Girls Like Boys

After Midnight

Before Travis’s raced started, I watched way the his movements cast shadows over Ramsy and I. He tilted forward just slightly as he laughed, looking to his left as Flynn made a joke about something.

Even from behind him, I knew Travis smiled as he replied, pointing over the guys’ heads at something I couldn’t make out. The headlights’ yellow glow casted a silver lining around him, but he didn’t blink against the brightness. Instead, he reveled in it, lighting up as the time ticked down to his race.

Ramsy, sitting beside me, leaned her head against my shoulder. “How much longer until they go?” she asked, kicking her feet out toward Flynn and Travis, just inches from reaching the backs of his ankles.

I paused, glancing away from the group of boys. “I don’t know,” I answered after a moment. “Travis said they were next.”

“That was twenty minutes ago,” Ram answered pointedly. “Ask him again.”

“He’s busy,” I said, watching as the guys shuffled money around between them, placing bets on the race. Travis didn’t touch any of it as the other guys passed their cash over to Erick and Camden across the circle, but the look on his face told me that his ego swelled with every bet.

Ram gave me a look and then sat up so that she was leaning back against the Mitsubishi instead of me. “Travis!” she yelled, kicking her foot out toward him.

The brunette looked back to us, eyebrows raised in question. He glanced from me to Ramsy, waiting for one of us to talk.

“Are you actually going to drive this car or is it just here to show off?” Ramsy asked, pulling her legs up and wrapping her arms around her knees. “The ground is getting uncomfortable.”

Travis turned fully from the guys. “Maybe that’s because you two have been sitting there for almost a half hour,” he answered, crossing his arms over his chest.

“We’re bored,” Ram countered, shooting him a pointed look.

Travis frowned slightly and looked solely at me. After a quiet moment, he stepped forward so that he could kneel down in front of us. “You guys could bet,” he said, offering us a mischievous grin. “That would give you something to do.”

Ramsy nodded eagerly and pushed off my shoulder to get up from the dusty ground. “How does it work?” she asked as she brushed herself off.

Travis grabbed my arm to help me up as he answered. “You bet on who you think will win, and then if you’re right, the cash is split evenly between all the people who betted correctly.”

Ram frowned. “But what if everyone chooses the same person? Won’t everyone just get their money back? I thought there were like, ratios involved or something.”

Trav shrugged. “Do you want to stand out here and figure out the math after every race?” he asked, motioning around us. “I doubt that’ll happen, but you wouldn’t really lose any money if it did.”

Travis backed up so that he was back on the cement of the street and grinned at us. He nodded to the circle of betters, challenging us to go for it.

Ramsy, determined, grabbed my arm and turned us both around. “I think I have like thirty-four bucks,” she said, darting to the car to get her bag from the backseat. She climbed back there and came out with both our wallets. She slammed the door shut behind her. “How much do you have?”

“I don’t know,” I said, caught off guard as she pushed my wallet into my hands. “Maybe like a twenty, I think.” I straightened up and looked at my sister. “You’re really going to bet on their race?”

Ram frowned at my tone of voice. “You don’t think Travis will win?” she asked, glancing over our shoulders to the dark-headed boy. I followed her gaze and caught his eye. He wore a smirk that made his hunter eyes shine emerald.

“I don’t know who will win,” I said. “I’ve heard that Travis is good, but if he was fool-proof then nobody would race against him, would they?”

Ram sighed, holding her cash in her hand. “It is exciting though,” she said, sounding annoyed that Travis was right about that. “Have a little faith, Cody. It won’t be the end of the world if he loses all our money. I’m sure you could convince him to pay us back.”

I smiled at her absurd comment and shook my head. “If you want to do it, then do it,” I told her, taking a step back. “I won’t stop you.”

“You have to do it too,” she said, grabbing my arm. “I’ll vote for Travis and you can vote for Benji, that way he won’t feel left out.”

I’ll vote for Benji?” I repeated, grinning at her. “You don’t even like Travis. You just heard that he’s better. You should vote for Flynn. Travis’s ego is big enough already.”

She shook her head. “I do too like Travis,” she defended, shooting me a look that implied I’d lost my mind. “But fine, we can both vote for him.” She grabbed a twenty and stuffed the wallet into her pocket before turning around and walking determinedly over to Trav. I followed, much less enthusiastically.

“We want to vote for you,” she said.

Travis grinned in amusement. “It’s called betting,” he said, “but okay.” He rested a hand on each of our shoulders, sliding between us, and maneuvered us over to the barrage that was boy-made chaos.

“Erick,” he said, cutting into the conversations as he motioned us up to the uneven cluster of over-excited guys.

The blonde looked over expectantly at Travis’s voice, running his gaze over Ram and I.

“They want to bet,” Travis said, pulling his arms from around us and nodding for us forward.

Before any of us could say anything, Camden’s attention jumped from the bet he was taking to us, and he started shaking his head. “No, no,” he said quickly, diagonal from us. “Travis, you know girls can’t bet on their boyfriends,” he said.

Travis hit him with an obvious look. “Are you implying that I’m currently - simultaneously - dating twins?” he asked sarcastically, posing the question in a way that made Cam look stupid. “Because,” he continued, “not only would that be morally disgusting, but also a huge a surprise to me since I’m currently not dating anyone, let alone two people.”

Cam rolled his eyes. “You know what I mean, Travis. You brought them here. That makes them your responsibility. Your friends can’t all just bet on you.”

“In that case,” Travis said, “I also came here with Ryan, Shay, Erick, and Benji, so none of them can bet? Or is it just because they’re girls that you’re throwing a hissy-fit? I’m friends with Flynn too, so I guess that counts him out.”

Camden sighed in irritation. “Fine, whatever, Travis,” he grumbled. “Cody’s sister can bet.”

Travis looked to us to confirm the compromise. Ramsy grabbed my money out of my hand and nodded, stepping up into the group, done letting guys talk for her. She thrust the money towards Cam. “Forty on Travis,” she told him.

Cam took a deep breath before he looked back to her. “We only take bets for fifty,” he said, sounding like the asshole he was. “That way everybody wins equally when we split it.”

I quirked a smile as she pulled another ten out of her wallet and handed the cash to him, as threatening as ever. Camden took the money and moved to write her name down.

“My name is Ramsy: R-A-M-S-Y,” she spelt, leaning forward to peer at his notebook as he jotted it under Travis’s name.

Travis laughed under his breath and glanced to me. I’d seen that expression on people’s faces our entire life. Ramsy wasn’t quick to backdown. She stood there until Cam jotted down all the information and then nodded, as though she were critiquing him. Cam’s irritation was practically visible.

“I hope we win a lot,” Ram said loudly to me as she started to walk away, “so there’s enough to win our money back and split it between us.”

Cam practically convulsed as he realized we went in together on the bet and planned to share our winnings despite the fact that he’d vetoed me from betting. I could see him counting in his head as we turned around, trying to figure out if this arrangement benefited us. It did.

“Okay, that’s it, bets are closed,” Camden said, shaking his head as he pulled himself from the group.

Travis grinned, laughed a little, and then led me and Ram away. “I’ve got to dig in,” he said as we stopped in front of his car. “Have you seen Shay or Ryan?”

The three of us glanced around the dispersing crowd. After a moment, I caught Shay’s eye from down the street. He slipped between people heading the other direction and nodded to me.

“Shay’s coming,” I said, pointing up the street at him.

Travis and Ram looked and Travis noticeably relaxed. In a moment, Shay came around Travis and stepped into the space between me and Ramsy. “I’ve got them,” he said to Trav.

Travis separated from us and moved to the driver’s side door. “Is there anything you guys want out of here?” he asked as he pulled the door open and leaned into the space.

I handed my wallet to him and Ramsy quickly followed my lead. “Don’t lose them,” I said, offering Travis a small smile. “We’re going to need those back when we win all that money.”

Travis dropped into the driver’s seat as he smiled quietly. He leaned into the backseat between the two front seats and stuffed the wallets into Ram’s bag. He was back on his feet within a minute.

“Stay with Shay and Ryan,” he said, scanning the crowd for his cousin as people moved off the street.

“You sure I can’t ride with you?” I asked, eyeing the passenger’s seat and pushing onto my toes.

“I wish, Code,” Trav said, grinning. “But you’ll slow me down.”

“Mmm,” I said, giving him a look. “You should probably rely on skill rather than speed.”

Travis grinned at that jab, but shook his head. “I wasn’t talking about the added weight,” he commented.

I rolled my eyes, trying to hide the smile that wanted to surface. Ramsy rolled her eyes wholeheartedly.

“Can you two knock it off?” she asked dryly. “We get it, you’ll worry about her if she’s in the car with you. Racing is dangerous, yada yada. It’s all very cute, Travis, now get in the car.”

Shay laughed loudly at Ramsy’s bluntness, looking to Travis for his reaction. I sighed, smiling despite myself, and met Travis’s gaze. He nodded once, promising to be careful. I followed Shay across the street, turning my back on Travis as I went.

Benji whipped into the road as we crossed to join Ryan and pulled a U so that he was facing the correct direction. Travis’s lights fluttered as he turned the car on and pulled to into the street to line up beside Benji and Flynn.

A few people down from us, a small commotion spurred from confusion.

A short-haired brunette guy, skinny but tall, stepped forward from the crowd. “I thought I was racing Travis,” he said, glancing around in bewilderment. “What race is this?”

Ryan leaned that direction. “Travis dropped into this one,” he said casually. “You and Alex are running next.”

“What the fuck,” the other boy said, shaking his head. “Someone should’ve told me.” He crossed his arms over his chest and moved from foot to foot, obviously annoyed.

Ryan shrugged, albeit sympathetically. Shay stepped closer to my side as I peered around a couple people next to us, trying to get a better look at the agitated racer. I couldn’t recall his name from when Camden told Travis, but he didn’t seem pleased to be left out of the loop.

“Why does he care if he races Travis?” I asked, looking to Shay.

The brunette shrugged. “Trav’s good,” he said simply. “Everybody wants to prove that they’re the best. It’s harder to do that if you’re not racing the best.”

“Travis is the best?” I asked, glancing out to the street. Two more cars slid in beside them, barely fitting between the sides of the road. It was apparent that they hadn’t expected Travis, or thought through the spatial issues. The on-lookers backed up further from the street to make room.

“How’s that going to work?” Ramsy asked. “They’re like a foot apart. Won’t they crash into each other when they all take off?” She looked expectantly to Ryan and Shay for an answer.

Shay spoke up first. “They don’t plan to stay side by side the entire time,” he said. “It would be easier to stagger them, but they’ll complain if they don’t race heads-up.”

Ryan smiled. “Racers are a bunch of babies,” he said.

I bit back my response as the cars shifted in the street again, pulling closer together so they could all fit along the four lane highway. I watched Travis through the front windshield as he backed up and then pulled in closer to Benji. He held onto the wheel and leaned forward so he could gauge whether or not they were even.

A group of unfamiliar guys walked out in front of the cars and started directing them to scoot forward or back. Travis reversed, keeping an eye on the car next to him. When he thought he was far enough back, even with the others, he stopped. They guy who was directing him called out for him to keeping going, but Travis put the car in park.

Ramsy sighed obnoxiously, making a wordless social commentary about the amount of time it took a bunch of guys to get in a straight line. I smiled.

Ryan brushed against my shoulder as he leaned over. “Watch the Camry on the end,” he said. “He’s got one of the fastest cars around and he still shifts early.”

My gaze moved from Travis’s boxy red and black Mitsubishi to the orange-painted Toyota. The car didn’t move much from where it originated. The others lined up to match his position. From my angle, I couldn’t see the face of the boy inside, but I saw Travis looked over and say something through the open window.

After a moment, the guys who weren’t racing cleared from the street, leaving the cars in a perfectly straight line. I watched as another car pulled into the street behind them. Travis’s head tilted up as he glanced in the rearview mirror and I stepped forward, trying to watch his expression.

Ramsy grabbed my arm and held tight as the car’s lights flashed, causing the rest of us to shield our eyes for the briefest moment. Before the headlights even turned off, the racers threw their cars into gear. Ryan spoke up when the Camry shifted a split second before everyone else, but I didn’t notice it on my own.

Shay was right - the cars didn’t stay next to each other for long. As the guys passed, the crowd surged forward like they had with the first race. This time, however, I stayed in the front, hurrying out in the street so that I could keep my eyes on Travis and the guys. The crowd pressed up in front of me, but I pulled Ramsy forward so that we could see.

"Cody, Ramsy," Shay called as he followed us up through the crowd. He lightly reached out for me as he moved to stay by our side. Ryan ended up on Ramsy's side.

"Travis is in the back," I said, surprised by it. "I thought you said that he's the best?"

"He's not in the back," Shay answered, despite the fact that he obviously was. "He's just biding his time."

"Until what?" I asked. "The race is over?"

Shay shot me an amused smile. "Have a little faith, Code. Trav knows what he's doing." He nodded back to the race as the racers turned as the road curved away.

From this angle, I could see all the vehicles in succession. Flynn, who'd started third back, made me wince as he swerved right, cutting off the car behind him as it tried to catch up. Travis took the opportunity to cut up the other way. All at once, he stepped on the gas and pulled to the left. Seamlessly, he slipped around Flynn and the black car and into third place.

"Luke has to be pissed," Shay said to Ryan, laughing a bit. "Travis used him as a distraction."

Ryan grinned around me and Ram.

One after the other, they made a wide turn and came back this way. Travis pulled to the inside and ran along side Benji, just feet behind the other car. They followed the road until they were heading straight towards us. People around us started backing up off the street.

Travis swerved, hoping to make room to get in front of Benji, but the other boy stayed as close as possible. Benji was relentless as he held tight to Travis, trying to hold him in place. Corey, the other car ahead of them, had plenty of room since Benji was busy fending Travis off.

Benji seemed to realize this too, because after a few moments of dealing with Travis, he pulled away and sped up. Travis headed the other way.

The three boys were practically side by side as they came back to the homestretch. Ryan and Shay led Ram and I off the road even though they were still pretty far away. We sidestepped to the shoulder of the street just as Benji surged forward. At the same time, Corey flew forward as he tried to get around Travis, causing Benji to yank the wheel to avoid him.

My hand flew to cover my mouth as Benji swerved to the shoulder of the road, throwing dirt and debris up in his wake. He skidded on the dirt as he tried to straighten up, but he lost traction and slammed on the brakes to keep from losing control.

They were close enough now that I could their faces. Travis did a double take as Benji slammed to a stop. The other driver, Corey, pressed forward as they rushed toward us. Neither boy was worried about the others catching up - Flynn and Lukas were far behind now, mostly racing between themselves. As those two came down the line, my heart jumped into my throat at the sounds of sirens.

Ramsy looked to me, confused, and then looked to the boys still racing. Travis and Corey either hadn't heard or didn't care, but I could see the exact moment that sound reached them. Corey, who had dark hair and ochre skin, lost all composure as he whipped around to peer behind him. Travis heard at the same time, but he sped up and pulled in front of Corey.

"We need to go," Shay said to me and Ramsy, reaching out to lightly grab for us. "Ryan," he called, nodding to Ram and I.

Ryan nodded too. "Lets go," he said, trying to shuffle us across the street. He looked out before we darted across, making sure that Travis and Corey were still far enough away that they wouldn't hit us.

I looked too, my gaze landing on Travis. The cars behind him sped up now, not paying attention to race tactics or who was in front. They merely booked it, trying to outrun the sirens.

"Travis is coming," I said to Ryan and Shay. "You guys go. I'll wait for him."

"We really need to go, Cody," Ryan said. "Travis will be pissed if we leave you behind."

"He's right there," I said, pointing to the car as Travis started slowing down. "You guys take Ramsy and we'll meet you back at the house. I just want to make sure that he's okay."

"He's fine, Cody," Shay answered, exasperated. "He knows what he's doing. Lets just go."

I frowned and bit my lip between my teeth, wanting to argue but knowing that they wouldn't go against Travis. I crossed my arms over my chest.

"Cody, knock it off!" Ramsy said, grabbing my arm. "This isn't a game. Those are cops! Travis can take care of himself!"

"Cody, get in the car."

I whipped around and grinned at Travis. He was about twenty feet away with the window rolled down. "Lets get out of here," he said again, nodding to Ryan and Shay. "I've got to check on Benji, so I'll meet you guys back at the house. Looks out for the girls."

"I'm coming with you," I said quickly, darting across the space before anyone could argue. I reached to pull open the passenger's side and frowned when it was locked. "Open it, Travis."

Travis peered up at me with dark eyes and then unlocked it. I whipped it open. "Ram, I'll see you in a little bit," I promised, dropping into Travis's passenger's side. "Stay with them."

I slammed the door shut and Travis backed up hard, throwing me into my seat as I tried to buckle up. I glanced back and saw Ram disappear into the crowd of people all trying to get away. Relieved that she was taking off, I turned back in my seat as Travis drove in the direction of Benji and the cops.

Travis pulled into the dirt parallel to Benji and rolled down the passenger's window. He leaned over across my seat as Benji rolled down the window on his car, looking frantic.

"It's time to go, Benj," Travis said, a hint of urgency in his otherwise calm tone. He glanced down the street as the sirens sounded closer than ever. I thought I could make them out a couple miles down the street.

"Oh shit," I murmured, my knees bouncing as my nerves grew. I turned and looked out the back window, searching for Travis's BMW. The street was a mess as everyone headed off in the same direction, trying to make it back to the interstate so they could disappear into the city.

"What's the problem?" Travis asked Benji.

Benji glanced nervously in his rearview mirror. "I won't start, Trav," he said, shaking his head. He turned the key in the ignition and the car stalled out. Benji shot Travis a frantic look. "I'm sorry, man. I'm sorry."

Travis shook his head. "Don't worry about it, Benji." He gripped the wheel with both hands and then let go, reaching to unbuckle his seatbelt. He threw it off, causing me to shoot him a look.

"What are you doing?" I asked, grabbing his arm. "Benji needs to get in so we can go, Travis. There's no time to fix the damn thing."

Travis shook his head again and pulled his arm out from my grasp. "The car's in my name, Code," he said, offering a conciliatory smile. "Whether I'm in the car when it gets busted or not, I'm going down. I might as well try to get it running."

"Benji, take Cody and get out of here," he said as he opened the door and jumped out. "If I can get it going, I'll meet you back at the house."

Benji hopped out of the car almost immediately, looking nervous and apologetic as he passed his best friend. "I'm sorry, Trav," he said again.

Travis ignored him. "Just make sure she gets back," Travis said seriously. "Now go."

"Travis, you idiot, get back in the car!" I screamed as he and Benji switched places. "Travis!"

Benji climbed into the car and buckled up. I could almost make out the plate numbers as they raced toward us. We were the closest - the rest of the cars were far behind us, only a few left as everyone filed away as quickly as possible.

"Travis, you asshole!" I screamed as he ignored me. He hopped into the car and tried to start it just like Benji had.

"Get her out of here, Benji!" Travis yelled back, glancing in the mirror to see how far the police were from catching up.

Benji didn't need to be told twice, because he pulled out onto the road hastily and whipped a U, throwing up dirt as he careened off the side of the street and pulled back on.

"Go back!" I yelled, turning in my seat to look back at Travis. "Go back, Benji! We can't just leave him here!"

Benji frowned, but flew down the street. "Travis will kill me if I take you back there, Cody," he said, shaking his head. He switched lanes without looking back and tore onto the interstate on-ramp. It was obvious who had been at the race; the souped up race cars stood out among the shiny new family coups. The further we went, the more everyone scattered.

I could see now why it was better for Ramsy to be in Travis's M5. Despite the price, it was less conspicuous among the other cars.

I kept a look out behind me, trying to see Travis even when we'd gone too far to see where we came from.

"Call him," I said quickly, reaching for my phone. "I'm going to call him."

Benji shook his head. "That won't work, Code," he said, still nervous. He grabbed something from the dash and handed it over. I took Travis's iPhone from him, cursing the irrational boy.
♠ ♠ ♠
"Nothing good ever happens after midnight."

I'm not super happy with this chapter. I actually really struggled to write the race scene, so I know it's pretty crappy. Let me know if there's anything I can do to make it better.

Also, thank you guys for all the support. There's been so much talk about my story lately and it means so much to me! A special thanks to Blake for writing a review about this story!