ENGAGING JAYDEN

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JAYDEN


I slept in Gage’s bed again last night. Other than a few kisses, he held me close and I savored every second of it. I didn’t understand how one could feel so emotoially and physically close with another without having sex. This was new for me. I had never experienced anything like this to this caliber. I can’t explain how nice it was to sleep through the night again. When I woke, he was already gone to train and when I entered the bathroom this morning my face burned with the blush that Gage was responsible for. Because he had indeed fulfilled his promise. Everytime I entered the bathroom images of our makeout session filled my head.

“You look like you’re doing some heavy thinking there.” I glanced at Spencer as I drank from my hydroflask. We had just finished up a five mile run and my legs were feeling it. It was my first workout since Vegas and I needed to get back to my regular schedule. For my mental health as well as my physical.

I checked my watch. It was almost one o’clock so I knew that Gage was wrapping up his training for the day.

Spencer placed his now empty water glass in the sink and leaned against the counter. He crossed his arms and his eyes were intense as he stared at the hardwood floor.

He was deep in thought.

The trials that plagued him were obvious.

‘Alright let me have it’ lingered on the tip of my tongue. But not all women know the askew male perspective as well as others.

Sometimes, it’s best not to say anything. No matter how much one wanted to.

“Why him?”

I didn’t try to mistake his meaning?

I shrugged and told the truth. “I don’t know. But he makes me feel safe.”

Spencer gave a hard sigh. He didn’t like hearing it. To some degree I felt sorry for that because of everything he and my brother have done for me. But I couldn’t stop feeling the way I do about Gage. I didn’t want to. If anything, I wanted more.

I think Gage did too.

“I know that hurts you to hear that. And I’m sorry.”

“I want to say that I don’t think he’s the right one for you. Because in my mind no one has ever been good enough for you.”

I raised my brows. “But you’re not?”

“I don’t know if he is or not, Jayden. What I do know is that— Gage brings out the side of you that’s been buried so damn deep for so long I wasn’t sure I’d ever see it again.”

“Knox said something similar.”

“That was probably harder than hell for him to admit.” Spencer scoffed. “Even though you and Gage seem to hit it off I still think it’s a little premature to start anything with everything going on.”

“Spencer—”

“Don’t ‘Spencer’ me. We have a psycho crawling up our asses that the police can’t seem to catch. Gage is here to train for his upcoming fight. You just broke up with Brock. You ready for a rebound already?”

“I already had this talk with Knox.” I snapped. The mention of Gage being a rebound set me off. “I’m a big girl, Spencer, and don’t need to be confronted on every decision I make. And Gage isn’t a rebound. I know how it seems different to everyone but I’ve never felt what I do with him than I have with anyone else. It’s just different. I can’t explain it. I think it would be a good idea if I start staying at my house from now on. I think it would be better if I did.”

His reaction was immediate. Unlike Knox, he riled like the cave troll from Lord of the Rings. “What possessed you to want to do that?”

“I appreciate all of what you and Knox are doing, I really do. But you both are driving me crazy. I feel like I’m being suffocated. I need my own space.”

“You need to stay here, Jayden. Until they catch that mother fucker, you can’t be wandering off alone.”

“I need my old life back, Spencer.” It was more of a plea than a statement. My eyes filled with tears. “Can’t you understand that?”

“Yes, darlin’ I can, but he’s onto you like a fuckin’ leach.” Spencer was near shouting now. He quickly looked away. He swore under his breath. I knew now that he was hiding something.

“What do you mean by that?”

He remained silent.

“Spencer... What do you mean by that? What are you not telling me?”

“You just need to stay here for now. If you need alone time, we’ll sit down and figure out how we can manage that. Knox and I will try our best to back off.”

“Stop avoiding my question.” My head began to pound as the migraine set in. “What do you know that you’re not telling me?”

“He knows you’re here.”

“And how do you know that?”

Spencer removed his hat and ran his hand over his skull before putting the hat back in place.

“He put an envelope on the front porch with your name on it last night.”

My heart raced. “What’s in it?”

I could tell he didn’t want to tell me but he did anyway. “Photo’s.”

“Where are they, I want to see them?”

“I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

“I want to see them, Knox...” I placed my hand on my forehead. “Spencer.” I corrected.

He gave in, which was nothing new. “There up stairs. Hold on.” As he disappeared upstairs, my mind raced with questions.

Why was Him doing this? When was this going to end? What would it take for Him to stop? At what lengths was he willing to go? Would he kidnap me this time... kill me?

“Here.”

Startled, I jumped, knocking the porcelain fruit basket off the counter. It shattered as it hit the floor.

“Shit.” I squatted down and started picking up the larger pieces. Tossing them into the garbage, I said, “I’ll get the broom.”

“Jay, don’t worry about it,” he held out the photos, “here.”

After handing them over, Spencer grabbed the broom and began sweeping the shards left behind. All I could was stare at the yellow rectangular envelope.

“I didn’t mean to scare you.” Spencer said. He emptied the dust pan in the garbage and put the broom back in the pantry.

“It’s alright.” I grabbed the envelope and took out the pictures. My breath caught and my chest grew tight. “This is my bedroom at home. How...”

“Now do you understand why we want you here with us?”

I shuffled through the pictures. It was me sleeping. I swallowed hard. The last photo made my head faint. Him was lying atop the covers spooning me. His arm draped across my side. I dropped the photos and stepped back from the counter.

My eyes shot to Spencer's. Tears blurred my vision.

“You can’t be left alone right now.” I heard the pain in his voice. “I want to get my hands on Him so fucking bad, Jayden.”

I placed my hand on my chest as it tightened. It felt as though a freightliner was sitting on it. I couldn’t breathe.

Spencer grabbed my upper arm. “Jayden, are you alright?”

I pulled out of his grasp and shook my head. Him had held me while I slept. Bile rose to my throat and I ran to the sink. Since I hadn’t eaten lunch, it was mostly water that came up.

Spencer stood beside me but was careful not to touch me. “Do you need your pills?”

“Ah, shit.” The familiar voice that filled my ears was comforting. Even if it was a curse. His voice drew me in like a month to a flame. All I wanted to do was go to it.

I turned just as Gage pulled me into him. One arm went around me and held tight, the other sank into my hair as my head rested against his sweaty chest. I closed my eyes and pressed my ear over his heart and concentrated on the steady rhythm.

“What happened?” A second later he pressed, “What the fuck are those?”

I knew he spotted the pictures.

“What the fuuuuuck?” I heard Tom drawl.

“Son-of-a-bitch.” Alex blurted. “Is this shit for real?”

“I’ll get her pills.” Spencer announced.

“She doesn’t need them.” Gage messaged the back of my head. He then whispered in my ear. “Breath, Jayden. Focus on that and nothing else.”

I focused on my breathing. I did however turn more of my attention on the rumble of his chest as he spoke to me. That was more soothing than anything.

“What the hell do you mean she doesn’t need them? Look at her?” Spencer grunted in frustration. He lowered his voice but it was strained. “I know she confides in you and all but—”

“I know what the fuck I’m doing.” Gage’s words may have been calm, however, I felt his muscles tense. His hand left my back and my skin broke out on goosebumps at the loss of the warmth. He fumbled in his pocket and a second later he put an airpod in one of my ears since the other was pressed to his chest. Pride and Prejudice theme song filled my ear once again.

I wasn’t sure what Gage was saying but between the song, the rumbling of his chest and his hold I felt myself falling into a pit of security. I didn’t want to leave it. Ever. He must have felt me relax because he kissed the top of my head.

Before the song was over, I was ready for a nap. I hated that the panic attacks drained me like they did.

I pulled the irpod out and my eyelids fluttered open as I locked my eyes with his. “Thank you.”

Giving me a grin full of warmth, he squeezed me tighter and placed a kiss on my forehead. “Let’s get you to bed.”

I woke to find myself alone. When Gage had taken me up stairs, he crawled in bed with me and pulled me close. With my back pressed into his chest, I snuggled in. I couldn’t get close enough. He kissed my hair and whispered sweet things in my ear. It hadn’t taken long before I fell into a deep sleep.

I’m not sure how long I slept.

My body was still drained but I was feeling better than I did earlier. I climbed out of bed and opened my door. I heard voices coming from below. As I approached the top step, I heard Jamie. “The guy definitely knows what he’s doing.” The leather couch sounded giving me the impression that Jamie lounged back and got comfortable.

I knew by how quiet they spoke they thought I was sleeping and didn’t want to wake me. I sat on the top stair and honed in. I wasn’t an eavesdropper but I had a funny suspicion that they didn’t want me to know what they were discussing.

“If you don’t mind, Knox, I would like to take these photos back to the station with me and add them to Jay’s file.”

“That’s fine. I don’t fucking want them around her.”

Feeling a chill run through me, I rubbed my arms wishing Gage was here to hold me.

“Is there anything you can do?” Spencer asked.

“To be honest with you, we can’t do much. I’ll send them off to get dusted for fingerprints but they have already been handled by many people. I doubt that any of them will come up as a clear print. But if it is alright with you, I’ll have some of the guys down at the station drive by periodically. They can keep a look out and make sure nothing abnormal is going on. You have a camera set up don’t you, Knox?”

“Yeah.” He replied. “But the fucking chicken shit was disquised when I checked the tape.”

“He’s taking precaution. He doesn’t want to be known.” Jamie stated.

“When I was at work today working on her car, I discovered that someone put sugar in her gas tank.” Knox said.

“Sugar.” Jamie repeated.

“He’s been tampering with her car?” I heard Gage speak for the first time.

Spencer spoke up. “He slashed her tires, pulled out her spark plugs, ripped out all her wiring in the engine and stole her battery...that’s just naming a few.”

A chill ran through me. I hadn’t known that. Spencer and Knox just teased me on what a pile of garbage I drove. Sentimental or not.

“How is she taking it?” Jamie asked.

“She doesn’t know. Nor is she going to.” Spencer replied.

“Have you or Knox actually seen this guy in the act?” Jamie pressed. “It could be someone else.”

“If either of us would have seen Him, Jamie, the guy would be currently sitting in a fucking wheelchair being handfed with a spoon for the rest of sorry fucking life.” Knox spat.

I heard Gage scoff in agreement. “If he got that lucky.”

“I want to know if anybody else in town has been attacked or has seen anything unusual lately.”

“I can’t disclose any of that information, Spencer, you know that.”

That put Spencer in a fit of pique. He raised his voice. “Fuck the rules, Jamie you break them all the time.”

“You gotta keep it down, bro.” Knox chided. “I don’t want Jayden to know any of this shit.”

Jamie sighed. “There have been a few kidnappings in the neighboring towns as of late. There were no leads on those. There was a woman’s body found in a field a while back. We tried to keep a lid on it so I’m not sure very many people know. That’s it. With this guy’s number coming up as blocked…Right now the station is blind folded searching around for a guy with no face. The only description that Jayden was able to give us was that he wore all black clothing. She doesn’t remember how tall he was. Everything we got, which isn’t much, leads us nowhere.”

“What about dusting her car?”

“We can if you want. How many of your workers have messed with it?”

“Besides Mahr towing it in, it’s only been Knox and I.”

“We’ll give it a shot. But I can’t promise anything, so don’t get your hopes up.”

Gage sounded more frustrated than I have ever heard him. “Are you positive that there is nothing you can do? Because I’ll be honest, Jamie, I don’t think you’re doing shit.”

“My hands are tied.”

“That wasn’t the right answer that I was looking for.” Gage’s menacing tone made me shiver.

“Where are you going?” Jamie sounded surprised.

“I’m making a call.” I heard Gage’s phone as it rang a number. “If you and your department are too arrogant to see that your way over your heads with this and won’t ask for help then I’ll do it for you. I’ve had enough of this bull shit.”

I heard Gage walk to the kitchen.

“Abel.” Gage greeted. “Bro, it’s me.”

I wished I could hear his brother on the other end of the line. I could hear Knox, Spencer and Jamie talking and I tried my best to tune them out and listen to Gage.

“I’m good. And you?”

I could tell Gage was rubbing the back of his neck.

“How’s work treating you?”

Again silence.

“I’m glad to hear it.”

“Yeah. I started training already.” Gage gave a heavy sign.

Gage must have pulled his phone away from his ear because suddenly I could hear, “Wow! You’re staying at Knox de Luca’s training facility? Fuck bro. Is his sister there too?”

“How do you know— Wait— Did you trace my call?”

“Fuck yeah I did. You sound surprised.”

“I am. Though I shouldn’t be. This isn’t the first time.”

Gage clearly put the phone back to his ear because now I was back to one way conversation.

“How do you know that he has a sister?”

“I didn’t know she was a model until just recently.”

“Yes, Abel of course I looked her up. I’m not a fucking saint.”

I liked that he had.

“Well, you need to take her off your screensaver.”

I covered my mouth as I bit back my smile. It was hard to keep myself from laughing.

“Because she’s my girlfriend you perv. And I don’t really want to have the knowledge that my brother wanks off to her.”

“Yes. Girlfriend. You heard correctly.” Gave a sigh.

“You and me both.”

“No mom doesn’t know.”

“Eventually.”

“No, I’m not scared to talk to mom.” Gage laughed. “I’m a grown ass man that doesn’t need to run to mommy to tell her I have a girlfriend for the first time since junior high.”

Seriously?

I knew he didn’t do relationships but...Since junior high? I had to say that made me feel quite special.

“No. Mom’s gonna to fucking love her. The whole family will.”

A warmth spread through me at his confidence.

“I’ll bring Jayden up after the fight so everybody can meet her.”

Gage laughed.

“Listen...I called because I have a favor to ask.”

“It’s about Jayden actually.” Gage was quiet for a second. “She was attacked a while ago— Yeah. Well, the fucker’s back and has been stalking her— I know. The police are over their heads and I wanted to see if you could possibly trace the text she got.”

“Just the one.”

“No he hasn’t called.”

“I’d appreciate it man.”

“How’d you find her—”

“You—” Gage’s voice lowered to a whisper. “You already hacked into the police department here?”

My eyes grew wide.

Hacked?

“Fuck, Abel.”

“Are you at work?”

“And they don’t care?”

“Ok.” There was a long silence. I heard Gage give a heavy sigh and tapped his finger on the counter. “I know. He fucked her up pretty bad.” A moment later I heard him striding towards the stairs. I didn’t attempt to move. Like I said, I wasn’t one eavesdrop. But today I just couldn’t stop myself. Gage rounded the corner and came to an abrupt stop when he saw me sitting on the top step. Nervously, he glanced behind himself as his mind was piecing everything together.

Gage locked his eyes with mine. His voice was distant as he asked, “You can be here tomorrow? You can get time off?”

I stood and went to the bathroom. I turned on the water in the bathtub and quickly rinsed it out before I filled up the tub. I needed to soak and let my mind drift to anywhere but my current situation.

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