Fall from India Place Page 10

Now I’d missed the bus because I’d come across the team working in an empty music classroom and had stopped to listen to them. I’d been filled with the sudden urge to just stride in, introduce myself, and start airing my opinions. I had loads of opinions inside of me. I also had this fear that one day they’d just explode out of me, wreaking havoc and leaving disaster in their wake.

There were so many things I was missing out on because of how damn quiet I was. And in truth, I wasn’t really that quiet anymore. I said what I thought at home, consequences be damned.

I frowned back in the direction of the school as I opened the exit door. It was definitely time for a change. I could feel it coming.

With a sigh of regret, I hurried forward, my eyes searching out Marco and finding him waiting alone by the gate for me.

For whatever reason, over the past year Marco had waited at the gate most days, watching me get on the bus. There had been several times I’d been late and he’d walked me home. Most of those times my lateness was not my fault, but I do admit to being deliberately late a few times in the last couple of months just so I could be around him.

I was addicted to the feeling inside me when we were together, or even when I was thinking about him – and I thought about him a lot. He didn’t make me feel like a shy, awkward nerd. And to my delighted surprise, I discovered that I could make Marco – this boy who was definitely prone to brooding – laugh. He laughed at my jokes and teasing and he constantly remarked on how smart I was, as if it was something to respect rather than to mock. When I looked at him, my belly would flip, my pulse would race, and I’d get this delicious tingling all over my body.

I wanted him to kiss me so badly.

I couldn’t tell if he felt the same way. I was fifteen now and five foot nine. Boys at school had started paying me more attention since I’d grown boobs and my hips had filled out. But I didn’t know if Marco had noticed those things.

He’d surprised me over the last year. He wasn’t the most talkative person on the planet, but he was patient with my questions even if he didn’t answer a lot of them. He let me chat about the books I was reading and the music I was listening to and actually seemed interested when I did.

He’d also been there for me when I told him about the time my family went through one of its most difficult situations. When I was thirteen my big sister, Ellie, was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and although it turned out to be benign, the whole thing scared the crap out of us all. As had the brain surgery she’d had to have. I’d never really talked about it with anyone, or the effect it had on me, but Marco listened to me and somehow managed to give me comfort in his silence.

As well as discovering that he was a great confidant, I’d also discovered that he wasn’t as terrible at school as he’d made out. Although some of his friends found themselves in trouble at school, Marco was quiet and kept out of the drama. His height and broad build had made other students wary of him. His good looks and the fact that he was American had made him popular. And his brooding intensity had given him a reputation for being utterly cool, and so all these things combined had garnered him respect. I knew he wasn’t a typical bad boy, no matter what rumors I heard. He studied and he worked with a tutor. He’d passed his exams last year, excelling in design and tech, maths, and P.E. He had an English tutor and his grades were passable.

“Why were you late this time?” he asked, falling into step beside me.

I shrugged, not really wanting to talk about the fact that I was failing at life.

“Should I be worried?”

The fact that he might care enough to be concerned for me made me feel all squishy and warm inside. I gave him a soft smile. “No.”

His eyebrows rose. “You’re really not going to tell me?”

I chuckled, kicking a stone out of my way. “You don’t tell me stuff.”

Marco seemed to process this. “Well, what do you want to know?”

Deciding that today was a good day to try to be brave, I asked, “Why don’t you talk about your family?”

He gave me a look as if to say, “I should have known you’d go there.” “I don’t really get along with them,” he admitted.

“All of them?” Since I came from a close family, the idea that Marco was estranged from his didn’t sit well with me. I knew how happy my family made me. I wanted Marco to be equally happy.

“Nonna, maybe – my grandma,” he replied. “Not Nonno – my grandfather. And not my uncle Gio. His wife is nice. Him, not so much.”

I didn’t like the sound of that at all and I wanted to know more, but this was more information than I’d gotten out of him in the past, so I decided not to push my luck. “I’m late because I was listening in on the debate team. My politics teacher asked me to join at the beginning of the year. I said no and now I wish I hadn’t. I need to grow some balls, Marco.” I sighed.

“You’ve already got them. You just to need use them. This supposed shyness of yours is all in your head.”

“And how did you get so smart?”

Marco gave a short bark of laughter and drew to a halt. I stopped with him, my eyes widening slightly as he stared at me intently. “You’re the first person to ever say that to me.” He shook his head. “I’m not smart, Hannah.”

Ignoring the shiver that chased down my spine as it did anytime he said my name, I gave him a disapproving look and skirted around him to sit down on the steps of the Georgian apartment building we were outside of. I looked up at him, my expression completely serious. “You don’t have to be book smart to be clever, Marco.”

Marco stared down at me for a few seconds and then sighed as he lowered his tall body onto the step next to me. His arm brushed mine and heat rushed up it, exploding through me. My cheeks flushed furiously, but Marco didn’t notice. He gazed out into the street, seeming lost in thought. Finally he asked quietly, “And you think I’m clever?”

“Yes,” I answered without hesitating.

I did think he was clever. And talented. And so much more than he even realized.

His lips twitched. “I don’t think I’ve said anything clever to you.”

“You have a dry, clever sense of humor. You get my jokes,” I cracked, nudging him with my arm. While he smiled at me in return, I continued. “You always think before you speak. Some of the most intelligent people in the world haven’t learned how to do that.”

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