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The arrangement 6, p.1

The Arrangement 6, page 1

 part  #6 of  The Arrangement Series

 

The Arrangement 6
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The Arrangement 6
Page 1

  CHAPTER 1

  Heart pounding, I press the button for the elevator a million times, but the doors don’t open. My body is surging with too many emotions. It feels like I’m going to fall to pieces. I hear them behind me. Sean’s voice rings out in my ears, but I don’t want to listen. Nothing they say will fix this. I feel like there’s an axe in my chest and I’m bleeding out. The sense of betrayal is strangling me and muddying my thoughts.

  I don’t wait. I run toward the end of the hallway and shove through the door. I’m in the stairwell. Before I know it, I’m running down the stairs as quickly as possible. Just as I fly down the first set of steps, the door bangs open. Sean is standing there, shirt open, and breathing hard.

  I stop. Time freezes and I wish to God that we never met. His eyes lock with mine. His lips part like he’s going to say something, but I don’t want to hear it. I’m done. No, it’s past that. I can’t bear this. I can’t take the lot I’ve been handed. It’s strangling the life out of me. As it is, I can barely breathe. The moment shatters when I look away. I’m running, heart pounding, flying down the stairs. My hand grips the railing hard as my body whirls around when I reach the landing. My heels are slowing me down.

  Sean’s voice rings out behind me. “Avery, wait!” But I don’t stop.

  Footfalls follow close behind me growing louder and louder. There’s no going back, not after this. Mind racing, I try to decide what to do, where to go. They both know the places I run to when I’m shaken, when life has brought me to my knees. My heel catches the edge of a step wrong and I stumble forward. My arms flail in front of me and I catch my balance.

  “Damn it, Avery! Stop!” Sean is closer, so much closer. If he touches me, I’ll scream. Emotions are building inside of me and the only thing that keeps me from shattering is that he isn’t touching me. He can’t touch me. I can’t stop.

  The balls of my feet smack each step, barely touching it as I fly down another flight. I’m huffing. Hysteria is closing in around me. I feel it slick over my skin like a snake. I can’t choke it back down. I can’t banish it. Sean calls out again, but I don’t stop.

  Just as I’m about to round another landing, there’s a loud crash behind me. Sean stumbles forward after jumping from the stairs above. He curses as he lands and his knee buckles, knocking him toward me. The momentum sweeps us into the wall.

  “You have the shittiest timing,” he huffs. Sean’s body is crushing me into the wall. He takes a deep breath and straightens, but leaves me trapped between his body and the wall. A hand rests on either side of my head. He leans into me. “It’s not what it looks like. ”

  I don’t want to hear it. “I know what I saw. ”

  I try to twist away from him. My heart is slamming into my ribs and my brain is telling me that it’s going to break if I stay here. He can’t touch me. I have to leave. I have to. Frantic, I try to twist away from him and duck under his arm, but Sean’s hand juts out and grabs my wrist.

  “Let me go,” I growl. My voice is so low. I’m going to snap. I feel my mental rope—the one that holds me together—coming apart string by string.

  Sean leans in close to my face. “No. You’re wrong and if I let you go, I’ll never see you again. Walk up the stairs, Avery. ”

  I shake my head and try to pull away. “Go fuck the rest of my friends, and leave me alone. ”

  “Avery. ” There’s a warning tone in his voice, but I don’t care.

  I dig my nails into his arm and try to pry my wrist away. “I said leave me alone!” I scream the words in his face. They echo through the stairwell. The vibrations bounce back at us.

  As I speak, I twist and fall to the floor. Sean can’t hold me. My wrist comes free. I jump up and just as I start to run, he grabs me by the waist. I scream as I’m whirled around and hurled over his shoulder. My dress gets hiked up insanely high. Sean holds onto my legs at my thigh and tightens his grip. I kick and slam my fists into his back, but he doesn’t let go. Sean turns and starts back up the stairs. The movement makes me stop flailing. I hold onto him, afraid of falling over the edge of the railing and down the center of the staircase.

  He can tell I’m afraid. “You should have walked back up the stairs. ” That’s all he says before his walk turns into a run. I bounce on his shoulder and cling to him like I’m going to die. A terrified scream rips from my throat. Sean finally hits the top landing and pushes back through the door. We’re in the hallway and headed toward his room.

  Mel’s voice rings out as we approach. “Awh, shit. She’s going to kill you when you put her down. You know that, right?”

  Sean moves fast. He shoves past Mel and we’re in his room. I hear the door close behind me. Mel leans against it and shakes her head before turning away. I want to scream at her, but just as I start to talk, I’m jostled. Sean’s hands are around my waist. He lifts me from his shoulder, and tosses me on the bed. I yelp as I fall through the air and land on the mattress.

  I dart upright, but before I can move Sean jumps on top of me, pinning me down. His face is too close to mine. His touch burns like acid. I writhe and try to break free, but I can’t. I kick and scream. Sean watches me with those irritating blue eyes.

  How could he be so cold? How the fuck could he do this to me, then drag me back here like it doesn’t matter?

  Sean’s looking down at me. I can feel his eyes on the side of my face. “I’ll let you go, but you have to look around first. Look at the room, Avery. ” Sean’s voice softens.

  He watches me, but I don’t want to look. I stare at him defiantly. Anger is consuming me. Every muscle in my body is corded tight, ready to snap. My vision flickers at the edges and spots of red burst behind my eyes like fireworks. I’m so angry that I’m shaking.

  My mind keeps replaying the past few weeks. They streak by like a movie that’s playing too fast. I see Sean’s face on the day I met him, that smile, then the kite hitting his head, and I remember the feeling of his lips on my body, and it’s too much. I can’t take it. Every thought, every memory is toxic. It’s killing me. The urge to run shoots through me again. I lean forward like I’m going to say something and spit in his face.

  Sean takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. He wipes my saliva away with the back of his hand. “I deserved that, but not for this. ” His hands slip into my hair on either side of my face. He tilts my chin up and meets my gaze. “Please, look around. ” The way he says it is so frail, like he’s given up.

  It rips through me, but I can’t calm down. When his hands fall away and he stands up, I jump off the bed and run straight at him like a crazy person. My fists bang into his chest and I’m screaming. Words fly out of my mouth and I don’t even know what I’m saying. They tangle with tears and all logic is lost. I can’t think. I wish to God that I couldn’t feel. “I didn’t want this! This wasn’t supposed to be my fucking life! And you and your goddamn demons! I have my own! I can’t live like this! I can’t!

  “I’m falling apart. It’s killing me. I’m drowning and there’s no way to stop it. When I fall asleep at night, I feel the water around my neck, cold like a metal noose. Every night the noose grows tighter and tighter. I wish I never met you! I’m not falling for your screwed-up shit anymore. I don’t care how you feel. I don’t care what I see!”

  When I turn away from, Sean I’m shaking. There’s a tremor that runs down my spine. It swallows me whole. My face is damp with cold sweat. I close my eyes hard and try to focus my blurring vision as I move across the room. I’m leaving. They can’t stop me.

  Sean says nothing. He watches me step toward the door without a word.

  But Mel is there. She moves in front of the only way out, blocking it. She folds her
arms over her chest and she shakes her head. “You are not leaving until you turn around. ”

  “Get out of the way. ” My jaw locks and my eyes narrow. My fists tighten at my sides. Her eyes drop to my hands before returning to my face.

  “Do you plan on punching the shit out of everyone who cares about you?”

  “You don’t care about me. ”

  She throws her head back and laughs. “You’re such a wreck that you can’t tell your ass from your elbow right now. The man asked you to look at the room and you can’t even do that. Your brain left your body the minute you stepped out of that elevator. Or was it earlier when you were fucking Henry Thomas? Maybe you left your brain with him?”

  My jaw drops. It hangs open, but I don’t breathe. I thought she was my friend. I thought Mel cared about me, but she doesn’t. Betrayal winds its way up my throat and chokes me. I want to punch her. I want to scream at her, but I can’t say anything. Then, when she brings up Henry, it’s like a verbal bitch-slap.

  “You were with Thomas?” Sean’s voice is behind me.

  I don’t turn. I don’t answer. I stare at Mel like she’s a traitor.

  Mel’s tiger eyes bore into me. “You can think whatever the hell you want about me and you’re right. I’m a slut. I’ll do whatever I have to do to survive, but there is no way I’d betray you. Open your goddamn eyes, Avery, and look around.

  “Look at me. Do I look like I’ve been working? Is my hair all messed up like yours? Am I covered in sweat? Is my dress wrinkled? Does the room like we had sex?” I stare at her. My eyes flick over her dress and her hair. She looks pristine. It still doesn’t mean anything. They could have showered. She could have hung her dress.

  Mel unfolds her arms and steps toward me so we’re nose to nose. She knows I don’t believe her. “Turn around. ” She pushes my shoulder and I turn about half way. I can see the room out of the corner of my eye. My pulse is pounding in my ears like a distant drum.

  Papers. There are papers everywhere. There’s an open briefcase on the desk by the window. Pens and papers are all over the table. There’s a pizza box with a few half-eaten slices on the floor in front of the television. The flat screen is flickering. An old movie is playing. The bed is made and the only place that’s rumpled is where Sean put me a few minutes ago. My eyes sweep the room, taking it in.

 
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