Colton was intrigued, as he sat back down at his table in the cafeteria. He knew that look from Louisa by now. The look that said she’d started an argument with Briar on purpose, specifically so that he would talk to her and maybe flirt a little. The look that said she wanted his attention and she wanted him to take her side.
But he couldn’t do that. He’d taken her side one too many times and he couldn’t afford to do it again. He knew fine well that her crush would fade as soon as the next hot thing walked into her life, but Briar’s feelings weren’t so easily pushed aside.
Colton was well aware that she loved him. As surely as he knew that look from Louisa, he knew that Briar loved him with her whole heart and he chipped away a piece of that heart every time he took Louisa’s side in a fight. He wouldn’t risk doing that again.
Colton wasn’t sure how he felt about Briar, but he was definitely intrigued enough to find out. They’d grown up together, but with Louisa always being a dominant force, Briar had instinctively stuck in the background, afraid to be noticed. It was usually when she brought herself out into the open that Louisa thought of a new way to hurt her. He’d often been complicit in those deliberate acts to harm her, mostly because he’d stupidly followed Louisa into all kinds of trouble. But sometimes he’d also been her partner in crime.
If he ever wanted Briar to take him seriously, to trust that he wasn’t going to hurt her again, he was going to have to smarten up. Step one was to instantly diffuse the Louisa-bomb waiting to blow up in their faces. Step two was to make direct contact with a girl he barely spoke to.
Colton’s thoughts followed him after the lunch bell rang and along the corridor to his next class. It barely took five minutes for Louisa to sidle up next to him and link her arm through his. Thankfully, they had different classes, so he would get a break from her incessant attention.
“Well? Is there actually anything wrong with your straighteners?” He asked, bluntly. He wanted to know how bad this recent bout of jealousy was, because he was sure that was the real problem. Louisa was jealous of the fact that Briar’s magic was way cooler than hers, and she had better control of it.
“Not yet.” She grinned at him seductively.
Colton wasn’t even surprised. “Why did you do it? Why do you always do it?”
“I’m just so fed up of her acting like she’s miss perfect and innocent all the time. Besides, she’s been flirting with you all day…don’t think I didn’t notice.” Louisa disapproved, though that was new to him.
He knew nothing about any flirting, though the idea was certainly intriguing. “Maybe you noticed but I didn’t. And what exactly makes it any of your business anyway?” He wondered, letting a teasing tone hide his anger with her.
As expected, Louisa fluttered her eyelashes and turned on the charm. “Don’t pretend you’re not hot for me. I know you are…even Briar knows it.” She claimed, with a lighthearted shrug, as if she cared nothing for how her sister felt. “Anyway, it’s not as if she’ll ever do anything about it. She’s too chicken. She’s never kissed a boy in her life, why would she start now, with you?” She pondered to herself.
Colton was even more interested in Briar now that he knew she’d never been kissed before. He would love to be that guy for her, the one she loved and who could be her first everything. It was the kind of romantic crap that she would really go for, if he could just convince her to look past all his previous mistakes.
He took his seat at the back of his History class, as usual. He liked to stay out of the teacher’s way. She always suspected those sitting at the back of the room to be up to the most mischief, and he wasn’t one to disappoint. This time it would benefit him in more ways than just allowing him to talk to his friends, during class.
He drifted off into thoughts of the Grace sisters. He looked towards Louisa, sitting on the right hand of the room, just to the desk at the side of his. She was talking to her best friend, playing with her hair and paying zero attention to the teacher. Briar, on the other hand, sat up front, already taking notes of their latest assignment from the board, as the teacher wrote them.
The beauty queen and the scholar. One girl who was crushing on him, and was likely to get distracted by someone new in a few months, and one girl who loved him so hard she would never stop.
Colton couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to date both girls. He’d only ever thought of them as friends, until this last year. Louisa had always been pretty, but she was growing in confidence and he found that pretty attractive. Briar, however, had always been on the beautiful side of the scale. Not naturally pretty, not ugly, not even just plain or ordinary; the girl was just simply beautiful.
Taller than her sister, she looked eighteen already, though he knew she wasn’t. Sweet at seventeen, with that long brown hair, with faint wisps of red that shone out in the sunlight. She took after her mother, though she had her dad’s temper and his keen thirst for knowledge.
Contrary to what everyone thought, he wasn’t just nice to Briar because he fancied Louisa. He didn’t actually have any feelings towards the blonde sister; he was indifferent at worst, and tolerant at best. He accepted that she was in his life and that she would cause drama, but he wouldn’t welcome her into his life with open arms, if they hadn’t grown up together.
Briar, again, stood out in those departments. He felt something for her, even if he couldn’t quite categorize it. He didn’t think it was a crush, but he couldn’t be entirely sure. She was smart, in that hypnotic way that sometimes bamboozled him and sometimes made him feel in awe of her. He never felt stupid around her.
Colton leaned his head on the palm of his hand, watching her. Although their parents had been close, thanks to all being graced with the same magical talents, that wasn’t why he was friends with the girls. They had grown up together, sure, but it was much more than that. Their heritage defined them magically, but it didn’t dictate who they should be friends with, and Colton wouldn’t allow it to, even if it could.
They’d grown into their magic together, tested their limits, learned new spells and techniques, all while sharing ideas and thoughts with each other. They each had their own particular talents, but Colton could never be quite sure what they were. They were old enough that they had time yet to grow into new gifts and expand those they already had control over.
Wondering if he could use his magic to his advantage, Colton sat back in his seat and kept his eyes trained on Briar. “Look at me,” he whispered to himself, repeating the words over and over again, while watching the brunette so intent on learning. “Look at me, Briar. Turn round and look at me.” He tried, adding in a little forceful push to his words, with his magic.
Slowly, seeming uncertain of herself, Briar turned to look over her shoulder at him. Colton smiled, both at Briar and to himself, in victory. The poor girl looked so confused, as if she didn’t quite know why she felt compelled to look his way. She smiled back, before returning her attention to the front of the classroom.
His little manipulation worked. He could tell from the hesitant way she turned to face him that Briar had either been fighting the impulse to do as she was told, or else she was less susceptible to his talents than anyone else. He would have to try again, soon, before he decided what he was going to do about it.