Devoured (CHAPTER THREE)
Not only is he dominating the majority of my thoughts, but he's suddenly everywhere I turn – like my iPod, on a random playlist that plays by some freak accident; on Fuse TV where they've dedicated a whole day to Your Toxic Sequel's best videos; on my favorite local radio station giving an interview, his voice low and intimate, like sex over the airwaves.
And the next day – a little less than one day after our run-in at Alice's Cafe – Lucas is at Gram's house, too. I don't realize he's come by until I hear the sound of him talking with other people outside. There's a luxury SUV – Cadillac – parked in the driveway, and a white truck behind it with some type of logo written on the side.
At first I have no intention of letting him know I'm here – my grandmother is out running errands, and he, along with whoever is with him, haven't tried to gain access to the inside of the house. I follow the muffled sounds of their voices until I'm able to hear bits and pieces of what they're saying. And this is when I totally freak out.
"Demolish this section of . . ."
". . . completely do away with for the recording studio."
". . . better off just knocking down the whole damn house and starting over with what you want."
For the better part of a minute, I'm breathing heavily at the thought of my childhood home being ripped apart for the sake of a recording studio. Even though I'm dressed in a too-small set of PJs I found stuffed in a bottom drawer in my room – Seth still hasn't brought my luggage or called me back for that matter – and despite the fact I have pea green spot corrector dotted on various areas of my face, I shove my bare feet into a pair of my brother's oversized boots that I find in the foyer. Outside, I let the voices guide me. Lucas is at the back of the house along with his entourage – no other rock stars or a bodyguard like he'd have in L.A., but two men in contractor shirts and a tall woman with dark eyes and black and blue hair. She's rapidly taking notes of everything being said on a tablet.
It's his assistant, Kylie.
I remember her well, and she must know who I am because when our eyes meet, she mouths a silent "Oh" just before breaking into a huge grin. I dart my eyes away from her before she succeeds in making me feel even more awkward. It won't take much for me to lose my nerve right now, and if it happens, I'd prefer to dig my foot halfway into Lucas's ass first.
"Just what the hell do you think you're doing, Wolfe?" I demand before he can completely spin around to face me. For a moment, he looks as shocked as Kylie to see me. His momentary silence gives me a chance to appreciate how good he looks in light blue wash jeans and a dark blue burnout t-shirt, how his eyes seem more green than brown today, how his muscles are so completely obvious even under the loose shirt.
I stop ogling a couple seconds after he regains his composure, granting me that smile that's likely dropped panties across the country. "You're still here," he says. His voice is a mixture of two things – surprise and relief – and I'm not sure I like either one.
"Why would I leave?"
"Hmm, let's see. Maybe because the judge said this place is – "
"It's not yet. So, like I said, what do you think you're doing out here?" I ask, squinting up at him. I squeeze the bridge of my nose as hard as possible without doing myself harm.
Lucas opens his mouth as if he wants to say something but one of the contractors interrupts him.
"Mr. Wolfe, we have a limited amount of time because of other appointments this afternoon. . ." the contractor begins, but Lucas shoots him a dark look. Holy hell, even grown, 250 pound men lose their confidence around this guy.
Lucas nods to Kylie. "Finish up with these guys. I have . . . shit to take care of."
Kylie types a few additional notes into her tablet and then ushers the two men off, talking up plans of renovations and additions and completely gutting Gram's house. She gives me an apologetic smile as she passes me, probably because she knows her boss and I are about to get into it, and the odds are out of my favor. How the hell can someone so pleasant work for someone so . . . Lucas?
What a stupid question to ask yourself, Jensen, I think. He's gorgeous and talented, and you came all over his bed without even getting down to the actual deed.
Those type of thoughts – yeah, they're the ones that get me flustered and in trouble. "So I'm shit?" I blurt out.
"You know exactly what I meant."
"You know you have some jumbo balls coming out here today. God, don't you have a soul? I don't care if you're the legal owner now or not – if my grandmother had heard you talking about tearing down walls and demolishing she would have been devastated." When he crosses his arms over his chest, I repeat the gesture, trying to ignore the dizzying feeling that he's slowly undressing me with his hazel eyes.
It's the same way he looked when we first met a couple years ago, on the set of one of his band's music videos. To this day, "All Over You" is my favorite Your Toxic Sequel song. Every time I listen to it, hear Lucas rasping taboo promises, I think of how his eyes drunk me in on that video shoot.
"You're cherry red. And your nipples are hard," he says. My already crossed arms automatically hug myself tighter. He chuckles then whispers, "Hearing about the stripper pole in the living room turned you on, huh?"
I gasp, because for some messed-up reason, I can't help picturing svelte women in G-strings grinding their asses against my grandmother's furniture. It's a ridiculous thought – even if he did install a pole, it's not like Gram's belongings would still be there. I'm still furious. "Are you fucking with me?"
Before I realize what's happening, he moves forward, pulling my arms away from their protective position over my body and pressing me up against the wooden door behind me. His scent – a mixture of clean linen and sweat – fill my nostrils, makes all of my senses blur. He's close. So close I can feel the fabric of his jeans scratching my bare legs and his lips brushing my right temple. My breath is ragged and to my surprise, so is his.
"Do you really think I'm that classless to put a pole in my living room?" When he tilts my face up and I glare darkly at him, he grins. "On second thought, don't answer that."
"Why couldn't this have waited until after all this was over? Lucas, my grandmother is almost eighty. If something had happened to her, if you had gotten her upset . . ." I inhale deeply, until my lungs are about to explode, and then exhale. Hesitantly, he lifts his hand up and runs it along my cheek. A shudder that's both agonizing and warm all at once ripples through my body. I squeeze my eyes together. Start a slow, mental count to ten.
My head is spinning so violently that I only make it to six.
"If something happens to my grandmother because of you, I will kill you," I say. There's a roughness to my voice that surprises me. When I open my eyes, I can tell he's shocked too.
"Funny, I would've taken you for the passive type, but then again" – he leans backward, letting me go and crosses his arms over his chest – "there was that little incident you're still so pissed off about. Guess you're not very passive, huh?"
"You asked me to let you handcuff me to your bed. And sorry, Wolfe, but I'm not some fucking toy you can do with whatever you please."
Snorting, he wrinkles his nose. By the way he's skeptically looking at me, I know he's about to say something mocking. "Um, don't think that's exactly what I said. I told you I was going to handcuff you to my bed, and you refused. Actually, I'm pretty sure you would've started screaming if I hadn't asked you to leave."
"Get the fuck out."
His eyes narrow. "This is my house, Sienna. And technically, I'm not in."
"No." I shake my head so fiercely that my high ponytail shakes loose. He lifts a strand of my red hair, sifting it through his fingers, his eyes never leaving mine. It's an intimate gesture, and I feel that frustrating need in the pit of my belly. Silently, I curse my body for wanting him so much in spite of everything. "You didn't ask me to leave, you told me to get the fuck out," I whisper.
"Well, I'm sure I wasn't that – "
My voice is five times as strong as before when I say, "You were."
"You know, I misjudged you."
I'm getting sick of Lucas's riddles, and we've spent a total of half an hour in one another's company. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"The entire time we were shooting "All Over You", you were very obedient and . . . ah, shit, let's put it this way, Sienna – I didn't expect you to say no to the handcuffs. I expected to have a long, healthy relationship with you, actually"
I'm not sure if he's saying he mistook my being shy and overzealous to do my job as me being easy or submissive. Either way, I know I don't like what he's saying. Because there's a part of me that wonders if he's right – after all, I had gone home with him after knowing him for less than a week.
Glancing down at a spot of spot of earth that's nothing but bright red mud due to the snow, I say, "Isn't it time for you to leave?"
Lucas takes a few more steps backward, motions his arms out in an overtly grand gesture toward the hill that leads back up to the front of the house. I grit my teeth together, and shake my head.
"I thought I'd be polite and let you go first, but whatever," he says. His voice doesn't sound too polite. It's rough and hard and dangerous. And just a few moments ago, his voice and words succeeded in completely getting to me. Giving me one last sardonic smile, he turns abruptly and stalks up the hill, tracing his fingers alongside the log siding.
But halfway to the front of the house, Lucas pauses. He doesn't turn around to face me when he calls out over his shoulder, "You might think I'm shit, but I'd have never brought anyone up here to upset your grandmother. She's gone every Tuesday, like clockwork."
I'm not positive what's more unnerving – the fact Lucas knows Gram's schedule well enough to realize when is the best time to come around the house without disturbing her, or that my grandmother keeps the same schedule every Tuesday.
My grandmother always protects me, so if she's going somewhere I should be concerned about, she would never tell.
When I was a kid and my mom and dad would argue, I'd go to my grandparents. They had spoiled Seth and me rotten. After my parents divorced when I was twelve and my mother just flat-out disappeared, my brother and I had been given the opportunity to go and live with Dad and his new wife.
It was a shitty opportunity.
Not that there was anything wrong with my dad or Margaret, but they'd moved to Bar Harbor, Maine – over a thousand miles from home. Luckily, even at eight, Seth was bullheaded. My brother told Dad that not only did he hate him and his new wife, but he'd rather be ripped apart by wild dogs than live with them in Maine. That's when our grandparents, Mom's parents, stepped in. Dad wanted to be with his new wife. Our grandparents wanted us. And we wanted to stay because it was the only thing we knew. And because we both were hopeful that Mom would come back someday.
It was one of those fairytale moments where everyone was happy, and there was no animosity.
Three years later, Mom came back to Nashville with her new husband. And I quickly learned how completely stupid I was for hoping for her return.
If Lucas knows so much about Gram, what does he know about my family's history?
I tighten my grip around the scrubber pad in my hand until the steel prickles painfully into my palm and attack a spot of invisible soap scum on the shower wall. Ever since Lucas left a couple hours ago, I've kept myself busy, alternating between cleaning and watching reruns of some mobster show online. Neither has been a very good distraction from thinking of Lucas or where Gram's weekly Tuesday errands are actually taking her.
"You rushed me over here with your bags for . . . ?" the sound of a voice behind me just about pulls out of my skin. Splaying my wet palms over my chest because my heart is pounding so hard it aches, I scramble around on my hands and knees to face Seth.
"Don't you knock? Or ring doorbells?" I cough. "I could've – "
"What? Attacked me with household cleaner? The papers would have a shit-fest with that one. 'Pissy redhead mauls popular Vandy student with the remains of a Brillo-Pad. Charges are pending'." Seth doesn't seem daunted by the fact he scared the hell out of me. In fact, he's smiling like an idiot. Begrudgingly, I take his hand when he reaches it out to me, and he pulls me up to my feet.
"You wouldn't press charges against me," I say.
"I'm a girl. And I'm betting you have some screwed up idea that admitting a girl kicked your ass makes you a lesser man. Am I right?"
Lifting an eyebrow, he laughs. "First time you've gotten something right about me in what? Four years?"
Ignoring the jibe, I follow him down the stairs. I almost expect him to take a ride on the wooden bannister like he did when we were kids, but he jogs instead. The coat rack in the foyer topples over from the motion.
We squat down at the same time to pick it up. As I pick up the jackets that have fallen to the floor, I decide to confront him about what Lucas pointed out earlier this afternoon. There's a chance Seth knows something I don't know, though I'm almost hoping he's not for the sake of my not getting jealous again. "Where does Gram go every Tuesday?"
My brother's light mood seems to change in a matter of seconds. His relaxed smile disappears, suddenly replaced by a tight frown, and his shoulders tighten. He pops to his feet, but this time, he doesn't help me to mine.
"How do you know she goes somewhere every Tuesday?"
"Sh-she mentioned something about keeping to her usual Tuesday schedule this morning at breakfast," I lie. Whenever Seth takes on the brooding expression he's wearing right now, I know he's only a matter of moments away from going over the edge. I don't want to pair whatever is bothering him with letting him know Lucas was out here this morning.
Releasing a growl, Seth drags his hands through his wheat-colored hair and then stalks past me into the dining room. He sits down at the antique table where we used to eat dinner every night and slides out the chair beside of him, motioning for me to sit, too. I scoot it back in and opt for the seat at the other end of the table, directly across from him.
"I take it this isn't good," I say at last.
"Do you think it's possible she's been going to see Mom?" he asks.
Of course, but I was hoping Seth would reassure me it isn't a possibility. Seth is so upset about the prospect, that he's shaking. Out of the two of us, his bitterness toward our mother is twice as bad. But then again, I wasn't the kid who Mom had almost convinced to take the fall for her sins.
Yet somehow, I'd found myself smack dab in the middle of it all.
And for the first couple years after everything happened, I was the kid who let Mom bully her around even from inside of a prison cell.
I place my hands together, rubbing them on either side of my nose. I must look like I'm praying to Seth because he rolls his eyes dramatically. "So what do we do?" I ask.
"She's not a kid, Si. There's nothing we can do."
"You're a pretentious ass – you always know what to do."
"I'm not going to ask her if she's visiting Mom because I've got no proof. If you want to, you can, but I'm sure you won't."
"Come on, Si. You're scared of your own shadow. Gram didn't want to tell you about the goddamn foreclosure because she thought it would just upset you. Do you remember how you were in court during Mom's trial? All nervous and nodding and staring down at your lap and – "
"Thanks but I don't need a character evaluation. And I'm stronger than you think." But when I touch my hands to my cheeks, they feel flushed. This is the second time today someone's blatantly pointed out negative traits about me.
The corner of Seth's mouth quirks up, he starts to say something, but then thinks better of it. Shrugging his broad shoulders nonchalantly, he rises to his feet. He can try and pretend like he's not upset all he wants, but I know different. His hands are clenched. As soon as he leaves here, he'll head straight to the gym to blow off some steam.
It's better than blowing up and punching in someone's face like he was notorious for after Mom was sentenced. It's a wonder he isn't locked up in a juvenile detention center somewhere.
"I left your bags in the living room," he tells me, sliding the dining chairs back where they belong. He doesn't look up at me, when he says, "Hey, do me a favor – when Grandma gets in, can you tell her to call me."
Realizing that our heart to heart has come to a definite close, I nod my head. "I will. You drive safe, okay."
He rolls his eyes and mutters something under his breath where I only make out the words fucking and mom, then says, "I'm going to start looking around for places for . . ." his voice dies away, and once again, I bob my head up and down.
Like a broken little bobble-head doll.
Seth leaves without a proper goodbye. When I hear him start the engine to his truck, I go back upstairs. I clean up the mess in the bathroom, throwing the used scrubbing pads in the wastebasket and running the shower to wash away the neon blue soap that's dried to the porcelain.
Resting against the mass of pillows leaned against the headboard, I open my laptop, determined to see what the damage will be if I go ahead and reserve a compact rental car for the next 13 days. There's no way I'll be able to get anything done without a car, even if I have to spend a couple hundred dollars for the sake of convenience.
"It's just money," I tell myself. "I'll make it back quickly and all will be well in the world again." Silently, I add, if Tomas doesn't do a 180 and fire me.
I'm typing the rental car agency's web address in when I notice the tiny red notification in the left corner of the Facebook page I left up earlier after I was through chatting with Tori and a girl I'd gone to high school with. It's a friend request.
From Kylie Martin, Lucas's blue-haired assistant.
"Dear social media: piss off," I mutter, moving my mouse to decline the request. The message just below the request stops me, and I lean in closer to the screen to read it.
I know you really want to just tell me to go get hit by a bus (or you know, decline being my friend) but please accept. I have a way you might be able to save your grandmother's house. All we need is a few minutes of your time.
And just like that, I'm friends with the enemy's little worker bee.