Home > Very Bad Things (Briarcrest Academy #1)(7)

Very Bad Things (Briarcrest Academy #1)(7)
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills

She shook her head, and her mouth gaped open. With her Emily Post-type personality, it wasn’t surprising that she’d never taken a drink of alcohol.

“Since when do you drink?” she said heatedly, in a quiet way, sniffing my cup and making a gagging face. I laughed because vodka really didn’t have a scent.

“Today is officially my first day of becoming an alcoholic. And this drink is making my soda very good—actually, no, I take that back. It tastes like shit, but I’m going to drink it anyway. Want some?”

Before she could answer, my attention was caught by a black Escalade pulling up at the warehouse directly across from the shop. When two guys got out of the vehicle, a memory tugged at me, and I focused harder on them, but they were too far away and it had gotten dark outside.

Mila let out a long sigh, pulling my attention back to her. “Anyway, you wanna hit downtown tomorrow? Maybe do some shopping at the Galleria?” she said, choosing to ignore the alcohol.

“Is there a good tattoo place around there? If not, I wanna try this new shop that just opened around the block.”

Her hands went nuts, fluttering up and down, like the girly girl she was. “I’ll never see you again because your mother will kill you! God, Nora, do you want to be incarcerated again?”

Seeing her dramatic tirade triggered something in me, and I burst out laughing as she chuckled along with me. I laughed and laughed so hard my chest burned and tears streamed down my face. Embarrassed by the emotion, I tried to suck it in and stop, but I couldn’t. I gripped my waist with my hands, but it didn’t help. She eyed me, and you know that awkward moment when everyone else has stopped laughing at something, but you still are, so they start staring at you? It was like that, only worse, because she could see my hilarity had turned into something strange and dark. I pressed my hands over my mouth and stopped the awful laughter, but then the panic set in. A cold sweat rippled over me and my heart hammered, making me feel like I was going to pass out. I bent over, my body aching as if I’d just run a hundred yard sprint. I squeezed my eyes shut, took a deep breath, held it for five seconds, exhaled, and then repeated it until my heart finally slowed.

I sat up with care, and Mila was standing and staring at me, her face washed out.

“What was that?” she asked, blinking.

“I think . . . I think it was my version of a panic attack,” I gasped out, wiping my face with some napkins from the table.

“Damn. Has it happened before?” she asked in a scared voice. “Should I go get Portia?”

I shook my head. “At the open house I had some dizziness, but nothing this dramatic,” I said, shuddering at the horrible laughter that had come out of me. Had I lost my mind completely? Had just the mention of Mother and being locked in my room sent me off the deep end?

“You okay now?”

I bit my lip and nodded, but I was lying.

“Hey, maybe I’m just that funny. You think I could do stand-up?” she said.

I shook my head at her. “I’m fucked up, Mila.”

“No, you’re not,” she said firmly, settling back down in her seat. “Maybe a little weird sometimes, but that’s just because you read dictionaries in your sleep.”

My eyes were drawn back to the warehouse across the street when the door opened and the taller of the guys came out. He strolled over to the SUV and popped open the back. He wasn’t facing me, but I could see he was wearing jeans and a black wife beater. I squinted, trying to make out the shadows on his muscled arms, recognizing them as some sort of tattoo. I wished he’d step into the street light so I could see him better, but he didn’t. He picked up a couple of guitars from the car, slammed the door shut, and walked back to the warehouse. My eyes followed him until he’d disappeared inside.

Something about him pricked at me and made my stomach flutter, almost like I knew who he was but couldn’t place him. I needed to get a good look at his face.

I called out for Aunt Portia to come over. “Who’s the guy next door?” I asked her, gesturing out the window.


“Some guy just went inside the warehouse across the street. He was driving the black SUV there,” I said.

She nodded. “Leo Tate. He’s been renovating the old gym all summer and turning it into a health club. Supposedly, it’s going to be brand new with a pool, tennis courts, yoga classes, the works.”

“Huh,” I said with a dismissive laugh, remembering that exercise and I did not get along, not since Mother had hired a personal trainer for me when I was fifteen, forcing me to take a 5:00 a.m. boot camp class three mornings a week. Her goal was to squeeze me into a size double zero. Ha. True, I was slimmer now, but only because I’d grown five inches, not because I could run a mile in six minutes.

Prompted by thoughts of Mother, the filth that gnawed at me flared deep in my gut. I needed balm for my soul. I needed to lash out again at something or someone. Was it wrong? Yes, definitely. Would it make me feel better? I didn’t know, but I was willing to do anything to feel better, to stay sane.

So as Mila and Aunt Portia talked about the new neighbors, I sat and thought about the bad things I could do. When I had my plan in place, I went to the back of the shop. There inside the utility closet, I found exactly what I needed. I grabbed a can of yellow spray paint, the same one Aunt Portia had used to repaint the kitchen’s back door. I shook it, checking to see if there was enough. There was. I stuffed it inside my backpack.

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