Fake Love - Stardust Series**Book One

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12 | Mystery Man



I don’t mind chemistry like most kids do, but today I was just in a bad mood. I hadn’t completely gotten over what had happened at lunch with Hunter, and every time a guy gave me a look, it made me angrier.

My lab partner for chemistry was a guy named Brody and he was the biggest klutz I’d ever seen. Fifteen minutes into class, he’d already dropped three things on the floor. Since his hands were full with the lab we were working on, I’d picked up each of the items off the floor.

I was bending down to pick up a paper off the floor, the fourth thing Brody had knocked off the table, when I realized that Kai was sitting at the table behind me.

I glanced up at him and saw that he was watching Brody. His eyes flickered with something and he glanced at me briefly before going back to his lab.

I glanced up at Brody and found him checking out my ass. Clenching my jaw, I quickly sat back down. I wanted to drive my elbow into Brody’s face, but I didn’t. Instead, I set the paper down in front of him.

“Next time, you get it.” I muttered under my breath.

When I arrived home, Damen and Gia were in the kitchen.

I dropped my backpack on the floor and sank down at the table, sighing.

“Guy problems?” Gia asked, coming over and sitting across from me.

I didn’t bother to ask how she’d guessed, she seemed to always know what I was thinking. “Guys suck.” I said, resting my chin on my arms

“I’d like to think not all guys suck.” Damen said from the kitchen.

Gia grinned at him. “You’re the exception.”

“Then make an exception and don’t leave me tomorrow” He came over and kissed her. “Hayden needs you to stay and give her boy advice.”

Gia grinned. “Hayden has my number. She knows I’ll talk to her anytime.” She leaned towards Damen a little. “And you are a guy. You can probably help her out with guys a lot more than I can.”

I groaned. “You guys know I’m sitting right here.”

“My only sister is sixteen years older than me.” Damen said, ignoring me. “You’re only the second girl I’ve ever liked. I don’t think I’m qualified to give girls advice on boys.”

“You don’t need a lot of experience for it to still be good.” Gia said.

I watched them go back and forth a few moments longer before I grabbed my backpack and left. It was kind of cute when they did stuff like that, but I wasn’t in the mood to watch right now.

I seriously wanted to hit something.

That night, I was already waiting in the parking lot when Cody came to pick me up. I hadn’t felt like changing, so I was still wearing the cutoff shorts and tank top.

I climbed in the car and Cody glanced at my legs for a moment before driving off.

It was the first time I’d worn shorts of any type to a fight, but what I realized was that it didn’t even bother me that Cody had just checked me out.

I smiled a little. I actually kind of liked that he’d noticed.

I didn’t fight that night, so we left early and Cody took me to a party. Most of the people at there were at least college age, but Cody said no one would notice me if I just acted like I knew what I was doing.

I had a lot of fun, just letting loose and getting drunk. Maybe a little too drunk, because I ended up dancing with a complete stranger.

At some point, Cody appeared and took the other guy’s place. Liam Payne’s “Strip That Down” featuring Quavo came on, and without even thinking, I started grinding against him.

Cody’s hands slid onto my waist and guided my hips as they moved.

I didn’t know if it was because I was drunk, or because of the adrenaline from trying something new, but a warm feeling shot through my body.

Cody’s hands slid up to my breasts and my breath quickened. I’d never done anything quite this sexual before, but it felt good.

Knowing where this was headed, my mind reminded me that I didn’t want to have sex until I was married, but I pushed the thought out of my mind. I didn’t believe in true love anymore, so why wait for it? What I was doing right now with Cody felt good and I wanted more.

Cody bent his head and kissed my neck.

I rolled my head to the side and slid my hands into his hair. How could anything feel this good?

One of Cody’s hands slipped down low on my stomach, making my breath quicken. He went a bit lower and slid it between my legs.

Fire shot through my body and I moaned, pressing myself against his hand.

Cody kissed the spot behind my ear. “Do you want to get out of here?” He asked, rubbing his hand back and forth.

“Okay.” I moaned. I didn’t know why he wanted to leave, but all I could think about was what he was doing to me. I’d go anywhere with him right now.

Cody removed his hand and grabbed my wrist. “Come on.” He pulled me through the crowd and outside.

“Where are we going?” I asked, as we headed to his car.

He glanced back at me and grinned. “My place.”

I smiled. That made sense. We climbed in his car and he started driving, his hand resting on my thigh. I sighed and picked up my phone.

“Oh my gosh!” It was almost 3 AM! How long had we been there? “I have school in the morning!” I said, giving Cody a panicked look

He winced. “Can’t you skip?”

I shook my head. “It’s only the third day and what would I tell Damen?”

“That you’re sick?” He gave me a hopeful smile.

I sighed. “He wouldn’t believe it. You’d better just take me home.”

“Ugh! Fine.” Cody hit the steering wheel and changed his route.

When we got there, Cody got out and walked me to the bottom of the fire escape. “I could go up with you.” He suggested, a lazy smile on his face.

“Bad idea.” I groaned. “I’m already gonna be so hungover tomorrow.”

“Okay. I’ll see you Thursday then.” He leaned down to kiss me and I ducked away, a horrible thought crossing my mind.

I was a minor, and Cody was 27. This wasn’t even legal! It was just like my Dad and Demi!

Cody gave me a look. “What?”

I looked up at him. No, it wasn’t. When Demi slept with my Dad, she was ruining her best friend’s family. I wouldn’t be hurting anyone by sleeping with Cody. And Cody was only eleven years older than me, while my Dad was more than twice Demi’s age.

“Nothing.” I reached up and kissed Cody’s cheek. “I need to go. See you Thursday.” I turned and headed up the fire escape, leaving Cody standing there, watching me.

To say I was hungover the next morning is an understatement. I missed my alarm and woke up to Damen pounding on my door.

“Hayden! The bus will be here in fifteen minutes!”

I groaned and pulled the covers over my head.

“Hayden, are you even up yet?” I heard the door open and moments later the blanket was yanked off me. “Hayden Gabriella Starr, get out of bed right now!” Damen probably wasn’t really yelling, but his voice made me wince.

Groaning, I stood up and glared at him “I’m up.”

“Are you hungover?” He asked, staring at me.

My eyes widened slightly, remembering bits and pieces of last night. “No!” I moved past him, hoping I wouldn’t fall on my face.

“Really.” Damen watched me as I fumbled with my dresser drawers. “You look hungover.” He casually moved a few things around on the floor with his foot and I knew he was looking for alcohol.

“You won’t find anything.” I pulled off my shirt and tossed it in my hamper. “I wasn’t drinking.” I grabbed a white t-shirt from my drawer and put it on. “Can you leave so I can finish getting ready?” I asked impatiently.

Damen glanced around the room one last time before heading to the door. “Don’t forget Gia is stopping by right after you get back to say goodbye.”

“Yep.” I shut the door behind him and gave a sigh of relief. That had been a little too close.

I didn’t have time for a shower, so I pulled on some gray sweats and put my hair up in a messy bun.

I found a bottle of aspirin in the bathroom and took a few, hoping they’d help my headache. I knew I had to find some way to wake myself up a little, so I grabbed my phone and texted Nadia.

Hayden: Any chance you could pick up a coffee for me on the way to school?

Hayden: I’ll pay you back

I glanced in the mirror and grimaced. I really did look hungover. I threw on a little makeup, hoping it would hide it.

Nadia texted back while I was putting on my adidas superstars.

Nadia: No problem. I’m at Starbucks rn

Nadia: It’s my treat

I sent a smiley face and checked the time. Crap. I had to go right now.

I pulled on a sweatshirt and grabbed my backpack, literally running out the door and all the way to the bus stop.

Nadia met me at my locker with the coffee. Her eyes raked me up and down. “What happened to you?” She asked. “You look like you just rolled out of bed.”

“Thanks.” I took the coffee from her. “I did.”

“Oh.” She made a face. “Rough night?”

I nodded. Not only had I only gotten four hours of sleep, I’d woken up at like five, crying because of my nightmare.

I don’t think I’d ever struggled so much to stay awake in class as I did that morning. I fell asleep in both English and History, and at lunch, I took a nap at the table, laying my head on my arms and telling Nadia and Mckenna to wake me up when it was time for class. After that, I did a little better.

During free period, I was taking another nap in the library when my phone buzzed, indicating a text.

Thinking it was from Gia or Damen, I checked it, only to see it was from Cody.

Cody: I can’t pick you up anymore. Find a different ride.

It buzzed again.

Cody: And please stay away from me.

I read it and then re-read it. “What the heck?” I realized I’d said it out loud and clamped a hand over my mouth, glancing around to see if anyone had seen me.

Going back to my phone, I read it again. What the heck did he mean “please stay away from me”?

Hayden: Did I do something?

He didn’t reply.

Hayden: Cody?

Hayden: What’s your problem?

Hayden: If I did something wrong, just tell me!

I could see he was reading them, but he didn’t reply.

Frustrated, I stuffed my phone in my backpack and went back to taking a nap.

As soon as Gia left that after noon, I told Damen I was going to hang out with a friend.

He was super chill about it, even letting me borrow his motorcycle.

I drove straight to Cody’s apartment and knocked on his door. I heard movement inside, but he didn’t answer.

I knocked again. “Come on, Cody! I know you’re in there!”

“Leave me alone!” He called back. “I told you to stay away from me.”

I sighed. “Well I’m not leaving until you open this door and tell me what’s wrong.”

After a few moments, I heard some more movement and Cody opened the door about two feet.

I gasped when I saw him.

Both his eyes were blackened, his lower lip was cut and swollen, and the left side of his face was bruised and swollen to the point that I hardly recognized him.

“Oh my gosh!” I stared at him. “What happened?”

He looked at me, as best he could, with his eyes swollen like they were. “I thought maybe you’d know.” He said bitterly.

I blinked in surprise. “Me? Why the heck would I know anything?”

Cody opened the door the rest of the way to show that his apartment had been trashed. “Maybe the guy who did this knows you?”

I stepped part way in to get a better look. “You were robbed?”

“It was like this when I got back last night, but I don’t think he took anything.”

“Then how did that happen?” I pointed to his face. “And why do you think he knows me?”

Cody sighed. “He was still in the apartment when I got here. He’d cut the power and jumped me shortly after I came in. He beat me up and told me to stay away from you. That’s all I know.”

“Stay away from me? Who the heck was he?”

Cody nodded. “I don’t know who he was, I’d never seen him before.”

“Well what did he look like?” I couldn’t think of a single guy who would’ve done it.

“I didn’t see him very well.” Cody said. “He was taller than me and wearing a baseball cap and hood. I’m not sure how old he was, but probably my age or younger. And he moved liked a trained fighter.”

I mentally gathered the information. “Did you call the police?”

“I’m not stupid.” Cody turned, boxing me back out into the hall. “What would I tell them? That some guy beat me up and destroyed my apartment because I take a minor to illegal street fights?”

I bit my lip. “I didn’t think of that.”

“Look.” Cody sighed. “You’re a great girl and I really like you, but this guy was scary. Scarier than any fighter I’ve seen. He beats me up and says, “stay away from Hayden Starr”. I don’t want him to ever come near me again, so if he wants me to stay away from you, I will. And please, for my sake, just stay away from me too. It’s nothing against you, I just kinda liked my face the way it was.” He tried to give me a smile, but it ended up looking more like a wince. “I’m sorry.” He shut the door in my face and left me standing there, processing what he’d just said.

“Hayden Starr.” I whispered. He’d said stay away from Hayden Starr. Not Hayden Wagner, not Stardust, but Hayden Starr.

That meant he knew me. The real me.

I spent hours in my room, going over different angles and trying to draw lines between any two points, but I couldn’t figure out anything.

The only guys that I thought knew who I really was were Damen, Cody, and Mr. Wright. Cody was the one attacked, but he was also the only one of the three that knew I was fighting. Which meant I was missing something big.

Damen potentially fit the description Cody gave, but if Damen had somehow discovered I was fighting, he would’ve said something to me, not go beat up Cody.

The whole thing seriously bothered me. I remembered the guy I’d seen at one of the fights that I thought was watching me. He’d been wearing a hat and hood, but I hadn’t been able to see him very well and I didn’t know who he was.

He maybe could’ve been the guy that beat up Cody, but why? Who was he, and why did he care if I hung out with Cody?

Nothing made sense.

Sighing, I shoved all my work under the bed and laid down. I could figure it out tomorrow.

“Oh, come on!” Nadia made a face. “Shorts are so much better than skirts and you know it.”

Mckenna snorted. “Shorts are uncomfortable, skirts are comfortable.”

“No, skirts make you look like you think you’re so much better than everyone else. Shorts show that you fit in.”

“Well what if I want to stick out?”

I watched as they continued arguing. They reminded me so much of my old teammates.

We were at lunch and I had commented that I liked Mckenna’s skirt, and Nadia had suggested that shorts would’ve gone with the outfit better and just like that, it had turned into a full-blown argument.

It had been going on for about three minutes now and they were just going in circles. I knew they weren’t actually arguing, they just did things like this a lot.

Over the last several days, I’d figured out a lot about them.

Nadia was level-headed and down-to-earth but was also mostly cheerful. She was tall, probably 5’8, and had super pretty brunette hair with natural auburn highlights in it and her eyes were bright green. She got good grades and mostly stayed out of trouble. Her personality was outgoing, but when it came to guys, she froze up and didn’t know what to say. Her style of dress was simple, even more than I’d ever been. She just always wore jeans or shorts and a t-shirt, and maybe a sweatshirt.

Mckenna was opposite in a lot of ways from Nadia. She was very imaginative and bubbly and always was smiling. Her hair was blonde, and her eyes were blue. She also got good grades and was definitely a “good girl”. Her personality was pretty shy, but she still treated everyone like they were her best friend. She had a boyfriend, Kael, that went to a different school. Her style of dress matched her personality: cheerful, bright, and cute.

I didn’t know why they’d decided to be friends with me, I was different from both of them in just about every single way. But then, I guess they didn’t really know enough about me to know that.

I still redirected everything away from myself. I knew at some point they’d start to notice, but they hadn’t yet, and I wasn’t ready to talk about me anyway.

Any thoughts? Things are about to get super complicated. :P


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