When Lorenda interrupted the moment with her next order, Talmadge was oddly disappointed. “Hey, when you go back down stairs, could you see if Cameron is here yet?” Lorenda tossed him a look over her shoulder.
Cameron was Lorenda’s boyfriend, and he and his identical twin brother, Mitchell, played football with Talmadge and Langston. “And Miranda, you want to go to the basement and snag some food and sodas before that mob inhales all of it?”
Miranda’s smile and her dimples disappeared along with the current of energy that had hummed through his veins from the moment they first appeared.
“Um, sure.” She tossed the magazine aside and pushed off the wall.
Talmadge followed her, the music and teenage chatter growing louder as they descended the stairs. The crack of billiard balls echoed when they reached the landing and walked into the basement.
“Right on time!” Langston held up two pieces of paper. “Your names were drawn for the game.” With a sly grin, he grabbed both Talmadge and Miranda and dragged them to the closet. “You got seven minutes, so make it count.”
Miranda’s eyes rounded. “W—what game?” Her fearful expression swung to Talmadge.
Langston gave her a push.
“Wait!” She stumbled into the closet.
“You too.” Langston, Cameron, and Mitchell, surrounded Talmadge and pushed him in.
“Hey!” Talmadge yelled.
They slammed the door and left Talmadge in the pitch black. With jailbait. The one girl he wanted to touch but couldn’t. Oh hell yeah, he definitely wanted to, but no way. He’d stayed out of trouble since that one mistake had destroyed his family, and he wasn’t about to screw up his track record now.
Miranda pulled on the light string that dangled in the center of the closet.
“They took the bulb out.” Talmadge said, getting more pissed at his buddies with each click of the string.
“So we’re stuck in here?” Desperation tinged Miranda’s throaty voice.
Her breaths came deep and urgent through the small space between them.
“Are you afraid of the dark?” he asked.
“No.” Her voice shook.
Maybe she was scared of him. “Look, we’ll just stand here until time is up. You don’t have to worry about me touching you or anything.” And all of a sudden the air thickened between them. The promise of not touching her made him want it even more, but he wouldn’t dare. Unless she wanted him to. Even then it would have to be just a kiss because she was too young for anything else.
Why not just ask her what she wanted…or didn’t want. “Miranda—”
Her breaths turned to heavy pants, and she broke into a fit of convulsive body movements. Good God, maybe she was epileptic.
“Get off of me!” she ground out, still jumping around.
“I’m not touching you!” Talmadge insisted. “What’s wrong?” He reached through the dark to try to help. Okay now he’d be touching her if she’d actually stand still long enough.
Miranda’s body banged against the closet wall, then against the door.
Jesus was she dying? “Are you having a seizure?” Oh, hell. He’d be the only guy at the party that went into the closet with a girl, and she came out dead.
“No!” She fell against him, then jerked back and hit the wall again. “S—something crawled inside my shirt!”
Okay, that was better than a medical problem, because he had no first aid training whatsoever. He blew out a breath of relief.
Her entire body collided against his, bounced off, and fell against the door. The thud was so loud he thought the door would come unhinged.
“Calm down.” He reached for her again, hoping to help.
His hand landed on her boob, and the lacey texture of her bra skimmed across his fingers.
She gasped, and he jerked his hand away. “Sorry, I’d never touch you!” Hell. He didn’t mean it like that, but what was she doing with just a bra on? “Where the hell is your shirt?”
“I’m trying to shake the bug out!”
She squealed again. “Now it’s in my paaaaants!”
Her body ricocheted off the wall to the door then straight into him again. He grabbed for something…anything to keep from falling himself, and his hand closed around her butt cheek. She pushed off him, and they both collided against opposite walls.
He heard the whiz of a zipper. He was eighteen and she was a minor! “What are you doing? Put your clothes on! I can’t have people thinking we were together.”
“You? What about my reputation?” she seethed.
The closet door swung open, and light flooded the closet.
“Time’s up,” said Langston. “Sounds like you two were gettin’ busy.”
Several gasps and a few snickers rippled through the crowd.
“Uh, like really busy,” snarked one of the senior girls. “Like mother, like daughter.”
Talmadge squinted against the brightness. His eyes adjusted and he turned his attention in the direction of everyone’s focus.
Miranda’s hair was a wild mess, she held her shirt in her hand and stood there in a polka-dot bra. Her jeans were still on but unbuttoned and unzipped, revealing a swatch of yellow panties.
“Jesus, Talmadge,” said one of his friends, but he couldn’t be sure which one.
“No! I didn’t touch her. I swear!”
Miranda’s expression was already horrified, but then she turned furious eyes on him and the horror morphed into humiliation.
“She had a bug in her clothes. Right, Miranda?” He looked around the crowd. Some were shocked, but most wore smiles that said they’d just stumbled on the gossip of the decade. Miranda was under age! “I wouldn’t touch her!”
Her face deepened from red to purple, and she turned her back to the crowd to pull on her shirt and close her jeans. When she turned around again, her gaze fell to the ground, but not before he caught the glitter of wetness in them.
“It’s gone now.” It’s all she said before pushing through the crowd and disappearing up the stairs.