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Devour (Devoured #1)(5) by Shelly Crane

Everyone but me and Eli, I noticed.

We’d all piled in as we always did and sat together. Eli had found his way to our lunch table not long after that. He sat across from me and Tate and I introduced him to everyone and the girls swooned appropriately.

Then more stories of their precious existence encounters with the commoners of our high school droned on. Mike tripped a guy and he almost spilled his chili and everyone laughed. Tommy told us how he lifted some band girl’s skirt before gym and she’d cried and ran to the office.

As much as I liked my friends, they could be awfully shallow and cruel. Usually Tate wasn’t involved in that stuff. He was a nice guy who would talk to anyone but he laughed right along with everyone else on most things.

When it seemed everyone was done with their stories, they started asking Eli questions about where he was from and Megan asked if he was attached to anyone. He answered their questions smoothly and even threw in a joke here and there. He seemed to pass their exam.

Then I saw it; the look and the cold smile directed at me that I’d been waiting all lunch period for from Deidre.

“So, Clara. Why were you and Eli late to Menendez this morning? You both came in way after the bell rang.”

I felt Tate tense beside me. Deidre was jealous. She apparently had a crush on Tate forever and decided to tell me this after I’d already been going out with him for weeks. Then she expected me to dump him because of it, just like that. I explained to her she should have said something before. She was still pissed, hence the foul behavior from her. She was pretty - really pretty. She tanned every week and had a bright glow to her that matched her more strawberry than blonde hair perfectly. But it didn’t match her demeanor.

“We were late because Eli saved me,” I told everyone.

“What?” she sneered in unbelief.

“What?” Tate bellowed, his jealously gone. “Saved you from what?”

“Some big freshman guy slapped me on the behind in the hall when I accidentally bumped him,” I explained. “Eli put him in his place.”

“Behind? What are you? Two?” Deidre sneered but everyone ignored her.

“What? Who?” Tate said louder.

“I don’t know, but Eli handled it.”

Tate looked at Eli and nodded to him.

“Thanks, man. I owe ya.”

“No worries. I was glad to help.”

Tate nodded again and then turned to me once everyone started talking about their own ‘brushes with death’.

“I should have walked you to Menendez, I forgot about the delinquent hall.”

Our in-school suspension was on that hall and it was always full.

“It’s ok. You would have never made it to Shop if you had.”

I heard Dee making gagging noises.

“Well, I’ll walk you tomorrow. I’ll explain to Bishop. He’ll understand or I’ll just be late everyday.”

“I can walk her if you want. We have the same class,” Eli offered easily and yawned into his fist like he was bored.

“Uh...” I knew Tate was absolutely not thrilled with that. “Well, tomorrow, sure. Then I should be able to do it after that.”

“Guys,” Dee groaned. “You act like she’s a precious little movie star or something whose adoring fans are getting rough. She’s fine. So one guy grabbed her butt, big deal. I think she’s blowing all this a little out of proportion anyway.”

“Shut up, Dee,” Tate said.

“No, she’s right,” I said and looked right at her then back to Tate. “It’s ok. I’ll be fine.”

“I want someone to walk you, Clara,” he insisted.

“Who’s gonna walk me?” Dee asked snidely. “I have that same class.”

“Yeah, but you come up to it from your locker on the East wing, Clara’s locker is on the South. You don’t even touch delinquent hall and it’d take too long for her to walk around it.”

She pouted and looked hurt. I knew better. Witch.

“Are you ok?” Tate asked quietly. “Did he hurt you?”

“No. I’m fine.”

“You’re sure? I’m sure I can find out who this guy is. I’ll make sure he understands not to-”

“I’m fine. Really,” I soothed and put my hand on his leg. “So, what time is your match?”

“Uh....five. You’re coming right?”

“Yep. I love to see you hug sweaty men. It really does it for me,” I said sarcastically but with a sweet smile plastered on.

“Aww,” he crooned and pinched my cheek. “What a thoughtful girlfriend.”

I laughed and leaned in to kiss him quickly but he pulled me back to him, keeping me there and once again, kissing me in front of the whole school, which he never did. I had a feeling this had a lot to do with Eli but I would never accuse of him of such.

With his hand on my cheek I let him kiss me. When I heard our friends start to comment and joke, I pulled back and licked my lips before looking up, straight to Eli.

He was looking between ecstasy and pain. It was strange how he got that look but this time he didn’t seem to be enjoying it, whatever it was; like it was something he had to do but didn’t like it.

When he saw me looking he quickly schooled his features into neutral and began studying his food, but I was intrigued now to say the least. I looked back up to Tate to see smug satisfaction as he threw his arm over my shoulder. He was content for the moment and that was good enough for me.

“So, babe. Wanna do something after the match? We can go to Snitzy’s.”

“Yes!” Deidre chimed loudly like her say was final. “Let’s all go to Snitzy’s after the match.”

“I meant me and you,” he muttered softly to me but we both knew better than to mess with Deidre.

“Bell’s about to ring,” Mike said.

“Crap,” Tate said sitting up. “I gotta go all the way to the back lot so I’m gonna take off.” He looked at me. “See you in the stands?”

“I’ll be there.”

He kissed me quickly and shot up from his seat, striding across the lunchroom with a smile. Our group quickly dispersed from there. I asked Eli about the rest of his schedule. We had every class together after lunch.

Great.

So, we walked together. I told him about the wrestling match tonight and asked if he wanted to come. My friends had been friendly enough to him. Sarah still giggled at him and made flirty jokes about his accent. He said he would like to go and I told him where and when.

We were assigned alphabetically in the next class, Math, so we didn’t get to sit beside each other; which was probably for the best anyway. It went by quickly as we were given our books and an outline of our curriculum for the year. Then our next and last class of the day was Art. We walked together again. I told myself it was to show him where it was but I could foresee us walking together everyday. Why not?

Art was a laid back - sit wherever - do whatever - kinda thing. I moseyed nonchalantly to the back and took a corner work desk. It was a two seater, kind of like a lab desk. Eli came to stand beside me and I couldn’t tell if I was happy or not about the fact that he was going to ask to sit down.

“Do you think I could sit here, or would Tate not be happy about that?”