Shimmering chaos, p.6
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       Shimmering Chaos, p.6

           Jessica Sorensen
 
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  With everything that’s happened over the last handful of hours, I’m not sure if I trust him. Sure, he seems nice enough, albeit a bit weird. Then again, so am I …

  What do I really have to lose at this point? Besides, anything’s better than sleeping in an attic, right?

  I sure hope so.

  I will my lips to turn upward. “Sure.”

  He smiles then offers me his hand.

  Seriously, he wants me to take his hand? Half of me really wants to, mainly for the sole reason that I’ve never held a guy’s hand, let alone a guy this gorgeous. But the other half of me worries this is all a prank.

  “Relax. I already said I’m not going to bite,” Max assures me then slips his fingers through mine and tugs me down the last step.

  Easton and Foster trade a look, and then Easton rolls his eyes.

  Max ignores them, steering me in front of the shut door. I reach for the doorknob with my free hand, but Max stops me, placing his hand over mine.

  “Before you go in,” he says, “I want to ask, if you could have your dream room, what would it look like?”

  I shrug. “I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about it.”

  He wets his pierced lips with his tongue, amusement dancing in his eyes. “Humor me, okay, and just try to picture it.”

  I cast a sidelong glance at Easton and Foster and find their eyes hold the same amusement.

  Great. This has to be a prank.

  For a flash of a second, an image of my dream room materializes in my mind. Black and purple walls, a massive four-poster bed enclosed by curtains, a gothic chandelier, and a couple of dressers.

  “What does it look like?” Max asks, observing me curiously.

  “I don’t know,” I lie, not wanting to give them any sort of ammunition. “I like purple and black, so maybe something with those colors.” I leave it at that.

  “Really?” A smile lights up Max’s face. “That’s so weird, because everything in this room is pretty much black or purple.” He pushes open the door and gestures for me to look.

  As I tentatively step in, I half-expect the room to be painted in bright-ass orange or something, but nope. Almost everything from the walls to the bed to the chandelier is either a deep purple or a shimmering black. The room is huge, too; almost as big as my old living room and bedroom combined.

  “Wow,” I mutter as I turn in a circle, taking in the lavender curtains enclosing the bed and the ebony ceiling that shimmers like stars. “This is …” I glance at Max. “Are you sure this is where I’m supposed to be staying?”

  Max points at the boxes piled near the closet—my boxes. “I’m sure.” He crosses his arms and props his shoulder against the doorjamb. “Please don’t let what happened with my brothers affect you too much. I promise my family isn’t a bunch of douchebags. We’re all pretty nice. Foster and Easton are just …” He wavers, tilting his head from side to side.

  “Assholes,” I offer.

  He laughs softly. “I was going to go with spoiled brats, but assholes works, too.” He nibbles on his lip, his eyes scanning up and down my body.

  If I didn’t know any better, I’d wonder if he was checking me out. But I do know better. I know there’s no way this gorgeous guy could be checking me out.

  “Do you want me to show you where the kitchen is?” he asks. “You’ve got to be starving.”

  I nod. “Yeah, actually. That’d be great.”

  His lips turn upward, then he nods as he retreats back into the hallway.

  Foster and Easton are no longer lurking around, something I’m grateful for.

  “I really am sorry for what my brothers did to you,” Max says as we walk down the hallway. “Give them some time, though, and I’m sure they’ll warm up to you.”

  “It’s fine if they don’t,” I say. When he gives me a perplexed look, I add, “It’s not like I’m going to be here for very long. I turn eighteen in six months.”

  His brows furrow. “And then what?”

  I lift a shoulder. “And then I move out.”

  He combs strands of his hair out of his eyes with his fingers. “But, where will you go?”

  I shrug again. “College maybe. I might do a road trip with my friends.” I scratch my arm. “I actually really need to get a job so I can save up some cash. This town looks really small, though.”

  “It is really small. And the people here are really wary about hiring newbies,” he says. There’s that word again … “If you want a job, you’re probably going to have to look in Star Grove.”

  “How far is that?”

  “About forty minutes from here.”

  I let out a weighted sigh. “Is there a bus that goes there?”

  He chuckles, shaking his head. “Nope. The only form of transportation here is by your own car. Or, in my case, a motorcycle.”

  “Oh.” I crinkle my nose.

  “If you need a ride somewhere, I’m sure one of us can give you one.” He slows to a stop in front of a shut door and lifts his hand to knock. “Or you can just borrow one of my dad’s many, many cars.”

  Yeah right. I’m nowhere near comfortable asking to borrow a vehicle. I’m just going to have to figure out another way or beg for someone to hire me here.

  “He won’t mind,” Max insists, knocking on the door. “My dad’s a nice guy.”

  “Yeah, he seems like it,” I agree, but that still doesn’t mean I’m going to ask to borrow his car.

  Smiling, he leans closer to the door. “Hey, Mom, I got Skylin out of her room. I’m going to take her down to the kitchen to get her something to eat.”

  “Oh, thank goodness,” Emaline says breathlessly. I hear a couple of loud crashes, and then the door is cracked open and she peers out.

  Her hair is a wild mess, her cheeks are flushed, and her breaths are coming out in a rush.

  My mom once opened her bedroom door like that and looked the same way. I think it was because her and my dad were having sex.

  My discomfort goes from a ten to an eleven hundred.

  An ounce of relief washes over her face as she sees me. “Skylin, honey, I am so sorry for whatever happened. Rest assured, though, all my children are going to be extremely nice to you from now on.”

  I nod, even though I highly doubt that’s going to be the case. But I’m not about to protest because, for one, I’m a guest in this house; and two, I’m pretty certain she was just in the middle of having sex with Gabe and I want this conversation to end as quickly as possible.

  She smiles at me, but when her gaze glides to Max, her lips sink. “Can you do me a favor? After you show Skylin where the kitchen is, can you run out to the garage and get me that box we picked up the other day.”

  Max tenses. “You need that right now?”

  Emaline nods, pressing him with a look of urgency. “It’s kind of an emergency.”

  Max bobs his head up and down, worry masking his features. “Yeah, give me a second.”

  “Just try to hurry—” Emaline winces. “Please.”

  With a brisk nod, Max spins on his heels and hightails it down the hallway.

  As Emaline shuts the door, I rush after him.

  “Is everything okay?” I ask, practically jogging to keep up with his long strides.

  He nods as he trots down the stairs. “Yeah, I just need to hurry and get that box up to my mom before she … has a fit.”

  Emaline doesn’t really seem like the type to have a fit over something so trivial, but I’ve only known her for a day and I barely know Max, so I opt to keep my thoughts to myself.

  Max seems content with my silence as he rushes through the house, hurrying across the foyer and through a door located at the back of the house. He motions me inside then flips on a light, revealing a spacious kitchen with marble countertops and stainless-steel appliances.

  “Just wait right here,” he says in a rush. “I’ll get my mom’s box then have Charlotte come in and make you something to eat.”

  “I can fi
x something myself …” My words fade as he dashes out of the room.

  Wrapping my arms around myself, I make my way across the kitchen, heading for the fridge. I feel weird just going through their food, but I feel even weirder about the idea of someone cooking something just for me.

  When I open the fridge, though, I immediately regret my decision.

  “What on earth …?” My eyes widen at the glass jars covering the shelves, each filled with oddly textured substances, like glittering purple liquid, oozing green cream, and … Wait. Is that a jar of …? “Eyeballs? Oh, my God.” I slap my hand over my mouth as I slam the fridge shut, breathing profusely and fighting back the urge to vomit.

  Once I get myself calmed the hell down, I dig my phone out of my pocket and send Nina and Gage a group text.

  Me: So, is there any reason in particular why someone would keep a jar of eyeballs in their fridge?

  Nina: Oh, my God, please don’t tell me your new parentals have eyeballs in their fridge!

  Me: I could tell you that, but I’d be lying.

  Nina: Gah! So gross! What a bunch of freaks! The bodies those eyeballs belong to are probably buried in the basement or something.

  My gaze instinctively drops to the floor as images of what Nina said flood my thoughts. Then the vibration of my phone pulls me back to reality.

  Gage: Will you chill out? They probably just have them in there to eat.

  Me: And that’s better because …?

  Gage: Well, it’s gross, for sure, but in some cultures, eyeballs are a delicacy. Well, animal eyeballs are anyway. I’m hoping you’re not talking about human eyeballs.

  Me: I’m not sure. I barely got a look at them before I nearly puked.

  Nina: Maybe you better check.

  Me: No thanks.

  Nina: Sky! You have to look! If they have human eyes in their fridge, then they’re probably murderers and you won’t have to live with them anymore.

  Me: Yeah, probably, because they’ll kill me.

  Nina: I’m sure they won’t …

  Yeah, the ellipsis at the end of her message is making me feel super great right now.

  Gage: Sky, don’t listen to her. I’m sure they’re just animal eyeballs. But just for peace of mind, you should look.

  Me: How am I even supposed to tell if they’re human?

  Gage: Animals will probably be rounder.

  Me: What are you? An animal eyeball expert?

  Gage: I’m an expert of everything. I thought you knew that already. ;)

  A small smile forms on my lips but promptly fizzles when I look back at the fridge.

  “Gage is probably right. They’re just animal eyeballs,” I mumble as I wrap my fingers around the handle of the fridge and pull the door open—

  “What’re you doing?” a low voice asks from behind me.

  “Fucking hell.” I reel around, startled, and press my hand to my chest.

  The instant my eyes find the owner of the voice, my pulse speeds even more, and thunder grumbles from outside. I’m not even positive why my heart rate spikes, other than this guy is shockingly pretty in a way that I thought only existed in fairy tales or some shit like that.

  Short, blond hair; full, pierced lips; and lavender eyes a similar shade to Emaline’s. He’s also tall and lean, and his skin is heavily inked with similar tattoos as Max’s.

  Good Lord, are all the Everettsons gorgeous? And, why are all their eye colors so vibrant? It makes all other eyes I’ve ever seen seem dull.

  He cocks his head to the side as his gaze sweeps up my body. Then his lips spread into a grin that I can’t tell for sure if it’s friendly or malicious.

  “You must be Skylin.”

  I nod, shifting my weight. “Yeah.”

  His grin magnifies. “I’m Porter.”

  “Oh.” I relax a smidgeon. “You’re the oldest, right?”

  He musingly smiles for some reason. “Yeah, I guess I am.” He studies me for a thunder boom of a second before gracefully rounding the island and coming to a stop in front of me. “So, what exactly were you doing in there?” He nods at the fridge without taking his eyes off me.

  “Um …” I’m finding it really hard to concentrate. “I was just going to make myself something to eat.”

  “But something scared you, right?”

  How the hell did he know?

  “I’m guessing it was the eyeballs,” he says with a grin.

  I bob my head up and down. “I’ve just never seen eyeballs in a fridge before … or out of a head …”

  He chuckles. “Most people haven’t.”

  “So … why do you have a jar full of them in your fridge?”

  Wetting his lips with his tongue, he reaches for me—or, at least I think he’s reaching for me—but then he places his hand against the shut door of the fridge so his arm’s resting right beside my head.

  “What would you say if I told you they were in there because I like to occasionally eat them?” he asks amusedly.

  Wait … Did he somehow see the conversation I was having with Nina and Gage? No, there’s no way.

  “Um, I’d say … cool?” It comes out more of a question.

  He studies me intently with his head tilted to the side, then a chuckle slips from his lips. “Cool, huh? That’s the only reaction I get?”

  “What do you want me to do?” I wonder, my heart thumping in my chest for some crazy-ass reason.

  He bites down on his bottom lip hard. “That, honey, is a very dangerous question.” He tucks a strand of my hair behind my ear, his eyes fixed on my mouth as he …

  Wait … Is he purring?

  “Porter, what’re you doing?” The sound of Max’s voice makes the haziness that’s clouding my mind dissolve.

  I blink, realizing how loudly I’m breathing and how hard my heart is knocking against my chest.

  Porter rubs his lips together, his gaze briefly descending to my lips before he pushes away from me. “I was just introducing myself to our new, adorable houseguest.” When he glances at Max, Max quirks an eyebrow. “What?” Porter says innocently, but the grin on his face suggests he’s anything but innocent.

  I just wish I knew why.

  These guys are odd. For reals, I feel like I’ve just moved in with the Addams Family or something.

  “Fine, I’ll back off,” Porter says through a laugh. Then he turns to me and lightly tugs on a strand of my hair. “If you want something to eat besides eyeballs, there’s another fridge in the pantry.”

  I’m still not certain if he’s joking about eating the eyeballs, and the confusion on my face only makes his amusement double.

  Grinning, he strolls away, lightly nudging his shoulder against Max’s as he passes. Max responds with a shake of his head and a small crack of a smile.

  Once Porter has exited the kitchen, Max focuses on me. “The fridge behind you? That’s where we keep Holden and Hunter’s science experiment stuff.”

  “They need eyeballs for experiments?”

  “They’re … science majors,” he says as if that explains everything.

  Maybe it does. I’m not too into science, so I’m not an expert. It seems weird to me, though, to keep eyeballs in the fridge. And what was all that other stuff in there?

  “Okay … Sorry I got into it.” I feel the need to apologize.

  He relaxes, a smile breaking out across his face. “You don’t need to apologize. You’re welcome to anything in this house. I’d just recommend staying out of that fridge. The stuff Hunter and Holden store in there can be sort of …”

  “Vomit-inducing?” I suggest.

  He chuckles. “Yeah, probably to most people.” He assesses me briefly before signaling for me to follow him as he enters an alcove. “This is where we keep the more edible stuff.” He points at a fridge tucked into the corner. “You can get whatever you want out of it, but Charlotte will be more than happy to make you something whenever.” He slants against the fridge and crosses his arms. “She’s an excellent cook.


  “Thanks for the offer,” I say, “but I’m not really used to people cooking for me. In fact, I’ve been cooking for myself since I was about five or six.”

  His expression plummets. “Please tell me it was all microwaveable stuff.”

  I shake my head. “But it’s not that big of a deal. My parents taught me how to use the stove before they started letting me cook with it.” The frown remains on my face, and my defenses go up. “My parents were—are good people,” I state defensively. “They just like to go out a lot, so I needed to learn how to cook for myself or I’d have ended up living off PB&J sandwiches, which are yummy and everything, but not really a good source for dinner.”

  His lips tug into an artificial smile. “Well, if you want to cook for yourself, that’s fine. But promise me you’ll at least let Charlotte cook for you one time, preferably dinner.” He smiles for real this time. “She makes some killer pesto pasta and potatoes.”

  “All right,” I say. “That sounds doable, I guess.”

  He’s all amusement again as he moves away from the fridge and opens the door. “There are some leftovers in here from dinner if you want me to heat them up. It’s spaghetti and meatballs and some garlic bread.” He pulls out a couple of Tupperware containers.

  “I can heat them up.” I take them from him.

  He sighs, shaking his head. “You’re stubborn, aren’t you?”

  I crinkle my nose. “Am I? I mean, I know my friend Nina always says I am, but she’s stubborn, too, so I can never trust her opinion.”

  “You are a little bit.” He nudges me back into the kitchen then walks over and opens a cupboard above the sink and takes out a plate. “It’s probably a good thing. Us Everettsons are known for our stubbornness, and if you were too much of a pushover, we’d probably end up walking all over you.” He sets the plate down then takes the containers with the spaghetti from me, popping open the lid. “You should probably push back the most with Foster and Easton. They’re the most likely to stomp all over you if you let them. Like with the attic thing. When they told you that was your room, you should’ve told them to go fuck themselves.”

  “I may have if they were one of my friends or maybe even my mom or dad, but …” I dither, chewing on my bottom lip. “I’m not as stubborn and pushy with people I don’t know very well.”

 
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