The taste exploded in my mouth. As my saliva touched the shallow wound his blood began to flow more quickly, and with a moan that I hardly recognized as my own, I opened my mouth and pressed my lips to his skin, licking up the delicious scarlet line. I felt Heath's arms go around me as mine wrapped around his shoulders so that I could hold him more firmly against my mouth. His head fell back and I heard him groan "yes." One of his hands cupped my butt and the other one went under my sweater to squeeze my breast.
His touch only made it better. Heat slammed through my body, setting me on fire. Like someone else was in control of my movements, my hand slid from Heath's shoulder, down his chest, to rub over the hard lump that was in the front of his jeans. I sucked on his neck. Rational thought flew from my mind. All I could do was feel and taste and touch. Somewhere in the depths of my mind I knew I was reacting on a level that was almost animalistic in its need and ferocity, but I didn't care. I wanted Heath. I wanted him like I'd never wanted anything in my life.
"Oh, God, Zo, yes, " he gasped and his hips started to thrust in time with my hand.
Someone banged on the passenger's side window. "Hey! Y'all can't make- out here!"
The man's voice jolted through me, shattering the heat that had been building inside me. I caught a glimpse of a security guard's uniform, and started to lurch away from Heath, but he tucked my head down into the side of his neck and turned his body so that the guard, who was obviously standing right outside the passenger's door, couldn't see me very well, and so that the blood that was dripping steadily from Heath's neck was completely hidden.
"Did you kids hear me!" the guy bellowed. "Get out of here before I take your names and call your parents."
"No problem, sir," Heath yelled good-naturedly. Amazingly, he sounded perfectly normal, if a little breathless. "We're leaving."
"You better. I'm watching you two. Damn teenagers ..." he grumbled as he stomped away.
"Okay, he's far enough away now that he can't see the blood," Heath said as he relaxed his hold on me.
Instantly I jerked back, pressing myself against the door, as far away from Heath as I could get. With shaking hands I zipped open my purse and fished out a Kleenex, handing it to him without touching him. "Press this against your neck so that it'll stop bleeding."
He did as I said.
I rolled down my window, clutched my hands together, and breathed deeply of the fresh air, trying to block the scent of Heath's body and Heath's blood from my mind.
"Zoey, look at me."
"I can't, Heath." I swallowed down the tears that burned in the back of my throat. "Please just leave."
"Not until you look at me and listen to what I have to tell you."
I turned my head and looked at him. "How the hell can you be so calm and normal-sounding?"
He was still pressing the Kleenex against his neck. His face was flushed and his hair was messed up. He smiled at me, and I didn't think I'd ever seen anyone look so absolutely adorable.
"Easy, Zo. Making-out with you is totally normal for me. You've been driving me crazy for years."
I'd had the whole I'm-not-ready-to-have-sex-with-you-yet conversation with him when I was fifteen and he was almost seventeen. He'd said then that he understood and was willing to wait—of course that didn't mean that we didn't do some heavy making-out—but what had just happened in the car had been different. It was hotter, rawer. I knew that if I allowed myself to continue seeing him I wouldn't be a virgin much longer, and not because Heath would pressure me into it. It would be because I couldn't control my bloodlust. The thought scared me almost as much as it fascinated me. I closed my eyes and rubbed my forehead. I was getting a headache. Again.
"Does your neck hurt?" I asked, peeking up at him through my fingers like I was watching a stupid slasher movie.
"Nope. I'm fine, Zo. You didn't hurt me at all." He reached over and pulled my hand from my face. "Everything'll be okay. Stop worrying so much."
I wanted to believe him. And, I suddenly realized, I also wanted to see him again. I sighed. "I'll try. But I really do have to go. I can't be late getting back to school."
He took my hand in his. I could feel the pulse of his blood, and knew it was beating in time with my own heart, like he and I had somehow become internally synchronized. "Promise me you'll call me," he said.
"And you'll meet me here again this week."
"I don't know when I can get away. During the week it's going to be hard for me."
I expected him to argue with me, but he just nodded and squeezed my hand. "Okay, I get that. Living twenty-four seven at school is probably a pain in the ass. How about this: Friday we're playing Jenks at home. Could you meet me at Starbucks after the game?"
"Will you try?"
He grinned and leaned over to give me a quick kiss. "That's my Zo! I'll see you Friday." He got out of the car and before he closed the door bent down and said, "I love ya, Zo."
As I drove away I could see him in my rearview mirror. He was standing in the middle of the parking lot, Kleenex still pressed to his neck, waving bye at me.
"You have no clue what you're doing, Zoey Redbird," I said aloud to myself as the gray sky opened and poured cold rain over everything.
It was 2:35 when I tiptoed back into our room. The fact that I was short on time was actually good. It didn't give me a chance to overthink what I had to do. Stevie Rae and Nala were still sound asleep. Actually, Nala had abandoned my empty bed and was curled up beside Stevie Rae's head on her pillow, which made me smile. (The cat was a notorious pillow hog.) Quietly I opened the top drawer on my computer desk and grabbed Damien's disposable phone, along with the slip of paper I'd scribbled the FBI's number on, and then went into the bathroom.
I took a couple deep, calming breaths, remembering Damien's advice: Keep it short. Sound a little angry, and kinda semi-crazy, but don't sound like a teenager. I dialed the number. When an official-sounding man answered, "Federal Bureau of Investigation. How may I help you?" I pitched my voice
low and sharp, cutting off my words like I had to be careful to hold myself back because of the dam of hatred that was built up behind them (which is how Erin, with her suddenly and bizarrely unexpected political knowledge, described how I should pretend to feel). "I want to report a bomb." I kept talking, not giving him time to interrupt me, but speaking slowly and clearly because I knew I was being recorded. "My group, Nature's Jihad (Shawnee came up with our name), planted it just below the waterline on one of the pylons (a word Damien had come up with) of the bridge that crosses the Arkansas River on I-40 near 's Falls. It's to go off at 1515 (using military time was another brilliant idea of Damien's). We're taking full responsibility for this act of civil disobedience (more Erin input, although she said terrorism is not actually civil disobedience, it's ... well ... terrorism, which is definitely different) protesting the U.S. government's interference in our lives and pollution in America's rivers. Be warned that this is only our first strike!" I hung up. Then I quickly flipped the scrap of paper over and punched in the phone number on the other side of it.
"Fox News Tulsa!" said the perky woman.
This part was actually my idea. I figured if I called a local news station we would have a better chance of having the threat reported quickly on the local news, and then we could keep an eye on the news and maybe even know when (or if) our attempt to get the bridge closed had been successful. I took another deep breath and then launched into the rest of the plan.
"A terrorist group known as Nature's Jihad has called the FBI with information that they've planted a bomb on the I-40 bridge over the Arkansas River by Webber's Falls. It's set to explode at three fifteen today." I made the mistake of pausing for a fraction of a second, and the woman, who was suddenly not so perky-sounding, said, "Who are you, ma'am, and where did you get this information?"
"Down with government intervention and pollution and up with the power of the people!" I yelled and then hung up. Immediately I pressed the power off button. Then my knees wouldn't hold me up any longer and I collapsed onto the closed toilet lid. I'd done it. I'd really done it.
Two soft knocks sounded against the bathroom door, followed by Stevie Rae's soft Oklahoma twang.
"Zoey? Are you okay?"
"Yeah," I said faintly. I forced myself to stand up and go to the door. I opened it to see Stevie Rae's rumpled face peering up at me like a sleepy, countrified rabbit.
"Did ya call 'em?" she whispered.
"Yeah, and you don't have to whisper. It's just you and me." Nala yawned and made a grumpy mee-uf-ow at me from the middle of Stevie Rae's pillow. "And Nala."
"What happened? Did they say anything?"
"Not after the 'hello FBI' part. Damien said I shouldn't give them a chance to talk, remember?"
"Did you tell them that we're Nature's Jihad?"
"Stevie Rae. We're not Nature's Jihad. We're just pretending to be."
"Well, I heard you yelling the down with the government and pollution thing, so I thought ... maybe ... actually I dunno what I thought. I guess I just got caught up in the moment."
I rolled my eyes. "Stevie Rae, I was just acting. The news lady asked me who I was and I guess I kinda freaked. And, yes, I told them everything we said I should. I just hope it works." I pulled off my hoodie and hung it on the back of a chair to dry.
Stevie Rae suddenly registered that my hair was wet and my Mark was covered, something I'd totally forgotten about in my hurry to make the phone calls. Hell.
"Did you go somewhere?"
"Yeah," I said reluctantly. "I couldn't sleep, so I went to the American Eagle at Utica and bought a new sweater." I pointed at the soggy American Eagle bag I'd tossed in the corner.
"You should have woken me up. I would have gone with you."
If she hadn't sounded so hurt I would have had more time to think about just exactly how much I was going to tell her about Heath before I blurted, "I ran into my ex-boyfriend."
"Ohmygoodness! Tell me everything." She plopped down on her bed, eyes shining. Nala grumbled and jumped from her pillow to mine. I got a towel and started to dry my hair.
"I was at Starbucks. He was taping up flyers with Brad's picture on them."
"And? What happened when he saw you?"
She rolled her eyes. "Come on—what else?"
"He's quit drinking and getting high."
"Wow, that's major. Isn't his drinking and smoking why you quit seeing him to begin with?"
"Hey, what about Stank Kayla and him?"
"Heath says he's not seeing her because of the crap she's talking about vampyres."
"See! We were right about her being the reason those cops were here asking stuff about you," Stevie Rae said.
"Seems like it."
Stevie Rae was watching me way too closely. "You still like him, don't you?"
"It's not that simple."
"Well, actually, part of it is that simple. I mean, if you don't like him, that's pretty much it. You won't see him again. Simple," Stevie Rae said logically.
"I still like him," I admitted.
"I knew it!" She did a little bed bounce. "Man, you have like a zillion guys, Z. What are you gonna do?"
"I have not got one clue," I said miserably.
"Erik comes back from the Shakespeare competition tomorrow.
"I know. Neferet said that Loren went to support Erik and the rest of the kids from here, so that means he'll be back with them tomorrow, too. And I told Heath I'd go out with him Friday after the game."
"Are you going to tell Erik about him?"
"Do you like Heath more than Erik?"
"What about Loren?"
"Stevie Rae, I do not know." I rubbed at the headache that seemed to have firmly attached itself to me. "Can we just not talk about it for a while—at least until I get a little of this figured out."
"Okay. Let's go." She grabbed my arm.
"Where?" I blinked at her, totally confused. She'd gone from Heath to Erik to Loren and then to let's go way too fast.
"You need your Count Chocula fix, and I need my Lucky Charms. And we both need to watch CNN and the local news."
I started to shuffle to the door. Nala stretched, meowed grumpily, and then reluctantly followed me. Stevie Rae shook her head at both of us.
"Come on you two. Everything will seem better after you've had your Count Chocula."
"And brown pop," I said.
Stevie Rae screwed up her face like she just sucked a lemon. "For breakfast?"
"I have a feeling it's a brown-pop-for-breakfast kind of day."
Zoey has Erik, Loren & Heath while I'm so single.
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