Vernaun Jones, the most handsome guy I had ever laid eyes one, was going to kiss me. My breath quickened, and his arms tightened around me. His face drew even closer to mine. I tried to smile, but rather than looking like the damsel in distress, I probably looked more like a limp fish lying in the sand taking my last breath.
The voice I heard, however, was not the concerned voice of ‘The Wall.’ No. The voice that I heard was one I’d heard a million times before. The timbre was low and a bit growly, but warm and comforting. I turned my head to seek it out, and when I finally saw Wes’s concerned face, my eyes cleared and my breathing returned to normal.
I looked back at Vernaun. Why would he be trying to kiss me? He didn’t even know me. I shook my head to clear the fuzziness behind my eyes and straightened.
He still held me by the shoulders and looked in my general direction. It was like he was searching for something behind me but didn’t want to be rude, so he pretended to look at me, even though I could tell by the blank look in his eyes that he didn’t see me. “You okay?”
I didn’t want to turn to see what had captured his attention, so I stepped out of his grasp. “I’m fine.”
“Alright. I’ll see you later.” He sidestepped around my friends and jogged off to the right.
I stared after him. Wondering what he was in such a hurry for. He ran away from the campfire, so it must be something else. I shrugged and rubbed my tender chin.
“Are you okay, Andy?”
I turned my attention back to Wes, who took hold of my by the shoulders and searched my face.
“Of course she’s okay.” Stacie shoved his shoulder, but he didn’t budge. “She was just in the arms of Vernaun Jones. What girl wouldn’t be okay? I mean really, Wes. Vernaun Jones? Do you know what a girl has to do to capture any of his attention? And Andy didn’t even try!”
“Can it, Stacie. I know how you feel about the scum bag.”
Stacie started to protest, but Wes cut her off with his booming voice.
“I’m not talking to you. Andy had the wind knocked out of her, and I’m asking her how she’s doing. Not how much she’s in love with that lout.”
A burst of laughter exploded from Stacie, and she threw her head back. “A lout? What kind of a word is that?”
He glared at her but otherwise ignored her and turned back to me.
I smiled. His brows were puckered together in a ‘V’ like they always did when he was concerned or thinking really hard. “I’m fine, Wes. Really. My chin’s a little sore, but I’ll be fine.”
His head tilted as if to decide if I was telling him the truth or not. He must have decided I wasn’t lying too much because his face relaxed back into a lazy grin, and he released me.
We all fell into step together. Wes resumed his devotion to his burger, I could hear Stacie giggling next to me, and I just tried to gather my wits. It bugged me that Vernaun hadn’t even really seen me. I didn’t know if my unease was because I wanted ‘The Wall’ to see me or if it was because I was tired of being overlooked by everyone. I was only twenty-one and working on my second bachelor’s degree. I wasn’t ancient, but I certainly wasn’t attracting attention from anyone.
“Wes, would if I were a girl would you go out with me?”
Wes turned to me with such a confused expression on his face that I realized my question had sounded pretty odd.
“What I mean is if I weren’t your best friend and just some girl, would you ask me out? Am I pretty enough for you to want to ask out?”
His frown deepened. “What kind of a question is that?”
“I’ve just been thinking, and I think Stacie is right. I’m boring.”
I held up my hand to cut Wes off. “I’m not exciting. Vernaun didn’t even look at me. Not that I want him to, but I certainly don’t want him to see right through me. I haven’t been on a date in two years.”
Stacie coughed on her drink. “Has it really been that long?”
I ignored her. “I just want to know if it’s how I look or how I act.”
Wes stepped in front of me, and I stopped. I watched as Stacie kept walking toward the campfire. She probably wanted a seat close to ‘The Wall.’
Wes lifted his hand to my face and brushed my hair behind my ear. His thumb trailed along my chin and lifted it so that I could meet his gaze.
His smile sent a shiver through my body, like a powerful shot of sugar. “Andy, you are a very pretty girl.”
I sighed. “So I’m boring.”
His eyes focused on mine and for some reason, I couldn’t look away. There was intensity to his blue eyes that I’d never noticed before. They were so dark, they were almost black. “You’re not boring, Andy. You’re not outgoing and crazy, but you’re not boring.”
My voice came out in a strangled whisper. “But it isn’t enough.”
I wondered what kind of a spell he had put me under. My body felt weak, as though I hadn’t eaten in days. My voice was raspy, as though I was dying of thirst. When Wes finally let go of my chin with a shake of his head, I swallowed and tried to take a drink from my empty cup. I sighed and reached for Wes’s. He smiled as I took a hearty swallow and handed it back.
“Are you two coming? I’ve saved us great seats! Right behind Vernaun.”
I giggled as Wes rolled his eyes. “I do not want to gaze at Vernaun’s back side all evening.”
I took a bite of my burger, finding humor in Wes’s situation but not wanting to have to offer an opinion in favor of either of my friends.
Stacie put her hands on her hips. “Well you won’t, will you. You’ll be watching Andy all night anyway.”
I coughed and tried not to choke. Wes hit me on the back a couple times and handed me his drink.
After I quite gasping for air, Wes took my arm. “Let’s go,” he mumbled and led me to the bon fire. Stacie beamed and pointed to a blanket she’s set over a log. I knew she expected praise for her cunning in securing the seats, but I knew anything I said would start another fight between her and Wes. They had been fighting more and more lately. I wished I knew why. But instead, I just tried to avoid situations they disagreed on.
“Andy, you sit with Stacie. I’ll go get you another drink.”
I smiled but he’d already turned, and I ended up smiling at his back.
“You know he likes you.”
I turned to Stacie. “You’re crazy. He’s my best friend. Next to you, of course.”
She sat on the log and looked up at me through her lashes.
I plopped down next to her. “Oh, come on. Wes does not think of me like that.”
She shook her head and produced a bag of salt water taffy from under her blanket. “I’ll find us some sticks and we can roast these.”
“We aren’t supposed to put anything in the fire. It’s against the camp rules.”
She sighed. “There you go again. Being boring.”
I glared at her.
“No one is here yet.” She looked pointedly at Jesse, a plump boy with thinning hair and thick glasses that were always sideways on his face, who sat on the other side of the fire. “Jesse doesn’t count. He can hardly see. I’m amazed Meghan hired him again this year.”
I sighed. Stacie must have taken that as a resignation because she hopped up and was back with roaster sticks in less than a minute. I took a stick from her and put the taffy on the end. Looking around, I took a deep breath and plunged the stick over the fire.