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The foundation series bo.., p.31
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       The Foundation Series Box Set, p.31

           Kira Adams

  “Why would she want to meet me?” I was still having trouble wrapping my head around it.

  “Because you are unlike any person I have ever met.” Peyton stopped walking abruptly, looking up deeply into my eyes.

  “Yeah, it’s because I’m toxic; I poison everything I touch.” My bitter mood still hung over my head like a black cloud.

  “You have no idea how many people’s lives you have touched and changed for the better. You saved my life on more than one occasion. You saved Gia’s life. You saved even more lives when Felix attacked the school. Can you not see that?”

  No, I couldn’t. What did I see? I saw my mother dead, my brother dead, my father dead, Felix dead and my grandmother dead. How could she not see the pattern I did? Death followed me like a stray cat. “What if I disappoint them?” I was referring to America. What if they see right through me?

  “Not possible,” Peyton answered without another moment to spare. She reached up her hand, caressing my face gently. “They are going to fall in love with you—just like I did.”

  I feigned a smile; my stomach still doing summersaults. “You ready for a trip to LA?”

  Chapter 23: As Close As Physically Possible

  The week seemed to drag on; I guess that’s how it feels when you are anticipating something in a big way. It was the third week in April and quite warm outside. The sun was shining down brightly upon us as we were whisked away by limo to the airport, courtesy of Kelley. Peyton called it being shown the royal treatment; I couldn’t say I disagreed.

  I wasn’t sure what to expect of the weekend trip and our upcoming meeting with Kelley. On one hand, I was excited for a change of scenery and to finally be able to spend time alone with Peyton without any distractions. On the other hand I was nervous beyond belief that they were making a big stink about me; a nobody from Ohio.

  As we boarded the plane, we were treated to first class seats and attentive stewardesses. I could already tell this was going to be a life changing trip. Good or bad, I wasn’t quite sure yet...

  After our four and a half hour long flight we were again carted into a limo and dropped off at the hotel we had been set up with for our stay. I had never stepped foot in a Four Seasons hotel before, but there was a first for everything. Peyton’s eyes were wide as saucers as she took it all in. There were beautiful crystal chandeliers hanging from the ridiculously tall ceilings and stunning marble floors to go with it.

  Kelley did not disappoint in the least. In fact, she had hooked us up with the Presidential suite; one of only two in the entire hotel. It probably cost quadruple the amount of the normal rooms, if not more. Peyton gasped as we entered the ginormous suite. It was close to 3000 square feet and included three bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, grand piano, fireplace, and a glass enclosed Jacuzzi tub.

  “Holy shit,” Peyton exclaimed breathlessly as we entered the large suite.

  I quickly tipped the bellhop and then watched as he left, leaving us still stunned to silence.

  Peyton made her way to the master bedroom, dropping her suitcase on the bed. “This is so incredibly beautiful.” I heard the click of a door and followed the noise, only to see Peyton had found two double doors off the master bedroom, leading to a balcony. It gave us an amazing view of Los Angeles.

  “So, what do you want to do first?” I asked, somewhat exhausted from our long flight.

  “The only time I’ve ever been to California was when I was a little girl. I was probably only seven at the time, and my parents took Kayleigh and me to Disneyland. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to experience now that I’m older.” She was definitely speaking my language.

  I grabbed my phone out of my pocket, illuminating the screen so I could see the time. “It’s kind of late today to be able to experience it in all of its greatness…why don’t we plan to spend the day there tomorrow?”

  “That works for me,” Peyton replied, removing her purse and moving towards me. “I can’t believe we are here…actually here.” I couldn’t either. If someone would have told me that this was going to be my payoff for all the crap I had to withstand throughout my life, I would have scoffed in their face.

  I took the few last remaining steps toward Peyton, closing the distance between us. “There isn’t any other person I would want to experience all of this with than you.” I reached my hand up to her face, first tucking some stray hairs behind her ear, and then cupping her cheek.

  She leaned into my hand with her face, closing her eyes, enjoying the caress. I couldn’t remember the last time we had been able to enjoy the closeness of one another without a care in the world. “God, you have no idea how much I have missed you.”

  She opened her eyes quickly, staring intently into mine. “Jace, I’m standing right in front of you.”

  I dropped my hand from her face and then turned away from her slowly. “I know, but I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff these past two years to keep us apart. None of it was intentional, believe me…but I wish I could get that time back every day.”

  “You know I forgive you for all of that,” Peyton replied softly, putting herself yet again within my eyesight.

  “I know, but it doesn’t excuse my actions. It took me so long to come to terms with my feelings for you originally; all the time I have wasted since then, really messes with my head.” I shook my head, guilt spilling off me.

  “Well, let’s make up for some of that time here and now—on this trip,” she exclaimed lightly, taking my hand and leading me out to the balcony and the breathtaking view of the city.

  “What are we doing?” I asked from behind her, staring out at the city.

  “We are taking advantage of every moment we have together—as if it’s our last.” She turned around to face me, her back to the concrete railing.

  We spent the next few moments breathing each other in; really savoring one another. I traced my fingers across her cheek, lightly over her jaw, and her scar. I moved them gently to her lips before she pressed her lips to my fingers.

  She took my hand, pulling it towards her mouth, kissing it lightly. Without waiting any longer, I traded places with her so my back was now pressing up against the railing. I lowered my lips to hers, slow at first, and then more eager as she deepened the kiss. It felt like an eternity since I had last been able to enjoy my time with Peyton without any consequences.

  She was moaning into my mouth, turning me on to the highest degree. I wasn’t in control of my actions anymore as I quickly picked her up in my arms and carried her into our suite.

  “This seems familiar…” she whispered into my ear seductively as she trailed her hot breath and kisses across the length of it, driving me wild.

  I gently laid her on the bed, climbing on top of her. My lips had made their way to her jawline and then her neck. By the time they had made their way to her shoulder blade she was practically squirming beneath me. My hands were traveling from her legs, up to her torso and back again. I loved watching the way her body fidgeted underneath me.

  I found her mouth again and lowered mine onto hers in a heated kiss. With each brush of our lips, the passion increased and I could feel her shuddering beneath me with excitement.

  If I wasn’t careful I was going to devour her in one sitting…and I wasn’t sure Peyton was ready for that yet. I pulled away lightly from her, standing up and smoothing my pants down. I was beyond excited down there, and trying to hide it from her was going to be tough.

  “What are you doing?” Peyton asked breathlessly, reaching for me.

  “I don’t want to get too worked up right now,” I answered, running my hand through my short hair. “I don’t want you to feel pressured to do anything you aren’t ready to.”

  She sat up instantly, still staring me down with those captivating brown eyes. “I trust you.”

  “Well that makes one of us,” I joked, turning and heading towards the bathroom.

  I could hear her giggling as I exited the master bedroom. “Where are you going?”<
br />
  “It’s a surprise…” I whispered back before locking myself in the enormous bathroom.

  It was no feat to find candles, matches, and even bubble bath. Quickly, I lit the five candles I was able to find and positioned them around the big Jacuzzi tub. I then turned on the water, making sure it was hot enough and added some bubble bath to it. After close to ten minutes of suspense, I opened up the door, only to be met with my girlfriend on the other side. “What are you up to mister?” she asked, poking me in the chest, and peeking around me into the bathroom.

  “I drew you a bath. It was a long day—I thought it might be a nice surprise.”

  Her eyes blinked back and forth between me and my surprising gesture. “No one has ever done something so sweet for me before.” Her eyes looked glossy, as if she might start to cry.

  “Hey, this is supposed to make you happy—not sad,” I said quickly, hoping she didn’t shed a tear.

  “I am happy…you have no idea how happy I am.” She kissed me aggressively then, her body ramming into mine, throwing me into the door.

  It was as if we were ravenous—for each other. I had never felt more passion in my entire life. It wasn’t long before my lips were traveling all over her exposed body. Clothes went flying. Instead of a solo bubble bath for her, it became a bubble bath for two. I had never felt closer to Peyton; more intimate.

  I rubbed my hands up and down her bare back in a soothing fashion, watching her lean into me; the bubbles dissolving as I did so. My lips trailed her neck wildly, my tongue flicking it lightly. She was moaning with pleasure. I was getting harder by the minute. As much as I had wanted to wait when it came to Peyton giving herself to me fully—I wasn’t sure how much longer I could withstand it. Being in such close proximity and naked was increasing my heart rate tenfold.

  We spent the next hour in the bath together; the tension growing with each passing minute. By the time I carried Peyton back to the bed, it was an unspoken agreement between us and our longing stares. This was it. I wanted to go slow, be gentle, knowing it was her first experience…but her fingernails digging into my bare back were driving me all sorts of crazy. It was her first time; our first time and it was beautiful.

  We spent the next hour taking our time exploring one another. No one had ever come close to the way I felt about Peyton and after this experience, no one ever would. After what would end up being one of the most intense moments of my life, we curled up together in a blanket, next to the fire.

  I always knew Peyton was different…I always knew she was out of this world.

  Chapter 24: Lights, Camera, Action!

  “The loss of a mother, the loss of an identical twin brother, physical abuse at the hands of his father, justifiable homicide, and a school shooting, all within a two year time span—sounds like the premise of a bad Lifetime movie, doesn’t it? Well, unfortunately for my next guest, this has been his real life over the past twenty four months. They are calling him a hero, a fighter, and he has quickly become a household name. Help me welcome Jace Austin to the show!”

  The audience erupted with cheers, but all I could hear as I walked out onto the black stage, surrounded by cameras and a full studio audience, was my madly beating heart. I quickly glanced out to the front row, attempting to catch a glimpse of Peyton, but the spotlight was obstructing my view. I could slightly make out her tangerine dress and my heart rate began to slow.

  You’re not alone.

  I flashed my best on-air smile for the audience, cameras, and host Kelley Lacey, before reaching out to shake her hand. She dodged my attempt and instead embraced me with wide arms. “Have you ever seen my show before Jace? We hug here!”

  I had seen her show; many times. That’s why I was so surprised when she asked me to be on it. Topics like my life story were not a usual staple on it. Her shows tended to be upbeat, rewarding good people all over the world for their selfless acts. Everything in my life and past had been so dark and dreary, definitely the opposite of what her show stood for.

  “Take a seat, take a seat.” She motioned with her hand to the chair onstage as she took her rightful spot. “Thank you so much for agreeing to be here today.”

  “Thank you so much for inviting me,” I replied.

  “How has your trip been so far?”

  “Oh, it’s been incredible. You really pulled out all of the stops Kelley, and I’ve been enjoying myself fully.” I remembered what Peyton had told me earlier—just keep smiling and everyone will fall in love with you. My cheeks felt sore from the perma-smile that had been plastered across my face since the moment I had walked out onstage. Unfortunately for me, given my history, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep my expression the same during the entire taping. I knew Kelley was going to be firing some tough questions at me and I only hoped I would be able to hold it together in front of America.

  “Good for you, you needed some happiness in your life for once.”

  Uh-oh, here it comes…

  She was setting it up so that she could lead into my troubled history.

  “I feel like there has been so much that has transpired throughout the last couple of years in your life, I am thoroughly impressed you are sitting here today with me and even half the man you are.” Her compliment really blew me away; the audience cheering as her statement hit them.

  I nodded, my eyes dancing around the audience. “Thank you for saying that.”

  “Now Jace, for the two percent of people watching at home who haven’t been following the news actively, can we discuss what brought you here today?” Her eyes were smiling back at me, but I could feel the hesitation in her voice. She was treading lightly, being respectful of me and my troubled past, and I appreciated it.

  I swallowed deeply, then nodded, rubbing my hand against my cheek gingerly. Would she start from the beginning? Would she delve right into the school shooting? Or would she let me take the reins? The anticipation was killing me. I could feel the sweat beads on my forehead forming as I felt the room grow unnervingly quiet and all eyes fell on me.

  “I know we have a lot to discuss, but first of all, I want you to take me back there, to the day a peer of yours brought a gun to school and executed seventy four of your classmates, teachers, and even your own principal.” Hearing her reveal the gruesome details had my stomach churning. It had taken months after the incident to feel even a fraction of normal in our hometown.

  It was a depressing subject to speak about, but if I could help prevent further school shootings in the future, I felt like it was my job to bring awareness to the dark subject. “I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach all morning that something wasn’t right. It was an uneasy feeling I couldn’t seem to shake.” I paused, the terrifying memories flowing through me. I swallowed deeply, again, my eyes immediately searching the front row once more to make sure she was still there in attendance.

  It was as if they had dimmed the lights as I began to recount the gruesome details. I could finally see Peyton clearly in the audience and as we briefly locked eyes she told me silently through an intense stare that it was okay to continue. I ran my hand through my hair, uncomfortably; all eyes on me. “I was on a bathroom break when I heard the first few gunshots. I knew immediately what was happening. I could hear screaming and running and it wasn’t long before I joined my peers in an attempt to escape the shots being fired.”

  The audience remained deathly still and you could hear a pin drop as I continued. Some audience members had their hands over their mouths, my details shocking them to the core. “My girlfriend Peyton was in a class on the opposite side of the building and after I heard the first few shots, my main focus became finding her and making sure she was safe.”

  Kelley nodded, digesting the information I released. “They said that you were the reason the shooter was stopped and taken down and that you prevented more bloodshed, can you elaborate on this?” She was reading from notes on a notecard in front of her.

  I nodded lightly. “After I found my girlfr
iend, Peyton, and I knew she was okay, I knew I needed to do everything in my power to stop him. I called 911 and they dispatched multiple units from our local police department. They arrived in less than fifteen minutes, seconds before the gun was turned on me.”

  There were gasps from the studio audience.

  “Now, Jace, there have been reports from other survivors who have spoken out about the shooting that you knew the gunman on a personal level, is that correct?” Thanks for reminding me.

  I nodded again, contemplating how to approach my answer. “His name was Felix Porter and we had been assigned to work together on a history project.”

  “Did you know him very well before you were assigned as partners?” Her blue eyes were focused so intently on mine, I had to break contact with them.

  I shook my head no. “Felix kept to himself. He didn’t talk to many people and for the most part, people steered clear of him.”

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