The Wanderers

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chapter 17

I slept through the entire night and into the early afternoon. I never told Josie what happened and she left me be figuring I was just sleeping off a hangover. I told Josie I didn’t want to see anyone. She obeyed no questions asked. Every time Tristan stopped by she told him I didn’t feel good and wasn’t up for company. He tried his hardest to break his way in, but when Josie put her foot down there was no getting past her. After several feeble attempts Tristan finally gave up.

I spent all day in bed with no intention of ever getting out. Later that evening Josie started to become concerned. “Ella, is everything okay?” she asked, sitting beside me on the bed.

“I’m just tired,” I mumbled into the pillow. I knew she could tell there was more to it but decided not to push the issue, at least for now.

I forced myself out of bed Monday morning and into the shower. I made sure I was up early enough to avoid running into Tristan. He was the last person I wanted to see right now. After our fight Friday night, I was pretty much done with him. I couldn’t stand to be around someone who hurt me this much. It wasn’t fair and my heart couldn’t take it. Things would be better if we just stayed away from each other. I knew it would be hard at first, but I could do it. I would have to do it.

In order to avoid him I continued to wake up early each day and spent most of my time away from the dorms. I skipped art class all week not wanting to risk him being there. It was too soon and I knew he would try everything in his power to convince me to come back to him.

By the end of the week our dorm room was flooded with flowers and all sorts of gifts. “Okay, what gives?” Josie said, bringing in the latest delivery of blooms. “Can you please explain to me why our room is beginning to look like a green house?”

I only told Josie I didn’t want to see Tristan and she never asked why knowing when I was ready I would tell her. I still wasn’t ready to talk about it, but with the way she was standing with her hands on her hips annoyed at having to side step a giant stuffed tiger and several other ridiculous items, I’d say she had enough of being in the dark. “Tristan and I had a fight,” I sighed.

“I think that part is pretty obvious,” she said, gesturing around. “What was the fight about?” I shook my head not wanting to elaborate. “Look Ella, I get that you’re not ready to talk about it, but this is getting ridiculous. I can only keep Tristan away for so long and we both know if he really wanted to get in here all he’d have to do is bust down the door. So you need to put an end to this one way or another.”

“You’re absolutely right,” I said, getting up off the bed. “Help me collect all this stuff.” I picked up all the animals and threw them on my bed. Josie wasn’t sure what was going on but helped me anyway. Once all the oversized stuffed animals were collected I grabbed a few trash bags and started to throw them in. Then I made a phone call for a delivery van.

When the guy showed up at our dorm, I directed him to follow me upstairs to my room. When I opened the door his eyes went wide. “All this is going?” he asked and I nodded. He got on his radio that was clicked to his belt. “Hey Jim, I’m gonna need your help with this one,” he said.

Josie and I helped the delivery men carry all the flowers and toys down to the van. I signed the papers and left him with a hefty tip. “Thank you,” he said. “You have no idea how much this is appreciated. I can’t wait to see the look on all those tiny little faces,” he smiled brightly.

“You’re welcome,” I said as they packed up the van securing everything. Josie turned to me still unsure with what just happened. “I called the local children’s hospital and told them I had a donation for them.”

“Oh,” Josie said, nodding her head, now understanding. “That was a pretty great idea. I’m not gonna lie when I thought you might have a shredding party and tear everything to pieces.”

“Don’t think I didn’t consider that, but I figured it would be better to put this stuff to good use so it wasn’t wasted.”

We stood for a moment and watched the van pull away. To my surprise, Tristan was not far off in the distance. From the look on his face I knew he had just witnessed the whole thing. I held my head a little higher and turned to walk away before he had a chance to chase me down. Josie clenched onto my arm and tagged along. I was thankful for her company, afraid to be alone at the moment. I knew I wouldn’t have as much strength to walk away if Josie wasn’t there.

When I got back to my room I crashed down on my bed to hide any tears that managed to break free. The room still smelled like a florist, but that didn’t bother me. What did was the sight of Tristan. I didn’t think it would hurt that bad to see him. The look on his face, the sad expression in his eyes, the pain and longing he was feeling. I knew because I was feeling it too. I knew it would hurt for a while but I forced myself to be strong. I reminded myself that this was the best thing for me right now.

I decided to throw myself into my school work. That would be my perfect distraction. I also knew I wouldn’t be able to avoid him anymore. I also couldn’t skip anymore art classes for fear of falling behind. I arrived early enough and set everything up in my normal seat in the back. Jack arrived shortly after and took a seat next to me. “Hi,” I said surprised.

“Hey, how are you?” he asked.

“Okay, how are you?” I hadn’t talked to Jack since Skylar’s memorial and was afraid he was still mad at me.

“Listen, I’m sorry. I was a jerk. There was no reason for me to be mad at you. I guess I let my jealous side get the best of me and that’s not cool.”

“Jack you have nothing to apologize for. I was the one who was being a jerk. I think I tried so hard not to hurt your feelings that I ended up doing more damage.”

“There’s no need for you to worry about it. How about we just forget it and move on,” he said, flashing me his crooked smile. I smiled back, ready to say something, when Tristan walked in. My breath caught at the sight of him and my body went rigid. I looked back at Jack, he just shook his head. “Don’t stress it. We’re still good,” he said, bumping my shoulder.

I couldn’t respond. I couldn’t do anything. Tristan spotted me and took the empty seat next to mine. I kept my eyes forward refusing to look at him. I knew I couldn’t bear it. With him this close I had a hard time staying strong. He didn’t say anything or even look at me. The professor begun class and I breathed, thankful for the distraction.

The second the professor allowed us to begin painting Tristan flung his hand out grabbing the bottom of my chair and pulled me closer to him. I pushed away and whipped my head around to glare at him. Any sign of his normal cockiness had vanished and was replaced by fury. “What do you want from me, Ella?” he growled.

“Nothing, but you’re the one who doesn’t seem to want to let go.” I tried to pull my chair further away but he held on tight. His eyes challenged me to say something, something that made it okay for him to be pissed off at me. I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up, grabbed my stuff, and left class without another word. The professor watched me walk out without any protest.

I tore down the hall eager to get outside and get some air. I heard footsteps behind me so I picked up my pace. “Ella!” Tristan called. I switched to a light jog and made it out of the building. I ran to the other side and around the back so he wouldn’t see me. I heard a crunching sound and peered over my shoulder to investigate. It was a squirrel, eating a nut.

With a sigh of relief I turned back around and smacked right into Tristan. “How did you?” I asked, thinking how in the hell he could have found me. Let alone get here as fast as he did.

“We need to talk,” he said, brows furrowed.

“There’s nothing I want to say to you.” I tried to walk away but he gripped my arm stopping me. I threw him a warning look, but he ignored me. “Let go of me,” I snapped.

“Why do you do this to me?”

I tried to pull my arm away but he just held it tighter. “Tristan, you’re hurting me,” I cried.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he said, letting go. I know I should leave, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t make my feet work and walk away. “Ella, I...I messed up.” He dragged his hands over his face and let out a groan. “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. I’m not that guy. I don’t know how to do this?” he said, face pained.

“I don’t understand what you’re talking about?” I said, more confused than ever.

“Us,” he cried, reaching for me.

I took a step back out of his reach. “There is no us,” I said softly. I couldn’t believe how hard that was to say out loud, but once I had, it sunk in.

“I don’t know what to do,” he replied. I could have sworn for a second I saw him blink back a tear, but couldn’t be sure. He spun away quickly, unable to maintain his composure, and I took the opportunity to walk away. I couldn’t stand there another second knowing I could possibly let myself get suckered in again.

I didn’t escape fast enough. He caught me and spun me around so fast I got dizzy. He gripped my shoulders and threw me up against the wall. His lips came down full force on mine. I struggled for only a second before allowing myself to feel the urgency behind his kiss. I wanted to pull away, to stop, but there was an attraction like no other that kept me right where I was. It felt like an electric charge was coursing through my entire body, heating me up from the inside out.

I needed air.

I struggled to pull myself away. His lips moved to my cheek, along my jaw, and down to my neck. “Tristan,” I gasped. “Stop.”

He pressed his forehead to mine. “I need you Ella, more than you know.”

“Tristan I can’t. I just can’t give you what you want. I’m sorry, but I don’t trust you.”

“Don’t say that. I promise. I promise I’ll be good,” he begged, making my heart hurt. The look on his face told me he meant every word he said, but I couldn’t put myself through this. The tiny inner voice in the back of my head told me to walk away and never look back. I listened and slid myself away from Tristan.

He yelled and cried out in pain. I heard the sound of brick crumbling. The sound reverberated over and over inside my head. When I reached the corner I dared a peek back at him. His fists pounded the building. Dust swirled all around him and each thud sounded like thunder. I almost could have sworn I felt the building shake, but then realized it was me who was shaking. I curled my hand into a fist scrapping my nails along the concrete. I had to force myself to move on. I needed to just put one foot in front of the other.

I took the first step when he shouted, “I love you!”

I froze.

Those three little words hit me like a ton of bricks stopping me in my tracks.

I thought I was suffocating.

I never knew the pain I would feel from walking away from him.

But I had to.

I had to keep going. I needed to get away so I could breathe again.

Tristan jogged around the corner to catch up to me. I kept my eyes on the ground so I wouldn’t have to look him in the face when I told him no. I knew I wouldn’t have the strength to. “Ella, you don’t have to love me back. I just...I just don’t want to lose you.”

“You can’t lose something you never had,” I said, meeting his saddened eyes.

He lifted his arm to touch my cheek, and then stopped, dropping his arm back to his side. “I can’t stop this feeling that’s burning inside me. The way I feel when I’m around you, when I touch you,” he reached out again. “When I kiss you,” he said softly. “If I could bury it all away so I couldn’t hurt you I would, but I can’t.”

I hated the fact he was hurting despite how much he hurt me. I couldn’t continue. This relationship was nothing but toxic. “I’m sorry Tristan, but I don’t love you.” I never thought those words would be the hardest thing I would ever have to say to someone. “Please just leave me be,” I said, sliding out from underneath him.

This time I didn’t look back. I kept going.

I ran.

I ran straight to my room and locked the door behind me not even noticing Josie was there. “Ella?” she looked up at me. I dropped my books on the floor and fell down on my bed bursting into tears. Josie didn’t say a word. She just laid down next to me, wrapping her arms around me for comfort while I cried on her shoulder.

I never knew how much this would hurt. I felt like I ripped out my heart and stomped on it. I felt cold and deserted. I didn’t understand what was happening to me. All I knew was that I wanted it to stop. I never wanted to feel this way again.

Weeks past and I had yet to run into Tristan. While I was thankful at the same time I was still sad. I thought not seeing him would be easier, but I still felt like a small part of me was missing by his absence. I kept my head held high though and showed no signs of grief. I would not let him drag me down or make me feel guilty. I shut my heart off so I couldn’t get hurt again. I’d become the ice queen he told me I was and I was fine with that.

Jack and I had gotten close again over the next few weeks. I think with Tristan out of the picture Jack felt he didn’t have to compete for my attention. I enjoyed Jack’s company and was happy for the distraction.

Halloween was only two weeks away and the sorority was having a big party that Josie insisted I go to. I hadn’t spent much time there since the fight with Tristan. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of going to the party since I heard that was where Tristan was spending most of his time now. According to Josie he temporarily moved into the fraternity house to give me my space. I told her to tell him if he really wanted to give me space he would have left the state. Not wanting to start a fight she ignored my comment and told me I should go to the party anyway and show Tristan I was over him. “Easier said than done,” I thought.

I dropped the issue and moved on to more important things, like what I was going to wear for my date with Jack next week. I scavenged through my closet trying to find something causal but cute, somewhat sexy, but not skanky. “Wow, what was I thinking when I bought this?” I said, pulling out a mini, red leather skirt.

“That’s mine,” Josie frowned.

“Oh,” I said, putting the skirt back in the closet.

“What are you doing?” she asked curiously.

“Trying to figure out what to wear for my date with Jack.”

“Oh,” she said, a little disappointed. “I thought your date wasn’t until next weekend?”

“It’s not, but you know how I like to be prepared.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Okay seriously Josie, what’s with the sourpuss face?”

“Nothing,” she sighed, playing with her pleated skirt.

“JoJo,” I said, using her brother’s nickname.

She pouted, hating when I did that. “I just wish it was Tristan and not Jack you were going on a date with.”

“Josie, we’ve been over this,” I said, letting out a sigh of frustration. “I thought you were going to be more supportive.”

“I get that Tristan was a dick and I know how much he hurt you, but Jack, really?”

“What’s wrong with Jack?”

“He just gives me this creepy vibe,” she shivered.

“Well then it’s a good thing you’re not the one dating him,” I said, narrowing my eyes at her.

She rolled her eyes at me and got up. “Whateve’, I’m going to the house tonight. You coming?”

“No,” I said and she took off without another word. I closed the closet door annoyed with Josie for bringing up Tristan. I was finally starting to move on, to feel whole again, and then she had to mention him. Now I was angry, angry at Josie for making me think of him and angry for feeling a twinge of guilt and longing to see him again. No! I shook my head. She was not going to do this to me. I was not going to let him win by making me feel again. I went to put on my jacket then changed my mind. I opted for a sweatshirt instead. I thought a nice long walk would help clear my head.

I was right, it did the trick. By the time I got back to my room I was feeling much better. I got out my work and studied until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.

In the morning I met Jack downstairs and he handed me a coffee as we walked to our first class together. This was becoming our normal routine. We met downstairs and traded off every other week to buy coffee for each other. “Good morning,” he smiled.

“Morning,” I replied, taking a cautious sip of the very hot coffee he handed me.

“So, any ideas of where you want to go this weekend?” he asked, referring to our date.

“I’d thought I’d leave that up to you.”

“Alright, I think I can come up with something,” he smiled again, making me blush.

We continued on our way taking in the fresh morning air. “Ella?” I froze, thinking I was imaging things. That was until I saw him. After weeks of nothing, he was finally here, right in front me. “Ella?” he said again. He looked wrecked, like he hadn’t slept in weeks. I just stood there and stared at him. He had dark circles under his eyes, his skin paler than ever, almost sunken in. No, I was not going to feel sorry for him. I told myself to stay strong and continued on my way to class with Jack. I ignored him and walked right past.

“Ella, wait! Will you at least talk to me? You owe me that much!”

I stopped. “I’m sorry, Jack. Can you give me a minute?” I asked with guilty eyes. Jack nodded. I took a deep breath and walked over to Tristan. “What do you want, Tristan?” I asked in a huff.

“To talk...come with me.” He held out his hand.

“No,” I stood firm. “You want to talk, do it here, now.”

“I rather some place private,” he said, glaring over my shoulder at Jack.

“No and you have five minutes,” I said, trying to stay strong.

“That’s not enough time.”

“Then I’m sorry but that’s all I got,” I said, not able to look him in the eye.

“Okay, okay,” he sighed, sensing my agitation. “How are you?”

“Really?” I asked, annoyed, looking at my watch and getting ready to walk away.

“Ella I...” he reached for me but I jerked away. “I’m sorry for the way I acted, the things I said and did. I didn’t mean any of it. If I could take it all back I would. Except when I told you I loved you. That I meant. I would never take that back.” He looked at me with his deep, dark blue eyes, and I almost gave in.

I quickly looked away knowing if I looked into those eyes any longer, there would be no going back. “Tristan look, you rejected me and I was –”

“Hurt,” he filled in the last word for me. “Now you know how it feels,” he spat.

“Oh, so that was the plan all along? You were pissed because I rejected you and you thought you’d get back at me by doing the same thing?” I scowled, no longer feeling sorry for him.

“No, that’s not it,” he said, reaching for me again.

I pulled away, afraid of what I would feel if he touched me. “Then what?” I was ready for this conversation to end.

“Ella I –”

I knew what he was going to say and I didn’t want to hear it. “Tristan, I’m done. I can’t do this anymore,” I said, shaking my head hoping I wouldn’t cry.

“Ella, don’t that say.” He took a step closer and I took one back.

I took a risk and peered into his eyes. He looked as if he was about to cry and no way could I bear to watch him. I had to end this once and for all. Whatever was or would have been was now done. “Goodbye, Tristan,” I said, taking one last look before walking away for good.

He didn’t try to stop me or call after me this time. And I didn’t look back to see if he was still there. “You okay?” Jack asked.

“Fine, thanks,” I said, forcing a smile through my pain and followed Jack to class not looking back.

By the end of the week I was happy it was the weekend. Tonight was my date with Jack. Although I wasn’t exactly excited, I was thankful for something normal. I was getting ready for my date when Josie walked into the room. “Hey, Ella.”

“Hey, Josie.”

“So, I saw Tristan last night,” she started. She knew he was the last thing I wanted to talk about, but she continued anyways. “He wasn’t looking so good.” I did my best to ignore her. “Ella, I think you should talk to him.”

“Ha,” I laughed sarcastically.

“I was talking to Billy and they said they never saw him like this. He’s drinking all the time, different girls every night.”

“He sounds perfectly fine to me.”

“Ella,” she started to protest.

“Look Josie, there was never anything between Tristan and I in the first place. So what he does now is none of my concern. I could care less.”

“Don’t act like you don’t care when I know you do,” she said, crossing her arms.

“Josie, I don’t have time for this. I have to get ready,” I said, returning to the mirror to finish applying my makeup. I watched her reflection. I knew she was tempted to say something but decided to drop it. I finished getting ready for my date with Jack.

Before I left, Josie decided to have one last word. “I hope you know what you are doing, because the Ella I know wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss someone she cared about. Especially someone who needed her help.”

“The only thing Tristan needs is an AA meeting and a trip to the free clinic, which I’m sure any of his brothers can provide a number for,” I said, closing the door behind me, hoping she got the hint, and would finally drop the whole Tristan thing.

I ventured down the hall to Jack’s room and knocked on the door. He opened it almost immediately and slid his way out through a tiny opening. “You know, I’ve never seen your room before,” I said, hand on the doorknob, ready to open it when Jack yanked my hand away.

“Trust me. You don’t want to go in there. My roommate is a real slob, it’s a mess.”

“Oh c’mon, I’m sure it’s nothing. Besides I know what it’s like to live with a slob. I’m sure there isn’t anything I haven’t seen before.”

I reached for the door again, but he stopped me. There was urgency in his grip that tightened slowly around my wrist. “Maybe later. We have to get going. Besides you did see it already,” he said, dropping my hand. I looked at Jack confused and rubbed my sore wrist. “The first weekend you were here,” he said, reminding me. I didn’t push the subject. Clearly there was something that he didn’t want me to see.

Down in the lobby on our way out, I ran into Tristan, literally. He was surrounded by girls and stumbling all over the place. When he bumped into me and saw me with Jack, he looked as though I had just stabbed him in the heart. I tried to pay him no mind and kept moving forward.

“Tristan, you coming?” I heard one of the girls call. I took a quick peek over my shoulder at him standing there, watching me. Josie was right, he was looking bad, worse than I expected.

Our eyes caught for a second and I quickly looked away, inching myself closer to Jack for warmth. I couldn’t tell whether it was the cold air or Tristan’s dead stare that sent chills down my spine. I shivered and Jack wrapped his arm around me pulling me closer to him.

Jack took me to one of the local restaurants downtown. He talked about the new painting he was working on, which only made me think of Tristan. Jack did most of the talking throughout dinner, my mind was somewhere else, but he didn’t seem to notice.

After dinner, we went to the student center to grab some coffee, and then Jack walked me back to my room. “Thanks Jack, I had a really nice time tonight.”

“Me too,” he said shifting, slightly uncomfortable. “I guess, I’ll see you later?” he stuffed his hands in his pockets not sure what to do.

I smiled politely at him. “Would you like to come in?” His eyes went wide. “I mean and watch some TV. I did just drink that large coffee so I won’t be able to fall asleep anytime soon.” He flashed me his crooked smile and nodded his head bashfully. I opened the door and turned on the light.

After Josie had borrowed the TV from the A.V. Kids, we felt we should just invest in our own. We went out the next day and bought a flat screen with DVD player. “You can have a seat. I’m going to look through Josie’s mess for a movie.” Jack awkwardly took a seat on Josie’s bed while I dug through her pile of clothes trying to find a movie. “I know it’s here somewhere. She just rented it the other day.” I dug through a few more piles of hopefully clean clothes and found it under the bed.

“Found it,” I said, popping up from the floor. I walked over put in the DVD, clicked play, and took a seat on my bed. “You don’t have to sit over there. You can sit next to me, I don’t bite.” I smiled at Jack as he slowly made his way over to me and sat down.

“So what movie is this?” Jack asked, trying to get comfy.

“I don’t know? I think some horror movie. Billy picked it out. Apparently Josie gets scared and turned on at the same time.” I bit my tongue. I hadn’t meant to say that last part out loud. I couldn’t tell who was blushing more, me or Jack. I quickly got up to turn off the lights then sat back down on the bed and waited for the movie to start.

The movie ended up being some slasher flick where some psycho goes around killing everyone. I covered my eyes at all the gruesome parts, which was most of the movie. “Ugh this is horrible, how can you stand to watch this?” I asked Jack, covering my face again.

He chuckled and put his arm around me. “It’s not that bad. Besides, it’s not the movie that I’m really interested in.”

“Oh,” I said, blushing again. He just smiled as I leaned in closer and rested my head on his shoulder.

If felt nice in Jack’s arms, not like the way I felt in Tristan’s which was safe, warm, protected, and loved. Jack had a nice body from what I could tell, not cut like Tristan’s, but there was muscle there. If I really were to compare them I would say Tristan fits the profile of an Adonis, molded to perfection in every aspect. Everything from his dark messy hair, his deep blue eyes that you could get lost in for days, down to his lean body. He was the world’s greatest masterpiece. Jack you would categorize as the cute, but geeky nerd. Jack also had very unique eyes, there was something almost familiar about them, but they didn’t hold a candle to Tristan’s piercing blue. And...What the hell was I doing? What was wrong with me? I needed to stop comparing Jack to Tristan. There was no comparison, they were complete opposites, and Jack was the smarter choice.

At least that was what my head was telling me. My heart was another story, but I chose to ignore it.

I looked up at Jack as he watched the movie. He wore a blank expression. I turned back to the TV just as the killer ripped a fingernail off one of his victims and ate it. I shrieked, covered my face with my hands, and buried my head in Jack’s chest. He laughed lightly at my reaction and wrapped his arm tighter around me.

“Is it over?” I asked, peeking between my fingers.

“It’s over, you can look now.”

I looked back up at Jack. “You must think I’m a wimp.”

“I don’t think you’re a wimp. It is pretty gruesome.”

“How come you’re not scared?”

“I am, but I’m trying to be brave. Don’t want you to think I’m a wuss,” he said, giving me a half smile.

“You don’t have to pretend for me. I won’t think you’re a wuss.”

He looked into my eyes just then and I could tell he wanted to kiss me. I knew if I didn’t let him I wouldn’t be able to move on, get pass whatever feelings I was still harboring for Tristan. And I needed to. So I took the initiative. I titled my head up and kissed him.

I could tell he was a little surprised at first, but soon relaxed, and started to kiss me back. His lips were soft and small and they wanted mine. I could feel it in the way he kissed me.

He slid lower on the bed and pulled me closer to him. He kissed me gently at first, and then with more aggression. Like he was hungry for it and couldn’t seem to get enough. Way too soon he was on top of me and I couldn’t breathe. “Jack,” I said, pulling my head back, but he didn’t stop.

His lips trailed down to my neck. His body pressed harder on my hips. I tried to push him back so I could breathe. He grabbed my wrists and thrust them above my head and gripped them tighter when I tried to move. “Jack...wait,” I tried, but it was just a whisper. I heard a low growl come from deep inside Jack’s throat. I felt a slight pinch, then a burning sensation on my neck. I winced at the pain but then relaxed as it was soon replaced by a sensual sensation. It felt good, really good.

My whole body tingled with this strange, sexual feeling. A feeling I couldn’t seem to get enough of. I pressed myself into Jack, wanting more. He gripped my wrists so hard I thought they’d snap. His mouth pushed harder against my neck. I almost let out a moan, but then he pulled back.

My head was rushing, I felt like I was floating. I blinked a few times to try and focus. It was like I was in a dream, here one minute gone the next. I focused on Jack’s face and noticed splotches of something on his chin and around his mouth. At first it just looked like smeared lipstick, but I didn’t remember putting any on. I slowly started to come out of the drug induced coma I was feeling trapped in. I felt a warm, wet liquid drip down my neck. I reached over and touched it. I pulled my hand back to find blood on my fingers. I looked at Jack, feeling more lucid now. He had blood dripping from the side of his mouth, his face in a snarl. His teeth appeared to be razor sharp and his eyes, his eyes were glowing gold.

I screamed and jumped off the bed. My head was still dizzy from the rush so I fell in my haste to get away from him. “Ella,” Jack growled.

“Stay away from me,” I screamed, terrified.

“Don’t make this any harder. We can do this the easy way.” He stood to get off the bed and made his way toward me like a predator stalking his prey. I used the wall for balance and scooted my way up. I made a run for the door, but he caught me and pinned my arms to the wall. He moved so fast I almost didn’t believe it myself. No human could move with speed like that.

“I bet you’re thinking you wish you took up running after all,” he said, letting out a malicious laugh. “It wouldn’t really matter anyways. You could be an All-star and still wouldn’t be able to out run me. Although I do like a challenge,” he said with a vicious smile, as if tempting me to escape so he could feel the rush of a chase.

“What do you want?” I asked, trying to contain my trembling hands.

“What should rightfully be mine,” he said, leaning in and exposing his teeth. Not wanting to get bit again I thought fast and brought my knee up into his groin. He cried out in pain releasing my wrist. I tried the door but it was jammed. I was trapped. I slipped away from him looking for some weapon or a form of protection. I only made it a foot before he reached out grabbing my ankle and pulling me down to floor. He yanked me closer to him causing the carpet to give me a rug burn all up my back.

I tried to scream, but he covered my mouth. “Do not, try that again,” he warned, eyes glowing fiercely. “I will take my hand away, but you have to promise not to scream. Don’t want anyone coming here and pretending to be a hero. Trust me, you wouldn’t want that either.” I nodded letting him know I would obey his request. He slowly moved his hand away, leaving my mouth sore from his tight grip.

I took one long, disgusted look at him and spit in his face. He smirked, wiped it off with the back of his hand, and then cracked me across the jaw so hard I thought he might have broken it. I bit my tongue. I was not going to cry out in pain. I refused to show him any more fear. He allowed me space and I pulled back, standing up. He knew I couldn’t beat him with having nowhere to go. He watched me curiously with a crude smile.

There was a knock on the door. I opened my mouth to scream but Jack was on me within a split second covering my mouth again. “Keep your mouth shut. You say one word and I’ll kill you before you even have the chance to blink.” I had no doubt he could, so I didn’t risk it.

“Ella?” I heard Josie’s voice as she tried to turn the knob. Panic spread through my whole body. I prayed that Josie would just walk away. I did not want her to get hurt. She jiggled the handle but it was locked. She knocked again. “Ella...I’m sorry about earlier, please let me in...Hello?” When she got no response I heard her stomp her foot and walk off.

I closed my eyes and breathed a sigh of relief. “Your friend is smart,” he said, his eyes gazing over me. He took his hand away. “Now, where were we?” His eyes started to glow, and he leaned down ready to bite me again. I was ready to strike out when I heard Josie’s voice again. Jack stopped. He pulled back growling in irritation at the interruption.

“Sorry Tristan, but I don’t care if Ella’s pissed at me or not. I’m not sleeping out in the hall because she’s being a brat,” Josie complained. Jack kept his hand over my mouth, reminding me to be quiet as we heard a key turn in the lock. I was not going to let my friend’s walk right into the lion’s den without a warning.

I bit Jack’s hand, hard. He growled pulling it back and I screamed as loud as I could. “Oh my God, Ella!” I heard Josie call.

Jack elbowed me knocking me down to the floor. “You’re going to pay for that you stupid bitch.”

“The door, break it down!” Josie yelled, as I heard thud after thud.

My face was throbbing from where Jack hit me. I tried to crawl away but he grabbed my leg pulling me back to him. “You’re not going anywhere.”

“Hurry, Tristan!” Josie commanded.

“I’m trying but,” Thud. “It just,” thud. “won’t,” thud. “break.” Crack came the sound of the door, splitting apart from the hinges. Tristan and Josie came barreling through to find Jack with his arm around my throat. They froze not believing what they were seeing.

“One step closer and I’ll kill her,” Jack warned.

“Josie get out of here,” Tristan said, pushing her behind him.

“No, I’m not going anywhere,” she said, standing firm.

“Let her stay, I could use another snack,” Jack said smiling.

I looked at Tristan, eyes panicked. I knew he was about to do something dangerous, something that might get us both killed. I heard a low growl come from Tristan. The same feral growl I heard from Jack earlier. Then just like Jack, his eyes started to glow, but not gold like Jack’s. No, his glowed that beautiful blue I fell in love with. I looked into Tristan’s eyes, trying to see if I could see or feel something like I had once before. The only thing I sensed was pure, raw emotion. It was very animalistic.

Tristan charged Jack without a moment’s notice knocking all three of us to the floor. Both Tristan and Jack recovered quickly, jumping to their feet. They started to circle each other, waiting for the other to make a move. I heard Josie call my name, but it sounded so far off in the distance. I felt her hand on mine pulling me, trying to get me to move, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t take my eyes off of Tristan or Jack.

The way they stood, there stance was battle-like. The low growls coming from both of them, the glow in their eyes, and the way they both moved with such speed. I couldn’t make myself look away. “This is a dream, this has to be a dream,” I thought. This couldn’t be real. The pain in my body from being thrown around told me otherwise.

“It’s a shame you know. You and I could have been friends,” Jack said to Tristan.

“I would never befriend someone like you. I should have known too, I could smell it on you. All you rogues have that filthy trash smell.”

“Please, you can’t smell shit with all that boozing you do. How’d you think it was so easy,” Jack said, smiling the most evil smile I’d ever seen and pounced on Tristan, but Tristan was quick and threw him back. They started to circle each other again. “You’re pathetic just like her. You hide your powers, weaken them. So when you need them most, there no good to you and that is why you can’t beat me,” Jack laughed.

“We’ll see about that,” Tristan growled, reaching for Jack, but he was out of the way and out the door in a flash.

“Ella was right, you really should start going to AA meetings, maybe then you might actually have a chance.” Jack looked at me. “I’ll be seeing you soon. I’m not finished with you yet.” I blinked and he was gone.

Tristan fell to his knees by my side. He gripped my shoulders and shook me lightly. “Ella...Ella...are you okay?”

I stared blankly at the door where Jack was just seconds ago. ‘I’ll be back. I’m not finished with you yet.’ His words replayed over and over again in my head.

“I think she’s in shock,” Josie said. Tristan picked me up and carried me over to my bed. I just stared up at the ceiling. Their voices were only a distant echo in my mind. Tristan cupped the sides of my face. “Ella? Ella...look at me.” I turned my eyes to his as the glow started to diminish and his eyes turned so dark they looked almost black. “Ella, you will forget all of this. None of this ever happened. Do you understand me?” I nodded my head slowly, feeling dizzy.

“What are you doing?” Josie demanded. Tristan turned to her and pulled her aside. I saw them arguing but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. The next minute, Josie was out, by the wave of a hand. Tristan caught her and carried her to the bed, laying her down gently.

Then he returned to me, his eyes still so dark. I lifted my hand up to his cheek. He closed his eyes and sighed into my hand. “Don’t cry,” I whispered, wiping away the tear that fell down his cheek.

“I’m sorry Ella, but I have to do this. Don’t worry, I will make everything better, okay?” The look on his face was so sad and all I wanted to do was hold him and tell him everything would be okay. I wanted to comfort him and tell him I wasn’t afraid. He washed a hand slowly over my face, pausing slightly on my jaw. I closed my eyes and slowly felt my pain fade away. He kissed me lightly on the cheek and I looked back up at him. “You came home from dinner and went straight to bed,” he said, tears dragging slowly down his cheek.

“I went straight to bed,” I echoed.

“Right, straight to bed, and now you’re going to go to sleep and forget everything.”

“Forget everything,” I said, my eyelids suddenly becoming heavy.

I felt his soft lips press lightly on my forehead. Then he whispered goodnight in my ear and the next thing I knew I was out.

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