The Secret of Ella and Micha / Chapter 8

Chapter 8


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Ella

I realize I have more issues than I thought. As soon as we turn onto the Back Road, a passion combusts inside me. It only flames hotter when we pull up to The Hitch, an old abandoned restaurant stationed at the end of the road.

It's the perfect set up for street racing, with a long straight road tucked between the lofty trees on the mountains. The sky is black, the moon bright, but there are clouds rolling in. I cringe, thinking of the night on the bridge. We'd been racing before I'd gone there.

Micha gets a text message right as we brink the end of the road. He pulls the car to the side, maneuvering carefully across the pot holes. He pushes the parking brake in and checks his phone, shutting it off, and looking torn up.

"What's wrong?" I ask. "You look upset?"

"Nothing's wrong. Everything's great." He's lying, but how can I press him to tell the truth when I'm a liar too?

"So this is your surprise?" I will my voice to sound disappointed, but it comes out pleased.

Micha gives me a sidelong glance. "Don't smile, pretty girl. It'll ruin your whole I'm-neutral-and-don't-give-a-shit act."

I opt to remain impartial. "Who are you planning to race tonight?"

"You mean who are we racing?" He smiles alluringly through the dark cab of the car. "Well, I thought I'd leave that up to you."

In front of the trees is a line of cars with their headlights on and their owners standing near the front. They're a rough crowd, mostly guys except for Shelia, a big girl with arms thicker than my legs. She's the only girl I've ever truly feared.

"Well, there's Mikey." I rub my forehead with the back of my hand. "Does he still got that piece of crap 6 cylinder in his Camaro?"

"Yeah, he does." Micha leans back in the seat, examining me amusedly through the dark. "You think that's who I should go for?"

"It's the obvious choice." I don't like where my thoughts are heading, but I can't shut off my basic instinct. I've always been a hanging-out-with-the-guys kind of girl and therefor there is an abundance of knowledge about cars stashed away in my head. Lila is the first girl I've been friends with. "Although, what kind of a win would it be when you have this car that can clearly take on much more."

"You think I should take on someone in my own league?"

"If you want the win to mean anything, then yeah."

We look at each other, like magnets begging to get closer. Yet flip one the wrong direction and they will push apart.

"So which one is it, pretty girl?" He drapes an arm over the headrest behind me and his fingers brush my shoulder. "The underdog or the big dog."

There's a dare in the air, teasing the real me to come out tonight. I want to give in, just for a few hours, and let my inner ropes untie. I want to allow myself to breathe again, but I fear the loss of control - I fear I'll have to feel everything, including my guilt.

"Micha, I think we should go back." I put my seatbelt back on. "This isn't my thing anymore."

He presses his lips together firmly. "Please can we have a night? Just you and I. I really need this right now."

I pick up on his strange vibe and the sorrow in his eyes. "Okay, what's wrong? You've seemed a little out of it. Was it bad news on that text you got?"

He traces the figure eight tattoo on his forearm. "Do you remember when I got this?"

I absentmindedly touch my lower back. "How could I forget, since I have the same one on my back?"

"Do you remember why we got them?"

"I can't remember anything about that night."

"Exactly, yet you'll remember it forever. No matter what happens, which is completely ironic." He lets his finger linger on the tattoo that represents eternity.

"There's something bugging you." I tug the bottom of my shirt down to cover up my tattoo. "Do you want to talk about it?"

He shakes his head, still focused on the tattoo. "Nah, I'm good."

To distract him from his thoughts, I point my finger at a smokin' hot 1970 Pontiac GTO, blue with white racing stripes. "What about Benny? Does he still have the 455?"

Micha's eyes are pools of black liquid. "You think we should take on the big dog?"

"I think you should take on the big dog," I clarify. "I'll just watch you kick his ass."

His expression darkens. "No way. I'm not racing unless you're in the car with me. It's tradition."

A starvation inside me emerges. "Alright, I'll ride with you, just as long as you do one thing for me?"

"Say it and it's yours," he says without blinking.

My hunger urges me closer to him. I prop my elbows on the console, and my arms are trembling. He doesn't move, frozen like a statue as I put my lips next to his ear.

"Make sure you win," I breathe and my body arches into him on its own accord, before I sit back in the seat.

His face is indecipherable, his breathing fierce, his gaze relentless. "Okay, then. Let's go win us a race."

We climb out of the car and hike across the dirt road toward the row of cars and their owners. I shield my eyes from the headlights and wrap an arm around myself, knowing these guys are going to give me crap for how I'm dressed.

Micha swings his arm around me protectively. "Relax. I got you baby."

"Well, what do we have here?" Mikey, the owner of the Camaro, strides up to us. He's got black hair, a kink in his nose, and his thick neck is enclosed with a barb-wire tattoo. "Is the infamous duo back again to get their asses kicked?"

I roll my eyes. "You beat us once and that was by default due to a flat tire."

His face pinches as he takes in my shirt, tank top, and curled hair. "What the fuck happened to you?"

Chandra, his girlfriend, sputters a laugh. Her dress is so tight that her curves bulge out of it and her stilettoes make her almost the same height as me. "Holy shit, she like turned into a little princess or something."

Micha squeezes my shoulder, trying to keep me calm. "So who's up first? Or has no one decided yet."

Mikey eyes Micha's Chevelle and there's a nervous look in his eyes. "You think you can just walk in here and play the game after sitting out for nearly a year?"

I mouth to Micha, a year?

Micha shrugs. "What? You were gone. Why the hell would I want to race?"

"Again, you need to move on without..." I trail off. Mikey will use what I say against Micha, so I have to watch my mouth. "We want to race Benny."

Mikey's laughter echoes the night. "You and what army?"

I point at Micha's Chevelle parked near the road. "That army right there."

Mikey shakes his head and shoos us away. "That thing don't stand a chance against the GTO. Now run along and come back when you got something bigger."

He's testing my control. A lot.

"As opposed to yours?" I retort, getting into Mikey's face. "Because that thing's all looks and no go."

Micha directs me back by the shoulders and a trace of amusement laces his voice. "Easy there, tiger. Let's try not to get our asses kicked tonight, okay?"

Benny hops off the hood of his car, flicks his cigarette to the ground, and leaves his buddies to join us. "What's up? Did I hear someone wanted to race me?"

Benny's the kind of guy that everyone respects because they're afraid of him. When he was a freshman he got into a fight at school with a senior twice his size and beat him up pretty badly. No one knows what the fight was over or what happened, but it was enough that everyone became cautious of Benny.

Mikey points a finger sharply at me. "Princess right here wants to challenge you to a race in that thing."

Benny's eyes wander to the Chevelle as he cocks his shaven head and crosses his muscular arms. "Micha, isn't that your car?"

Micha pats my back and winks at me. "Yeah, apparently she's my spokesperson."

Benny deliberates this and then turns to Mikey, who's glaring at me. "I don't see what the big deal is. I have no problem with Micha racing. In fact, it might be kinda nice to have a challenge for a change." Benny slaps Mikey on the back kind of hard and then pounds fists with Micha.

"Thanks man," Micha says with a respective nod. "Are you and I going to line up first then?"

Benny bobs his head up and down, nodding as he stares at the road pensively. "Yeah man, I think that'd work."

They chat a little bit more about the rules and what not, while Mikey continues to scowl at me like an angry dog. Once they're done talking, Micha and I walk back to the car, while everyone else scatters toward the starting line located right in front of The Hitch.

"So what's your plan?" I ask. "Because beating him won't be easy."

"You're my plan." He opens the passenger door for me. "With you in the car, there's no way I won't win, otherwise you'll never let me live it down."

Tucking my head into the car, I drop into the seat and then look up at him. "I won't make your car go any faster."

He grins, slamming the door. "Sure you will." He slides across the front of the hood and climbs into the driver's seat.

"You're such a show off," I remark.

He starts up the engine and it thunders to life. "That's like the pot calling the kettle black."

I slump back in the seat and fold my arms. "I may have been a lot of things, but I was never a show off."

He hooks a finger under my chin and angles my head toward him. "Taylor Crepner's graduation party two years ago. You were standing on the roof with a snowboard strapped to your feet, telling everyone you could make the jump. I think that's pretty close to showing off."

I make an innocent face. "But I did make the jump, didn't I?"

"Yeah, but not without breaking your arm," he says. "And that's beside the point."

"You're right," I admit, touching the small scar on my arm where the bone broke through the skin. "I was showing off and you had to drive my dumb ass to the hospital, then sit in the waiting room while I had surgery to put my arm back together."

His finger traces a line down my neck and to my chest bone. "I was there because I wanted to be."

"You missed a performance because of me."

"I don't care - never have."

My gaze involuntarily flicks to his lips. Suddenly, I want to kiss him, like I did that night on the bridge. It makes me uncomfortable because the feeling owns me. I lean away, putting space between us. Sensing my transfer of attitude, he revs up the engine and spins the tires, fishtailing the car to the startup line.

He shoots me a smug look, cocking an eyebrow. "Now that's showing off."

Shaking my head, I restrain a grin. Benny lines up the front of his GTO with Micha's Chevelle and his girlfriend struts up between the two cars. She's wearing jeans and a short t-shirt that shows her stomach. She flips her dark hair off her shoulder and then raises her hands above her head. People line up along the road, watching, and placing bets on the winner.

I spot Ethan and Lila toward the front, chatting about something, and Lila is doing her flirty hair flip thing. "When did they get here?"

Micha ignores me, eyeing Benny through his rolled down window. "To the baseline and back?"

Benny's arm is resting casually on top of the steering wheel. "Yeah, man. First one back wins."

They look away from each other. Benny waves at his girlfriend and she nods her head.

"On your mark. Get set. Go!" Her hands shoot down and screeches cut the air. A trail of dust engulfs us as we race off. The trees on the side of the road are a blur, and the sky is one big streak of stars. I keep silent as Micha shifts the car over and over again, but something inside me awakens from a very deep sleep.

Benny pulls ahead and makes a sharp swerve right in front of us. His red tail lights are blinding in the night and his exhaust is puffing out thin clouds of smoke. Micha speeds up, inching the front end toward the rear of the GTO.

As we approach the end, Benny pulls farther ahead, but it's not over yet. Micha has a thing for flipping the car around, without decreasing the acceleration. It's scary as hell, but it works every time. Besides with the longer body of Benny's GTO it doesn't have quite the turning power.

We reach the end and I should probably be nervous. The road cuts off into a steep, rocky hill and the space to turn around is narrow, but I've never gotten scared, not even now. I guess I can't change what's in my blood.

The GTO begins to slant sideways as Benny turns it. Micha veers to the side to get around him and shoots for the open gap between the car and the trees. I grab the handle above my head, the brakes squeal, and I brace my feet up on the dashboard. It's like being on a merry-go-round on crack. Everything spins - the trees, the sky, Micha. For a second, I shut my eyes and it feels like I'm flying. It takes me back to the night on the bridge. She said she could fly.

The car straightens out and Micha floors the gas pedal. Like I predicted, Benny is having a harder time lining back up. By the time we're speeding up the road again, he's a small distance behind us. Micha punches the gas and shifts the car into a higher gear.

The long front end of the GTO materializes through my window and Micha floors it, shooting me a look that lets me know I can tell him to slow down if I want.

I don't.

People flee to the side, panicking at our dangerous speed as we rip through the finish line. It isn't clear who the winner is or who's going to be able to get their car to stop in time, before crushing into The Hitch. Brakes shriek and dust swamps the windows. My body is thrown forward with the car's abrupt halt and I smack my head on the dashboard.

Micha works to regain control of the wheel and straightens the car as it skids to a stop. Everything settles and the dust slowly clears. Micha and I stare out the windshield, breathing loudly, our eyes as wide as golf balls. The front bumper of the Chevelle is a sliver away from a very large tree.

"Holy shit," Micha whispers and looks at me, his eyes bulging. "Are you okay?"

I lower my hand from the dashboard, my chest heaving with my breaths. Rubbing the bump on my head, I turn in my seat toward Micha. There is an eerie calm inside me and one of my worst fears becomes a reality. I'm an adrenaline junkie. Plain and simple, but I think it's how I've been all along. I just never admitted.

I'm no longer in control.

As I incline toward Micha, my heart flutters to life in my chest. My eyes shut and my lips brush his, gently tasting him. It feeds my hunger vaguely and I edge back, letting my eyes open. Micha is looking at me, his eyes pools of blue like the deep spots of the ocean hidden from the world. His hand comes up behind my head and he entices my lips back to his.

Something snaps inside me, like a rubber band. With one swift movement, and the aid of my own willingness, Micha lifts me over the console and I straddle his lap, looping my arms around his neck. His hands burrow into my thighs and slip under my skirt onto my bare skin. My breath falters at the intimacy of his touch. No one has ever touched me like this before, without me running away. Usually, being this close to someone sends me into a room packed with self-doubt, panic, distrust, and unfamiliarity.

My legs tense and Micha leans back. "Stay here, baby," he whispers, like he can read my thoughts. "Trust me, okay? Don't run."

He waits for me to nod and then crashes his lips into mine, keeping his hands under my skirt. I arch my body into him, pressing my chest against his, and my nipples tingle. His tongue sensually plays with mine, tracing every spot on my mouth and my lips. My body starts to fill with a secret longing.

Micha moves his mouth away from mine and my legs tremble in objection. He sucks a path of kisses down my jawline, moving to my neck and residing on my chest right above where my breast curves out of the top of my shirt. It sends a shock through my body and my legs uncontrollably tighten around him, my knees pressing into his sides.

He lets out a slow, deep groan and his hand slides higher into my skirt as he guides me closer. I can feel him pressing in between my legs and it scares the shit out of me, but not enough to make me stop. It's like all the sexual tension I ran away from has sprung free all at once. My fingers sneak under the bottom of his shirt and trace along the outline of his lean muscles. I don't know where to stop or how to put the line back up. My mind is racing and I clutch onto his shoulders needing my control back.

Someone bangs on the window. "Are you two having fun in there?"

I jump back and my cheeks start to heat at the sight of Ethan and Lila staring at us through the window. In his black tee and jeans, Ethan blends in with the night, but his dark, insinuating smile glows. Lila's eyes are magnified and her jaw is hanging open. Micha does nothing to help the situation. A lazy grin spreads across his face as he watches me through hooded eyes, looking very pleased with himself.

The adrenaline washes out of me and leaves a numb feeling in its place. I climb off his lap and straighten my skirt and hair before getting out of the car. I calmly walk around the back of the car and join Ethan and Lila.

"So who won the race?" I ask, smoothing the last of the wrinkles out of my skirt.

Ethan smirks at me. "Is that what you're really thinking about at the moment?"

I stare at him blankly. "What else would I be thinking about?"

Micha climbs out of the car, stretching his long legs. "We won, I'm pretty sure," he says, taking my hand like it's the most natural thing in the world. "Although, I'm betting there's an argument going on about it."

Ethan nods agreeably and takes a sip of his soda. "Yep, everyone who bet on you is insisting you've won and vice-versa with Benny."

Micha interlaces our fingers. "So the same old, same old."

"You know how these things go." Ethan pats Micha's shoulder sympathetically. "They're never going to come to a decision."

My hand is sweating in Micha's. He just cracked me open and my mind is racing with a billion thoughts. I can't do this with him. I can't crush him. I need to repaint the lines somehow.

"We should just leave," Micha says to me. "Let's not even give them the benefit of our argument."

"You want to drive out of here all suave?" I ask. "And make a grand exit?"

Micha smiles and squeezes my hand. "A grand statement."

"Which would be?"

"That we don't give a shit."

I let out a shaky breath and nod. "That sounds good to me."

"You want to meet up at the house?" he asks Ethan. "I'm sure we're going to have to do some tuning up on The Beast after what I just did."

Lila scrunches her nose and pops her gum. "The beast? Do I even want to know what that is?"

Micha taps the car door with his free hand. "Yep, that's what I named it. Kind of like how you call your car your baby."

Lila laughs. "Oh, I get it. Although, I like my name better."

Micha traces his thumb along the palm of my hand. "Are you ready to go? Or do you want to go pick a fight with someone first."

I flash a panicked glance at Lila, who knits her eyebrows. "Maybe Lila and I should ride together. I haven't spent any time with her today."

"You've spent time with me every day for the last eight months," she replies. "I think we're good for a few hours."

"I'll take care of her." Ethan chucks the empty bottle of soda across the parking lot and it lands in the back of his truck. "Really, really good care of her."

Lila lets her blonde hair fall into her face to hide her blush. I've never seen her blush like that. What exactly have the two of them been up to tonight?

Micha shakes his head at Ethan. "Be good."

Ethan rolls his eyes and then walks off with Lila toward his truck. Micha and I get into his car and I prepare myself to make a speech.

Micha squeezes his eyes shut and holds his hand up. "Don't even say it. Just let it go for the night. Please. I need to just feel this."

The pain in his voice causes me to fasten my jaw shut. Opening his eyes, he starts up the car and we drive down the road. Micha waves to Benny as we pass and everyone's eyes follow us. Then the darkness takes over as we pull out onto the main road and the headlights light up the night like a tunnel that leads to the unknown.


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