Shimmering chaos, p.7
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       Shimmering Chaos, p.7

           Jessica Sorensen
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  “Are you saying you’re shy?”

  “I don’t know … A lot of people say I am, but personally, I just think I’m quiet.” I pause. “I’ve always kind of sucked at socializing.”

  “Any particular reason why?”

  “What do you mean?”

  He opens a drawer and collects a spoon. “Sometimes when people have trouble socializing, it’s because of a bad, perhaps even traumatic, experience.” He shovels a spoonful of spaghetti onto the plate.

  “Are you a psych major?” I question, opening the lid on the container with the garlic bread.

  He chuckles as he piles more spaghetti onto the plate. “Actually, I’m not in college. But I do get that a lot, probably because I’m a know-it-all.” He winks at me then picks up a piece of garlic bread, puts it onto the plate, and then places the plate in the microwave.

  I realize that, whether intentional or not, he just made dinner for me.

  “I could’ve heated that up myself.”

  “It was just as easy for me to do it.” He closes the microwave then pushes some buttons.

  And he says I’m stubborn. Clearly, he’s just as bad.

  Sighing, I plop down on a barstool. “So, if you’re not in college, what do you do?”

  From the other side of the island, he rests his arms on top of the counter, his eyes glistening mischievously. “What if I told you absolutely nothing? Would you think less of me?”

  “No, but I do think that sounds sort of boring.” I cross my arms on top of the counter. “But I’m guessing you’re lying to me.”

  His eyes twinkle again. “And why’s that?”

  “Because of that little twinkle in your eye.” I point at his face.

  He struggles not to grin. “What twinkle?”

  I roll my eyes. “Like you don’t already know.”

  “Maybe I don’t,” he teases. “Perhaps you’re the first person to ever point that out to me.”

  “I highly doubt that.” The lightness in my voice is a bit unfamiliar, but talking to Max is surprisingly easy. “I have a feeling you have that twinkle in your eyes a lot.”

  “And I have a feeling you’re going to be a very amusing addition to this household.” He pushes back from the counter as the microwave beeps. “For the record, though, you’re right. I don’t just sit around and do nothing.” He removes the plate from the microwave and sets it down in front of me, along with a fork. “I have a job.”

  I twirl the noodles around my fork. “What do you do?”

  “Hmm …” He leans back against the counter behind him and rubs his jawline. “I think I won’t tell you yet.”

  “Why?” A teasing grin touches my lips. “Are you, like, a secret agent or something?” I’m only kidding, but when he doesn’t answer right away, I have to wonder. “Wait. Are you?”

  He shakes his head, strands of his hair falling into his eyes. “Nah, I’m way too rebellious to work for the police. Not to mention, I’d get bored.”

  I’m about to point out that a secret agent doesn’t seem like a boring job when a loud shriek echoes across the house. Max’s body immediately stiffens.

  “Stay right here, okay?” he says as he hurries toward the door.

  “Why? What was that?” I hiss, clutching my fork.

  “Just stay here.” He rushes out of the room, the door swinging shut behind him.

  As another shriek ripples through the air, I retrieve my phone from my pocket and tap open the group message.

  Me: Okay, shit’s getting crazy here. Now I hear screaming! And Max, one of the guys who lives here, just told me to stay in the kitchen, then ran out in the direction of the screaming.

  Gage: Holy shit, dude. Maybe you should, I don’t know, like leave or something.

  Nina: Or call the effing police! What the hell? First eyeballs in the fridge and then screaming?

  Me: I also overheard them whispering about how they’re worried I’ll find out their secrets. This family is weird. I mean, the mom and dad seem nice, and Max is okay, but Porter seemed weird, and Foster and Easton are asshats. They made me think the attic was my room!

  Nina: Jerks. I knew they were gonna be like that, though. They’re totally Greys.

  Me: Yeah, I think so, too. Man, guys, this sucks. I already miss home, and it hasn’t even been twenty-four hours yet.

  Nina: We miss you, too, and we’re really worried.

  Gage: Has the screaming stopped yet? Do you know what it was?

  I glance up, realizing the house is silent now. Eerily silent, as if no one lives here.

  Me: Yeah, it stopped. I’m still not even sure what it was, though.

  Gage: Makes me really wonder what kind of eyeballs those are in the fridge.

  Nina: Gage, why would you say that! She’s already freaking out!

  Me: I’m not freaking out. I’m just … uneasy. Maybe I’m being paranoid, though.

  Nina: No fucking way. If I found eyeballs in the fridge and heard screaming, I’d have bolted by now.

  Me: Oh, trust me, I want to.

  “Hey.” Emaline pops her head into the room, smiles at me, and then walks all the way in.

  Me: Gotta go. Someone just walked in. TTYL.

  Nina: You better. Seriously, I’m worried.

  Gage: Please be careful …

  “Are you talking to your friends?” she asks as she makes her way into the kitchen.

  I nod, stuffing my phone back into my pocket. “Yeah. I was just telling them I got here safely.” A lie, but I’m not about to confess what I was really talking about.

  “They must be good friends if they’re worried about your safety.” She walks up to me and folds her arms. “I just want you to know that, while there’s a lot of chaos in this house, you’re still safe with us. And if you have any questions at all, please ask. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.” She places her hand on mine. “I’ve always wanted a daughter, and while I know I can never replace your mom, I’d like us to be friends.”

  “Okay … I do have one question.” Well, one that I’m daring to ask. “What was that shrieking I heard earlier?”

  At first, she appears clueless, but then recognition lights up her eyes, and she chuckles. “That was Easton.”

  “Is he okay?”

  She gives my hand a squeeze. “While my boys love to pull pranks on people, they don’t handle it well when they’re on the receiving end.” A wary look crosses her face. “Do me a favor? Lock your bedroom door tonight, okay? While I’d like to believe my boys won’t try to prank you, there’s always a tiny chance they’ll try.”

  “Okay.” I eye her over, questioning if she’s being serious.

  She sure looks like she is, and that makes my worry skyrocket.

  So, I have to lock the door when I’m sleeping. Yeah, if I wasn’t already uneasy about living here, I sure as hell am now.

  Chapter 11

  That night, after I change into my pajamas, I slip into bed with the door locked. My belly is full of yummy spaghetti and garlic bread, and the mattress is more comfortable than any I’ve ever slept on. Maybe that’s why the sky is so content, just stars and moonlight twinkling against the darkness.

  Even though I had a pretty long nap today, my eyelids feel extremely heavy. I’m so close to dozing off when I hear voices just outside my window.

  Confused, I climb out of bed, pad over to the window nook, and peer outside. The view from my bedroom is directly into the backyard, which is acres and acres of land that stretches toward a thick forest. And hurrying across the land toward the trees are three figures, one significantly taller than the other two, although all appear on the taller side. And all are wearing hoods pulled over their heads, as if they’re trying to keep their identities concealed.

  I start to back away, worried they’re thieves or something, when one of the figures comes to a stop and turns to look at me.

  Bright, glowing, green eyes collide with mine.


  Sleep …

  That’s the last thing I remember before darkness overcomes me.

  Have you ever woken up feeling as though you have a hangover, yet you never drank the night before? Well, that’s about how I feel the next morning when my eyes blink open.

  It takes me a second to get my bearings, to remember that I moved in with the Everettsons. Then, a second later, my head begins to throb.

  “God, I feel like shit,” I mumble, rolling onto my side and retrieving my phone off the nightstand. When I note the time, I wonder if I somehow did get drunk last night and just don’t remember.

  “Two thirty in the fucking afternoon? How did I sleep so late?” I rub my eyes and blink a couple of times, attempting to clear some of the disorientation from my mind.

  It takes a couple of minutes before I have a clear enough head to get out of bed. Then I grab a pair of black pants and a grey tank top before heading toward the bathroom to take a shower.

  Emaline showed me which bathroom was mine last night. And I mean mine in the literal sense. Apparently, there are enough bathrooms in this house to go around, so I get my very own. I’ve never had my own bathroom, so it’s a bit weird, but I’m pretty grateful I don’t have to share with any of the Everettson brothers.

  After I shower, get dressed, and comb my hair, I make my way downstairs to get some breakfast. By the time I make it to the main floor, I begin to wonder if perhaps no one is home. When I push into the kitchen, I realize my assumption is correct.

  Taped on the front of the fridge is a note:

  Hey Sky!

  Just wanted to let you know that we’ll be gone for most of the day for a baseball tournament (I think Gabe mentioned it yesterday). Help yourself to whatever you need, and if you’d like Charlotte to make you some lunch, just push the buzzer near the fridge. You can also wander around and get familiar with the house. Just steer clear of the basement because we’re having issues with mice. There’s a pool out back in the garden room if you’d like to go for a swim.

  If you need to get ahold of any of us, there’s a list of all our numbers in the note section on the iPad on the counter, along with the passcode to the house alarm in case you need to set it. If you wouldn’t mind adding your phone number to the list, that’d be fantastic. That way, we can get ahold of you, too.

  We won’t be home until late this evening. If you’re not awake by then, know that we’ll be leaving for school around seven thirty tomorrow morning. I’ll drive you tomorrow so we can talk to the principal and whatnot. After that, you can ride with Easton and Foster, who have assured me that they’ll show you the ropes of Farealee Land Academy.

  And if you need anything at all, just let me know! That’s what I’m here for!

  — Emaline

  Crap, somewhere between the madness and moving, I completely forgot that I’ll be attending a new school. And an academy apparently. Not that I’m even sure what the difference is between one and a public school. Still, it makes me nervous.

  “Please say you’re here for me,” a succulent voice sails over my shoulder, startling me so badly I nearly jolt out of my skin.

  Whirling around, I find a tall, lean guy with short brown hair standing near the door. He’s wearing a long-sleeved, grey shirt with the sleeves rolled up, black pants, thick boots, and his intense golden eyes are meticulously skimming over me.

  “Um …” I shift my weight, scratching at my arm.

  The edges of his lips kick up into a grin. “You might be the best present I’ve gotten yet.”

  I blink. “Huh?”

  He grins, his lips parting. “I think I—”

  The door behind him swings open and in walks a guy who looks like the other guy’s doppelganger. The only visible difference I can see is their outfits; the guy who entered sporting a navy blue, long-sleeved shirt instead of a grey one, and he has on jeans and Converse sneakers.

  So, these are the identical twins.

  “Hey, Hunter, what do you think about …?” He trails off as his gaze finds mine. “What is this?” he asks, deliberately scanning me over in confusion.

  “I think Max got us an early birthday present,” the other guy—Hunter—sucks his lip between his teeth. “He did good this year. Way better than last year.”

  Holden’s brows dip and I notice the scar Gabe was talking about. “Are you sure that’s what she is? She’s unreadable.”

  Hunter tips his head to the side as he assesses me. “Yeah, I didn’t notice that before, but she is, isn’t she?”

  Holden nods then asks me, “What are you?”

  Puzzlement webs through my mind. What am I? Doesn’t he mean who?

  I cross my arms over my chest. “I’m Skylin.”

  Holden’s lips form an O.

  “My, my, when Mom and Dad told us they’d be taking in someone as a favor to an old friend, I didn’t expect this,” Hunter says with a grin.

  “Careful, Hunt.” A warning seeps into Holden’s tone as he throws a sharp look at his brother. After staring down a grinning Hunter for the most awkwardly silent minute ever, Holden sighs then focuses on me. “Hey.” He steps toward me with his hand outstretched. “I’m Holden, and this”—he nods at the other guy—“is Hunter. I’m sorry for being weird. We were just a little bit confused … We thought you weren’t going to be here until tomorrow.”

  I guess that sort of explains their confusion, but I still don’t understand what they meant when they said I was unreadable. And Max said something similar to me last night.

  “It’s nice to meet you.” I shake his hand, getting distracted by the sparkly warmth flowing up my arm.

  Through the skylight above, the sunlight suddenly seems brighter.

  What the hell?

  Holden casts a glance upward, his brows knitting, but then he returns his gaze to me and a smile graces his lips. “I know the circumstance of you having to stay with us isn’t great, but I just want you to know that we’re glad to have you here.”

  Thank God. He’s actually nice.


  A bit of relief douses over me until Hunter steps forward, snatches my hand from Holden, and kisses my knuckles.

  “Tu mi, sint satis est splendidis stellis.”

  “Oh, for the love of gods,” Holden groans. “Sky, just ignore him.”

  “Since I have no fucking clue what he said, that’s pretty doable,” I say, eliciting a chuckle from them both.

  “She’s cute,” Hunter says to Holden. “Can I keep her?”

  Cute? No guy has ever called me cute. Well, except for Gage, but he doesn’t count.

  My cheeks flood with heat.

  Shit. Am I blushing?

  Hunter grins. “Yeah, I’m definitely keeping her.”

  Holden heaves a sigh. “Hunt, you can’t keep her.” He looks at me. “Sorry, he doesn’t come with a filter. You get used to it, though. Or, well, you learn to just ignore it.”

  I nod, my skin growing hotter as Hunter’s gaze continues to devour me.

  A phone buzzes from somewhere, but Hunter’s eyes never waver from me, even when he sticks his hand into his pocket and pulls out his phone. Holden does the same thing, and I let a gradual breath ease past my lips as they both focus on their phones.

  “Shit, we’re late,” Holden mutters then stuffs his phone back into his pocket. “We need to get out there.”

  “Nah, I think I might skip this … tournament,” Hunter replies, giving me a strange look that I can’t quite decipher. “I’ll stay here and keep Skylin company.”

  “No, you won’t.” Holden elbows his brother in the side, causing Hunter to blast him with a dirty look. “You need to be part of this tournament. You’re way out of practice.”

  Hunter rolls his eyes but backs toward the door. “Sky, it was a pleasure meeting you. We’ll have to do something together soon. Something fun that’ll make you blush again.” He winks at me then pushes through the doors.

  Holden blows out an exhausted exhale then shakes his head. “It really was nice mee
ting you, and I hate to take off like this when we haven’t even properly met, but this tournament is really important.”

  “I totally understand,” I say, waving him off.

  He wavers, chewing on his bottom lip. “Maybe I could show you around town tomorrow night and show you where all the good places to eat are and the places to avoid.”

  “I’d like that.” And I mean it. Holden seems nice, and I’d really like to look around town and see if anyone’s hiring.

  “Awesome.” He smiles then pushes out the door.

  The sparkly warmth that was flowing up my arm instantly fizzles, leaving me to wonder what caused it to begin with.

  Maybe it’s a new, little trait to my abilities?

  Frowning at the idea that my abilities could be growing, I turn toward the fridge to get something to eat, but pause when I glance out the window and spot Hunter and Holden hiking across the field out back.

  I squint against the sunlight as I lean toward the window. Is the tournament out there somewhere? That’d be kind of weird, though, since there isn’t much out there except a forest.

  My suspicions only grow when Holden and Hunter reach the border of the trees. As they’re about to slip into forest, they glance back at the house the lift their hands in front of them. The air ripples like water, making the trees sway and the sunlight flicker. Then they lower their hands and step forward into the trees.

  My jaw just about smacks the floor.

  What the heck did I just see? Because it almost looked like they walked through … well, like a portal or something.

  Backing away from the window, I massage my temples.

  I’m losing my damn mind. What I saw couldn’t be real.

  But as panic sets in and the sky abruptly shadows with clouds, I’m reminded of the strange occurrences that I see every day. Maybe other strange things exist out there, too. Maybe the Everettsons are strange.

  They sure as hell seem like it.

  Sucking in a breath, I leave the kitchen. Later, looking back to that moment, I’ll wonder what on earth compelled me to do it. Maybe it was the simple fact that I was tired and emotionally drained. Or maybe it was something more than that. A feeling. A whisper begging me to go see.

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