Jake didn't make an appearance at our house the rest of the weekend. Connor was in a good mood Saturday morning when he returned from his girlfriend's house. He went to crash in his room, so he ended up sleeping in just like any other weekend. I was glad that Mom had a date that evening, because it was difficult enough trying to hide my bad mood during lunch and dinner.

She was pleasantly surprised to hear that I had attended the school dance. "Was it a date?"

"No," I snapped. She glanced at me sharply, so I told her about getting kicked out and about the meeting with the principal that awaited me on Monday.

"I don't condone violence, but I can see how you lost your temper. That must have been awful for Kyle," Mom said.

Connor was delighted. "Too bad I missed that. I'm surprised Jake didn't tell me about it."

"Did you talk to him today?" I asked casually. Connor obviously hadn't heard about what else had happened at the dance, or he would have said something about it to me.

"Yeah, he said he had family stuff to do tonight." Connor shrugged.

"I'm sure they missed him all week," Mom said. "It was a good week for leftovers here," she sighed. "That boy can cook. He's going to make a great husband for some lucky girl." She smiled at me. "I know my cooking can't compare to Jake's, but it's not that bad. You could at least take a few bites."

Damn! She had noticed. "I'm just not hungry."

"How are you not hungry? You hardly touched your food at lunch."

Did she have to see everything? "I had a big breakfast," I lied.

I thought that was the end of it until she asked me to keep her company while she got ready for her date. "So, you really like this guy, huh?"

I was startled by her question. "What?"

"I know all the signs. You can't eat. You can't sleep." She answered my stunned expression. "Yeah, Cam, I can see how exhausted you look today."

"I was just upset about how Chad treated Kyle."

She wasn't buying it. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to. I just want you to know that I'm here if you want to talk."

There was no way that I could tell my mom that Jake was upset with me because I wanted to have sex with him and nothing else. "Okay. Thanks, Mom."

I had called Kyle earlier in the day to find out how he was doing after last night. He was obviously fine, because he immediately started questioning me about my date with Jake. "It wasn't a date," I said.

"Of course it was," he said breezily. "Do you really think I needed Jake there for moral support? I thought you would see right through that. Too bad you didn't get to dance with him before you got kicked out. It was sooo romantic when he kissed you though. Everyone was talking about it."

"That's great," I said sarcastically.

Kyle was uncharacteristically quiet for a moment. "What happened now?"

"I'll tell you later."

"How could you screw things up after that great exit?" Kyle demanded.

"Me?" I huffed. "Why do you immediately assume it was me?"

"Because Jake likes you enough to ask me for advice about you." Kyle sighed. "Scott and I are going on a date tonight."

"Then it'll have to wait until Monday. Mom's home all day tomorrow."

Madison approached me on Monday before I had a chance to talk to Kyle. We had gym class together, but she had never said two words to me before. She was one of the popular, pretty girls that definitely dressed like a girl.

She pulled me off to the side after the teacher told us to do our warm up exercises, and that he would be right back. "Look, Cameron. I just wanted to say I'm sorry. I feel terrible about what happened, and I swear that I didn't know about you and Jake when he took me to your house."

Something clicked as I looked at her. "That was you?"

Her embarrassment turned to surprise. "I thought you saw me."

"I did, but I didn't recognize you." The truth was that she had barely registered with me, but there was no need to tell her that.

"Oh, well, I hope you can forgive me. I had no idea that Jake was your boyfriend."

"He's not my boyfriend," I said.

Her confusion was evident on her face. "But he kissed you at the dance."

I should have expected this after Kyle told me that people were talking about it. "That doesn't mean that he's my boyfriend."

"So, it's just a casual thing?" Madison asked.

"Yeah. It doesn't mean anything." I was glad to set her straight, and I hoped that the talk about Jake being my boyfriend would quickly die down.

"Hmm," she said thoughtfully. "You even think like a guy. I wish I could be like that. Guys are so afraid of commitment, so it would be much easier if I didn't get attached."

Thankfully, the teacher returned then, because I was already getting bored with this conversation. Gym was my favorite class, and I especially felt ready to lose myself in physical activity today. I had gone for a long run yesterday, and it had helped me sleep better than the previous night. The only problem was that I'd had a damn sex dream about Jake. This had never happened to me before, and I hoped that I wouldn't be dreaming about him on a regular basis.

I got detention for two weeks for punching Chad at the dance. We all got called in separately to see the principal, so I didn't know what happened to Jake and Chad. When I saw Jake in detention after school, he didn't say a word to me.

It bothered me more than I had expected it to. We had never been best friends, but we had always been friendly. Later on that evening I would hear from Connor that Jake also got two weeks of detention, while Chad got off with a warning. Connor was more interested in what happened between me and Jake at the dance, but I told him it was none of his business. He complained that Jake had also refused to talk about it.

Kyle sat in complete silence after I told him about Friday night. I looked out the windshield of his car and waited for him to say something. His tone held awe when he finally spoke. "He's completely in love with you."

My head whipped around toward him. "Where are you getting that from?"

"My God, Cam! How can you not see it?"

He never said that," I insisted.

"Read between the lines. Of course he couldn't say those actual words. You weren't exactly receptive to his feelings."

I remembered Jake's bleak expression, and how he'd said that he needed time to get over me. I still didn't want to believe that he had been talking about love. "He'll get over it."

"Eventually," Kyle agreed. "He won't wait around for you forever, so you better figure out how you feel about him."

I knew that Kyle was upset about this situation, because he didn't crack any jokes. He told me that he thought I was making a big mistake in not giving Jake a chance. "It's not so easy to find what you have with him. Go out with some other guys and you'll see what I mean."

The funny thing was that guys started asking me out the very next day. It began with Dylan, the most notorious player in our school. "Hi, Cameron. How's it going?"

I fought the urge to look behind me to make sure that he was really talking to me. "Good."

"That's good." He watched me with his dark eyes as a seductive half-smile played over his lips. Dylan had been described as sex on legs, and now I could see why. Everything he did oozed sex appeal, from the way he leaned against the locker next to me to the way he spoke in that low, intimate voice. "Will you come to Kayla's party with me, Cameron?"

"Why?" I asked in bewilderment.

"Just to hang out. It'll be fun. You like fun, don't you?" Someone passed by and called a greeting to him. He raised his hand in acknowledgement but never took his eyes off me.

How could I respond to that? "Sure, I like fun, but—"

"Good." The bell rang and he waited for it to stop. "I'll get your number in English. See you later, Cameron." He took off down the hall before I could protest.

Did I want to go to a party with him? The only parties I had ever attended were birthday parties for family and friends. This would be a completely different kind of party. Maybe it would be fun to try something different for a change. At least I didn't have to worry about Dylan wanting a relationship. I hardly knew him, so I certainly wasn't going to sleep with him. I was feeling restless and out of sorts since this whole thing with Jake. Maybe a party was just the distraction that I needed.

I gave Dylan my number in English class, and he gave me his and said he'd call me later. Another guy asked me out later that day, but I turned him down. I couldn't fathom why guys were suddenly interested in me.

Connor was the first one to give me a clue about it. "Did you and Jake have sex?"

I finished putting on my seatbelt and looked at him. "No."

"Are you sure?" Connor asked.

"I think I would know for sure. Are you going to drive, or should I?"

He turned on the ignition and pulled into the line of cars waiting to exit the school parking lot. "It's just that I heard a lot of people talking about it today."

"It's probably because of what happened at the dance," I said.

"I guess. Anyway, about that…"

"I'm not talking about that." I turned to stare out the window.

"Neither is Jake. What the hell is going on with you guys? He doesn't want to come over anymore."

"I'm sorry, Connor. I just don't want to get into it. Just give it some time, and things will go back to normal."

When Dylan called me later that evening, I was brusque with him. He didn't seem to take offence at my attitude, and he was as smooth as ever while he told me the details of the party. Then he tried to continue the conversation, but I cut him off. "Look, I'll go with you to the party, but you don't really need to talk to me until then."

Apparently, even his laugh was sexy. "I like a girl who knows what she wants. Okay, Cameron. Goodnight then."

"Goodnight, Dylan."

I was walking toward the cafeteria with Kyle the next day when Jake suddenly grabbed my arm and dragged me with him down the hall. I looked back at Kyle, who was watching us with amusement. There would be no help from him. I looked at Jake and saw that he was furious. Well, I was mad too. "What are you doing?"

He pushed open the door and pulled me outside with him. "My car," he spat at me.

"Let go of me. What about your car?"

He loosened his grip on my arm but didn't let go as he propelled me toward the parking lot. When we got to his car, I couldn't see anything wrong with it. He yanked open the passenger door for me as he finally let go of my arm. I glared at him, but I got into the car. "You don't even have lunch this period," I said after he got into the driver's side and shut the door. "Are you skipping class? You already have detention."

"Did you tell everyone that we had sex?" The words were spoken in a harsh tone that he had never used with me before.

I couldn't believe that he would accuse me of such a thing. "No. Why would I?"

"Because that's what everyone is saying." The hard look in his blue eyes had never been directed at me before either.

I waved that away. "I've heard that rumor too. It's probably just because we kissed and left the dance together."

His expression didn't soften. "I've heard the same rumor from everyone, and it's very specific. They're saying that you're the one who said that we hooked up. They're saying that's what you do, just hook up with guys."

"So that's why all these guys are asking me out." Two more guys had approached me today, and they had never paid any attention to me before.

"Why the hell else do you think that Dylan would ask you out? He's only after one thing. I heard you're going on a date with him. Congratulations, Cam. He'll give you what you want." His voice sounded more hurt than angry now.

"It's not a date," I clarified. "We're just hanging out, and I'm not going to have sex with him. I hardly know him!"

"A lot of girls didn't plan on having sex with him, but they did anyway. He doesn't have that reputation for nothing." Jake didn't look quite as angry now. "I don't know what this is all about, Cam, but the rumors will just get worse if you go with him to that party."

"I don't care what people say about me. It's not like I'm worried about being popular like Madison," I said.

Jake immediately went on the defensive. "So you're going to keep throwing that in my face."

"I wasn't. I didn't even know it was her until she apologized yesterday," I admitted. "Speaking of which, you never actually apologized to me about that."

Jake's eyes had narrowed. "You talked to Madison? What exactly did you say to her?"

"Just that she had the wrong idea about us kissing. I told her it meant nothing." As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I wished that I could take them back. The wounded look on Jake's face made me feel awful. "I didn't mean it like that. You know that I wanted you to kiss me."

"Yeah, whatever." His expression became neutral. "So you gave Madison the impression that we hooked up casually?"

I remembered her asking me if it was a casual thing, now that I thought about it. "She misunderstood what I said."

"Why would you tell her anything?" Jake asked in annoyance. "You know that all she does is gossip."

"That's not all she does." My tone was so unexpectedly bitter that he glanced at me sharply and kept his gaze on me.

I was suddenly uncomfortable with the keen way he was studying me. "I have to go eat before lunch is over."

I threw open the door and scampered out of the car before he could reply. He was still watching me when I looked back at him. I gave him a hesitant little wave, and he waved back. It was amazing how such a small gesture could lift my spirits so much.