Crush, p.33
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       Crush, p.33
 

           Lacey Weatherford

  Chapter Thirty

  Hunter-

  Everything had taken on a melancholy air since Russ’s accident. Cami had been like a ghost beside me this last week, following me everywhere as if she were afraid to let me out of her sight. She didn’t talk much; she was just there, and I found her presence comforting, though it made it difficult for me to find time to catch up with Derek and talk to him about our deal. We’d both agreed to back off the drug scene for a bit until things cooled down again.

  Unfortunately, her constant attendance also meant Clay was around a lot. He’d wisely kept his mouth shut—at least when it came to talking to me—and didn’t attempt to revisit the crass remarks he’d spoken in the theater. We’d never had a chance to talk about my accusations either. I was sure he was constantly staying with us in hopes it would prevent me from relaying the information to Cami. We were at a stalemate—he and I—neither would allow the other to be alone with her.

  I hated having him around because I felt like it hindered Cami and me from talking about things that were going on between us. At the same time, it was kind of a relief, because I knew she had questions I couldn’t answer. I longed to tell her everything and get it out into the open so we could deal with it, one way or another. The tension in the air seemed to thicken around us daily, and I was certain things would come to a head soon. It was almost time for me to step up my game.

  Today was the day I’d been dreading. Tonight was the Masquerade dance and knowing Cami was going to spend the whole evening wrapped in Clay’s arms did little to calm my nerves. I felt a restless energy coursing through me whenever I thought about it. I didn’t like Clay, and I definitely didn’t trust him. Out of respect for Cami and her feelings towards him, I was doing my best to stay out of the way and let them do their thing together.

  I was especially missing Russ at the moment. We were all seated in the cafeteria, and I had to listen to Clay and Cami go on about their costumes and last minute preparations. Russ would’ve distracted me with conversation of his own so I didn’t have to hear all this. I suppose I could’ve played the possessive boyfriend card and insisted Cami go to the dance with me, but I wasn’t the sort of person who would force her to do anything. I knew Cami was stressing, so I thought attending the dance would be good—but there was no way I’d leave Clay alone with her. I could barely stomach seeing the two of them together.

  As far as I was concerned, they wouldn’t be best friends much longer. I was planning on telling Cami about him when it was right, and hopefully that opportunity would present itself soon. This was her tradition with her friend, and I didn’t want to intrude—intrude meaning I wouldn’t do anything to stop them from going together. I sure as heck would be at the dance, so I could keep an eye on her.

  My cell phone started vibrating in my pocket. I pulled it out and glance at the number, wondering who was calling me when I didn’t recognize it.

  “Hello?” I answered.

  “Hi. Is this Hunter?” a female voice spoke on the other end.

  “Yes it is.”

  “Hi. This is Cheryl Weston, Russ’s mom.”

  “How are you? Are things okay?” I asked, feeling nervous. I’d given her my number so she could call me if there was any change in Russ’s condition.

  “I’m doing fine, and yes. I called to tell you Russ finally woke up. He didn’t talk much, but he recognized us, and he asked about you.”

  Relief washed through me, and I felt tears begin to well up in my eyes. I blinked them away rapidly.

  “I’m so glad to hear that.”

  “He went right back to sleep again, but doctors anticipate a full recovery. Now maybe we can get some answers from him.”

  “I hope you will. Thanks for letting me know.”

  “Thank you for helping him, Hunter.” Her voice choked up. “The doctors said if it hadn’t been for your quick response, we probably would’ve lost him.”

  “Please don’t cry, Mrs. Weston. I was happy to help. Keep in touch, and let me know how it goes. I’ll see if I can get over there to see him soon.” She thanked me again and we hung up. I looked up to see Cami and Clay waiting expectantly.

  “Russ woke up,” I said with a relieved sigh. “He knew who his parents were and asked about me. They think he’ll make a full recovery. He’s sleeping again now, but they’re going to question him when he wakes up again to see if they can figure out what happened.”

  “Hunter, that’s wonderful news,” Cami said, throwing her arms around me in a giant bear hug.

  I slipped my arms about her waist and placed a kiss against the side of her head, basking in the moment of relief in her embrace. Clay stared at us with a distasteful expression. He didn’t appear the least bit happy.

  “Maybe you and I can drive to Albuquerque this weekend to see him, if it’s all right with your parents,” I said.

  “I’d love to. I’m sure they’d let me go. We have the dance tonight, but we could go tomorrow. My aunt lives there too. I bet she’d let us spend the night at her place, and we could come back on Sunday since it’s such a long trip.”

  I released her. “I think that would be great. I’d enjoy spending the extra time with you.”

  Clay didn’t speak a word, but he looked positively enraged. I was sure he’d do everything he could to dissuade Cami from going the minute my back was turned.

  “Let me call my mom and tell her what’s going on,” Cami said, pulling out her phone.

  I nodded and continued eating my lunch, pretending not to notice Clay staring at me as if he’d like to strangle me right there.

  “She says I can go, and she’ll call my aunt to set things up for us.” Cami was beaming as she hung up, seeming happier than I’d seen her in days.

  “Sounds good,” I replied. “Thank you.”

  “I can’t wait. It’ll be great to see Russ again, and it will be fun traveling with you.” She leaned over and pecked me on the cheek. “I love being with you.”

  I couldn’t help my grin and chuckle. “I feel the same. It’ll be nice to be alone together. We haven’t had much of that lately.”

  “No, we haven’t.”

  I wondered if Clay realized she’d practically forgotten he was still sitting with us. Cami had made no secret over how she felt about me, but he continued to hang around and act like he had a chance with her. It made me feel uncomfortable. He didn’t seem able to get the message.

  Tomorrow . . . maybe tomorrow I could finally tell her about Clay.

  The bell rang, signaling it was time to get back to class, and the three of us gathered our things. I listened to Cami chatter happily about her aunt as we walked down the hallway to class, and it was great hearing her sound like her old self again.

  The music was pulsating loudly in the transformed gymnasium, complete with a false fabric ceiling and giant, glittering, decorated masks strategically placed around the room. A huge silver disco ball hung in the center, casting its fractured light about the space. It made all the shiny surfaces reflect and glow as if tiny jewels were implanted in their surface.

  Masked teenagers danced about the room in rhythm with the pounding beat, dressed in various styles of costumes—from the crazy to the elegant variety.

  I hadn’t dressed up, only wearing a black t-shirt, jeans, and shoes. I had worn a black half mask, simply to blend into the crowd a little easier. I wasn’t here to participate. I was here to observe.

  I managed to easily spot Cami and Clay from where I hid—leaning against the corner wall in the shadows. Cami was simply the most beautiful girl in the room, her gold dress set off her red hair perfectly and made her skin look like peaches and cream. Her mask was attached to a long, slender stick, so she could lift it to her face or pull it away while she was talking to people. I was glad she didn’t hold it up a lot. I liked seeing her eyes flash and shine in the light as she danced and laughed. She was clearly having a good time . . . with Clay.

  It was plain to see she only thought of him
platonically. There was never anything romantic in her gestures, purely those of a girl enjoying some fun with her good friend.

  Clay on the other hand looked like the cat who’d swallowed the canary. His eyes never left her, and anyone who looked at him for more than two seconds could clearly see he was head over heels crazy about her. It was all I could do to stay here instead of marching over to whisk her away from him. He was constantly caressing her in some manner—whether he was softly running his hands down her bare shoulders and arms, or lowering his head to speak closely into her ear—his body was always touching hers.

  I peered at my watch. Two hours down. If I could hang in there for another hour, the dance would be over, and I could make sure he took her safely home. Then tomorrow she’d be mine again for the weekend.

  “I knew you’d be lurking around here somewhere,” Gabrielle’s voice interrupted my thoughts as she approached. “There was no way you’d let your precious Cami out of your sight for so long, especially when she’s with another guy.”

  I didn’t bother to answer her.

  She stroked her fingers over my bare arm as she walked up beside me. “They make a gorgeous couple, don’t you think? Especially since Clay decided to ditch the nerd look. They belong together—can’t you see it? It’s the way it’s always been.”

  “And what make you such an expert on their relationship?” I asked glancing at her. She was dressed up like a cat burglar in a form-fitting spandex suit, which tightly hugged every one of her generous curves. Her heavily made up eyes glistened as she stared at me through her sleek, black mask.

  “Clay and I are . . . close.”

  I snorted. “If you mean to say you’re banging him, I already figured that out.”

  She looked surprised.

  “The only thing I don’t know is how long it’s been going on,” I added. “Or why.”

  She gave a sly smile and brushed closer against me. “I could tell you the answers . . . if you really want to know.”

  “By all means, go ahead.” She had my full attention.

  “It’ll cost you.” She walked her fingers up my arm toward my shoulder.

  “Really? What?” I asked, ready to play her game.

  “You know what I want.” Her gaze flitted over me.

  I paused, mulling over what she was insinuating. “All I can promise is to give you the ride of your life . . . once . . . that’s it. You won’t get anything else from me.”

  She smiled victoriously. “Once will be enough. Then you’ll be hooked like every other guy in this school.”

  “You can’t be that good. Now spill your secrets or no deal.”

  She sighed, brushing her hand down past my shoulder, pausing to squeeze my bicep. “Clay has wanted Cami for a long time, and what he wants, he gets. You shouldn’t mess with him. He’s dangerous. Jordan Henley found that out the hard way.”

  My eyes narrowed, and I grabbed her by the arm. “What do you mean?”

  “Ouch!” she said, pulling back. “You don’t want to bruise the merchandise, sweetie.”

  I relaxed my hold. “My mistake. I thought you’d like it rough for some reason.” She smiled, rubbing her hand over mine, and I let her. “What were you saying about Jordan?”

  She frowned a little, and I could see her hesitation. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”

  I tightened my grip and dragged her behind one of the decorative walls. “Tell me what you know or the deal is off.” I forced myself to reach out and stroke the side of her face, trying to pretend I was into her. She leaned into it and closed her eyes.

  “That feels nice.”

  “Tell me what you know,” I pressured her again.

  She rested against the wall and beckoned me seductively with her long nailed finger. “Come here first.”

  I moved, pinning her body with mine.

  “Kiss me,” she said, licking her lips.

  I lowered my head. “Not until you tell me what you know, Gabby. That’s the deal.” I was so close to her it almost made me nauseated.

  “Clay poisoned Jordan. He’s a chemical genius, you realize. He knows how to cook his own stuff. Jordan said he was going to get Cami one way or another the night of the Winter Formal. Clay slipped some meth into Jordan’s drink, hoping to incapacitate him, but he accidentally gave him too much, and it killed him instead. He didn’t know I’d seen him do it until I threatened to expose him. He told me he’d give me the drugs to sell, and I could keep half the profit if I wouldn’t tell anyone. So that good party you’ve been looking for? I’m the one who’s able to give it to you. You should’ve been hooking up with me this whole time.”

  I was going to be sick. The pieces of the puzzle were suddenly falling into place. In the theater, Clay must’ve spiked the drink he thought was mine, but when Cami moved them they got mixed up.

  “Russ’s drink . . . it was meant for me.” I’d been the target. Russ’s illness was my fault. He had come after me. And now my girlfriend was dancing in the arms of a killer. I had to get her out of here.

  Gabby laughed. “I told you not to mess with him. He’s sadistic.”

  “Kind of like you, huh?” I replied, feeling nothing but complete scorn for this stupid, stupid, girl.

  “I can be, but the important thing is I kept my end of the bargain. Now it’s time for you to keep yours.”

  “Oh, trust me, Gabrielle. I always keep my word. You will most definitely get the ride of your life,” I leaned in closer so my lips were nearly brushing her ear, “in the back of a police car.”

  She looked confused and then a little scared. “Wha . . . what do you mean?”

  “I mean, dear Gabby, my real name is Dylan Wilcock, and I’m a twenty-one year old undercover police officer who was sent here to investigate the suspicious activity surrounding Jordan Henley’s death.” I couldn’t help a sly grin as I cocked an eyebrow at her. “You just propositioned a cop, admitted you were selling illegal drugs, covered up a homicide, and had knowledge of an attempted homicide. I think you’ve—how do they say it—cooked your own goose? You’re under arrest.”

  She shoved me and attempted to run, but I grabbed her and quickly pinned her to the wall.

  “Let me go!” she shouted, struggling.

  “Not a chance. You’re gonna go out there with me right now and confront Clay, and I’m going to call for a squad car to take us all down to the station.”

  She looked at me, horrified. “I can’t. It’s too late.”

  “What’s too late?”

  “I was the diversion. He knew he could never leave here with her while you were watching so closely. He has other plans for her tonight. They left as soon as you quit watching.”

  “What?” I bellowed, my rage boiling straight to the surface. “Why? Why would you put her in the hands of someone who could hurt her? Do you really hate her that badly?”

  “I’m tired of competing,” she whined like a spoiled child. “All the guys want her, and she doesn’t even know it! I’m the one who’s always there for them, and all they can talk about is how gorgeous she is and how they’d totally do her. I thought if I helped Clay, it would take care of my problem. He loves her. He wouldn’t hurt her.”

  “The guy is psychotic! How can you know what he’ll do? Tell me where they’re going!” I pulled her after me, heading toward the door.

  “I don’t know. He didn’t tell me.” She was crying in earnest as we entered the hallway together.

  I ripped my mask off and started running toward the exit, practically dragging her along. I stepped outside in time to see Clay’s ugly little car leave the parking lot. I hurried over to my Camaro and stopped. The tires had been slashed.

  I turned to Gabby. “Give me the keys to your car.”

  “I don’t have them. They’re in my purse in the gym.”

  “Listen to me carefully. I’m letting you go, and you’re going to get them for me. If anyone asks you what’s wrong you’ll tell them you don’t feel we
ll, and you’re heading home. If you help me out now, I’ll put it in my report and testify to it. Hopefully that will shine a good light on you. But so help me, if you run, I’ll catch you and make sure they throw the book at you. So what’s it going to be?”

  “I’ll help you,” she replied without hesitation. “I promise.”

  “Okay, let’s go back in. Don’t forget, I’m watching.”

  She nodded, and I released her.

  I pulled out my phone and dialed Chris’s number. He answered on the second ring.

  “I’ve got the evidence we need, and I found a witness. It’s the Bradley kid. I knew something was off about him, I just never imagined this. He’s got Cami, Chris. I need to find her.”

  “Hang on. I’ll be right there, and I’ll send the squad car over for your witness.”

  “I can’t wait. I’ve got to go after them. He slashed my tires, so I’m taking the witness’s vehicle. Put out an APB for his, please. The info on it is in the file I gave you for review.”

  “Already on it,” he replied.

  Hanging up, I dialed Cami.

  “Cami’s phone,” Clay answered.

  “Put Cami on the phone, now,” I demanded.

  “No problem. It happens,” he replied, making no sense, and instantly the line went dead.

  Damn.

  I watched from the hallway as Gabby went to retrieve her purse and came back. She dropped her keys into my hand and followed me outside as I went over to my car.

  “What are you doing?” she asked when I popped the trunk.

  “I need to grab a few things.” I got my underarm holster out and slid it on before slipping my gun into it. I put my leather jacket on over the top to conceal the weapon. I didn’t want to freak Clay out if he saw it when I found him. I slid my badge into my pocket and grabbed a pair of handcuffs.

  “I can’t believe you’re a cop,” Gabby whispered. “You don’t seem that old.”

  “That’s how I got picked for the job.” I grabbed her wrist. “I’m sorry to do this, but you’re my key witness, and I can’t have you running.” I handcuffed her to the trunk latch and placed her purse in my car so she couldn’t call anyone from her phone. “Someone will be here to get you soon.”

  She nodded as the tears continued to roll down her face.

  “Are you sure you don’t know where he took Cami? It would be somewhere he felt safe.”

  “He never said.”

  I stared hard at her.

  “Honest. I’d tell you if I knew. I need all the breaks I can get.”

  “Where does he cook his meth?” I asked, an idea suddenly forming.

  She looked worried.

  “Tell me, Gabby.”

  “At the theater.”

  “The theater?”

  “There’s an abandoned theater on the second floor that’s all locked up. Everyone thinks it’s haunted. He found another entrance into it from a set of service stairs no one ever uses. He has a key.”

  The strange noises and smells coming from the theater . . . it all made sense now. It was Clay all along.

  “Where are the service stairs?” Cami hadn’t shown me those.

  “There’s a locked door by the back entrance. There’s a narrow staircase behind it. You’ll need keys to get in. He stole his boss’s and made his own set so he could get in any time.”

  I was already running toward her car.

  “You really love her, don’t you? It’s not an act,” she called after me.

  “I do,” I replied over my shoulder. I only hoped I wasn’t too late.

 
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