Shimmering chaos, p.5
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       Shimmering Chaos, p.5

           Jessica Sorensen
 
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  She must read the confusion on my face because she adds, “I met your aunt Aurora a couple of times, and she looks a lot like you.”

  “You’ve met my aunt?” Hurt stabs my chest. I haven’t even met her.

  “It was a very long time ago,” she explains, smoothing my hair away from my face, acting very motherly. “As far as I know, she hasn’t had any contact with the real world in ages.”

  “My parents haven’t spoken to her in years.” I pause, deliberating my next words carefully. “They’ve also never mentioned you guys.”

  “We’ve seen each other a couple of times over the years, but we haven’t been close since college. I wish that had never turned into the case, though.” She sighs sadly. “I was so upset when I heard what happened to them.”

  “So, you know my parents, too?” I ask, and she nods but makes no effort to embellish. “Who are you exactly?” I’m assuming she’s Gabe’s wife, but she hasn’t introduced herself, so I’m not positive.

  “Oh, my goodness, I completely forgot to introduce myself, didn’t I?” She laughs then steps back and sticks out her hand. “I’m Emaline, Gabe’s wife and the mother to the six hellions who live in this household.”

  “It’s nice to meet you.” I mean my words. Emaline seems nice enough.

  We shake hands, and then she casts a quick glance at Foster and Easton. “I hope everyone’s treated you wonderfully today.”

  Easton and Foster smile at their mom, but then Easton smirks at me when she turns back around. Foster’s smile dissipates, too, as he gives me a hard look. It almost makes me want to tell Emaline the truth, but I also don’t want to deal with drama, so …

  “Everyone’s been awesome,” I lie with a plastic smile.

  She visibly relaxes while Easton’s smirk magnifies and Foster rolls his eyes.

  “That’s great to hear. I was a bit worried …” She shakes her head and smiles at me. “Would you like to see your room? I’m sure you’ve had an exhausting day and probably need a bit of a break from the chaos.”

  I nod, more than eager to lock myself up in a bedroom where I can pretend this isn’t my life now.

  Pretend.

  Pretend.

  Pretend.

  “Great.” She turns to Easton. “Do you mind showing her to her room while I go make sure Charlotte is getting everything ready for tonight’s dinner?”

  An exaggerated smile takes over Easton’s face. “Of course, Ma.”

  “Thank you, sweet boy.” She ruffles his hair like he’s still a little kid then heads off toward a door located on the far back wall.

  “I’m going to get started on bringing in your stuff,” Gabe tells me. Then he pulls open the door and steps outside, leaving me standing in the foyer with Easton and Foster.

  That stupid smirk instantly consumes Easton’s face. “Come on, Fost; let’s go show lightning eyes her new room.”

  Great. He’s given me a nickname.

  Foster rolls his eyes. “Mom said you had to do it, not me.”

  “Trust me; you’re going to want to be a part of this.” His smile makes a chill trickle down my spine.

  And that chill only grows colder as a small smile touches Foster’s lips.

  “Fine.” Foster starts toward the stairway.

  Easton follows him, motioning for me to come on. But I hesitate. When he notices my lollygagging, he sighs.

  “Hurry your ass up, lightning eyes,” he says. “We’ve already wasted half the day taking care of you.”

  Foul words tickle at the tip of my tongue, but I bite them back and trail after them as they walk up the stairway. When we reach the top, they lead me down a hallway lined with closed doors. The deep blue walls are decorated with family portraits, and the light from outside filters in from the occasional skylight. The farther I get into the house, the more in awe I become. It’s so big and nice and lavish and completely the opposite of what I’m used to, but not in a good way.

  I want to go home.

  Tear sting my eyes, but I force them back as we stop in front of a shut door at the end of the hallway.

  “Welcome to your new home.” Foster grins as he twists the knob and shoves open the door.

  My stomach instantly drops at the sight of an old, rickety stairway on the other side.

  “Well, aren’t you going to go in?” Easton asks when I make no effort to step over the threshold.

  Wrapping my arms around myself, I summon a breath and step inside, staring up at the top of the stairs. The lights are off, so I can’t see where they lead to, but cobwebs line the railing.

  Are they being serious or just messing with me?

  “There’s a bed up there and a dresser.” Foster slants against the doorframe with his arms crossed. “Our house is already full, so this is the best my parents can do. You can either take it or leave and go live somewhere else.”

  My fingernails stab into my palms as I battle not to lose control of my anger. “I already told you that I can’t leave.”

  Mustering up every ounce of strength I have left, I start up the stairs, telling myself that maybe it’s not as bad as I think it’s going to be. That the stairway is just a dusty mess because who cleans stairways anyway? But then I reach the top step and realize how wrong I am.

  Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have been able to see anything if, at that precise moment, lightning hadn’t zapped across the sky. With all the skylights on the roof, the entire room lights up with a bright blue glow, giving me a brief glimpse of the dusty floorboards, the unfinished walls, and the twin bed perched in the corner.

  A thunder boom of a second later, a light flips on above my head.

  “The light switch is down here,” Easton calls up the stairway with a snicker. “Enjoy your new home, lightning eyes.” At that, a door slams shut.

  Part of me worries maybe they locked me in, but at this point, I don’t think I care. Not when I’m on the verge of crying.

  A wave of sadness rolls over me as I inch farther into the room, the floorboards creaking beneath my feet. Part of me really wants to believe this isn’t my room, that Easton and Foster are screwing with me, but then I note the fresh blankets on the bed and the clean pillows. Someone has made a bit of an effort to clean this up, for my arrival, I’m sure.

  Sighing, I walk over to the bed and sit down, looking around. The only other items occupying the space is a dresser, a lamp, and a wooden trunk. Curious, I get back up and try to open it, but it’s padlocked shut.

  Weird …

  Why put it up here in my room if it’s locked?

  Scratching my head, I move back to the bed, lie down, and stare up at the windows above me. Rain sprinkles across the glass in light drizzles, lightning occasionally flashing and thunder booming. The longer I lie there, the more tears threaten to pour from my eyes, and the more the rain increases. When a sob manages to escape my throat, thunder rumbles so hard the entire house shakes. Something about the movement unleashes a pain from inside me.

  I start to cry uncontrollably, the sound louder than even the hail clinking against the glass. I try to get myself to stop, knowing the streets are going to flood if I don’t, but I can’t seem to find the willpower I used to possess.

  Chapter 10

  Somehow during the mad chaos of hail and tears, I manage to doze off. When I wake up, the entire space is dark and quiet, the thunder and lightning gone.

  Blinking dazedly, I peer around, attempting to get my bearings. I can’t see a damn thing, other than a bit of moonlight trickling through the windows. That’s when I realize the storm toned down during my nap, but that’s not too uncommon. Night has also fallen while I was out, leaving me to wonder what time it is.

  Rolling over, I dig my phone out of my pocket, and a drop of light trickles through the darkness as I swipe my finger across the screen. Shit, it’s ten thirty, which means I’ve been asleep for over six hours and missed dinner. With how quiet the house is, I’m betting everyone’s gone to bed already.

&nbs
p; What doesn’t make sense, though, is why my bedroom light is off. Did someone come up here when I was asleep? I’m not sure how I feel about that … No, actually I do. I feel really, really uncomfortable. In fact, this entire day has been nothing but a series of uncomfortable occurrences.

  Maybe I should just go back to sleep and pretend I’m someplace else until tomorrow morning …

  My stomach grumbles in protest, reminding me that I’ve barely eaten all day.

  “Fuck, I need to eat something,” I mutter, rolling out of bed.

  Turning on my flashlight app, I make my way across the room and down the stairs. Then I try to turn on the light, but it doesn’t come on. Great, the power’s out.

  Beaming my phone around, I glance around at the cobwebs covering everything. Thankfully, I can’t see any spiders or else I’d be running out of here screaming.

  Sucking in a shaky breath, I reach for the doorknob, crossing my fingers I’ll be able to find the kitchen on my own so I can at least grab a snack and some water. But I freeze right before I pull the door open as voices flow in from the other side.

  “Sky, are you sure you don’t want anything for dinner?” Emaline asks over the sound of a knock.

  The strange thing is, the knock isn’t on my door.

  I start to open my mouth to reply to her when I hear Easton say, “She was acting really weird when we showed her to her room.”

  “She would barely talk to us,” Foster chimes in. “I think she might just want to be left alone.”

  “She’s probably so terrified,” Emaline mutters. “I can only imagine what the poor girl is going through.”

  “I bet she wants some time to herself,” Easton tells her. “I know I would if I was in her situation.”

  “I agree with East,” Foster says.

  A beat of silence trickles between them.

  “What did you guys do?” Emaline asks suspiciously.

  “Nothing,” Easton and Foster say simultaneously.

  Emaline heaves an exhausted sigh. “I’m going to try to find your father. Maybe he can talk Skylin into coming out of her room, if nothing else, at least to eat something.”

  Silence lingers in the air for a moment, and then an unfamiliar deep voice asks, “All right, what did you two assholes do?”

  “Nothing,” Easton says. “We did nothing at all.”

  I hear a whack and then an, “Ow, fuck, that hurt.”

  “Yeah, well, it’s going to hurt a lot worse if you don’t fess up and tell me what you did to Skylin,” the deep voice says.

  “Whatever, Max,” Easton grumbles. “We didn’t do anything to her, other than make sure she stays out of everyone’s way.”

  “Which needs to happen,” Foster emphasizes. “You know it does.”

  “Maybe,” the stranger—Max—mutters in agreement. A long pause passes between them, and then he sighs. “Look, I know this situation is complicated but, for whatever reason, Mom and Dad seem pretty set on taking this girl in. And we need to respect that and trust they’ll keep our secrets protected.”

  I slant back from the door. Secrets? What secrets?

  “Mom and Dad aren’t thinking clearly,” Easton points out. “All they care about is that they owe Skylin’s parents. They’re not considering what it’s going to be like for all of us having her live under the same roof.” He spits out the word her as if it’s vile—as if I’m vile.

  “I’m sure they considered it and figured we were smart enough to be able to keep our shit under control.” A warning rings in Max’s tone. “So, we better make sure that happens, got it?”

  “Whatever,” Easton mutters. “I can’t make any promises.”

  “Just tell me where she is,” Max says tiredly. “Because I know she’s not in the room Mom’s been knocking on.”

  Silence skips between them.

  “We may or may not have put her in the attic,” Easton admits with a surprising hint of guilt in his tone.

  “With my trunk,” Max hisses, and then the doorknob in front of me begins to twist.

  I step back as the door swings open and a guy who looks a couple of years older than me appears in the doorway. Max, I’m assuming.

  From what Gabe told me earlier, Max is twenty years old and the second to oldest. He’s also not a twin, although he looks a lot like Easton, only his chin-length hair is black. And like Easton and Foster, he’s sporting all black attire, except for a grey shirt. He also has leather bands on his wrists and a couple of intricate tattoos weaving up his forearms that create strange symbols and markings.

  I wonder what they mean …

  His vibrant green eyes widen when he spots me, and then he nearly trips over his feet. “Hey …” He looks me over, question marks flooding his eyes. “Okay, you so weren’t what I was expecting.” He glances at his brothers with his brow arched, not saying anything, just staring them down.

  Strangely, Easton and Foster both squirm, something I didn’t think could be possible with how arrogant they both are.

  “We told you she has eyes like lightning.” Easton shrugs as if this answers whatever silent question Max is asking.

  When Max continues to stare him down, I smile to myself as Easton gets all squirmy. When Foster notices my grin, his lips curve upward, but then they hastily falter.

  What is with this guy? And what secrets was Easton talking about? And what the fuck is in that trunk?

  So many questions dance around in my mind, but evaporate as Max offers me a charming smile.

  “You must be Skylin.” He sticks out his hand. “I’m Max. I’m the second to oldest in the fucking litter that is my family.”

  “I know. Your dad told me who everyone was.” I eyeball his hand dubiously.

  After the shit that’s gone on with Easton and Foster, I’m reluctant to shake it. Perhaps he’s going to pretend to be nice only so he can push me back and lock me up in the attic. Which, from what I just overheard, I’m guessing isn’t really where I’m supposed to be staying.

  “It’s okay. I promise I don’t bite.” He holds back an amused smile as he urges me to take his hand.

  Still a bit hesitant, I slip my hand in his. “It’s nice to meet you,” I mutter.

  He smiles, but a crinkle forms between his brows as he holds my hand. “You’re like a blank canvas,” he mumbles confusedly. “I can’t read you at all.”

  “Max thinks he’s a people reader,” Easton clarifies, nudging Max in the side. “Thinks being the key word.”

  Max winces, but then his lips tilt into a smile. “Sorry about that,” he apologizes then reluctantly releases my hand. “I’m not really good with introductions. ”

  “Me either.” My gaze skims the three of them, their rigid posture and the smirks are no longer evident on Easton’s and Foster’s faces. In fact, they’re all staring at me curiously.

  Oh, now I’m a curiosity, huh? What happened to hating me?

  Something feels off …

  “But anyway.” Max clears his throat, causing Easton and Foster to look away from me. “I’m not sure what my brothers told you, but this”—he points up at the stairs behind me—“isn’t your new room.” He steps toward me, and I have to tilt my head up to meet his gaze. Good God, I’m tall, yet he makes me feel short. “I’m sorry for whatever they said or did to you. I’d like to say this isn’t how they normally act, but that’d be a huge fucking lie.”

  “Oh, shut the hell up, Max,” Easton says with an eye roll. “Don’t pretend like you haven’t ever pulled a prank on a newbie.”

  “Newbie?” I question. “You guys keep saying that … Easton said you don’t take a lot of people in, though …” I trail off, so lost.

  “People?” Max muses with a genuine smile. “No, we really don’t.”

  What a weirdo. Granted, a hot weirdo, but still …

  Easton and Foster are hot, too, and if I’ve learned anything from them today, it’s to never trust a hot Everettson. Honestly, at this point, I’m starting to believe maybe I s
houldn’t trust hot guys in general, considering my track record with them.

  Max grins, watching me with interest. “Your confusion’s adorable.”

  Easton lightly smacks his shoulder and hisses, “Dude, Mom said not to hit on her.”

  He was hitting on me? I nearly snort a laugh. Yeah right.

  But when Max continues to stare at me without protesting, I wonder if maybe he is. The question is: why?

  Wait. Maybe this is a prank?

  “Yeah? So? Mom’s not here, is she?” Max says to Easton without taking his eyes off me. “And if you don’t tell her about this, then I’ll make sure not to tell her that you two jackasses told this pretty girl that the attic was her bedroom.” He glances at something above my head, then a frown forms on his face as he reaches over and flips the light switch off then on again. When not a drop of light flows around the room, his frown deepens. “Were you stuck up there with the power off?”

  “I wasn’t stuck up here. I could’ve walked out at any time,” I point out. “And the lights were on when I fell asleep, but when I woke up, they were off.” I shrug. “I just figured maybe someone turned them off.”

  “The storm probably tripped the breaker.” Max turns to Easton and Foster and smacks them on top of their heads. “Fucking hell. What is wrong with you two? Making her sit up there in that dusty piece of shit room in the dark? Do you know what could’ve happened if it found…?” He trails off, gulping.

  Easton swallows audibly. “I’m sorry. But in our defense, we didn’t realize the power went off.”

  Foster yanks his fingers through his hair, his gaze flitting from me to Max. “It was just a prank, okay? We didn’t mean for the damn power to go off.”

  “A prank that could’ve gone very wrong,” Max says in a low tone, tension flowing off him.

  “What’s going on?” I eye them over skeptically. “Do you guys have a bat locked up in the attic or something?” I stiffen, realizing that could very well be it.

  “Or something,” Max murmurs. Then he wiggles his shoulders, clearing the tension, and turns back toward me, pointing to the shut door to the side of him. “This right here is your room. Would you like to see it? I promise it’s way better than the attic.”

 
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