Chapter 9: Riding the Death Trap
Every day is the beginning of something new, no two days are the same. It's completely unnecessary to worry about stuff that happened in the past. You should focus on your future, about the things you can change or do differently. Living in the past will only bring up bad memories. All of that seemed so much easier said than done for Jasmine.
Jasmine knew she should let go of her pain and try to start over, but enjoying her life as a teenager without her grandma by her side was still extremely difficult. Thanksgiving was coming up in a few short days and instead of feeling joyful, she wanted nothing more than to crawl into a corner and cry her eyes out like a baby.
She had tried to let go off her feelings of sorrow, but reality had hit home hard when Gabriella started to talk about Thanksgiving dinner arrangements. Usually she always spent the holidays with her grandmother. Theresa and she would prepare a pumpkin pie with Thanksgiving and share it with the neighbors. It had been a tradition for many years. Not this year.
Realizing she could never relive those moments hurt more than she cared to admit. She'd put up a brave charade the past few days and tried to hide how much she was hurting on the inside. At night she couldn't help but let the tears slide over her cheeks and run freely down her face. Jasmine was a tough person, but her heart was very tender. There was not a day that went by she didn't think about her grandmother.
"Jas, you've been awfully quiet. Are you sure you're okay?" Lucy asked worriedly as she took a bite of her sandwich. They were currently sitting in the cafeteria during their lunch period. The weather was slowly changing, announcing the upcoming winter. They were no longer free to decide whether they spent their lunch outside on the benches or in the cafeteria. According to the school regulations, students should stay inside when the temperature outside was below 59 degrees. It was a ridiculous rule, but one they still had to follow.
"I'm fine," she replied absentmindedly, her eyes focused on the untouched club sandwich in front of her. Her appetite was long gone, as was the girl that had finally opened up to her new friends. She felt like every time she took a step in the right direction, she was pushed two steps back. She finally accepted she was going to stay in California for a while and learned how to deal with her feelings of utter loss, when she was once again hit by the death of her grandmother full force.
Would every holiday remind her of what she lost? Would she feel this horrible emptiness inside her each year that passed? She sincerely hoped not, because Jasmine had no idea how long she could keep moving. She was sick and tired of acting like nothing was wrong while she wanted nothing more than to break down and wallow in her sorrow.
"I want to help you, Jasmine, but I have no idea what's wrong in the first place. I might not know you very well, but I can clearly see something is nagging at you. You're not behaving like your usual self, it's not healthy. Seriously, I'm worried about you, girl," Lucy confessed, looking torn. "Please, let me in," she pleaded as she took Jasmine's hand in hers from across the table and squeezed.
Jasmine blinked at her friend's confession and smiled sadly. How she wanted to share her pain with someone. It would be a relief to lift some of the weight she carried off her shoulders. The sad thing was, Jasmine didn't know how to open up. She didn't know how to let people enter her life. Pushing them away and fending for herself was so much easier – safer even – than exposing herself. People left. If she opened up to them she would go through the pain all over again when were gone.
Deep down she knew Lucy was a good girl, a reliable person she could trust. The girl didn't have a malicious bone in her body. If there was someone Jasmine could talk to, it would be her. Sadly she didn't have the courage to pursue the intention of opening up to her new friends. Somehow, she was still afraid they were going to turn their back on her like her old friends had.
Yes, she might hide it well, but she was deeply hurt by the behavior of her former friends in Florida. After they heard she was moving away for at least a year, they just stopped contacting her. It showed just how little they cared about her. Amy and Sara didn't care about anyone but themselves. They were the kind of bitches everyone was afraid to cross – and Jasmine had once been one of them.
They were the wicked three of the school, the girls that pestered juniors and hung out with the popular crowd. To anybody else, they were each other's closest friends. In reality, they had been competitors, constantly trying to overpower the other and show no mercy. If she looked back on that time, Jasmine couldn't believe how shallow she had been in the past. Finally having a real friend like Lucy felt good – beyond good.
"I'm trying," Jasmine murmured, clearly pained. "I'm trying so damn hard, but it's not easy," she sighed. She honestly wanted to trust Lucy, after all the girl had definitely earned the right. It was simply more difficult than she'd anticipated. She wanted to tell Lucy about her grandmother, about the parents she never knew, the friends she thought she had, the boyfriends that crushed her heart, the sadness she felt every time people talked about their family members because she had none of them left. She truly did want to, yet she couldn't.
"Just let me know when you need something, okay? I have no idea what kind of demons you're dealing with right now, but I'm here. Whenever you want me, wherever you want me, I will be there for you," Lucy promised, smiling reassuringly.
"You're too much of a good girl," Jasmine laughed humorlessly, finding it hard to believe she had finally met someone that truly meant well. She didn't deserve Lucy's kind heart, but she was going to accept it nonetheless. After all, who else was going to care for her? Everyone that was supposed to love her was gone. And with that, the emptiness in the middle of her chest was back.
"I have no idea what is going on, but we have to do something, Nate. This can't go on like this. She looks like a shell of herself, a shadow of how she used to be," Lucy stated fiercely, sounding both angry and hurt. Jasmine hadn't meant to eavesdrop on their conversation, but after her name was mentioned, she couldn't help but stay frozen in place.
"I know, Luce, don't think I haven't noticed. She even refuses to come down for dinner and I've seen her more than once walking in the garden on her own, mindlessly staring ahead of her. It's getting beyond strange. At first I thought it was just a phase, that she was missing home or something, but she keeps ignoring the people around her," Nate admitted. Jasmine sighed, trying to refrain from rolling her eyes. Please, it wasn't that bad. They made it sound like she needed to be committed. She simply had been trying to get her mind back on track.
Not able to listen to them talk behind her back any longer, Jasmine made her way towards her car. She made sure neither of them noticed her walking past by taking the emergency exit. Of course she understood they worried about her, but she just needed some time alone. Jasmine wasn't a big fan of heart to heart conversations and she told Lucy she was trying.
She desperately needed to blow off some steam. It had been a tough week, certainly with everyone nagging her about her bad mood. Thoughts of her grandma kept resurfacing in her mind, no matter how hard she tried to ignore them. Jasmine finally found the courage to admit, she has indeed fallen into a depression after her grandma died. She tried to overcome the negative feelings inside of her, but it was difficult to talk to other people about it.
After reading a few articles online, she realized counseling wouldn't be a bad idea in her situation. The problem was, Jasmine didn't feel like talking about it. She refused to ask anyone for help. Growing up, she'd learned to depend on no one but herself and that was exactly what she was planning on doing.
As she drove up the lane, she noticed Lucas riding his bike outside the garage. He looked insanely hot as always, wearing tight fitted leather pants and a jacket. She swallowed thickly as she parked her car, a little unfocused. Once she cut the engine, she stepped outside her new transport. After a heated discussion with Gabriella and Frank, she decided to keep the Audi R8. Apparently it was important to them.
Lucas greeted her with a smirk, looking her over in appreciation. She followed his gaze to her bare legs and felt herself blush. She'd opted to wear a mauve dress today. It had been the first thing that caught her eye in the morning. Looks like someone was a fan of the dress. "Looking good, princess," he winked, not even blinking when she caught him ogling her. The guy had no shame whatsoever.
"Where are you headed?" she asked, deliberately changing the subject. Lucas grinned, seemingly satisfied with himself for making her feel uncomfortable.
"A bar," he replied shortly as he took his helmet out of the compartment box on his bike.
"Can I join you?" she asked a little uncertain. She needed a breather, a night out without having to worry about life. Lucas was exactly the man for the job. She knew that in his company, she would forget about everything – even if it was only for a little while. He'd take her mind off reality. The fact that he didn't treat her like a fragile doll was a nice bonus.
"Are you sure, princess? It's not really your scene. I'm pretty sure you know what I do on my nights out," Lucas said, clearly confused that she wanted to go out with him.
"I just need a distraction from life," she stated, knowing he'd get her point. It was what made being around him so easy, he got her without needing an explanation. They had this certain connection and understood each other without needing words.
Lucas nodded in affirmation and handed her the helmet. "You don't really have the correct attire, but it'll do," he smirked, once again looking her up and down. "I'll be extra careful. We wouldn't want to mess with such amazing goods," he added slyly, his eyes halting at the V-cut of her dress. She rolled her eyes, hit his chest and walked past him towards the bike.
"How does this work?" she asked, trying to hide her nerves with false bravado. She had never been on a bike before and would be lying if she said it didn't scare her a little. To top that off, she knew her outfit would be of no help if they crashed. She probably shouldn't consider hopping on, but her pride kept her from backing out.
"Here, you can wear my jacket," Lucas said, his eyes down cast. He clearly worried about her, but didn't want to show his true feelings. If she hadn't been so damned scared, she probably would think it was cute. As she put the leather jacket on, she was enveloped in Lucas' spicy male scent. She had to restrain herself from inhaling deeply and sniffing at the fabric.
Lucas threw his leg over the Harley, the firm muscles in his arms contracting as he gripped the handlebars. She swallowed the lump in her throat and positioned herself behind him on the small seat. "Wrap your arms around my middle," he instructed as she tried to find a place to hold onto. Taking a deep breath, she followed his instruction and wrapped her arms around his waist.
His muscles tensed under her touch, before relaxing. His chest felt like it was made out of steel, hard and solid. She could feel his muscles rippling underneath her fingertips as he breathed. A surge of lust went through her body. The feeling only grew stronger once she realized how intimately her thighs were pressed against his backside. Holy shit. What the hell had she been thinking when she asked him to tag along?
Before she could form a protest of any kind, the engine roared to life and Lucas drove off. She pressed her eyelids tightly closed as the wind hit her body, sending her hair locks peeking out from under the helmet in all different directions. Fuck, she cursed. That motorcycle went a lot faster than she anticipated.
She hadn't realized how tightly she was gripping Lucas' shirt until a rumble of laughter left his lips. "Calm down, princess, I won't let anything happen to you," he reassured, squeezing her thigh.
"Hands on the handlebars, you fool!" she cried out, her heart beating rapidly in her chest. God, she was going to be happy once they arrived at that damned bar! After ten agonizing long minutes she felt the motorcycle finally slow down before it halted. Lucas carefully peeled her fingers from his shirt and held her hands in his big, strong ones.
"You can open your eyes now, princess," he smirked, his thumb caressing the back of her hand. She inhaled deeply, her heart still rapidly beating in her chest, before slowly fluttering her eyelids open. Sunlight hit her sensitive corneas, momentarily blinding her.
"Damn, if I had known you'd be this scared I'd have taken my car," Lucas chuckled, squeezing her hand reassuringly. "Now get your ass off my bike. I'd like to get a drink," he added, back to being an insensitive jerk.
Jasmine took another deep breath, before swinging her leg over the bike, still reeling in the aftermath of riding on a death trap. What a fool she had been to think she could keep up her tough act. Lucas probably found it hilarious that she'd been scared shitless. To make matters even worse, to get home she'd have to endure another ride on the damn thing.
Adjusting her dress to keep unwanted eyes from ogling her, she waited for Lucas to get off his Harley and put the helmet back in the compartment box. "Damn girl, I wish you'd gotten that look from riding me instead of my bike," Lucas suddenly whistled as he locked a chain around the tire of his motorcycle.
Self-conscious, Jasmine ran her fingertips through her ebony locks, only to find it in knots and tangles. She cursed under her breath. "Come here," Lucas ordered, his voice low and husky. Her lower muscles clenched tightly at the alluring sound as she followed his command.
With the utmost care, Lucas started to brush his fingers through her messy hair and untangled the knots. Jasmine stayed frozen in place as he worked in silence, a lump forming in her throat. For some reason, it felt extremely intimate to let Lucas work her hair. She'd never even had someone brush it before beside the hairdressers she paid to get the job done.
"All done," Lucas stated with a lopsided smile as he finished untangling the final hair. As he let his hands fall to his sides, Jasmine suddenly realized how close they were standing. Their faces were only inches apart, their breath mixing together with every respiration. She stared up at him with widened eyes, a surge of lust filling the pit of her stomach and sending butterflies free.
"We should get going," Lucas proclaimed as he took a step back, clearly not as unaffected as he feigned to be. Jasmine hadn't imagined those vibes of pure, animal lust in the air. She tried to ignore the feeling of disappointment when Lucas turned around and walked to the entrance of the bar, but she couldn't help but feel dejected.
As she entered the pub, the bitter smell of beer hit her nostrils, making her stomach heave. A large group of bikers sat in the back of the small space, laughing rather loudly while smoking pot and groping the barfly's that sat in their lap. A wave of disgust hit her, but she refused to cower down. She knew Lucas was waiting for the moment she'd turn around and obligate him to take her home.
Not wanting to give him the satisfaction to see her crumble, she put up another brave charade and walked to the bar to order herself a drink. "What can I getcha?" the lady behind the bar asked her with frown as she looked Jasmine up and down, clearly unimpressed. Jasmine would have been affronted if the woman herself didn't look like an A-class slut with her boobs almost falling out of her bustier and her fake blonde hair. God, where was the woman's self-respect?
"Scotch on the rocks," Jasmine winked, knowing full well she was going to be hammered in no time. It had been a while since she drank anything stronger than a glass of wine, save the tequila shots she drank at the party a few weeks back.
"You sure that's a good idea?" Lucas asked her, raising an eyebrow as he came to stand next to her.
"Positive," she smiled charmingly before taking a large gulp. She had to refrain from gagging as the liquor slide down her throat, leaving a burn in its wake. Damn, that stuff was strong!
"Underage drinking," Lucas smirked, watching her with an appreciative glint in his eyes. She'd clearly impressed him. "You're full of surprises, Jasmine Price," he whispered in her ear, before loudly patting her ass and making his way towards his friends. She glared at him, shooting daggers to the back of his head as she followed behind. Jerk.
"Look what we got here, Lucas' firecracker!" a bald man grinned, slamming his fist on the wooden table. Jasmine faintly recognized him, probably from the time she walked in on Lucas smoking pot in the living room.
"Shut the fuck up, Hank," Lucas growled, hitting the guy in the back of the head. Instead of getting angry – like Jasmine fully expected him to – the man started laughing his ass off. Wow, that guy must be drunk as a skunk.
"Ignore him, he always gets like this when he's smoking pot," Lucas told her as he sat down at the end of the bench and patted his lap. "Sit down," he ordered, a wicked smile crossing his features. She looked around, calculating her options. The only free spot was beside Hank and the guy honestly didn't look like he was going to respect her boundaries.
Sighing she stepped closer to Lucas. He grinned in victory as he opened his arms widely. She rolled her eyes and sat down on his lap, making sure to leave some space between their bodies. Lucas didn't want to have any of it though, and immediately pulled her closer until her back was nestled closely against his chest. "That's much better," he whispered in her ear as he squeezed her thigh under the table. Shrieking, she quickly slapped his hand away.
"Keep your hands to yourself, you assaulter!" she hissed under her breath, giving him a pointed stare.
Lucas just shook his head and laughed. "It isn't assault if you enjoy it," he told her with a devilish smile as he let his hand rest on the top of her thigh. Knowing she wasn't going to win this battle, she laid her hand on top of his to keep it firmly in place.
"You better not try anything funny," she glared as she shifted her weight to find a more comfortable position.
"Who's the hot little piece of ass, Luke?" a guy in his mid-thirties asked as he joined the group, taking the spot next to Hank. She tensed in Lucas' arms at the guy's comment, but relaxed as soon as Lucas started to caress her side soothingly with his free hand.
"None of your damn business, mate," he replied with a cocky grin, clearly stating his possession by the way he held Jasmine close. For the first time that night, she was forever grateful for Lucas' touchy feely attitude. She instantly felt safe.
The man grinned and whistled lowly. "Damn, she must be good to get you all possessive like that," he stated, respect appearing in his eyes as he stared at Jasmine. "We're not used to you acting all caveman."
"It's the girl that lives with him. She's got him all riled up," Hank interrupted, sobering up a bit.
"Shut up, Hank," Lucas ordered at the same time as the guy whistled "Nice!" Jasmine felt a little left out. After all everyone seemed to be talking about her like she wasn't even there.
"I'm here you know," she stated rather loudly, making all eyes turn to her as soon as the words left her mouth. She was momentarily speechless once she became the center of attention, but swiftly regained her courage as she noticed Lucas' awestruck face. "If you got anything to say, say it to my face instead of bothering Luke," she snapped before turning her gaze back to Lucas and running her fingertips through his hair. If she was going to put on a show, she'd better make it good.
"That was so fucking hot, princess," Lucas whispered in her ear as he nibbled at her earlobe while the rest of the company turned back to what they had been doing before. "You should pull out your claws more often," he added with a mischievous smile.
"Babe, you've not seen anything yet," she purred, giving him a playful wink before straightening her back and turning around. She felt Lucas stiffen behind her as a soft groan left his lips. Grinning she wiggled her ass, feeling his erection grow and press intimately against her backside.
"Don't start anything you're not willing to finish," he growled dangerously against her ear, his hand gripping her thigh firmly.
Satisfied with her teasing, Jasmine innocently smiled and returned her attention to the other bikers. "We're driving up to Bakersfield next week, feel like joining?" one of the guys asked, eyeing Lucas.
"If I got nothing better to do," Lucas answered with a smirk, patting Jasmine's thigh.
"Shannon and Hailey are joining us, don't tell me you've got better things to do," biker guy grinned with a raised eyebrow.
"Damn, are you serious? The both of them? How did you get that to happen?" Hank shouted, giddy with excitement.
Biker guy smiled slyly. "You've got nothing on me, Hanky boy. Those girls have never left my bed unsatisfied."
"Maybe because they've never been in it in the first place," Lucas quipped, making the group erupt in laughter.
"You're not the only one with a golden prick, Wood," biker guy retorted, his pride clearly hurt.
"I'm sure I'm not, but at least I know how to use it," Lucas fired back, clearly feeling confident.
"Tell me, girl, how much of a blowhard is he being?" biker guy questioned, looking Jasmine straight in the eye. For a moment she felt a little taken aback before her confidence returned.
"My friend, do you seriously want to know in how many ways he's fucked me from here to Sunday?" Jasmine questioned with a raised eyebrow. "I don't even have to see your cock to know his is better," she added putting the cherry on top. There's no way to hurt a man's pride more than to insult his genitalia.
The group burst into laughter, patting Lucas on the back and congratulating him. Jasmine seriously didn't understand what the big deal was, but apparently she'd earned their respect by speaking highly of Lucas and her – nonexistent – sex life.
"I think I might like you," Hank exclaimed with a wink.
"Too bad she's all mine," Lucas smirked, staking his claim. Jasmine internally rolled her eyes. He might as well have pissed all over her to mark his territory.
"You better show you me some appreciation for doing this," Jasmine whispered in Lucas' ear as the men continued to laugh their asses off.
"I'd love to show how much I appreciate this, princess, but I'm afraid you won't let me in your panties," he retorted, teasingly biting her neck.
"Ass," she hissed under her breath as she pinched him in the arm.
The following morning Jasmine woke up with a hangover from hell, her head pounding and her stomach doing somersaults with every movement she made. Last night had been the most fun she had in ages, but also the most alcohol she drank in a long time.
After the 'pissing' contest about who could satisfy women best, the guys played a few games of poker. It surprised her to no end how comfortable and relaxed Lucas had been. It was the first time she'd ever seen him actually enjoying himself, the sullen look across his face far gone.
Being both drunk, Lucas had called a cab to pick them up at four AM, much to Jasmine's joy. At least she didn't have to survive another ride on the death trap. Lucas had been extremely thoughtful, even if she said so herself. Maybe he still felt guilty about what happened a while back.
"Good morning, Jazzy," Gabriella smiled brightly as Jasmine walked into the kitchen. "Do you want a cup of coffee?" the woman asked politely as she finished taking the freshly baked croissants out of the oven. Even though she was speaking in a soft tone, it felt like someone was pushing a bunch of needles into Jasmine's head. Ugh. She hated being hungover. Fortunately she was one of those lucky people who didn't have to puke their guts out the next day.
"Yes, please," Jasmine replied before releasing a loud sigh. Gabriella nodded and poured two cups of coffee. "One sugar and a little cream," Jasmine added at Gabriella's silent question.
"Could you please let me know you're going out next time? Lucas texted me you were safe, but I still felt a bit wary…you know, after everything that's happened," Gabriella mentioned after taking a sip of coffee.
Jasmine's eyes widened at the comment. She honestly had completely forgotten about letting Gabriella know she was joining Lucas at a bar. It totally slipped her mind. She didn't even know Lucas had sent his mother a text to let her know they were out together. Jasmine didn't think twice about going with Lucas but them being together seemed to make Gabriella nervous.
"I'm so sorry! I honestly wasn't thinking. I'm not used to having to answer to someone," Jasmine apologized, feeling terrible for worrying her godmother. She was used to doing whatever she wanted. Theresa never had been strict. Half of the time, her grandmother had no idea where she was hanging out.
"It's okay," the woman reassured. "Just let me know next time, okay? I constantly need to know if my children are safe." Jasmine nodded as she swallowed thickly. It had never been her intention to unnecessarily worry Gabriella and Frank. She might not be a poster child, but she never wanted to hurt her 'adoptive' parents either.
"Would you like to help me prepare for the festivities tonight?" Gabriella asked as she finished putting the croissants on a plate. To be honest, Jasmine had completely forgotten about Thanksgiving. If Gabriella hadn't mentioned the word 'festivities' it probably would have slipped her mind.
After spending a night out with Lucas, her mind had successfully been preoccupied. All depressing thoughts about not celebrating with her grandmother for the first time had been wiped from her memory. A weight had been lifted from her shoulders, making her feel lighter and happier than she had been in a long time. Sadly the feeling lasted less than 24 hours.
"Sure, what should I do?" she asked, plastering a fake smile across her face.
"Nothing much," Gabriella stated. "I still have to make the preparations for dinner. We'll be eating the traditional turkey with stuffing, corn, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes. For dessert I was planning on making a pumpkin pie. That is if I can find the recipe. I'm such a spaz, I always forget where I hide it."
"I can make a pie, if you want. Grandma and I always prepared it together. I'm pretty sure I know the recipe by rote," Jasmine proposed.
"Really? That would be great! I normally would ask Grace to help me out, but I wanted to give her a day off. She's worked so hard this year, she deserves a night with family," the woman smiled, seemingly beyond excited.
"If you want you can ask my sons to help you out. They should get their lazy asses out of bed anyway," she added with a mischievous grin.
"Nah, it's no problem. I'm sure they'd be more in the way than actually helping me out," Jasmine smiled. Honestly, she couldn't imagine either of them working in the kitchen. They'd probably burn the house down.
"Let me know if you need anything okay? I'm going to wake Frank and see if he wants to get the decorations from the attic. He should have gotten them out much sooner, but you know men, always postponing stuff until the last minute. Lazy bastards," Gabriella muttered, shaking her head.
Jasmine burst into laughter at Gabriella's obvious annoyance and nodded. "Sure," she mumbled between laughs. She shocked even herself with her outburst. Who would have thought she'd actually be smiling during Thanksgiving without having to feign amusement?