She shrugs and starts to rummage through her backpack for keys. “Sure. It’s in the backseat.”
A minute later I’m jogging across campus toward the parking lot, well aware that I’m going to be late and already cringing over the hard time my teacher is going to give me. But at least he won’t ding me, points-wise. The parking lot is pretty clear of students right now, since most of them have made their way to the next period. I turn in the circle looking for Mindy’s red Honda Accord, pressing her unlock button a few times until I see the lights flashing.
As I’m hustling toward it, I notice two low-to-the-ground sports cars at the end of the parking lot. They’re side by side revving their engines, senior guys standing around and encouraging them with whistles and shouts. What are they doing?
It’s not until I hear the squeal of tires that I realize they’re racing.
In the school parking lot.
And I’m right in their path.
They have to see me, right? If they do, they must be pretty sure I’ll get out of the way in time, because they don’t slow down. They only speed up. At first I’m frozen, but my survival instinct kicks in and I throw myself in between two parked cars, scraping my knee painfully on the asphalt. I squeeze my eyes shut waiting for them to pass, but they never do.
There’s a loud metal on metal screech, immediately followed by a deafening crash.
The car I’m hiding behind skids toward me, knocking me into the vehicle on the other side and I smack my head, landing flat on my back on the blacktop. There’s some shouting in the distance and eventually around me, but I just lie there, trying to regain my equilibrium. The sun winks in and out behind clouds above me. My knee is a sharp throb.
I’m lucky to be alive, that much I know, even through the daze.
Zach’s panicked shout is what finally causes me to sit up slowly. I blink a couple of times and wait for a flood of disorientation, but thankfully it doesn’t come. Probably no concussion. As a cheerleader, I take spills all the time while practicing stunts and I think I’m more stunned than anything. Who expects to almost get mowed down by a car in the school parking lot?
Zach is still calling my name, sounding more and more anxious, and I realize the front ends of the cars on either side of me have been wedged together. No one can see me on the ground. So I put up a hand, waving it—and Zach is there an instant later, launching himself over the damaged cars and kneeling down on the ground beside me.
He’s sucking wind, his green eyes haunted as they travel over me. When he sees my bloody knee, he chokes a sound, raking his fingers through his hair. “Oh my God, Jill, baby, are you okay? Are you?”
“Yes. I’m fine.”
His hands shake, hesitating over my bloody knee. “Jesus. I couldn’t find you. I couldn’t find you. I thought…” He shakes his head vigorously. “What the fuck happened?”
I open my mouth to tell him, then stop.
Obviously, I can’t lie. But if I tell him the guys almost hit me while racing, I have a feeling he won’t react well. And I won’t have him messing up his amazing school record over me. Not when he’s destined for bigger, better things.
Zach latches on to my hesitation, eyes narrowing.
This is the most even-tempered man I know, except maybe when he’s on the football field. But there’s nothing even about him now. Jagged rage spikes in his expression and he’s pushing to his booted feet, vaulting over the mangled wreckage.
“Zach, no,” I call after him.
I stand and limp forward, but there’s no way I’ll get over the smashed front ends of these cars with my injury, so I hobble around the back as fast as I can, adrenaline pounding in my ears. When I make it out into the parking lot, students are standing around in droves, obviously drawn outside by the loud crash. Zach has one of the drivers by the neck, holding him off the ground against his totaled car. “You almost killed her, you piece of shit,” Zach roars, bashing the student onto the vehicle, the guy’s head and limbs flailing like a rag doll. A security guard is trying to drag Zach off the other student with no luck. He’s half Zach’s size.
It’s up to me to stop him from doing something he’ll regret.
“Zach!” I shout, limping over and laying a hand on his arm.
A tremor goes through him and he looks down at me with a wild expression. Like he’s lost in some vengeful place inside his own head and I’m calling to him from another planet. “Jill,” he says hoarsely.