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The Year of Second Chances, Page 4

Jessica Sorensen

  "It is." Relief washes through her tone. "I'm going to call grandma and ask her to do the same thing. I'll call you tomorrow and check up on you."

  "Okay." I recline on the sofa. "When do you think you'll be coming back?"

  "Soon," she promises. "I'll probably dump all my mom's alcohol and sober her up tonight then try to talk to her in the morning."

  "Call me if you need to talk. Or even call me if you don't need to talk. I miss talking to you. I've actually really wanted to talk to you about ..." I dare a glance at Kai, highly aware he's watching me. "Stuff."

  "Guy stuff?" She knows me way too well.

  I bite on my thumbnail. "Yeah, I need some advice."

  "Is the guy you need advice about right there with you?" Her grin shows through the amusement flooding her tone.


  "Well, get up and walk into your room so we can have some girl talk while I've got a couple of minutes. It'll be good to talk about something other than my dad and how much of a fucked up bastard he is."

  "Okay." I get up, ignoring the strange look Kai gives me. "I'll be right back," I mouth to him before bolting into my room.

  I shut the door and lock it then flop down on my bed.

  "So, I think I might be getting over Kyler."

  "Thank God! I was so hoping you'd say that!" she exclaims. "So, what do you need my help with? Going after Kai? Because I'm pretty sure you kind of already have him."

  "I do not." I roll onto my stomach and stare out the window at the clouds rolling in. "Kai and I are just friends."

  "But you want to be more," she insists. "I know you do."

  "I don't know ... maybe." My stomach does backflips as I replay the kiss on the sofa. "But that's not really what I wanted to talk to you about. I wanted to ask you what I should do about Kyler because he's texted me a couple of times to see if I want to go out, and I keep lying and telling him I can't. But I don't want to lie anymore. I just want to tell him the truth, and then ... I don't know ... maybe try to be friends with him." I trace the circular pattern on the comforter with my fingertip. "Or is that too weird?"

  "That all depends."

  "On what?"

  "On how good of friends you were before."

  I crinkle my nose. "We weren't really friends. We only really started talking when I came back from my trip."

  "I know, but I needed you to say it to remind yourself that you don't really need Kyler as a friend. And honestly, I don't think he's going to want to be your friend. I think he started hanging out with you because he wanted to hook up with you."

  "Ouch. Way to be blunt."

  "It's better than lying to you and letting you walk into this blind."

  "Should I even walk into this, though?" I prop up onto my elbow and rest my chin on my hand. "Or should I just text him? I've never had one of these kinds of talks with a guy before."

  "As much as I'm not a fan of Kyler, I've never been a fan of breaking up with guys via text," she says. "You should probably meet up with him. Take him for coffee or ice cream and just tell him how you feel."

  I watch as raindrops begin to drizzle from the sky. "And you think it'll be that easy?"

  "That all depends on how much he likes you." Something crashes in the background over the phone, and she lets out a string of curses. "Shit. I have to go. My mom just woke up. But I want to say congrats first."

  My brows dip. "For what?"

  "For letting go of this whole crush on Kyler. Your first crush is always a little hard to let go of, but sometimes, you just have to accept that things weren't meant to be and that maybe you were destined to be with the crush's adorably sexy brother."

  "Now you're just psych 101-ing me," I tease with a grin.

  "Yep, you better take notes," she quips. "This is some good stuff right here."

  I laugh, and she joins in for a moment before wishing me luck and saying good-bye.

  I hang up then push off from my bed and am getting ready to head back into the living room when my phone starts ringing again.

  "Hello?" I answer without glancing at the screen.

  "Hi, hon," grandma Stephy says. "I hate to do this to you because I know you had that zombie paintball thing, but I really need a favor."

  I grip the bedroom doorknob but don't open the door. "Okay, what's up?"

  "I need you to come pick me up." She releases an exasperated breath. "My car broke down near the highway intersection, and none of my friends can come get me. And Indigo just sent me this weird text begging me to get indoors during the storm. That girl is getting stranger by the minute."

  "I think she had a bad dream." I open the door and walk down the hallway toward the living room. "But yeah, I'll come get you. We're on our way right now."

  "Thanks, hon," she says. "And I'm really sorry about this. I know you were looking forward to going to stake those vampires or whatever it was you kids were yammering about this morning."

  "It was paintballing zombies." I giggle as I enter the living room, and Kai gives me a funny look from the sofa. "And that's okay. We can either do it later today or another day. This is way more important." I tell her good-bye then hang up.

  "Is Indigo okay?" he asks, pushing to his feet.

  "Yeah, she's fine. Her mom's stressing her out with her drinking, but she says she's checking her into rehab. She also had a bad dream last night and wants me to stay indoors during the storm tonight." I collect the car keys from the counter. "I've got some bad news, too. My grandma called; her car broke down. She needs us to come get her, which means between keeping my promise to Indigo and picking my grandma up, we might not be able to make it to zombie hunting today."

  "That's okay." Kai moves up beside me and takes my hand as if it's the most natural thing in the world. "We can still have some fun today if we don't make it. And we can still go zombie paintballing next week sometime. It's fall break, anyway, so no school Wednesday through Friday."

  "Oh, yeah, I forgot about that." My mood lifts, and a small smile pulls at my lips. "That means I'll only have to endure two days of hell at Sunnyvale High."

  "Everything's going to be okay." Kai pulls me into his side and wraps his arm around my waist. "I promise I won't let anyone do anything to you."

  I breathe in the scent of his cologne. God, he smells better than sugar cookies. "That's a pretty big promise. You can't watch me 24/7."

  He cocks a brow. "Wanna bet?"

  Usually, I'd argue with him, but the fierce determination pouring from his eyes keeps my lips fused.

  Deep down, I want him to go through with his promise. I don't know if letting him help me makes me weak or not, but I'm going to pretend it doesn't. Besides, even superheroes need sidekicks, so maybe letting him help me doesn't make me weak. Maybe it somehow makes me stronger.

  Chapter 4


  Kai and I spend the rest of Saturday morning and well into the afternoon helping my grandma get her car towed to a mechanic. By the time we get home, it's late, and Kai has to leave to apply for jobs and tow his own car back to town. Holding good to my promise, I stay home while the rain pours down.

  While Kai is out, he texts me to tell me that he stopped by his friend's house to have him take a look at the number on my phone, but his friend couldn't track the number, either. He also messages me that he's running really late and won't be back until at least one or two o'clock in the morning.

  I try to stay awake so I can talk to him about the files, but around midnight, I pass out on the sofa.

  When I wake up again, the living room is dark, the television is muted, and warm fingers are stroking my cheek.

  Startled, I start to sit up, but the sound of Kai's voice instantly calms me down.

  I blink up at him as he sits on the edge of the sofa beside me, his fingers lightly grazing my cheek.

  "What time is it?" I ask through a yawn.

  "Three-thirty in the morning." He tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. "I'm sorry I woke you up. I was trying to d
ecide whether I should just lie on the floor and let you sleep, but then I was worried about what your grandma would say when she walked out in the morning."

  "It's fine." I sit up and stretch my arms above my head. "I'm sorry I fell asleep where you sleep. I was trying to wait up for you to make sure you made it home okay, but I must've been more tired than I thought."

  His brows knit, confusion written all over his face. "You were waiting up for me?"

  I shrug, unsure what the big deal is. "I was trying to."

  His lips pull up into a baffled half-smile. "I don't think I've ever had anyone wait up for me other than my parents, and they only did that to yell at me."

  "Well, it's late," I explain with a shrug. "And then there's this whole thing with this T guy ... It makes me nervous when you're by yourself."

  He holds my gaze, his lips quirking as he smooths his hand over the side of my head. "You know I wasn't alone, right? I was with a couple of my friends. And I'm a big boy."

  I open my mouth to explain myself, realizing how idiotic I probably sound, but he leans forward and touches his lips to mine softly once, twice, three times.

  "I like that you worry about me," he says quietly, leaning back with a trace of a smile dancing in his eyes.

  I nod, unable to speak, fearing my voice will come out all breathy like a girl swooning over some guy. And, yeah, I realize I'm doing that, but I'd rather keep it to myself for now.

  Kai tucks another fallen strand of hair behind my ears, and my eyelashes flutter.

  "You should get to bed," he whispers, sounding more like that's the last thing he wants me to do.

  "Okay," I say, not budging.

  We stare at each other, and then he wets his lips with his tongue. I swallow nervously, my heart thudding inside my chest. Then the lights flip on, and the moment bursts and shatters as my eyes scream to adjust to the brightness.

  "All right, you two. I hate to break up this little kissy-kissy moment, but I think it's time for bed," grandma Stephy says from the hallway.

  My cheeks heat as I leap to my feet, and she grins knowingly at me.

  Knowing more than likely she's about to embarrass me, I don't wait to hear what she has to say, rushing past her and calling out a good night over my shoulder.

  Once I get into my room, I lock the door and flop down on the bed. Bringing my fingers to my lips, I smile as I replay Kai's soft kisses. Three simple kisses, yet they were more magical than pixie dust, genie wishes, and fairy godmothers. I think Indigo might have been right all along. I have liked Kai--do like.

  A lot.

  Maybe more than I've ever liked anyone in my entire life, which means it's definitely time to break things off with Kyler.

  Chapter 5


  The next morning, Kai and I lounge around, watching zombie movies until my grandma leaves. Then we turn off the television to talk about the files on the computer. He tells me everything he read, but I only really start to flip out when I see some of the photos he took on his phone.

  "Lynn was a suspect?" I gape at Kai. "Lynn? As in Lynn Anders? My mom--stepmom?"

  He nods, taking the phone from me. "Yeah. None of the files said why she was a suspect, and I'm not sure how much evidence they have against her or if that's just a lawyer's theory." He takes my hands in his. "The good news is that they don't have a lot of evidence on your mom: a few fingerprints and a shaky at best testimony from someone."

  "Yeah, I guess so."

  My mind is spinning, along with my entire world. My mom is in jail for murdering my stepmother's son. She might be innocent. My stepmom might be guilty. What does all this mean?

  "Who gave the testimony?"

  "I'm not sure if it ever said in the files." He scrolls through his phone, a frown forming on his lips. "I don't see anything on here about it ..." He mulls over something then reaches for his computer. "Let me see if I can get back on the flash drive again."

  I rotate around, bringing my knee onto the cushion. "I thought you said it had a virus."

  "It did, but I just won't use it on my computer." He opens his laptop and taps the power button. "I may just have to break through another passcode to get back on, and if I do that, I can look at the files again."

  I scrunch my nose. "You really want to go through all that again?"

  He gives a shrug. "For you, sure."

  I bite down on my lip, holding back the goofy grin wanting to plaster across my face. "Kai, you really don't have to do this. In fact ..." I trail off as he begins to curse and pound his fingers against the keyboard. "What's wrong?"

  "I think the computer's fried." He pushes several buttons before giving up and setting the laptop on the coffee table.

  "I'm sorry." I suck in a guilty breath. "This is all my fault. All of this is, really."

  "Would you stop saying shit like that?" He slumps back on the sofa, snagging my arm and pulling me back with him. "I could've walked away at any moment. I chose not to. That was my choice. I wanted to help you more than I've ever wanted to do anything."

  I rest my head against his chest, listening to the thundering of his heartbeat and noting how fast it's racing, just like mine.

  "Still, I want to help ... What can I do?" I ask.

  "I just want to find a computer so I can look this up for you." He tangles his fingers through my hair. "What I need is a computer I don't mind crashing."

  "You could always use the library's computers," I suggest, but more as a joke.

  "It makes me nervous to access those files in public," he says, taking me seriously. "If someone saw what I was looking at, I'd be in deep shit."

  "I can be your lookout and make sure no one walks up and looks at the screen." I lean back to look at him. "I mean, if you really want to do that. I was kind of kidding when I suggested it."

  His lips quirk into the most adorable grin ever. "As cute as that offer is, I don't think you could stop someone from walking up and looking at the screen without being too obvious."

  "Yes, I could." I breeze right over the cute remark, though my cheeks react, warming. "I could distract them with my super cool distracting skills."

  He seals his lips together, restraining a grin. "Oh, yeah? How?"

  "I don't know." I shrug. "By doing something crazy, like pretending my chair tipped over. Or I could fake a faint. Or if it was a guy, I could flirt with them."

  "Flirt, huh?" he questions with hilarity glittering in his eyes. "Do you know how to do that?"

  "Yes. I just don't do it a lot." Total lie. I suck big time at flirting unless Indigo is with me to take over when I turn into a weirdo, let's-talk-about-capes-and-magic-powers girl.

  He contemplates what I said and then rubs his hands together. "All right, let's see it."

  "Huh?" I blink. "See what?"

  Mischievousness sparkles in his eyes. "See you flirt."

  "With you?"

  "Either that or we could go ask your grandma's guy friend to help us out."

  "No way am I going back to her room while they're in there together." I make a gagging face. "God knows what they've been doing in there for over an hour."

  He grins. "I think you know exactly what they're doing, and that's why you won't go back there."

  I nod. "You have me on that one."

  "Okay, then, I guess you'll have to show me these alleged flirting skills by using them on me." He waits for me to answer. When I don't, he adds, "Unless you're too scared."

  My eyes narrow into slits. "You know I'm not scared of anything ... except maybe people who dress up like unicorns, but that's for a good reason."

  He gapes at me. "What ...? How ...? Huh?"

  "When I was like six or seven, a guy dressed as a unicorn chased me through a carnival and into the funhouse, and then I got lost." My eyes widen as I mentally relive the horror. "At least that's what I thought. I didn't realize he was just trying to give me a coupon for a free bag of cotton candy. In my defense, he looked more like a cow possessed by a demon than a
unicorn. Seriously, his costume was way off. And he really shouldn't have chased me. It was totally creepy."

  "Were you there by yourself?"

  "Yeah. No one would take me, so I walked there by myself."

  "And they just let you go?"

  I look away, unable to endure the pity in his eyes. "I did stuff like that a lot. It's not that big of a deal."

  "I don't think you really believe that," he says softly. "I think you know it's wrong."

  I stare down at my hands, avoiding eye contact with him. "Of course I know it's wrong. But it's in the past, so it doesn't really matter anymore. And honestly, I don't really want to talk about Lynn or my dad right now, not with what I just learned."

  His gaze burns into the side of my head. "Then what do you want to talk about?"

  I lift my shoulder and shrug, peeking up at him. "I don't know. Something fun."

  "Fun, huh?" The pity erases from his eyes and is replaced by humor, letting me know he's about to say something that more than likely is going to make me blush. "I think flirting's pretty fun ... if you do it right."

  "Of course you think that." I roll my eyes. "You're a natural."

  He seems amused by my declaration. "I am, aren't I?"

  I roll my eyes again. "You already know you are."

  He beams from ear to ear. "True. But that just means I'm a great person to practice on because I'll be able to give you a few pointers."

  "You're really not going to let this go, are you?"

  "Nope, probably not."

  I decide just how risky this could end up being. "You promise you won't make fun of me?"

  He nods, sketching an X across his heart. "Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in Hannah's eye."

  I sigh, kneeling up on the cushion. "Fine. I'll do it."

  He grins, rests back on the sofa, and tucks his hands behind his head. "Okay, go ahead. Impress me with your flirting skills."

  "Wait. What are you going to do?"

  "Sit here and watch."

  I scowl at him. "That doesn't seem fair at all. In fact, it sounds really awkward."

  His lips curl into a smug grin. "Not if you rock at flirting."

  I want nothing more than to wipe that smug smile right off his face. But, I know I'll never be able to rock at flirting. I am a decent kisser, though. Well, I never got any complaints, at least. Then again, I haven't kissed many guys.