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Poughkeepsie begins, p.13
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       Poughkeepsie Begins, p.13

           Debra Anastasia
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  Four more sales came and went, and he lost track of Candy for a while. Last dude warned that the school resource officer was off duty and prowling for him. He listened and nodded as he spotted her again, her white hat replaced by a fuzzy knit one as she walked out with a group that had to be her family. Candy’s mom was still holding shit together tight, which bode well for Candy. A brother, small…maybe middle school. Beckett memorized his face. Always good to know who was who.

  He was surprised to see her walking back to the field without her parents and brother a few minutes later. She did a decent job of appearing to care about the game as she made her way toward him in fits and starts.

  When she ducked under the bleachers, he was a dick, right off the bat. His buzz was wearing off, but he was still high and broken at the closeness of her. “You’re missing your boyfriend during his lawn ballet.” He assumed a stance—douche mixed with confrontational—that he knew stopped people. It set up his walls real nice. With everyone.

  Everyone but her. She walked right up to him. She pushed him hard once, twice, until his back hit one of the supports. And then she slapped him.

  He took the slap and rolled his eyes. “That all you got for me, pink princess?”

  And then she was kissing him. Oh, God. Kissing him and palming him with the same ferociousness he felt. He grabbed the metal behind him to keep from attacking her and nailing her right on the concrete floor littered with cigarettes and chip bags.

  She pulled away and slapped him again, growling, “Fuck you, Beckett Taylor. Don’t you ever do that to me again. I’m worth more than that, and you know it.” She stepped back, leaving cold space and his heated erection between them.

  He swallowed, his pounding heart trying to beat some common sense into his brain again. It wasn’t working. He let go of the bleachers and advanced. “You have some fucking nerve. You’re the one up there prom-queening it with goddamn Ryler.”

  She stood her ground as he came at her. And he knew he was intimidating. Shit, full-grown men stepped aside when he was coming. But Candy raised her chin. He was amazed at the fight in her, right there. He pulled her into a dip, just like fucking Pyler had, except he did it like a man who wanted a woman and knew what to do with her body. Candy needed to push him away; she needed to turn her head.

  Instead she groaned and bit his bottom lip hard enough to draw blood. He put his hand between her legs and dragged it up to her breast, squeezing hard so she would feel it through her coat. She sank her nails into the skin at his neck. She was a buried treasure. He was sure as fuck no one knew about this side of her. Only he could get her panting like she was. He spanked her bottom once.

  “Ow.” She was shocked.

  He stopped kissing and looked her in the face as he spanked her again, more forcefully this time.

  Her “Ow” was quieter, and the hunger in her eyes far deeper than her years.

  Again he spanked her. And this time she purred. Fucking purred. He began slow, circular caresses over the denim that covered her ass. He was desperate to see the red imprints from his hand.

  “Fuck it.” Beckett picked her up and set her back against the metal support he’d tried to cling to before.

  They weren’t alone. Red tips of cigarettes glowed, gentle murmurs of illicit behavior could be heard if you knew how to listen for trouble. Still, he held her against the pole and mimicked the motions he was desperate to do with her. He dropped his mouth to the zipper on her coat, which kept her safe from all his intentions. He used his teeth to pull it down to her cleavage. He buried his face, licking and nuzzling her sweet-smelling neck. He used his chin to move material so he could access more of her chest. She smelled like goddamn candy. His dick could pack gunpowder in a cannon it was so fucking hard.

  After a moment, the murmurs added up. Too many. He glanced around and noticed the cigarettes being stubbed out. He let his prize slide down the metal gently. He leaned down to kiss her lips, then her forehead, right under the edge of her fuzzy hat before whispering, “Go. Cops are here. Go.”

  And then Candy, sweet-smelling, homework-doing Candy, stuck her hand in his jacket’s hidden pocket and took the gun out. He pulled her hands and his gun close to make sure the safety was on before letting her tuck it into her bra.

  “Anything else?” she asked.

  And then he slipped the rest of the merchandise in his left pocket into her right one. She turned and left.

  “And don’t you ever talk to me again, Taylor. I have a boyfriend!” She stormed away as the resource officer stepped up next to him.

  “You have a way with the ladies, son.”

  “I’m not your son.”

  “That’s the truth right there. ’Cause if you were, you’d be on that field kicking footballs instead of selling at my school.”

  When Beckett was let off with a warning due to lack of evidence, his one thought was of her. Candy was so perfect for him it hurt.



  CANDY LAY IN HER BED, unable to sleep. She’d left the football field, gotten in her car, and hadn’t even given a thought to the fact that Zyler expected her to stay for the whole game, and would be looking for her after. Probably had a five-course dinner with his family planned that he’d neglected to mention to her. She hadn’t put any serious thought into Zyler at all until he called.

  She played off her departure like she hadn’t felt well, and she reminded him of their vow to be friends, to keep things casual, but it was clear in his tone that the kiss they’d shared was supposed to have meant something. She excused herself, rather than arguing, making her voice sound wispy when he tried to continue the conversation—though she did congratulate him on his scholarship before they hung up.

  And now, hidden under a pile of shoes in her closet, was a loaded gun and a brown bag filled with God knows what. She kept rubbing her hands together and getting up to pee. What the hell was I thinking?

  She wanted to save Beckett Taylor. That’s what she was thinking. She wanted him to kiss her and hold her hand and be her dangerous, gorgeous boyfriend. That was it. The truth. But it was stupid. She was stupid. She made it her job, with every move, to make sure her parents didn’t regret what they had to do. To make sure they were pleased and could see that she was well adjusted, not going through the dreaded teenage rebellion that might force them to pay closer attention to her. Also, her father’s entire career would be ruined if she started dating a drug dealer.

  Or if she was labeled a drug dealer. The image of her father finding the things she’d taken from Beckett under the bleachers made her get up to pee again. Letting her parents believe in the Zyler fairy tale made them so happy. Even though he didn’t measure up a good portion of the time, and even though she couldn’t muster the feelings she needed to make him interesting, she hated to take that warm, safe feeling from her parents.

  Oh, but Beckett. It was wild with him, desperate with him, wrong with him. She had a beautiful family, and he could not be any more destructive to everything she valued if he tried. And she loved every second they were together.

  She’d stormed under the bleachers to slap him and leave. Sure, Merry wasn’t actually giving him a blow job, but that’s what he’d wanted it to look like. Or maybe it had already happened. Either way she had way too much self-confidence to be with a guy minutes after he’d been with another girl. But the second she reminded herself of that, she knew it was a lie. In this case. Beckett made her want, accept, rationalize—or fail to.

  When the rock hit her window, she’d half expected it. She was already standing, so she unlocked her window and slid it up quickly. He was there in the yard, with a shit-eating grin. She tossed up her hands. From the second floor there was no good way to get him his loaded gun.

  Why she was even giving it back to him was troubling. He smiled again and pointed to the side door that led into the garage. She nodded. She found the gun and bag and placed them carefully in her old, soft-sided pink lunchbox from middle school. Then s
he tiptoed downstairs. Candy slipped Pilot a chew bone in his crate as she passed so he would ignore her late-night activities. When she reached the garage, she fully intended to pass the things out the door and close it, getting back upstairs as soon as possible.

  But when she opened the side door, he slipped in more quickly than she could think to shut it. Like a robber. God, maybe he’d broken into houses for real.

  It shouldn’t have made her want to kiss him again, but it did. He took her lunchbox and smirked. He didn’t say anything, he just kissed her—straight up pushed her against the wall of the garage, one hand holding her lunchbox filled with mistakes and the other touching her face like they were getting married.

  “Did he tell you that you were pretty today?” he whispered, lips barely skimming her neck.

  She couldn’t answer. The nearness of the danger with him stole her voice. She nodded.

  “Did you like it?” This time the whisper was delivered against her lips, so she breathed in his question.

  Candy swallowed and met his gaze. “A little.”

  Beckett dropped her lunchbox, and the thump made her start. “And what happens when I tell you you’re mine? That I’ll kill him for even thinking about you?” He pressed his fists against the wall either side of her head. “Do you like that?”

  Candy waited as the jealousy built in him, tensing his muscles and tightening his jaw, before whispering back, “I love that.”

  There was just so much of him—his presence, this ridiculous attraction, his pulse pounding against her palm as she put it to his chest. Wrapped up in him, in the garage of her parents’ house, she had her first inclination that this was out of her control. Too big for her to handle. Too big for her heart. His hands cradled her face. Feelings like hers were why people died of broken hearts. Nothing about him was safe, yet she barely felt afraid.

  The light in the kitchen suddenly poured under the door to the garage. She slapped him, pointing. He looked and ignored it, sliding his hands under her sleep shorts to cup her ass. She kissed him again before pushing him away. He was out the side door in an instant, and without making a sound.

  He’d rattled her. Candy knew she should try to come up with a reason she was in the garage in the middle of the night, but her brain just held the white noise of him. She touched her lips and hugged her middle. Her body actually ached for his.

  The clatter of ice falling from the dispenser into a cup shocked her. The light in the kitchen snapped off, and after a moment she heard the groan of her parents’ bedroom door shutting. When she felt like it had been long enough, she crept back up to her bedroom. When she walked by her window, which was still cracked open, another rock hit it.

  Candy gave him elaborate “No! No way. Go away.” hand signals, but he just smiled. Finally, he nodded. He gave her a thumbs up and blew her a kiss before trotting off.

  After sliding her window closed and locking it, Candy got back in bed, thrilled that the illegal stuff was gone, but missing the man who’d brought them into her life. She reviewed the night: being kissed by Zyler at the stadium, meeting Beckett under the bleachers, transporting contraband, the garage groping. This was one of those nights she might always remember. The smell of it, the certain look of the sky—she would always remember finding him when she probably should have stayed for the football player.

  Beckett was in his seat before Candy was the next day, a Friday. She rushed in to English at the last minute, hair in a messy black ponytail, long, baggy T-shirt and sweatpants completing the oh-shit-I-overslept look.

  She held up one finger in his direction. “Don’t even.”

  “What? What was I going to say? You look great, pink princess. Like you just rolled out of bed. Can I recommend us ditching this class and going back to one together?” Beckett wrinkled his nose at her eye roll.

  “Aren’t you going to be sleeping on your desk?”

  He laughed. “No, baby. Last night was an early night. I’m all fired up.”

  After rustling through her backpack, she handed him a fresh pencil and took out a small bottle of orange juice for herself.

  “We have to meet for the second part of our project. The next installment is due soon. Can you meet me tomorrow?” She took her hair down and shook it out, running her fingers through it.

  Beckett caught a tendril between his fingers and lifted it to his nose. “You still smell like candy, Candy. Is that on purpose? Like some trademark bullshit?”

  She pulled her hair out of his hand and her smile lifted on one side. “Something like that.”

  Twyler walked in the classroom to fanfare and congratulations. He accepted all the good wishes and teasing with good humor. Fake fucker. Beckett watched as he knocked on Candy’s desk and winked at her.

  “Morning, sunshine. You feeling okay?”

  He was halfway out of his seat when he felt Candy pull on his hand.

  “No. Seriously. No.” Her eyes pleaded with him.

  He wanted to pound the smile off Vyler’s stupid head. Stadium-kissing asshole. But he let Candy hold him back because Mrs. Drivens walked in, late as well.

  “Just sit. Please.” Candy yanked harder on his arm.

  He liked when she touched him. He sat. Beckett gave her a look of annoyed, suppressed murder, and she shook her head.

  After roll call they had the assignment of tightening up their research. Beckett used it as an excuse to put his desk right next to hers.

  “I was glad you gave me my piece last night. Thanks for that.” He rested his head on his hand and watched as she tried to write things in her notebook. She was nervous under his scrutiny. He loved it.

  She jotted down two versions of the word. Peace and Piece. “Which one?” she asked.

  He tapped piece with his pencil’s eraser. “This one. I don’t think I’ll ever have that one.” He circled peace. Her eyes were sad when he looked into them. “Don’t worry. I’ve got plans on plans on plans. I’m going to run this fucking town.”

  “Mayor?” She smiled.

  “Nothing like that. When I’m done, no one will be able to touch me or mine. The mayor has to kiss too much ass. I’ll never do that shit.” He set down his pencil and drew a circle on the top of her hand with his finger. “I’ll have money, power, all the shit I need.”

  “Sounds scary.” Candy looked uncomfortable.

  “Nah. Not if you know what you’re doing. And I’m a fucking professional.” He sat back and put his hands behind his head, crossing his legs at the ankle.

  “Really? The kind of professional who gets caught under the bleachers?” She spoke the last bit quietly and toward her notebook.

  He felt himself blush a little bit. She had a point. If it hadn’t been for her, he’d be sitting in jail this morning. And the thought of a jail cell chilled him to his bones. He didn’t mind the other fuckers he’d meet there, but not being able to get out. God.

  His thoughts drifted to Cole. His brother had spent a good portion of his so-called childhood in a fucking dog cage. The need to keep him safe burned in his chest. He would make sure Cole never had another day where he couldn’t make his own decisions about his body.

  Candy touched his fist, which he’d clenched as he thought of his grand plans. He wiggled his fingers. The bell rang, and Zyler was in front of Candy in a New York goddamn minute.

  “Listen, Candy, I didn’t get a chance to ask before you needed to go on the phone last night, but I wanted to see if you’d be willing to go to the Winter Dance with me.”

  The prick asked her on a date right in fucking front of him? He felt his eyes hood with murder.

  Candy’s eyes went wide for a moment, and an unreadable emotion crossed her face. But then she smiled. She smiled! Oh, it was going down right fucking now.

  “Actually, I’m sorry, but Beckett asked me a while ago, and I said yes,” she explained. “You understand, right? Just keeping everything casual—like we’ve talked about.”

  She was so smooth. And technically she had told
him to take her to the dance. Zyler’s disappointment was so real they could have strapped a diaper on it and sent it to day care.

  “Really? This guy?” he managed after a moment, an ugly look contorting his all-American features.

  “You snooze, you lose, fuckhead.” Beckett stepped up beside Candy and put his arm around her.

  “Beckett!” Mrs. Drivens gave him an angry glare.

  He shrugged. “Sorry, teach.”

  Zyler looked from Beckett to Candy. “I’ll be surprised if he can go. Thought you couldn’t have any suspensions to attend school functions. Isn’t that true, Mrs. Drivens?”

  The classroom had emptied out. Beckett looked at his feet briefly before slathering a confident look he didn’t feel on his face while the teacher responded.

  “That’s the policy, Zyler. But I don’t know everyone’s individual situation.” She shuffled her lesson plans around and adjusted her overhead. “But I do know you will all be late to your next class if you stay here any longer. Out you go.”

  Candy ducked out from under Beckett’s arm and called after Zyler, distracting him with pointed questions about the game. She was good; he had to give her that—got Zyler talking about a play he was proud of after delivering the news that she had a date with a different dude in the same five minutes. Then she waved and walked off to class by herself, leaving Hyler to glare at him from a distance.

  She was a dangerous kind of girl, if she’d had any clue how to use her talents for evil. Beckett now had to figure out how to use his talents for good. How the fuck was he going to be allowed at that dance?

  Beckett waited outside Mr. Gold’s door. The man’s voice carried, and he was calming a parent on the phone. Son had been busted for bringing a bag of oregano to school. Loser.

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