Chapter 3: Masks
At seven o'clock sharp, Gabriella called out dinner was about to be served. Jasmine sighed. She had been listening to her iPod while finishing her Physics homework. She was thinking about looking for a tutor. Her former high school was a few lessons behind in both Physics and Chem and Jasmine was having difficulties understanding the curriculum.
She never had been a science genius, but today she'd felt like an idiot during her Chemistry class. They were working with a more advanced textbook that needed a decent basic knowledge about the subject. Knowledge Jasmine didn't possess.
"How was school, honey?" Gabriella asked as Jasmine joined them in the dining room. She noticed both Lucas and Nathan were absent.
"Okay, I guess," she replied shortly, not feeling like elaborating. It hadn't been the best of days and she didn't want to worry Gabriella needlessly. To be completely honest, she felt relieved no one had tried to befriend her. She didn't want to come off like a bitch by ignoring people. It was simply too soon after the death off her grandmother to start being happy again. She needed more time to mourn.
They ate in silence. Jasmine picked at her food, once again reminding herself she needed to gain a few pounds. When she was halfway through her plate, the front door suddenly opened and Nathan sauntered inside, a heavy bag hanging across his back. "Evening," he called out, putting his bag down and getting into his seat. His hair was still dripping wet, the evidence he'd taken a shower after practice.
"Nathan, did you forget to use a towel?" Frank questioned, shaking his head. He didn't look mad as a grin made its way across his features.
"He's just like you when you were his age. Luckily he doesn't make a habit out of running around naked through the house," Gabriella replied, smiling foolishly at her husband. He winked back at her and pecked her lips, making Nathan gag.
"Mom and dad! Please! I'm trying to eat here. You're ruining my appetite," he whined, hiding his eyes. Jasmine had to hold back a fit of laughter, looking at the trio in amusement. They were such a cute family. She would have to be strong and extra vigilant to get too attached.
As they finished eating, Lucas suddenly ran down the stairs, a pack of cigarettes and the keys to his Harley in his hands. Jasmine wrinkled her nose at the thought of smoking a cigarette. She absolutely despised the smell and often got sick from being in the same room with people that smoked.
"Where do you think you're going?" Frank called out, sounding beyond pissed off.
"None of your damn business. I'm an adult. I don't answer to you," Lucas replied, smirking as he zipped his leather jacket and put on a pair of combat boots.
"As long as you live underneath my roof and use my money for your education and consumptions, you will have to listen to me, young man," Frank stated, his face turning a darker shade of red. The elder man was usually in control of his emotions, but Lucas seemed to trigger his rage.
"I'm going to take a smoke, drive to the nearest bar, get drunk as a skunk and take some slut home to fuck her all night long," Lucas complied. "Happy now, old man?" he questioned before walking outside and slamming the door shut with a loud thud.
Frank let out a deep sigh as his son left the house, shaking his head in disappointment. "I'm sorry you had to witness that, Jasmine. My son isn't the easiest kid to handle," he apologized before he collected the dishes and put them in the dishwasher while Gabriella cleaned the table. Gabriella put a hand on her husband's arm to sooth his worries and calm his temper.
Jasmine stared wide-eyed at the empty space Lucas had been occupying minutes ago. She didn't understand how he could be such an asshole while his brother was such a gentleman. They had the same loving parents, lived in the same house, yet they were the exact opposite of each other. It was beyond weird.
"Did you need some help with your Chemistry homework?" Nathan questioned as they ascended the stairs together. "I noticed you seemed to have trouble understanding the subject material earlier. You were constantly making faces and playing with your pencil," he remarked.
"You saw that, huh?" she asked, slightly embarrassed he had noticed.
"It was pretty hard to miss," he admitted, nodding. "I'm a straight A-student so I usually finish my exercises before everyone else and had some time to glance around the room." If that was his way of nonchalantly saying he had been ogling her, she felt sorry he didn't have the guts to overtly flirt with her.
"I'm impressed. You don't look like a nerd," Jasmine stated, looking him up and down as if figuring out how it was possible he got straight A's. In reality, she was simply checking him out. It was too bad he still looked so much like a boy. She couldn't say she was drawn to him. They didn't have the spark she needed in order to be attracted to him.
"What are you saying, Jazzy? Do I look like a moron to you that plays football and only knows how to get into the panties of cheerleaders? That's quite the stereotype," he teased, bumping her in the shoulder. Urgh. There goes the affection again. She hated it when people touched her without permission.
"You make me feel like a toddler when you call me Jazzy. I only allow your mother to call me that because she looks so happy when she uses that pet name," she said, her tone slightly exasperated.
"Oh come on, Jasmine is such a long name. Can't I shorten it? Please?" Nathan asked, using a puppy dog look she didn't know he possessed. Damn. If that didn't make her heart melt, she didn't know what else would.
"You can call me 'Jas', but only if no one is around. Deal?" she proposed. She wasn't a big fan of using nicknames. In pre-school kids used to call her mini, a name she had absolutely despised. As a child, she had always been pretty small and other kids bullied her with the fact they were all bigger than her.
"Deal," Nathan agreed, shaking her hand. "Call me Nate. Only my parents use my full name," he added, winking like he'd just given her a privilege.
"Sure, Nate," she answered, grinning a little before halting at her door.
"So, do you need some tutoring?" he asked her, leaning a bit closer. She suddenly started to feel suffocated. Nathan's eyes showed clear hopefulness as he took a step closer. He was clearly in to her. How come she hadn't noticed before? Because you were too busy staring at his older brother. A voice inside of her head commented. Yeah, right.
"Nah. I'm going to try to finish my homework on my own. I'll come and get you if I can't figure it out," she replied, immediately feeling like a complete idiot. There was no way she was going to be able to finish her homework on her own. She hadn't gotten much further than the first exercise earlier.
"Okay," Nathan smiled, hiding his obvious disappointment at her rejection. She waited until he disappeared into his room before stepping inside of hers. She should have accepted his help instead of cowardly turning it down. Just because he was attracted to her doesn't mean something had to happen. Maybe she had misread his intentions and he truly just wanted to be friends. After all, he did seem to have more than enough girls begging for his attention.
A sudden noise jolted Jasmine awake. She quickly put her hand above her rapidly beating heart and tried to catch her breath as she sat upright. A little dazed she looked through the room, realization dawning on her that she no longer lived in Florida but with the Wood family.
The thumping sound combined with a moan suddenly returned, making Jasmine sigh in annoyance. Of course, who else could it have been? Pissed off beyond measure, she threw her legs off the bed and made her way towards Lucas' room. She forcefully knocked on his door, repeating the motion when no one answered within a minute. She was going to kill that annoying bastard.
"Yes?" Lucas suddenly exclaimed, throwing the door open. Her breath caught in her throat as she watched him stand completely and utterly naked in front of her, his erection proudly upright. She quickly hid her eyes with both her hands, feeling the sudden need to poke her eyes out.
"Could you, please, put on some clothes?" she asked him, ready to beg if necessary. She honestly didn't want a repeat of what she had seen. Not that Lucas looked bad – not bad at all. In fact he looked delicious enough to eat, his cock long and thick… Urgh! Stop it! What the hell was she thinking?
"What's wrong, princess? Are you a little prude?" Lucas taunted, clearly amused. She could practically hear him smirking.
"I am not a prude!" she cried out, affronted by his assumptions as she stubbornly stomped her foot, but she kept her eyes firmly covered.
"Then what's a little nakedness? You don't have to cover your eyes. I'm not shy, I promise," he grinned, prodding her fingers from her eyes.
Jasmine kept her gaze focused on his face, ignoring the urge to look down and take another peak at his well-defined six-pack and lower body. Lucas was smirking at her like she had expected him to, looking way too pleased with himself. She desperately wanted to wipe that look off his face.
"Did you want to join us, princess?" he asked her seductively, raising an eyebrow as he pointed at the very naked blonde woman on top of his bed. She quickly adverted her eyes, her cheeks turning crimson. God, this was so embarrassing! It only seemed to become worse with each passing second.
"No!" she cried out, absolutely horrified by his proposition. Jasmine might not be a prude, but she was still very much a virgin.
"Don't be so shy, princess. There's no need," he said in his sultry voice as he cupped her cheek. She flinched at his touch, not because it felt bad. No, instead she had felt little jolts of awareness shooting straight to her core at the skin to skin contact. A feeling she enjoyed way too much.
"Don't touch me," she gritted through her teeth, taking a step back. Being the utter asshole he was, Lucas decided not to listen and took a step closer instead. Their noses were nearly touching and she suddenly became very aware of the fact that he was completely naked.
His hardness was now pressed against her lower belly as he cupped her face in both his hands. "If I were you, I'd quickly get that hot little ass of yours inside your room and quit disturbing me before I decide to have a threesome," he dangerously whispered in her ear, taking a soft nip of her earlobe.
She didn't utter another word as he slowly stepped back, a satisfied grin crossing his features. "Goodnight, princess," he winked as he pressed a hot kiss against her cheek and pushed her hair back behind her ear before disappearing into his room. All she could think was: what the hell just happened?
It was nearly half past five when Jasmine woke for the second time that night. This time the house was eerily quiet, which left her wondering why the hell she had woken up that early. She put on her slippers, careful not to make a sound. She didn't want to wake the rest of the family. A foolish thought considering the size of the house and the fact the only person that slept close enough to hear her was Lucas.
She honestly didn't understand what Gabriella had been thinking when she gave her the bedroom across from Lucas. He might not bother her intentionally, but he sure as hell disturbed her night rest. What would possess a man to sleep with a different woman each and every night? And, how could his parents let it happen under their own roof? She didn't understand Lucas' behavior and she probably never would. He was a mystery to her.
As she stepped out on her balcony, Jasmine suddenly noticed a movement in the yard. Taken by surprise she took a step backward, almost stumbling over a flowerpot. She cringed, praying no one had heard her. She could be so clumsy sometimes! Shaking her head, she turned her attention back to the garden to catch another movement.
Glancing down at the terrace downstairs, she suddenly noticed Lucas sitting next to the swimming pool, his feet dangling in the water. He was smoking a cigarette while staring blankly ahead of himself, seemingly lost in his thoughts. She raised an eyebrow, not understanding what the hell he was doing outside at the swimming pool so early in the morning. Didn't he need to sleep?
Shaking her head, she watched as he leaned back on his elbows and looked up at the stars. It was a clear night, the sky a beautiful color of midnight blue yet untouched by the sun that would be up in a couple of hours. He looked more at peace than she had ever seen him, his posture relaxed and his features much softer than during the day.
Jasmine had to admit he looked incredibly handsome like that. The bad boy far gone. If it hadn't been for his tattoos, he probably would look like a normal guy his age. He was wearing a grey pair of sweatpants that were rolled up to his knees and a dark blue shirt. His hair was a mess like usual, something she found extremely enticing.
She felt a little like a stalker, watching him from afar when he had no idea she was around to ogle him. The blonde that had accompanied him earlier seemed to have disappeared. Jasmine wondered if he always threw out his conquests after he was done with them. She'd never seen any of his girls in the morning.
Sighing softly, Jasmine turned around and returned to her room. What was it that drew her to Lucas so much? She should forget about him altogether. He wasn't a good guy. He was exactly the type of person Jasmine should stay away from. She had dated his type in the past and nothing good had come out of it.
Her stomach decided that exact moment was the time to start grumbling. Jasmine quickly put her hand on her belly as she closed the balcony doors, hoping Lucas hadn't heard her. When she glanced through the curtains, it seemed like he was still comfortably sitting at the water.
Jasmine put on her robe as she made her way downstairs, walking on her tiptoes to make sure she didn't make any noise. When she finally reached the kitchen, she took a gallon of milk out of the fridge and poured herself a glass. In the cupboard she found some toast to fill her empty stomach.
It was a good thing she seemed to have gotten her appetite back. Hopefully she would gain a few pounds now that her body was functioning normally again. As she sat down on top of the kitchen counter, she thought back over the many times she'd woken up at night only to find her grandmother sitting in the kitchen, reading a book.
Theresa had loved reading novels. She often couldn't sleep at night and retreated to the kitchen to read the latest book she bought. Jasmine had often teased her that she had an addiction. The bookcase in their house had been well-lined.
A single tear rolled down Jasmine's cheek, her hands tightly clutched around the chain between the hollow of her breasts as she drowned herself in memories. She had experienced so many happy moments with her grandmother, memories no one could ever take away from her. Theresa would always stay her idol.
Wiping her tear stricken face with the sleeve of her robe, Jasmine hopped off the counter and put the empty glass of milk in the dishwasher. She felt a bunch of new tears well up in her eyes, but she refused to let them escape as she made her way back to her room.
As she stepped into the hallway, her body suddenly collided with a hard object. She let out a high-pitched shriek, quickly trying to find her balance but failing miserably. If it hadn't been for the two strong arms holding her up, she would have fallen on her bum, but instead those strong arms kept her suspended in mid-air inches from the floor. Looking up in surprise, her eyes locked with Lucas' blue orbs. Her cheeks turned beet red when she realized the hard object had in fact been Lucas' well-muscled chest.
"I'm sorry," she uttered out shakily, trying to catch her breath. Her heart was beating rapidly in her chest as she tried to regain control of her body. Lucas looked caught off guard, his face showing a clear state of shock before he returned to his normal self and started to smirk.
"I know I'm good-looking, but you don't have to fall at my feet," he grinned as he helped her stand up. She brushed away the invisible dirt on her pants, when Lucas suddenly put his finger under her chin and made her look him in the eye. "You've been crying," he stated, looking confused. With care he wiped the last remaining tears from her face.
Heat rose to her cheeks as his finger trailed softly up and down her cheek, leaving a sense of awareness in its wake. His eyes had softened for the first time since she had met him. He was looking at her with kindness instead of the usual cockiness and arrogance.
Jasmine felt confused beyond measure, frozen in place as she let Lucas touch her face. She didn't know what the hell was going on, but she felt herself enjoying his contiguity. For a moment, she could see the guy underneath all those thick layers, the guy he once had been before he changed into a cold and emotionless bastard.
She couldn't help but wonder what had happened to change him into such a destructive person. There seemed to be many layers to Lucas Wood and she honestly didn't know who the real one was. She had only known him for 48 hours, yet had already seen more sides of him than she'd ever seen in another person before. He wore so many masks she couldn't seem to figure out which one was real.
Suddenly, like he had been struck by the lightening, Lucas practically jumped away from her. His eyes widened for a fraction of a second and then his passive look was back. "Good night, princess. Dream of me," he winked as he showed her his trademark smirk before turning around and running upstairs. She stayed behind at a loss for words, frozen to the ground.
The following day at school went about as well as the first one. Boys kept trying to get her attention while most of the girls seemed to avoid her altogether. She was currently seated in the back of class, mindlessly listening to the teacher standing in front of the room. She'd just gotten a Chem test, one she was pretty sure she failed miserably.
Most of the students were half-asleep in their seats, the ones that did stay awake were either making drawings in their textbook or playing with their phone underneath their desks. Mr. Harrison was a pretty boring teacher who obviously only came to school to get a paycheck at the end of the month and not because he liked teaching high school kids.
"Psst, Jasmine?" she suddenly heard someone whispering from behind her. She quietly turned around to see Nathan waving at her. He was grinning from ear to ear as he threw her a note. She caught the tiny piece of paper, quickly turning around to make sure Mr. Harrison hadn't noticed the note being thrown through class.
The old man was still standing next to his blackboard, a piece of chalk in his hand as he pointed at the correct solution to the exercise he was currently solving. Jasmine carefully unfolded the piece of paper, concentrating on the words to read Nathan's note. Damn, that boy needed to learn to write properly. She could barely make out the correct letters.
Parents are out of town tonight. You can invite some friends over. We're having a pool party.
Jasmine refolded the note, nodding at Nathan to let him know she understood. If she had to be honest, Jasmine didn't really feel like having a party. She could already imagine what would happen. Their guests would drink themselves into a stupor and trash the house. In the morning, Jasmine would have to help to clean up the mess and make sure everything is back in order before Gabriella and Frank were due to arrive home.
She probably would have to lock her door as well, before some drunken couple decided to use her bed to fuck on. Besides, who would she invite? It wasn't like she had made any friends the past two days.
The bell went off, alarming Jasmine her lunch break had started. She carefully put her note book back in her bag and made her way towards the cafeteria. The place was already crowded, a mass of teenagers making their way to their friends. Jasmine bumped into a few bodies as she stumbled towards the lunch counter.
"I wouldn't take that if I were you. It usually tastes like rubbish," a red haired girl said from beside her as Jasmine had been leaning in to grab a jar of pudding. Jasmine smiled politely at the girl as she retrieved her arm. "I'm Lucy, by the way," she added shyly, playing with the end of one of her long strands of hair.
She kind of looked like a nerd, but a cute one at that. "Jasmine," she replied, nodding at the girl. Maybe it was time to make her first real friend in Cali. Lucy didn't look too bad and was the opposite of the girls Jasmine used to befriend. She seemed shy and self-conscious, but clearly a sweet person at heart.
"Do you want to come to a party at my place tonight?" Jasmine questioned as she followed the girl to the nearest table. No one seemed to join Lucy, making Jasmine think the girl probably didn't have many friends.
"I don't want to sound rude, but I rather not come. I'm not really a party kind of person," Lucy replied, shaking her head as she started to pick at her food.
"Don't worry about it. I'm not exactly a party person myself, but my housemates are kind of forcing me. I can't exactly hide in my room all night," Jasmine explained, taking a bite of her apple.
"Can I ask you a question?" the girl asked, looking slightly uncomfortable.
"Of course," Jasmine told her. She guessed Lucy didn't often communicate with people, seeing she got nervous over asking a simple question. It was like Jasmine was going to strangle her for being curious.
"How come you live with the Wood boys? As far as the gossip goes, Lucas and Nate don't have a sister," she questioned, raising an eyebrow.
"Gabriella is my godmother. I'm living with them until I turn eighteen and am officially an adult so I can move back to Florida where I belong," Jasmine replied deadpan. She had been expecting the question, but thinking about home made her feel kind of sad. She still didn't know how she was going to survive without her grandmother.
She'd put an effort in acting like she was alright, but deep down she still felt torn. Her tears last night had been the proof of her mixed up feelings. No matter how many times she kept telling herself she was going to be okay, her heart still insisted her life was over.
The Wood family had been extremely kind to her, accepting her like a daughter, but it didn't take away the fact she felt alone. The one person she could rely on and tell her darkest secrets to had disappeared from the earth.
"You're from Florida?" Lucy smiled excitedly. "Did you often go to Disneyworld?" she questioned, her nerves seemingly gone. "I absolutely love Walt Disney. I've been to Disneyland but never Disneyworld which seems like it would be so much better. I'm a huge fan of their movies. I think I've watched every single one of them at least twice," she rambled on. Jasmine did her best to follow Lucy's ramblings, but after a while she kind of lost track of the conversation. Not that the girl seemed to mind. She was too excited to notice Jasmine wasn't listening. It was going to be a long year.