The Wanderers

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chapter 15

I met Josie in our room and put on some shoes and my new jacket. Tristan waited for us outside in the hall where he handed us each a flashlight. I was starting to think this little adventure might not be a good idea, but Josie and Tristan were already out the door and I did not want to be left behind.

We ran into Josie’s new boy toy out on the quad. “Billy!” Josie squealed, jumping on him and almost knocking him over.

“Hey, I was just on my way to see you,” he said, giving Josie a kiss. “Tristan, my brother.” He nodded and shook Tristan’s hand. He turned to me and looked at me funny.

“What?” I said, returning his awkward stare.

“You look familiar,” he replied.

“This is my roommate and BFF Ella,” Josie said, finally getting down.

“Oh, that explains it,” he said, blushing. “We haven’t officially met. I’m Billy.”

“Ella,” I said, not understanding what he meant by officially. Josie cleared her throat and looked at me. I stared back at her wondering what the hell she was trying to tell me when it clicked. “Oh,” was all I said, now realizing. Billy was with Josie the night I walked in on them. I could feel my cheeks start to get hot with embarrassment. I looked down at my feet not able to meet his eyes anymore.

“We’re taking a little trip. Care to join us Brother Billy?” Tristan asked, sensing the slight awkwardness.

Josie nodded her head like a bobble head. “Sure, I’m always up for an adventure,” he said, giving Josie an adoring look. She looped her arm through his and leaned up against him.

“Let’s go,” Tristan said, and we followed.

The cold air burned my lungs and kept me at a distance. My toes started to go numb and it was getting harder to keep up with everyone. “Ella! Hurry up!” Josie called. “You’re too slow.”

“Easy for you to say, you’re not walking,” I mumbled to myself. Halfway there, Josie was tired of walking and hopped on Billy’s back.

Tristan stopped, turned around, and jogged up to me. He grabbed my hand and pulled me up to the front with him. “Are we almost there? I can’t feel my toes,” I groaned.

“Give me your flashlight,” Tristan said, holding out his hand. We walked around to the back of a building. Tristan put his finger to his lips for us to be quiet. “Wait here,” he said, disappearing around the other side of the building. Billy put Josie down as we waited. Not a minute later, Tristan shined his flashlight at us gesturing for us to follow. Around the other side was a door into the building, and conveniently, it was unlocked. Although I believe it was more Tristan’s doing than convenience.

Tristan shined the light down a set of steps and to another door. He took my hand and led me down the stairs. This door was also conveniently open. We stepped into a pitch black room. “Stay right here,” Tristan warned. “Don’t move.”

He tried letting go of my hand, but I wouldn’t let him. I was not a fan of the dark. “Ella, I’ll be right back, promise,” he said, feeling my tension. I took a breath and let go. He disappeared again. Only the dim light of his flashlight indicating he was still close. Then, one by one, lights flickered on exposing the contents of the room.

An Olympic-sized pool.

“Hey Tristan, how about killing some of those lights,” Josie called, shielding her eyes from the bright florescent lighting. He flipped a few more switches, creating motorized blinds to rise up from the windows exposing the bright glow of the moon which was now our only source of light. It shimmered through the uncovered windows creating a white glow across the water.

Tristan jogged back over. “What do you think?” he asked me.

Josie and Billy were already taking their clothes off and jumping in the water. I laughed at their over-eagerness. “It’s pretty neat,” I said, playfully hitting Tristan in the stomach.

“What are you waiting for?” Josie said, splashing me. I rolled my eyes and headed over to the bleachers to place my shoes and jacket. I sat down and rubbed my knees feeling a little shy about being in my underwear in front of Tristan who was already stripped down to his boxers.

He noticed my apprehension and took a seat next to me. “We don’t have to swim if you don’t want to.”

“No, I want to. I just...” I ran a shaky hand through my hair.

“Afraid of drowning?”

“No,” I said, annoyed at his comment and myself for being so silly. “I just...don’t want you to...watch me get undressed.” I looked up from under a piece of hair that fell in front of my face, embarrassed at my request.

He laughed kindheartedly, tucking the piece of hair behind my ear. “I won’t.” He stood up and turned his back to me. I know it was such a silly request and he was about to see me in my underwear anyway, but I still felt better about him not watching me.

I waited a minute to make sure he really wasn’t looking. When I felt it was safe, I started to take off my shirt and caught him peeking over his shoulder. “Tristan!”

“Alright, alright,” he laughed, turning back around. “I know now you are definitely eighteen,” he mumbled.

“What did you just say?”

“Nothing,” he said, playing dumb. I glared at him even though I knew he couldn’t see me. Then I chastised myself for being ridiculous and took off my top and pants and folded them in a pile behind me. Then I stood next to Tristan. He took my hand and pulled me to the edge of the pool. When he thought I wasn’t looking, he leaned back to check out my ass. Knowing exactly what he was doing, I pushed him into the pool and then jumped in after him.

He pulled me into him and I pushed him away laughing and splashing him. Josie swam over and hung onto me. Then we both tackled Tristan before Billy pulled Josie away to a private corner. I tried to swim over to the edge of the pool, but Tristan pulled me back to him. He wrapped his arms around my waist and I wrapped mine around his shoulders. “It’s good to see you smile,” he said.

“Well, I must say, seeing you helplessly cuffed to the bed did help a lot.”

“Really,” he smiled, tightening his grip and making our lips dangerously close to making contact. “We could always go back to my room and play with the cuffs some more.”

I dunked him in the water and swam over to the wall. I dangled there, arms hanging on the side, a teasing smile on my face as Tristan swam over to me. He puts his hands on my hips and pressed his forehead to mine. His body was so close, our bare skin merely inches from touching. “You still think I’m the same guy you first met?”

“No,” I said breathless, too intoxicated by his close proximity. Tristan closed his eyes and slowly moved his hands up my sides. My whole body shivered. I had to bite my tongue to keep from letting out the moan that was rising in my throat.

His thumbs stopped short of my breasts, afraid to push it too far.

I could feel his hands trembling. “Ella.”

“Tristan.”

Our voices were but a whisper.

Tristan pulled his head back and opened his eyes. I could feel him begging me to open mine. And when I finally did, I saw them. Those bright gold, glowing eyes.

I screamed, horrified, and pushed him away. I leapt out of the pool and ran over to the corner, cowering and crying hysterically. I sank to the floor.

Josie pulled herself out of the pool and came running over to me. “Ella, what’s wrong? What happened?” she asked, shaking my shoulders frantically.

“I saw them. His eyes. I saw them,” I cried.

“Who, Ella, who?” she asked worried.

Tristan came up behind Josie and I jumped back, shaking. Josie looked back at Tristan confused. “It was you,” I said to Tristan shaking my head. I buried my head in my hands and pulled my knees to my chest tight. I was so confused.

“Ella?” Josie said with concern in her voice. “Ella, open your eyes.”

I slowly lifted my head and opened my eyes to see the look of worry plastered across everyone’s face. Their expressions made me wonder if I was losing my mind. The person who looked the most frightened was Tristan. I could sense and feel everything he was feeling. I didn’t know how, I just could. He was feeling scared for me and scared that I would never be able to trust him.

And worst of all, scared that his love for me would never be reciprocated.

The last thought made my heart ache. I wanted to reach out and touch him, but was afraid he’d turn away. He believed I thought of him as a monster. Someone who wasn’t capable of love. Someone who could choke the life out of another and not give it a second thought.

I stared into those eyes; the same ones I could have sworn were glowing gold just seconds ago. Now I knew I was crazy. How could I have thought something so precious could be so evil? “I don’t think you’re a monster,” I said directly to Tristan.

His eyes went wide with shock, but then he quickly regained himself. I turned my head curiously looking at Tristan. Wondering if I really did hear his thoughts, feel his feelings. The look on his face said it was as if I tore the words right out his head. How was that even possible? Was any of this real? No, of course it wasn’t. This wasn’t possible. It was my own emotions turned upside down.

I looked back down at my crumbled self on the cold tile floor. “I’m sorry,” I whispered, lips trembling.

“This is the second time you tried to run screaming from me today. I’m starting to get used to it,” Tristan said, making me laugh. I gave him a small smile as they helped me up, leading me over to the bleachers where we started to put our clothes back on. I decided I had enough excitement for one day.

While slipping my arms through my jacket sleeves, I looked up and out one of the windows. What I saw before me sent my whole body into a downward spiral.

I gasped, grabbing Josie’s arm.

I closed my eyes and said to myself over and over again, ’I’m imagining this’, knowing when I opened them, there would be nothing there.

When I looked I had to cover my mouth to keep from crying out loud.

The eyes didn’t go away.

They were still there.

Josie, not able to get through to me, turned to see what had put me in shell shock. “Holy shit,” Josie yelped. “Maybe you’re not crazy.”

“You see them too?” I asked frightened.

She nodded, unable to use words to describe what was before us.

Tristan and Billy followed our gazes, but by then they were already gone.

Out of nowhere, there was a loud scraping sound, like nails on a chalkboard. We all turned towards the sound to discover a large crack going across all the windows. Not a second later there was a sudden burst, shattering every window and sending glass shards everywhere.

I ducked down as Tristan threw himself over me protectively. When it was over, Tristan stood slowly, assessing the scene around us. “You alright?” he asked me, his voice panicked.

I could feel my hands shaking. I looked and saw I had a piece of glass sticking out of the back of my hand. My right cheek was stinging from where a shard cut me. Tristan took my hand and carefully pulled out the piece of glass. I winced from the pain. He took off his shirt and wrapped it around my hand. “Everyone else alright?” He looked to Billy and Josie.

“Yeah,” Josie said, voice shaky.

“What the hell was that?” Billy asked, looking around at the glass covered floor.

I looked to Tristan, hoping maybe he would have some reasonable explanation, but his expression was blank. I hadn’t even realized until now that he had cuts all over his arms. “Tristan, you’re hurt.” I reached for him but he shook me off, more concerned for my well-being than his own.

“I’m fine,” he said, putting his jacket on. “C’mon, we need to get out of here.”

“Agreed,” Josie said, grabbing on to Billy.

Tristan threw Billy a suspicious look. His only response was a small shrug. One more quick look around the place and then we were all rushing for the door, careful of the glass that was crunching beneath our feet.

I stayed close to Tristan until we got back to the dorms. “I have a first aid kit in my room,” I said, retrieving it and following everyone back to Tristan’s room.

“Is anyone else as freaked out as I am?” Josie asked. Tristan and Billy looked around blankly not wanting to comment. I caught a small exchange between them but wasn’t exactly sure what it was about. I was still in shock from what just happened.

“Oh Billy, you were so brave,” Josie swooned. She whispered something in his ear and then giggled. Billy blushed and had the biggest smile on his face. Knowing Josie I could only imagine what kind of words were exchanged. Not a second later they were off the couch and out the door back to Josie’s and mines room.

“They seem to be doing okay,” Tristan chuckled and I just rolled my eyes.

He took off his Jacket and flinched at the pain his cuts were causing him. “Sit,” I said, opening up the first aid kit.

“You clean up your hand first. I’ll survive,” he insisted.

“Sit,” I said again, more sternly. I walked to his bathroom and got a damp washcloth and then sat back down next to him on the bed. I carefully started to clean all the blood off his arms. I watched his face as he struggled not to let me know how much it hurt. “You don’t have to act so tough. I know this doesn’t feel good.”

Using tweezers, I removed a few pieces of glass from his forearm. He continued to put on a brave face for me, but I knew better. “You might need stitches,” I said as I examined a deep cut.

He looked through the first aid kit and pulled out a tiny plastic vial with a cotton tip. “Use this, this should be fine,” he said, handing it to me. I read the label and saw that it was a type of glue that doctors sometimes used instead of stitches. I snapped off the top, pinched the skin close together, and applied the glue holding my fingers there until it set. Once I was finished treating Tristan’s cuts he led me to the bathroom to wash the cut on my hand.

I flinched when he put my hand under the faucet. “Too hot?” he asked.

“No, it just stings.”

“I know, but we have to clean it.” He slowly put my hand back under the running water. I turned my head away thinking if I didn’t look it wouldn’t hurt. “All done,” he said. I looked and he already bandaged it. I had my eyes closed so tightly, trying to distract myself, I hadn’t noticed anything else he did. “It wasn’t deep, so you should be fine. Just keep it clean and change the bandage daily.”

I was so in awe of his tenderness that I was having a hard time taking my eyes off of him. His gentle touch was what got me every time. He tilted my head to the side to look at the dried blood on my cheek. I had to grip the counter to keep my hands from shaking. “It doesn’t hurt. It’s probably just a scratch,” I whispered. He cleaned my cheek revealing a tiny cut, just as I suspected.

He gently brushed his thumb across my cheek and pressed his body closer to mine. When he looked into my eyes, I could see the passion burning inside them. The need to be close to me, the intense way he felt when he was around me. The way he struggled every time to keep a distance when what he really wanted was to touch every inch of my body. Consume me. But he didn’t. He resisted.

He held back for the fact that I was different, special. He knew I wasn’t like all other girls he’d encountered. They were just there to pass the time until he met me and then everything changed. I knew this because I felt it, too. I closed my eyes and pressed my hand on top of his. Then I drew it away and let out a sigh. “I should go.”

He looked at me one last time, took a step back, and released me. “You can stay here if you want. I’ll sleep on the couch,” he offered. I knew he was holding onto to a glimmer of hope, wishing I’d say yes so we wouldn’t have to be apart.

I didn’t want to leave, but was afraid of what might happen if I stayed. I was ready to say ‘no’, when I remembered Josie and Billy were in my room, probably already busy getting busy. “I’ll stay, only because I’m afraid of what I might walk in on in my room.” He let out a small laugh. “And you don’t have to sleep on the couch, just as long as you promise to keep your hands to yourself.”

He raised a brow at me, his cocky smile dancing on his lips. I gave him a warning look and he put his arms up in surrender. “I’ll be good, I promise. But...what about you?”

“What about me?” I asked offended.

“Do you promise to keep your hands to yourself? I mean, I would understand, I am pretty irresistible.”

I crossed my arms and narrowed my eyes at him. “I think I’ll be okay,” I said and he just shrugged. He moved away so I could exit the bathroom. I took one look at his small, twin-sized bed and started to have second thoughts. He had a room big enough to hold a king-sized bed but chose the smallest option possible. I pondered that for a moment, then realized ‘of course he would’. This forced all the girls to be closer to him squeezing on that little bed making it easier for him to make his move. I rolled my eyes as he lay down on the bed. He patted the small empty spot next to him.

Leave it to Tristan to be able to flip a switch like that. So easily going from sensitive and caring to the cocky jerk I first met. I knew all too well it was just a facade to keep up appearances. He couldn’t fool me anymore. These past few weeks I saw more of the real Tristan. More than anyone has. I knew now there was something much deeper. I wasn’t sure if I could believe it before but now I knew for certain. ‘Layers Ella, everyone has layers,’ I remembered him saying.

Despite his random lewd comments – which I was getting used to – personally, that side was what made Tristan, Tristan. And if he didn’t have what he called his ‘charming personality’, honestly, I wouldn’t have stuck around this long. He was growing on me, all of him, and if he was willing to accept me despite all my faults, I could accept him for his.

He laid down on his back, careful not to put pressure on his cut arms. I laid down next to him keeping as much distance between us as the bed would allow. Then I pulled the covers up over my shivering, cold body.

I laid facing him, watching him stare up at the ceiling, wondering if he was trying hard not to think how close we were, but at the same time so far apart. “Ella, what did you see?” he asked softly.

His question caught me off guard. “Tonight?” I asked. He nodded.

I sat up and looked at him. I contemplated for a moment, and then realized he should know, know everything. I was learning that keeping these secrets to myself was not helping, only making it worse, and making me look crazy. I knew no matter what Tristan thought, he wouldn’t judge me, call me crazy, or suddenly stop talking to me. I also knew he had secrets too, and when he was ready, he would tell me. But now it was my time. It was my time to let it all out, no more secrets, no more hidden past.

I told him everything, from the beginning, when it all started. I told him about Kyle and the accident, the dreams I had afterward, including the recent ones with him. And then I told him about the man who haunted my dreams, now suddenly becoming reality.

When I was finished, I looked down, picking at the blanket that was wrapped around me. I waited for Tristan to say something, anything. “Ella, I had no idea? I’m...”

“Don’t.” I put my hand up to stop him. I knew he was going to say he was sorry. That was what everyone said, but it was nothing anyone did to me. It was just an unfortunate turn of events that could had happened to anyone, but I was the unlucky chosen one.

“Have you told anyone else this?” he asked, sitting up.

“Just Josie. I mean everyone back home knows about the accident and my family knew about the dreams in the beginning.”

“But?” he pressed.

“But I never told anyone except Josie about the guy I saw, or should I say keep seeing,” I laughed harshly, still picking at the blanket anxiously.

Tristan reached over and placed his hand on mine. “I believe you,” he said sweetly. “You can trust me, Ella. You know I’d never do anything to hurt you, right?” I nodded. That was the best I could do.

I did believe him. I knew Tristan would never hurt me intentionally. The feeling I got when I was with him, I never felt that way before and it scared me. I felt a constant pull to him, like we were lost souls trying to find each other. I didn’t know what to do with this feeling, so I did nothing. I just pushed it back until I was ready, until I understood more about it. Little did I know how in denial I was? I never cared for anyone the way I did Tristan. My fears of being hurt was what kept me away for so long, but now I was starting to realize it hurt more not to be with him. I was ready now more than ever to open myself up to him. It seemed weird to feel that way about someone I barely knew, but there was no denying what the heart wanted.

Tristan cupped the side of my face with his hand, forcing me to look at him. “Ella I –” I shook my head. I knew what he was going to say and I didn’t want him to. Not when I couldn’t say it back. Not yet.

He closed his eyes tightly, leaned in closer, and brushed his lips against mine. I wanted to resist, but couldn’t. I didn’t have the strength anymore.

I gave into the desire, the desire that had been inside of me all along. I pressed my lips against his, welcoming the kiss, wanting more. He slipped his hand behind my head, tangling his fingers in my hair. He pressed his lips harder against mine. I placed my hand on his chest feeling his heart race as his tongue lightly parted my lips. The kiss became more passionate, more intense, as he gently laid me back on the bed.

His lips moved to my chin, gliding across my jaw and neck, sending shivers all through my body. I could no longer contain it. I let out a quiet moan as he brought his lips back to mine. I parted my lips for him as he slipped his tongue inside my mouth. I wanted to devour him, every inch of him. He let out a moan as his hips crushed mine.

Tristan’s hand slipped under my shirt. The way his hand felt when it glided over my skin felt like tiny shots of heaven. Like biting into a freshly baked cookie you had been waiting all day to sink your teeth into. I allowed him to push my shirt up with his other hand and lift it over my head. His lips slipped from my mouth down to my chest and stomach, stopping just below my belly button. I gripped the sheets to keep my hands from shaking.

Not able to take anymore, I pulled him back up to me and attacked him hungrily with my kisses. He slipped my pants off. I could tell he was just as nervous as I was. He stopped and just looked at me. His hand gently caressed my face as I pulled him back down on top of me and slipped off his pants.

He reached over to grab a condom from his top drawer. The air hit me and I had a sudden realization. That was when I stopped. I was too afraid to go any further without him knowing. I had to stop now before I lost all control.

I pushed him back. Both of us were panting. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

I tried to catch my breath. “I’m a virgin,” I blurted out.

He pulled back and sat up. His expression was unreadable. Feeling a little timid, I pulled the covers up over me. I could tell my face was flushed from my slightly embarrassing confession. He sat there dangling his legs off the side of the bed. He dropped his head into his hands and then scrubbed them down his face. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I just wanted you to know and I think...maybe...we should wait.” I bit my lip waiting for his answer. When he didn’t say anything I was afraid I messed up. I pulled my knees up to my chest and hugged them tightly.

After what felt like an agonizingly long time, he finally turned and looked at me over his shoulder. I tried to read his face but was having a hard time comprehending his expression. “Are you mad at me?” I asked.

He smiled, sighing, and cupped the side of my face with his hand. “Ella, I could never be mad at you,” he said, kissing my forehead gently. “And would never force you to do something you’re not ready for.” I couldn’t look at him, feeling like I disappointed him. “Ella, it’s okay, I’ve waited this long. If I have to I’ll wait forever,” he said, forcing me to meet his eyes.

I laughed. “I thought you had needs,” I mocked.

He smiled. “The only thing I need is you, la mia bella stella,” he said, kissing the tip of my nose and getting off the bed.

“Where are you going?”

“To sleep on the couch,” he groaned.

“You don’t have to do that,” I said, feeling guilty.

“Trust me I do.”

I watched him pull a spare blanket and pillow from his closet and made himself a makeshift bed on the couch. I let out a quiet sigh and tried to make myself comfortable. I laid down and pulled the covers tightly against me. Then I closed my eyes and waited for the sandman to put me to sleep.

My mind wandered as I laid there. I realized tonight that Tristan was a better person than I was. He could had easily coaxed me into having sex with him, but he didn’t. He made me discover something I’d been missing. Something I almost let slip through my fingers because I was too stubborn to open myself up to something different. I knew the moment I let him in I was in trouble...because I thought I was falling in love with him.

I dreamed again that night.

This one was like the first one I started having after I initially arrived. Except this time, Tristan was only my savior, not my enemy. The enemy was still an unknown character. And this time, Tristan’s eyes didn’t glow. They stayed the same deep, dark blue I was accustomed to. Instead of his hands reaching for my throat, they cupped the sides of my face; a single tear fell down his cheek as he whispered in my ear, “I’m sorry.”

When I opened my eyes, I stared up at the ceiling, wondering what it all meant. Then I looked over at Tristan sleeping sound on the couch, covers thrown off of him, half on the floor. I got up off the bed and laid down next to him, I rested my head on his chest as he wrapped an arm around me and kissed me on my forehead.

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