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Made of steel (made of s.., p.38
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       Made of Steel (Made of Steel Series Book 1), p.38

           Ivy Smoak

  Chapter 29


  I set down a tray of dirty dishes in the kitchen. My shift ended in 30 minutes and all my tables were already eating. I'd probably get out early.

  "You were just requested at table seven by a very handsome gentleman," Joan said.

  I smiled. Eli promised he'd be here to walk me home tonight. It was sweet of him to come early to hang out for a bit. "Thanks, Joan."

  "Is he your boyfriend?" she said as she raised both eyebrows.

  "We'll see. Nothing's official yet."

  She laughed. "Atta girl. Make him work for it."

  I walked out of the kitchen with a huge smile on my face. But it disappeared when I saw who was sitting at table seven. Miles. Now Joan was going to think that I wanted Miles to be my boyfriend. And I didn't. I didn't want a one night stand. I wanted to be loved the way I loved him.

  I shook away the thought. This didn't have to be weird. He didn't know that I thought he was flirting with me at his game. He knew I worked here and that's why he requested me to serve him. He was just being a sociable RA. I walked over to his table. "Hi, Miles." My voice sounded oddly high pitched. Stop being weird.

  He smiled out of the corner of his mouth. "Hey, Sadie. I was hoping you'd be working tonight."

  I tried to tell my quickening heartbeat to take a chill pill. He meant it in a friendly way. So why did the center of my chest ache? Why couldn't I stop looking into his eyes? I felt like my feet were melting into the ground.


  "What?" I shook my head, hoping it would dismiss my wandering thoughts.

  He smiled again but then he lowered his eyebrows slightly. "What happened?" He lightly touched the side of his jaw.

  My fingers found the Band-Aid on my cheek. "I tripped."

  He pressed his lips together. "You should have stopped by my dorm. I wouldn't have minded bandaging you up again."

  Is he flirting with me? No. He's just being a good RA. "I'm okay, really."

  "When do you get off?"

  "10." I swallowed hard. Did he really come to walk me home? I told him he didn't need to.

  He glanced at the clock on the wall. "Maybe I'll just take a chocolate chip cookie and a glass of milk then?"

  I nodded and wrote it down in my notepad even though I knew I wouldn't forget it. Some nights he'd sneak cookies and milk into his tree house. It was his favorite snack. I saw the telescope sticking out of his backpack. He was on his way to the observatory. Did he remember pairing those things together? I had always been a part of that equation. "I'll be right back." I didn't make eye contact with him before I walked away.

  Some weeknights it had been harder to slip away. But we were always together watching the stars every Saturday night. He was still looking. Maybe he was still waiting. He couldn't wait for me, though. I wasn't Summer Brooks anymore. She had died five years ago. There was nothing left of her. Except him. Stop.

  I was torturing myself for no reason. Kins said he was a player. He had moved on. I needed to too. I put my hand on the center of my chest. This wasn't living. I grabbed one of the cookies off the cooling rack and poured a glass of milk. I walked back to his table and put the plate and glass down in front of him. "Here you go. Just let me know if you need anything else." I was staring at my Converses instead of him.

  "Hey." His fingers grazed my forearm, sending a chill down my spine. "You came to my game last night."

  "I'm pretty sure the whole school was at your game."

  "Yeah, maybe. But I wasn't paying attention to them."

  My eyes met his. He knew I was staring at him the whole time yesterday. He always could tell what I was thinking. I tucked a loose strand of hair behind my ear. "I'm pretty sure you noticed the two girls behind me in bikinis too."

  He laughed. "I was a little too preoccupied to notice."

  "Right. With the game."

  "No, not with the game." His gaze was suddenly so intense.

  The heat behind it made my whole body feel warm. There was no doubt that he was flirting with me. What I didn't understand was why. "I should probably go check on my other tables."

  He pushed his hair off his forehead. "Okay, Sadie."

  I walked around the diner for several minutes, mainly to ignore him. I stole a glance as I refilled someone's water glass. He was staring directly at me. I immediately looked back down at the pitcher in my hand.

  This was ridiculous. Getting involved with him would put us both in danger. Plus, I was pretty sure that dating your RA was against the rules. And the whole thing was ridiculous anyway. He was the star soccer player here. Girls practically threw themselves at him. He was just being nice. I was imagining the heat. I was pretending I was that little girl that used to spy on him from my bedroom window. I was being completely insane.

  My shift was almost over. Eli wasn't outside yet. I bit the inside of my lip. I needed to squash this thing. I needed to get the ache out of my chest. I needed to forget. The sooner I got out of here, the better. I grabbed his check and placed it down on his table. "Here's your check. Thanks for stopping by the Corner Diner." It was what I had been trained to say, but I left off the "We hope to see you again soon."

  There seemed to be a twinkle in his eye.

  I hadn't said anything funny.

  "I'm walking you home."

  "It's okay, my...friend is coming to walk me home." It would have been better if I had been able to call Eli my boyfriend. Then Miles would get the hint. But Eli hadn't asked me out.

  Miles glanced out the window. Eli still wasn't outside. "I want to."

  He wants to. I needed to push him away. "There are a million girls at this school that would love your help. And I'm sorry, but I'm not one of them." There was still some anger underneath the ache in my chest. It was easier than I thought to snap at him.

  The twinkle remained in his eye.

  "Someone is coming to walk me home." Saying it a second time made it sound like a lie. "Really," I added.

  "Okay." He pulled out his wallet and placed some money down on the table. It was only a few cents over the bill.

  Did he seriously not leave me a tip? "I'll be right back with that." I angrily grabbed his three pennies of change and brought it back to his table. "Here you go."

  He picked up the pennies and slid them into his pocket.


  "If you want your tip, you'll have to let me walk you home." Again, it was like he could still read my thoughts.

  I laughed. "I don't know why you don't believe me. I'm not walking home alone tonight." The clock on the wall said 10:02. He'll be here.

  "If you say so."

  "I do."

  He shrugged his shoulders innocently.

  I shook my head as I walked away from him.

  "He's really cute," Joan said as I entered the kitchen.

  I took off my apron and pulled my hoodie on over my head. "He's okay."

  She laughed. "If you say so."

  Why was everyone questioning me tonight? "Goodnight, Joan."

  "See you tomorrow, Sadie. Have fun." She winked at me.

  I walked out of the kitchen and saw that Miles' table was empty. I exhaled slowly. It should have made me feel relieved, but I felt slightly disappointed. He was probably antagonizing me because he was popular and gorgeous and I was invisible.

  When I stepped outside, I froze. He was waiting for me. I had hoped and prayed that he had been waiting for me this whole time. "You waited."

  He smiled out of the corner of his mouth. "You ready to go?"

  "No...I'm...someone's coming to walk me home already."

  Miles glanced around at the empty sidewalk, emphasizing his point. "Then I'll just wait with you."

  "You don't have to."

  "I want to."

  Why did he keep saying that? I folded my arms across my chest. I didn't want to stand here with him and pretend like he hadn't hurt me. And honestly, I didn't need him or Eli to walk me home. I was going to learn how t
o defend myself. In the meantime, there wasn't a doubt in my mind that the vigilante was out there watching me. I looked over my shoulder. It felt like he was watching me right now.

  I turned back to Miles. "Are you going to the observatory tonight?" It was a stupid question. The telescope was sticking out of his backpack again. Obviously he was going.

  "Yeah. Do you want to check it out?"

  Did he just ask me out? I swallowed hard. I wanted to see it, but it would be better if I went alone. "Maybe a different time."

  "Right. When you're not waiting for someone." He smiled.

  I am waiting for someone. "Why are you so obsessed with the stars anyway?"

  His smile seemed to fade as he thought over the question. "They remind me of being a kid. When I look at them, I feel closer to the people I left back home."

  They didn't remind him of me? Every time I looked at the stars I pictured him beside me. I don't think I'd ever stop picturing him with me. "What about that girl? I think you said her name was Summer? Do they remind you of her?" I was acting desperate. But he didn't know that. He didn't know that I was her.

  He lowered his eyebrows slowly. "Yeah, actually. When we were little we used to stare at the sky for hours together in my tree house."

  "I guess you haven't seen her recently?"

  "No. Not in years." He looked like his mind was far away. Remembering a time when we made sense.

  Nine years. Had it really been that long? We had written to each other all the time, but I hadn't seen him since I went into the foster care system. I was holding a torch for someone who couldn't possibly be the same as I remembered him. For some reason I found myself stepping closer to him. "What happened with you and her? If you don't mind me asking."

  He shrugged his shoulders. "She moved away. And eventually she stopped writing me back."

  Liar. I put my hands into the front pocket of my hoodie and dug my fingernails into my palms. I stopped writing him when he hadn't written me back in years. I stopped because he had already forgotten about me. "Are you sure you didn't stop writing her back?"

  He laughed. "Yeah, I'm positive about that. Sometimes I still write to her even though she hasn't written me back in five years. It's stupid, but I can't seem to stop. I don't even know if I have her right address anymore."

  You're lying. He had stopped writing back to me five years ago. He had forgotten about me. But if he had, why would he have thought I was Summer when he first bumped into me in the Corner Diner? A forgotten person's name wouldn't come to his lips so easily. My eyes wandered to his lips. His perfectly kissable lips.

  "Hey, Sadie," Eli said.

  I jumped when his arm wrapped around my waist. And I cringed when he kissed the side of my forehead. I wasn't sure why his touch burned my skin tonight. There was no ice. Just fire. It was probably because I was mad that he was half an hour late to pick me up. But maybe it was because I'd rather have Miles' arm wrapped protectively around me. Maybe I had never stopped wanting that.

  Miles was searching my face.

  It took me a second to realize I was being incredibly rude. I cleared my throat. "Eli this is Miles. Miles, Eli," I said and gestured back and forth between them.

  Eli let his arm fall away from me as he grabbed Miles' outstretched hand.

  I watched the knuckles on both their hands turn white as they shook hands. What the hell are they doing?

  Eli clapped another hand on the other side of Miles' before pulling away. "How do you two know each other?" he asked as he slid his hand back around my waist.

  Fire. The way he was being possessive should have comforted me. But it didn't. I felt trapped.

  "I'm her RA," Miles said.

  "Oh, okay." Eli seemed relieved as he shifted even closer to me.

  I felt like I was suffocating.

  "And you are?" Miles asked.

  "Her boyfriend."

  I stood there dumbfounded. Eli wasn't my boyfriend. We had never talked about that. And I didn't like him making that assumption without asking me. For some reason, I didn't say a word though. It was easier this way. I needed to stay away from Miles. I had to. But I hated the way he was searching my face, as if he could still hear my thoughts. You can't save me. You have to stay away.

  "We should probably get going, babe," Eli said.

  Babe? He had never called me babe. That's what Patrick called Kins. This whole thing seemed unnatural and forced. What was Eli doing?

  "We'll see you around, man," Eli said and pulled me away from Miles.

  I glanced over my shoulder.

  Miles' hands were stuffed in his pockets and he was scowling. Not at me though. He was staring daggers at Eli. The look made my heart race. He saw the way I flinched at Eli's touch. He saw the shocked look on my face when Eli said he was my boyfriend. He saw the way I cringed at Eli calling me babe. He saw me. He had always been able to see me.

  I turned my head and swallowed hard. The only problem with that was that Miles was wrong. Eli was sweet. And kind. And good. So why did it feel like his fingers were digging into my hip, biting at my skin? Why did it feel like he was forcing me to walk forward. Why did all of this suddenly feel so wrong? This didn't feel sweet. Or kind. Or good.

  "What was that?" I asked.

  "I could ask you the same thing."

  "He was just keeping me company while I waited for you."

  "I was just a few minutes late. I told you I was coming."

  "It wasn't a few minutes. It was half an hour. And it wouldn't have been the first time you stood me up."

  "For a guy that was just keeping you company while you waited for me, he seemed pretty surprised when I walked up to you. Didn't you tell him about me?"

  "I told him that my friend was coming to walk me home."

  Eli laughed. It sounded strange. "A friend? I could have sworn we already talked about this. We both agreed that we wanted to be more than friends." His fingers seemed to grip harder at my waist.

  You're hurting me. But my voice was gone. I blinked away the tears forming in my eyes.

  "I don't want you to see anyone else, okay?"

  I didn't say anything.

  "Okay?" His voice was sharper as we came to a stop outside my dorm building.

  I looked down at my Converses. I needed to find my voice. I needed to be stronger than this. "Please don't yell at me." I was surprised at the words that seemed to fall out of my mouth.

  His hand fell from my waist. "I'm not yelling. I'm trying to have a conversation with you."

  I forced myself to look into his eyes. The kindness was back. He looked concerned. Had I imagined his fingers digging into my waist? Had I imagined his tone? He was just upset because he thought I had been flirting with Miles. And hadn't I been? He deserved to feel betrayed. We hadn't talked about being exclusive, but I didn't want him to be flirting with other girls. I would have been hurt if I had caught him doing that.

  "I'm sorry." My voice sounded small, but I meant it. I felt like my life was a mess. I was daydreaming about the vigilante and Miles, but I had a great guy right in front of me. It was like I didn't know how to be happy. I was sabotaging a good thing.

  "It's okay. I'm sorry that I got upset. Can I come up and hang out for a bit?" He touched the side of my face.

  Fire. I quickly shook my head. "I'm exhausted. I really just need to get some sleep."

  "You sure?"

  "Yeah." I am sabotaging myself. "No. I mean...I just meant I haven't seen your dorm yet. Can we hang out there instead?"

  He smiled. "You sure you don't want to spend the night in your own bed? I'm pretty tired too. We could just call it a night."

  I wasn't sure why, but him not jumping on that idea made me feel even more panicked than his touch. Why didn't he want me to see his room? He was hiding something from me. I needed some space. It felt like I couldn't breathe. "If you're sure that's okay. Rain check though?"

  "Absolutely." He pulled me against his chest and kissed me.

  It was
hard and angry and wrong. I tried to ignore the panic rising in my chest, but I couldn't seem to stifle the feeling. It was like I was being engulfed in flames.

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