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The foundation series bo.., p.11
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       The Foundation Series Box Set, p.11

           Kira Adams

  Everything about Jace attracted me; his sandy brown hair that I had been wishing and dreaming of running my fingers through, his haunting cobalt eyes that I felt could see through to my soul, that birth mark I had only recently discovered…because it made him unique…and do I have to talk about his body? Should I even go there? There was no comparison. It made me blush even thinking about him taking his shirt off…I didn’t know if I could even handle such a thing.

  That was just his physical appearance. His hero complex was enough to make any girl hot. When he lifted me off the ground and carried me to his car; that was the moment I knew…Jace had stolen my heart. But the more he played with my emotions with his mixed signals, the more I lost faith that I would ever be enough for him. So I pushed my attraction as far to the back of my mind as possible, so that we could at least attempt a friendship. It didn’t mean butterflies didn’t swarm my stomach each and every time I caught sight of him. It didn’t mean my heart rate stopped spiking any time he lightly touched me. It just meant that I tried to hide it better. I found a better game face.

  I didn’t know that I even wanted to return his last text, but curiosity killed the cat as they say, and before I realized it, I was already typing back my response.

  I set my phone down on my nightstand and climbed into bed, snuggling up under the warm blanket. I should have been tired, my day had been jam packed, but my mind would not stop racing. Damn you, Jace, I thought to myself before closing my eyes, shutting out the rest of the world.

  * * *

  My parents had gone all out for our summer vacation. Together, along with Harper’s parents, they rented out a total of four neighboring beach houses for a fun-filled week. The parents were all rooming together in the end rental while we had full reign on the remaining three. It was our usual group, most of my band mates, a few significant others, and friends, along with Kayleigh and Bentley. I was excited to be able to get away from the drama that was my love life. Being able to clear my mind and re-center myself was my main goal.

  “Holy shit, this place is awesome!” Bentley exclaimed, his eyes growing wide as we entered the rental where we would be spending the following week. It was a three story beach house, with two bedrooms as well as a loft area with three more beds. The living room also had a couch with a pullout. There was a wraparound deck you could stand out on and watch the ocean. And the beach was only a short walk away.

  “Not too shabby,” I replied, smiling back at him. “I call my own bedroom!” I ran down the stairs to the second floor and threw my suitcase on top of the queen-sized bed, claiming it.

  Kayleigh and Bentley were now graduated and of legal age, so my parents allowed them to share a room. That left the remaining twin beds to be claimed by Brooklyn, Madison, and Isaiah. The pull out was reserved for Kayleigh’s best friend, Monica.

  “So what is the plan for tonight?” Madison asked as I made my way back up to the main floor.

  “Midnight bonfire?” Isaiah offered.

  Brooklyn threw her arms around his neck. “Now that’s what I’m talking about.”

  I grinned back at them. “Sounds good to me.”

  “Honey, we’re home!” I heard the announcement as the basement door slammed shut and countless footsteps made their way upstairs.

  “Aren’t these rentals awesome?” Noah asked as he rounded the last stair. He had brought a small army of the rest of our crew.

  “I’m starving! Anyone else wanna grab lunch?” Harper whined, her emerald eyes switching between the lot of us.

  The consensus was to get lunch and then spend the day on the boardwalk, taking in the quaint stores and scenery. “Let me grab my purse real quick,” I said before hopping down the stairs and into my claimed bedroom. Before throwing it over my shoulder I grabbed my phone and checked for any missed calls or text messages. One missed call. I swiped my finger across the screen to unlock it. Missed call from Colton. He had probably wanted to meet up. I checked my text messages next. There were two unread ones; one from Colton, one from Jace. I opened Colton’s first, curious to what it said.

  Hey, are you home? Can I stop by? I need to talk to you. My heart felt like it was lodged in my throat. “We need to talk” was a highly famous break up line. Are Colton and Tara back together? My mind was racing along with my heart.

  I’m on vacation. I’ll be back in a week. I wrote in reply, nervous energy spilling off me with every word I typed.

  I closed out of his text message and opened up the second one from Jace. What are you up to today? It read. I hadn’t seen Jace since the night of our headlining show. That had been almost two weeks ago. We had been texting here and there, but with no intentions on hanging out. I had actually spent almost the entire past week wrapped up in Colton, spending countless hours together, never getting bored of one another. He must have forgot that I told him I was going to be at the beach.

  I had found myself falling deeper and deeper for Colton the more frequently I hung out with him. It was difficult not to be intoxicated by him; the mystery behind his smoldering eyes and vulnerable smile reeling me in further and further the more time we spent together.

  “Peyton! If you don’t get your butt up here in T minus two seconds, we are leaving without you!” I heard Harper yell down the stairs at me, pulling me out of my thoughts.

  “I’m coming!” I yelled back, tossing my phone quickly into my purse without a second thought and racing out of the room.

  * * *

  My phone would not stop going off the entire time we were out to lunch and even walking along the boardwalk. Luckily, because our group was so large, not too many of my friends took notice, allowing me to reply back to the text messages in a timely fashion.

  Colton had been trying to convince me to let him come out to the beach so we could talk. I was avoiding the conversation like the plague. He was the first person to ever call me beautiful. He was my first kiss. I knew there was a potential that this “talk” could lead to his absence in my life forever…and I didn’t want to have to face that reality until it was inevitable. If I could avoid it forever, I would.

  Jace on the other hand had also expressed interest in hanging out, but I was close to an hour outside of town, and I wasn’t sure he would be willing to make the drive all the way out. I let him know about our midnight bonfire we planned to have at night and let him know that he was more than welcome to drop by if he wanted to.

  He asked if it was alright if he brought friends, to which I replied, the more the merrier.

  “You know he really likes you right?” Brooklyn asked me as we were changing into warmer clothes in preparation of the bonfire.

  “What makes you say that?” I cocked my head to the side.

  “He’s driving almost an hour to hang out with you at a midnight bonfire…and that doesn’t give you any sort of clue?” Brooklyn replied, as she slipped her sweatshirt over her head.

  “We’re just friends. He’s made that very clear time and time again.” I sighed.

  “I haven’t wanted to say anything…because it’s your life…and I want you to be happy, but Colton is not going to be able to give up Tara that easily. They were together for over three years, Peyton.” Brooklyn was a blunt person, but knew when to reel it back when it came to me. “Jace has been there for you over and over again. I think you need to forget about Colton and put your time and energy into Jace.”

  As much as I didn’t want to admit it, Brooklyn had a point. Colton had been with Tara for more than a couple of years and they had much more history than the two of us did; but on the other side of the spectrum, Jace had been playing me like a violin since day one. It was not intentional, but he had been walking the line for a bit too long. I slipped my hoodie on over my head and glanced back at Brooklyn who was tying her long curls into a loose ponytail. “I just want someone to love me.” It was such a sad realization, but it was the most honest I had been in years.

  Brooklyn was at my side in an instant, throwing her arms around me
and pulling me into a hug. “We love you. Everyone here loves you.”

  Madison came bouncing up the stairs and jumped on us; her thin arms wrapping around the pair of us. “What is going on?” She asked.

  “Oh nothing, just girl talk,” Brooklyn replied as we all parted.

  “As much as I love Colton, and you know I do, I’m team Jace all the way,” she replied, pushing her glasses up further on her face and then running her hands through her red curls.

  I laughed and then looked back between the two. “I see you two have had this conversation already.”

  They giggled in response. “We have a running bet on who you will end up with. You want in on it?” Brooklyn joked.

  My text message alert went off and I grabbed my phone from the bathroom counter. We’re here, should we just come in? It was Jace.

  Yeah, come on up, I replied, curious to whom he would be walking up with. I heard the barreling of footsteps and walked down to the main floor to greet them.

  Jace walked up, followed by a familiar looking black haired, emerald eyed, female. One I hadn’t given much thought to since the night of the Spring Formal. Olivia. I looked back at Brooklyn and Madison, looks of shock spread across each of their faces; so much for team Jace.

  Olivia was followed by another guy around our age whom I didn’t recognize. “Hey,” Jace greeted me. “You remember Olivia?” He pointed to her.

  “Yeah, how’s it going?” I replied, trying to find my voice.

  “This place is amazing,” she shot back, glancing around at the rental.

  I nodded my head in agreement, and then turned my attention back on Jace. “This is Brandon. We work together.”

  I shook Brandon’s hand, taking him in. He was a giant of sorts, looking to be close to six feet tall. He had green eyes and longer blond hair. “Nice to meet you,” I said after releasing his hand.

  “Bonfire time?” It was all I could think of to say. The disappointment I was sure was plastered over my face was not something I wanted Jace or his friends to notice. I turned my back to them and began leading the group out towards the beach.

  Our group had already begun setting up the bonfire with blankets and lawn chairs scattered in a big circle around it. Marshmallows and hot dogs were already in the process of being prepared. I found myself squeezed in between Madison and Olivia. I snuck glances to my left. Olivia was gorgeous; probably one of the most naturally beautiful girls I had ever laid my eyes upon. It didn’t help that she was completely genuine. It made it difficult for me to hate her. I stood no chance when it came to her. I felt silly for thinking that I could ever be good enough for Jace. His attraction was obviously towards girls in the same league and caliber as him; I was nothing of the sort.

  Half the group decided to jump in the water almost immediately, ripping their clothes off, their swimsuits conveniently underneath. I still would not be caught dead in a swimsuit, and seeing as I had not gotten the agenda, I hadn’t dressed properly for the water. Olivia turned to Jace. “You wanna?”

  Jace popped his head around towards me. “Peyton, you coming?”

  “Naw, go ahead, have fun!” I answered, hoping he didn’t push it any further.

  He shrugged his shoulders at his two companions and they were off with the rest of them. I sulked back down into my lawn chair, bummed yet again about my body issues.

  I felt my cheeks burning up as I worried about ever being content with myself or feeling good enough for anyone. I could hear Olivia’s high pitched laugh from down the beach, when I felt my phone vibrate notifying me of a message. Tara is pregnant. I wasn’t sure how many times I reread the text over and over again, hoping for a different result. My heart was pounding so hard in my chest, it was making me nauseous. It can’t be. Suddenly, I couldn’t justify being there, not when the waterworks were about to start. I jumped up abruptly, not sure where I was headed…but away from it all.

  “Peyton, where are you going?” Madison called behind me, who had previously been engulfed in a book; but I didn’t dare turn around. I hated drama, and to be the creator of it was far from what I wanted. I walked for what seemed like miles, but in the sand, it always feels like you are working harder than you actually are. I had probably made it half a mile down the beach when I found a deserted cave. It was set apart from the water, back on the sand. I sat myself in the mouth of it; the moon dancing off the rocks.

  I was shaking then, sobbing uncontrollably. After what felt like an eternity, another text rang through to my phone. Hey, are you ok? Where did you run off to? It was from Jace. Just the thought of Jace back at the bonfire soaking wet, probably sharing a towel with Olivia, sent me into another sob session. More texts began spilling in, checking to see if I was alright—Brooklyn, Madison, Harper, you name it. It felt a little better knowing so many people cared about me, but I had never felt more alone in my life.

  I had fallen head over heels for two guys; one who had impregnated his ex-fiancé and the other who had showed up tonight with another girl. I was picking winners all over the place. I wiped the tears angrily away with the sleeve of my hoodie. I glanced at my phone as another text rang through from Colton. Please talk to me. I’m in love with you Peyton. I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to say.

  Everything was so fucked up. I didn’t even want to think about how far along she was and if he had been seeing her the same days we had been together. My vacation was ruined. I would never be able to relax or get out of my head with the idea of Tara pregnant and Jace and Olivia running through my mind on repeat.

  “Hey,” a voice broke into my thoughts. It was a voice I could recognize anywhere; Jace. “Are you okay?” I heard him ask from behind my back. I was frozen in place, I hated being vulnerable in front of anyone. I felt his hand gently reach out to my shoulder and I just crumpled. I fell to a heap on the jagged rocks below us, sobbing into my hands. “Oh my God Peyton, what is going on?” Jace asked, falling to my side, concern ringing true in his voice.

  “I’m okay Jace,” I lied through sniffles. “You should get back to Olivia.”

  I was tired of him seeing me this way: broken. I would bet he was tired of it too. I wanted to prove to the world that I was strong but with all the shit that had been going wrong in my life thus far, I was failing miserably.

  “What?” Jace asked in reply to my blunt statement, even though I knew he heard me full well.

  “Just answer me one thing.” Uh oh, it was starting…my word vomit slowly creeping its way up. “Does it turn you on to be the hero all the time? Jace can do no wrong.”

  “What the hell are you talking about?” He lifted me off the ground in an instant; his voice gaining an edge to it I was not familiar with. His hair was damp from the water and his shirt clung to his wet chest. He looked so pure in that moment I almost felt sorry for my blunt nature…almost.

  “Why is it that you are always conveniently around when I need saving but you want nothing to do with me most other times?” My sadness was slowly fading into anger…It didn’t look good for Jace.

  “Look Peyton, I don’t know what you are getting at here, but you know damn well that’s not true.” He glanced back quickly towards the bonfire.

  “Run back to Olivia…it’s what you’re good at,” I snapped, unable to stop myself.

  “What the hell is wrong with you tonight, Peyton?” he asked, glaring back at me.

  I was speaking my mind for once—something I always treaded lightly on when it came to Jace. But, I couldn’t help it. I was tired of pretending that the chemistry I felt between the two of us wasn’t real. It felt more real to me than anything else in my life.

  It’s not like I wasn’t aware how close we were now. With each sentence our agitation grew. Our faces were now inches from touching. I was so angry at Colton, Jace, and even myself, I couldn’t see straight. The butterflies that normally attacked my stomach when I was in close vicinity to Jace basically non-existent; instead replaced by blind rage.

  “I was just trying t
o be a good friend,” Jace stated finally, then began to walk away from me, back towards Olivia.

  “There’s that word again, friend, you love using that when referring to me, don’t ya?” I asked, causing him to stop abruptly. “What other girl friends do you text as often as me, hang out with as often as me, or even, dare I say it, play hero to?”

  Jace turned around slowly, his face falling. I prepared myself mentally for his response. “What do you want from me Peyton? I’m trying here. I’ve been trying. But all you do is push me away. You are the most guarded person I know. Be blunt with me, for once. Tell me what you want from me and I will do it.”

  I took a step towards him; it was the first time I felt empowered enough to be honest with him. Here goes nothing. “Are you fucking blind? I want you…I’ve always wanted you.”

  It was the second time I saw his face fall and I knew with 100% certainty he didn’t feel the same. It was all I had to hear to gain the strength I needed. “Just go,” I heard myself say.

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