Raveling You, Page 5Jessica Sorensen
Am I another obsession?
An aching in your brain?
Am I a complicated attraction?
Driving you insane?
Tell me why I can’t get you out of my head!
What it is you’ve done to me?
Why do you drive me so fucking crazy!
Please, please, tell me
That will help me think
By the time the bell rings, I’ve chillaxed a smidgeon. I enter the busy hallway and spot Ayden leaning against the lockers across from the classroom. He’s texting on his phone with his head angled down so he doesn’t see me right away.
Sliding the handle of my bag over my shoulder, I push people out of my way as I march up to him. “Hey, what’s up, buddy?”
His head jerks up at the sound of my voice, and he almost drops his phone. “You scared the shit out of me.” He presses his hand to his heart and his breathing turns ragged.
My lips tug upward. “Clearly.”
“Hey, we’ll talk at practice later!” Sage shouts to Ayden as he walks backwards down the hallway. “I seriously have something important to talk to you about, so no blowing me off again!”
Ayden holds a thumbs up in his direction as he finishes sending his text.
I scroll over his black jeans, red logo T-shirt, his soft lips, dark eyes, and inky black hair to make sure every inch of him is okay. The last thing I ever want to do is be angry with him if he’s hurt or something. When every visible part of his body checks out okay, I place my hands on my hips. “So, what’s up with texting Sage before me?”
He scratches at the scars on the back of his hand, a nervous habit of his. “I texted him because I wanted to talk to you in person. Not through a text. I wanted us to go have lunch so we can talk in private. I want to… well, try to tell you what happened today.”
“Oh.” I feel so silly and kind of douchey for being irritated. “Sorry. I feel like an ass now. And kind of childish. I was thinking you liked Sage more than me.”
“That will never, ever be true.” He reaches for my hand. “And I’m pretty sure you could never be an ass, even if you tried.”
I hold up a finger. “That isn’t true. I’m pretty sure your brother thinks I’m an ass.”
His brows knit. “My brother…? Oh.” He shakes his head. Again, I feel like an asshole. He probably thought of his real brother, the one he just lost. “You mean Kale or Everson?”
“Kale.” We start down the crowded hallway with our fingers linked together, like we have every day since Ayden entered my life. “I had to give him a ride to school this morning. I think the kid is totally terrified of me. He wouldn’t say a word, and every time I said anything to him, he scowled at me.”
Ayden snorts a laugh as he weaves us around a group of cheerleaders blocking the middle of the hallway.
“What’s so funny, Shy Boy?” I tuck my elbows in as we squeeze by a group of jocks.
I find myself searching around for William in the midst of them, since he generally hangs with the athletes. Thankfully, he’s nowhere to be seen.
Hopefully, it stays that way.
“It’s nothing.” Ayden’s lips expand into an amused smile. It’s been a while since I’ve seen that smile, so even though I have no idea what’s causing it, I smile, too.
“Tell me what’s so funny.” I prod his side with my elbow. “Or else I’ll tickle you until you pee your pants.”
His muscles spasm, and I worry that I’ve crossed a line again.
“I’d like to see you try.” He flashes me a genuine smile, and I relax.
“I accept that challenge.” I poke him in the ribs.
“Lyric,” he chuckles, wrapping his arm around his midsection for protection. “I can’t tell you. Kale would get pissed off at me.”
“I wouldn’t tell him that you told me. Jeez, who do you think I am? Maggie?”
As if she senses us talking about her, Maggie suddenly appears in front of us with her hands on her hips and determination in her eyes.
“The date for my New Year’s Eve party has been changed,” she says to me as Ayden and I slam to a halt in front of her. Then she grins in Ayden’s direction and not so discreetly pushes her chest out. I love the girl to death, but she really needs to stop drawing guys in with her breasts. “It’s going to be December thirtieth.”
“How can you have a New Year’s Eve party that’s not on December thirty-first?” Ayden’s smile fades. He’s unfriendly and cold to a lot of people, except me. For some reason, I’ve always been good at bringing out his inner sunshine. “It makes no sense.”
“It makes perfect sense.” She tucks her elbows inward to push her cleavage even higher. “A party’s a party, right?”
Ayden shrugs. “I guess. But technically your party is a New Year’s Eve Eve party.”
“Clever.” Maggie smiles then her gaze flicks to me, as if seeking some sort of confirmation that I’m okay with her trying to show Ayden her goodies. I’m not okay with it. At all. But I’m not about to get angry with her since I haven’t been that honest with what’s been going on with Ayden and me.
She searches my eyes then her posture relaxes and her cleavage sinks back into her shirt. “But, as clever as that is, I’m still calling it my New Year’s Eve party.” She points a finger between the two of us. “A party that you two better show up to.”
She reels around and shimmies her butt down the hallway, drawing in a lot of the male population around her. She instantly zeroes in on her next target, the varsity quarterback. Rolling her shoulders back, she approaches him with what she calls her “vixen swagger walk.”
“Man, she knows how to work those bad boys, doesn’t she?” I mutter, peeking down at my own breasts.
I’m barely a B cup, not that I care. Big breasts aren’t going to get me what I want in life, but I have wondered what it would be like to overly fill out my shirts.
“Work what?” Ayden glances confusedly at me.
I point back and forth between my breasts. “These bad boys.”
Even after being around my constant unfiltered mouth, Ayden still blinks in shock.
“Trust me, you could work yours, too, and get way more attention than she does.” His attention drops to my chest fleetingly then he looks away as his skin turns bright red.
My own skin warms as I recollect when he reached up my shirt and brushed his fingers across my nipple. The torrid sensations I felt that night were like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.
I wish you would do that again.
Touch me like that
In my car,
In my room,
In my bed.
Touch me, touch me, everywhere.
Instead of touching, Ayden and I silently head down the hallway with the buzzing of voices flowing around us. His palm dampens in mine or maybe mine does in his… It’s hard to tell. We’re tense, sexually frustrated as Maggie would put it.
“I’ll tell you what I know about Kale,” he unexpectedly sputters, breaking the tension between us. “But only on one condition.” He releases my hand to push the door open and moves aside to let me through.
“Okay, what’s the condition?” I step outside into the cool winter air, and goose bumps sprout across my skin.
Ayden lets go of the door then promptly returns his hand to mine, as if the ten second break from our flesh touching nearly drove him to a panic attack. My body, although cold, warms inside.
“That you never, ever repeat to Kale what I’m about to tell you,” Ayden says as we start down the sidewalk and through the people eating lunch around the front area of the school.
“Okay…” I stare up at him, squinting against the sunlight peeking through the cracks in the tree branches above our heads. “You’ve got me worried.”
“It’s not anything to worry about.” He grows quiet, spacing off as we hike across the freshly cut grass toward the par
king lot. “But it’s private enough that I need you to pinkie swear on it.”
My lips part in mock shock, and I cover my mouth with my hand. “Ayden Gregory, don’t you trust me?”
He stares up at the sky, stifling a smile. Eventually, his amusement gets the better of him, and he ends up grinning from ear to ear. He stops in the middle of the grass and raises his free hand with his pinkie hitched.
“Wow, where’s the trust, Shy Boy?” I give an exaggerated stomp of my foot then link my pinkie with his. “I promise that whatever you tell me will stay between us. But, just so you know, that’s always the case.”
“I know; I just need to make sure, for Kale’s sake.” He tightens his hold on my pinkie when I try to pull away. “Just like I need you to promise you’ll go easy on him.”
“Okay, I promise, even though I have no clue what you’re talking about.”
Satisfied, he frees my finger, and we start walking again.
“I think Kale might have a crush on you.” He glances at me from the corner of his eye. “I’ve actually thought it for a while.”
“No way.” I wave him off. “Kale’s the kind of guy who will get a crush on someone equally as adorably nerdy as him. Someone who’s in love with comic books and wears capes on non-Halloween days.”
“Clearly, you don’t understand how a guy’s mind works.”
“Hey, I do, too,” I say, this time genuinely offended. “I’m totally running on the same brain waves.” Ayden’s brows elevate questioningly and I playfully swat his arm. “You seriously just lost cool points for that move.”
He shrugs, unbothered. “Sorry, but I’m glad you don’t run on the same brain waves as me. It would be weird.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” I pause, contemplating what he said. “He really has a crush on me?”
“It’s just a guess, but as a guy who’s had crushes on girls before, I’m guessing that his awkward silence thing he does whenever he’s around you means that he likes you.”
I’ve known Kale since Lila and Ethan adopted him a few years ago. He’s like a little brother to me, which makes the situation kind of weird.
“You get awkwardly quiet around every girl we cross paths with,” I point out to Ayden after we climb into Lila’s Mercedes. “Which, by your theory, would mean you have a crush on all of them, including Maggie.”
“Yeah, but I’m a freak of nature.” He turns the key in the ignition, and the engine grumbles to life.
“So am I. I make love declarations about every guy I cross paths with.”
He shoves the shifter into reverse. “You haven’t done that in a while.”
I draw the seatbelt over my shoulder and strap myself in. “Ever since William.” And since you kissed me.
He rotates in his seat to glance behind him, but when our gazes collide, he pauses.
“Have you seen him again?” he asks with hesitancy.
I shake my head. “Not since that last time. What about you?”
“I saw him in gym. He didn’t say anything to me, but he did try to hit me in the face with a ball during dodge ball.”
“What a dick,” I grumble. “I’m so sorry for bringing you into this drama.”
“It’s just a ball, nothing like a fist. And you didn’t bring me into the drama. I chose to walk in it because I care about you.” A faint smile rises at his lips, one that warms me from my head to my toes. “Did you know his nose is crooked now?”
I perk up. “Really?”
He nods, his eyes burning fiercely. “I wish I would have broken more, though.”
“The nose is good.” I sketch my fingertip down the brim of Ayden’s nose. “You did well, Shy Boy.”
We exchange a meaningful moment, and then he backs the car out of the parking spot and steers toward the road.
“So, are you going to tell me what happened this morning?” I ask as he drives down the road lined with fast food places and restaurants.
“Yeah… Let’s go pick up some lunch and park up near the bridge.” He flips on his blinker to make a turn. “I want to be able to talk to you privately about some stuff before we head to town, anyway.”
“Head to town now?” I ask and he nods. “What about class?”
We only have a thirty-minute lunch break, and we wasted ten minutes getting to the car. Driving to the city limits of San Diego takes about twenty minutes, give or take a half of an hour for traffic.
“We’re skipping the rest of school.”
My nerves bubble inside me. What the heck is going on? “Why?”
“Because...” He nibbles on his bottom lip, mulling over something. “We’re… We’re taking a self-defense class, instead.”
“Because my parents and yours want us to be safe, to make sure we can protect ourselves if we need to.”
I’m not sure what to make of that.
Protect us from what exactly?
Five hours earlier…
The visit with the police turns out to be exactly what I was dreading. To move the case forward, they want me to try a few sessions with an amnesia therapy specialist.
“If it turns out to be too much for him or shows no signs of working within the first few sessions, then we’d like to try a few more aggressive methods.” A detective who goes by the name Rannali explains. “I know this might seem a little extreme, but—”
“A little extreme,” Lila cuts him off, her tone razor sharp. “You’re showing no sympathy for Ayden, who’s been through enough already and just lost his brother.”
“Sympathy isn’t my priority,” he replies straightforwardly—he has been that way the entire visit, “solving this case is a priority. We truly believe that if Ayden can remember those days he spent in the house, he could help us identify some suspects.”
“But I thought you weren’t positive it was the same people,” Lila points out. “That maybe he was just in the same area by coincidence. You said a lot of homeless people migrated to that area because the vacant homes were good shelter.”
“Right now, tracking down those people is the best lead we’ve got,” he responds vaguely, appearing mildly annoyed by Lila’s excessive questioning. “And right now, your son is the last known person alive who’s seen what these people look like. It’s becoming a priority that he moves forward in his therapy. I know some therapists who come highly recommended for these types of things.”
Lila’s expression simmered with rage. “You don’t need to be so coldhearted about it. You’re speaking about him like he’s not even a person. Just a tool to help solve your case.”
“Help solve his brother’s murder,” he pressed as he coolly reclined back in his seat. “Do you know anything at all about this group of people?” He reaches for a folder on a filing cabinet then straightens in the chair. Opening the folder on the desk, he removes a paper and places it in front of the Gregorys. “They call themselves soulless mileas or warriors. Worshippers of evil, the list of the horrendous crimes these people have committed goes on and on.”
The name screams repeatedly in my head, but the noise is minimal compared to my accelerating heart rate. In the folder is a letter written in sloppy handwriting that looks an awfully lot like my sister’s. When I lean forward to get a better look, the detective hastily shuts the folder. He’s not quite quick enough to stop me from seeing the signature on the bottom, though.
Detective Rannali avoids eye contact with me, focusing on Lila and Ethan as if I don’t even exist.
“Wait? I don’t understand,” Lila says perplexedly to Detective Rannali. “Why are you mentioning these people?”
“We believe that someone in this group is responsible for the kidnapping of your son three years ago.” He pauses with a brief glance in my direction. “And that they might have p
layed a part in Felix Stephorson’s murder along with several others over the last decade. It would make sense with his body being found close to the home Ayden and his brother and sister were removed from.”
I want to shout at him to tell me why on earth he has a letter from my sister in the folder.
“Why would he have been there, though?” I ask. “Did they kidnap him again?”