The Better to Bite(8)

By: Cynthia Eden

I shrugged. “I didn’t mind the move.”

Troy came out then, but he wasn’t alone. Another guy strolled at his side, one with a rich, golden tan. Mr. Tan glanced my way. His hair was wavy, light blond, and he smiled, flashing dimples.

“OhmyGod.” Jenny’s voice was a high-pitched whisper. How weird was that? I hadn’t even known whispers could get that high note. “Brent Peters just smiled at you.”

She said that the way a preacher might say, “The Lord is with us today.” All excited.

I took another sip of soda. “Uh, okay.”

Her hands slapped on the table, and she leaned toward me. “Don’t you know who he is?”

I shook my head.

“He’s quarterback! Hottest guy ever!”

Well, he was pretty cute and all but—

“And he smiled at you!” She bit into another fry. How come her meal actually looked like a meal and mine looked like slop? “Valerie is going to freak if she catches him flirting with you.”

I glanced back toward Brent’s way. The chick I’d seen in the hallway that morning, the one with the blond hair and the not-smile, not-glare had just come up and wrapped her arms around Brent. “I’m guessing that’s Valerie?”

“Um…Valerie Tyler’s a senior, but he’s so totally date worthy that she went lower classman.”

My head started to ache. I wasn’t so much into the whole gossip and dating scene. But a girl had to make friends when the sheriff ordered her to do it.

I put down my drink. “Let me take a stab in the dark here. I’m betting Valerie’s a cheerleader, right?” I knew this game. Cheerleaders always dated the quarterbacks. I figured that was some kind of rule.

Jenny nodded eagerly. “I think she’s captain.”

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. The smile was still on my face when I glanced up and saw Rafe. His eyes locked with mine, and my heart did a fast gallop in my chest.

Down girl.

He had his buddies around him again. What was with the guys in this school? Did they all move in packs or what? Whistling, bleached blondie was on his left and another boy with jet-black hair and what looked like nearly black eyes stood on his right.

I expected Rafe to turn away again. Because I expected it, I looked away first and said something I can’t even remember to Jenny. But whatever I said, it made her laugh and her laugh—kind of like a jingle of sound—distracted me.

That was why I didn’t realize Rafe was headed toward me. No, I didn’t make that big realization until he actually reached my table and asked, “Climb any trees lately, Chicago?”

And, wow, was it my imagination or did everyone seem to stop talking as they glanced at my table?

I finished chewing because, of course, he’d caught me mid-chew. Then I looked up at him. The sun was behind him, and his shadow fell over me. Since I blurt, I fired back, “Catch any girls lately?”

He smiled. A half-smile that lifted that perfect mouth of his.

I turned a bit more toward him. “So you do remember me,” I said, not about to let him off the hook. “I’d started to wonder.”

He shrugged. Blondie snickered. I didn’t look away from Rafe. The view was too good.

But then, the guy on his right said, “I heard the new sheriff found a body last night.”

I was sure everyone was listening then. Jenny made a weird strangling sound. I looked over to make sure she wasn’t choking. She was flushed dark red, but she seemed to be breathing okay. Good for her.

“Is it true?” He pressed.

“Jake…” Rafe began, and I heard the edge of warning in his voice.

I turned my attention to Jake and nodded. My dad had scheduled a press conference for 8 a.m., so I knew it was okay to talk about the body now. Sometimes, I had to keep secrets for dad. This wasn’t one of those times. “He found Sheriff Brantley.” What was left of him.

“Animals got him?” Jake pressed, and his eyes narrowed on me.

Behind me, I was sure I heard someone mutter, “That’s gross. We’re eating!”

I cleared my throat and tried not to think about Brantley’s body. “I don’t know for certain. My dad’s still investigating.”

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