Focus (Page 26)

“Yes, boss.”

“Hey, you’re the one who wants the help.”

I smiled. “Admit it. You like it.”

“I like that you’re not nearly as weak and pathetic as I thought.”

“Let’s stop while we’re ahead here.”

He laughed. “Okay, enjoy French and your nap.”

“Will do. Tell Levi I said ‘hi.’”

Jared stopped and looked at me. “Okay, I will.”

I met up with Owen and prepared myself for fifty minutes of French hell.

Chapter Eleven

Jared picked me up in his black Mustang convertible. “Nice wheels.”

“I’m glad you think so.” He pulled away from the curb before I’d even buckled my seatbelt.

“Where are we going?” He finally thought I was ready to do some training outside of the gym. I wasn’t sure if I was more nervous or excited.

“Just down to the levee. It should be empty at this time of night.”

Meeting Jared at the gym was one thing. Sneaking off with him late at night felt different. It’s not like Levi had to worry about something happening between us, that would be the last thing that would ever occur, but I knew he wouldn’t like the idea of me learning to fight.

Jared parked, and I got out. I was dressed in black yoga pants, and a tank with a sweatshirt over it. Jared was in shorts and a t-shirt. Pterons never seemed to get cold.

“Okay, I’m ready.” I braced myself. I figured Jared wouldn’t actually hurt me.

He laughed. “You look ready to fight in battle. What do you think we’re doing here?”

“You said you’d teach me to fight.”

“I said I’d teach you to defend yourself.”

“Fine, so where do we start?”

“First, you need to listen, and listen closely.”

I put a hand on my hip. I hadn’t dragged myself out in the dark to listen.

“You ready?”

“I’m listening.”

“You are never going to be able to fight a Pteron or other paranormal head on.”

“Come on.”

“I’m being serious. You can’t. Even the strongest human is too weak. And face it, Princess, you aren’t the strongest human.” He touched my arm as though that proved something.

“Then what do you suggest?”

“First, remember to use the old tried and true methods.”

“Meaning?”

“A good kick to the nuts is going to give you a nice head start.”

I glanced at that region of Jared without thinking. “Get serious.”

He caught the direction of my gaze “Don’t even think of trying it out on me. Anyway, most of us have such good reflexes, that you wouldn’t get the chance, but it’s worth remembering.”

“Okay, so what if that doesn’t work or isn’t an option?”

“You have to take your opponent by surprise and go after their weaknesses.”

“Do Pteron’s even have weaknesses?” I certainly didn’t know of any.

“We have one.”

“What?”

“Listen, this isn’t something we ever admit, and I shouldn’t even be telling you.” He studied his feet. He really didn’t want to be having that conversation.

“You have to tell me.”

“I will. But only because I want you alive, for Levi’s sake.”

I glared at him. I was sure he could see it in the dim light. “Nice, very nice.”

“Do you want to know or not?”

“I want to know.”

“Then play nice.” He smirked.

“Please, Jared. Be kind enough to share your wisdom.”

He laughed. “All right.” He pulled off his t-shirt.

“As much as being in our Pteron form makes us stronger, it also exposes us.” He extended his large wings.

I waited. I still had no idea what the weakness could be.

“Come behind me.” I listened and moved behind him.

“Put a hand on my back, right where my wings meet.”

I hesitated. Touching his wings felt almost intimate, as strange as that sounds.

“Just do it, Allie. We don’t have all night.”

I reached out a hand and placed it right where he told me to.

“If you pushed your hand up right now, you’d immobilize me.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes seriously. And I wouldn’t appreciate it if you tried it.”

“Just by pushing up?”

“Yes. Of course, Pteron’s guard that spot so it’s not going to be easy to get to it, but it’s probably the only way you’d ever take down a Pteron.”

“Did you bring me out here just to show me that?”

He retracted his wings and pulled on his t-shirt. “I appreciate your interest, but you really have to stop coming on to me.”

“Shut up. I just thought we’d be doing more.”

“I just revealed the biggest Pteron secret, and you want more?”

“Fine. I’m sorry. Thank you. I really do appreciate it.”

“Good. Now let’s get you back to your dorm.”

“All right.”

I got back into Jared’s car for the short ride back. I stared out the window, enjoying the way the street lights lit up the beautiful homes and live oaks along the way.

Jared parked, got out, and leaned against the door. “Sweet dreams.”

“You too.”

“Do me a favor?” I figured it was just going to be one of his annoying jokes.

“Sure.”

“Tell Tiffany I said ‘hi.’”

“Remember the rules.”

“The rules don’t prevent me from saying hello.”

I laughed. “I guess not. Good night.”

I went back inside, and hoped I’d never have to use the trick Jared showed me. In the pit of my stomach, I knew I probably would.

***

I’d never been in Owen’s truck before, but when he offered to give me a ride down to the hotel, I jumped on it.

“Thanks for the ride.” I put on my seat belt and smiled at Owen. It didn’t surprise me at all that he drove a Toyota Tacoma. He kind of seemed like a truck guy.

“Not a problem.” He turned down the volume on the Linkin Park song currently blaring from the speakers.

It was strange. I’d gotten to know Jared so well over the past months but still felt like Owen was a mystery. I would have expected the opposite.

“Are you excited to see your dad?” He glanced over.