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One year ago
The snow rained down onto the football field. It was extremely cold.
I pressed my thick coat closer to my chest, trying to keep myself warm. My teeth were chattering, and constant shivers were crawling down my spine.
I was looking for Jamie—who was apparently training here. My eyes scanned the area, but I couldn’t see him, at all. Perhaps Dalia was wrong. Perhaps he decided to skip training outside in the freezing cold and went home. My heart deflated at the thought.
Great, just when I had plucked up the courage to tell him I had feelings for him, he wasn’t even here. Who knew when I would muster the same courage again?
With a heavy heart, I kicked at the thin layer of snow beneath me and slowly started making my way back to the school.
I couldn’t shake the feeling I was being watched by somebody. The hairs on my arms stood up and this time, I was sure it wasn’t from the cold.
Picking up my pace, as soon as I entered the school, I raced down the hallways to my locker. It was empty there—everyone had gone home. After all, it was Christmas next week. People had families to visit and food to eat.
That feeling of being watched was still there. Every once in a while, I would glance over my shoulder. I couldn’t see anybody there.
It was only when I rounded the corner that I saw him. He was here, again. Back to terrorize me. To take me away.
Gulping nervously, I immediately turned around and ran in the opposite direction.
His heavy footsteps pounded against the squeaky-clean floors, chasing after me. He was always fast—inhumanely fast.
His hands wrapped around my body and shoved me into the lockers, face first. I yelped in pain and fought in his hold.
His disgusting breath hit the back of my neck.
“I’ve got you this time, Celeste. This time, there’s nobody else around to save you,” He declared, sickly amused.
Tears flowed down my face. I was crying—ugly crying. Fear coursed through my entire body.
This was it, wasn’t it? This time I wouldn’t get away. He had me this time.
One of his hands let go of me and delved into a pocket. Since my cheeks were up against the locker, I could see him pulling out a thin white cloth. My eyes widened in panic—he was going to drug me!
The cloth was shoved over my mouth. I tried to hold my breath for as long as I could, but my lungs protested and burned in pain. They screamed at me to inhale—to get air.
To my dismay, I breathed in the toxic mixture.
It didn’t take long for the effects to kick in. Black spots appeared in my vision and my body felt heavier. I couldn’t control it.
My body swayed side to side and then I felt myself collapse. Before I hit the ground, the scarred stranger caught me and lifted me in the air, bridal style.
Limp in his arms, I could barely make out anything. Vaguely, I saw the pale blue lockers and the doors to the exit. Internally, I was panicking beyond belief. Externally, I was motionless. I had no power in my body.
So, this is what it felt like to have absolutely no power or control. To be completely defenseless. It was a feeling I despised so much. I never wanted to feel like this again.
I was starting to lose consciousness. I was slipping.
“You should put her down, rogue,” A familiar voice commanded, icily.
The person in front of us was too blurry to make out but even in my distorted state, I could recognize Wilder’s voice anywhere.
For a split second, I felt relief. Relief that he was here and that he could possibly save me.
However, as quickly as it was there, it vanished. Fear replaced it. Fear for his life. This stranger was unpredictable and sinister, he could seriously hurt Wilder. Kill him even. Ellie couldn’t deal with losing Wilder.
I wanted to yell at Wilder, tell him to be careful. To run? But if he ran, it would mean nobody would be able to save me. I would be dead.
The stranger laughed, manically.
“You can’t beat me, pup,” He exclaimed.
I couldn’t really remember what occurred after that. I knew Wilder fought the scarred man and won. Unfortunately, he managed to escape before the authorities arrived.
Wilder stayed with me the whole journey to the hospital.
He held my hand the entire time—apparently. I was unconscious by then, so I wasn’t certain. All I knew was that I felt safe because he was there. He saved me and I was eternally grateful for that.
After that, I was terrified of being alone.
Being alone meant I was vulnerable. Being alone meant the darkness could come back and snatch me away.
A few days had passed since Lazarus’ proposal. He told me he could teach me on Friday lunchtime in the music room.
I was actually excited about it. The mere prospect of spending time with Lazarus made my heart race.
Georgia and Ellie had both noticed a difference in me. They noticed me stealing glances at Lazarus every chance I got. It was strange to me. I had feelings for Jamie, I knew I did. They didn’t simply go away.
But I felt something for Lazarus too. Something so much stronger and powerful. There was an undeniable connection that pulled me to him. My body, my heart, my soul called to him. It was almost as if we were two magnets, attracting each other.
I had no idea if this was a simple infatuation with a gorgeous man or if it was something more. Was I making up the connection I felt?
It was all confusing.
At night, when I lay awake, I saw his eyes before I went to sleep. I felt safer imaging them.
When Friday lunchtime rolled over, I was quite nervous. I sat with the girls for a while, chewing on my salad. It hardly had any flavor, as usual. Mom always tried to make me have something more filling, but I refused. She didn’t understand what would happen if I ate something like a sandwich. I hated myself for thinking like this but the urge to fit in rang deep inside me.
We got forty-five minutes for lunch, so I disappeared after fifteen minutes. My feet tapped along the floor quickly. Lazarus was already sat in the room, waiting for me patiently.
He sent me a captivating smile, one that left me dazed for a moment. How could he look so gorgeous?
“Hi,” I breathed, placing my stuff down on the table next to the piano. I slid into the seat next to him, stealthily inhaling his musky scent. “What are we learning today?”
He stared at me through those emerald green orbs softly. Sometimes, I felt like he was staring at me like I’m the only girl in the world that matters. That he is bewitched by me.
“Well, I researched what songs were easy to learn. I thought I would choose a modern song—one you might know.” He told me, handing me a pile of sheet music he had got from the web.
I skimmed through all of the pages rapidly, choosing one I had heard a lot on the radio a few years ago.
“This one,” I picked, placing it on the stand in front of the keys.
He darted his eyes between me and the sheet with an unreadable expression. It was an intense love song. My cheeks tinged a bright red color.
“All Of Me,” He read aloud, “I don’t know many modern songs but I think I’ve heard that one before.”
“So, what is the order of the keys?” I asked, knowing nothing about any of this.
He recited the order and taught me a way to know where they were. I had to admit, it took me a while to master that. Wrapping my head around it was tough. However, Lazarus remained patient with me, letting me take my sweet time. He never got angry with me, no matter how infuriating it must have been to watch me forget everything he said multiple times.
Since it took me so long to learn the basics, we only managed to play ten seconds of the song.
Embarrassed, I dropped my head, ashamed. He was such a good pianist—I was simply awful. There wasn’t a musical bone in my body.
“Hey, you did really well,” He complimented, gently placing a finger under my chin. Slowly, he urged my face to lift up. My eyes locked with his instantly.
His touched burned me—but in a good way. In a way that had me wanting more. I wanted him to touch me again, set me on fire.
My old pal nervousness crept into me when neither of us looked away. This felt so good and intense, but it was too quick. Way too quick.
Gulping, I restrained myself from doing anything foolish. Something I could regret.
I pulled away, shifting my gaze to the piano keys. He sighed beside me quietly and rose to his feet.
“I should probably go; I’ll see you soon?”
English was my last lesson today and I shared that with him.
“Bye,” I muttered, hearing his footsteps drift away. When I was sure he was gone, I exhaled loudly and ran a hand down my face, tiredly.
Why did I feel so much for him? What was he hiding?
Dragging myself up, I clambered out of the music room and into the now busy halls. Students plowed their way through, talking loudly.
I passed an empty classroom and saw Marianne whispering something to Dexter. They both appeared quite concerned about something. As if sensing my stare, they both looked up.
I smiled awkwardly and even sent them a small wave. Dexter smiled boyishly back whilst Marianne remained passive. There were times when she showed no emotion at all and then there were other times when she did.
Whatever they were talking about, it was important. And none of my business.
My next lesson droned on. When it was time for English, I met up with Ellie by her locker. She linked her arm with mine and guided me to the classroom.
This time, Lazarus was sat in the seat next to mine. The corners of his lips quirked upwards at the sight of me.
My stomach churned and my heart stammered. How did he manage to make me feel such things? I’ve only known him for a week.
“You’re sat in a different seat,” I stated bluntly, lowering myself into the chair beside me.
“I wanted to spend some time with you,” He claimed, boldly.
My eyebrows shot up at his words. Ellie threw me a knowing smirk and started doodling in her notebook, pretending to be distracted. We all knew she was actually listening in.
Trying to keep my cool, I smiled shyly and tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. “What are your plans for the weekend?”
I was making small talk because I didn’t know what to say to him.
He shrugged his shoulders, unsure. “No clue. You?”
His eyes were trained on me. “Uh—catch up on homework and practice the cheer routine.”
Lazarus leaned in closer, maintaining eye contact with me. My body heated up, making me look flustered.
Ms. Nala sauntered in at that moment and told us to continue our notes from yesterday. She then proceeded to sit at her desk and blank us. Nothing new there.
“How long have you been doing cheer?”
“I started in freshman year. I’m not the best at it but it gives me something to do.” I explained, truthfully. I was nowhere near the best; I only knew the basics.
“Do you enjoy it?” His head was cocked to the side, and he was studying me.
I opened my mouth and then closed it again. I had never really thought about it before. Did I enjoy cheer? I liked hanging out with Georgia—it gave me something to talk about with her. But did I like doing it?
I wasn’t sure.
Frowning, I squirmed in my seat and stared elsewhere. He noticed and pinched his lips together.
“Sorry, I think I was being too nosy.”
“No, it’s not that,” I shook my head, “I just…I never really thought about it before. I’ve been doing it for years now. It’s just something I’ve always been doing.”
He regarded me with a soft expression.
“So, what are your interests?” He queried, intrigue sparkling in those gorgeous orbs.
I pondered over what he said for a minute, “Um…I like listening to music. Not playing though—you’ve seen me play the piano. I’m awful. I also like reading, I guess.”
He stared at me with something akin to awe.
Noticing me staring at him, he cleared his throat and sat back in his chair.
Suddenly, a dark shadow cast over his once bright eyes. He shifted in his seat awkwardly. It looked as if he had thought of something dreadful and didn’t know how to approach it. Did it have something to do with me?
“The other day,” He began, treading carefully, “You said you were fighting a battle that I couldn’t help win. And I’ve been thinking about it and I want to help you.”
My eyes widened. He remembered what I said on Tuesday? I thought he let it slide, not bothering to care since he didn’t know me.
I guess I was wrong.
“W—why would you want to help me?” I asked, in a rush. He flinched ever so slightly—it was barely noticeable. But I saw it. I chose to pretend I didn’t see it, not wanting to call him out. My cheeks turned a rosy color in shame. All he wanted to do was help me and I kept pushing him away. “After all, you are teaching me how to play the piano.”
He shouldn’t be concerned about me. I’m not his concern.
“Celeste, I saw how terrified you looked at the diner. You looked so haunted, it petrified me.” He claimed, earnestly. I couldn’t look away. He had my stare pinned. “So please, let me help you in any way I can. I’ll listen to you; I’ll fight your demons. Just don’t do it alone. Please. I’ve tried coping with my demons by myself and it didn’t go well for me. I don’t want you to suffer the same fate.”
I tried to not overthink what he said but how could I not?
What were his demons? Who tortured him? It pained me to think about him being in pain.
He wanted to help me. He wanted to save me. Nobody had wanted to save me before. Not even Jamie. He didn’t know how to. Instead, he ignored the problem, pretended it wasn’t real. I tried that once, it didn’t work.
What was I supposed to say to that? His intentions were pure, good.
Plus, I wanted him to help me.
“I’ll tell you one day,” I declared, my voice barely a whisper. He heard it though, somehow.
He smiled, gratefully. “Take your time. I would never rush you.”
I believed him.
Well...can I just say aw? Lazarus is so sweet.
My next update will be this Friday. Have a great week!