by Jennifer Dean
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
When fate leads Emma Morgan back to her small hometown of Washington, she learns that the life she knew three years ago has changed once she meets the charmingly, mysterious Liam Alexander. But when her brother Sean, voices his disapproval, Emma finds her loyalty in the way of her newfound curiosity of the youngest Alexander. Only the more she tries to avoid Liam the more she finds him in her constant company.
A risk that leads down a dangerous path once Emma begins to discover a secret about the Alexanders that no human should ever know.
My eyes opened at annoyance to the sound of my alarm this morning. As I pulled on my jeans and maroon sweater with a tired effort, my mind surfaced with a realization. I trusted my brother wholeheartedly. And if he held enough reason to warn me to stay away from Liam Alexander, then I would.
When I got to school, luckily I had no need for his assistance at my locker. However, at lunch even though I knew I shouldn’t, I couldn’t help the need for looking toward his siblings’ table. I noticed it was Grace and Lillian sitting by themselves. But where was—crap!
Not paying attention as I turned away from the lunch line, I collided the front of my tray into someone else. My burger was fine but I watched as my Coke fell toward the ground until a hand swooped down to catch it within mid- air, placing it back onto my tray. “I’m sorry,” I said apologetic. I hoped the person was understanding. I looked up even more embarrassed when I saw it was the other Alexander twin. William, I thought with remembrance. I hadn’t really noticed much about him yesterday. Maybe because I had become distracted by learning about his sister and his girlfriend. But being so close I could see enough resemblance to his regal twin sister.
Just like Grace and Liam, he carried a unique genetic quality that made him look a few years older than eighteen—a trait they would all hate later in life. He was shorter than his younger brother but looked to be eye level with Lillian. He had the same straight dark brown hair as Grace that was parted down the middle and pushed back to reveal his forehead, very old fashionably. Oddly enough, I found the way the sides covered the top half of his ears appealing along with his slightly present sideburns. But now that I was focused on his hesitant gaze, I could see the small subtle difference in his electric blue eyes. They were a shade lighter than Grace and yet still powerfully alluring.
“Thanks,” I said.
He merely nodded with a polite charming grin before walking around me. I sighed to the interaction before finally making my way safely to my table.
My eyes traveled across the many eyes of my friends as I sat. “Do you guys know anything about William Alexander?” It was a question more directed at whoever knew the answer.
“The twin?” Becca asked.
“Yeah. I know about the other two Alexanders, but I hadn’t heard much about him.”
Why I was curious of Liam’s brother, I didn’t know. It even felt borderline masochistic to dive into Liam Alexander’s family life. What good would that do?
“He’s kind of quiet but really smart. I have him in my history class, and he’s always inquisitive.” Becca leaned forward. “Sometimes it’s like he’s asking a question just test Coach Wallace. He’s even corrected him a few times.”
“I know. I had him in my class last semester,” Pamela started. “He had this old rebel uniform that he brought when we were on the Civil War. I thought Mrs. Kimbal was going to faint when she saw it.”
“That seems rare to have something like that out of a museum.” I could feel the narrowed squint of my eyes. “If it was real, I mean.”
Pamela was nodding. “It was. He said it had been passed down for generations. He even brought a picture of his relative who wore it during the war.” Her eyes widened as if she were reliving the moment of seeing the picture. “They looked almost identical.” She paused with a shrug from her shoulders. “Well, except for the glasses.”
“I’m sure they could make some good money selling that thing,” Becca said.
“It has too much sentimental value now,” Lauren commented. Becca rolled her eyes and shrugged as if to say if you say so. “Why do you ask?”
I found my shrug toward Lauren’s questions.
“Just curious, I guess.”
“Emma, you’re going on Friday, right?”
I shook my head and turned toward the voice. I hadn’t even realized Erika had sat down. The last I had noticed was her talking with Mark Lewis across the room.
“To what?” I asked.
She resisted the grin as she playfully rolled her eyes. “Pamela’s swim meet.”
Suddenly the memory of the very event surfaced. Pamela had told me about it in Spanish this afternoon. The Washington Pam Pack swim team was hosting the Northside Panthers at the Moore Aquatic Center on Friday.
“Oh, right. Yeah I’ll be there.”
Though the season had started back in October it was the first time I would get to see Pamela swim for the Varsity team. A swarm of memories had flashed into my mind of the many summers when she would challenge me to a race or two. I never came close to winning.
“Promise?” Erika asked.
“Promise,” I said.
Just saying the word made me picture Liam Alexander. Not because talking to him was exactly breaking a promise. It was just something Sean didn’t approve of and that was basically the same in my mind.
“Good,” she said. “Don’t forget it starts at six-thirty.”
Being in English was the longest hour of my life. It felt like three hours of constant attention on the overhead notes. I even looked down to periodically add my own opinions of the classic novel just to avoid my eyes from wondering to Liam beside me. It was easier that way. Especially after remembering the moment I saw him walk into the classroom. I had gone all day without seeing him, and in that moment, I felt a shock of excitement. Immediately I had to look away.
But now from the tone in Mrs. Anderson’s voice, it sounded as if the sheet she put on the overhead was the last for the class to copy. Once I had written the paragraph into my notes, I placed my pen down in order to pump my cramped hand a few times.
“Any big plans this weekend?” Liam said.
It was more of a whisper. I sighed, but for the life of me, I couldn’t be rude, no matter how much I wanted to avoid him.
“It’s not big but one of my friends has a swim meet on Friday,” I said.
Unintentionally, I turned my head with my words, finding a smile that seemed to have been glad to catch a glimpse of my face. It was as if he knew I was trying to avoid him. What was worse was that I was finished copying the notes, along with most of the class. I didn’t know where to look anymore.
“And I suppose you wouldn’t want me to go?”
I found my eyes on him, to see if there was an amusement in his narrowed gaze. “Well, I would feel rude inviting you to something that isn’t even for me.” I lightly shrugged with the lift of my eyebrows. “But it’s a school sport, so I can’t tell you not to go.”
“That would be disrespectful for the very name of Washington High,” he said.
I could see the bright gleam of emerald in his eyes with his resisted smirk.
“So you’re going?”
I wasn’t sure if I sounded disappointed or excited. “Most likely, I won’t attend.”
“Then why ask me?”
I felt like this whole conversation had been pointless to my cause. But something about the way he looked at me made me believe that was his whole agenda.
He shrugged. “I don’t know.”
The bell rang and I was out of my seat. I couldn’t risk him asking me more questions or walking me to my locker again. But without much thought, I turned back with a glance, unable to help myself as I walked toward the door. Suddenly my body was halted when I saw Liam again. He held his face in his hands with self-deprecation. Instinctively, I felt a twinge from the absence of his beauty.
I wasn’t sure why, but I found I couldn’t resist my feet from moving back toward him. I deliberated for several seconds with a break in my movement. But in the middle of my indecision, Liam finally sighed and gathered his things to stand. He seemed ready to flee until the sight of me froze him.
It was clear he hadn’t been counting on me watching him as I did not understand myself. I longed to go to him as we continued to lock gazes. The seconds that passed no longer had meaning with time. It was like time didn’t exist. He walked closer to me, creating only inches of gap between our bodies. We said nothing, and yet in the silence, the world slowed and my heart beat fast. At least until Mrs. Anderson broke the silence with her own question.
“Emma, how was your first day yesterday?”
I was annoyed and yet relieved to break away from this terrifyingly close connection from Liam.
“It was good,” I said.
“Good,” she said
I smiled politely and took the break to slip out the door. I closed my eyes and sighed as I passed into the hall. Sean was already waiting at my locker with his arms folded. He was staring at the floor across from him. He turned as I approached and followed Liam’s gaze. It was only then I had even realized that Liam had been standing behind me, following silently. As I slowed to my locker, Liam sped up and around me. He kept walking, without a backward glance at either Sean or me.
I looked to Sean with an awkward glance. Just enough vision to let me see the small grin on his lips. Can’t say I liked that, but it was nice to see him cheerful. I’d take that over the fury any day.
“So you’re going to Pamela’s swim meet on Friday?” Sean asked as we walked into the parking lot.
“Yeah. How’d you know?”
“I overheard Becca and Erika talking about it in the hallway.” Of course he did. He was observant after all. I rolled my eyes as I hopped into his Jeep. “Are you going?”
He swiftly pulled out of the parking lot without glancing behind us. The same attempt from me would have only resulted in a guaranteed accident.
“No. I have to work that night.”
I nodded with just a hint of disappointment that I knew he could see because I forgot to lift my lips into a grin on time.
“We can go to the river tomorrow.”
Immediately I felt a surge of excitement. One for getting to be with Sean and two for going to my old favorite spot. Even as a kid I couldn’t resist that familiar comfort that Dallas never had.
“Works for me,” I said.
As he parked on the driveway of the house I watched his neck turn, letting his eyes focus on me. He winked. “Don’t forget your camera.”
I opened the door of the Jeep, swinging out my legs to meet the pavement.
“Okay,” I said with a farewell grin.
As I shut the passenger door, I thought about my camera. Of course, I would bring it. I was actually quite looking forward to snapping some photos of the river after school. I could put them in my new scrapbook to finish. I could still hear the waiting engine of Sean’s Jeep as I walked inside the house with a new excitement.
Around 2:00 AM I woke from the heat flash that was suffocating my body. I sat up instantly throwing off my comforter, feeling the flush warmth of my face and the sweat beads that had already formed on my chest. Five minutes later I was running to the bathroom to throw up everything from the night before.
I must have fallen asleep there because the next thing I remembered was being woken by my mom. I now sat against the bathroom wall as she dabbed a cool washcloth around my face and neck. Each second the rag touched a new section of skin was a cool release from the heat. Every few dabs I would moan appreciatively.
“I’m going to go call the school and let them know you won’t be coming in today, baby.”
I nodded weakly before she stood and walked out of the bathroom and into the hallway. It had only been a few seconds when the doorbell rang. Sean, I thought. I forgot to tell my mom to also let him know that I was sick. My eyes closed involuntarily as I waited for my mom to return.
“Something tells me you don’t need a ride today.”
My eyes flashed open with a few tired blinks. I found Sean standing above me. He bent his knees, lowering down to reach the back of his hand to my right cheek.
“Your skin is so warm,” I said.
I could hear the weakness in my voice now. It cracked in-between syllables.
“So is yours,” Sean said.
He then reached his arms under my knees and around my waist, lifting me up into the air and against his chest. I didn’t have enough energy to wrap my arm around his neck. I was practically dead weight and yet he held me without complaint as if I were nothing but a pillow.
I wanted to protest for I was fearful that the motion would only send my stomach into another purge. But Sean was already laying me down into my bed and pulling a light sheet over me before I could even think the words aloud. I was too exhausted to ask how he had been so swift.
I closed my eyes as I rolled to my left side. When I opened them again, Sean had already put a trashcan beside me. He sat on my bed near my chest, dabbing me with a new damp washcloth. I closed my eyes again to the comfort of it.
I couldn’t see but I heard my mom come back into the room.
“Did you take off from school too,” Sean asked.
“Yes, I just got off the phone with the substitute and principal,” she said.
“Here, Em. Take a sip of this,” Sean said.
I opened my eyes, feeling my body already lifted with one of his arms. He held a glass of water with the other, inches in front of my mouth. I pressed the glass to my lips, letting him tilt the water into my mouth. There was a burn from my small gulp but ultimately the ice cold water was refreshing down my throat. Once he laid me back down, I gazed up into his eyes gratefully. “Thank you,” I said.
I watched his lips curl as he swiped a piece of hair from my forehead. “Anytime, Em.” I looked up into the golden honey of his eyes. They appeared to glow more beautiful the longer I stared. “Get some rest.” I sighed before closing my eyes to his request. I felt the delicate pressure of his lips on the top of my forehead. Twenty minutes later I was grateful for the trashcan.
On Thursday, not much had changed except a little less nausea. After school Sean came by to lay with me for a little bit. My mom was worried he was going to catch what I had but he never seemed concerned. At times he even seemed to challenge it. I was more than anything disappointed I couldn’t go to the river. But Sean told me he would take me once I got better.
By Friday I was tired of lying in bed. I had only missed school because my mother wanted me to get back some energy. Thankfully, the stomach flu had passed by Thursday night. Lauren called me to check how I was doing after school. I told her that I was feeling better and that I would still meet them for Pamela’s swim meet tonight. She promised to pass on the news to Erika before we hung up. I was just happy to be able to finally get of the house for the first time in three days.
I got there a little late but thankfully before Pamela’s first event had started. Thank goodness. I had to remember to not get so distracted when reading. Unfortunately, I thought the hobby would be something to do for the hour of waiting till I had to meet my friends. I should have accounted for getting so involved with the fictional world of Pride and Prejudice. Being one of my favorites, it was hard to ever put down the book once I started reading it. Then again that was the problem with most anything I read. It didn’t help that I had gotten used to nothing but reading the past two days when I wasn’t sleeping or throwing up.
But now walking into the Moore Center, I found the girls easy enough on the full wall bleachers that were facing the left side of the swimmers. I took a sit between Lauren and Erika on the front row. I was glad to notice I wasn’t the only one who had contributed some school spirit. I found my old white and blue sleeved jersey T-shirt that Lauren had bought me as a going-away present three years ago.
“Nice shirt,” Lauren said.
I looked down with a prideful nod. “Thanks. The person who gave it to me must have had good taste.”
She exhaled with amusement. “Feeling better?” Erika asked.
“Much. But I think I’m a few pounds lighter from all the puking.” I said jokingly.
She smiled as I began looking around the bleachers where we sat. I swore that Becca said she would be here.
“She’s over there,” Erika said.
My head turned back just as my eyes caught sight of her pointed finger. I followed it until I found Becca—who was decked out in a bit more spirit than any of us—now standing on the far end of the pool. She was walking sideways, mouthing to someone with a thumbs-up gesture. Following her gaze I realized it was Pamela on the far right corner. She was stepping up onto her platform, reciprocating Becca’s gesture before adjusting the goggles over eyes and bending into her starting stance with a new focus on the water below her.
From the moment the starting horn blew, I was torn between watching Pamela’s leading strokes and Becca’s enthusiasm. She was running alongside the pool—maybe jogging was a better term— yelling at Pamela with what I could only assume was encouraging motivation. I couldn’t help but join in the laugher with Erika and Lauren.
It was nice feeling the warmth of their friendship again after so long. I hadn’t liked being the loner I was in Dallas. I may have not needed them as much as Sean, but it didn’t mean that I hadn’t missed them. It was safe to say that I had missed all of my life when I left Washington. Having that life back now made it easy to smile.
Pamela adjusted her bag over her shoulder as we all walked into the parking lot. “I’m just saying that I could have done better,” she said.
“What’s better than first in all four events?” Becca said. “They’re lucky that had you as anchor to win the 400 relay.”
She rolled her eyes and shook her head. “I was worried when Chelsea let Northside catch up on strokes.”
Chelsea Barns, a sophomore, was the third leg for the second to last event of the night. The 400 freestyle relay. I had to admit I became a little worried myself when I noticed she had lost Washington’s lead by her final turn. She was lucky Pamela had been able to take it back with her strong front crawl strokes— winning the race.
“I didn’t get a good push off the wall for my last flip turn on the 200 freestyle.”
“You still won,” I said.
Pamela looked to me with a grin as she pulled her damp hair back into a bun. “I didn’t beat Lindsey Tate’s 200 freestyle record though,” Pamela said.
“Didn’t she just set that record?” Erika asked.
“Last year,” Pamela confirmed. “I missed it by four seconds.” “But that record also took her all four years. She was a senior when she finally set it,” Lauren said.
“You know, she’d say if she beat Lindsey’s district record that she wished she had beaten the state record. Then the national record.” Becca rolled her eyes as she shook her head with her teasing smirk. “She’s never satisfied. Not even if she made the Olympic team.”
Erika was smiling and even Lauren and I couldn’t resist the twitch of our lips. Sure we all knew that most athletes held that competitive nature, but it was Pamela who was the most competitive of us all. She always wanted to top herself with faster times and harder spikes. I wouldn’t doubt that I might see her competing in the 2016 Olympics and passing any previous world records—still believing she could do better.
“Shut up,” Pamela said.
She pushed Becca playfully with her own smile. At least she could laugh at herself. As we walked toward our cars, I naturally moved my hand to adjust my purse strap across my shoulder. But my stomach tensed when I didn’t feel anything there. The memory of placing my purse in between Erika and me had resurfaced with a drop in my stomach.
“Oh crap,” I said.
My friends all stopped, turning to look at me. “What?” Lauren asked.
I rolled my eyes at my frustration.
“I forgot that I didn’t pick up my purse.”
I tilted my head back with a sigh before turning back toward the center.
“Do you want us to come with you?” Lauren asked.
I was walking backward, waving my hand in dismissal. “No, that’s all right. I’ll just see you later.”
“Yeah,” I said. I nodded with a reassuring smile before turning to walk forward again. I could hear them laughing about something as Erika hollered across the lot. “’Night’ Emma! Glad you feel better!”
I opened the door as I turned my torso with a small wave. We had all stayed later than everyone talking inside before we went out to the parking lot. So now, all that was left in the empty aquatic center was the blue and white banners on the wall and the ones that hung above the pool.
The secluded darkness made me think that maybe I should have asked one of my friends to come with me after all. I shrugged as I headed for the bleachers where we had sat together. I looked around the empty seats with the anxious drop in my stomach before I heard a voice that made me jump.
“Looking for something?” The man stepped back with the realization of my fright. He wasn’t very much taller than I was. “Oh, I’m sorry, miss.”
I slowly inhaled a few deep breaths to calm my accelerated heartbeat before I waved him off. “That’s okay. I was just looking for my purse.”
“What kind is it?” He asked.
My eyes shifted with the type of question. “Um . . . it’s a small black one.” His eyebrows lifted with recognition that gave me hope as he turned to walk a few feet over toward a brown box, I hadn’t seen under the bleachers until now.
He reached inside with a smile before pulling out a small black purse. I hadn’t followed him, thinking he might find it a bit invasive. But without another question, he trustingly walked back to place the purse in my waiting hands. My shoulders dropped with relief to see the familiar thick braided strap and three different zippers. I sighed with the same relief that melted away the bubbling worry in my stomach, one that had already begun to rationalize how I would explain losing my phone and temporary paper license to my dad. Not to mention the disappointment I would cause my mother by confessing I had already lost my new camera. Thankfully, they would never know how close I came to that.
“This is it, thanks,” I said.
I awkwardly smiled with the exchange. He nodded. “No problem. Have a nice night.”
I wasn’t sure if it was the abandoned center or because of his scruffy appearance and overly inviting tone, but I was eager to leave.
“You too,” I said.
I slipped out the door, placing my purse over my shoulder before beginning my walk across the parking lot. It was practically empty by now, except for two cars—including my own.
I turned my head toward the other car across the lot. I hadn’t much noticed or focused on it until now. But I instantly knew who had called my name. It was Ross and Nick.
I smiled in recognition before I walked over to them. Once I was close enough I could see the window rolled down and hear the music playing from the truck’s stereo.
“What are you doing here?” Nick asked.
“I was watching Pamela swim,” I said.
“What are you still doing here?” Ross asked.
He narrowed his eyes with curiosity.
“I forgot my purse and it has my wallet and camera.” I looked back over my shoulder. “By the way, the janitor in there is kinda creepy.”
“I think all night janitors are creepy,” Nick said with a wink. “So how’s Washington since you’ve been back.”
“It’s like I never left,” I said.
I grinned at how welcoming that statement truly felt. “Are you with any of your little friends?” Ross asked.
“I was, until I had to go find this.” I patted my purse, rolling my eyes to the embarrassment of my forgetful moment.
“All alone then, huh?”
“Yup.” I shrugged my shoulders.
“What are you guys doing here?” I asked. My eyes traveled back and forth between the two boys.
“Just looking for something fun to do.”
“I see.” I nodded with a small grin. “Well, I better go.”
“Oh, come on. What’s the rush? It’s Friday.” He used his head to gesture back toward his truck. “We’ve got beer. My brother Derek bought it for us,” Ross said.
“No, thanks,” I said.
I wasn’t the drinking underage type. Mostly because of my experience watching the lowered inhibitions that convinced even the shyest girl to spill her guts and abandon her clothes. But then maybe it was also attached to carrying the image of how hostile my father got when he drank; not a violent hostile, just more verbal rudeness.
“At least see what we have,” Nick said.
He opened the driver’s side door. But I didn’t need proof because I could smell the alcohol on him. They had already been drinking. I grimaced at the thought of them driving just as I caught the scent of beer on his breath. It wasn’t a pleasant smell. And to make things worse, I could now see that he was drunk.
“I don’t need to look to know,” I said.
I turned my body back toward my car, until the yank on my arm forced me back.
“I said look.” The force of Nick’s swing sent me on a forward momentum, a momentum that ended right inside the front seat of his truck. I landed on my back, using my elbow to break the force against the seat. To my right on the passenger side floorboard, I caught a glimpse of a blue cooler full of ice and thick-glass Budweiser bottles.
“All right, I see it. Now move.”
But Nick refused to move. In fact, he bent forward, leaning his torso inside the truck so that my exit was blocked from the left side.
“You know, since you came back I’ve noticed things.” He moved his hand over the outline of my bra before he began to slip it under my shirt. I pushed his shoulders back as I lifted myself back into the vehicle onto the middle cushion.
“Stop, Nick.” But there wasn’t the slightest budge or yield to my protest. “Cut it out.” The panic that realized it wasn’t a joke forced my legs to kick as I began to swing my arms with force into his chest. “No,” I said.
I grimaced as the light volume of music had suddenly begun to blast through the speakers with a deafening volume. I felt the cold air blow on the back of my neck as Ross opened the passenger side door, flinging his entire torso over my head, forcing my arms still with his grip. I tried to scream but my throat was muffled. It was hard to breathe. My face was being forced into the seat. With each kick, I only weakened. I was a 120-pound girl against two boys, both of which weighed close to 180. My muscles continued to struggle uselessly, with the surreal mental acceptance of what was happening.
Even though it only resulted in a twitch from my elbow, I continued to push back on Ross’s chest. Please, I thought. Please let one of my friends come back. Please let the janitor look out into the lot. Please…anything. And just like an answered prayer, I felt the lifted pressure from my upper body. I could breathe easier again.
I titled my chin up and my head back as far as my neck would allow, letting my eyes investigate the unexpected release. Ross was nowhere in sight. My arms were free but I only lifted my head as my gaze traveled back in front of me to watch Nick’s confused terror. The same that had been on my face not a moment ago.
I still refused to break his gaze, afraid his confusion would soon fade with his returned lust. But it never did. Instead, he lifted off of my body and onto his feet, turning to his right to look for Ross. I knew his distraction was my only hope. I pulled my feet inward, rolling onto my knees before crawling out the other side. Unfortunately Nick’s agility had headed off my escape just as I turned around the right corner taillight. He grabbed both of my arms, grasping them hard, until his hands instantly dropped to his sides as if controlled by magnets. He looked down with confusion as if I had been the reason. His eyes glared with irritation as they lifted back up for a second attempt. This time his entire body lifted backward into the air a few feet, dangling his toes an inch from the ground. My eyes widened. Nick moved his neck around to investigate before shifting his eyes to look down in true fear. He was frozen in the air as if the gravity of earth no longer had an effect on him.
My feet began to move slowly backward as I continued to look up at him. Finally his feet dropped back to the ground. He glanced at me for a moment before turning to run and jump into his truck, shutting the door with security. He started the engine, throwing the truck into reverse. Right where I was standing. I had only taken the moment to inhale before I felt a secure pair of arms slightly lifting my body from the ground. When I felt my feet drop back onto the pavement, I gazed to my left to see Nick’s truck in the exact spot I should have been. A trickle of chills ran down my arms. Just because I had seen it didn’t mean that I understood it.
I could hear the squeal of tires coming from Nick’s exit. I guess he had forgotten Ross because I could hear him shouting words of profanity in the distance. I turned my neck toward his voice to see him lying on the ground in one of the parking spaces, a couple of yards away, grasping at his right ankle in pain.
The warmth of hands still on my skin made it easy to forget the winter night air. My savior, I questioned. Finally, I lifted my chin, gazing up to see the face of the one who still held me protectively close. But my gaze froze upon discovering the reveal of who the arms around me belonged too. It was Liam Alexander.
My blink was the only movement I could manage as he dropped his arms from around me. How, I thought incompletely. None of it was possible. My heart began to pump fear from my veins as I caught sight of the emerald green color of his brightened eyes. I stepped back, never looking away from the alluring and abnormal glow. Something in my mind strongly advised me they weren’t contacts.
“Are you hurt?” Liam asked.
I shook my head silently. No, I wasn’t hurt. Not like I should have been. I could have had two broken legs. But I didn’t. I could have been killed. But I wasn’t. All because Liam had…I don’t know.
I stepped back again, looking down to the pavement, afraid of my thoughts. What had he done? Held a boy in midair and then lifted me out of the way of a reversing car. No, it couldn’t be that. There was another answer. But not one could be rationalized in my mind at the moment. I gulped.
“I won’t hurt you,” he said as if I needed the words to be said aloud. I shifted my eyes back up into the bright glow of his gaze, to once again find the beautiful green waiting for me. I couldn’t look away anymore, and it seemed neither could he.
But with the sudden movement of his hand rising toward my cheek, I instinctively tensed, closing my eyes, frightened of the expected warm touch from his skin. The anticipation lingered with the cold air beginning to irritate the tip of my nose. The very silence had begun to raise my curiosity. I could feel the fear lowering its guard with each swallow from my throat. My lips twitched with a charged bravery.
“What are you?” I asked.
My eyes flashed opened as if by command of my words, only to see he was gone. And looking around, I realized so was Ross. I was alone. The fear collapsed back on me fiercely, as if to remind me that it had never left.
I obeyed my instinct and ran to my car. Once inside I locked the doors. I needed to get home before my body went into complete shock. I could see by my shaking hands turning the keys that the effects had already begun.
When I walked into the house, I forced a simple grin out toward my mother. My momentum never let my legs stop walking once I opened the front door. “I’m going to bed.”
I was grateful it was the one time my mom didn’t question me about my night, especially seeing as I was only able to make it enough steps to the entry of my bedroom. Once I shut the door behind me, I felt as if the imaginary director had yelled “cut”, letting me finally involuntarily collapse to my knees. I closed my eyes, sitting on my heels with my hands resting on my thighs, slowly filtering in a shaky breath. What the hell just happened? I wanted to hear Sean’s voice to soothe me, but I didn’t have the strength to grab my phone from inside my purse, which I had thrown to the bed a moment before my collapse.
Suddenly I heard a knock at my door. Damn. I opened my eyes before my hands helped lift me back to my feet. I knew my mom would definitely question me if she found me on the floor like that. I breathed out two deep sighs in order to calm my expression before I was ready. Action, I thought.
“Come in,” I said.
The door opened, but it wasn’t my mother. It was Sean that peeked his head through the frame gap, before stepping inside my room and shutting the door behind him. I didn’t waste the time to rush him. I wrapped my arms underneath his as I laid my head to his chest. The instant warmth of his presence lifted me to a better place.
“I thought you had to work late,” I said.
“I just got back and felt like I should stop by and see you.” I felt him gently pat the back of my hair comfortingly. “Is everything all right?”
“I don’t know how you do it,” I said.
“Make yourself appear right when I need you. But I’m glad that you do.”
“It’s a gift. Now are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”
I finally stepped back to look up at him. But now in the moment of truth, I knew that I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t be the reason that Sean lost his friends. But I also knew that was what Ross and Nick were hoping on, and I wasn’t keeping quiet for their sake. I have to tell him. I opened my mouth, but still nothing came out. I curled my fingers into fists, looking for the courage to speak. “I got...” This was my chance as my tongue lingered with the words. Say it. “Freaked out earlier.”
Sean narrowed his gaze with a prepared anger. “Freaked out by what?”
I gulped, not quite sure why this was so hard to say. I hadn’t even begun to wrap my head around Liam Alexander. “I forgot my purse, and when I went back for it the janitor was really creepy.” I rolled my eyes for dramatics with a small shrug. “But you know how my imagination can be.”
I sighed with the guilt weighing me down like lead. I’ll admit the janitor wasn’t going to be my friend but he didn’t deserve the persona I was building of him. I expected a lecture of any kind for being stupid enough to not bring a friend with me. I even welcomed it in order to serve as punishment for lying.
Instead Sean merely pulled his neck back to gaze at me with his brow lifted. “Are you sure that’s all?”
I nodded, maybe a little too much. It wasn’t as if he knew I was lying but more that I wasn’t telling the truth. Luckily he was choosing to ignore it, and I was grateful.
My eyes shifted to the floor with guilt.
“I know it sounds a bit childish, but would you stay until I fall asleep?”
“Sure,” he said.
I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to fall asleep, but I was glad Sean had stayed to do what he had always done best, protect me.
Lucky for him, I would have no problem staying away from Liam Alexander now. I wasn’t even sure where to begin with Liam. My mind could barely decipher the idea of what I had seen, let alone how to articulate it into words.
There must be an explanation for it all, but for now I laid under the covers, moving to curl into Sean, with my head rested on the warmth of his chest. It was like sunshine that radiated around my body. The warmth on my skin was like that sensation of hot water from the shower on a cold day. Just being near him made me feel better.
“Sean,” I said.
“I’ll stay away from Liam.”
There was a few seconds of silence where I felt like I could almost see his eyes shift away with a smile of accomplishment.
“Why now? Did something happen with him tonight?”
I shook my head, while my mind knew the opposite. “No, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I believe you. There is something strange about him.” I paused to exhale at the memory of tonight. “So, you don’t have to worry about him anymore.”
I thought of how different things would be if Sean had seen what I did. He would surely be even more protective of me. But if he had known, then it would be something he would have already told me. Even if I knew how hypocritical I seemed by withholding what I had seen tonight.
I felt Sean’s light, comforting kiss on my scalp before he laid his head on top of my own. “Promise?”
I sighed into the warm silence crawling around the two of us. “I promise.”
I was never that child you found in the corner reading. In fact, I loathed the idea of picking up a book. The activity seemed more of a chore than a past time.
All that changed when my brother began talking to me about the newest novel he was reading, Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix. Before I knew it, my curiosity got the better of me, luring me to try the series. It didn't take long for my mindset of reading to turn on its head.
But even with my new hobby discovered it wasn't until my junior year of college that I developed a hidden desire for writing stories. And when I found myself writing scenes instead of paying attention to my professors, I knew becoming a writer was the career path I was meant to follow.
Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts and a giveaway!