Worth the Chance Page 3

The librarian shushes us and Vinny throws his hands up in playful surrender and smiles at her. Her angry face changes when she’s on the receiving end of his smile. His charm knows no age boundaries.

Eventually we fall back into our roll of student and tutor and I’m able to refocus on the reason I get to spend so much time with Vinny Stonetti. Although he’s a senior and two years older, he’s a year behind in English and I’m a year advanced, so we’re both in the same English class. And he’s in danger of failing this year. Again. Most likely it’s because he doesn’t spend much time in our actual class. He seems to be either out sick or suspended for fighting most of the time.

Six weeks ago when my dad told his friend that his daughter would tutor a boy who was struggling in English, it didn’t seem like such a big deal. Not until I found out the boy was the same one I’ve had a major crush on since seventh grade. I spent three long years watching him from a distance, secretly obsessing over the way he walks, the way he sits, and even the way his full lips move as he chews when I steal glances of him in the cafeteria.

And now, here I sit. Up close and personal for three hours each week with the boy who visited my dreams on more nights than I can count. I expected him to be something very different, although I’m not sure what it was that I thought he’d be. But he’s even better than I’d made up in my head. He’s smart, a fast learner, and funny too. We actually have a good time while we work through the material, and I’m surprised that we’ve almost caught up on the full semester’s work already.

“Did you figure out what comes after Juliet tells her mother about the wedding in the courtyard? I’m wondering when we’re getting to the good stuff…the wedding night?” Vinny wiggles his eyebrows playfully.

I still can’t believe I told him about my little geeky hobby. Ever since I was old enough to read, I’ve been a sucker for tragic romances. Devouring every word, I sometimes cry through the tragic beauty that sweeps me away. Then, when I’m done, I just can’t help myself. I rewrite the ending. Every story deserves a happy ending in my mind.

Two weeks ago, when we were finishing up Romeo and Juliet for class, I was so caught up in the love story that I blurted out the ending I had begun writing. Embarrassed at my own admission, I wanted to crawl in a hole, but Vinny actually seemed interested. Intrigued even. Instead of finding my quirky habits odd and scaring him away, he seems to want to know more. More about what I like to do. What makes me happy.

“Actually, I think after her mother….” I’m just about to tell Vinny about the chapter I wrote over the weekend, when I’m interrupted by a voice I’ve come to despise.

“Well don’t you and your little tutor girl look like you’re having a good time?” Missy Tatum’s snide voice brings me crashing back to reality. One look reminding me of everything I’m not. I’m pretty sure if she wore any less clothing she would get arrested for indecent exposure. From where I’m sitting, the underside of her full boobs are clearly visible. Her half shirt barely covers her at eye level, even less so from the view from below. Immediately I feel self-conscious about my lack of curves. She’s a senior and I’m in tenth grade. A late blooming tenth grader at that. In less than thirty seconds the comfort I’ve felt settle in with Vinny the last few hours is gone, and I’m back to being the little girl.

“Wait outside Missy, I’ll be done in a few minutes.” Vinny’s voice changes from the gentle and playful tone he has with me to something harsher, more controlling. For a second I think Missy is going to complain, but Vinny gives her a look daring her to respond. She pouts, but turns and walks toward the door to wait without another word.

“Sorry about that.”

“It’s fine.”

“No, it’s not. She shouldn’t talk to you that way.” His voice is still angry, so different than how he usually speaks to me.

“Thanks, but I’m used to it.”

“What do you mean you’re used to it?”

“Her crowd.” I shrug, motioning with my eyes toward the door where Missy and her friends are gathered smoking cigarettes outside the library. “They just make little comments, that’s all.”

“Like what?” Vinny’s jaw flexes and his temper flares. It’s a side of him that I’ve seen from a distance, but never up close, never directed at me. He’s scary when he’s angry. His relaxed and playful demeanor is gone, replaced by clenched fists and shoulders more squared than usual.

“It’s not a big deal.” I feign an indifferent smile and start to pack up my books.

Vinny’s quiet for a minute, but I can feel him watching me as I pile all my things back into my backpack. It makes me nervous and I feel my face heat from the intensity of his stare. I have no choice but to look up at him when I’m done, even though I’d rather crawl under the table. He doesn’t say anything, but his beautiful, pale blue eyes capture my attention, and for a minute I forget who we are and surrender to his hold. But then he abruptly stands and grabs his books off the table.

“See you next week?”

I nod my head, my words stuck beneath the lump in my throat.

I watch from the table as Vinny walks out of the library. Missy wraps herself around him the minute he exits the glass door. For a second, Vinny turns back and looks at me still frozen in my seat. Then he puts his arm around Missy’s shoulder and I watch as they walk off arm in arm.

Chapter 4

Vinny – 7 ½ years earlier

I’m still pissed about what happened with Liv when I walk into my apartment. I plan to work off the anger with Missy. She’s always ready for whatever I feel like giving her. And today I think she’s going to be taking a lot.

As if the day hadn’t already turned to shit, my mother’s passed out on the couch and two junkies are eating cereal out of the box, staring in the direction of the TV. I’m pretty sure they can’t focus enough to see what’s playing. It’s three o’clock in the afternoon and they aren’t up from the night before. I walk over to the skinny dirtbag sitting in the chair. He’s so wasted he didn’t even notice me come in. I kick the side of the chair he’s sitting in, the chair falls over with him still in it. “Get the f**k out.”

He looks up at me, seeing me for the first time. “What’s your problem, man?”

“You are. Get. The. Fuck. Out. NOW.” I roar, barely controlling my temper. Each word comes out growling louder than the one before.

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