After our revelations about the horsemen’s names, we took action. Chase successfully stole Zoe’s phone during Calc class and handed it over. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any additional information on it. Like Harlow’s, Zoe is low on the totem pole and didn't have AntiEyes. Alpha had sent a few messages, but nothing incriminating. Yet. And since Carter’s phone messages have been MIA, I mirrored her phone too and dropped it in the library for her to find.
“This is the second stupidest thing I’ve ever let you three talk me into.” Zepp’s chastising voice crackles through our bluetooth earpieces. Poor Zepp. My poor, poor Zepp. Stuck behind the scenes again, our ever-watchful eye monitoring the cameras.
“We gotta have eyes in the sky, man.” Seger sniggers back, clutching tight to my hand. He pulls me along the outside of the apartment building we are stalking.
The sun sits low in the sky, pink hues fill the sky above us. Not exactly ideal for a b and e, but it had to do. We watched Piper for a few days, trying to get a grip on her schedule. She went to class religiously, practiced with her cheerleaders nightly, and went to her assortment of after-school activities. She was a busy girl, but she always found her way home to her apartment. And stayed there. She didn’t socialize much. In fact, I’m not sure who her friends are. Her cheerleaders? Her apartment mates? I remember on her birthday in August she said she was having people over. I wonder who those people were? Or was I the only one invited? Huh, I hope not. No one deserves to be alone on their birthday. Even her. I know she went to the Twin’s party in the maze the one night I made it, but they haven’t had one since. Well — only that one time Seger stole the phones for me. What a guy! He makes me swoon.
So tonight is the night. Again. We’re using the only thirty window available within the next week and we want answers now. If I can find any trace of technology in her room, I’m taking it. Or using Zepp’s USB to extract information again.
“This is so exciting. I can’t believe I slept through the first heist, and here I am!” Chase bounces on his toes like the little puppy he is. Practically panting with his tongue lolling out of his mouth, with the biggest grin on full display. A warmth settles in my chest at the sight of his happiness. Chase could light up a room with that grin of his.
“Shh, calm down, man. We’re supposed to be incognito and shit. Security could come at any time.” Chase nods at Seger. Fake saluting us with two fingers, while making a motion like he’s zipping his lips.
My heart pounds against my ribs at what we’re doing. We each have our own jobs to do this time. It’s more planned out and better researched. We are not getting caught this time. Chase is our outside look out. Alerting us of anyone coming our way. Seger is my door look out in case someone comes down the hall and since I’m apparently the expert thief, I have room duty. And a limited amount of time. A very limited amount of time to get in, look through everything, and get the heck out before Piper comes back. Can you imagine the look on her face if she caught me? Oh no. And the words that would fall from her lips?
“How long do we have again?” I whisper to Zepp. My eyes keep bouncing all over the place, tension rising high inside of me.
“Maybe thirty minutes. She’s still down at the football field talking to the other cheerleaders. It looks like their practice is over. So, you need to get in and out. Grab her phone if you can or anything useful.” I nod even though he can’t see me.
“Got it, Captain.” I say making Seger sniggers some more. I think he’s more into it this time than last time. He’s my partner in crime. Literal crime.
“In and out, you stubborn ass woman.” Seger scolds me, holding tighter to my hand.
“Yes, sir,” I mock, as we make our way to the front entrance of the apartment building.
“Keep an eye out, Chase.” Zepp says through the line, as Chase bobs his head. We leave Chase sitting on an iron bench next to the entrance. He takes a casual stance, leaning back into the seat with his phone in his hand, and an arm across the back. But I know his eyes are looking around and his ears are on alert.
A light darkness descended on us on our short walk across campus, finally hiding us in the murky shadows. Thanks to fall descending on us and forcing the sun to retreat earlier and earlier. We finally have a suitable cover.
“You’re clear,” Zepp says, as we step through the main doors. “The guards are in the break room, talking. I can see them through the cameras. Take the stairs on the right and you should find her apartment on the 2nd level. Its number…”
“217,” I say, pulling Seger towards the stairs’ entrance. The metal door separating us from the main lobby creaks as we open it. Seger pulls me behind his back, gently closing it behind us, and blocking anyone’s view of seeing me.
“Why do I feel you’ve done this before?” Seger murmurs, turning to look back at me with a critical eye, searching for the answers on my face. I smile and shrug, stepping away from him. Stepping into the darkened stairwell, sending adrenaline through my veins again. It’s like riding in Chase’s fast as fuck car, as the speed soars over my body. My head spins. My palms sweat. But I live for this. This moment in life when everything teeters on the edge of the world. One wrong move and you’re done. Ka-splat. Anxiety soars through me too, I’m not immune, but I let my flight-or-fight take over. I let it over power every word screaming inside of my head to turn back.
The moist smell of mold and mildew wafts through the air, proving how little the students use the stairs. “You want the truth or not?” His gaze jerks towards mine in alarm, eyes wide from my admission.
“Oh man, you suspected us. Did you go through our rooms, Sunshine? I swear those magazines aren’t mine, just holding them for a friend.” I wrinkle my nose, suppressing a laugh at Chase’s fake outrage.
“Not yours,” I say breathlessly as we climb the stairs. It’s one of those things, I shouldn’t be as winded as I am. It’s only a few flights of stairs. My lungs shouldn’t burn like this. Maybe my mother was right, I needed to get out from behind the computer and exercise. Maybe I should convince my boys to go jogging with me or something. I’m pretty sure Chase does it daily, being the QB and all. He has to run all the time. Exercise needs to become a priority sooner than later, because I’m dying.
“Mine?” Seger asks as we stop on the landing of the second floor. With my hands on my knees and my lungs burning, I try to regain my breath.
“Almost,” I smile, straightening up.
“Almost?” Zepp asks, almost spooking me in the darkened stairwell. Gah, sometimes he’s like a sneaky ninja. I forget he’s there in my ear.
“I was going to, but never did, not sure why, actually.” I almost forgot my plans to sneak into their rooms after they denied me dinning privileges. It would have been epic too. I had an entire plan to drop food on top of their heads from the roof. But I never did it. Huh. Guess that’s ok.
I peek my head out of the small crack, looking for stragglers. “You’re clear. There’s no one in the hallway, and she’s still at the football field for now. I’ll try to monitor her and everyone else.” Zepp confirms again, as we make our way down the hallway. Apartment doors line the corridor, each with their own number and owners. Most kids have the privilege of their own spaces and some share willingly. Lucky for me, I didn’t want to or have to share.
“Whose room did you sneak your sexy little ass into, Princess?” Seger grumbles beside me, hanging tight to my hand again like I might disappear. Although we have Zepp looking after us on the camera’s, there are some blind spots along the way. You know — like last time when Shaw snuck up on us. Seger’s very paranoid about losing me right now.
“Ainsley’s,” I grumble back to him, not really wanting to admit it.
“Oh man, don’t let her find that out. She’ll butcher you.” Chase says through amusement in my earpiece, laughing like a crazy hyena. Probably drawing attention to himself. Thankfully, students are still allowed out in this early evening. Even with security patrolling the lands. They’d see Chase and give him a warning about turning in for the night, but that’s it.
“Well, I never intended to tell anyone. It was a B and E, after all.” I grumble, pulling my lock picking kit out of my jeans pocket. “So keep alllllll your mouths closed.” I say looking back at Seger who holds his hands up in the air like an innocent.
“Yeah, I won’t get involved in that,” Chase scoffs.
“She’s obviously not my biggest fan, anyway.” I place my ear next to the lock, putting my pick into the lock. The sharp click rings through my ear, opening the door a crack. When I stand back up and look at Seger, wrinkles forming on his brow.
Seger cups my face, bringing our foreheads together. His eyes close, fingers squeezing my cheeks. The world stops for the two of us, as he grounds himself. Every time something slips out of his control or his anxiety beats him to a pulp, he does this. Grounds himself with me. Touching me. Kissing me.
“If we tell you to leave, please don’t stall this time, understood? Babe, please.” His voice pleads, cracking under the pressure of his anxiety.
“Don’t be stubborn, Kace. We need you in and out. Find what you can and then bail.” Worry seeps into Zepp’s whisper and I nod again.
“Don’t make me throw you over my shoulder, Sunshine. You wouldn’t like me then or shit, maybe you would!” Chase pipes up inside my ear too, laughing at the thought of throwing me over his shoulder. I can only imagine him doing it.
“Yeah, yeah, you worry warts. Why did I think having three boyfriends would be a breeze?” I snort when Seger rolls his eyes towards the ceiling.
“Ouch, my heart,” Chase mocks over the earpiece.
“I appreciate your worries, but I’ve done this before. I got this.” Seger holds me tighter.
“You fucking promise?” Seger mumbles like I’m about to go into some sort of war.
“Let her go, I think she gets the point.” Zepp, my savior, my voice of reason and rationale.
Seger grunts, pulling away with one last kiss on my lips.
“Be good, Princess. Go steal us some information.” Seger says, slapping my ass. I yelp, glaring back at him with narrowed eyes. Half of me wants to slap his ass back, but I refrain. He gives me a lazy wink with the biggest ‘Seger’ smirk on his face and shuts the door behind me. Like before in Shaw’s office, I lock the door behind me. Just in case. If Piper gets the drop on us and sneaks in, I need a chance to hide.
Piper’s peppy personality didn’t pop in her apartment like I thought it would. I expected pinks and purples with weird streamers. Or ponies or unicorns or some peppy, happy shit. Not this. I mean, I’m not one to judge others on what they like. But this? My jaw drops as I look around the living room of her apartment. Everything inside the apartment looks exactly the same as mine. Computer desk against the window, couch to the right of it, and an open bedroom door close by. And that’s where the similarities ends. Every inch of the walls is black. Posters, black paint, and dark shades on the windows. If the lamp near the desk hadn’t illuminated the space, I wouldn’t be able to see my fingers in front of my face.
I walk towards the other side of the room, looking up and down. Black, velvety death metal posters hang from the walls with ominous looking names scrawled at the bottom. Skull Crushers. Blood Sewers. Skull Fucker. My eyebrows shoot up. They’re all band names. I walk to the right a little. The Hartbreakers. Not metal, but Zoe’s face is on a few posters too. Piper must be a fan like Chase and I are. But who wouldn’t be? Zoe’s voice is amazing. My heart twinges for her. I wish I knew what was going on or I wish I was a better friend. If we were friends.
I walk into Piper’s bedroom and stop. There’s a queen sized bed, like mine, but three bookshelves line the walls. All decked out in black lace and paint. Animals in jars sit on one lined with books. Fake skulls line another shelf. I swallow hard. I’m all for expressing yourself, but this? My god. What kind of Piper circus did I walk into?
“Baby girl, she’s leaving the football field. If she walks fast, you’ve got maybe seven minutes to get out.” Zepp says breathlessly, proving how frantic he’s become.
“I’ll move fast,” I nod, taking pictures of her entire blackened apartment, so I have proof she’s no peppy cheerleader. There’s no way they’d believe my word.
As fast as lightening, I tear through her closet. I find the black wig and dark makeup in the back of her closet inside a black backpack. The close from the picture we saw are in the bottom too. There're purses marked with her initials and leather bags for a laptop. But nothing more out of the ordinary. Coming into this, I expected something strange to pop up. Maybe some knives or weapons or hell—weird sex toys. But I’m coming up ended handed on that front. The only strange things in Piper’s apartment, is her decorations. Several extra cheerleading outfits hang with her school uniforms. Ironed, pressed to perfection, how Piper wants the world to see her. But who is Piper, really? A dark, peppy princess? Is there something clouding over her?
I make my way through her bedroom, lifting the mattress. Finding nothing underneath. Damn. I thought that’s where everyone hid their dirty secrets. Not Piper. I move to her desk, looking through the papers, taking pictures of everything as a just in case. But there’s nothing here, not even a laptop.
“Hurry it up in there, she’s halfway to the apartments.” Zepp grunts, the clicking of his mouse in my ears.
“There’s nothing here,” I mutter in disappointment, sighing as I keep searching. “There’s no computer, her phone isn’t here there’s not an ounce of technology in this place. Only strange decor.”
“Maybe she’s a dead end?” Chase asks. “Maybe she’s like a cross dresser or something and likes to go all dark and mysterious. I mean — no offense. She can be who she is and — shit!” He breathes out. “Code red, she’s entering the building.”
“What the hell man, she’s like a friggin speed demon. Zepp?” Seger grunts. I envision him pacing the hallway with that scowl on his face and arms crossed.
“Yeah, she’s…. well, I can’t see her. Maybe she’s in the stairwell, Kace, you gotta move now, baby girl. We can do this another time.” Zepp pleads, his fingers working over the keys of his computer.
I give one last look around the dark bedroom, putting my phone back into my pocket. “Right, I’m out. This was a bust.”
“Stop, she’s coming down the hall, fuck.” Seger moans into the earpiece, cursing under his breath. “You all owe me,” he grunts. “Big fucking time.”
“Goodness, Seger West. What a coincidence seeing you here.” Piper’s squeaky voice comes through the ear piece making me wince.
“Thanks for the distraction, babe.” I smile at the pet name. “I owe you later, now lead her away. Offer her coffee or something.”
Chase snorts, “Yeah—or something. How about a ride down to dick tow--.”
“What no! Not what I meant. That’s mine.” I hiss back through a cackle. What a dick. Zepp laughs too. At least we can find a little humor in this odd situation.
“Greedy, Sunshine!” Chase fake chastise me with a laugh.
“I’m going to tattoo my name on it. Property of Kaycee. Hmmm, what ya think, Babe?” I laugh more hearing his scoff in my ear, knowing he can’t say anything to me. Not with Piper standing right in front of him, probably eyeing his every move.
“How about we go for some coffee? I have an idea for Friday’s game, we are so close to state. Whattya say? Cheer captain to running back? Chase is meeting us there too. He’d love a meeting with you too.” Seger’s smooth talking tongue works his magic over Piper, but even I can tell his teeth are clenched so tight.
“Ohhh coordination! I love it! What do you have in mind?” She squeals. The echo of her hands clasping together comes through my ears, making me laugh more. Poor baby.
“You are a bastard fucking bastard, Seger fucker West.” Chase shouts into the bluetooth, grumbling about taking one for the team too. Seger, Piper, and Chase make their way towards the dining hall for a coordinating talk about their championship game on Friday.
“You’re clear now, Kace.” Zepp, the only voice left on the phone.
“Thanks, Zepp. I’ll get off here and meet you back home.”
“Be safe,” Zepp says through a sigh.
“Don’t worry about me,” I say, peeking my head out the door to the empty hallway. The bluetooth piece comes out of my ear, softly shutting the door behind me.
With my hands in my pocket, I make my way down the hallway. Trying to stay as silent as I can, maybe cutting off Zepp’s call was a mistake. But I know I can make it back there in no time.
I shriek when enormous hands grab my arm. Dragging me kicking and screaming into an empty corridor. Shadows fill the space, darkening every inch of this untouched universe. It’s almost as if we’ve stepped into a different world altogether, and maybe we have. Or I have. I’m in his world now. All dark and broody, angry with the world. Carter shoves me up against a wall, using the full weight of his body against mine. He leers down at me, snarling in anger like a rabid dog.
"I see you’re still putting your little troll nose in places it doesn’t fucking belong." Carter growls, pushing his face into mine. Nose to nose, with my back against the wall, I roll my eyes. Normal people would shake in their boots at the sight of his angry scowl, but I’m not most people. Even though he presents himself as this big, bad asshole, he doesn’t scare me. Yes, he’s done some bullshit to me, but I’ve given it right back. There’s something more to him. Something deeper. Deeper than I think he’s ever let anyone explore before. Sometimes when I look into his eyes, I see it. His soul reaching out for me. Desperate for an ounce of light.
“Are you stalking me now?” All I get is a grunt and a growl as my answer. He leans his forehead against mine in an oddly intimate gesture. Like he too has to ground himself before he goes off the rails. A violent storm brews behind his brown eyes, leaking tiny amounts of vulnerability through them. He snaps them shut, taking a deep breath, like my words might set him off on a tangent.
“No,” he breathes the calmest word I’ve ever heard from him. “No, I’m not fucking stalking you, sweetheart. I just--.” His hand snakes around my waist in a vice grip, leaning further into me. If that’s possible. It’s like he wants to mold us together as one. Chest against chest. Forehead against forehead. The deep pounding of his heart echos through his chest, vibrating against mine. And mine? Mine skips a beat. Feeling this close to him. His body warmth. His breaths mingling with mine in the air. Deep down, my soul sighs in contentment. Like I have brought together all my puzzle pieces and clicked them into place. “You need to be more fucking careful.” He whispers to me, but it’s not a normal whisper. It’s a pleading whisper with desperation in his voice, lunging forward, trying to grab ahold of me, and keep me safe. If his soft expression didn’t convey what he needed me to see, his unanswered pleas would.
“I was, this time.” I swallow hard, his head nodding against mine.
“You’re barking up the right tree.” He whispers again, breaths brushing across my lips. Warmth spreads on the flesh of my cheek, as his soft hand takes up its space. His thumb rubs gently across my cheek, the tips of his fingers curling into my hair.
“So Piper? She’s in it?” He sighs, rolling his lips together, a pained expression crossing him. But his eyes say it all. The wrinkle in his forehead says it all. Carter… Carter doesn’t know. Not completely. Maybe I’ve been wrong about him leading this thing. Maybe I’ve been wrong—
“Fuck it,” he growls, slamming his lips into mine. With such a force, it’s like a hurricane blowing through, rocking my world. Dizziness takes over my oxygen deprived brain. Sparks ignite between the warmth of his soft lips and mine. It’s like the Fourth of July inside of my brain. Fireworks crackle to life, exploding in the air. Hallelujah. I should really throw him off of me. You know — other boyfriends and all.
But I can’t. The connection forming between the two of us is unmovable. Exhilarating. Instead, I fist the front of his shirt, drawing him closer and closer. Melting us together as one heated, kissing unit. My lips part for his probing tongue licking at the seam of my lips. Tangling our tongues together in a sloppy and needy dance. Moans fall from throat. I can’t stop them. Especially when the warm metal of his tongue piercing glides against my tongue. This kiss. It’s everything. He transmits his unspoken feelings through the breathtaking kiss he stole from me.
Kissing Carter is like drowning. Breath stealing. Oxygen invading. I’m boneless. Breathless. And needy. I never want to let this boy go now. His massive, muscly body cages mine, forcing my back against the wall. One hand stays on my cheek, but the other grips tightly to my ass. Squeezing, forcing my hips forward toward his growing want. A whimper falls from my throat, the same need I feel for the others, rocketing through my veins. Liquid lust burning every part of my body, tingling in my toes, and pulsating my pussy.
He forces his mouth from mine, biting along mine jawline. “Your lips feel like my own personal fucking heaven,” he groans in my ear. Gripping my ass harder into his hands. “But this was a mistake.” He whispers, tongue lapping at my earlobe. Sending more want into my veins. I claw at his neck, begging him to give me more. He pulls back, bringing his lust-filled eyes to mine, staring into the depths of my soul. “The biggest mistake I’ve ever made.” His words splinter my heart, but I can’t help but to agree. I have three men who trust me to be loyal to them, and I let myself get lost in this. This kiss. This…. breath stealing moment.
“You’re on the right track. Use your genius sized brain and remember this: Victoria Ann Van Buren, Sacred Heart Hospital, Oak Park, California.” He whispers, shaking my head. “You fucking remember that, ya hear? I won’t repeat myself.” His eyes shout at me to comply, to understand, and I do. Even with the fog his kiss caused spreading through my brain, I put it in the back of my mind.
I furrow my brows, confusion washing over me. What the hell just happened? And why the hell did I just like it? “I understand---I think.” Uncertainty flows through me as Carter lowers his forehead to mine again.
“Another time. Another place. You. Would. Be. Mine.” A possessive growls spears through him, baring his teeth.
I frown, “I’m not a possession.” I swallow hard, meeting his eyes again. An actual smile crosses his face, like nothing I’ve seen before on him.
“Don’t I know it,” he whispers, pecking my lips one last time, lingering on them, and pushes off of me. My body immediately shivers from the lack of contact, missing his body against mine. The head of his kiss.
“This will never happen again. Go look up the name, do your research.” His hand swipes at his face and he stalks off down the darkened hall. Slipping into the shadows with sadness etched into his face. Disappearing from view as quick as he came, leaving me more confused than ever.
“But what do you gain from it?” I yell into the darkness, expecting nothing but the crickets to answer back. Shadows drape half of Carter’s body when he re-emerges from the depths of the darkness. His dark eyes pin me in place.
“Freedom, sweetheart.” He growls back. “Fucking freedom. And maybe you.” He mutters the last part, barely audible, but I heard it.
My palms rest against the cool wall, brows pulling together. My eyes dance to where he disappeared to and to the space he had occupied in front of me. The oxygen I needed finally enters my lungs, bringing clairty back to my mind. He gave me a name. But whose was it?
“I fucking knew it!” My whole body jolts at the sound of Seger’s voice from around the corner. My eyebrows furrow more, clearly confused. Chase snorts beside him, walking side by side towards me. How fucking long did I step foot into Carter’s universe? “I fucking knew the prick had a boner for you the moment he saw you.” I swallow hard, pursing my lips.
“I’m so confused,” I mumble, staring between my two boyfriends. They’re smiling like the world’s biggest idiots. Why?
Chase smirks, running a finger over my brows. Straightening them from their furrowed position, down toward my swollen and very kissed lips. His thumb rubs back and forth against my red lips. Grey eyes taking in the damage Carter left behind.
“Don’t look so surprised, babe. Whenever he looks at you, there’s so much sexual frustration written all over his face he almost looks constipated.” Seger laughs. Like full on, stomach clutching laughs at this. Are we at comedy hour? They just witnessed me kiss another guy and they’re—- smiling. Did I step into another twilight zone of some sort?
“I think he’s been denying himself this whole time.” Chase laughs too. I look around, waiting for a stage to pop up. Or maybe I’ve been drugged? Did Carter slip something into my mouth with his wicked tongue?
“You saw?” I swallow again, their heads bobbing with those ridiculous smiles on their faces. “But I-I just cheated on you? I just kissed him back... and I…” My brows furrow again, face twisting into more confusion than ever.
“You liked it?” Chase says, amusement flaring in his eyes. Seger snorts when I reluctantly nod.
“Everyone needs a brooding bad boy in their harem, so there ya go. He’s yours. Should we take a vote? Zepp will flip his shit.” He cackles like a madman at this whole situation again. And I? Er—Fuck! I’m so confused.
Chase raises his hand, “well I vote yes, of course.” He jokes again with Seger agreeing. I crack a smile at their banter about adding Carter to my hoard of men. Wouldn’t that be a sight to see? Carter mingling with us all. I slide my sweaty hand down the legs of my jeans. Feeling a little better about the whole Carter kissing thing, since they didn’t seem upset at all. When my hands roll over my pockets my hands freeze.
“That bastard,” I hiss, feeling for my phone in my other pockets. But no, it’s gone. Damn it.
“What?” Seger’s face falls, concern flashing through his eyes. I frown, walking down the dark corridor he escaped through, with the boys hot on my heels.
“He stole my phone,” I grumble, marching toward the darkened stairwell, taking the steps two at a time. When I finally make my way outside, he’s gone. The cool night air breezes past me and I sigh. Great.
“We can track it right?” Chase asks, eyes darting around.
“We have two bona fide computer nerds in our back pocket, of course they can track it.” Seger jokes from my other side. I cock my head to the side when the grass in front of me lights up. I take a step forward, leaning down, picking up my discarded phone.
A new text sits on my home screen, Heat blooms on my cheeks, working its way up toward my ears, and creeps around my neck. I know by the contact name it’s him. Carter. It has to be him. And only him. My heart dips into my stomach, slamming against my ribs in a chaotic drum beat. Butterflies flutter to life inside my stomach.
Another time: I fucked myself into temptation with you, but I meant what I said. Remember that name and place and go be a fucking genius.