Saturday, January 17, 2015

Shaken: Chapter 1 Teaser

Chapter 1

Scarlett


What a colossal waste of time, I thought as I slid my jeans back up and buttoned them. The room was dark as I searched the dingy carpet for my shirt. I knew I tossed it over this way. Finally finding the purple low-cut top I wore out tonight, I pulled it over my head and ran my fingers through my long, dark hair.  
"Thanks, Mike," I called over my shoulder. "That was great," I lied. 
"It's Matt," he panted. 
I mumbled something that could have been an apology and looked over my shoulder at Matt. He was still on his back, trying to catch his breath. A thin coat of sweat covered his chest and his rock-hard abs glistened from the street lamp that shone through his blinds. He really was sexy, especially naked. It was a pity he didn't live up to my expectations.
I gave him a flirty wave and grabbed my purse off the floor before leaving the half-naked guy alone in his room. He grunted a bye to me without bothering to move. At least someone was satisfied. I let myself out of his room, trying to avoid the roommates I knew were in the "party-room", playing beer pong. 
"Scarlett!" someone yelled. "Be on my team!"
"No, I'm good," I hollered as I kept walking. I’d had enough to drink and I was sure my hand-eye coordination had decreased since my first few games. In fact, it was probably non-existent by this point. 
I weaved through the house, keeping my hand on the wall for balance. I had no idea what I was thinking going to another college party. I knew from my short stint at the University of Cincinnati that the parties held around campus were always the same. There were drunk guys looking to get laid and even drunker girls to take advantage of. 
I wasn't one of those girls. No one took advantage of me anymore. I knew when I crawled into a boy's bed that, after a whole twenty minutes of slurred conversation, they would not be calling the next day. In fact, that was the main reason I attended tonight. I had no false assumptions that the guy I bedded would be calling me ever again. This was sex, a release, and nothing more. 
I stumbled down the hall and found the bathroom. I slipped inside, locking the door behind me. My reflection stared back at me. My long, dark hair was a tangled mess with streaks of brightly colored hair sticking out everywhere. My eyes were bloodshot and surrounded with heavy makeup and perfectly winged eyeliner. I had a hickey on my collarbone, and my cheeks were flushed pink. I was the definition of a hot mess.
I leaned over a sink that had seen better days and filled my cupped hands with cold water. I splashed my face, hoping to reverse the effects of the tequila shots I took when I first arrived. The walls continued to close in and my reflection stared back, judging. 
"Shit," I whispered to myself. 
I couldn't drive now, or any time soon for that matter. I pulled out my phone and dialed the one number I knew would save me. It went to voicemail twice before he finally picked up. I heard rustling and grunting before his gruff voice filled my ear.
"What?"
"I need a ride," I said in the sweetest voice I could muster. 
"Where are you?" he asked without missing a beat. 
"Off campus. I'll text you the address."
"Fuck, Scarlett," he scolded. "That's almost a half hour drive."
"Thank you, Logan," I said before ending the call. 
Logan would come for me. He always did.

I went way out of my way tonight looking for my next fix. I was growing restless with the same routine. I would work and then hit the same few bars I always did. Always looking for my next fling, I was running out of new guys to share a good time with. I wasn't a fan of repeat performances. 
So, I drove the thirty minutes to a neighborhood just outside the UC hoping to find someone that A.) I haven't slept with B.) didn't know my brother and his friends and C.) wouldn't expect anything more from me afterwards. Kallie, my best friend and brother's girlfriend, said I was worse than a guy—sleeping around and never bothering to give them another thought. 
Feeling slightly better knowing I had an escape from here, I left the safety of the bathroom. The music was loud and voices yelled to be heard over it. I cringed as I shuffled to the front door. The house was filled with smoke and smelled like stale beer. 
When I stepped outside, I gulped in the fresh air. The cool air worked its way through my clothes, trying to sober me up while I sat on the front steps and waited for Logan to come get me. I’d known Logan since grade school and he was one of the very few guys I cared about. I only trusted my brother and his two best friends, Logan and Caleb. Those guys would never hurt me or let me down. 
After my father left us as kids, I realized that men were a tragedy waiting to happen. I didn't need romance or love. I didn't trust men and that was apparently never going to change. They lied, cheated, and stole. I wasn't dumb enough to set myself up for heartbreak again. 
Men are a twisted and crooked breed of human, lacking a conscious and roaming the earth, dooming their female victims to tears and pain. Expecting anything more than a roll around in the bed was a mistake I would never make. Not again. 
I believed that everything happened for a reason. Meeting Adam served an important role in my life. He conned me and left me the day before our sham of a wedding. It reminded me to stay guarded and that boys were only good for two things: sex and breaking your heart. Now, I only used men for the sex and avoided the heartbreak. 
Headlights rounded the corner and I lifted my hand to shield the light from my eyes. I sighed in relief when Logan pulled up to the curb and got out to open his passenger door for me. I stood and my heels betrayed me, causing me to stumble and my ass fell back to the top step. 
Logan cursed and stalked over me. Grabbing me by the arms, he lifted me to my feet effortlessly. His eyes searched my face in the dim light of the front porch light, trying to gauge my condition. Even in the dark, I could see his silver-gray eyes, lined with frustration and disappointment, seeking mine.
"I'm fine," I told him defensively. 
"Sure you are," he said as he grabbed my bag and led me down the tricky steps. 
In my defense, they could have used some maintenance. The wood was warped and cracking. College kids obviously didn't care about home improvement. 
It was clear I had woke Logan up. It was almost two in the morning. His hair was sticking up erratically, and his jeans and hoodie were slightly rumpled. His chiseled jaw twitched as he clenched it and his lips were pulled into a tight frown. His whole body was tense as he escorted me to his car. I could tell he wasn't happy with me tonight.
Once I was buckled in, Logan got in and drove us out of the neighborhood and toward the highway. I sat silent, feeling like a scolded child. I turned on the radio to break the tension, only to have him turn it off immediately. 
"When are you going to grow up, Scarlett? Is this really your idea of a good time? Getting wasted and hooking up with strangers?" he growled. 
"Mind your own business, Logan. I don't need you to tell me what to do," I slurred.
"Sure you don't. You need to get laid, you need the attention, and then you need someone to save you from it all."
"Screw you," I seethed. Logan usually didn't lecture me when he came to get me out of whatever trouble I got myself into. 
"I think you've been doing enough screwing," he mumbled.
"I heard that," I spat, slapping his shoulder. The muscle was hard under my hand and he didn't even flinch. 
"Good."
I clenched my fists in frustration. "If you’re gonna be a jerk, then let me out and I'll find another way home," I threatened. 
He sighed but made no move to pull over. "You know I would never let you do that, love. Let's just get you to bed. Let’s not fight tonight."
I nodded and rested my head back on the seat. My brain was fuzzy and couldn't keep up with an argument anyway. When I opened my eyes again, we were pulling into Logan's long driveway. The large farmhouse sat far off the road in the darkness. The only light on was the porch light since he lived here alone. 
"I have to work tomorrow," I told him, my voice thick with sleep. "Take me home so Kallie can drive me in."
"No way am I getting you up those steps to the apartment tonight," he said as he put the car in park. "I'm doing a roof with Caleb early, so we can get your car back here before you wake up."
I shrugged, too tired and buzzed to really care. Other than the steep steps that lead to our apartment above the post office in town, I lived with my twin brother and his girlfriend. Ryder was the closest thing I had to a father for a long time now, and he would not be thrilled with me coming home this late and wasted. Again. 
Logan helped me out and into the house. He turned on the lights inside as I started toward the couch in the living room. My head was throbbing and my eye lids were getting increasingly heavy the longer I stood on my own two feet.
"What are you doing?" Logan asked as he stopped me. "You're coming up with me tonight."
"What?" I never slept upstairs. 
"You almost always get sick after tequila. It's better you’re closer to the bathroom," he explained calmly as he guided me to the stairs.
This wasn't the first time I came here after drinking. I always slept on the couch and never in Logan's room, attached bathroom or not. I used the railing to help the climb upstairs. When Logan opened his bedroom door, I walked inside like a zombie and flopped on his bed. 
My heels were pulled from my feet and a blanket covered my body. I felt the weight in the mattress as he climbed in with me. I stilled and held my breath. I'd never been in a bed with Logan before. His familiar scent surrounded me as I drifted into unconsciousness. 
"You okay?" he asked quietly.
"I think so." I didn't think I would need to bolt to the bathroom.
"You smell like Axe," he complained. 
"Sorry," I said, actually meaning it. "But to be fair, it smells like Love Spell in here."
He grunted in acknowledgment as he wrapped his arm around my stomach and pulled me into his chest. The comfort and peacefulness Logan always gave wrapped around me and eased the spinning in my head.
"Did you kick her out so you could come get me?" I asked, half-joking. 
"Well, I wasn't going to bring her along," he mumbled, already falling asleep.
I opened my mouth to say how rude it was to expect me to cuddle with him after he had another woman in his bed, maybe an hour ago, but I snapped it shut. Just as his room reeked of the girl's perfume, I smelled of a guy's cologne. I had no room to pass judgment on him, and I knew I was placed in a different category than the previous woman. He didn't cuddle with anyone but me.  

I woke the next morning with a dull headache, but nothing I couldn't ignore for the day. Logan was gone, working another odd job since he couldn't seem to stick to one thing for very long. I was left alone. In his bed. 
Fuzzy memories of how I got there came to light. I moaned and rubbed my temples. He seemed more frustrated with me last night than usual. It may have to do with the fact that this was the third time this week I had to call him for a ride. 
It took me a good hour to finally drag myself out of Logan's bed and into the master bathroom. I looked around, actually impressed with how clean it was. For a man living alone, he cleaned up well. I washed my raccoon eyes away and used some mouthwash. When I felt I looked presentable, I headed downstairs and found my purse.
I let myself out of his house and locked the door behind me. As promised, my car was sitting in the driveway. I smiled to myself as I got in and put the keys in the ignition. A yellow post-it on the steering wheel caught my attention. 
Thanks for waking me up in the middle of the night. 
My stomach sunk with guilt and leftover alcohol from the previous night. It was well into the afternoon by now and he must have been exhausted when he woke up early this morning. Glad to see Logan's sarcasm was still intact after so little sleep, I sighed and started the car. 
My radio blared as freezing air blew in my face. My hands panicked while trying to decide to shut off the air-conditioner that was on full blast or turn down the ear-splitting radio. With the Fall weather, I didn't have my air on the night before, nor did I have my radio loud enough to blow a speaker. 
Shards of colored paper and glitter blasted in my face from the vents and flew around the cabin of my car like a party tornado. I swatted at the confetti and spit out the random pieces that were getting caught in my open mouth. Lady Gaga screamed at me in my surprise. 
By the time my senses caught up with me and I turned off all the controls in the car, I looked like a piƱata. Confetti and glitter covered me and the entire inside of my car. I wiped my face, only to smear more glitter on my face. 
I leaned over the wheel in a fit of laughter. Logan. This was my payback for waking him up when he had to get up so early. Ever since we kids, pranks and games were our favorite past time. I would never be able to get my car clean after this. After sending him a congratulatory text, I started the drive home to clean up. 
Payback is a bitch. 

I prayed no one saw me driving through the small town like this. It wasn't likely as I creeped down the main strip in town. Brick-faced shops and antique street lamps lined both sides of the road. Wide, brick sidewalks were decorated with benches and flower pots. The loud exhaust and bright color of my car didn't blend in well around here, so I was always easy to spot when driving around. 
My car was a red Mustang from the nineties with a high aftermarket spoiler on the back. Ryder and Logan found the car for sale online, and we drove to Michigan to pick it up when we were seventeen. It looked faster than it actually was. The car became a trademark of Scarlett Brooks. 
I parked behind our building and ran up the steps as quickly as possible so no one would see me. I was able to avoid Kallie as I slipped in to the bathroom to shower. I turned on the water and quickly washed off the night before. Matt, or Mike, I forgot what his name was, had been a disappointment. Above the waist, he looked promising. With a toned chest and cut ab muscles, I figured he would be stellar in bed. I left still feeling unsatisfied and covered in his sweat. The night was a bust.
When I felt confident I washed away all the glitter, I shut off the hot water. I wrapped a towel around my body and tiptoed to my room. Ryder was at work, but I could hear Kallie's music from their bedroom. I tugged on a pair of skinny jeans, a concert shirt, and pulled my hair up into a high ponytail. 
After Ryder moved out on his own, it only took another month for me to pack my things and join him. I was worried about him all alone here with no one to look out for him. He was wilder at that time of his life. Before Kallie, he was reckless and always in trouble. I moved in to keep an eye on him and to feel complete. I never felt right without my other half near by. 
 Kallie ended up here by mistake and wound up waking up in our apartment after drinking too much at Hank's Tavern. I took her under my wing the moment she stumbled out of my brother's room. I assumed she was another one his victims and helped her try to escape with some dignity. I couldn’t stand seeing her so lost and confused, even as a stranger to me. 
However, fate had other plans and Kallie was stuck with us for a while after that morning. Another example that everything happens for a reason. Kallie eventually became the one to heal my brother. She was the one person he would fall in love with and turn his life around. Too bad there wasn't a Kallie out there for everyone. 
I often thought my connection with my twin was why I could feel other's emotions so well. Growing up, we were always tuned into each other. I knew when he was hungry, sad, or tired. My mom would claim we always napped and woke at the same time as babies. When one cried, the other would. 
My heart broke when his did, as I'm sure he felt it when mine broke as well. The night my brother and Logan were involved in the accident that killed a young man, I woke up sick to my stomach. I left the party early and was in bed when it happened. I jumped out of bed and was throwing up with no warning. It wasn't until weeks later I found out what Ryder had experienced.
Maybe I'm overly sensitive. I picked up on the subtle feelings of everyone around me. I knew when my mother was hurting and angry while she was going through the divorce from our father. I knew when Ryder was missing Kallie while she was away, putting me in a melancholy mood as well. To avoid seeing and feeling the negatives of those around me, I try to make it better. 
I quickly picked up around the apartment before leaving for work. It wasn't huge, but it worked for my brother and me. It was two bedrooms and two baths. Ryder got the master bedroom with the in-suite bathroom while I claimed the bathroom off the living room. The small kitchen opened into the living room with a counter island to separate the space. 
We didn't have much since we moved out so young and had little to no money. We had a lumpy, plaid couch and an ugly, brown recliner. We did have a nice, big-screen TV and an antique coffee table Kallie bought shorty after she moved in. Our last one suffered the force of Ryder Brooks in a full-blown rage.
The place looked decent enough and I was out of time. I took the highway to "town" as we called it. It was more populated and had actual stores, like a Wal-Mart, and restaurants. We only had Minnie's Diner and small boutiques. Hank's was a smoky hole-in-the-wall bar, but it still supplied good food and better times. If you needed anything else, you went to "town". 
I parked my car and walked into the tattoo parlor I had been working at for five years now. I met Brent, the owner, at UC when I was displaying a sketch in a small art show we had for charity. He was drawn to the charcoal I had done of a woman holding her son on a bench. He offered me an internship at the shop and I haven’t left since. 
Brent was behind the counter, with binders of photos and flash art, helping a customer. He waved as I passed and headed to the back room to stash my purse. After slipping my phone in my back pocket, I went out front to see what I had scheduled. I only had one appointment later to finish up—a memorial to a fallen solider. The rest would be walk-ins. 
The day passed quickly enough. Being a Friday, we got a lot of people walking in for a spur of the moment tattoo or piercing. We also got a bit of foot traffic; people who came to look but never went through with permanently marking their bodies. I loved the bustle of the place when it was busy. There was always someone to talk to or something to do. I loved hearing other's stories behind their tattoos. Some had some deep, symbolic meaning to them, others were pointless. 
While I was cleaning up my station, Ruby asked if I wanted to hit a bar after work. Ruby was our new artist who specialized in piercing. Brent hired her when the demand for dermal piercings got high. He wanted to keep up with the competition. She was fun and outgoing with a loud mouth and an even louder personality. Usually we had a ton of fun together when we went out, but tonight, I wasn't feeling up to it. 
I finished my clean up and headed to my car. It had been a good day. I had fun last night, got laid, and did some amazing work at the shop today. I should be smiling, but I couldn’t. Why did I feel so empty?

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