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The Redemption of Callie & Kayden, Page 26

Jessica Sorensen
Page 26


  I glance around at Luke and Kayden waiting by the screen door, and then back at Seth. “That’s okay. Someone needs to drive. ”

  Luke shakes his head, smiling as he rubs his hand across his cropped brown hair. He has a loose-fitted red shirt on and a pair of worn jeans. “I’m having a weird sense of déjà vu, because I’m pretty sure you said the same thing that night we went to the club. ”

  “I did,” I admit, flipping my hair off my shoulders. I don’t know if it’s the night’s heat or the kiss, but I’m suddenly very hot.

  “But what are we going to do? Take a cab everywhere?”

  Luke nods as he picks up his phone and rises from the chair.

  “Already taken care of. One should be here in, like, five. ”

  Seth wiggles the bottle in front of my face and the liquid inside splashes against the glass. “Come one, relax. ” He leans in, lowering his voice. “You need to relax, Callie. You’ve been so stressed out lately. ”

  He’s right. I have been stressed and I want to relax—to forget for just a second about the unbearable weight on my shoulders. I grab the bottle from him and without any preparation put the glass to my lips and tip back my head, gulping way too big of a swallow. My gag reflexes instantly kick in and I drop the bottle as I clutch at my chest.

  Kayden’s arm dashes forward and he catches the bottle before it hits the floor. “Holy shit,” he says and then steps up beside me to pat my back. “Take it easy. ”

  I cough and fight the urge to vomit. I’m not a big drinker and I usually take it in small doses. “I went a little overboard,” I say between coughs, with my hand pressed against my chest.

  He smoothes my hair back with his hand and his palm lingers on my cheek. He keeps touching me, yet he acts like he shouldn’t.

  I’m confused and choking and I just want to be free again. “Callie, you don’t need to drink if you don’t want to. ” He says it so quietly only I can hear him.

  I stand back up and straighten my shoulders. “I know. And that goes for you too. ”

  He eyes me over and then his throat muscles work as he swallows hard. “Here. ” He hands the bottle to Seth and hurries toward the door, pushing it open. He steps outside and the door slams shut, leaving the three of us lost and confused. I don’t know what to do or if I should follow him. I have no idea what he needs.

  Suddenly, I realize I don’t know much about him at all.

  Kayden She thinks I’m mad at her, but I’m not. I’m mad at myself. For coming here. For kissing her. For touching her the way that I have.

  She deserves better. I’m not even strong or good enough to stay away from her.

  I strategically make Luke and me sit in the front of the cab so Seth and Callie have to sit in the back. That way I can cool down and stop thinking about her in that damn dress. All I want to do is take her back to the house, rip it off, and make love to her again.

  But I need to stop thinking about that. And I need to stop drinking because it brings out the feelings I’m trying to keep locked away inside my steel heart.

  Luke and Seth keep passing the bottle of Jack back and forth and taking shots with their heads tucked low so the cab driver, a younger man with long hair and a goatee, won’t see. Seth offers it to Callie a few times, but she shakes her head and declines each offer. She hasn’t looked at me since we left the house and she keeps fiddling with the straps on her dress as she stares out the window. The sky is dark and the Christmas lights light up the street and glow into the cab and in her eyes. Her eyes look sadder than they did when I first met her, if that’s even possible.

  There’s some sappy song playing on the stereo. Some guy’s singing about love and I find myself wanting to stab my eardrums or at least make a few cuts to my skin. I don’t want to think about love or what it means to me. I don’t want to think about anything.

  I’m about to ask Luke to pass me the bottle when the cab pulls up in front of a tall brick building wedged between similar buildings. There’s a crowd lined up in front of it and the music playing from inside can be heard all the way to the curb.

  Luke takes some money out of his wallet, hands it to the cab driver, and then glides the door open. “You guys are paying for the drinks. ” He hops out and I shake my head as Seth slides over and climbs out.

  I wait for Callie, but she doesn’t move. When I finally dare to glance over my shoulder at her, I find that she’s watching me. I rest my arm on the back of the seat and twist my stomach so I can turn to face her.

  “Is everything okay?” I ask her.

  She brings her bottom lip into her mouth and shakes her head. “No. ”

  I fight the urge to touch her. “What’s wrong?”

  She releases her lip and slides to the edge of the seat. “I don’t know who you are. ”

  My jaw nearly drops to the ground. “What?”

  She lets out a shaky breath as she swings her feet out of the cab. “I don’t know who you are. Not really, and it hurts. ” She doesn’t say anything more as she climbs out, pulling at the bottom of her dress, and joins Seth and Luke on the curb.

  I don’t know how to feel about what she said. I’ve told her more than anyone else. But really, when I think about it, I’ve told everyone else nothing and her the bare minimum. My boots scuff against the gravel on the road as I slam the door. The cab drives off, tires skidding, and I’m left standing on the curb.

  Callie has taken ahold of Seth’s arm, but I can’t tell who’s holding onto whom. Luke is already reaching for his cigarettes and pops one into his mouth. We walk up to the end of the line and Luke flicks the lighter and the paper burns. People are talking, laughing, having fun, but the inside of my head is twisting.

  She doesn’t know me.

  She really doesn’t.

  And that’s because I won’t let her.

  Suddenly I feel like an asshole. I owe her an explanation for why she found me bleeding out on the floor.

  I’m stuck in my own head as the line moves forward and we walk inside the building. Luke found an eighteen-and-over club so we don’t need fake IDs to get in. As soon as we step over the door’s threshold, the atmosphere becomes suffocating. There are too many damn people crammed tightly into the small room. The air is stifling, but luckily there’s no smoking allowed. The music is deafening and the floor is vibrating from it. I’ve never minded these kinds of places before, but suddenly I’m feeling a little claustrophobic. I think Callie is too, because she’s clinging onto the back of Seth’s jacket like her life depends on it as he walks in front of her, shoving through the crowd. Luke’s disappears into the mob completely.

  Someone stumbles back from the bar and spills beer all over the floor next to Callie’s feet. As she jumps out of the way, her fingers lose hold of Seth and she reaches for him. But the people are closing in and I can tell she’s trying not to panic.

  I take a few long strides and grab hold of her waist. Her body goes rigid, but I quickly kiss her head and whisper, “Relax, it’s me. ”

  She nods at the sound of my voice and her shoulders unravel. I inch closer to her until my chest is pressed against the back of her head, and then I circle my arms around her waist and pull her securely against me as I maneuver us through the crowd. I make sure to keep my elbows out so no one can get close enough to touch her and when we finally break out of the crowd and into the table section we both take a deep breath.

  My arms relax around her, but I don’t let her go as we walk to the corner table where Luke and Seth are sitting. I let go of her only to pull a chair out for her and she gives me a tentative smile as she sits down. I round to the other side of the table and take a seat myself, wishing I wasn’t here.

  “God, it’s fucking crazy in here,” Luke says, ruffling his hair as he glances around at the bar, the crowd near the door, and the dance floor over in the corner. “And hot. ”

  Seth nods in agreement as he reaches for his cigarettes that are in
his front pocket. But then his face sinks and he gazes at the tables around us. “Wait a minute. There’s no smoking in here, is there?”

  Luke shakes his head as he leans back into the chair and his muscles flex as he crosses his arms. “No… It’s going to fucking kill me. ”

  “I think it’s the cigarettes that are going to kill you,” Callie jokes nervously as her eyes flick to the dance floor.

  Luke shoots her a death glare, but then shakes his head and grins. “Well, if I can’t smoke than I’m at least going to drink. ” He pushes the chair away from the table and rises to his feet. “What’s everyone’s poison?”

  “The least potent thing that exists,” Callie says, wringing her hands on her lap and picking at her nails. She’s anxious and I want to know why. Is it because of me, or is it something else?

  Seth takes out his phone and starts pushing at buttons. “I haven’t talked to Greyson since yesterday. ” He sighs. “I think he might be upset with me. ”

  Callie rests her arms on top of the table. “Why?”

  Seth shrugs as he slides his fingers across the screen of his phone. “Because I might have said something mean about our relationship. ”

  “Like what?” Callie asks.

  “Like I wanted a break. ” He sets the phone down and sighs as Callie frowns at him. “Don’t look at me like that. I didn’t mean it. I was tired and overthinking things and I didn’t mean it. ”

  Callie runs her hand across the top of the table, sweeping some salt that’s on it onto the floor. “Did you tell him that?”

  “Not yet,” he says. “But I’m working up to an apology. ”

  “Seth. ” She extends her hand across the table and touches his arm. “Since when do you hold things in? You should never do that. It’s not healthy. ”

  He shrugs, glances at me, and then grabs onto Callie’s arm.

  “Come with me for a minute,” he says, getting up from the table and pulling her to her feet.

  Nodding, she follows him without looking back at me. All I hear are their words echoing in my head. Never hold anything in.

  It’s unhealthy.

  If that’s true then I’m the unhealthiest person alive. I feel it rushing up inside me. What I am. What I feel. My life and the emptiness that will always own me. If it doesn’t then I have to feel the past years of my life. I can’t even think straight as feelings overtake me and I push to my feet. Rushing across the room, I head back to the bathroom and shove the door open. There are a few guys in there, so I go into one of the stalls and lock myself in.

  Pressing my hands against my face, I take deep breaths and then slide my fingers down to my wrists, snapping the rubber band. I do it over and over again until my wrist has a large red welt on it, but it still doesn’t feel better.

  I need something—anything—to make it go away. I search the stall looking for anything sharp, like the edge of the metal toilet paper dispenser. It’s a desperate move, one that might lead to tetanus. I’m not sure if I can do it. As I move my wrist toward it, I catch sight of the buckle on one of the leather bands on my wrist.