Boundless Page 25

“One part rum, two parts Coke,” he says. “I promise.”

It doesn’t taste anything like the drink I had at the party with Tucker. And now, almost two years later, I realize why. Tucker never put any rum in my rum and Coke.

That little stink.

That overly protective, impossible, infuriating, and utterly sweet little stink.

In that moment I miss him so much my stomach hurts. Or that could be the rum. There’s a loud cheer from the people in the back room.

“Christian! Christian! Christian!” they’re chanting.

I push forward through the crowd until I’m standing in the doorway of the back room, arriving in time to see Christian chug a large glass of dark brown liquid. They cheer again when he’s done, and he grins and wipes his mouth on the sleeve of his white polyester suit.

The girl sitting next to him leans over to whisper something in his ear, and he laughs, nods at her.

My stomach clenches.

Christian looks up and sees me. He stands up.

“Hey, where are you going?” says the girl who’s sitting on the other side of him, pouting prettily. “Christian! Come back here! We still have to get through another round.”

“I’ve had enough,” he says, not quite slurring, but not sounding like himself, either.

I don’t have to touch his mind to know he’s drunk. But underneath the haze of alcohol I can feel that he’s upset about something. Something that’s happened since I saw him this afternoon.

Something he wants to forget.

He brushes his hair out of his eyes and crosses the room to me, walking in a mostly straight line. I back up to let him get through the door, but he puts his hand on my bare arm and pulls me into the corner. His eyes close momentarily as the current of energy passes through us; then he leans toward me until his nose is almost touching mine, his breath surprisingly sweet considering the nasty stuff I watched him drink. I want to be casual about this—it’s a party, after all, drinking happens, and yeah, there were girls in that room fawning all over him, but he’s fire hot, and he’s smart and funny and well-spoken. And he’s not my boyfriend, I remind myself. We’ve never actually been out on a date. We’re not together.

Still, his touch sends a flock of rabid butterflies careening around my stomach.

“I was just thinking about you,” he says, his voice rough, his pupils so big they make his eyes look black. “Dream girl.”

My face is getting hot, both from what he’s saying and what he’s feeling right now. He wants to kiss me. He wants to feel my lips again, so soft, so perfect to him—he wants to carry me out of this stupid noisy house to somewhere where he can kiss me.

Whoa. I can’t breathe properly. He leans in. “Christian, stop,” I whisper the moment before his mouth touches mine.

He pulls away, breathing heavily. I try to retreat a little, put some space between us, but I run into the wall. He takes a step forward, closing the distance, and I put my hand on the center of his chest to keep him back, for which I get another electric zap, like fireworks going off against a dark sky.

“Let’s go outside,” I suggest breathlessly.

“Lead the way,” he says, and walks behind me, his hand on the small of my back as I head toward the door, burning through the fabric of my dress. We’re about halfway there when we literally bump into Thomas, who I realize I simply walked away from with no explanation the minute I heard Christian’s name.

“I was looking for you,” Thomas says. He looks at Christian and, more importantly, at Christian’s hand, which has moved down to my hip. “Who is—”

“Hey, you’re Doubting Thomas!” Christian says, suddenly jovial.

Thomas looks over at me, startled. “Is that what you call me? Doubting Thomas?”

“It’s affectionate, really,” Christian says, and as Thomas looks, well, doubtful, and hurt, Christian claps him on the shoulder and moves us past him. “You have a nice night.”

Something tells me that Thomas isn’t going to ask me out again.

I’m relieved for the cool air that greets us when we make it outside. There’s a bench on the porch, and I steer Christian over to it. He sits, then abruptly puts his face in his hands. Groans.

“I’m drunk,” he says, his voice muffled. “I’m sorry.”

“What happened to you?” I sit down next to him, reach to put my hand on his shoulder, but he sits up.

“Don’t touch me, okay? I don’t think I can handle it like this.”

I fold my hands in my lap. “What’s wrong?” I ask.

He sighs, runs his palms over his hair. “You know how you said Angela could make herself have the vision by walking in that thing at the church? Well, I did it. I went there.”

“I went there, too,” I gasp. “We must have just missed each other.”

“Did you have the vision?”

“Yes. I mean no, not at the church. But later, I had it.” I swallow. “I saw you with the sword.”

“Fighting?” he asks.

“Fighting two people.”

He nods grimly. “I think we’re having the same vision. Did you see who I was fighting?”

“It was too dark. I couldn’t tell.”

We take a minute to process this, which is hard with the Bee Gees blaring out at us, “Somebody help me, somebody help me, yeah.”

“That’s not all,” Christian says. “I saw you.”

Hopefully he didn’t see the part where I was cowering against the wall, trying and failing to summon the courage to get up.

He shakes his head. “No, you were …” His voice is raspy, like his throat is dry, and, absurdly, he wishes that he could get another drink.

Dread boils over me. “I was what?”

“You were hurt.”

He puts his hand on my wrist and shows me what he saw. My own face, tearstains on my cheeks, my hair loose and tangled around my shoulders. My lips pale. My eyes glazing over. The front of my shirt covered in blood.

“Oh” is all I can think to say.

He thinks I was dying.

He licks his lips. “I don’t know what to do. I only know that when I’m there, in that room, wherever it is, I have one overwhelming thought. I have to keep you safe.” Something works in his throat. “I would lay down my life to protect you, Clara,” he says. “That’s what I feel. I’d die to protect you.”

We don’t talk as I drive him home. I walk him up the stairs and into his room, past Charlie, who’s sprawled on the futon playing his Xbox. I guide Christian over to his bed.

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