Me: finally got my computer set up. Sorry I missed our angel date... internet sucks here.
Tristan: missed you boo. But at least I can kick your ass now.
Me: Have to fix internet speed then starting my surveillance. Play later?
Tristan: when you become part of the FBI... are you going to look me up?
Me: snort. Of course. I’m surprised I haven’t already. For all I know you’re a 40-year-old dude in mom’s basement. Better to be safe than sorry.
Tristan: I just looked in the mirror. I can assure you I’m hotter than that. Maybe one day you’ll see??
Me: one day......
I smile down at my phone, happiness fluttering through my stomach. Tristan hinted on many occasions that we would meet one day. Each passing day we talk and the closer our souls bend together, the bond we share gets stronger and stronger. Impenetrable. Can I live without knowing who he is for the rest of my life? Or will I bite the bullet and meet up with him to prove he is who he says he is? One day our two lives will collide and we’ll meet. But for now, I’m satisfied with how our relationship has turned out.
Although, the need to look at who I am talking to is getting stronger every day. I don’t trust him with my identity just yet. People think of odd things when they hear my last name. Cole, like C.J Cole? Oh, his writing is amazing. They always go into gross details about what he writes, expecting me to agree with them. Then they ask for autographs on the sly, producing books from the depths of their grandma purses. Begging me to take them home to him to sign, exploiting my vulnerability for their own gain.
Boys also think because my dad produces erotic fiction that I’m open for business to them. At my old school, everyone knew who my father is, and therefore, they thought saying the most disgustingly vile words to me was funny. So hilarious. Whether it was face to face or through text messages, I’ve had my fair share of harassment. No matter how many times I reported it to the school, it never got better. So over the years, I’ve learned to tune out their taunts. Letting every horrible word roll off my shoulders like it is nothing to me. But you can only tune out so much before you have to build your walls higher and higher, protecting yourself from the mean kids.
So people, mostly boys, get the wrong ideas about me. I’ve been down that messy road a few times before. That long road of thinking someone had an interest in me, but it was for all the wrong reasons. With the worst intentions on their minds.
Never again. I can’t handle it.
The one time, one fling I had ended on a sour note. But he was the exception to all my rules. He wanted more from me, an actual relationship, and I wasn’t ready for it. We were too young, too emotional, and not prepared for it. We fooled around a few times. Eli was my first real kiss with tongue, although I’ll always count Chase’s lip pecks all those years ago as my first genuine kiss. It meant something to us at the time, and I’ll never take that glory away from him. But Eli and I went so much further.
Eli was my first orgasm giver through finger fucking. That boy’s piano fingers were out of this world. I even went down on him a few times, which was ok. Eli was different, though. He truly cared about me. Probably still does. I know there’s a soft spot in my heart for him too. Wherever he is. Whatever he’s doing. So all in all, being the kid of an erotic writer has many disadvantages, especially in the romance department. Not that I want romance....... Right now, at least. I’ve never seen myself as relationship material. I tend to stick to myself. A loner if you put a label on me. But a relationship? Where kisses, hugs, and cuddling are expected? I don’t think I’d survive that much affection. Tristan though, he brings that out in me with his words. No matter what mood I’m in, he’s always there to bring me back up if I’m down. In my heart, our connection blooms bigger and bigger every day. If I could date him from behind the computer screen, it’d be a match made in Heaven.
A heavy knock sounds from my door, rattling the artwork on the walls. I still haven’t bothered to remove them. If Magnolia saw fit to have them there, then so would I. Besides, the flowers in the paintings remind me of her. Bright and shining, The faint hint of her giggles echos throughout the room. They’re an echo of her. A fingerprint of her soul shining through the brushstrokes she spent weeks perfecting. If Magnolia thought these flowers were important and the school didn’t take them, then neither would I. I will cherish them until the day I die.
I tilt my head and listen again, making sure someone is actually at my door. Not a neighbor’s. The knock comes again, heavier this time like someone is pounding their fist into the wood. Setting my phone down next to my computers, I walk towards the door cautiously. I wasn’t expecting company; I don’t have friends here. Yet. I have no idea who it could be, but I guess that’s all a part of the adventure. Strangers becoming friends and all that jazz. My palms sweat as I reach for the doorknob. I suppose I am waiting on my student advisor to come and whisk me away for a tour I don’t need. But I can’t come out and say, hey, I memorized every inch of this campus, because I’ve obsessed over it for the last six months. Yeah—that won’t tip anyone off. So I play the lost puppy dog part and answer the door with a warm, inviting smile.
“Ohhhh! Syrupy waffles, it’s you!” Her long, ass length, blonde ponytail bounces, and sways. Swishing back and forth with the rhythm of her hands clapping together in a frantic beat. I’m not sure by how bouncy she is if her body could stay still at all. She giggles and dances, staring at me. Her perfectly pressed red and white cheerleader’s outfit swishes with her, giving her the “I have school spirit” vibe. A black panther roars on her chest with its claws and teeth bared underneath the letters E.P.
“Ohhh!! Kaycee, we are going to have so much fun today! I can’t wait to show you around this place. It’s so beautiful, ahhhhh.” She stops bouncing.
Her eyes glide toward the bland white ceiling. A small smile pulls at her lips and her mind seems to slip away to another planet. Maybe the planet she truly belongs on, because no one in their right mind acts like this. Her hands fold together in a silent prayer to God for a good day. For an awkward second, I don’t think she will move again. Maybe her true alien family finally came back for her after all. But then she bounces again, toe to toe, clapping her hands, proving to me she’s alive. Damn, no alien invasion today.
I eye her every move with caution and listen to her every giggle. I wonder what kind of drugs she’s on or if she needs some. Ritalin? Is that a thing still? My parents were hell-bent on not putting me on that kind of shit. My mom said it would make me a zombie and rot my brain. Maybe this blonde-haired cheerleader rotted her brain with ADHD medicine? Or she’s rotted it some other way?
I blink a few times, realizing I’ve lost myself inside my own thoughts. Piper is staring at me with that wistful smile again. “I’m sorry, who are you?” I ask, shaking my thoughts away, trying to pout my lips as innocent as I can. Because of course, I know who Piper Hurst is, who doesn’t? She doesn't need to know that, though. It’d probably go to her head or something.
“Oh, sugar on my toast! I’m such a nincompoop sometimes! Forgive me! I’m Piper Hurst, your student advisor!” She shrieks,
Every. Fucking. Word.
And I understand how she’s a peppy, bouncing cheerleader, with the hopping and shouting she’s doing. Right away a strong rock forms in my stomach and I realize I will not enjoy her company. Not. One. Bit. But I’ll grin and take it and hope I can escape her clutches. ASAP. Or I might just turn and run from this school.
I grin as real as I can, as she slaps her forehead. “Great to meet you, Piper,” I say and she bounces on her toes again.
“So... are you ready!?” She asks again with such enthusiasm. And me? I want to jam a pencil in my eye sockets and wear them as eyeballs.
“For what?” I ask, leaning on the doorjamb. Her eyes widen in horror, and she brings a hand to her mouth.
“It’s time for breakfast! And we have sooooooo much to see today, silly!! I have to show you the classrooms, the football field, and especially the maze! OH! MY GOD! You’re going to L-O-V-E the maze! It’s so beautiful on the outside! And only on the outside! Never—I repeat NEVER go on the inside, it’s so vile there. Unless there’s a party.” she shrieks again, bouncing around. “OH, bouncing bananas. I can’t wait! Let’s go! Breakfast is the best meal here! They have everything, muffins, pancakes, French toast, ahhhhh!!” My eyes widen at her excitement. It almost seems like overkill, so bright and early in the morning.
“The absolute best parties happen at the maze. There’s a house in the middle and let’s just say, it doesn’t get used by the staff. I don’t know how Zepp and Seger got their hands on the keys, but holy guacamole it’s amazing!!” I blink again and Piper is wandering around my room like she owns it. Her nose lifts into the air at the boxes still piled up in the corner. I’ll get to them eventually, but I had other things to attend to first.
I swallow hard and walk to get my phone. I need to get Piper out of my room. Her eyes are practically vibrating as she takes in my possessions, cataloging them away inside her brain for later. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s underestimate no one.
“I—uhh — I can’t wait for you to show me around. Should we go? I’m starving.” I say with a tight smile, pointing toward the exit. Piper comes up beside me, shaming my height with hers. She’s a tower standing above me, ready to wrap her arms around my body.
“Holy potatoes, Kaycee, you’re going to fit in here! I can feel it in my bones and you and me will be BFFS!” I cringe, as she pulls me into a tight embrace. Swaying our bodies back and forth, humming under her breath, and finally, let’s go. I take a deep, steadying breath, and calm myself. My skin immediately itches from the contact, but I don’t dare tell her. Keep all your cards close to your chest, never reveal your weaknesses.
“AHH.. yeah. Um... I’m not really a hugger, more of a fist bump kind of person.” I say holding my fists up, and she bumps hers against mine with a laugh.
“Duly noted! I shall never lay another hand on you again! NOW... let’s eat!” She squeaks again. Lead forms in the pit of my stomach at her words. Duly noted? Crap. The sudden feeling of dread forms. I just handed over vital information to someone I only know from the internet. Granted, I don’t like hugs or touching, but the way her eyes narrowed in on me at my admission, makes the acid in my stomach turn. Or possibly the lack of food is to blame for my indigestion.
“You coming, sleepyhead?” Piper asks and I blink again. She’s standing in the middle of the hallway with her hands on her hips, assessing me. Fuck my life, Piper may act like she snorted something off the toilet, but she’s observant.
“So I hear your daddy is a writer or something?” AHH, she’s the one fishing this time. By the way she speaks, she knows anything and everything about my family.
“Something like that,” I reply. “How about your family?” I ask, deflecting back to her. Her record online was pretty squeaky clean, much like her annoying voice. Piper’s the student council president, school dance coordinator, student advisor to incoming students, and she’s even the captain of her cheer squad. How on earth does this peppy, C average student, manage it all?
“Oh prickly pineapples, my daddy is the absolute best! He helps all the little people!” She gushes, bringing her hands up under her chin with pride beaming from her eyes.
“Helps them how?” I ask, looking over at her. We cross the courtyard towards the dining hall, keeping our stride in sync.
“Oh, silly! He raises all kinds of money for kids in need! Doing anything and everything he can to help. He’s the cat’s Christmas pajamas, wrapped in paper, with a sparkly bow!” The Fuck did she just say? “He helps all the little people get back on their feet after a hardship!” She squeaks again, and I swear a tear falls down her cheek from the pure joy of talking about her father.
I plaster my best smile on and agree with her. She’s either naïve enough to believe what she’s saying or she’s talking his work up. I mean, no one wants to out their own flesh and blood as the true sadistic asshole he is. He’s stolen more from his clients than he lets on, cooking his books to make it appear in perfect order. And those charities he hosts to bring in more money for more unsuspecting families? All a fucking sham. Her father is a cheating, manipulative, scumbag. Who uses his Charities as a front for some rather disturbing parties in his basement, if you even consider them parties. Maybe that’s why her mother left him two years ago?
“Well, here we are! The best of the best are behind these doors, Kaycee. From your congressmen’s children to the president’s cousin’s children, to the actors and models, they all reside behind these massive doors.” Piper claps her hands again and reaches for the door handles. Her blue eyes sparkle with excitement and pride before they land right back on me.
“Just a little piece of advice and you didn’t hear it from me. Stay as far away from Ainsley Benoit as possible.” She leans down and whispers closer to my ear. “She’s a bona fide murderer.” She whispers again with bright, wide eyes and throws the door open like she didn’t just admit her classmate is a killer on the loose. My jaw hangs open at her admission because everyone on this campus is so hell-bent on Mags’ death being self-inflicted. But...even Piper says Ainsley did it, and not just the bullying. I wonder how many other people believe the same thing?
“Piper,” I whisper, striding beside her. “What do you mean mur---“ she quickly puts a hand over my mouth and leads me toward a table.
“Bouncing bananas, Kaycee, you can’t,” Her eyes run up and down the dining hall searching for listeners. “You can’t go around saying that word!” She hisses, removing her hand from my mouth. Her blue eyes stay glued to my every move like I’m a loose cannon about to shout Ainsley is a murderer to the school. Pfft, no. I keep that information to myself. For now.
The skin around my lips burn and itch with a painful need to scratch them. But—I can’t. All I can manage to do is stare at her in awe. I don’t want to be reckless with this information. I need to play everything smart. “Who...? What happened?” I whisper, leaning towards Piper, trying to soak up any information I can squeeze out of her.
She shakes her head, looking over her shoulder multiple times. “Some new girl last year, Benoit didn’t like her one bit, and splash! She squashed her beautiful soul out of existence!” She brings a fist up to her mouth and squeaks a cry. A legit, powerful cry, enough to garner attention from a table over. Their heads shake at Piper’s outburst, but they return to their breakfasts like this is a common occurrence. But Mags never mentioned Piper more than once in her emails. Were they better friends than she let on? Or did Mags’ leave out details? Fuck, I need to find her journal ASAP.
“That’s so awful, how—how did she kill her?” My eyes burn as my lips move. My emotions sit on the tip of my tongue. Holding back all these emotions sitting in the back of my throat is hard than I thought it would be. To everyone else, Mags’ is a nobody to me and that’s how it needs to stay. No one can catch wind I’m stirring the pot without finding answers, especially my four primary suspects.
“Oh---" Piper starts, wiping away the tears from her eyes. “Oh, it was a boat party, the Benoit’s family yacht, it was so magical, and then we all heard the fight. And then she---“ I jump out of my skin as a fist comes in contact with the table. Our breakfast trays jump a mile in the sky. Forcing my wide eyes to travel up the responsible party's tattooed arm. Landing square on the familiar face of suspect number 5. Glaring brown eyes filling to the brim with hate stare down at me like I pissed in his favorite shoes and then back to Piper. His face hardens more, leaning forward.
“Family fucking meeting.” He growls like a wild wolf about to devour his meal. His face twists and contorts into pure evil, eyeing her every movement. The muscles in his jaw tick repeatedly, folding his muscled arms across his chest.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Carter, no need to be so brash. It’s very unbecoming of you.” Piper chirps back, collecting her tray, and stands.
“I don’t have time for your fucked up wordy bullshit. He called a meeting. So fucking attend it and quit your shit.” He growls again, scowling at her like she’s smelly dog shit on his shoes.
Then as quickly as he came, he throws open the dining hall doors with a bang and makes his escape. Stomping down the sidewalk, knocking kids out of his way with one push or glare. Or a better description, kids go out of their way on their own with terror sparking in their eyes at the sight of him. Carter Cunningham did not disappoint on the mean factor. From what Magnolia told me through her emails, he’s crueler than cruel. I never want to catch myself alone with him and his insane temper. If there is a murder lurking in this school, Carter Cunningham is suspect number one. And judging by the one hate-filled look he gave me, he looked like he could wrap his hands around my throat with one squeeze and snuff the life out of me.
Piper looks over at his exit and sighs. Something foreign, resembling deep-seated hate, flashes in her perfect little eyes. “Oh salt and sugar, so sorry to run off like an ostrich, but duty calls.” She says with a smile, but with how tight it is on her perfect face, I can tell she’s forcing it.
“That’s all right, we can catch up later.” Or never, I’m fine with that too. But I’d never say it. She seems like the kind of person to shove a knife in my gut when I least expect it. Her grin takes over her face again, bouncing on her toes.
“Don’t think you can get off that easy, silly! I have so much to show you!” She walks away, dumping her tray in the process, and hurries after Carter.
My eyes wander out the window with narrowing in on Carter. He takes a deep drag of a cigarette, blowing the smoke into the air. Smirking as an enraged Piper approaches. I never thought such a deep scowl could form on her face, but as her arms wave and her mouth moves, I see the anger radiating off of her. She stomps her foot like a child and places her hands on her hips. Carter rolls his eyes like he’s seen her theatrics a million times before and couldn’t be paid to care. He gestures for her to follow him and pulls his phone from his pocket. He dials a number and they both walk off out of sight.
At that moment, I wish I could tap into phones like the FBI. I can access your computer through back doors and steal every piece of information, but phones are a little more tricky than computers. I have a lot of ammo in my skill set, but with phones, my hands have to physically land on them. I can unlock them without a code and mirror it to my computer for further surveillance. But for me, there’s no back door wirelessly, which makes this much more tricky. If I could do it, I’d find out who they were talking to and why they are suddenly family? Last I checked, they weren’t cousins. I wonder.... I’ll go back and--
“Piece of advice, new girl.” My body stiffens at his voice. His fiery breaths roll over the flesh of my ear, sending goosebumps down my arms, and a shiver down my spine. The heat of his body penetrates through my clothes. “Stay as far away from that cracked out psycho as possible. Don’t want you getting into the wrong kind of trouble.” He whispers again, guiding my eyes towards his like a beacon. His forest green eyes scrutinize my moves. Finally, settling on eyeing my tongue darting out to wet my dry lips. “Just a friendly warning.” He whispers again, before his body jerks back.
“For god’s sake, Seg, don’t terrify the new girl. We want her to feel welcomed! Do you feel welcomed yet, New girl?” Chase asks with a lop-sided grin. He spreads his empty arms wide like he wants to embrace me in a very welcoming hug.
I shrug and stare up at him and Seger as they stand next to each other. Seger stands like a statue, glaring hate into Chase like knives. If his green eyes could murder souls, Chase would writhe on the floor now soulless. His twin Zeppelin, yes fucking Zeppelin like the band, strides up to them. Zepp eyes me and then his twin with confusion written on his face.
“Just welcoming the new girl with solid advice,” Seger says with a shrug and then pulls his brother with him to a table. “Also, don’t let Chase into your panties just yet. He’s a slippery fucker.” I snap my eyes to Seger again, as he sits at a table behind me.
Chase rolls his eyes dramatically and sits beside me. “It’s not very often we get new kids around here. Admissions cost is high, they limit spots, you know they have to keep all us important people safe from weirdos.” He says through the biggest grin I’ve ever seen.
“Right. It’s Clark, isn’t it? I got here just like anyone else.” Seger spits his drink out behind us, covering the table in front of him. I peer over my shoulder, smirking at his hysterical laugh. Zepp pounds his palm into Seger’s back as he chokes on the last of his juice.
“Now-now, I’m truly offended!” Chase says through a smile still, holding his hand over his heart. “You know what my name is, I saw that look of recognition when we met yesterday.” God, he’s so overconfident it’s ridiculous. I smile and tilt my head, watching his eyes eat me alive. If I let this boy get to me, he’d use me well, and then be done with me. Everything about Chase Benoit screams Fuck boy with a mean streak. A very attractive Fuck boy, but that shouldn’t be my point.
I point at him and giggle, “Right, right! You’re Chance! Right?” I smile wider as his face falls. I wonder if this is new for him? His eyes narrow in on me, and he shakes his head.
“You’re fucking with me, aren’t you?” His voice drops an octave, like this little chase, is turning him on. I wonder if I looked under the table, what I’d feel In my palm?
I shrug my shoulders and stand from the table. Time to plan my escape before this boy can frazzle me anymore. “Maybe, maybe not? I suppose you’ll never know.” I push my chair back into the table as he stands before me. He lifts a hand and pushes a stray hair back over my shoulder, staring into my eyes. His gray eyes twinkle in the morning sunlight blasting through the windows of the dining hall. Surrounding our exchange in a heavenly glow of innocent and lust. I could see myself getting so lost in this boy I’d forget my name or how to walk. What I wouldn’t give for the circumstances to differ and take full advantage of what he wants. By the look in his exploring eyes, I glimpse at what he’s thinking. Damn, why’s he got to be so attractive? This makes it ten times harder than it is.
“Aren’t you going to introduce yourself to me at least? You can call me Clark or Chance or whatever you want. Just tell me your name?” He asks, taking a step forward. His fingers twirl my hair between them, sending shivers through my limbs. I brave his advance and stand my ground. He’s not making me uncomfortable, yet, but if his hand touches me anywhere other than my hair, he and I will have problems. Or a shoe on his dick. Either way, he wouldn’t like the outcome.
“No,” I swallow the lump in my throat. He chuckles, fingers toying with the ends of my hair again.
“A hint?” He begs with hope twinkling in his eyes.
“I think your hint was no, asswipe,” Seger says from the other table, stuffing food into his mouth like a fucking savage. Zepp’s eyes have yet to leave us, and he hasn’t uttered a single word.
“Does it start with an A?” Chase asks playfully, keeping the same amount of distance between us. “Let me guess! Abby? Amanda? No... you don’t look like an Amanda. How about Addison?” My eyebrows raise into my hairline at the mention of that name, but he just keeps going with every girl name that starts with A. Soon he starts into the B’s. “Bianca, Bella, fucking Brigit! For Fuck’s sake, umm--- Bernice?!” And Then onto the C’s, I swear I stupidly listen to him for over five minutes before I’ve had enough of his rambling. “Just give me a hint!” He whines again. “I swear if I’m wrong, I’ll leave you alone, but if I’m right..... We could have some fun.”
“All right, Chris, I’ll give you a hint,” I say as a smile twitches at the corners of my mouth. He bounces like he’s walked down the stairs at Christmas seeing his presents and waves me to go on.
“It starts with a K. If you can guess it within the next day, then you can speak it. Maybe you could even give me the tour instead of ole jumping bean. But no cheating.” My lips explode into a smile, his eyes lighting up at my newest challenge. The grinding gears work in his mind. He wants this. Wants the challenge of me. I take a step back and walk away from him. My phone pings the moment I walk out the door into the blaring summer sun. I cock my head to the side and peer back through the window of the dining hall at Chase. He grins at me and waves his phone back and forth.
Unknown number: Kaycee Cole. Daughter of C.J. Cole, man, he writes some pretty hot books.
Ugh. My name, plain and simple. He grins more and goes back to typing something into his phone. Fuck... he played me at my own damn game.
Chase: I’ll meet you at the Maze, beautiful. I can’t wait to show you around this place.
Me: You win this round, Clark. See you at the Maze.
Chase: Winky face. I never lose.
I roll my eyes and walk off. I wonder if my bouncy student advisor will have the same thought process. I hope not. She doesn’t seem like the smartest girl in the world. But then again, everyone hides behind a mask of some sort. I’m just trying to figure out what hers is. She presents herself as this, well I don’t even have a proper word to describe her. She tries to seem genuine and funny. Something’s off about her, especially with Carter involved. Carter is true evil. I don’t doubt that for a second. Ainsley may have tortured Magnolia’s existence at this school, but Carter did equally evil things to her. Unspeakable acts I hate to think about.
And Chase and his boys? They’re on my shit list too. But you know what the experts say about your enemies? Keep them closer than friends, so I guess that’s what I’m about to do. Infiltrate their friend group, plucking answers from them anyway I know how. Anyway, anyhow.