Then You Look At Me

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Hurts To See You With Her

~Outside, it’s getting colder, why does it feel like I’m older than I asked to be? But when you say my name, it all falls away so tenderly~ Clairo.

Chapter Theme Song: 'Sinking' by Clairo.

°°

Rainey

We are all sitting around a table at the back of the club. Riley is gawking at the boys, her mouth wide open as it seems she’s still in shock. I can’t say I wasn’t equally as astonished when I first saw them. Ansel and his brothers all look exactly alike.

“That idiot didn’t touch you guys, did he?” Alaric questions, while he slips a cigarette between his lips.

“No, but he was attempting to start a fight,” Ansel responds.

“It’s a good thing I came. I wouldn’t want you getting your hands dirty, Ansel,” Alaric puffs out air, his eyes already appearing bloodshot from the drug. “I know how you get when you’re angry…you’re the only hope our family has left, so just leave all dirty work to me, yeah?”

Why is Ansel the only hope? I’m guessing it’s because he appears to be the most well-behaved out of all his brothers. He also managed to secure a scholarship to Crosshill based on his brilliant academics.

“I just still can’t believe how identical they all are, it’s almost creepy,” Riley whispers to me.

I chuckle a little. She won't stop talking about this anytime soon.

Arden keeps staring at Riley from across the table, a look of lust mixed with admiration in his eyes. Alex notices, and discreetly sends his brother a warning look. Arden picks up on it and just smiles, shaking his head while he looks away.

Alaric’s cell dings from his pocket, and he eases up to slide the device from his jeans. My eyes spot healed bruises on his knuckles as he picks the call up, leaning back in the chair.

“Yo.” He speaks into the phone, taking his joint between his fingers.

Ansel turns his focus to me. “You okay, Rain?”

I nod. “Mm, are you?”

“Yeah… I just hate that that bastard touched you. How did he get your number?” His brows furrow, and displeasure washes over his unerring features.

I shrug. “He said his aunt is the headmistress, so I guess he somehow stole my file.”

I hate rich kids that use their family's occupation and money to their unethical advantage.

“Yeah, I got the goods.” Alaric’s conversation pulls my attention. “Yeah. Dude, they better have the cash, I don’t do loans…okay, I’m coming now.”

Goods?

He hangs up, and Aiden looks at him. “Was that Max?”

“Yeah, he says some guys want some dru—” He glances at me, then Riley, before he continues. “Goods, they want some goods, so let’s go.”

“Are you leaving?” I ask Ansel.

He opens his mouth to respond but Alaric speaks first.

“Are you girls interested in a grown-ass party?” He proposes, a smirk rising on his face as he looks between Riley and me. “There is a party at my friend’s place, want to come?”

“Party?” Riley’s face lights up at the offer, and Ansel frowns.

“Alaric, I don’t think to take them would be—”

“It’s cool Ansel, I’ll keep an eye on them,” he assures. “Are you girls in?”

Uncertainty is written all over my face, but Riley seems to like the idea as she beams excitedly. She never misses a chance to get high or drunk.

“Sounds cool. Rain, what do you think?” She’s begging me with big pleading eyes. I hate when she gives me that look, it’s hard to resist. Most of the time.

“Okay.” I shrug. It isn’t so much that Riley wants to go, it’s because Ansel will be there, and I want to spend a little more time with him. I won’t see him again until Monday.

“Good choice.” Alaric smiles, standing up from the table. “You girls will see what a real party is like.”

I glance at Ansel and he seems to not like the idea much, and I can’t help but wonder why.

°°

I drive closely behind the boys’ cars to ensure that I don’t end up getting lost to the venue. When we arrive, people are crowding the lawns and the modern three-story building is vibrating with rhythm, so much that the earth shakes beneath us as we step out onto the pavement.

“I swear, rich kids party every damn weekend.” Riley comments.

“Woah, I love your car, Rain.” Alex smiles, his eyes scrutinizing the deep blue Mercedes, as he crouches to look at the exterior.

“Mm. It’s my mother’s.” I tell him, as we begin to follow Alaric up the cemented pathway.

“Your mom has good taste.” He nods his head in appreciation at the modern automobile.

“But not a good taste in men,” I grumble.

Ansel chuckles a little, I am guessing he heard me; he is the only one who probably did. He swings his head around to look at me. “Stay close to me, yeah? This place will be packed.”

I nod my head. His simple words of protection give me the same girly feeling again, and I realize that I am probably falling deeper than I thought.

Alaric opens the door and we enter the room filled with sweaty dancing bodies and loud music. It’s not my first time at a party but this is so much crazier than any party I have ever been to. Smoke fills the room from burning cigars and bongs and some of the girls are barely wearing anything at all. All these people look like they are young-adults or in college and it’s far different than Tate’s party last time. This one feels mature; it feels epic.

“Yow, Alaric, my man!” A muscular guy comes on the scene, engaging Alaric in a fist bump. Two boys stand behind him, and I notice how they eye Riley and I like hungry mammals.

“Max, where are the boys?” Alaric questions, his tone lower than usual.

Max. I recall that name being mentioned that night Ansel got confronted by Ken and Joe. Alex had arrived later, telling him that Max was the person who told him about the fight.

“Around the back,” Max answers, jerking a thumb over his shoulders.

Alaric promises to be back soon as he plods away with the twins behind Max and his friends. Ansel, Alex, Riley and I begin to move to the living room. The space is full and cramped and I get separated from them as a crew of girls slides in my way, going about their business.

I tip on my toes, attempting to locate Ansel’s head among the sweaty bodies when a hand rests on my hip. I jolt and spin around, my brows furrowing at the assault.

A guy with brown hair stands there, a smirk on his face while he grips a bottle of liquor in his hand. His eyes look bloodshot from whatever it seems he has been smoking.

“Never seen you around here before, want some company?” He wets his lips, his eyes squinted with a dazed look in them.

“No, she’s fine. Back off.” A voice comes from beside me before my palm connects with another. Ansel holds me tight as he pulls me away from the weirdo and through the thick crowd.

“I thought you were next to me, Rain,” His voice sounds tense, and a little upset.

When I don’t offer a response, he glances at me, but my eyes are on our hands interlaced. He notices where my focus lies and smiles a little, patting inattentive backs out of our pathway.

When we arrive at the living room area, Riley is already drinking beer while she chuckles along with Alex. I take notice of how cute they look together, and I smile softly.

I find a seat on the large suede couch and Alex reaches over to the igloo beside him, he hands both Ansel and I each a beer.

The air conditions in the room are high, and while sipping my beer, I jerk my legs, happy that I haven’t decided whether to cut my hair yet; it does offer a little warmth in times like these.

“Are you cold?” Ansel asks me as he brings his bottle to his lips.

“Yeah…the air conditions are so high.” I smile a little, taking another round of my beer.

He places his bottle on the wooden floor and begins to tug his black jacket off. He had thrown it over his built the minute he arrived at the party. He’s the smarter one, I forgot to take one with me and now I am paying the consequences. It’s not fair to take his.

The jacket is off, revealing his toned biceps as he moves closer to me. Suddenly, I am not cold any more as heat travels to my face.

“No, it’s okay.” I shake my head. “I wouldn’t leave you cold.”

He smiles, and I wonder if it’s normal for someone’s smile to be that beautiful. It’s not legal at all.

“I am really not cold, Rain. I will survive, but the deep flush on your face is telling me that you’re freezing…or perhaps is there another reason you look this crimson?”

His eyes appear to hold a knowing gleam, and I really hope he hasn’t picked up on my constant blushing whenever I am around him. Sam told me. She told me I should stop getting crimson around him if I don’t want him to notice, but it’s easier said than done. Ansel makes that hard for me, he makes it hard for anyone.

“I-I’ll take the jacket…” I quickly accept, hoping he won’t drag his speculations further.

His smile is wider as he brings the jacket around me.

Riley secretly nudges Alex’s knee, a smile on their faces while they watch us discreetly.

He fixes the jacket onto my built, and his scent envelopes me. My small form is lost inside it, but it offers so much warmth.

“Better?”

I smile. “Yeah, it’s warm.”

Ansel chuckles. “Great. But you know, Rain, I’m gonna need this one back,” he says playfully as he grabs his bottle off the ground.

My smile stretches when I realize he’s referring to the last hoodie he gave me.

“Ansel?!” A female’s tone makes me look up, and Alex almost chokes his beer out as he raises his hand to wipe his lips. “Lea?”

A girl stands in front of Ansel. Her face is round and cute, and she’s dressed in an oversized sweater and jeans. Ansel’s expression is unreadable while he looks up at her. I look at Riley, and she has the same confused and curious look on her face as me.

“You haven’t called me in a while,” the girl continues. “Thought you missed me just the same.”

Her sentence stirs up the exact emotions at the club, the unhealthy feeling of jealousy. Who is this girl? Honestly, I’m mentally tired from all these countless numbers of females bravely showcasing their attraction to him. It’s heavy on my heart.

“How have you been?” Ansel asks. I am trying to read his expression, but it’s of no avail.

“Can we talk somewhere private?” She questions.

Ansel sighs. “I am really tired…had a long day at the café.” He offers her a tight-lipped smile.

“It will just be for a minute; I just need to talk to you. Please?”

“Lea—”

“Ansel,” she sighs, “It’s just for a second, okay?”

He exhales heavily, then shifts his eyes to me. “Rain, I’ll be back, okay?”

I smile, rendering a nod. The girl turns her attention to me, a strange look surfaces her face, but it isn’t a pleasant one.

Ansel gets up and walks away with her, and my eyes follow them as a painful feeling tug at my emotions.

Riley sighs and gets up, plopping down next to me. “She’s probably one of those girls who’s greedily chasing behind Ansel.” She shrugs, taking a sip of her beer.

“Actually…they kind of had a thing in the past.” Alex notifies us, while he idly gazes at the label on his beer. “Lea is his ex.”

Riley’s jaws drop. “Ansel-Ansel dated before?”

Alex laughs. “Don’t look so surprised. There’s a lot of things you girls don’t know about Ansel.”

This feeling. The one where you feel like someone is repeatedly hammering your beating organ is one of the worst feelings in the whole world, and I hate it.

“I’m going to find the restroom, gotta pee,” I mutter as I get up from the couch and walk away.

I search the entire bottom floor for a restroom, until I decide to ask a drunken girl slouching against the kitchen counter. She sloppily gives me a direction and I use my common sense to do the rest.

I handle my business in a swift, wash my hands, and leave the space. While closing the bathroom door, I notice there’s an open door at the back that probably leads to the pool area, and then my eyes wander further, and I spot Ansel and that girl.

They are standing and talking. Ansel seems unbothered, but Lea is tugging at her thick curls, seemingly frustrated and hurt. Then before I know it, Lea pulls Ansel into a hug, laying her head against his chest.

I swallow hard, and a feeling I never felt before, for anyone, washes over me.

I feel heartbroken.

This is silly; this is not me.

I shake my head at how ‘girly’ I am being right now.

“Rain, what you are doing around here by yourself?”

A familiar tone sounds behind me and I whirl around to see Alaric moving over to me.

“Oh…trying to find a bathroom,” I answer, shifting my weight.

His eyes travel behind me, and he smiles a little. “Oh, I see what you saw.”

I lower my gaze.

“Don’t mind that, Ansel is over her. She just hasn't gotten the message yet, she will soon.”

“It’s not like that,” I tell him. “I am not hurt or anything.”

Alaric smiles, crossing his big arms against his chest. “I didn’t say you were, Rain.”

It’s a little unnerving how these King boys use psychology to their advantage. He made me just admit how hurt I am, on my own. They all could be a family of psychologists; I am sure they could snag a lot of female clients with their good looks and mysterious characters.

“Come on, I’ll get you a beer, drinking solves a lot of problems.”

“I don’t have problems…”

“You sure don’t, kid.” He throws his arm around my shoulder and leads me to the living room area.

“Yow, a beer for my sister-in-law!” he signals to a guy, and I bring wide eyes to him.

He chuckles. “What?”

The guy hands me a beer and I tell him thanks.

“Don’t go crying now, drink a beer. It’s pretty much the same thing.”

I smile a little. “I don’t cry.”

“I can see that.” He smiles. “Got some business to take care of, so enjoy your night.” He pats my shoulder before trudging away. Alaric is cool, but it is sad that he’s cheating on Sam.

I return to the couch. There is magic in a bottle of beer because I don’t feel as bad as I felt before about Ansel and Lea, but I know it may come back when the alcohol leaves my system.

Riley, Alex and I sit on the couch, chatting the night away and drinking a countless amount of liquor. In no time, Alex and Riley are fast asleep against the couch, and I am seeing ten of everything in the room. My cognitive ability isn’t working at all, and I am dozing off every second.

Ansel returns to the couch. I bring my eyes up to look at him as he approaches me, but I see nothing but a blurry image of his face.

“Rain, are you okay?” He grips my cheek as soon as he sits next to me, turning my face to look at him.

I laugh like a maniac, and it catches him off-guard.

“Rainey?”

“Y-you…I s-saw y-you—” I gulp, scratching my neck while scrunching my face up. “I-I didn’t like it-I hate it, okay?” My face contorts while I lick my lips.

“Hate what, Rain?”

I mumble incoherent things as I close my eyes, feeling a strong wash of sleep taking over.

Ansel realizes I am not sober at all, confirmation being the strong smell of liquor. His eyes travel to Alex, whose mouth is wide open while he sleeps.

He sighs, and walks over to his brother’s side, using a hand to nudge him awake.

Alex jolts up quickly, his eyes barely opening while he itches his neck. He glances around the room in disorientation before landing on his brother’s rebuking gaze. “Where am I?”

Ansel frowns. “Why did you let them drink so much, Al?”

He sits up, scratching his head. “They told me they weren’t lightweights. Are they drunk?”

“Take a guess, come on. I’m taking them home.” Ansel shakes his head and moves over to my sleeping form. While Alex lifts Riley into his arms, Ansel gently takes me up from the couch, cuddling me into his fold.

I am immediately awakened by the movements, and by the familiar scent of him, that soothes my nostrils. I open my eyes and my gaze connects with his blue orbs. They look a lot bluer than normal and I feel like I am drowning in the deepest depths of an ocean. It’s probably the alcohol.

“I’m taking you home,” he mutters.

I mumble something as I fall back into slumber, nestling my face into the heavenly smell of his T-shirt.

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