“My pleasure.” I flashed him a grin.
A low growl emanated from him. “You’re the sun and moon to her. I would’ve been a fucking chandelier. That’s it.”
“Chandeliers are pretty.”
“I said that last year to give you a different viewpoint. I’m like a chandelier. You’re the sun and moon.” Logan’s eyes narrowed. “Perspective, asshole.”
“I have it, asshole. The sun and moon are taken for granted. Chandeliers are put in magazines. People go ooh and aah over them.” There was no heat behind my words anymore. As soon as I’d said the words, I was fine.
Bringing the whole issue up had been enough. It made Logan squirm, that made me feel better.
He shook his head. “You’re being jealous.”
I smirked at him. “Not to Sam. She doesn’t know. You’ll understand when you meet your other half and I’ll love tormenting you, but until then—” I leaned forward and slapped his arm, spilling his beer. As he jumped up, I ignored his curses and said, “Let’s go and do some scouting. I want to find out where Sebastian actually lives.”
That was the plan until we got out the door and saw Drew and Nick, a lineman from the team, coming over from the team’s house. The looks on their faces stopped us.
I asked, knowing something was wrong, “What is it?”
Drew handed a phone to me. “That was campus security. They found Nate in a parking lot just now.”
I took the phone as a weird sensation started in my gut. It was blind rage, but it was being held at bay. A buzzing sound filled my ears as I grated out, “Found?”
Logan echoed, “What do you mean, found?”
Drew’s mouth flattened, and his shoulders slumped down. “I’m sorry, Mase. They beat him up.”
My first day at college consisted of hiding from two of my floormates, being involved in a public showdown that could’ve been a brawl, and now wondering where the hell my boyfriend was. It was almost midnight.
My classes were nerve-racking, but when they’d mostly gone over each syllabus with a light lecture, I started to relax. Only one professor made us break into small groups to read and discuss an article.
Mason said he would call. He never did.
I wasn’t sure about his football schedule, so when Summer and a bunch of the girls from the floor went to dinner, I tagged along. Afterward, Kitty and Nina wanted to hang out in our room. They’d brought movies and popcorn. Summer enlisted Ruby’s help, so she’d moved them to her room with the excuse that she had a large projector for the movie. I’d slipped out within half an hour and changed into my running clothes.
When I started outside, I faltered.
I’d be running alone.
I didn’t know the safe trails.
It was dark already.
But I needed to run. The need was almost an ache in me.
“Are you making a break for it?”
Summer flashed a grin. She’d come down behind me. Her hand scratched the back of her head, and she puffed out a burst of air, looking around the lobby. Her eyebrow lifted. “I’m surprised it’s almost empty.”
Two others were in the main lobby. One was on her phone and cast a glare at Summer, overhearing her. She went right back to texting a second later and slumped farther down in her chair. The other was in a chair by the wall, curled up with a book.
I lifted my foot, bringing it behind me to stretch. “Kitty was making me nervous. She kept looking at me with a weird evil-like Cheshire cat grin. I felt like a mouse being pulled in on an invisible string.”
Summer shuddered. “Shit. That sounds horrible.”
The corner of my mouth lifted. “Hence, why I needed to go for a run.”
I cast another look over my shoulder. People were out there. I could hear low murmurs of conversation through the door that had been left open, but I hadn’t thought this through. My normal routes were in Fallen Crest, three hours away.
“I probably shouldn’t go running alone though.”
“Would you like a running buddy?”
“More like, I just shouldn’t go alone because it’s not safe.”
“Oh.” She perked up. A smooth smile appeared, and she winked. “I was talking to a chap today. I think I have a solution.”
She laughed but held up a finger. “One minute. Let me go and grab some stuff. I’ll be back.”
I checked my phone while she ran to the room. Still no call or text from Mason. I thumbed through the six texts that I sent his way. Where was he? Was he okay? Why wasn’t he answering? Should I start to freak?
He’d sent one text five hours ago, saying, I’m okay. Talk tonight or tomorrow. Love you.
I suppose it should’ve been enough to placate me, if it weren’t for the hair-raising alarm. I wasn’t going to call 911 and report a missing person, but Mason texted, and because of that, I hadn’t texted Logan or even Nate. Mason was going to get back to me. I knew that. We’d been through enough battles, so I knew he’d follow through, but…I wanted to know now.
Or I wanted to run now.
Either of those would help to appease me.
Summer rushed around the corner with a backpack strapped to her shoulder and keys in hand. She dangled them at me. “Come on. We have to meet someone somewhere.”
“Where are we going?”
She didn’t answer. She just latched on to my arm. I was dragged from the dorm to the parking lot, and we got into her car. She drove around campus, and not long after, she pulled into the empty lot of the campus gym. Empty was the operative word.
I looked around as we got out. “Where is this going?”
Summer grinned over her shoulder, heading for a side door. “Relax. Come on. Trust me.”
I grunted, “Not my forte.”
She knocked once, paused, knocked again, and did a double tap right after. The door was immediately pushed open. A big guy wearing a Cain U sweatshirt stood on the other side. His hair was sticking up, and he rubbed his eye as he held the door for us. Summer and I slipped inside. I wasn’t sure what to say, but Summer touched his chest.
Her hand lingered, and she gazed up at him, a soft smile stretching her lips upward. “Thank you, Dex.”
“Yeah, yeah.” He released the door but caught it so that it wouldn’t slam shut at the last second. It softly clicked instead. He went ahead and motioned for us to follow.
This was part of the football stadium where Mason trained. He would know where we were going, but I had no clue. The guy led us through dark hallways, and everything was a maze. We came to an open area. The air lightened.
Dex said, his voice echoing slightly in the room, “Hold up one second.”
He left us. It was just silence after that.
I grabbed Summer’s arm and hissed, “If he kills us, I’m haunting your ass.”
She laughed, easing my hand from her arm. “Trust me.”
She patted my hand, but I swatted at hers.
I repeated, “Like I said, not my forte.”
“Oh.” She grew quiet. “Well, trust me in the next few minutes because—” And as she said those words, the lights turned on, flooding a huge indoor running track.
I stopped listening. My eyes got big. My mouth was slightly ajar, but I didn’t care how idiotic I looked. It was my own personal running track. Okay, not really, but this was why Summer brought me here.
I was gutted. “You’re joking.”
She squeezed my arm. “Nope. You need safe? Well, here you go.”
Dex was coming back. He seemed more awake than when he’d met us at the door, and he rubbed a hand over his jaw, taking in my excitement. “Summer said you’re a big runner. Have at it.”
I held my hands up. “I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Just thank you.”
The track was larger than regular sized gyms. I judged the distance and calculated that two la
ps would equal a mile. I’d go as long as my legs would take me.
Summer pointed to the starting line. “Go for it.” She pulled a paperback out of her bag and went to a nearby chair, plopping down. “This is my seat for the duration. You do your thing, and I’ll do mine. I’ve got a hard-on for Harlequin hotties.”
Dex lifted a hand. “All right, I’m going back to bed. I’ve got early morning practice.” He said to Summer, “Don’t get me in trouble. All the lights have to be off. Don’t mess with the sound system, and go out through that same door. It’ll lock behind you.”
Practice? As he left, I asked Summer, “Is he on the football team?”
She nodded. Her face was more guarded now. “Should I have told him who you were?”
She meant, who I slept with.
I shook my head. “I’ll tell Mason tomorrow.” When he finally returns a phone call. I gestured to where Dex had gone. “Do I want to know how this transpired?”
Summer opened her book, but she winked at me, running a hand down her leg. “I’m a model. Getting hit on by guys happens. Though,” her forehead wrinkled, “I don’t usually take them up on their offers, but Dex seemed fine. He wants in my pants. I know that. There’s not the usual pressure I get from other guys though.” She shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe I’ll actually go on a date with him. Now, go. Shoo. Do your thing, roomie. I will be completely distracted here for as long as you need to run.”
It’d be an hour, maybe two. I frowned. “It might be longer than you expect.”
“You’re mistaking me. I don’t want to go anywhere for a couple of hours.” She patted her book, holding it to her chest. “That’s how long it takes me to really get into one of these suckers. If you finish in thirty minutes, I’ll be pissed.”
I relaxed as I heard that. I felt my mind tuning into the run. My earphones were plugged in. My music was programmed and ready to go. My phone was hooked to my arm, and my roommate was forgotten. Everything slipped to the background—where I was, the time of the day, and that I hadn’t heard from Mason. All of it was shoved down.
It was me and the track.
I did my stretches and started off at a light pace. I wanted to close my eyes and just run, but I couldn’t. I kept them open and focused ahead of me. I didn’t need to worry about cars or people, but I needed to worry about any loose piece from the track. I had to find all the indentations as I rounded my first lap, but it was smooth. By the fifth lap, I felt comfortable with the track. My body was loose and warm. It was ready to go, and I kicked up my speed.
The bass in my ear melded with my running. I hit the track on the beat, and soon, it was just me. I was the music. We molded into one being as I kept going.
I wasn’t running to forget something. I was just running. There was no mother. There were no enemies from the Academy. There were no enemies from Fallen Crest Public.
There was no relationship that hadn’t been mended.
My mother was getting help. David was married to Malinda. I spent time with Garrett, my biological father. The only person was Sebastian, but in that moment, as I was doing what I did best, a surge of contentment flooded me. Mason and Logan would be fine. They would handle Sebastian like they handled everyone. They wouldn’t be harmed. Everything would be fine.
I felt it in my gut, and as I kept going, now on my tenth lap, I was becoming stronger.
By my twentieth lap, I turned everything off.
I was running because that was what I did. My legs moved forward because that was their purpose. My arms pumped harder, helping as I sliced through the air, and my chest was tight, but my lungs still worked. Air was breathed in and released.
I was soaring.
I didn’t know how much time had passed. It wasn’t until Summer was waving her arms in the air that I slowed down. She waited for me to stop beside her.
Pulling my earplugs out, I felt for my pulse, and I automatically started counting as I asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” A look of awe was on her face. Her eyes were a little glazed, and she was taken aback. “You weren’t lying when you said you had to run. We’ve been here for two hours.”
Two hours? I frowned. I’d stopped counting my laps. “Oh.”
“You seem disappointed.”
“I have no idea how far I went.”
“Well, it was damn far. That’s for sure. Do you need to know?”
Bending down to start my stretching, I wasn’t sure. “I haven’t met with my track coach yet.”
I shifted my leg, stretching the other. My head turned, so I could see her. “My last one wanted me to record everything.”
“Wait.” She held a hand up. “You’re talking like you could keep going?”
I could. I’d run longer, but two hours was my normal max now. I hadn’t gone past the two-hour mark in a long time. All I said was, “I warned you.”
She laughed. “You did, but I had a real reason to stop you.” She held up her phone. “Dex texted me a while ago. He remembered that the security guards sweep this place twice during the night. They should be coming around in thirty minutes.”
I groaned, holding the bottom of my heel and pressing my forehead to my knee. She was right. We had to go, but holy hell, as I finished with that last stretch, I hadn’t felt this alive in a long time. Mason and running—they were the only things that could achieve that feeling for me.
I grabbed my earphones and said, “I can finish stretching in the room. We can go now.”
I gestured to the hallways. “It might take us a while to get out of here. We might get lost.”
“Ha.” Summer flashed a grin and held up her phone again. “He texted me directions for that, too. Okay. Hold on. I’m going to be brave and turn off the lights. Don’t leave without me.”
As if that was really a question.
After she turned off the lights, she hollered from across the gym, “Okay. You’re smart. This is going to take longer than I thought. Being in the dark was a whole lot scarier.” As she kept talking, her voice grew louder and louder. She was slowly coming back to me. “I’m about ready to piss my pants. And I’ll never watch another scary movie in my life. I don’t think I’ll even watch Supernatural. Oh my god—” Her voice started to veer off.
I interrupted, “Turn back. You sound like you’re going to the left of me.”
“Oh.” A second later, she said, “Is this better?”
“Not a problem.” A nervous laugh was there. “If anyone had night-vision goggles, they’d be pissing their pants, laughing at me. I’m stretching out my arms and legs in front of me, so I won’t hit anything. And I’m waving my phone around, too. So far, the light hasn’t helped with shit.”
She was getting closer.
I could see the little light of her phone. “I can see you. Keep coming.”
She snorted. “That’s what he said.”
I grinned, wiping off some of the sweat from my forehead. “Is this the wrong time to ask if you have two phones?”
The light stopped. Her voice dropped. “Why?”
Logan would be so proud. “Because I’m seeing two lights. Are you waving one behind you, too?”
Her light turned off. “Do not joke with me. I know where you sleep.”
I was holding the laughter in and cleared my throat. My voice was calm as I said, “There’s a light behind you.”
She screamed. Her light was swinging back and forth, as if hitting someone. As she kept coming toward me, she yelled, “I don’t