How to Date a Nerd(2) by Cassie Mae

He pulls back and tilts my face to slap a kiss on me. As usual, I remove myself from the embrace—metaphorically—and think about more pleasant company. Maybe Obi-Wan, but not like old fart Obi-Wan. Heck, I’d take Neville Longbottom before I made out with an old guy, even if he did have The Force. Though, Neville’s gotten pretty hot over the years. Guess we all have to go through the awkward phase. Except Zak. He’s always been hot—graphing calculator and all.

Right when I’m about to imagine another awesome kissing candidate, a different kind of urgency pushes from behind Cody’s lips, and I’m snapped back into reality. I pull away, afraid of what he’s thinking.

“I’m sick, remember,” I say, wiping my soggy lips with the tips of my fingers. Gag.

“I don’t care,” he says as he tries to pull me in again. I put my hands on his chest and push back, leaning my head away from his face.

“I do.” I use my stern and controlling voice, but it’s not fake this time. He better keep those pervy lips away from me.

He looks like he wants to argue, but he lets go. I almost let out the huge sigh of relief I’d been holding in my chest, but I catch it before I do. I mean, for all he knows, I’m a girl who lets just about anyone between her legs. He entwines his fingers with mine and mumbles, “So… do you want me to go?”

“Yeah. I don’t want you to catch it.”

“You don’t sound sick.” His voice is barely audible.

“Well, I am.”

He pauses a moment and looks behind me, into the hallway. I crane my neck to see what he’s looking at, but I’m forced back into an awkward embrace, his mouth trying to swallow me whole.

I can’t move. His fingers latch onto my upper back and yank some of my hair. What the hell is he doing? I start clawing at his body, trying to break free from his strong arms.

“Holy shit, Cody!” I shout the second I get his face away from me. “What the hell was that?”

“Come on, Zoe.” His hands continue to dig into my back. I wish I would’ve kept the baggy pajamas on because I’m sure he’s drawing blood.

“Get. Off. Me.” I’m wiggling around, hoping he’ll let me go, but his grip tightens.

He smiles. Not one that’s sexy or anything, but a very nasty and uber creepy grin. If my legs weren’t trapped, I’d knee him right in the balls. “Every guy you’ve been with only dated you to get in your pants.” His grip tightens again, and I try to keep my face as far away from his as I can. “You know it. I know it. You can’t be mad at me for doing exactly what you were doing.”

“Which is what?” I spit. He really needs to let go before I go batshit crazy on him. This is getting really scary.

“Dating each other till we got something out of it.”

My eyes fill up, and the tears almost spill over. He’s right. Which sucks. I’m so stupid. I should have expected at least one of the boys I dated to be upset about not getting some; so upset they’d take it into their own hands.

“I want you to leave me alone.”

“I helped you out. How many people get jealous whenever I touch you?” He reaches up and brushes my hair from my face. I’m tempted to bite his finger off. “How many clubs have you gotten into because I know someone?” His lips are inches away from mine, his hand now locked around my jaw so I can’t move. “I think since I’ve done my part, it’s only fair you do yours.”

My lips form obscenities around his as he mashes them against me. I’m wiggling like crazy, trying with every bit of strength I have to get away from him. I think I got in a good hit somewhere, but he’s not letting go.

He bites down on my bottom lip, causing a yelp of pain to escape my mouth. I keep quiet after that, and he moves his kisses to my cheeks, my neck, my chest, while I still try to get out of his grasp.

Is this really happening? What is he going to do to me? How far will this go? I try to detach myself—again metaphorically—but it’s impossible. No one has ever attacked me like this before, and tears start to leak out the corners of my eyes.

One of his hands clasps my butt cheek as he moves me upstairs. My stomach plummets as I hope against all hope Sierra stays in her room. She can not see this. I don’t want her to see this.

We get to the top of the landing, and I hear a doorknob turn, but it’s not from Sierra’s room. It’s the front door which is in plain view from where Cody has me pinned. Cody hears it too and he shoots upright, letting go of me long enough that I can fix my top before someone walks in.

“Hello?”

I’m too relieved to be confused about Zak standing in the doorway. I jog down the stairs, coming within inches of his body, but stop myself from hugging him. My arms drop, and I pretend I was going to scratch my head, looking like an idiot. His puzzled face would be comical if it weren’t for the tense atmosphere. I take a small step away as Cody descends the staircase. I search deep inside my voice box for a cheery tone and blink away the water from my eyes. “Hey, uh… my dad’ll be home in a minute and he can get you that book you wanted. I’m not sure where he put it. You can sit over there if you wanna wait.”

I’m so glad Zak knows when to act stupid and when to play along. “Thanks, Zoe.” He goes into the living room and sits down, not taking his eyes off me and my now very ex-boyfriend. No way will that guy ever get near me again. Cody looks like he got attacked by fire ants with how red he is. He clears his throat and looks at me.

“I better get back to the party. You coming?”

“No.” Hell no. I don’t look him in the eyes, because now they scare the crap out of me. “I’m sick, remember?”

“Your loss.” He shrugs out the front door, and I almost break into tears right there in the entryway. But Zak’s presence shuts me off from losing it.

“Are you all right?” he asks, getting off the couch and stepping closer to me. I quickly try to erase the pain and horror from my face, putting my calm mask on.

“Yeah. I’m not feeling well, like I told Cody. So, I’m going to go upstairs and sleep it off.”

“Zoe, don’t pretend like I don’t know what just happened.”

I feel all the color drain from my body. So much for looking calm. “What do you mean?”

Zak bores his eyes into mine. I fold my arms again and stare back. He’s not going to get me to admit to anything. I’m not even sure what happened. It’s like my mind can’t catch up with the reality of it all.

“Well, next time I see him attack you like that, I’m calling the cops.”

A hard lump drops in my tummy, and I gaze out the window behind him, to the perfect view of his kitchen. I know how that kiss—or attack—felt from here, but how did it look from there?

“It’s nothing to worry about,” I lie. “Really, it’s always like that.” Now I give him a fake smile, trying to push back my embarrassment and fear.

“If that’s the case, I’m calling the cops right now.”

“Wait,” I say, coming up short on excuses. I don’t know why I care so much, or why I’m giving Zak the attitude, especially since he just saved me from something I never would’ve thought … I mean, Cody could’ve … ugh, I can’t think about it anymore. I’m getting more and more panicked, and I want to be up in my room, under my blankets so I can curl up with Wolverine and not think about what just happened. And even though Zak did something for me I can’t even think of how to repay him for, I find myself trying to keep up my fake persona. “Don’t call the cops. I… uh… we got in a fight, and he wanted to make up. And… uh, I wasn’t exactly done being mad at him, you know?” Great now I sound like a rambling fool.

Zak studies my face. His eyes search mine for any deception, but since what I said isn’t completely untrue, he lets it go.

“Okay. Sorry I barged in. I thought it was a problem.”

“No, there’s no problem.” I try to smile. “Promise.”

He studies my face once again before going out the door. I hadn’t realized I’d been holding my breath until the hot air escapes my nose. I jog upstairs, slam my bedroom door and put on my baggy pajamas before curling up under my sheets and crying myself to sleep.

Chapter 2

Why couldn’t I have been an only child?

I wake up Monday morning filled with panic and anxiety. I don’t want to see Cody, or act like everything is okay after what happened on Friday. I don’t feel like acting at all, but since I’ve already skipped so many classes, one more and I’ll be kicked out, I sit in front of the mirror and prepare my mask for the day.

I can see Zak from my window again. He’s already dressed and shoving a large book into his bag. He’s wearing a blue plaid button-up shirt over his “Use the Force” T-shirt. I can’t believe he wears that stuff to school, even if he does look pretty great in it. I’m probably one out of two people who think that. His dark brown hair falls right above his ears, so part of it covers his eyes as I try to get his attention by coughing or sighing loudly.

He doesn’t acknowledge me at all, which I try to seem fine with. I don’t know why I want his attention so badly. He’s made it pretty clear that he doesn’t see me that way, and I don’t blame him after what I did. I may swoon and sway as I look at him from across our windows, but in school, if I even glanced in his direction, I’d get shit for it.

I turn back to the mirror and let out a sigh—a real one this time. The dark circles under my eyes make it look like I’ve been on drugs for the past few days, when really, I’ve just been up every hour reliving those few scary seconds in Cody’s unrelenting grasp. My long, fake, red hair is matted and knotty from not brushing it after my shower last night. Do I have my work cut out for me this morning or what?

I plug in the flat iron and get up to dig through my closet. If I’m going to convince people I’m okay, I need something short and sexy, pushing the boundaries of the dress code. I slip on a tight miniskirt and a low-cut pink top and assess the outfit. Besides the horror that is my face and hair, I look pretty damn hot. Just like the girls in those movies. We’re on the right track, baby!

My hair takes me a good twenty minutes to untangle, and I slather globs of makeup to cover my raccoon eyes. Perfect and just in time, too. First period starts in fifteen minutes. I throw my purse over my shoulder—only losers wear backpacks—tuck my Algebra II book under my arm and head out the door.

My car isn’t in the driveway, though. Great, this shit of a morning keeps getting better and better. Even though I know it’s really childish, I stomp my foot on the cement.

Sierra!

I could strangle her until her brain starts working. It had to be her. It isn’t the first time she’s stolen my car to ditch school. Being underage doesn’t stop her from swiping my keys the second my parents leave for work.

And now I’m going to be really late. I kick off my heels and curl the straps around my fingers as I walk barefoot down the sidewalk. Just when I think my day couldn’t get much worse, I feel a light splash on my arm. How cliché. I pick up the pace as the rain starts to fall and fold my body around my book to keep it from getting wet. So much for taking time to do my hair. Oh, I’m going to kill Sierra!

A shiver runs up my spine, and I’m instantly regretting the short and slinky outfit. I’d take wearing my own “Use the Force” shirt over freezing to death. I consider turning back and staying home for the day, but the possibility of getting expelled propels me forward.

Why can’t I graduate without actually going to school?

I start running. The balls of my feet smack the pavement, and I pray I don’t end up stepping on anything that would cause serious damage. Rain water splashes up my legs as I run through the puddles. If I slip and fall, that’s it for my morning.

The glow of headlights flickers behind me. Maybe some fool will take pity on me and give me a ride to school.

“Zoe?”

His voice always sends a wave of butterflies through my stomach, and I can’t help the dorky grin that forms on my face.

“Yeah, it’s me!” I call back over the weather.

“Get in!”

He doesn’t need to tell me twice.

“Thanks,” I say once I’m in.

“No problem.” Zak puts the truck in first gear and eases back onto the road. Driving stick adds the sexy to this wonderful geekboy.

“Feeling better, I see.” He smirks out of the side of his mouth, and I roll my eyes.

“Shut up.” I wring out my hair on the leather seat and give him a fake grimace. He laughs as he wipes it up with one of the plaid overshirts he keeps in the cab.

We don’t talk for a few seconds while Zak messes around with the radio. How he does that while driving a manual, I have no idea.

“You know, there’s a new Spiderman documentary on this weekend.”

No freakin’ way! How did I not know about this? My heart jumps through a hoop of excitement, but I keep my face composed. “So?”

“Maybe we could watch it together. Just like old times.”

Is he for real? My dorky grin almost comes back, but I keep it restrained.

He steals a glance at me and says quickly, “It’ll be a bunch of us. Ariana’s coming, I think.”

I want to go—oh boy, do I want to—and if it was just going to be the two of us, I probably would say, “Heck yes!” But it’s not, and that’s social suicide. If I’m going to watch it…scratch that, when I watch it, I’ll do it hidden in my room with the curtains drawn and the door securely locked.