“Because I kept Carlos alive?”
“No. Because you let Kai think that you’re dead.”
We left the house, taking a walk around the park. Brent is walking unusually slowly,almost robotically, as if his brain was struggling to tell each foot to take the next step. I don’t think his brain can do anything else than think about Kai. His best friend. His brother.
“How did you found us, Brent?”
“I never had to search for you. I was always nearby.” Brent shoves his hands into his pockets, his eyes locked on his feet. Like he was ashamed to look at me, or anyone else he has abandoned.
“I watched you, trying to find Leonardo, I was everywhere you were. I never left you.”
“And you didn’t think we need your help with Leonardo?”
“Who do you think gave directions to others?”
We keep walking and I keep calming down; finally, I can think of it as a reality. Those dreams and finding out Brent is alive is just... driving me crazy. How Kai will react to this? Is he going to forgive Brent?
But Brent was with us all the time. Helping us, even if we didn’t knew he had. He was still our friend; Kai’s friend. And he was alone all year, just because of a girl.
“So did you find her?”
“Did I found Avery?”
Brent lets out a cruel sarcastic chuckle, looking at me like I’ve just told the most ridiculous joke. Like it was ridiculous to even think about that. I have never heard about Avery; probably she was someone very important to Brent, and he kept memories about her only for himself.
But Kai definitely knows who she is.
“No. I haven’t. Apparently, Pereira didn’t knew a lot about her. And eventually I got bored with him begging me to let him go, so I cut his tongue out to shut him up.
Of course, Brent learned something from Kai. He became more cruel, more spontaneous and ingenious, just like Kai is. And Kai started to think more logically, became less impulsive. Because they both had to change when they were without each other. Because they weren’t there for each other. They were left alone. It doesn’t matter that Kai had me and others.
Without Brent, he’s alone.
“Was she... missing or something?”
I know Brent was, and is my friend. As much as I want to be mad at him for leaving us, for letting us feel all that grief... I can’t. I can’t because I get him. Because I would’ve done the same for Kai.
“We could say so. But there’s one thing that left me anxious...”
“What is it?”
Brent bites his lip before turning to me with a nervous look in his deep eyes, surrounded by a few new wrinkles that appeared on his skin through the year being apart from us. And that look is not giving me a feeling of good news.
“All the paths that I thought are leading me to her... she wasn’t there. Instead, I always saw one person, at the place where Avery should’ve been.”
“Well, who was it?”
Brent swallows, looking me in the eyes; as if he was afraid to say the name.
I never understood why people go to nightclubs - you can get drunk at home. To smell other people’s sweat, drunk guys hitting on you, girls competing who wears a shorter dress... Maybe that’s just not for me. Maybe not after being in brothel for half of my life. Maybe because I’m angry on every man in this planet.
I don’t want any man to touch me, or talk to me ever again. I was used, fucked, beaten up so many times back in the brothel; that I already know I will never have children, a family, or even a boyfriend. I can’t admit that I’m afraid, my attitude doesn’t let me to; but deep inside my heart, I just know that I can’t let anyone use me, ever again.
That’s the thing that will haunt me for the rest of my life. And it’s not about Kai, Kevin or Aaron. Well, it’s a little bit about Aaron. He’s just the one that’s showing me attention; in fact, I even like that he calls me Red. But I can’t let him expect anything from me.
Though I like our little games.
We enter the nightclub, full of rainbow lights and the sort of beats that seem like matching my heartbeat. It’s already crowded with half-naked girls and drunk guys hitting on them. The type of men that are second on my hate list.
The type I hate the most stands right next to me.
“They have some nice chicks in here tonight.”
I take a glance at him and he gives me an alluring wink that makes something tickle in my stomach. I just can’t stand him. A man, looking for a one night stand is the most disgusting I could ever imagine. Especially when you’ve spent that much time in a brothel as I did.
“You’re a caveman.”
There are a lot of people around us, not to mention Kai, Kevin and Brooklyn, but I still feel his fingers gently touching my palm; electricity rushes through my veins and I pull my hand away, frowning at him.
“Will you dance with me, Red?”
“I wouldn’t do that even if my life depended on it.”
“I promise you I’ll change your mind.”
Aaron smiles showing me all of his pearl white teeth and walks away to the bar, along with Kevin and Kai, leaving me standing with Brooklyn. But that’s not even a nice night, I feel irritated, like something is scratching me inside my guts. I like those people. They care about me, and as much as I don’t want to admit, I care about them. Just... not Aaron.
And I still don’t understand why he gets me so angry.
“She said she’ll be here in an hour.”
“Then let’s get those drinks.”
We walk to the bar, where Kevin and Kai are having a conversation, probably about nothing important; while Aaron has his arm wrapped around some girl’s neck. She’s wearing heels, higher than her IQ, and I’m not sure if it’s a dress or a towel she’s wearing since it’s really short.
I catch his gaze and he winks again; those eyes just drive me crazy, and he tries to make me mad on purpose.
But I know how to play, too.
I walk to him with all of my confidence and my head up. My arm is resting on my thigh and I stop, looking at the blond girl that probably doesn’t have anything natural; I will never get why guys like girls like her.
“Hey, baby? Who is this?”
“You have a girlfriend!?”
The blondie frowns and gives Aaron a slap that he deserves; just she did it for me. The slap is as loud as a clap, I could hear it even through the loud music, and stings his face. It’s an open-handed smack and it has left a red welt behind. Just as the blondie walks away Aaron turns back at me with a shocked look on his face; and an evil laugh leaves my lungs.
“What the fuck, Red?”
The bartender finally makes my drink; a strong Long Island cocktail that I’ve ordered, giving me an excuse to turn away. But Aaron is not the one who likes to be embarrassed and let it go that easily.
The moment I turn to talk to Brooklyn her eyes are already on Kevin; like they are all the time he’s around. Kai keeps talking to them, that leaves me alone with... Aaron.
Who doesn’t waste anymore time.
I feel him standing right next to me, his muscular arms touching mine. I slowly turn my head to him, wanting to tell him to go away; though every sense inside me tells me not to. But he’s closer than I thought he is, as soon as my head turns I feel his breath on my cheek, slowly going to my earlobe.
“You whisked my date away, Red.” I feel Aaron’s lips on my earlobe, his hot breath making my head spin. “Now you’ll have to keep me busy.”
His hot fingers trail up my forearm; slowly and barely touching it, but leaving goosebumps on my skin. The fact that this guy is trying to take things to the next level is getting me angry... but I’ve never felt what it’s like. Gentleness. A careful touch.
All this is new for me.
“Get yourself another date, Aaron.”
“As you wish.”
Aaron turns around and I feel a moment of relief, I can breathe again and the tickling in my belly stops; until he wraps his arms around my waist and lifts me up, carrying me on his shoulder like I weigh nothing.
“Put me down, you moron!”
“You told me to get a date, and I did.”
He carries me straight into the dance floor, and stops when we reach the middle of it, surrounded by dozens of people dancing to the beat.
Aaron puts me back on my feet, frowning and killing him inside my head; I didn’t like to be helpless. But something about him, carrying me felt good. It even felt right.
“I’m out of here.”
I turn around to leave him alone, in the middle of the dance floor; but he doesn’t let me go that easy, and deep inside me I don’t want him to. Aaron’s arm grabs mine, and with a little thrust he pulls me to his body. I bump into it like he was a rock, tall and strong; his hard abdomen pressed to my body and for the first time I can take a better look at those beautiful brown eyes.
I look deep inside those earthy hues, and there’s something more in them, in him; not something cheesy like in those cheap soap operas, so obsessed with lust, but there’s the kind of beauty that expands a moment into a personal eternity, like moment of being in heaven that you thought doesn’t even exist.
I know that I never felt that way before. And I never thought I will.
There’s a little alluring smile playing on Aaron’s lips when he draws his hand down to my spine, pulling me even closer to his body. I feel my breath getting heavier with every second he’s so close to me, my body surprises me when my arms wrap around his neck and we slowly start moving to the rhythm of the song.
One of my favorites. Tim Berg’s ‘Seek Bromance’.
Why they have to play the sexiest songs!?
“I told you I’ll change your mind.”
“You’re still a dumbass.”
“Am I really?”
I feel his hands slowly sliding down to my hips, our bodies moving together rhythmically like they were one, glued together with no willingness to pull away. Our eyes are locked on each other, waiting for one of us to move their gaze other way. But none of us does.
“Yes. You’re annoying.”
“And you look beautiful tonight.”
I swallow, my breath completely stops as his smile disappears and his eyes travel down to my lips. I was used to be the meat; the one that men uses to fulfill their needs, usually even beats me up if I refuse to do something they want me to. And this is completely different. This makes my body shiver, not from fear or anger, but from pleasant surprise.
As much as I think Aaron annoys me...
He was the one to tell me the very first compliment.
I look at his face, slowly leaning closer to mine. My every limb goes numb, setting my veins on fire. I want this. And I also don’t. I loved hating him. Because that was the only way to keep the distance from the only man that I’m probably interested in. That I was interested in this whole time. Never before had a man’s touch made me so weak. I can’t be weak... not anymore.
But then a moment has to be interrupted.
Kevin breaks through the crowd of dancing people, getting straight to me and Aaron. I break away from his embrace, like I was embarrassed to touch him; though I’m not embarrassed at all. I feel my skin craving for his touch. My eyes hungry for his look. Ice around my heart starts to crack. And I realize something is changing inside of me; and it will never be the same.
"Beverly is going to be here any minute. Let’s go congratulate her. She also said she has a surprise for us."