So I have to confess, I haven't looked at this fanfiction since I was like 19. I'm almost 23 now and I started to notice how many people were begging for a continuation, so here it is. I must admit, writing is a nice break from the homework I've been doing. I'm getting inspired all over again!

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It hurt so badly. For a few hours that day, the only comprehensible emotion in my ragged body was pain; it wasn't the kind where you burn or ache, but simply a throbbing deep in my heart. It was a pain so intense I wondered if it would ever leave; I wondered if things would ever be the same.

I'd never been one to hold grudges and was actually surprised by my sudden ability to hate Lash completely and entirely. My best friend, the handsome bad boy with his arrogant airs and nimble mind; he would never be that ethereal villain in my head, but simply a close friend whom I often shared food with. In only a year, we'd been through so much, and yet...yet he could do this. To me. My selfish head screamed "me, me, me" no matter how much I wanted to look at Speed across the table from me, the line of his mouth foreign and solemn. Whereas he'd only used me as a decoy, Lash had actually betrayed Speed, leaving him in his time of need to cavort; did Speed have more right to be angry than I did? Was he seething mad? By the distant look on Speed's chubby face, I couldn't tell. He simply looked...alone. My heart began to ache; even with me there, me, his other best friend, Speed couldn't be happy. Lash had been there first and I would always be last. This was perhaps the worst part about it all.

"Speed? What are you thinking?" I asked quietly, vaguely noting the dim light of the sunset through the McGonagall's kitchen window. It was hard to even recognize my surroundings with the weight baring down on my mind.

He blinked and glanced up, as though noticing me for the first time. He pondered my question. "I was just thinkin'...we should talk to 'im."

Though my mind knew he meant Lash, I couldn't quite comprehend the suggestion. "You want to...talk to him?" When my incredulous question received no response, I felt anger start churning up inside of me. "You want to talk to the guy who left you bleeding in your kitchen to have sex with a girl who hates us? The guy who pretended to be your friend all this time and stabbed your back so easily? That guy?"

"Yeah, that guy," Speed said harshly, startling me with his suddenness. "That guy has been my friend since we were four years old and one mistake ain't gonna change that. I was mad at first, sure, but c'mon, Animal, it's Lash." Speed's eyes were honest and pure, of course, when were they not? Like always, nice, good Speed was already vindicated. It took so little to receive his forgiveness and, sure enough, he was already willing to let it all slide right down the drain into the gutter where it belonged. But I couldn't let it go that easily. I had finally trusted someone, finally given someone my heart like only a friend could, and he'd trampled on it. I was young, I was stupid, I was confused. Lash had been one of the only two friends I'd ever had up to that point and the fact that he'd done something so unthinkable was beyond anything I could understand.

"He slept with her, Speed!" I cried, practically sobbing at the fact. I could sit no longer and stood out of sheer frustration, weaving my hands through my tangled red curls and shutting my eyes. Maybe if I couldn't see anything, I wouldn't feel anything.

Speed rolled his eyes and slapped the table with the flat of his palms, groaning loudly. "Oh c'mon, Animal, why does it matter? Who says he's not allowed to do that! He can sleep with whoever he fuckin' wants!"

Even as Speed sat there staring at me, cheeks red and mouth upset, I couldn't quite process the words he'd recently spoken aloud. Something in my mind said: Lash and Speed and Animal are not allowed to do anything without telling the other three or at least getting their ambiguous approval. My approval had not been sought and I most definitely wouldn't give it; if that weren't enough, he hadn't even told us in the first place. Perhaps it was my loyalty issues or maybe my insecurities...but something in me would never accept what I considered an enormous betrayal.

"He told us he...he acted like he was...he...he lied to us!" came my distressed scream. Tears stained my cheeks for the second time that day and I inhaled deeply, brushing them away with a cold hand.

Speed was normally worried sick by the sight of my tears but today it was not to be. He set his chubby jaw determinedly and, for a moment, looked like a man and not the boy I knew him to be. He scowled disdainfully and growled, "Mackenzie, you need to grow up. Lash can do whatever he wants and he doesn't have to tell us about it. I'm pissed cause he lied about his reasons for leaving in the first place; if he wants to have sex with Amanda Reynolds, he fuckin' well can and unless you can give him a reason why he shouldn't, I don't see how it's any o' your business."

It was so rare that Speed got mad at me. I couldn't even remember the last time he'd even raised his voice in my direction. Seeing him now, staring me down with hurt, annoyance and frustration in his unusually soft brown eyes...it made me feel sick to my stomach. Lash and I fought regularly, but Speed...he was my constant. I swallowed thickly and stared down at my hands, wondering how I could possibly make him understand; didn't he see what was so wrong with Lash and his escapades? Couldn't he see how nasty it was? How wrong...how...oh no...

My mind began to go blank as my reasons lost their fire; why did my thought process suddenly seem so flawed? A flame of indignation burst up in my gut and I frowned, rounding on Speed and more than willing to take out my anger on the second person to turn their back on me. If he wasn't on my side, he was as good as dead.

"It was always our business before and suddenly, when we're talking about sex, it's not a big deal! He betrayed us and I don't forgive him!" Despite my usage of the word "betrayed," my tone was as childish as I felt. More tears leaked down my face and for one terrible moment, I felt like a crying child not getting her way. When I saw Speed stiffen and look away from me, I suddenly remembered why I was so miserable; I was about to lose not one friend, but two.

"Then you need to do some thinkin'," Speed said quietly in response to my outburst, shaking his head and finally rising from the table. He seemed so small as he left the kitchen, not the mammoth boy I was used to. Now he was small, mature, beaten, bitter; his shoulders sagged and his burns glared at me on his pale white skin as he shuffled sadly out of the kitchen and up the stairs. I listened to his footsteps disappear one by one. I wasn't used to being the one of us three who made mistakes, the one who was wrong; it was always Lash and occasionally Speed, but never me. What was I now? Where did I fit? Neither of my friends were on speaking terms with me whether of my volition or theirs. And now...

My footsteps were odd and foreign, like little pictures at the end of my legs, so detached from me; I exited the house, walked down the street, passed my house, and continued as though the wind at my back was urging me on. I rounded corners and turned onto foreign streets, I glanced at strange yards and scoffed inwardly at lawn ornaments; I stared at children as they played on swing sets and disdained enormous cars as they pulled into equally enormous driveways. Nothing about my sight or perception was real; I simply could not connect. It wasn't until I reached Redbird lane that I realized how unused I was to being alone.

"Bear, no! Heel!"

The low shout caught my attention as though my ears were trained to only perceive that one sound. I became aware of my faculties, my hands, my fingers, and blinked my vision into focus just quickly enough to notice the enormous black dog lumbering its way toward me on pancake sized paws. My eyes widened, I could feel, but my limbs refused to move; I was unafraid of animals and couldn't seem to muster up enough fear to shout or jerk away. As the dog neared, tongue swinging and eyes bright, I began to perceive it as a great dane and felt suddenly warm inside: I loved big dogs.

It halted just in front of me and nudged my middle with its enormous head, panting and whining for attention; I cupped its velvety ears in my hands and laughed slightly, completely unaware of the tears still rolling down my cheeks. Another pair of footsteps bounded up behind the dog, presumably its master, an a deep lilting voice hailed me.

"I'm so sorry, I didn't...Mackenzie?"

When I glanced up to find Hunter Stone's handsome face looked incredulously back at me, I found myself not at all surprised; so he did live on Redbird. The dog, Bear, barked pleasantly at the sound of Hunter's voice; this pleasant bark rattled the tree tops and window panes along the walkways.

"Shut up, you big dumbass," Hunter snapped quietly, seeming resigned as he absentmindedly scratched the dogs ears; his hand came close to mine.

Hunter looked suspiciously up at me, drinking in the sight of my tears and my smile as though wondering how the two could possibly coexist on my face. I suddenly seemed to realize that I had was standing, silently and stupidly, in front of the most handsome boy I'd ever met, feet aimless and mind numb. It stood to reason that I should say something.

"Hi," I managed to get out; my voice was still weak and streaked with tears. At the sound of myself, I suddenly regained the ability to be embarassed and glanced sheepishly down at the concrete.

Hunter Stone stared at me in a way that only a truly understanding person could. It was a look of compassion, a look of dissection, and a look of calculation. Finally, he stood to his full height, brushing a piece of wild black hair away from his eyes, and gestured to the monstrous house behind him.

"Why don't you come in for a bit," he said, smiling disarmingly as though I weren't crying and he weren't terribly confused.

As I nodded and followed at his heels like a duckling after its mother, I realized that Hunter wasn't confused at all. I sighed; so he was one of those people. One of those 'I understand everything about this situation' people. I'd sort of enjoyed being the only one of those around, but maybe everyone needs company.

Hunter's home was so enormously huge that I deigned to step out of my stupor long enough to stare at it like a gape mouthed fish. It was mahogany and brick in a glorious array of shapes and archways, a three story behemoth of a house that towered over its neighbors and shamed even the nicest of Maxville lodgings. The inside was swathed in red velvet and warm blue-greens, the walls clothed in tapestries depicting ancient battles and the shelves decorated with artifacts from countries and lands that ceased now to exist. It was wonderful and lovely and...extremely British.

Hunter was obviously unmoved by the splendor of his own house and walked effortlessly inside the great double doors, Bear following in a goonish lope behind him. We progressed through a few hallways, ending in what is still the biggest kitchen I've ever witnessed in person. My mother had redone our kitchen when I was in elementary school and I'd thought our new kitchen island was the height of fashion. Imagine how I felt to witness Hunter's kitchen, which housed no fewer than three islands and four ovens.

I silently wondered if Hunter's mother was a superhero disguising herself as a cook; who in God's name really requires four ovens?

"Here, this might help you," Hunter said in his soothing bass, handing me a prettily painted china cup of steaming liquid.

I looked up at him for a moment with glassy eyes fresh with tears and accepted the gift, inhaling the fumes deeply; they soothed my anxiety instantly.

"What is this?" I asked. My voice seemed terribly small in comparison to the grandeur of his house.

Hunter smiled and leaned against one of the rich wooden countertops. "It's tea. Vanilla earl grey, to be exact. It unclouds the mind and alleviates anxiety."

I stared down at the pale brown liquid and inhaled it a second time before taking a cautious sip; it was a warm and brazen tea, though it coated my inside with liquid happiness and lulled me to the point of sleeping.

I sighed audibly and Hunter laughed; even in my addled state, his laugh did incredible things for my psyche.

"It's quite the thing, huh?" he joked, grinning widely. He crossed his enormous arms over his broad chest and adopted a more serious look. "Now what's happened to make you so upset?"

The sound of such a question coming from Hunter Stone should've made me nervous, or suspicious, or on guard. Instead, I knew by the burbling in my throat that I was about to tell him absolutely everything there was to know about me, my friends, my family pet and the grainery on my sidewalk.

And here it came.

"I just found out that Lash has been sleeping with Amanda Reynolds and lying to me and Speed when he creeps off to be with her. He lied about everything and now nothing we have seems real and even though we've been best friends for a long time I just can't bring myself to forgive him! What's worse is that I'm beginning to think that maybe I overreacted and I'm being a huge bitch but I just...can't stop!" I wailed, setting the tea down on the nearest island; the idea of something soothing me was suddenly distasteful.

I crossed my thin arms over my chest as though I were cold and stared balefully at the beautiful marble floors. "I've never had friends like Lash and Speed and now I beginning to wonder if I'll ever have them again. I really screwed this up."

Hunter seemed to deliberate this all for a moment; he hardly looked shocked by my story, though he didn't seem like he would get too shocked about many things. Finally, he cocked his gorgeous head to the side and replied.

"I must admit, I'm having some trouble deciding what exactly you've done wrong in this situation. But then again I wasn't there to really see it, so I'm probably no use. What I will say is this: Lash probably has his own reasons for shagging Amanda and I have a feeling they have less to do with him wanting to betray you and more to do with getting his dick wet, if you'll pardon the expression," Hunter drolled, sounding slightly ashamed of his gender.

I thought about this for a moment and must've looked puzzled, for Hunter chuckled slightly. "It's the sex part that's really throwing you, isn't it?"

This was a new idea; I stopped for a moment and actively thought the word "sex" and immediately flinched. Ah. Apparently I was afraid of...it.

"I...well, I'm obviously a virgin," I said lamely, losing my train of thought half way through my sentence. Why the hell did I just tell Hunter Stone that? He certainly had a way of dragging information out of a person. And he didn't even have to say anything! He just sort of sat there looking British and smug and BOOM! My secrets came tumbling out of my mouth.

Hunter didn't make a face when I confessed my virginity. Instead, he smiled. "Well, you're not even 16; I should certainly hope so. I see no reason why should be comfortable with something that shouldn't even be in your sphere of consciousness until you're...18, I suppose."

For some reason, I too accepted the age of 18 as a good one for sex having. I guess it was the finality of the number; it was the last year in high school, the last year as a child, the last year of stupidity. I would go on to college and that, in my mind, was the start of adulthood. Which was the start of...sex. Shudder.

"And for the record," Hunter continued, causing me to snap my head up to observe him. "I see nothing 'obvious' about your being a virgin. You're gorgeous; I'm sure men go after you all the time."

The way his eyes smoldered as he said this literally made me weak in the knees; I thought that was just a turn of phrase used by grandmothers and old movie heroines, but my knee joints literally threatened to give way. My insides were glowing; he had just paid me a huge compliment! Hunter Stone, god amongst men, thought I was gorgeous!

I must've blushed heavily, the sort of fire red color that invades my cheeks every time someone so much as looks my way, for Hunter laughed.

"I didn't mean to I you, forgive me. I was just stating the obvious. As to our previous conversation, I suppose the best thing for you to do is wait a few days and then talk to Lash about this indescretion. That will give you enough time to sort through it and him enough time to organize his remorse. He's a compartmentalizer, I think; correct me if I'm wrong," the giant said, eyes light but somehow thoughtful.

I stared at him for a moment, feeling like a third grader at a MENSA meeting. It had taken me almost an entire year to unwravel the tangled web of string that was Lash's mind and here was Hunter Stone, wrapping the whole thing up in one single word: compartmentalize.

"Um…" I stuttered slightly, biting my lip. "I…well, I guess he does do that. He just takes different thoughts and puts them different places. It's school or me and Speed or his family. They don't mix," I finished lamely, realizing I'd just defined "compartmentalize" the way one might describe sex to a middle schooler: slowly and with lots of examples.

But in that weird British way of his, Hunter didn't even acknowledge my stupidity; he rather acted like I was a smart friend over for a spot of tea, or at least a friend of mediocre intelligence who wasn't crying like a lunatic in his kitchen. God, just to think of what I probably owed him now…

But it was then that Hunter smiled lopsidedly, pushing off the counter and gesturing to the back door. "Come on, we'll play with Bear for a while. I know animals put you at ease."

I nodded slightly, silently thankful that we were currently leaving the kitchen in our wake; the air was heavy with intentions and secrets recently told. Playing with Bear was ju-

Wait a minute.

I literally stopped in my tracks and focused harshly on Hunter's retreating back.

"Hold on. How did you know that animals put me at ease?" I demanded, voice adopting a sharp and almost indignant air.

Hunter paused only momentarily, opening the backdoor and taking a step outside. "I already told you I knew about your tiger, don't act so surprised," he replied dismissively after a brief silence. His voice was so casual that my suspicion spiked.

I found myself forced to follow him into the backyard, which was splendid and regailed just like the house's insides; little energy was spent on gasping over it, however, as I was currently busy sniffing out a rat. Something was rotten on Redbird lane.

"Don't give me that," I shot back, having to jog to keep up with Hunter's impressively long steps. "That's something I think to myself literally with those exact words. You read my mind," I accused boldy.

Hunter's shoulders stiffened slightly, but he showed no other signs of treachery. Bear arrived at his side, hopping languidly about as though he didn't notice the tense air between us. His giant master bent at the waist, finally coming closer to my height as he stooped to pick up a ball in the grass; he held it out to me, purposefully meeting my eyes.

Their color was mesmerizing.

"Go on, give it a throw," he encouraged, smiling winningly.

I automatically held out my hand to receive the gift when my body seemed to physically stop me; why would I be so inclined to acquiesce to his every request when I was mad at him? As proven through my recent troubles with Speed and Lash, I was an unforgiving person. What was making me so quick to respond to him? The effect was almost…unnatural…

My green eyes narrowed immediately and I crossed my arms to prove just how angry I really was. "That's it, what are you doing to me?"

Hunter seemed taken aback, though it was somehow not genuine. "What do you mean, Mackenzie?"

I snorted. "Don't try that trick, I'm well aware of it. Using someone's name is supposed to calm them down during an argument. Those things don't work on me, buddy. You're doing something to control my emotions and something else to control my thoughts. What is it?"

The silence between us was heavy and Hunter managed to look gracefully offended for all of five seconds before the façade fell away. In mere moments, his attitude had morphed from care-free cluelessness to world-worn irritation.

"Damn, you're not easy to fool," Hunter practically snarled, allowing the ball to drop to the ground as he swatted irritably at the nearby sunflowers.

I sneered, heart suddenly cold. "And you're easy to uncover. I knew there was something wrong with you. There had to be."

As I turned to storm away, Hunter fell in step beside me to continue our disagreement. "No wonder you reacted that way to Lash, you're constantly lying in wait to catch someone doing you wrong."

"And it looks like the past twenty four hours have vindicated me," I replied hottly, fists clenched as I felt more tears rising to my eyes. Hunter was wrong; I was all too easy to fool.

The giant's eyes were strangely earnest considering his recent change of heart; the way his enormous shoulders swung back and forth as he marched in time beside me was somewhat intimidating and somewhat attractive, though I valliantly fought against both. Who actually wears black t-shirts with jeans anway? Did he think he was James Dean? Hell no! He wasn't James Dean at all!

Ugh, my protests are getting ridiculous sounding. Maybe I should hear him out…I mean, no! He's doing something…weird to me! That's right, weird! I don't know exactly what it is, but he is definitely not handsome or nice. Or smart. Or surprisingly crafty. Oh, damn it.

"Mackenzie, if you'll just listen to me-" Hunter started to say.

But I cut him off abruptly, actually having the gaul to swat his chest with my pathetic little hand; it sounded like a pebble bouncing off a mountainside.

"No, you listen to me!" I fired back. My eyes must've been blazing for he took a visible step backwards, brow furrowed. "I already told you how I felt about this whole power borrowing thing. Using borrowed powers on me is almost worse than stealing them from someone-"

Hunter snorted at this and took bold step back towards me, eyes dangerously narrowed. "Now you're the one who needs to listen. I didn't borrow these powers, I just have them."

I balked, mouth flying open as though it meant to catch every bug in the yard. "But you said you didn't have any powers of your own! You said-"

"I know what I said," Hunter roared loudly, stopping me dead in my tracks. His eyes blazed fiercely with an anger than aired on the side of indignation. Something about the snarl of his mouth and the ruffled appearance of his dark hair was oddly sexy despite the dangerous intent rolling off him in waves. I had yet to see the true extent of Hunter's rage, which I surmised was somewhat impressive. Or at least as impressive as Lash's.

This whole situation was making it painfully clear how few people I had to compare Hunter Stone to. I needed to get out more.

"It's called 'empathy.' It's something I keep just for myself," Hunter explained, voice still husky and low with ire. He seemed to be visibly restraining himself from lunging forward, though I still found myself too annoyed to be afraid.

I growled softly, "Then you lied twice. You're turning out to be pretty untrustworthy for a guy who plays the 'innocent Brit card' so realistically."

Hunter actually roared with anger at this and I suddenly realized the situation for what it was; there wasn't anything secretive about his true desires now. He wanted to hurt me. His arms were taut with sinew and his eyes screwed shut with what appeared to be pain; the line of his shoulders rippled as his bones began to shake with an anger so penetrating and deep that I could feel it echoing in the ground.

"Wow," I whispered, irritation suddenly gone. "Um, Hunter? Are you…okay?"

His only response was a grunt that seemed to be halfway between agony and fear. He was hunched over now, grabbing the back of his neck desperately as though he were about to kneel down for a fire drill. I hesitantly reached out to touch him and his eyes shot open, revealing an all-consuming emotion that I could barely even decipher.

He was begging me to run.

But I was already knee deep in stupid. It seemed almost cowardly to back out now; if I was going to keep making these terrible beds, I damn well better lay in all ten thousand of them.

So I adopted a gentle expression that could best be descibed as "my mother trying to coax my father into going to the in-laws house for Christmas."

"Hunter, it's going to be fine," I said soothingly, surprised by the confidence in my own voice. I smiled disarmingly, trying to copy his once present nonchalance, and relaxed my muscles visibly. "We're not fighting anymore. We're just talking. It was all my fault; I overreacted. I'm sorry."

Hunter inhaled deeply in response, eyes pleading with me in a completely different fashion. Now he was begging for help.

I was all too happy to wait on Hunter Stone hand and foot. Handsome people seem to have this effect no matter what sort of blind and monstrous rage they're entering.

"Why don't we go have some of that tea you made me before," I said quietly, still using my purring voice to lead him. A thought suddenly dawned on me and I murmured in realization, "That's probably what you use that tea for in the first place. For when it goes bad."

Hunter was motionless for a moment, as though he were assessing just how much moving his ravaged nervous structure could do. He finally seemed to decide that he was entering a more capable state and he trundled laboriously behind me towards the house. His footsteps were so measured and taut that he was making me anxious. I could almost feel his pain now.

The tea was still somewhat hot and I obligingly poured him a mug, watching him suck it down greedily as though it contained the waters from the fountain of life. He finally closed his eyes and practically collapsed into one of the oversized bar stools near the closest of the three islands. His fit was over.

"I'm so sorry," were his first words.

But I had anticipated them shrewdly and already had a placating hand raised. "Don't be, it's clearly something you can't control. I'm well acquainted with that feeling." Just thinking about my inner-tiger sent my skin crawling.

Hunter sighed deeply, setting down the mug on the counter and snorting as it broke into several small pieces; his enormous hand had crushed the glass like sand. I gasped, moving quickly to remove the shards from his palm only to find his skin unharmed.

"Don't be alarmed, I'm thick-skinned," he said with the slightest trace of amusement and a hint of wonderment.

"You could hurt yourself," I explained quickly, opening the nearest trash compactor and gathering the glass shards tenderly in my hands. "I don't know what just happened to you, but you should probably avoid putting yourself in further peril for now."

I could feel Hunter's eyes on me as I darted around his kitchen, getting a paper towel to wipe up the droplets of tea on the counter. His gaze was burning hot on the back of my neck.

"It's a side effect," he said finally, as though deciding for the first time that I was completely trustworthy. His decision seemed spur of the moment. "To be 'empathic' in my sense is not to be empathetic the way a charity worker might be. It means literally feeling what others are feeling in a consuming way that makes it difficult to tell if they're my feelings or someone else's. Every time I touch someone, I gather up a version of their emotions with their powers."

I had stopped my flurrying to observe the giant as he spoke and I found my mind already buzzing with questions. "But that doesn't seem so bad, the emotions go away the next time you touch another person, right?"

"No," Hunter replied shortly. His gaze grew so dark that I wondered if were entering a similar state of rage. His voice only held bitterness, however, as he spoke next. "I store up the emotions, bottle them up in the greatest capactiy you can possibly imagine, until they disappear as only emotions do: with time. Certain feelings last longer than others. Happiness can remain for hours, guilt for days. Long lasting emotions like love and hatred can stick around for years at a time. I am a storage container for every wayward emotion in every skin cell I've ever perused."

I stared at Hunter in a way that I will never stare at another human being. And here I was thinking the universe had blessed him with an endless source of power that never ceased to rain down on him. In a place like Sky High, he had seemed like a hungry man at a dinner buffet. But now I was beginning to realize that this hungry man had many allergies and, suddenly, every food came with a terrible consequence.

Instead of backing away and heading for the door as my feet were desperately demanding, I took a step towards Hunter Stone. My brain was already making new information from the tidbits provided.

"This week you started off with me, then moved on to Warren, then to Speed…" I trailed off, brow furrowing as I tried to remember the others in succession. "I'm sure you've touched at least three other people just to get by in your classes..."

"At least," Hunter agreed in a voice barely reaching above a whisper.

"And between just Warren and Speed, you must've sucked up enough anger to kill a pro-wrestler," I devised eventually, frowning as the weight of this bore down on my skinny little shoulders. "Do you know when these fits are going to hit you?"

Hunter shrugged, his giant shoulders appearing as a mountain might tottering in a tornado. "The same way everyone else's emotions do; anger shows up when you're fighting, as we've just seen," he finished with a deep sigh. "Mine just show up at the worst. Every emotion is heightened, exacerbated."

In a rare moment of bravery, I looked into Hunter Stone's eyes and found myself willing to do whatever it took the give him something better than rage. Mustering up whatever courage I had, I smothered the remnants of my fear and stared up at him with a deep strength in my gaze.

"Then take something nice," I declared, closing the space between us and grabbing his hand in mine.

My hand felt like a child's in his own. I tried to send emotions through our hands, if science would even permit such a thing, and something in my cockamamy methods must have worked. Hunter intook a sharp breath as the reality of my emotions hit him full on. I wasn't quite sure what I was sending him, but it had to be better than what remained from Warren and Speed.

After a moment, I made as though to pull my hand away, fearing I'd given him too much; but Hunter tightened his grasp.

"No, please don't," he murmured, sounding almost drunk. "It's too lovely."

I expected myself to feel embarrassed, as the whole exchange was somewhat sexual in nature. The embarassment was present, albeit only in the redness on my cheeks; eventually, I found my hand growing used to his and I relaxed slightly. Whatever I was feeling, which I had yet to determine, it was doing wonders for Hunter Stone.

When he finally released my hand, perhaps sensing the slight discomfort growing in my subconscious, he manage to chuckle with a light humor.

"I'm sorry about that, I didn't mean to get greedy. I just…I haven't felt anything so pure all week long. You're almost like a child…" he mused thoughtfully.

My hackles ruffled immediately. "Wow, thanks," I snorted.

But Hunter laughed, waving his hands dismissively. "No, no, I don't mean it like that. I just mean that you're untainted, unspoiled. You're just so…clean. It's like I'm feeling happiness for the first time. Where on earth did you get such a quality as this?" he asked breathily. His eyes were twinkling and alive like stars on the earth's surface; I didn't want to look away.

"I guess…I just try not to complicate things. I try to keep it simple," I explained half heartedly, not wanting to speak. I was growing weary from this entire exchange.

Hunter smiled softly and my breath caught in my throat. "You've succeeded," he informed me proudly.

"Good," I replied, head swimming with the heady scent of his skin. We were so near at this point, so close that proximity had ceased to exist as a limit of space.

"I should go," I murmured, eyes growing heavy as they begged me to close them and lean in for what my lips so desperately wanted. I was thrumming with a wanton desire like I had never felt.

Hunter's face was practically chiseled with desire as he used what little restraint he possessed to pull back. "You should, before I do something to you I will likely regret."

These very words sent my body boiling with a strange inner heat and I actually shivered, stumbling back on my heels and finding my face obstructed by several wayward curls; my hair was coming undone in all the frenzy. Hunter seemed to notice at the same time and he cursed audibly, running a restless hand througb his hair as he began walking almost regretfully towards the front door.

My skin purred contentedly; he wanted me. Good grief, we didn't even kiss and the lead up was so sexy that I already feel like a whore in church. I've got to tell someone; I wonder if Lash is up…oh well, crap. I've got to fix that mess right now.

My feet led me dutifully to the entrance way and I barely stopped to look at Hunter Stone as I murmured a breathless, "Goodbye, Hunter. See you tomorrow."

His farewell was a whisper on his lips as I hurried out into the front lawn; I could feel his slightly upraised hand reaching for me despite my purposefully turned back. Whatever had just passed between us was something permanent, something binding.

Whatever had just passed between us felt forbidden.

I loved it.

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Okay, there you go; I don't think my style has changed that much. I'll get right on the next chapter, which I'm weirdly inspired to write right this minute.

Reviews are still the beat to my heart…

KOLU