Capture, p.47
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       Capture, p.47

         Part #1 of Seaside Pictures series by Rachel Van Dyken
 
CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

  Dani

  "Walk on the beach with me?" Linc held out his hand to me. With a giddy laugh, I grabbed it and followed him down closer to the shore, while everyone behind us was being serenaded by AD2 and Gabe. A few years ago, if someone would have told me that my sister would be married to Jaymeson, and on my eighteenth birthday I'd have some of the most famous celebrities in the world singing around a beach fire in my honor, I would have laughed in their face or thought I was hallucinating.

  Their voices were drowned out by the roar of the ocean as we made our way to the shore. My bare feet squished against the cold wet sand. Linc didn't say anything as we walked hand in hand for what felt like a mile. Finally, he stopped and turned; his eyes lit up like he knew a secret.

  "Do you want your present?"

  "You walked me a whole mile from the warmth of the fire to give me my present?"

  He lifted my hands to his lips, kissing both of my wrists before dropping them and reaching one hand into his pocket.

  His reddish-brown hair blew in the wind, casting a shadow over his face. I shivered, partially because I was cold, and partially because he was so beautiful. I'd always thought so, but seeing him standing before me, no secrets between us, nothing but excitement over what could happen in the future, did something to me. Butterflies spread throughout my stomach as he lifted a long jewelry box in his hand.

  A small box would have freaked me out.

  But this one seemed too big to have something like a ring in it.

  Cautiously, I reached for it, but he jerked it back and shook his head. "A kiss, and then you get your present."

  "Oh, so I have to pay for my own gift?"

  "Yup." He leaned down, brushing a kiss across my lips. "Okay, your debt's paid. Open your gift."

  Tentatively, I pulled it from his hand and slowly lifted the lid on the black box. Inside was another box, this one blue. Tiffany blue.

  "Oh?" I glanced up. "Tiffany's?"

  "I had to hide it so you wouldn't know right away." He nodded as if he was brilliant.

  I pulled the lid back and gasped. A small silver charm bracelet caught the moonlight.

  "It's a charm bracelet," he said in a low voice, "with a purpose. I hope you don't mind, but I talked to your sister about…" He gulped. "… about you before the accident, about the things you liked, what you were involved in. Cheerleading was obviously a big deal." He pointed to a megaphone charm. "And I added the crown because you were a princess. Still are, if you ask me." The crown dangled next to the megaphone. His voice broke. "I added the car as a way to show how you survived through a huge trauma in your life." He pointed to the next chain. "This is a cross, representing your parents — what they did, what they stood for."

  Tears blurred my vision as he kept talking.

  "I added the pen to represent your muteness and your ability to text and write notes, which far surpasses anyone I've ever met."

  I choked on a sob.

  "And finally…" He pointed to the last charm, an open-centered heart. "I added the heart… the one you gave me the minute you said yes. Symbolizing that I'm giving you mine too. I, uh…" Lincoln cleared his throat. "… I was hoping to bridge the gap for you. Combine your life before the accident with your life now."

  I had no words.

  And, for once, I didn't want them. I wasn't trying to speak, embarrassed because I couldn't. Because, sometimes, words were the last thing you needed, especially when they couldn't do your feelings justice. I jumped into Linc's strong arms and kissed him with all the passion I'd been keeping inside, wrapping my arms around his neck, drinking him in, making love to him with my mouth.

  "So," he said gruffly, pulling back only enough to talk, though his lips moved against mine. "I take it you like your gift?"

  "I love it." I kissed him again and again. "It's perfect."

  "Zane got you a pet pig. A real one," he pointed out jokingly.

  I burst out laughing and kissed both cheeks. "Right, that's like an eighteen–year-old's version of a pony. I get it, but this…" I hopped out of his arms and held out my wrist while he slowly fastened the bracelet. "… is absolutely perfect." I grinned up at him. "You're perfect."

  "Hardly." He shook his head, his tone serious.

  "You are!" I said in a convincing voice. "Now, let's go show Zane how awesome you are."

  "Oh, can't wait." Linc picked me up and started running. I squealed as my body slammed against his the entire way back to the bonfire.

  "Wow…" I nearly fell over when he set me back on my feet. "… good cardio. Remind me never to race you."

  "Showing off again?" Zane looked up from the guitar he was holding and winked at me.

  I blushed, mainly because it was Zane, and I just couldn't help it. "He's always showing off."

  "Is it true Jay caught you guys?" Gabe asked, as conversation fell completely silent, and he was pinched in the side by his wife. "What?" He looked around. "Demetri said to—" He glared. "See if I invite you for Christmas now."

  "You have to." Demetri grinned shamelessly. "Your wife likes my mashed potatoes better than yours."

  "You spiked mine," Gabe explained in an angry voice. "With salt."

  "I can't help it if you can't use measuring spoons."

  Alyssa, Demetri's wife, rolled her eyes and covered Demetri's mouth with her hand.

  I smiled at her then covered my yawn with my hand.

  "Early day tomorrow." Jaymeson stood, glaring at Linc behind me. "We have to be on set by four."

  Groans were heard around the campfire.

  "Wait." I raised my hand. "Everyone's on set at four?"

  "Yeah." Pris gave me an apologetic look. "The final music video shoots tomorrow morning, and the weather's supposed to be crap in the afternoon. We need sunlight."

  "Wrong city," I pointed out, while everyone chuckled and started cleaning up.

  "So…" Demetri approached us and wrapped an arm around me. "… your gift is an Apple watch, because I'm that badass, but I left it in my car. I'll walk you and Linc out so I can grab it, alright?"

  "Sure." I waved goodbye to everyone and fell into step between Demetri and Linc.

  They both towered over me.

  And were equally matched in size and strength.

  It almost felt like I was getting escorted back to the parking lot by body guards instead of my two best friends.

  Why did I always have guys as best friends anyway? I glanced up at Demetri who was giving Linc the evil eye twitch as if to say, "Grab her hand… I slice it off." And Linc seemed to be as casual as ever, hands stuffed in his pockets, though his arm kept colliding with mine.

  "Guys…" I stopped walking. "… can't we all make up and be friends?"

  "He slept with you." Demetri spat out the word he.

  "And you're a saint?" Linc burst out laughing. "Please! All I need to do is Internet-search you and—"

  "Hey!" Demetri yelled. "We aren't talking about my past here!"

  "But mine's up for debate?" Linc's eyebrows shot up. "How is that fair? Did Alyssa's parents freak out over your reputation? Did Nat's? Hell, did the principal even bat an eyelash?"

  "Several…" Demetri smirked. "… actually."

  "Cocky ass," Linc muttered. "No wonder I play you well."

  I burst out laughing as I looked between them. They were even standing the same way. It would be hilarious if they weren't at each other's throats.

  "Guys, I love you both."

  "YOU LOVE HIM!?" Demetri shouted.

  While I groaned into my hands.

  "Present," I finally said. "Give me my present so you can go kiss your wife and blow off some steam."

  "And I will be the only one doing that this eve!" Demetri nodded seriously then pointed between the two of us. "She's still… like…" He pinched the bridge of his nose. "… she's like a sister, man… Just…" He glanced at me, his face sorrowful. "… just don't hurt the only sister I have."

  "You have Pris."

  "Sh
h." Demetri waved his hand at me.

  "And Nat."

  "Dani!" I expected him to stomp his foot. "Not now! We're negotiating, alright?"

  I held up my hands.

  "I won't," Linc said in a serious voice. "I swear it."

  "Alright." Demetri's voice lost most of its venom as he started walking toward his new white Escalade, a present he'd bought for Alyssa when he found out she wanted to start a family.

  Once he pulled my gift out, he very slowly walked over to me then held up the Apple watch. It was the gold one.

  The expensive gold one.

  That had been sold out for months.

  "Dem—"

  "Nope!" He held up his hands. "No give backs. Plus, it's easy to spend money, but gifts that come from the heart…" He pointed at my charm bracelet. "Those mean the most. Besides, your old watch was shit, and you're always late."

  "Am not!" I argued.

  "Are too!" the guys said in unison, their voices nearly identical.

  This time I did bust up laughing, while Demetri and Linc hid their smiles behind their hands.

  "Friends?" Linc held out his hand to Demetri.

  Demetri examined it like it was diseased but finally shook it firmly and left us alone, whistling as he jogged back to the group on the beach.

  "He's…" I shrugged. "… something else."

  "He's a good friend." Linc pulled me close. "You should get to bed. Plus, I heard from a very reliable source that there's chocolate cake waiting for you on the counter."

  "From you?"

  "Bingo." He kissed my nose. "But if it's covered in marshmallows by the time you make it home, just remember, those aren't me."

  "Zane." I laughed then frowned as Linc started walking toward a black Benz AMG. A memory flickered in the furthest part of my mind.

  I stopped walking, my eyes squinting as Linc got closer and closer to the car. Then the lights flicked as he unlocked the doors. He turned around and frowned. "You okay? I thought you'd be happy I brought my car back from Malibu so you wouldn't have to ride in the truck."

  The shrieking sound of tires peeling out of a driveway hit me hard between the temples. I covered my ears with my hands and squeezed my eyes shut as my mind went back to that night…

  "Dani!" Demetri shouted. "Wait up. You forgot your phone." He jogged toward me just as a tall figure got into a nice black Mercedes with California plates.

  I glanced but thought nothing of it. Jaymeson always had people visiting him from out of state. I was having movie night with Dem and Lyss because Jay had some sort of meeting.

  I frowned as Demetri caught up to me. My eyes were still on the car.

  "Damn." He whistled. "That's an expensive one."

  "Hmm." I shrugged and tried reaching for my phone, but Demetri held it above his head. "Gotta catch it!"

  "Oh, I'll catch it," I threatened as I jumped, somehow lost my footing and tumbled down the small hill that opened up into Jay's driveway.

  "Hey!" Demetri yelled over the hill. "Are you okay? Did we spike your juice box again?"

  "Ha ha!" I called back, trying to stand, and then the lights to the Mercedes flashed, reminding me of the accident, of the moment before my life shattered right in front of me.

  It was like I was back in the car again.

  And my dad was driving.

  "Dad!" I screamed.

  The car swerved.

  But I was too late. If I would have woken up sooner, I could have saved him. I could have saved Mom.

  But I was too late.

  "No!" I shrieked as the black car surged toward me, its lights blinding me as I turned and cowered on my stomach in the grass. Was that my scream? Why was I screaming? It wasn't like the car was going to hit me. But it was so loud, so bright.

  "Dani!" Demetri reached me. "Dani!"

  But he was too late.

  Trauma always comes back. It always comes back. And it's up to you to either let it win or fight.

  "Dani!" Lincoln shouted my name over and over again, but I couldn't hear him. I couldn't hear anything but my own scream as I covered my ears and stared at the tear-stained sand in front of me.

  "What's wrong?" Demetri was at my side. I could feel his hands on my back, while Linc was trying to cup my face.

  "I don't know!" Linc shouted hysterically. "She saw my car and just started screaming!"

  "Your car?" Demetri repeated, his voice calmer as my screams turned into silent sobs against his chest. "What car? You have a truck."

  "What?" Linc's voice was hoarse from yelling my name. "I brought my car up because she's scared of trucks. It's right there."

  Demetri tensed then swore violently just as Wes met at his side.

  "Take her to Jay's." Demetri got up, and suddenly I was being lifted into muscled arms and carried away. Tears blurred my vision. I opened my mouth to speak, to say something like, "I'm okay, just freaked out that Lincoln has the same car," but the words died on my lips.

  Because my brain was firing faster than my words.

  And it had already put two and two together.

  Linc had been there the night I lost my voice.

  He was the one who had triggered it in the first place.

  "How's that for irony?" I heard Demetri curse again and then fighting, like people were throwing punches.

  The key to my voice had also been my curse.

  "Shh," Wes whispered in a calming voice. "It's going to be okay, Dani. I promise."

  But it wasn't.

  It was so far from being okay.

 
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