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Georgia’s hazel eyes penetrated into my blue ones. She commanded my attention. Her expression was stoic, her body language telling me she was tense.
I knew what she was here to talk about. I knew she wanted to know why Jamie and I were acting so distant. The truth was, I was afraid of telling her. Of losing a very close friend.
Our next lesson was going to start soon. I didn’t have time. I needed time to explain it to her.
“What is going on with you and my cousin, Celeste?” She asked, getting straight to the point. Her directness was a blessing and a curse. “I thought you two would be all over each other. I thought the date was supposed to make you realize you wanted Jamie.”
I didn’t though.
Inhaling sharply, I pinched my lips together. “I realized I didn’t want him like that, so I told him.”
Her eyes flared, along with her nostrils. Anger flashed in her eyes.
“So, what are you saying is that you were leading him on?” Georgia clarified, reading this wrong.
I shook my head frantically, my eyes pleading with hers to understand that it wasn’t like that. “No, it wasn’t like that. I told you the other day that I wasn’t entirely sure what I felt.”
Georgia raised two perfectly plucked eyebrows. “Are you saying it’s my fault?”
“No, I’m just saying you told me to go on the date to figure out what I wanted. I told you I wasn’t sure anymore, yet you still pushed me towards it. I went and I figured out that I didn’t like Jamie like that, and I knew I couldn’t lead him on, so I stopped it from becoming something more. I did it so I didn’t cause him any more pain.”
She placed a hand on her bony hip and assessed my form. This was to intimidate me.
Eventually, she exhaled loudly and pinched the bridge of her nose. “It’s because of him isn’t it?”
I froze, averting my eyes to the ground. Georgia could read me so well.
“I thought you could get over your lust for him with Jamie. But maybe you are developing feelings for him.” Georgia accused, hitting the nail on the head. “I saw you in the music room together, getting cozy.”
“He was just teaching me how to play the piano.” I murmured, still not meeting her eyes.
“It didn’t look like it from where I was stood,” She countered, refusing to back down. I hated arguing with Georgia—she always won these fights. “But didn’t you say he and Raegan had a history?”
“What are you doing, Georgia?” I glared at her, feeling a sting in my chest at the horrible reminder. She was purposefully hurting me. Maybe she wanted me to feel Jamie’s pain.
“I want you to save you from pain.” She replied, simply. “I don’t want to see my best friend heartbroken.”
I eyed her form. “What about Jamie? I hurt him.”
She pursed her lips, pausing. “You did the right thing and I’m glad you did. Any of the other girls would have led him on, used him but you didn’t. That’s why you’re my best friend.”
Sighing, I dragged a hand through my hair. “So why on earth did you interrogate me like that? I felt like a murder suspect.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Thought it would be easier to get the truth out of you.”
“God Georgie, you can be so devious sometimes.”
“I’m always devious,” She smirked, stepping closer to me. I looped my arm with her and started walking towards my next lesson. Surprisingly, we still had a minute left until my next lesson. I had left earlier than I thought. “I’m trying to protect you, Celeste. That’s all I ever try to do. I know I’m cold and hard to read a lot, but you are one of the few people I really care about. I’m not a total monster.”
I knew she wasn’t. Like most people, Georgia put on a front. She wore a mask very well. She had worn it for so long it started melting into her. She was unsure who she really was anymore. She had become a cold and distant person.
“I know, Georgia. You forget that I know you.” I told her, sending her a small smile.
“Promise me you will be careful with Lazarus. You don’t want to come in between him and Raegan. Something is off about them—I don’t trust them,” She blurted out, looking vulnerable for the first time in a long time.
I didn’t take her words for granted. They were definitely hiding something.
“I will be careful,” I said, honestly.
She stopped mid-step and gave me a pointed look.
“Okay, I promise to be careful,” I corrected, earning a victorious smirk from her.
The next few days flew by. I had a piano lesson with Lazarus on all of those days. He never mentioned anything about Raegan, but I spotted them together at his locker.
After school, I changed into a loose yellow dress. It hugged my curves and flared out, the very ends of it brushing over my knees. I had put minimal makeup on, opting for a casual look. It was quite warm out today.
Dexter had sent me the address—thankfully Leah’s house wasn’t too hard to find.
“Have a good time, sweetie,” Mom wished me, driving away once I was outside. I stared at the house in front of me with trepidation. I hadn’t seen Leah in a while, and I was worried she would blurt out what happened three years ago. I didn’t want to relive that again.
I stalked up the path, drinking in the large house. I never knew Leah could afford a place like this. Then again, her family was wealthy. They probably helped pay for this.
My fingers curled into a fist and I lifted my hand up to knock on the wooden door. It wasn’t long until Leah swung the door open, grinning ear to ear. She looked stunning in her green cocktail dress that matched her eyes. Her long wavy blonde hair tumbled down her back. She was so tall—way taller than me. If Leah wanted to, she could easily be a model. Like Lazarus, she had fierce features.
“Celeste!” She beamed, her green eyes hazy. She must have already started drinking. To my utter surprise, she pulled me in for a bone-crushing hug. She squeezed so tightly I was worried she would crush my bones. Thankfully, she pulled away and smiled, oblivious to how uncomfortable I felt. “It’s so good to see you again.”
I smiled shyly. We weren’t close but I trusted her. She saved me.
“How are you?” She asked, linking her arm with mine and guiding me through her large and extravagant house. I tried not to gawk at the expensive antiques she had. This house could put the Stem family to shame.
I released a long breath. I was nervous about seeing her brother, Lazarus.
“I’m okay, I guess. You?”
It wasn’t a complete lie. I just didn’t want to burden her with my petty problems.
“Yeah, my boss is making me take more shifts at the library though. Who knew it could be so tiring?” She joked lightly. Leah worked at the local library with two other people. They were both very old, so they didn’t work long hours. It meant Leah had to make up for their hours.
We exited the house and emerged into her big garden. It had a pool to the left and a patio set to the right, where Lazarus, Dexter and Marianne were sitting. They were all sipping on a glass of beer, laughing about something. The BBQ close to the table sizzled with food.
“Guess who just arrived,” Leah announced, drawing their attention to me. I waved sheepishly, catching Lazarus’s eye. He looked hot in his white t-shirt and tight-fitting jeans.
“Celeste!” Dexter called, excitedly. He launched himself out of his chair and hugged me. As soon as his thick arms wrapped around mine, I heard a growl. Like the one I heard in the classroom the first day they arrived. I stiffened, wondering if it was Leah’s dog or something.
“Did you hear that?” I couldn’t help but ask.
They all threw me confused looks, appearing to be pretty believable.
“Hear what?” Leah asked, darting her eyes around her garden.
I shook my head, not wanting to look crazy. Maybe I imagined it. “Nothing, don’t worry.”
An awkward silence passed over between us for a few minutes. I kicked a stray stone on the ground, keeping my eyes to the ground.
“Let’s take a seat. All of us standing around like this makes me feel nervous,” Dexter joked, bouncing over to the BBQ. I headed over to the table, lowering myself into the seat next to Marianne.
“Want one?” She asked, thrusting an open beer bottle into my hands. I studied the beer, mentally debating whether I should have it or not. Strangely, I felt so safe with Lazarus here. He wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me. I knew he wouldn’t.
So, I took a swig, needing one to calm my nerves.
Lazarus sat next to me, so close that I could feel his body heat.
“So, how was Seattle, Leah?” Marianne questioned Leah, who was sat opposite her. Leah had her long legs strung out on the decking; her eyes fluttered closed.
“Busy,” She replied, simply.
“Oh, come on, it couldn’t be that bad,” Dexter countered, arching an eyebrow whilst flipping a burger skilfully. He wasn’t even looking at the BBQ properly. “Seattle isn’t too intense…not like LA.”
Marianne snorted, “You could say that again.”
Dexter flipped another burger, his hand centimeters away from the grill. I opened my mouth, watching him intently.
“Oh, come on, Marianne, you loved LA. You kept begging us to go back.” Dexter retorted. “What was it you said? ’I can’t leave guys. This is my home. My life. I’m in love. If you make me leave, I’m going to be leaving a part of myself.’”
Marianne rolled her eyes, “I was drunk. Blackout drunk. You can’t hold that against me.”
Dexter smirked, triumphantly. “Whatever you say, dear sweet Marianne.”
Marianne sneered at him, leaping to her feet. There was a murderous glint in her eyes. A playful one, of course. “I swear to god, Dexter, I will kill you if you call me that again.”
Lazarus leaned into me, his hot breath fanning my ear. “I heard your date with Jamie didn’t go so well.”
I jolted in my seat and sent him a perplexed look. Why was he bringing this up?
“Uh—yes,” I murmured.
From my peripheral vision, I noticed his lips quirking upwards. Everyone else was chatting nosily but they didn’t matter.
It was just me and him.
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
He wasn’t. there was no remorse or sympathy in his tone. Only happiness.
“Do you mind if I ask what went wrong?”
He was being very curious tonight. I had a feeling the alcohol had something to do with it. Lazarus was usually cautious—not intrusive.
I bit my lip and stared at the table, “We just weren’t compatible. It wasn’t what I thought it would be.”
I couldn’t tell him that he was on my mind the entire night. I couldn’t tell him I wished he was the one who sat opposite me in the restaurant.
“Celeste…can I admit to something?”
The way he said it grabbed my immediate attention. He sounded unsure and dare I say it, anxious.
Swallowing, I peered up at him, connecting my eyes with his. The world around us dissolved; I got lost in the endless depths of forest green. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. If they really were, I didn’t understand Lazarus’s eyes at all.
There was torment in his eyes. Fear. Love.
It was so much. So haunting.
Those emotions couldn’t have been right though. Raegan insinuated there was something still going on between them.
“Okay,” I mumbled, my eyes still trained on him.
“I think you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.” He stated, not a single ounce of deceit coming from him.
I blushed scarlet, shocked by his words.
“T—thanks,” I stuttered, shying away from him.
“And I also want to say I’d like to take you on a d—”
Before Lazarus could finish, Dexter intervened. “Yo lovebirds, your burgers are ready.”
My blush deepened whilst Lazarus scowled at his friend. I stumbled towards Dexter, muttering a ‘thank you’.
Whilst eating, I felt his eyes on me. I flickered my eyes to his hesitantly, chewing on a bit of burger. I felt a liquid sliding down my chin. My tongue swept on my bottom lip, tasting ketchup. His eyes darkened considerably, watching my mouth like a hawk. Desire coursed through me at the thought of him feeling attracted to me in that way.
“Here,” He murmured, leaning forwards and wiping the corners of my mouth with a napkin. My mind went fuzzy at his close proximity. This felt so intimate.
My cheeks burned bright red. At this, his eyes softened.
“That’s better,” He said, staring deep into my eyes. Once again, I got lost in his world.
“Why do I feel like this?” I said aloud, thinking I was speaking in my head. I flushed even darker at the horrible realization.
Hurriedly, I used my hair as a shield.
I gasped when my body was electrocuted.
Fingers brushed my hair away, allowing him to see me again.
“I can’t explain it to you, Celeste,” He admitted, sadly. My shoulders slumped at his words. His sadness made me sad. “At least, not yet.”
At this, I perked up again.
Cocking my head to the side, I regarded him with a curious expression. What did that even mean? What did he have to explain?
“What do you mean by that?”
He sighed in resignation whilst twirling a strand of my brown hair around his finger. “Soon, mi amore.”
Are you alright, mi amore?
Images of the night at the club flashed through my mind. Lazarus called me that. It meant ‘my love’. Why was he calling me my love? We had never met before. It made no sense.
I wanted to interrogate him. I wanted to find out the truth. But as I opened my mouth, ready to speak, Leah beat me to it.
“You two look like you are getting cozy,” She commented, slyly. There was a mischievous twinkle in her green eyes.
I jolted away from Lazarus as if I was caught by my mother doing something wrong.
“Leah,” Lazarus said in a warning tone. He glared at his older sister, furiously.
Leah only smirked in return, pouting when Lazarus scowled. She took another swig of her beer. She was definitely on the way to being drunk.
The rest of the evening went by so fast. We drank, ate food and talked. I had fun.
Lazarus would try to talk to me alone every chance he had. It made me feel special.
I should have felt guilty. I wasn’t naïve, I knew he was flirting with me. Yet, I didn’t care. I didn’t think about Raegan again; instead, I focused on Lazarus and how he made me feel. After a few beers, I was blabbering away, speaking freely.
Leah never brought up what happened in the library three years ago. I was glad.
When I had to go, Lazarus walked me to the door whilst the other three laughed about something that occurred a few years ago.
His forest green eyes penetrated mine. His fingers, that were hanging beside him, twitched. My mother honked her horn, announcing her arrival.
“Thank you for inviting me,” I told him, well aware he didn’t actually invite me.
Nonetheless, he smiled happily and wrapped his strong arms around me. Being in his arms was the best thing I had ever experienced. I felt safe, loved, and content.
His scent reached my nose, his touch driving me nuts.
“I should be thanking you for making this such a good night,” He countered, mumbling into my hair. I thought I heard him inhale my scent.
I pulled back slightly, eliciting a frown from him. “I didn’t do a lot, Lazarus. My company isn’t that good.”
He immediately shook his head, “Don’t say that. Your company means more to me than you will ever know.”
My mother honked the horn again, drawing my attention to the door.
His smiled widened, almost painfully. “Bye, Celeste.”
*swoons* Lazarus is so sweet. I genuinely love him so much. Ugh, if only he was real. What did you think? Thoughts on Leah? My next update will probably be Monday. Have a great weekend!