Me: I made it in and out... in one piece. Almost got caught tho.
Tristan: be glad I'm too tired to freak out over your b and e.
Me: hope you didn’t break anyone’s legs with your pent up aggression.
“New girlllllll!!!” Chase shouts come barreling out of the stadium locker room with Segar and Zepp on his tail. They’re all smiles after their big win against the Blues.
“Did you see it??” Chase asks, lifting me off my feet and spinning me around and around. I squeal at the unexpected spin and hang onto his shoulders tightly. He holds onto me tight, taking spin after spin. With a huge grin plastered on his face.
“Of course I saw it!” I throw my head back and laugh, as he continues to carry me. “You all were amazing!” I say, looking back at the twins.
They smile at me briefly, heads over a phone in one of their hands. “But I was the best, right?” Chase asks, lowering my feet to the sidewalk. His big grey eyes beg me to confirm his greatness, along with his ever inflated ego.
“Of course, Mr. Quarterback! Always the best.” I say, walking alongside him now.
“I resent that, New Girl. I thought I was pretty fucking fantastic! Did you see that touchdown? Those fuckers have nothin’ on me!” Seger says through a grin. Zepp stays quiet as usual, eyes locking in on the phone in his hand still.
We make our way across campus, toward the hedge maze, finally coming to the largemouth. Hedges loom over us in the darkened sky. The moon provides the only light above us, full of life. Casting dark shadows over our bodies. My heart pounds in my chest from the muffled noises coming from the far-middle of the maze. Loud music echoes from somewhere inside the maze, distorting from the large hedges surrounding it. Making it hard to pinpoint where it’s coming from. Dozens of voices echo too, some talking and slurring. And some—well, some are already moaning and groaning like the alcohol has already lowered their inhibitions and they need to find a room ASAP.
“You ready for your first maze party, Kace?” Chase whispers against my neck, cascading his warm breaths against my flesh. Sharp, spiraling goosebumps pucker down my flesh, raising the tiny hairs on my body.
My limbs shudder when his nose bumps up against my earlobe. My neck stretches for him, begging for him to run his lips along my skin. Begging him to suck and bite and do something to ease this weird feeling settling over me. I’ve longed for a touch like this for years, but my body always betrayed me with anxiety. Rashes and cold sweats any time someone came into contact with me. But this? This right here with Chase is something I’ve craved and right now I want to give in to this feeling so bad. I want the pleasure of his lips on mine. Everywhere. I hold back the moan biting in the back of my throat, desperate to keep myself in check.
“So ready,” I sigh. Chase’s fingertips trail up and down my arms. Sending more goosebumps down my arms and shudders erupt. Before I can really examine or wrap my mind around what my body is doing, Zepp pulls me away by the hand. Leading me away from his protesting friends.
“Then let’s go,” he says, pulling me along. His stride is long and my short legs can barely keep up. I wanted to take the maze slow so I could memorize the pattern, just in case I had to come here alone. But everything is a blur around me, as he weaves us through the complicated maze.
“Be careful with him,” Zepp says, looking over his shoulder at me. I furrow my eyebrows.
“Why?” I ask, tilting my head. Zepp sighs and nods.
“Chase…..” he says his name and then stops, pulling me into a small dead end, hiding our bodies from prying eyes. He puts his hands on my shoulders and bends down to my level, sending the same electrifying excitement through my veins.
“Chase loves hard, Kaycee. So be careful with him, because from where I stand, Chase is already head over heels for you.” He raises a brow to emphasize his words, eyes searching, memorizing the freckles on my face.
“I don’t understand. I’ve only been here for a week. How can he….?” Zepp smirks and pats my head like a damn dog. Bastard.
“Sweet, sweet, Kaycee. He doesn’t need an enormous amount of time to fall for you.” He grins at that, letting his fingers work through my hair and down to my jawline. My tongue darts out to wet my dry lips, making his eyes zone in on the movement. Fuck me. My hormones must be out of whack. “Who wouldn’t?” HE mutters more to himself than me, but....Wait... what? What did he just whisper?
I try to get my tongue to ask that question, but he just pulls me along again. Finally getting us to the center of the maze. And…. it’s not at all what I expect it to be. I mean, any normal maze has a small center with a gazebo or fountain or something to admire. But this maze? This maze holds a two-story Victorian house. A perfectly preserved home, fit with electricity, and a wrap-around porch. It's well maintained, with a newer looking roof, and fresh paint.
“Welcome to our clubhouse,” Zepp whispers in my ear. Pride swells in his voice, his arms widening to give me the view of the house. My jaw slackens at the sight. From where I was doesn’t compare to this side of it. It’s massive, more massive than I thought. Who gives teenagers free run of a house?
“That’s a hell of a clubhouse,” I whisper in awe.
“You glory stealing, bastard!” Chase says through a laugh, launching himself onto Zepp’s back. He monkey climbs his way up Zepp’s broad back, wrapping his legs around his waist. His arm wraps around his neck as he fake chokes him out. Berating him for stealing the glory of showing me their private party pad. Within seconds they’re rolling around on the ground, trading soft punches and vicious words. Other students from around the party start a chant, throwing their arms in the air. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was a money pool going around already on who will win this play fight quickly turning into a bruising battle.
“Let me guess, he gave you the ‘ole, be careful with our precious Chase speech?” Seger asks, handing me a red solo cup. I sniff the cup and recoil from the fruity high in alcohol content, drink.
“Erm, something like that,” I say, staring into the redness of the drink. I swirl the cup, sloshing the weird mix. “What the hell is this?” I ask, arching a brow at Seger. He downs his entire glass within a second, wiping the red mustache from his face.
“Jungle juice,” he says with a shrug. “It’s delicious, isn’t it?” His lips slip into an affable grin, eyeing the juice I haven’t touched. I peer down into the cup again, watching the milky white mix with the redness of the drink. It fascinates me more than the actual taste of the drink.
“What’s in it?” I ask. Seger snorts at me, shaking his head in mock disappointment.
“Everything!” He shouts, raising his glass. The crowd erupts in a roar and everyone downs their drinks at the same time.
“So—I hear you’re a video game kind of girl. What keeps you up at night, Kaycee?” Seger asks, leaning against a stone pillar behind us. His eyes devour mine, distracting me while he steals my drink with a smirk and downs it. Not like I was going to drink it anyways.
“Hm—and are you, Seger West, into video games too?” His cheeks brighten, giving himself away. He shrugs, looking away briefly, before reconnecting our eyes.
“Well, not to brag or anything, but I’m a level 51 Arch Angel on Angel Warrior.” He smirks and fake wipes his nose like this is the most impressive thing he could say. I snort, stifling a laugh at his confidence.
“Wow, level 51 that’s pretty impressive, for a noob,” I say with a smirk, watching his fallen face process my words.
“N-Noob?! Who are you calling a noob? I take great offense to that! I’ve worked long and hard and... Wait—what level are you?” He stops mid-sentence, staring me down. Narrowing his eyes in on me like I might bite him.
“Well—you know—I know I’ve worked long and hard too. A year of blood, sweat, and a lot of tears to get to level 65.” I give a small shrug like it’s no big deal, while Seger nearly spits out his drink.
“Christ! 65!? Arch Angel?! You’re near Gabriel, aren’t you? Or, or God, you’re so close to God status you’ll be able to wipe out the enter demon race and win the damn game! Fuck. You wanna be on my team? I need someone like you. My brother sucks and well--” He opens his mouth to say more, but shuts it by taking a drink.
“Think better than Gabe and a smidge below God, and then you have me.” I smile.
“All right, I take back whatever I said about your love of video games, you’re the fucking queen of it all. Do you want me to bow yet? Better yet, show me your fucking ways!!” He slurs the last of his words a little, proving his two glasses of whatever this jungle juice is, is too much.
“And what exactly did you say about me and my video games?” I ask, raising a brow almost defensively. He throws his head back and laughs like a maniac.
“By the look in your eyes, you’re going to chop my fucking dick off. Jesus.” He wipes his mouth again. “Ah — fuck it. I said a chick as hot as you, there’s no fucking way you could play video games that well. And then—then when Chase said your music tastes were purely video games. No—nu—huh, I didn’t believe that shit.” Wow, dig yourself more of a grave, buddy. But wait—he called me hot? Fuck. He shakes his head and takes another drink, his cup magically filling up, and then I see why. Harlow waits in the winds with a shit-eating grin on her face when she catches me looking at her. She gives me a small wave, bringing more drinks to each of the guys like a predator on the hunt for her next sugar daddy. If they’re not careful, she’ll slip something in there.
“So, you and Chase talked about me, huh?” I joke, hoping to get some answers out of him. His body sways a bit, staggering, and I can tell he’s losing his inhibitions. If I’m careful enough, I can get information out of him, vital information.
“Ooh—my sweet, sweet, Kaycee. We talk about you all the fucking time. We share everything.” He winks at me, downing his drink again like he fucking needs it. Emptying the smallest of dribbles into his mouth and all over his lips, he smiles back at me.
“Everything?” I ask, furrowing my brows. They’re guys they talk, of course. I just thought Chase and I’s conversations would be a little more between us. But I guess that’s my inexperience talking.
Seger snorts again and puts his arm around my shoulder. Pulling me close to his warm and hard chest, crushing me there. He tucks a piece of hair behind my ear, bringing his lips close enough for me to feel his warm breaths on my cheek. “Everything, Kaycee, Everything. Clothes, booze, cars, and most importantly, girls. Together, separate, we do it all.” He pecks my cheek before standing tall but keeps his arm around my shoulder. With wide eyes, my brain processes his words at an alarmingly slow rate.
“You…... you and your brother?” I gasp, swallowing the large lump in my throat. He smiles down at me like the devil I need to eradicate in my game. He bops my nose. My damn nose.
“And Chase, of course.” He talks like it’s no big deal the three of them share a girl. “Don’t fucking overthink it, New Girl. The night is young!” He shouts the last bit, getting himself another cheer.
Harlow makes her way back over with a sly grin on her face. “Nice party, Seg.” She coos, running a finger up and down his chest. Even with me still plastered there. Her eyes bounce over to me, narrowing them like I’ve stalked up onto her property.
“Yeah, yeah it is. So why are you here?” Seger asks cooly, slapping Harlow’s finger away like a fly.
“I was invited too.” She says with a pout.
“Yeah and by fucking who? Last I checked, we dumped your ass. Now fuck off and leave.” He slurs again, pushing past her, dragging me along. Harlow shrieks behind us, stomping her foot, and I swear she sears fire into my soul. And not the good kind of fire either, the bad, destructive fire. If she could, she’d set me ablaze. Because I’m obviously stepping all over something she thinks is her territory.
Seger pulls me along by my hand across the front lawn. We weave through the crowd of drunk students, doing our best to avoid bumping into anyone. Especially those kids who are basically fornicating through interpretative dance on the lawn, bumping along to the loud music coming from the speakers. Seger pulls me onto the wrap-around porch of the old house.
Seger leans back against the house, pulling a pack of cigarettes from his pocket. He lights one and looks at me. “So, how’s this wonderful fucking school treating you so far, princess? Everything you expected?” He asks in Seger fashion, inhaling the smoke, and blowing it towards the stars above.
I look around the yard, my eyes locking on Chase. Ainsley is there, waving her arms around, telling him something. Probably whatever she needed to tell him on the phone, but couldn’t because of the game. Her eyes glisten in moisture as she shoves her phone in his face. He pales and throws the phone back at her again. Whatever was on that text message was something he didn’t like. He points to the drinks, pats her on the shoulder, and walks away toward Zepp. Zepp stands like a statue, per the usual, holding tight to his drink.
“New Girl?” Seger slurs, putting a shoulder against mine. I shrug a shoulder and meet his mossy green eyes.
“No,” I mumble. “It’s nothing like I expected.” Seger scoffs, leaning his head back against the wall. Shutting his eyes and enjoying the poison entering his lungs.
“I heard something,” I start slowly, gaining his attention. He peeks open an eye, blinking rapidly.
“I heard someone died here last year,” I say, swallowing the bile of emotions brewing inside my gut. Don’t cry now. “They said she was murdered,” I whisper, leaning into Seger, trying to gauge his reactions.
Seger licks his lips and pulls a drag from his cigarette. The cherry blossoms orange, and then he blows out the smoke into the night air. “Not fucking murder.” He says shaking his head. “I don’t know why. I don’t want to... to know why she did it. But she offed herself. Threw herself overboard like….” He swallows hard, biting into his bottom lip. He shakes his head, fighting with an emotion he hasn’t come to terms with.
“That’s awful,” I whisper, wringing my hands together. “Was she unhappy then?” I whisper, trying to piece it all together.
“Fuck if I know,” Seger slurs, throwing his spent cigarette butt into the grass. His fingers run through the long brunette locks on the top of his head and down into the shaved sides. “I wish I did, though. I mean---yeah—Maggie had some issues with Harlow and her little groupies. Fucking Carter starting shit against her. But to me, she was always the same. She never seemed unhappy around us.” He gave a shrug and stood before I could object. He reaches a hand down and pulls me to my feet. “That’s in the past,” He says pulling me close. I’m too entwined to pull away. I need to know more about Magnolia. I can feel it on the tip of my tongue.
“Oh fried potatoes, Kaycee! There you are! I’ve been searching this entire campus for you!!” I close my eyes, as Seger pinches the bridge of his nose. Huffing a few profanities at Piper’s unwanted appearance.
“Sorry ‘ole Pipes, Kaycee can’t come to the phone right now, she’s busy!” Seger says through a smirk, pulling me away. Piper scowls, grinding her teeth.
“We’ll catch up later, then!” Piper calls, waving a hand. I stare back and swallow a lump forming in my throat. The day Piper yelled at me in the dining hall comes back to mind, as a smile the Grinch would love appears on her face. Sinister and full of dark promises—and speaking of dark promises, Carter stands right beside her. He scowls at me too, shaking his head. Almost like he’s disappointed in me, for whatever reason. He puffs at a cigarette and whispers to Piper. Piper pushes him back and stomps away from him.
“There’s so much darkness wrapped into a perfect little cheerleader. I swear to fuck, if I could push anyone off a boat, it’d be her.” Seger rants and rants about how annoying and clingy she is and how thankful he is he never stuck his dick in her. Claiming her vagina probably had teeth and hex bags lodged inside of it.
A rag doll probably has more rights than me, but I just go with it. Seger leads me through the party, towards the back of the house. The maze is still around us, but it’s quieter behind the house. Fewer people and the music isn’t as deafening. Seger pulls me toward the grass where Chase and Zepp are sitting too.
“AHHH NEW GIRL!” Chase bounces like a puppy, pulling me down beside him. His arm goes around my shoulder, pulling me tight against his body.
I snort, “I have a name, ya know?” I say through a smile, getting used to the name by now. Seger bumps my shoulder on the other side, handing me a cup. “More jungle juice?” I ask, wrinkling my nose at the powerful odor coming from the innocent-looking cup.
Zepp snorts and takes the cup from my hands. “Not a fan?” His deep voice penetrates through the dark air. When Zepp speaks, it’s usually profound and important. From what I’ve learned, he’s not a man of many words. He watches, collecting information from the surrounding people. Calculating his next words and actions.
“Ermm, no. I’ll stick to soda.” My eyes stay glued to Zepp’s Adam’s apple, as he swallows more of the disgusting poison. I don’t know how he can drink it. It’s like guzzling gasoline, letting it burn your insides. I suppose if you lit a match like Seger was doing for his cigarettes, he’d combust on the spot. Although, the theory that cigarettes could light a fire by dropping it on gasoline is total bullshit. It doesn’t work much like firing a bullet into it and---
“New girl?” I shake my head, looking over at Chase. His eyebrows have shot up like he’s asked me a question.
“Sorry, what?” Zepp smiles, placing his drink into the grass. His eyes look up into the sky where bright stars shine down on us.
“You do that a lot, don’t you?” Zepp’s eyes drift toward mine, a knowing smirk resting on his plump lips. I shrug.
“Sometimes it’s hard to focus,” I say, my eyes drifting toward the shining stars too.
“When you’re around us, you should always focus,” Chase says, squeezing his hand against my waist.
“Yeah, what the fuck could be more entertaining than us? We’re a fucking riot!” Seger adds, taking another drag, and blowing the smoke into the sky. The smell hits my face, but I just pucker my lips and blow the smoke further up into the sky. It swirls with the light wind, blowing further up into the sky, before disappearing completely.
“Yeah---you’ve lost her again,” Zepp says snapping his fingers in front of my face. My body stiffens as I come back to. This is no time to wander inside my head and get lost. This is a time to investigate and really get down to business. I have my three suspects, well----I don’t know if they are anymore. The way Seger talked about Mags’, it was unremarkable. He seemed to have enjoyed her presence and didn’t know why she killed herself.
“So—how’d you enjoy your first East Point football game?” Chase asks, leaning back on his elbows. We all stare up at the stars, the music a distant sound, along with the other kid's moans of joy.
“Not my first,” I say absentmindedly.
“You’ve been here before?” Zepp asks, never letting his eyes wander to me.
“My brother and sister went here a few years ago. Bodhi played football, I was here every Friday.” I say, twisting my fingers together.
“HOLY fuck,” Seger says leaning up. “THEEE BODHI? Like... Bodhi the body slammer? Bodhi, the fucking legend of East Point? Fucking aces, man.” Chase’s eyes light up at the nickname Bodhi had in high school.
“Holy shit,” He almost squeaks. “Your brother is that guy? SHIT! I was there that day he sent some poor sucker to the ER. Body slammed him into the dirt, I don’t think he ever got up. B was amazing. He get recruited yet?” Chase leans up with a light in his eye.
I shrug, “He plays at Milligan, it’s his senior year. I think he said something about recruits coming?” For the rest of the night, these idiots make me laugh. They make me talk about my stupid brother and his amazing talent. They make me talk about, well---whatever comes to mind. People really aren’t my specialty. I tend to think socializing like this is overrated. Or maybe it’s my anxiety that I’ll say something impulsive like I did with Carter. Zepp’s sharp eye has caught on to my aloofness more than once, and he always seems to reel me back in. Which no one has done for a long time. My mind wanders to places, and then he brings me back with a snap of his fingers.
The more I’m around these guys, the more I see them for who they are. They aren’t just jocks. They aren’t just these crazy celebrity kids forced to go to red carpet events. No. Just like me not wanting to have people compare me to my dad, we’re kids. Humans. I’m comfortable with them, maybe too comfortable. But I want to be, but then again I don’t. I’m confused. I came here for Magnolia’s justice. I came to investigate them. But is it time for me to cross them off the list?
Maybe not yet. But I have a feeling I will. I have more people to look into now, anyway. I looked into Piper briefly. But with the way she acts, I need to break into her medical records and dig deeper into her family history. Who am I up again mentally and what is she capable of? Harlow and Hadley Lacey are on my radar now, too. Not only for how she reacted to me in the skybox, but for what Seger said about her. She caused Mags’ problems and I’ve never researched her. Magnolia didn’t even mention her as a tormentor. So—with the rest of my weekend, I spend making it up to Tristan. We play round after round of Angel Warrior, going on the toughest missions we can handle to power up and level up. I’m near God status in the game and I want to get there soon.
I also spend my time researching. Anyone and Everyone. My list got bigger—wider. And by Monday morning I felt accomplished in at least the Harlow front. She’s just another spoiled little rich girl trying to find her next meal ticket, because her daddy who has always paid for everything? Is going to prison very soon. They have accused him of more than money laundering for the local criminals. Oh—Neil is a disgusting excuse for a man. Accused by more than ten, yes ten, women of sexual harassment. He thought he could hide because of his social status, but he was wrong. Very, very wrong. So my theory is, Harlow is on very borrowed time here. Money wise and status wise. She’ll do anything to gain the attention of any guy here, for money. And only money.
Piper was a little more difficult to study. Her records are clean, all of them. On paper, Piper is the perfect girl, but there has to be something. Ainsley mentioned her mental break, so I dug into her school records.
As I walk around my apartment, getting ready for school, my phone pings on my desk. I open the text, expecting something from one of the guys, who had been texting me all weekend too, or Tristan. But what I didn’t expect was this.
Roses are red
Violets are blue
You should have ran
Now you’ll be in a coffin too.