Home > Very Bad Things (Briarcrest Academy #1)(4)

Very Bad Things (Briarcrest Academy #1)(4)
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills

“You’re lame, dude. And too old for her,” he told me, shaking his head and wearing a grin.

“Shut it, baby brother.”

He just snickered quietly.

After the open house had resumed with several heartfelt apologies from the headmaster, I looked for her. I don’t know why. But she never came back to the folding chairs that had been set up in the gymnasium. We finished getting Sebastian registered for his honor classes and received a print out of his schedule. After talking to most of his new teachers, I met with the football coach, Mr. Hanford, who told an animated Sebastian he’d be starting the season as running back. I grinned at Sebastian, damn proud.

As we walked out of the gym, he turned to me and said, “Hey. I don’t know if I ever said thank you for moving us here, but I am.” He stared at the ground and shrugged. “You gave up a lot to be with me.”

“I didn’t give up shit,” I said but that wasn’t exactly true. I’d given up seven years of my life, and it hadn’t always been easy. Yeah, we’d had some rough patches after our parents had died, especially that lean year before the insurance money had kicked in.

“I wish mom and dad were here to see you,” I said, reaching out to scrub his hair. I often wondered how much he remembered about them. My fear was that he’d forget them, forget what a great family we’d been. He’d only been ten when they were murdered right outside our house.

“Hey, let’s order in a pizza tonight and maybe pull out some old family albums? We can make fun of dad and his Hawaiian shirts,” I said, chuckling.

He nodded and we made our way through the parking lot to my black Escalade, the first big-ticket item I’d purchased when I sold my second health club in California. As we reached it, I glanced over at the car parked next to my driver’s side. Inside a dark-blue Mercedes sat Buttercup in the backseat, her head leaning against the window. Her eyes were closed, and I found myself wondering what color they were.

As if she sensed me, her eyes opened, and when her green ones found mine, I swear, it felt like someone hit the pause button on the universe, and she was all I could see. Within that suspended piece of time, my gaze ate her up, trying to figure out who she was and why she fascinated me. Whatever it was, I felt the crazy urge to comfort her, to smooth her hair out of her face and tell her life would get better. I wanted to see her smile again. What the fuck, I thought, shoving away unexpected feelings. Since when did I care about some random girl—who wasn’t even legal?

Thankfully, the universe resumed when Sebastian honked the horn at me to get in the car. I jerked out of my trance and turned away from her, feeling disoriented. “Yeah, yeah,” I muttered at him, opening the door and sliding in the driver’s seat. I sat there for a few seconds, not looking back at her. Because no matter the strange pull I felt for her, I was letting it go. That girl was a forbidden fruit I could never taste.

“What were you looking at?” Sebastian asked, his head nudging toward her car.

I shrugged, acting like it was nothing. “Nora Blakely.”

“Damn. I wanna see her,” he said in a rush, leaning over and straining to look out my window.

I pushed him off, maybe a bit harder than I needed to. “Dude, ease up. She’s probably been kicked out of school. Give her a break,” I said.

He shrugged and settled back in his seat, but not before giving me an odd look. “You stared at her for a long time, bro. Like, for a whole minute.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“You did,” he said, arching his brow at me.

“Huh,” I said. It hadn’t seemed that long.

He grinned. “Usually you let the girls chase you, not the other way around.”

“I wasn’t hitting on her. I need a run, that’s all, so I can work off some of this pent-up energy.”

“Uh-oh, here comes Mrs. Blakely,” Sebastian said, his attention caught by the anchor woman who was marching across the parking lot, her arms swinging from side to side. Her face appeared annoyed, and her hands were clenched into fists.

“And she’s pissed,” I said, deciding to wait a minute to crank the car.

The lady scanned the parking lot, her eyes seeming to skim right over my tinted windshield. She strode over to Nora’s door, flung it open it and went ballistic, a flood of obscenities pouring out of her mouth as Nora slinked back further into the car. It was fucked up, seeing this pretty lady that was on TV, waving her hands about like windmills as she let loose with words I’d never use on Sebastian.

The way she stood there cursing at Nora made my blood pressure shoot up. I put my hand on the door handle when Sebastian grabbed my arm. “I know you want to rescue her, but don’t do it, bro. Don’t make it worse for her when she gets home.”

“Fuck,” I muttered, easing back from the door. But I wasn’t leaving until things calmed down.

Right about then, the mother shut up. She slammed Nora’s door and got into the front passenger side, her face now a polite mask, like she was getting ready for the cameras to start rolling. She opened up her purse and pulled out her phone, like nothing had ever happened. I kept waiting for her to turn around, maybe check on her daughter. She didn’t.

And I couldn’t resist glancing back at Nora, and I think . . . I think she’d never stopped looking at me.

Chills raced up my spine.

Sebastian said, “It’s over. Let’s go, dude.”

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