Made of steel (made of s.., p.33
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       Made of Steel (Made of Steel Series Book 1), p.33

           Ivy Smoak
 

  ***

  I walked slowly to my Psych class. It had been a long time since I could rely on someone. I wasn't sure why I had trusted Eli so easily. We had only known each other a few days, but for some reason he made my demons seem far away. Kins was right, though. He was too perfect. At least, too perfect for me.

  When I walked into the room, I made my way to the back. If Eli was going to ignore me, I could ignore him too. Although, I knew I couldn't avoid him forever. We had a project we needed to do. Honestly, though, I could do it myself. He had come up with the idea for our project, but I seemed way more interested in it than he did. Last night I had even emailed The Night Watch blog to see if I could interview them. I wanted to know how they knew so much about the vigilante. Who knows, maybe the vigilante was writing the blog himself. Now I just had to wait and see if they'd write me back.

  I sat down and stared at my Converses. I wondered what it would be like to hide behind an actual mask instead of a figurative one. I wondered what it would be like to be strong enough to beat the bad guys. I wondered what it would be like to be fearless.

  "Hey, Sadie," Eli said as he sat down next to me. "I'm so sorry about last night. I had something that took longer than I thought it would."

  Vague. I looked up at him. There were dark circles under his eyes.

  "I should have texted you, but by the time I realized I was late, I figured you were already in bed. And an apology is always better in person." He placed a daisy down on my desk.

  He bought me a flower. I couldn't not smile at that. "Where were you?" I didn't want him to know how I had waited an hour for him. It was pathetic. I didn't want him to think I was weaker than he already thought. The bruises were taking longer to heal than I hoped. I was still bound to my hoodie.

  "I...um...started a new class."

  "One that meets at night?"

  "Not a class for school. A boxing class."

  "Why the sudden interest in boxing?"

  "I want to be able to protect you, Sadie."

  I didn't want him to bring it up. But if he had to, this was probably the sweetest way possible. "That's incredibly sweet. I'm safe here though. Especially if you're hanging out with me instead of standing me up."

  "I really am sorry, Sadie. It ended late. Trust me, I'd rather have been with you too. I got my butt whooped."

  I laughed and picked up the daisy. "Thank you for this."

  He leaned forward and kissed my cheek. "Does that mean you forgive me?"

  I turned toward him until the tip of my nose brushed against his. "I thought you were avoiding me."

  "I like you too much to avoid you." He leaned in closer until his lips pressed against mine.

  I didn't hesitate to kiss him back. I thought he didn't want to see me anymore. But really he had just been doing the sweetest thing ever. The truth was, I needed Eli. I didn't want to walk home alone at night. I didn't want to adjust to this city without him. And I needed to forget about Miles. He needed to stay in the past, no matter how tempting it was to allow the past to combine with my present.

  Eli put his hand on my knee when he pulled away.

  Fire and ice. Unlike the bruise on my neck, the one on my knee had faded, so I was finally wearing shorts again. I gulped as the professor walked into the classroom. But it wasn't because of him. Eli's hand was slowly drifting up my thigh.

  "By the way, I really like these shorts," he whispered. His fingers traced the hem of them on my thigh. Really, he was just mainly touching my thigh. His fingers on my skin made my heart race. In a good way.

  I smiled at him. God, I was so lucky that he still wanted me. He kept his hand on my thigh even though class had started. It was protective. Possessive. Exciting. He was taking action to make sure I stayed safe. Maybe I should be too. I could take a class. That seemed like a better idea than going to some support group. I was going to be stronger. I needed to be.

  The professor was writing down everyone's topic ideas on the blackboard. Only a few names had been called so far and already James Hunter was on the board twice. For a second I thought that maybe he was the vigilante. He was an extremely wealthy tech mogul who always seemed to be in the news. Sometimes superheroes were rich men, like Batman and The Arrow. But those superheroes were also bachelors. James was happily married. It probably wasn't him. Also, the motivation didn't fit. If James wanted to give people money, he could just do that. He was a billionaire. He didn't have to steal from criminals. At the same time, though, he did have the necessary technology. Batman and The Arrow only had their strength, wits, and tech. No superpowers or anything.

  "Maybe James Hunter is the vigilante," I whispered to Eli.

  Eli laughed. "Yeah, I don't think so."

  "Why do you say that?"

  Eli shrugged. "I just don't get the vibe from him."

  A vibe? I almost laughed, but I got caught up in studying the dark circles under Eli's eyes. It had been his idea to choose the vigilante in the first place. He said he had seen it on the news, but maybe it was more than that. Maybe he wasn't taking boxing classes late at night. Maybe he was fighting bad guys. "Why, is it you?"

  He laughed. "I'm pretty sure if it was me, I wouldn't need to take boxing classes to protect you."

  "That's not a no."

  He winked at me.

  "Sadie Davis and Eli Hayes?" Professor Bryant said.

  "We'll be doing our project on the New York City vigilante," Eli said.

  "Interesting choice," the professor said and wrote it down on the board.

  "Notice how I didn't say Eli Hayes?" Eli whispered at me.

  I shook my head. What if it was him? He had abs of steel. And his biceps were mouthwatering. He claimed he was tired from late nights with me. But it could have been more than that.

  "It's not me, Sadie," he said, like he could read my mind.

  Maybe mind reading was his superpower. I internally rolled my eyes at myself. There was no way it was him. If it was, he wouldn't want to know my secrets so badly. He'd be happy that we both had them. Besides, I was pretty sure I could recognize him in sweatpants and a hoodie. Right?

  "This is definitely going to be a problem," Professor Bryant said as he wrote down James Hunter on the board yet again.

  I shook my head. Professor Bryant would have had more interesting topics if he hadn't grouped so many girls together for the project. By the time all the names were called, James Hunter was written down six times.

  Professor Bryant placed the chalk down and brushed the dust off his hands. "We can't have any repeats. So the groups that chose Hunter need to talk and decide on some new ideas. Everyone else is dismissed."

  "Want to get some lunch?" Eli's hand fell off my thigh as he stood up.

  "That would be great. I'm starving. We can finally check out the dining hall together."

  As soon as I stood up, he slid his hand into mine.

  "What happened to your hand?" Eli turned over my palm.

  "I tripped. It was nothing."

  Something flashed across his eyes. I could have been wrong, but it seemed like anger. Again, it felt like he truly felt my pain. It was comforting. I knew without a doubt that Eli wouldn't stand me up again. He did care.

  He lightly kissed my palm.

  Maybe Eli wasn't the vigilante. But that didn't mean he wasn't my superhero.

 
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