“Well, look who decided to just show up.” Mallory said, tilting her head to the side, “After … how long of being gone?” She looked around as if asking their audience to give her the answer. “A year you say? Now you’re back, Ms. Allison Gilbert … but putting aside all the joy your lowly subjects must feel at your return … there is still one question, floating up there in the rafters, and I think you know what it is.” Mallory smiled but something about it made it seem more like a snarl. Jared noticed Allison tense as if she really did know what was coming next.
“That’s no business of yours, witch queen.” Liz said, starting forward and everyone, including himself, knew where that would lead.
Before Liz could get far, Ally gripped her arm and whispered something to her that seemed to calm her down, but just barely. Jared had come to know Liz as a pistol, and he was surprised that Ally was able to pull her back after she had been shot off.
“I don’t remember speaking to you, frizzy.” Mallory said, examining her perfectly manicured fingernails. “Go on now, keep quiet like Ally says, and be a good dog.”
Andrew first, and with the most force pushed forward, followed closely behind by Sam and Derek.
“Hey!” Jared called, still leaning against the couch back, “They are perfectly capable of handling themselves, they don’t need you to protect them.” Andrew paused, his friends stopping with him, and glanced back, contemplating, but he didn’t make any move to come back to where he’d been.
What moved him was looking over at the girls, Liz most importantly, and seeing them nod. They didn’t need protection. Grudgingly, they all moved back to their original places.
Allison took a step forward, but that was enough, all whispers and idle conversations stopped. Ally’s entire sweet and innocent demeanor had changed, her presence then was a force to be reckoned with, and Jared felt sorry that anyone had to be on the other end of the oncoming wrath.
Mallory was tall, but not as tall as Ally, which made the look Ally gave her that much more effective looking down at her, it said, you’ve had your fun, but now you’ve gone a bit too far.
The scariest thing about the sudden change was … that her cool, calm hadn’t changed, she looked the same, it was having to recognize the change in her stance, in the vibe coming from around her that was so subtle, making the situation dangerous.
Jared wasn’t sure Mallory had taken the hint.
“Oh, she’s in for it now. You never want to be on the other end of that look.” Derek said, chuckling quietly.
“You’ve got that right.” Sam said, not looking even half as amused as Derek, making Jared wonder what he had done to obviously have been a recipient of that look.
“You know Mallory,” Allison started, her voice all ice then, no warmth there at all, no mercy either, “that I’ve never tolerated anyone speaking badly about my friends.”
Mallory’s smile seemed to freeze in place, finally realizing that she had gone too far.
“Why don’t you cut the crap Allison?” Mallory said, having fully switched sides to the defensive. “You can’t expect me to just sit by quietly, while you waltz in here like you never left after a year of being gone. You’re trying to reclaim something you’ve long since given up! You’ve lost your right to rule, Gilbert.”
“See, that’s what you’ve always gotten wrong.” Her tone becoming almost business-like, that oh so stubborn jaw clenching. Jared had to wonder then, who this girl really was.
In less than twenty minutes, she had completely changed the perspective he had been viewing her from. He had known there was a person worth getting to know underneath the surface of that pretty face, but this wasn’t quite what he had been expecting.
She was … strong. Stronger than most to be able to bite back, and still stay clean and composed when it came to Mallory’s antagonizing. A quiet storm, he decided.
“I don’t want to “rule” over anyone, I’m simply, a friend of the people, representation if you would. They’ve made the decision on their own to set me on such a high rung in the social realm. You on the other hand, bully and pillage and you really expect people to fight for your “claim to the throne”? I don’t see anyone objecting now besides you.” Allison turned to the crowd, “If anyone here would rather see Mallory Greene on top, please feel free to speak now, and I promise I won’t hold anything against you for your honesty.” The room was so quiet, that it was highly possible to hear to a pin drop.
Allison turned back to Mallory, that icy smile still in place, “I think,” she said quietly, “that was your cue to leave.”
With Mallory Greene and her group having tucked tail and run, the whole room seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. Music, that Jared hadn’t noticed having been cut off, was turned back on. People started to move around again. Some dancing, others just mingling, probably speaking about what had just happened.
Ally, Sarah and Liz spoke for a minute or two, before arms linked once again, they made their way over to where he and the rest of them were standing. Allison and his eyes clashed once again, making electricity spark through him.
She smiled slightly, but in the short time after Mallory had left, she seemed to have melted. The cold was gone, her coyness taking its rightful place again, and he smiled back. He pushed himself off the couch back and met her halfway. Well … her, Sarah and Liz.
“You sure have a lot of explaining to do, involving you and my girl here.” Sarah said, winging up an eyebrow.
“Yup,” Liz said, punching his arm lightly. “It’s good to see you, J, but that might change if you don’t take good care of her.”
Allison looked over at her friend sharply, “Bye guys.”Jared chuckled, making Ally look over at him with a frown.
“Not funny.” She said.
“Well, I seem to think differently, luv.” He replied, he noticed the slight tint that rose to her cheeks and he grinned, about to take a step forward.
“Hey, wait a minute. Let us get out of here before you two get your juiced up flirt on.” Liz said, tugging Sarah toward where the guys were, sitting on the couch then. They stood in silence for a minute, watching them go.
“For a minute there, I was starting to think that you had changed your mind.” He said.
“Well, maybe you shouldn’t think so much.” She replied, playing with the end of her dress, which forced him to look her over again.
“You look great in that.” He said, meaning it. She looked up at him after a second, but she looked as if she was trying to determine if he was telling the truth or not.
“Thanks.” He noticed her look him over as well, making him light up with heat, but she didn’t say anything.
With her one word answers, the conversation was lagging. She glanced away again, looking like an uncomfortable angel. He hated that he was the reason that she was feeling that way. She was fine earlier … But then again, she was shy. He guessed that he had to break the ice and get her accustomed to him again. The question was … how?
“We seem to have a lot of connections, a bunch to talk about there.” He said, hoping that would interest her enough to come out from behind the wall she had erected around herself.
“I think … that’s a conversation for another time. Preferably in a place quieter than this.” She said, by then she was practically squirming ... Shite! He was totally out of his league here; he didn’t have much experience with shy girls. Ally ... what do you expect me to do here?
A microphone was tapped, once, twice, three times. Jared and Allison turned toward the sound, to find Andrew standing on a long, wooden table, which must have been very strong, microphone in hand.
“Hello? You can all hear me right?” After a bunch of people exclaimed, “Yes,” Andrew grinned and pushed ahead. “Okay. Boys, beautiful ladies … and because I know I’m going to get my ear yapped off later about saying that, I have to mention our super, mega, extra beautiful Liz separately.” Cheers, catcalls and various people yelling, “Get a room already!” started up to which Andrew responded with a sly, “I wish,” and a wink in Liz’s direction.
When the crowd calmed down Andrew continued, “So we all know what we’re here for.” People called out things about liquor and other select alcoholic drinks and Drew followed the comments up with, “No, not to clear out my parents liquor cabinet, like some of you may think, but to finalize the true champion for the summer, of our beloved, Beer Pong Tournament, which was started by my older brother, Max. He’s actually in college now, if you guys can believe it.”
At the cheers incited by mention of the said Max, Andrew paused. “Yeah, yeah, he’s awesome, I know. But we’re not here to celebrate my brother. We’re ready to get started. The drama’s over … for now, and there aren’t any more interruptions planned for tonight. So I’m gonna call up the first competitor for tonight, one of my best friends and a good friend to all of the rest of you, the very tall … Samuel Winters!” Cheers broke out once again as Sam made his way over to stand by the table Drew was on. Sam found Jared in the crowd and mouthed, “You’re going down.”
Jared laughed, making Ally look over at him. She was smiling too, and it made him laugh again at how much happier he got at the sight of it.
“Okay, okay. Now, I’d like to call up someone we all know and love. Someone we may have only known for a short while, but who quickly became our friend, no matter how much of a pain in the ass he really is. Our one and only ENGLISH INVASION!” Whistles, cheers and chants broke out, and this time when Ally looked at him, it was out of surprise. He grinned at her and before walking up to take his place beside the table he stepped toward her, aware of all the eyes on them.
He slipped an arm around Ally’s waist and pulled her closer until she was against the long line of his body, he felt her jump slightly, but she didn’t pull away. Leaning down until he was level with her ear, he whispered, “ …watch me.” When he pulled back after a few seconds, not really wanting to let go, the crowd had gone silent and her face was the deepest shade of red that he had seen it yet.
But still, she nodded without prompting, letting him know she would do as he asked. Releasing her gently, he headed toward his friends, standing on the open end of the table. He looked up at Andrew to find him grinning down at him, and Jared grinned himself. Let’s see if this does something to break the ice.