Lia’s words strike a chord in me for some reason. Why is she talking about leaving?
“Why leave? Did something happen?” I ask, getting worried.
“Sort of, but I’ll explain later. I don’t want to think about it now.” She answers casually. Something’s going on.
“What is it, kitten?” I whisper into her ear, so the guys can’t hear me.
Lia thinks it over for a moment with a slight frown on her face, but thankfully the guys are too engrossed in the game they’re watching to notice. Then she turns to me to whisper her answer to me.
“I’ve noticed someone at the Cage. I don’t know whether they were there because of me or not, but I definitely recognized them.” She sounds distressed, so I put my arm under her shirt and rub her waist soothingly.
“Who were they? The guys that went after your dad?” I ask worriedly.
“No… - she trails off, seemingly debating whether to tell me or not before deciding not to. - Never mind.” She shakes her head with a small smile, but it doesn’t reach her eyes. She’s worried about it, but still doesn’t tell me. It must be serious.
“You know you can tell me, right?” I bury my face in her hair, rubbing her back under the shirt.
“I know.” She turns her head to give me a peck.
“Wow, would you look at those two. Maybe we should leave.” Damien mocks. He looks annoyed and I fucking enjoy rubbing our relationship in his face. Lia’s mine and if he thinks he can steal her from me, he’s in for a fucking surprise. I send him a smug smirk then kiss my girl’s head while she watches the game.
“It’s actually a good idea. I’m getting hungry, so how about we go out for dinner? I’m not sure Lia wants to cook for us again.” Tyler suggests with a laugh.
“Sure, why not. What do you say, sweetheart?”
“Yeah, fine. I am not cooking for them again, that’s for sure. – she gets up from my lap, cracking her back and neck – I just need to change.” I watch her for a while as she leaves the room, heading to my bedroom.
“So… where are we going? Burgers or Italian?” Nathan questions after a while as we wait for Lia to come back.
“I’m craving lasagna. So why don’t we go to Soprano?” Josh suggests.
“Okay, then. You guys alright with that?” I ask the other guys, getting nods in response.
“Girls sure take their time getting ready.” Ty laughs, checking the time. It’s been over 30 minutes since Lia left and I’m starting to get worried. She never takes this long.
“Where are you going?” Will asks as I get up from the couch.
“I’m gonna check up on Lia.” I leave the room and, for some reason, Damien follows.
I stop in the hallway, out of guys’ hearing range before turning around.
“The fuck you want?!” I snarl at him.
“You’re not the only one who’s worried about her! She got fucking stabbed last week and she had a fight yesterday!” I interrupt him before he can continue.
“So what? What does it have to do with you?”
“I like her, okay?! I fucking like her!” He seethes, getting in my face. “I know she’s with you, I know. I shouldn’t go after my bro’s girl, but what can I do? It’s not like I have a switch to turn my feelings off.” He averts his gaze to the floor, but I’m not going to back down.
“Leave her alone, man.” I warn, just as Lia’s furious voice resounds through my house.
“YOU CAN’T FUCKING DO THIS TO ME!!! YOU HAVE NO FUCKING RIGHT!!!” I enter the room with Damien in tow right when Lia throws her phone at the wall with an angry scream. I see her heaving in fury as her shoulders shake and her fists are clenched tightly.
Before I can go to her, she turns around and storms out of my room, ignoring me calling out to her as I follow.
“Lia! What’s wrong?!” I try again, desperate to find out what’s got her this mad.
She’s putting on her shoes, but pauses for a moment and I use this chance to reach out to her.
“DON’T TOUCH ME!” I recoil at her harsh tone, slightly hurt. “Please Blake, not now. I don’t want to hurt you.” Lia’s voice breaks and that’s when I see tears running down her cheeks.
“Baby I just want to help.” I plead, ignoring the curious looks I get from the guys. Lia doesn’t say anything, just leaves the house before driving away in her car. I stay dumbfounded in front of my house. What the hell happened?!
The guys keep asking what’s going on and why did Lia leave, but I don’t say anything. I go back inside right when my dad pulls up in the driveway.
“Blake, what’s going on? I just saw Lia leave, she almost crashed into my car.” Dad’s angry voice reaches me right when I plop down on the couch. “What did you do?” He implores. He immediately assumes it’s my fault. Thanks for having faith in me, dad!
“I didn’t do anything. Something happened. She got a call and got angry, so she left.” I tell him, burying my face in my hands. “Something’s wrong, but I don’t know what. How can I help when I don’t know what’s going on?” I ask in complete despair.
“Just let her cool down. She’ll talk when she’s ready. Give her time.” Dad seems to realize how difficult it is for me, so he leaves me alone with a pat on the shoulder.
Few hours later I decide to go to Lia’s house to talk to her. I hope she’s calm enough to talk to me.
The guys have stayed at my house all this time, and are now coming with me to Lia’s place, despite my protests. We reach her house in no time, probably breaking about a dozen of traffic laws on the way.
But she’s not there. I pace on her porch, deciding to wait for her for a while in case she comes back, but after an hour I get too agitated to wait any longer.
“Is there anywhere she might’ve gone that you know of? It doesn’t seem like she’ll be back anytime soon.” Will asks, leaning against his car as I walk towards mine.
“She mentioned something about going to the river when she's mad. There’s a small waterfall there and she said it calms her down. But I have no idea where it is.” I slump against the passenger side of my car, crossing my arms across my chest. I think about the place Lia’s told me about, but I can’t recall if she told me where it is. She’s probably there. I have to find her.
“I know where it is.” Damien says suddenly, making us all turn to him.
“How?” I growl lowly. Did he go there with Lia? No way, she would tell me. And besides, they’re not that close. Right?
“I’ve been there a few times last year with few friends from the basketball team. I’ll show you the way.”
We get in our cars, Damien coming with me and Nathan, while Will, Ty and Josh go in the other one. It takes over an hour to reach the place and thankfully Lia’s car is there. She’s here! Thank god.
I look into her car, but she’s not inside. It’s dark already and I’m getting more and more worried about her.
“It’s about 5 minutes from here.” Damien says, turning on the flashlight on his phone.
We go through the woods with our flashlights on, looking for Lia. When we reach the river, the first thing that catches my attention are the scattered clothes on the ground. Lia! I look around, trying to find her.
“Don’t tell me she went for a swim in this freezing water.” Tyler says worriedly, staring at the river with wide eyes.
“LIA!!!” Nathan’s voice gets our attention. He points his phone at the waterfall and the sight in front of me makes my blood turn into ice.
Lia’s sitting on the small shelf under the waterfall in only her underwear, with her knees pulled up to her chest, getting hit by the cold water.
“No, no, no. Not again, please not again.” I pray quietly as I hastily empty my pockets and take off my jacket and shirt. Without a second thought I jump in the freezing water and walk towards her. Fortunately the water is pretty shallow, so it only reaches my waist. But it’s not the water that leaves me cold. It’s Lia’s emotionless expression. She’s shut down.
I wordlessly take Lia into my arms before carrying her out bridal style.
“Bring me a blanket from my car and call my dad. Tell him to get a hot bath ready and get the fireplace going. She’s freezing; I have to warm her up.” The guys move as soon as my shoes touch the ground, collecting my stuff and Lia’s clothes. I notice someone running towards our cars, but I don’t care about them, my attention solely on my girl.
“Someone has to drive Lia’s car to my house. The keys should be in her jeans.” I instruct, wrapping the blanket tightly around her, careful not to let her fall before scooping her up and getting in the car. I settle Lia on my lap with my arms around her, desperately trying to warm her up. I turn on the seat heater while Damien gets in from the driver’s side.
We’re met by my mom when we reach my house. She looks worried, clearly remembering the last time Lia broke down so bad.
“Bath’s ready. Warm her up then come downstairs, I set up few blankets by the fire for you.” I just nod, rushing to my room.
Once I’m in the bathroom, I carefully unwrap the blanket and place Lia in the warm water before undressing. I get in the tub behind her then take off her underwear. The aspect of nudity becomes irrelevant, she needs to get warm.
“Baby, please don’t do this to me again.” I plead, kissing her neck. With my arms curled around her waist, we soak in the hot water, and I keep thinking about what could’ve caused this reaction.
The last time this happened, it was because the situation with my dad reminded her of her parents. This time I have no idea what it is. But it’s serious enough for her to become like this.
I don’t even want to think about what would happen if we didn’t find her. She would still be at that damn waterfall, getting hit by freezing cold water. What if she slipped from the shelf? What if she drowned? What if her wound opened and she stayed there bleeding? What if she gets sick?
The more I think about the what ifs, the more my chest hurts. She could’ve DIED!!!
“Sweetheart, please come back.” I softly say into her ear, reaching for the shower head to wash her hair. Taking care of my little kitten is the only thing that will keep me from crying right now. I need to distract myself from thinking about the dark scenarios my mind conjures or I will go crazy.
After I’m done washing Lia and myself, I drain the tub and get out. I leave her inside for a moment to dry myself off and get dressed. I put on my sweatpants and place a big towel on my bed, so the sheets don’t get wet, then lock the bedroom door. I don’t want someone to barge in unexpectedly.
I pick up Lia from the bathtub and lay her on the towel before drying her off with another one. I’m not bothered by her naked body, she can kill me later. As long as she’s okay.
Once I’m done dressing her, I put warm socks on her feet and pick her up to take her downstairs. She doesn’t even move, staying lifelessly in my arms.
“I’ll get you warm milk with honey, so you don’t get sick.” My mom says once we enter the living room.
“I don’t know if Lia will be able to drink it.” I tell her, glancing at my girl worriedly.
“Hey man, how is she?” I’m surprised the guys are still here. All of them look worried as they look at Lia.
I sit down on the blanket by the fireplace, leaning my back against the side of the couch and settling Lia sideways between my outstretched legs. I gently lean her head against my chest before wiping off the tears that keep falling down her cheeks in a never-ending stream.
I wrap my arms around her small form, keeping her close to me. Thank god she had a waterproof patch on her wound and it didn’t soak through. She can’t get her stitches wet.
“She’s just as you can see. But… why are you still here?” I ask while the guys sit down on the floor around us.
“We’re worried, okay? She’s been fine the whole afternoon then we find her half-naked under the waterfall. It’s not exactly normal.” Ty answers, glancing at Lia as he speaks.
“And you kept saying ‘not again’ when you went to get her. What’s going on? Has it happened before?” Will questions. I can almost hear the cogs turning in his head as he tries to figure this out.
“It has. Once. Over a month ago, when I got detention after snapping at Rother in class.” I decide to be honest. They know about her being Ghost and I know I can trust them to keep this a secret. “Despite how strong she is, Lia has her demons. They’re connected to her past, so don’t ask about it. Ever.”
“The scars. – Damien quietly says, turning to me. – Right?” I give him a serious look.
“That too. But never, EVER, ask about it. Got it?!” I warn, giving all of them a challenging look, silently daring them to disagree.
They all promise not to say anything, clearly realizing how serious this is.
I look down to Lia, who stays lifeless in my embrace. I kiss her head and put my arm on her waist under the hoodie. She’s getting warmer. At least her skin doesn’t feel like an icicle anymore.
“When will she snap out of it?” Damien asks, looking at Lia in concern.
“I don’t know.” I solemnly admit. I really don’t know. Last time I somehow brought her back, but I don’t know if it’ll work this time.
“Here you go, honey. Drink it while it’s hot. Try to get Lia to drink some, too. I’m worried she’ll get sick.” My mom puts two mugs with milk on the small table next to us. I notice that she’s put a straw in Lia’s mug, making me smile gratefully at her. “I’ll make up your bed. You should go to sleep, it’s getting late. I’m sure you’re tired. Boys, you can stay for the night. It’s too late for you to drive.” Mom kisses the top of my head then leaves the room with a sad smile.
The guys know better than to argue with my mom, so they do as she says, going to the guest bedrooms while I take Lia to mine. I didn’t get her to drink the milk, though, she stayed completely unresponsive. I lay her on my bed, covering her with the blanket then get in next to her and pull her into my chest.
With a firm kiss to Lia's head, I close my eyes, letting the sleep come.
I hope she’ll come back to me when she wakes up.