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The foundation series bo.., p.24
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       The Foundation Series Box Set, p.24

           Kira Adams
 

  Peyton was always referring to me as a hero, but in all honesty, I was just a guy doing what I thought was right; following my gut. That didn’t make me any better of a person than the next. I just held more gumption to follow my urges.

  Speaking of urges…

  “Peyton.” I stopped walking abruptly, shifting my eyes towards her. “We need to talk.” I wasn’t sure it was the right time, but I had been avoiding the topic for weeks now and it had only left me feeling guiltier by the day. I hated keeping things from her. As much as I worried about hurting her, she deserved the truth.

  Her face read the panic I expected she would display. “Oh, o-okay,” she stammered, even tripping over her own foot, I had to catch her.

  “Hey, you okay?” I asked, worried, as I held her in my arms.

  “I’m fine,” she replied in a cool, icy tone, instantly standing back up.

  “Can we go somewhere?” I looked around at the few remaining peers who were still roaming the halls.

  She shrugged with a heavy sigh.

  Eventually we made it outside to a set of bleachers overlooking the barren baseball field.

  Just as her butt hit the hard surface she jumped back up again, startling me. “I can’t do this.”

  “What?” I asked, puzzled.

  “This.” She pointed at me. “If you are planning on breaking up with me, consider yourself off the hook. I’d rather not go through all the gory details.”

  She was already to the edge of the bleachers, about to jump down when I grabbed her arm. “No one said anything about breaking up.”

  The moment the words were out of my mouth I saw relief flood her eyes. “You jerk!” She pushed me playfully.

  “What did I do?”

  “You said the famous break-up words with nothing else to put me at ease, leading me to believe you were going to dump me like yesterday’s trash!”

  I loved how worked up she could get over the tiniest of things. I thought it brought out her inner passion. I didn’t want to break-up with her…not even a little bit.

  Unfortunately, I still had to break the news to her and I wasn’t sure it was going to be any easier to take than a break-up…it was almost more personal.

  “Come here.” I led her back to the middle of the bleachers where we both sat. I held both of her hands in mine, hoping it would help her remain calm.

  The scared, confused look she was giving me could break any guy. “Peyton, I haven’t been a hundred percent honest with you lately.”

  Her eyes grew wide with anticipation and fear.

  “It’s not that I’ve lied…I just haven’t told you everything.”

  “What are you trying to say Jace?” Her voice was shaking, it was breaking my heart.

  “You know how I’ve been telling you my dad has been eerily better lately? It’s because he met someone.” Peyton stared back at me, confused.

  “Her name is Samina, and she’s great. She really is. I can see the effect she has on him. She has a daughter too, Gia.” My heart was racing with anticipation as I went on.

  Peyton nodded, remaining silent, allowing me to continue without interruption. “Samina and Gia have been staying over…a lot.”

  Suddenly, Peyton’s confusion seemed to turn to anger. “How old is Gia?”

  “Sixteen.”

  “So another girl around our age has been practically living in your house with you and you didn’t think it was important to tell me? You always told me I wasn’t safe at your house. You won’t even let me within a block of that place. But you have other people living there with you; don’t you worry about their safety?” She was asking valid questions.

  “Yes, of course…I worry all the God damn time.” I sighed loudly. “Peyton, I’m doing the best that I can.”

  “Do you like her?” Peyton asked, point blank.

  “What?” I had heard her perfectly clear, but I was trying to buy time to contemplate my answer. Her question had blind-sided me. Telling Peyton that Gia made every fiber of my being vibrate from my head to my toes would only hurt her. Peyton meant the world to me, but the feelings I had for Gia were strong and unfamiliar.

  “Oh my God.” Peyton’s hand shot up over her mouth. Tears were already beginning to form at the corner of her eyes. My stomach was churning. “You like her…”

  “I don’t know,” I sighed. “I don’t know how I feel. It’s complicated.”

  “Do you love me?” Peyton choked on her words. It was tearing me apart to see.

  I slid closer to her, running my hands through her hair gently. “Of course I love you. That is one thing I am not confused about.”

  “Where does this leave us?” Peyton asked, with staggered breaths.

  I wanted to tell her that this didn’t change anything. That we could simply go back to the way things were and forget that I admitted my attraction, but, something inside my gut told me it wasn’t going to be that easy.

  “I need some time,” I finally spoke after what felt like an eternity of silence.

  “So you’re breaking up with me,” she cried, tears spilling down her face.

  “We are taking a break—that’s it. Couples do it all the time, it’s healthy and to be expected.” I was keeping myself together for Peyton. If I lost it, she would know that I doubted this entire plan…that I wanted to say fuck it and tell her I made a mistake.

  I had to know. I had to find out why I had such a magnetic pull to Gia. I had felt something similar with Peyton, but not to the degree I had felt it with Gia. I was curious as to why that was.

  I couldn’t admit that eighty five percent of me thought I was making the biggest mistake in the world, giving up a life with Peyton to explore the possibilities of Gia and me. It was something that could haunt me for eternity.

  No more what ifs.

  Eight: Danger Jace Austin, Danger.

  A break didn’t mean I actually had time away from her, seeing as we had two classes together and saw one another each and every day. We used to sit together, but Peyton made it glaringly obvious she wanted nothing to do with me. I doubted myself—I doubted my feelings for Gia. Every day I had to be near Peyton, but not with her or a part of her world, was gut wrenching. I knew I brought this on myself, but it wasn’t fair to Peyton and I intended on getting some answers.

  The light that had burned so bright inside Peyton had dimmed and it was all because of me. It was heartbreaking to see how much I had hurt her. It was heartbreaking to see her sad stares and glossy eyes, knowing I was the one to cause all of it. I had always vowed to protect her—and instead I did the complete opposite. What a wonderful human being I was…

  To make matters worse; Peyton was avoiding me today. Today of all days…she was amazing with dates. There was no way it would have slipped her mind. The sad part about it? It was what I had come to expect on this date. For most people, it would be a day of celebration. For me, it was just another day.

  Samina and Gia had been spending copious amounts of time over at our house that when I finally arrived at home after the long school day I wasn’t surprised to see suitcases in the entryway.

  “What’s going on here?” I asked, even though I already knew what was coming.

  My father was sitting in his favorite recliner and Gia and Samina on the couch; as though they were waiting for me.

  “You want to take a seat?” My father asked.

  “No, I’m fine,” I replied stiffly, crossing my arms in front of me.

  “Jace, Gia and Samina are going to be moving in here with us. They already spend so much time over here, we might as well make it official.” It really didn’t matter what I said because it was happening one way or another. Peyton is not going to be happy about this.

  I shrugged. “Whatever.” And then turned around, beginning to head back up the stairs.

  “You better drop that attitude boy, if you know what’s good for you!” My father bellowed behind me. He hadn’t physically harmed me in close to two months, but I hadn’t let my
guard down even for a second.

  I made it up to my room and locked my slew of deadbolts, heaving myself onto my bed. It had been a really difficult day on me. Peyton had remained as cold as ice, and to top it all off, on my way out to my car I saw someone pick her up in their truck and drive away. That someone was Noah.

  A knocking at my door pulled me out of my thoughts.

  “Who is it?” I yelled, not bothering to lift my head from my covers.

  “Gia.” I froze when I heard her high-pitched voice. My heartbeat steadily increasing as I sat up slowly, and then made my way towards my door.

  After I finished unlocking the last lock, I opened the door just enough to peek out, not allowing her access inside.

  “Hey, what’s up?” I asked, nonchalantly.

  “Hey, are you mad at me or something? You’ve been acting strange all day.” She sighed, crossing her arms across her chest. “Look, this wasn’t my idea, you have to believe that.”

  “I do.”

  I still couldn’t put my finger on what it was when it came to Gia, but it was as if I couldn’t think straight when I was around her.

  “Are you and Peyton okay?” I winced at the sound of her name.

  “Peyton and I broke up,” I answered stiffly.

  “Oh.” Embarrassment was flooding her cheeks. “Why?”

  “I asked for some time,” I replied.

  “To do what?” she pressed, her lips pursing.

  “To figure out what I want.” It didn’t seem as though she was going anywhere anytime soon so I released my door and retreated back into my dark room, throwing myself back onto my bed.

  I wasn’t surprised when I heard her light footsteps behind me, and then the soft closing of my door.

  “What are you doing?” I asked as she climbed onto the bed next to me.

  “Frank muttered something the other night about your birthday. Is it coming up?” Gia asked, her eyes engaging me.

  I shrugged, closing my eyes again and throwing my arm over them. “I don’t really celebrate my birthday anymore.”

  “Why not?” she pressed. I was not going to be able to get rid of her as easily as I had hoped.

  “Because, it’s just another day.” I sighed.

  “That’s not true…” I felt my arm being removed from my face. “When is your birthday Jace?”

  Sighing loudly, yet again, I finally gave Gia the answer she was waiting on. “Today. My birthday is today…there, you happy?”

  Now that my eyes were open I could see the pain behind hers. “No,” she shook her head. She reached for my arm, attempting to pull me up.

  “What are you doing?” I asked again, frustration building up inside me.

  “Getting you out of this house. You’re in desperate need of a distraction.” I was surprised. She was the last person in the world I would have expected to be spending my birthday with.

  Even though she was frustrating me, I found myself intrigued. My birthday had been absolute torture having to spend all day at school watching Peyton avoid and ignore me. I hadn’t expected much out of the day, but I found myself welcoming the distraction. “Where are we going?”

  “How would you like to spend the remainder of your birthday?” she asked.

  “I have been wanting to check out the Hot Springs everyone has been talking about,” I admitted. Prior to me blowing up my relationship with Peyton, I had planned to spend my birthday there with her. Taking Gia was probably not the best decision, but I wasn’t thinking clearly anymore.

  “Let’s go!” Gia jumped up from the bed, clapping her hands together. “I’ll go grab my swimsuit and meet you back here in five.”

  I didn’t have time to respond before she bounced out of my room happily.

  This could be bad…

  * * *

  The trip to the Hot Springs was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be, minus my irregular beating heart and clammy hands. I hated that I reacted that way after seeing Gia in her swimsuit. I was angry that it turned me on.

  We kept the conversation light and instead of making things awkward, we enjoyed each other’s company. It was a nice feeling to know someone cared enough about me to ensure I had a good birthday. My feelings were still hurt that I hadn’t heard from Peyton once, but I understood that I was the sole reason for that.

  Even though we kept our obvious attraction to one another under wraps, I found myself enjoying our conversations. I found myself cracking more jokes than usual just to be able to see her flawless smile and the twinkle in her dark brown eyes. I admired the way the moon glistened off her long, shiny, dark hair.

  During the drive home it was obvious that the tension and attraction between us was growing. I wasn’t sure how she felt about it, but on my end, I felt extremely guilty, so I drove the entire way back home in silence. When we finally walked into the house, I slowly made my way up the staircase to my room.

  I hadn’t heard her behind me. In fact, I almost shut the door right in her face. “Are you crazy? I almost reamed you in the face with my door.”

  Gia looked unfazed. Now back into her jeans and winter coat, she still looked as stunning as ever. “We need to talk.”

  “Gia—I just want to spend the rest of my birthday sleeping…is that cool with you?” I asked as I pulled my sweatshirt off my head. My shirt lifted up a bit when I did so and I followed Gia’s eyes to my exposed skin; the hairs on my body standing on end.

  I honestly was not trying to be a dick, but it was the only way I knew of to push her away before she got any closer. My head was screaming ‘danger Jace Austin, danger!’

  She nodded without responding, then removed her own big winter jacket and closed the space between us.

  “Happy birthday Jace,” she murmured, standing much too close for my liking.

  My heart began racing, my breath stilted. I swallowed loudly as her hand grazed mine. The volts of electricity were undeniable.

  I averted my eyes; I had never felt guiltier or more intrigued in my entire life. I just wanted to be able to forget the shift that had taken place tonight, but the tension was nearly unbearable. I walked away from her and climbed onto my bed, lying down.

  It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Gia had followed suit and was now eerily close to me on the bed. I even felt her head as it rested on my chest. After what felt like an eternity of my heart racing from the closeness, she spoke.

  “Jace?” Gia asked in a whisper.

  “I’m still awake Gia.” I opened my eyes. “You don’t have to whisper.”

  “I’m sorry.”

  “What could you possibly be sorry for?” I asked incredulously.

  “For breaking you and Peyton up.” She had sat up and was looking down into her lap.

  “Hey.” I touched her shoulder softly. “You didn’t do anything wrong.”

  “Maybe…maybe not, but you were happy before I entered your life and now you’re sad and it’s all my fault.” Gia’s face was stricken with guilt.

  “Listen to me, and listen to me very carefully,” I said as I sat upright. “I told Peyton that I had feelings for you…I was the reason for our break up.”

  Gia’s eyes grew wide and then a subtle smile spread across her lips.

  “So where does this leave you and Peyton?” She was asking a very valid question—one I didn’t have the answer to.

  “I don’t know.”

  “Where does this leave you and me?” she asked the second most important question.

  “I don’t know.” I repeated the same answer as before.

  She laid back down closing her eyes.

  “That’s it? You’re done drilling me?” I joked.

  She opened her eyes, staring back at me. “I get to be with you here—so I am living in the now.”

  “Good point.” I laid down next to her, taking her hand in mine.

  “What are you doing?” She wasn’t expecting me to be so bold.

  “I’m taking charge—living in the now.” I wa
sn’t thinking for once—and it was terrifying.

  * * *

  It was the third week of December and school had been snowed out. Most businesses were also closed due to the weather. Peyton and I had been on a break for nearly two weeks. It was still extremely painful to see her, to not be able to talk to her. It didn’t help that I had caught her climbing into Noah’s car not once during the week, but multiple times. Knowing how strongly his feelings had been for her previously, I wouldn’t put it past him to make a move. If Peyton gave Noah a chance I wasn’t sure she would ever come back for me. It was a scary feeling.

 
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