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The Year of Second Chances, Page 6

Jessica Sorensen

  "Not over the phone." My boots splash in the mud puddles as I pace the length of the sidewalk. "I want to talk to you in person. Can you meet up with me tomorrow afternoon?"

  "I have practice from three until six and classes from nine until three on both Monday and Tuesday. I could do it Friday night, but I have a date with Isa at seven," he says smugly. "But if you want to meet up, we can do it later ... unless the date goes well."

  I roll my eyes. Of course he would think it's a date.

  "All right, how about we meet up at eight?"

  "I know you don't go out on a lot of dates, but for future reference, you should probably know that they usually last more than an hour," he replies in his typical douchebag, I'm-better-than-you tone.

  I grind my teeth, battling back the compulsion to put him in his place. "How about nine, then? She usually can't stay out very late." Lie. But he probably doesn't know that.

  "Fine," he agrees reluctantly. "But if she wants to stay out later, I'm going to blow you off. Sorry, man, but that's just the way it works."

  "Fine by me."

  "Okay, talk to you Friday, then."

  "Wait a sec. I'm not done yet."

  He heaves a sigh. "What else do you want? Money? A place to stay? I know you need both."

  "No, I don't, actually. I just got my own place." Which is true. I got the text from my friend Jules a couple of minutes ago, telling me I can move in with him in two weeks, and he'll let me crash there for two weeks for free before he starts charging rent. "And I have money. I got a job a few days ago." That part's total bullshit. I haven't heard back from any of the places I applied to. I'm trying to convince myself it'll take a few days, but it's hard to be patient when I have T's threats hanging over my head. My only hope left is that my friend will be able to sell some parts off my trashed car, an idea he came up with when I told him I owned the car. Who knows if he'll be able to make enough cash and fast?

  God, I fucking hope so, or else I'm screwed as shit.

  "That's good," Kyler says, drawing my attention back to the conversation.

  He seems like he means what he says, but I never know for sure with him. Sometimes, he can come off as the nicest guy ever, only to set me up for some trick or joke. And I can't help but think of that phone call he just had with Isa, how he asked her questions about her mom. How Isa said she heard Hannah in the background. When she told me that, my suspicions of him grew even more.

  "I know we don't get along, but I don't want you living on the streets or anything."

  His words almost make me feel bad for what I'm about to say, but not enough to stop me from saying them.

  "Look, I just wanted to say--or kindly threaten, anyway--that you better not do anything to hurt Isa, or I'm going to pay you back big time."

  "What the hell does that mean?" he snaps.

  I sneak a glance over my shoulder at the apartment door, making sure Isa hasn't wandered outside. "It means that, if I find out you have done anything or plan on doing anything that will hurt or has hurt Isa, I'll find a way to make you hurt a million times worse."

  He gives his response a long amount of thought, and I actually--and very stupidly--start to think he's going to confess that he did play a part in the flyer incident. That he did take the photo of Isa. That he set her up.

  Instead, he warns in a low, threatening tone, "That's a pretty big threat for someone whose ass I've kicked a million times."

  "I'm not the same guy as I once was," I retort. "You couldn't shove me in a locker if you wanted to, and if you tried, I'd kick your ass."

  "Is everything okay?" Isa asks from right behind me.

  Shit. She wasn't supposed to hear this conversation.

  "I have to go," I tell Kyler. "See you on Friday." I hang up and turn around.

  "Yeah, everything's fine. I was just talking to my brother about some stuff." I assess her, noting the heartbroken look on her face and her bloodshot eyes. She's been crying. "Are you okay?"

  "I'm fine." She tentatively chews on her lip. "I came out here to tell you that you can come back in now."

  "Well, that's good." I force humor into my tone. "I was worried maybe you weren't going to let me, that you'd be glad to get rid of me, lock the door, and throw away the key."

  "I'd never be glad to get rid of you." She offers me the tiniest smile, and my heart skips a beat.

  Seriously, your heart skips a beat, Kai? What the heck is wrong with you?

  Her grin broadens as she reaches out and takes my hand. "So, I was thinking that maybe we could ..." Her gaze darts toward the parking lot, and her skin pales as her eyes widen. "Crap. The blue car's here."

  "What? Where?" I spin around, moving so swiftly I slip in the mud and nearly land on my ass. Thankfully, Isa has ahold of my hand and stops me from looking like a complete dumbass.

  "Over to the right," she hisses, clutching my hand. "Just a little way up the street in front of that abandoned brick house. At least, I'm pretty sure it's the same car. I'd have to see the back window to be sure. The one that's been following me has a Superman sticker there. Maybe I can go check. It doesn't look like anyone's in there."

  My eyes travel to the car, and I instinctively put my arm out and nudge her back behind me. "Go back inside the house and have your grandma call her detective friend."

  She grips the sleeve of my shirt. "Why? What're you going to do?"

  "I'm going to head around the back of the apartment and sneak around to the street," I say, shoving my phone into the back pocket of my jeans, "and see if I can get a plate number."

  "No." Her fingernails stab into my arm as she tries to haul me back into the house. "I'm not letting you do that. It could be dangerous."

  "Isa." I twist to face her, but she refuses to let go of my sleeve, and her arm ends up wedged between us. "We need to find out who it is."

  "I know that." Her eyes flicker in the direction of the car then back to me. "I'll go around back and check. This is my thing."

  "Like hell, I'm going to let you do that!" I latch on to the hem of her shirt. "You go inside and get the detective. I'll go get the plate number."

  "No. You go inside."


  "Kai, just stop--"

  I crash my lips onto hers, silencing her. She moans, and good God, I want nothing more than to stay. But I need to get that plate number. So, before she even has a chance to react, I pull back and run like hell for the back of the apartment.

  "Kai!" she yells. "Stop! Oh, my God, you're so stubborn!"

  I keep running, my boots kicking up mud as I round the side of the two-story apartment and hop over the fence that separates the apartment from the road. A wall of tall grass lies on the other side, giving me the perfect spot to duck down.

  Hunkering down, I glance down the road at the brick house and then at the car. Not a single sign of anyone, but that makes me feel even more uneasy.

  Flattening the grass to the side, I poke my head out and spot the Superman sticker on the back window of the blue car. I hurriedly dig my phone out and squint at the license plate number as I inch my way out of the grass. But pause when someone wearing a creepy ass black and white mask barrels out from the back of the house. I expect them to run for the car, but instead, they race down toward the field to the side of the house and duck into apartment complex on the corner.


  Scratching my head, I start across the road, slowing down when I can make out the numbers on the license plate. I take a photo of it and then punch the numbers into my phone just to be on the safe side.

  "You're so going down, asshole," I say, punching in the last digit. "I can't wait to find--"

  The door swings open, and a thinly-haired man wearing a button-down collared shirt and slacks climbs out of the car. He has what looks like a Taser in his hand.

  I'd be scared except for the fact that he looks like he's about to piss his pants.

  "Look, I don't know what you're doing"--he marches toward me--"but I don't want any t
rouble. So, just erase my plate number from your phone, and everything will be cool."

  "Cool?" I give him a you've-got-to-be-shitting-me look as I put the phone into my back pocket. "You've been following around one of my best friends for weeks now. Things were not cool a long time ago."

  He aims the Taser at my arm. "Don't make me use this--"

  I swat the Taser out of his hand, and it flies across the street, landing in the tall grass. Then I cross my arms and arch my brow.

  "You were saying?"

  The guy backs away from me with his hands elevated in front of him. "Look, I don't want any trouble."

  I step toward him, giving him my best menacing look. "Then tell me why you've been following Isa around. And who the hell that person was wearing the mask."

  "Mask? I have no clue what you're talking about." He appears utterly baffled as he reaches for the door handle to bolt, but I stride forward and slam my hand against the door.

  He gulps, withdrawing his trembling hand from the door.

  "Fine. I've been following her around because that's what I was hired to do. But I don't know anything about a person wearing a mask."

  I'm unsure if I believe him about the mask part, but decide to focus on the other problem. "Who hired you to follow her around?"

  "Bella Larose."

  My lips part in shock. "What?"

  "Kai! What's going on?" Isa asks as she jogs across the street. She slows down as she nears us, her gaze bouncing between the guy and me. "Who's this?

  "I'm not sure yet." My gaze lands back on the dude. "He was just about to tell me."

  The guy looks back and forth between us then lowers his head in defeat. "I work for your mother's lawyer. I'm supposed to be randomly checking in on you to make sure you're okay. But you weren't supposed to know that. Or, well, your father isn't supposed to know, and she worried you might tell him."

  Isa's lips curl. "I don't tell my father much of anything." She sticks out her hand. "Can I see some proof that you are who you really say you are?"

  The man fumbles as he reaches inside his pocket and takes out his wallet. "My name is Garth Evertingson. I work for this law firm." He hands Isa a card. "You can call the number on there and check out my story if you want."

  I slant to the side and skim over the card. "I think he might be telling the truth," I whisper to Isa. "I recognize these names and numbers from some of the files."

  She traces her thumb over the card, looking back up at Garth. "You said you're working on my mom's case?"

  "Kind of." The man slips his wallet back into the pocket of his wrinkled slacks. "I'm more of an assistant. I was assigned to come out here and keep an eye on you."

  Isa chews on her lip, deliberating. "Why? Because Lynn's a suspect? Are they worried she might do something to me?"

  His eyes enlarge, and he scuffs his shoes against the asphalt as he jerks back. "Where did you ...? How did you ...? You aren't supposed to know ..." He collects himself, coughing into his hand. "Look, I don't know how much you know, but there are certain details of the case I can't discuss with you. And honestly, I don't really know that much. I'm kind of like an errand guy right now."

  "You mean, details like my stepmom being a suspect?" Isa asks, patting the card against her palm. "Or why you've been following me around?"

  He heaves a frustrated sigh. "If you really want to talk to someone about this, I'd suggest visiting your mom." He yanks open the car door. "I know she'd really like to talk to you. She's allowed to have visitors, but from what we've been told, you don't want to see her."

  Isa's hands curl into fists at her side. "That's a lie. I never even knew about any of this until a few weeks ago."

  "Really?" he asks, and she nods. "Well, I think Bella would really like to hear that. She was under the impression you never wanted to see her."

  "Probably because my dad told her that," Isa says flatly. "I'd say I was surprised, but I'm not."

  He gives her a sympathetic look. "Yeah, I've read the file on your father. He seems like a real piece of work."

  "He really is." Isa squints against the sunlight with a pucker at her brow. "My grandma's trying to set up a call with my mom. I don't know how she's going to do that, but maybe you guys could point her in the right direction."

  "Have her call that number on the card and talk to my boss." He ducks his head and slides into the driver's seat. "I have to go. I was supposed to be discreet about being here, so I would really appreciate it if this little conversation stayed between us."

  "So, you're going to stop following me, then?" Isa asks, folding the card in half.

  "Yep. Today was the last day I was supposed to be here. I was actually getting ready to head back to Virginia, but I thought I'd stop by before I hit the road." His attention shifts to me, his eyes narrowing. "And your punk-ass friend owes me a Taser." He moves to shut the door, but Isa rushes forward.

  "Wait. Just one more thing." She catches the door before he closes it. "I need to know if you think my mom's going to be acquitted."

  "I can't really say either way." He nudges her hand off the door. "But she has a decent chance, I think." Then he slams the door shut and peels down the road, kicking up a tornado of dirt.

  Isa coughs, fanning her hand in front of her face. "Okay, so that was unexpected. I really didn't think my mom's lawyer was going to be the one driving around in the car."

  "Definitely. Although, I think he might be more of an assistant to her lawyer. But I guess that's not really the point." I tear my attention from the road and focus on her. "So, your grandma's going to try to get you a call with your mom?"

  She bobs her head up and down, anxiety etched on her face. "Yeah, I'm kind of nervous about talking to her."

  "That's completely understandable." I take her hand. "Isa, I don't know if it was just a coincidence, but I saw someone running around here wearing a weird mask."

  "Really? That's super strange. And really creepy."

  "I know. And like I said, it could just be coincidental, especially with that abandoned house being right there. It's covered in graffiti and I've seen a few rough looking people go in and out of it. But I just want you to be extra careful."

  "I will. And I'll make sure to be extra careful if I see any creepers wearing masks." She smiles but her expression carries a nervous edge.

  Squeezing her hand, I pull her with me as I hike across the street. "Come on. Let's get you inside, get some sugar in you, and then we can talk about what's going on. I also want to check on this phone number and make sure that guy's story lines up right."

  "What? We can't do that without sugar?" she teases, but her worried tone misses the mark.

  I need to distract her from her worry. She's been doing way too much of it lately.

  "We can, but then I'd be risking you transforming into an angry little gremlin," I joke, bending down to scoop up the Taser from the grass.

  By the time I stand up again, she has a strange look on her flushed face, like she's half-scared out of her damn mind and half-bursting with excitement.

  "What's that look for?"

  She rubs her lips together. "It's nothing. It's just that ... I mean, I want to ..." She shakes her head then squares her shoulders and steps forward. Standing on her tiptoes, she places a soft kiss on my lips as she circles her arms around me. "I'm not saying it was the right thing to do, but thank you for chasing down that guy."

  She holds me for a little bit longer, and I bury my face into the crook of her neck, breathing in the scent of her perfume, which smells like cotton candy. So fitting.

  "And thank you for knowing that I need cookies and candy before having a deep conversation."

  My lips turn upward. "Anytime." I kiss her neck, gently sucking on her skin, and I am rewarded with a shiver. I meet her gaze, grinning like an idiot. "You know, you even taste like sugar."

  She rolls her eyes in protest. "I so do not."

  "You so do, too." I twine my fingers with hers and start walking back tow
ard the apartment. "You smell like cotton candy, your skin tastes like sugar cookies, and your lips taste like frosting."

  She snorts a laugh. "Oh, my God, is this how you normally try to impress girls?"

  "I'm just telling the truth," I say as we round the side of the apartment. "You're like a walking bag of sugar."

  "And you're like a walking bag of smooth talker." She laughs wickedly.

  I wink at her. "Only with you."

  Her head bobs back, and she lets out a groan. "Please tell me this isn't how things are going to be from now on."

  "They're not." I grin because she's smiling, and that was kind of the whole point of all of this. "They're going to get a lot worse. Now that you've let me kiss you, it's all I'm going to do." I gently squeeze her hand. "And things are only going to get worse when we really kiss."

  She elevates her head, her cheeks pink as her eyes instantly roam to my lips. I want to kiss her right now, and I mean really kiss her. But after what just happened with the lawyer and her mom and her still having the un-date with Kyler, I want to wait until she's ready. When I kiss her for the first time, I want it to mean something. I want her head to be clear and her heart to be fully in it.

  I want her to completely want it.

  Chapter 7


  Kai and I spend the rest of Sunday checking up on the info Garth gave us. Everything checks out; he does work for the law firm handling my mom's case, and she did ask if I could be checked on. But that's about all the information they divulge, especially over the phone.

  Kai has a theory, though, that maybe there's more to the story than the lawyer is telling us. And he seems a little worried about the unknown masked person. I am a bit too--I mean, talk about straight out of a horror movie--but all I can do is keep my eyes peeled for any wannabee horror flick stars. Plus, I have a ton of other things to worry about that are right in front of me.

  "I wonder why your mom would think you needed checking up on," Kai says after he gets off the phone. "And why this Garth guy would follow you around for over a week. It doesn't make any sense."

  "Maybe it took him a week to figure out if I was okay," I offer, stretching my arms and legs out. "It's probably pretty hard to find out a lot about someone by watching them from a distance."