Focus (Page 39)

“Anne’s fine. She’s taking it well.”

“I’m actually not surprised.”

Levi laughed. “You took it well too, Al.”

“I guess I did…”

Hailey sat down on her bed. “And Tiffany is okay. They kept her overnight to check for inhalational burns, but everything came back clean. She really is lucky.”

I felt sick just thinking about it. “Or unlucky for being my friend. She was only in danger because of me.”

“That’s not true.” Levi turned to look at me.

“He’s right. You can’t start blaming yourself for everything,” Hailey said softly.

“Easy for you to say.” I yawned. I guess everything with Bryant made me tired.

“You can close your eyes. I’ll be right here.” Levi played with a strand of my hair.

“You really don’t have to stay.”

“I want to.”

“Do you guys want privacy?” Hailey stood up, ready to leave the room.

“No, that’s okay.” I answered quickly. Levi nodded.

“If you’re sure.” Hailey sat down at her desk.

I fell asleep to the sound of her typing.

I woke up a few hours later tucked under my covers. Levi was gone. I sat up disoriented. Hailey was playing a game on her phone.

“What time is it?”

“Six.”

“Six o’clock at night? You let me sleep all day?”

“You needed it.”

I stretched. “When did Levi leave?”

“A few hours ago. He fell asleep too.” She tossed me her phone. “Check out this picture. I already emailed it to you both.”

I glanced at her phone. There was a picture of Levi and I snuggled up asleep. I had to admit it was cute. “You sent it to Levi?”

“I figured it would earn me brownie points. I have a feeling I’m in trouble.” She leaned up against the wall.

“Why? Why are you in trouble?”

“I shouldn’t have left the hotel without you. I should have waited.”

“You took Anne home, and you thought I was safe. You can’t be with me all the time.”

“I should have come back after dropping Anne off, but I didn’t.” She bit her nail. I’d never seen Hailey do that before.

“Is there something you’re not telling me?”

“This stays between us, okay?”

“Of course.” I looked at her nervously. That opening was usually a bad thing.

“I got lunch with Cole.”

“Cole? You mean the bouncer from Bruno’s?” We’d run in to him a few times, and it was obvious he had a thing for Hailey.

“Yes.” She still didn’t meet my eye.

“Why is that a secret?”

“Remember what I told you about Pteron’s dating?”

“You aren’t supposed to get serious with anyone but a human.”

“And you’re definitely not supposed to date lower shifters…” She trailed off.

“Wait, what’s Cole?” I’d always assumed he was a Pteron because he seemed part of the inner circle.

“He’s a Grizzly.”

“He’s a bear?” I’d figured out that most shifter names related to the type of animal they were.

“Yes. In terms of shifters he’s high up, especially because his grandfather saved Levi’s grandfather, but he’s still below a Pteron.”

“So that’s why he had such a good seat at the meeting.”

“Yes.”

“I’m guessing that doesn’t change the dating rules?”

She sighed. “No.”

I crossed the room and sat next to her. “I’m sorry, Hail. You like him, huh?”

She evaded my question. “It’s not a big deal. But it makes my screw up even worse. My parents are going to kill me.”

“They won’t find out.”

“Yes they will.”

“Give me a second.”

“What?”

I picked up my phone and called Levi.

“Hey, how are you feeling, Sleeping Beauty?”

“You really like to call me princess names, don’t you?”

He laughed. “Well, you are my princess.”

“I guess that’s true. The reason I’m calling is because of Hailey.”

“What?” She stood up.

I waved Hailey off.

“She wasn’t there because she was taking care of Anne, and making sure she wasn’t going to tell everyone about The Society. Hailey should be rewarded for being so careful, don’t you agree?” Levi was usually really good at reading me, so I hoped he understood what I was doing.

“Absolutely. I’ll make sure her parents know.” I could hear him smiling through the phone. He really could be a decent guy sometimes.

“Great, talk to you soon.” I hung up.

“Now you can stop worrying.”

She let out a deep breath. “You didn’t have to do that.”

“Want to make it up to me?”

“Yes, anything.” She looked at me eagerly.

“Order us something good and greasy for dinner. I need it.”

“I can definitely do that.”

“Good.” I loved my best friend.

***

I folded my laundry and took my time putting it away. As soon as I finished, I’d be out of excuses not to call my mom. She was going to kill me. Thanksgiving was just as big as Christmas to her. It was bad enough I’d stayed in New Orleans for school. Now I was canceling my first trip home.

I finally built up the nerve to call her. “Hey, Mom.”

“Hey, honey. I haven’t heard from you in a while. How’ve you been?”

“I’m doing fine, just busy with school.”

“Have you decided when you’re coming home?”

I swallowed. “I’m not coming, Mom.”

She sighed into the phone. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing. I just have too much work.”

“You can get plenty of studying done here.” I could hear the pleading in her voice.

“Not without distractions.”

“Do you want us to come there?”

“Who’s us?” I played with a feather that had come loose from my down comforter. It was overkill for New Orleans, but I loved the shade of blue.

“Steven, Andrew, and I.”

I wasn’t sure I’d ever get used to the idea that my mom was seriously dating the father of a guy I hated in high school. “No, it’s okay. I’ll see you in December anyway.”