#Nerd (Page 21)

I hadn’t expected to like her though, not genuinely. I had a lot of friends, but not many of them I would consider genuine. Most of them liked me because of my status. Because of the game. Because being around me gave them something.

I played along. Hell, I enjoyed it. But deep down I knew where the line was drawn. Braeden was the closest friend I had. And I would count Trent among that list. Along with a handful of other guys on the team. But that was it.

There had never been a girl before.

A girl I actually was intrigued by. A girl I wanted to learn more about.

I learned something tonight. I learned something I didn’t think anyone ever got to see. Her vulnerability. Her softness. The way she looked at the animals, the way she acted with them, it made me slightly jealous. Sure, everybody liked me, but no one ever looked at me the way she did that cat.

As I watched her with him, I realized she identified with it. He was sort of the outcast of the shelter. No one wanted him because he looked different, because maybe they thought he wasn’t as good as the other cats.

But when he showed affection, he purred louder than any cat I’d ever heard. He’d turn his green eye on you and really look. When he saw I was going to be kind to him, he accepted me immediately.

Was that how Rimmel felt? Did she feel overlooked? Like an outcast?

Thunder rolled overhead, and I realized I was still sitting in my idling car. I shut it off and dashed through the rain into my house, flipping on the lights as I went.

I knew I could get her into bed. Especially after seeing her tonight. All I had to do was draw her in, notice her, make her feel special.

It would be almost effortless. I should have been happy, smug and grinning like the Cheshire cat.

But I wasn’t.

Chapter Thirteen

Rimmel

The library seemed a lot busier than usual and it made me slightly uncomfortable. One of the great things about a library was the peaceful, quiet atmosphere.

Yeah, it was still quiet in here (for the most part), but the air in the building was anything but peaceful.

I took up a spot in the back, the last table left, and sank into the chair. I was dressed in a pair of loose jeans, purple Converse, and a loose white T-shirt topped with a long purple cardigan that I bought two sizes too big. The sleeves were long and I pulled them over my hands as I sat there curling my fingers into the extra material.

I’d worn my hair up today.

I usually only put it up when I was in my room or at the shelter cleaning. My hair was dark and unruly. I knew if I cut some of the length off it would probably be more manageable, but then I wouldn’t have it to shield myself with.

But the way Romeo looked at me…

The other night in the shelter, I hadn’t really thought twice about pulling up my hair. It was wet, heavy, and on my nerves. I guess thinking back now, it was a little startling that I didn’t think about being in the same room with him and how pulling my hair up might leave me feeling exposed.

Maybe I would have thought that if he hadn’t looked at me that way. But he did. The change in his eyes was definite. The blue was as amazing as always, the kind of blue that you didn’t often see. It darkened as his gaze fastened on my face and didn’t let go.

Usually, I would have ducked my head, but I couldn’t. I felt like he was seeing me, like the real me. And I felt like maybe he liked it.

He called me beautiful.

The only person that ever called me beautiful was my father. Except for several years ago… but I wouldn’t think about that.

So when I got dressed today, I pulled it up into a messy-looking topknot. As I’d gone through the day, a couple strands had fallen out against my neck and one occasionally brushed my cheek, but I didn’t fuss with it.

Ivy had been surprised. I could tell by the way her eyes widened when I walked past to grab my sweater. She even told me it looked nice, almost trendy.

Earlier this morning, I passed by Romeo’s friend, the one from the other day. He did a double take, then lifted his hand in a wave. “Looking good today, tutor girl!” he shouted.

People turned to stare.

I almost rushed in the bathroom and pulled my hair down. But I didn’t. Maybe it was time I stopped hiding all the time. I was almost nineteen. I wasn’t a kid. I knew how to handle people and certain situations. I shouldn’t let the past define me anymore.

But some habits were hard to break.

A couple girls walked by where I was sitting and started whispering and rushed away. Odd. I looked around and something became clear.

These people weren’t here to study.

They were here because he was coming. Romeo.

Way more than half of the people in here were girls. They were all dressed to impress and some were fussing with their hair and lip-gloss.

I remembered a recent Buzz that came through the Alpha App. Something about Romeo being at the library and how the library was getting busier. Well. That notification just increased the traffic.

I also saw the Buzz about the mystery girl in his Hellcat. It wasn’t a mystery, though. It was me. I wondered what all these girls would say if they knew that.

Were they here because they were curious and hoped to see some girl on his arm? Or were they hoping to come here to draw his attention and be that girl?

Right next to me someone cleared their throat.

I jumped about a mile out of my seat and threw my arms out in surprise. The arm where the person was standing smacked into their middle, and I heard an oomph.

“I’m sorry,” I rushed out. “You startled me.”

“What the hell?” the girl snapped, and I turned all the way around to stare up at her. She had icy blue eyes, long honey-colored hair, and a full face of flawless makeup. She was rubbing her palm over her middle where I smacked her.

“You shouldn’t sneak up on people,” I said.

An incredulous look crossed her features. “I wasn’t sneaking.”

“Well, I didn’t hear you.” I pointed out.

She dropped her hand from her belly and regarded me with a scrutinizing gaze. I saw the way her lips sneered at my makeup-free face, my glasses, and my unfashionable outfit. And then her gaze shifted, almost like she had sized me up and decided I wasn’t anything for her to worry about.

It kinda pissed me off.

“Are you Romeo’s tutor?” she asked.

I should have known this was about him.

“Yes.”

“Well, where is he?” She perched a hand upon her hip.

Did she think I was his keeper? “I assume he’s on his way.”

“Well, when he gets here, you should go.” She glanced behind me, and I knew her friends were probably nearby listening.