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The foundation series bo.., p.45
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       The Foundation Series Box Set, p.45

           Kira Adams
 

  I haven’t slept more than a couple of hours in the last forty-eight. I am running on empty. My eyes scan the room, and I realize, we are all there. After meeting up with Peyton’s parents and Kayleigh, we did a neighborhood search of the area Peyton lives in. The police are on the lookout now, and everyone is on edge, tense. We posted fliers for miles, spoke to everyone we could within a five mile radius, but no one has seen anything out of the ordinary.

  It was Madison’s idea to get the news stations involved. I was hesitant, both Peyton and I already have enough on our plate, but Madison made valid points. The news would have a much further reach than simply searching for her whereabouts. I lost count of the amount of interviews I did with the stations regarding her disappearance, but I just hoped it was in our benefit, that someone, somewhere, would have seen something and called in.

  Kayleigh looks just as distraught as I feel as she makes our tenth pot of coffee. Her brows are furrowed and her brown eyes, the same ones that match Peyton’s are glossy. “We’re going to find her,” I say softly from the kitchen stool. Kayleigh glances over and locks eyes with me, her sadness is crippling.

  “What if we don’t?” she asks, her lower lip quivering.

  I hop off my stool, taking careful steps toward her. “We are going to find her,” I repeat, making sure my voice sounds sure.

  She nods, taking a deep breath in, and then, it’s as if she can’t hold it back any longer, tears begin to roll down her reddened cheeks. I wrap my arms around her and pull her into me. “It’s okay to be scared. I’m scared shitless, we all are…but Peyton is a fighter, isn’t that what you always called her?”

  Kayleigh wipes her tears away and backs up. “I’ve been such a shitty sister to her.”

  Another tear spills down her cheek, and I catch it with my finger, swiping it away from her face. “You’re going to have plenty of years to make that up to her, okay?”

  She sniffles, nodding. “Okay.”

  I pull her back into me once more for a tight hug. “She loves you. If anything, she’ll fight for you,” I whisper into her ears.

  Kayleigh gasps, choking on her tears. I rub her shoulder gently when I feel the vibration from my phone in my pocket. I grab it quickly and answer it without regard to who it is. “Hello?” I’m more frantic than I intend to be.

  “Jace Austin?” the voice on the other end asks.

  “Speaking.” My heart is pounding like the beat of a drum.

  “Sir, My name is Sergeant John Fuller from the Cleveland Police Department, and I’ve called to inform you that we have located your wife.”

  “You found her? Where was she? Is she okay?” I glance over to all the anxious eyes fixated on me, and Madison falls to her knees, unsteady. Noah rushes to help her up.

  Everyone within hearing distance is up on their feet and running toward me at full force. Suddenly I feel a lot of pressure as all the pairs of eyes lock on me.

  “Yes, Sir. Can you come down to Metro Health?” he asks.

  My heartbeat begins rapidly increasing by the minute. “What? Is she okay?”

  “Yes, just banged up and bruised, but she is going to make a full recovery,” he answers.

  I let out a long breath of air I don’t even realize I am holding. I begin pacing around my onlookers, my legs restless. “Yeah, yeah, we can be right there.”

  I don’t even bother waiting to hear anything else, I hang up the phone and then throw my arm up in the air in victory. Everyone begins yelling and shouting, and anyone who wasn’t awake, is now. As everyone is busy embracing one another and showing their love and affection, I’m racing around, not wanting to waste another moment.

  * * *

  “Do you see her?” Harper asks, peeking around the rest of the group. Because Peyton’s welcoming party is so big, they asked us to stay in the waiting room. I was given the option to go in and get her and bring her out, but with Kayleigh squeezing my arm with a death grip, I don’t really have a choice but to wait along with them.

  The door to the waiting room opens and a man pushing a wheelchair exits. Hunched over in the seat of the chair is Peyton. I’m sure we look like a wild herd of animals all bum rushing her wheelchair, but I’ve never been more relieved in my life. “Careful!” Peyton’s mother warns as we all get close to her. She is wincing and in obvious pain, but the minute she sees us she begins crying.

  “Oh, baby,” I say, crouching down beside her. “What happened to you?”

  She continues crying, her breathing becoming uneven.

  “Oh, she’s been through enough already. Let’s just get her home,” Kayleigh interjects. She steps toward Peyton’s chair and then breaks down herself. “I don’t know what I would have done if they hadn’t found you.” Kayleigh hunches over and hugs her sister, being careful not to injure her in the process.

  After she releases her, I help get Peyton out of the hospital and into the back of her parent’s SUV, as we all head back to their house. Peyton is seated beside me, and she looks exhausted. She has two black eyes, bruising all across the bridge of her nose and below it, bruises all over her body, and I’m sure that’s not it. I suck in a sharp breath. This should never have happened to her. Gently, I move her long brown curls out of her face. “Don’t ever scare me like that again,” I whisper.

  Her eyes shift to meet mine. She doesn’t answer, just lies her head into the crook of my neck, and closes her eyes, dozing off immediately.

  Twenty One: Funny How I’m Surrounded by People That Love Me, but There is Only One Person Who Makes Me Feel Safe at all Times, and That’s Jace

  I Always Knew

  © 2015 DarienMae

  There was a time

  Back in the day

  When you and I used to hang

  It’s been a while

  You’ve been gone

  And things are rearranged

  I – I always knew you

  Could see right through you

  I – I always knew you well

  Fly high

  You wash over me

  You wash over me

  Fly high

  You wash over me

  You wash over me

  We were always a good thing

  We always had that chemistry

  I know it’s been awhile now

  Can we rekindle that flame somehow?

  Fly high

  You wash over me

  You wash over me

  Fly high

  You wash over me

  You wash over me

  We were always a good thing

  We always had that chemistry

  I know it’s been awhile now

  Can we rekindle that flame somehow?

  Peyton

  So, I’m back at home.

  Okay, not my actual apartment, but the place that feels more like home than anywhere else, my parents’ house. They set me up in my old bedroom, and I’ve been holed up for the past week. Jace stayed for as long as he could before jetting back to film more of Duel. I know he feels guilty, and I know he wants to be with me, but this is important to him.

  I’m still not a hundred percent sure what happened. I know that Olly beat me to a bloody pulp and then dumped me in some ditch somewhere, probably to die. Instead, a passerby spotted me and ended up calling 911. If it weren’t for the elderly gentleman that saw me and stopped, I don’t know what would have transpired.

  My phone has been ringing off the hook since the incident, with news stations and reporters calling at every hour of the night. Everyone wants to get the first exclusive. I don’t even know how I feel about what transpired. I know I never want it to happen again. Kayleigh has been on a break from school and it has been so refreshing having her around. I didn’t realize just how much I missed her.

  I’ve seen a psychiatrist my mother recommended a couple of times since I’ve been back. It’s helping. I am trying hard not to be bitter about what happened. I am trying to move on with my life. Speaking of moving on, I’ve been thinking
a lot lately, and I realized that being with Jace is where I feel safe, and that I want to move. We’ve been talking, and he’s all for it. I’ve already began calling movers. My parents are nervous, but they like and trust Jace, so they are understanding.

  “What are you thinking about?” Kayleigh asks. She is sprawled out on my bed, flipping through the newest Cosmopolitan while I channel surf aimlessly.

  “Honestly?” I pause, taking a deep breath. “Everything.”

  “What are you worried about?” Kayleigh asks, her brows furrowing. She sets the magazine down and sits up straighter.

  “I’m worried that the band is going to be angry with me for wanting to move, and I’m worried I am going to break us up because of it. I’m worried that Jace might have more crazy fans like Tanya, and that I’m never going to feel completely safe again.” I inhale sharply, taking a break from my monologue.

  “Peyton, you just have to take it one day at a time. I’m sure things aren’t going to feel like normal for a while. The most important thing is that you keep going.” Kayleigh scoots closer to me, putting her arm around me. “The band can’t fault you for wanting to move to be closer to your husband. They are going to have to understand. It’s just life.”

  I glance up at her. “You’ve gotten so much better at these pep talk things. Have you been practicing?”

  She giggles, and then tears begin to well up in her eyes.

  “Hey, are you okay?” I ask, racking my brain to figure out what I said that set her off.

  She sniffles, rubbing the tears away with the side of her finger. “Yeah, I’m just so thankful you’re okay.”

  I smile. “Me too. I’m so thankful we have this time together too.”

  My phone begins to ring and Kayleigh glances at the screen and then gives me the look. The same look she has been giving me for days now. “What?” I snap.

  “Peyton, you can’t keep ignoring the calls, it’s the police! Can’t they have you arrested for that?” she asks hysterically.

  I glance back at the screen of the phone, debating my next move. They want more statements from me. Although I gave them a pretty lengthy one back at the station, they want more. They want to find Tanya and Olly, arrest them, and try them, and they want me to be their star witness. It’s all a bit much.

  What if I lose the case and they walk? Who is to say they won’t come after me? Sergeant Fuller says I have enough to put them away for the rest of their lives, but I’m scared. I wish Jace were here with me so I didn’t feel so alone. Funny how I’m surrounded by people that love me, but there is only one person who makes me feel safe at all times, and that’s Jace.

  “I am going to return their calls. I promise,” I tell Kayleigh. “I just need a little bit of time, ya know? The past week was such a whirlwind for me.”

  I see her expression soften, and I know she’s going to let it slide this time.

  “Okay,” she gives in. “But if they call when I’m with you again, you have no choice but to answer. Deal?”

  I break into a small grin. “Deal.”

  * * *

  You would think I wouldn’t be up for much social interaction, but being cooped up in my parents’ house is almost too much to deal with. I find myself at the studio more often than not, and Luis is always there, so I’m never alone.

  “So, what do the next few months look like for us?” I ask curiously, eyeing Luis’s calendar on his phone.

  “Well, you guys are nominated for a few awards at the Teen Choice Awards next month. You guys will be fitted for your outfits next week. We have a small tour across the east coast, and I’d like you guys to begin filming the music video for Stripped.”

  I nod. “Sounds like a jam-packed few months.”

  “Is that going to be a problem?” he asks.

  I shake my head. “Not at all. Being busy is just what I need right now.”

  “Speaking of staying busy, I wrote something the other night I’d like you to hear,” Luis says as he grabs one of his acoustic guitars and then sits back down beside me. He begins strumming and then loses himself in his song.

  This. This is what I need. Music is my life. My life has no meaning without it.

  “That’s amazing,” I say breathlessly as the music stops.

  “Yeah?” he asks, smiling. “You think you might be able to write something to it?”

  “Definitely.” I return his smile. “Do you think I’m making a mistake moving out to LA?” I know it’s a little blunt of me to come out and ask, but I want to know his opinion. He’s been a really good friend ever since we met.

  His facial expression turns serious and he puts the guitar down. “Peyton, you need to do what is best for you. We will adapt. Honestly, LA is a better place for the lot of you, but I don’t know how well it would go over attempting to convince your band to move.”

  The more that I think about it, the more I realize it actually wouldn’t be that difficult. Madison and Brooklyn are in a month to month agreement, Harper is a free spirit, and the majority of the guys are easygoing. “This sounds crazy, but I think I might be able to convince them to do it. It won’t be easy, but I think they might say yes.”

  Luis raises his eyebrows, surprised. “There is an awesome studio and production team, The NightCrawlers, out in LA. I’d definitely want to get you guys in there to record some new material if this comes to fruition.”

  Suddenly, it doesn’t feel like a far-fetched idea anymore. It feels like something that could actually happen. I glance at Luis, hopeful. “I don’t know the best move to take for the band, or even for me personally, but I do know I am going to think this over carefully before making any decisions.”

  Luis nods, picking the guitar back up. “Now, you ready to write?”

  * * *

  “What are you doing?” I ask as I roll around on my bed.

  Jace sounds like he is running a marathon. “Just got to the airport,” he says.

  “Mmmm, my jet setter,” I murmur. “Where are you headed to?” Please say to me.

  “Home.”

  “Home as in LA?” I clarify.

  “Yeah,” he answers.

  “Are you on a break from filming?” I ask.

  There is a lot of background noise as he maneuvers through the boisterous airport. “Yeah, we only have the weekend, and Chenise has me booked solid with meetings for new potential agents and I have that photo shoot with GQ, remember?”

  I smack myself in the forehead. “I did forget. I’m sorry, Jace.”

  “It’s okay. How are you doing?” he asks timidly. He’s been so attentive and caring lately. I cannot get enough of this side of him.

  “Eh, I’m taking it day by day.” I pause, mustering up the courage I need. “Babe?” I ask.

  “Yeah?”

  “I want to come live with you. I’m ready,” I say hopeful he will be open to the idea.

  “Seriously?” He sounds shocked.

  “Yeah,” I say. “But there’s something I have to do first.”

  “And what’s that?”

  “I have to get the police off my back.”

  “What do you mean?” he asks.

  “I mean, I need to give them as many statements as they require before I can leave the state.”

  He sighs. “Whatever it takes. Just do it.”

  Twenty Two: I Was So Worried After Our First Year Apart That We Would Never Find Our Way Back to One Another

  Jace

  I’ve been having Chenise run around and get everything my place needs to make it Peyton-friendly. I don’t know when the police will exactly let her leave the state, but I am just happy she finally made up her mind to do it. I’ve been so worried about her in Ohio, while I’m in Georgia, filming.

  There are only three more months of filming, so it’s possible that Peyton might come out to visit me here in Georgia, the options have me excited. I hear a knock on my trailer door and I hop up to answer it. As the door swings open, I see a trendy African-American male with a
Mohawk and a platinum blond sidekick. They are standing next to a portable clothing rack. “Hey,” the guy speaks first. “We’re here to find you something to wear for the Teen Choice Awards and for the upcoming Oscars.”

  My stomach tenses up a bit. I’ve been to my fair share of award shows since I began this gig, but they’re just not for me. I don’t like the fact that they pit people against each other and it becomes about ‘who did it better?’ rather than the art. “Sure, come on in.” I open up the door further, and slide out of the way.

  They make their way into my trailer and then set up so that I can take a glance at the clothes before me. The thing is, being a guy, there are only so many different ways you can make a suit or tux look. Women and their dresses have endless options. It takes me less than a half an hour to pick out two different looks for the award ceremonies. Luckily the Teen Choice Awards aren’t as fancy, so I got to wear a suit, not a tux. It’s a pretty nice grey suit with a shiny red tie.

 
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