In the Light of a Dark Sun
Frankie’s phone vibrated again. She drew in a deep breath to ease the ire that had risen due to one Mr. Gage Hall and risked a peek.
Opening her bag as nonchalantly as possible, she tilted her head to see the screen. Vivi. She knew Frankie couldn’t answer, but her texting during class meant it was important. Or unabashed gossip and Vivi wanted to be the first to tell her.
But if this was another report on the state of Blake Hamilton’s love life, Frankie would kill her. Blake was a chess nerd and Vivi the most popular girl in school. Why she didn’t just ask the guy out, Frankie would never know.
Either way, sparing a quick glance at Mrs. Dunlop, her world history teacher, Frankie lifted the phone out of her bag and slid it between the pages of her book. After another precautionary glance—Mrs. Dunlop didn’t mess around when it came to the school’s policy on phones in class—she flipped the page and read the text, only pausing to take in the visitor who’d walked in.
It was only Mr. Keller, so she looked back at her phone and read the first of five messages. Her vision stumbled on the words, “. . . your guy is here.”
Her guy? What guy?
And then, as if a foreign concept, hope took seed inside her chest. She swallowed and finished the message.
“He started school. Here! And you won’t believe what he did. You were right. He’s . . . he’s amazing.”
She leaned closer and quickly scanned the next text. “His name is Indigo. How awesome is that?”
Indigo. Frankie sat back, stunned, staring at the name on the screen until a black clad figure drew her attention to the front of the classroom. She looked up and her lungs quit working right then and there.
He’d followed Mr. Keller into the room. The boy. The guy who’d saved her life. True, he’d also threatened it, but that was neither here nor there when he had, in turn, rescued her from a carjacking and God only knew what else.
“Take good care of him,” Mr. Keller told the veteran teacher.
Mrs. Dunlop cast him an odd look before letting her gaze slide past him to the hoodie-clad boy.
The hope that seeded inside Frankie’s chest took root and blossomed, its petals unfolding in a brilliant display of color as though he were the sun and she its devout subject.
Yep, definitely Stockholm Syndrome.
Still, she hadn’t realized until that moment how much she’d wanted to see him again. To thank him? Possibly. She hadn’t had the chance the night before. But if she were completely honest with herself, which she liked to think she was, she wanted to see him in the light of day.
Or the light of fluorescents.
Either way. She just wanted to see him. To get one more glimpse of that impossibly handsome and intriguingly marred face. A face obstructed at the moment because his hood was up, a no-no inside the school, but Mr. Keller hadn’t said anything.
Now why would a school administrator miss an opportunity to scold a kid on the dress code? Wasn’t that their thing?
Mr. Keller handed Mrs. Dunlop a piece of paper before he shook the boy’s hand, his other palm resting on his shoulder. Then he nodded and left, and Frankie wasn’t the only one who thought his actions odd. Mrs. Dunlop offered another quizzical brow before pointing to a seat two rows over from Frankie’s on her right.
“Hood down, Mr. Wruck,” the teacher said, as he started for the desk.
Indigo Wruck. She let the name slide over her tongue, savoring its texture.
With all eyes on him, the boy reached up and pushed back the hood, revealing his perfect features and startlingly blue irises.
Frankie’s pulse stalled at the vision and she chastised herself, yet she couldn’t tear her eyes away.
“Whoa,” Gage said in the seat behind her. “What happened to you, man?”
A few of the kids snickered before getting a thorough chastising from Mrs. Dunlop in the form of a practiced glare.
Frankie had forgotten Gage was back there. He’d come in late, too late for her to have the talk with him. As he’d sat down, he placed a playful peck on her cheek like nothing had happened the night before. It infuriated her, but she’d have to wait to let him know that.
Right now, all she cared about was the boy sitting two desks over from hers. His dark hair ruffled and fell into place as he ducked into the seat.
Even with the scars, Frankie wasn’t the only one in the room to take note of his stunning looks. Several of her classmates stilled when the hood cleared, their expressions turning dreamlike, and to her horror, Frankie’s claws sprang to attention.
She retracted them instantly, but her knee-jerk reaction surprised her. She had no claims on him, and she was certain he’d be the first to remind her of that should the need arise.
“This assignment is due at the end of the class,” Mrs. Dunlop said, addressing the entire room. “I suggest you get back to work.”
Then she stood with some difficulty and ambled over to Indigo, bringing him a textbook and a workbook and returning the slip with the schedule he’d need for his other classes.
“Welcome to Geneva High,” she whispered, before glowering at Nevaeh Gutierrez for continuing to stare at GHS’s newest recruit.
Nevaeh turned back to her work, but Indigo had sunk down in his chair, as though uncomfortable with the attention.
Frankie understood that all too well. In the blink of an eye she took on roles she never dreamed she’d have to. The unplanned daughter. The awkward big sister. The curious new kid. But first and foremost, the orphan.
Her phone vibrated just as Mrs. Dunlop turned to head back. Frankie snapped her workbook closed and looked over at the curmudgeonly teacher.
“I take it you’re finished?” Mrs. Dunlop asked, a knowing set to her jaw.
Frankie felt heat rise over her cheeks. “No, ma’am. I have one left.”
“Then I suggest you put that away and get back to work.”
She breathed a sigh of relief. “Yes, ma’am,” she said, stuffing the phone back in her bag.
When she righted herself, she looked over and found her savior staring straight at her, just as he had the night before. His curiosity blatant. His appreciation unapologetic.
For a long moment, Frankie sat captivated. He remembered her. Recognition flashed across his face, and she didn’t know if she should be grateful or concerned.
In the light of day, the allure of his sculpted jaw, full mouth, and refined nose was even more pronounced. Thick lashes framed the brightest blue she’d ever seen with locks of dark hair threatening to conceal them, just barely missing the mark.
Then she realized she was staring.
Wait, no, he was staring.
Not good. Gage was sitting in the seat behind her, and he wasn’t known for his altruistic nature.
She cast a quick glance over her shoulder to confirm that Gage was indeed watching her. Clearing her throat, she straightened her shoulders and turned back to her work.
But the heat of Indigo’s gaze bore into her.
And the ferocity of Gage’s temper thickened the air.
After what she saw last night, she didn’t doubt that Indigo could hold his own, but this was Gage Houston Hall. The same Gage Houston Hall that colleges were fighting over and NFL scouts were already showing an interest.
The last thing she wanted was for the guy, who’d essentially saved her ass, to get his own beaten in return by a jealous boyfriend, soon-to-be-ex or not.
But Gage had taken note. “What the fuck, dude?” he asked Indigo, his voice not the least bit low.
“Hey,” Mrs. Dunlop said in warning.
Gage ignored her.
Frankie cringed and looked over at Indigo. He didn’t flinch. He didn’t even acknowledge Gage’s existence. Instead, he kept his gaze locked on her as though he were begging Gage, who’d marked his territory with a possessive hand on her shoulder, for a fight.
She pleaded with Indigo, her expression both imploring and cautioning as she shook her head.
“Are you serious, right now?” Gage asked a microsecond before he shot to his feet.
Without the slightest hesitation, Indigo stood, too, but the bell rang before either could make another move.
Frankie jumped up and gathered her things with lightning speed, hoping to head off the coming war.
“Turn in your assignments before you leave and don’t forget to read chapter three,” Mrs. Dunlop said. “And, Mr. Hall, I want to see you up here.”
“Fuck,” Gage said.
Shaking off the hand that had returned, this time to her lower back, Frankie rushed to the front of the room, tossed her worksheet into the bin, then weaved around student after student to get to Indigo.
Unfortunately, Nevaeh beat her to the punch. By the time Frankie arrived, Nevaeh had Indigo’s hand in hers, and what should have been a quick shake turned into a lingering hold that had Indigo offering the beautiful girl a lopsided grin. But when Frankie walked up, he turned his full attention back to her.
“I see you’ve met Nevaeh,” Frankie said.
“And he’s promised to come to my party this weekend.” Nevaeh finally let go with a delicate wiggle of her fingers and took note of where the new kid’s interest had landed. With a frown of disappointment, she turned to gather her books.
Students were already filing in for the next class. When Indigo didn’t move, opting for another staring match instead, Frankie ran her tongue over her lips in a nervous gesture and started for the door, hoping he would follow.
He did and it took all of her effort to squelch the tightening in her stomach. Thankfully, Mrs. Dunlop would keep Gage busy for a couple of minutes and allow her to talk to her savior alone in the hall.
Once outside the room, she stole the slip of paper he was holding out of his hands. “Who do you have next?” When he didn’t answer, she did it for him. “English four with Mr. Jenkins. He’s totally cool. I can show you where his room is. And we have third period together, so—”
“You’re boyfriend is interesting.”
Surprised, she looked up. “Yes. Yes, well, he’s not my boyfriend for long.”
She glanced around self-consciously and started walking, ignoring all the stares they were getting. “Yeah, he’s gotten a bit . . .”
“Possessive?” he asked, seemingly oblivious to the stares.
She was glad. “No. He’s always been possessive.” She hugged her books to her. “I used to think it was, I don’t know, romantic. Like it meant he cared for me.”
“It doesn’t.” He said it so matter-of-fact, she stopped and looked up at him again.
“I know that now,” she said in her defense. “I’m really not as stupid as you think I am.”
He turned to face her, the depth of blues fascinating. “Why would I think that?”
“I don’t . . . I just . . .” Suddenly, a floodtide of emotion crashed into her, as though the events of the previous evening were only just now sinking in. Tears stung the backs of her eyes when she realized what could have happened.
She let her lids drift shut and whispered, “You saved my life.”
When she opened them, she caught him staring again, a curious expression on his face. His mouth formed a grim line before saying, “He wouldn’t have killed you.”
His words caught her off guard. Her chest tightened and her knees grew weak. The very fact that he’d considered that outcome proved how dire the situation had truly been. Despite her best efforts, a defiant tear slid past her defenses. “What would he have done?”
He brushed the tear back with an index finger. “Nothing so bad as death. That’s what you have to realize. To focus on. You lived. That’s all that matters.”
With a sob breaking through her carefully crafted façade, she threw an arm around him, surprising no one more than herself.
But he let her. Wrapped his arms around her. Molded his body to hers.
And she sank against him. “Thank you,” she said into his shoulder.
“I’m . . . I’m sorry if I hurt you.”
“You didn’t.” She hugged harder, crushing her books between them. “You didn’t.”
When Indigo ripped her off him and shoved her away, for a split second she gaped at him, embarrassed. Then, just as Gage’s fist made contact with Indigo’s face, she realized why.
Under a Fluorescent Glow
“Correct me if I’m wrong, Mr. Wruck, but weren’t you just in here?”
Iggy looked at the principal from the same chair he’d just vacated not half an hour earlier.
“Normally,” the man continued, “when there’s an altercation, we have no choice but to have both students arrested.”
Iggy stiffened. If he walked out now, he could disappear.
At least he could’ve disappeared an hour ago. Some time between his first meeting with the principal and this second one, that fact changed. He couldn’t leave now, not when he found the very Wraith he’d been looking for. Not when that Wraith posed a threat to the girl.
“However, we went over the security footage. You were clearly attacked.”
“I believe the term is sucker punched.”
Mr. Keller gave a reluctant nod. “In any case, you handled it well.”
“You mean, I didn’t fight back.”
And he hadn’t. He couldn’t have if he’d wanted to. There were too many kids watching, so he let the guy’s own momentum, with a little help from Iggy’s right foot, land him face down on the tile floor where Iggy could secure his arms and jamb a knee into his back to hold him until someone with some semblance authority could come put a stop to the ridiculous event.
He was going to kill—metaphorically—Mrs. Reinhart when he got home. What had she been thinking, letting him loose in the halls of an educational institution? She should’ve known better. They both should’ve known better. They both should’ve known it would never work.
Then again, she’d wrapped her arms around him. Francesca Michelle Victor. It shocked him at first. He didn’t know what to do. Then, when he realized how good it felt, how right, he reciprocated, knowing there’d be consequences.
“You helped her, too, didn’t you?”
Iggy looked back at the principal and feigned ignorance with a shrug. “I’m not in the habit of helping people.”
“I think you are. And I think you helped Frankie last night like you did my wife. That’s why she broke down in the hall. That’s why she hugged you.” When Iggy didn’t answer, he added, “She told the detective she didn’t see the guy, but she did, didn’t she? Just like my wife saw you, too.”
“How do you know what she told the detective?”
“He’s my brother.”
Iggy laughed softly. “Small towns.”
A beep sounded and Mr. Keller pushed a button on his phone. “Yes?”
“The officer is in the conference room with Gage. His parents are on the way.”
“Thank you, Delores. I’ll be right there.” He pushed the button again and looked back at Iggy. “Do you know where your next class is?”
“I can find it.”
“Then I suggest you do that, Mr. Wruck. And how about we see if we can make it through the whole day without you having to visit my office again.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
After Iggy rose and turned to leave, he added, “Stop by the nurse’s office on your way to class.”
Iggy turned back. “I’ve had worse.”
After how his wife had described the previous night, he had little doubt the kid was telling the truth.
Iggy nodded then left without another word. Mr. Keller sat for a few minutes before pushing the speaker button again.
“Delores, get my brother on the line.”
“The one you like?”
He smiled grimly. “No, the other one.”
He got along well with all four of his brothers, which was why the joke always brought a smile to his face. But somehow Delores knew exactly which brother to contact in any given situation. One was a detective, one the district attorney, and one the freaking mayor.
At the moment, however, he needed the skill and discretion of his youngest brother, a private investigator who had a knack for uncovering dirt on the most sparkling of Geneva’s finest. He wanted to know much more about the newest senior at Geneva High and how an eighteen-year-old could throw a man so hard against a car, the vehicle slid two feet in the opposite direction.