herself? They are a burden. She got the boobs
for a man. I hope you do not do stupid things
for a boy, Nora." She shook her finger at me.
"Trust me, Dorth, there are no boys in my life."
Okay, maybe there were two lurking on the
fringe, circling from afar
"No!" I said, yanking on his sleeve to stop him.
"He, uh, might get violent again. Let me handle
this." I narrowed a look at Vee. "You sure?"
Elliot said. "I'm more than happy to do it." "I
think it's best coming fromme." I wiped my
palms on my jeans, and
Better volunteer, or I'll pick teams, and I don't
always play fair." Elliot raised his hand. "All
right," Miss Sully said to him. "Up here, by
home plate. And how about Marcie Millar as
captain of the red team." Marcie's eyes swept
over Elliot. "Bring it
marked car-cuv. With one tug the drawer
rattled open. The tabs on the files were labeled
by hand, and I wondered if Coldwater High was
the last school in the country not computerized.
My eyes brushed over the name "Cipriano." I
wrenched the file from the
stopped midstride, his gaze latching onto me.
Whatever he'd been saying to the group, which
probably consisted of every major player on the
school's faculty, trailed off. "Excuse me a
moment," I heard him say. The group continued
hustling forward. He did
spinning white somewhere in my peripheral
vision. An excited chanting of the word "Slide!"
came from the dugout, but I still hadn't made
up my mind which was hitting the dirt first-my
shoes or my hands. The second baseman
snagged the ball out of the air.
innocently. She pointed. "Over there. That's
him, isn't it?" "I doubt it. Are Elliot and I the
white team, then?" "Patch is Nora's bio
partner," Vee explained to Elliot. She winked
slyly at me but made a face of innocence the
moment Elliot gave her his at
made my way over beside Elliot and rugged a
blue jersey over my head. "Nora and I are
friends," Elliot told Marcie calmly, almost coolly.
It was an overstatement, but I wasn't about to
correct him. Marcie looked like she'd had a
bucket of ice water flung
another trickle of words. Notyet. I held back,
waiting for the ball to come to me. As it
descended, I stepped toward the front of the
plate. I swung with everything I had. A huge
crack sounded, and the bat vibrated in my
hands. The ball drove at Marcie, w
rubbed his hands together and surveyed the
floor. "Where should we start?" "What about
Jules?" Vee asked. "He'll find us." "Air hockey," I
said immediately. Air hockey was on the other
side of the arcade. The farther away from Patch,
the better. I told my
"Not that anyone can blame him." "That so?"
said Elliot, eyeing me with a look that said he
wasn't surprised. He'd suspected it all along. I
noticed he took a step closer. Vee shot me a
triumphant smile. Thank me later, it said. "It's
not like that," I co
I took a step back. "No," I said on impulse.
Patch came around behind me, and a chill
shimmied up my spine. "I'll be waiting," he said
into my ear. Then he slipped out of the arcade.
CHAPTER 8 I WALKED BACK TO THE FOOSBALL
TABLE IN A COLD DAZE. Elliot was
we'd been talking about, but not nearly as hard
as I tried to appear unmoved by his touch. I
tossed my hair back over my shoulder, picking
up the tail of our previous conversation.
"Anyway, I'm not allowed to go out on school
nights." "Too bad. There's a
me talk to Patch," Elliot said. While I
appreciated the concern, I did not like the idea
of Elliot going head-tohead with Patch. Patch
was an X factor: intangible, scary, and unknown.
Who knew what he was capable of? Elliot was
far too nice to be sent up
and hard, and I wouldn't have been surprised if
under his clothes he bore several scars,
souvenirs from street fights and other reckless
behavior. Not that I wanted a look under his
clothes. When I got to Patch's console, I tapped
a hand against the side
but then I remembered how he'd entered my
thoughts, and I went cold to the bone. If I was
lucky, Vee hadn't seen him. I edged her forward
through the crowd, letting Patch fall out of
sight. The last thing I needed was for her to
suggest we go over and str
uncomfortable attraction to Patch. "Sounds like
a plan," I said. CHAPTER 7 IT WAS SATURDAY
NIGHT, AND DOROTHEA AND I WERE IN the
kitchen. She had just popped a casserole into
the oven and was sizing up a list of tasks my
mom had hanging from a magnet on t
all the other rides first, she'd forget about this
one. I hadn't been afraid of heights for years,
probably because I had conveniently avoided
them. I wasn't sure I was ready just yet to find
out if time had faded my fear of them. After we
hit the Ferris
conference tomorrow," she said. "In Portland.
Dr. Melissa Sanchez will speak. She says you
think your way to a sexier you. Hormones are
powerful drugs. Unless we tell them what we
want, they backfire. They work against us."
Dorothea turned, pointing the A
I'd been given a suggestion, and I was openminded enough to try it. What I didn't want to
acknowledge was I'd specifically chosen a night
I knew I wouldn't see Patch to test it out. A half
hour later Vee drove under the gates to Delphic
Seaport. We were f
it the whistle means something," Elliot said to
me. "Ten laps around the gym, no cutting
corners." I pushed up from the bleachers. "Are
you an athlete?" Elliot jumped up, dancing on
the balls of his feet. He threw a few hooks and
jabs into the air. He fin
"You're worse." CHAPTER 6 THE FOLLOWING
MORNING I WAS SURPRISED TO SEE Elliot walk
into first-hour PE just as the tardy bell sounded.
He was dressed in knee-length basketball shorts
and a white Nike sweatshirt. His high-tops
looked new and expensive. Afte
Just transferred." "First week at school and he's
already made friends. Lucky guy." He slid me a
look. "Could have a dark and dangerous side we
know nothing about." "Seems to be my
specialty." I waited for himto catch my meaning,
but he only said, "Up for
your hips-it's all in the hips." I could feel my
face heat up with the eyes of the entire class on
us. "I think I've got it, thanks." "Get a room!"
Marcie called to us. The infield laughed. "If
you'd throw her a decent pitch," Elliot called
back, "she'd h
voice. "They might think we're flirting." I felt
like kicking myself, because that's exactly what
we were doing. But it wasn't my fault-it was
Patch's. In close contact with him, I experienced
a confusing polarity of desires. Part of me
wanted to run away
it's worth, I like the idea that there's not a guy
at school who matches up to your
expectations." "I forgot you're the authority on
my socalled expectations," I scoffed. He studied
me in a way that had me feeling transparent.
"You're not cagey, Nora. Not
do." "They make salsa with tomatoes," I
pointed out. "That's a red. And avocados are a
fruit. I think." Her face brightened. "And we'll
order virgin strawberry daiquiris." Vee was
right. This diet was easy. "Be right back," she
said, sliding out of the bo
said. "The stunt I pulled or my torn-up leg?"
Tucking my knee against my chest, I gently
brushed as much of the dirt away as I could.
Elliot bent sideways and blew on my knee.
Several of the larger bits of dirt fell to the
ground. A moment of awkward sile
stretched. "You have a thing for little Lionel?"
"Noooo." "I can work something out-" "Ah no,
Dorothea, really. Thank you, butI'mreally
concentrating on my grades right now. I want to
get into a top-tier college." "If in the future-"
"I'll let you know."
the chainlink fence, leaning against it. No coat,
despite the weather. Just head-to-toe black. His
eyes were opaque and inaccessible as he
watched me, but I suspected there was a lot
going on behind them. Another string of words
crept into my mind. Battin