Drake decided now was not the right time to tell his cousin, Collin, to get his feet off the dash of the truck. Drake didn’t care, after all—it was his Dad’s truck.
“Do you think that chick from last year will be there tonight?” Collin asked over the sound of the blaring music.
Drake shrugged. “Probably. I’ve never seen her miss a parking party.”
He watched the beams of his headlights bounce across the dessert as they drove. The road was about a mile behind them, no road ahead of them to lead the way, but Drake knew where they were going.
“What’s going on with you?” Collin asked from the passenger seat.
Drake felt his expression turned questioning as he threw his cousin a look. “What do you mean?”
“You’re usually more into this.”
“I am not,” Drake argued with a quiet laugh. “I’m as into it as I ever am.”
“Bull shit, but whatever,” Collin replied.
Drake could hear it in his voice—he wasn’t dropping the subject, just saving it for later. It was a relief either way.
“So have you met the new Brayton?”
Okay, so maybe it had been too soon to call the change in subject “a relief.” Not that Drake minded thinking about Leah—it was all he’d been doing for the last however many days. Speaking of which…
“She has a name, dude,” he remarked.
“So you have met her!”
Drake threw Collin a look. He tried to keep it neutral.
“You’ve more than met her!” Collin exclaimed. “What’s she look like?”
“What does it matter?” Drake challenged. Like, literally. It didn’t matter at all what Leah Brayton looked like—it didn’t matter what any of them looked like since they could look like anybody.
“Oh my god, you’re such a buzz kill,” Collin groaned.
Drake laughed. Getting a reaction out of Collin was always a good time.
“Is she cool?” he pried. “Will you at least give me that much?”
Drake chuckled to himself. Was Leah Brayton cool?
No. She wasn’t cool.
She was hot. In every sense of the word—human and shifter alike.
In that moment, with that one word, Drake could hear it: Collin knew.
“She’s what’s different,” he said. “You’re into her.”
But he didn’t know the extent of it. No one did. Drake gave him a glance then glued his eyes back through the windshield.
From his peripheral vision, he saw Collin’s foot come down from the dash as he slowly sat up in his seat. “What’s doing, D?”
Drake just shrugged and shook his head.
“Did you fuck up?”
God, maybe he had. Maybe the whole thing was just some huge cosmic fuck up.
Did he even know any of it was real? How did he know it wasn’t all just his imagination?
He shook his head.
If it was his imagination, it was hers too. She felt it, too.
They both did.
So either they were hallucinating together, or—
“Did you knock her up?”
Drake’s inner monolog hit the brakes so fast he thought he could hear the sound of tires squealing in his head. He shot Collin a look. “Jesus, Col. No, I didn’t knock her up. I haven’t even slept with her!”
Collin’s entire body relaxed. He slumped back in his seat again, bringing his foot back to the dash with a sigh. “Shit. Don’t freak me out like that.”
“Freak you out?!” Drake exclaimed. “You’re the one making assumptions!”
“Well your face got serious AF and the shifter warmth got all garbled—what was I supposed to think?!” he shot back. “I thought we were getting ready to have, like, a deep convos, ya know?”
Drake could only shake his head and laugh under his breath. “You’re a pig,” he said.
“Maybe I am,” Collin replied. “So you gonna tell me what’s going on?”
Drake pulled in a deep breath. He wanted to say ‘no’ and drop the whole subject. But then, no he didn’t. He needed to tell somebody—and Collin was the single person he could imagine telling.
“She’s incredible,” Drake said. “She’s funny and smart, and so fucking easy to talk to.”
“So then why do you sound like that’s all a bad thing?”
“She feels different,” Drake went on.
A pause from Collin. Then, “Different how?”
“Her warmth,” Drake replied, keeping his eyes on the dessert in front of the truck. He’d slowed down, his foot easing off the gas, partly with distraction and partly because the terrain had turned especially bumpy and uneven—which meant they were getting close.
“What about it?” Collin pried.
Her shifter warmth—the way they all identified each other—hers was different. “I’ve never met a shifter that felt like her.” And he’d met a lot of shifters.
“Well, isn’t that sort of the point?” Collin teased. “It’s how we tell each other apart. They all need to be different or we’d get people mixed up.”
But Drake shook his head. “It’s not like that. She’s warmer,” he said. Then he let fly the details he knew would get Collin to understand: “I can feel her through walls,” he said. “Sometimes I think I can feel what she’s feeling.”
The silence stretched in the cab of the truck until Drake forced his eyes away from the road, flicking a glance at his cousin in the passenger seat.
“Okay, yeah,” Collin said. “That’s…definitely unusual.”
Drake could only chuckle to himself. Unusual was an understatement. He’d never heard of anything like it.
“I think my Dad told me about something like this once,” Collin said, but Drake cut him off.
“No,” he said. “If you tell your dad, he’ll feel like he has to tell my parents…” he trailed off, shaking his head. He couldn’t handle the thought of fighting with his own mother over this—because that’s exactly what would happen. He knew it.
Collin’s sign was as good as the eye roll Drake hadn’t turned in time to see. “I wish you and Aunt Sam would cut each other some slack sometimes,” Collin remarked.
“I will when she does,” Drake replied. “Just—tell me you won’t tell your dad. For now. Okay?”
“Yeah, alright,” Collin agreed easily. “I won’t tell him. But what about Cici? Can you ask her? Or is it too weird?”
The thought had crossed his mind—both that he should ask Cecelia, and that asking might be a breach of Leah’s trust. Cecelia was her aunt after all.
In the end, he’d come to realize he didn’t want to ask anybody.
“I think she might know already,” Drake said. It had been little things that had tipped him off. Still, he couldn’t be sure Cici knew what was happening between him and Leah—only that she knew something was happening.
For all he knew, she thought it was nothing more than a crush
SHIFT (Shift Series #1)…