Guillermo Garcia, the only member of the football team who treated me like a human being, grinned down at me, his teeth white in his round, brown face. The deep-brown eyes I’d daydreamed about crinkled at the corners but also held some concern. “Playing fort?”
“Sure. Do it every lunch period.” I scooted out from under the table, wishing he’d found me in more favorable circumstances. “Indulging my inner child, you know?”
He chuckled. “Uh-huh. Sure. Frankel’s down in the caf bragging about scaring the crap out of you. You okay?”
“Yeah.” I scrambled to my feet, ignoring his outstretched hand. I didn’t think I’d be able to stand having him touch me just then.
“Bullies suck ass.” He paused. “I wonder what they’d think if I said that to their faces?”
“They’d probably beat the shit out of you.” Probably not, really. After all, he was a football player like them. They probably wouldn’t give him too hard a time.
He shrugged. “They’d have a hell of a fight on their hands. I’ve had the best try to beat me, and they haven’t gotten far. I moved here from Brooklyn last year. We know how to fight there.”
“Maybe you can give me lessons.” I wasn’t much of a fighter and didn’t want to be, but it would beat having to deal with jerkwads every day. Maybe if I fought back, they’d give up and leave me alone before I decided to give up. I’d been pretty close more than once to doing just that. The only thing that kept me around some days was knowing how thrilled Frankel and some of the others would probably be about my death.
“Maybe so.” He grinned. “You have no clue who I am, do you?”
“No. No one knows Guillermo Garcia.” I bit my tongue, this time for real. “Sorry. Don’t mean to be a sarcastic jerk.”
“No need to be sorry.” He held out his hand again. “Call me Moe, if you want. I get that a lot. I only allow it from friends. I’d like to be your friend, Evan. You’re a hell of a lot more interesting than the rest of the football players. I’ve been meaning to talk to you for months, but I figured you thought I was like them.”
“You’re not,” I said. “You’re decent.”
He nodded. “Thanks. I try.”
We shook hands, and I forced myself not to shiver at the contact. Contact I’d—well, let’s just say I had a really good imagination and this handshake would fuel a few daydreams later on. I was kind of suspicious of his reasons for talking to me, but I knew he wasn’t a jerk-jock like Frankel and the others. He’d never hassled me before, at least. So it was probably fairly safe to believe he wouldn’t now. “I can always use more friends. Thanks for tracking me down.”
“You’re welcome.” He studied me. “You know, I’ve been watching you in class.”
I raised an eyebrow and tried to ignore the little flutter in my belly. “You have?” We had History and Anatomy together, but I didn’t pay much attention to him in class and didn’t think he’d ever even noticed me.