I could tell Nix was looking right through my lies, but what could I do?
The last thing I needed to do was get myself shocked to death in front of her, honestly. I had only known her for maybe a month and she already knew me quite well. Maybe being in life and death situations was a good bonding exercise.
"You're distracted, aren't you?"
Just then I noticed that I had frozen midway a stretch and stood abruptly, avoiding Eli's eyes.
"Yeah. I'm just kind of...um..."
I trailed off, met his gaze, and blurted out my thoughts unintentionally.
Eli didn't react the way I expected him to. Instead of poking fun at me he took my hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
"You've been through a lot Camille. Honestly, you're the closest to a fearless person I've ever seen. You're a survivor."
My lips quirked into an amused smile.
"Even more fearless than the human cannonball?"
His eyes narrowed in mock annoyance and he nodded.
"Obviously. That guy's been playing tough as long as I've known him, and I could tell from the start he was just plain insecure. He can take punches and broken bones but he can't take the idea of being rejected. Built an emotional barrier around himself by pretending that nothing matters."
"Are we talking about the same guy?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.
Eli was much more observant than I gave him credit. His theories were much more elaborate than I would have thought.
"Definitely." He paused, scratching his head with his free hand, "And Cam, I was wondering..."
"Yeah?" I asked absentmindedly, still pondering his impressions of Lucas.
"Do I strike you as the kind of guy that...bats for the other team?"
Where did that come from?
He smacked his face with his hand, not bothering to stop hiding from the world behind it.
"You hesitated, Camille."
"No I didn't."
"You did too."
"Did not, not, not."
"Did too, too, too."
"You sound like a train." I stated simply, sending us both into a fit of laughter.
After a few minutes of cracking up Eli looked at me seriously and I felt oddly self-conscious in the revealing red satin I was wearing for the first time and the heavy gothic makeup on my face.
The audience was so far away that anything I wore had to be really dramatic for them to notice. Looked okay from a distance but close up it was crazy.
He fixed the red feathers that had been tucked into my updo and gave me a smile, the kind I knew firsthand had sent many a girl swooning.
I ignored the pulse quickening in my ears and shot him back what I at least thought was a dazzling grin.
"You look great Camille." he said, making my eyes widen to the size of plates.
"What, because I'm wearing next to nothing?" I started, preparing myself to go on a rant about the objectification women always had to go through.
"Because you're smiling."
I shot him a grossed out face in response to the mushiness and jerked my head toward the flap in the tent that led onstage.
"We better get climbing those ladders before the contortionists turn into pretzels."
"Oh, yeah...good call."
We started walking toward the darkness, my hands pricking in anticipation of the adrenaline that came with the trapeze.
I turned only to see Stinger a couple yards off, waving to get my attention.
"Come on, Eli." I muttered, and quickly dragged him into the booming arena.
My hands quickly found the ladder beside the sawdust circle and I practically flew up, not bothering to look back. I didn't want Wiseacre sending his dummy after me again. If he wanted to kill me, he'd have to do it in person.
When I took him down, I'd do it in person.