Home > Very Wicked Things (Briarcrest Academy #2)(16)

Very Wicked Things (Briarcrest Academy #2)(16)
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills

And I didn’t.

I straightened my skirt. Oh.

“He called me a bad dresser. Well, to be honest, he called me a blind slut,” I muttered to the blue bird perched on the back of the bench. “Is it sad that I consider it progress that he even spoke? I don’t sleep around, just so you know, and I dress for myself, no one else.” So not true.

The bird flew away, and I focused on Sarah, remembering Heather-Lynn’s earlier text. I pulled out my phone and checked to see if she’d sent any more texts. Only one.

It read, Canceled her dance classes. Gave her a sleeping pill.

I immediately called, and she answered on the first ring as if she’d been waiting.

“What happened?” were the first words out of my mouth.

She sighed heavily. “After you left, two of Alexander Barinsky’s men came by looking to collect twenty thousand dollars they said Sarah borrowed last fall. They pushed us around, but we’re mostly fine.”

Shock washed over me. Alexander Barinsky was the nastiest, meanest, most feared man in Ratcliffe. When I was around eight years old, I’d watched him stab a crackhead in the alley outside his grocery store, just one of the many businesses he owned. I don’t know why he’d gutted him. Maybe the druggie had been loitering and causing trouble. Maybe he owed Alexander money. I’d only seen it because mama was drunk and had sent me down to grab some chips and soda. But, he was the kind of man who didn’t care if you witnessed his crimes. He knew you weren’t going to call the police. Because if you did, you’d die next.

I jumped to my feet, picturing beefy, gangster type men barging their way into our shabby house. My voice was incredulous. “That’s impossible. She’d never go to the mob for money. It has to be a lie. Or a mix-up.”

Silence on the other end.

I clutched the phone. “Heather-Lynn, do you know something I don’t?”

“No, of course not, but she is sick. What if she forgot how bad these men are? What if she’s spending money we don’t know about.” I heard paper rustling in the background. “I’m going through her check book right now. Maybe I can tell what’s going on.”

I licked dry lips, my head spinning, trying to wrap around the idea of why we’d even need twenty thousand dollars.

“Oh, and Dovey?”

“Yeah?”

“When Sarah said she didn’t have the money, they brought your name up. They said they’d be back.”

My stomach dropped. This…this was insane.

“I’m coming home,” I announced as I headed back to the doors. I couldn’t leave two defenseless older ladies home alone with madmen coming back. Not sure what I could do, but I could try.

“You can’t,” she said, sounding a little exasperated. “You’ve left school twice last week for her doctor appointments. You can’t miss anymore ballet practice. Remember your audition? She’d want you to practice. And she’s fine now. She’s sleeping.”

I paused. The audition was my only shot at a local company, and I couldn’t let it slip away. I sighed, feeling conflicted, but knowing I needed to stay. “Okay. I’ll see you as soon as class is over.” I nibbled on my lip. “And keep the main door dead-bolted. Even when Max comes by with the mail. Don’t let anyone in.”

But they’d get in if they wanted. We both knew it.

After we’d talked a bit more, I hung up the phone, fighting down panic. I wanted to sit and mull it all out, but BA beckoned. It was nearly time for second period. I needed to get to Calculus.

“You mind if I light up?” a male voice said from behind me, making me jump.

I recognized the voice and forced a smile as I turned to face him. Spider stood there, his lean build encased in skinny jeans paired with a black leather jacket. He’d completed the look with a stud in his ear and a plethora of silver chains around his neck. He may have looked like a thug, but he was a softie on the inside, a very mercurial softie. His whole vibe said he was artsy and slightly unbalanced, kinda like what I imagined a hot-headed rocker type would be.

I immediately wanted to tell him about Sarah and the phone call from Heather-Lynn, but yanked myself back. No reason to drag him under if I didn’t even know if it was true or not. And if it was true, I wasn’t sure I’d tell him either. Yeah, he was my bestie, but there’s a limit to what I’m willing to admit about my neighborhood and how I’m connected it to. And a small part of me was afraid he’d reject me if he knew the truth about my parents.

I pushed the Sarah thing from my mind and tried to think positive.

Maybe it was all a horrible misunderstanding.

“Fire it up,” I said to him. Spider did what Spider wanted anyway. “You make it a habit of sneaking up on girls?”

He grinned as he lit his cig. “Only when I see them run out of class for no apparent reason.” He pursed his lips as he exhaled delicate smoke rings that danced through the air.

“How’d you make those?” I quizzed as he offered me one. I shook my head.

“Learned it in rehab,” he said.

My eyes shot to his. “Rehab? Hello, you never told me. When was this?”

“Old news. Happened when I was twelve, the same year I got my tattoo.” He ghosted his hands over the hand-sized black widow on his neck. Hence the nickname. “And maybe I’m opening up more.”

“Drugs or alcohol?” I asked as he leaned his shoulder back against the brick of the building, watching his smoke trails drift up into the overcast sky.

   
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