Young Adult Books

Student Bodyguard for Hire

EXCERPT
 
I admired Sam’s wide shoulders buried beneath a checkered white and green flannel shirt. He always wore faded jeans and a hoodie or a long-sleeved shirt rolled to the elbows. No doubt to cover a bevy of skull-and-crossbones tattoos. This was a guess since his sister already had a flowery tattoo covering her entire throat.

I tried imagining Sam covered in tattoos and couldn’t quite wrap my mind around the picture. He was threatening enough without thinking of tattoos and muscles and…

“Sam?” My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. “Could I have a moment?”

Hands still clenched, he turned his brooding gaze to me. I stood only five-feet-five-inches to his six-feet-something, which made his glare a little overkill if he was trying to intimidate me. Most days he managed that walking by me in the hall.

“Maybe I should m-mention,” I stammered, wringing my hands when he continued to look at me as if I were next on his kill list, “that I didn’t come with those guys.”

“Peyton Greene,” he finally said, his long strides determined as he crossed the grass. “Let me guess. You’re lost.” He jabbed a thumb over his shoulder. “The mall is that way, chica guapa.

I considered asking what chica guapa meant, but that glare of his persuaded me to choose my battles. He seemed to get bigger as he approached, and I ignored my instinct to back into the dead shrubbery. “I’m not here for directions. I want to hire you.”

He halted in front of me, tall, menacing and way too close for comfort. “I don’t do other people’s yard work.”

I squinted up at him. “Who said anything about yard work?”

His gaze dropped to my chest. Back up. “Then what?”

The wind blew his dark brown hair, making him look reckless and tough. I swallowed. Sam Guerra scared the hell out of me. His reputation for a bad temper and constant fights had preceded him, and if I were to believe rumor at all, he’d spent last year—his real senior year—in juvie. “I need a bodyguard.”

A slight smile curled his mouth, which immediately softened those intense eyes, sharp cheekbones and the scar slicing across his right eyebrow. He took a step closer, reached out and pinched my shirt collar. The movement startled me, and I looked down just as his knuckle brushed my skin, the brief contact causing a flurry of goose bumps along my spine. “Your bodyguard?” he said softly.

“Um—” My gaze followed his hand as he pulled it back to hold up a ladybug that had hitched a ride on my shirt. Its wings spread and Sam released it to the wind. “It’s not for me,” I explained, sounding rushed. A section of my hair blew across my eyes and I quickly yanked the stray locks behind my ear and licked my lips. “It’s for my brother. You’re in his class.”

He dropped his hand. “So?”

“So we’re barely into the school year and already Carter Delaney and his friends are shoving him around. I want it to stop.”

“Let me get this straight. You want me to pick a fight with Delaney and his friends. That’s four guys.” His smirk returned and he glanced at his sister, who only shrugged. He turned back to me. “Nice odds. What makes you think I’m capable of taking on four guys at once?”

“Because people say you’re good in a fight.” I immediately wanted to reel the words back. “Although…that’s not what I’m asking you to do. I don’t want anyone fighting. Just say something to scare them.”

“People say,” he repeated my words, taking another step closer and bringing us toe-to-toe. “What people?”

Did he seriously think he needed to intimidate me? He already stood close enough to block the sun. “A-anyone,” I said, refusing to move back. “Everyone at school.”

“That’s a lot of people,” he said.

“Well. You know.” My throat felt dry as dirt. “You don’t talk to anyone and people say you fight because you enjoy…pain, I guess.” I seriously could not believe I’d said that. “Everyone is scared of you.”

“That’s why you’re here? Because a bunch of people I’ve never talked to, who don’t know me at all, told you I’m good in a fight.” His scathing gaze raked over me. “Forget it. I don’t fight for money.”

Savanna let out a cackle and Sam turned to her with a glare. She shoved a hand over her mouth, still grinning. “Oops.”

“I…I didn’t say I heard you fight for money,” I said. “I’m asking you to—”

“Sorry,” he said, cutting me off. “Not interested.”

My stomach cramped with a heavy sensation, as though I’d swallowed a ten-pound brick. “Why not? I can pay you two hundred. One hundred now and one hundred after. You wouldn’t have to fight. You could scowl, like you’re doing now. Or say something menacing. Anything from you would intimidate them. I know it.”

He looked at his sister with narrowed eyes. She shrugged again, but her smirk and the bitterness in her eyes told me they needed the money. “If you don’t do it, Samuel,” Savanna murmured, exhaling a stream of smoke from a new cigarette, “then I will.”

He ignored his sister’s asinine comment, turning back to me. “Ever consider you might be wrong? At four-to-one odds, they’re not going to back down because rumor has it I’m good in a fight. I wouldn’t.”

Apparently, no one had told him about his terrifying reputation. “I’m not wrong. They’ll back down. I know it.”

His eyebrows pulled together, twisting the scar into a crescent. “Listen, Sunshine,” he said. “Dropping two hundred on a hunch may be nothing to you, but I can’t afford to get kicked out of school again. I told you, my answer is no.”

I loathed violence enough to have a serious, moral problem with what I was asking him to do. But I loved my brother too much to stand around and do nothing. The school administration obviously had no plans to step up their game where rampant bullying was concerned. “I’ll do anything. Please.”

“I told you. Not interested.” He pivoted abruptly and walked toward the house, apparently done with negotiations.

Panic flooded and I bolted after him, grabbing his forearm. “Wait—”

He grabbed my hand so quickly that my startled reaction became an awkward stumble when I tried stepping back. “What part of no don’t you get?” he snapped.

He was trying to intimidate me. I kept telling myself that, finally believing it when I realized his gentle grip belied that hostile tone and hard expression. I should have pulled away, could have at any time, but I didn’t. At least when he held my wrist, he wasn’t leaving.