Crush, p.34
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       Crush, p.34

           Lacey Weatherford

  Chapter Thirty-One


  “I have a surprise for you,” Clay said with a smile as he pulled me into the hall.

  “A surprise? For what?” He was quite handsome in his tuxedo and mask tonight. I’d noticed several of the girls staring at him. It made me hopeful he’d soon have a girlfriend all his own.

  “Well, if I told you it wouldn’t be a surprise now, would it? Turn around.”

  “Turn around?”

  “Yes. I’m going to blindfold you so you won’t see where we’re going until we get there.”

  “I don’t know. This seems awfully suspicious,” I teased, but I did as he asked.

  He fastened a soft, silky cloth over my eyes. “You can trust me, Cami,” he whispered in my ear, then took my elbow and guided me along.

  “So what brought on this surprise?”

  “A couple of things actually. The end of our senior year is coming up, and you’ll be turning eighteen soon. We’re moving on into different chapters of our life, so I thought we should celebrate all the time we’ve been friends with something special.”

  “You’re always so sweet and thoughtful. Thank you, Clay. I can’t wait to see what you have planned.”

  I heard a car door open. “Watch your head. I’m going to help you get inside.”

  I grabbed his arms to steady myself as I sat down. “Make sure you get all of my dress into the car.”

  “Got it,” he answered, closing it.

  I touched the cloth over my eyes.

  “Hey! No peeking!” he ordered as he slid in beside me. “Keep your hands in your lap or I’ll have to tie them too. We can’t have you ruining the surprise.”

  “Yes sir!” I laughed as I dropped them.

  The car started and we were moving.

  “This is weird. Why don’t you tell me where we’re going? People are going to think you’re kidnapping me or something.”

  He chuckled. “Nice try. You’re going to have to be patient.”

  I felt my cell start to vibrate in the tiny clutch I had strapped to my wrist. “Oh. My phone is ringing.”

  “I’ll get it for you,” Clay said, and the strap slipped off my wrist.

  “Hello, Cami’s phone.” He paused. “No problem. It happens.” I heard a beep. “Somebody calling for Julie.”

  “Ah, wrong number then.”


  “Are we going far?”

  “No. We’ll be there in a couple of minutes.”

  “So it’s a close surprise.” I tried, but couldn’t figure out where he might be taking me. “I had a lot of fun with you at the dance tonight.”

  “Me too. It was just like old times, wasn’t it?”

  “Yes, it was. I couldn’t help but notice all the girls staring at you. I think your new style has garnered quite the fan club.”

  “Nah. I don’t care about any of those girls anyway. If they didn’t like me before, why should I care what they think now?”

  “Well, it’s their loss then.”

  He reached over and squeezed my hand. “You’re the best, Cami. You know that, right?”

  “Just happy to call you my friend.”

  His hand slipped from mine, but he didn’t reply. We sat together in silence until he stopped the car.

  “Stay here. I’ll come around to help you.”

  In an instant he was at my side, helping me out.

  “Can I take my blindfold off now?”

  “Soon, but not yet. Come on lets go.”

  We walked for a little way before he paused and guided me up a step. I heard some keys jangling and the sound of a door opening followed by more keys and another door.

  “Okay, we are going to walk up some stairs, so be careful.”

  He wrapped his arm around my waist and escorted me inside. I heard both doors close behind us, and the air suddenly smelled stale and musty.

  “Where are we?” I asked again, starting to feel uncomfortable with this.

  “You’ll see in a second. You’re gonna love it, I promise.”

  We carefully made our way up the steps, pausing when we reached the top. I heard him fiddling with yet another lock before he guided me inside, the sound of the latch clicking behind us. I could hear music playing and realized it was a song from Phantom of the Opera. He knew me so well.

  “What are you up to?” I asked, a grin sweeping over my face.

  “Making your dreams come true.” He laughed. “Before you take your blindfold off here’s a toast to the future. Then you can see where you are.” He thrust a thin stemmed glass into my hand. “Drink up!”

  I lifted it to my lips and took a tiny sip before starting to giggle. “Is this fruit punch in a champagne flute?”

  “I know it’s your favorite, so come on, bottoms up. I have a glass of my own.” He clanked his against mine.

  I smiled and quickly downed the rest of the contents. “Okay, show me what you’ve got going on.”

  “All right. Let me put these glasses over here real quick, and then I’ll help you with the blindfold.”

  He was back in a few seconds, working at the knot behind my head. “Here you go!”

  I opened my eyes, but they blurred and it took a moment to adjust to the light. I gasped. “Are we in the old theater?”

  “Yeah, amazing isn’t it?” He smiled and slipped his arm around my waist.

  “Where did you find so many white Christmas lights this time of year?” It was like we’d stepped back in time—the old wallpaper had yellowed but was still beautiful, surrounded by thick sculpted moldings. The red covered seats were still in pristine condition, and so was the carpet. Every surface had small white lights strung across it. They were on the walls, over the backs of the chairs, and down the red velvet drapes that hung in front.

  “How’d you ever get Jon’s permission to use this place? I’ve never even seen him come in here. It’s so beautiful.”

  He ignored my question and pointed to the ceiling above the curtains. “The theater screen actually rolls down in front of the curtain there. Behind them is an actual stage. I guess they used to have a few family performances here as well. When I saw this, I knew I’d chosen the perfect place to bring you. It reminded me of Phantom of the Opera. I know how you love that play.”

  “It’s perfect!” I turned and gave him a big hug.

  He held me tightly for a few seconds, before suddenly releasing me. “Wait! There’s more!” He hurried over to the stage and disappeared behind the curtain.

  “What are you doing?” I asked unable to suppress my grin.

  “Just a second!”

  I heard a squeaking sound, and the drapes spread apart, revealing a large candelabrum with candles aflame on it. Fog began creeping out across the stage, and I laughed, clapping my hands together in delight.

  Clay stepped onto the stage with a grin and beckoned me. “I told you I’d be your Phantom come to life. Come sing for me, Camilla!”

  I shook my head as I walked up the aisle toward him, laughing. “Not on your life.”

  “Really?” He looked genuinely disappointed. “I brought karaoke and everything! I wanted this to be your big moment.”

  He took my hand and helped me up the steps.

  I hugged him again. “I can’t believe you went to all this work just for me. This is incredible!”

  His hand slid up to my neck, and he leaned back so he could look into my eyes tenderly. “I’m so glad you like it. I’d do anything for you. Anything.” He paused for a moment, glancing over my face before his mouth descended toward mine.

  He caught me completely off guard, and I shoved him away, causing him to stumble backward. “Stop it, Clay. Don’t ruin this . . . not now when things are finally starting to feel normal again between us.”

  “But I thought . . . I thought you liked it . . . I thought you could finally see.” He seemed utterly astonished.

  “See what? Why can’t you see? Why can’t you hear what I’m constantly
telling you? I’m in love with Hunter.” My skin flushed as my temper rose.

  “No you aren’t! You don’t even know him. You and me,” he gestured between us, “we’ve been together for years! It’s meant to be. Why do you keep resisting it?”

  Tears started rolling down his panicked face.

  “I’m sorry to hurt you. But I don’t feel the same. You’re my best friend, Clay. That’s all there is.”

  “You have no idea the things I’ve done to have you, Cami. I wasn’t lying when I said I’d do anything. I’m tired of waiting for you. I won’t take no for an answer anymore.” His expression turned to something hard and determined, and suddenly I was scared.

  “What have you done?” I was honestly afraid to hear the answer.

  “I removed the competition.”

  I stepped away nervously as he stalked forward. “What did you do to Hunter?” I asked, dread shooting through me.

  “Hunter?” He seemed confused for a moment. “Nothing to him. He should be happily wrapped up in Gabby’s arms by now doing what the two of them do best—screwing people.”

  “Gabby’s involved in this?” I was grasping at straws, trying to keep him talking while I made my way backward across the stage. Hunter had been right all along. Clay was off—he . . . was crazy. I didn’t know how I’d missed it.

  “She saw me slipping something into Jordan’s drink the night he died. She’s been blackmailing me for a while now. I told her I’d help her get Hunter if she’d help me get you. We compromised.”

  A cry bubbled up from inside me as I realized what he was saying. He’d killed Jordan.

  “Do you see now how important you are?” He reached for me again.

  “Stay away!” I shouted, shoving him roughly and sending him sprawling. I turned with a sob and fled off the stage toward the main door of the private theater, clutching the knob. I had to get out of here, but it was locked tightly, and wouldn’t budge.

  “Someone help me!” I screamed, pounding against the thick, old, wooden panels so hard I thought I might break my hand. “Please! Help!” A sudden wave of light-headedness overcame me.

  “Not so fast, Cami,” Clay growled, seizing me, and we both fell onto the plush carpet with him sprawled on top of me.

  I pushed at him frantically, trying to squirm my way out of his hold, but he grabbed my hands and pinned them to the side. “Well, this is convenient, isn’t it?”

  “What do you mean?” I couldn’t help the tremble in my voice, nausea suddenly overwhelming.

  A wicked gleam appeared in his eyes. “I mean you should stop fighting me. I made sure I had a little insurance policy in place. There’s no way you’re escaping me tonight.”

  My vision suddenly tipped and swam, and I had to blink several times to see him clearly. “You slipped something into my drink, didn’t you?” Hysteria welled up inside, and my mouth went dry. “Are you going to kill me too?”

  He looked appalled. “What? No! I’d never do anything to hurt you.”

  “But you are hurting me.” I struggled to break free of his hold, but felt myself growing weaker. “Don’t you understand that?”

  “No, I’m helping you. I’m going to show you how good we can be together. I finally realized if you could just see . . . if you could understand the depth of my feelings for you . . . then you’d want me as badly as I want you.” He almost sounded sweet, like he truly believed everything he was doing was for the best.

  The room tipped again, my strength seeping farther from me. Tears leaked from my eyes as I tried to keep focused. “And you’re gonna do that how, Clay? By forcing me? That isn’t going to endear you to me at all.”

  “Relax, Cami.” He lowered his mouth to my neck, brushing a kiss near my ear. “I’ll be gentle,” he crooned. “I promise. It’ll be so good.”

  “Get off me!” In a burst of last-ditch energy, I swiftly lifted my knee, hitting him with all the force I could muster—hard. He groaned in agony and rolled off me to his side, clutching his privates.

  I climbed to my feet, leaning against the wall for support. Strings of hanging lights swung wildly about, some falling as I grabbed at them in a desperate attempt to stay upright. I stumbled toward the door before remembering he had the keys on him, so I weaved my way back and began digging in his pockets. Everything was swimming, and I could barely focus, but I felt the cold metal touch my skin and I clasped it, dragging them from him as he lunged for me again. I managed to escape his grasp, and I staggered back to the door, trying desperately to stop my hands from shaking long enough to slide the keys into the lock.

  The first two didn’t work, but the third one did. I felt like I was going to vomit as I turned the knob, but before I could exit, Clay tackled me again and I went flying, hitting my head hard on the floor. It was over. I knew I’d lost. I was too drugged to attempt another escape now.

  “Please don’t, Clay.” I was crying uncontrollably, desperate to reach him somehow. “If you ever loved me at all, please don’t do this. I’ll make sure you get some help.” My lips trembled violently as I tried to form the words.

  “I don’t need help. I need you,” he said brusquely. His mouth descended to mine, and I turned my head sideways trying to avoid him, but there was nowhere to go. I was pinned beneath the length of his body. He grabbed my chin roughly and turned it back, pressing his mouth violently against my lips. His other hand slid down my thigh, bunching my dress as he pulled it up between us.

  “Stop!” I begged, tasting my own tears as I tried again to push him away. “Stop!”

  He squeezed my leg before propping up to undo the buckle on his belt.

  I tried to take advantage of the situation, attempting to roll over and crawl away from him.

  “Oh no you don’t!” he snarled, flipping me back and repositioning himself over me. I heard my clothing rip, and I started flailing against his chest with my fists.

  The heaviness in my limbs was sapping my strength, but I couldn’t stop fighting. I couldn’t let him do this. I screamed loudly, the terrified sound of my voice echoing off the walls of the room.

  Clay flinched, but didn’t stop.

  I gave into sobs. “Please,” I begged him. “Please don’t do this. Don’t do this, don’t do this, don’t do this . . .” I repeated over and over again trying to block out the sensation as his hand slid up my leg.

  There was a loud clicking sound, and Clay suddenly froze. I looked up to see the barrel of a gun pointed at his head . . . a gun held by Hunter.

  “Get up, Bradley,” Hunter said in a menacing voice, and a strangled cry escaped my lips at the sight of him. Relief poured through every part of my being. Hunter was here. Hunter was here. I couldn’t stop my hysterical tears.

  Clay slowly got up, lifting his hands into the air, his pants hanging loosely at his waist. “Don’t shoot. I’ll do whatever you say. You can put the gun down. You and I are totally cool.”

  “We’re not anywhere close to cool right now,” Hunter said, his features dark and mottled with rage. “Cami, are you okay?” he asked without taking his eyes off Clay.

  “I will be,” I tried to say between sobs.

  His jaw clenched, flexing hard. “Did he . . . was he . . .”

  I knew what he was trying to ask. “No. He didn’t . . . thanks to you.” I swallowed thickly, my tongue feeling dry and swollen. “He drugged me with something, though. I feel really sick.”

  “Did you give her meth?” Hunter demanded, glancing at me for one second with terrified concern.

  Clay dove toward the gun, knocking it free from Hunter’s grasp as they both fell. It slid down the sloping aisle toward me. Both of them scrambled for it as I sat helplessly watching, but Clay was closer and grabbed it first. Everything suddenly seemed to move at incredibly slow speed as he swung around toward Hunter, lifted the gun, pointed, and fired.

  “Nooooo!” I screamed as Hunter grunted loudly, falling beside me, blood immediately spreading across his shirt
in a dark, wet, stain.

  Clay laughed, a wild look in his eyes as he approached closer, still directing the gun at Hunter. “How quick do you want to die? I’ll let you decide where I put the next bullet.”

  “Don’t, Clay! Please don’t kill him!” I sobbed. Rolling over, I tried to protect his body with my own—my hands trying to cover the place where he was hemorrhaging.

  “Get out of the way, Cami,” Hunter said, trying to push me, but I clutched onto him.

  “No,” I whispered, hoarsely, collapsing against his chest.

  All of a sudden the world was exploding around me, and I flinched as several shots of gunfire rang through the air. I couldn’t make sense of what was happening as hands grabbed me around the waist, dragging me off of Hunter.

  “No!” I screamed, fighting until a familiar voice echoed through my hysteria.

  “Cami, it’s okay. It’s me, Chris. Are you shot?”

  I shook my head. “Help Hunter,” I begged, trembling as he laid me back on the floor. That was when I saw Clay, obviously dead in a pool of spreading blood—Hunter’s gun lying several feet away. I turned, unable to stand looking at him.

  “Code 999, code 999!” Chris yelled into his radio as he grabbed Hunter’s gun before turning to shout out the door. “The scene is clear, and I need a medic! I have an officer down!”

  An officer? What officer? I glanced around the room, looking for another victim before turning to Hunter, who was still bleeding heavily beside me. I tried to lift my hand to put pressure back on the wound, but I could barely move.

  “Cami,” he choked out as Chris knelt beside us and quickly tore off a part of my dress, holding it over the bullet hole in Hunter’s chest.

  “Hang in there, Dylan,” Chris said, his face a mask of worry. “Don’t you even think of dying or your sister will kill me. I promised her I wouldn’t let you get hurt.”

  “Dylan?” I questioned, their faces both blurring as I glanced between them.

  “My real name,” Hunter wheezed. “I couldn’t tell you. I wanted to, but it would’ve blown the investigation.” Little bits of blood came out of his mouth.

  “You’re a cop?” I whispered, trying to fight the blackness swimming at the edges of my consciousness.

  He nodded slightly, grimacing.

  “So, it was all a lie . . .” I couldn’t hang on any longer. I let the darkness envelope me.

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