"New kid," Tyler muttered.

I looked up from tying my laces to see one guy in the locker room sticking out like a sore thumb. It wasn't like he was trying, but any guy with that much muscle didn't look like he belonged in my freshman gym class. From the look on the others' faces, they were thinking the same thing. The guy had to be over six feet and I was still praying to hit a growth spurt.

"Wouldn't call him a kid," Ben pointed out. "Whaddya think, steroids or held back a few grades?"

"Do you know his name?" I asked.

"No," Eric replied, "but I saw them at lunch and his sister's really cute."

"And she's got a boyfriend twice your size," Tyler snickered. "Maybe you should try for the little sister."

"Fat chance," Eric said. "Her boyfriend's got half a foot on me."

Figures. The one day I have to make up a lab during lunch and I miss out on the best chance to make a first impression.

Guess I'd have to do this the hard way. I finished tying my laces and headed over to the new kid who had just finished finally putting on a shirt and was now working on his own Adidas.

"Hey."

He looked up and smiled, which was a pretty good start. "Hey," he said casually.

"I'm Mike Newton."

"Edward Cullen," he said after he disentangled a hand from his laces to shake mine. "Newton like the Olympic Outfitters?"

"Yeah," I confirmed. "I work there on weekends. Kind of the family business."

He nodded. "My family does a lot of backpacking," he said. "I'll probably see you around."

Oh, so he wasn't on steroids. He was probably just one of those guys who could rip a bear's head off with their bare hands. That made me feel better.

He straightened up, leaving me to stare at his midsection, so I turned away and beckoned him towards the gym. "Where'd you move from?"

"Portland," he answered immediately, "but I lived in Hoquiam when I was young."

I grinned. "So you're used to the rain."

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see him grin with a lot of really white, straight teeth. Geez, he probably had never even heard of braces.

"You might say that," he said. "I like it. You?"

"Been in class with the same people since preschool," I said proudly. "I can definitely show you around if you want."

"I think I've got it covered."

Of course he did.

"But thanks," he added quickly. "I'll let you know."

Okay, so he wasn't such a bad guy. A little weird—who likes this much rain anyway?--but nice enough.

"All right," Coach yelled. "We were supposed to start sprints today, but it decided to flood, so I'm going to go easy on you. Dodgeball captains..."

He looked around. "Newton, Cheney. Let's make this quick."

I jogged out to the middle and flipped Ben for it. He won the toss and took Josh, the soccer player from my algebra class.

"Cullen," I called out. "You're with me."

Ed grinned again and joined me as Ben picked Angela Weber. I took Jessica, Tyler and as many of the leftover jocks as I could get. Edward was definitely the biggest one and would definitely be an easy target, but maybe he'd make up for it in throwing skills.

"All right, huddle up," I called.

There wasn't really much strategy you could talk in dodgeball, but I wasn't taking chances.

"Ed, you fast?"

"I'm all right," he said. "Where do you want me?"

"In back. You look like you play baseball."

"Left field," he agreed. "Sometimes, my sister lets me be relief pitcher."

All the guys on my team laughed at the fact that a girl let him play backup.

"Good, just pretend everyone's a catcher's mitt," I instructed. "Everyone else, don't get hit either by the other guys or Cullen here. All right?"

There were no arguments so we spread out and let the games begin.

&

"All right," he said. All right. I didn't know you could get six feet of anything to go fast if it didn't have a horsepower, but Edward was all right.

I think Tyler was right. The guy seems pretty smart, but no way is he fourteen.

"Good hustle out there, Cullen," Coach Clapp says as we head out of the locker room.

Hustle. The guy hustled like Maurice Greene and Coach calls it a "good hustle." I'm lucky the girls didn't swoon on the spot. Okay, I shouldn't be jealous, but I'm definitely picking him for my team again.

"Thanks," Edward calls back.

He falls into step with me again, backpack slung over his shoulder. "Thanks for that," he said. "It was fun."

"Fun?" someone asked from behind us.

We turned and I caught first sight of a girl even shorter than me with crazy black hair. She had her arms folded over her chest and was looking either disapproving or disappointed.

"Edward Anthony Masen Cullen, have you been showing off again?"

"Just a little," he said, waiting for her to catch up. "It was fun."

"Yeah," she said. "I saw how much fun you were having."

He rolled his eyes at that, but slung an arm protectively over her shoulder. "Mike, this is my sister Alice," he introduced. "Alice, this is Mike Newton. He gave me permission to show off."

"If you say so," she said dismissively, waving one hand and shaking my hand with the other one. "Nice to meet you, Mike. I think I have English with you."

I don't have English until tomorrow, but maybe she saw the class roll. Nice to know she noticed me first. It'd be hard not to notice her from now on.

"I guess so."

Brilliant, Newton. Try two syllables next time.

"Esme's out front," she said to Edward. "Are you ready to go or are you walking home?"

"I'm ready," he said. "See you tomorrow, Mike."

"Bye," I call back.

I'm halfway to the corner when I heard Alice call out my name again. I turned back to find her alone and looking mischievous.

"Don't let it happen again."