“Is this okay?” he asked. “May I kiss you?”
My cheeks warmed. “I…um…”
He spoke softly into my ear. “I should warn you, it’s a very dangerous kiss. It’ll change your life forever, so you have to want it.”
If I wasn’t feeling so flustered, I might have thought he was being cocky. I mean, please. A kiss that could change my life forever?
But I kind of believed him. And after months of trying to be a perfect angel after the shoplifting incident, I wanted to push the edges of my comfort zone just a little bit.
And this was special—a boy I liked who might like me in return. I couldn’t just walk away.
This time I kissed him, tangling my fingers into his black hair and pulling his mouth toward mine as if I couldn’t resist. I hadn’t kissed many boys before, so I hoped I was doing it right. It felt right. In fact, it felt really right. My lips parted as the kiss deepened. His fingers dug into my waist. This felt like something out of a movie—one of the romantic ones I never watched because they made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t want to try to relate to all of those emotions, those declarations of love and eternal devotion. I mean, spare me the drama.
“You’re delicious,” Stephen whispered before he kissed me again and my heart felt like it was pounding right out of my chest.
And then it got weird.
The cool sensation from his touch turned icy and spread to the kiss, and I shivered. That iciness slid down my throat to my stomach and branched out to my arms and legs, chilling my entire body. Goose bumps formed on my arms. Dizziness swirled through me. It was jarring, but I couldn’t exactly say it felt bad. It was exciting, a rush, like being on a roller coaster in the middle of winter.
I lost track of time. Nothing existed for me except Stephen. His lips never left mine—and I never wanted them to. Minutes, hours, I didn’t know how long it was that he kissed me. All I knew was that I couldn’t stop kissing him even if I wanted to.
But then, finally, he stopped kissing me. He held my face between his hands and stared at me for a heavy moment. His eyes looked very dark in the shadows up here. “Sorry, kid. Really.”
Then he let go of me and walked away.
Time slowed to a crawl as he disappeared down the stairs, the dance music becoming a hollow echo in my ears. My face burned even though my chest now felt like ice.
The scent of sweat mixed with perfume slowly pulled me out of my daze. To my left I could see the multicolored lights above the dance floor. Even up here, the ground shook with the force of all the kids stomping down there.
Carly appeared at the top of the stairs and approached me, glancing back in the direction Stephen had gone. “Sam! What happened?”
I tried to find my voice. “Stephen Keyes kissed me.”
Her eyes widened. “Oh, my God! You’re so lucky!”
He’d kissed me. And then he’d called me a kid and walked away.
“Lucky,” I repeated, just before my eyes rolled back, my knees gave out and everything went black.
In my dream, something moved beneath me, twisting around my ankles like long, cold fingers. I didn’t know what it was, but the thought of being dragged down into the black, bottomless hole terrified me. Before it took hold of me completely, someone grabbed my hand.
Frantically I looked up to see a boy. I couldn’t see him very well since it was so dark, but he was definitely not Stephen.
“Hold on!” His eyes were blue—so blue that they seemed to glow. He was the only thing keeping me from whatever was trying to pull me downward.
I tried to concentrate on his face but still couldn’t see him clearly—only his eyes, which burned into me with their strange light.
“They were wrong, Samantha.” His voice broke as he said my name. “It never should have been me. This is the proof.”
“I’m not strong enough for this.” His grip on me loosened. “I’ve failed you. I’ve failed everyone. It—it’s all over.”
“No—don’t let go! Don’t let—”
The next moment, I slipped out of his grasp and fell, screaming, into the bottomless darkness.
* * *
“Sam! Wake up!” Carly sounded a million miles away.
My eyelids fluttered open and it took a moment for everything to come into focus. I lay on a red couch on my back and I was staring up at my best friend.
She punched me in the shoulder.
“Don’t do that!” Her thin brows drew together. “You just freaked me out! Did you eat today? I have a Snickers bar in my purse if you need it.”
“No…I’m okay.” I sat up and ran a hand through my hair, forcing my way through a tangle. “What happened?”
“Stephen Keyes kissed you and then you totally passed out for a minute—not that I blame you. That must have been some kiss. Are you really okay?”
How embarrassing. After being kissed by the hottest guy in Trinity, I’d passed out right in front of everyone up here. Several of the other kids had drawn closer to get a look at me. “I was only out for a minute?”
“Yeah. Any longer and I would have called for help.” Her cell phone was in her hand, its screen lit up as if she’d been about to make a distress call. She looked over her shoulder at the others gathered nearby. “She’s okay now. Back off and give her some air.”
They did, their curiosity about the girl who fainted leaving as quickly as it had arrived.