I’m unable to speak, so I nod. I drop the piece of charcoal and let the sketch pad slip from my fingers. Andrew catches it before it hits the floor and places it beside him. He takes my hand, fingers smeared black from the charcoal.
“You remember the time you hit me in the face with one of those?” he asks, pointing to the charcoal. A small laugh chokes out of me, and I shake my head no. “Ah, well, maybe it’s because you did it so many times that you’ve forgotten this one particular instance.” I give him a look, letting him know how ridiculous he sounds. “What? You don’t remember those times either? Should I show you the scars?”
“What scars? Stop lying, freak,” I said, breathing out and letting my melancholy mood go with it.
“Ah, there’s the Gracie I know and love,” he says, smiling that insane smile of his that the Six would giggle and act like idiots over. I move my head back to give him a good look. Well…maybe there is something to what they said about him.
“I love you, too, Andrew. And thanks for the clothes and these.” He pulls out a bandanna and starts to wipe at my fingers. “Don’t bother,” I say, trying to pull my hand back. He resists.
“You should be in bed. It’s late and you need to rest for tomorrow. It’s going to be a long day.”
I turn slightly to glance at a sleeping Marcus. I move even closer to Andrew, startling him a little to find me almost cheek to cheek. I whisper, “So, is it serious?”
“Is what serious?” he whispers back. I lean away to glance at Marcus again. Andrew follows my lead, then turns back exasperated. “Oh, that. Yeah, pretty serious.”
“Damn. So, there’s nothing I can do to break him away from…what’s her name?”
“From this Seelah, chick?”
“Come on, Andrew, help me.”
“Help you? What do you mean help you?”
“Help me get Marcus before we reach home. I’m guessing that’s where she is, right?”
Andrew shakes his head. “No.”
“No, what? No you won’t help me or no she’s not back home?”
“No, I won’t help you,” he says, staring at the fire.
“Help me damn it,” I persist. “And if you do, I’ll help you get her.”
He raises a brow. “You’re insane. Besides, I’m not interested in her.”
I lean away, surprised. “But I thought you guys were fighting over her?”
“Marcus was fighting, I was defending. Like you, he’s lost his mind.”
“See,” I say excitedly. “We belong together, we’re both nuts.”
“For god’s sake, Gracie, you don’t belong with Marcus as much as I do with Seelah.”
I pull away, staring at him. Not belong with Marcus? I have never known Andrew to be so hurtful before, and I don’t know why. I sit quietly, staring into the fire feeling suddenly alone. He nudges me, I ignore him. He nudges me again. “Stop it,” I snap. “If you’re not going to help then leave me alone.”
He nudges me again.
I turn to him. “Will you stop it?”
“Okay,” he says.
“Okay, what?” I ask, a little suspicious over his change of attitude.
“I’ll help you, on one condition.”
“I want a kiss.”
“A kiss? Fine.” I lean over and place a kiss on his cheek.
He shakes his head. “No, not that kind of kiss. I want a passionate kiss.”
I stare at him dumbfounded. “What?”
“That’s my stipulation for helping you. A passionate kiss and lasting…oh, I don’t know, let’s say twelve seconds.” He turns to the fire, leans back on his hands while stretching out his legs, crossing at the ankles. “You don’t have to give it to me now, but until you do, I’m not helping you in any way with Marcus.”
“What?” It sounds as if I’m speaking in slow motion. I shake myself. “Do you know how that sounds, Andrew? That’s…that’s blackmail, you know that, right?”
“Sounds like a contract,” he replies with a shrug.
“I’m not going to kiss you like that,” I whisper harshly. “That’s kind of incestuous, don’t you think? You’re like my brother...disgusting.”
He turns to me. “Well, then it’s a good thing I’m not. Really, Grace, you think kissing would be disgusting? How would you know?” He pauses, then adds, “But I get it.”
I can’t believe I’m having this conversation with him. “And what’s that suppose to mean?”
“Come on, who are you kidding? Let me ask you this,” he says, lowering to his elbow and leaning in. “I know you’ve never kissed anyone when I was at the Ranch, have you kissed anyone while I was gone? Please. You had it so hard for Marcus you always promised that you’d save yourself for him. I was there, remember? I’m the one who you kept telling that promise to.”
I cringe when I slapped him. Not because I may have hurt him, but that the sound would wake Marcus. I look around for
Haro but the old
man is nowhere in sight.
“Ouch! What the hell?” Andrew rubs at his shoulder, giving me a sour look.
“You haven’t changed one bit, Andrew. Are you going to help me with Marcus or not?”
“You heard my condition, Gracie. If you want my help, then you’ll have to produce a passionate kiss. And since you have no idea what that is, I’ll let you know when the contract is fulfilled.”
I lean in as soon as I overcome the shock. “Really? And how is it that you’re such an expert on kissing?”
“The Six never complained.”
“What?” I am so stunned that I’m tempted to hit him again, this time on his fat head. “No.”
He leans back, now on both elbows, watching the flames. “Okay, suit yourself. Oh, by the way, Seelah is absolutely beautiful.”
“You’re such an ass.”
He shifts his gaze from the fire to me, a smug look in his eyes. “Yup, just like old times.”
Until next time, good reading to all!