Chasing Hadley, Page 9Jessica Sorensen
“I can’t believe they stuck it out today,” she mumbles after we get into the car.
I slip the keys into the ignition and start up the engine. “I know you might not want to hear this, but eventually you’re going to have to go to school. And I’d prefer for that to be sooner than later.” I shift into reverse. “And I don’t like the idea of you being home alone if dad’s going to be burying bags in the backyard.”
She fastens her seatbelt. “What do you think was in it?”
I shrug as I steer down the road. “Drug money? Drugs? When it comes to him, nothing surprises me anymore.”
Her eyes widen. “You think dad’s doing drugs?”
Maybe, but she doesn’t need to know that.
“I’m sure he’s not,” I reply evasively. “Maybe what’s in the bag has something to do with his work?” My naïve words are more of an attempt to alleviate her worry than anything else.
She crooks a brow. “What sort of a job requires an employee to bury duffel bags in their backyard?”
“I don’t know.”
She stares at me accusingly. “You don’t know? Or you don’t want to say?”
While I have no clue what my dad is doing for work, or if he even really has a job, if he’s burying duffel bags in the backyard at three o’clock in the afternoon, I’m sure it’s not a good job. But telling her this will only make her worry and she already has her own issues she’s dealing with right now.
I internally breathe in relief when we turn into the parking lot of the school, latching on to the distraction. “Do you see them anywhere?”
She sits up and scans the parking area for our sisters. Since we’re late, most of the cars have thinned out.
“Um, Hadley?” Worry rings in Payton’s tone.
I track her gaze and quickly figure out why.
Parked near the front entrance is the Porterson’s SUV. And standing beside it is Alex and Jaxon along with Londyn and Bailey. And man, do they look pissed off.
“Shit.” I pull my car up behind their SUV, silence the engine, and hop out.
“So you’re saying what was on the flyers wasn’t true?” Alex is saying—or more like taunting—as I approach them.
“I’m pretty sure you already know it is,” Londyn bites out, stepping toward him. “Since you and your brothers are the ones who put them up.”
Alex grins. “Then why are we even talking about this? I mean, if you know we did it and the flyers are true?”
Londyn’s arms lower to her sides, her hands clenched into fists. “Because you guys shouldn’t have done it!”
Her voice echoes across the parking lot and Bailey’s eyes widen. So do mine.
Never have I seen Londyn get so upset, at least in public.
“Is there a problem?” I interrupt, strolling up and getting in Alex’s personal space, totally on purpose.
He’s tall—all of the Porterson brothers are—and even at my five foot nine, I have to angle my chin up to meet his gaze, which is annoying.
His narrowed eyes land on me. “Yeah, you’re sister here,” he nods at Londyn. “Needs to learn her place.”
I raise my brows. “And what place would that be?”
His gaze dances back and forth between us, a smile playing at his lips. But beneath the arrogance I detect the slightest bit of uncertainty. Not sure why, but I’d love to find out. Find out why these guys are so dead set on pissing me and my sisters off. Although, Jaxon doesn’t seem to be part of the battle, as he stands a ways back, his shoulders slumped, his mouth set in a deep frown. But just because he’s a bystander doesn’t make him any better.
“The place where she realizes who owns this town.” Alex slants into my face, his smirk appearing.
I refuse to cower back, holding my ground. “I’m pretty sure that’s the mayor.”
He laughs and rolls his eyes. “You’re so fucking clueless.”
“And you’re a dickless jerk.” I snap. “And a hypocrite.”
A crease forms between his brows. “How the hell am I a hypocrite?”
I inch closer to him, getting in his face like he did mine. “You and your brothers posted all those flyers around school that told everyone about mine and my sisters shady background, as if we’re these horrible criminals. And yet, your family’s track record with the police is just as shady as ours.” I point a finger at him. “In fact, yours is probably the worst.” I put on a smile, but it’s anything but friendly. “Maybe we should even the playing grounds and let everyone in school know you’re family is right up there with us.”
He laughs hollowly. “Like I give a shit. Everyone already knows anyway. And even if it was new information, no one would dare do anything to us. People respect us too much around here.”
I lift a brow. “Do they respect you? Or are they afraid of you?”
His lips span to a smirk. “Isn’t fear and respect the same thing?”
What a misconstrued logic he has. “If you really believe that, then I kind of pity you.”
Irritation flashes in his eyes and I realize I hit a sore subject. Good. I hope he’s annoyed. Frustrated beyond belief.
His voice descends a notch. “Maybe you need to learn your place in this town too.”
“I already know it,” I smart back. “It’s right here, handing your ass to you, dude.”
A muscle in his jaw spasms as his lips part. Who knows what foul words he would’ve thrown in my face if Rhyland and Blaise didn’t walk up at that precise moment.
“What’s going on?” Blaise halts to the side of us, his gaze shifting back and forth between Alex and me.
This situation probably seems a bit odd, considering we’re standing almost close enough to kiss.
“Oh, nothing.” I put a drop of space between Alex and me. “Your brother was just trying to tell me what my place is in this town. I didn’t realize Honeyton was so old-school.”
“It’s not.” Blaise blasts Alex with a hard look, but Alex only shrugs. Grinding his teeth from side to side, Blaise fixes his gaze on me.
Before he can utter a word, though, I hold up my hand. “Look, I don’t want to argue anymore, okay? It’s not my MO.”
Blaise’s lips twitch. “For some reason, I have a hard time believing that.”
“Don’t pretend like you have any insight to me just because you dug up mine and my sisters’ criminal history.” I turn to face him, crossing my arms. “You know nothing about us or our pasts and you had no right to put up those flyers around the school.”
Blaise mulls over something. “Maybe you’re right, but we still did it.”
Rhyland shakes his head with severe annoyance. “Don’t drag me into this shit.” He locks gazes with me. “Hadley, I had nothing to do with the flyers and I hope you won’t hold it against me.”
“I didn’t either,” Jaxon chimes in, reclining against the side of the SUV.
Alex rolls his eyes while Blaise pinches the brim of his nose. I take their silence as a guilty admittance, minus the guilt.
“I don’t really care which one of you did it,” I declare. “I just want all of you to leave me and my sisters alone.” I pause, hoping to God Scarlett wasn’t pulling my leg when she told me about the duel thing. “So I’m declaring a drag racing duel.”
“What the hell is that?” Londyn mumbles from behind me.
“I have no idea,” Bailey whispers. “But it sounds intriguing.”
Blaise’s hand falls to his side, his eyes sparkling with a hint of surprise. “How did you find out about that?”
“Because I’m pretty sure no one talked to you the entire day,” Alex adds, staring me down hard.
“Now why would I out my only friend.” I smile as their puzzlement grows. “So, do you accept the challenge or not?”
Blaise studies me closely. “Which one of us are you challenging?”
While kicking Alex’s ass in a race does sound appealing, Blaise has pissed me off more.
I offer him the same smirk he’s thrown a
t me time and time again. “Why you, of course, sweetheart.”
His intense gaze bores into me, the corners of his lips twitching, threatening to turn upward. But he manages to keep his smile restrained as he leans closer.
“You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into,” he whispers. “You should back out now before you get in too deep.”
“Is that a threat,” I whisper back hotly.
“No, a warning.” His finger skims along my wrist, causing me to jolt and my heart to skip a beat.
Why the hell did he touch me like that? To mess with my head probably.
I lift my hand to shove him away, but he steps back on his own. “If you want to duel then we can duel, but I’m warning you, you’re not going to win.” His gaze strays to my car. “Not in that.”
All I do is shrug. Why my car looks like a piece of shit on the outside, it runs pretty smoothly and if he knew anything about cars, he should know that already, especially if he helped disassemble the carburetor. Seeing as that he doesn’t seem aware of what’s hidden underneath that hood, my guess is he’s pretty clueless about cars and that he doesn’t spend a whole lot of time drag racing.
That thought makes me smile and Blaise more than notices.
“You do realize Rhyland has never lost a race ever and Alex is a mechanic,” he tells me almost apologetically.
My brow quirks upward. “Did I challenge them to a race?”
He shakes his head, sighing. “Fine, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“And don’t say I didn’t warn you when you get your ass kicked.”
He rubs his forehead so roughly he leaves red marks on his skin. “So what’re the terms of the race?” His hand falls to his side. “I mean, what do I get if I win?” He dazzles me with his pearly whites when I glare at him, his cockiness returning.
I mirror his smirk. “When I win, you and your brothers have to leave my sisters and me alone. No more flyers. No more fucking up my car. No more doing anything that makes our lives even the slightest bit complicated, got it?”
He tilts his head to the side, considering. “That sounds doable, I guess.”
Alex snorts a laugh. “Don’t agree for all of us.”
Blaise shoots him a warning look from over his shoulder then looks back at me. “If you do win, I promise all of us will leave you and your sisters alone. But when I win,” his lips quirk as I glower at him, “You owe me a month’s worth of favors. Anything I ask for you do.”
I promptly shake my head. “Anything is too broad of a word.”
He wavers. “Okay, I promise none of the favors will be dangerous or will require you to do anything that would result in you getting hurt.”
I don’t want to say what’s biting at the tip of my tongue, and will probably get laughed at when I do, but it needs to be said. “Nothing sexual either.” I give myself a pat on the back for my even tone.
Blaise’s tongue slips out, wetting his lips, amusement dancing in his eyes. “The last thing I’d ever want is for you to give me sexual favors.” My lips part with a comeback, but he leans closer and whispers, “When stuff finally does happen between us, it’ll happen because you want it.”
My blood burns underneath my skin. “And to think, you were just starting to seem not as annoying as when I first met you.”
He chuckles softly, his breath dusting my ear. “You know what? I take back what I said. I do want you to kiss me when I win.”
I slant back and glare at him. “I already said no sexual favors.”
“It won’t be a favor. Just an extra prize.” He’s all grins and wickedness. “Just one kiss. And then you can spend the next month reliving the kiss over and over in your memory.”
“You mean relive it over and over again in my nightmares,” I quip.
“Are you afraid you’ll lose?” he challenges. “Because it sounds like you are.”
Fuck. I’m unsure what to do. On the one hand, I doubt I’ll lose, but what if I do? Then I have to kiss this asshat and do a bunch of favors for him, which possibly means spending time with him. But backing down now is going to make me seem weak. Plus, if I win, they’ll have to leave my sisters alone. “Fine, but I want an extra prize too.”
His smile radiates amusement. “All right, what is it?”
A Cheshire grin spreads across my lips. “I get to kick you in the balls after I win.”
His smile falters. “No fucking way.”
I sniff the air. “Is that fear I smell?”
His eyes narrow to slits. “Being afraid would mean I think I’m going to lose, which I’m not.”
“Then I guess we don’t have a problem.”
“I guess we don’t.”
We stare each other down until someone clears their throat. The sound startles both of us, as if we’ve forgotten other people were here.
Raking his hands through his hair, Blaise steps away from me. “All right, you want a duel, then lets duel.” He digs his keys out of his pocket. “Meet me at the Turn Out in twenty minutes. I have to go pick up Rhyland’s car.”
“Okay.” Even though I’m clueless where the Turn Out is, I don’t give him the satisfaction of asking. I also try not to reveal my panic over the mention of Rhyland’s car.
Through all the smack talk, I forgot about Rhyland’s awesome ride and didn’t take a moment to consider how Blaise would more than likely race it. But I’m not backing out now.
Blaise pauses, momentarily observing me. “You have a problem with my ride?”
“Nope.” When I return his obsessive stare he tosses me a smirk, then climbs into the SUV.
Rhyland turns to me, sighing heavily. “Are you sure you know what you’re getting into?”
“You’re the one who suggested I start racing here,” I say, tucking a strand of my hair behind my ear.
“I know but…” A frown etches into his face. “I’m not sure you fully understand what you’re getting into.”
I lift my chin and square my shoulders. “Doesn’t matter since I’m not going to lose.”
His frown deepens, then he shakes his head and slips into the front seat of the SUV while Jaxon clambers into the backseat.
Alex makes no move to get in though, instead smirking at me. “You’re going down. You do realize that, right?”
Smiling sweetly, I pat him on the shoulder. “I guess we should say our goodbyes, now right? Since soon you’re going to have to leave me and my sisters alone. Although, I don’t even know why you were bothering us to begin with.”
“I have my reasons,” he sneers. Then gives me a pat on the arm. “And just know that when you lose, I’m going to add a list of favors of my own onto Blaise’s list. So have fun with that.” Then he turns and hops into the backseat of the SUV.
I hurriedly usher my sisters into my car where Payton is waiting.
“What’s going on?” she asks the instant we hop in.
I rev up the engine. “I’m getting us off the Porterson brothers radar.
“Well, either that, or you’re putting you on their radar even more.” Londyn violently fastens her seatbelt. “What were you thinking, Hadley? Agreeing to do Blaise favors. And kiss him.”
“What?” Payton cries, her eyes huge.
“I was thinking that I rarely lose a race so none of that’s going to be a problem.” I push on the gas and drive forward.
Londyn huffs an exasperated breath. “You’re always putting us first and this time I think you’ve gone too far.”
“Doesn’t really matter what you think.” I offer an apologetic look. “What’s done is done.”
“And if you lose?” she asks, giving me a pressing look. “Then what?”
“I won’t lose,” I stress, crossing my fingers that I’m right.
Because if not, my life is going to get a hell of a lot more complicated. And considering my dad just buried a bag of who knows what in the backyard, the last thing I need is more complications.
I stop at
a gas station and ask for directions to the Turn Out. It must be a pretty popular place since the clerk knows exactly where it is. The area isn’t too far away, just outside of town near the foothills. During the drive there, we explain to Payton what happened. Confliction masks her face, as if she doesn’t know whether to be happy about the duel or worried.
“Don’t worry, I’ll win,” I assure her as I pull into the Turn Out.
“But what if you don’t?” Payton asks, slipping on a pair of oversized sunglasses. “Then you’ll end up spending the next month doing them awful favors.”
“We don’t know for sure that they’ll be awful,” I lie, quieting the engine.
“Um, yeah, we sort of do,” Bailey says. “Those guys are straight up evil.”
“Nothing will be bad. Remember the stipulations I made.” I shove open the door and stretch my legs out as I get out of the car.
“There’s always loopholes,” Bailey tells me as I slant the seat forward to let her out.
“Stop talking as if I’m going to lose because I’m not.” I plaster on a cocky grin, but it’s all bravado. “Now get out so I can win a race.”
Bailey swiftly shakes her head. “No way. You’re not doing this alone.”
“You have to get out.” I glance at all of them. “You all do.”
Londyn’s mouth sinks to a frown. “You’re not going to do this alone. We’re refusing to let you.”
“It’s not about doing this alone.” Not entirely anyway. “It’s about the extra weight in the car.” And that this road runs along the side of a shallow cliff that bottoms out into a river.
Londyn’s lips form an O. Then, begrudgingly, she drags her butt out of the car and Payton and Bailey follow. By the time they’ve gotten out, Rhyland’s GTO is pulling into the Turn Out.
Blaise is driving and he pulls up to the side of me, rolling the window down. “I see you found the place.”
I turn and slant against my car. “It wasn’t that hard to find.”
His eyes sparkle amusedly. “Yeah, but I thought maybe you’d use getting lost as an excuse.”
I push away from the car, lean down, rest my arms on the windowsill, and level my gaze with him. “You don’t scare me.”