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My Wolf’s Bane

By:Veronica Blade

e a look that said it all — I was insane. I opened my mouth to start in on him, but his eyes swept the corridor before he said, “We’re gonna be late for class.”

Daniel was right. The hall was deserted. A stream of mild curses spewed from my mouth as I sprinted to homeroom with only seconds to spare.

† † †

Just before lunch, I scribbled notes in my textbook and tried to concentrate on the current assignment, but my mind drifted to Hot Guy. Why had I heard his insult when Daniel obviously hadn’t?

The bell rang and I gathered my books and headed to the cafeteria. As soon as I entered the corridor, I caught a whiff of cinnamon and orange. John’s signature scent, since he always chewed this weird gum. I glanced around, expecting him to be right next to me.

A moment later, John stood beside me and that same cinnamon-orange scent heightened. But why had I smelled it before he even got there?

“Hey.” I flashed him a smile.

Daniel and my friend Gina didn’t talk to super-geeks like John. I did though, ever since a few weeks ago when I’d watched him get between little Benny Frampton and two big jocks.

To avoid witnessing carnage, I’d rushed over and flirted with the bullies. John took his cue and got the kid out of their way. Ever since then, I never treated John like a nerd, no matter how much Daniel and Gina protested my friendship with him. To me, he was Brave John, my friend.

“Heard what happened this morning,” John said as he fell into step with me, “but I see you’re still in one piece.”

Ah, the gossip mill running fast, as usual. “Yeah. Good as new,” I said, marveling at how my hands and knees weren’t sore at all. First the amazing hearing, then the super-human sense of smell and now the lack of bruises. Weird. Was I sick or something?

“So you want to see a movie tomorrow?” he asked. “I bet Maya would come.”

My jeans vibrated. I stopped to juggle books to my other arm and reached into my pocket to read the text. It was from my mom. Coming home directly after school, sweetheart?

I groaned, answered the text and shoved the phone back in my pocket. “Unfortunately, I can’t go anywhere this weekend.”

“Oh.” He nodded slowly, frowning. “Grounded again?”

“Yep.”

“How much do you owe this time?”

As we passed other students along the hallway, I flicked the lapel of my new leather jacket and wagged a finger toward my jeans. “These weren’t cheap. I think my latest shopping euphoria gave me amnesia that I still owed my parents.”

When they gave me an advance, it had to be paid back before leaving the house the following weekend. That was the rule. Paying my debts and keeping my agreements was supposed to teach me discipline. Why couldn’t they just hand over an allowance, with no strings attached, like other parents?

“Wait.” John took hold of my arm, stopping me in my tracks. “Have you told Daniel yet? He won’t be too thrilled about his girlfriend ditching his party.”

Daniel had exercised astounding patience over my parents’ rigid rules and nine pm curfews, but missing his party? He’d probably dump me… which would save me the trouble of breaking up with him.

“True.” I landed a playful punch on John’s bicep as an arm wrapped around my waist, spinning me around and pulling me against a firm chest.

“Hi, babe,” Daniel said. Always on the alert with him now, I flattened my palms against his stomach, ready to shove him away.

When we’d first started dating a couple of months ago, Daniel did the sweetest things, like bring me daisies stolen from his mom’s garden. He’d won me over all the way the day he’d changed my flat tire. But in the last few days, Daniel had gone from loving and considerate to demanding and offensive. Worse, he’d become hard of hearing when it came to the word “no,” and I wasn’t in the mood to fend off his pawing. I was so over him, no matter how uber-popular he was.

“Hey, Daniel,” John said.

Daniel ignored him. John rolled his eyes, then ambled away.

“You could try being nice,” I said, moving out of Daniel’s grasp. I wanted to end it with him right then, but a hallway swarming with people wasn’t the best place. “What’d John ever do to you?”

Daniel snorted. “He annoys me. I don’t know why you give that dork the time of day. C’mon, let’s eat.”

Dork or not, eating with John and my other best friend, Maya, sounded like much more fun. But Gina still needed to know I couldn’t go with her to Daniel’s party. An A-lister like her wouldn’t have a problem finding someone else, but she’d probably blow the whole thing out of proportion anyway. Maybe she’d even dump me.

Gina had been my first friend at Verdugo Hills Academy and introduced me to the cool people. She always had my back. At first, hanging with school royalty had been exciting, but being popular wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. It took me three months with Gina to realize I preferred Maya and John, people who were easy to be around.

Daniel led me to the lunchroom and, after collecting some food, we settled next to each other at our usual table. Gina had beaten us there, stunning in a pink sleeveless blouse with ruffles for straps. Her short, auburn hair had been blown straight, bringing out the natural red highlights. As always, her makeup was flawless, just like her heart-shaped face.

Which reminded me that I still wasn’t wearing any makeup.

Her friend Natalie, who’d never warmed up to me, huddled with her. Natalie had potential beauty, but her ever-present scowl and matching mood always overpowered those piercing hazel eyes and short cap of black, curly hair.

Gina stopped talking mid-sentence and turned to us with a grin. “Hey, guys.”

“I’ll see you later,” Natalie told her, rising from the bench. She wrinkled her nose at me, then left. I knew Natalie was just jealous that Gina hung out with me more, but knowing Natalie’s reasons didn’t make her any less irritating. Thankfully, once I showed up, she didn’t usually stick around long.

I retu

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