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The foundation series bo.., p.23
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       The Foundation Series Box Set, p.23

           Kira Adams

  I hadn’t anticipated leaving Peyton’s house so early tonight, I was just exhausted and wanted nothing more to be in my bed. As I was walking up the front steps I caught sight of what appeared to be Gia. She had a blanket wrapped around her and her long brown hair was cascading over her back. She was staring up into the sky as I approached.

  “What are you doing out here?” I asked, softly, not wanting to draw any attention to our conversation by waking anyone.

  She sighed loudly, running her fingers through her long hair. “I’m getting fresh air.”

  I looked up around at the calm sky. The moon was sneaking up from behind some clouds. For a fall night, it wasn’t half bad. I breathed in deeply, enjoying the silent moment.

  “Take a seat.” She motioned beside her.

  Go inside Jace, apologize, and go inside.

  My body wasn’t listening to my inner voice, and before I knew it, I found myself seated beside her.

  Don’t do anything stupid.

  My inner voice was getting a kick out of scolding me. “So…” I wasn’t sure what to say, I ended up trailing off, inhaling deeply.

  “So…” She shifted her body toward mine, and it was the first time I could clearly see her reddened face. There was no denying that she had been crying.

  “Are you okay?” I motioned with my finger toward her face.

  A look of panic spread across her face before she tucked it into the blanket. “I’m fine.”

  It had seemed like she had wanted me out there when she had asked me to sit, but there was a hell of a lot of silence, making me uncomfortable. “I’m going to go inside.” I began to stand up, when I felt her hand grab my arm, sending chills throughout my entire body.

  “Please just sit here with me for a little longer. Please.” Her eyes had met mine and there was desperation playing across them. She looked timid and afraid. It was such a different look than I had come to expect from her. She carried herself with so much confidence and charisma, it was sad to see some of the light extinguished, even for a second.

  I took my backpack off, setting it against the railing before rejoining her on the stairs. “So…those Tigers…” I made a reference to our pro football team.

  Gia giggled, her face breaking out into the angelic smile I had grown so fond of. “It’s good to see that smile again. You had me worried there for a minute.”

  I may have been wrong, but I could have sworn I saw her cheeks redden even more after my comment. “Thanks. I needed that.”

  My curiosity was killing me. Why is she so upset? “What’s wrong?”

  “Nothing Jace, I’m fine.” Gia brushed me off, once again.

  But I couldn’t let it go that easily. “No, really. Is it Frank? Did he do something?” My heart began racing at the thought of it.

  She grimaced, looking out at the sky again. “It’s nothing…it was probably my fault anyway.”

  “Gia, if you don’t tell me what the hell happened tonight, I’m going to barge in there and beat the shit out of that bastard until he confesses. It won’t be pretty. So I would suggest you be honest with me right now.” I couldn’t help it…I was fuming.

  “He made a pass at me…” Gia said so softly I had to strain to hear every word.

  “That son of a bitch…I’m going to—“

  “No! You can’t. Promise me.” Her watery eyes were pleading with me. “He’s not the first one, and he definitely won’t be the last. No need to feel sorry for me.” She paused, taking a deep breath. “I haven’t seen my mother this happy in years. I can’t ruin everything for her.” She sighed. “Plus, it was probably just the alcohol talking.”

  “What?” I barked, unintentionally.

  “I saw him downstairs with a bottle of Don Juan.”

  “That’s it,” I said angrily, jumping to my feet. “I’m going to kill him.”

  “Jace, please!” Again, she pleaded with me. “I’m begging you.”

  “This isn’t going to be the last of it Gia, and you know it. You and Samina are not safe.”

  “I know you won’t let anything happen to me,” she said nonchalantly.

  “How do you suppose that?”

  “The way you looked at me the first time we met. The way you looked at me again tonight.”

  My stomach dropped. Unfortunately, she’s right…

  “I have a girlfriend,” I stated the obvious.

  “And I don’t want to come between the two of you…although I feel like I might already have.” Gia sighed, her body trembling with the exhale of air.

  I rubbed her back softly, without stopping to think about my action. “Are you okay?”

  “It’s always the same…” she said, a bitter tone resonating off her syllables.

  “What would that be?”

  “I always mess something up with my mother’s relationships,” she sniffled.

  “Always? Don’t you think you’re being just a bit too harsh on yourself?” I asked, reaching into my backpack and pulling out a tissue. “Here.”

  “The last few made passes at me too. When I told my mom, they all denied it, but she always took my side. I saw how I shattered her happy little bubble every time. I can’t do it again, Jace…I can’t.”

  “Gia, Frank is not a good guy…” I trailed off, looking away. “He’s a raging alcoholic. He is careless, thoughtless, and downright a menace when he is under the influence.”

  “Why didn’t you tell me this sooner?” she asked, her eyes widening.

  Because I’ve been avoiding you? “I haven’t really seen much of you lately, and it didn’t feel like the right time.”

  “Jace, my mother is too invested now…we’re too invested. What is going to happen?” she asked, a terrified look spreading across her face.

  “I’m going to protect you Gia, and your mom. I won’t let anything happen to you.” I answered. “Come on, let’s go inside.”

  * * *

  After the night I found Gia on the porch, I searched my entire house thoroughly, throwing away every drop of alcohol I came across. All of his secret stashes had been trashed…too bad, so sad. I was tired of him ruining everything in his path. Samina and Gia were good people and they didn’t deserve anything he dealt their way.

  He was sober—or he was getting good at hiding it-one or the other, but I was thankful for the shift, once again. Things had returned to normal, or as normal as they could be.

  Peyton’s band, A Change in Time, were having somewhat of a reunion show as all the members were back in town for the holiday. Thanksgiving always brought people together. A new development I had only recently heard of was DarienMae taking part in the show. Colton Lee had been Peyton’s first kiss…something I attempted not to think about.

  I arrived to the show early to spend a little time with Peyton before her band needed to sound check. “So, when were you planning on telling me he was going to be here?”

  She gave me a look that could make me forget why I was even mad at her in the first place. “I just found out. How do you think I feel about this?”

  She was right. I had jumped to conclusions and not taken her feelings into account. “Are you okay?”

  She nodded. “I let go of Colton a long time ago. I just think it will be weird to see him again.” It had been five months since the two had been in the same room together.

  “Well, I’m here if you need me,” I offered.

  She turned around in her dressing room chair. “And that’s why I love you.”

  I smiled. I wanted to say it back, but I was hiding things from her…feelings I couldn’t understand or define were swirling around inside me. “You too.” I kissed her on the top of her head then.

  I loved Peyton. There was no question in my mind about it, but I felt guilty. I didn’t feel worthy of her love. “There’s something I need…” I began, but was interrupted by the arrival of Brooklyn, Madison, and Noah.

  Noah. I had forgotten about Noah. My stomached churned.

  “Peyton!” Brookl
yn squealed practically toppling my girlfriend over. Madison bounced on top of them.

  “Hey slugger.” Noah punched me in the arm awkwardly.

  Slugger? This was going to be a long night…

  “Noah.” I acknowledged him with a nod.

  “Good to see you and Peyton are still together.”

  “Of course we are—why wouldn’t we be?” I asked in a defensive tone.

  “Whoa, I come in peace man.” Noah laughed, slapping me on the back and then heading towards Peyton.

  “Jace!” Brooklyn embraced me before I had time to comprehend what was going on.

  “Brooklyn.” I smiled. “It’s good to see you. How is Atlanta?”

  “Don’t even get me started!” She giggled at her own joke. “I’m never coming back.”

  “That’s awesome. I’m happy for you.”

  “How’s senior year? Peyton giving you hell?” Brooklyn cracked a smile.

  “Always. You have no idea,” I joked, nudging Brooklyn with my elbow. “I bet you’re happy to be reunited with your musketeers.”

  She nodded, looking sad, but only for an instant. “I really miss Peyton and Madison.”

  “They really miss you,” I reassured her. “Well I am going to let you guys get ready. Good luck tonight.”

  As I made my way out of the backstage area I glanced back at Peyton, in her element, surrounded by her friends, and smiled. I just wanted her to be happy.

  “Jace,” I heard someone speak my name with enough tension to shatter all the mirrors in the dressing room. It was Colton entering with his band in tow.

  “Colton.” I nodded back at him, stiffly. I could see Peyton watching our every move. “Good luck tonight man.” I slapped him on the shoulder and then headed out of the room.

  I had a lot on the brain…my disdain for both Noah and Colton, my unwanted feelings towards Gia and the fact that I was still lying to her. It was all eating away at me slowly. Eventually I was going to have to come to terms with all of it and I was terrified to consider the possibilities.

  Seven: Breaking News & Breaking Hearts

  My attempts at avoiding Gia were becoming more difficult as the days and weeks passed. Along with her mother, she had been spending endless amounts of hours over at our house. As much as I wanted to be able to simply ignore it all, I couldn’t. I couldn’t ignore her.

  Seeing her on my porch became a regular for me; my heart skipping a beat each and every time. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get used to the feeling or if eventually it would simply fade away. So far, my wildly beating heart had only become more ferocious. Hiding out at Peyton’s house on a daily basis had become almost too suspicious. Yes we were dating, yes I loved her, but I already saw her at school most of the day, and throw in after school; we became almost attached at the hip.

  When her parents finally began to speak up on my increasing appearances, I decided I had to suck it up and start going home after school. I needed to learn how to be around Gia without wanting her; without every follicle of my skin yearning for her.

  When I made it home, she was not on the porch like I had expected, but instead seated inside at the kitchen table. She had helped herself to a heaping bowl of cereal and it was unnervingly quiet. “Where is everyone?” I asked as I walked in, immediately heading toward the fridge.

  I glanced back just in time to catch her shrug slightly. “I don’t know. I’ve been here for less than twenty minutes and no one was here.”

  It might have seemed strange to anyone else coming home to this, but Samina and Gia had become regulars. They spent more time at my own house than I did.

  “Hmmm.” I shifted my attention back to the fridge, pulling out a bottle of water from inside.

  I had homework to do, but suddenly I couldn’t remember a single assignment that was due. Against my better judgment, I pulled up a seat next to her, dropping my backpack at my feet. “Are you not planning on eating dinner?”

  She looked up at me through bites, shaking her head back and forth. “I’ll be hungry again in a couple of hours.”

  I chuckled at the thought of her tiny frame being able to hold so much food. “Are you a bottomless pit?”

  She broke out into a wide grin. “Something like that.”

  Her phone began to vibrate wildly from the table and I watched as she silenced it without bothering to see who it was. “You’re not going to get that?”

  She looked completely unfazed. “It’s just Kellan.”

  I had never met any of Gia’s friends so the name meant next to nothing to me. “Kellan?”

  “Just a friend who wants to be more than friends…” she trailed off, averting eye contact with me.

  “Is that a crime?” I asked, without realizing how she might misconstrue my question.

  “No…” She looked down, finishing her last bite of cereal. “He’s persistent…and I’m…”

  “Not interested?” I finished her statement for her.

  She nodded lightly. “I’m interested in someone else.”

  “Then why don’t you tell Kellan the truth?”

  She paused, seemingly contemplating her answer before standing up and heading to the sink with her bowl and spoon. As the water began to run onto the dishes, she finally responded. “Because, if I tell him the truth, I may never get another chance.”

  “Do you like him?” I asked, confused when I felt a pang in my chest. Why does it even matter? You’re dating Peyton.

  “I don’t know.” She turned around to face me again. “I could…”

  “What about the guy you are interested in? Is he interested in you?” I wasn’t sure why I continued to press, but something inside of me, deep down, had to know the answer.

  “It’s complicated,” she sighed, looking down.

  “How complicated can it be? If you like someone and you want to be with them, you should go for it.”

  “The guy I like…he has a girlfriend, and they’re pretty serious. I’m not a home wrecker.” The minute the words left her mouth, my stomach was in knots. How did I miss this? She was talking about me and my relationship with Peyton.

  I swallowed loudly, attempting to buy some time to come up with a good response. “I have homework I need to do.” I didn’t bother waiting for her to reply before scooping up my backpack and quickly rushing out of the kitchen.

  “Jace!” I heard her call after me. I couldn’t turn around. I couldn’t look back. If I did, I could lose everything. So I continued walking away from her calls. Away from her gorgeous smile and shiny dark locks.

  * * *

  Thanksgiving break had come and gone; a brief fleeting time away from school for all my peers and me. I had spent the majority of the break at Peyton’s house with her family, but surprisingly, I had split my time between my house and hers on the actual holiday. It did cause suspicion from my girlfriend who hounded me for days about how I had been able to survive the holiday alongside my terrible father. I hadn’t told her yet that Samina and Gia had also spent it with us, that they were the reason for his shift in attitude. I planned to tell her, I just wasn’t sure how to approach the subject.

  When I left for school, my first day back after break, I hadn’t anticipated getting into a confrontation that would land me in the principal’s office, but alas that’s where I was. Why? Because at lunch I had watched Chris Fields pour his yogurt onto Felix’s head in front of the entire school.

  I didn’t condone bullying, never had, and even though Chris and I went way back, I made him apologize to Felix in front of the entire school; in essence, humiliating him. I didn’t expect him to knee me in the groin.

  Felix was waiting to speak to the Principal as I walked out of her office, we exchanged sly grins.

  “He’s free!” Peyton came clapping up to me as I exited the office and into the hall.

  I grinned back at her. “You are so weird.”

  “Oh, shut up!” She ruffled my hair, then looped her arm around mine. “So, what’s the damage?”
  “I told the truth, so Principal Turner let me off the hook,” I replied, leading us towards my locker.

  “Good.” Peyton sighed. “You did the right thing back there, you know that, right?”

  I shrugged. “You know more than anyone how much I hate confrontation. I just couldn’t stand back any longer and watch them torment him. I can’t.”

  “I wouldn’t expect any less of you,” Peyton murmured. “You’re the real deal. You’re everyone’s hero.”

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