So I promised you all that I’d post Chapter 2 of The Line Between once my page reached 6001 ‘likes’ which it did – yay – so below you will find it, along with a new teaser 🙂 Only ONE MORE WEEK until Dane and Kennedy hit your eReaders, and with every day that passes, the more nervous I get 🙂
**UNEDITED AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE BEFORE PUBLICATION**
LUCY WENT TO bed as soon as the movie was over, and left me with the promise of freshly baked cookies, and pie for my dorm room. It was a small gesture of kindness that reminded me of the few good memories I had in this house. I climbed into bed, and started reading on my Kindle when my phone beeped. I swiped the screen and saw it was a text from my friend, Jade. We’d been friends in high school, and she was the only person I kept in contact with after I left.
Going to a party. Will see you tomorrow, roomie 😉
I smiled, typing my response.
Have fun and be safe. Call me if you need me. x
I placed my phone back on my nightstand, and dove back into my book. I read for hours, and it was well after one in the morning when my phone rang. Jade’s face popped up on the screen.
“Kenneddyyyyy,” she chimed over the noise in the background. I could tell that she was drunk. Or maybe way past drunk.
“Jade, are you okay?”
She mumbled something, presumably to someone standing next to her, and then her loud laughter came through the phone. I pulled it away from my ear, hoping to prevent any permanent damage to my eardrum.
“Well…uh…” Jade stuttered, “I was hoping you could come get me? I came with Reid, but I don’t want to stay here. I’ve had a little too much to drink.”
“Where are you?”
She grew quiet, and I had to check to see if the call had been disconnected.
Nope, still connected.
“Jade, where are you?” I asked again.
“Shit,” she muttered. “I-I’m at Dane’s house.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose. Are you fucking kidding me right now?
I’d have rather fetched her at whatever ungodly hour than worry about her driving home drunk, or getting in the car with someone in the same state. But knowing where she was, I considered telling her to stay there for the night.
I sighed. “Yeah, I’m here.”
“Will you pleeeeease come get me?”
Why was I even considering it? I’d have gone all the way to fucking Egypt to fetch her before going to where she currently was.
“Okay, fine. I will be there in ten minutes. Please don’t make me come find you.”
“You’re the best,” she replied, slurring her words more and more. “I’ll see you outside in ten.”
She disconnected the call, and I internally berated myself for agreeing. Nevertheless, she was my closest friend, and I wasn’t about to leave her hanging.
I jumped out of bed, and put on a pair of skinny jeans, and a bra. I slipped a grey jersey over my shoulders, and tied my unruly blonde hair into a bun on top of my head. With my keys and my purse in hand, I quickly headed out to my Jeep, and took off.
Ten minutes later I stopped outside another colossal house where the front yard, and driveway were littered with cars. My nerves started twisting in my stomach, unfurling the urge to turn around and not look back. This was the last place I wanted to be, and it had everything to do with the person (and the family) who lived here.
I found a spot on the pavement, and quickly walked up to the circular driveway. When I didn’t spot Jade, I scrolled through my contacts, and hit her name, waiting for her to answer.
Okay, I was praying that she answered.
When that didn’t happen, I knew I’d have to go inside.
Fuck Fuck Fuckity Fucking Fuck.
Walking towards the front door, I mentally prepared myself for the inevitability of coming face-to-face with my old classmates for the first time since we’d graduated. It wasn’t that I was afraid of them. I just didn’t like them very much. They were all spoiled, and entitled, and walked around as if they themselves were untouchable. They’d enjoyed every public humiliation I’d ever experienced, and took pleasure in seeing me withdraw further and further into myself. But they all did so under the guidance of their fearless leader – Dane Winters.
While my fellow female classmates (and some of the male ones too) had openly appreciated him – and by openly appreciate I meant drool whenever he was close by – I felt something completely different.
IT WAS NO secret that our families had been long-standing enemies – it had pretty much become part of our town’s creed when our ancestors set up camp here in Brighton – but what Dane and I felt towards each other was more than that. It was a palpable entity that seemed to undulate between us whenever we were in the same room, and even people who didn’t know about our (pathetic) family history could feel it. Dane had been picking on me for years, and the older we got, the worse it became. I never knew why, and eventually I’d just accepted it without fighting back.
But things were different know. I was different. And there was no way I was going to allow him to make my life a misery all over again. If he tried, he’d have one hell of a fight on his hands.
With a new sense of determination, I pushed open the front door, and was instantly greeted by a rather familiar sight. It may have been early morning, but the party was still going strong.
People were everywhere – dancing in the living room, standing outside on the pool deck in the frigid air, making out on every surface. Music thumped loudly, and the heavy drop of the base traveled through the floor, shaking the walls and making my bones rattle. Most of the people were past drunk, and entering the comatose phase, but that didn’t deter them in the slightest. They’d always partied like it was their last night on Earth, and they had Dane to thank for that. To these idiots, he was a legend. To me, he was another dumb jock with his brain in his shorts.
I pushed through the crowd, ignoring the few people who gave me side glances, and the others who whispered about my return. I was glad that the majority of them were too drunk to notice me otherwise. That way I could slip in, get Jade and leave before anyone knew I was here. I was also on the lookout for Dane. A run-in with him had to be avoided at all costs, simply because I wasn’t sure how ready I was to see him again.
I still knew the inside of this house almost better than I did mine, so when I couldn’t find Jade in the living room, or on the deck outside, I ambled towards the kitchen. People huddled around the island in the middle, scattered with half empty liquor bottles ranging from Russian Bear and Patrone, to Johnny Walker Blue Label. It was an alcoholic’s wet dream. Or worst nightmare, depending on how you looked at it.
I spotted Jade’s midnight black hair, and slipped through the partygoers to get to her. She was surrounded by a group of guys – nothing new there – and I only recognized two of them. She looked to the side just as I reached her, and then spun around when she realized it was me.
“Kennedy!” She yelled, drawing all of the attention to me.
So much for being incognito. “You’re here!”
The guys all looked at me, but didn’t say anything.
“Yeah,” I replied, sidling up to her. “Let’s get you home.”
I slipped her arm over my shoulders, and wrapped my arm around her waist. She’d obviously continued drinking after she called me, because her head lulled to the side, and her brown eyes were glazed over. Her mouth tipped into a silly smile, and she mumbled incoherent nothings in my face. Luckily we were the same height, both at five feet and six inches, so her body wasn’t too heavy. But when she was drunk, an anvil might have been easier to carry.
A hand wrapped around Jade’s free arm, and pulled, nearly sending us both tumbling to the floor.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
I looked at the guy holding onto Jade, and noted that he wasn’t someone I recognized. His black hair was long, touching his shoulders, and he was dressed in swim trunks, and one of those Hawaiian shirts with the hideous palm tree print. It screamed “creep”.
Who the hell dresses like that nowadays?
“I’m taking my friend home,” I replied, trying not to sneer.
“I don’t think so. Your friend here said she was staying with me tonight.”
I looked at him incredulously. “Sorry buddy, not happening. Go find another girl, my friend’s not interested.”
With that I pushed past him, and moved towards the exit of the kitchen that lead into the living room. The guy stepped in front of us, blocking my way out.
“How about you leave your friend here, and you and me go upstairs. You look like a whole lot more fun, baby.”
I shuddered. “Not in this life time, or the next. Now move, before I render your,” I looked down at his crotch, and then back up, “appendage out of commission.”
He was about to say something, when we were interrupted.
“Leave her the fuck alone, Mark. Now.”
I pinched my eyes closed. I knew that voice. I used to be terrified of hearing it. And after more than a year, I had to admit that it still did funny things to me, turning my insides into a knot.
At least I was right about one thing. I wasn’t ready to see him.
The twatwaffle in front of me – Mark – lifted his hands up, and stepped to the side. “Sorry, Winters. I didn’t know she was with you.”
“She isn’t.” Dane’s voice was grave, and hard. The deep rumble with which he spoke made me shiver. I stood still, not entirely sure what to do, when I felt his presence at my back. He moved around, and then stood in front of me. His dark brown hair was cut short on the sides, and a little longer on top. Dressed in a blue polo shirt, and khaki’s, he looked every bit of the self-righteous, entitled douchebag he was. Only now, he looked bigger. His arms were thick with chorded muscle, his chest broader and more defined, and even his legs seemed longer. The boy who had made my life miserable for most of my teen years wasn’t there anymore. He was all man, and I wasn’t ashamed to admit that he grew up nicely. It was a good look for him, asshole or not.
My natural instinct was to cower away from him, but that was the old me. I wasn’t that girl anymore. I straightened my stance, refusing to back down.
The room – actually no, the house – had grown quiet, nothing but soft murmurs mixed with the loud music. I could feel everyone watching us. The sudden shift in temperature made those little hairs below my hairline stand at attention. Dane was glaring at me, his ice blue eyes cold, intense, and unwavering. We locked gazes, and the room and its occupants fell away.
He stared. I stared right back. He smirked. I smirked too. And when his mouth dipped into that sinister grin, I clenched my fist to stop myself from dropping Jade to the floor and slapping it right off his face.
I broke the stare-off first, hating that so many eyes were on us. It was bad enough that people knew we hated each other; they didn’t need to witness it too.
“Excuse me,” I said. “I need to get Jade home.”
Dane didn’t move. He hadn’t even acknowledged that I’d spoken. I was starting to feel uncomfortable, and Jades’ body seemed to get heavier as the seconds passed by. She’d obviously passed out on me. Awesome.
Dane’s chest moved up and down in a steady rhythm, and to anyone else it would appear that he was just looking at me. But what I saw, what I felt, was something entirely different, and more real. His nostrils flared, and his eyes flashed with a potent mixture of hatred and an emotion I couldn’t quite place. It was different, and not the way he used to look at me when we were still in school.
“Dane.” My voice came out in a snarl. “Move.”
I was tired, and this silly little stare off was starting to piss me off.
Nothing in his stance gave him away, but I saw the reaction in his eyes. He was surprised.
Just then, another body stepped up to my side.
It was Reid.
He was Dane’s best friend, and one of the nicer guys I’d attended school with. “Hi Reid.”
“You need a little help here?” He looked between Dane, and me and then down at Jade who was blissfully unaware of what was going on.
He frowned, and then took her from me. Cradling her to his chest, he turned to face Dane. “Stop being a pussy, Dane. She’s just here to fetch Jade.”
They glowered at each other, a silent message passing between them. Reid was the only guy who could take Dane on, and he was also the only guy Dane would ever listen to. In that moment, he was my proverbial Knight in Shining Armor.
Dane finally stepped aside, and let us through. I followed Reid through the crowd, and back outside towards my Jeep. He carefully placed Jade in the passenger seat, and after making sure her seatbelt was secure, he shut the door, and faced me.
“It’s good to see you,” he said. Reid was a tall guy, and built like a football player. His shoulders were broad, his arms muscular, his waist trim, and his legs strong. His unkempt blond hair was a little longer, brushing his ears, and he had a little scruff on his face. With his arms folded across his chest, he looked intimidating, but I knew he was a little softer beneath the surface. Especially when it came to Jade.
“Is it?” I asked. “It’s not like anyone noticed I was gone.”
Reid assessed me, and I didn’t like it. It was unnerving, and left me feeling more exposed than I’d wanted to be.
“We noticed,” he replied, placing emphasis on we. I didn’t like that either. He continued before I could respond. “Eighteen months is a long time and being gone has obviously done you some good. I see you found your backbone.”
“I didn’t have a choice,” I replied quietly.
He cocked his chin, and then started walking away. “Take care of my girl,” he said, tilting his head towards my sleeping friend. “See ya round.” He winked, and then sauntered back to the house where the party had resumed. It was a short drive to Jade’s house, but as soon as I’d dropped her off, my mind started wandering. It wasn’t until I was back in my own bed that I’d realized how only one thing, one person, had occupied my thoughts. I told myself it was because I hadn’t seen in him in so long, and that he looked ridiculously good.
I told myself that it had nothing to do with the butterflies he gave me, or the way being that close to him again had made my heart flutter erratically.
I didn’t believe any of it.
Copyright © Tamsyn Bester 2015