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       Tormenting Lila, p.1

           Sarah Alderson
 
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Tormenting Lila


  First published in Great Britain in

  2013 by

  Simon and Schuster UK Ltd

  A CBS COMPANY

  Copyright © Sarah Alderson 2013

  This book is copyright under the

  Berne Convention.

  No reproduction without

  permission.

  All rights reserved.

  The right of Sarah Alderson to be

  identified as the author of this

  work has been asserted by her in

  accordance with sections 77 and

  78 of the Copyright, Designs and

  Patents Act, 1988.

  Simon & Schuster UK Ltd

  1st Floor, 222 Gray’s Inn Road

  London

  WC1X 8HB

  Simon & Schuster Australia,

  Sydney

  Simon & Schuster India, New

  Delhi

  A CIP catalogue record for this

  book is available from the British

  Library.

  eBook ISBN 978-1-47111-957-6

  This book is a work of fiction.

  Names, characters, places and

  incidents are either the product of

  the author’s imagination or are

  used fictitiously. Any

  resemblance to actual people

  living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

  www.simonandschuster.co.uk

  www.simonandschuster.com.au

  CONTENTS

  Tormenting Lila

  Three days later

  Meet Ren, Tyler, Parker and

  Jesse this summer in The

  Sound, out August 1st.

  Prologue

  1

  My eyes flew open.

  Alex’s lips stilled instantly

  against my neck. ‘What?’ he

  murmured, his hand reaching

  automatically for his gun,

  which was lying on the

  nightstand.

  I shook my head.

  ‘Nothing,’ I said, forcing

  myself to smile at him, all

  the while trying to throw off

  a gnawing sense of disquiet.

  Alex paused for a moment,

  studying me. I turned away

  from his scrutinizing gaze

  and focused on the semi-

  automatic he was gripping in

  his hand. With a quick flick

  of my eyes the gun went

  skidding out of his palm and

  tumbled into the drawer of

  the nightstand. I slammed it

  shut and turned my attention

  back to Alex.

  He raised an eyebrow at

  me, his blue eyes sparking in

  amusement.

  I had tried arguing with

  Alex about the need to carry

  a gun. We were no longer

  being hunted by the Unit

  after all, and he was no

  longer a Marine employed by

  said Unit to hunt people like

  me down and contain them.

  Therefore, my reasoning

  went, a gun was no longer a

  necessary part of our lives.

  But old habits died hard. And

  Alex refused to be parted

  from it. He kept it on him

  night and day, and I’d caught

  him several times lovingly

  oiling the parts and checking

  the firing mechanism when

  he thought I wasn’t looking.

  It had reached the point

  where I was seriously

  starting to envy the gun.

  Although Alex hadn’t said

  anything I was beginning to

  wonder if his keeping the gun

  to hand was less out of habit

  and more about something

  else. The thing was, I didn’t

  want to contemplate what the

  something else could be. The Unit was out of action as far

  as I was concerned. Richard

  Stirling, the man behind it,

  was missing, hopefully

  blown to smithereens along

  with all his research. His

  daughter was behind bars –

  something which made me

  smile from ear to ear and do

  a little happy dance every

  time I thought about it. The

  world was full of rainbows

  and unicorns and Alex loved

  me. Why focus on the

  negative?

  Alex’s gaze fell to my lips.

  I cut my eyes in the direction

  of his hand, still resting on

  the nightstand and tugged it

  towards me, directing it to

  land squarely on my waist.

  Alex laughed under his

  breath, pulling me closer

  against his chest. ‘We’ve

  talked about this, you don’t

  need to force me to do

  anything involving you,

  Lila.’

  I gave him a look. That

  wasn’t strictly true and he

  knew it. But I’d given up

  trying to argue with him.

  There was only so much

  rejection my ego could take.

  With Alex’s body warming

  mine and his hands starting

  to move of their own freewill

  along the length of me, my

  ego and every other part of

  my body felt soothed. I gave

  myself into his kisses, letting

  them consume me.

  It had been precisely

  eighty three days since our

  first kiss in that seedy motel

  near Palm Springs, and the

  feeling I got each time

  Alex’s lips came near mine

  (OK, when any part of his

  anatomy came near mine)

  still persisted. It felt like all

  the air in the universe had

  been switched for a

  combination of helium and

  laughing gas.

  But then it was back . . .

  just as I was starting to feel a

  groan building in my throat

  the niggling sensation

  returned – a prickling of the

  skin, a tightening of the scalp

  – that served to distract me

  from the very awesome

  pleasure of running my

  fingers along the hard slab of

  muscle that was Alex’s

  stomach.

  With a sigh I rolled out

  from underneath Alex and

  glanced up at the ceiling.

  ‘He’s here. I know it.’

  Alex groaned and rolled

  onto his front, pressing his

  face into a pillow.

  I couldn’t help but smile

  triumphantly at his back. It

  was infinitely satisfying to

  see Alex’s self-control

  finally starting to erode. Up

  until now his resolve had

  been nuclear-bunker tight.

  There was no chink in it

  (believe me I’d searched).

  After spending six weeks

  sailing the Mexican gulf on a

  super-yacht and trying to find

  a way past it, I’d finally

  resigned myself to the

  situation. I was going to be a

  virgin until I turned eighteen.

  Alex had started off by

  claiming it was to do with

  California State L
aw but

  when that excuse had worn

  thin (given we were in

  international waters) he had

  eventually admitted that Jack

  might have had something to

  do with it too.

  Turned out my brother

  held more sway than a

  Supreme Court judge when it

  came to laying down the law

  on Alex laying a finger on

  me. I pushed the thought of

  Jack away. Dwelling on it

  was risky. Last time I’d been

  annoyed at Jack I’d almost

  caused a tidal wave.

  I hopped out of the four-

  poster bed and crossed to the

  window. ‘Let me just call and

  check then I’m all yours,’ I

  said to Alex, already dialling

  Nate’s number.

  Alex mumbled something

  into the pillow, which

  sounded like ‘You’re

  paranoid.’

  ‘No. I just know Nate,’ I

  answered ruefully as the

  phone began ringing in my

  ear. And I knew how far Nate

  would go to get a sneak peek

  at Alex naked. Almost as far

  as I would. Being able to

  astrally project out of his

  body and fly anywhere in the

  world unseen, however, gave

  Nate an unfair advantage.

  I pulled the curtain aside

  and stared out at the blue

  rippling expanse of the

  Sound in the distance. It was

  strange being on dry land

  after six weeks at sea, and

  even though I missed seeing

  my mum and dad every day, I

  had to concede it was nice to

  finally have some alone time

  with Alex. Whenever we had

  attempted to sneak off

  together on the boat,

  inevitably Jack would appear.

  It had begun to feel like we

  were lovers in a Victorian

  novel, with Jack playing the

  part of the interfering

  chaperone. Now it wouldn’t

  be long before the summer

  was over and life went back

  to normal – whatever that

  meant – so I wanted to make

  the most of the time we had

  left. What luck, I thought,

  admiring the four-poster bed

  and the fluffy robes on the

  back of the door, that Jack

  was a thousand miles away,

  playing Jack Sparrow in the

  Gulf of Mexico.

  There was no answer from

  Nate, which made the alarm

  buzzing in my head double in

  volume. I hung up and

  dialled Suki.

  She answered on the third

  ring.

  ‘Hello?’ she said

  tentatively. In the

  background I could hear

  seagulls.

  ‘Suki? Where are you?’ I

  asked.

  Suki cleared her throat.

  ‘Atlanta,’ she said, though it

  came out sounding more like

  a question than an answer.

  ‘Where are you? ’ she asked.

  I narrowed my eyes at the

  horizon. Suki could read my

  thoughts, even over the

  phone, so there was no point

  in lying. ‘I’m in Nantucket

  with Alex.’

  ‘What are you doing

  there?’ she asked lightly. The

  sound of seagulls cawing in

  the background grew louder.

  ‘We had to come to

  Boston. Alex had an

  interview at Harvard. So we

  decided to spend a few days

  in Nantucket before we fly

  back to LA.’

  ‘I thought he was going to

  accept the place at Berkeley.’

  ‘Still deciding,’ I said,

  turning to look at Alex over

  my shoulder. He had rolled

  over and was watching me.

  My gaze fell to his chest and

  I almost lost my train of

  thought. I turned back to the

  window. ‘Listen, is Nate with

  you?’ I asked Suki,

  remembering why I was

  calling in the first place.

  There was a pregnant

  pause on the line.

  ‘Err, yeah, he’s um . . .

  he’s just . . . in the

  bathroom.’

  ‘You sound like you’re

  outdoors.’

  ‘Um, well, he’s peeing in a

  bush. We went for a walk.’

  ‘You went for a walk?’ I

  asked sceptically, an image

  of Suki in her standard

  uniform of six-inch heels and

  figure-hugging couture

  flashing before me.

  ‘Yes. Nate’s grandma was

  driving us mad. I am tired of

  being Nate’s beard.’

  ‘His what?’

  ‘His beard. It’s what they

  call a girl who acts like the

  girlfriend of a boy who likes

  boys to hide the fact he

  doesn’t like girls.’ She took a

  deep breath. ‘I don’t want to

  be a beard any more,’ she

  said petulantly.

  She had a point. Nate

  clearly needed to come out

  the closet to his grandmother.

  ‘He’s not in the closet.

  He’s in the bathroom. I told

  you,’ Suki complained.

  ‘I though he was peeing

  behind a bush?’

  ‘Yes, that’s what I said,’

  Suki said, her voice sounding

  muffled.

  ‘OK, listen I have to go,’ I

  said.

  ‘Say hi to lover boy,’ Suki

  giggled. ‘Oh, and Lila, wear

  the green dress tonight, that’s

  his favourite. It might even

  get you to fourth base. It had

  better, because frankly Nate

  and I are tired of waiting for

  you guys to do the jiggy

  jiggy.’

  I pulled the phone away

  from my ear and stared at it

  speechless, wishing my

  powers worked long distance

  so I could throw something

  heavy at her head.

  ‘Why am I friends with

  you?’ I demanded.

  ‘Because you love me,’

  answered Suki, sighing

  happily, before hanging up

  on me.

  I turned back to Alex,

  ready to jump back into bed,

  but he was already standing

  by the door, pulling on a T-

  shirt. ‘Come on,’ he said.

  ‘Let’s go. We’re wasting this

  beautiful day.’

  My shoulders slumped.

  Alex had obviously located

  the chink in his armour while

  my back had been turned and

  cemented it closed.

  ‘Let’s rent some bikes and

  hit the beach,’ he said,

  throwing me my bikini.

  Miller’s Bike & Boat Rental

  was set a little way out of

  town and by the time we got

  there it was nearly midday.

  Outside stood a row of bikes,

  and several oars leaned

  against the wall. We pushed

  open the door, the bottom

  half of which was boarded up


  with a sheet of wood, and

  wandered inside.

  Behind the counter sat a

  boy of about nineteen. The

  first thing I noticed was that

  he was reading American

  Psycho, the second that a

  heavy-looking wrench sat on

  the counter right beside him.

  ‘Hi,’ Alex said.

  The boy looked up from

  his book, his shoulders

  tensing and his hand

  twitching straightaway

  towards the wrench. Seeing

  us though he relaxed, laid

  down the book and hopped

  off his stool.

  ‘Hey, what can I help you

  with?’ he asked with a smile.

  ‘We’d like to rent some

  bikes,’ Alex answered,

  glancing around at the

  display inside the store.

  The boy immediately

  crossed to the row of bikes

  running down the centre of

  the store and asked whether

  we wanted hybrids or road

  bikes, at which point I

  switched off, not having a

  clue what the difference was.

  I was much more interested

  in the pile of books I could

  see on the counter so I left

  Alex to it and edged over

  towards the desk.

  There was a pile of well-

  thumbed novels stacked up

  beside the till, including my

  very favourite David

  Mitchell and a few

  biographies of musicians.

  Behind the counter was a

  door that stood propped open,

  revealing a storeroom filled

  with bike paraphernalia and

  fishing equipment. A guitar

  stood leaning up against a

  crate. I glanced over my

  shoulder at Alex and the boy,

  who were now busy chatting

  as they did something to the

  handlebars of one of the

  bikes.

  Although generally I only

  had eyes for Alex, I would

  have to be blind to not notice

  how good-looking the boy

  was, with dark hair and light-

  brown eyes and the kind of

  lean but muscled body that

  fitted white T-shirts were

  made to show off. I could

  just imagine him playing

  guitar in a band, or posing on

  the front of Rolling Stone. He was exactly the kind of guy

  who Nate and Suki would

  bust a gut lusting after. I said

  a prayer of thanks that they

  were in Atlanta, a thousand

  miles away.

  I turned back to the

  counter and picked up a flyer

  from a pile sitting beside the

  books. It was advertising a

  music night at a place called

  The Ship.

  ‘Take it.’

  I turned around. The boy

  was standing behind me,

  wiping his hands on a greasy

  rag. ‘It’s tonight. Should be

  good.’

  ‘Is it your band?’ I asked,

  holding up the flyer.

  He gave me a curious

  smile, probably wondering

 
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