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I held up the shield in front of me as Julie grabbed my hand and we leapt headfirst into the inferno.

I followed him through the door, telling myself it was only to get Chopper acclimated. But Chopper seemed right at home as he bound to the kitchen and lapped at the water in the dish that Jude had set down.I can’t stay long, I said, feeling almost shy, like it was my first time at his place. I have a shift at Raw Ink.

He nodded. I just finished my morning at the Board Room, but I’ll be heading to the skate park.What was that one trick I saw you practicing the other day? I asked, watching Chopper sniff around the room.Hmmm . . . the one-eighty pop shuvit? he said, shrugging. The one I really want to trick out on someday is the upside-down three-sixty loop. But I need a pipe for that. They’ll have one at the arena for the upcoming games.

A curved wall with a lip so that I can hang upside down.Holy Christ, you’re going to maim yourself, I said.

He laughed. It’s a difficult trick but I’m definitely up for the challenge.

Suddenly he grabbed my face and backed me against the wall, kissing me hard and deep and desperate. Like he was releasing it all—giving it all to me. I don’t want to talk right now. I want to taste you.

Why do I feel like I’m being played all of the sudden?

Then be ready by lunch tomorrow, Jude tells me before backing up.Just to pretend it’s no big deal he’s leaving instead of joining us, which I know we’d all really like, I lean over and tap Ezekiel’s shoulder.

Mr. Magic Fingers, am I a virgin?Confusion crosses his features as he seems to think about that. I’m not really sure. We’ve never had a virgin before, so I’m not entirely certain what to look for.