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  • Home > Samantha Young > Fire Spirits > Smokeless Fire (Page 6)     
  • Smokeless Fire(Fire Spirits #1)(6) by Samantha Young
  • Sure that she was presentable, Ari grabbed her school bag and hurried out of the house, foregoing breakfast, and texting Rachel to let her know she didn’t need a ride to school that morning. Ari marched down the street, her long legs eating up the sidewalk, the lactic acid in her muscles burning as she forced them into sudden and intense exercise.

    She made it to the Creagh’s in record time and just in time to bump into Charlie as he slammed out of the front door. He stopped abruptly, pushing his messy hair out of his eyes, blinking at her owlishly. He took the steps two at a time and half-jogged over to her where she waited on the sidewalk. A waft of lemon danced up Ari’s nose and she noted he was wearing a freshly-washed South Park t-shirt over a long-sleeved shirt. He’d done his laundry. Surely that was a good sign. Right?

    “What are you doing here?” he grumbled, shouldering past her toward the direction of school.

    Ari’s heart was pounding as she took in his tired but un-dilated eyes. She brushed her hand across his arm to slow him down. “I thought we could walk to school together like old times.”

    Charlie frowned, throwing her a suspicious look out of the corner of his eye. “What’s going on?”

    Ari pretended to look affronted. “Does something need to be going on for me to want to hang out with you? We haven’t hung out in forever.”

    “We don’t exactly run with the same crowds these days, Johnson.”

    Here goes . Ari took a deep breath. “We could change that.”

    “What’s that supposed to mean?”

    The desire to start screaming and shouting at him that he was acting like a complete and utter douchebag bubbled under Ari’s skin as it did sometimes when she forgot what he was going through, but she shook it off, pulling on every ounce of patience she had. “It means… you could stop hanging out with those bums and start getting your life back on track.”

    “I’m perfectly happy with my bums.”

    The distance Charlie put between them hurt, a painful hurt that was as fresh today as it was the first day he’d spoken to her in that infuriating monotone. “You used to be perfectly happy with me.”

    “Ari, don’t.”

    “Don’t tell me what to do,” she muttered in irritation, frustrated that their meeting was already off to a dismal start.

    Charlie grinned at her then, and her heart lit up at the sight of it. “Don’t tell me what to do,” he countered teasingly.

    See, why can’t he be that Charlie all the time? I love that Charlie. Giving him a soft smile, a smile meant to coax, Ari nudged him with her elbow. “How about we hang out this summer?”

    “Yeah, sure.”

    Back to Mr. Monotone again. Great. “I thought maybe we could take a road trip or something.”

    “Yeah, whatever you want.”

    “Or we could do something you want to do.”

    He laughed bitterly, slamming his hands into his jean pockets and hunching over a little as they continued walking. “I wouldn’t let you do what I want to do.”

    OK, maybe it was too early for patience. “What… get high? Get wasted. Sleep around with a bunch of STD-infected skanks.”

    “Ari,” he moaned. “It’s too early for this shit.”

    “Yeah well it’s never too early to catch a disease,” she snapped, attempting to conceal her jealousy and hurt that he slept with anything with br**sts and yet treated her like an asexual house plant. “Have you even been to a clinic?”

    “Two weeks ago.” He tilted his chin arrogantly, narrowing his eyes to a smolder that should have annoyed her rather than cause the funny flutter in her lower abdomen. “Just because I’m eye-candy doesn’t mean I’m stupid.”

    “Oh, ha-ha, funny.”

    “I’ll have you know lots of girls find me attractive.”

    “Yeah and you don’t turn down any of them do you?”

    “That sounds suspiciously like you’re calling me a manwhore.”

    “I am calling you a manwhore.”

    “Ouch. I’m hurt.”

    “Yeah I can really see you’re cut up about it.”

    Charlie grinned, his dark eyes glittering. “I miss you, Johnson.”

    Ari’s heart stopped, a painful halt in beat that made her almost trip. She smiled sadly. “I miss you too.”

    He sighed, coming to a stop, eyeing her carefully. “A road trip huh?”

    Her smile widened to a grin that made Charlie’s eyes lighten even more. “Yup.”

    “OK, if it makes you smile like that I’m in. I haven’t seen that smile in a long time.”

    Surprised, Ari attempted a casual shrug as she replied, “I wouldn’t have thought you’d noticed.”

    “What? How sad you’ve been lately? I’m stoned, Ari, not blind.”

    “Didn’t think there was any difference.”

    “Oh, ha-ha, funny,” he threw her earlier words back at her. “So you going to tell me what’s been bothering you or can I guess?”

    A rush of overwhelming relief coursed over her at his question. This was Charlie. This was really, really Charlie. “Well I—”

    “Hey, C-man, wait up!” a deep voice cut Ari short and they turned to see Mel Rickman trolling towards them in his beat up 1999 Subaru Impreza. He stopped beside them, leaning out of the driver’s side window. “What’s up?”

    Charlie nodded tightly at him. “Not much.”

    Mel flicked a look at Ari, his eyes travelling up the length of her bare legs, resting on her br**sts for a little too long, and then scanning her face with a twisted smile and burning eyes. “What’s up, Princess?”

    Charlie stepped in front of her, jerking his head towards the direction of school. “Ari, why don’t you head in? We’ll catch up at your party.”

    Furious at Mel for ruining their moment, for bringing reality crashing down on the remnants of what had once been a wonderful relationship, Ari clenched her jaw. “Why don’t you come with me?”

    His eyes narrowed. “Because I don’t want to. I’ll see you later.”

    “When?” she snapped, all pretense gone.

    He sighed, rubbing a warm hand up and down her now chilly arm. “Your party. OK?”

    Her eyes flicked to Mel, her anger over everything that had happened to Charlie in the last two years directed at him. He just kept smiling stupidly. She exhaled heavily and stepped back from Charlie’s touch. “Whatever.” She shook her head, her disappointment fighting her attempts to smooth things over between them and winning. Without looking back, Ari took off, her feet eating pavement in shovels.

    “Ari!”

    She stopped, her heart pulling at how sad he sounded. Smoothing her features to a placid expression, she spun around. Charlie’s soulful eyes touched her even from so far away. He raised a hand in a forlorn wave and all of her angry resolve melted away. With a small, equally sad smile, Ari waved back and then turned, quickly marching towards the school, pretending her best friend wasn’t just about to buy more pot.

    Determined not to be a buzz kill again today, Ari tried to push Charlie out of her thoughts for once, making a mental list of everything she and Rache needed to get for the party on Friday. She was only at dip when a familiar voice brushed her ears, causing her to lose her train of thought. “Hey, Ari.”

    Yanked from her daze, Ari stopped in the middle of the school hallway and turned to find Nick Melua standing pretty close. She tried to take a step back without being too obvious. “Hey, Nick.” She gave him a friendly smile, shuffling her books around in her arms in an attempt to not look uncomfortable.

    “I’m really looking forward to your party on Friday.” His blue eyes washed over her face with a familiar longing that made her want to stuff herself inside her locker and hide.

    Nick was a friend of A.J.’s, they were both jocks, although Nick was on the basketball team not the wrestling team, both nice guys, kind of All-American types. After confiding to A.J. that he’d always had a thing for Ari, A.J. had begun a campaign to get the two of them together at the beginning of senior year. After weeks of pestering, and in attempt to get over Charlie, Ari had given in and gone on a couple of dates with Nick. Nick was good-looking, tall, tan, dark hair, blue eyes; he was smart, considerate, and nice. But he didn’t make her laugh and he could be kind of immature sometimes. She just… didn’t feel that spark with him. According to A.J., Nick had been devastated when she’d ended their brief relationship (if you could even call it that). But he put on a good front, always friendly to her, and she was friendly back. But that little spark of longing hope in his eyes made her decidedly uncomfortable.

    “I’m glad. It should be great fun.”

    He grinned again, shifting his feet, running a hand through his hair. He looked like a guy getting ready to ask a girl out.

    Ari’s heart plummeted into her stomach.

    “Uh… I got to get to class,” she mumbled and took off, leaving him in the exhaust fumes of her beat up social awkwardness.

    They were doing jigsaw puzzles in Art History (all Art History related of course) and Ari was beginning to feel hot and claustrophobic as the classroom filled with the chatter of seniors and their talk of the future.

    “I can’t wait to get to Brown,” Laurie Hollister chirped as Ari squinted at a puzzle piece she’d just inserted. It didn’t look right. She took it out, hunting for another piece of crackled flesh. Their puzzle was the Mona Lisa. “Of course I’ll need to get a new wardrobe and meet my new roommate but at least I know Staci and A.J. are on the same island as me. It’s a small comfort right?”

    Ari nodded mutely, her chest squeezing tight. God, were there no windows open in this place?

    “I bet the babes are smokin’ at USC,” Jim Deebs said behind her to his puzzle partner. “I heard they wear bikini tops to class.”

    Ari couldn’t even roll her eyes, she was too busy gulping in air.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire