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How We Fell

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Kayden's world is turned upside down within a matter of mere minutes. All American girl turned orphan has to move in with her father's best friend and his older son. She was once close to her friend, who was like a cousin, but eight years has passed since she's seen them. When they meet again, everything had changed.

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The backpack strung over my shoulders felt like it had bricks packed in it. Heck, I even tried strapping it to my suitcase, but that just made it too heavy to tug behind me even if it was on wheels. You'd think a girl my age would have more than two things to hold the most important contents of their life thus far, but that was the only luggage I was able to bring. At least for now. "Uncle" Everett—who had been Dad's best friend for the past thirty years, and isn't actually my uncle or related to me biologically—insisted on driving up there some week during the summer to collect the rest of my things, but I couldn't go back into that house... Not after what I saw. I could still hear their pleas, and I shuddered, feeling nauseous all over again. I miss you Mom and Dad.

"There she is!" An all too familiar voice boomed from down the walkway. I was pulled from my thoughts when I saw him standing less than twenty feet away from me. Without giving it a second thought, I dropped my backpack and suitcase so I could take off running towards him. "Nix!" I shouted, knowing he never put up a fight when I called him that unlike when our other cousin's did.

Phoenix was Everett's son. I wrapped my arms around his waist, and couldn't help but notice how much bigger he'd gotten. He had stubble lining the cut of his jaw, and he stood nearly a foot taller than me. It had been almost eight years since I saw him last, so I shouldn't have been so surprised. But could you blame me? The last time I saw him, he was my age. A heck of a lot skinnier, glasses that didn't fit correctly on his nose, and a lot more acne, but now his skin was bronzed and glowing.

"What have you been eating?" I giggled. I can feel the muscles beneath his shirt. I need to let go. I nuzzled my face into his shirt, trying to hide the blush I felt creeping onto my cheeks. Alright, enough, Kayden. "Let's get you home. You must be starving after flying in." Everett startled me. I felt him ruffle my hair like I was eight years old all over again.

"I'm not a kid anymore, Uncle Everett." I said with a 'duh', and rolled my eyes at him. He had always thought of me like a niece. He was the best man at my parents' wedding and was there for my birth, so everyone thought it was fitting for me to call him 'uncle'. I pulled him into a hug before he could drive us to the house. His body stiffened as I squeezed him tighter, pushing my chest into him discreetly. The abrasion of the fabric from my bra teased my growing peaks, and I felt that familiar heat creeping up the back of my neck. Almost reluctantly, he wrapped his arms around my shoulders and gave me a quick hug in return. He smells so good. Woodsy and smoky like he's been sitting by a bonfire. I could get lost in the embrace of either of my relatives... What's wrong with me?

"I bet she could whoop your ass if you're not too careful, old man." Phoenix chuckled before slapping his dad on the back. "I'll race ya' to the truck." He grinned at me before taking off towards the exit of the building. His long legs pushed him further and further away from me, knowing I wouldn't be able to catch up with him, but not one to back down from a competition either, I took off after him. It was a happy feeling, especially after the lonesomeness I felt on the plane. This sense of familiarity, of my childhood, and family was exactly what I needed.

"Yes, children, of course I'll grab the luggage." Everett hollered from behind me. Phoenix was right, 'old man' indeed. I pumped my arms quicker, trying to wield myself to go faster but there was no use trying to beat Phoenix. He looked like a freaking college altheate, of course I couldn't beat him.

"Okay," I huffed out as I hunched over, bracing myself on my knees. "You win." I bit out playfully. He leaned against the truck, not an ounce of breath was knocked from him as I sucked down lungful of air.

"You better hop in." He patted the door to the backseat, causing me to narrow my eyes at him. "The rules haven't changed since we were little. I won, so I get shotgun." He just loved teasing me. Too young to do this, too slow to do that.

I yanked the rear door open and climbed up into the lifted truck as easily as my 5'2 height would allow for. I wouldn't have been surprised if Everett had a booster seat ready for me like I'd magically appear as an eight year old again, but Phoenix was an only child and he clearly didn't need one. I couldn't stifle the laugh that fluttered up my throat at the thought of him sitting in one. We would have to get a crowbar to pry it off his bubble butt clad in light-washed jeans.

"Ready to go, kids?" Everett asked after he slid into his seat and fastened his seatbelt.

"Yeah, pops." Phoenix replied. But I just sat there with my arms crossed over my chest, pushing up my nearly nonexistent-boobs, like a brat. There wasn't entirely a reason for doing so, but something deep within me was gnawing at me to push his buttons. Each and every last one of them.

The only acknowledgement he granted me was a glare in the rear view mirror that sent a chill down my spine. It was an expectant look, one that no one dared to question. I was drowning in his beautiful, ocean blue eyes, but I kept my lips pursed and an eyebrow perched. A battle it is.

My exterior was melting at the silent exchange and I sighed, finally buckling up. "Alright then. Let's go." Everett said and pulled out of the parking garage.


"C'mon, Kaydee cat. You can't sleep in the truck all night." Phoenix nudged my shoulder as he stood outside the truck.

"Go away, Nix," I groaned in protest, not wanting to open my heavy eyes. As exciting as these two men were, I was not ready to face this new home, this new life yet. I wasn't ready to step into the threshold of their country home, to be shown to the guest room they fixed up for me openly to be decorated with one picture frame and a stuffed animal.

"Alright, but when that mountain man lingering in the woods comes and sees a pretty little thing sleeping in the truck, I don't want to hear you hollerin'." He crooned, forcing me to snap my eyes open. I slung my legs towards the door and hopped out. "Is Kayden a scaredy-cat?" Phoenix teased me and I gave him a vulgar gesture as I hustled to the house.

"Grab my bags, would you?" I shouted over my shoulder as I opened the front door. The house was completely silent, as if it were barren. Everett must've been in bed already because the only light left on was in the hallway that led to the guest room—my room. I trudged lazily to my room, my feet feeling like cement blocks with every step I took. I was so desperately tired.

It didn't even matter that I didn't have my bags, or pajamas to change into. I was smart enough to wear leggings and a t-shirt for the plane ride, and that would suffice for the night. My body felt like it needed a long shower, with extra hot water. With a sigh, I collapsed onto the mattress after I kicked off my shoes, not making an effort to cover up. The welcoming darkness was engulfing my senses, pulling me into that numbing unconsciousness. It was where I could run and hide from the darkness that plagued my subconscious, nagging at myself to curl up and wallow in pity.

I was on the bridge between awake and sleep, when I heard a rustling in my room. A floorboard creaked before silence engulfed the room, and my body tensed. I held my breath waiting for another croak. Another came, and then I felt the covers being pulled over me and resting on my shoulders. Even though I was lying on my stomach, I could see my stuffed bunny being sat down next to me by a strong, veiny hand in the dark.

"Goodnight, Kayden." Phoenix said after placing a kiss so softly to my forehead, I thought I may have been dreaming already, that this was a figment of my imagination.

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