The Cunning (Book 1/2)

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Four lines later and Madison understood why Jase was so erratic. She was talking and she was talking fast.

“Drum and bass is kind of cool,” she said, nodding along to the warped music. Jase watched her, an amused smile on his face, arms folded as he listened intently to everything she was saying. A calculated amount of intrigue in his eyes for this new side of Madison. The beat dropped and so did her jaw, eyes widening as she held a finger up. Jase tipped his head back, laughing. “I think I’ve found my new favourite genre,” she said.

“Yeah?” he asked with raised eyebrows, reaching into his back pocket and pulling out the baggie that made Madison’s eyes light up.

“I don’t think I had one before, I never really listened to much music.”

“No?” Jase responded, opening the bag and taking out the folded square of cardboard. Madison shook her head, not taking into account quite how much she was talking but he didn’t seem to mind, patiently listening to her ramble.

“No. I read books quite a lot. Didn’t exactly go to parties or anything so you know, never did drugs and stuff like that. They always kind of scared me.” He watched her from the corner of his eyes, sliding a card from his wallet, sniggering at her breathless chatter.

“Not so much anymore though, hey?” he said, Madison grinned and shrugged.

“Not really. Not here at least. I feel kind of safe around you.” At that, Jase turned to look at her properly. She was still smiling, bobbing along to the heavy bassline.

“That’s good then.” He meant it. His attention returned to the small pile of white powder in front of him and he began separating it into two lines.

“Thank you, by the way, for like-” Jase snapped his head round sharply, tensing as she continued, “sharing your coke. I don’t have any money to pay for it but like, thanks.” He relaxed into another smile, shaking his head and tapping his card through the powdery mound.

“Bunny, I’m a drug dealer. It’s fine.” She was an adorable fiend; he’d give her that.

“I know,” she pressed on, “but you didn’t have to and I know we’re not supposed to be doing drugs or whatever-” he frowned at the measly lines, surprised they’d gone through so much already. Madison was a still talking “-so I just figured I’d say thank you.” There wasn’t enough for two decent lines. He tossed the empty baggy into the middle of the table,

“I’ll be back in a second bub. I’m just going to get another wrap.” Madison’s stomach flipped when he’d called her bub. A feeling she couldn’t decide was the drugs or something else. She smiled, turning to look at Sam and Janine, both smirking at her.

“You look like you’re having fun,” Sam said.

“I’m having a great time,” she replied. Jase returned, a fresh gram in his hand.

He let Madison do hers first, holding her hair back so it didn’t sweep away the lines he’d carefully crafted. Her heart was pounding so hard in her chest she thought it would burst through her rib cage.

“You good?” he asked, sealing the new packet and tucking it away in his pocket. Madison nodded.

“Amazing.” Jase’s brows furrowed, noticing she was chewing the inside of her lip. He leaned forward, pulling it out at the corner with his thumb and frowning. The inside was shredded.

“You’re doing it again.”

“I don’t know how to stop,” Madison pouted, Jase was shaking it head.

“Yeah, you can’t. Sam,” Sam looked up from shovelling another heap under Janine’s nose, “you got any gum?” Sam smirked, tossing over a tub of gum that had been on the chair next to him. Jase popped it open, holding it out to Madison.

“Is that a bad thing, the chewing?” she asked, feeling as though she was disappointing him by not being able to handle the cocaine. Which would seem ridiculous to her sober self but when he was nice like he was tonight, she wanted to be able to keep the atmosphere at that level for as long as possible.

“Nah,” he said, clipping the lid back on after she’d taken a piece, “you can’t help it, don’t worry about it.” She sucked her lips in, the buzz subsided as she filled with anxiety.

“Am I being annoying? I feel like I’m talking so much.” Jase nodded.

“You are, but it’s fine, you’ll do that. You’re not annoying.” From then, she made a conscious effort to try and keep her talking under control, not enjoying the feeling of anxiety the cocaine was now giving her. After a few minutes, Janine noticed she’d suddenly just gone quiet.

“Mads, are you okay?” she asked. Madison sank down in her chair. She hadn’t noticed how cold she was and wrapped her arms around herself. Jase looked down at her pulling her knees up to her chest to lock in some body heat.

“You feeling a little uncomfortable?” he asked, all too familiar with the anxiety cocaine could bring out. She nodded again, and he offered a comforting smile, reaching across and playing with her hair. It was so simple but it began to calm her down. Feeling grounded with his fingers running through her waves like snakes in long grass. It was the most human behaviour he’d portrayed so far and it seemed to come as a surprise to everyone, Madison noted Janine and Sam looking at each other with raised brows.

Madison stared at her empty bottle. Jase’s fingers were still running through her hair slowly as he talked to Sam.

“I’m going to get another drink, does anyone want one?” she asked, standing up. They all thanked her and she collected the empty bottles that were beginning to crowd the table.

It was the early hours of the morning and the crowd had died down, leaving around twenty people in the house. She made her way into the kitchen, where a few were still mingling. As she turned away from the fridge after getting everyone’s drinks, she was blocked by a vaguely familiar face.

Mike loomed over Madison, grinning down at her. Instinctively, she took a step back, pushing herself into the corner, bumping her shoulder on the fridge door as she did so and causing the left-over bottles inside to clink and chime.

“Hello you,” he greeted, his grin widening to expose blackened teeth.

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