Under the Influence, page 1
Table of Contents
The Resurrection of Aubrey Miller
Under the Influence
Copyright © 2015 by L. B. Simmons
Cover by By Hang Le (www.byhangle.com)
Edited By Jennifer Roberts-Hall
Interior Design By Kassi Cooper
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Any names, places, characters, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination and are purely fictitious. Any resemblances to any persons, living or dead, are completely coincidental.
I AM NOT A GOOD PERSON.
And I don’t pretend to be.
There may have been hope for me at one point but now, as I stare back at the hardened face and vacant eyes in front of me, there’s no denying the truth. All hope for me was lost years ago, stripped clean from my mind as they broke me. The life I’m indebted to now is one packed with corruption and polluted with lies.
I try to breathe in deeply as I rinse the freshly spilled blood from my hands, but the bitter pang of disappointment begins to compress my entire chest. It seeps along the previously etched grooves that line it, burning the hollow channels that were created with each punch to my stomach and blow to my ribs.
I rarely have these moments of weakness, when I wish I hadn’t allowed myself to be drawn into the darkened path that is this life. But right now, I find myself wishing that I had been strong enough to brave my childhood on my own. That I had been able to fend off the monsters that lurked in dark rooms and reeked of alcohol, able to protect myself from the multitude of broken bones and black eyes inflicted by the hands of those who were supposed to fucking protect me.
But I wasn’t. And now I’m stuck, hopelessly adhered to a life in which I have chosen to forgo conscience for security.
Little did I know that the day I met Silas Kincaid, I’d be making a deal with the devil. That I would be forever bound to a life from which there is no escape.
Although I started out as his lackey, I grew quickly—both physically and within the hierarchy of his organization—to become his weapon. Not only his muscle, but a tool which has many uses. His most prized possession.
And now here I am at eighteen years of age, long since graduated from errand-boy. I watch the familiar streaks of someone else’s blood swirling around yet another porcelain sink. Someone who also made a deal with the devil but didn’t deliver on his end.
I always deliver.
After drying my hands, I curl my fingers over the lip of the sink and place my palms flat on the cool ceramic surface, silently watching the reflection in the mirror. Cold, dead eyes stare back at me. Not a spark of life left in them.
In fact, the only bit of humanity I permit myself is that of Spencer Locke. She’s the one thing, the one person whose mere presence provides some sort of sense of relief from the constant feeling of asphyxiation that encompasses me.
She is my reprieve.
Spencer Locke is the one slice of happy I have in this shit pie I call life. Silas Kincaid is a ruthless motherfucker.
The two will never cross paths.
I would, with absolutely no hesitation, lay down my life to make sure that never happens. Spencer’s safety has been and will always be my concern—no, my priority. And in order to assure that safety remains, she must never know the real me. The cold, calculated, hardened criminal that I am. She will only know the Dalton Greer I permit her to know.
Just like everyone else that I come into contact with.
To Rat, I’m the entertaining best pal. To Spencer, I’m the overprotective friend. And to Silas, I’m the lethal weapon.
None of them truly know me.
Because the truth is, there’s nothing more frightening in my world than those who know you—who really know you. The ones who know your deepest, darkest secrets. The ones who know what you’re going to do before you do it. The ones who know not only what buttons to push when they seek your attention, but also the ones that can be used to completely incapacitate you.
They can be your strength.
But they can also be your weakness.
And just as a chameleon changes color to blend for protection, I’ve learned to evolve into the person I need to be in order to survive the situation at hand, all while keeping people at arm’s length. Yet sometimes I can’t help but wonder what my true colors would have been had I not been subjected to this life. I question what it would be like to just let someone in, to tell them all of your unforgivable truths and discover they still love you in return.
I find myself utterly fascinated, awe-struck even, that there are people actually capable of truly loving someone without wondering when and how they will be betrayed. However, the knowledge of their existence also saddens me because the cold reality is, I will never know that type of love. I will never know the freedom to just be with someone, without pretense or fabrication, without the endless lies and untruths.
Maybe that’s why I keep holding onto Spencer when I know I shouldn’t. When all my instincts scream for me to let her go, to cut those ties and just let her be.
I’m too selfish.
Therefore, I will plaster on my over-protective, big-brother face so that I can see her again, just to get my fix on the relief she provides. And in turn, I will continue the lies.
I will continue telling myself the only reason I insist on my frequent visitation is because I want to see to her protection.
I will continue convincing myself the things I say to her are merely pretenses which accompany my façade.
But in this rare moment, I will also concede that like a moth to a flame, I’m drawn to her.
To her innocence.
To her kindness.
To her ability to love.
To all the things I wish I was capable of but have sacrificed in order to survive.
Because just seeing her demonstrate those capabilities with me and willingly share them with others, the knowledge that the ability to do so actually exists in a world outside of mine somehow frees me—no matter how temporarily—from the chains that bind me here, in this suffocating place.
Yes, Spencer Locke is indeed my air.
“SOOOO…” CASSIE DRAWS AS we make the trek from track practice to Londonderry Street.
I glance to the right and warily eye my friend. Her long brown hair is pulled tight in a low ponytail that whips in the wind as we stride, and her face is flushed as a direct result of our recent five mile run. And, of course, in typical Cassie-style, her track shorts are about three inches too short and barely cover the cheeks of her ass. She grins slyly as she swings her gaze to meet mine.
The skin on my shoulder screams loudly in objection to the backpack I’m carrying. Frustrated, I draw my arm across my body and sling it over the other side before the nylon strap manages to saw off my arm.
“Soooo?” I can only imagine what is going to come out of her mouth next.
“So,” she begins subtly, then screams, “Jonathon Hawkins asked me to prom!” Her pitch raises three excited octaves as she begins to rattle off the details and my face falls with lack of interest before totally zoning her out.
I actually tend to zone out a lot when it comes to Cassie. It’s not that I’m uninterested or don’t want to hear what she has to say, but it’s because there are so many needless details that she insists on including. She’s one of those people who begins a story, only to become sidetracked by another one, then another, and before long there are so many subplots going on I have no idea what she’s talking about.
I’ve learned it’s just easier to decipher key words when she speaks and then piece them together on my own. That way she thinks I’m listening and I forgo losing my ever-loving mind. Plus, I tend to have a lot of inner monologue going on so there’s not a lot of extra room up there to store her stories in their entirety.
For example, with this conversation it would go something like this:
Locker. (Meaning it happened at school)
Roses. (Pretty standard)
Serenade. (Nice touch)
Sex. (Time to pay attention)
Gah. She gets me every time with that one.
“Wait, hold on. Back up.” I cease walking and turn to face her, dumbfounded. “You had sex with him? Outside the school? Before homeroom?”
She giggles and eagerly nods. I just shake mine back and forth to clear it because her recent revelation is just so ass-backwards. “Aren’t you supposed to wait until after prom to have sex with your date?”
Cassie shrugs her shoulders. “I guess, but what would be the fun in that?”
My mouth falls to the ground. “Cass—”
“I mean, prom is like two months away. There’s no way I’m going two months without sex. Absolutely not happening.”
My eyebrows rise in question. “Okaaaay, so are you and Jonathon exclusive then? Like, sexually exclusive?”
She scoffs and looks at me like I’ve sprouted another head. “Um, I’m not sure what he’s doing, but I plan on living it up for the remainder of this year. And that means muy drunken sexual encounters in my near future.”
She places her hand on my shoulder and squeezes while I just gawk back, dumbstruck. “We should work on getting you laid too. Being a virgin in college would be no bueno, my friend. Trust me on this.”
I close my jaw and, in hopes of a much-needed topic change, I commend her. “Excellent use of the Spanish language there, Cass. Your Spanish teacher was a fool for failing you.”
She grins. “Right?” She looks toward the sky and exhales loudly. “Coach is an asshole. He was just pissed I wouldn’t sleep with him. My Spanish is just fine.”
Instead of sheer horror, I find myself strangely relieved by this statement.
She takes another deep breath, then looks back at me. “Ready?”
I nod and shift the backpack yet again as we begin walking. Soon after, we turn the corner onto Londonderry and make our way toward my house. As we approach, I spot the very familiar 1969 Camaro Z28 parked in my driveway and the driver sitting on my porch, patiently awaiting my arrival.
I lift my hand to shield my eyes from the sun. As I take in his appearance, I’m whisked away from the present and deposited directly into my past. Five years ago to be exact.
My voice is small and unsure as I attempt to speak to the boy sitting alone on my front porch. The crackle of the gravel under my feet, however, is the only answer I receive. As I hesitantly approach, I mentally peg him as being only a year, maybe two, older than me.
The tips of his sandy blonde hair gleam brightly as the setting sun strikes, highlighting both the top of his head and the strands that peek out at me from behind his ears.
With absolutely no response to my presence, I watch silently as dust takes flight when he drags his foot through the dirt. My eyes fall to the tops of his shoes, the shredded holes displaying the grey of his socks just underneath. Slowly my gaze rises to the frayed patches of his faded blue jeans, then to the brown stains on his white tank top before it finally lands on the yellowing bruises lining the right side of his jaw.
Internally I cringe, but my voice remains steady as I offer gently, “My name’s Spencer. What’s yours?”
His body stiffens before he lifts his piercing blue eyes to meet mine. My breath stills as the sight of them. They’re the most fascinating color I’ve ever seen.
So light blue they’re almost grey.
So clear that I immediately recognize the pain he’s trying to mask.
He watches me cautiously for a moment, taking in my appearance before his face pinches into a scowl. “Spencer? That’s a boy’s name.”
I nod. “Yeah, not the first time I’ve heard that one.”
His expression tightens further before he finally breaks eye contact to focus on the much more interesting soil below him.
This isn’t the first time we’ve had a foster kid show up at our house. I might be twelve years old, but I know a lot about this kind of stuff. I know his life has been difficult. His annoyed and hardened response isn’t something I haven’t dealt with before. Therefore, instead of being insulted like most girls my age, I simply take a deep breath and a seat next to him, saying nothing else while we watch the sun set in front of us. Both in complete silence.
Once it has disappeared below the horizon, the boy blows out a long, deep puff of air, as though accepting his current situation, then drags his fingers through his messy hair before turning to face me. The side of his mouth barely curves upward into a subtle, yet playful, version of a grin.
“So … Spencer, was it?”
I finger the strands of long, blonde hair that have blown across my face and pull them away while offering him a tiny nod. He gives me a slight nod back and then jerks his chin in my direction before he speaks.
“Well, Spencer. Wanna get high?”
And that’s the day I met Dalton Greer.
A wide, goofy grin crosses my face at the memory.
Right after he asked his question, I punched him in the arm. Who in their right mind would offer weed to a twelve year old girl they just met? Then I proceeded to take him up on his offer, catching him completely off-guard. He busted out laughing, I took the first puff of many, and we’ve been friends ever since.
My heart springs to life within my chest as he rises in anticipation for my arrival, donning his typical playful smile and his ever present Yankees cap, pulled low as it hides his eyes. Although he still strongly resembles the kid I met that day, he’s about a foot taller and definitely more man than boy now. Once standing, Dalton proceeds to stretch broadly and the white v-neck T-shirt clinging to his chest lifts a couple of inches, exposing a small sliver of his muscled stomach. His frayed jeans hang low on his waist, so I also catch a glimpse of the glorious “V” marking his hips as he passes his hands through his longish, shaggy blond hair.
I sigh out loud.
I know we will never be more than friends, but my heart is relentless. And a traitor. It abandoned me that day on the porch, leaving me to suffer i
“Girl, you are in so much trouble with that one,” Cassie mutters under her breath as we pass my mailbox.
I shoot her a sideways glare. “Shhhh…”
As usual, my attempt to shush her delivers the exact opposite effect.
“Dalton is so gorgeous, Spence. You know, you should totally cash in your V-card with him. I’m willing to bet he would take very, very good care of you.” She sighs. “I hate that he graduated last year. I used to watch him walk down the halls, that ass in those jeans...” She actually moans upon finishing the last word and I elbow her in the ribs.
Clearly insulted, she stops and gasps. “Ouch, bitch!”
“Shut. Up. You know it’s not like that with us,” I snap. My tone is harsh, but when I catch a glimpse of her wide-eyed expression, I find myself struggling to hide my amusement.
Narrowing her gaze, she leans into me and whispers, “You and I,” she gestures between us, “are going to figure this out. I am going to go home and come up with a plan, like now. And then I’m going to come back over tonight and we are setting this brilliant plan that I haven’t even thought of into motion.” She giggles and wraps her arms around my neck, pulling into a tight embrace.
I hug her back, laughing in her ear. “You know, you make absolutely no sense, but I love you anyway.”
A giggle sounds before she responds, “Love you, times two.”
Releasing me, she turns to cross the street to her house, evidently to concoct the plan of the century. I smile as I watch her cross safely, then twist back toward Dalton, who is making his approach. He grins crookedly back at me and reaches to take my backpack. I hand it over more than willingly.
“Thanks,” I state, rubbing my shoulder. Dalton switches the backpack to the other hand, then curls his fingers over my shoulder and begins to knead my aching muscles.
“Anytime,” he answers, still smiling. With his hand still massaging, he urges me forward.
I glance up at him and squint my eyes. “Why do you always wear your hats so low?” I reach up and tug the bill of his cap. “It hides your eyes.”
He frowns. “That’s exactly why I wear them that way. If you can’t see my eyes, you can’t see me watching. And I watch everyone. All the time.”
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