The silence in Caiden’s car is deafening. He may have agreed to help me last night, but he clearly isn't happy about it.
“Smile Caiden,” I say in a falsely cheerful voice when he pulls into the school lot. “We’re supposed to be pretending we’re blissfully happy and in love, remember?”
He arches an eyebrow at me, still scowling.
“You could at least act like you want to kill me a little less...”
He shakes his head and looks away.
“Look, I know you don’t like messing with people’s minds, and I understand why you don’t want to do this–”
He huffs out a breath and continues glaring out the front windshield.
“But I need to be sure,” I press. “I need to know–”
“I already said I’d do it, Emerson. Do I want to abuse my powers and manipulate these people? No. But if it means that we can take care of the Silver Lake Pack once and for all, then I’ll do it. That doesn't mean I have to be happy about it.”
He climbs out of the car and slams the door.
I try not to feel hurt and fail miserably. I don’t know what to do or say to get back the Caiden from yesterday. I hate this cold stranger he becomes whenever he’s brooding, but there’s nothing I can do. He’s going to shut me out for as long as he wants and nothing I do or say will change that. So I just shake my head and follow him out.
He comes around to my side and mechanically puts his arm around me. I have to fight not to shrug him off.
We walk into school together, neither of us talking, and part ways as soon as we can. I stomp over to my locker, already anticipating this day to suck. I spin my combination angrily, having to redo it three times before it finally clicks open.
“Rough day?” A deep voice sounds to the right of me.
Great. Just what I need — another problem to deal with. At least this one is easily fixed. I simply ignore him, focusing instead on what books I’ll need for my first few classes.
“Shit!” I yell out suddenly, hitting the locker with my fist. “Goddamn it! I can’t believe I forgot!” I hit the locker again, barely aware that I’m talking out loud.
“I think that locker has learned its lesson, you don’t need to keep beating it,” Grayson’s sardonic voice brings me back to my surroundings.
“Look, I don’t know what your game is, but I’m really not in the mood,” I growl at him.
“Hey, I’m sorry. Really.” He puts a hand on my shoulder, turning me to face him. “I was just trying to joke around. What’s the matter?”
I look up at him, too annoyed to remember I’m supposed to be ignoring him. “I forgot to finish my damn essay.” I want to hit the locker again, but his hand is still on my shoulder, stopping me.
“I take it from the crater you left in that metal that this was an important essay?”
I glance down to where he’s looking and realize with a shock that he’s not exaggerating. I really did dent the locker.
“Yes,” I answer, my eyes still glued to the cavity I made. “It was a very important essay.” Great, now my dad’s going to be called in for a meeting. Just perfect.
“What was the essay on?”
I look up at him, wondering why he would even care. “It’s on individualism vs. conformity in the ‘Red Badge of Courage’. Why, you offering to write it for me?” I ask sarcastically.
“Anything for you, Luna Moya. What period do you need it by?”
“Are you serious? You’re really offering to write my essay for me?” I laugh. This guy is so full of it. “I have English seventh period, right after lunch. Knock yourself out.”
I turn and walk away, already concocting a plan to skip out before English. I think about faking sick, except my car is still in the shop, so how will I get home? I might be able to sneak off to the library during lunch to write it, but that’ll be difficult considering I haven’t even finished reading the book yet, but I guess anything I type up will be better than nothing. I head off to first period, already wishing for this day to be over.
But of course, the day crawls by, as it always does when there’s something unpleasant to look forward to. Caiden still meets me at the end of my classes, but he’s silent and sullen, a world apart from what he was yesterday. And in third period, Arianna barely says five words to me. When I ask her what’s wrong, all she says is that she’ll talk to me about it later.
Maybe she and Ethan are fighting. Too wrapped up in my own inner turmoil, I don’t give it much thought.
By the time I get to my locker after sixth period, I’ve firmly decided to skip lunch and try to type something up for Mr. Bayne. I’m standing at my locker, staring morosely at the four pathetic sentences I managed to eke out yesterday and wondering how the hell I’m going to write another four pages in a half hour, when a sheaf of neatly stapled papers waves in front of my face.
I look over my shoulder to see Grayson looming over me, a pronounced smirk on his face.
“One essay, as requested.” When he speaks, I see a glint of metal in his mouth and realize his tongue must be pierced. Then what he said registers, and my jaw drops in disbelief.
He chuckles at my dumbfounded expression. “You didn't think I was going to come through, did you?”
I turn to fully face him, having to tilt my head all the way back to meet his silver eyes. “You’re kidding me. You actually wrote my essay?”
“I told you I’d help you out.” He gives me a playfully hurt look. “Your lack of confidence in me wounds, Luna Moya, it really does.”
I raise my eyebrow at him. What's his game? “You don’t even know me. Why would you do this?”
“Maybe because I want to know you,” he smirks again.
“Look, let’s be blunt. I don’t know what game you’re trying to play, but whatever it is, you’re gonna lose. Feel me? I’m not buying the whole, ‘let’s be friends’ routine. You want something from me.”
“Of course I do.”
When I narrow my eyes at him, he smiles wider.
“So that’s what this is about? You do this essay for me and then I owe you?”
I think for a moment. His moving into town right after my visit to Ashwood Creek is way too shady for me to ignore. He has something to do with the pack — I know he does. Maybe if I play along, I can figure out what his angle is.
“Alright,” I snatch the essay from his hands. “What do you want?”
A playful glint enters his eyes, his smile growing wider. “What’s your name?”
It’s such a small school, surely he’s already figured out who I am.
“Emerson,” I answer nonplussed.
“Greenwood. Emerson Greenwood.”
He cocks his head, studying me momentarily. “Nice to meet you, Emerson Greenwood.” He tips his head at me and begins to walk away.
“Wait,” I grab his arm to stop him, solid muscle bunching beneath my fingers. “You never told me what you want. For the essay.”
He turns his head to look back at me over his broad shoulder. “Yeah I did. Your name. That wasn't so hard, was it?” He winks and walks away.