Girls Like Boys


“How’re your classes going for you?” Jack asked as I sat down across from him at the table. “I mean, I know how English is going - I read your assignments, but how’s everything else going?”

“Just because you read a couple assignments doesn’t mean you know how the entire class is going for me,” I replied, challenging him to argue with me. “I could be a terrible at everything else.”

Jack rolled his eyes. “The entire class is about writing, Cody. And you’ve got that in the bag. I really don’t think you need to be worried. If anyone should be, it should probably be me. Between you and Landon, I don’t know how I’m going to live up.”

“You can’t even compare me to him,” I argued. “He’s an insanely good writer. I honestly don’t know why he doesn’t try to publish something. I’m sure he has even better stuff written somewhere.”

Jack shook his head, grinning slightly. “You know, if I’d wanted you to talk about how great another guy is on our date, I would’ve invited Travis along. You’re freakishly obsessed with him, you know.”

“Who says this is a date?” I asked quickly. “And I am not.”

Jack’s smile bloomed into full on amusement. “I say so,” he answered. “I figured you’d object to the label but I’m calling it a date, even if you don’t think so. And okay, he’s freakishly obsessed with you then. He picks you up after every class. If he’s not your boyfriend, it’s a little weird.”

I slid my arms across my chest, narrowing my eyes purposefully. “I thought you didn’t want to talk about another guy on our date?”

Jack sat back quickly. “So you admit that this is a date then,” he commented. “I hope that won’t get you in trouble with Travis, but he’s just going to have to deal with it.”

“Back to Travis again,” I commented. “It sounds to me like you’re the one who’s ‘freakishly obsessed,’ Jack.”

The brunette shook his head quickly, jumping into conversation animatedly. “I just don’t see what it is about him that draws you to him. He’s overbearing and completely full of himself. He acts like he put the stars in the sky or something. I’ve seen him around his cousin and it’s just weird how he only hangs out with Leo. It’s like he doesn’t even acknowledge the rest of the population.”

“That’s not true,” I argued. “He hangs out with me too. And I’ve met his friends before. Well, mostly just Ryan and Benji, but still.”

“I’ve never heard of either of those people,” Jack retorted, using it to make his point stronger.

“Ryan,” I answered, “Leo Ryan Reign, his cousin,” I clarified. “You make him sound like he’s a recluse.”

“Seems like it to me,” Jack said. “It’s it’s not about cars or racing or Leo, he’s not interested. Although I guess you probably make that list now.”

I scowled and took a sip of my drink so I didn’t have to answer. I hadn’t seen the same side of Travis. In fact, we hardly focused on him at all. When we hung out, it was mostly about being in the moment. “He’s different with his friends,” I said when I set my cup back on the table. “You’ll just have to get to know him.”

Jack nodded. “That’s just the thing, Cody,” he said. “Travis doesn’t ‘get to know’ people. I don’t know how you broke through that wall, but there’s no way he’s letting you walk away now that you’ve seen the other side. You know too much.”

I laughed loudly, shooting him a look. “You’re crazy. You make him sound like a mob boss.”

“And you act like he’s all puppies and warm hugs,” Jack retorted. “He’s not feeding the homeless when he takes off in that car, Cody. You and I both know that he doesn’t pay for college by working a part time job at an animal rescue. He’s found other ways to make it work.”

“I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” I said, shaking my head. “Travis isn’t a bad guy. I don’t know why you’re so against him. He’s not against you at all.”

“I just think that you’re going to get pulled into all his stuff if you’re not careful,” he replied, sounding resigned.

I frowned but stayed quiet as one of the waiters brought our food out to us on a tray. Jack immediately reached for his, popping the boxes open to check and then tipping it out into his paper plate.

“So you told people about me,” Jack said, picking the conversation back up after a couple bites. “What does your sister think about our date?”

“Why do you care what she thinks?” I questioned, eating straight out of my box.

Jack smiled and shrugged. “She’s your sister. You’re close. I want her to like me, at least.”

“She doesn’t even know you,” I said easily. “I don’t think she can accurately form an opinion about you yet.” I grinned at him as he shifted uncomfortably.

“You know what I mean,” he said. “I thought you would say no to going out with me. Or ask me to meet your sister first.”

“I would’ve had I known you thought this was a date,” I answered. “Which it isn’t, by the way.”

“Why not?” he asked. He lifted his eyes to mine and stared, holding me in place as he waited for an answer. “Is it because of Travis? I know you said you’re just friends, but I know how he is with girls.”

I frowned. “How is he with girls?”

Jack sighed and shook his head. “Cody, if you’re interested in him, can you just tell me? I don’t want to spend all of tonight talking about him, especially if there’s no chance that you’ll give me a shot.”

“You’re the one who keeps bring him up!” I replied incredulously. “You can’t just make accusations about my best friend and then not explain what the hell you mean.”

“How’s he your best friend when I’ve known him longer than you?” Jack retorted, shaking it off after he’d spoke the words. “But fine, okay, I’ll tell you what I meant but then I won’t bring him up again.”

“Fine,” I agreed, “but it seems like that’s going to be harder for you than it will be for me.”

He shot me a look, grinning slightly. Then he shook his head as though he was clearing his thoughts. “Travis puts on a show,” he said. “He meets a girl, runs her around campus like he owns the place, flashes his cars, and then takes her to a race before he ditches her. He acts like taking a girl to an illegal street race is a date. I don’t even see how girls like that he practically gets them killed. Or arrested for that matter. How does being put in danger make girls want to sleep with him? He pulls the same stunt every year. Hell, every couple weeks. I don’t know how dumb girls have to be not to see past him.”

I blanched, ice clinging to my spine. “What?”

Jack looked up to me for the first time he started his rant. Seeing my expression, he quickly backtracked. “No, Cody, I didn’t mean that you’re one of those girls. In fact, you’re one of the first girls I’ve seen get inside his inner circle.”

“No, Jack,” I stopped him. “What street races?”

This time, Jack froze. His dark eyes bore into mine as he realized I had no idea what he was talking about. “Cody… I thought he would’ve told you. Especially once you saw his car.”

“Told me what?” My fingers wrapped around my phone, clutching it tight between my bones as I listened to Jack speak. Listened to his explanation of the boy I’d spent everyday of the last two weeks with. The boy I'd fought with my sister over. The boy I defended again and again.

“Travis street races, Cody,” Jack explained. “He’s practically king of the circuit around here. He wins cars, fixes them up, and then resells them for profit. He hasn’t lost a race in over a year, at least.”

“How do you know that?” I asked. “How do you know it’s not a rumor?”

“Cody,” Jack said in a tone that demanded seriousness. “Travis drives around in, like, a ninety thousand dollar car. And every month or so people see him around in another one. Plus, racing is illegal, but it’s really big around here. People have seen him.”

I sputtered, trying to form a coherent thought. Ram and I had joked that Travis was into something illegal, but I never actually considered the thought, even when she did. And I definitely hadn’t imagined that it was street racing. It was easier not to ask, to be reassured by Travis’s promises, than to think it through.

“How have I not heard about this?” I asked, my gaze snapping back to the boy across from me. “If it’s as big as you say, then how come I had no idea?”

“You’re not from around here,” Jack answered, “and you haven’t been here very long, Cody. I don’t know why Travis didn’t tell you himself, but it is illegal. People don’t yell about it on the streets. Everyone knows somebody that’s caught up in it. Nobody wants to get busted.”

“Yeah, but that’s insane,” I replied, shaking my head. “You’re saying that college kids run an illegal street racing cohort, or whatever it’s called? And none of the adults notice? And you’re telling me that Travis is the head of it?”

Jack shook his head quickly. “No, he’s not the leader; he doesn’t set up the races, he just wins them, Cody. And I mean, all of them. He knows what he’s doing behind the wheel and under the hood.”

I stopped, lips parted and jaw practically slack. None of this made sense. Logically, none of it made sense. Colleges didn’t just house illegal races - drugs maybe, that was to be expected, but street racing was something completely different.

My phone was still in my hand and I woke it automatically. I typed in my password on autopilot and opened my texts. Jack said something, but I didn’t quite catch it. Travis’s name was still at the top of my list and I clicked on his name automatically.

“I just - one minute,” I said to Jack. I climbed out of my seat as the phone rang and I stepped to the corner of the room, nearer to the front windows.

“Cody, hey. Aren’t you on your not-date right now? Why’re you blessing me with your call right in the middle??”

“You street-race?” I asked, deadpan.

Travis was dead silent on the line.

“Travis,” I said again. “You illegally street race? You told me that you just buy and fix cars. You told me that there was nothing illegal going on. I believed you.”

“He fucking told you?” Travis answered, completely ignoring my questions. “Cody, I’m not talking about this over the phone, okay? I’ll explain myself, just let me come get you. Where are you?”

“I’m on a date,” I said defiantly.

“It must not be much of one if I’m the only topic he can think to bring up,” Travis retorted. “Now tell me where you are so I can come get you. I can explain everything better if I can just see you, alright? I’m sorry.”

“I shouldn’t even be around you,” I replied. “What you do is illegal, Travis. I could get in trouble for just knowing about it. If anyone finds out about this - if Charlie finds out about this, I’ll be pulled out of school faster than you can say ‘illegal’. Ramsy too. Oh god, Ramsy was right, Travis. She knew there was something wrong about you and I yelled at her for bringing it up.”

“Cody, calm down. How is your dad going to find out? You’re certainly not going to tell him. Is Ramsy? We don’t have to tell her about this if you don’t want to.”

“I don’t keep secrets like this, Travis, especially not from Ramsy. I’m not you.”

“Okay, I deserved that, but please just tell me where you are. I can be there in fifteen minutes and then I can explain everything. You don’t even have to get in the car with me. I’ll stay there with you and him, if that’s what you want.”

“Don’t say ‘him’ like that,” I replied, annoying with Travis’s self-righteousness. “It isn’t his fault you lied to me, Travis. Jack thought I already knew about you.”

“Why were you even talking about me on your date anyway,” he complained. “Where are you? I’ve got my keys, I’m ready to walk out the door, I just need to know where you are.”

“I can’t just leave!”

“I’ll fucking stay there with you and him and we can have this conversation and then you can go right back to your date, which seems to be all about me anyway, Cody. I really don’t think your boyfriend will mind me popping by. It can be like show-and-tell for him.”

I kicked my foot at one of the chairs in the corner and whipped towards the window, lowering my voice in reply to Travis’s attitude. “Jack’s not the one who lied, Travis. He didn’t know that you’re this big of an asshole.”

Travis groaned loudly, the sound muting as he pulled the phone away in frustration. After a moment he was back. “You are the most frustrating person on the planet, Cody. If he got to tell you my business, then I should at least be able to explain myself.”

I paused. I’d told Ramsy that I didn’t care what she thought of Travis. I’d hadn't even had the slightly doubt that he was telling the truth. I figured it was a mixture of family money and turning cars, but I hadn’t thought hard enough about it. I hadn’t expected to be so shocked by the real reason. “Fine Travis, we’re at Imperial Palace. It’s off of First and this other street. I can ask Jac-“

“I know where it is, Cody. I’ll be there in fifteen. Are you going to come with me or are you really going to make me hangout with that prick?”

“You have so many issues,” I answered. I turned back towards Jack. He was watching me, eyes narrowed as I argued with Travis.

“I know,” Travis said. “Are you coming or not?”

I told him yes and hung up on him. I figured he was driving anyway so it was better not to be on the phone. But then I realized that if he could handle racing, he was probably capable of driving thirty miles per hour and talking on the phone simultaneously. That thought just made me want to hang up on him again.

I gripped my phone tightly and headed back to the table.

“Is everything alright?” Jack asked. “I’m really sorry, Cody. I thought you knew. I didn’t mean to drop something like that on you. I just figured that since you’re so close that Travis would’ve told you.”

“He didn’t,” I said, obviously. “But, uhm, he’s actually on his way here right now. He’s pretty upset that I’m mad at him and I told him I’d give him a chance to explain.”

Jack looked surprised. “He’s coming here? I figured we’d at least finish dinner before you went to confront him about it.”

“I was just mad and I called him. I didn’t think he’d come straight here, but I couldn’t tell him not to. I owe him a chance to explain.” I frowned and met Jack’s eyes, hoping that he wouldn’t be angry at me for leaving.

“He lied to you and you owe him a chance to explain?” Jack repeated. “That seems a little backwards to me, Cody. If anything, he should owe you something. I mean, he practically conned you into being his ‘best friend’ and now you have to accept an apology from him?” Jack shook his head and pressed back against the booth.

I frowned at his choice of words. “He didn’t ‘con’ me, Jack. I’m not like those girls you were telling me about. I’m not Travis’s pick of the month. He’s my friend. My best friend here. I knew that he was really into cars. I just didn’t think it was anything illegal. I could’ve pressed him for more details.”

“It’s not your job to assume that people are lying to you, Cody,” Jack replied, his tone growing more desperate as he tried to make me understand his point of view. “Travis should’ve been upfront with you from the start, but instead he made you care about him without knowing everything about him.”

“This doesn’t mean I don’t care about him anymore,” I said.

Again, Jack was taken aback. “What do you mean? He lied to you. It didn’t make any sense as to why you were hanging out with someone like him, but now that I know that you didn’t know, it’s a lot more clear. That stuff is dangerous. He could get you hurt, Cody, even if you never get in a race with him.”

Neither of us saw Travis until he was through the door and heading towards us. I hadn’t expected him for at least another five or six minutes. I wasn’t sure where he came from, but I knew he broke some speed limits to get here.

“I think you should mind your own business,” Travis said as he walked over to our table. The air around him rolled in with him, the atmosphere shifting with his attitude. Travis’s arms were crossed over his chest and he narrowed his mossy green eyes at Jack.

“Cody’s my friend,” Jack answered immediately, “and I thought she knew already. But I still would’ve told her, even if I knew she was clueless. She should know what she’s getting into.”

“I think Cody can decide what she wants,” Travis answered, and his gaze flickered to me. “You ready to go, Code? Don’t forget your leftovers. I’m starving.”

“You don’t have to be such an asshole, Travis,” I said, climbing to my feet nonetheless. “Jack didn’t do anything to you.”

Travis’s unamused gaze landed on me. “I’ll get you a bag for that,” he said and he turned around and stepped back to the counter. There wasn’t anyone waiting there, so he leaned against it and rang the little bell.

Jack turned to me immediately. “You’re not seriously getting in the car with him, are you, Cody?”

“I’ve ridden with him dozens of times, Jack,” I reassured him. “He’s not suddenly going to drive like a maniac just because I know now. I’ll be fine.”

“He’s pissed off,” Jack retorted. “His attitude is what’s going to get you in trouble. I can take you home, if you want.”

“She’d rather not walk across campus in the dark,” Travis said calmly as he came back over. “In fact, that’d be a hell of a lot more dangerous than getting in the car with me, Jack. I can take care of Cody.”

“I can take care of myself,” I said, “and make my own decisions.” I turned to Jack and offered him an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry for leaving so early, but I’ll be fine with Trav. I’ll text you later when I’m home.”

“Of course you’ll be fine with me,” Travis muttered to himself, taking the bag of leftovers from me. When he saw the look I shot him, he rolled his eyes and shut his mouth.

Jack nodded. “Yeah, I know. But we should do this again sometime, since this got cut short.” He looked at me and only me, pretending that Travis didn’t exist.

Being ignored seemed to irritate Travis more than anything. “Maybe your next date will actually last through dinner,” he retorted, “but probably not, because you can’t seem to keep your mouth shut about me for even one meal. I’d be flattered if you were anyone else.”

“Travis, shut up,” I demanded, glaring.

The dark haired boy grinned but nodded, trying his best to curb his smile. He crossed his arms over his chest and took a step back, watching adamantly.

“I should go,” I said. “He’s only going to get more obnoxious from here. I’ll talk to you later, Jack. Thanks for dinner.” I smiled and took a step towards him.

Jack wrapped his arms around my waist in a hug and his lips were at my ear. I could hear him breathing as he stepped back and let go. Only a second later, his thumb grazed against my cheek and he smiled, meeting my gaze. I didn’t have any time to react as he leaned forward and kissed me, just barely brushing his lips against mine.

I pulled back quickly, practically blushing as I glanced at Travis, who looked like he could barely contain his amusement. I pushed out a sigh, overwhelmed, and grabbed Travis’s arm. I dragged him out of the restaurant and we were barely through the door before he burst into laughter.

“What the hell was that?” he asked. The bag of food swung as he wrapped his arms over his stomach, making a big production of traipsing across the yard, unable to hold himself upright as he convulsed with laughter.

I spotted the BMW at the curb and made a beeline for it. “Travis, shut up,” I demanded without turning around to face him. He lingered behind me as he crossed the grass slowly. I knew without a doubt that Jack could see us through the window-fronted building and I wanted to leave before he recognized Travis’s reaction and my own.

“I mean seriously,” Travis said as he stepped into the street and wandered around to the driver’s side. “That’s not how you kiss a girl. And it’s definitely not how you kiss a girl you like. That was embarrassing for me to watch, Cody.” He unlocked the door and I threw myself inside, grateful for the tinted windows.

Travis dropped in more slowly, still chuckling to himself. “I hope to god that wasn’t his first kiss because I really didn’t need to be privy to that mess. I almost want to kiss you just to show you how you should be kissed.”

“Then do it,” I challenged, spitting out words that I hoped would make him shut up. “If you’re so perfect at everything and such a know it all, then just do it, because I’m embarrassed enough without your commentary.”

Travis’s amusement drained and he turned the car off, turning in his seat to look at me. “Cody, seriously, what’s wrong? That kid just really knows how to aggravate me, but I didn’t mean to piss you off.”

“That was my first kiss, okay, Travis? And that’s not exactly how I wanted it to go. You don’t think I know he did that just to annoy you? Just to make you watch? Because I know that, I’m not stupid. I didn’t imagine an audience the first time I kissed somebody and I sure as hell didn’t hope it’d be out of spite.”

Travis was quiet for a minute but I didn’t dare look at him. I’d spat so many words at him, I wasn't sure which ones I’d meant to say and which ones just came tumbling out. My inexperience wasn’t something I threw at people when I was angry, but tonight was overwhelming.

“Cody,” Travis said. “Cody, come on, look at me.”

“What for?” I asked without looking. “I thought we were going somewhere. Just turn the car on, put it in drive, and lets go.”


I sputtered, automatically turning to look at him out of surprise. “What do you mean ‘no’? Your whole plan was for me to leave with you and now I am, so lets go, Travis. I don’t want to sit outside this building all night and talk about my feelings.”

Travis unbuckled his seatbelt at lightening speed and leaned across the console until he was just inches from me. Shocked by the closeness, I immediately quieted.

Travis looked at me with dark eyes. “If it’s all right with you, I’m going to kiss you,” he said.

I frowned. “What for?”

“So that way you won’t remember that asshole kissing you out of spite,” he answered evenly, nodding just slightly. “Okay?” He reached forward and his fingers slipped into my hair, knotting into the strands at the base of my neck.

“Sure,” I answered.

Travis nodded and pressed forward another inch. He was on one knee in his seat so he was taller than me and angled down to meet my lips. Able to balance without having to hold himself up, his left hand cupped my neck at the curve of my jaw and his thumb grazed my cheek.

His mouth was hot and urgent, but careful. He kissed me like he was leading me out of something, to something, and I let him. I exhaled in surprise as his tongue brushed my lower lip and Travis breathed me in, tucking my lip between his teeth and biting down just enough to make me feel it.

I felt him grin against my mouth as I made a surprised, involuntary noise. Feeling his arrogance in the way he kissed me harder, tilting his head and pressing against me, I pushed him back by his shoulders, disentangling him from.

“What the hell was that, Travis?” I asked bitterly, accusingly. “You said you were just going to kiss me, you can’t just do that.”

Travis dropped back into his seat and grinned at me. He swept his thumb over his lower lip before he answered. “That, Cody,” he said, “was kissing.”