On the Meg Cabot Book Club, this is my entry for the PAUL'S POV competition, taken from Haunted.

"A Little Experiment?"

- 8 -

'And let's all remember to remind our parents about the feast of Father Serra, which will take place here at the Mission tomorrow, starting at five o'clock. There will be food and games and music and fun. Susannah Simon, after assemble would you please come to the principal's office?'

If there's anything that will make me, Paul Slater, actually pay attention in one of this gay-assed school's morning assemblies, it's the mention of a certain girl who, at the moment, was acting like she hated me.

Not that she did. She just wanted me to think that . . . she's that type of girl, you see.

I even saw her straighten up in her seat, a few rows in front of me. Her hair was shining in the sunlight. I smirked a little.

Wonder what the Good Father wanted to talk to her about, eh?

. . . Wait . . . crap, what if she said something about me? I mean, you know – that kiss. What if she concocted some bull that I forced her? Or even worse, what if she told the priest about my ghost friends?

. . . Okay, so they weren't friends. But that's beside the point.

When assembly was over, I started to get worried. I had Honors English. We were studying Shakespeare's work this semester. Gotta hand it to the guy – he was smart. In all of his plays, the guy would always get the girl, just by talking. So what if said guy would end up spouting out sappy rubbish about his . . . lips being pilgrims or something, the point was, the guy got the girl.

What does a stupid fictional character have that I don't? Did I have to talk like a fifteenth century pansy to get the girl I wanted?

Hell, I hoped not.

As I was starting to get frustrated with the class discussion on Taming of the Shrew, I stuck up my hand boredly. Sister Gloria narrowed her eyes at me menacingly. 'Hmm? What do you want, Paul?'

What, can't a guy take a leak or something?

'Toilet,' I said simply.

She raised her eyebrow for a moment, before sniffing, and handing me a hall pass. I flashed her a smile, and left.

Once outside the chamber of Shakespearian hell, I stretched my arms up and yawned. I wondered what subject Suze was in . . . maybe I could go grab her out of class, saying it she was needed by Father Dom again, or something, then lead her to the courtyard, shove her against a wall and resume what she rudely stopped the other day?

Because, God, that kiss had been something I'd wanted to do so badly since last summer, when I'd first met her. If I had to do it again, I probably wouldn't have done much different . . . except probably not stop, because the both of us knew that she'd wanted it. She wouldn't have come, otherwise. That Jesse excuse was all crap. Because I know when a girl wants it. And by the way she was kissing me back, I knew. The way she'd sighed when I kissed her . . . the feel of her against me . . . it was – phwoar. After so long, I'd finally had the balls to just kiss her like I wanted to.

Meandering boredly around the courtyard, I regarded the headless statue of our school patron. I wonder what the hell happened there? What, some whacked out ghost mutilate it or something?

If so, further proof that ghosts are scum.

Ghosts, such as, oh I dunno . . . de Silva?

Seriously. What right did he have, living in a sixteen year old babe's bedroom? Well, haha, "living" is a pretty strong word for what he does. Why the hell does HE get that luck? I mean, here I am. I work hard at school, I'm smart, I'm slick, I make anyone with breasts drool, (excluding Sister Ernestine, seeing as her sexual orientation hasn't been determined,) I'm - I'm funny, I do everything right, but I get everything wrong.

So yeah, I don't GET it. A pathetic excuse for a ghost like Jesse should NOT get Suze. She was mine. Just because she saw him first . . . if it had have been me first, everything would have been different. I could have made her happier than him. I mean, I exist for God's sake! I actually BELONG on this plane of existence. I'm BETTER than him.

So what was the frigging deal? Why HIM? What did HE have that I didn't? I have everything that he doesn't! A heartbeat, a reflection, a birthdate within the last twenty years, and a car. He has nothing.

And yet he had everything. Everything I wanted . . .

He had her.

I was glaring pretty intensely at the wall, when I heard gentle, uneven footsteps. Turning, I saw -


She was walking carefully in what looked like a painful way. Instantly, I felt a pang of guilt - something I don't usually feel. I mean, okay, she didn't HAVE to run off like she did and screw up her feet, but it was ultimately my fault she did, I guess.

Sort of. If she wasn't always DENYING everything, she could have been walking with perfect ease at the moment, gazing adoringly in my general direction, having finally given in to my advances.

However, that wasn't the case. I stepped out from behind the column of the breezeway, and was all, 'Hey.'

If I'd been expecting any pleasant reply, I was disappointed.

'Go away.'

She looked up at me, and I saw a flash of something in her eyes. Fear.

Fear. She was SCARED of me . . . oh, this was too good . . .

There and then, I knew that I was going to get the truth out of her. Hey - had she . . . had Suze Simon been crying? Wow. Pigs DO fly, I guess.

'What's with the waterworks?' I asked, concerned. Wow. Our resident priest must have told her that no, Christ didn't die on the cross to save humankind, and that we were still paying the price for Original Sin, and that life wouldn't get easier.

She snapped her eyes up to me hatefully. Whoa, Suze, back off . . .

'Nothing,' she said quickly, wiping the corners of her eyes with her - 'Just allergies,' - suede jacket.

What the HELL?

'Are you insane?' I demanded, throwing her hand down quickly, 'That's suade.' God, first ghosts, now blubbering on suede. This girl definitely is total Loony Tunes. And yet . . . I still wanted her. Badly.

'Here, use this,' I shoved my hand in my pocket, and handed her my hanky.

She looked at me like I was insane. 'You carry a handkerchief?' she asked, incredulous.

'Never know when you might need to gag someone.'

If only she knew that I'd done just that before, with that bit of material . . . not that I was going to tell her.

This caused her to laugh, something that was music to my ears. I wanted to make her laugh more, to hear her voice, over and over again. I grinned at her, as she dried her tears and gave me the once over. Her eyes landed on my mouth. Hah. She so wanted me.

That's right Suze . . . it DID feel good, didn't it? Or can't you remember? Want me to job your memory for you . . . ?

Suddenly, I wanted to kiss her again . . . and nothing would stop me from doing what I wanted. Nothing has before, after all. My hands slid to either side of her against the column, bring me a lot closer to her.

Calm down, Paul. Don't get excited too early . . .

'So, Suze,' I smirked. 'What did Father Dominic want to see you about?' I mean, if she HAD told him about . . . us, why the hell would she be crying for?

I never wanted to make her cry, so I hoped that wasn't the case.

She kind of didn't look at me. She kept blinking, and moving as far against the column that I had her up against, as possible. Whenever she did look at me, it was always at my mouth . . .

I looked at her lips, remembering how they'd felt on mine.

Really good. Really, really good.

'Don't worry,' she replied aggressively, but then said in a softer voice, 'I didn't tell Father Dom anything about you, if that's what you're worried about.'

Oh, good.

I smiled at her, and stopped to appreciate how beautiful she did actually look. She'd obviously been crying a lot. I still didn't know why, but I wasn't sure I wanted to know. Probably chick crap. You know, the that-time-of-the-month stuff that guys know better than to ask about. Her hair was spilling down her shoulders, framing her face. I swear, she was so gorgeous. She had the most beautiful eyes I'd seen. They were so green, and alive. I brushed my finger across her hair. She usually wore it up . . . 'I like your hair better down. You should always wear it down.'

She rolled her eyes, sucked in a breath, and pressed her lips together firmly, She was feeling it again . . . so was I.

So why the hell did she try to run away, again?

'Where do you think you're going?' I asked when she tried to duck under my arms. I moved closer, so by now, I was right over her. Her eyes widened, and I felt her stiffen.

God, I hope she couldn't feel me stiffen.

'Paul,' she said flatly, 'Really. Not here, okay?'

'Fine,' I said quickly. Not in the breezeway, fair enough. Closet? Was Suze REALLY the closet type of girl? What, she wanted to ditch school and go to my house again? I was cool with that. More than cool. 'Where, then?'

Apparently, she had meant "not now" in addition to "not here," because more evidence of the monthly-visitor reared at me sharply. 'Oh God, Paul - I don't know, okay?' She touched her forehead like she had a headache or something. I patiently waited for her answer. 'Look, I have . . . a lot of stuff to figure out now. Could you just - could you leave me alone for a while so I can think?'

Hah, alone.

Being alone is overrated, Suze. I'd know . . . it really, really sucks.

You know, it doesn't just suck.

It hurts.

'Sure,' I said automatically, not meaning it. 'Did you get the flowers?'

They frigging cost sixty bucks. She BETTER have gotten them.

She breathed in sharply, closing her eyes in frustration. 'I got the flowers. B-But if you think I'm going to forget about what you did because you send me a bunch o dumb fl - '

'I said I was sorry, Suze,' I groaned. What did she WANT? 'I acted like an ass, I know. And I'm more sorry about your feet than I can say. You should have let me drive you home. I wouldn't have tried anything, I swear.'

She looked skeptical. What? Doubting moi? Never!

'Oh yeah. What do you call what you're doing now?'

This? THIS is trying something? What the -

Oh yeah . . . oops. I guess I was a little closer than what was socially polite. I could feel how breathless my proximity was making her. Because I know the effect I had on her. I know how she felt around me. All this physical evidence, and STILL she had the nerve to deny that there was nothing.

'Suze,' I said, running my fingers through her hair a little. 'How else am I going to get you to talk to me. You've got this totally mistaken impression of me. You think I'm some kind of bad guy. And I'm not. I'm really not. I'm well, a lot like you.'

She looked unnerved. 'Somehow I seriously doubt that.'

Her eyes were luring me in again. They were hauntingly beautiful. Those eyes . . . they were the eyes that I couldn't stop dreaming about . . .

Slater, stop being a fag. Come on, you ass.

'It's true,' I pointed out. 'I mean, we actually have a lot in common. Not just the mediator thing, either.' See? I even refer to it the way she likes it. 'I think our philosophy of life is the same. Well, except for the whole part where you want to help people. But that's just guilt. In every other way, you and I are identical. I mean, we're both cynical and mistrustful of others. Almost to the point of being misanthropic, I would go as far as to say. We're old souls, Suze. We've both been around the block before. Nothing surprises us and nothing impresses us. At least . . . ' I intensified my gaze, and smiled slightly, ' . . . nothing till now.'

Because seriously. This girl impressed me. More than she knew Her courage was amazing. It was just her stubbornness with the whole Jesse thing that pissed me off.

'At least in my case,' I added. Although, considering how she'd kissed back, I'm pretty sure she found something about me impressing.

'That may be, Paul,' she snapped. 'The only problem is, the person I mistrust most in the world? Yeah, that'd be you.'

Oh, please.

I snorted. 'I don't know why. We're clearly meant for one another. I mean, just because you mean Jesse first - '


. . . Wow. Okay, that half-yelp came from no where.

'Paul, I'm warning you - '

I smirked, and slid my finger over her lips. They were so soft . . . so indignant, so sweet . . . I could feel her breath coming out fast, against her finger. I was affecting her breathing pace. I was affecting her, and STILL she - God, it was ridiculous, I swear. 'Shhh. Don't say things you'll only regret later.'

'I'm not going to regret saying this,' she said heatedly, 'You - '

'You don't mean it,' I smirked, trailing my finger down her cheek, to her neck. She shivered. 'You're just scared. Scared to admit your true feelings. Scared to admit that I might know a few things you and wise of Gandalf, aka Father Dominic, might not. Scared to admit that I might be right, and that you aren't as completely committed to your precious Jesse as you'd like to think. Come on, 'fess up. You felt something when I kissed you the other day. Don't deny it.'

And you're feeling it now . . . I can tell, Suze.

You can't hide it from me, as much as you try.

I know.

I know you . . .

She knew I was right. I was the terrified hesitation flicker in her eyes. She would never admit it . . . not unless I pushed her to . . . seduced her into answering the only way she knew . . .

I edged nearer to her, until I was leaning against her. She swallowed, hard, and met my eyes. Suddenly, she wasn't able to look away, because I'd locked my gaze on her so intensely that if she dared to look elsewhere, she'd crack.

'You want to try it again?' I breathed, my mouth so, so damned close, to touching hers. Just kiss her, Slater. She wanted it . . . she needed it. Her eyes were screaming for you to.

Her lips parted nervously. They were shaking a little, with her breath. I'd broken her down . . . I knew it. It had to happen sooner or later. For me to wear her down enough till she'd just let go, and let me do what I wanted to do to her -

'Let's not,' she said stiffly, twisting her head away.


Outraged, I went to repond with a furious, "Let's," but she continued, 'I'm having a very bad day, Paul. I'd really appreciate it if you'd just back off.'

With that, she pushed me away with force I hadn't expected from a girl of her size.

Then again . . . this WAS Suze Simon. Expect the unexpected.

'Whoa,' I raised my eyebrows, regaining my balance. 'What's the matter with you anyway?'

You're acting a little b!tchier than usual.

'Nothin,' she said. Nothing. Hah. Since when is it nothing, Suze? It's always something. There's no such thing as nothing with you. Even when the something is so damned obvious, you'll deny it, and write it off viciously as a nothing.

And it'll kill me.

'I just . . . got some bad news, that's all,' she replied.

Mum die? Great Aunt Mapel's plane crash? Loose a bet?

I smirked. 'Like what? Rico Suave dump you?' I joked.

I didn't expect the choked, half-yelp, half-gasp that split the casualness of the atmosphere with a pained ferocity. She looked away quickly, and I saw her eyes tearing up.

She was crying over HIM? A ghost!

Man, she's whipped.

. . . Wait.

Suddenly, the wheels went wild with animation in my mind. This was it. This was finally it. This was the wake up call she needed, and the chance that I was never going to get again. They were OVER. It was only a matter of time . . .

'Whoa,' I said, 'Sorry, I - did he? Did he really?'

Please say yes. Give me a reassurance that the deep satisfaction I just felt was not for nothing.

She didn't reply, her eyes wide.

'I kind of thought that there might be trouble in paradise when he never showed up to kick my ass after what happened at my house.'

Her gaze snapped to might in a fiery indignance. 'I don't need Jesse to fight my battles for me.'

I smirked. Hah. I knew it . . . 'You mean you didn't tell him,' I corrected her. 'About you and me, I mean.'

She looked away quickly.

My smirk grew even wider. 'That has to be it. You didn't tell him. Unless . . . you DID tell him and he doesn't care. Is that it, Suze?'

She dodged my question with a lame, scared sounding, 'I have to get to class.'

But I kept pushing it.

'Question is,' I mused, 'Why didn't you tell him? Could it be because maybe deep down, you felt something . . . something that you don't want to admit even to yourself?'

She whipped around, her eyes burning with hurt and heat. Ang guilt. Because I was right, and she knew it.

I could see it in her eyes. They were shouting things to me that her mouth didn't have the courage to say.

She felt something . . .

And as per usual, I was going to be the winner here.

She wasn't Jesse's everything anymore.

She was mine.

Or at least, she would be.