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The foundation series bo.., p.29
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       The Foundation Series Box Set, p.29

           Kira Adams

  As I opened the front door I was greeted by Wonder Woman, and not just anyone, but Olivia.

  “Jace,” she exclaimed surprised when we came face to face. It had been months since we had last spoken or seen one another. “How are you?”

  “I’m good,” I replied. “How have you been?” I wrapped my arms around her quickly in a tight hug.

  “I’ve been well—just began my internship.”

  “Oh yeah, I remember you mentioning something about that…” I trailed off. “Well, it was nice to see you, I’m sure we’ll get a chance to catch up later.”

  “Are you leaving?” she asked, appearing perplexed.

  “I’m just running to the store real quick.”

  She hadn’t moved an inch. “Can I come with you?”

  “To the liquor store?” I asked, not sure it was a good idea myself.

  “Yeah, we can catch up.”

  I glanced back towards the back porch, trying to locate Peyton with my eyes, but the place was packed making it virtually impossible. I knew Peyton wouldn’t be happy if I agreed, but Olivia had only ever been good to me; I intended to treat her the same. “Yeah, um, sure.”

  I looked back one more time at the sea of people before leading Olivia out to my car.

  “Is she here tonight?” Olivia asked as I unlocked the passenger side door for her to climb in.

  I nodded, remaining mute.

  “Where is she?”

  “Inside with Boone and Lana,” I replied.

  Olivia nodded tensely, staring out the window as I began the car.

  “You know, I always wondered what it was about her. I know the type of chemistry you and I have, and I know how strongly it felt to me…so I can only imagine.”

  I had never had the conversation with Olivia; even when we stopped seeing one another, I never shared my true feelings with her.

  “Olivia, Peyton and I share a deep connection. I wish I could say it was something similar to what you and I shared…but I can’t, because it is so much more than that. I never meant to hurt you, I hope you believe me. I think you are an incredible human being and only deserve happiness—unfortunately with someone else.” It was difficult being a hundred percent honest with her, but it was the least she deserved.

  I could see tears forming at the corners of her eyes and her strong attempt at keeping them at bay. “It hurts to hear—but I needed that. You’re one hell of a guy to get over, Jace Austin.”

  As I pulled into the liquor store, I put the car in park and turned to face her. “You’re one hell of a girl, Olivia Jenson, and if it were anyone other than Peyton—they wouldn’t stand a chance; I hope you realize that.”

  She smiled slightly, nodding her head. “I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”

  “Sometimes the best pairings aren’t, but I know you are going to find someone who will never make you second guess their feelings.”

  It’s not that either girl was better—it’s just that Peyton was better for me. Since the first moment I had laid eyes on Peyton I had felt a magnetic pull. Sometimes it was faint and light, and sometimes it felt stronger than steel, but I had never felt anything like it with anyone else. Even the intense feelings I had experienced with Gia didn’t hold a candle. I knew right away I wanted her in my life in any way, shape, or form.

  Nineteen: Right Where We Left Off

  It had been awhile since Peyton and I were able to sneak away for some alone time, and seeing as it was spring break, more of our friends were in town than usual. Between Brooklyn, Madison, Kayleigh, and Bentley all coincidentally spending their vacation in Day Heights, it was going to be jam-packed week.

  Because Kayleigh and Bentley were still broken up, we were going to have to spend time with each of them separately. Bentley and I had always gotten along fairly well, so I was excited to catch up. He hadn’t been back into town since he received his full ride scholarship to the University of Oregon.

  While we had seen Kayleigh a few times during the holidays and such, I knew Peyton was looking forward to her arrival this time. After everything we had been through during the school year, Peyton and Kayleigh’s relationship had only deepened. Peyton had even gone to visit Kayleigh a few weekends during the summer before she began classes and told me it gave them ample time to bond.

  Kayleigh was always a sore subject for me; anytime her name was mentioned, it reminded me of the disappointed look smeared across Peyton’s face when I told her the truth, that I had met Kayleigh first…I never meant to hurt Peyton, but I also wanted to be honest with her, and the only way to do so was come clean about why I had even been interested in her in the first place.

  Yes, my intentions weren’t the best when Kayleigh invited me over that fateful September night. I was reeling from a heated argument with my girlfriend Jessica and needing a distraction. Kayleigh thought I was my twin brother, someone she had dated in the past. I decided to play it off; looks were definitely on her side. It was going swimmingly until I heard the crash; Peyton’s body falling to the floor. My heart was racing, Kayleigh’s eyes were wide with fear.

  It was the first time I laid eyes on Peyton, and the most depressing time. I wanted to know what could have been so bad in her life she would have chosen the easy way out. Even though at the time Peyton was clearly heavier, I still saw her for what was; beautiful. I made a promise to myself that if she opened her eyes for me, I was going to do everything in my power to bring happiness back to her life.

  That night at the hospital, I finally told Kayleigh the truth about my identity. I thought I deserved a slap, kick, or even a punch—but she was unfazed; her sister’s suicide attempt shook her to the core. I could see it in her eyes. Kayleigh felt indebted to me for saving Peyton’s life, but we also agreed to never speak of it again; we weren’t sure how Peyton would take it. I had come clean to her months ago, and even though her dejected look said otherwise, she had been handling it very well.

  Because it was spring break, Peyton and I had been spending a lazy afternoon cuddled up on her couch, watching old movies. “Do you hear that?” I asked, raising my ear to the ceiling.

  “What?” Peyton asked, her body facing away from mine and toward the television.

  I wrapped my arms around her body and pulled her in tightly, taking in her intoxicating scent. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing…we are alone.” It had been months since we had been able to share more than a few brief, fleeting moments together with no one else around. I had forgotten how natural it felt to have her in my arms; how right it felt.

  I pressed my lips lightly to the back of her head, and I could feel her lean into it; lean into me. She twisted her body around so we were facing one another, then she reached her right hand up to my face and began outlining it with her fingers.

  “What are you doing?” I whispered, unsure of why I did so.

  “Capturing this moment,” she replied before leaning in and pressing her lips lightly against mine. “I was so worried we weren’t going to be able to get back here…” she admitted, pulling away from me slightly.

  “I’m sorry…” I trailed off. “I’m sorry for making you doubt me.”

  “Jace, I never doubted you…not for a second. I doubted myself; the moment you asked for a break—I doubted if I was good enough for you. I worried that you being confused meant Gia was better for you.”

  I pressed my finger to her lips to silence her. “I don’t want to talk about Gia. I made my decision, and I know that I want to be with you.” I removed my finger but replaced it with another short kiss. “I love you Peyton, I’ve loved you for a very long time.”

  Her brown eyes sparkled with my confession. “I love you too.” She was smiling so big, I couldn’t help but return it. I shifted our bodies so she was beneath me, stroking her hair gently away from her face.

  I kissed her on her forehead then, my mouth lingering there for a few moments before kissing her on the cheek, and then the chin lightly.

  “What are you doing?” she asked
, giggling.

  “I’m savoring you,” I answered before moving my kisses right across her jawline. She was getting worked up, I could tell by the death grip she had on the couch cushions.

  My hot breath hovered over her neck for only a second before I lowered my lips to her skin; feeling her squirm. I traced my kisses lightly from her jawline to her shoulder blade, enjoying every moment I felt her shudder beneath me; her breath deepening.

  Suddenly, the power shifted. Peyton had managed to trade places with me, and she was now straddling me. She rarely took charge, but when she did, God was she sexy. Her lips were now the ones trailing my jawline and neck. I grabbed her face in my hand, gently, and then kissed her furiously. I wanted to be closer; I needed to be closer. She deepened the kiss, allowing my tongue to enter her mouth, another move she rarely made. She was full of surprises today.

  We were now heavily panting and fully grinding; our make out session turning us both on to the highest degree. Peyton had been reaching for my shirt when we heard the knock on the door.

  Peyton sighed, shooting upright. “That’s probably Kayleigh.” She attempted to smooth down her wild hair.

  In a way, I was thankful for Kayleigh’s interruption, Peyton was still a virgin and although she was known to get hot and bothered during a make out session, I had never pushed the issue. I never pressured her. I figured whenever she was ready, we would have the inevitable talk…the one where I would have to admit that I was not a virgin, and answer any questions she had about my confession. You could say I was not looking forward to it.

  Twenty: Embracing the Darkness

  It was third show A Change in Time had played since all the band was back in town; but instead of being fixated on my leading star, the vibrating from my pocket held my attention. I had counted how many times my phone had vibrated and then paused; three. Someone really needed to get ahold of me. A Change in Time was just beginning to set up when I decided I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I watched as Peyton shot me a confused look as I stepped away from my front row spot and out to the back of the venue, and then eventually outside.

  Coincidentally, my phone was vibrating yet again when I made it outside. “Hello?” I answered anxiously, wondering who could be on the other end.

  “Yes, may I please speak with Jace Austin?”

  “Speaking.” My heart rate was beginning to pick up speed.

  “This is Dr. Shafi from Mercy Health—your grandmother had an accident.” The voice on the other end spoke hesitantly.

  My mind began racing. This is all my fault. If I had agreed to stay with her, I could have looked out for her…but selfish me, I decided to take Peyton up on her offer. “What kind of an accident?” My mouth felt dry.

  “She fell. They sent her by ambulance earlier—but you are her point of contact.” The way he was speaking was not making me feel any better. To make matters worse, I could hear Peyton’s haunting voice through the cracks in the door; I knew she was probably worried about my quick departure as well.

  “Is she okay?” I found myself asking quickly, my heart in my throat. My grandmother was one of the only truly selfless people I knew in the world. If anything happened to her, I would blame myself for all of eternity.

  “Jace, is there any way you can come to Mercy Health?” The way he posed his question convinced me that she was not alright…

  “Is she okay?” I asked again, frantically looking around at my surroundings, tears stinging the back of my eyes.

  “Jace, your grandmother passed away earlier this evening.” My legs stopped working and I fell to my knees. This was all my fault. “Jace?” The doctor asked again when he didn’t hear anything but heavy breathing on the other end.

  “How?” I asked through gritted teeth, angry at myself.

  “She fell and broke her hip. We were able to get her in pretty quickly, but during surgery she had a major heart attack that took her life.”

  My chest felt tight and I was gasping for breaths. She was all alone in her last moments…no one was there to hold her hand. I could have prevented all of this.

  “Jace?” Dr. Shafi asked again after more silence from me.

  “Is there any reason for me to still come?” I barely got the words out in an audible response.

  “If you would like to say goodbye in person, I urge you to come. Otherwise, no, not really. I’m very sorry for your loss.” I couldn’t stand to hear any more. I dropped the phone onto the ground, shattering the screen.

  I couldn’t see straight. I couldn’t think straight. My eyes were blurry from the tears cascading down them and off my eyelashes. This was my punishment for being so selfish. This was my doing.

  I didn’t bother going back into the venue and telling anyone where I was going or what had happened. I didn’t want to be around anyone. I was obviously a menace to society.

  Even though I had clearly driven to the show, I bypassed my car, walking nearly three miles before I found a run-down looking gas station and headed inside. The cashier was greasy looking with matted hair and missing teeth. I headed straight past him to the equally disgusting looking bottles of Olde English. I remembered when my father drank those. They were cheap and got the job done…but the taste…God, the taste.

  I grabbed two big bottles and headed to the cashier, setting them down on the counter loudly.

  “Are you twenty one?” The homely looking cashier asked in a monotone voice.

  I nodded, keeping my head down. I had lost my fake ID at the Halloween on St. Patty’s Day party. To be honest, I hadn’t lost it—it had been taken away from me. It was only the fourth liquor store I had attempted to use it in, which called my bluff.

  I pulled out a twenty from my pocket, and slapped it down on the counter. “Keep the change.” That would keep him quiet…the two bottles were no more than five dollars…he was making a fifteen dollar profit for keeping his mouth shut.

  “Have a good day.” He accepted my trade as I made my way out of the dinky establishment; my feet feeling heavier than lead.

  I battled an army of fruit flies as I exited the glass doors. I ended up walking another half a mile before plopping myself down in some dirt near the freeway. I’m sure to anyone passing by I looked like a transient. Honestly, I didn’t care anymore.

  All I ever did was try-try to accept my brother even though he was the bane of my existence, try to make my father a better person, try to befriend a sadistic freak, and try to be the hero. I was tired of trying…all I ever did was fail. My brother was gone. My father was gone. Felix was gone. And now, my grandmother…I ruined everything I touched.

  Quickly, I uncapped one of the bottles of Olde English and took a big, long swig, grimacing with its awful taste. All I wanted to do was forget. Forget that this was my life and I was the starring failure in it. I wasted no time downing the entire bottle in a few minutes, surprising even myself. My father hadn’t even been able to tolerate it enough to do that.

  By the time I made it onto the second bottle I could feel the alcohol surging through my body; my arms, my legs. It was making me warm inside. After finishing all of the contents again within a record amount of time, I fell flat on my back, staring up into the sky. The clouds were swirling and twirling; mocking me.

  Ironic that I fought for so long to free my father from the death grip alcohol had on him, and now I was allowing myself to succumb to it fully. Peyton was going to be beside herself with worry wondering where I had run off to and why I had chosen to leave behind my car. But all I could think of now was the heaviness of my eyes, almost like they were being anchored down. I welcomed the darkness with open arms before the rest of the outside world went quiet.

  Twenty One: A Human Tug-of-War

  I awoke with a jolt; a cold breeze slapping my face roughly. Opening my eyes, I realized I was outside. How long have I been out here? I looked around my surroundings, making a mental note how dark the sky was. What time is it? I reached into my pocket to pull out my phone, only for it all to com
e flooding back to me; my grandmother was gone along with my phone. I swallowed loudly, jumping up onto the balls of my feet.

  Peyton is going to kill me.

  I pulled my arms tightly around my body, attempting to shield myself from the harsh winds. What I would have given for a sweatshirt or jacket. I slowly began making my way back towards the venue I knew my car was parked outside of.

  Because it was so cold, my feet worked at a quicker pace, bringing me to the venue in almost half the time it took me to walk the opposite direction the night before. I reached my hand again in my pocket to make sure my wallet and keys were still secure. Check. As I approached my car, I noticed someone or rather two someones camped out on the trunk of my car.

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