The Dare(6)

By: Rachel van Dyken

A throat cleared. I looked up. Beth stood wrapped in a fluffy white towel, her dark wet hair clinging to her neck and shoulders.

Scratch that. Not every girl within a ten-mile radius. Her. Just her.

"What's your last name?" I asked, needing the distraction as she shifted from one toned leg to the next.

"You're kidding, right?" Beth's eyes narrowed.


Yeah. It was definitely a day of firsts. For example, not only was I the first person in my family to make it into politics, but I was going to be the first male of the family to die before the age of thirty.

How would she do It, I wondered? Suffocation? Push me out the window?

"Why are you so pale?" Beth slowly walked toward me.

"I, uh…" Damn. I had nothing. My entire career was spent talking, and I had absolutely nothing. Words escaped me. My focus was on her lips as they moved. Fantastic. First I want to actually be the cookie she bites into, and now I'm obsessing over her lips.

But they had this naturally pink tint to them.

Which reminded me of bubblegum.

I had a thing for gum. It kept me from getting nervous during speeches.

I had a feeling Beth would do the same thing, if only I was given the chance for one, small taste.

One night stand. One night stand. Maybe if I kept repeating it to myself, my body would catch up. Getting lost in those gorgeous green eyes or looking at that amazing ass was going to get me nowhere in life. I needed a solid, committed relationship where both parties equally benefited from said partnership. Not a fiery green-eyed temptress who ate cookies at 3:00 a.m. and cried into a box of them when she discovered they were peanut butter instead of chocolate.

"Jace?" Beth reached out and cupped my chin with her hand, peering into my eyes.

"What are you doing?" I stepped back.

"I'm a doctor." Beth rolled her eyes.

Doctor my ass. I distinctly remember hearing she played with diseases for a living; no way did I want her hands anywhere near my face. Then again, they'd probably been on other parts all night.

Mental note: Scrub harder in shower.

"You're a chemist. Big difference." I swatted her hand away.

"So you know I'm a chemist, but you don't know my last name?"

"You were doing the periodic table of elements in your sleep and were talking about curing cancer? Remember? Doesn't take much math to add that one together, sunshine."

Besides, part of my homework given by the lovely Grandma Nadine was to do a background check on Char and her family. That woman was insane; she wanted no stone unturned. In the end, I'd broken at least four laws to get the information she'd needed. But I owed her. She'd pulled me out of my slump. I remembered Char from high school since we were closer in age, and Beth? I remembered her for entirely different reasons…

"Are you okay?" I asked, approaching the pretty girl in the white dress. Normally I wasn't so brave at another school's functions. After all, I played for their rival team, and I was quarterback. I kept a low profile. My cousin, however, had needed a date for prom, and I couldn't say no.

"Yeah," she sniffed and then looked down at her hands, "thanks."

That moment defined me, not because of anything special happening like fireworks lighting up the sky or romantic music floating through the air. It defined me because it was the first time in my life that a girl's tears had actually cut me to the core. I wanted to fix it, and I didn't even know her. It pissed me off that she was crying, and it pissed me off that I cared so much.

"Want to dance?" I held out my hand.

She looked at my hand like I'd just offered her pot.

"Just one dance," I urged. Why did I care?

"Sure," she stood, "just one dance."

I hadn't known that my one good deed would come back to bite me in the ass. How could I know that, even then? Grandma's watchful eyes were on me like the damn Lord of the Rings Eye of Sauron.

"Damn Grandma," I said aloud. I'd done my good deed for the year; I was ready to be finished with the entire Titus family and their insane shenanigans. The sooner I left, the easier it will be to walk away. Sound logic, I was aware.

"If you keep talking to me like I'm a child, you'll have a reason to call me sunshine because I'll be putting my foot where the sun don't shine, got it?"

"Are you always this pleasant in the mornings?" I stepped away from the beast. Yes, we were back to name calling. "Or is that reserved especially for me?"

"Just you," she stomped over to her discarded bridesmaid dress and snatched it off the chair, "and politicians I don't vote for."

"You didn't vote for me?" It was out of my mouth before I could stop it. Deflated, I waited for her answer.