My head throbbed so hard that I had to strain every muscle in my body just to keep from crying, but even that didn’t compare to my pounding heart. I didn’t think I had it in my to open my eyes. If they knew. If they had seen…
Of course this would be my luck. I wasn’t supposed to here. I wasn’t even supposed to be near them. If they found out who I really was. Well, I didn’t want to think about that, but even those moments of consideration made my stomach turn.
I cracked my eyes open and saw blurred images. I blinked until my image cleared, and when it did, panic rose in my throat. Hunters everywhere. All gathered around. All staring at me. The heads of the gang were standing right over me.
My throat closed rendering me utterly speechless. There would be no explanation. No excuse.
I thought it was probably for the best because of a bile taste rising from my stomach but quickly changed my mind when I felt my lungs burning.
“You alright, Thalia?”
“No. Did you not just see what happened to her?” He shook his head and tried to push them away from me. “Give her some air, boys.”
Then I saw the look he gave me, and it sent chills down my spine. He slipped his arm around my shoulders and under my knees before I could even attempt at standing up.
He carried me off the field while his companions whispered about my weirdness, which was fine with me. At least I was safely hidden in the shadows of obscurity.
I thought everything was fine. That he would just carry me to the edge of the field or bleachers then drop me then return to his “practice”. He was nice. A gentleman. But as soon as we were out of ear shot, he hissed, “What is wrong with you?”
I stammered then tightened my lips and stared at the ground to escape his icy stare.
“Do you know what could have happened if they had taken you in to be examined by doc for some stupid girl injury?”
They would have seen my markings. They would have known.
I bit my lip while Kingsley scowled.
“Stupid…” he muttered.
Every cut he made felt like a knife. I didn’t know why I liked him. Maybe it was because everyone liked him. He was the king of the school. The head Huntsman.
But I was a Watcher.
The very prizes that the Hunters tracked down like animals.
“I’m fine now, thank you. You can’t let me down.”
“No.” He sounded so calm about it. He didn’t even look at me but stared straight ahead like he didn’t even have me in his arms.
My widened eyes turned into a glare. “Let me down I said.” I pushed against his chest, but he only tightened his grip on my shoulders.
“If I had wanted you to walk, I would have pulled you to your feet then sent you on your way.”
“You have a say in what I do and don’t do.”
His eyes flashed to mine starkly. “Well, obviously you aren’t bright enough to decide anything for yourself.”
Kingsley knew I couldn’t afford to make a scene, so I crossed my arms and leaned close to whisper every insult I could think of. The corners of his mouth curved into a smile like he was enjoying it!
My face turned hot, and I glared at the ground deciding then that I would never speak to Kingsley or help him with his homework ever again.
It was silent for a moment, but he wasn’t satisfied with that. “I’m pretty sure it’s every girl’s dream for me to take them home, and you stiffen up and pout like I’m punishing you.”
I decided that I would leave him with some formidable last words. “Kingsley, you are the most ill-mannered, self- righteous, inappropriately proud biggot I have ever met, and I know you think you’re really something. But you’re not. I’d actually like to hit you every time you speak just so you would stop.”
His face turned red, and his mouth twitched. But it was all in an attempt to hold down laughter. A vain attempt. My blood was boiling.
He tilted his chin up. “Go on. Hit me, Thalia.”
I hated this boy. I hated this school. Everyday I told myself I wasn’t coming back. I wanted to hit him. I really did. I wanted to show him that hitting like a girl would leave a jerk like him with a broken face.
“I would, but you’d probably enjoy it.”
I realized immediately that I had broken my oath of formidable last words and would have to find another situation and another set of powerful adjectives, and his laughter only made me angrier.
“You’re right. I would.” He smiled still keeping his eyes on the path ahead.
I scowled and turned away, so angry that I was near ready to cry.
“If I let you down to walk beside me, will you stop acting like a child?”
I said nothing, and after a while, he let me down. I immediately broke into a run, but Kingsley grabbed me from behind. He wrapped his arms around me and buried his face into my hair. I wrenched and jerked and squirmed, but I couldn’t budge him.
I finally stopped and just stood there letting him hold me in that awkward hug. I could feel his breathing against my ear and for a moment considered whether he would get in trouble or not for ditching training.
No. Not Kingsley. If anything, he was the one who fussed at the trainers.
“The only reason I get so angry is because you mean something.” He sounded like a whining child.
Yes, I knew. Kingsley had never told me that he knew I was a Watcher, and I had never told him.
But he was the Huntsman who had saved me. I knew it because after that night, he spoke to me. He kept showing up to rescue me from trouble again and again. No one could figure out why he talked to this freakish girl.
Sometimes, my mind tried to convince me that he thought it all was a game. He was just toying with me like a cat with a mouse.
But then I remembered that night and assured my doubt that it could never be possible.
And I wondered if anyone else knew. If his fellow Hunters knew that he had been the Huntsman to help a Watcher escape from their grasp.
“Are you going to hug me back?”
I wrapped a loose arm around his shoulder.
“Aw, a smile.” He pressed his cheek against mine making me laugh then I felt his arms fall off my shoulders. “Come on. Let’s go home.”