The Rebel's Own (Crimson Romance) (2 page)

BOOK: The Rebel's Own (Crimson Romance)
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“He doesn’t even know my name. He didn’t even get my number,” she whispered. How was he going to be able to contact her again?

“Kenny?” she heard her father’s exhausted voice calling out to her.

She let out a whine as she stomped off towards her dad’s frail calls.

• • •

“Hey!”

Kennedy jumped, as the voice whispering into her ear startled her. She turned around and came face to face with Ryan. She let her hand caress her neck, and the warmth his breath had left there made her tingle.

“Hi.” She tried not to sound too enthusiastic. The last thing she wanted was for him to think she was a dork.

“What time do you get off school today?” He leaned back on a locker, his hands tucked into his jeans. It was such a causal simple gesture, but to Kennedy everything he did was remarkable. She tried to copy the posture, but had forgotten that her locker was still open and lost her balance, stumbling back. Tear prickled her eyes as her face heated in shame. There was no way her fumbling looked natural. She looked away, not wanting to see the embarrassment in Ryan’s face.

“You’re funny!” he laughed.

She let the sound wash over her, somehow cleansing her of all the clumsiness. She stood up straight, trying to copy the posture of the cheerleader at the locker next to hers. “I try,” she said.

Kennedy caught the look the cheerleader shot them. She didn’t know what it meant. It definitely wasn’t jealousy, because no one was ever jealous of her. She felt pride swell in her chest. She was one of the girls, the ones that got the boy at the end.

“What time do you get off school?” he asked again.

“At three-thirty, why?” She tossed her braids just as the cheerleader did. Hoping she looked just as sexy. But her hair fell around her face, like a curtain.

Ryan laughed again, and this time Kennedy wasn’t afraid to laugh at herself. He leaned in closer, pushing her hair back and whispered, “You don’t need to be like anyone else. Just be you, it’s the perfect person to be,” He smiled again, but this time the laughter didn’t reach his eyes. “It’s not fun having to mold yourself to what people think you should be.”

He looked sad, even disappointed in a way. But before she could say anything, Ryan turned around and walked down the hall. She made an attempt to follow him, but he was soon surrounded by the cheerleading squad and football team. They were like a hundred-foot wall that she wouldn’t be able to scale to reach him.

• • •

“So?”

Ryan groaned when Matt and some of the other guys from the team swarmed around him in the hall. “How is the prepping of the prom sacrifice going?”

Ryan looked at his best friend, wondering how the same guy who was usually so great could get so excited about this shitty game. What they were doing wasn’t right.

The truth was, Ryan had been making mistake after mistake ever since he joined the football team. He had joined for the love of the game, for the instant family he would gain. His father had been proud of him, telling him to tow the line in order to be accepted. But according to Ryan, the price of being accepted was too steep. His conscience wouldn’t let him rest. He couldn’t wait for his school year to end, he had to get away from all the pressure.

“Hey man, don’t you think we’re getting a little too old for this game?”

Matt froze. He turned to face the group, and sporting his best salesman smile, said, “Do you mind giving us a second, guys?”

Grabbing him by the arm, Matt dragged him to a corner. “What’s this all about, Ry?”

He swallowed. “I just, I don’t know, man. This game it’s….it’s not right.” He restlessly combed his fingers through his thick hair. “Football season is over. Why do we need to keep doing this stuff?”

“Hey, we had a pact man, remember? We decided when we made varsity that if we wanted the team to accept us, we had to play the game. Both games. You wimping out on me now?

Ryan sighed. “But Matt—”

“But nothing!” He slapepd Ryan on the back. “Just hold it together, man. Prom is next week, then a week after that, we graduate.”

Reluctantly, Ryan agreed. He only had to get through prom, then he was headed to Oregon. He had kept the scholarship news to himself because he didn’t want the team to think that he regarded himself as being better than they were. He hadn’t even told Clara or Matt.

“You’re right.”

“Of course I’m right. After Western Civ, tux-hunting!” The bell rang suddenly and Matt slipped through their classroom doorway.

Suddenly, Kennedy edged by and through the door as well. Stunned, Ryan realized that he had been in the same class as her for an entire year and had never noticed. He walked in and took a seat behind her. “Hey!”

Kennedy turned around and the same shocked expression she always had whenever he talked to her was back. He bit back a smile. He remembered how surprised he’d been when Clara started paying attention to him sophomore year. Of course, he’d been shocked because Clara had ignored him for most of freshman year. He’d had to grow a foot and a half, pack on fifty pounds of muscle and score his first touchdown before she started to talk to him.

With this memory, Ryan sat back, rethinking his decision to go through with his prom sacrifice once more. But the kick to the bottom of his chair—that had to be Matt—prompted him to just do it.

“So,” he blurted, “I was wondering if you wanted to go to prom with me?”

“What?”

Ryan watched as her excited expression quickly turned wary. Some instinct or female sixth sense was warning her about him. But he could see the excited part of her slowly winning. “Clara is going to be out of town and I don’t want her cheerleading brats to volunteer. I can’t stand the vapid snakes.”

She didn’t look convinced. “But hey, if you don’t want to go, I guess I can ask someone else . . . ”

“No!”

The whole class turned to stare at them. For the first time since he started playing football, Ryan felt himself shrink away from the attention. “No, you won’t be my date, or—”

“No, don’t ask anyone else.” Kennedy twirled a braid round her finger. “But, uh, do you think you could take me on a date before then?”

“Sure, how about this Saturday?” Ryan knew that he shouldn’t have accepted. He didn’t know what Clara would have planned for the weekend. However, the innocent joy on Kennedy’s face compelled him to show her a good time before he crushed her.

• • •

Kennedy twirled in front of her bedroom mirror. She had bought herself a new dress for the date. She had begged her mother for the money, but her mother had chosen her father’s medication over her teenage daughter’s happiness. That was when Kennedy had done something totally contrary to who she was. She had taken the money anyway and bought herself a pair of shoes and a dress for her date and used the rest of it to rent a dress for prom. She would be among a handful of juniors invited to senior prom. She had to look her best; she had even swiped some of her mother’s make-up.

In her mind, Kennedy could see Ryan picking her over Clara. He would go to college and become a football star while she finished senior year. Then she would join him, and they would be the star couple. She could already see the huge mansion they would live in, their wedding, and their three children. Tonight was the beginning of forever.

Kennedy never thought that she would ever have such confidence. Her entire life, she had hidden behind her braids. She didn’t want anyone looking at her and seeing what she really was—a poor, unattractive girl totally lacking a social life.

Once she thought she was ready, she slowly crept past her parents’ bedroom where her father slept, and ran down the stairs and out of the house. She walked down the road and took a bus into town. There was no way Ryan was going to see her house, or the shady part of town she came from. Today she was determined to be the girl she wished she was.

• • •

Ryan couldn’t stop himself from staring at Kennedy for most of the night. The ugly duckling was gone. Her braids were pulled back, exposing the beautiful contours of her face. This was the first date he had ever had with a girl who was purely interested in him and not in his claim to fame. They hadn’t talked football once all night. After her initial nervousness faded, Kennedy had quickly shown herself to be a vibrant, fun-loving girl. Ryan was pleasantly surprised to realize he wouldn’t mind taking her to prom solely for the pleasure of her company.

“How come you didn’t have a date for prom?” Ryan brought the subject up, hoping that she had changed her mind or might suddenly tell him she had actually accepted someone else’s offer. But judging by the stars twinkling in her eyes, she was dead set on going with him.

“I’m not as popular or as beautiful as the other girls.”

“You’re not like the other girls. You’re radiant; your beauty comes from the inside. Everything special about those girls comes out of a bottle.”

Ryan mentally cursed himself. He shouldn’t have said that. The last thing he needed was for Kennedy to form an attachment to him. “I mean, you shouldn’t compare yourself to them. The only person you can be is yourself.” He shook his head, muttering the rest almost to himself. “Some of us would kill to be ourselves.”

Kennedy stared at him. “Thank you.”

He coughed, the awkward moment. “So, you know, I could have picked you up tonight. At least I would know where to tell the limo driver to go on prom night.”

She hesitated before answering. “I thought it would be easier to meet here.”

Ryan could tell she was lying. Kennedy wore her emotions on her sleeve. It was obvious just from spending a few hours with her. He didn’t know why she would lie. Maybe she didn’t have permission to go out with him. “What about prom night?”

“If you give me your number, I’ll tell you where.”

“I could drop you at home.”

“No!”

Her rushed and firm answer confirmed what he thought. No one knew she was out here with him. This made him feel almost predatory. Although he supposed he was in a way, and the innocent girl before him was his prey.

“Okay.” The seconds that followed were filled with silence. Ryan thought it was better to end their date then. “I have to get going. Do you want me to walk you anywhere?”

“No, I’m fine.”

• • •

On prom night, Kennedy let the tears fall where they may. She was grounded. When she had arrived home late from her date her mother had unexpectedly been home. Rebecca Bailey always worked the graveyard shift at the hospital, so Kennedy had thought that she would be able to sneak back in the house undetected. But her father had called her mother when he couldn’t locate his pain medications or Kennedy. What was worse was that they found out that Kennedy had stolen the money. Now she was grounded. And she’d had to stay home from school all week, so she hadn’t even been able to tell Ryan that she couldn’t go.

All Kennedy could do now was stare at the beautiful yellow gown that hung in her closet. Her life with Ryan had come to an abrupt halt. The thought sent her into a panic. Se had to go, she had to show Ryan that she hadn’t ditched him. Kennedy looked at her watch; it was just eight o’clock. Her father was sleeping soundly. She could go for an hour and be back before he even knew she was missing. She hurriedly got dressed and ran to school, three blocks away.

When Kennedy got there she was out of breath and disheveled. She used the reflection on the glass door to straighten up and walked into the school gym with the pride of a peacock. Her eyes scanned the room for Ryan, but before she could go to him, he spotted her and took several large strides to her.

This was where she thought he would ask her to dance. She thought that he would twirl her around the room, showing her off and seal their night with a kiss. But Ryan didn’t do that.

Instead, he took her hand and led her out of the gym to the parking lot. He seemed drunk, but Kennedy brushed that off. It was prom night after all. She didn’t argue when he silently led her to the backseat of his car, or when he pushed her dress to her waist. She didn’t say a word when he unzipped his pants and positioned himself between her legs. Never did she protest when his fingers invaded her. When he touched her, she came apart in his arms. And when his eyes filled with sorrow and lust bore into hers, she didn’t push him away. Instead she shimmied down, making sure she was comfortable, that he was comfortable. He placated her with kisses, silencing her cry of pain when he entered her. Her arms held him tightly in place as he moved over her. Her back arched, her legs scissor locked at his back. She rose and fell to his urging, begging him to go deeper and to take her harder.

When they rode out their climax, he held her in his arms. She kept up the silence when he led her to the front seat. Ryan pretended not to see Matt, recording them on his phone. He only wished that Matt hadn’t been there the whole time. He took his place behind the wheel and drove her home. She was still silent when he held the door open for her. She didn’t even ask how he knew where she lived. Ryan kissed her again, tenderly, gently and sweetly. She was so satisfied by his actions that she went into the house without saying a word to him.

• • •

Kennedy’s summer wasn’t what she had pictured. Ryan didn’t come to see her. He didn’t ask her out on dates or spend his days with her. She had not heard or seen him in three months. But his absence wasn’t the only thing that devastated her.

For the first time in years, Kennedy was excited to go back to school. She was a senior now. She expected some sort of respect from her schoolmates. She’d been Ryan Carville’s prom date, after all.

But the snickering behind her back and the pointing whenever she walked down the halls wasn’t something she’d expected. Kennedy plucked nervously at the oversized sweatshirt she wore, pulling it away from her stomach, but the looks kept coming.

It wasn’t until she walked into the library and sat down at one of the computers that she understood. Someone must have used it right before her, because on the screen she saw her picture on a website beneath a bright, blinking banner that read
The United Tastes.
Her photo was under Ryan’s and next to it was her name, grade, her address and the title
prom sacrifice.

BOOK: The Rebel's Own (Crimson Romance)
8.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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