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Ordinary anything but se.., p.3

Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1), page 3


Ordinary (Anything But Series Book 1)

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  He motioned her closer. Honor hesitated and finally did so. “I don’t…play games,” Ryder said softly.

  She backed up, frowning. That was such a lie. All he’d done was play games with her since the day she’d met him. He was the cat, the predator, and she was the mouse, always trying to outrun and outsmart him. To think of their interactions as anything else was unimaginable. He got off on making her uncomfortable and she didn’t understand why.

  “If you don’t tell me what you want to eat right now, I’m walking away and I’m not coming back.”

  Ryder ran a finger along his lower lip. Honor’s eyes were involuntarily drawn to the motion. She quickly moved her gaze to the table.

  “Surprise me.”

  She opened her mouth and then snapped it shut. “Okay. Fine.” Honor stormed away, ignoring Eric’s curious look. She untied her apron and slapped it on the counter. “The guy at table three wants a plate of raw onions. I’m going on break.”

  Jerk, went through her mind as she rushed down the short, dark hallway to the back door. Honor shoved the door open; her hands jarred at the impact, and let the door slam shut behind her. It was dark and the glow of streetlamps illuminated the area surrounding her. There was a dumpster behind the building and a small parking lot. She sucked in the cool air, letting it absorb some of the heat from her skin. She hated Ryder, she really did. He liked to frustrate her and he was a prick.

  I wish he would leave me alone.

  Honor paced back and forth with a hand to her head, loose gravel scraping the bottoms of her shoes. She wanted the night to be over with. She wanted to go home and forget everything about that day. It had pretty much been the most horrible day ever, second place only to her father dying, which would always be the worst day ever. Nothing could compare to that day.

  Her chest tightened and her throat felt like it was closing. Honor drew in a breath, held it, and released it. She did that over and over, emptying all thoughts from her brain, until the tears stopped forming, and she was in control once more. She straightened her shoulders and hoped the bar’s dim lighting would mask her red-rimmed eyes.

  When she got back inside, Eric handed her a twenty-dollar bill. She took it, a frown on her face. “What’s this?”

  “Your tip from table three. He must like onions a lot.” He turned away to get a customer a beer.

  Honor crumpled the money in her hand. She didn’t want a tip from him. She didn’t want anything from him and fully planned on returning it the first chance she got. She shoved it in her pocket and went back to work.

  Honor turned away from Christian’s empty desk and looked at Natasha, but Natasha had her head lowered. Something really weird was going on. She faced the front of the classroom and swallowed thickly. All day she’d been searching for Christian, but as history was the only class they shared, she hadn’t been too surprised when she hadn’t seen him. Honor knew he spent a lot of time in the English room working on the school paper he wrote an article for. That was where Christian usually was when he had a free period and at lunch time.

  Not that she spied on him or anything; she’d seen him in the room on her way by a few times in the past. But not today—today he hadn’t been there any of the numerous times she walked by, simultaneously looking for him and trying not to be too obvious about it. Christian was quiet, a loner, and kept to himself. But he should have been in class. He should have been somewhere in the school.

  Mrs. Logan handed Honor the paper she’d made a halfhearted attempt at last night after work and her late night phone call to Anna. She looked at the red C+ and sighed. Honor hadn’t told Anna anything but superficial information, nothing about Christian, and not much about Ryder, other than her complaints about him bugging her all the time. Anna thought it was funny. She thought Ryder liked her and Honor liked him. Anna thought a lot of things. She felt eyes boring into her and turned her head. Natasha quickly looked away. What is her problem?

  When the bell signaled the end of class, Honor grabbed her books and bolted out of her chair. “Natasha!”

  She slowly turned to face Honor and lifted an eyebrow. “What?”

  She flushed. Now that she had her singled out, words evaded her. Honor cleared her throat, feeling dumb. “We need to talk.”

  Natasha Becwar was somewhere around five feet tall and slim with light brown hair she wore short and messy. She had large brown eyes overemphasized by black eyeliner and looked like a punk rocker fairy with her oversized purple and red tie-dyed shirt, black stretch shorts, combat boots, and pixie face. Multi-colored bangles went halfway up her forearms and hoops dangled from her ears. Her nose was pierced and a tiny green gem sparkled there. She was hard. There was no softness to Natasha and Honor always wondered why that was. What kind of life did she have at home that had made her the way she was?

  Kids bustled past them on either side, eager to get out of the classroom, while Natasha continued to look at her like she was an annoyance. “About?”

  “What do you know about Christian?”

  “Everything okay, girls?” Mrs. Logan watched them from behind her desk, a quizzical look on her face.

  Honor adjusted her grip on her textbooks. “Fine. Everything’s fine.” She offered a smile, which the teacher returned. She looked at Natasha. “Well? What do you know about Christian?” she asked in a lowered voice.

  “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

  “I saw you yesterday. I saw you watching him and I know you know something.” Natasha started to move away and she grabbed her wrist. “What is it? What was wrong with him? Is he okay?”

  Natasha yanked her arm out of Honor’s grasp. “Look, I wouldn’t be worried about Christian if I were you.” With that, she quickly left the classroom.

  Honor frowned and hurried to catch up. The hallway was almost empty so it was easy to find Natasha. She was at her locker, her fingers busily working the combination on the lock. “What do you mean?”

  The locker door creaked as it opened. Natasha grabbed a few books from it and shoved them into a purple tote. She didn’t look at Honor as she answered, “Just what I said. Don’t worry about Christian Turner.”

  A sick feeling formed in Honor’s stomach. “Meaning?”

  Natasha slammed the locker door shut and let out a sound of irritation. “Do I need to spell it out for you?” She glared at Honor. “You figure it out. I have enough problems of my own without having to babysit you too.”

  Honor fell back a step, unable to grasp what she was hearing. “What?” she asked; completely confused. “What are you talking about?”

  She pressed her lips together into a tight line. Natasha leaned close to Honor and said slowly, “You and I are not friends. We don’t talk. Stay away from me.” She slung the tote straps over her shoulder and strode down the corridor.

  Honor stared after her. What was wrong with everyone? She felt like she was in that old television show, ‘The Twilight Zone’. Everything was disjointed. She swallowed; her mouth dry. She and Natasha had never exactly been friends, but she’d never been so outwardly rude to her.

  She turned in the direction of her locker, feeling completely disoriented with everything that had happened within the last twenty-four hours. She opened the locker door and put her books inside, grabbing her red backpack.

  Something strange was going on and Natasha had just made her even more determined to figure out what it was. She knew something and she was trying to keep whatever it was hidden. Honor shut the locker door and turned, sucking in a sharp breath. Ryder stood against the wall across the hall. A gray tee shirt fit his leanly muscled chest like a glove and black jeans hugged his legs, his customary black boots in place. He looked like he was posing for a photo shoot, and with his looks, he totally could have been.

  What a waste of a good body, Honor thought. He wore a half-smile that widened into a full one as their eyes met. She shot him a look of irritation. Why was he always around, hovering? The guy needed to take a hint.

  She reached into her back pocket and pulled out a wrinkled twenty dollar bill. “I have something of yours.”

  He pushed away from the wall. “That’s yours. You earned it.”

  “Right. With my exemplary customer service skills?”

  He stopped within inches of her. Honor tilted her head back, ignoring the way her pulse picked up with his nearness. “I’m sure you’re usually much nicer to your customers. I seem to bring out the worst in you.”

  There was a twinge at her conscience, but she ignored it. “That’s your goal. You intentionally do it.”

  “So you’re saying you let me win.” Ryder lifted his hand and Honor flinched. He cocked his head and narrowed his eyes, his fingers closing around her fist with the money in it. He gently squeezed. His fingers were warm and firm, calloused. Honor frowned at that. She couldn’t picture him working at anything harder than making himself look good. “Keep it.”

  Honor opened her mouth to protest, but he was already walking away. She looked at her hand, expecting to see some lingering sign that he had touched her; a burn or a brand maybe. Nope. It was her normal hand. She carefully folded the money and put it back in her pocket. Must be nice to be able to just throw money away. To have so much it’s no big deal to part with a twenty.

  She made her way down the deserted corridor, feeling out of whack. Honor couldn’t understand him. One minute Ryder was nice, the next he was mocking. Sometimes she imagined she saw a flicker of something in his olive green eyes, something deep and penetrating, but Honor knew that’s all it was—her imagination.

  Honor briefly closed her eyes as the cool air touched her heated skin. It was overcast, the sun covered by wispy clouds. She was almost chilly in her tan shorts and thin white top. Her thoughts went back to Ryder and her skin felt warm once again. What was it about her that held his attention the way it did?

  There was nothing special about Honor and there never had been. She was average in about every way; her one overachievement was her running. She’d excelled at track all four years, even placed second at state three of those and third the other year. That was no reason to warrant Ryder’s interest in her. He could have any girl in the school, any girl at all, but he instead had to do whatever it was he was doing with her. Tormenting her came to mind.

  He’d been in Anderson Junction for two years and in that time, he’d made it his daily task to irritate and fluster and creep out Honor. It wasn’t like he didn’t date though. He did. It never lasted long, much to Honor’s annoyance. She’d received her share of dirty looks from his girlfriends and ex-girlfriends too, like she wanted him to bother her all the time. Sometimes he almost seemed sweet, in his own twisted way. That’s what really upset her. Honor didn’t want to like anything about him and sometimes she had to work hard at continuing to dislike him. Other times she swore she couldn’t stand a single strand of the blond hair that graced his head.

  The crunch of tires on gravel caught Honor’s attention. She twisted around to see the silver Chevrolet Tahoe once again in the parking lot. Panic, instant and swift, swept over her. Oh, no. Honor fisted her hands, fighting an intense urge to run. Why were they there again? Her shoulders slumped when she saw the same two men who had come for Christian yesterday waiting beside the SUV, watching her. One was tall with brown hair, the other short and bald. They both wore dark-colored suits and sunglasses that amplified their tough exterior. She eyed their jackets, sure she saw a bulge under them where a gun most likely was.

  She swallowed thickly. They’re going to kill me. I saw something I shouldn’t have and now they’re going to kill me. Honor wanted to tell herself not to overreact, she wanted to tell herself there was probably a perfectly good answer to everything that had happened in the past day, but she couldn’t lie to herself. She instinctively knew it was not good that they were there, in the parking lot, waiting for her. Not good for her at all.

  What was Christian involved in? Drugs? It had to be drugs. Nothing else made sense. And those were the thugs he’d somehow pissed off and possibly gotten killed by. Since Honor had witnessed them taking him away and they had seen her watching them, now she was dead too. But it didn’t fit. The drugs didn’t fit Christian. What then? It didn’t really matter because there they were, eyeing her up, ready to shove her into their vehicle like they had with Christian the day before.

  Honor put a hand to her mouth, feeling faint and sick and scared. She stared at them, her body trembling. What did she do? She had to do something, but what?

  The shorter one of the two called out, “Honor Rochester?” The taller one took a step in her direction.

  Honor looked away, fear squeezing her chest. What do I do what do I do what do I do? She looked back to see they were both closer. They had their hands raised, palms down, and were inching toward her.

  “We mean you no harm, but you have to come with us,” the tall, brown-haired one said.

  Screw that. She put a hand to her forehead and tried to think. I won’t get far if I run. They don’t think I’ll run. It would be stupid to run. Honor’s jaw tightened and her hands clenched. She had to try. Even if she didn’t get far, even if she didn’t make it, she had to try. I’m going to run. She relaxed her arms and let her backpack slowly fall to the ground. She took a deep breath, squeezed her eyes shut, and inwardly counted. One. Two. Three.

  Honor sprinted.

  Their shouts sounded behind her and she looked over her shoulder. The men stared after her for one second of stunned silence and then immediately went for the vehicle. Honor faced forward and pumped her arms and legs. Tires shrieked on the pavement behind her. The wind whipped her hair back from her face and sweat beaded on her skin. She sucked in gasping breaths, knowing she should pace herself and control her breathing, but too panicked to try. They weren’t going to get her without a fight. They never would have gotten Christian if he hadn’t been sick and too weak to fend them off.

  Honor ran past houses and people. She could hear the motor behind her, catching up. She cut through a yard, ignoring the startled look of an older man mowing his lawn. The whir of lawnmower blades drowned out the sound of her thundering heart for an instant. She decided to stay in the alleys that ran behind houses. A cramp formed in her side and strangled sounds burst from her as she tried to breathe.

  When the burn in her lungs and side became too much, Honor ducked behind a tan shed with peeling paint. She put her hands on her knees and hung her head. Her pulse raced from exertion and fear as she swiped perspiration from her brow with her arm. I can’t keep running forever. I need somewhere to go, to hide. Home would be too obvious and it would put her family at risk. Honor felt the burning sting of tears and took a shuddering breath. Anna’s house was out too.

  She looked up at the sky and noted the puffy gray clouds. It was going to rain. Honor sat down in the dirt. It caked against the wet skin accessible to it and formed a gritty layer. She leaned her back against the shed, her stomach churning with hunger as she wrapped her arms around her midsection. Her throat was parched and there was a bad taste in her mouth. Her nose crinkled as she caught a whiff of herself. Honor smelled like sweat and failing deodorant.

  What do I do now? She fleetingly thought of going to McDermott’s. But again, it would be too obvious of a place and she really couldn’t see her boss overly excited about hiding her. Mom’s probably starting to worry. Anna is sure to be pissed. That’s two days in a row I’ve ditched her. Honor rubbed her aching forehead as a cool drop of wetness hit her nose and soon more followed. Honor turned her face up to the light rain, opening her mouth and trying to catch raindrops on her dry tongue. The rain did nothing but make her thirstier. She bowed her head, the liquid snaking through her hair and on to her skin, dampening her clothes.

  Honor sat like that for a long time, scared and tired, her thoughts an unpleasant jumble. Was Honor’s short-lived life over the moment they caught her? She wanted to go back to two days before, even to the day before. That moment when her mom pulled her into he
r arms before she left for work last night, wrapped her cinnamon sugar scent around her, and told her she loved her— she wanted to even go back to that moment and stay there.

  And home—she wanted to go home. Honor blinked her stinging eyes. She’d probably never see her mom again. Or Scarlet. Her lower lip trembled and her vision blurred. I’ll never get to do Scarlet’s hair for her again. I’ll never feel the warmth of my mom’s arms around me and know I’m safe. I won’t even graduate or go to college. Anna will never forgive me for getting killed. Ryder will have to find some new girl to torment. Her lips began to curve in a sad smile and she forced it away. And Christian; what had they done with Christian? Was he even alive? Honor had a terrible feeling he wasn’t. The tears threatened again and that time they won, trickling down her cheeks and onto her lap to mix with the rain.

  Honor didn’t know much about him. She knew Christian liked to write and was good at it. He had a younger sister and brother. His parents were married. Were his parents now wondering what had happened to him? His mother had seemed like she’d known something was going on. At least, her behavior had led Honor to draw that conclusion. What if Honor had been the last one, other than the two guys that took him, to see him alive? Was that why his mother had acted so odd? Had Christian’s family been threatened somehow?

  I can’t give up. I’ll keep going for Christian, and if Christian’s gone, then for his parents. They need to know what I saw, even if it doesn’t matter. She wiped her dirt-stained hands on her wet shorts and got to her feet, creeping around the shed and glancing at the street sign. She was near Locust Street and Sunshine Drive, which put her nowhere near anywhere she wanted to be. She was smack dab in the middle of the town. Wasn’t that always the wrong place to be in movies, the place least likely to offer escape?

  Honor heard a car engine and fell back against the shed, waiting until it passed. It was an old white Buick. Its taillights looked like two glowing red eyes in the rain. She shuddered. Almost immediately she heard another car engine and leaned around the shed, hands splayed against the cool siding to keep her anchored in the slippery rain and sludge mixture she stood in. A police car slowly drove down the road. Honor couldn’t believe she’d never thought of going to the police station. They’ll help me. I’ll tell them about the two men and Christian. Everything will be okay. Relief swooped over her in dizzying waves.

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