A/N: Happy New Year, y'all! I hope all of you had an awesome holidays. And I'm so sorry it took me FOREVER to update. I finally finished the project I've been working on forever, or as I like to call it "The Project That Would Never Die". Every time I thought I was done, there needed to be revisions and it just kept happening over and over again. I'll admit, I cried a lot. Plus, life really kicked my ass (some good ways, some not). Really, I'll be glad when this year is over since the bad stuff really wasn't fun.
Anyhoo, I'm starting up another project and I'm really excited for it but the good news is it won't be as time consuming as the last one. I'll still be busy but I should be able to update every 3 weeks regularly (got my fingers crossed). Thanks again for all your encouraging reviews and messages and just your continued interest in my story. It really means a lot and they were bright spots in my otherwise hectic life. Oh, and I usually try to answer all my reviews/messages and if I happened to miss your, I apologize ;)
This chapter is much shorter than most of my other chapters but the next will be much longer-so long that I may split in two chapters..we'll see. Plus, the next chapter I've been dying to write forever and FINALLY get to. Mwahahaha...I'm laughing evilly just thinking about it!
A huge kiss to my drop-dead gorgeous betas: Tweety4be and Fanpire4000. They really are the best! This chapter was lovingly beta'd by Tweety and I went back to change a few things, so those mistakes are mine and not ones she missed. xo
Disclaimer: I don't own Darkest Powers, though I would love to since it's so awesome!
"Chloe, do you need a fork?"
Chloe glanced up from her plate of stir-fry, meeting Derek's eyes briefly. He almost looked serious except for the slight curve at the corner of his mouth.
She blushed and looked down smiling. "No, I can use chopsticks just fine," she answered, awkwardly stabbing at her food.
"Yeah, we can see that," Simon teased. He sat across from her, picking a grain of rice with his pair of chopsticks and waving it front of her.
"Showoff," Chloe smiled.
Simon only grinned and popped the rice in his mouth. "You just hold it like this," he stated, holding his chopsticks expertly. "Then you just open and close—like this."
Chloe stared at Simon's prong-like grip. She tried to emulate it but her chopsticks ended up slipping through her fingers and clattering on her plate.
"Simon, showing Chloe how you can pick up food isn't really helping her," Kit said. He smiled at Chloe. "And she's doing just fine on her own."
"Thank you." She picked up her chopsticks, trying not to giggle as her fingers struggled to do something with the chopsticks. "But I may need a fork."
Derek shifted in his seat to get up but Simon stopped him. Simon leveled a mock-serious stare her way. "Friends don't let friends give up on learning an important skill in life. This..." he said, lifting his chopsticks to eye level, "is a very important skill."
"Simon—" Kit sighed.
"Please, dad, don't interrupt! This is for her own good. It's—"
"Important?" Chloe finished, rolling her eyes and smiling. "Yeah, I gathered that." She shot a quick peek at Derek. He was looking at Simon as if he was both annoyed and amused with him.
"What if you find yourself in an important lunch meeting or maybe even an interview in, say, a sushi joint," Simon explained, like it could happen at any moment. "And let's say, you needed to really impress your lunch companion, or you're trying to explain something really complicated and..." He pretended to fumble with his chopsticks, "you keep dropping these stupid things and you lose your concentration and you bomb your interview, then you don't get the job you were dying to get—the job that you've wanted your entire life—because of your lack of dexterity with chopsticks..." He sighed dramatically. "... your life is completely ruined."
"That's just stupid," Derek said, shaking his head at his brother. "Chloe, just ignore him. He's just—"
"Just what?" Simon replied, grinning. "Just right, as usual?"
"In your dreams," Derek scoffed. He turned towards Chloe. "The trick is in the leverage. You see, you're holding it pretty good but just too far down, too close to your plate."
Derek held his own chopsticks in front of her, showing Chloe the placement of them in his hand. His fingers moved slowly, gliding smoothly over the shiny lacquered surface. Chloe's heart sped up.
She swallowed hard. "Like this?" she replied breathlessly, copying Derek's hand movements and hoping they all thought she was blushing because of the teasing and not because of Derek's obnoxiously, hot hands. She picked up a piece of broccoli. It wobbled a little but didn't drop.
"Nice," Simon said, nodding his head.
She glanced up at Derek. He gave her a smile, his green eyes soft. Her heart lurched and she had the wild urge to clear the table with a one dramatic sweep of her arm, jump on the table and declare her love for him at the top of her lungs.
Of course, that was never going to happen, since that would require a healthy amount of crazy and bravery and also a personality transplant. Plus, she would never be able to scrub the look of embarrassment and mortification on Derek's face from her brain. Not to mention his dad and Simon's shocked expressions.
And of course the horrible mess of broken dishes.
She almost laughed at herself.
"So, Chloe, if your dad has any concerns about what happened earlier today between those boys and Derek," Kit offered, "he can always give me a call."
"Oh, right," Chloe said, fiddling uneasily with her chopsticks. "I'll be sure to let him know that." She had promised Kit she would mention the fight Derek got into—and she would mention it...technically. Usually, when her dad prepared for a big business trip, he was so busy trying to get his files organized on his computer the night before, that Chloe could tell her dad her hair was on fire and her dad would reply with the standard, "Hmm? Oh, okay. That sounds good, honey."
She tried not to feel guilty about it but her dad would probably freak out and not handle it sensibly like Derek's dad had. And she was pretty sure her dad would bring Aunt Lauren into the mix and then it would be an unbearable situation.
"So, Chloe, can you stay for dessert?" Kit asked, interrupting her thoughts.
"Yeah, we have about a hundred different types of ice cream," Simon said, getting up and moving towards the fridge.
"Oh, um, actually, I probably should go. My dad will be expecting me home soon, and I don't want him to get worried so..." Chloe reluctantly stood up, reaching for her plate.
Derek stood up with her, taking her plate from her. "I got that," he said. Her heart pounded as she met his eyes.
She tore her gaze away from his. Don't start staring again, or you won't be able to stop and you'll embarrass yourself. Again.
A few moments later they were all congregated at the front door. Kit being both fatherly and kind as he said his goodbyes made Chloe feeling a little more than envious of Derek and Simon for having such an awesome dad. Simon jostled her in a one arm hug as Derek handed over her coat.
She shuffled her feet, reluctant to leave and it wasn't just because of Derek. She had a nice time tonight, minus the fight. This is what it must feel like to be in a close, loving family. Unexpectedly—horrifyingly—her eyes began to prickle with tears and she blurted a quick goodbye and all but ran out the door.
Shivering instantly from the bitter cold, she walked quickly to her car, then almost had a heart attack when she realized Derek was right behind her.
"What are you doing out here? You'll freeze to death," she cried, glancing at his thin t-shirt.
"Cold doesn't really bother me," he shrugged. He looked down a little sheepish. "I was just walking you to your car, it's dark out and the driveway can get icy."
"Oh, thank you." Looking down she could see the sparkle of frost forming on the streets and on her car. She opened her door and threw her bag in.
"You probably should let your car warm up a bit," Derek said, plucking her keys from her hand and bending down into her car to start it up, blasting the heater.
He stood up and peered down at her, studying her and Chloe was more than surprised when she realized how close he was. She could feel a blush starting to creep up her neck and quickly looked down. But at eye level, all she could see was his chest, the thin cotton of his shirt stretched so nicely over his smooth—
Oh my God, his nipples are hard!
Chloe choked, which instantly started a coughing fit. She covered her face with her hands, trying to get her breathing under control.
"Are you okay?" She gazed up at Derek's concerned face through blurry eyes.
Bobbing her head and waving a hand in her face, she answered in a wavering voice, "Yeah, just, you know, I swallowed weird or...something. No big deal."
He nodded, looking thoughtful. "How about what happened earlier today? In the field. Are you okay with that?"
"I think so." She cleared her throat. "It was scary but...How about you? How's your face and...body feeling?" She looked over the red bruise forming below his mouth, a small cut on his lip.
"I'm fine. I just don't want you to get hassled by your dad freaking out or get into any trouble at school. You know, with the..." He made a spray paint sound as pantomimed holding a can of mace.
Chloe laughed quietly. "Yeah, well we kept that bit of information from your dad, so I think we should keep it that way from everybody else."
He was quiet for a long moment, until he finally said, "You'll tell me, right? Tell me if any of those guys bug you." The look in his eyes was strange—intense and focused. "I won't let anything happen to you, Chloe."
"Of course I'll tell you, Derek." She smiled reassuringly. "And thank you."
He stepped closer, so close Chloe almost had to crane her neck to look up at him. So close she could see the steam from her breath drift up towards his face. His hand slowly reached up and Chloe's heart began beating like a hummingbird. His fingertips brushed against the corner of her mouth as he gently pulled a strand of hair away from her lips. Then his hand dropped and he quickly backed away.
Disappointment, excitement, nervousness and about a hundred other emotions flooded her mind as Chloe blinked back into reality.
"I'll see you Monday," his voice rumbled, his gaze cast downward. Chloe could only mumble a yes before she numbly got into her car and pulled away, glancing back at Derek's large form as he watched her drive down the street, all the while thinking about how being in love was both awful and exhilarating at the same time.