Excerpt from Defiance

by Taylor Longford

Whit tossed her long ponytail behind her shoulder after making a basket and sent a smile up into the stands. But her smile wasn’t for me. Feeling a dark twinge of jealousy, I turned my head and searched the bleachers, expecting to see some guy catching her cool smile…and found her parents, instead. I recognized her father because I’d met him at his medical practice in town. We’d taken MacKenzie there after a harpy had broken her ankle. I hadn’t met her mother, but I knew Mrs. Anders worked at the high school in the attendance office and I assumed that was her, sitting beside Whit’s dad. Both parents were fair-haired, but Whitney obviously takes after her dad more than her mother.

“Just chill,” I muttered to myself. Hunching my shoulders, I ignored the female eyes that followed me as I turned back to the game. Girls were always staring at us. Girls had always stared at us, even eight hundred years ago. That was one thing I liked about Whitney. Right from the beginning, she never stared at me like I was a freak of nature.

“Good advice,” Havoc chuckled, and elbowed me in the ribs. “What’s eating you, anyhow?”

I slanted a quick look at my cousin seated on the hard plastic bench beside me. “Nothing that’s any of your business,” I muttered.

Havoc jerked his chin in the direction of the basketball court. “You gonna man up and talk to her?” he snickered.

I clamped my jaw, refusing to take the bait.

“‘Cause if you aren’t, I thought I’d give it a try.”

“Stay away from her,” I barked before I could stop myself.

That was a mistake. And a stupid one. Normally, I did a pretty good job of hiding my feelings for Whit. But every now and again, I failed. In this case, I should have known better. Havoc was just messing with me. He’d pulled the same stunt when Reason first brought Elaina home, acting all interested in Elaina and trying to make Reason jealous.

But it didn’t help that Havoc had managed to get his mouth against Whitney’s several times in the past after wagering a kiss on the outcome of a Parcheesi game. Three times to be precise. And watching their lips touch had been pure torture for me. At the time, I’d managed to act like I didn’t care…when what I really wanted was to hang my cousin from one of his long dreadlocks.

“She’ll just shoot you down,” I muttered, as if I cared about Havoc’s ego—which was about as solid as Castle Rock. I don’t think you could budge Havoc’s self-esteem with a cannon ball. Or a mortar shell. Or an atom bomb. Anyhow, you get the picture.

Havoc tugged on one of the bronze dreads that slanted across his chest. “Oh, I don’t know,” he taunted. “She might fancy me. I’m closer to her age. To be honest, you look too much like a big brother. And who wants to hook up with their brother?”

I made a face, knowing he was right about the age thing. Whitney and Havoc were about sixteen while I was a couple of years older. And I hated to admit it, but Whitney and I did look like we shared a common ancestry. We both had the same pale, blond hair. She usually wore hers loose while I pulled mine back in an elastic band. And her eyes were blue while mine were gray. But other than that, we looked like family.

My gaze drifted down to Havoc’s dark red jeans and purple high tops…which didn’t exactly go with the mint green T-shirt he was wearing. Seriously, I couldn’t help but wonder why he didn’t at least try to fit in. Like me. The T-shirt I wore beneath my leather jacket was dark, like all the other kids my age wore. “What would she see in you?” I grunted sourly.

“You mean besides my awesome good looks and effervescent personality?” he questioned with a wolfish grin.

“Effervescent?” I challenged him in a snide mutter.

“You’ve gotta admit, I’m not a churlish knave like you.”

His attachment to medieval lingo was annoying. Personally, I was always careful to use only modern language. “News flash, Havoc. Nobody uses that word anymore.”

His normally untroubled brow creased in a slight frown. “Which one?”

“Either one,” I informed him. I shook my head at his ignorance and stood up as the game came to an end. It was probably a mistake, but I’d decided I’d take my chances with the enigmatic Miss Anders.

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