took the time to talk to her about it before making that assumption either.

"Huh…" I sit there in shock. "So, wait…you want to but he doesn't?"

She flushes a bright red. "You can say it. I know you want to."

"Say what?" I'm even more confused now.

"I know you think that I'm completely skanky or whatever. I swear I'm not, I just really love Finn." Fresh tears form in her eyes and she swipes at them impatiently. Now, I feel even worse.

"I was not going to say that! And you are not!" I swat at her. "I was actually going to ask why he turned you down? To be honest, I kinda thought that this was already going on."

She sighs heavily. "That's because I let you think that. If I wasn't so mad at him, I would think he was being really cute about the whole thing. He wants us to wait."

"Wait til when?"

"Wait until we're out of Athanasia and on our own. He wants us to get married and do things the right way. He wants our first time to not be in a tiny little twin bed with people in the next room." She throws herself back on the couch.

I'm not seeing the problem. I actually think that's just about the sweetest thing I've ever heard, but judging by the look on Lyric's face she definitely does not agree. "Lyric…why are you mad at him for that? He wants it to be special."

She sighs again. "I know and truthfully I'm not really all that mad anymore. I was more embarrassed than anything else. Here I was throwing myself at him last night and he politely turned me down in his very posh accent and it just made me feel like trailer trash. Like I wasn't good enough. I told him that and then he frantically assured me that was not the problem. He told me he loves me and that he wants to do the right thing. He wants things to be different with me."

"Hon…you definitely do not have to worry about being good enough for Finn. I think he fell for you as soon as he laid eyes on you. I think it's super sweet that he thinks so highly of you that he wants this."

She lays her head on my shoulder. "You're right. It is. I don't know how to fix it though. I was pretty hateful to him last night."

"So, I'm guessing sexually frustrated Lyric is an even bigger witch than hangry Lyric?" I jokingly ask.

She laughs weakly. "You could say that."

"Lyric…just go apologize. He loves you. He will forgive you and all will be well in the Finn and Lyric world." I rest my head against hers and grab her hand. "Soon, you both will be grossing all of us out again with your very inappropriate PDA and this will all be in the past. "

She sniffles. "You think so?"

"I know so."

She turns to give me a hug and quickly stands. "I'm going to find him."

"Check the gym. I think Lake said he was meeting him there." I say, staring down at my hands. Only half of them are painted- a blinding neon orange that reminds me of a traffic cone.

"Speaking of Laken…how is that going?" She eyes me suspiciously. Now it's my turn to feel cornered.

"Just the usual. The exchange of vile insults and violent threats." I reply blithely.

"Well, you disappeared from the dance the other night and I didn't see him either. Odd coincidence, don't you think?"

I shrug. "I have no idea where he was."

"You two were dancing and looking pretty cozy, might I add. So, what happened after?"

"I don't know. I left after we danced."

She gives me a dirty look. "I think you're lying."

"I went upstairs and fell asleep. I told you…dances are not my thing." My voice is shrill as I lie to my best friend. I feel bad about it, but I'm not ready for her to find out.

"So, I'm guessing that you didn't tell him how you felt?"

"Fates no! When I got back the other night, he was so angry he refused to talk to me. I'm not telling him anything now." A half-truth. He was angry and at first, he did refuse to talk to me. Then…things happened…

She shakes her head. "You two…I swear."

"What?"

She just keeps shaking her head.

"Lyric…what?" I ask, annoyed that she won't answer me.

"Laken told us he kissed you. It was a few weeks ago. I've been waiting for you to tell me for ages and you haven't!" Accusation rings in her voice.

Dead silence. I'm fairly certain I'm sitting there with my mouth gaping like a fish. Laken did what?

"Earth to Genesis?" She glares at me.

"Uh…" I swallow. "Who else knows? You said 'us.' Who does that entail?"

"Our group. Liam, Sadie, me, and Finn. We were all sitting at the table when you got up and stormed off." She shrugs. "He told us he kissed you and you freaked out."

That…that IMBECILE. "So, all of you have been discussing this for the last few weeks?"

"What? No!" Lyric rolls her eyes. "I'm just mad because you haven't said anything. How was the kiss? Is he any good at it? He looks like he would be good at it."

I can't stop the blush spreading across my cheeks.

"I'm guessing by the look on your face that it was amazing." She grins, her eyes twinkling.

"Lyric…just drop it okay?" I scowl at her.

She smirks at me "Whatever you say." Then she blows a kiss as she rushes away. "Talk to you later, babe!"

I sigh and lean back against the couch, suddenly feeling very drained. Sometimes talking to Lyric does that to you. I love her, but the girl will wear a person out.

As I sit there, my eyes drift over to the large bulletin board on the wall. Each dorm has one. It's mostly for announcements. Right now, a huge poster covers half of it. The poster is announcing the Winter Carnival. Apparently, the school has one every year. They bring in several food trucks, some craft booths, bands, and a few carnival rides that you couldn't pay me enough to get on. Rides that are put up in one day? No thanks. I love being alive.

It's this coming weekend and then we head home for Christmas break.

Butterflies flutter wildly in my stomach as I think of being home for Christmas and with Laken. Two weeks with him; two weeks to explore this budding relationship and not have to hide it. I know I'm being irrational about our friends finding out, but I need to see if this is real. Right now, it still doesn't seem like it. Plus, now I might have to kill him for telling our already too nosy friends about our first kiss.

He appears just then in the lobby. I check my phone. It's time for dinner and he's been stopping by our dorm to walk with me for the last few days.

He takes a quick look around the lobby and then swoops down to plant a kiss on my lips. "Lake!" I squirm away from him. "Anyone could see!" I hiss in annoyance.

"So?" He smirks. "We're soulmates. Haven't you heard? Last I checked, this behavior is normal."

"Not for us it's not." I grimace. "I can't believe you told our friends about our first kiss."

His smirk fades. "Oh. So that's what the attitude is about." He falls back into the seat next to mine and props his feet up on the table in front of us.

"Yeah…that's what my 'attitude' is about." I growl impatiently. "What part of keeping all this a secret did you not understand?"

He holds up a hand to shut me up. "First…this was before we even had that conversation. They noticed us not talking and asked what happened. They assumed I scared you off after they heard. Second…is it really all that bad if they end up finding out? I like you, Genesis. I want everyone to know you're my girl for real. I like kissing you and holding hands with you and flirting with you. I would like to be able to do those things in public!"

"I thought we agreed on this!" I yelp, even though what he is saying makes sense. I want those things too.

"We do! I just don't want this to be a secret for long." He sighs. "I can barely keep my hands off you as it is. Keeping it a secret doesn't help. It just makes me want you more."

My face turns a vibrant shade of red that I'm not sure is currently found in nature and heat curls through my body. "Well, it will just have to be that way for now." I manage to say.

He catches my flushed appearance and chuckles. "Fates, I almost forgot how fun it is to embarrass you." He leans back against the couch. "Maybe I can make this more interesting. See how good your poker face is."

"Lake…no way." I shake my head at the mischievous glint in his green eyes. "You and I both know that I won't be able to hide anything. My poker face sucks!"

His smile is devious as he stands. "Guess you better start practicing." He winks at me and begins walking away.

"Wait a minute, Lake!" I jump up and dart after him. "What are you planning?" I follow him out the door. It had been an overcast, rainy day and that has faded into darkness and a cold wind so fierce that it takes my breath away as my hair whips around my face, stinging my cheeks. I pull my coat closer and cross my arms, tucking my chin and rushing to keep up with Laken.

"Nothing that won't be enjoyable for you, Keene." He grins at me. I stumble at the sight of it and grab his arm as I start to fall. He wraps an arm around my waist and pulls me flush against him. "Falling for me already?" He teases me, reaching a finger up to push a wayward strand of hair out of my eyes.

"LAKEN!" We jerk apart and I punch Laken in the arm for good measure.

Liam jogs up to us, "What were you two doing?"

"Klutzy Keene over here tripped over her huge feet and I caught her like the hero I am." Laken smirks at his twin.

Liam's green eyes narrow into slits as he studies us. "You two are acting strange." He finally says.

"Strange how?" I pick anxiously at a loose thread on the burgundy sweater I'm wearing underneath my bulky coat. This is it. Liam is totally onto us. Of course, he would be the first to figure it out.

"It's almost like…" He quickly shakes his head. "Nah, there's no way."

Laken exchanges a look with me and sighs. "Look who's being strange now. What'd you want, anyways?" He starts walking again.

Liam jogs after him and I trail behind them, my heart beating furiously at almost being caught.

"Seriously, how are you two going to survive two weeks together? It's going to end in a Christmas tragedy." He is asking Laken as I catch up to them.

Laken chuckles. "Whatever, bro. You know we've been getting along a lot better lately. We're almost even friends."

Liam sighs. "Yeah, but you have us as a buffer if things get tense and you won't have that there."

Laken shakes his head. "Nah, but we'll be okay. If I get tired of Keene, I'll go hang out with her little sister or her best friend. They seem cool. Plus, Emmy is pretty cute."

I had been looking down at the sidewalk as they talked, but my head shoots up at that remark. His eyes catch mine and he grins. Idiot.

"Don't even think about it, MacGregor." I growl. "Stay away from Emmy."

"I'll try." He shrugs. "She may not stay away from me though! My magnetic personality, winning charm, and rugged good looks are hard to ignore."

"You should add over-inflated ego to that list." I roll my eyes.

"This is exactly what I mean." Liam pipes up. "You two can't be civil for longer than five minutes."

"I'll have you know we got along very well this morning. We went almost ten minutes without yelling at each other." Laken's voice is heavy with implication and I glare at him.

"Oh really, what were you doing? Sleeping?" Liam laughs.

"Something like that." Laken rubs a hand through his hair and grins.

My face reddens as my mind flashes back to this morning before breakfast. Warm skin, rumpled hair, soft lips; kisses that almost made me forget my daily chocolate chip muffin and coffee. Almost.

"Lake was asleep. Sleeping Beauty needs his full 8 hours or he turns into a dragon." I snap, annoyed with him.

"I don't think that's part of the fairy tale." He rolls his eyes. "Pick up a book once in a while, Keene."

My nostrils flare as I shove him through the cafeteria doors. "Shut up, you moron."

A blast of warm air hits my freezing skin as I follow Laken inside. Liam is right behind me as we head straight to the food. The line is already long and we wait for a good 20 minutes before we are actually able to see what's on the menu.

"Ugh. Chili again?" Laken gripes as we near the steaming vats of our cafeteria's disgusting chili. I'm not sure what recipe they're using, but they need a new one. We each take a bowl of the smelly red stuff and grab a few things that look a little more edible. I take my seat between Lyric and Sadie and push the bowl away from me and towards the center of the table. As I nibble on a corner of a cracker, I listen to the chatter around me.

"Seriously, if they serve this one more time, I'm going to go on strike!" Lyric whines as she pushes at her food.

"I think they just make gallons of this and reheat it." Liam says around a mouthful of the stuff. He will eat anything, no matter how disgusting it is.

"Honestly, Liam…how are you eating that crap? It's revolting!" Sadie looks faintly ill as she eyes her soulmate, who is shoveling another spoonful into his mouth.

He shrugs. "I'm hungry. What else is there to eat if we don't eat this?"

He has a point. It is way too cold to walk to any of the restaurants nearby and it's too late now anyways.

"So, who is ready for the Winter Carnival?" Lyric claps her hands in excitement.

A chorus of groans answers her and she frowns.

"Lame." Laken replies shortly.

"Too cold." Sadie sighs.

She glares at them and turns to look at me. "What? Do I look like a person who enjoys carnivals?" I ask, hiding a smile. She just continues to look at me. "Fine. I'm so ready." I roll my eyes as she giggles.

Finn arrives just then and sits next to Lyric, wrapping an arm around her and pulling her in for a kiss. I raise my eyebrows at her as she shrugs. "We're okay." She mouths.

Shocker. I smile and shake my head as she grabs his hand.

"Will there be food?" Liam asks, shrugging when Sadie glares at him. "What?"

"There will be several food trucks. Haven't you paid attention to the posters hanging up everywhere?" She asks him.

"Nah, I haven't. I don't pay attention to that stuff." He drawls as he grins at her.

"Liam…if you keep eating like you do, you're gonna resemble Porky the Pig." I tease.

He gives me a look of mock hurt. "I'm a growing boy, Gen."

Our conversation turns to Christmas break and our plans for the precious time away from school. Liam and Sadie were going to his family's house and Lyric and Finn were flying to London. The typical remarks about the fighting between Laken and I start up and I catch his eyes, allowing a small smile as I notice the sparkle in them. I study him as he sits next to his brother. They are looking more alike now. Laken had recently stopped gelling his hair and it now sports the same waves and messy look that Liam's did. He isn't as intense either and my heart flutters at the thought that I might have something to do with that. There were still subtle differences. Ones that I can spot since I have been up close and personal with Laken the last few days. Liam didn't have that freckle underneath his right eye, he didn't have that small scar at the corner of his left eye from a branch that caught it when he was ten, or the tiny dent in his lower lip that I had run my tongue over this morning.

"Earth to Genesis!" I start and realize that the whole table is watching me as I stare at Laken. He smirks at me as if he can read my thoughts.

"What?" My face heats and I drop my gaze to my food. "Just thinking about what I'm going to get everyone for Christmas." It's silent for a moment and I brave a glance upward.

Lyric gives me a look that tells me she will be pumping me for information later, but she changes the subject for now. "Presents! I love those!"

The rest of the table is still looking at me. I shrink back into my seat and begin picking at my food.

As the conversation starts up again, my face burns at the thought of being caught staring at Laken like a love-sick kid. I almost blew it. In fact, I probably had if the look on Lyric's face was any indication. I look over at her and briefly entertain the thought of just telling her. Maybe her finding out wouldn't be such a bad thing.

A few minutes later, I excuse myself. "I gotta go to the restroom. Be right back." I say as I rush away.

I'm drying off my hands and staring at my reflection in the mirror a short while later. I look tired, but happy. There is a light in my eyes that hadn't been there before, a permanent flush to my cheeks, and a hint of smile on my lips. I know what is behind the change in appearance, but it feels weird to even think that. Never in a million years, would I have thought that we would get to this point. Sighing, I throw the paper towel in the trash and step through the door. A hand grabs my arm and yanks me into a nearby supply closet.

"WHAT?" I shriek just before another hand claps over my mouth silencing me.

"It's me!" A familiar voice, gruff and low, speaks up. It's pitch black in the closet and hot breath fans against my skin as an arm brushes mine. Suddenly a dim light clicks on. Laken stands there.

"What the hell, Lake?" I gasp as he drops his hand from my mouth. "You scared the crap out of me!"

He gives me that smirk that simultaneously turns my knees to jello and infuriates the living daylights out of me. "What was that back there?" He asks and I blush, instantly realizing what he's referring to.

"I noticed how much you and Liam were starting to look alike and then I started going through all the differences to make sure I didn't get you two mixed up." I laugh. "That would be embarrassing."

"What differences?" He asks, leaning back against the shelf that's screwed into the wall.

I take a moment to study him, letting my eyes drift over his face and body. The closet is quiet and warm as we stand pressed against each other.

I reach up, tracing a finger down the scar by his left eye. "Well, there's this." I say softly as his breathing gets shallower. I brush a thumb under his right eye. "Then this little freckle. Liam doesn't have one of these." His gaze is smoldering as I swallow and press an index finger against that little dimple in his lower lip. "And I don't think he has one of these either." The air seems charged with electricity as I go to remove my finger from his mouth. "You know…just a few things."

He grabs my hand before I pull it away and presses a kiss to my fingers. "I didn't realize you were studying me that closely." His smile is seductive as he wraps the other hand around my waist.

My free hand slowly trails up his spine and tangles in his hair. I let out a sigh as I curl my fingers through his soft waves. I really like that he isn't putting that crunchy gel in his hair anymore. "I'm making up for lost time." I parrot his earlier words back at him, a slight smirk on my face.

That gets me a genuine smile. I notice how the corners of his eyes crinkle when he's really smiling. I've only seen his real smile a few times and each one feels like a prize I've earned. Something that not every person gets to see; a rare occurrence and one that makes me feel a little lighter inside every time I've seen it.

"You're watching me again." He teases gently as he drops my hand.

"So? I've seen you watching me too." I grin as his eyes meet mine. "Do you have anything you've recently noticed about me?" I ask, unsure I really want to know the answer.

"Your hair…"

"My hair?" I'm not sure I heard him right.

"You didn't let me finish." He rolls his eyes. "I like how your hair always smells good."

I grab a handful and hold it up to my nose. It smells the same as it always does. "What does it smell like?"

He moves forward, his nose hovering over my hair as he sniffs. "Coconut. It smells like coconut."

"Oh."

It's silent for a few minutes then he speaks up again, his voice quiet. "I've noticed your eyes. How they look like actual stars when you're happy about something or storm clouds when you're angry. I like how I get to be the recipient of both of those looks on a daily basis." He chuckles, reaching up to brush the hair out of my eyes. "Your ears are pretty cute too." His hand touches my ear.

I swat his hand away. "My ears?"

He laughs as he pushes my hair aside and tugs on my earlobe. "Yes, Keene, your ears. They look like little elf ears."

It's true. They do resemble elf ears. It's something I inherited from my mother. They come to a slight point at the top. I've always felt self-conscious about them.

I hold my breath as he studies my face intently. Those green eyes seem to stare right through me. The close quarters make the gaze feel more like a caress than anything else.

"I like the little bump in your nose." His voice is barely above a whisper now. "I never noticed it until a few days ago and now every time I see it, I want to kiss you there."

"Oh?" I take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Somehow, despite all the time we've spent kissing, this moment seems more intimate- like we're in our own little bubble, locked away from the rest of the world. I guess right now, we kind of are. Very suddenly, I come to the realization that this man in front of me has listed all the things that I've ever felt self-conscious about as something he likes. My legs, my voice, my stupid ears, and now that hated bump on my nose- he has managed to make me feel beautiful because of those supposed flaws.

I rock forward on my feet, capturing his lips with my own, and putting all of what I'm feeling into the kiss. His hand threads through the hair at the nape of my neck as he pulls me closer, his mouth slanting over mine for better access. His bottom lip brushes against mine, coaxing them to part, and I oblige. The kiss is quick but full of the passion I've come to expect.

I'm not sure how long we've been in this little closet but it occurs to me that we've been gone an awfully long time; it's been long enough that I'm sure our friends are suspicious.

I say as much to Laken and he sighs in agreement. "I'll leave first." He says, giving me a kiss that doesn't last near long enough, and then opening the door. He takes a quick peek outside and then disappears. I follow him a few seconds later. The place is empty except for a few of the workers.

Relieved, we step around the corner and right into one tiny blonde, who is leaning against the wall with arms crossed and eyes narrowed.

"Spill." Lyric snaps, looking between us, eyebrow arched.

Crap.

I share a look with Laken and we turn to look at Lyric. He grabs my hand and her gaze drops just in time to see it.

She gasps loudly. "Are you two…together?"

Before I can answer, Laken speaks. "Yes. We are. And we'd prefer to keep this quiet for now. It's still new and we're still figuring things out."

I look at my best friend, "Can you do that, Lyric? Can you keep it a secret? At least for now?" I ask, desperation in my voice.

She is still gaping in surprise. "How long?" She finally asks.

"A few days." I answer her, squeezing Laken's hand tightly.

She gives us a look of annoyance. "I can't believe you didn't tell me."

Laken clears his throat and glares at her.

"Okay…maybe I understand why you didn't." She sighs and twirls a piece of hot pink hair through her fingers. "I promise I won't tell anyone. Just so you know though, everyone is suspicious." She raises an eyebrow. "You both keep disappearing at the SAME time and then you're both gone for a long time."

I grin sheepishly as Laken laughs. "We'll tell everyone after Christmas break. We promise. Right Gen?"

I nod slowly. "Right. We just want some time to figure this out."

Lyric grins. "Okay. Sounds good." She lets out a little shriek and jumps forward, wrapping us both in a hug. "I'm so excited about this! You have no idea! I have been waiting forever for this to happen." She frowns. "Don't get me wrong. I'm still beyond pissed that you didn't tell me, but the excitement is overriding the anger right now. Seriously, it's been forever."

"We've only been at school six months." I laugh as she twirls around.

"An exaggeration, but you know what I mean." She giggles. "I so want details later." She gives me a meaningful look.

"What?" I ask.

"You know what I'm talking about." She wiggles her eyebrows and looks between me and Laken. "If the heat between you two when you're fighting is any indication of how hot it is between you guys now, then I need to know."

I blush and shake my head in embarrassment. "No way."

"We'll see." She grins, before turning to pick up her things. "Here's your coats. I grabbed them before the cafeteria closed for the night."

Gratefully, I reach for my coat and bundle up before following Laken and Lyric out the door. A second later, Laken's hand is entwined with mine. A quick look upwards and I see his smile is lighting up his whole face. It's contagious and soon I find myself with a huge smile on my face as well.

;-

The week passes by quickly. Even the teachers were restless; in most of our classes we either ended up watching movies or just having long discussions on things ranging from current events to our immortality. Which is when it happens.

Any time I start to feel like I know everything about this curse the Fates have bestowed on me and my friends, something new comes up and I am shocked all over again.

This time, the news that the immortal pairs are wired to find each other attractive gets me all in a tizzy. I spend a whole day fretting about the fact that maybe this whole thing isn't real between Laken and I; that it's some kind of Fates induced reaction.

Later that night, after we get ready for bed, Laken leans over to kiss me. I am still feeling a little panicked, so I shrug away. He pulls back, hurt flashing across his face. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing." I avert my eyes. It seems stupid to worry about something like this. I mean, rationally…it makes sense for this attraction to be part of the equation. I am not a rational person though. Irrationally, I want this thing between us to have nothing to do with the Fates; to feel like we might have reached this point on our own had we met outside of this school and without the weight of our immortality.

"Keene…" He sits on the edge of his bed and pulls me toward him. "I can't fix it if you don't tell me what's wrong."

I shake my head. "Seriously, I'm fine."

He sighs and presses his head into my stomach. "Genesis…" His voice is muffled against my shirt, his voice a low rumble that tickles my abdomen.

"This is about what we learned today…isn't it?" He finally asks, looking up to meet my eyes.

I shrug.

His hands drift up and down my sides. "I was attracted to you before I knew you were my soul mate. You know that."

"That could have been because of the bond between us." I counter. "Even if we didn't know we were paired yet, our souls did."

"Believe me when I say, that you are most definitely my type. I would have found you attractive either way. It just took me a little while to come to terms with that." He grins, but it fades quickly when he sees the look on my face.

"I hate this." I say quietly. "I hate feeling like they control every part of my life now."

"I know." He replies, shifting back and pulling me along with him. I lay my head on his chest, as he tucks me against him. We sit like that for a while before he finally speaks again. "Can we make a deal?"

I peek up at him. "What kind of deal?"

His fingers trail up my arm and I snuggle in closer to him. "Can we just try to forget that we were forcibly paired together? Forget all of the crap that goes with that and enjoy falling for each other?"

When I start to answer him, he interrupts. "I'm just saying that it doesn't do us any good to worry about what's real or not. Like it or not, we were paired together. Sure, maybe that's made some stuff happen quicker than it would have otherwise, but maybe it hasn't. Maybe, I pushed for this to happen because when I kissed you for the first time, I felt like everything clicked into place, like a puzzle piece." He sits up and stares deep into my eyes. "Even though you drive me crazy 95 percent of the time, I don't want to go back to a life without you in it. The other 5 percent is the reason why; it's the moments that have me thinking about you all the time, even when I'm actively trying not to. The way you sigh when I kiss you, how you fit in my arms like you were made to, the way you smile when you think you bested me in a fight, how you suck at sports and have no clue what's going on, but you came to every single one of my soccer games; all of that is why I don't think it has anything to do with the stupid bond." His green eyes narrow. "You think that ass, Cord, feels like this about Olivia? He may think she's pretty, but that's it."

He doesn't give me a chance to respond.

"Fates, Genesis…we put each other through hell to get to this point. We drove each other insane, said horrible things, and did even worse. This isn't a game to me anymore. I care about you and…"

I interrupt him with a kiss. He pulls away to look at me. "You talk too much." I breathe, before his lips cover mine again. As usual, it takes no less than 30 seconds before I'm gasping into his mouth as his hands slip underneath my shirt to splay across my back. When the kiss slows down and my body feels like jello, I reluctantly pull away from Laken and stand up on unsteady feet.

"No way." He shakes his head. "Just lay here with me for a little while, please?" I climb back into his bed and lay next to him, our legs intertwined and my head on his chest.

15 minutes later, his breathing becomes deeper and I realize he's fallen asleep. I listen to his heartbeat for a little while, calmed by the steady thudding and his slow breathing. Then I gingerly push away from him and stand.

"Goodnight Gen." He mumbles sleepily as he turns over to face the wall.

"Night Lake." I whisper softly.

It's only later when I'm in bed that I realize that each day brings me dangerously close to falling in love with him. For the first time, as I sleepily glance over at Laken who is already snoring away in his bed, I'm okay with the idea.

-;

The morning of the Winter Carnival, we wake to snow on the ground. It's frigid outside and the sun is blinding against the white covering the landscape.

"I really don't want to do this." Laken grumbles as we bundle up in our winter coats.

I wrap a scarf around my neck and pull on a beanie. "I don't think any of us do but Lyric!" I giggle. "But what Lyric wants, she gets."

"We all spoil her." Laken states grumpily. "We shouldn't cave every time she wants us to do something we don't want to do."

"Well…" I sidle up to him, placing my hands on his chest. "She begged me to go to the dance when I didn't want to and I caved. Also, she wanted me to tell you how I felt even though I didn't want to and I caved, so…"

"What are you saying, Keene?"

"You wouldn't have the privilege of kissing me right now if I hadn't caved to her wishes." I tease him, standing on tip toes to brush my lips across his.

"I suppose there are good things to come out of spoiling Lyric." He murmurs against my lips.

"Mmhmm…" I smile into the kiss. A knock sounds on our door and I step back hastily.

"Genesis!" Lyric's voice comes through the door.

"She ruins everything." Laken lets out a low growl, pulling me back toward him and planting another kiss on my lips.

"Should I tell her to come back?" I say between kisses. I'm liking that idea right about now.

A flurry of knocking sounds at our door and it rattles like it's going to fall off the hinges. "You two better come out of there or I'm telling everyone!" She hisses through the door.

With one last growl, Laken breaks the kiss and stalks over to the door, wrenching it open. "WHAT do you WANT?" He roars.

"You got a bit of lip gloss on your lips there, lover boy." Lyric sweeps past him in a blur of color and grabs my arm. "Come on, there's already lines at all the good stuff!" She pulls me out of the room and past a visibly frustrated Laken, who is swiping at his mouth.

I glance back at him and give an apologetic smile. "Later." I mouth and he shakes his head with a grin and follows us out the door.

The carnival is set up on our football field and brightly colored tents line the field all around. A Ferris Wheel is set up at one end and a few more rides are set up outside of the confines of the field. The smell of funnel cakes, corn dogs, hot chocolate, and other delicious foods drift through the cold air and my stomach growls.

"Where is everyone?" I ask. I had assumed we were meeting the rest of our friends, but I haven't seen them anywhere.

"Finn dragged Liam and Sadie with him to find a present for me." Lyric explains. "Apparently, he's had some trouble deciding what to get me."

"So they got out of this exciting day?" Laken asks grumpily.

She shoots him a dirty look. "Shut up, Laken."

He disappears as soon as we enter the first booth, and I'm left to tag along with the shopaholic.

Lyric drags me to a booth of handmade jewelry and other accessories. We take our time looking through the different displays. She finds a necklace and earring set that she can't stop fawning over and even I have to admit that it screams Lyric. Sterling silver, Intricate beadwork, and bright neon beads; all of that made it perfect for her. When she saw the tag, her face fell.

"What's wrong?" I ask, stepping up beside her.

"Too expensive. I still have 3 more people to buy gifts for. I can't buy something for myself right now." She shakes her head. "Goodbye perfect jewelry. I will dream of you often." She set it back down reverently and moved to another display.

I take a quick peek at the price tag and do some calculations. I've already bought almost everyone gifts. The only people I had left were Lyric, Laken, and my family. We were browsing in the mall the other day and I found the perfect gift for Liam. His favorite animal was a llama and I found a pair of men's dress socks with llamas all over them and a quirky t-shirt that said "No prob-llama." Then I found Sadie's favorite perfume on sale at a boutique in town. Finn's was a bit harder, but I managed to find his favorite candy in bulk. The boy was obsessed with Zours and the bag was huge. I bought Emmy a hot firemen calendar. Satisfying both her need for eye candy and remembering things. I wrote in weekly phone dates, maybe now I would hear from her.

Making a final decision, I take a quick look around. Lyric is distracted talking to another girl from school, so I grab the set and bolt up to the girl behind the table. I explain to her that I'm in a hurry and she quickly wraps it and hands it to me as I hand her the money. "Enjoy your day!" She chirps pleasantly as she hands me my change.

I slip the package into my purse just as Lyric finishes her conversation.

"Did you find anything?" She asks, and I'm relieved that there is no suspiciousness in her voice. She didn't see me then.

"Um…no." I sigh. "Mom is really hard to buy for."

Vivi doesn't really wear jewelry, so I'm holding out for a booth that has something she will like.

The next booth, I hit the jackpot. It's handmade signs and décor for homes. I find my mom a sign with her favorite saying and my dad a plaque for his man cave.

We browse a few more booths and check out some of the food trucks. The last booth has an eclectic mix of stuff. I find a purse for Vivi and on a whim, I pick up a thin silver chain with a puzzle piece hanging from it. It reminds me of how Laken described our first kiss. It's not feminine or dainty or anything like that and maybe he could wear it under his clothes. I decide to buy it. If he doesn't like it, I'll wear it. I make the purchase and follow Lyric to a food truck where a small crowd is forming. "What is it?" I strain to see over the crowd.

"I don't know, but it smells delicious!" Lyric sighs. She is right. The air is warm from the food truck and it's heavy with a spicy, exotic smell.

More people join the crowd and soon we are locked into a huge group of people all waiting in line.

Suddenly, someone is fully pressed against me. All I can feel is hard muscle flush against my body. I whirl around to deck whoever is encroaching on my personal space.

"Laken…" I drop my hand and shake my head. "You almost got slapped."

"It wouldn't be the first time." He chuckles, his hands resting on my hips. "You've resorted to violence in the past."

Lyric is talking to the person in front of her, so he takes advantage of her distraction and bends down to whisper in my ear. "You want to take a ride on the Ferris Wheel?"

"No way! I don't do rides that were put up in a day."

"Gen…come on. Live a little." He prods me gently.

I stare at him with narrowed eyes. "Exactly. I want to live."

"I'll protect you."

"How do you plan on doing that?" I give him an arch look and try not to envision getting stuck up on the top of the Ferris wheel and having to climb down. Even scarier is a vivid picture of it exploding into flames and disintegrating. Not to mention I have a slight fear of heights.

"You'll be fine. I'll keep you distracted." His green eyes take on a mischievous glint.

"Really? You're going there?" My face heats as I think of all the ways Laken distracts me already.

"Genesis…please?" He gives me a wounded, pleading look and I cave like the pushover I am.

"Fine." I grumble. "Fair warning though- if I die, I'm coming back to haunt you."

"I expect nothing less." He grins.

"Lyric…I'm going to the Ferris Wheel. Get me one of whatever that is? I'll pay you back." I tap her and she turns around. A smile threatens to split her face in two when she sees who is with me.

"No problem. Have fun! Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" She winks playfully. When Laken turns to walk away, she makes an exaggerated kissing face.

I give her a dirty look and allow Laken to grab my hand. He pushes his way through the crowds of students, dragging me along with him.

The line has shortened when we arrive. We take a place behind another couple and wait.

I try to ignore my racing heartbeat as I paint a smile on my face. The slight fear of heights is more of a full-on terror of them, but I'm hoping I can learn to face that fear and not freak out when I get on the ride. I maybe should have mentioned that. Now that we're closer, I realize how tall the ride actually is. I gulp as I take the sight of it in.

The ride slows to a stop and then as people get off, they start ushering our line into the cars.

We take a seat in a little box with a booth seat and begin our ascent.

I let out a squeak of terror when I look over the side and see how far up we are. Laken looks over at me in concern. "Are you okay?"

I take a few deep breaths and try to relax. So much for not freaking out.

"Gen?" He scoots closer to me and puts an arm around me. "What's wrong?"

"Scared…of…heights…." I hiss through clenched teeth, as the urge to vomit almost overwhelms me.

"Why didn't you tell me that?" Laken asks with a dismayed look on his face. "I wouldn't have made you get on the ride."

"I thought I could do it." I squeeze my eyes shut.

The ride stops and when I open my eyes, I realize we are up at the top of the ride. The seat sways in the wind and I let out a shriek and dive into Laken's arms, burrowing my head in his chest.

"Why are we stopped?" I moan, clenching his coat between cold, trembling fingers.

"They are letting more people on. We'll start moving again in a second." Laken replies, gently rubbing my back. "Do you need to get off?"

"No." I shake my head quickly. "I need to do this."

I chance a look up and wince at the view. "Don't look down. Just look at me." Laken says, taking my face in his hands and staring at me. "You're fine. I promise."

The ride starts again with a jolt and our seat begins swinging. I swallow a scream, my eyes glued to Laken's. "What happened to distracting me?" I laugh weakly.

A slow grin spreads across his face. "What did you have in mind? And don't say throwing me overboard!"

"I'm tempted to since you brought me up here!" I gasp as my gaze lands on the tiny crowd of people below.

"Keene, I told you not to look down!" Laken jerks my chin back towards him.

"But…" Then Laken's lips are covering mine and I'm not thinking of how high up we are or the fact that every little movement sends our seat swaying, instead I'm focused on the sensations of the kiss. How the warmth between us contrasts pleasantly with the icy cold swirling through the booth, how Laken tastes sweet- like cotton candy, and how the stubble on his face tickles my cheeks and chin. He moves closer, pinning me between himself and the corner of the seat, as he slides his hands up my sides. My hand comes up, clutching at his coat and shirt until I'm touching bare skin. Goosebumps spread across his side and a low groan sounds in his throat. I slide my hand up his spine, reveling in how his breathing changes when I do so.

The sound of hoots, hollers, and applause breaks us out of our passionate embrace and I open my eyes to see that the ride has stopped and people are watching us with avid interest.

"Nice of you two to come up for air." The attendant's brown eyes are flashing, bright with barely restrained laughter, as he opens our door and lets us off the ride.

Laken is unfazed, bowing and smirking. Blushing, I tuck my chin in my scarf and let my hair fall into my face.

"I thought you two hated each other?" A strident voice echoes over the sound of laughter at Laken's antics.

I whirl around to see Aniya with her hands on her hips.

Great, just great. Curse Laken's lips and their ability to make me forget everything, including where I am.

"Well, clearly we don't." Laken grins. I elbow him and he coughs in surprise.

"Obviously. The fact that you two were mauling each other is a dead giveaway." She says snidely. "I guess I missed the fact that you two were together."

"Well, I don't see how you would know something like that. We've barely seen you since we arrived." Laken says.

"I guess we're overlooking the fact that she wouldn't know even if she was hanging out with us." I say under my breath.

"What was that?" She asks, her blue eyes icy.

"Nothing." I roll my eyes. "We're keeping it a secret from our friends for now."

"Oh…well, you're doing a fantastic job of it. I mean, making out on the Ferris Wheel in public is a great way to keep a secret!" She giggles and tosses her long blonde hair back. With a flirtatious look on her face, she steps closer to Laken. She apparently hasn't gotten over her little crush on him, despite being paired with someone else.

I notice her partner standing behind her. He looks like a Ken doll, plastic and cold. His name is Kale Edwards. Liam had a few run-ins with him when we first arrived. Aniya and Kale live on the same floor as Liam and Sadie. He has a nasty temper and a reputation for being a player. Basically, Aniya had been paired with a slightly worse version of Cord Duncan. I would feel pity for her if I wasn't currently seeing red at the way she is running her hand up Laken's arm.

"Back off, Barbie." I hiss, stepping between them.

She jolts back with a gasp, "Excuse me?" She places a hand over her heart, dramatically.

"Oh, cut the theatrics." I scoff. "Keep a closer eye on Kale, will ya? He's perving on that nice girl over there." She whirls around, but Kale is no longer standing there. He's cozied up to a curvy, brunette who is ignoring her nerdy soulmate.

"KAAALLLEEE!" She whines babyishly as she stalks toward him. I don't envy her full-time job of keeping him in line. They deserve each other.

I grab Laken's hand and drag him away. We bypass the booths and head back towards the dormitories. I'm done with the carnival for today.

"Aren't you worried she'll tell someone?" He asks as we enter the warm lobby of our building.

I shrug. "We're leaving tomorrow for two weeks. If she does tell, we'll deal with it when we get back."

When we get on the elevator, I take my scarf and beanie off. It's warm enough inside that I'm already sweating. A second later, I'm pressed against the side of the elevator.

"I kinda liked seeing your jealous side." Laken murmurs, nuzzling my neck. "It was hot."

"Oh yeah?" I breathe, as he plants a kiss below my ear.

"Yeah."

"I didn't think I would be a jealous girlfriend. I guess I was wrong." His mouth leaves my neck and then he's looking at me. "What?" I'm pouting a little because he stopped what he was doing.

"That's the first time you've called yourself my girlfriend."

"Oh. I guess it was. Is that…okay? I mean, I know we haven't defined our relationship yet…" He interrupts me with a quick kiss.

"It's fine." He grins widely. "And define our relationship? I think that was decided for us already, don't you?"

"I guess you're right. It kinda was." I nod, smiling at the look on his face.

"What?" He asks when I keep looking at him.

"Nothing. It's just…you really are a sap, aren't you?" I snort. "Liam was right!"

I time my remark perfectly with the elevator doors opening. I take off, giggling, as Laken follows closely on my heels.

He catches me right as I make it to our door. "Hey! You knew going in! I warned you too."

"Maybe I should reconsider?" I tease as he unlocks our door and pushes me inside.

"Not a chance. You're stuck with me for good now." He wraps his arms around me. "I can't imagine anyone else annoying me as much as you do."

"Same, MacGregor. Same." I push him away. "We need to pack. So no more distractions."

"You're right." He sighs as he walks over to his wardrobe.

"I'm always right." I smack him playfully as I walk past him and into the bathroom.

I lock the door and change into the pajamas that I left hanging on the hook beside the door. After that one debacle when I forgot my clothes and had to prance out in my towel in front of Laken, I started to leave clean clothes hanging inside the bathroom so that wouldn't happen again.

A low knock sounds at the door. "So, no distractions at all?" Laken says through the door.

I take a deep breath. He is trouble with a capital T.

I open the door and Laken is on the other side, hands on the doorjamb, with a sexy grin on his face.

I arch an eyebrow at him. "Absolutely not, ya horndog! You've had enough action for one day." I push past him as he laughs. "Pack your bags. Also, you might want to consider a cold shower…or two."

"Good idea." Laken brushes past me, his fingers grazing my thigh as he does so.

I bite back a sigh and shake my head at him as he shuts the door.

We really, really need to set those ground rules.

"Genesis?" Lyric's voice comes from outside the door.

I dart over to our door and open it. She is standing there with a take-out box that has a yummy smell wafting from it.

"Here." She shoves it at me. "It's some kind of dish called street corn? It's amazing!" She peeks over my shoulder. "Where's Laken?"

"In the shower." I make a face at her.

"Interesting." She has a satisfied look on her face as she steps back.

"I don't even want to know why you think that." I sigh heavily.

"Finn takes lots of those." She winks.

I did not need to know that.

"Good night Lyric." I shake my head and start to shut the door.

"You owe me! And I still want details." She calls as the door shuts.

-;