Shame (Ruin #3) : chap 1
Simple fact about me: I get bored easy, and she was an easy target. Young, beautiful, with the fiery eyes of a temptress. “Impress me,” I’d say, and she’d laugh and go about doing exactly that. My body liked it, my mind craved it. She forced the demons down better than any drug, and I freaking worshipped her for it. —The Journal of Taylor B.
I RAN BACK TO my dorm and nearly collided with the door before I was able to grab it. I hated having to dig through my purse to find my stupid key card; it seemed like it always hid for at least ten minutes while I pulled out my keys, my wallet, my gum, my cell, that little tiki key fob I still hadn’t added to my main ring of keys yet. I mean, the list went on and on and on. Finally, of course, I’d realize I kept my key card in my back pocket only to have stood in front of the damn door while it rained!
I took the stairs two at a time and unlocked my dorm room.
“Loser pants,” Gabe said from the couch without looking up. “You left your door open again.”
“I gave you a key.” I rolled my eyes.
“You gave Saylor a key,” Gabe grumbled. “I had to freaking steal that thing, make like seven copies, and return it.”
“Seven?” I put my bag on the counter and walked around to the mini-kitchen to grab a bottle of water from the fridge. “Why seven?”
“Fun story about marriage.” Gabe thrust his finger into the air as if letting me know he was about to make a speech. Though by now I knew his speeches bordered on inappropriate most the time; hence the dread pooling in my stomach. “Saylor loses everything. It’s like sex…” He paused. “Sex with me, mind you, not any other dude because let’s be honest, when it’s from me, it’s just—”
“Gabe,” I sighed. “Get there faster.”
“Right.” He turned off the TV and turned around to face me.
God, it was still weird seeing him with blond hair. A few months ago his whole secret identity had come out. Ashton Parker Hyde, the pop star and actor who was the object of every teenage dream five years ago, had gone into hiding, and since I’d been his closest friend, I’d followed him. My reasons were different from his, obviously. He was escaping a painful past. I was trying to forget mine
We’d both been famous, but I was a child model, easily forgettable. He had been a god. No seriously, ask social media. They stalked him like crazy. You’d think he’d dye his hair back to black just to get a break once in a while, but nope, as far as he was concerned, Ashton was here to stay, though he went by Gabe. He rationalized that just made everything easier for his professors and new wife, Saylor, who, because of his hidden identity, had nearly castrated him.
But that’s another story. I shook my head, clearing the cobwebs, and threw him one of my waters. “You were saying?”
He grinned. I had to look away. He was too pretty, and I kind of hated how both he and Wes, another Lifetime-Channel-story-come-to-life, were both the happiest people on the planet, while I was living by myself and receiving stalker hate mail.
“She’s forgetful.” He shrugged. “So I keep seven of everything.”
“Again, why seven?”
“It’s the number of completion.”
“Is there a reason you’re here and not home? With Saylor?”
He looked guilty down at the couch. “I, uh, cable was out?”
He looked behind me and pointed. “The, um, fridge light needed to be changed.”
I grinned. “It’s fine.”
“And—” He shot up from the couch and ran to the door, opened and closed it. “You need grease in the, er…” He scratched his head. “…hinges.”
“Wow!” I clapped twice. “You know what a hinge is.”
He flipped me off.
I stuck my tongue out.
In two steps I was in his arms, my cheek resting against his muscled chest. Two tattooed biceps squeezed tight around me as he rested his chin on my head. It was comforting just being in his arms.
I’d missed him.
I hadn’t been without him for years. It had always been us against the world. Then he’d gone and gotten married, and I’d felt truly lonely for the first time since leaving LA.
“I’m worried about you,” Gabe whispered, pulling back and cupping my face with his hands. “You need… a… bodyguard or something.”
I closed my eyes and shook my head. “No, I’m fine.”
“You’re too pretty.”
“I’m fine!” I laughed again and stepped out of his embrace. I didn’t want him to know how freaked out I’d been the last week. The hate mail — aka fan mail — had gotten worse. I kept changing my PO box, and people kept discovering it. I mean, it was the usual stuff, the you’re so pretty and I watch you stuff, which I could deal with — mostly. But a few of the letters had had pictures of Taylor.
And that didn’t set well with me.
If Gabe even knew, he’d flip his lid.
“I’m not above embedding a GPS unit in every article of clothing you own, including your favorite Donald Pliner sandals.” He crossed his muscled arms and leaned against the back of the couch.
Sighing, I held up my hand walked over to the table and dug through my purse, pulling out my Taser and my Mace. “Happy?”
“Bad ass.” He nodded in approval. “Your Taser’s pink.”
“I’m a girl.” I shrugged my shoulders. “It seemed… happier.”
He snorted, rolling his eyes. “So the person you Taser laughs instead of pisses his pants? Killer. Good thinking.”
“Gabe.” I shoved everything back into my purse and chewed my lower lip. “I swear, I’m totally and completely fine. Just stressed about starting sophomore year and all.”
His blue eyes narrowed. “When did you cut your hair?”
My hands flew to my cropped black hair; I’d just recently cut it to my chin, hoping it made me look different than the most recent pictures of me. I’d added a few streaks of blue to the front too. Holy crap! I was turning into a freak from witness protection.
“Needed a change,” I lied. “What’s with the fifth degree, Gabe? You used to dye your hair all the time.”
“I was hiding.” He threaded a few pieces of hair through his fingers. “It looks good on you.”
“Thanks.” I felt my face heat. “Now, is there anything else I can do for you,
“Classes started last week.” Gabe frowned. “Why the hell are you still not getting your textbooks? If you flunk your classes, I’m going to be pissed.” He started pacing in front of me. “I mean, this is your future and—”
I couldn’t fight the smile as I crossed my arms.
“Shit, I do sound like your dad.”
“Pretty soon you’re going to be waiting on my couch with a shotgun when I go out on dates.” It was out before I could stop it.
“WHAT? You’re dating someone!”
“Whoa!” I held up my hands. “Easy! I’m not dating anyone, and do you really think I’d introduce them to you first? They’d probably pass out!”
“Please, I’m not that intimidating.”
My eyes took in his golden-blond hair, fully tatted-up body, and piercing blue eyes. “Right, not at all. What was I thinking?”
“Bitch.” He winked. “And if you do start dating, make sure you tell Wes so we can get a full background check on him.”
I shook my head. “Letting both of you at the guy would cause him to run in the opposite direction, and I’m pretty sure the point is to have him stick around. That is, if I can find one at this godforsaken school.” The lie fell easy from my lips. I hadn’t had any guy stick around; I wasn’t able to stomach it, not anymore.
“Flash ‘em.” Gabe nodded encouragingly. “It’s the only way.”
“Um, weren’t you just threatening to kill a guy for even dating me?”
“Solid point.” He cursed. “I’m stuck between being your friend and your dad. Not working, not working well, Lisa.” His eyes twinkled. “Now, if there’s anything I can fix, or do, or buy, or—”
“Go home to your wife.” I pushed him toward the door. “Tell Saylor hi, and remember we have dinner this Sunday night, alright?”
He groaned aloud. “Stupid Wes and his benefit dinners.”
“Stupid Wes and his benefit dinners that bring in money for the Pacific Northwest Group Home you own?”
Gabe paused. “Fine, see ya then. Love you.” He turned quickly and kissed my cheek.
I shut the door behind him and leaned against it. Trembling, I walked over to my backpack and dug out my mail. With shaking hands, I ripped open the letter.
Come out, come out, wherever you are! I know your secret, wanna know mine? —Anonymous.
I ripped the letter in half and grabbed a granola bar before heading back down to the student center. A shower could wait. I needed my books.
The last time I’d been at the center I’d seen a guy I could have sworn looked like someone from my past.
I hadn’t seen him in a week, so I knew it was my imagination… after all… Taylor? The Taylor I knew was dead.
I would know… after all.
I’d killed him.