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Even though I wanted to avoid Lazarus at all costs, my body compelled me to go to him. It was as if I was on autopilot, having no say on what happened.
He was already sat in the music room, waiting for me. I swallowed at the sight of him leaned over the piano keys, staring blankly at them. Sun poured into the room, highlighting the half of his face I could see. He was undeniably gorgeous.
At the sound of my shoes smacking the solid ground, he whipped his head up to me and smiled brightly. He probably thought I would have bailed out.
“Celeste,” He called, his voice sending shivers down my spine. I loved how he said my name. It sounded so right. He was the only one to have such an effect on me. “Come and take a seat.”
I obeyed him and trailed over to him, apprehensively. His enticing scent filled my nose and calmed me. Those green eyes penetrated my face, drinking in every contour on my face. Not for the first time, I wondered what he thought about me. At one point, I thought he liked me but after meeting Raegan and seeing them together, I knew that couldn’t be the case.
Slowly, I slid into the chair beside him, brushing my leg against his. He stiffened and turned his attention to the piano.
“I’m sorry we didn’t get to practice yesterday,” He murmured, not glancing at me. His voice sounded troubled.
I wanted to comfort him. I wanted to reassure him it was alright even though I was hurt by his actions. He barely acknowledged me.
“It’s okay,” I said softly, staring at him.
Feeling my eyes on him, he shifted his gaze to me and locked eyes with me. I could get lost in those forest green eyes. They drew me to him. I wanted to get lost in them forever.
“It’s not,” He shook his head, guiltily. “I was rude and cold. And then when I saw you fall yesterday; I swear my heart stopped.”
My own heart was hammering in my chest. I didn’t know what to think. What was he trying to say?
“I’m okay though,” I told him and hesitantly placed my hand on his cheek. My hand sizzled at his touch, the feeling pleasant. He leaned into my touch, enjoying the feeling too. For a single moment, I pretended Raegan didn’t exist and instead, pretended we were two people who stood a chance of being together.
The thought of being with Lazarus made me feel warm and happy. I barely knew him, but I wanted to be with him. I wanted to know everything about him. He made me forget the scarred man. He made me feel safe.
He opened his mouth, wanting to say something but then shut it again.
“So,” I drawled, mustering up the courage to ask him what I needed to know. “You and R—”
Before I could finish my sentence, his phone rung, interrupting me. I purposely glared at the phone as he took it out of his pocket and sent me an apologetic look.
“Layton,” He said, surprise evident in his tone. Rising to his feet, he stepped away from me and out of the door. I remained in my seat, confused and disappointed.
I recalled Dexter telling me about the Ward family and his older brother Layton, who managed the family business with his wife. That was when he was about to call her something else but stopped himself.
Lazarus was on the phone with Layton for a while. When he returned, the bell rung, announcing the start of lessons again. Sighing, I clambered to my feet just as Lazarus entered the room, a small smile gracing his lustrous lips. The smile slowly disintegrated at my solemn look.
“Sorry Lazarus, I need to go to my Chemistry lesson,” I told him, emotionlessly.
I hated how sad he appeared at that moment.
I was already marching out of the room, into the busy hallway. He didn’t try to follow me. Even though I was limping, I managed to get away pretty well.
In Chemistry, Dexter and Marianne both greeted me with a happy grin.
“How was your piano lesson?” Dexter asked, wiggling his eyebrows.
I pinched my lips together and stared down at my table. “We didn’t have time for it. Lazarus received a call from his brother.”
They’re eyebrows shot up in surprise. They exchanged a quick worried look.
The teacher waltzed into the classroom shortly after and demanded we do independent work. I worked silently; my mind distracted with thoughts of Lazarus. He always seemed to plague my mind. When I closed my eyes, I saw his handsome face and alluring green eyes. Whenever I stepped into a room, my eyes sought him out.
He was everywhere.
My next lesson flew by. It was the end of the day and I got a ride back with Georgia who insisted we go to Winston’s tonight. She didn’t invite many people this time, only a few of us.
I changed into something casual and left a note for my mother, who was still at work.
Georgia picked me up at six, with Jamie already in the car. That meant Matt wouldn’t be joining us this evening. They hadn’t spoken to each other since the cafeteria confrontation yesterday. In fact, I hadn’t seen them in the same room at all. Matt didn’t attend homeroom this morning and wasn’t in the cafeteria at lunch.
“How are you feeling, Celeste?” Jamie asked me, concern swirling in his brown eyes.
Letting out a long breath, I forced myself to be friendly. All I really wanted to do was go to sleep.
“My ankles okay, the medication is helping.”
He nodded his head, still glancing over his shoulder at me.
We pulled into Winston’s car park a few minutes later. I hobbled out of the car, with the help of Jamie. His hand was holding me gently, but his touch did nothing to me. It was empty.
Ellie and Wilder were already in the booth, huddled together cozily. At the sound of our arrival, they shifted their gaze to us and grinned.
We headed over to them and shuffled into the fairly large booth. A familiar waitress, Catherine, approached us with a polite smile painted on her middle-aged face. She took our order and disappeared.
“Where did you sneak off to at lunch, Celeste?” Ellie questioned me, curiously.
Uneasiness over washed me. For some odd reason, I didn’t want to tell them about my piano lessons with Lazarus. It felt like something special that I wanted to keep secret. If they found out about it, they might try to put a stop to it. They were very protective of me.
Jamie wouldn’t be happy either. We weren’t a couple, but he liked me—I knew that much. He would think I was betraying him.
All eyes were homed in on me, waiting for my answer.
“I—uh,” I stuttered, attempting to think of a coherent and believable lie. “I was at the nurse’s office, getting my ankle checked out.”
Internally, I applauded myself.
They all bought it in the end. Georgia was the most reluctant but that was probably because she knew me very well. She didn’t question me though, not now at least.
“That new girl—Raegan,” Ellie started, oblivious to Georgia flinching at the name of the she-devil, “is apparently Marianne’s younger sister.”
I already knew this.
“I really don’t like her,” Georgia gritted out, her sharp jaw ticking.
“You know Matt’s sorry, right cous?” Jamie said, trying to defend his best friend.
Georgia held up a dismissive hand, “Don’t even start. I had enough of his ’apologies’ last night.”
Her nose was scrunched up in disgust and her eyes were cold and detached. She liked Matt, despite their relationship being toxic and wrong. She cared about him a lot. Matt betrayed her and he humiliated her in front of the school. She was worried about her reputation and her status.
Jamie’s eyes softened, “He was blackout drunk. He had no idea who she was. She basically forced herself on him.”
Georgia scoffed, “Whatever. It’s not like I actually care.”
We all knew that was a big, fat lie. Her reaction towards the whole ordeal proved she cared. A lot. She just didn’t want to admit it to herself. Not yet.
“Wilder’s hosting a party Friday night,” Ellie chirped in, changing the subject. “You better be there or be square.” She threatened jokingly, faking a serious look.
Wilder tightened his hold on his girlfriend and pressed his lips together. His jet-black hair was messy, and his dark brown eyes were stuck on his girlfriend.
It was rare for Wilder to host a party. He liked his privacy. We had only been around his house a few times, and that was when there weren’t many of us. He had only had two parties at his big house.
Wilder came from an extremely wealthy family, albeit, not as wealthy as Georgia’s. They were never around, always leaving him to fend for himself. Wilder didn’t mind though; he loved his independence.
I suddenly realized I wouldn’t be able to attend his party. I had been invited to Leah’s house Friday night for a BBQ.
Georgia smirked, obviously planning to get wasted. She wanted revenge and the best way to do that was to hook up with some random guy.
“I’m busy Friday night,” I muttered, avoiding eye contact with all of them.
It was at that moment Catherine returned with our drinks. I was thankful she was here to stop them from questioning me immediately.
Jamie stared at me in disappointment whilst Georgia appeared curious.
“You’re never busy on a Friday,” Georgia stated, cocking her head to the side whilst keeping her eyes on me.
I tried to keep a nonchalant expression on my face. I didn’t want them to know about going to Leah’s house.
Since when was I keeping so many secrets from my friends? A month ago, they knew everything about me. But now I was keeping secrets from my friends because I didn’t want them to know about my feelings for Lazarus. I was attracted to him, but we could never be. If Georgia found out the truth, she would go ballistic. She had been trying to set me up with her cousin for months.
“Mom wants to hang out,” I lied, briefly making eye contact with Ellie.
Ellie, being the person who never found anyone suspicious, waved it off. Georgia, on the other hand, stared at me for a lot longer.
“How is Ms.O’Connor? I haven’t seen her in so long! I miss her delicious cookies,” Ellie exclaimed, once again changing this subject.
“She’s good, just tired a lot,” I replied, the worry evident in my tone. My mother cares about her job a lot and puts a lot of strain on herself. “You can probably come over on the weekend. She’s not working Sunday.”
Ellie smiled softly, “I’m looking forward to it.”
We spent another hour at Winston’s, talking about school and gossip. Every once in a while, Jamie would try to brush his leg against mine. I always moved away from him, without looking at him.
I exited the diner at half eight with Georgia behind me. Jamie was going to stay longer with Wilder and Ellie.
As soon as I stepped out, I felt unwanted eyes on me. They sent chills down my spine and made my heart accelerate. My blue eyes scanned the area, searching for any signs of life.
I saw no one but that didn’t stop the feeling. Somebody was hiding, watching me.
Georgia unlocked the car and I rushed over to it. She gave me a puzzled look and slipped into her expensive car. She made no move to turn the car on though.
“What is going on with you, Celeste?” She queried, out of the blue. Her brown eyes were set on me. “You have been acting so distant lately. You can’t even look at Jamie, the boy who you couldn’t keep your eyes off of. I’m starting to worry about you.”
Georgia may be selfish at times, but she cared about the people close to her. She would go the extra mile for them any day of the week. She was always protective of me.
Releasing a long breath, I connected my eyes with hers, “I thought I liked Jamie but now I’m not so sure anymore. I just don’t know what to do…I don’t want to hurt his feelings. I don’t want him to hate me.”
Jamie was still a good friend of mine. I didn’t want this to ruin our friendship.
It was difficult telling Georgia this—she wanted me with Jamie so badly.
She pursed her lips and stared straight ahead, a frown marring her beautiful face. I had her stumped.
“You don’t like my cousin?” She clarified, dragging her serious gaze to me.
I inhaled sharply and fiddled with my fingers. “Not in the way I thought I did.”
She exhaled loudly and squeezed the steering wheel tightly. “Is there somebody else?”
My eyes bugged out of their sockets. Georgia was always very perceptive; she probably saw the way I stared at Lazarus. She wasn’t stupid, she could connect the dots easily.
“W—what? N—no,” I stammered, averting my eyes to my lap.
“I know you, Celeste. I know when you’re lying. I’ve seen the way you stare at Lazarus. Everything changed when they arrived,” She accused, tightly.
How could I say otherwise? She knew the truth. I didn’t want to be with Jamie because of Lazarus.
“Fine, I—I like Lazarus. But nothing will ever happen because Raegan wants him back,” I mumbled, quietly.
“Hold up, are you telling me Raegan and Lazarus used to date?”
I nodded my head sadly. “Yeah, they did. Raegan’s here because she wants him back.”
“So, he doesn’t want you?” She asked, the question physically hurting me. It was so painful to think he didn’t want me.
“No,” I shook my head, my heart falling to my stomach. “Raegan implied they were in love. Every time I see them together, they look cozy.”
Georgia noticed the pain I felt and threw me a sympathetic look. “I’m sorry, Celeste. But you barely know him, what your feeling will pass soon.” She paused, pondering over if she should say the next thing. “Jamie likes you a lot though. Why don’t you go on a date to see if you really don’t like him romantically?”
I didn’t want to lead Jamie on. He didn’t deserve that. But I did need to get Lazarus out of my head. He didn’t want me. Jamie did. Perhaps my feelings would develop on the date.
I knew it was a stupid idea from the start but that didn’t stop me from agreeing with Georgia. I just hoped it didn’t come to bite me in the a*s later.
Thank you so much for reading! The next chapter will be up either Friday or Saturday. Have a great week!