The cabin, p.16

The Cabin, page 16


The Cabin

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  "But you think so too, don't you?"

  "I think if he was into that whole weed scene, then maybe. He still loves Tilly, or what he thinks is love, anyway. Whatever's going on, he's seriously messed up right now," I said.

  "Why did you say it like that, Mackenzie? You think there's something mentally wrong with him? Like a breakdown?"

  "No. But Aaron and Tilly weren't good together. Not for longer than a few weeks. Everything ended in an argument and them breaking up. I know they both liked each other, or they wouldn't have kept going back for more, but I don't think they were in love."

  "Is that motive enough, then?"

  "Is anything motive enough? People kill randomly because they enjoy it or because someone looked at them a funny way. That's not the important part. If Aaron killed Courtney and Josh, it was driven by revenge or jealousy about their relationship, which have always been strong motives."

  His smirk was back. "Maybe you should be a judge or--"

  I clicked my fingers in front of his face and said, "Stay with me." We didn't have time for him to go off on a tangent. "You think Aaron, so I think we should look into him more."

  "I'm a little hurt that you're using me."

  "Using you how?"

  "You think it could be Aaron too, so you're using me as an excuse to drive down that road, to collect evidence. You've dismissed everything else I've said or told me I'm an idiot, but now you agree--"

  "I haven't dismissed everything," I said, playing with my fingers. He was right though: we both thought it could be Aaron, and though I couldn't quite bring myself to admit it out loud, I was using Blake's suspicions to stand in place of my own.

  "New rule," he said, lifting his hand. "If you're going to use me in the future, it will only be when we're both naked."

  I stared blankly. "I knew you were no gentleman, but that is pushing it."

  "Baby, you won't hurt my feelings."

  "No, but I'll hurt yours when I'm left frustrated and complaining about your lousy performance in the sack," I deadpanned. He lunged for me, making me yelp in surprise. "Blake!" OK, that wasn't supposed to happen. I saw his room tilt as he pinned me to his bed and held my wrists up over my head.

  He was on top of me and all coherent thought flew out of the window.

  "You're being mean. And you've cruelly insulted me and mocked my performance, which you know is off the charts since I remember vividly the way you reacted to my every touch last time."

  Last time and first time. That night meant so much to me and not only because Blake had made sure it was all about me. It was the first time that I'd been with someone since the abortion. He was the first person I'd trusted since Danny.

  I laughed breathlessly from beneath him. He was both too close and too far. "Thanks for the offer but I'm busy." I tried to say the words evenly, but they probably came out in a frazzled rush.

  "What part of that did you take as being an offer? Clothes off, Mackenzie."

  I pouted as the fire in my lower abdomen burned out of control. "See, that is why I know you'd be rubbish right now. How unsexy is it when someone tells you to take your clothes off like that?"

  "I kinda like it."

  Yeah, I kind of did too, but he didn't need to know that.

  "That's only because you're a man." Lie, lie, lie. I squirmed. "You kiss a woman and remove her clothes as you go. You can have that tip for free. Let me know if it works," I replied, pulling my arms to try to get him to release me. "Come on. You're heavy and we have things to do." I frowned and looked up at him. What was taking him so long to make his move? "Hello?" I called to his perfect imitation of a statue face.

  "You might have something there," he whispered in reply and lowered his head.

  My heart thudded against my chest.

  Oh sweet Jesus.

  He was going to kiss me. No amount of obsessing over my friends was going to stop me from returning that kiss. This was for me, for us, and I think both Blake and I needed it.

  "Blake!" Eloise shouted from downstairs. Her footsteps thundered up the stairs. "Blake!"

  Blake spluttered a string of swearwords and pushed off me.

  His mum calling him right when things were heating up felt like I'd just done the Ice Bucket Challenge.

  Eloise burst through the door just as I'd gotten a grip on myself and sat up. "He's dead," she sobbed. Her knees gave out, and she collapsed to the floor, gripping the door handle. "Pete's dead. He's dead."

  Chapter Seventeen

  Oh God. I dropped to the floor beside Blake's shaking, broken mother. She had just lost her son and now her brother, and she looked as if she was about to die too. Blake looked at me like a lost puppy. "Mum..." he said, his voice cracking.

  I reached out and wrapped one arm around his mom's back, scooting closer to her. "I'm so sorry, Eloise," I whispered soothingly, pulling her closer to me. She fell limp into my lap and cried. I shook from the heavy vibrations that rocked Eloise's sobbing body. "Shh, it's OK. Are you alone? Is there someone we can call?" She had a friend who'd come by most days since Josh had died.

  "Yes, I'm alone," she croaked. "I'm alone."

  She said it in a way that broke my heart for Blake. She may have lost one son and her brother, but she wasn't alone. She still had Blake.

  "OK," I said. "I'm going to take you to bed so you can lie down and then Blake and I will sort out who to call and what to do next."

  She didn't reply, but she didn't try to stop me when I hooked my arm under hers and lifted her up. Blake stepped in and helped, doing most of the lifting, and we carried her to her room. Practical things Blake could do, but with the emotional stuff, he was about as useful as a teapot.

  "Blake, don't you...don't you do anything stupid. Don't you get yourself killed," she whispered and started to sob so hard her weight seemed to double.

  "I'm not going anywhere...Mum," he replied, sounding about a thousand miles out of his comfort zone.

  Eloise cried harder when he called her Mum. She didn't stop when we laid her down or when we promised we'd help her through losing Pete. She hugged her pillow, pressing her face into the cotton as she broke down. Her fingers gripped it with such force her knuckles turned white.

  "Do you need anything? Water?" I asked, stroking her hair.

  "N-no. Look a-after him," she replied, curling into the fetal position.

  "I will," I promised her. "Would you like us to stay?" She shook her head and curled up tighter. "OK, we'll check on you soon." Standing up, I nodded to the door, telling Blake we were leaving.

  "How do you know what to do?" he asked as we left the room. He looked like hell, like he hadn't slept in weeks. But even though he wasn't at his best, he still made my heart beat faster.

  "I'm so sorry for your loss, Blake." I wrapped my arms around his waist and his body tensed. I knew he wasn't exactly a cuddly person, but with me hugging and him not hugging back, things quickly got awkward. This was a mistake. I was about to pull away, but he very slowly lifted his arms and snaked them around my back.

  I answered his question, "I don't really know what to do. I just did what I would want someone to do for me. All you have to do is look after her, think about what you would want if the tables were turned."

  "I've never had to do that," he whispered, tucking my head under his chin.

  "You do now. I know you've not had a lot of experience or the best relationship with your mum, but she needs you now. You need her too."

  "Hmm. So when you fall apart, I need to remember to put you to bed."

  I pulled back, but he didn't loosen his grip, so I couldn't quite see his face. "I'm falling apart?"

  "Not yet. You're not done protecting everyone yet."

  I wasn't sure who I was trying to protect. I didn't know who was guilty and who was innocent. "Does that mean you're sticking around, then? Even after you're allowed to leave town and go back to your dad's?" I asked. If he said no or told me only until this was all over, I'd be broken. We'd not known each other
long, but it was long enough for me to willingly hand over my heart. It was his.

  "I'm not sure what I'll do yet. Back home I don't have much going, but at least it's home. Whatever I decide, I'll come back. I promise to be the one to tuck you into bed."

  It was better than a straight-up no, but I selfishly wanted more. "You really do care, don't you? As hard as you try to push everyone away and be Mr. Independent, you do care, Blake."

  "No, you just have this way of bulldozing into someone's life and bloody staying there."

  I smiled and closed my eyes. With his chest against mine, I felt like I was home, and although he wasn't the romantic type, he made me feel cherished. Through the worst time in my life, he was there for me, being the rock I needed.

  "That was sweet on some level," I teased him.

  "I don't do sweet, Mackenzie."

  "Too late! You were sweet. Inside, you're made of little pink marshmallows."

  "Why pink?"

  I opened my eyes and grinned. "They're cuter."

  "You think I'm cute?"

  I let my arms drop and this time he took a step back. "No, actually I think you're an idiot." He smirked, looking proud of himself. "Whatever, Blake. Stop distracting me." People were being murdered around us and we were messing around. Only he could turn me into my old self when my friend was dead and we were possibly on someone's hit list.

  "Sorry," he replied, not one bit sorry at all. "I think we should follow Aaron, Kyle, and Megan."

  "You want to stalk my friends?"

  "No, but I think Pete found out who killed Josh and Courtney, so they killed him. Whichever one of your friends did it, they're getting desperate. If they think people are starting to catch on, they might do something or go somewhere that'll lead us to the truth."

  "So we're going on a stakeout?"

  "Yep. We just need a different car."

  "A rental car?" I replied, feeling a flash of adrenaline and maybe excitement. What's wrong with me? "Can we even do that?"

  "Why can't we?"

  "Don't you have to be twenty-three or whatever age it is?" Although Blake was twenty and had been driving for three years, I didn't think he'd be allowed to rent a car.

  He snorted. "Please, I have fake IDs that put me well into my thirties. I'll get the car and pick you up tomorrow morning. This needs to be sorted out before..."

  "Before?" I prompted.

  "Before someone else gets hurt."

  "Watch out. You're caring again."

  His dark eyebrow lifted. "I meant me getting hurt."

  "Sure you did." I bumped his arm with my own.

  "Go home, Mackenzie," he joked.

  "OK, fine. When your mum wakes up, remember to--"

  He gripped my wrist, eyes rounding in fear that I'd actually leave him alone with his mum.

  "All right, all right, I'll stay for now," I reassured him.

  "That's what I thought. Come on." He pulled me back to his room.

  "Are you OK?" I asked. "You've not said much since Pete..."

  "Since I learned he died, you mean," he said, sitting on the bed and holding his hand out for me. I took it with a smile and sat down, kicking my legs over his.

  "He was a stranger. I barely saw any of them after I moved with my dad."

  "Did you want to know your mum?"

  "Are you going to psychoanalyze me again?"

  I smiled. "Maybe a little."

  "I wanted to--of course I did. That's not always how it goes though. My parents split and so did our family. There were times growing up when I wanted Mum to be in my life, properly be in it, not just the odd phone call every couple of months, but she was busy raising Josh and had her own life to deal with."

  "That doesn't mean she was allowed to be less of a mum to you," I replied, anger burning in my chest for him. No matter how far apart they were, she should have been the best mum she could have to her son. A phone call every few months wasn't being a parent.

  "Mackenzie, it's fine. I'm a big boy, for shit's sake."

  It wasn't cool, but I dropped it because Blake wasn't known for spilling his heart and I didn't want to fight. "OK, I'm sorry. What does this mean for us?"

  "Wright is going to try pinning Pete's death on us too. Whoever the killer is, they've just entered serial territory."

  I felt like I'd just been punched. "What?"

  "Serial killer, Mackenzie."

  "Yes, but how do you know that?"

  He sighed sharply as if he was frustrated. "Three murders and you're serial. Although I think that might only count if there's time between each one, so Josh and Courtney might just count as one."

  I swallowed bile. "Stop." God, how could he talk about death like it was nothing?

  "Sorry," he muttered, wincing.

  "Blake, what if we're next?"

  He cocked his head to the side and brushed his fingertips along my jaw. "You know that's the first time you've put yourself before your friends. Don't look so confused. A few days ago, you would have said something like, 'What if we're all next?' Now it's just us."

  "Because I don't know which one of..." I stopped midsentence. Which one of them is the killer. I moved off Blake like he was on fire.

  Blake watched me with sympathetic eyes, and if he said anything to try to make me feel better, there was a good chance I'd gouge them out. "Do you want me to speak to Wright about Lawrence? Maybe--"

  "No," I said, cutting him off, thankful he wasn't trying to make me feel better. "It's not Lawrence, is it?"

  Taking a deep breath, he replied, "No. I don't think so."

  "God," I whispered. "I'm so stupid. One of the people I trusted the most is a killer." I knew that now, without a shadow of a doubt. I couldn't pretend anymore. I had to look at facts. Someone already inside that cabin murdered Court and Josh.

  "You're not stupid. You're loyal."

  I snorted. "Same thing."

  "Stop doing that. You're putting yourself down for being a good friend. Don't ever feel bad for not wanting to believe one of your friends could be a murderer."

  "OK, fine. I won't feel bad. But I would like to be able to better see through people to who they really are."

  He tilted his chin in a nod. "Yeah, you're fairly atrocious at that. If it helps, I promise to tell you when someone is lying to your face."

  "So you do care, Blake?"

  Rolling his eyes, he replied, "Yes. Happy?"

  "Happy about?"

  "Women," he muttered. "Fine. I care about you. There, satisfied?"

  My eyes widened. Satisfied was the biggest understatement of the century. I'd expected him to say he cared about his family, not just me. Though I'd take it. Mr. Heart of Steel had just told me he cared about me--specifically me. As if I needed reason to fall for him more.

  My little thing for Blake had become an Everest-sized thing for Blake.

  "Hmm, it's not often you're speechless, Keaton. Why does it surprise you so much?"

  "You're trying to make it sound like nothing." If he was going to play this down, I was going to kick him in the shin. This was huge for me. I didn't trust men after Danny, so I couldn't pretend our hookup was casual for me.

  "You know it's not nothing," he replied.

  "Yes, I know that," I said, gritting my teeth. "But you're trying... Oh, you know what, never mind."

  "Just a heads-up, I'm going to kiss you now."

  My insides squirmed. "Blake, Pete has just died. Your mother is distraught in the next room, and we're possibly next on the hit list." His eyes were on my lips and it made it hard to think about the right thing to do.

  "All the more reason to take advantage of the moment, then. This is what people do in helpless situations like this. Don't you watch movies?" he murmured.

  I didn't have time to reply before his lips grazed mine so lightly it tickled. Every other thought fell out of my head. I stopped breathing as he pulled back and stared into my eyes. He was giving me a second to put a halt to this.

  To hell with it
. If it was good enough for the movies... I pressed my lips to his and kissed him. I knew it was probably a bad idea, but what I felt when he kissed me--the burning fire and the feeling of being home--spurred me on. No one had ever kissed me as passionately as Blake did. No one had ever made me feel so safe before.

  His hands rested on my hips, and then he picked me up as if I weighed nothing and set me down on his lap. It sent my body into overdrive.

  My hands quickly found his hair, and I grabbed fistfuls and pulled, which he seemed to like a lot. Usually, I could show a little restraint and self-control, but with him it was lost. He moaned into my mouth and threw us back on the bed.

  Once again, he was hovering over me while he kissed me until I was breathless, on the verge of passing out or spontaneously combusting.

  "We shouldn't be doing this," I murmured against his mouth.

  "Yes, we should. Stop overthinking. Actually, just stop thinking."

  I did.

  Chapter Eighteen

  Tuesday, August 25

  The next morning, I sat in the living room with Mum, drinking tea before she went to work. Blake and I were following my friends today, which was officially the most ridiculous thing I'd ever done.

  "Are you OK, love?" Mum asked.

  Since I had gotten back from Blake's last night, she'd been suspicious and hovering over me like I was hiding something. It wasn't like I wanted to hide my...whatever I had with Blake, but a sort-of boyfriend along with everything else was a lot for my parents to deal with.

  "I'm OK. Eloise was completely broken over her brother's death. You should've seen her, Mum. It was awful to witness. And Blake doesn't know what to do with himself."

  "Where's his dad?"

  "He's dealing with Josh's death by immersing himself in his work. Apparently that's how he deals with everything. Blake's kind of like the parent to his parents without ever being shown how to support someone else."

  "You like the boy," my mum said, giving me a gooey smile. At least she wasn't telling me it was bad timing and I was a horrible person for liking someone at a time like this. Also, I was so far past just liking Blake it wasn't even funny.

  "I do."

  "Does he feel the same?"

  As I did for him? Doubtful. But he certainly had feelings for me. "I think so."

  "Of course he does," she replied, giving the typical parent response.

  "We'll see what happens, I guess."

  "As long as he treats you well, you have my blessing."

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