Breathless Page 3

Quinn straightened and found him right in front of her. She sucked in her stomach and shook her ponytail back over her shoulder.

Nick and his twin brother were two of the hottest guys in school, and at first she’d been sure Nick was only interested because she had a bit of a reputation for being easy—not that she did anything to erase that viewpoint. She liked boys, and she knew how to get their attention, heavy thighs and all.

But Nick had surprised her by being a gentleman. They’d kissed, a few times—and he had one hell of a mouth—but they hadn’t done much more than that. And even at his house, in his room, where there wasn’t anyone to stop him from doing anything, Nick proved to be a pretty good sounding board for her problems instead of trying to shut her up and get in her pants.

Then again, Nick’s twin brother made no secrets of how he felt about her. She hated Gabriel Merrick almost as much as she hated Jake. Maybe Nick wasn’t doing anything with her because he figured he could do better.

Even Gabriel had mocked her choice to be a cheerleader.

He’d said she belonged on the bottom of the pyramid with the sturdy girls.

“Hey. Hey.” Nick’s hands closed over hers, and she realized she was kneeling, fighting with the zipper on her bag, and she’d already started a tear in the nylon stitching.

His blue eyes were close, intent on her face. She had to be flushed; it felt like it was a thousand degrees in here.

“What happened?” he said carefully.

She squished her eyes shut and thought about her day. Jake. Her mom. Cheerleading.

She opened her eyes and caught her body in the edge of the mirror, the way the shorts were cutting into her stomach, creating a little roll there.


She wanted to punch the glass, to watch cracks form a disjointed spiderweb across her reflection. Her hand formed a fist.

But she didn’t swing it. Something worse happened.

She started crying.


Nick knew what was expected when girls started crying: a hug, a minute or two of listening, a minute or two to offer some soothing words, and a wry smile followed by the suggestion that they find some chocolate. Or ice cream. Or both.

Much like the accounting, he could do it in his sleep.

But Quinn didn’t even let him get to the hug. She jerked her hands away from him and swiped the dampness from her eyes, then stood. “God. Next time I start to do that, smack me or something.”

“Sure. Sounds perfectly socially acceptable.” He paused. “You okay?”

She pulled her ponytail free and started to retie it. “I hate when they make me do that.”



“I was shooting for a more specific list of people.”

She turned away from him. “I don’t think the cheerleading thing is going to work out.”

“Did something happen?”

“Your brother was right.”

Sometimes she jumped between topics until Nick couldn’t keep track of what she was talking about. It probably made most people nuts, but it was one of the things he liked best about her—nothing was expected. “Which brother?”

She gave him a look. “Gabriel. I am too fat to be a cheerleader.”

Sometimes his twin could be a real ass. “Quinn—you’re not fat.”

“You’re right. I’m sure they were calling me Crisco because I make great cookies.”

Damn. He let out a breath. “But you’re not—”

“I really don’t want to talk about this.”

“You want to talk about what happened with your mom?”

“Hell, no.” She jammed the iPod into the side pocket of her bag.

When she straightened, he caught her waist and tossed her into the air. She gasped, but he caught her and held her up, his hands braced on her rib cage. “I couldn’t do this with a fat girl.”

And okay, he probably could. Landscaping wasn’t light work, and he was used to slinging bags of pea gravel and limestone. Quinn was no feather, but his biceps weren’t screaming at him, either.

Quinn glared down at him. “Put me down before you lose your hands in the rolls.”

“Oh, stop it. You’re not fat. You’re solid.” She was, too. Her calves sported clear definition, and he could feel the strength in her abdominal muscles.

“That’s what every girl wants to hear, Nick. That she’s solid.” She wiggled. “Put me down.”

He lifted her higher, until his arms were straight. “I will when you quit with the pity party.”

“Or when I knee you in the face.”

A knock sounded at the door frame. “You guys mind if I work in here?”

Nick glanced over. A young man stood there, in knee-length cutoff sweatpants and a red T-shirt. He looked vaguely familiar, like maybe Nick had seen him around school or something. Brown eyes, dark, unkempt hair that was just this side of too long on top, caramel skin. An easy smile with a shadow of unease behind it. Then again, maybe that was just the scar on his upper lip, the drawn skin making the smile a little crooked and dark at the same time.

“Come on in,” said Quinn. “We were just goofing off.”

Oh. Right. Quinn.

Nick set her down.

Quinn obviously knew the guy, because she gave him a one-armed hug. “I haven’t seen you around here lately.”

He shrugged. “Work, school, dance. The holy trinity. You know.” Then his eyes flicked to Nick. “New partner?”

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies