Fighting to be free, p.18
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       Fighting to Be Free, p.18

         Part #1 of Fighting to Be Free series by Kirsty Moseley
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  been blown wildly out of proportion when I was sent down. In reality, I wasn’t even legal to drink; I was a few months shy of nineteen. But I did as I was told and agreed to come here on Saturday night for a few hours.

  I was starting to resent my mother more and more. This new security detail was going to significantly limit my time with my girlfriend.

  When we got back to the warehouse, I lingered in Brett’s office with him.

  He took off his suit jacket, hanging it on his coatrack, eyeing me suspiciously. “What’s up? You don’t usually hang around after being dismissed. Something wrong?”

  I shook my head and decided to just ask what I’d been thinking all morning. He could only say no, it was no big deal. “I was wondering if I could get an advance on my wages. Not the fee for the boost, just the weekly rate. My first payment to Tony Grier is due soon, and I want to have the money ready,” I said hopefully. Having that money early would take off some of the pressure, and stop me stressing so much about it—and about Ellie.

  Brett sighed and immediately headed over to his safe, which sat behind a picture on the wall. I watched as he pulled out two bundles of money. Each had a band around it with $1,000 written on it. He slammed the safe door shut and tossed the cash into my lap. “Just don’t be telling the other boys I did that, I don’t want them all in here asking. That was the only exception, and only because it was you. Understand?”

  I smiled gratefully and some of the tension in my shoulders loosened as I shoved the money into the inside pocket of my leather jacket. “Thanks, Brett. I’ll see you tomorrow night before the boost.” He waved me off with a flick of his fingers, so I walked out quickly before he thought of anything else he wanted me to do for him.

  CHAPTER 18

  ELLIE

  HE’S GOING TO do it tonight, I just know it,” I moaned, putting my head in my hands.

  Stacey sighed and rubbed her hand across my shoulder supportively. “Jesus, El, he’s not going to dump you! Get a hold of yourself. You’re ruining your makeup and we’re going to prom in an hour!” she scolded, prying my hands away from my face with her other hand.

  I looked up at her and willed myself to believe her, to listen to the words that she’d been repeating over and over for the last week—but I couldn’t make myself believe them. Jamie was going to break up with me soon, I just knew it. He’d been incredibly distant lately. Everything was changing between us.

  “Stace, seriously, we’ve barely even spoken lately. He just goes off daydreaming all the time and gets this look on his face that tells me he doesn’t want to talk about stuff when I ask what’s wrong. He jumps every time his phone rings. He told me last night that I can’t stay at his place tomorrow night because he has, and I quote, ‘plans with Connor,’ yet I’m sure he mentioned last week that his boss, Connor, was going away with his family for a few days and wasn’t back until next week!”

  Stacey shook her head and plopped down onto the bed next to me. “Ellie, just stop thinking about it. Whenever I see you two together you’re laughing and flirting. You’re constantly talking on the phone. Do you know how rare that is, for people to be able to just talk on the phone to their boyfriends for ten minutes without losing their interest? Yet you and Jamie can talk for an hour and still have more to say to each other. I can’t do that with Paul, not even close. You’ve probably just got your weekends mixed up. This Connor guy is probably going away some other time and you’re just reading too much into things because you’re getting scared.”

  No. Something was wrong. I knew it. What possible reason could there be for Jamie being so distracted and distant lately?

  “I’m not getting scared,” I countered, frowning.

  She rolled her eyes. “Yes, you are. I know for a fact that you’re crazy about that boy and that it scares the life out of you because of how Miles turned out. You’re scared to let yourself fall for him, so you’re making up excuses so that you don’t get too close. You’re hoping to convince yourself that it’s going nowhere so you don’t end up getting hurt in the long run.”

  I closed my eyes and shook my head. I wasn’t just being scared—sure, I was scared to fall for him because Miles had started out great too in the beginning, but that wasn’t what this was at all. Jamie was acting different at the moment. Not like the usual, attentive, loving Jamie that I was indeed falling for.

  “I’m not scared.” I opened my eyes and looked at Stacey again, forcing a smile so that she wouldn’t see how upset this was making me. “I guess we’ll see who’s right eventually. Either he’ll break up with me, or I’m being stupid and this is all nothing. There’s nothing I can do about it either way.” My own words hurt.

  She smiled and raised one perfectly plucked eyebrow. “Actually, there is something we can do about it. We can make you look drop-dead gorgeous tonight, and maybe he’ll cancel his plans with Connor and chain you to his bed for the weekend instead,” she suggested, grinning wickedly.

  I laughed and rolled my eyes at her crudeness. “I do have a pair of killer heels that he’s going to love,” I admitted, smiling at the thought.

  * * *

  I stood in front of my full-length bedroom mirror and gulped. Stacey had spent almost an hour curling my hair for me, then scooping one side up off my face severely so I had a mass of curls going over one shoulder. My makeup had been reapplied after my freak-out, and the eye shadow and mascara that she’d plastered on me made my gray eyes look wide and excited. My skin appeared soft and buffed; my nails were perfectly polished.

  My eyes headed farther down and skimmed the bluish-gray satin dress I was wearing. It looked like something straight out of a magazine. It had turned out even better than I’d imagined.

  My eyes flicked to Stacey in the mirror as she spoke. “It’s beautiful. The neckline, the little mesh bit at the top, so beautiful. You did such an amazing job, El,” she gushed, shaking her head in awe. Her arm linked through mine as she smiled happily, smoothing the formfitting bodice of her red satin dress. “We’re gonna own that prom.”

  The doorbell rang, and my mom immediately shouted for my dad to answer it. As we bustled out of my room, I heard dad stomp into the hallway, grumbling something under his breath. He stopped as he spotted us standing at the top of the stairs, his eyes widened, and his mouth twitched with a smile.

  “Wow, you two look beautiful,” he said, looking at us both in turn.

  Stacey laughed and nodded, while I frowned and tried not to squirm because he was seeing a dress that I’d made myself—not that he knew that, of course. “Thank you, Michael,” Stacey purred.

  I sighed and shook my head, squeezing her arm a little tighter. She had always had an old-man crush on my dad, it was gross.

  My dad smiled up at me, and I couldn’t help but smile back because of how proud he looked. “I need to find my camera,” he stated, heading over to the sideboard and rummaging through the top drawer.

  The doorbell rang again. “Maybe you should get the door first, Dad?” I suggested, laughing as we headed down the stairs to him.

  He nodded and walked to the door. From the hallway, I heard both Paul and Jamie’s voices greeting my dad. My stomach immediately tingled in anticipation of seeing my boyfriend in his tux. I was going to be the envy of every girl in school tonight when I walked in on his arm. Jamie was incredibly handsome, all the girls agreed on that from meeting him at parties and such, but he had something even better than his looks—he was just a beautiful person inside. So thoughtful and selfless; he was incredible. I was going to have serious heartache when he broke it off with me tonight.

  “You’ll have her home by midnight, are we clear?” my dad said sternly from behind me.

  “Absolutely. You can trust me with Ellie, you know that,” Jamie answered.

  A smile crept onto my face as their voices approached. I turned and waited. As soon as Jamie stepped around the corner I fought my urge to swoon. The rented black tux fit him perfectly, showing off his strong, broad s
houlders and tapering in at his toned waist. His gaze settled on me and his eyes widened as his lips popped open in what seemed like shock. I tried not to squirm as his big brown eyes slowly glided down my body, seeming to take in every inch of me before his eyes met mine again and a beautiful smile stretched across his face.

  “Shit … wow,” he breathed.

  My dad punched him in the arm playfully. “No cussing,” he scolded, while Jamie just laughed sheepishly, his eyes not leaving me for a second.

  “Hi,” I whispered nervously.

  He stepped closer to me; his gaze seemed to trap me as he grinned happily. I couldn’t look away from him as I prayed with every bone in my body that he wouldn’t break up with me. I was totally crazy about this boy, and Stacey was right, he did scare me. He scared me because I didn’t want our relationship to end up like mine and Miles’s had, I didn’t want him to change like Miles had. I was definitely falling for Jamie, and falling hard.

  He reached out, catching one of my curls and rubbing it between his thumb and forefinger gently before stroking the back of one finger across my cheek. There was an almost awed expression on his face. I memorized him as he looked right now. I wanted to be able to capture this moment perfectly so that when it ended and he never looked at me like that again, I could still picture it.

  His smell enveloped me, that scent that made the hair on my arms stand up. It was indescribable, it was just purely Jamie, and I loved it. “Ellie, you look … so beautiful,” he said quietly, so that no one else would be able to hear him. His smile showed me the truth to his words, and my face instantly warmed up because of the intense way he was looking at me. “This dress, it’s incredible. You just look …” He gulped. “Wow,” he finished.

  I chewed on my lip as I raised one hand and stroked the lapel of his jacket. “You look wow, too,” I admitted.

  “This old thing?” he joked, winking at me. I laughed and he brought his hand from his side, holding out a little plastic box containing a white-and-green corsage. “Got you this.”

  “Aww, Jamie, that’s adorable,” I murmured. The thing was beautiful. I smiled at him gratefully as I took the box, popping it open and gingerly taking out the delicate flower bracelet.

  He smiled and took it from my hand, helping me put it on. As I looked back up at him, he bent down and captured my lips in a sweet kiss that made me sigh in contentment. I’d never had a boy treat me with so much kindness and adoration before. Miles was never romantic like this; if I had been going to prom with him tonight he would have turned up and grunted a “Hey, you ready to go?” before nodding at the door. He wouldn’t have looked at me the soft and gentle way that Jamie was.

  “Any time this week would be great, guys.”

  Startled out of the moment, I suddenly remembered that we weren’t on our own in the hallway. I nodded sheepishly. “I’m ready.”

  Jamie’s arm slipped around my waist, pulling me closer to him as he turned for the door. “You have your dancing shoes on?” he asked, grinning at me.

  I raised one eyebrow as I tugged up the hem of my dress slightly and lifted one foot from the floor so he could see the three-inch open-toed black stilettos I was wearing tonight. “Yep,” I confirmed, smirking at him as his eyes widened and his fingers dug into my waist a little. Jamie definitely had a thing for heels.

  “Oh yeah, those are nice,” he growled.

  I smiled and let the dress drop back down again, pulling out of his arms and heading over to my dad, kissing his cheek. “Bye, Daddy. Don’t wait up for me, I have a key,” I stated. Then I can sneak Jamie in with me tonight and you won’t even know …

  “Let me get a photo before you go,” he said quickly, plucking the camera from the drawer and fiddling with it.

  I stepped back to Jamie’s side, leaning into him, both of us smiling as the camera clicked and clicked. Finally my dad seemed to be satisfied that he’d taken enough, so we were allowed to leave.

  Paul was driving tonight and had borrowed his dad’s Jaguar, so we were riding in style to prom. I sat in the back with Jamie; he held my hand the whole time as we chatted about the dance. I already knew that he was nervous about coming with me tonight; I was pretty sure he’d gotten it into his head that this would be a posh party with an old-fashioned string quartet or something. He was going to be pleasantly surprised.

  When we pulled up and headed into the school gym, he laughed. The place had been decorated with streamers and balloons, with food laid out. The normal lights were off and white fairy lights covered the ceiling instead. A local band was already set up and playing warm-up songs.

  I turned to Jamie and grinned, pulling him into the gym. “Drink?” I offered, nodding toward the drinks table. “The punch will already be spiked, I would imagine, so if you want alcohol then I’d go for that.”

  A small frown lined his forehead. “I don’t want an alcoholic drink tonight. You can if you want, though” he offered, following me over to the table.

  I shook my head and grabbed two cans of Pepsi and two plastic cups. “Nah, I don’t want to be too drunk to take you out of your tux,” I teased, raising one eyebrow suggestively.

  His frown was back as he smiled apologetically. “I actually won’t be staying at your house tonight,” he replied, taking my can and opening it for me, pouring it into the cup.

  I resisted the urge to pout as I took in what he’d said. I couldn’t stay at his place tonight because my parents would know I was there; it would be too obvious if I went to the dance with Jamie and then didn’t come home. So instead I had been hoping to be able to sneak him in with me tonight. He could just leave after my parents went to visit my nana, like he used to in the old days before he moved into his new place.

  “Why not?” I pressed.

  I already knew the answer to that question. He wasn’t planning on staying at my house because he was planning on breaking up with me instead. I had a feeling it would happen as soon as prom finished. No doubt he was being the gentleman and waiting until after the dance so that I would still have someone to go with. It really wasn’t Jamie’s style to leave a girl stranded, and since he’d committed to coming with me, he probably didn’t want to break his promise. I gulped a few times, trying desperately not to cry about it.

  He shrugged. “I can’t sneak into your place, your dad will know. He likes me, and I don’t want to ruin that by betraying his trust,” he answered, not looking at me.

  I decided not to push it; I needed to have some dignity. I’d had a fantastic couple of months with him, and I wouldn’t have changed that time for the world. I decided then and there not to dwell on it and ruin our last night together. I’d just forget that my time with him was limited and make this night fun for us both.

  “Well, in that case, I’m having the punch,” I stated, not taking the cup of Pepsi that he offered me. Instead, I ladled a spoonful of the punch into an empty cup, downing the contents before pouring another. The alcohol burned my throat a little, but I welcomed it so that I would have something else to think about other than the fact that I was probably going to wake up single.

  Jamie smiled and bent forward, kissing my cheek softly. “Let’s get this party started then,” he whispered, smiling and tugging me toward the dance floor.

  * * *

  Two hours later I was already overly tipsy. Jamie steered me toward an empty table and pulled out a chair for me to sit on, but I wasn’t having any of that. Instead, I pushed him into the chair and plopped myself into his lap, wrapping my arms around his neck.

  “You know, you look mighty fine in your tux. Kinda like James Bond,” I flirted, playing with the collar of his shirt.

  He laughed. “But without the British accent?” he teased, shifting me on his lap and getting more comfortable as I tucked my face into the side of his neck, breathing him in.

  “If you had a British accent I would have to jump you right now in front of the teachers, so it’s pretty lucky you don’t,” I countered, giggling.

 
He laughed and kissed the top of my head. “I could totally pull off the accent,” he joked. “Well, ’ello there, miss. Would you like some crisps and biscuits?” he asked, sounding like the guy from Mary Poppins instead of James Bond.

  I burst out laughing and pulled back to look at him. “Sexy,” I confirmed, still laughing.

  His cell phone rang for what had to be the millionth time and he sighed as he pulled it out of his pocket, disconnecting the call and tapping in a text instead. Frowning, I moved into my own chair, downing the last of my drink, trying not to glare at his phone, which seemed to be getting more attention than I was tonight. So much for making the most of my last night with him! I was seriously contemplating stealing his phone and “accidentally” dropping it so the damn thing would stop going off. It beeped again and he ground his teeth before sending another message, frowning angrily at his screen.

  “I’m going to dance,” I mumbled, pushing myself to my feet.

  He looked at me and smiled apologetically. “Sorry. I’ll be right there, okay?”

  I nodded and tried not to huff as I headed across the room to where a group of my friends were dancing. I joined in with them, discreetly keeping my eyes on Jamie. He was talking on the phone now, and he looked a little angry. He kept glancing at his watch and waving his hand around as he spoke, like he was having an argument with someone.

  “Ellie?”

  I turned back around only to find Miles standing next to me, grinning. I bit back my groan. Things between us were still beyond awkward. It had been ten weeks since the night we’d broken up, yet he still hadn’t given up on us. He’d been sleeping around—from what I could make out, it seemed like he went home with a different girl every week after the game—but he still asked me all the time for another chance. I was bored of it already.

  “Hi, where’s your date?” I asked, looking around for whoever he was with tonight.

  He frowned. “I came on my own. I didn’t want to bring someone to prom if it wasn’t you,” he replied, shrugging.

  I winced and silently hoped that Jamie didn’t come over right now; I didn’t want trouble between them. The atmosphere when they
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