Nice? What did "nice" even mean? Did he want me to wear a dress? A skirt? Or just jeans? A ballgown could be considered nice. But, now that I thought about it . . . I had a very nice spaghetti-strapped dress in my closet . . . and it was still warm enough to wear it.
I opened my closet doors and dug toward there back. There it was. It still had the tags on it even . . . I pulled it out and held it up to my front. It was short and fell to mid-thigh. It had elastic at the waist and clung at my chest like a second skin, accentuating what little I had to offer. It was black with tiny red flowers and with a low neckline with scalloped, off-white lace. It was simple and cute. And, I had a little three-quarter sleeved blue jean jacket that would look nice. And, I could wear my swim suit underneath it.
I lay the dress, the jacket, and a pair of black sandals on my bed and went to my desk to start on the pile of homework I had. It was three o-clock and mom and dad were both working still and wouldn't be home until around six, which was perfect timing, so I had plenty of time to get some homework done. There was a math worksheet, a chemistry worksheet, and that summer homework I still hadn't done, and some reading for english that was due wednesday. I sat at the desk and turned on my little radio, starting with calculus. It was another review (it seemed to be Mr. Howard's favorite subject) of pre-calculus basics I could have done in my sleep. I moved on to chemistry next because it was very similar to math, although more concept-based. I pulled out my book for reference and the worksheet of chemical equations to define and balance.
I stopped working on the lengthy worksheet at three forty-five to pick out a swim suit before I forgot and then take a shower. My swimsuits were in the bottom drawer of my dresser and I pulled out a red bikini that I liked and tossed it on my bed. I showered and shaved my legs in case we did end up swimming.
When I got out of the shower the first thing that caught my gaze when I saw myself in the mirror was the mark. It looked like a horrible, painful hickey, right at the juncture of my neck and shoulder. I touched the angry red half circles and winced. It did hurt, but more than that it was noticeable. Very noticeable. The last thing I wanted was for my parents to see it and ground me, especially since they didn't seem very fond of Cole, or at least Mom wasn't.
I still can't believe that he actually bit me. I know some people are into that sort of thing, but it was weird. Really weird. I reached for a bottle of concealer and dabbed some on the mark, wincing slightly, but the makeup seemed to fade away, leaving the mark as bright and angry-looking as before. Frustrated, I tried again, this time brushing a mineral powder over the top. No change.
"Ugh!" I exclaimed, letting out a sharp sound of annoyance. "Lovely. Just lovely."
Now to hide the stupid thing I was going to have to wear my hair down the whole night. Sighing, I touched the mark again and felt a jolt of tingles run through my neck and arm. I shivered once and watched goosebumps rise on my skin. What was going on with my body? Obviously, I was attracted to Cole whether I liked it or not, and at this stage in time there was really no point in denying it. But, there had to be more than that . . . the way that Cole was so evasive and secretive about his life. The way Brad seemed to be the exact opposite . . . And Cole's favorite phrase . . . I know you have questions but now isn't the right time. What BS.
I quickly did my hair and spread some mascara on my pale, almost non-existent eyelashes and then went to my desk to check my phone. There was a message from Cole. I'm coming early. Be ready at 4:30. It was 4:29. I went to my window and pushed the drapes away to look down over the driveway. Cole was walking up to the front door from the street.
"Shoot." I mumbled, slipping on my red bikini and throwing the dress over the time of it. I grabbed the jacket, a pair of sweatpants, underwear, and a bra, and my shoes before throwing myself down the stairs. Panting, I pulled the door open and was met with a grinning Cole.
"Rushed?" he asked, motioning to my appearance.
I stared at him, my eyes wide, and glanced at the mirror next to the door. My hair looked like something out of a before and after commercial. "I'll be right back," I promised. I dashed back up the stairs, blushing furiously, and ran a brush through my curly hair.
When I got back downstairs, Cole was trying to coax Louie out from under the hallway table. The yellow cat hissed and pinned his ears viciously. "Louie," I said, surprised. "I don't know what's up with him . . ."
"It's fine," Cole assured me.
"You don't happen to have dogs, do you? Louie hates dogs."
He gave me an odd look, like I was missing out on something terribly funny. "Sorry, inside joke."
"Okay . . ." I said, heading into the kitchen to leave a note for mom and dad. Inside jokes tended to bother me. I felt it was rude to refer to a joke that no one but yourself would understand. "Do you want anything to drink?" I grabbed the little pad of sticky notes next to the phone and scrawled a message to mom and dad.
"No, that's fine. You look very nice, by the way." Cole said, slipping his arms around me from behind and resting his chin on my bare shoulder.
A rush of pride swelled in me and I grinned. "Thank you,"
I nodded, "Yep, let's go."
He led the way so I could close and lock the front door behind me. When we reached his black SUV, I put my bag and coat on the floor by the front seat. When I turned around Cole was still staring at me. His eyes dropped for a fraction of a second and for a moment I thought he was eyeing my chest, but his gaze was a few inches higher and I realized that he was not, in fact, staring at my breasts, by at the tender red mark that peaked out from behind my honey-colored hair. He smirked slightly, almost as if satisfied with himself at the sight.
I crossed my arms. "You're in trouble."
He crossed his own, much larger and more impressive arms as well. "I am?"
I nodded seriously. "You are." I motioned to the mark with one hand. "This stupid thing won't go away."
"That's sort of the point," I heard him mutter before he kissed my forehead. My stomach clenched happily at his proximity and I was momentarily distratced from my original argument. He grinned. "Let's get out of here,"
As soon as he left my side I realized that he had never answered me. "Cole. What do you think my parents are going to say when they see this?"
He shrugged and slammed his door. "You're almost eighteen. They'll get over it."
"Not likely," I muttered, as I climbed into the car. "I don't think my mom will appreciate the hickey. Or my father for that matter and he likes you."
Cole snorted, but didn't say anything else on the matter. "How are you?"
"You mean since this afternoon when you bit my neck?" I asked, trying to be nonchalant about it.
A deep chuckled filled the confines of his car and he turned to look at me, smiling. "You're cute when you're angry, you know?"
Actually, I don't know. Because I never look in the mirror when I'm angry. How else would I know? "I don't even know if that's considered a complement or not."
"It is," he assured me, grinning again in my direction.
We were silent for a while longer and butterflies started to grow in my stomach as we headed toward the outskirts of town, to the north. I was getting more nervous the more time I had to think about what was awaiting me at the party. I knew Cole had said there would be no drugs and little alcohol, but I wasn't so sure if that actually comforted me. "So, tell me more about this party?"
"Well," Cole began as he pulled out of town and onto the highway. "It's going to be my three cousins, Trevor, Anthony, and Zoe. Trevor is married and I believe his wife will be there. He's twenty-five. Anthony is single and Zoe has a boyfriend of three years. So it will be us, them, and a few of their friends. No drugs, little bit of alcohol, but not much. What else do you want to know?"
"Um, what are we going to be doing?" I asked, unaware of the slight implications of what I had just said until Cole winked at me. "I meant, you know, movies. That sort of thing."
"There's a projector if we want to watch some movies. There's a pool and a hot tub, and there will be music and dancing, if you want."
"Oh, alright." That didn't sound like it would be too bad. Actually, it sounded like fun. "Will your parents be there?"
"My parents?" he asked, glancing at me quickly, and then back to the road. "No. My parents live in Canada."
"Canada?" I echoed, startled. He'd neglected to mention that.
"Yeah, I thought I told you. I'm staying here with me aunt and uncle for the school year."
"You failed to mention that."
"Oh, sorry. Yeah."
I laughed a little bit and nudged him with my elbow. "Why are you here?"
"I—I uh, needed a change of scenery is all." he said quietly, staring out the windshield.
I stared at him thoughtfully for a few moments. The air around us seemed suddenly even more tense and even though I wanted to reach out and touch him, I refrained. He didn't seem to be so happy anymore. "Alright,"
As we slipped farther away from Miles City and I continued to stare at Cole, I was suddenly conscious of the fact that Cole was starting to mean something to me.
"Caleigh," he said, his voice soft. "There's no going back now."
Sitting in Cole's black SUV, I came to the conclusion that phrase was loaded with implications. I wondered if he was right. Had I gotten myself too involved with Cole to turn around now? I tried to imagine what I would be doing at the moment if I wasn't with him. Either watching movies with Abby or doing homework. It all seemed so boring compared to him. There was a thrill that came with Cole Wainwright, and I was utterly addicted.
A few moments later Cole was turning into a paved driveway that led straight to a quaint two-story log cabin. It was lined on either side with slim birch trees whose leaves were now starting to turn gold and red with the arrival of fall. There was a lawn out front, a small pond with a waterfall, and large bushes of roses that hung bare. I imagined that in the springtime the house was even more beautiful than it was now.
As we drew closer, I noticed that the house seemed fairly small in size, maybe the average for a family of four or five. It had green trim and shutters, giving it more of a cabin-y look and feel to it. The overall picture, with more birch trees in the background looked like something off of a postcard from Minnesota. "It's beautiful," I said honestly, a little bit in awe. It made my two story home look like a clapboard shack.
He parked out front and I felt his yellow eyes on me as I continued to take in the sight of the house before me. "It looks the same on the inside. The floors are hard wood, the stairs are made from tree trunks cut in half. The railings are all raw-cut wood too."
I reached for the handle of the car door, my nerves suddenly forgotten, but Cole's finger's slipped around my arm and held me tight. "Just a minute."
I turned to face him, wondering why he needed a minute, when I saw a very familiar gleam take over his features. "No. No way. I'm not going to make out with you in your aunt and uncle's driveway."
"There's just one thing we have to take care of before we go in."
"Oh?" I questioned, crossing my arms.
I wish I hadn't asked. The next thing I knew, Cole had stepped over the center console of the SUV and was straddling my lap. Panic welled in my chest for just a moment until he reached down and unbuckled my seatbelt, his eyes suddenly full of concern. "Hey," he said gently, brushing a thumb across my jaw. "It's alright. You'll like it, I promise."
I absently chewed on the inside of my cheek as I stared back at him. His gaze fell from my eyes to my lips and I knew he wanted to kiss me badly. He shifted slightly, adjusting his weight on my legs, and I felt a swirl of butterflies in my stomach and my heart rate climbed suddenly. And then he leaned forward and kissed me on the lips, right there in the driveway of his house. Vaguely I wondered how many of his cousins were watching us, before I gave in to the pressure of his lips.
He always did this. He could always make me change my mind with a simple touch. I sighed lightly as his tongue slid across my lower lip and he chuckled. "See, I told you. Just, relax a little." I did as he suggested and closed my eyes, lifting my hands to intertwine them behind his head. His lips left my mouth too soon and I found myself letting out a little huff of disappointment before they reached my ear. I shivered suddenly, feeling my body temperature rise when his nose slid against my ear. It tingled and tickled and felt too good. Much too good. "Relax," he breathed, placing an open-mouthed kiss on my against the tender flesh of my ear.
My pulse quickened as he grasped my earlobe in his teeth and tugged gently, drawing a startled gasp from my lips. "Cole . . ."
He didn't respond. Instead, his mouth left my ear and moved to my neck. He sucked gently on the skin, raising goosebumps and sighs until I thought I couldn't stand the teasing anymore. His lips left my neck and passed over the still tender bite mark from earlier. I tensed as he neared the spot, expecting pain again, but his mouth left it behind. He pushed the strap of my dress over my shoulder with his nose and nuzzled the skin there.
My head spun and I blinked rapidly until I realized that I was not, in fact, dreaming. I could feel goosebumps puckering my skin all the way down the entire left side of my body. My feet shifted, restlessly and I really wanted him to stop teasing me.
He inhaled and exhaled deeply, drawing more goosebumps to my already frazzled skin. My nerves felt like they were on fire and with every touch I grew warmer. The closer his mouth got to that stupid bite mark, the more it tingled, and the more anxious I got. "Relax, Caleigh." he murmured again, his hands slipping into my hair, successfully distracting me from his lips for a fraction of a second.
And a fraction of a second was all Cole needed to sink his teeth into my neck again. I cried out, startled my the intense pain, and attempted to push his head away, but he refused to budge. He stayed like that for a moment, his teeth biting into the skin of my neck. I could feel the wound tingling, and odd sort of pleasure mixed with pain, and the blood rising to the surface. "Stop!" I exclaimed, feeling the pain seeping down my shoulder and into my fingertips. "Cole, please!"
He pulled away rather suddenly and I felt my skin tear again, and a bout of new, more intense pain, ripped through my shoulder. The tears that had been gathering in my eyes broke over and trailed down my cheeks. I refused to look at him, scared, and confused.
"One day," he said, running a hand over my hair. "You will understand." He leaned forward and pressed his lips again to that spot and I flinched at the sudden onslaught of pins-and-needles.
I shrugged away his touch and righted the strap of my dress, annoyed by the fact that he sat so calmly across my lap. "One day i'll understand why you're hurting me? Scaring me! Keeping secrets from me?" I demanded, crossing my arms in the limited space between us.
He actually winced, which made me feel slightly better. "You make it sound so horrible."
"It is horrible!" I snapped. "It hurts and its bleeding. How am I supposed to hide this?"
He looked at me levelly, a hint of remorse in his yellow eyes. "You don't." He stroked my cheek with the back of his hands. "That's the point."
I stared at him, unnerved and annoyed by the news and by the vagueness of his reply. "What do you mean, that's the point?"
He sighed and lifted his hands to cup my neck. He sure knew how to make a girl get goosebumps. Using feather-light touches he trailed his fingers up and down my neck, across my shoulders, down my arms, and then back up again. "I mark you so that everyone knows who you belong to. So you don't get hurt. So men aren't . . . tempted."
I frowned, fumbling over the idea. "Your cousins would be 'tempted' by me." It was such an archaic word.
He leaned forward and closed his eyes, resting his forehead against mine. "You have no idea, babe."
Suspicious for just a moment, I thought about what he said. Why was he calling me babe? I laughed silently at myself, realizing that's what bothered me the most. A pet-name. "Shouldn't we go in now?" I asked, desperate to be free of his weight. It felt too claustrophobic.
"One more kiss," he replied. He leaned in and pressed his lips to mine, but sighed and pulled away. "Caleigh, would it kill you to kiss me back?"
I flushed and looked down. "Knock it off."
"Can't we just go, please?" I asked, looking out the window at the rustic house. I could see someone standing in one of the windows. "Someone's watching."
He laughed a little. "We're not leaving until you kiss me back."
What an odd request. Isn't that what I had been doing? He sounded like a whiny kid and the thought made me smile. "Fine,"
He grinned. "You'd better make this good."
I resisted the temptation to role my eyes and sat up in the seat as best as I could, slightly offended. But before I could say anything to defend my honor, he leaned in and kissed me again. This time, I put everything I had into that kiss. I wanted to leave him with his head spinning and his knees weak, the way I felt after he kissed me senseless. I leaned toward him, into the kiss. I intertwined my fingers in his short hair and moved my lips with his, tugging and pulling until he groaned. I tore my lips away from his to catch my breath, but didn't stop kissing him.
I'd never really done more than make out with a guy before and the line had to be crossed sometime. I could feel his hands on my back, encouraging me onward without words. I kissed his neck lightly, hoping to tease, and inhaled the scent of his skin. He smelled like pine trees and aftershave. I nipped at his neck once and then twice before I kissed his lips again.
At last he pulled away, his chest heaving, his eyes wild. "Where the heck did you put the real Caleigh?"
I shrugged. "She's here. She just decided it was time to . . . make a point."
He laughed sincerely, his eyes crinkling at the corners. "Well, we should make sure she makes an appearance more often."
I flushed and smiled proudly. "I think we could arrange that."
"Good. Now, we can go." He opened the passenger door and hopped out. He held out his hand for me and I took it. Once I was out, he picked up my bag and jacket from the floor and slung them over his shoulder. The sight was hilarious and rather endearing at the same time. "You ready?"
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, conscious of the fact that my hair was probably a mess and possibly the little amount of makeup I wore. "Do I look alright? You know . . ."
"You don't want to look like you just got done making out with a guy in the front seat of an SUV in their driveway?" He laughed a little.
He looked me over, taking much more time than was actually necessary, and reached out to sooth a few strands of hair back into place. "Here," he reached into his pants pocket and pulled out an old blue bandana. He pressed it to the mark on my neck and held it there tightly. The pressure was uncomfortable, but not unbearable. "Good,"
"Okay, let's do this."
"You worry too much. Its not like you're meeting my parents or anything."
"Cousins are close enough." I replied soundly.
He laughed and tugged on my arm, nearly dragging me up to the stairs that led to the front porch. The front door opened and two men came out followed by a younger red-haired woman. "Hey, guys." Cole said. "Should we start introductions now, or wait until-"
"Now." They replied in unison.
I chuckled nervously and attempted to ease myself behind Cole. He wouldn't let me. Both of the men were huge, like Cole, and bigger, if that was even possible. Even the young woman was lean and toned with muscle. "Caleigh, this is Trevor." The older of the three stepped forward, taking the stairs three at a time.
"Caleigh, it's nice to meet you. Cole's said a lot about you." Trevor was absolutely huge, but when we shook hands he was gentle.
"Nice to meet you too." I replied honestly. It was kind of exciting to meet members of Cole's family. His eyes were a light brown, closer to hazel than anything else. I had sort of expected them to have yellow eyes like Cole, but his brown ones were slightly refreshing.
The other two siblings followed in Trevor's lead, the red-head bounding down the stairs, smiling. "I'm Zoe. It's really nice to finally meet you."
Instead of the handshake I expected, I was enveloped in a firm hug. "H-hi." I stammered, once I'd gotten over the shock.
She laughed lightly and tossed her long red hair over one shoulder. "I hope we don't scare you. Especially these guys. But, they're really just babies."
I smiled and glanced at Cole out of the corner of my eye. He rolled his eyes. "And this is Anthony, the middle sibling."
The last person stepped forward. He had slightly tanned skin, like the others, and large muscles, even larger than Cole's and dark hair. Realizing I was staring and that the man was slightly off-put by it, I cleared my throat and held out my hand. "Nice to meet you, Anthony."
He smiled, but kept his distance. Briefly I wondered why, but then my gaze drifted to his hands. He was missing several fingers. Realizing that I was staring, I quickly looked back at his handsome face. His hair was longer than Cole's, hanging by his ears, needing a trim, and slightly bleached by the sun. "Long story,"
"It involves a lot of unpleasant memories and a cement mixer. But, we shouldn't dwell on that. Let's party!" Zoe said, grinning. "Almost everyone is here. Except Mel and Mario."
Cole nodded, his mood lightening by the minute. "Okay, let's get inside. It's hot out here."
He was right. The late afternoon sun was beating down on all of us as we stood in the driveway. He grabbed my hand and squeezed it. "There's gonna be a few people. Around twenty or so."
I swallowed tightly, my nerves suddenly reappearing at the prospect of meeting so many more new people. "Okay,"
"So, just be ready for anything. Actually, Zoe, do you have a hairband or something?"
"A hair tie?" she corrected, sliding one off of her slim wrist.
"Yeah, that." He took it and handed it over to me. He leaned closer and I felt his breath tickling the skin of my ear. My pulse raced suddenly and I had to blink rapidly a few times to gain any sort of awareness. "Put your hair up, please."
I blinked a few more times and took the hair tie from his finger tips. "Okay?"
"Thank you," he said, kissing my forehead swiftly without offering any sort of explanation (of course).
I nodded twice and combed my hair back into a slightly messy ponytail. It wasn't as if I'd had much of an option anyway. He probably would have done it himself if he thought it would have been faster. I giggled at the image of Cole attempting to put my hair up.
Zoe tugged at his arm. "Come on, you two."
We followed her to the house. My eyes lingered on the rustic furnishings. The walls were all log as well, even the furniture looked like it had been handcrafted out of saplings. The curtains were hunter green and the wood under my feet was covered sporadically with matching rugs.
The kitchen was similarly decorated and full of people. Food was everywhere. Bowls of chips, boxes of crackers and candy. Cans of pop and beer intermixed in the same cooler. I stepped closer to Cole as all eyes fell on us. "I know you can't stay off of me, but really Caleigh, we're in public."
I glared up at him, angered by the fact that he found and took every opportunity to tease me. "Oh shut up."
He laughed and pulled me closer, his hand sliding over my dress-clad hip casually. Well, it seemed casual to him, I bet, but it only made my knees weak. "Not a chance. How does a tour sound?"
The thought seemed very pleasant, actually. Anything to get me out of that crowded, sweaty, alcohol filled kitchen. "Sounds great, I'd love it."