Delicate Hearts

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Chapter 6: Fueled Fury

Jasmine was drawing doodles on the side of her textbook, mindlessly letting her pencil slide over the page. It was only the second period of the day and she was already beyond exhausted. The teacher in front of the class was currently trying to explain the difference between Adam Smith and Karl Marx.

She kind of lost track of the lecture when Mr. James finished his first sentence. Her mind was still too preoccupied with the events of the previous day. She couldn't seem to forget about the kiss Lucas and she shared. No matter how much she wanted to forget, she could still feel the lingering touch of his lips against hers, the currents of sheer pleasure that coursed through her body.

He hadn't come home last night. His bike was gone from the garage and Lucas was nowhere to be found. Nathan didn't seem to be upset by the fact his brother had disappeared. Apparently it wasn't the first time Lucas didn't show up at home. Nathan informed her he'd been gone for days a few weeks back without any kind of explanation.

It worried her that he didn't return home. He didn't deserve her worries, yet she couldn't help but fret. If it hadn't been for the kiss that happened between the two of them, Lucas probably would have come home last night like he usually does. Part of her felt guilty. However, the most important emotion that coursed through her was relief. She was glad she didn't have to face him so soon after what happened.

"You're zoning out," Lucy mumbled from beside her, poking her in the ribs. Jasmine shrieked at the touch, quickly covering her mouth when she realized she'd attracted the class' attention. Lucy rolled her eyes at her new friend and quickly returned her attention to the page of her textbook they were currently discussing.

Jasmine acted like nothing happened and started drawing circles on the side of her textbook, her cheeks still slightly flushed from embarrassment. "What was that for?" she questioned softly, making sure no one but Lucy could hear her. The other students turned their attention back to whatever they had been doing before.

"You were zoning out. I'd been trying to get your attention for five minutes straight, but you kept staring down at your textbook like it was the most fascinating thing in the world. I was getting worried you'd lost your mind completely," Lucy stated, giving her a coy look.

To Jasmine's great surprise, Lucy turned out to be a pretty cool person. In the short amount of time Jasmine had known her, she found she really liked the girl. Lucy was always straight to the point, honest yet sensitive. She always thought before speaking and shied away from conversing with the 'it' crowd.

"Like hell I was," Jasmine replied, shaking her head. Lucy's eyes widened and didn't seem to be focused on her, but over her shoulder.

"Miss Price, is there anything you would like to share with us?" Mr. James suddenly questioned, raising an eyebrow. Jasmine's eyes immediately shot up. She hadn't realized the teacher was standing right beside her. The elder man was glaring in her direction, making her cheeks flush with embarrassment, again.

She shook her head, murmuring a quick apology while hoping Mr. James would recommence his lecture. All eyes were focused solely on her as some girls started to snicker. "Then I suggest you keep your mouth shut from now on, Miss Price. I do not appreciate students interrupting my class. This will be your first and only warning. Next time I'll see you in detention," the man clarified before returning to the front of the class.

Jasmine let out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding, her shoulders slouching down as she processed his words. She wasn't a goody-two-shoes, but she'd never gotten detention either. You could say she was categorized as your average teenage girl. She didn't get straight A's, but didn't fail her tests either. She didn't party all night long, but she did attend some high school festivities. She drank from time to time and had experimented with smoking. Which ended up in her practically coughing her guts out the first time she took a drag. Quite an embarrassing experience to be honest.

"Shit. I'm sorry, Jasmine. I wasn't trying to get you in trouble," Lucy whispered, her voice barely audible. She was clearly scared to get a lecture from Mr. James herself.

"Don't worry about it. You can't help he's such a cruel jerk that gets off on scaring his students," Jasmine replied, equally softly. She didn't want Lucy to feel bad. The poor girl couldn't help it that Mr. James liked to intimidate people. He was the kind of teacher that liked his students to know they shouldn't mess with him.

After another thirty minutes of listening to Mr. James lecture the bell finally rang, signaling they were finally rescued from another boring conversation about the Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. It wasn't that Jasmine despised Economics, but she wasn't at all interested in knowing the entire history of Adam Smith and the other pioneers of political economy.

"I could barely keep my eyes open. That man obviously doesn't know how to explain something without losing his students' interest," Lucy exclaimed as they walked out of class towards their lockers.

"I know. He's even worse than Mr. Harrison," Jasmine agreed, referring to her Chemistry teacher. She'd received her first F earlier this morning when she got her Chem test back. As expected, she failed the test, making her Chemistry grade go down another notch. She desperately needed to get her grades up if she wanted to graduate.

"Speaking of Mr. Harrison, would you like to team up for our next Chem assignment? We can choose partners and I'd really like for you to be mine," the redhead proposed, looking excited. Jasmine smiled brightly and nodded. Maybe she had finally found the perfect solution to get her grades up.

"Great!" Lucy exclaimed loudly, quickly covering her mouth when she noticed people started to give her weird looks. "Would you like to come over to my house tomorrow night?" she questioned, her voice a few octaves lower.

"How about I ask Gabriella if you can come over? That way we could take a swim after we're done with school work. It's so freaking hot outside. I feel like I'm going to dehydrate if I don't soak in a pool soon," Jasmine proposed. In reality, she simply didn't want to leave the mansion. Going to Lucy's house would mean meeting her parents and growing even more attached to California than she already was.

No matter how welcome she felt in her new residence, the decision she had made early on remained the same. At the end of the school year she would return home, search for a job and live at her grandmother's house. She would be able to visit Theresa's grave on daily base and fend for herself instead of depending on strangers.

"You mean the Wood mansion?" Lucy asked, the excitement detectable in her voice as her eyes grow wide as saucers. A broad smile washed over her features, making her grin like a total fool.

"Yes, the Wood mansion," Jasmine clarified, giving her friend a weird look. What on earth could be so thrilling about going to the Wood family estate? It was a house just like any other, with the exception it was probably ten times bigger.

"Oh my god," the redhead mused. "I've always wanted to visit the famous Wood estate, but I never got an invite to their parties. Well, besides that one time you asked me. Only popular kids get invited by Nathan," she went on, a dreamy look in her eyes.

"You can't be serious," Jasmine suddenly groaned, making a gagging sound. "You've got a crush on Nathan," she guessed as she watched her friend intently. Lucy's cheeks immediately reddened as she fiercely started to shake her head in disagreement.

"Don't try to deny it, missy. That starry-eyed look didn't go unnoticed by me," she interrupted before Lucy could utter a word. It earned her a shy look from her friend. Lucy's cheeks turned a few shades darker if possible, her eyelashes fluttering closed.

"Don't you dare to tell anyone!" she suddenly cried out, her eyes pleading. Jasmine laughed and shook her head at her friend's obvious fear.

"I won't. Don't worry about it. I'm not a gossip so your secret is safe with me," Jasmine promised, resting her hand above her heart. No matter how funny she thought it was that her new friend was crushing on her housemate, she would never betray Lucy's trust. You could say a lot about Jasmine, but she wasn't a disloyal friend.

"He doesn't like me back, though. He's always hanging out with that Kelsey skank. Apparently they hook up after football practice," Lucy suddenly said, revealing yet another piece of information about one of the Wood brothers. Sometimes Jasmine honestly questioned how she could think she knew either of them, when she kept discovering bits and pieces of new information about them.

It was quite simple. After living with two brothers for a week, she didn't know anything about them. She may have discovered some interesting stuff, but the truth always stayed hidden for much longer. She might think she had them all figured out, but only time would tell whether she was right.

"You don't know that for sure," Jasmine protested. She started to put her books into her locker when they finally arrived at the end of the hallway. As expected, the new student got the worst locker: far away and barely reachable. She couldn't say she had been surprised, but she hadn't been happy about it either.

"Seriously, Jas? He doesn't even know my name. To Nathan I'm completely invisible. He only has eyes for good-looking girls that show off some skin," Lucy stated ruefully, sounding more than a little disappointed. Jasmine tried not to flinch at Lucy's easy use of a nickname for her. She would have to remember to correct Lucy in the near future. Even her agreement with Nathan was to only use Jas when they were alone.

"Then it's time for you to strike. Make him see you and realize what he's missing out on," Jasmine suggested, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.

"Yeah, because that's so easy," the redhead fired back, rolling her eyes. Jasmine sighed deeply and pinched her friend in the arm.

Lucy immediately shrieked and covered the sore spot on her arm, rubbing the tender skin. "What the hell was that for?" she yelled, not even bothering to lower her voice. Fortunately for little miss shy, the hallway was vacant. Most students had already left for their next class.

"For being so immensely pessimistic. Of course, it's not going to be easy. Sweat and tears, that's how you reach your goals in life. You will have to work hard and push your own limits to get where you want to be," Jasmine chided playfully, though her speech made sense. Hard work would get you where you wanted to be. That's what grandma Theresa had taught Jasmine.

"So, tell me, how am I going to get Nathan's attention?" Lucy asked sarcastically, raising an eyebrow as she faked a smile. Damn. Jasmine had no idea the girl could be so stubborn. Lucy was a real tiger underneath all those layers of sweet fluffy kitten.

"Simple," Jasmine started, a mischief grin making its way across her features. "You are going to choose your most revealing bikini for tomorrow and give him a show he will never forget at the pool." It wasn't a bad idea, even if that Jasmine's similar plan with Lucas had failed miserably - partly because it had involved a bunch of drunk teenagers that witnessed the entire scene.

"You are crazy!" Lucy exclaimed, shaking her head from left to right. "There is no way I'm going to look like a slut in front of Nathan Wood. I'd rather eat dirt."

"Who said anything about looking like a slut? You've got to choose a nice bikini that reveals just enough skin to make Nathan want you, but not nearly enough to satisfy his hunger," Jasmine explained, smiling proudly. No warm-blooded male could deny a hot girl in a bikini.

"I don't know, Jasmine," the redhead trailed off nervously. "What if he doesn't like me? I mean, I don't have the body of a model like Kelsey does," she whispered, her real worries coming to the surface. Lucy didn't have anything to be worried about, though. She honestly didn't need to have low self-esteem or doubt her looks.

The girl had a body to die for, long toned legs and curves in all the right places. Her maroon wavy locks brought out her green eyes and made her pale skin look extra soft. She didn't look like a plain Jane and had this mysterious aura. If she dared to speak up from time to time, Lucy easily could have been one of the popular girls.

"Honey, what are you worrying about? Kelsey has nothing on you. A guy would have to be blind to deny how good you look," Jasmine proclaimed, playfully hitting Lucy's arm. "Seriously, you are one hell of a beautiful girl, Luce. There's no need for you to feel embarrassed about yourself. Don't you see the way guys look at you? How they stare at you for just a few seconds too long?"

It was true. Jasmine had noticed a few guys checking Lucy out more than once. They simply didn't have the courage to walk up to her and start a conversation. She could look kind of intimidating when she was all focused on ignoring the people that surrounded her. Lucy was also a little socially awkward. She liked to hide herself from the outside world and kept her head down when she walked through a room.

"Yeah, right," Lucy laughed nervously, putting a freed lock of hair back behind her ear as she started walking to her next class. Jasmine simply shook her head and followed her friend. One day there would be someone to convince Lucy how beautiful she truly was, but it wasn't going to be today.

As Jasmine arrived home after school, she noticed there were a few bikes standing on the driveway – one of them Lucas' Harley. Raising an eyebrow suspiciously, she opened the front door and stepped inside the hallway. After she tossed her keys on the cupboard, she unbuttoned her jacket and hung it on a peg.

An unfamiliar smell filled her nostrils, awaking her senses. She frowned and sniffed the air, confusion sweeping through her body. Curiously she followed the scent, her eyes almost popping out of their sockets when she finally detected the reason behind the weird smell.

"Oh my god," she muttered as she stepped inside the living room. Four guys were draped over the sofa, looking all happy go lucky with Lucas in the middle of them. Bottles of bourbon were sitting all over the table together with some strange substance she'd never seen before. "What the hell?" she cried out, suddenly angry. "You're smoking pot in the middle of the house where anyone could see?"

How dare he? Gabriella and Frank would be home any minute. She didn't even want to think about how mad they were going to be. Yet another disappointment. Lucas surely didn't make it easy for them to keep seeing any good in their son.

"Look," he grinned, pointing at her, "little miss goody-two-shoes has decided to join the party. How generous of you," he smirked, winking before taking another sip of his bourbon. Jasmine could feel fury rising inside of her, her blood starting to boil in her veins as she noticed Lucas' pleased look.

Rage took over and she stepped forward, forcefully pulling the bottle of bourbon out of his hand and emptying it on top of his head. Damn. That felt good. The feeling only lasted for about a second though, until Lucas realized what she had done and jumped up, ready to attack.

She quickly stepped back, her eyes widening as she took in Lucas furious look, his body practically radiating rage. She'd never seen him that angry, his eyes almost black and his pupils dilated. "What the fuck!" he cried out, pulling at his soaked shirt.

"Damn, Luke. You've got a hot little thing walking around. Why didn't you tell me you found such fierce firecracker," one of the guys laughed, looking her up and down appreciatively. "You're going to share, right? I love wild cats," the guy smirked, pushing of the couch closer to her.

"She's our new housemate. You can have her if you want, I don't like arrogant bitches who think they're so much better than everyone," Lucas spit out, looking at her like she was a piece of shit he just stepped on. Instead of feeling tears rising in her throat, she felt another surge of anger.

"You SOB!" she yelled, taking a step closer and poking her index finger into his chest. "How dare you talk about me like that? What did I ever do to you?" Rage was coursing through her, fueling her courage to stand up to the guy that had been tossing her around like some ragged doll.

Hot and cold. One moment he wanted her, the other he tossed her aside like she'd been a mistake. She was done being his puppet, done letting him pull her strings. He was going to man up and treat her properly or he could find another girl to play with.

"Lower your tone, sweetheart, or you're going to regret ever opening that filthy mouth of yours," Lucas warned, putting a finger underneath her chin to look her right in the eye. She didn't cower down and kept her gaze focused on his, not even flinching at his ireful tone.

"What are you going to do? Hit me? Take me against my will? Threaten my family – oh wait – I don't have any family!" she replied sardonically, raising an eyebrow in challenge. Steam was practically blowing out of Lucas' ears, his face turning red with fury.

"You're playing with fire, Jazzy," he stated, suddenly eerily calm. "And you know what happens to people who play with fire? They get burned," he went on, his fingers wrapping themselves around her throat. She stayed immobilized, her eyes solely focused on his as he started to squeeze, the air rapidly leaving her lungs. Yet, she didn't fight him, didn't even bother to try. She kept looking him in the eye as she started to feel lightheaded.

There was one thing Lucas had gotten wrong, Jasmine wasn't afraid, not even to die. Death would mean being reunited with her loved ones. She would never take her own life, but that didn't mean she minded if another human being tried. Maybe the moment had finally arrived when she would be rescued from loneliness. Because no matter how many new friends she made, Jasmine would always feel like she was alone on this earth.

"Come on, man. Let go of her. It's not funny anymore," someone said from a distance, the sound barely reaching Jasmine's ears as her vision started to blur. It seemed as if the voice catapulted Lucas back to reality. He immediately loosened his grip and let go of Jasmine, realizing what he had been doing. His eyes went wide when he noticed she started to wobble on her feet and he quickly caught her before she fell down on the floor.

"Fuck," he cursed, patting Jasmine on the cheek to keep her awake. "Get some water," he commanded one of his friends, his eyes still focused on the girl in his arms. "Jasmine, you've got to stay awake for me," he told her, looking more anxious than she had ever seen him. The warmth had returned to his eyes, filling them with concern.

"Sleepy," she mumbled, her throat hoarse. Guess she was going to stay on this planet for another few years. Well, at least she hadn't given Lucas the satisfaction of seeing her scared. She might be completely delusional, but it brought her joy to know she hadn't crumbled.

"No, damnit, you're not going to close your eyes," Lucas ordered fiercely, giving her a stern look. He accepted the glass of water from his friend and brought the liquid to Jasmine's lips. "Drink," he commanded, forcing the water down her throat.

She coughed at the sudden invasion, but eagerly started to swallow the fluid as she felt her strength return. The clouds in front of her eyes disappeared as the realization started to dawn on her that Lucas had been close to hurting her for real. Fury made its way through her body, making her jump out of his grip like she had been electrified. "You sick bastard," she cried out, quickly wrapping her fingers around her sore throat when shots of pain set off.

Lucas eyes were wide as saucers, but he didn't utter another word. His mood had clearly changed. He was no longer mad. His gut had filled with regret and guilt. She could clearly see he felt horrified by what he had done, but she couldn't, wouldn't relieve his pain. She might be a strong person, yet even she had reached her limit. Lucas made it perfectly clear today he didn't want her friendship, so why would she sooth his worries? He could go to hell for all she cared.

"I hate you. You are the most despicable person I have ever met," she whispered with so much venom laced in her voice, even she would have shrunken back if their roles had been reversed. Lucas remained silent and let her walk away. She pushed past his so called friends and ran to her room, slamming the door shut with so much force the entire house shook.

Hours later, Jasmine laid motionlessly on top of the covers of her bed, mindlessly playing with the key shaped pendant of her necklace. Her throat still felt a little sore, Lucas' fingerprints visible on the side of her neck. She'd opted to wear a scarf to hide the marks on her skin. She had no intention of ever telling anyone what happened in that living room.

She knew Lucas had issues, but she never suspected how deep they actually ran. Him physically hurting her never even crossed her mind. In the past, even their most heated moments, she'd always felt safe around him. Not in a million years did she consider he would harm her intentionally.

She'd seen the frightened look in his eyes when he realized what he had been doing, but it didn't take away the fact that if he was mad enough – he couldn't control his anger. Today could have turned out so much worse than her having a few bruises. He was one dangerous man walking. She'd heard the rumors about Lucas being aggressive, but she thought they were exaggerated. Now she'd experienced his bellicosity up close and personal.

A soft knock on her door startled her and she quickly jumped from the bed to open the door. There was no one to be seen, sighing she was about the close the door when she suddenly noticed a note lying at her feet. She picked it up and went back inside.

She unfolded the wrinkled paper and groaned as she read the perfectly handwritten words. I am sorry. No further explanation or signature. It wasn't needed. She knew without doubt who the note came from. Sighing deeply, she let herself fall back against the bed, crashing down with a thud against the matrass.

He's a lost cause. Nathan had made a point when he told her that. Lucas had some serious issues. It was going to take a whole lot to save him from self-destruction.

Damn it. Why was she even worrying about him? He almost strangled her, for god's sake. He didn't deserve her kindness or concern. He lost every ounce of respect she had for him the moment he started squeezing her throat shut.

Yet another knock on the door brought her back from her deep thoughts. She felt her heart sink as she walked closer to the door, afraid it might be Lucas who was standing on the other side of it. She wasn't ready to face him yet and honestly didn't know if she would ever be.

To her surprise it wasn't Lucas, but Gabriella who stood on the opposite side of the door. "Hi honey, can I come in for a second?" she questioned nervously. Jasmine nodded, taken aback by Gabriella's tentative behavior. She had never seen the woman look this nervous.

"Sure, what's up," she asked as she sat down on the bed and waited for Gabriella to do the same. The usually fierce woman had disappeared and a scared one had taken her place.

"I totally understand if you would want to leave and find a new foster family," Gabriella suddenly exclaimed, dead serious. Jasmine's eyes widened at her exclamation as she furrowed her brows in confusion.

"What do you mean? Why would I want to leave?" she asked perplexed.

"You don't have to protect him, Jasmine. Lucas came to me himself and confessed he hurt you. We know he's been having anger issues for a while, but we never had any proof he actually attacked other people. I'm so incredibly sorry it had to get this bad before we realized what was going on. Frank and I have decided we are going to send him to a therapist to talk about his aggressive behavior," Gabriella explained calmly, making Jasmine's eyes almost pop out of their sockets.

Wow. The last thing she had expected was for Lucas to go up to his mother and tell her he hurt Jasmine. "I want you to be honest with me, Jazzy. Was this the first time he physically hurt you or have you been protecting him for a while?" Gabriella questioned sternly, leaving no place for argument.

"No, he hasn't," she replied shortly, a lump forming in her throat.

"Are you sure about that? You no longer have to be scared, Jazzy. If I had known my son was hurting you I would have put a stop to this much sooner," Gabriella went on, looking doubtful.

"I'm not scared. Not from Lucas, or anybody else for that matter. I don't know what he told you, but Lucas has never hurt me before today," she exclaimed, shaking her head.

"I'm just worried about you, Jazzy. You're still fragile after what happened with your grandmother. I don't want anyone taking advantage of you in a weak moment. Least of all my own bloody son," the woman explained. She didn't like the way Gabriella made her look like a weak victim. It wasn't like she had been blackmailed or anything.

"I am NOT fragile," Jasmine cried out, fury taking over control of her body. She hated the look of pity in Gabriella's eyes. She may hate Lucas, but at least he had never looked at her like she was some porcelain doll that could break apart any moment. He was the only one who hadn't told her he was sorry for her loss or tried to make her talk about her grandmother.

"Okay, okay," Gabriella answered in a hushed voice. "Come to me if Lucas does anything to harm you, alright? I will prepare a guestroom as soon as possible so you can move to another hallway."

"I don't want to move," she stated, rolling her eyes. Why did Gabriella not understand her? She wasn't afraid of Lucas. She could have fought him if she had wanted to, but she didn't. She had taken self-defense classes in the past, she could have easily kicked him in the groin and escaped his deadly grip. Instead of doing any of that, she had stayed frozen in place – not because of fear, but because some sick twisted part of her didn't mind dying.

"Are you sure? Honey, we could easily move you to another room," Gabriella asked worriedly.

"I said, I don't want to," Jasmine repeated, effectively shutting Gabriella up.

"Okay. Well, I guess I'll leave you alone then," the woman muttered before leaving the room. Jasmine crawled underneath the sheets, staring blankly ahead of her. One thought on her mind: why on earth would Lucas tell his parents what he'd done?

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