Haley’s brow furrowed. “Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.”
She took a piece of steak and a spoonful of a salad that appeared to be a mixture of corn, tomato and avocado.
“I had no idea. How did you know?” I kept my voice a little lower than normal. No need to broadcast this. Well, more than it must have been already. Haley wasn’t the only person with enhanced hearing, and Daniel couldn’t be the only person with telepathy or clairvoyance.
Hopefully everyone would be too occupied by eating and meeting people to eavesdrop on us.
Just ahead of me on this side of the buffet table, Jaclyn grabbed food without saying anything. I wondered if she was deliberately ignoring us. In her position, I would have.
Looking uncomfortable, Haley said, “Normal stuff. Increased heart rate, and smells. She smelled a little nervous, and a little um… attracted.”
“Huh. I didn’t think she was doing anything to get my attention.” I thought back over my interactions with her. I couldn’t think of any point where she’d been flirting with me. She’d only ever been friendly.
Of course, Haley had only ever been friendly, and if she had ever been flirting, I hadn’t noticed.
Bearing in mind that Haley later told me she’d been interested in me all along, that meant that… Well, it could mean anything, or nothing.
“She wasn’t flirting,” Haley said. “I really shouldn’t have said anything. People do that all the time—at least a little bit. Right now this place is a sea of pheromones.”
I thought about that. I could completely believe it.
“Wait,” I said, “you can smell pheromones consciously? That’s cool.”
She raised her eyebrow a little. “You’re not going to bug me to help you construct some kind of pheromone based weapon, are you?”
I thought about that. “Well, I hadn’t been…” I began.
“That’s two mistakes so far today,” she said, sounding more amused than bothered about it.
“Only two?” I asked.
She kicked my foot, but not hard. If she’d kicked hard, even untransformed, she probably would have broken most of its bones.
Ignoring the kick, I continued with, “Seriously though, pheromones would be a pain to work with. It’d be like Julie’s voice only without the words to direct people. I know that it worked for Alex’s stepmom before she reformed, but I’m not all that knowledgeable about human biochemistry. I’d have to do a lot before I ever got anywhere. Plus, I’d practically have to add a new lab.”
“Good,” Haley said, “Um… About Amy? Don’t tell her, okay? It would get awkward, and I wasn’t trying to do anything by mentioning it. Sometimes I forget that it’s harder for other people to notice these things, and it was so obvious to me.”
By that time, we’d filled our plates, and were about to walk back to the table when Courtney walked up to us, obviously heading toward the end of the line. She looked good—normal good, not model post-Photoshop editing good. She’d taken her shapeshifting powers a little too far after breaking up with her boyfriend, Keith, last summer.
It was actually good news. It meant that her head was probably in a much better place than last year. After running her through the power impregnator, it was good that she’d stayed that way.
She hadn’t shifted back all of the weight she’d removed, but I couldn’t blame her for that. She wore jean shorts, and a navy blue tank top.
Her nervous expression and glance to the back of the room made me wonder if something were wrong though. She asked, “Would you mind saving a seat for me?”
I looked over at our table. We’d have space. “No problem.”
She let out a breath. “Thanks. I’ll see you when I get back.”
As we sat down, joining Daniel, Izzy, Vaughn, Cassie, and Jaclyn, I asked Haley, “Do you know what that was about?”
Haley grinned at me. “Are you asking if she’s after you?”
“No, you know—“
“Good. Because she’s not.” At that point Haley stopped grinning, and looked more thoughtful as she watched Courtney walk away. “She’s upset about something. I don’t know what.”
“I don’t know either,” Daniel volunteered, which saved me the bother of asking him.
Before I could ask how he’d managed to avoid knowing, he said, “There are so many people around that I’m working to keep everyone out. Normal minds are bad enough, but the telepaths and empaths don’t have good shields either. They’re really loud.”
Izzy squeezed his hand. “Is it bad?”
Daniel shook his head. “Standing near Lee is worse. I’ll be fine.”
After that we all concentrated on eating. We were interrupted as people from last year stopped to say, “hi.” That wasn’t surprising. We were near the buffet. Practically everybody passed us. What was funny is that any time someone stayed to to say more than a few words to Daniel they were female.
That was par for the course. I’d long ago gotten used to it. He didn’t encourage anybody, and to be fair to them, the fact that he was dating Izzy wasn’t common knowledge.
Still Haley whispered, “I thought you were exaggerating,” to me after the third time. I nodded, but didn’t reply. No need to go into it. Izzy’s hearing was so good it worked as sonar. Where Haley could hear a heart speed up, Izzy could see it beat faster. She had to have some understanding of what was going on. If she didn’t, this wasn’t the time to let her know.
I’d spent enough of our mutual middle/high school years being the friend that had to be distracted so that a girl could talk to Daniel.
Vaughn hadn’t been hanging around with us at the time, so after the third time that happened, he started laughing. Everyone watched him as he finally said, “Daniel, that’s amazing. You’re not even trying.”
“Yeah, I know.” Daniel said. He sounded frustrated.
Cassie caught Izzy’s eye. “I bet that’s fun on a date.”
Where the conversation would have gone from there, I don’t know. Courtney came back with her plate of food and drink, and sat down between Vaughn and Haley.
“I am so grateful you let me sit here. Guess who ended up at the same table as me?”
She didn’t wait for an answer. “Keith.”