Chapter two

de·ni·al
Spelled Pronunciation (di-nahy-uhl)

Noun

1. an assertion that something said, believed, alleged, etc., is false: Despite his denials, we knew he had taken the purse. The politician issued a denial of his opponent's charges.

2. refusal to believe a doctrine, theory, or the like.

3. disbelief in the existence or reality of a thing

Oh, I liked the third one. Hence, the bold letters of the definition. I mean, it is so precise and perfect for the situation. I'm in disbelief in the existence of a thing. The thing just happened to have a name.

"Hello, Dante," I said warily. Long forgotten, my book lay on the table as all my attention focuses solely on the boy sitting across from me. I tried pinpointing the current emotion I was feeling but came up blank. All I knew was that I had to be on guard.

That and the fact that my heart was beating so hard against my ribcage that I was sure he could hear it.

The box locked and sealed away at the back of my head flew open when I heard his voice. It vaguely reminded me of Pandora's Box and almost as bad. Mixed emotions threatened to suffocate me before the sinking feeling in my stomach doubled and I was numb.

The memories were slaughtering me. Oh, God.

"Are you just going to sit there and stare at me all day?"

My lips thinned. "And I was sure time would relieve you of arrogance."

The small grin that quirked his lips could be described as charismatic. But I was biased, so I had nothing pleasant to say about his facial features. Sorry. (Not.) "Arrogance? I prefer the term confidence."

Oh, jeez. I looked over his shoulder and caught the group of girls staring. They instantly averted their eyes when I looked but some peeked over their shoulders. My lips pulled into a tight smile. Typical. Everywhere he went; there would always be a mob of girls staring at him like he was a slice of heaven.

As I expected, I felt myself twitch. That was my cue to leave. Not for the first time, I wished that Amy had not ditched me to go to the washroom. I knew she would force an hour conversation on what happened between the hot (and I use the term loosely) new student and me. My fate was sealed.

Damn.

"Speaking of time," he drawled. I looked at him sharply. "It's done you well."

The hot stirring in my stomach rose to my chest and my lungs constricted. "Keep your false compliments to yourself, please," I said tightly. I began to pull all my belongings into my backpack, uncaring to anyone who was watching. I dared not looked at him.

His eyes, I thought rigidly, trying to banish his gaze from my mind. Damn. Why the hell did he have to look at me like that?

"A little rude, Cassidy?" he said idly, laying a hand on my novel. I snapped my hand back sharply to make sure I wouldn't have any unwanted physical contact. "Leaving so soon?"

"Your attentiveness outstands me." I kept my eyes on my book. "Can you move your hand, please?"

His sudden chuckle surprised me. My eyes flew to him without thinking. "That's the second time you've said 'please'. Damn. I've missed out on a lot."

"You sure have," I said sardonically, finally swiping my book. "In fact, I'm sure we both would've been ecstatic to keep it that way."

His eyebrows rose. "Oh yeah?"

"Yeah."

We stared at each other, unblinking.

The pressure returned to my chest but I did not tear my gaze. For one second, I allowed myself to appraise the intensity of his eyes. I can't lie, with the way he looks at you, it actually seems like you are the only one he sees.

I kept my face carefully neutral and disinterested, but in reality, I wanted to get on my feet and run hard and fast. Captured moments flew through my head like a film, forcing me to relive every flash with the same sharp feeling I had felt then. It didn't help that I could smell him from where I was sitting.

"How are you?"

"I've been better."

"Well, hello there." The familiar suave voice sent a wave of relief and annoyance throughout my body. Thankfully, I felt the relief overpowering my irritation and happily accepted Kari's presence, for once in my life.

I tilted my head as an amused smile lifted the corner of my lips. "You never miss a beat."

She barely cast me a glance. "I'm Kari." Her smile was fit for a Colgate commercial. "You must be Dante Anderson."

I hardly stopped myself from rolling my eyes. I watched Dante raise an eyebrow before smirking and took her hand. I could almost feel the sparks.

Okay, so I lied. But you can sense them switching into flirt mode. Interestedly, I watched them speak for a second or two before making a move to walk away.

"Dante!" a breathless voice said to my left. Sharply, I turned and saw Nicoletta Simons beaming at Dante. Recognition flashed in his eyes and he nodded in her direction.

Right. Fine, maybe I'll stay.

Making myself comfortable, I hid my smile and stopped myself from cackling. Kari's beam suddenly tightened and I knew she was forcing that smile out (it was the same one she used when she was dealing with me). Nicoletta, however, easily kept her beautiful grin.

Nicoletta's golden brown hair curled to perfection framed her oval shaped face perfectly. Her wide blue eyes abruptly landed on me and I saw her eyebrows rise a little in distaste.

Maybe getting comfortable was out of the question.

"And Kari… and Cassidy," she finished rather flatly.

I winked. "How's you?"

She ignored me. Ha, charming. "I see you've made it over from Spain safely," she purred whilst I stared at her, thinking she was a freak. Was that—did she actually purr? "How was your flight?"

"It was fine."

Nicoletta was suddenly looking straight at Kari. "Didn't you tell me that you were staying for the whole year?"

Kari levelled her gaze. "He didn't tell you. You found out from his mom."

He—staying—year?

I think I choked on air.

The three of them simultaneously looked at me when I made a cross sound of a gurgle and a moan of despair. I thumped my chest, but my eyes were on Dante.

"You're staying for the whole… year?" I strangled out, trying to keep my cool.

Dante smirked the same smirk he knew I loathed with my existence. Suddenly, it was easier to breathe and I had no trouble ignoring what he represented in my life.

"Is that a problem?" He arched an eyebrow in a challenging way that sent me over the edge.

"Not at all." Even though it was. "You can stay as long as you want."

"I'm glad I have your approval," he said, his voice tinged with mockery. My face hardened. "Perhaps it's the right time to tell you that I'm moving here. Permanently."

I stared before exhaling sharply. "That's nice," I said, my voice strained. Gritting my teeth, I stood up and grabbed my belongings and walked away without a backward glance.


"Moooommy!" a five year old wailed, tugging on her mother's pants. "When are they coming?"

A woman in her late twenties looked down at her daughter and smiled gently. "They'll be here, honey."

At that precise moment, the doorbell rang. The little girl jumped up excitedly and raced to the door. She reached for the doorknob and twisted it open with difficulty before she tugged it open. She smiled brightly as she opened the door when she came face to face with a little boy.

"Hi, Dante!" she greeted enthusiastically.

He grinned, tackling her into a hug.

A few minutes later, they both scampered off to the backyard to play hide-and-seek.


It's fake. I'm dreaming and this isn't happening to me. When I wake up I'll laugh at the absurdity of it all—I'll even check if I'm sick, because really, when was the last time I had a dream of—of him?

Not for a long time, that's for sure, but only if this dream doesn't count. Because, you know, I'm dreaming?

"Did you see the hot new senior?"

"Oh, my God. Yes."

Oh, God. Oh, God.

I plugged my ears and buried my face on my desk.

"Miss Summer," a voice droned from the front of the classroom. "Do you enjoy banging your head repeatedly on my desk?"

Slowly, I lifted my chin and saw Mr. Guggenheim staring at me with beady eyes. All I could do was smile weakly. I don't think Mr. Farrell would like it if I'm in his office for the second time today. Besides, ever since Guggenheim caught me laughing at his name last year I have been in his sour books forever.

You'd think your best friend would tell you when a teacher was directly behind you. Gosh.

"It won't happen again," I said.

"It better not," he snorted, returning to his lesson.

I kept my smile plastered on my face until he turned his back. My eyes slipped into a small frown and I began to diligently take notes.


She held onto him tightly. "Don't leave me," she said, her voice muffled by the fabric of his shirt. The nine-year-old Dante looked at the girl in his arms and hugged her tighter.

He felt the wetness of her tears through his shirt, making him frown. He didn't like it when girls cried. He didn't like it when she cried.

"I'll be back," he said softly. "I always come back, don't I?"

Eight-year-old Cassidy looked up and stared at him before nodding. She sniffled and stepped back, wiping her face with the back of her hand. "I know… it's just…" she said helplessly before shrugging. "Sorry," she muttered after a few moments of silence.

He smiled. "It's okay. But when I come back I'll bring you presents, okay?"

She smiled brightly. "You better come back before my birthday!"

He grinned. "I'll be back," he promised her.

Then he turned and walked towards his mom.


I felt someone kick the back of my chair and I snapped up in my seat. Of course, due to that action, I was left light-headed. Yawning, I stretched before I was abruptly aware of the sharp silence in the classroom.

"Had a good nap?" Guggenheim asked tightly.

Oh, crap.

"It was… refreshing, yes." I nodded thoughtfully, all the while praying he wouldn't—

"You're lucky you were called down to the office or else I would've sent you myself," he glowered. I smiled a little as sniggers appeared around me before I stood up and grabbed my notes. "And don't come back if all you're going to do is sleep!"

"I wasn't sleeping," I muttered under my breath, "I was resting my eyes. There's a big difference."

What? There was.

Mr. Farrell's door was ajar when I approached it after permission from the secretary. I lifted my hand to knock whilst he looked up and caught my eye.

"Thank you for waking up from your nap and coming down, Cassidy," he said his voice warm and teasing. Smiling, I leaned against the frame of his door.

"Guggenheim ratted me out," I mused.

"One more time you do that, Cassidy. I swear to you you will be out of there soon enough if you keep that up. It's only the second week of school."

"Warning duly noted," I said. "Did you need something?"

He pointed to the two seats in front of his desk and I opened the door. Shock made me freeze in mid-stride as my eyes landed on a particular figure I would rather not be seeing now… or for the rest of the year, come to think of it.

"You," I said warily and massaged my temples. Highland Academy was a huge place and if you wanted to avoid someone, it was an easy feat to accomplish. Fate must be laughing her ass off. Apparently misery fuelled her work.

Dante lifted an eyebrow at my tone. "That's not usually the reaction I get from girls," he drawled.

Of course it wasn't, I felt like snapping. In fact, I felt like throwing every single object in the room in the direction of his perfectly structured face. But can I do that? No. Just like how I can't turn my heel and run out of there like the building was on fire.

"Swooning is out of the question," I said sweetly. "You'll have to find someone else to stroke your ego."

"My, my," Mr. Farrell said, his eyebrows nearly touching his hairline as he observed us. "Intense history I presume?"

"Intensely crappy," I muttered under my breath.

"I heard that, my Belle."

Heart thudding, I whirled to him. "Do not call me that," I hissed.

"This works out perfectly then," Mr. Farrell exclaimed giddily. With a foreboding sensation, I looked at him carefully and assessed his features. He looked mischievous, like a little boy who appeared to be innocent but was actually holding a pie behind him to throw in your face. Oh dear Lord. "You have detention after school Cassidy, am I correct?"

Obviously. Weren't you the one that gave it to me?

I bit my thoughts back and nodded.

"Well, now you don't!"

Perplexed, I waited for him to continue. There's a catch, and it undoubtedly had to do with the menace sitting a little too casually a few feet away from me.

"Dante Anderson has personally requested a private tour with someone reliable. You are reliable, aren't you Cassidy?"

I jumped at the out. "No!" Pausing, I realized what I said and cleared my throat. "Actually, I am reliable… just not for this job," I corrected hastily, "because, you know… I get lost."

"You get lost because you choose to get lost," Farrell pointed out wryly.

"You have too much hallways," I insisted.

"Which you happen to be familiarized with." His eyebrows rose, looking at me with a challenging glint in his eyes. My pulse throbbed in annoyance and doom. Oh, God. I began to fervently think of ways to escape this torture. "It's either this or a phone call home."

I'm doomed. Doomed. Ugh.

"Fine." No one said I had to be happy about this. I could look dejected all I want. I ignored Farrell's amused expression at my pained expression. Gosh. He is such a sadist.


She peered on her tippy-toes over the crowd before getting back on her feet. She hid her disappointment when she looked at her mom. She smiled brightly before walking away.

He wasn't here.

She sighed lightly before making her way over to her friends. "Hi," she greeted.

"Happy birthday!" they chorused.

"Thanks, I"

"Cassidy?"

She turned and saw Dante's mom smiling at her widely. Her eyes widened. If she was here, then that meant… "Auntie Claire!" she greeted enthusiastically. Claire hugged the girl tightly. "How was your trip?"

"It was fine," she smiled. Cassidy nodded and smiled in response but she couldn't help looking over her shoulder. Claire laughed slightly. "Dante will be here in a moment," she said, but a frown marred her features.

Cassidy nodded and smiled, but her smile slowly fell when she heard a familiar voice.

"Why do I have to come?" he scowled. "I don't want to be here!"

Cassidy froze. Was that…

She walked around Aunt Claire and saw Dante right behind his father, his arms crossed over his chest while he glared at the floor.

The day didn't seem as special as she had thought in the morning.

She sucked in a breath and walked over to greet him.


Absentmindedly, I began to twist my locker combination with one eye trained on my book (do not ask how this is possible). My shoulder bag felt heavy and I think I am going to wake up with a cramp tomorrow morning. Distractedly, I wondered if ice would relieve me of this temporary pain.

"Cassidy!" Amy flailed her arms. "Don't ignore me, damn you!"

Oh yeah. I was ignoring her.

I pulled my lock and hung it on its hook before unloading my bag expertly as I continued to read. Amy shuffled and sighed harshly beside me. I gave up trying to get her to shut the crap up about how Dante was extremely drool worthy. It was a futile attempt, anyway. She finally realized that I wasn't listening.

Note her pouting expression.

"That's not going to work," I chirped, informing her brightly. "I know all your tricks, Amy Duran, so you can stop right this instant."

"All you have to do is answer me," she exclaimed. "I don't understand why you're so prissy whenever I mention—"

"Don't say his—"

"Him," Amy finished, giving me a pointed look.

Clearing my throat, I looked away and shouldered my locker shut. She didn't need to know, I thought forcedly. Not yet. If I could help it, she would never have to know because I would not tell her. If I had the choice.

But didn't I?

Oh, for crap's sake. I swallowed down the urge for caffeine or anything strong to temporarily ease my thoughts. I had to get over the fact that he's attending my school. It's not even my school exclusively. It's shared with three-thousand other students!

Right. I'm way over it.

. . . But seriously God, why my school? Just—it's not—fair!

OK. OK, I'm over it.

. . . I mean, I'll understand if it was some other fancy—fine, jeez, I'm over it.

"What?" I asked defensively when I caught her glaring at me from where she was standing. Amy had her arms crossed tightly against her chest and stared me down like a hawk.

"How do you know Dante Anderson?" she asked suspiciously.

"How do you?"

"His father. Duh."

I snorted. "Ale Anderson stopped acting a long time ago. Dante has nothing on his father."

"Except even better facial features." Disgust loaded on my face to which Amy ignored. Charming. "Admit it. Dante is one gorgeous boy."

"Dante?" A girl named Francesca asked interestedly as she stopped walking. I looked at her warily and sighed. "I would not mind getting locked up with him in a classroom for a few hours." She smiled suggestively and high-fived Amy.

"You two act like males," I noted. "Frankly, it's quite disturbing."

"Stop speaking like an old lady," Amy snorted. "Live a little!"

I glared. "I am living," I retorted. "I'm breathing, aren't I?"

"That's different and you know it."

"No, it isn't."

"Yes, it is."

Rolling my eyes, I decided to surrender. Amy knows fully well that I am living (oh, God, I cannot believe we are even arguing over that fact). I mean, what am I supposed to do? Am I to swoon over every male my eyes happen to see? Call every male within a ten-mile radius hot just because he happens to be genetically blessed?

I do not think so.

"You're not a girl," Francesca announced, giving me a warm teasing grin. "When was the last time you flirted?"

My face flamed. "Excuse me?" I choked.

"See what I have to be with? She blushes at the word flirt! How can you not flirt?"

"As easily as breathing," I muttered.

"Exactly!" Amy and Francesca whirled to me so suddenly I felt myself cowering. "Flirting is like breathing! You can't not do it."

Oh, dear Lord.

I slapped my forehead in exasperation and chose to ignore them. Can you believe they're giving me a lecture on how to flirt? I can't. Praying, I began to count the minutes that passed by until this torture would end.

"Ladies," a charming voice said right behind me. Amy and Francesca stopped speaking and since I was standing right in front of them, I saw their jaws click open.

"H-hi," Amy stammered. "You're the new student, right?" Of course he was the new student. She knew he was the new student. I'm sure her question is rhetorical, and knowing Dante, he'll answer it anyway. Rolls eyes.

Francesca also grinned. "Very nice to meet you."

"Can you tell?" Dante directed to Amy and grinned. (What did I tell you?) "It's nice to meet both of you."

Amy suddenly turned to me with daggers and I flinched into an upright position. Her eyes screamed at me to introduce them. Gosh. She could have asked nicely… with her eyes, I mean.

"Um," I said desperately, glancing between them. "Amy, Francesca, this is… Dante." I did it. I'm capable. Yes. "…Dante, this is Francesca and Amy." I pointed to the proper person once I spoke their name.

Another round of greeting ensued.

Suddenly, I had a brilliant idea.

"How would you three like to know each other better?" I exclaimed, abruptly enthusiastic. I chose to ignore Dante's wary expression and focused on my two friends. Francesca and Amy looked at each other oddly before shrugging at me.

Oh, please. Like they can fool me with that nonchalant act.

"You can show Dante around," I explained. "You can get to know each other better; and Dante here said he needed someone reliable. Amy and Francesca are reliable," I told him in matter-of-fact tones. "You can talk, laugh, joke…" Relieve me of my punishment without Farrell knowing… "And most importantly, become friends!"

My arms froze in the air as I grinned brilliantly at them.

I think I should do advertising commercials. I totally sold Dante. Ha.

"Aw, I can't." Francesca wrinkled her nose in despair. "I have a Psychics quiz tomorrow which I know nothing about. It's only the second week into school and Guggenheim's already torturing us!"

"Oh," I said in understand and twitched at the thought of the teacher. "I understand. He's an evil man," I reassured her. "You're most likely to fail."

The three of them gawped.

"I'm kidding!" I grinned. "But Amy, you can show him around, right? I mean, he is hot." I rolled my eyes, trying not to choke on the word. I saw Amy's face flame and she glanced between the two of us furiously before settling her gaze on the floor… mostly likely plotting my death, but that's okay.

Dante didn't seem all too affected. I don't even think he noticed my little exchange with Amy. "You think I'm hot?" he asked, arrogance practically bleeding into the words.

I tried not to take the bait. "She does." I pointed to my best friend and cringed away when she lifted daggers to my eyes. Oops. "I think you're…" I assessed him dismissively and noted his raised eyebrows. Laughing inwardly, I just looked away. "I think you're," I finished with finality.

"You didn't finish your sentence," Francesca pointed out wryly.

"I am aware," I said.

"Oh, brother," Dante muttered.

Grinning, I didn't waste time as I backed away from the three of them. Amy gave me looks that could kill and Francesca was laughing in amusement. I stole a peek at Dante and saw him… smirking? Oh. It wasn't like I wanted to piss him off.

"Bye!" I chirped before dashing away from them as fast as possible.