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The Year of Second Chances, Page 11

Jessica Sorensen


  He steadily carries my gaze. "I'm going to make this person pay for what he did to you."

  "He," I whisper. "Is it ...? Did my ... dad do this to me?"

  He gives a firm shake of his head. "No."

  "Then tell me who it is," I beg, my eyes watering with tears.

  "Isa ... I can't." He struggles to keep his voice even. "What happened today ... thinking that you might be de--that maybe I'd never ..." His lips are suddenly on mine.

  I suck in a startled breath through my nose. Oh. My. God. Talk about the holy mother lode of fireworks and explosions.

  This kiss, it's everything I've dreamed of: perfect, breathless, magical, like pixie dust and wishes and rainstorms of glitter.

  Yeah, I don't care how cheesy I sound. Not right now. Not with this.

  At first, I have no clue what to do. Do I kiss him back? Do I want to kiss him back?

  Oh, my God, yes, I want to kiss him back.

  An uncontrollable moan escapes my lips as his mouth moves against mine. I'd be embarrassed--it seems like I should--but I'm not. Maybe it's because of everything that happened. Perhaps I'm too worn out to care. Or maybe I want to own this moment and not worry about if what I'm doing is wrong or right.

  Kai groans in response and presses his body against mine as he slips his tongue inside my mouth, finally, finally, finally giving me a real kiss. My body shudders out of control, my heart beating at supersonic speed. If it died on me, I'm not sure I'd even care. I want to keep kissing him. I want to be closer to him. I want him to want to keep kissing me.

  "God, I've wanted this for so long," he whispers before deepening the kiss. Then he pulls back a sliver of an inch, looking down at me, his eyes so full of ... well, with a look like he's about to go skydiving. "I just wish I could've made this better for you, given you the perfect kiss under the perfect circumstances."

  Before I can respond, he delves in for another kiss.

  Better? Yeah, right. I'm pretty certain nothing could ever be better than this.

  "You taste so good," he murmurs between kisses.

  "Like sugar cookies?" I ask breathlessly with my eyes shut.

  He chuckles, his breath tickling my lips. "Better than sugar cookies."

  My eyes pop open, and I poke him in the side, causing him to laugh.

  "Hey, nothing is better than sugar cookies."

  "This is." He grows serious then leans in and steals another kiss.

  Our lips move slowly at first, but the longer the kiss goes on, the more heated it gets. Hands start to wander, skin touching skin. Our bodies begin to move rhythmically, perfectly. My mind is spinning out of control, empty of all my worries. My lips are swollen, my skin hums like a perfectly in-tune song, and my mind ... Well, considering what happened to me, I feel strangely content.

  But the moment crashes with a throat clearing.

  "Well, what do we have here?" someone sneers from close by.

  I don't recognize the voice, but with the way Kai goes rigid, I can tell something bad is about to happen.

  Chapter 14

  Kai

  Just when I thought this day couldn't get any worse.

  My head snaps up at the sound of T's voice, destroying my perfect moment with Isa.

  "I have your money," I tell him, pushing off Isa.

  My body gripes in protest, wanting to lie back down and protect her from T's view. But I need to face him, face this.

  He's not alone. He has five of his friends tagging along with him. Of course. Guys like T never want to have a fair fight. He's also sporting brass knuckles and a smirk that silently announces I'm in deep shit.

  "Where is it, then?" T melodramatically looks around the parking lot and at the gas station before he targets his gaze back on me again. "Or are you just trying to buy your way out of a beating?"

  "Well, technically, I have until tomorrow to pay you." I inch to the side, blocking Isa from his view as she pushes to her feet. "And that was only three hundred."

  He rubs his jawline, the brass knuckles glinting tauntingly in the moonlight. "Yeah, I changed my mind about that. I figure I've given you enough time. So pay the thousand now or pay the price."

  "A thousand bucks?" Isa whisper, clutching the back of my shirt. "That's what this has been about?"

  I reach around and find her hand, urging her to be quiet.

  "I have the thousand," I tell T. "But not on me."

  He laughs in my face, and his friends join in.

  "Isn't that what they all say?" His expression darkens as he stalks toward me "You'd be surprised how much bullshit I get fed from people who owe me money." He flaps his hand in front of him, mimicking a whiney voice as he says, "But, T, you said I had until then. I promise I'll get you it by tomorrow." He lowers his hand to his side, his eyes narrowing to slits. "I promise I have it, but it's not on me. Yeah, if I had a dollar for every time I heard that, then I wouldn't have to go chasing down dumbasses who owe me money."

  "I'm telling the truth." I tighten my grip on Isa, wishing she weren't here to witness this.

  He deliberates my words with a sickening grin and then spans his hands out to the sides. "Okay, then, prove it." He taps the cheap watch on his wrist. "You have fifteen minutes to get me the money, or your beating will be twice as hard."

  I calculate how far Jules' place is from here and swallow hard. "It might take longer than that."

  "And that's my problem, how?" He flashes me a toothy grin. "Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Time's ticking."

  "Fuck you," I mutter, digging my phone out of my pocket.

  "You better make that a phone call," T warns. "I don't want you sending out any texts for help."

  "I wasn't planning on it," I lie, punching in Jules' number while fixing a death glare on T.

  "So, you decided to take me up on my offer?" Jules asks without saying hello. "Because I have some pretty good ideas on how we can make him pay."

  "I might take you up on that offer later." I crack my knuckles against the side of my leg. "Right now, I need your help, and you can't mess this up."

  "Okay ... What's up?"

  "I need you to bring me the thousand dollars in less than fifteen minutes," I say with my eyes on T, who taps his watch again and mouths, "Hurry up."

  "Where are you?" Jules asks.

  "At the Sunnyvale Stop and Grub Gas Station, the one just outside of town."

  "Is T there?" he asks cautiously.

  "Yep." I press my lips together, eyeing T, the dumbass. He should've had me put it on speakerphone.

  "On it," Jules says, hopefully understanding the silent words I can't say: bring backup.

  "What are you talking about?" T inches toward me. "Put that on speakerphone. Now."

  "See you in fifteen," I hastily tell Jules then hang up the phone. "He's on his way."

  T balls his hand into a fist. "He better show up alone," he warns then bashes the brass knuckles into my gut.

  I grunt, collapsing to my knees as the wind is ripped out of me. My phone falls from my hands, and T scoops it up.

  Isa shouts something from behind me, and T laughs, his friends joining in like a bunch of damn hyenas.

  T crouches down in front of me, leveling his gaze with mine. "That's just a taste of what's going to happen to you if you try to screw me over. And you know what? Maybe to sweeten the deal, I'll take this girl of yours and show her what a real man is."

  I growl, stumbling to my feet. My balled fists tremble at my sides as I stare him down. "If you so much as lay a finger on her, I will fucking kill you. You got it?"

  His laughter simmers to fury as he storms toward me, getting right up in my face. "That's a pretty big threat for someone who's outnumbered."

  "I don't really fucking care," I snap. "Touch her and I'll fucking kill you."

  "Kai, just let it go." Isa's tentative voice cuts through the tension in the air. She slips her fingers through mine and tows me away from T. "Let's just get him the money so this shitty night can finally end."

&
nbsp; I suck in a few sharp breaths before fixing my eyes on Isa. Looking at her calms me down a little, but a storm is building in my chest, about to explode.

  T talks a lot of talk, but he also does a lot of sketchy shit. I don't trust him at all, and if Jules doesn't show up with backup, he might try to come through on his threat.

  Chapter 15

  Isabella

  I've never been much of a fighter, but I seriously want to punch this T guy in the face. Not only did he threaten Kai, but I'm also finding his constant humming of the Jeopardy tune incredibly annoying.

  "Are you okay?" I ask Kai as we sit on the curb stretching along the grass at the back of the parking lot. "How's your stomach?"

  "I'm fine," he mumbles, keeping his gaze trained on the ground. "He didn't hit me that hard."

  Yeah, right. I heard the impact. But that's Kai for you--always doing whatever it takes to keep people from worrying about him.

  "So, how did you meet this guy?" I ask, casting a quick glance at the dumpsters where two of T's friends are having a wrestling match while the others cheer them on, passing around a bottle of vodka. I have my fingers crossed one of them knocks the other out. Then we will only have five guys to worry about. Perhaps we'll get really lucky, and they'll end up beating each other up.

  Le sigh. If only.

  "Through Bradon. He's the reason I'm in this mess. He screwed me over, and now I owe T money. I guess it's probably my own damn fault, though, for even associating with T." Kai rests his arms on his knees and lowers his head. "I'm so sorry for bringing you into this mess. I should've known something like this was going to happen, but I guess my father was right. I fuck up all the time."

  I lightly pinch his side "Hey, that's no way to talk about yourself. And your father's the one who messed everything up by treating you the way he does."

  "I deserve how he treats me," he grumbles, scuffing the tip of his boot against the asphalt.

  I pinch him again, harder this time and on the chest, and his head whips up.

  "What the hell, Isa?" He rubs his pec. "What was that for?"

  "For having a pity party." I draw a circle in the air around us. "See this? This is a pity party free zone."

  His lips threaten to turn upward, but then his shoulders slump. "How can you joke around right now with everything going on?"

  I shrug. "You usually do it, so I guess I learned it from you."

  "Yeah, maybe." He heaves a weary sigh. "I can usually handle these kinds of situations, but with you being here and with ..." His gaze travels over to T, who's leaning against the dumpster, watching me with a look I can't quite decipher, but that makes an unsettling feeling gnaw in the pit of my stomach. Tearing his attention from T, he turns to me and leans to the side, blocking me from T's creepy gaze. "Do me a favor. If you see any chance to run, do it."

  I resist an eye roll. "Like I would just leave you."

  "Isa," he warns.

  "Kai," I mimic his tone and stern look.

  "This isn't a joke, Isa. What T said ..." His gaze flicks to T then back at me, worry lacing his every feature. "What he said ... about touching you ..." Taking hold of both of my hands, he laces his fingers through mine. "I couldn't live with myself if something happened to you, so I want you to--no, I need you to promise me that, when you get the chance, you'll run and get help."

  I force the fear down my throat. "I won't just leave you, but I will get into the gas station and call the police."

  Relief briefly flickers in his eyes. "Thank you for being cooperative for once."

  "You say that like I'm uncooperative all the time." When he elevates his brows with insinuation, I sigh in surrender. "Fine, maybe I am stubborn sometimes, but so are you."

  He almost smiles. "But only to match your stubbornness."

  I scowl at him, even though he's probably right. Then a thought occurs to me and wipes the scowl right off my face.

  "Hey, speaking of the police, what about the flash drive? We never texted them back. You don't think ... Crap, what if they turn over that video of you?"

  "I don't really think they're going to do that," Kai says, glancing over my shoulder at the parking lot.

  "Why not? Because you know who's doing this?" I track his gaze, but all I can see is the parking lot, the street, and my grandma's car. "What're you looking at?"

  "I'm just wondering how easy it would be for someone to get into the car and steal the flash drive without us noticing," he explains, returning his gaze to me. "I think I might've seen someone creeping up over there just a few minutes ago."

  My eyes dart back to the car. "But how did they know we were here?" I look back at Kai. "We never texted them."

  "I have a feeling they might've been following us."

  "Really?"

  He half-shrugs. "I wouldn't put it past them. In fact, I'm guessing they've probably been following you around for a while."

  I nervously pick at my fingernails. "How do you figure that?"

  He shrugs again. "Because of how they seem to know almost every move we make, like the files that were stolen out of the car. How did they know we had those unless they saw me get into the car with them? And then the flash drive. Either someone was accidentally feeding them information, or they've been watching us. And my bet is that person I just saw probably jacked the flash drive."

  "Wait a minute ... You said someone was accidentally feeding them information ..." A gust of wind blows through my hair, sending strands into my face. I don't bother removing my fingers from his, though, too afraid to let go. "Just how well do we know the person who's doing this?"

  "Pretty well," he answers with reluctance, looking away from me.

  "You promise it's not my dad?" I whisper then breathe in relief as he nods. "Then just tell me who it is before I go crazy."

  "Someone who's going to have their life destroyed come tomorrow," he says with a hollow laugh. "They're not even going to know what hit them."

  Damn him and this revenge plot.

  "Kai, I really don't think--" He silences me with a kiss, only coming up for air after he's kissed me breathless. "You know, you can't just kiss me every time you want me to shut up," I tell him through my ragged breathing.

  "Wanna bet?" A teasing glint shines in his eyes as he slants forward to steal another kiss.

  "Would you two knock that shit off?" T hollers, shattering the moment into pieces. He stalks toward us, glancing at his watch. When he reaches us, he makes an annoying buzzer sound. "Time's up. Looks like it's one beating for you." He shoots Kai a smirk then his gaze settles on me, and he puckers his lips, making a kissy face. "And one hot make out session for you."

  Kai jumps to his feet and shoves T back. "You fucking touch her, and you'll pay."

  "You and what army?" T says, shoving Kai back.

  Kai stumbles, and I leap to my feet, grabbing hold of his arm. When T's friends notice the commotion, they stop horsing around and storm toward us.

  Kai sidesteps in front of me and backs us up with his arms out to his sides. "Come near her, and I'll break your arms."

  T laughs, but the noise sounds warped and all sorts of wrong. "Are you fucking stupid? Just admit you're outnumbered, hand the girl over, let us beat your ass, and then you can go back to your stupid, pathetic life."

  "You can beat my ass ..." Kai's voice is shockingly steady. "But you're not going to touch her."

  T's lips twist into a menacing smile. "You know, the more you say that, the more I want to touch her." He shrugs. "It's kind of my thing, you know. Tell me I can't do something"--he leans to the side, catching my gaze--"and all I want is to do it."

  Vomit burns in the back of my throat. Could this night get any worse?

  "Isa, run," Kai hisses from over his shoulder.

  I hesitate, unsure. "Maybe I should--"

  "You promised you would," he cuts me off. "Now go."

  Sucking in a wobbly breath, I nod and then step back to run.

  "And, Isa," Kai says before I take off, "ju
st so you know, I love you."

  Before I can even fully comprehend his words, he sprints forward and crashes into T. I let out a fearful shriek as they fall to the ground in a tangle of punches and kicks. I think about going to Kai, but when T's friends focus on me, I spin around and make a beeline for the gas station.

  Not even halfway there, someone seizes hold of my arm and yanks me back against him.

  "You're not going anywhere, sweetheart," an unfamiliar voice says. He reaches forward and strokes my cheek like I'm a freakin' cat or something. "You and I are going to have some fun."

  Internally, I puke yet remain composed on the outside.

  "Wanna bet?" I say then bash the back of my head against his face like I've seen people do in movies. But unlike in the movies, I can't run away because I'm too flippin' dizzy. "You know, they really should ... warn ... you ... how bad that ... hurts." I stagger forward as headlights cut through the darkness.

  "Kai!" I hear someone shout.

  "Over here," Kai groans in pain from somewhere behind me.

  I shield my eyes from the light, trying to see who is out there. I can't see very well, but I do make out three or four cars forming a wall across the parking lot.

  "What in the world ..."

  A guy around my age, perhaps a bit older, with dark hair and a piercing in his lip steps out from the light and rushes toward me. "Isa, get in the car."

  "Um ... Who are you?" I ask, unsure whether he's on the good side or the bad or if he has nothing to do with this at all. "Wait. Are you my stalker?" As soon as the words leave my lips, I want to retract them.

  Smart move, Isa. Let him know you're on to him.

  He jerks his head back in shock. "What? No. I'm Kai's friend, Jules. We're here to help."

  My lips form an O. I'd feel like a giant idiot, but considering the circumstances, I don't care.

  "Just get in my car, okay? It's the blue one in the middle." Jules pats my arm. "We'll take care of this."

  "We'll?" I question at the exact moment the car doors begin to open.

  One by one, people climb out and head for the fight. By the time Kai's army--or whatever the hell you want to call them--has all passed me, my jaw is hanging to my knees.

  "I so don't care what Kai says," I mutter to myself as I hurry to the blue car. "He's so in the mafia."

  Chapter 16