(Monday, October 23)
Liz hurried to her locker. She had just arrived at school and there were only a few minutes before the bell rang for her first class. She was late because she’d hardly gotten any sleep. Her mind had been too active.
She’d replayed Max’s kiss over and over in her head, savoring the sweetness, and wanting more. It felt like her whole body had come alive again when she was in his arms. She felt like she had when they were looking for the orb, hot and shivery, like she couldn’t get close enough to him and only his touch would give her relief.
When Max was in her room last night, he said he’d never give her up, and she was so tempted just to give in to him.
The small amount of sleep she had gotten was full of dreams. Erotic dreams. Max’s hands and mouth all over her, touching, caressing, arousing. Slowly they peeled off each others’ clothes, exploring, their naked skin pressed together.
She’d had similar dreams before, but last night they had been so vivid, almost like it had really happened. And the strange thing was that Max kept turning into Zan.
It didn’t mean anything, she told herself. Zan looked like Max, she’d been spending a lot of time with him recently, and he’d surprised her with the Shakespeare quotation. She wasn’t attracted to him or anything.
The thing she was worried about was Max’s attitude toward Tess.
He said he’d never be with her and Liz had no idea what to do about it. Would it be enough for her to stay away from Max?
“Hey, Liz,” a deep voice rumbled behind her.
She turned, not even surprised. “Max.”
Against her will her eyes bounced from his eyes to his lips and traveled quickly over his muscular arms. A shiver of desire ripped through her as her dream came back to her, and she forced her gaze to meet his.
“How are you?” he asked.
“Fine,” she said, turning away to shut her locker, so she could regain control of herself. “How are you?”
“Good,” he said absently. “Liz, I wanted you to know that I didn’t mean to upset you last night, but I meant what I said. I love you, and I want to be with you.”
She shook her head. “Max, you know why we can’t be together.”
Clutching her books to her chest, she didn’t even look at him as she started down the hall.
Max followed her. “I know you’re scared, but all we have to do is talk to Tess and make sure she’s okay with it.”
Liz glanced at him. “Max, she’s not going to be okay with it.”
“We won’t know until we ask her,” he said. “And if she’s okay with it, you’re out of excuses.”
Liz stopped, turning to Max, and pulling him aside. “Max,” she said, trying not to sound panicked, “you can’t ask her. You promised. She’s still expecting you to get together, and you will basically be telling her that she has no chance with you.”
Max shook his head. “I’ve told her that many times already, and she doesn’t have any reason to think it’s changed.”
“Yes, she does,” Liz said. “I told her I don’t want to be with you, and I tried to get you together, remember?”
“No,” Max said, “just because I’m not with you, doesn’t mean I want her.”
“That’s exactly what Tess thinks,” Liz told him. “She sees me as the only obstacle between you. She thinks you would be together if it weren’t for me.”
Max reached out, touching her arm. “Liz, you can’t talk me into being with Tess. I only want you. You are all I’ve ever wanted, and I’m going to find a way for us to be together.”
She smiled sadly. “We keep going around in circles and it never gets us anywhere.”
“Okay,” he agreed, “we’ll let the subject drop, for now.”
He released her and they resumed walking down the hall.
“By the way,” Max said, “I forgot to ask last night. When you were with Zan did he tell you what your special power is?”
Liz smiled. “I was so preoccupied, I completely forgot to ask him. But Zan wants me to come after school with you guys to training, so maybe I can ask him then.”
“Oh,” Max said, surprised but pleased. “Do you want to ride with us?”
“Sure,” Liz agreed. “Thanks.”
Liz stopped at the door to her class. “Where do you want to meet?”
“I’ll come by your locker after school,” he said with a smile.
“Okay,” she agreed, “I’ll see you in Physics.”
“Yeah,” Max said.
She went inside and took her seat with a sigh. She was still worried, but she felt so much lighter since her talk with Max last night. A huge burden had been lifted when she admitted the truth to him.
Max was asking questions and trying to figure out how they could be together, but he’d promised he wouldn’t talk to Tess. And now at least she knew he wasn’t hurting from her lies.
Max continued down the hall, smiling. He hadn’t felt so good in months.
Liz was finally telling him the truth, and she still loved him!
He was so glad he had confronted her and put an end to months of speculation. He’d been right all along, Liz couldn’t betray him. She’d been pushing him away because she felt it was the right thing to do. But now he knew the truth.
At first he’d been worried about his impulse to kiss her, but Liz responded to him, kissed him back. It had been so sweet, he’d never wanted it to end.
Liz was still upset, and he could understand her concerns, but he wasn’t going to let the possibility of what might happen keep them apart. He was going to find a way to keep Tess with them, and be with Liz.
Kyle sat at a table in the quad, humming softly to himself as he started blankly at the book laid out before him. He was supposed to be doing his homework, but all he could think of was Ava.
Their short encounter in the store played over and over in his mind as he tried to remember every detail about her.
Her hair was straight and cut short, she’d died it with pink and black stripes, and her eyebrow and pouty bottom lip were pierced. She’d worn a short skirt, showing off her fabulous legs and she’d tied a leather jacked around her tiny waist. The black v-neck shirt showed her large breasts to perfection and he’d even caught the flash of a tattoo around her navel as her shirt rode up.
She was beautiful and spunky like Tess, but she had something else too. She was exotic but somehow seemed more down-to-earth than Tess. And while Tess liked to tease him with her sexuality, Kyle felt Ava was more approachable.
At one time he’d had feelings for Tess and he really thought they had a chance. But she’d been pulling away from him since the Skins had come to town, and he knew she still wanted Max. They were still friends but it would never be more than that. It had hurt a little, but he’d gotten over it quickly. His feelings obviously hadn’t been strong.
But with Ava it was completely different.
The instant their eyes had met he’d been hooked. Feelings surged through him that he didn’t even know he had, and he couldn’t stop thinking about her.
He wanted to ask her out and get to know her better, but she was probably with Zan. Or was she? He didn’t know Zan, had never met him, but he couldn’t help wondering if Zan like Max had rejected his former wife.
Kyle was determined to find out. And if Zan wasn’t with Ava, Kyle was going take advantage of the situation.
Tess arrived early for the training session and was just emerging from her car when the door to the warehouse was thrown open and Zan emerged. His gaze raked over her car and Tess saw disappointment fill his eyes.
He greeted her with a brief smile and then looked past her, obviously hoping to see someone else.
Tess felt the familiar slash of pain and disappointment in her heart that she always got when she was around Max. Zan looked at her the same way Max did, barely acknowledging her, dismissing her as if she didn’t have a place in his life.
She sighed, resigned. Zan must be looking for Max, she thought, or maybe Michael. Zan and Michael had discussed the X-games for a good portion of the last training session. Maybe he wanted to continue the conversation.
It must be lonely for Zan and Ava, Tess thought. They had no friends, or family, and they were by themselves most of the time. Zan probably craved male companionship.
Ava came out then, greeting Tess, and a moment later the loud rumble of a motorcycle announced Michael’s arrival.
Tess watched as Zan clasped Michael’s hand like an old friend, but still his eyes went to the road looking for someone. Max, Tess thought. Zan was watching for Max. It seemed a little strange to her. She always felt a bit weird around her double, but maybe Zan had something to talk to Max about.
With a shrug she went inside with Ava, while Michael and Zan stayed in the parking lot talking about his motorcycle.
Through the window she watched them and saw Zan straighten up as the Jeep finally pulled into the lot. Immediately Zan left Michael, going to over to greet the new arrivals. But Tess frowned as three people got out of the Jeep, and a surge of anger rushed through her as she recognized the unexpected addition.
“What’s she doing here?” Tess blurted out, pointing at Liz.
Ava followed the direction of her finger. “Oh,” she said lightly, “didn’t anyone tell you?”
Tess looked at Ava surprised as the other girl continued. “Zan figured out that Liz will get powers, because of the healing.”
“What?” Tess asked dumbfounded, looking back at the small brunette through the window. “She has powers now?”
“Not yet,” Ava said. “She doesn’t know how to make them work, that’s why she’s training with us. Zan has her coming here every day.”
Looking back at Ava, Tess was stunned. “Wait a minute. We only come three times a week, and Liz is coming every day?”
“Well,” Ava said, slowly, “I thought it was a lot too, but Zan wanted to make sure she could control herself, so she didn’t have any accidents and expose herself or us.”
The others came inside and Tess looked at them with growing anger. She couldn’t believe no one had told her about Liz’s supposed powers. Max, Michael and Isabel never told her anything, like she wasn’t even part of their group.
She thought she and Max had been getting closer after he’d found Liz in bed with Kyle, and after she’d destroyed the Skins. But in the last week Max had been pulling away from her, and here he was with Liz again.
It just wasn’t fair that everything seemed to go Liz’s way, Tess thought, still glaring at the brunette. Once again Liz was the center of attention and all because she’d been shot. Tess still couldn’t believe that Max risked his life to save her. If a human had been shot near her, she’d have no problem walking away. Well, she admitted, maybe if it were Kyle…
“Hey,” Tess blurted out suddenly. “What about Kyle?”
Everyone in the room looked at her in surprise, and she could see they didn’t know what she was talking about.
Liz gasped, putting a hand to her mouth and Tess knew she realized.
Tess continued. “Kyle was shot, and Max healed him too.”
“Oh!” Isabel exclaimed. “We didn’t even think about Kyle.”
“Wait,” Zan said, turning to Max. “You healed somebody else?”
Max nodded. “Yeah, he would have died.”
Zan smiled. “How many humans have you healed?”
Max looked embarrassed. “Only the two.”
Liz touched his arm. “And we appreciate it,” she said softly. “No matter what the consequences.”
Max held her eyes, seeing the truth in them and nodded. He wanted to say something to her, but not with everyone else around. His mouth opened, as he looked for other words.
Ava spoke up, breaking the moment. “So Kyle could have powers too,” she said. “We’ll have to train him too.”
Zan nodded. “Yeah,” he said, turning to Liz. “Why don’t you bring him tomorrow when you come?”
“Okay,” Liz agreed.
“Do you need me to pick you up again?” Zan asked her.
Liz shook her head. “No, Kyle will bring me.”
Max’s head jerked toward Zan as he felt an unexpected jolt of jealously. Liz was already so comfortable with the newcomer, and Max knew she watched everything she said and did around him.
“Great,” Michael said. “Let’s get going. I want to be home by six. Motocross is on.”
The girls rolled their eyes, but Zan smirked. “The finals?”
“No,” Michael said, shaking his head. “Quarterfinals. The finals are on Saturday.”
“ESPN?” Zan asked. “We don’t have cable yet.”
“You should come over,” Michael invited. “My rent includes cable.”
Zan nodded. “That’d be great.” He looked at Max. “You coming too?”
Michael laughed, slapping Max on the back. “He’s really not into motorcycles.”
“Aaaheem,” Ava interrupted, “getting back to the training. How do you want to do this?”
Zan smiled. “I’ve got it all figured out.” He motioned to Max and Michael and then to a pair of targets. “You two are going to start practicing your aim, Ava will work with Isabel and Tess, and I’ll work with Liz.”
The training session lasted two hours, and at the end everyone was exhausted. Even though it was only the second lesson, everyone had made a little progress, everyone except Liz. She still hadn’t been able to harness the power inside her.
A comment Zan made caused Ava to realize that he had brought Liz to their place yesterday to train with him. He hadn’t said a word about it to her, and she couldn’t help wondering why.
Carefully she’d watched Zan throughout the practice. He’d paired himself with Liz, spending as much time alone with her as he could. He’d touched her several times, and when Liz wasn’t looking at him, his gaze raked over her like he was trying to memorize everything about her.
Ava waited until everyone left, and then she confronted Zan. “You didn’t tell me you invited Liz here yesterday to train,” she said with a smile.
Zan shrugged, trying to make it seem like is wasn’t a big deal. “You had plans already, and she’s so new to having powers, I knew she wouldn’t be able to do anything yet.”
Ava nodded. Zan was trying to act casual about it, but she could see through him. She knew him too well. Meeting Liz hadn’t been a chance encounter like he’d told the others. Zan had tracked Liz down to talk to her and get to know her, and he’d discovered she had powers. So he’d taken advantage of the situation, using the training to be alone with her.
Ava studied him closely. He seemed different somehow. Lighter. Happy. And suddenly she was sure.
She spoke without thinking. “And you wanted to be alone with her,” she said, a bit sadly. Before he could answer, she continued. “You’re in love with her, aren’t you?”
Zan hadn’t said anything to Ava because he didn’t want to hurt her. “Ava,” he started.
She shook her head, smiling, even though she had a pain in her heart. For years she’d known he didn’t love her, but there was still a tiny part of her that hoped.
But what she’d told him was true too. She wanted him to find someone he could love.
The last of her love for him was shattering, and it hurt, but at the same time she almost felt free. She gave him a genuine smile. “I’m happy for you Zan, I really am. I just didn’t think it would happen so fast.”
“Neither did I,” he admitted, putting an arm around her.
“You just met her,” Ava continued. “How did you know?”
“I had a feeling about her,” Zan said, his arm around her holding her closer.
“You had a feeling about her,” Ava said softly, thinking about her encounter with Kyle. She wasn’t in love with him, but he was interesting. He was the first guy who had interested her in a long time. “What kind of feeling?” she asked.
Zan smiled. “When I first saw her, I just knew she was the one for me.”
Isabel and Tess had decided to go shopping so Max drove Liz home alone.
It had been a great day, he thought, spending so much time with her. He just wished she would allow more between them than friendship. He wanted to take her in his arms and kiss her until they both were gasping for breath.
But that would come, he kept telling himself. He had already made so much progress with her, and now he just had to convince her everything would be all right if they were together.
He didn’t like promising her that he wouldn’t talk to Tess, but he was sure he could get Liz to change her mind. She was just so scared, it worried him.
Max glanced at her where she sat next to him. His heart skipped, like it always did, but for a moment he felt a strange, nagging feeling in the back of his mind, like he was forgetting something.
Liz looked over, meeting his eyes and smiled, and in that instant he forgot about everything else. He would find a way to be with her, and it would all be worth it when they were finally together again.
Never Underestimate Destiny|
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