Take Me On (Page 29)

Take Me On (Pushing the Limits #4)(29)
Author: Katie McGarry

Chapter 22

West

An insanity leaks into my brain that makes deciphering reality from fantasy impossible. The cold creeps past my skin, past my muscles, and burrows deep within my bones. My limbs feel numb. Mainly my toes and my fingers. I blow on them and I no longer sense heat.

I’m low on funds and low on fuel, but I can’t take the chill anymore.

With a flick of my keys, I start the engine and turn the heater on full force. This is my third night sleeping in the car. I think it’s my third. My stomach growls. Two in the morning, I’m freezing my balls off and hungry as hell. I don’t know what the f**k I’m doing anymore.

At home I’d be warm. I’d be in a pair of boxers under a pile of blankets. Stomach full.

I could go back. Pull in and walk through the door, but I stop the thought. Dad threw me out and if I walk in, he’ll throw me out again.

I roll to my side in the reclined driver’s seat, searching for comfort. Each night, I fall asleep, then wake up from the cold. And if the plummeting temperatures don’t jerk me awake, the demons haunting me do.

Exhaustion causes my eyesight to blur, but I force myself to stay coherent. I can’t fall asleep with the car running. I’ll be out of gas by morning. It’s in these moments when reality mixes with dreams that sleeping in the car becomes dangerous.

Wake up!

My eyes snap open and my entire body shivers. I dreamed it. I slam my frozen hand against the steering wheel. I dreamed again that I had powered on the car. My breath billows out in a cloud and my fingers hurt as I bend them. I pinch myself after I turn over the engine. I’m awake this time.

Awake.

The air first blowing out of the vents is cold, but within a few minutes hot air defrosts my frozen digits. I push a button and the radio plays. Not loud enough to draw attention, just soft enough to keep me awake.

This song played the last time I talked to Rachel—the night of the accident. She was pacing in a conference room in her golden ball gown. She was a replica of one of those f**ked-up fairy tales she was addicted to when we were kids. Only Cinderella wasn’t a seventeen-year-old high school junior with severe anxiety issues.

“I’m sorry, Rachel,” I say as if she can hear me now—as if her memory could have heard me then.

“You stole from me, West.” The gown crinkled as she completed the endless pacing loop in the small room. “You expect me to speak to you after that?”

“I was helping Gavin.” Our oldest brother. My breath is a white puff of smoke in the cold air. “I stole the money out of your room because he gambled too much. I didn’t know you needed it. You should have told me you needed help.”

In an extremely bold and uncharacteristic movement, my sister lifted her skirt so she wouldn’t trip and invaded my personal space. “Isaiah and I needed it. If anything happens to him…” She paused, then pressed on her stomach as if she was in pain.

Fuck it. I rub my eyes. She is in pain. The night of that last conversation we had was the night she went after Isaiah. She went after him to save him and she ended up in an accident. She ended up in pain.

And Rachel told me if anything happened it would be my fault.

A bell rings and I jump in my seat. My heart pounds hard once as my breath comes out in a rush. The cheap-ass alarm clock I bought continues to blare in the passenger side and the first light of day breaks in the east.

My neck is stiff from falling asleep against the driver’s-side door. My fingernails are blue. I stretch my legs and my knees automatically lock.

I slam the clock off and I stare down at the keys that had dug grooves in my hand. Fuck it all, I never turned on the car last night. The entire torture was just a dream.

Unable to take the car anymore, I stumble out and let the sharp cold air hit my lungs. Leaning against the front of the Escalade, I try to rub the cobwebs out of my head.

Dad was right to throw me out. I’m a worthless piece of shit that let my sister down. I failed her. I failed her so badly that she saw the writing on the wall. She knew her entire world was falling apart and she knew exactly where to rightfully place the blame—on me.

Chapter 23

Haley

With my hands shoved in my jeans pockets and my nose buried in the collar of my father’s old army sweatshirt, I run to keep up with Jax and Kaden. They were pissed to find me at the neighborhood bus stop this morning at four and their mood hasn’t lightened as the three of us walk-run the two blocks from our bus stop to the gym. The bus ran late and John hates tardiness.

The moment we step inside, Jax and Kaden bolt for the locker room and I survey the space, searching for John. Only the completely dedicated and insane show this early and they are currently in the middle of a three-minute rope jumping set. The bell on the timer rings and all of them drop to the ground and begin push-ups. Five more of those bad boy combos to go until they start the sit-ups.

“I’m not giving you a letter.” John sits behind a small metal desk in his cramped and disorganized office, banging on a laptop.

I rest a hip against the doorframe, seeking courage. I’ve got to be tough on this. Make him think I’m in control. “That’s not why I’m here. I want you to train someone.”

John’s eyes snap to mine and his fingers freeze. “What do I get out of it?”

“An awesome fighter.” West did take down Conner’s little friend and bruised the hell out of Conner’s face. It’s definitely arguable that West has raw talent.

“Can he pay?”

My face tightens as I try to smile. “Probably not, but I heard you’re looking for a volunteer to clean the gym and I’m sure he’ll do it.”

“Not enough. What else do you got?”

“I’ll return to the gym and train.” Swallowing prevents dry heaves, but the tingling in my head indicates I probably went green. Just the thought of fighting makes me ill.

John pulls on his bottom ear as if that will help him correctly hear what I uttered. When he accepts that hell hasn’t invested in snow-removal trucks and that pigs haven’t taken to air, he speaks. “Sit down.”

With my foot, I push a boxful of paperwork to the side and drop into the seat across from my grandfather. He resumes his angry typing and ignores me. On the filing cabinet behind him is a picture of me and him after my last fight. He has his arm around me and both of us hold up an end of the belt I won. I barely remember what that type of smile feels like on my face.

Since there was a lack of female kickboxers in the area, I trained with the guys in the gym and we had to travel to find tournaments for me, which meant a ton of one-on-one time with my grandfather. The two of us were close, very close. Now we’re as far apart as strangers.