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Made of steel (made of s.., p.15
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       Made of Steel (Made of Steel Series Book 1), p.15

           Ivy Smoak

  Chapter 14


  I should have been excited that a handsome boy wanted to buy me lunch. But I wasn't. For some reason I wanted to run in the opposite direction. I was about to protest him paying for my lunch, but he interrupted my train of thought.

  "So, what's your story, Sadie?"

  "My story?" I tried to focus on the buildings we were walking by while trying not to run into anyone. "I'm not that interesting."

  "I highly doubt that."

  I swallowed hard and glanced back over at him. "Well, what do you want to know specifically?"

  He smiled. "For starters, why did you choose to come to Eastern University? I get that you wanted to get out of your small town. But this is a really big change."

  "Maybe I needed a big change." I dodged someone who was walking straight at me.

  Eli laughed. "Did you ever even visit the campus before choosing this school? You seriously have this deer in headlights thing going on right now. It doesn't even seem like you like it here."

  "Of course I visited ahead of time," I lied. "I'm not one to make rash decisions. And I do like it here. It has a" I had heard someone say that about New York on TV before. I internally rolled my eyes at myself. Honestly, I hated the energy. There were way too many people everywhere.

  "Right," he said. He clearly didn't believe me at all.

  I couldn't even defend myself. He was probably pretty accurate with the deer in headlights comment.

  "Really, though. Was it an ex-boyfriend thing or something?" he asked. "Trying to move as far away from him as possible?"

  I laughed. "No, not at all."

  "Not at all? Hmm. I have no idea what you mean by that, but I accept that answer." He smiled. He really was handsome.

  "What about you?" I asked. I didn't want to answer any more questions. Thinking about appropriate responses was exhausting. "Why did you choose here?"

  "Because I was sick of seeing the same people every day of my life, you know? I think I was starting to feel claustrophobic. I guess I needed a big change too. My mom is not pleased that I chose a school so far away, though."

  "What's she like?"

  "My mom?" He shrugged. "She drives me crazy and I love her in spite of that."

  "And your dad?"

  "He drives me a little less crazy. They've been happily married for 20 years. They just had this huge anniversary party a few weeks before I came out here."

  "That must be nice." I started studying the buildings again. Dingy skyscraper after dingy skyscraper. How long would my parents have been married? They had gotten married really young. I did the math in my head. They would have celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this year.

  "Well, what about your parents?"

  They were the best. "Um, my parents are great but we're not really that close. And I'm an only child." I basically repeated verbatim what was in my new identity notebook. I wasn't close to my fake parents so that no one would wonder why they never called.

  "Did you have a fight or something?"

  "No, nothing like that. They both work fulltime and are way more into that than they are into me. I was much closer to my nanny than I was to either of them." I wasn't sure why I was supposed to say that. This part of my identity seemed flimsy at best. I couldn't even afford to buy all the books for my classes. No one would ever believe my parents had hired a nanny for me when I was growing up. But I repeated what the notebook said anyway.

  "Sorry, that sucks."

  Not as much as the truth. "Actually, I loved my childhood. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way." I just wish my real childhood had lasted longer.

  "This looks like the kind of place that would have good burgers." He stopped outside of a diner on the corner. "Shall we try it?"

  "If you promise to let me pay for myself."

  "I'm not going to make you a promise I don't intend to keep."

  "Look, Eli, you seem like a really great guy. But I'm not really ready to date anyone right now."

  "Oh, you thought this was a date? Psh. No. It's work, remember?" He smiled and opened up the door for me.

  I couldn't tell if he was joking or not. I'm sure my face was bright red. Had I really just assumed this was a date and it wasn't? What was wrong with me? I didn't say a word as I walked into the diner.

  "Table for two?" the hostess said.

  I just nodded my head.

  "Right this way."

  I followed her without looking back at Eli. Now I had embarrassed myself twice in front of him. I didn't usually lose my cool in front of good looking guys. Or maybe it was just that good looking guys had never even bothered talking to me before. Either way, apparently Sadie Davis was the freaking worst.

  I slid into the booth and immediately lifted up the menu. I wanted to go back to being invisible again. The diner was busy and I was glad the noise helped drown out the thoughts in my head.

  "Your waiter will be right with you," the hostess said and left us alone.

  I stared at the menu without really seeing it. Now that he had turned me down, why did I suddenly wish he did like me? Yup, Sadie Davis was definitely the freaking worst.

  Eli put his hand on top of my menu and lowered it down until I could see his face.

  "Sadie Davis, I find you incredibly endearing. Even more so when you blush. But if you'd like to talk about our project, let's talk about our project."

  I could feel my cheeks flushing even more. Every nerve in my body was telling me to flirt back. My brain was a different story altogether, though. I knew I wasn't ready for that. I wasn't sure if I'd ever be ready. "Do you have any ideas for it?"

  He looked disappointed. "Yeah." He let go of my menu. "What if we just do it on that vigilante everyone's talking about?"

  "What vigilante?"

  "You haven't heard? This guy stopped a bank robbery the other day. Well, partially. Technically one of the robbers got away."

  I laughed. "Oh, you're serious? You want a project that's worth half our grade to be about a vigilante who's not even that good?"

  "He is good. He saved someone's life instead of running after the guy with the bag of money. Here, let me find the video." He typed something into his phone and held it out to me. There was a poor quality video playing. It appeared to be footage from someone's phone that was at the bank.

  "What bank is this?"

  "North Union."

  My new bank. I was lucky I hadn't checked my account balance yesterday or I may have been there during the robbery.

  Two men with black masks appeared on the screen waving guns in the air. One of them grabbed a bank teller and pressed the gun against the side of her head. Something flashed across the screen and whoever had been taping the scene dropped their phone. A second later the phone was being lifted back up. All I saw was the back of someone's hoodie. The robber who had been holding a gun to the woman's head was lying face down on the ground. The man with the hoodie touched the woman's shoulder who he had just saved, and then he ran away, seconds before the police showed up. Then the screen was blank.

  "A few hours after this happened, the guy who got away turned up on the steps of the precinct with his hands and feet bound," Eli said. "The money was gone, though. He probably hid it somewhere. Street cameras verified that the vigilante dropped the guy off. He finished the job when the police couldn't."

  "Maybe he should have just given the police more time. They probably could have found the criminal and the money." I wasn't sure that was true though. The cops had never helped me. And it wasn't like I didn't try. Especially at first. No one even gave me the time of day. I swallowed hard.

  "Either way, he'd be fun to analyze," Eli said. "Clearly he's crazy." Eli took his phone out of my hand and slid it back into his pocket. "So now a few million dollars is missing. But what does it really matter? Both robbers are in jail and he saved that woman's life. He's a hero."

  "Yeah. Maybe he's not so bad after all." Actually, I admired him. No one shoul
d be able to put a value on someone's life. So what if there was a few million dollars missing? That woman was alive because of him. Two criminals were in jail too.

  Eli smiled. "Sounds like we got the topic for our project."

  "It's going to be a little hard to analyze someone who we know nothing about. If we choose someone more famous, we could at least find some information online about what they're like."

  "Or maybe we could just figure out who's behind the hoodie. It'll be fun. We can do a little investigation of our own."

  "I don't know. Why should we make the project harder than it needs to be?"

  He shifted his mouth slightly to the side while he considered my point. The action almost took my breath away. I could still picture Miles smiling at me out of the corner of his mouth. Even though it wasn't a smile, it reminded me of Miles. It reminded me of my past that I was supposed to be forgetting. And this small part of me wanted to cling to that.

  "Yeah, okay. Let's do it," I said without even thinking.

  "You sure?"

  "Like you said, it'll be fun."

  He nodded and looked down at his menu.

  I knew he wasn't Miles. And honestly, I'd rather be sitting across from Eli anyway. Maybe I was thinking too hard about everything though. Eli made me smile. I watched him while he studied his menu. No, I wasn't ready to date anyone. But maybe Eli could teach me how to trust again. He made me feel safe, with his warm smile and his kind eyes. I needed that. I wanted that. Maybe I should be holding on to the one small town boy in this stupid big city.

  "I find you endearing too," I said before I could stop myself.

  He lifted his eyes from the menu.

  "It's just that I'm trying to focus on school right now. But I could really use a friend. You're right about me. The move here has been a little harder than I thought and..."

  "Me too."

  I laughed.

  He smiled.

  And just like that, the awkward tension seemed to settle. "You really were right about me. I'm worried that I might hate New York. It's stifling. I really didn't realize that you couldn't see the stars here at night until I was looking for them."

  "Is that why you ran away the other night?" He wasn't making fun of me. He was just asking.

  Partially. "For some stupid reason, it's the only thing that makes me feel closer to home, you know?"

  He put his elbows on the table and leaned forward slightly. "I guess we just need to find a spot where we can see them then. We can research that before we start stalking the vigilante."

  His smile was so warm. I'm not sure I had ever seen anything so genuine. For the first time in a long time, I didn't feel scared. New York didn't seem so bad when I was with Eli. The smile he was giving me was just as bright as any star.

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