The Road Between

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Chapter 10: Misguided

Liam's POV

Aviana sat as far from me as possible. I hated how my stomach sank in response to her obvious avoidance of me. She seemed rigid and shifted uncomfortably as Adam turned off the lights on our half of the room for the movie.

Though I had been sure that she would not agree to watching it with us, I was pleasantly surprised that Scarlet's pleading glance had convinced her.

I guess despite how self preserved she was, she was willing to sacrifice her comfort for Scarlet's pleasure. Which meant, I could add self sacrificing to the list of things I knew about her.

Twenty minutes into the movie I heard the door open and Ian stumbled into the room.

"Hey baby," He said sitting on the arm of the couch bumping Aviana.

Instantly she shied away bumping into me. Her jaw tensed as she glared at Ian, seemingly not noticing our sudden proximity.

She was so close I could feel her muscles wound tight, as if ready to spring.

"Don't call me that." Her voice was low and firm.

"Good to see you up and about." Ian winked at her sliding down the arm so he was right next to her again. He either didn't notice her reaction or was just too drunk to care.

"Back off Ian, she is so out of your league." Scarlet laughed causing Aviana to look at her doubtfully.

Ian shot her an annoyed look before moving to a chair muttering something about being mean to him. I rolled my eyes wishing for once he could behave like a normal human being.

Half way through the movie I felt something hit my shoulder. I looked over seeing Aviana was fast asleep, her head had rolled off of the couch and onto my shoulder. I tensed and she bolted upright eyes wide with shock and fear.

"I'm sorry." She muttered scooting away again and pulled her knees tightly to her chest.

I wasn't sure what to say, so instead of responding I just shrugged passively. As I turned back to the show I could almost feel her start to relax again.

"I need to get going, that meeting is coming up and Ian is slammed so I have to find someone else." Adam sighed as the movie ended.

"I'll come. You just get Ash out, I'll meet you at the car." I glared at Ian who was now thoroughly unconscious, sprawled across the chair. "I'll have a talk with him about drinking before work tomorrow. Again." I rolled my eyes.

"Sure thing." Adam nodded standing with a stretch, Scarlet watched him admiringly. It made me sick.

Looking over I noticed, Aviana was asleep again. Her head was propped up against the back of the couch. Without thinking I scooped her up astounded as always at how little she weighed.

"Scarlet get the doors please." I said as Aviana moaned quietly burying her face into my shoulder.

Even in sweats and my huge sweatshirt she was stunning and my stomach lurched as she nuzzled into me unconsciously. I couldn't help but smile down at her.

I shook my head looking up, frustrated at the way my heart raced having her this close.

Scarlet was grinning stupidly at me, as if she knew something I didn't. I hated when she did that, she always seemed one step ahead of everyone else. It drove me crazy.

"Well hurry up, I have shit to do." I glowered at her.

"Yes, sir." Her grin widened as she practically skipped over to the hall door.

Adam smiled after her, awestruck. I rolled my eyes wondering when Adam would finally ask her out. This was the only thing I had ever known him to be afraid of. He would rather face a firing squad then ask Scarlet out, but if he didn't I would do it for him soon. This was getting ridiculous.

I laid Aviana down on her bed and studied her face. It was so soft and relaxed it was hard to believe this was the same girl. Without her guarded glare or nervous shyness she looked so defenseless. I smiled, realizing that I was her defence. Whether she approved or not, I would stand between her and everything else. Protecting her from everything, even myself.

With that last thought, I turned to walk away more determined than ever before.




Aviana's POV

The next three months passed quickly and I became more comfortable with almost everyone around me. Scarlet quickly became a close friend of mine.

Scarlet was always confident, but not to the point of arrogance. She had the capability of reading a room, grasping the situation at hand, and knew when to ignore it. However, when she did take charge, she always knew how to resolve conflict. She swore it was because she knew everyone here, but maybe it was how she had read me since day one. I felt it was more than sheer knowledge.

The day after the movie, she introduced me to her best friend, Natalie.

Natalie was harder to understand; she was quiet and commonly found observing the room with one earbud in. Music, to her, wasn't just entertainment it was everything. Her ear buds were always present, either on or hung loosely around her neck. While she didn't always have something to say, when she did, it was impactful.

However I worried about Natalie. I had noticed a bruise on her back the first week I was here, then almost a week later her cheek was swollen and pink. When I asked Scar she just laughed and said Natalie had always been clumsy and that nobody here would lay a finger on her.

Scarlet had said I was just reading too much into it, reflecting a little of my trauma on Natalie. I wasn't so sure but had to admit the possibility. I didn't ask again.

Like Scarlet, Natalie seemed more than eager to include me in all of their many activities. Sleepovers in our rooms, which I didn't get the point of since we all lived in the same house, and shopping were the most frequent activities.

Adam and James took turns taking us shopping, and I quickly became comfortable around James. He was the kind of man who could smoothly talk you off the edge of a cliff before you knew what was happening. Despite knowing that, he was so easy to be around.

Adam was calm, confidant, and observant. He was always watching near enough to help but distant enough I always felt alone until I caught sight of his watchful gazing. Even if we lost sight of him he never lost us.

His watchful gaze often made me think of Liam, and the way I had caught him watching randomly. I thought of his crooked grin when I had kneed Ian in the balls, twice, before Ian had mysteriously started avoiding me.

Liam and I hadn't talked, but as I became more confident his gaze seemed to change in a way I wasn't sure I liked. It seemed to slowly transform from a protective gaze into something much more longing and proud. I had caught him smiling happily at me once as I laughed at some joke Scarlet had said.

He never approached me though always keeping his distance. He seemed to know where a was and had a place was able to watch without interacting.

Despite my progress there were still times when I felt anxious and preferred to be alone. It was one of these days in the beginning of April that I sat alone on my bed listening to the Ipod Natalie had filled with songs for me. The rain was pounding against the widow, but I relied on the music to drown it out.

I laid on my back with my knees up and hands folded on my chest, eyes closed. I was focusing on breathing as I fought off the faces that had, once again, haunted my dreams all night. I felt exhausted but too jumpy and afraid to sleep.

I bolted upright, as a hand nudged my shoulder sending an overwhelming wave of fear through me. I turned just barely, catching the concern on Scarlet's face before it vanished into a polite smile. Natalie stood behind her watching uncomfortably.

I slowly rose to my feet and took a deep breath before saying, "Hey guys. Whats up?"

"We are going swimming." Scarlet said, offering me a small bundle of cloth.

I shot a pointed look at the window as torrents of rain ran down the glass. Then I glanced back at her dubiously.

"It's about time you enjoyed the hottub." Scarlet grinned, shaking the bundle of clothes slightly.

I glanced at it doubtfully, noticing how little fabric was there. I had started wearing jeans as opposed to sweats, and even short sleeve shirts occasionally, but this appeared to be half the fabric of one of those shirts.

"Um, yeah I think not." I said sitting back down on the edge of the bed and staring down at my hands folded in my lap.

Natalie chuckled.

"Oh, come on please Avi?" Scarlet smiled down at me .

I looked up meeting her eyes, and felt my determination wane to her pleading.

"Fine." I groaned giving up. I stood up and grabbed the clothes before marching into the bathroom.

When I walked out in a t-shirt and shorts Scarlet frowned disapprovingly.

"That is not what I gave you to wear." She placed her hands on her hips.

"What an astute observation." I said rolling my eyes. "This little bit of fabric is easily covering the underwear you expected me to strut around the house in."

Natalie laughed out loud, covering her mouth with one hand.

Scarlet sighed running her hand over her face, "You know sometimes I think I liked you better when you were afraid of everyone."

"Nope, you like the sass." I waved my hand passively.

She chuckled in good humor, "You and Liam both do that so much. It drives me crazy." She rolled her eyes then sighed deeply. "Fine but you are wearing the suit in the pool, no argument!"

"Fine." I said quietly as I fought to come up with a decent argument.

Logically I knew that they had already seen my scars the first day I was here. However I still hated the idea of showing them so clearly exactly how damaged and worthless I was.

As we walked through the halls I wished more than anything I had my hoodie and jeans. With them I could at least tell myself I could hide how weak I really was. In this I felt completely exposed, naked, vulnerable.

Scarlet led us to the ground floor and out a door at the back of the house I had never noticed.
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