If id known the cursed s.., p.8

If I'd Known_The Cursed Series Part 1, page 8

 

If I'd Known_The Cursed Series Part 1
 


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  “What is she on?” Tori asks.

  “Sunshine and fucking rainbows,” Nina says, grabbing the bottle away from Lincoln.

  I laugh.

  “Girl talk,” Tori says to Joey and Lincoln.

  They nod in understanding and start walking down the alley between the first and second buildings. Vic remains behind us … somewhere. I should probably be more aware of where he is. I should also be more afraid of him than I am. But I’m not.

  Tori nudges me with her shoulder to get my attention. “About earlier … I know how weird you can get about keeping your mouth shut, especially if you think it might take us down too. I won’t ask. But know you have nothing to worry about. Okay?”

  “We’ve got you,” Nina pledges, passing me the bottle. “And I’ll get your bag from Gary tomorrow because you know he can’t fire me.”

  I look between her and Tori. “Thanks.”

  “Now what’s up with you and Joey?” Nina asks giddily.

  “I’m not sure,” I answer honestly. “But whatever it is, it’s … intense. I can’t explain it.”

  “Yeah. Anyone within ten feet of you two can smell the intensity.” Tori shoots me a side-eyed look loaded with judgment. She takes the bottle from me.

  “Ew, Tori,” Nina says with a laugh.

  “Stop. I’m not going to hook up with him. But let me have a little fun, okay?” I implore.

  Tori lifts a shoulder in resignation.

  “Speaking of fun”—I reach into my pocket and pull out the plastic bag—“look what I got us for tonight. It only cost me … well, nothing.”

  Nina squeals. “Let me see.” She examines the bag in her palm. “There’s a little of everything in here. They sell it like this?”

  “They call it, ‘party in a bag.’”

  “That’s kind of a stupid and genius name at the same time,” she says, pulling the seal apart and selecting a tiny foil square labeled with a smiling mushroom sticker. “Do you trust them?”

  “Can you really trust anyone with a pocketful of drugs?”

  “True,” Nina replies. “Well, here goes nothing.” She chews the chocolate and swallows. “Let the party begin.”

  “Don’t get lost on your trip,” Tori tells Nina, taking the bag from her. She removes the small blue pill with an X stamped on it before handing the bag back to me.

  I inspect the contents, select the brown powder capsule of Molly and toss it back with a swig from the bottle, finally starting to feel the mellowing effects of the alcohol.

  “This night is going to be ridiculous!” Nina exclaims, thrusting her arms in the air with an exaggerated sway of her hips.

  “Now how do we get rid of Psycho?” I tip my head slightly in Vic’s direction.

  “We’ll lose him inside,” Tori assures me. “But don’t go anywhere alone. I don’t trust him.”

  Joey and Lincoln have stopped at the end of the next building, waiting for us.

  “It’s insane how much he looks like Parker.” Nina scans Joey, eyeing him like he’s candy.

  “Which is why I’m a little creeped out about you two together,” Tori says to me. “But I’ll lay off, I promise.”

  Tori hands Lincoln the bottle when we reach them. The guys finish off the last of it and toss it in a dumpster across the alley.

  I notice a group of people enter a blue door farther down.

  “Is that where we’re going?” Nina asks.

  “Yeah, that’s our entrance,” Joey tells us.

  “There’s more than one?” I’m still trying to wrap my head around this setup.

  “They don’t want lines outside to give away the location, so there are five entrances, and everyone’s given a block of time to show up. They also need to keep us hidden from the cops.”

  “You seriously know a lot about this for someone who’s never been,” Tori notes, studying him warily.

  Joey doesn’t respond.

  When we reach the door, Joey takes my hand. “I don’t want to lose you.”

  I give him a gentle squeeze back, not planning on being lost.

  The door cracks open, revealing a hint of the broad figure behind it. Joey releases my hand long enough to pull out his phone and bring up the code. The guy scans it with another phone, and the image disappears.

  “How many?”

  “Five.”

  “Six,” Vic corrects him.

  Joey’s back stiffens. It’s the first time I’ve seen him react to Vic or any of the fucked-up-ed-ness that’s happened tonight.

  Joey shakes his head in annoyance and says, “Six.”

  The door opens and we’re ushered into a tight hallway. The guy locks the outside door behind us.

  “Phones.” The guy holds out a black plastic bag.

  Reluctantly, I drop mine inside, followed by everyone else. He hands a token to Joey, who slips it into his front pocket.

  “Hands,” the doorman demands.

  Joey holds out his hand, turning it over. The guy presses a stamp against the back of his wrist. I do the same, letting him brand me with ultraviolet ink.

  Once he’s marked everyone, he unlocks the black door at the other end of the hallway and silently holds it open. The whole man-of-a-few-words thing he has going on is intimidating. It could also be the six-ish feet of bulging muscle. I doubt anyone’s stupid enough to mess with him. And just as the thought enters my head, Vic tries to push past us, practically knocking me over.

  The doorman shoves him against the wall. “Cut the shit or you’re out.”

  Joey’s hands are on my waist, steadying me. “You okay?”

  I nod.

  “Vic, stay the fuck away from us,” Nina threatens.

  We move past him, his dark eyes following us as we enter a dimly lit stairwell. A giant pink neon arrow points up, so we do as instructed and climb the stairs. I feel the bass pounding above us before I can hear the music. On the next level, a green neon star marks a red door. As soon as Joey opens it, we’re engulfed by electronic beats and lasers cutting across the room.

  We step inside. The door falls shut behind us as we stare in wordless wonder. I’ve never been to anything like this before. I can’t move for a minute, needing to take it all in. The entire space is surrounded by large screens, displaying images and colors pulsing to the music. The DJ is at the far end on an elevated stage—a bouncing silhouette between a lit booth and a wall of screens. It’s what I imagine a club in Vegas or LA would be like. And to think they set this up for one night in an abandoned building is beyond insane.

  “I can’t believe I’m here,” I utter in awe.

  Everywhere I look, people are dancing, even along the mezzanine that wraps around the upper level.

  Joey turns to me, his eyes lit with excitement. “Ready?” He offers me his hand, eager to get lost in the crowd.

  I laugh. “Yes.” Taking his outstretched hand, I let him navigate us toward the stage.

  I glance over my shoulder to make sure Nina, Lincoln and Tori are behind us.

  “Go!” Nina yells after me, still by the door.

  When I realize they aren’t following, I pull Joey back toward them.

  “We’ll find you after we go to the bar.”

  “Will you hold my jacket then?” I ask her, already feeling too warm. Shrugging out of it, I toss it to Nina before they disappear in the opposite direction.

  Joey clasps my hand again, and within a few feet, we’re swallowed up by the crowd of jumping, swaying and grinding bodies.

  When we’re completely immersed somewhere in the middle of the madness, he turns to me and places his hands on my hips, drawing me to him. “We’ll get a drink in a little while. I’ve needed this all night.”

  I drape my hands over his shoulders and lose myself to the bass, rolling with the wave of intoxication that has finally taken over. With his hands gripping my hips, Joey guides our bodies until they’re moving in unison. He’s really good at this. Maybe too good because I’m so overwhelmed by the feel of him
against me that everyone else disappears. His hands glide from my hips to the small of my back, pressing me firmly against him. If we were any closer, we’d dissolve into each other.

  I’ve never wanted a guy this badly before. Then again, a guy’s never made me feel like this before. My body responds to his slightest touch. My pulse quickens every time his voice rumbles low in my ear. I’m held captive by him—willingly. I could seep into his skin and lose myself.

  Joey dips his head down and slides his mouth along my neck. I draw in a quick breath. When he reaches my lips, he breathes against them, continuing to tease and torment me. I close my eyes, needing to taste him, but he refuses to kiss me. I exhale slowly, unraveling.

  A few songs later, a tap on the shoulder wakes me from my Joey-induced haze. Tori is standing next to us with Lincoln and Nina dancing behind her. We separate to include them. Nina hands me a bottle of water with a knowing wink, and I could kiss her. My mouth is so dry, it’s like I’ve swallowed sand.

  Every so often Joey brushes his hand against mine, playfully interlacing our fingers. I know he’s trying not to give Tori a reason to throw her drink on him. But it’s too hard for us to resist. We’re overcome with a compulsion to touch. Within a song, he surrenders to the pull, moving in close behind me. I wrap my arms around his neck, and he trails his hand down my side. Our bodies ease together in a fluid, singular motion.

  “I think I need a drink,” Joey murmurs in my ear before tasting the sweat on my neck.

  I squeeze his hands on my hips. “Yeah, me too.” I look to Tori and Nina. “Bar?”

  They nod and we cut through the crowd to the other end of the open space.

  Just when the dancers start to thin out, we run into a wall of people waiting to order drinks at the glowing square bar.

  “There you are!” I look back to see a hand on Joey’s shoulder. “I thought I told you to stay downstairs when you got here and I’d come give you your keys.”

  I turn to find Parker Harrison standing before us.

  Parker and Joey may look alike in many ways, but while Joey’s disheveled and sexy, Parker’s polished and powerful. Joey’s hair is displaced from raking his fingers through it, and Parker’s is trimmed and neatly parted to the side. Joey’s boyishly charming in an untucked button-down while Parker’s jaw-droppingly kempt in a sports jacket. He looks … important.

  I find myself captivated by eyes the same shade of electric blue as the boy I’ve been grinding against for the past hour. But I don’t expect the betrayal I see reflected back in them. Whatever lecture he was about to give his brother about being here is lost.

  “Lana? What are you doing here?”

  “Hi, Parker.” My stomach twists when his focus darts from Joey to me in confusion.

  “You know each other?” Joey asks.

  “Yeah,” Parker replies, sounding distant as he pins me with a questioning stare.

  I don’t say anything. There isn’t anything to say. But I don’t look away either, even though I should.

  “Lana’s here with me tonight.”

  I can feel the weight of Joey’s arm around my shoulder, claiming me.

  Parker tears his attention away from me and gives his brother a pitying look. Then he laughs this amused, almost maniacal laugh. “Are you sure about that?”

  “Hey, Parker.” Nina steps between us, stopping directly in front of him, her chest brushing against his. “Buy me a drink?”

  Parker eases his hand along her waist and places a ghost of a kiss on her cheek. “Hey, gorgeous. Maybe later? I have to go take care of something.”

  Nina visibly deflates but recovers quickly. “No problem.”

  Lengthening her spine, she turns and walks briskly away. I almost shiver from the ice rolling off her.

  I step out from under Joey’s territorial limb and follow after her. Tori comes up beside me and makes a pained face when I look at her.

  “I know, right?! What the hell was that about?” I huff.

  But Tori’s expression doesn’t change. Clearly she’s not listening. She runs a knuckle under her eye, indicating I should do the same.

  I swipe my finger to remove the smeared makeup. “Better?”

  Tori shakes her head with a grimace, like it hurts her to see me like this. “You’re a mess.”

  I’m suddenly afraid to know what I look like. I glance down at the rivulets of sweat running down my chest, disappearing into my cleavage, forming dark blue wet marks under my boobs. Tori’s right. I’m a disaster.

  “I’ll be right back,” I tell her, needing to disappear immediately.

  She nods, hurrying me past her.

  “Lana!” Joey calls after me.

  “Relax. She’s just going to the bathroom,” I hear Tori tell him. “You can live without her for ten minutes.”

  I spot flashing neon lights in the left corner, animating a girl dancing. There’s one of a guy fist-pumping directly across from it. They have to be the bathrooms.

  I swipe my fingers under my eyes again and keep my head down, not wanting anyone to see the mascara melting down my face.

  An arm wraps around my waist and I’m swept into the darkness under the stairs.

  “Why are you here with my brother?”

  “Holy shit, Parker!” I exclaim breathlessly, lowering the elbow that was inches from smashing his nose.

  “Tell me,” he demands impatiently, remaining way too close. I attempt to take a step back, but his arm tightens around my waist. “You’ve refused to go out with me every time I’ve asked. My brother’s home for a day and you’re here with him?”

  “Really?” I huff, pushing at his chest to separate us.

  Parker releases me and gestures impatiently when I don’t continue.

  “Lincoln asked Tori to a party tonight. And it turns out, Lincoln and Joey are friends, which I’m sure you know. We’re all here together. But it’s not like you have any claim. You know that.”

  “Why do you have to be so difficult?”

  Parker takes a step toward me, and I mimic it with a step back.

  “You know why.” It’s a conversation we’ve had too many times over the past year, and my answer’s not going to change.

  “I don’t have to see her again. You know what it’s like with her. We’re not together,” he pleads. “We use each other. That’s it.”

  “And that makes it better? She’s one of my best friends. You became untouchable to me the moment you touched her. You know my rule.”

  I know what the two of them have doesn’t mean anything. Nina pretty much repeats the same thing Parker just said. But they still get together, no matter how toxic whatever they have is. Respect and Confidence—like fire and an accelerant, their curses are a dangerous combination. They’re constantly tearing each other apart—when they’re not … well, tearing each other apart.

  He growls in frustration. “Don’t start anything with my brother.” His words have an underlying threat to them.

  “What?! You don’t have a say in that either!”

  “Lana, don’t … ” Before he can finish whatever asinine thing he’s about to say, I clench my teeth to keep from screaming and stalk past him. “Lana!”

  “Stay away from me, Parker!” I yell over my shoulder, hurriedly squeezing by people to increase the distance between us. My shoulder collides with a body.

  “Lana?”

  I slowly look up to find a guy with wavy brown hair and big dark eyes looking down at me. I scan the mold of the navy T-Shirt over his sculpted chest and the way his snug jeans fit perfectly. He’s hot. Then I meet his eyes again and realize who he is. Holy shit.

  “Mr. Garner?”

  I instantly want to die. I just thought my guidance counselor was hot. But, in my defense, he looks way different without the glasses and tie. Way different.

  “Isaac,” he corrects quickly, looking around like we might get caught doing something wrong. “What are you doing here?” Before I can answer, he says, “Forget it. Where’s
Tori?”

  I tip my head toward the line at the bar. He looks in her direction and nods, even though she’s hidden within the crowd.

  “I can’t believe you’re here,” he says, shaking his head. “Actually, if any of my students could get into this place, it’d be you and Tori. I swear it’ll be a miracle if you two graduate in one piece.”

  I often think the same thing. “Wasn’t expecting to see you either.”

  “You probably don’t know, but I grew up in Oaklawn. I went to school with a lot of people here.”

  “How old are you?” I ask automatically.

  I always thought he was old, like thirty or something. Maybe it’s the tie … or seeing him sitting behind a desk, surrounded by inspirational quotes. But tonight, dressed like a normal guy, he doesn’t look much older than … Parker.

  “Old enough to know I shouldn’t be caught drinking with you,” he replies. “I didn’t see you tonight. And you didn’t see me.”

  “I don’t even know who you are,” I say, which isn’t far from the truth.

  Isaac laughs. Even thinking his first name feels wrong. “Be good, Lana. Don’t get into trouble.” Then he walks off.

  Talk about weird. This night cannot get any more twisted. And just as I think it, I wish I hadn’t. The last thing I want to do is tempt Fate. We don’t have a good history.

  “Hey! There you are! I thought I’d lost you. Wait. Where are the rest of your friends? Are you lost? Do you need me to help you find them?”

  I remain still, staring up at the willowy girl with bright pink hair in a turquoise bandeau and matching sequined miniskirt.

  “It’s Allie!”

  “Umm, yeah. I remember.” Like there’s any way I could possibly forget. “They’re in line at the bar. I have to use the bathroom.”

  “Me too!” she exclaims. “I found this super-secret bathroom upstairs that doesn’t have a line. Wanna come?!”

  I eye the football field length line waiting to get in the girls’ bathroom. “Sure.”

  Allie takes my hand and leads me up the stairs to the mezzanine level. Looking down from here, I can see how big this place truly is. It’s crazy-huge. The space is lined with black curtains, making it feel more private and … sinister. I watch a girl in a metallic dress disappear into the dark with a bottle and glasses on her tray. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust before I see the groups of people on lush couches concealed within the shadows. I can only imagine what they’re doing back there.

 
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