Sex: If you need to ask this question, you’re not familiar with my work.
Note: Folks, there is a rough scene between Cal and Paige. Paige was able to forgive Cal, so I hope you guys can, too. Please keep in mind the circumstances surrounding it before you send a lynch party out for me.
If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com
Come visit me at: www.coloradobardsplace.com or my publisher at: www.pdpublishing.com.
I Dare You…
She was new. Yet again. She hated being new. Why couldn’t she be old? Callahan Cullen smirked at the thought as she leaned against the lockers. The hall was empty, most everyone else in class like the good little high school students they were. Not Cal Cullen. Nope. Looking to her right, she could hear phantom clicks of high heels, and to the left, the rippled reflection from the window at the end of the hall on the slightly uneven tile.
Cal pulled a cigarette out from the pack, hidden inside her denim jacket, tucking it behind an ear, and headed to the bathroom down the science hall. Her heavy boots thudded dully against the flooring, the chains attached from one belt loop to another rattled with every step. She flexed the fingers of her left hand, wrapped in the fingerless tight black leather of her glove. Blowing too-long blonde bangs out of her emerald-green eyes, Cal looked both ways to make sure she was still undetected, then shoved the bathroom door inward, stepping into the cold, ugly basics of the girl’s bathroom.
Metal doors banged against painted stall walls as Cal made sure there wasn’t anyone else in the room. Satisfied that she was alone, she hopped up onto the counter between the last sink and the mint-green wall, resting crossed ankles on the trashcan bolted to the wall. Resting her back against the long, stained mirror behind her, Cal plucked the cigarette from its holding spot, and wrapped her lips around it. The small chain wrapped around her left ankle jingled merrily as she wiggled her foot. Cal’s features were painted gold as the flame of her lighter flickered to life briefly as she touched it to the business end of her smoke. Setting the Zippo aside, the blonde inhaled, eyes closing as she allowed the nicotine to enter her lungs, then flow out through lazy lips. Green eyes at half-mass, Cal tried to clear her mind.
For a split moment, her heart jumped into her throat as the bathroom door squeaked open. Cal expected to see Warden Matthews barging in, as usual, but was delighted to see the girl she’d had her eye on since she’d arrived at the school, a month earlier. She had no idea what her name was, nor did she really care, but damn, she was gorgeous: long, almost black hair ran midway down her back. Blue, blue eyes stared out at the world from a disturbingly beautiful face. The girl had a body that just didn’t quit.
Paige Watson started, not expecting to see anyone when she pushed open the bathroom door. But there, relaxing on the counter, was a girl, a cigarette dangling from between her fingers. “Sorry. Didn’t know anyone was in here,” she said, heading toward the first stall and softly closing the door and sliding the bolt into place.
“There isn’t,” Cal muttered, taking another drag. She glanced over at the closed door, trying to shut out the sounds of the girl pissing. She wasn’t exactly into golden showers. Finally the toilet flushed, and her dark-haired angel appeared once more, stepping up to the sink and washing her hands.
Paige glanced over at the girl, trying to figure out who she was. It was a big school, but usually she remembered at least seeing everyone at least once. This girl, however, she would have remembered. Her short, blonde hair was messing, falling across her head where it may, giving the girl the carefree look that she was undoubtedly going for. Her clothing and lazy manner attested to that. The girl was watching her, even as she stubbed out her cigarette in the sink. Paige grimaced in disgust, quickly drying her hands and heading out.
Cal watched her go, eyes dropping to take in the brunette’s ass, which fit nicely in the skirt she wore. The cap-sleeve tee she wore enhanced her breasts nicely, as well.
Cal chuckled to herself, rocking her head lightly against the mirror behind her with a heavy sigh. She tried to decide what she wanted to do- go back to class from her elongated ‘bathroom break’ or get the fuck out of school for the day. It was Friday, after all, and she was certainly ready to start her weekend early. Though why bother? It wasn’t like she knew anyone, or where to go. The town was a fucking joke as far as she was concerned. Her foster family wasn’t going to let her use the car or any shit like that, either.
“Fuck.” Cal shoved off the counter and headed out into the bright, warm March afternoon. It was bad enough being the new kid, yet again, but even worse when she had to start at a new school right smack in the middle of the damn school year. At least at the beginning, she could sneak in with the other new kids, but this way- one day the seat in the front row of Mrs. Thomas’ math class is empty, and the next filled with the new freak, it sucked donkey balls!
Cal walked the streets of downtown Boomington, the small, quaint shops lining either side of the street. She didn’t stop in anywhere; it’s not like she had any money, and figured she’d wait a little until she got sticky fingers. Didn’t want to get kicked out of this place as soon as the last one. Eh, Barry Hughes and his wife were assholes, anyway. It wasn’t like leaving that shit hole was a bad thing. Even so, Cal still felt the sting. This new place, Carl and April Marquez, and their son, Carl, Jr., and baby Grace, seemed like nice enough people, even if Gene was starting a friggin’ dynasty. What the hell was with that, anyway? Why not give the damn kid his own identity.
Cal ran a gloved hand through her hair, making it stick up in a whole new direction, as she headed down an alley between Johnson’s Grocery and Heavenly Prayer Bookstore. Gag! A trash dumpster stood against the left brick wall, a pile of empty cardboard boxes the right. With a well-placed kick, boxes exploded from their stacks, foam peanuts falling like shrapnel all around the alley. Cal grinned at her handwork, walking backwards out of the alley as she watched the last box land, just next to the dumpster.
About to turn around, the blonde almost cried out in surprise when she hit something very hard. Turning, she saw she was standing eye to eye with man-boobs clothed in a deep purple polo shirt, the Heavenly Prayer Bookstore logo stitched on the left breast. Eventually her eyes made their way up to angry blue eyes.
“So, you think it’s funny to destroy other people’s property, do you?”
“Hey, man, I was-“
“I saw exactly what you were doing!” The man grabbed her by the collar of her denim jacket, shoving open the backdoor to the religious bookstore. Cal found herself in the backroom, filled with shelves full of merchandise that needed to be stocked, as well as more empty boxes. She flinched when something was thrust into her hand. Looking down, she saw it was a broom.
”Fuck you!” She tried to shove the broom back, but the man, who stood a good foot taller than she, clasped his hand around her fist, which still clutched the broom.
“Have some pride in yourself. Go clean up that mess you made out there.”
Cal looked into his eyes, and for reasons she’d never understand, she simply swallowed her retort and headed back out to the alley.
“Come back here, you little bastards!” she growled as the alley turned a breeze into a raging tornado, swirling the light green peanuts around Cal’s legs, and to beat against her face like butterfly wings. A loud belly laugh caught her attention. Mr. Man-boobs stood at the open back door, amused at her plight.
“Hey, fuck off! I’m just doing what you told me to do!”
“No, you’re doing what God told you to do.”
Cal could feel her ire raised. She glared at the man. “Don’t even talk to me about God, mister. You’ll lose.”
“it’s not a competition. Here, let me help.” He walked over to the teen, bending down with a large dustpan in his meaty hand, waiting for her to sweep peanuts into it. With teamwork and a good deal of patience, they finally got it all cleaned up. “Now, was that so bad?” he asked, patting Cal on the shoulder. She moved out of his reach.
“You got some nerve, mister. I could’ve had a gun or anything.” She was feeling embarrassed, having been caught making her mess, and it came out in defiant anger. Like always. The man chuckled, making his second and third chin jiggle.
“Why don’t you come back tomorrow and clean up my storage room? I’ll pay ya minimum.”
“Screw you, pal. I don’t work for no Christian shit. Sorry, wrong sucker.” Cal thrust the broom back at the man, turning to head out of the alley. She heard the man’s booming voice behind her.
“Why aren’t you in school?”
“Fire alarm,” she called back, stepping out of the alley’s deep shade and back into the spring sunlight, carefully looking around to make sure no one had witnessed the peanut episode.
The Marquez house was quiet from the outside. Cal had no idea the storm that was brewing on the inside. She saw that Carl Sr.’s car was in the driveway.
Hopping up onto the front porch, the blonde raised her hand, about to pull the screen door open when suddenly it was shoved open in her face, nearly knocking her to her ass. April, dark eyes blazing, was in her face.
“Where have you been?” Not given a chance to answer, Cal was yanked into the house, the entire family, plus her caseworker, waiting for her. Double shit. She felt like she had been presented in front of the firing squad. Carl Sr. stepped forward, his son, who was in Cal’s grade, standing back with Cheryl, Cal’s caseworker.
“Where did you go, Callahan? CJ looked all over for you after school, and you were nowhere to be found, then we find out from your fourth period teacher that you left to go to the bathroom and never returned! What the hell were you thinking?”
“Carl,” Cheryl warned, worried things would get out of hand. She knew how worried the Marquez’s had been, and didn’t ant to see that worry turn to anger of relief. She’d seen it a thousand times. Besides, she wasn’t sure if the skittish, and wildly rebellious Cal would even stand for it. Walking over to the girl, whom she’d known since Cal was 4, she placed a calming hand on the girl’s arm. She felt Cal stiffen underneath the touch. “Cal, that was very irresponsible of you. Anything could have happened. You should have told someone you were leaving.”
Cal smirked, her eyes hard and wary. “Oh, right, Cheryl. Uh, gee, Mr. Hampton, I find your class fucking boring, mind if I go take a stroll for awhile?” Green eyes rolled.
“You shouldn’t have left in the first damn place!” Carl Sr. interjected, his wife holding him back with a hand to his arm. He pushed her away, heading into the kitchen. “Told you she was a lost cause,” he muttered to her in passing.
Knowing that it didn’t help when the foster parent acted worse than the juvenile, Cheryl took hold of Cal’s arm, leading her to the front porch. Cal held her anger in a tight chokehold, knowing Cheryl didn’t deserve the brunt. The caseworker was the only person on the planet that the teenager trusted, though she’d never tell her that.
“Cal,” Cheryl continued, brushing a strand of red hair out of her eyes as she concentrated on her charge. “why did you do that today? It was really stupid.”
“I hate it here, Cheryl,” Cal muttered, looking out over the weed-infested yard.
“Hon, you’ve only been here for a month.”
Cal could feel the unfamiliar stinging behind her eyes. She looked away from the older woman, not daring to let her see as Callahan tried to bring her emotions back to the vest. “When am I don’t with this horse and pony show?” she asked at length.
“The day you turn 18, Cal. You know that. Please let me try and help you until then. I’ve only got another year, and then I can no longer help.”
“You mean then I’m free.”
“No, I mean then you’re out of my care, and then I’ll have to stay up all night, worried sick about what kind of trouble you’ve found.” Cheryl smiled softly, getting the ghost of one back from the teen sitting on the porch swing next to her. “Kid, in thirteen years, you’ve already given me gray. Don’t give me wrinkles before my time, too. Okay?”
Cal nodded reluctantly. “I’ll try harder.”
“Thank you. They’re not bad people, Cal.”
“Yeah. None of ‘em are, right Cheryl?” the blonde said, glaring at the redhead.
“Cal, that’s not fair. I never would have placed you with the Hughes if we’d known. How is everything?”
Cal shrugged out of the ever-present denim jacket, revealing the black tank top she wore beneath. She ran a couple of fingers over scars that were newer than the rest- still red, and in angry circles. Cheryl sighed heavily, wanting to cry at the sight.
“I’m so sorry, Cal. I just didn’t know.”
Cal nodded, sliding her arms back into the sleeves of the jacket. “Yeah, I know. I still can’t look at cigars, though.”
Cheryl wrapped an arm around the blonde’s shoulders, tugging playfully in the only kind of hug Cal would allow. “Hang in there, kiddo. It has to get better, right?”
“If you say so.”
“I do. I have to go.” Cheryl stood, digging her car keys out of the pocket of her blazer. Turning to the girl next to her, she looked into green eyes, aged far beyond her 17 years. “Chin up.”
Cal watched the caseworker walk down the cracked path that dissected the would-be lawn, then she waved over the top of her car before climbing in. Cal stood, thumbs hooked into the front pockets of her jeans as she watched her drive away.
Cal glanced back at the house, and decided she wasn’t ready to go in and face the music, yet. Instead, she walked out to the yard and around to the huge cottonwood rooted between the Marquez house and that of their neighbor. A tire swing was mounted to a branch that was as thick as Cal was. She slipped into the seat, lightly pushing off with booted feet as she slipped a cigarette from the stashed pack, lighting it. She was amazed she was even able to smoke those, anymore. If she thought real hard, she could still feel the hot sting of Hughes’ cigar, burning into her flesh. She could still smell singed hair and burning skin. The acrid smell could still tickle the inside of her nose, if she let it.
Tucking the smoke between the first two fingers of her left hand, Cal leaned back, allowing the tire and sturdy rope to take her weight, the blonde stared up into the cloudless day, the sky blue and pure. Kind of like that girl’s eyes, she realized. Cal allowed her mind to race off in the new direction, grateful to have something pleasant to add to her memories. She closed her eyes, picturing the girl in the bathroom earlier. She wondered if she smelled good- looked like she would.
Cal took another drag, blowing the smoke out in rings as she begin to spin slowly, the rope creaking slightly as the knot high above collided with itself.
What grade was she in? How old was she? Was she one of the rich girls? Looked like it. There were lots of them running around Boomington, to Callahan’s surprise. Little shit town, would think it was mainly white trash, which in large part it was, but the outlying farmers and ranchers were loaded. They had to ship their offspring in to become learned.
Cal grinned, thinking about all those rich kids, forced to slum it with kids like her. Served ‘em right.
Soft footfalls across the weeds got Cal’s attention. Opening her eyes, she was surprised to see April Marquez standing in front of her, the previous blaze in her eyes having burned down to a mere simmer.
“You really scared us today, Callahan,” she said softly, eyeing the cigarette between the blonde’s lips with disdain. She shook her head sadly. “You don’t realize just young you are, and just how much damage you’re doing to yourself.”
“Spare me the lectures, April. I fucked up today, and won’t do it again. Okay?”
April wanted to be enraged by the smirk on the teen’s face, but for some reason, she couldn’t be. There was something about Cal, something she liked. Some sort of spark in her beautiful green eyes, that told April there was far more to her foster daughter than she might have thought before.
“I’m not going to badger you. I’ve made my point. Now come in and help me with dinner.” She waited a moment, curious to see if Cal would follow her or not. She should have figured she wouldn’t. Without another word, the brunette headed inside. “Don’t start my yard on fire!” she tossed back over her shoulder.
Cal remained on the swing for a moment, then with a heavy sigh, took one more, long drag from her cigarette, then smashed it against the tree before tossing it to the ground.
the halls were busy and obnoxious, as usual. Paige shouldered her large bag as she headed toward her locker. A loud roar met her ears, making her cringe, as she knew who it belonged to. The guys that hung in her group were all gathered together, proving just how manly they were. Paige rolled her eyes at the blatant overload of testosterone. She stopped, watching as the crowd of boys slowly parted, and the brunette realized that there was someone slammed up against the lockers, and it wasn’t one of theirs.
“What’s going on?” she asked her friend, Lang, who was cheering on his friends.
“New chick, big ol’ dyke,” he said, as if that explained everything.
“What?” Paige elbowed her way deeper into the crowd, and realized that the “big ol’ dyke” was in a shoving match with Grant Ludlow, a linebacker on the football team, and biggest asshole Paige knew.
“Come on, freak! Cry!” he was saying, the metallic BAM following as he shoved his quarry into the locker again.
As Paige neared, she realized it was the girl from the bathroom a couple weeks ago. Her blonde hair was sticking up at odd angles, and a small trickle of blood was at the corner of her mouth. Green eyes were flashing danger, and with a tiger-like roar, she used all her body weight and rammed Grant, sending him sprawling into his buddies.
“Bitch!” Grant yelled, face flushed with embarrassment. He raised a ham-sized fist, about ready to strike when Paige grabbed it in both of hers. Startled, he looked to see who would dare interrupt. “Not now, Paige. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Grant, stop it,” the brunette said, glancing briefly at the blonde before turning back to the football player. “Stop it. You’re going to get into trouble. I thought I saw Matthews coming,” she lied, desperate to stop things before they got really ugly. Immediately the group began to disband, Grant looking around frantically for the loathed principal. He turned back to Cal, a long finger pointed at her face. “We’re not done, you and me.”
“Fuck off, fat boy,” she growled, spitting a bit of blood at him. He was about to pounce again when Paige all but body slammed him to get him to stop. Pointing another finger, Grant shoved away from the brunette, storming down the hall to disappear in the throng of students.
Paige turned back to the blonde. “You must have a death wish or something,” she muttered, incredulous. “Jesus, you’re as bad as they are.”
Cal said nothing, only stared into those blue eyes, finally seeing them up close. She took in the brunette’s expensive clothing and brand name backpack. Without a word, she pushed off the locker and walked past her, surreptitiously taking a sniff as she did. She does smell good.
“You’re welcome,” Paige muttered, watching the girl slam down an adjacent hall.
Cal felt her heart still racing, the blood hot in her veins as her anger continued. Once she managed to find a hall with less traffic, she pulled her fist back and plowed it into a locker, denting the metal door. She didn’t even feel her knuckle split as her adrenaline kept her emotions hazy, sensations dulled.
“Fuckers,” she growled, tears of humiliation threatening. She quickly swallowed them down, whirling with a raised fist when someone tapped her on the shoulder. CJ raised his hands in supplication. Cal blew out a breath, taking a step back from her foster parents’ son. “Sorry,” she muttered.
“You okay? Saw what happened.”
“Shake it off. Those guys are assholes.”
“Yeah, thanks for the newsflash,” the blonde glared. CJ shrugged indifference.
“See you around.”
She watched as he walked down the hall, disappearing up the stairs leading to the second floor. Taking a few more deep breaths, the teen fought the urge to take off again, instead heading to her locker. After all, she had promised Cheryl.
Paige looked at her reflection in the tiny mirror mounted on the inside of her locker door. She applied some lipstick.
“Yeah, but come on, Paige, that wasn’t very smart. You made Grant look stupid in front of that… girl,” Claire Hicks said, checking her own makeup. Paige glanced at her friend.
“So what? Claire, he was bullying her. It was completely unnecessary. And he’s a really big guy, and she’s a girl, for crying out loud! What, in order to make himself feel big and bad he has to pick on girls, now?”
“What does it matter? They always play with the mice. That’s just the way it is. Boys, you know?”
“Yeah,” Paige said, slamming her locker door shut. “Well, the ‘boys will be boys’ attitude is why they have gotten away with being assholes since the days of the cave man.” She waited for her friend to fill her backpack with the books she’d need for homework. Slamming her own locker shut, Claire kept pace with the brunette as they walked down the hall toward the main doors of the school.
“I think you’re over reacting, Paige. She was just some punk, anyway.”
Paige sighed heavily, moving closer to her friend when a bunch of guys ran past them. “Don’t you ever get tired of it, Claire?” she asked, sounding as tired as she felt.
“Tired of what?”
“The crap. You know,” the brunette indicated the school around them. “All that’s expected, the posturing. All of it.” Paige felt her heart drop at her friend’s bewildered look. “Never mind. I’ll see you later.”
Paige walked to her car, unlocking the door and climbing into the BMW, a gift from her father last Christmas. The gray leather interior creaked under her weight, and the brunette ran her hand over the steering wheel, feeling restless. She looked around, noting as other students stood around and talked and laughed, or piled into cars. Engines roared and loud music pulsed through the air.
With a heavy sigh, Paige started her own car, glancing in the side mirror, reaching through the open window to adjust it. Keeping your car in a student parking lot, it was a given that you’d be readjusting mirrors daily. As she put the mirror into the position she needed it to be, she noticed a large tree in the park across from the parking lot. Squinting and leaning closer to the mirror, Paige tried to see if she saw what she thought she saw. Turning to look over her shoulder, she indeed saw someone sitting in the branches. A single booted foot could be seen swinging, the paleness of a face or hand through the dense spring foliage.
“Okay,” she muttered, turning back around and getting her car moving.
Cal Cullen blew out a lungful of smoke, watching with great interest as the girl, who she now knew was named Paige, climbed into her silver car. She leaned her head against the trunk of the mighty tree to get a better view, eyes following the beautiful lines of her legs before they disappeared inside the Beemer.
“Paige,” she whispered, tasting the name on her lips, which still hurt like hell from earlier that morning. Being shoved face-first into a locker certainly was painful. Absently she flicked her tongue out over the small cut, which had stopped bleeding long ago. The small shrill of pain raced through her jaw. She did it again just for the sensation.
The brunette sat in her car for a few moments, but she was too far away for Cal to be sure what she was doing. Finally the lights flicked to life as the car slowly backed out of its space, waiting for a couple kids to get out of the way before it could proceed out of the parking lot. The right blinker flashed as Paige waited to turn onto the main strip, which would take her right by Cal’s tree. The blonde watched with interest, tossing her cigarette butt down to the green grass below her. She was more than surprised when Paige looked right at her as she passed. Cal kept her gaze in that second, Paige’s blue eyes hidden behind her sunglasses. Pity.
Callahan lay in her twin bed, arms tucked behind her head. The ceiling above her was decorated in hundreds of tiny, glow-in-the-dark stars. She tried to connect the dots, but instead found her mind wandering to another time, another place…
“Look, Cali, see the shooting star?”
The wide, green eyes of the 4 year old followed the mystery of the Heavens all the way across the dark, Texas sky. It seemed so huge and endless to the bright child.
“I wonder where it landed,” Ty said, his voice dreamy. His little sister, nine years younger than himself, readjusted her head from where it was lying on his chest. She raised a stubby arm, lone finger pointing to the stars.
“With Mommy and Daddy,” she whispered.
“Yeah. With Mommy and Daddy.”
Cal swiped angrily at the lazy tear that dare try and make its way down her cheek. She looked away from the stars, and instead focused on the crib that was against the opposite wall, a scant distance away. Grace seemed to be sleeping soundly, lying on her stomach.
The blonde teen got out of bed, walking over to the infant. Her tiny hands were balled into fists, which rested up near her head. Her puckered lips were slightly opened as tiny breaths of air were pushed out of her lungs, then pulled back in through the tiny, pug nose.
Cal reached over the crib rail, barely touching the silky soft hairs that covered the 6 month olds head.
“Lucky you,” she whispered. “You got your whole life ahead of you, Grace.” Removing her hand, she stared down at the sleeping babe for a few moments more. When looking at Grace, she couldn’t help but wonder how differently her life may have ended up if her parents hadn’t died. Would she be as beloved and taken care of as the baby? Maybe.
Cal had very few memories of her mother, though remembered her father fairly well. It seemed as though he had been around a lot more, though she couldn’t remember why. Oh, but she did remember Ty. Remembered everything about him- especially how much he loved his little sister. They had spent every moment together, especially in that first foster home they went to. That was before they tore the Cullen children apart.
Cal felt her anger and despair growing, and decided she didn’t want to think. Quickly shrugging into her jeans and boots, she opened the window, tossing her denim jacket out first, then climbed out after it. Checking one last time on Grace to make sure the baby wouldn’t wake up and blow her cover, then hurried off into the night.
Boomington was, well, booming, on a Friday night. Cal walked the cold streets, hands shoved deep into her pockets. Cars raced by, kids shouting out the windows at each other and at innocent passersby. The blonde was amused, flipping off a few cars that deemed her worthy of a verbal assault.
After awhile Cal began to realize a lot of the cars were headed in the same general direction. Curious, she began to head that way, too.
Music pounded through the house, the walls almost vibrating with it. Alcohol was already beginning to flow freely, as well as a few other substances, liquid and powder.
Paige held her drink close to her chest, not one to typically drink, but she’d nurse it, anyway. She wasn’t much in the mood to be there, but it was better than being at home. Her father was home for a couple weeks- always reason to leave.
She excused herself from her date, Preston barely even noticing as she weaved her way through the throngs of excited party-goers, making her way to the bathroom. Locking herself inside, Paige poured her drink down the sink, setting the plastic cup on the vanity.
Studying her reflection in the mirror, Paige ran her fingers through her long hair, which was down tonight, and adjusted her clothing. She really should have met Preston at the party, then she’d have her car, and could leave when she wanted to- she wanted to. She jumped, started as something, or someone, thumped against the other side of the bathroom door. She rolled her eyes when she heard someone giggle. Turning back to her inspection, Paige looked into her eyes, leaning in close. They didn’t look as bloodshot as they had earlier, which was good. Even so, the crying had made the blue irises stand out with electrifying clarity.
Sighing heavily, she decided she’d best join her friends.
Cal was glad to get out of the cold, looking around at the inebriated peers around her. Some guy handed her a beer, which she gratefully began to guzzle, closing her eyes as the cool liquid slid down her throat. She allowed herself to relax as the music pounded into her head, making it bob ever so slightly as she walked further into the party, eyes ever watchful. She knew these were the rich popular kids. The huge house with even nicer toys parked in the drive and along the street. Old families, rich families, were in Bloomington. Ranchers and farmers.
“Shit kickers,” she muttered, tossing her finished beer bottle to the floor and grabbing another from the huge bucket of ice sitting in the middle of the living room floor. Most of the party-goers were too far gone to realize she didn’t belong there, but there were a few who were still on their game.
She wandered into what looked to be a recreational room- pool table in the corner, huge entertainment center at the back of the room. People were sprawled over every bit of furniture and much of the floor space. It looked as though a drinking game of some sort was going on.
Paige sat reclined against the base of the couch, watching her friends make absolute jackasses out of themselves as they played a warped version of truth or dare- take a dare, or take a drink. Everyone was getting drunker and the dares more ridiculous.
“Aren’t you going to play?” Claire asked, plopping down next to her friend. Her clothing reeked of pot and alcohol.
“No,” Paige sighed, resting her head against her friend’s shoulder. “I just want to go home.”
“Eh, let yourself go now and then, Paige. It’s a great party.”
Paige was saved from having to respond by the commotion in the game. She and Claire followed the noise, shocked to see the blonde punk from the hall leaning against the doorway.
“What the fuck is she doing here?” Grant asked, still stung by the bitch getting the best of him at school.
“Either that girl is brave or suicidal,” Claire muttered.
Paige ignored her as she fixed her eyes on the blonde, who looked for all the world like she belonged where she stood. Her attention was ripped away from the cocky punk when she saw Grant getting to his feet. He stopped when a hand wrapped around his arm. Looking down, he saw Paige’s blue eyes boring into his.
“Grant, stop. This isn’t the time. Leave her alone.”
“That bitch made me look stupid, Paige,” her growled.
“No, Grant, you made yourself look stupid. Leave her alone.”
Grant knew somewhere in his pickled brain that Paige was right, so he decided on another trek. Paige wanted to make him feel like an ass, fine. He could repay the favor.
“Hey, freak,” he called out. Disinterested green eyes met his gaze. “Wanna play a game?”
“Not really,” Cal said, slowly sipping her beer, eyes never leaving Grant.
“What if I get our friend, here to play, too?” he challenged, placing a hand on Paige’s thigh. She glared at him. “Come on, Paige. Play. What’s wrong with a little truth or dare?”
“Because I don’t want to play,” the brunette said simply, taking Grant by a finger and removing his hand, dropping it unceremoniously onto his own lap.
A round of “Ooooooooh,” filled the room, everyone’s attention drawn by the growing tension. Cal watched Paige’s antics, amused. Girl’s got guts.
“Don’t start,” Paige muttered, low enough so only Grant to hear.
“No, I think it’s already been started.” Grant turned to the room for all to hear. “I dare Paige to take the freak into the closet for one entire minute.” A few snickers followed his declaration.
“Grant, stop this! You’re drunk.”
“That may be, but you’ve been dared.”
“I don’t give a shit.”
“What, are you a coward?”
Cal rolled her eyes, as did Paige. “Oh, please, Grant. My brain isn’t floating around in testosterone. That crap doesn’t work with me.” Paige rose to her feet, preparing to leave. Grant also stood. Though Cal kept her casual stance, her body began to tense, readying itself for trouble.
“Fine. Then show us you don’t think that bitch is any more of a freak than the rest of us do. Come on, Paige. Show us, because deep down, I know you think she’s a piece of trash punk. Just like the rest of us.”
Cal felt her blood begin a slow boil, her jaw clenching the only outward sign. She watched Paige carefully, curious as to what the brunette would say or do. The thought no sooner out of her brain and blue eyes met electric green. Cal watched as Paige made her way over to her, grabbing her hand in a firm, warm one, and nearly yanking the blonde off her feet as Paige led them to the closet.
A hush raced through the room as all eyes watched them, all the way until the door was closed behind them.
It was dark in the closet, only a bit of light shining in through the crack under the heavy wood. The space was small and hot, the coats hanging pushed the girls toward each other.
“So now what?” Cal asked, amusement in her voice.
“No clue. I’m sorry Grant is such a-“
“Hey! Too much talking in there!” Grant growled from the other side of the door. Laughter could be heard from deeper in the room. Cal’s amusement grew as she could almost feel Paige’s discomfort. They were standing close enough for the blonde feel the gentle breath of her companion.
As Cal’s eyes began to adjust to the darkness, she studied Paige, up close and personal. The brunette was far more gorgeous than she could ever imagine. She could feel a slow burn sprouting in her belly, and before she could think, she reached a hand up, cupping Paige’s soft cheek, and leaned in.
Paige started at the feel of soft lips touching her own, Cal’s cool hand keeping her gently in place. So stunned was she by the action, Paige couldn’t think to push the blonde away.
Feeling bolder by the second, Cal tilted her head slightly, teasing Paige’s lips with her own, feeling their softness, how well they fit with her own. All too quickly it was gone when Cal felt a firm hand on her chest.
“No,” Paige said, her voice soft.
“Time’s up, you two,” someone banged on the closet door.
“Time’s up,” Cal repeated, then Paige was suddenly bathed in light as the blonde stepped out of their temporary prison, leaving her stunned and alone.
Cal, undeniable smirk on her face, sauntered out of the party, headed back home.
The halls were busy, as per usual at the end of the day. Callahan loaded some books into her backpack when she heard a familiar voice laughing, and coming toward her. Glancing to her left, sure enough, there was Paige, with one of her friends. She had no idea what the beauty was talking about, nor did she care. All that mattered to her was that Paige looked at her, ever so briefly, but then she quickly hurried past the blonde.
Regardless of how brief and how G rated the kiss may have been, it still happened, and Cal enjoyed thinking about it often. Even getting busted climbing back in the window when April had been nursing Grace had been worth it.
With a grin, Cal finished up at her locker and slammed it shut.
Spring was certainly in full swing, and it was gorgeous. Callahan even had a bit of a spring in her own step as she wandered the streets of downtown Boomington. She walked past a jeweler’s shop and stopped, looking a beautiful pair of earrings in the window display. Immediately Paige’s image came before her eyes, the earrings dangling from delicate ears.
Cal shook herself from her ridiculous sappy thoughts and moved on. Besides, those earrings’ $99 price tag was $98.50 more than she had. She continued on, noting the Christian bookstore just up ahead. She was about to speed up, but for some reason, stopped at the door, held open by a large rock.
The store wasn’t all that big: a bullpen was set up in the middle of the room with glass case frontings and a register. The three walls that weren’t door or large windows, were filled with shelves of books and religious merchandise. A few waist-high shelving units held more.
“So, the wayward daughter returns.”
Cal was startled by the massive mountain of a man, who stepped out from a doorway filled with a beaded curtain. His smile was kind, though his eyes told her he was in no mood for nonsense.
“Either Jesus is nine feet tall, or my Sunday school teacher lied to me,” Cal cracked, eyeing the man’s beard. He chuckled, low and deep in his throat.
“Blaspheme, child. Come in. Or will my store suddenly combust?” he challenged.
“I don’t know. It might.” Cal took a wary step inside, looking around, not bothering to hide her disdain.
“Judge not lest ye be judged,” the store keep warned, stocking a handful of books on a shelf. Duly chastised, Cal allowed her curiosity to take over. She fondled a few things, grazing the back of a few books, putting several back within a few words when she already saw the condemnation coming. She held one such volume up.
“So, are you saying then that this Dobson fella shouldn’t live in a glass house?”
“Touché, my young friend. What can I help you with? I’m afraid I’m all out of boxes for you to destroy.”
Cal’s grin was sheepish. “Yes, well…” she put the book in its place, doing her damndest to not shove it in there so hard the book would be destroyed. “You talked last time about needing some help around here…” She risked a glance at the big man. He was watching her carefully, but said nothing. “That still true?”
“Do you want it to be true?” he countered, resting a huge hand on the glass top of the counter.
“Do you pay?”
“If you’ll earn.”
“Fine. Be here this time tomorrow, and no earlier. I don’t want you skipping any classes.”
Cal smirked. It’ll take a lot more than you, buddy, to stop that. She turned, ready to head out when she stopped, glancing at the big man over her shoulder. “You won’t convert me, you know.”
The man smiled kindly. “Nor will I try.”
“Okay. Just so we have an understanding.”
The next two weeks went by swiftly. Cal told no one about her new job, except April, so she wouldn’t get busted again for not coming home after school. To say that her foster mother was thrilled was an understatement. Her boss, Max Thickland, was okay, too. True to his word, never once did he mention religion or the blonde’s lack of. It was strictly business, or he’d ask about school on occasion.
“This is your senior year this year, correct?” he asked, reading glasses balanced precariously on his nose as he went over the books. Callahan busied herself with unpacking a shipment of the new Joyce Meyer book that had just come in.
“Yep. In theory,” she said absently, comparing the number of books actually received with the shipping label.
“Will you graduate?”
Max set his pen down, looking at his young charge. “Are you graduating or not?”
Suddenly feeling uncharacteristically shy, Cal shrugged, fingering the cover of one of the books. “I don’t know. High school has been… interesting, for me.”
“Hmm,” the big man grunted. “That’s too bad.” He could sense the girl’s discomfort, so left it at that. Besides, the bells over the door out in the store let them know their conversation was over. He didn’t have to look up to know Cal was long gone, heading to help their customer.
To say that Paige was shocked to see Cal stepping out front, Heavenly Prayer Bookstore apron in place, would be a gross understatement. The blonde looked completely out of place with her jeans, the right leg of which had a hole big enough to show her knee, and her crazy, blonde hair. She could tell the other girl was just as surprised to see her.
“Well, look who’s here, and the place hasn’t burned down.”
“Yet,” Cal smirked, to cove r her suddenly discomfort. She tried not to focus on the brightness of Paige’s blue eyes, or the way her hair gleamed under the store lights. She tried not to notice the way the brunette’s shirt hugged her body, caressing her breasts. She also didn’t think she was all that successful.
“Yet. Off course. What are you doing here?” Paige asked, stepping up to the bullpen, where Cal had entered through the small, swinging gate.
“What are you doing here?” the blonde deadpanned.
“My grandmother is religious.”
“I’m sorry.” Cal smirked at the glare she got. “I work here,” she pointed to her nametag.
“Kinda figured. Somehow I didn’t think you ran around to various businesses and collected their aprons and nametags.”
“Actually, you caught me. Later today I’ll be going into Wal-Mart and stealing one of their fancy blue vests.”
Paige giggled despite the fact that she really didn’t want to like this girl. Cal was utterly charmed.
“So, do you always crash other people’s parties, Callahan Cullen?”
Cal covered her surprise at Paige knowing her name with a question of her own. “Do you always grab total strangers and tug them into the closet, Paige-I-haven’t- asked-around-about-your-last-name, yet.”
Again, Paige was blushing, but she quickly cleared her throat. “Do you always answer questions with one of your own?”
“Do you?” Cal challenged, loving this game.
Paige burst into laughter, shaking her head. “You are really crazy.”
“You have no idea. And I wanted a beer. That party seemed a good place to get one, and I was right.”
“Well, Grant was being an asshole, and he made me mad.”
“Ah.” That explained it all. Looking at Paige, standing in front of her, Cal couldn’t help but think of their kiss. Well, more like her kiss. She wasn’t all that sure just how returned it was. Even so, she wasn’t going to apologize for it.
“Well, anyway, I’m here in search of a gift. Do you have the newest Joyce Meyer book? My grandmother eats up that inspirational stuff.”
“Yeah. Hang on.”
Paige felt her heart rate return somewhat to normal when the blonde headed into the backroom of the store. She always felt so nervous around Cal, and even worse now that Cal had figured out that, indeed, Paige had asked around to find out what her name was. But it only makes sense, right? Some random girl kisses her, she has a right to know what her dang name is!
Paige was pulled from her thoughts when Callahan returned, holding the hardback out, then snatching it back when the brunette reached for it. Confused, Paige met mischievous green eyes.
“What will you give me for it?” Cal asked, a honey colored brow raised. Paige stared at her, mouth open slightly in surprise.
“What do you want for it?” she asked slowly, cautious.
“That’s not what I asked.” Cal hugged the book to her chest. “What will you give me for it?”
Paige swallowed, feeling her cadence pick up again. “What the store price is?”
“That’s all I needed to know,” Cal said softly, sliding the book across the counter. She grinned at the flush that covered Paige’s cheeks.
“You are so strange,” Paige muttered, snatching the book before it could be taken away again.
Prom season was approaching, and the buzz was in the air. Paige and her mother, Bernie, were out looking for the perfect dress.
“I still don’t understand why you won’t just let one be designed for you,” the older woman said, disdain on her delicate features as she took in the dresses around them.
“Because I’m not getting married, Mother,” Paige said, fingering the soft material of one of the garments. “I’m only going t be wearing it once.”
“So? You’d only wear your wedding dress once, too. Besides, my dear, prom night may be the night you snag the man that may be your future husband. Whatever happened to that boy you were with last year? Oh, what was his name… his father owned the oil fields…”
“Yes! Scott. What happened with him?”
“He went off to West Point, Mother. Right after he graduated. Remember? The party his parents threw for him?”
“OH, that’s right. Too many parties,” Bernie laughed, light and delicate, as was appropriate. Paige turned away, rolling her eyes. She didn’t even want to go to prom, but knew it was either this, or her mother would throw her a good old fashioned Coming Out party. God, she hated the bullshit.
“Who are you going with this year?”
Paige dreaded the question, but she knew it was coming. She walked over to a display of shoes, picking one up and examining it. Mainly for something to do. “I don’t have a date yet, Mother.”
“What? Surely you’ve been asked?” Bernie was stunned! Her beautiful daughter, and no one had asked? Not a chance of that happening.
“I didn’t say I wasn’t asked. I just haven’t accepted any invites, yet.”
“Any why not? There are some fine boys at your school, Paige, from some fine families.” Bernie turned her daughter so she was looking at here. Paige was the spitting image of what Bernie had been at her age, though she had much lighter hair than her daughter,, who took on her father’s darker features, other than her eyes, of course. Those ran in the Van Cleef family. “I met your father at a school function, you know.”
“And look how that turned out.”
Bernie was stunned, her cheeks enflaming. “He’s been a good provider for us, Paige. You’ve never wanted for anything. Your father is just… hard.”
Paige said nothing. They’d had the argument a million times, and she never got anywhere. Basically, what Bernie had taught her was that marrying old money, and staying in old money, meant you put up with regular beatings and verbal venom. Not for her. She wanted more for herself than that. Mainly love. Just for once, someone to love her for who she was, and not the family she came from. Her whole life, Paige had felt like cattle at auction, her mother presenting her to the affluent community as such. She couldn’t wait to escape, even if it meant going off to the college her parents had chosen for her, and paid her way in next fall. She had no desire to go to Wellington in England. She knew that here every move would be watched, her future planned out, yet again. Even so, it was escape.
The afternoon wore on, mother saying very little to daughter as Bernie was a champion grudge-holder. Paige was fine with it; at least she didn’t have to enter into idle chit-chat that she hated so much. Her seven hundred dollar prom dress was safely bagged and loaded into their town car, and it was time to go home. Thank the lord!
“Crap.” Cal hurried over to the sink to grab the dishtowel, then over to the stove to clean up where the spaghetti sauce had boiled over. “Damn Wheel of Fortune,” she muttered, grimacing as the rag quickly became a red, slimy mess.
“What the hell happened?” Carl Marquez, Sr. barked, coming in through the kitchen door, work shirt in hand.
“Had a little accident,” Cal said quietly, rinsing out the rag to return and mop up more of her mess.
“Jesus Christ, Cal! You’re wasting fucking food! That shit isn’t cheap, you know? Even the pittance we get for you isn’t enough.”
Cal felt a cold trickle begin to run down her spine. She’d seen enough men like Carl in her life. Me like that were ticking time bombs. She tried to think of a way to defuse it. “Sorry, Carl. It won’t happen again.”
Carl raced across the room, getting in his unwanted foster daughter’s face. “You’re damn right it won’t happen again. It’s no secret I don’t want you here, Cal. I got enough to deal with, with two kids of my own. You watch your step, or you’re out the door. You got me?”
The blonde nodded, numb. She looked down at her boots as Carl stormed out of the kitchen. She felt a slight hitch in her throat, but held it down. She couldn’t let him see how he made her feel. Never could anyone see it.
“Fuck you, Carl,” she whispered, turning back to the stove. Quiet footsteps entered the kitchen, but Cal didn’t bother to turn to see who it was. She didn’t care. She flinched as a hand rested on her shoulder.
“Let me do that,” April said, gently taking the dishrag from Cal’s shaking hand. Why don’t you go and put Grace down for bed.”
Without a word, Cal nodded and took the groggy baby from her mother’s arms. Upstairs, in the darkness of their room, Cal looked at the beautiful face of the precious child in her arms, sitting in the rocking chair April used when she was nursing. The infant looked up at her through bleary eyes, which got heavier and heavier.
“You’ve got so much ahead of you, Grace,” Cal whispered, bringing up a hand and touching the silky softness of the baby’s face and hair. She rocked gently, Grace quickly giving up on the day and drifting off into baby dreamland. Cal continued to rock, resting her head back against the chair as she stared off into space. Her voice was soft as she spoke. “My big brother used to hold me like this, Grace. See, he was so much older than me, he used to protect me and rock me. He was my hero. You’re lucky to have a big brother, too. Though CJ doesn’t seem much the rockin’ type.” She smiled ruefully, glancing off toward the window and the evening sky beyond. The sun was just starting to give its notice for the day.
She was surprised to hear a soft knock on the doorframe to the bedroom. April leaned against it, stepping inside when she saw she had Cal’s attention.
“Hey,” she said, sitting on the edge of Cal’s bed, hands folded in her lap. “How are you doing?”
Cal shrugged, non-committal. Yeah, April had been nice, but at least one of them was usually nice. Never stopped the crap, though.
“Max has been checking in with both me and Cheryl. He says you’re doing really well, even if you did call an irate patron the anti-Christ.” They both chuckled at that.
“Yeah, well he looked like it.”
“Well, at any rate, I’m proud of you. You’ve done well for yourself, Cal, and you should be proud, too.”
“Thanks.” The blonde tried to not let it mean anything to her, but it was hard. Praise was so rare that when it did come, she was like a thirty man finding water.
“Did she give you any trouble?” April asked, nodding toward her daughter. Cal shook her head.
“No. I’d been sitting for about four point three seconds before she conked.” The teen stroked the baby’s hair.
“Not surprised. She seems to have really taken to you.”
“Good thing, I guess, since she’s stuck with me in here.” Cal met April’s dark gaze.
April pushed to her feet, setting hand on Cal’s shoulder. “You’re a good egg, Callahan, and don’t let anyone tell you different. And, you’re wanted here. Okay?”
Cal nodded, unable to keep April’s gaze. When she was left alone, she sighed heavily, continuing to rock the bundle of innocence in her arms. It was only then that she felt truly clean.
Cal was startled by the sudden shrill alarm, her hand jerking and drawing a line all the way across the page of her assignment.
“Come on, people, out the gym doors,” Mr. Hines instructed. The class began to pour out of the door into the halls to meet the other classes. Cal hated fire drills, and refused to leave her stuff there. She gathered it all up, against school fire-alarm policy. “Come on, Cullen, hurry it up,” the teacher called, unable to leave until every student was out. Cal hurried to catch up, then joined the flow.
It was almost April, and a nice, warm day. The sun was bright, clouds scattered. Once they had reached the soccer fields, she looked around, curious to see who all was there. Nah, that’s a big, fat lie. She was looking for Paige, whom she hadn’t spoken to since that day the brunette had shopped at the bookstore, three weeks ago. She saw a few of the people in Paige’s crowd, but had yet to see her.
“So, did you pull it?”
Cal whipped around, startled at the voice to her right. Paige grinned, Cal rolled her eyes.
“As much as I’d like to claim credit, I was being a good girl in math.”
“You have it in you to be good?”
“The bookstore still hasn’t burned down, so someone must think so.”
Paige chuckled, then began to move on. “See you around.”
“Later.” Ohhhh, and how Cal enjoyed watching her go. She watched as Paige joined up with all of her friends. The brunette stood out amongst the beautiful people, somehow. There was something about her that none of the others could even begin to pray to be- a certain glow, certain specialness.
As Cal watched, Paige turned around, shading her eyes, as she seemed to be looking for something… or someone. The brunette’s attention fell on Cal, and she raised a hand in greeting. Cal waved back, then had to look away, suddenly feeling very shy. When she chanced a glance a moment later, Paige was nowhere in sight.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay?” CJ asked, looking over at his ‘date’. Cal nodded.
“Okay. Well, uh, I guess come back around midnight and I’ll tell you where I’m at. That way my mom won’t know. I mean, she did spring for you suit and all.”
Cal looked down at herself- black women’s suit, however the jacket was unbuttoned, the shirt collar open, as well. “Yeah. Have fun, CJ. See you at midnight.”
Her foster brother climbed out of the car, tossing the keys at her. “Later.”
Cal parked the car, then found herself a tree. She didn’t want her suit to smell like smoke if she could avoid it. Finding herself a nice, sturdy branch, Cal got settled, ready to watch the monkeys and penguins. The only reason she had agreed to April’s crazy plan of going as CJ’s date was because she didn’t want to hurt the woman’s feelings. April had been good to her, and she knew that her foster mother wanted good things for her. This, however, in Cal’s opinion was not a good thing.
Lighting the tip of her smoke, she shook out the match before tossing it, then let the show begin. Limousines showed up by the dozen- black ones, white ones. Even a blue one. From the traditional to the stretched Hummer, they all lined up. Cal stuck around because she had eyes for only one, and wanted to see how she looked. Undoubtedly Paige would be there.
It didn’t take long, and Cal wasn’t surprised. A guy that the blonde recognized from Paige’s group, stepped out of a stretched town car, and held out his hand. Her diamond bracelet caught the well-lit drive of the expensive hotel, where the prom was being held. Next came a shapely leg, then two, then all of Paige.
“Wow,” Cal breathed, cigarette forgotten.
The brunette looked stunning in a fitted dress, her shoulders and back bare in the halter-top. The color was dark, either black or a dark blue. Her dark hair was piled atop her head, diamonds dangling from her ears and around her neck. Her date placed his hand low on her back, just above her ass. Cal could feel her blood boil, but cooled when she saw Paige reach behind her, removing his hand, and placing it at an appropriate level. “Okay, so that’s not a boyfriend.”
Cal watched until they disappeared inside, then sighed, closing her eyes as the memory came t her mind’s eye once more. Jesus, that girl is gorgeous! She sighed, then hopped down. She’d drive around for awhile then come back.
Paige was polite, thanking those who said she looked good. She felt good, but had a heavy heart. Dirk had asked her to go to the prom last, so she finally said yes. Her father made it very clear she had no other option. So, here she was, and she didn’t even consider Dirk much of a friend, let alone date material. He certainly was a Mr. Grabby Hands, and she’d already had to smack them away a few times.
Paige’s eyes kept sweeping the ballroom, looking to see who had shown up, and perhaps, who hadn’t. She had yet to see a familiar blonde head. She was curious to see what Cal would wear to something like this, after all, it didn’t seem much like the blonde’s cup of tea. She did, however, see the guy she’d seen the punk with from time to time. She knew his name was CJ Marquez, but that was all. Were they dating? Siblings? She had no idea. Though she was tempted to ask him where Cal was.
“Hey, baby, let’s dance.”
“Don’t call me baby, Dirk. I told you this was a one-time deal.”
“Jesus, PMSing or what?” He was taken aback. He hadn’t thought Paige was such a bitch, but guess he was wrong. Damn. Looks like he may lose a hundred bucks.
As the night went on, Paige started to feel more and more like she was suffocating. She smiled and she looked like she was having a ball, but inside, she was screaming. She kept eyeing the doors to the ballroom, wishing so badly she had the courage to make a run for it. The problem is, she may never stop.
“Hey, let’s get something to eat,” Dirk said, trying a different tactic. He was surprised when Paige gave him no grief, and meekly nodded.
Cal was finishing her coffee as she pulled up in the hotel drive again, glancing over at the building to make sure CJ wasn’t standing outside or anything. It was only after ten, but just in case. He was, after all, doing her the favor but letting her off the hook. She was about to pull away from the curb when the double doors exploded out, and a very upset Paige appeared.
Immediately on high alert, Cal stepped out of the car. “Paige!” she called, the brunette turning at her name. If Cal weren’t so worried, she would have been amused at the shocked look on Paige’s face.
“Can you please drive me home?” Paige asked as she neared.
“Yeah, of course.” Cal hurried around the car to the passenger side, opening it as Paige gathered her dress to get in. She almost whispered her ‘thank you’. Cal trotted around the front of the car, slipping behind the wheel. She looked at her companion. “What’s your address?”
Paige turned sad blue eyes to her. “Can we maybe just drive for a little while?”
“Sure.” Cal put the car in gear and headed out. They were silent for a long time, Cal taking random roads and routs, glancing over at her passenger from time to time. She was getting worried that something really bad had happened in there. She cleared her throat. “Did something happen, Paige?”
“Nothing I should have gotten so upset over,” the brunette answered softly. She sighed, looking over at Cal. “He grabbed my butt and tried to kiss me. It upset me.”
“As it should’ve! Want me to kick his ass for you?”
Paige smiled. “Why do I get the feeling that you’re serious in that question?”
“Because I am. I’d be happy to fuck him up.” Cal gripped the steering wheel tighter, her jaw muscles working. She was surprised when she felt a soft touch on her knee. She looked down at Paige’s hand, then over at Paige.
“Thank you, but no. It’s not necessary. Can’t say that I’m surprised, anyway. I knew Dirk was an asshole.”
“So why did you go with him?”
Paige opened her mouth to answer, but snapped it shut. “Long story. I don’t really want to go into it now.”
Cal nodded. She totally understood about secrets. The silence continued until Paige broke it.
“So, why are you dressed up with nowhere to go?” She eyed Cal’s suit. “It’s nice to see you in something that isn’t littered with holes.”
“I like my natural ventilation, thank you.” She shrugged, keeping her eyes on the dark road ahead. “My foster mom wanted me to go. I didn’t want to. We both got the best of both worlds.”
“She thinks you did, so she’s happy, but you didn’t, so you’re happy…”
“You got it.”
Cal cringed. Here we go. “Yeah. April.”
“Is that your foster brother then, CJ Marquez? I’ve seen you with him before. Didn’t seem like a boyfriend-type of arrangement.”
“Where are your parents?”
“I’m sorry, Callahan.”
“Cal. And it’s okay.”
“Do you miss them? Cal.”
The blonde shook her head with a shrug. “I don’t remember them. It happened when I was very young.” Cal turned off on an abandoned road. Paige took in the scenery, not sure where they were, but continued.
“So, you’ve been a ward of the state all this time?”
“Yeah.” Cal was starting to get uncomfortable, the feeling showing in her tensing jaw muscles. “Me and my brother, Ty.”
“Where is he?”
“I don’t know. We were together for the first year, then we got split up. Haven’t seen him since.”
“Paige. Can we please talk about something else?” Cal turned pleading eyes to her companion, not wanting to jump down her throat for her curiosity.
“Sure. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. I just don’t like talking about it. Here we are!”
The car’s headlights shone onto the trunk of a huge tree. Beyond it were the lights of Boomington, twinkling like the brightest of stars.
“Oh, wow,” Paige breathed, opening her door and stepping out into the warm night. “Where are we?”
“Well, if it was day time, you’d see the old Shriner Mill behind us. I found this place a few weeks ago.”
“Cal, it’s beautiful.” Paige stepped toward the edge, daring to look own. Cal followed, hands buried sheepishly into the pockets of her pants.
“Careful,” she said softly, knowing that the fall was beyond steep, and quite deadly. She was relieved when Paige took a step back.
“Let’s sit for awhile,” Paige suggested.
“Okay.” Cal stopped the brunette just before she sat, shedding her jacket and lying it on the ground. “That dress looks expensive.”
Paige smiled, thinking that one of the sweetest things anyone ever did for her. She made herself comfortable on the jacket, sliding her feet out of her heels, and setting them aside. She stretched her legs out, allowing her skin to breathe in the wonderful night. “It’s really nice out here. Though, I have to say, I think it would be scary as hell alone.”
“Nah. Not too bad,” Cal said, pulling her legs up and wrapping her arms around them.
“You come here alone?”
“Who else would I come with?”
Paige shrugged. “I don’t know. CJ, maybe?”
“Nah. We’re not close. We talk during the day mainly to find out when the other is leaving. The only one I’ve really bonded with in this family is the 6 month old baby.”
Paige chuckled. “I can’t imagine you with a child.”
“Why not? Kids are cool. They’re so uncomplicated. They accept you for you.”
Callahan said so much in that one simple statement, and as Paige studied her profile, she felt a sadness enter her heart. There was so much melancholy in Cal; it flowed off her in waves. She had so many questions for the blonde, but had the feeling she had to play it safe, or Cal would run.
Cal, for her part, was trying to get her heart under control. She could never have guessed this situation would have happened when she woke up that morning. She decided to ask a few questions of her own.
“So, you’re not dating Dirk, that much I know. Why don’t you have a boyfriend?” She turned her head, resting her cheek on her knees.
“I had one. He went off to military school last year. I don’t know,” Paige shrugged her bare shoulders, catching Cal’s eye. “Guess I just didn’t really look for another one.”
“Truthfully?” Paige continued at Cal’s nod. “I don’t know. It, … when I started dating him, it was never for me in the first place. See, I come from parents who don’t believe in love, but instead in an investment. My father always says that your best investment is not in your house, but your marriage.” She scrunched up her face in distaste. “I don’t know. That just seems so, I don’t know, cold to me. I don’t want that for myself.”
“It is cold.”
“Glad to know I’m not the only one. Everyone in my life, friends and family, think I’m wrong. I’ve always felt I’m defective, or something. It’s nice to have some validation.”
Cal almost swooned at the smile she got. Instead she returned it.
“I was relieved, really, when he went off to West Point. I could walk away from it without hearing it from everyone.” She rolled her eyes. “Gets so old.”
“Lot of pressure?”
“Tons. Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in some novel, or something. You know, one of those historical pieces, like Victorian era. Smothering.”
“I’m sorry, Paige.”
Paige mirrored Cal’s position, sighing as she looked into green eyes. “Not your fault.”
“You know, it’s funny. Ironic, actually.”
Cal raised her head, looking out over the town. The eye contact was too intense for her. “I have too many choices, and you too few, yet it seems to get us both in trouble.”
Paige smiled full out. If Cal had been looking at her, she would have been blinded. She studied the blonde, watching as the small amount of moonlight there was caught pieces of blonde hair. The way the light caressed Cal’s profile, the way it seemed to puddle on her lips.
“Cal?” she asked, voice soft, and sounding before she even had a chance to think about what she was asking.
“Yeah?” Cal met her gaze, following as Paige raised her head.
“Why did you kiss me?”
Here we go. “Truth?”
“Because I wanted to. I knew I would never get another chance.”
Paige studied her, allowing the information to absorb and process. “So, you’d thought about it before, then?”
“Yeah. I had.”
Cal smiled, taken aback. “What do you mean, ‘why’?”
“Simple. Why did you want to kiss me?”
“Because you’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.” Cal shrugged, her casual countenance belying her pounding heart.
“Thank you.” Paige whispered it so softly Cal barely heard it. “Do you take chances very often?”
Cal smirked, nodding. “Yeah. Too often.”
“Brave, or foolish?”
“Well, you tell me. After all, you were one of my chances taken.”
Paige chuckled, staring back out over the town. Se could almost feel the heat coming from the blonde sitting to her left. “A little of both, I’d say.” She was silent for a moment. Then, “How often do you take them? Chances.”
“As often as I can. We only get one shot at life.”
“Do you want to take another one right now?”
Cal looked at her, uncertainty making her heart skip. She met Paige’s profile, noting the girl refused to meet her gaze. “Now?”
Paige looked down at the diamond bracelet her mother had given her for the night, watching it wink in the moonlight. She nodded. “Come on, Callahan, chances don’t come along every day.” When finally she had the courage to meet Cal’s eyes, she gasped softly. There was so much intensity in those green eyes it was scary, and it was all focused on her.
Cal studied her, trying to see if Paige was saying what she thought she was saying. The brunette was not giving up her secrets. The blonde decided to go with her gut.
Paige felt her heart speed up when Cal cupped her cheek, the skin warm and soft. She felt her eyes becoming heavy as the blonde leaned in, then back slightly, just enough to show Paige what her intentions were, and to give her the opportunity to stop it. When Paige didn’t, Cal brushed her lips against those that were just as soft as she remembered. She went back for another pass, this time, she pressed in a bit, thrilling when she felt Paige respond.
Paige couldn’t believe she was allowing to happen what was happening. Hell, not just allow it, but asking for it! She leaned into Cal’s touch, feeling so safe in it, so beautiful. She felt the blonde’s lips open, inviting her own to mingle, to fit so perfectly. Before Paige knew what she was doing, she had raised her own hand, feeling the starched material of Cal’s shirt, which covered a warm shoulder.
Cal sighed softly when she felt the touch, giving her courage. Tilting her head slightly, she invited Paige deeper into the kiss, brushing just barely inside the brunette’s top lip with the tip of her tongue. She heard the soft gasp, and the slight tightening on her shoulder, but Paige opened her mouth a bit, allowing Cal to wander inside.
Cal was in heaven, her hand moving from the side of Paige’s face to the back of her neck. She wished her hair was down, as she would have loved to run her fingers through it. But, she’d happily take what she could get. Her blood was boiling, and her sex lurched when she felt Paige sigh into the kiss, her tongue meeting Cal’s slow, sensual stroke for slow, sensual stroke.
Long moments later, Paige felt her body pulsing, and it scared her. She tightened her grip on Cal’s shoulder more, gently pushing. The blonde immediately broke the kiss, looking into her eyes, searching. Paige couldn’t meet the heated gaze, as she was afraid of what Cal might see there. Taking a deep breath, she was finally able to speak, leaning her forehead against that of the blonde. “God, you’re good at that.”
Cal smiled. “Thank you. That was wonderful.” Paige nodded, finally pulling away altogether. “Guess we should get back, huh?” Cal said, running her hands through her hair, making it crazier than it already was.
The drive back was quiet, but not uncomfortable. Cal got the feeling that though confused, Paige was okay with what had happened.
“Do you want me to take you home still?” Cal finally asked.
“No. I’d better just go back to the dance.” She looked at her companion. “If I’m brought home by someone other than Dirk, my parents will ask a lot of questions I’m not ready, nor real certain, how to answer.”
Cal nodded, understanding.
The prom seemed to be truly and fully in action. Muted music could be heard from the parking lot. Cal glanced at the dashboard clock and cursed softly when she saw it was half-past twelve. Sure enough, CJ was standing at the curb, looking at his watch. She pulled the car to a stop. She gave Paige an apologetic smile for not opening her door for her. Too many questions. Paige seemed to understand as she smiled back, then let herself out.
“Hi, CJ,” she said sweetly, as Cal’s foster brother watched her head toward the prom, his mouth hanging open. Taking Paige’s seat, he looked at the blonde for an explanation, which never came.
Paige had stared up at the ceiling of her bedroom for hours, unable to go to sleep. She kept reliving the kiss, feeling the softness of Cal’s lips, the look in her eyes…. Bringing up a hand, she felt her own lips, imagining they were the blonde’s.
“Why did I do that?” she asked the night beyond the many windows in the spacious room. That one kiss, though fairly brief, had been more exciting to Paige than every other kiss she’d ever experienced combined. She tried to pinpoint exactly what it was that had made the kiss so different, other than the fact that Cal was female. It was far more than that. It was Cal, herself. Something about her, just… intrigued Paige, somehow. She was so different than anyone the brunette had ever know. She respected her individuality deeply, even though it often came at a heavy cost.
But it was more than even that. Dark brows drew as Paige thought more about it, digging below the surface of who and what Cal was. Cal was beautiful, yes, far more than she thought the blonde even knew. But it was almost as though the brunette felt some sort of connection with her, as though they meshed without even trying. Even that first day she’d seen her smoking in the bathroom, Paige had felt something. A curiosity, a need to know who she was. She had set about pretty quickly after that to find out what the blonde punk’s name was.
Turning onto her side, she spotted her dress, wrapped in its garment bag and hanging on the back of the bedroom door. A bemused smile creased her lips. What did all of this mean? Anything?
Cal walked through the lunch room slowly, thumbs hanging from the straps of her backpack that wrapped over and under her arms. She chewed her bottom lip as she trolled, looking for any sign of rich, dark hair, or even any of her friends. Finally she spotted her, an instant smile coming to her lips.
Paige was talking with a few other girls, preparing her lunch the way she wanted it. Continuing to talk, blue eyes suddenly rose, meeting Cal’s demanding gaze. The brunette’s lips stilled, and they connected for a heartbeat before Cal broke it, hurrying outside.
Cal took several deep breaths, trying to regain control of herself. Just the sight of Paige brought it all back- that kiss. That wonderful, fucking kiss. Wiping a hand across her forehead, then through her hair, she found a place to smoke a quick cigarette, though it was more to rid herself of nervous energy than because she wanted it.
She couldn’t forget about it, no matter how hard she tried. All weekend, that was all she could think of, all she could see or feel when she closed her eyes. She desperately wanted more, but knew to ask was impossible. She still had no clue as to why Paige had asked for the kiss, or at the very least, had given permission for it. That part bothered the blonde to no small degree, though it surprised her. She was no stranger to sex or girls, but this was different. Paige made her feel the strangest things, and Cal was almost traumatized to know that if she were given the chance, the thing she wanted most was to hold Paige.
“What the fuck is that about?” she muttered to her Marlboro. Getting no reply, she threw her unfinished cigarette to the pavement with disgust, smashing it with the toe of her heavy boot, the chains jingling with the move. Sighing heavily, Cal headed back toward the school.
Cal didn’t know Paige’s school schedule, as well as she knew her attention at school would not be welcome. All the same, whenever she happened to catch a glimpse of the brunette, Cal took a moment to study an observe, get her fill of Paige from afar. She just wished there was some way to talk to Paige, see how she was doing, how she was handling things.
They did not speak.
“Hey, congratulations, kiddo!” Max exclaimed, high-fiving his employee. “So you get to look like a banana, huh?”
“Yeah,” Cal chuckled. “Guess the guys wear the green gowns, and we wear the gold.”
“Well,” Max reasoned, hanging the new pewter crosses that had come in. “that’s what you get for going to a school who has a bug for a mascot and green and gold for its colors.”
“We’re the hornets, not bugs.”
Max chuckled. “Whatever you say, kid.”
Their banter was interrupted by the bell above the door. Paige walked in, looking around for Cal. She was party relieved, and partly scared out of her mind when she spotted her, standing next to the giant who owned the store. Both sets of eyes were on her.
“Hello, young miss. Can I help you?” Max asked.
“I’ll get this, Max,” Cal said, handing him the final cross then sticking her hands in the back pockets of her jeans as she made her way over to Paige, eyeing her carefully. She wasn’t sure what to expect.
“Hi,” Paige finally said, absently fingering the satiny fringes of a bookmark that lay in a box with others. Cal said nothing, just waited. “How are you?”
“I’m good,” the blonde nodded for emphasis. “You?”
“Good.” She moved in a bit closer, feeling shy and nervous, but knowing she’d let too much time pass already. “Listen, um, I was wondering if you’d like to come out to my house sometime this weekend. I don’t know how you feel about horses…” her voice trailed off when Cal said nothing. Swallowing, she continued. “Are you made at me, Cal?”
“No. I’m not mad, Paige. Nothing was promised, right?”
“No,” Paige said quietly, realizing she was about to destroy the bookmark, so she tossed it back into the box. “But I should have talked to you. Said something.”
“Why? Paige, we’ve never hung around in the same circles, and we never will.” She lowered her voice- though Max had gone into the back, she didn’t want to chance him overhearing anything. He was a cool religious guy, but he wasn’t that cool. “Look, I really enjoyed… spending time with you, but I’m not stupid, and I know how the world works; you don’t owe me anything.” She grinned, tipping Paige’s fallen chin up. “So stop looking like I’m about to pull out a whip and tie you up. Okay?”
Paige nodded, eternally grateful. She gave the blonde one of her best smiles. “So, how do you feel about horses?”
“Uh,” Cal stared at her. “I love horses?”
Cal couldn’t keep her mouth closed as she took in everything that surrounded her. The house was absolutely massive- there was no other word for it. It was like an old southern plantation, times about ten.
“You do realize half our high school could live quite comfortably in here, right?” she asked, following Paige through the massive, ostentatious rooms.
“Yes, I know. This house has been in my father’s family for more than two hundred years.”
“Wow. I imagine it’s gotta be paid off by now.”
Paige was charmed beyond reason as she led her guest out of the community quarters, and they headed toward the family’s bedrooms.
Cal barely heard Paige’s descriptions of antique artwork and furniture, some of it priceless. She looked up at the seemingly endless ceilings, the rooms lit by floor to ceiling windows, which came in handy before the time of electric lighting, though Paige explained it still came in handy, as it cost a small fortune to power such a monstrous house.
“My mother had these curtains handmade for us in Italy. They’re a wool blend that helps warm the place up. It gets mighty cold in here with the windows in the winter.”
“I bet.” Cal closed her mouth for the fifth time, trying not to look like the hick she felt she was.
Paige led them up yet another staircase, this one winding. They walked down a long hall, the perfectly polished wood under their feet gleaming from the lit sconces along the way. Finally they came to a set of double doors. The brunette swung one side opening, indicating Cal should enter before her. The door was closed behind them with finality.
“This is my room,” she explained softly, her heart pounding, as she knew they’d be alone for a little while.
Cal nodded in acknowledgement, then proceeded to look around. She felt a bit more comfortable in Paige’s space, rather than the large, cold space of the rest of the house. The bedroom was separated into three huge rooms- bathroom, changing room/closet and the actual sleeping area. As she looked around, noting personal effects- posters, a sweater draped over the back of a chair, Paige’s backpack, the blonde tried to imagine her friend living there, dreaming, doing school work, sleeping…
Paige stood back, watching, curious as to what Cal’s reaction would be. It was the first time she’d had someone over who wasn’t from her world, and who didn’t grow up with the same, or close to the same, opulence as she did. Part of her felt guilty, knowing Cal had very little, let alone an over abundance of any and everything her heart could dream up.
Her thoughts came to a very sudden end when, with a cry, Cal threw herself onto Paige’s huge bed, stretching her arms and legs out in every direction. “This thing is huge!” the blonde glanced up at a grinning brunette. “You must feel lost when you sleep in this thing. I think you’re bed is the size off my entire bedroom.”
“Well,” Paige said, climbing on, “I’m glad you like it.” She held her head up on her hand, lying on her side. She was so amused by Cal’s antics. Cal grinned, turning to her back and sighing as she relaxed on the cloud-like mattress.
Paige noticed something on the blonde’s arm. Narrowing her eyes, she took Cal’s hand, bringing the arm closer to her inspection. She gasped when she realized it was burn marks. “Oh, Callahan…”
Cal looked at the healed cigar burns with basic apathy.
“Who did this to you?” Paige asked, anger in her quiet question.
“One of my foster dads. It’s nothing, Paige.”
“Nothing? Jesus, Cal! He burned you with… what, is this cigarette or cigar?”
“Cubans. The only thing he’d smoke. And god help you if you got the wrong kind.”
Paige scooted closer to Cal, to get a better look at the arm. She caressed the scars with the pad of her thumb. “I’m so sorry.” Cal said nothing, waiting for Paige’s next discovery. She knew it wouldn’t take long. Another gasp escaped the brunette’s throat when she turned Cal’s arm over. Tears sprang to her eyes as she spied the long scars that started at the base of the blonde’s wrist and ended a third of the way up her arm. She reached across Cal to look at her other arm. The scars were there. “Did you…” she whispered, unable to get the full question out.
“Didn’t succeed,” Cal said, looking at the old scar. “I tried, though. Gave it a good run. My foster sister found me.”
“How old were you?” Paige’s voice was shaky, her emotions hanging on by a thread.
“I was 14. I was in a very bad situation, and it was the only way I could think of to get out. Without living on the streets, that is.” She met watery blue eyes. “my caseworker removed me from the house when I got out of the hospital.” Bringing a hand up, she caught the single tear that managed to slip out of Paige’s left eye. “Don’t cry, Paige,” she whispered. “I’m not worth your tears.”
Paige met her gaze, cocking her head slightly. “No, you’re worth so much more than that.” She lowered her head, placing a soft kiss on the old scar. “I’m glad it didn’t work.” She met troubled green eyes. That same sadness deep in their endless depths. “I wish I could take some of your melancholy away, Cal.”
The blonde smiled. “You do.”
The brunette studied those eyes and saw nothing but shining truth there. She couldn’t stop herself as she leaned down again, this time taking Cal’s lips in a soft kiss. She felt Cal’s immediately move beneath hers, and lowered herself more, only holding herself up on a forearm. She could feel the barest brush of Cal’s breasts against her own.
Cal wrapped her hand around Paige’s neck, her other pressing against the other girl’s lower back, bringing her body further into contact with Cal’s. They both sighed into the deepening kiss at the contact of soft warmth. She reached up, gently tugging on the hair tie that held Paige’s long hair in a ponytail. The brunette broke the kiss, just long enough to pull her hair free, shaking her head so the dark strands fell around them.
“You like it down?” she asked against the blonde’s lips. At Cal’s nod, she smiled, then continued the kiss.
Cal buried her hands in the soft thickness, marveling at how closely it matched her dreams. She couldn’t believe how good Paige felt against her, on top of her. She tasted wonderful, and she wished so badly to know if she tasted so good everywhere. Perhaps some day she’d get the chance to find out.
Paige sucked in a surprised breath as suddenly she found herself on her back, Cal atop her. She recovered quickly, burying her fingers in soft, blonde hair as she pulled Cal closer. She couldn’t keep the soft moan from escaping when a thigh nudged hers apart, making room. Cal pushed her hips into Paige, thrilling when she felt the gorgeous girl beneath her push back.
Running a hand down Paige’s body, she hooked her fingers under her thigh, bringing the leg up to deepen the contact between.
“OH, god,” Paige moaned, breaking the kiss as she arched her head back. Cal took the opportunity to pay homage to Paige’s slender throat, using mouth and tongue to explore. Paige was lost in a sensual haze, her body igniting. She felt Cal’s hand leave her thigh and travel up over her hip, to her side, the thumb coming dangerously close to the underside of her left breast. She let out a long breath, her back arching, begging for the touch.
Cal felt the invitation, and moved back to Paige’s mouth as her hand covered the breast, feeling the nipple already hardening. She continued to rock slowly against Paige, wanting to take her time and not scare the brunette. It was not easy, as she wanted nothing more than to devour her. She pressed harder and deeper when Paige’s hands slid down her back to her denim-clad butt, squeezing.
“God, you feel so good,” she moaned into Paige’s mouth.
“So do you.” Paige could feel the heat in her stomach getting hotter and spreading throughout her body. Never had she felt anything like it. Certainly not with the little she’d done with any of her boyfriends. The thoughts flashed through mind that if what they were doing felt so exquisite clothed, what would it be like to feel Cal naked against her. The thought threw over a brink she hadn’t realized she was close to. Her body convulsed, Cal holding her tight as her body continued to pulse.
Cal held on for dear life, stunned that Paige had climaxed. She pressed intimately to her, allowing the brunette to ride out the storm against her thigh. She felt her body screaming at her for the same, for more stimulation, but when Paige buried her face in her hands, those thoughts went out the window.
“Hey,” she cooed, stilling her hips and lowering herself to her elbows. She brushed some hair away from an extremely flushed face, caressing Paige’s cheek, once she got her hands moved out of the way.
“I’m so embarrassed,” Paige finally managed.
“Shh, don’t be. It’s okay. You were beautiful.” Cal smiled lovingly, gently brushing Paige’s hair back. The brunette smiled, but it was somewhat forced. “I didn’t mean for any of this to happen, so it should be me who’s embarrassed.”
Paige shook her head. “No.” She leaned up, placing a soft kiss to Cal’s lips. “Please don’t be.” She wrapped her arms around Cal’s neck, gently pulling her down to lay atop her again. “Don’t be,” she repeated against soft lips. “A lot happens in life that we don’t intend.”
Cal groaned as Paige pushed up into her, her simmering arousal coming to a very quick boil once more. She had never met anyone that could turn her on like a switch. That thought was very brutally interrupted when she was nearly thrown off the bed as Paige jumped to her feet. Confused, Cal realized when she heard the knock at the bedroom door.
Heart pounding, Paige ran a shaky hand through her hair. Taking several deep breaths, she adjusted her clothing, walking over to the door. One quick glance over her shoulder saw Cal finding herself very interested in Paige’s crystal piano collection.
Bernie stood on the other side, waiting for the door to open. When it did, she was presented with a somewhat breathless daughter. “I wasn’t sure if you’d be home. I hoped, considering there is a strange car in the drive.”
“Oh, yes, I have a friend here, Mother,” Paige explained, praying that her face wasn’t acting as a billboard for what had been interrupted.
“Oh? And who is this friend? The car didn’t’ look familiar at all.” Bernie thought of the rusted out Honda, her ire growing.
“No, it belongs to my new friend, Callahan Cullen. Cal, come meet my mother.”
Cal put on her most charming smile, extending a hand to the scowling woman. Bernie studied the hand as though she might catch something from it. Cal had to hold her laughter inside- if you only know where that hand was moments ago, you old hag. Finally Bernie took it, though her own hand was cold and limp.
“A pleasure. Paige, a word, please.”
Paige sent an apologetic look to her friend before following her mother out into the hall, closing the door behind them.
“I don’t want that girl here,” Bernie said, the door not even fully shut, yet.
“Mother! Cal will hear.”
“Cal? What kind of name is that for a girl?” Bernie blew out a breath. “I can’t believe you let her in here. Now she knows what we have, Paige. She can come back and rob us blind!”
Paige was stunned, literally taking a step back, as though she’d been physically touched. She couldn’t believe her mother. “I don’t get this, Mother. You don’t eve know her.”
“Look at her, Paige! We taught you better than that. That lemon she drives, the holes in her clothing…. My god. Where did you find her? The gutter?”
“No, mother, at school. Bow can I stop being rude and get back to my friend?”
“I mean it, Paige. I don’t want that filth here.”
Paige was incredulous, shaking her head as she slowly backed up toward her bedroom door. Disgusted and heartbroken for Cal, she entered the room. Cal stared out one of the many huge windows, hands in her back pockets. Paige studied her carefully, trying to see if she’d heard any of the conversation, though she knew it wasn’t’ likely.
“Hey,” the blonde said, turning from her vigil. “Is everything okay? Didn’t get you into trouble or anything, did I?”
“In trouble for what?” Paige asked cautiously.
Paige could tell by Cal’s grin that it was just a lucky guess. She returned the smile, shaking her head. “No. Come on. I’ll show you the grounds.”
Paige had been wonderfully surprised when Cal took her hand as they strolled through the woods that surrounded the property. They smiled at each other, silent pledge made. Even still, a sadness hung in the brunette’s heart. Her mother’s reaction earlier from just the mere thought of Cal being a friend had put the woman into a tizzy. Anything more and Paige knew she’d be disowned. The thought plagued her.
“Hey,” Cal said, shaking their conjoined hands to get her walking companion’s attention. Paige’s brows were drawn in thought, her aura dark. When blue eyes blinked at her, she smiled softly. “You okay?”
Paige nodded, taking a deep breath to dispel her morose thoughts. “So, tell me, Cal. How many girls have you charmed into your affections, before me?”
The blonde laughed, squeezing Paige’s hand. “A few. But, jeez, you make me sound like some sort of seducer.”
Cal chuckled. “No.” She looked at Paige, stopping their progress as she leaned back against eh trunk of a huge tree. She looped her thumbs into the hip pockets of her jeans. “I don’t get anyone to do what isn’t already in them.”
Paige stepped in front of her, resting a hand on the trunk, above Cal’s head. “So, you’re saying it was already in me?”
“Yeah. That’s why you did the checking, finding out my name, defending me, tugging on my hand to drag me into the closet…”
Paige leaned in, her voice dropping in a seductive tease. “I found out your name cause I wanted to know who the letch was that would dare kiss me. Me! The great and beautiful Paige Harris.”
Cal chuckled again, grabbing the brunette by the front of her shirt. Paige allowed herself to be pulled in, yet again. She could also feel herself getting lost in those green eyes again. Bringing up a hand, she caressed the side of Cal’s face. “You are really beautiful, Callahan.”
The whispered words went straight to the blonde’s heart, nearly blindsiding her with an intense feeling of love. Love?! Swallowing hard, she murmured a soft “Thank you.” Paige felt a tenderness flow through her that she’d never known, gently cupping Cal’s face as she kissed her, pressing their bodies together. The kiss was slow, leisurely and filled with the desire that passed between them. When it broke, Cal was panting, her forehead resting against Paige’s.
“Jesus, woman.” She heard the brunette’s soft chuckle. She felt Paige pull her away from the tree, arms wrapping around her neck. Cal eagerly returned the tight embrace, wallowing in the feel of Paige, the very essence that had been haunting the blonde for months.
“I feel so connected to you,” Paige murmured, resting her head on Cal’s shoulder, sighing in contentment..
After long moments, Cal pulled away, placing a soft kiss to Paige’s forehead. “I better go,” she said, hating the idea even as the words left her mouth.
“Okay,” Paige sighed, knowing full well that the blonde was right. She looked into her eyes, her heart swelling as for the first time, she didn’t see the profound sadness in their depths. “I want o show you something real quick.”
Standing on an old, bumpy dirt road, Paige squeezed Cal’s hand. “Use this. Security never comes over here, and my mom doesn’t know it’s here. It’s an old logging road that no one uses anymore.” She turned to the blonde. “Come see me, Cal. Anytime.”
The blonde nodded. “Okay. Walk me to my car?”
“Yeah. Come on.”
Cal munched happily on her sandwich, legs swinging from the tall planter she was perched upon. Her lightly beat her heels against it. The sun was shining brightly, and the warmth warmed her skin as she raised her face to the glorious rays. She let out a soft sigh, amazed at just how good she felt. Her day spent with Paige over the weekend, then finding out at work last night that Max was giving her a raise for a job well done. She found out she’d managed to pass her math test Friday, and she would graduate. By the skin of her teeth, but she would finally be done. Hell, even Carl had been leaving her alone. All in all, life was a good, and Cal just waited for the other shoe to drop.
The blonde was surprised to feel her pant leg tugged. When she looked down, she saw Paige grin at her over her shoulder as she walked by with a couple friends. Cal raised an accusing brow. The brunette stuck her tongue out, then whipped her head, long hair flying out dramatically. Cal chuckled, her day just getting even better.
Green eyes twinkling with mischief, Cal hopped down from her high perch. “Hey, Paige,” she called out. Paige turned, as did her friends. “You dropped something.” She held up her hand, holding the folded note she’d planned to shove into the brunette’s locker later. She figured this was as good a time as any. Paige raised a brow, but made her way back over to the blonde.
“Dropped it, did I?” she asked, her voice low.
“Yep. Dropped right out of your back pocket.” Paige smirked, considering her skirt had no back pockets. She took the paper, brushing her finger over Cal’s as she did. Their gazes met for a moment, then Paige turned and sauntered back over to her friends. Cal made no secret of checking out her ass as she did. Claire saw it.
“God, she is so weird,” she muttered, eyes raising to meet Cal's. Claire quickly turned away, hurrying after her friends.
Paige sat in class, her mind anywhere but on the lecture. Graduation was less than a month away, and she just wasn’t thinking about it. This surprised her, as at the beginning of the semester, it had absolutely taken over her thoughts. Now, it just didn’t seem to matter.
Realizing her wanderings were going to get her in trouble, she excused herself to go to the bathroom to get her head back from the clouds..
Claire watched her friend leave.
Paige pushed open the bathroom door, immediately her senses were struck by fresh cigarette smoke. As if replaying their first meeting, Cal sat on the counter near the wall, one booted foot up on the trashcan. Paige grinned as she walked further into the room.
“You know this is really disgusting when I try and kiss you,” she said, plucking the cigarette from Cal’s fingers and rinsing it under the faucet. The cherry fizzled out.
Cal turned on the counter, dangling her legs over the edge. She grabbed Paige by her hips, tugging until the brunette was standing between her spread legs. “Hmm. Well, I’ll have to remedie that, then.” She reached into the inside pocket of her denim jacket and took out a container of breath mints, popping one into her mouth. “Better?
“Much,” Paige murmured leaning in close, inhaling deeply. “Except for the stink on your clothes and hair.” She scrunched up her nose. “Disgusting.”
“I’ll quit tomorrow,” Cal grinned, leaning in closer. Paige chuckled.
“You do that. Why aren’t you in class?”
“Why aren’t you?” Cal challenged, bringing her hands down to the brunette’s butt, pulling her in as close as possible. Paige gasped softly at the contact, her body immediately warming. She looked nervously at the bathroom door, then turned to the blonde, running her fingers through her hair, grinning as the motion made it even crazier.
“I love your hair,” she said, feeling the cool strands.
“Thank you. So, do I get a kiss or what?” Cal tightened her grip on Paige’s hips, wiggling her brows. Paige met her gaze.
“Do you think you deserve one?”
“Hmm, then maybe I’ll have to consider it,” Paige murmured against Cal’s lips. Her eyes closed at the first touch of the soft lips
“Mmm, I missed you,” Cal purred into the kiss. Paige smiled.
“So, was this what you meant in your note, by wanting me?” Her smile widened at the chuckle she heard. Cal didn’t bother answering, as they both knew exactly what she had meant. Instead, she deepened the kiss. So involved in it, they almost didn’t hear the squeak as the bathroom door was pushed open. The loud gasp caught their attention.
Paige felt her heart fall as Claire stared in the open doorway, eyes huge, mouth open. “Holy shit,” the redhead exclaimed, then hurried from the room.
“Shit!” Paige ran after her, leaving Cal sitting where she was, head hanging. “Claire, wait!” Paige called, hurrying after her friend. She barely caught her before the girl managed to get back into their classroom. The girl looked down where Paige’s hand had hold of her shirt. The brunette let go, but kept her friend there in the hall.
“What the hell are you into, Paige?” she asked, incredulous, her heart pounding.
“Claire, look, you won’t understand-“
“So explain it to me! You’d better, because I cannot believe what I saw, Paige. Please tell me she forced you, something.”
“No, she didn’t. Claire, Cal’s really cool. Please, just give me this, keep this to yourself.” The pleading in Paige’s voice and eyes was desperate, on the verge of tears.
“You’re kidding me, right? You expect me to keep this… this freak and you to myself?! I don’t think so, Paige! What the hell did she do to you?” Claire was absolutely petrified for her friend. If noting else, she felt the need to tell someone so they could help her friend.
“I can’t believe you! I thought you were my friend?”
“I thought she was the only freak in the school.”
Paige was stung, badly. She took a step back, as though Claire had physically slapped her with her words of condemnation. She was disgusted, and felt as though she could throw up. There was a large part of her that was terrified of the fall out.
Without another word, she headed into the classroom, grabbed up her belongings, told the teacher she wasn’t feeling good, and left. Claire was shaken as she hurried back into the class.
Cal hurried from the bathroom, looking for Paige. She’d caught the tail-end of the fight between the two friends, but hadn’t been in the hall to follow which way the brunette had gone. What she wanted to do almost more than anything, was hunt down Claire and beat the shit out f her. Knowing that wasn’t an option, so she went after Paige, instead.
Wiping angry tears from her face, Paige got her car roaring to life, about to head out of the parking lot when she saw Cal burst through the front doors of the school, looking frantically around. Without a thought, she was all smoke and squealed tires, pulling up to the curb, causing Cal to jump back or lose a toe. Without a word, she climbed in, holding on for dear life as Paige raced off toward the street.
After awhile, Cal glanced over at her companion. “Are you okay?” she asked quietly, not sure what to do or say. Part of her felt guilty, but another part was relived; she hated the ruse. Paige nodded, reaching over and taking the blonde’s hand in her own, resting them on her thigh.
“I’m sorry she acted that way, Paige.”
“I don’t want to talk about it right now,” the brunette said softly, smiling weakly at the blonde to take the sting from her words. She asked for directions up to the old mill, which Cal gave her.
The BMW crawled carefully over the badly deteriorated paving that was once the road, then came to a stop, near the spot Cal had parked on prom night. Paige slammed her door closed, looking out over the town.
“It all looks so different in the light of day,” she murmured.
“Yeah. It does. I like it better at night.”
“The lights are so pretty then.”
Cal looked at her friend: Paige stood, hugging herself. It was obvious she was still upset. Deciding some major comforting needed to take place, the blonde shrugged out of her jacket, flopping it on the ground in front of a tree. Sitting down, she called to Paige, beckoning her over. Paige took the blonde’s hand, lowering herself, and sitting between Cal’s legs, her back to the blonde’s front. Cal wrapped her arms around the brunette, resting her head against Paige’s, where it rested back against Cal’s upper chest.
Paige sighed, feeling her worries slipping away as Cal held her. She placed her arms over the blonde’s, pulling their arms tighter around her. Cal happily obliged, closing her eyes as she inhaled the brunette’s scent, almost memorizing it. She tried to ignore the shiver that ran down her spine as Paige began to drag her fingernails lightly over the exposed skin of her arms. The brunette didn’t seem to notice the affect it was having.
“What do you want for your life, Cal? Where do you want to go? Do? See?”
Cal sighed, kissing the top of Paige’s head before resting hers against it again. “I want to leave here, leave Boomington. That much I know. I’d love to leave the state, see what else is out there, you know? See the ocean, the mountains, hike the Rockies…. I want to be happy, that much I know. I want to be somewhere and feel like I belong.” Her words had dropped to a whisper, reaching Paige’s heart. She smiled softly.
“We should run away together. Forget all about this place and the people in it.” They both knew she was joking, but in her heart, deep down where she was afraid to look, she wasn’t.
“Yeah. Run off and join the circus.”
“There ya go. You could be the bearded lady and I’ll be the muscle-bound oddity.”
Cal laughed, bouncing Paige with the movement. “Right.” She ran a gentle hand through dark hair. “I have no idea what I want to do, though. I’ve never really thought about it. To be honest, I figured I’d never survive high school, so didn’t think it was anything to worry about.”
Paige slapped her lightly on the arm. “Don’t say that.”
“What? It’s true. I’ve been pretty reckless.”
“Or just plain stupid…”
“Eh, tomato, tomato.”
Paige chuckled, snuggling in even closer.
“What about you? What are you going to study in your big, expensive British college?”
The brunette sighed, staring off over the town. “I don’t know. I know my father will want me to take ‘Find good Marrying Stock 101’. My mother, too. But for me, I just don’t know. I’ve thought about law or medicine, or all the other careers that I’m supposed to be interested in.”
“But, what are you interested in?” Cal asked, her words soft in Paige’s ear.
I’ve,” she paused, swallowing. Anyone she’d ever told had always made her feel stupid. “I’ve always wanted to act.”
“So act. Did you do any plays at school?” Cal asked softly, not an ounce of judgment in her voice. Paige felt courage begin to fill her. She’d never really been able to talk about it before.
“I did my freshman year, but then my parents wouldn’t allow it. I loved it, Cal. I felt so alive on that stage, knowing I could be whatever I wanted to be, that I could live another life, if even just for a short time.”
Cal smiled at the wonder in the brunette’s eyes. “Then I think you should pursue it, no matter what anyone else says. I think it’s wonderful, Paige. I’d be so proud to watch you on that stage, telling any and everyone who would listen that that was my girlfriend up there.”
Paige pulled gently away, turning to look at the blonde. “Am I? Your girlfriend?”
“Do you want to be?” the blonde asked, almost holding her breath. She blew it out when the brunette nodded.
“Very much so.”
“Then so be it.” Cal leaned forward, placing a soft kiss to Paige’s lips. “And so much more.”
“Cal?” Paige whispered, running a finger along the blonde’s jaw.
“Yeah?” Cal whispered back, studying Paige’s face, tracing every line, every curve, every feature.
“What did you mean, exactly, in your note? What do you want to do to me?” She felt her heart fluttering faster and faster with each word. Of course she had the idea, but she wanted to hear it, needed to know.
“I want to lay you down, kiss you senseless,” she began, placing a soft kiss to Paige’s forehead to emphasize her point. “Then I want to take all your clothes off, marvel at just how amazingly beautiful you are. I want to kiss you everywhere, taste you, feel you against me.” She caught Paige’s eyes, noting her flushed cheeks. “I want to make love to you, Paige,” she whispered. “Show you how I feel about you.”
Paige sucked in a soft breath, her heart lurching and body becoming enflamed. “I have to admit I’m scared, Cal.”
“Scared of what?”
“Making love with you.” She brushed a lock of blonde hair out of green eyes.
Paige swallowed, suddenly feeling shy. “Because I’ve never…” she continue her own train of thought.
“You’ve never been with a woman before?” Cal asked, understanding in gentle fingertips that raised Paige’s lowered chin. She ducked her head to try and catch bashful blue eyes. Paige shook her head slowly, finally meting her gaze.
“Anyone.” She could tell Ca wasn’t getting it. Clearing her throat, she clarified. “I’ve never been with anyone, Cal.”
“You’re a virgin?” Cal asked gently. At the nod she received, the blonde smiled. “All the better then, Paige. I’m glad you’ll know my touch first. If you want it, that is.”
Paige nodded, swallowing heavily. “I do. So badly.”
Cal placed her hands on Paige’s hips, urging the brunette to move up onto her lap. Looking into the beautiful face, she reached up, running her hands through Paige’s hair, then running careful fingers over her face, feeling her features, running her thumbs over delicate brows, down a straight nose, and over soft lips.
“I want that, too,, Paige.”
Blue eyes slid open, looking deeply into green. “Will you? Touch me?”
Paige didn’t have to ask twice. Cal pulled Paige to her, kissing her gently, but deeply. She knew she wasn’t ready to tell Paige what was in her heart, so she allowed her kiss to speak for her. As the brunette sighed into it, wrapping her arms around the blonde’s shoulders, Cal couldn’t help but hope that just maybe her message was clear.
Paige could feel all her nerves flying out the window as she immersed herself in the kiss, feeling so safe with Cal, safer than she’d ever felt. She could feel the tenderness flowing off the blonde in waves, and it warmed her. Taking Cal’s hand in hers, she placed it at the hem of her shirt, squeezing softly before gliding her hand back up the blonde’s arm to her shoulder and neck, and finally into her hair.
Cal got the idea, snaking her fingers underneath the ribbed material, the warmth of Paige’s skin nearly burning her fingertips. She moaned softly into the kiss at the feel. It was returned as her hands spread out over the brunette’s back, feeling the soft expanse of skin, running blunt fingernails up the length of Paige’s spine. The shirt was tight, and didn’t give Cal much room to maneuver, so she decided to take care of the problem.
Paige felt her breath catch when she realized her shirt was being lifted. Pulling away from the kiss, she helped, raising her arms then shaking her hair free as the shirt was tossed casually to the ground next to them.
Cal allowed her gaze to wander over the newly exposed flesh of the gorgeous woman sitting on her lap. She ran her hands down over smooth shoulders ad arms, sighing at the tactile bliss. Her gaze focused in on the white, lacy bra that cupped full, slightly heaving breasts. The nipples could be seen puckering against the material.
“God, you are so beautiful, Paige. So, so beautiful.”
The brunette couldn’t speak, her body warring between nervousness, and more arousal than her panties could handle.
Cal nuzzled the expanse of Paige’s neck, inhaling and placing feather-light kisses along the column of her throat, leading down to the hollow. She wrapped her hands up around Paige’s shoulders, allowing the brunette to lean back in her arms as Cal lowered her mouth further, running a trail of wet kisses up along both collar bones and then down between her breasts.
Paige buried her hands in Cal’s hair, eyes closing at the exquisite contact. As the blonde’s lips worked magic on her skin, she forgot about the fact that she was almost half-naked. That is until she felt questing fingers on the clasp of her bra. She sucked in a breath as it was released, soft lips murmuring words of encouragement against her own as the satiny straps slid down Paige’s arms.
Cap tossed the bra over to where Paige’s shirt already lay. Deepening the kiss, trying to keep Paige calm and centered, her hands began to travel the newly bared territory. The brunette gasped as she was cupped, a low, languid moan following as she arched slightly into the touch. Her breasts were so sensitive, the nipples already hard and wanting. Cal’s palms rolled over them, sending jolts of sensation through her breasts and down into her belly.
“Oh god, Cal,” she moaned as her nipples were suddenly tweaked. She held on for dear life as Cal broke the kiss, her mouth latching on, taking over for here fingers. Paige had never felt anything so wonderful as she ground herself into the blonde’s stomach, keeping a almost painful hold on Cal’s head.
“You taste sooooo good,” Callahan whispered against a hard nipple, allowing it to brush against her cheek, making Paige groan. She could feel Paige’s hips starting to move, so she clasped the brunette’s ass, pulling her tighter against her body, giving Paige something to find purchase against. Cal raised her head, looking into half-hooded eyes, turned dark “Baby, do you have a blanket or something in your car?” she asked, nibbling all along Paige’s neck. She felt the brunette nod, then suddenly the keys to the Beemer were in her hand.
With a final kiss, the blonde gently got out from underneath a dazed brunette, hurrying over to her car. Sure enough, in the trunk was a folded blanket. Running the few paces back to the beautiful woman, she spread it out. She was surprised to hear Paige’s voice.
“I want to see you, Cal.”
The blonde nodded, slowly undressing herself, blue eyes watching intently. When she was down to just her panties, Paige reached up and grabbed her hand, tugging until Cal was on top of her on the blanket. They both moaned as their bare breasts touched, pressing together as Cal deepened the kiss- no longer was it gentle and seductive. It was raw and filled with mutual want and need.
Paige felt a hand roam up her thigh and up under her skirt, shoving the garment up as it went. “I love it when you wear skirts,” Cal murmured against her neck. “Easier access.”
Paige grinned, though it was short-lived as the air was stolen from her lungs when strong fingers found their way into her panties, lightly stroking the drenched folds. She hooked an arm around Cal’s neck, thrusting her hips to try and get more contact.
“No,” Cal whispered, “not like this.” She pushed up to her knees, unbuttoning and unzipping Paige’s skirt, watching as the brunette lifted her hips, allowing Cal to remove it, and then her panties. Cal slid her own down her legs, then completely naked, she floated back down to the brunette, who accepted her with open arms, and legs. She slid easily between them, feeling the hot wetness touch her sex, nearly burning her.
“You feel so wonderful, baby,” Cal whispered into the warm softness of Paige’s neck. “So soft, so wet…”
Paige couldn’t speak as she opened her legs wider, allowing Cal’s hips to fit perfectly between them. She reached down, squeezing the smooth skin of Cal’s ass, pulling her deeper inside of her. She whimpered in protest as Cal pulled away, but just enough to fit her hand between their bodies.
“Open your legs wide, baby,” she whispered, “let me in.”
Paige did as asked, then groaned loud as Cal rested back against her, both their sexes fully exposed. The brunette had never felt, or dreamed, of anything like it. “Oh my god,” she breathed, bucking her hips just a bit to try and increase the pleasure. “Oh, Cal. This feels so good. So, so good.”
“I’m glad, baby,” Cal moaned, moving her hips in tandem with the brunette’s, the pleasure already so intense she thought she might come. Holding it back, she lowered herself to her forearms, slowly moving her hips as she fond Paige’s mouth once more. She sighed as hands buried themselves in her hair, then slid down to caress the skin of her back. Cal pulled back from the kiss just long enough to take in Paige’s face, the look in her eyes and flushed features. Blue eyes met and held her gaze, their connection complete.
Paige felt her heart begin to pound harder as she looked into the most beautiful eyes she’d ever seen. People made a big deal about her own eye color, but in Paige’s mind, the emerald green that looked into hers could not compare.
Cal planted gentle kisses all along Paige’s face and jaw line, flicking a sensitive earlobe as she continued to move with the brunette, their joined wetness and heavy breathing the only sounds. Paige arched her back as a hot mouth surrounded her nipple once more, her sex lurching with the move. Suddenly, and with the violence of crashing waves, the brunette felt her belly crackling and pulsing, her voice crying out into the afternoon as her sex exploded, claw-like fingers gripping Cal’s back as she thrust harder into the blonde’s body.
Cal watched the ecstasy fill Paige’s features, and it was all she needed to follow, and hard. She ground her hips into the brunette, breath stolen as pleasure pulsed through her. She allowed her body to collapse upon Paige’s, the brunette’s arms wrapping tightly around her. They reveled in the closeness, Cal raising her head to look at Paige.
“That was wonderful, Cal,” the brunette whispered, brushing a few sweaty strands of blonde hair off Cal’s forehead.
“We’re not done, yet, baby.” Cal leaned down, giving Paige a searing kiss. “just getting started.”
The brunette groaned languidly as Cal began to kiss her way down her body, suckling both breasts, caressing every inch of skin she came upon. Looking down her length, Paige saw where Cal was headed, and sucked in a breath. Green eyes looked up at her from between her thighs.
“Now I get to see if you taste so good everywhere,” Cal said, her voice low and husky. She kissed a trail along the insides of smooth thighs, Paige’s scent driving her wild. Her first taste was bliss, running her tongue from the brunette’s opening to her clit, making the brunette cry out, her hips arching off the blanket, hands burying themselves in thick, blonde hair.
Cal couldn’t help the noises she made as she feasted, burying her tongue as deep into Paige as she could, her hands caressing the thighs on either side of her head. When having sex with a woman, Cal loved nothing more than going straight for the core of her pleasure, drawing it out of them with tongue and lips. Even so, she could drink from Paige forever. As she penetrated her with her tongue, she nuzzled her clit with her nose before leaving the brunette’s opening and concentrating on the center of Paige’s world, sucking her clit into her mouth and flicking her tongue repeatedly over it.
Paige cried out, her legs reflexively opening as once again her sex lurched, spilling its desire down Cal’s chin. The blonde took what was offered, continued to suck and lick until Paige begged for mercy. Cal wiped her face on the blanket beneath them, then crawled back up the length of Paige’s body, kissing randomly, then wrapping herself around the brunette.
Paige was still trembling, aftershocks making her jerk a few times. Her legs fell boneless to the blanket, arms wrapped loosely around Cal, who’s head rested on her chest.
Cheryl plucked away at the keys of her computer, glancing at her notes, making sure she had the information right. When the state went to court next week, she had to be sure that she had every ‘I’ dotted, and every ‘t’ crossed. Chewing on the end of her pencil, the social worker cursed when it came apart in her mouth. She began to pick the rubber pieces off her tongue when the phone rang.
“Damn it,” she muttered, tossing her reading glasses to the open file on her desk, spitting out the last piece before picking up the handset.
“Cheryl Young…” She paused, brows drawing as she listened to her caller. “This is who?” Cheryl’s eyes widened, her hand covering her mouth.
Paige took several deep breaths before she opened the door. She had no idea what to expect when she stepped out of the relative safety of her car. She looked over at the empty passenger seat, and wished so badly that Cal had taken her up on her offer of a ride to school. But, in her wisdom, the blonde knew that if they were scene arriving together, it would make everything worse.
Blowing out a breath, Paige studied her reflection in the sunvisor mirror, then gathered her belongings and left the car.
The halls seemed much quieter than usual to Paige’s paranoid ears. She could swear that eyes were on her at every turn, and that a wave of whispers and implied accusations followed her to her locker. It was strange not having Claire at her side, but she was still extremely hurt, and in truth, something she’d never admit to Cal, she didn’t want to have to face her friend, as she knew Claire wanted answers that she just didn’t have. Besides, she felt horribly betrayed.
As Paige spun her combination into the lock, she began to realize that it wasn’t all in her head, but the hall had grown quiet. Eerily so. Turning around, she met the eyes of a few who passed: some curious, others amused, but most hostile, looking at Paige like she were nothing more than a bug. Like she was Callahan.
Paige was surprised to feel tears unbidden sting her eyes. She turned back to her locker, not wanting anyone to see it, her anger and her deep heartbreak for her blonde lover. So much more about Cal made sense, and Paige had only been experiencing that kind of bastardization for less than an hour.
She quickly loaded her backpack then hurried off to her day of classes.
Cal was worried, and tried as hard as she could to keep an eye out all day for Paige. She knew how people worked, and just how unforgiving they could be. She had seen a glimpse of the brunette around second period, and noted that she was alone. Cal hadn’t been close enough to run over to her. Despite their amazing afternoon, and subsequent night, the previous day, she wasn’t even sure if Paige would want her around right now. After all, it was because of the blonde that she was in the situation at school that she was in.
Lunch time came, and it came with a vengeance. Cal was heading toward the cafeteria when she heard a commotion- raised voices and cheering. Then she heard the word dyke.
“Shit,” she muttered, beginning to run down the hall, pushing people out of her way. When she barged through the doors, she saw, certainly not to her surprise, Paige’s group surrounding the brunette, yelling accusations and threats. The thing that did it, though, was when Grant shoved her.
Paige barely caught her balance against a table when a little blonde tiger crashed through the group, landing right on Grant. One, two, he was down for the count. She stood over him, chest heaving and green eyes ablaze. Dozens of pairs of eyes were on her, expectant.
What the hell is the matter with you people?” she called out, sending daggers of accusation around the silent room. “Jesus! You’ve all been going to school with Paige for how long? Your entire fucking lives, maybe? Just because she doesn’t want to be the cookie cutter you all have turned into, you’ll not only turn your backs on her, but abuse her?” she chucked Grant in the ribs with the toe of her boot for emphasis. “I hate to break the news to you, but you’ve all turned into your parents.” She walked over to Paige, taking her by the arm, about to steer her out of the gathered crowd. She gave everyone one last look. “Shame on you. Come on, Paige, let’s go.”
Paige was shaken, feeling like everything around her was crumbling at her feet.
Cal dragged Paige into the bathroom, glaring until every girl left, then turned to the brunette, checking her over. “Are you okay?” Paige nodded numbly. “Come ‘ere.” The blonde took her into her arms, holding on tight as the tears came. “I’m so sorry, Paige. I’m so, so sorry…”
“Don’t be,” Paige said, resting her head against Cal’s shoulder for a moment, then pushing away to look at herself in the mirror. “This is such a mess,” she told her reflection. She felt humiliation run hot through her vains, remembering some of the horrible things Grant and everyone else had said. She could remember looking at Claire, the redhead not even meeting her gaze. Either too disgusted, or too ashamed. She’d caused quite the stir.
Cal walked up beside her, reaching out to place a hand on Paige’s back, but was surprised when the brunette took a small step away. Dropping her hand to her side, the blonde cleared her throat, hugging herself as she stepped back.
“I think I need to be alone for a little while,” Paige said softly. She was confused, feeling like she was pulled in so many different directions, both wrought with expectation. It would be a mater of time before her parents knew. Could she handle that? She truly wasn’t sure. “I’ll talk to you later, Cal.” With those muttered words, Paige hurried from the bathroom, then the school.
Cal wiped an impatient hand across her cheek, angry at the tear she felt there. Running her hands through her hair, she turned around, and with a roar, punched the closest bathroom stall door. The girl on the other side yelped in surprised fear.
Paige drove for what seemed like hours, but was instead only about forty-five minutes. She scoured the town, no direction in mind. Her mind raced, possibilities and consequences flashing before her eyes. She knew without a doubt that she was falling for Cal, and she was falling hard. The moment she had asked for another kiss prom night, she had known in that moment that Cal was who she’d give herself to physically, but she had no idea that she’d be giving her heart away at the same time.
Paige swiped a hand over her hot, moist cheeks, the tears continuing to fall. She’d graduate high school soon, and put all of it behind her, but would it be like that forever? IF she loved a woman, would it be a lifetime of looks and whispers? Could she handle being ostracized? Paige had grown up in a world of privilege and pomp, expectations running rampant. Never, ever did it say in the handbook of the debutant that falling in love with a woman was legal in her world. She knew no one in her world who was gay, nor was it even whispered.
“I’m not gay,” she sobbed, finally pulling over to the side of the road as the road was becoming too hard to see through her tears. Burying her face in her hands, she let it al go.
Cal cried out, swinging the pipe again. The resulting crash was immensely satisfying, even as it reverberated through her arms and into her shoulders. Panting and wiping sweaty bangs from her eyes, she looked at the damage. The old, rusted out machine was now a pile of metal parts and twisted screws. Throwing the pipe, she slid down to the cold, cracked cement floor, bringing her knees up to dangle her arms from. Looking around the abandoned mill, Cal sniffled, trying her best to keep the emotions inside. She’d lost before; hell, her entire life had been one loss after another, so why should Paige be any different? In truth, she should have known better. Fuck the girl, then let her go. Nope, her heart had other ideas.
“Shit.” Resting her head back against the pile of metal behind her, she sighed heavily. “I am such a fucking fool.” She felt the anger running through her blood, hot and potent. She couldn’t understand why it was that every time in her life she’d manage to find a little happiness, something to lift the heavy, black cloud that she seemed to be born under, it would be ripped out from under her, leaving her scarred heart in tatters, yet again.
Yesterday, when they’d made love, Paige giving that sacred part of herself to Cal, the blonde had felt her heart swell to a nearly dangerous size, within her chest. She had felt like all the pieces of her life, all the torn and worn edges, were finally making sense- it had all been to lead her to Paige. Paige was her future. She could feel it in her bones, still felt it, yet here she was, sitting alone in the semi-darkness of an old, ghost-riddled mill, howling her sorrows with the specters around her. She almost felt like one of them. Certainly just as empty.
Cal was surprised to feel the anger rearing up again, and to know that much of it was directed right at Paige. She could see it in those blue, blue eyes- she felt the same way. At least, Cal thought she had seen it there. Hadn’t she? Cal wasn’t sure of anything anymore as she drove her fist into the ground next to her. She didn’t even feel the pain that shot up through the knuckles and into her arm and shoulder, yet again. If she had a knife, she would be taking out her pain on herself, as always. Guess pounding the pavement did the same thing. So she did it again, crying out as something popped, her hand exploding in pain. “Fuck!”
Cradling it to her chest, she stood, about to make her way out into the warm, late spring day when suddenly the doorway was filled. She met surprised blue eyes, Cal’s own surprise passing quickly as her anger returned. This girl standing not fifteen feet away, she was responsible for Cal’s heart breaking in two. Responsible for her world shattering around her feet.
Paige couldn’t move, frozen from the look of rage on Cal’s face. She had known the blonde would be at their special spot, so it had been no surprise when she’d seen her car parked out front. She had no idea why she’d gone there, knowing she’d run into her. Maybe deep inside she wanted to see her one last time. But as she stared into those fierce green eyes, Paige felt her heart begin to thump, a small trickle of fear racing along her spine.
Before Cal knew what she was doing, she had made her way over to Paige, the brunette’s back coming into hard contact with the wall behind her. She looked into wide, blue eyes, Paige’s breath coming quick and hot. “Damn you, Paige,” she growled, her body thrumming with sadness, and undeniable, love. “Damn you…”
Paige said nothing, she couldn’t move. She felt paralyzed as the rage oozed from Cal in scorching waves. Before she knew what was happening, Cal had pinned her to the wall, taking the brunette in a fierce kiss, one of the blonde’s hands working frantically at the buttons of Paige’s shirt, the sound of ripping material. She whimpered, weakly trying to push Cal away, tears of fear and sadness flowing down her cheeks.
Cal left her mouth, lips moving to the brunette’s neck, leaving her mark painfully bright. “Cal, stop,” Paige cried, whimpering again when her breast was taken in a rough grasp, squeezed possessively. :Please, stop,”
Cal growled again, her hand yanking at the front of Paige’s jeans, the buttons giving way, one after the other with a soft pop. Paige cried out in frustration, her tears coming faster as a hand began to shimmy its way down the front of her panties.
Cal felt wetness land on her arm, brows drawing for a moment when she realized it was a tear. Paige’s tear. Realization came to her, what she was about to do, hell, what she was doing. Pulling her hand away as though it had been burned, Cal looked at Paige’s tear-streaked face with a mixture of fear and horror.
“Oh, my god,” she breathed, a pang of guilt slicing through her. “Oh, Paige, I’m so sorry…” Her own tears began to flow, finally released by her own self-made dam. “So sorry.” She moved away from the brunette, who was trying to re-button her shirt, fingers shaking. Cal moved to the other side of the room, sliding down the wall and burying her face in her fingers, her entire body wracked with sobs.
Paige felt her fear melt away as concern and love took over. Taking several deep breaths, she made her way over to the sobbing blonde, kneeling down next to her. “Cal?” she whispered, placing a tentative hand on the blonde’s shoulder. She jerked her hand away as it was shrugged off.
“Please just leave me alone,” Cal sobbed.
“Cal,” Paige tried again. This time her touch wasn’t rejected, so she brought her other hand up to Cal’s head, gently pulling the blonde head away from her hands. Red-rimmed eyes, which glowed green, looked at her for only a moment, before Cal’s gaze fell, filled with shame. “Cal, baby, please look at me.” Finally Cal met her gaze.
“I’m so sorry, Paige. I’m so ashamed.”
“Shh, I know. It’s okay. I’m sorry, too. Please don’t cry.” She gathered the petit blonde into her arms, rocking her as she continued to cry. She kissed the top of the blond head, resting her cheek against the soft hair. Cal gripped her as if her life depended on it.
After long moments, Cal calmed down, her face buried in Paige’s neck, breathing slow and even. Paige almost wondered if she’d fallen asleep when she felt the blonde stir. Relaxing her grip, Paige found herself looking into tired green eyes.
“You okay?” she asked softly, bringing up a hand to rub away a few remaining tears. Cal nodded, though her gaze fell again. “Please stop beating yourself up, Cal. Please,” Cal nodded, though Paige could tell it was for the brunette’s benefit rather than because the blonde was agreeing. Paige felt her heart open, and tenderness flow out as she cupped Cal’s face, bringing her lips to her forehead, placing a soft kiss there, then one on each cheek and wet eyelid, fresh tears beginning to escape. “Don’t cry,” she murmured against trembling lips. “I’m here, bay. I’m here.”
Cal accepted the kisses, their softness like a balm to her tortured soul. She returned the as they were placed on her own lips, her tears unable to stop as she felt her heart breaking and mending all at once. She felt herself being pushed to lie back, Paige following, her comforting body weight atop her. Cal wrapped her arms around Paige’s shoulders, burying her hands in thick, dark hair as the kisses deepened.
Paige left Cal’s lips, exploring her neck, wandering hands beginning to find a path underneath the blonde’s shirt. Cal gasped when her breast was covered, the fingers squirming up under her bra to caress the sensitive flesh. Her instincts to lead took over, and she tried to push, reversing their positions, but Paige stopped her.
“Shh, baby, let me make love to you,” the brunette murmured against full lips. “Let me have you,”
Cal relaxed, nodding. She sighed as her shirt was removed, a hot mouth finding the skin of her stomach and between her breasts. “Oh, Paige,” she moaned as her nipple was suckled through the material of her bra before the garment was removed altogether. The floor was cold against the heated skin of her back, but she didn’t care, needing desperately for Paige to touch her, and make her feel it would all be okay, if even just for a moment.
Paige explore, removing any clothing that was in her way, until Cal lay naked before her, beautiful in all her powerful glory. “You are so beautiful, Cal,” she whispered, leaving a trail of kisses across the blonde’s chest, finally taking as much of her left breast into her mouth as she could. Cal cried out, pressing against the back of the dark head. Gentle fingers made their way between Cal’s spreading thighs, finding her heat and abundant wetness.
Cal reached down, bringing Paige’s lips to her own as the brunette kept up her rhythm between Cal’s legs. Her hips began to rock against the wonderful sensations flooding her. Paige kept her movements slow, wanting to stretch out Cal’s pleasure, as well as the moment, as long as possible. As Cal began to breathe too hard for the kiss, Paige left her lips, trailing feather-light kisses all over her face and neck, whispering words of encouragement into her ear before licking the lobe.
Cal felt the warmth beginning to spread through her, her body losing control as her orgasm started, her legs falling open, giving Paige as much access as she could. She cried out as the brunette pressed down on her clit, the final push off the edge. She clung to the brunette, whimpering as her body convulsed. Paige didn’t’ let go, but continued to kiss her.
“That’s it, baby, let it go, let it all go,” she murmured, waiting for Cal to come back to earth. Finally green eyes opened, clearing as the haze of sated desire began to dissipate. She wrapped Paige up in a tight embrace, pulling her down so she rested her head against the blonde’s shoulder. They said nothing, as at the moment, there just wasn’t much to say. Too many uncertainties and very recent painful memories.
Hours later, Paige opened her eyes, shocked that she’d fallen asleep. Lifting her head, she saw that Cal, too was asleep. Looking at her watch, she groaned. “Baby?” She lightly tapped the blonde’s cheek. “Cal? Wake up.”
“Hmm?” Cal said, eyes still closed. “What time is it?”
“Aw, crap.” Sighing heavily, Cal sat up, taking the shirt Paige offered her. She tugged it on, not even bothering with her bra, then tugged her jeans into place and lacing her boots.
“Are you okay to drive?” Paige asked, taking the blonde’s hand. At the nod she received, she took Cal’s hand, walking out of the mill to their cars.
If you need me, just call,” Cal said softly, standing next to the open driver’s side door of the Beemer. Paige nodded, hugging her fiercely, then placing a soft kiss on her lips. “One fifty-five Thorn,” she said against Paige’s lips. At the brunette look off confusion, Cal clarified. “Address.”
“Ah. Gotcha. Be careful going home. And get your hand looked at.”
Cal ducked her head as she blushed, but nodded. She watched as Paige climbed into her car, started it up, and with one final wave, drove away.
April had stopped asking Cal where she’d go, learning to trust that the girl needed her time alone, and that she wasn’t going to burn anything down or go murder anyone. When her foster daughter sauntered into the house, the family was getting ready to sit down for supper. A place had been set for Cal, and the blonde sat down out of guilt. She knew that April wouldn’t say anything, nor ask, but she hadn’t eaten dinner with them in more than a week, and she knew that April was trying desperately to give everyone a sense of family unity.
When she did sit down, CJ glanced at her before handing her the basket of rolls. She could see the questions in his eyes, glaring at him, daring him to speak them at the table. He looked away.
Paige drove the winding roads to her parents’ estate, heart pounding in her chest as she desperately tried to think of any excuse to use as to why she was so late, or if they’d heard she’d skipped her last half of classes. She didn’t’ have much time to think about it, however, as she was passed on the road by a bright blue Hummer, which she recognized immediately as that belonging to Claire’s father. The road they were one only led to Paige’s house, and she felt in her gut that her doom was waiting for her at home. Claire had told her parents.
“Fuck,” she muttered, tires squealing as she turned off onto a dirt road, roughing it until she found an alternate road leading back out to the highway.
Cal was helping clean up in the kitchen, washing as April dried. She never understood why they didn’t make CJ get off his fat ass and do anything. Her foster mother kept grinning at her.
Yet again, she was thwarted, April only shaking her head and feigning innocence. And, once again, Cal was annoyed by it. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the doorbell. A few moments more, a shocked CJ peeked his head into the kitchen.
“Uh, Cal, you’ve got company.” No sooner did he disappear when Paige took his place. Concerned by the look on the brunette’s face, Cal handed April the dish she was washing, and wiped her hands on her jeans.
“Hey.” She led Paige to the tiny second bedroom next to the living room. CJ’s eyes followed them. “Are you okay?” she asked, once they were alone.
“I passed Claire’s parents’ car on the way home. They were leaving.” Cal remained silent, not fully understanding the problem. Paige continued. “Cal, I think they were there, telling my parents!”
The blonde sucked in a breath as the proverbial light bulb went off. “Oh. Shit.”
“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what they’ll do.” Paige began to pace, here body stiff and agitated.
“They won’t hurt you or anything will they?” Cal asked. She was relieved when Paige shook her head. “Okay. Um, well, what’s the worst thing they can do?”
“Kick me out. Pull my college money. Ruin my future,” Paige ticked off the points on her fingers.
“Oh. Well, hey,” she hurried over to the brunette, taking her hand. “You can stay here with me until we figure something else out. College can wait. We can-“
“Cal, you’re talking about my future, here! College can wait? What if I don’t want it to wait?”
“You said yourself that you didn’t want to go to that stuffy British college, Paige. This may be your chance to get out of it.”
“But at least I’d have an education that way. Even if it is at a school don’t want to go to.”
Cal didn’t understand the change in logic, and the way she was looking at Paige said as much. The brunette looked away, yet again torn. “Shit, Cal, I just don’t know what to do. I’m so confused.”
There was a soft knock on the door before April peeked her head in. “Uh, girls, sorry to interrupt, but Cal, can you put Grace down while I finish the dishes?”
“Oh, sure. Uh, April, this is Paige. Paige, April.”
“Nice to meet you, hon,” April said with a quick smile before shutting the door again.
“IS that your foster mother?” Paige asked, following the blonde out of the room and into the living room, where she picked up the infant from the blanket she’d been lying on. Grace blew happy raspberries when she saw Cal.
“And this is baby Grace. Grace, say hello to Paige.” More raspberries had them chucking.
In the darkness of their room, Grace lay in her crib, whining softly as sleep began to take over. Cal and Paige watched over her. “She’s so sweet,” the brunette murmured, Cal nodding.
“Yeah. She is. We have a lot of fun together.”
“You seem to be really good with kids.” She met green eyes. “I think you’d make a great mom.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. I don’t know if I could be the type of mom a kid would need- nurturing and all that.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t think you give yourself enough credit.”
Cal smiled, shaking her head. “no, I’d be the one who was always getting in trouble because me and the kid are covered in mud from head to toe.”
Paige laughed at the visual, but agreed with the assessment. “And I’d have to yell at you for getting the house all muddy. Make you two wash off outside with a hose.”
“Oh, yeah, there you go- then we’d be running inside in our skivvies, shivering while you wrap warm towels around our shoulders.”
Paige smiled, loving the picture of what her future could be. It seemed to hit Cal that they’d made it personal. She looked away. Paige said nothing as she leaned her head against the blonde’s shoulder, wrapping an arm around her waist. Cal returned the one-armed embrace, resting her head against Paige’s.
“It almost feels like we’re looking down at our own little girl,” the brunette whispered, sighing happily.
“I’d love that,” Cal whispered back.
Paige had never dreaded anything so much as she pulled into the circular drive of the massive house. The lights were on throughout, and she felt a pang of dread when she spotted her father’s Mercedes parked in front of the seven car garage.
“Shit,” she whispered, taking a deep breath and bracing herself for the worse. The house seemed silent as she stepped through the front door. The only sounds were the giant Grandfather clock in the corner of the foyer ticking away, as well as a couple maids chatting somewhere off in the distance. Paige tried to decide what to do: slip upstairs as though she’d been there for hours and feign ignorance, or simply find her parents and face the music. It would happen sooner or later. With a heavy sigh, she went in search of her mother and father.
Bernie and Douglas Harris were in the library, her Mrs. Harris playing softly at the grand piano in the corner, Douglas tapping his tumbler filled with scotch on the arm of his chair. His large, gold pinky ring winked off the muted lighting. Narrowed eyes of slate stared out into the darkness, pulse racing visibly in his throat.
They both looked up at the sound of footsteps coming down the hall. “Doug,” Bernie said in a soft, warning voice as she stood from the instrument. Her husband held up his hand.
“Not one word, Bernie. Not one.”
Paige rounded the corner and stopped in the doorway, meeting the hate-filled gaze of her father. She felt her stomach begin to drop, heart pounding dangerously. She almost wished she had taken Cal up on her offer to go with her to face her parents. She didn’t say a word as her father stood from his chair, taking a last drink from his glass before setting it on the side table, deceivingly soft, just like his voice.
“I don’t care where you were, or what you were doing,” he began, strolling toward his only child. “Congratulations, my dear, you did well in high school and made us proud.”
Paige blinked confused, and beginning to break out in a cold sweat. Yell, scream, hit me, anything! This calm is killing me.
“Your bags have been packed, Paige, and you will be on a flight to London two days hence.” The brunette’s jaw dropped, blue eyes flicking to her mother. Suddenly her chin was held in a steel vise, her gaze forced onto gray. “Don’t look at her, Paige,” he growled, “she can’t help you now If she were doing her job in the first place, you wouldn’t have become the whore of some white trash girl.”
Paige felt tears beginning to form in her eyes, her face hurting, and her heart hurting even worse. She tried to struggle out of his brutal grip, but it only tightened.
“Don’t make me any angrier than I already am, little girl. I brought you into this world, and I’d be all too happy to escort you out. Understand me?”
Paige nodded, a small whimper escaping her throat. She felt a hand on her arm, her father’s grip loosening then gone altogether. Her mother stood beside him, dark eyes filled with disappointment, and what Paige would almost think of as regret.
“Why did you do this, Paige? Did that girl force you?”
The brunette shook her head, afraid that if she spoke, her rebelling stomach would indeed escape, and all over her father’s three hundred dollar shoes.
“It doesn’t matter,” Douglas said with finality. He raised a hand, pointing a threatening finger at his daughter. “You will not leave this house until Sunday when the car comes to pick you up to take you to the airport. Do you understand?” At Paige’s nod, he continued. “And if you see that girl ever again, so help me god, the body will never be found.”
Paige was trembling as she tried to keep her father’s gaze, but it became too much, and she had to look away. She knew how violent he could be, and didn’t want to make the situation any worse than it already was. She never dreamed they’d go this far.
“Now get out of my sight. You disgust me.”
The happiest moment of her life in that house was when she was able to turn and run out of the room, to her rooms and sanctuary.
Cal walked the halls cautiously, looking at every person that passed. She had been searching all day, and had yet to see Paige anywhere. Even at lunch, she was nowhere to be found. She did, however, see Claire, and saw her walking off toward the bathroom. Alone.
The blonde stalked her prey, never taking her eyes off the redhead. Once they were alone, she grabbed Claire from behind, slamming her into the wall. Huge, frightened brown eyes bore into hers.
“Where is she?” Cal hissed, leaving no room for any bullshit. The redhead felt the unspoken threat. She swallowed nervously, then opened her mouth.
“I don’t know.”
“Bullshit. Don’t fucking lie, Clair, or you’ll regret it, I swear. What did you do?”
“I didn’t know this would happen,” the redhead whispered, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears. Cal wasn’t sure if they were from fear or shame.
“You didn’t know what would happen? If anything has happened to her, Claire, I’ll hold you personally responsible, you piece of shit…”
“Her dad is really mad. I don’t know, Callahan, I swear. I don’t know anything.”
“Why isn’t she at school?”
“I don’t know.” Claire shook her head to emphasize her point. Cal shoved her back into the wall for good measure, stepping back from her.
“You,” she said, glaring, her hand on the bathroom door. “You did all this. Some friend.”
Claire wiped at her eyes once the blonde was gone. Everything had gotten out of hand, and there was no way for her to stop it. Her parents had told her that Bernie and Doug were sending Paige away, but she was sworn to secrecy. For a moment she almost ran after the punk, wanting to tell her everything, and give Cal a chance to save Paige. Claire knew how mean Douglas could be.
“What have I done?” she whispered to the empty bathroom.
Cal barely made it through the day, her mind on Paige, worried for her. It could be a coincidence that she wasn’t at school the day after what was, no doubt, a huge shootout between her and her parents, but she didn’t think so. She was sure they were linked, and didn’t like it. All she could think of were images of Paige bloodied and bruised. After all, that’s what Cal would have faced in the past. Even still, she knew there was nothing she could do. During the day, anyway. She’d probably be shot on sight if she dared show her face at the Harris estate. She’d have to bide her time.
Max grinned, happy to see his favorite employee when she walked into the store. He welcomed with a hearty pat on the back and a new shipment of merchandise that had to be stocked. He could tell the blonde was preoccupied, as she kept dropping things, or putting it in the wrong place. He hoped she’d be willing to talk to him about it, and before she destroyed his store. Alas, she kept her silence.
”Cal?” he finally said, picking up a trail of foam peanuts from a box the blonde had dropped.
“Yes, I know I’m a klutz. Sorry ‘bout that.”
“Eh, it happens. Though I have a feeling there’s something behind it. Anything I can do?”
Cal looked over at the big man, wishing so badly she could talk to him about it, but knowing that their unfortunate differences in values put a chasm just big enough between them that she couldn’t jump the distance. Shaking her head, she gave him a brave smile.
“Alright. But if you break anything…”
“Yeah, yeah. I know.” She glanced up at him, noting that he had a grin on his face, much like the one April had on the other night. Hand on hip, she studied him. “Why it is that I feel like I’m the butt of a joke that I’m the only one who doesn’t know the punch line to it?”
Max shrugged wide shoulders. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he muttered, walking off to his office.
“Lying is a sin, ya know!” she called after him, his hearty laughter following.
Cal got back to her stocking when the bell above the door jingled the presence of a customer. The blonde glanced over the at door, about to mutter a greeting when she stopped, dead in her tracks. A man stood just inside, dressed neatly in jeans and a tucked in t-shirt. His strawberry blonde hair was cut short, styled. His face was clean shaven, save for a blonde soul patch just below his lower lip. His eyes pinned her to the spot. Green eyes. Ty’s eyes.
Cal gasped, her heart stopping as recognition hit her over the head like a sledgehammer. She may have been young, but she’d never forget his face.
“Hey, baby sis,” he said, his voice soft.
Cal didn’t even notice the three people who crept out of the back room as she tossed the box she was holding to the floor and ran to him, finding herself swept up in familiar arms.
“Oh my god!” she cried, unable to see as her vision was overrun by her tears of unexpected joy. She held on for dear life, feeling the body of her brother also tremble as he experienced his own rush of emotions. Finally she pulled back, just enough to look at his handsome face. His red-rimmed, watery eyes looked back. “How did…? Who… ? What… ?”
Ty smiled, hugging her again before releasing her. “I’ve been looking for you for ten years, Cal,” he said softly, bringing up a thumb and wiping at her continued tears. “Cheryl, April and your boss, there, were all too happy to lend a hand.”
It was then that Cal realized they weren’t alone. Her three angels stood at the back of the store, the two women in tears, Max smiling as though he’d just been named Daddy.
“You all did this?” she whispered, turning from Ty, but not daring to take her hand off him. She looked back to her brother, then once again looked at Max, Cheryl and April. It hit her- the grins, the little looks and secret phone conversations. She walked slowly over to the trio. “How long have you all been working on this?”
“I got a call two weeks ago,” Cheryl said, a motherly smile on her face as she brushed a few strands of blonde from tear-streaked cheeks. “The private detective Ty hired found me.”
“I can’t believe this.” Cal threw herself into her caseworker’s arms, suddenly a Callahan sandwich as Max and April joined in the hug. She pulled away moments later, smacking Max in the gut. “And you knew!” He grinned, nodding vigorously. She waggled a playful finger at him before turning back to Ty, unable to take her eyes off him. So much came back to her, so many memories and all the years she’d longed for him. There he was, 26, a grown man. He’d been 15 last time she’d laid eyes on him. She couldn’t wait to tell Paige about this!
Cal crept through the trees, praying the moon wouldn’t hide behind the clouds again. The last thing she needed was to get lost. So far so good, she hurried amongst the shadows, barely dodging a low-hanging branch by a hair. Literally. Finally the woods opened up and she saw the house across the expanse of carefully manicured lawns. Looking left and right, searching for any sort of security or dogs, Cal made a dash for it.
Paige glanced at the clock again: 11:13. She’d been lying there for more than three hours, her dinner tray still untouched. She’d been all but locked in her room for a day and a half, and felt like she was caught up in some sort of sick fairytale, locked in the dungeon by the evil king. She would be leaving the country, and Cal, morning after next, and it made her feel sick.
Her phone had been taken away, as was her laptop. She had no contact with the outside world, no way to get word to the blonde. She wanted so badly to be able to say goodbye.
Her thoughts were disrupted by the sound of something hitting her window. She glanced over at it, seeing nothing. About to turn back to her morose thoughts, Paige looked again when she heard it a second time, though wasn’t exactly sure what it was. Pushing the covers off her body, she stood, heading over to one of the large windows, searching the night. She saw nothing over the rolling lawns, so went to another window, almost completely covered by the massive grove of trees on that side of the house. Then she saw it, barely. A lighter shade of pale in the leaves, then cried out, startled as something hit the window.
“Cal,” she breathed, barely able to make out a black, combat boot hanging from the branch. She quickly unlocked and pushed up the window, leaning out as far as she dared. “Oh my god, Cal, you’re going to break your neck!” she hissed, looking around to make sure security wasn’t anywhere close.
“Well, if you open your window wide, I won’t,” the blonde answered, shimmying to the edge of the branch, eyeing the distance, then looking down. She had three stories to fall if she missed. No pressure.
“Oh, god, this is crazy,” Paige whispered, though she moved out of the way, shoving the window up as far as it would go. Her heart pounded, both in relief of seeing Cal, and fear that she’d kill herself. She covered her mouth to stop herself from yelling out as Cal made a frantic leap, grabbing onto the edge of the window, her hands trying desperately to find anything to hold onto.
Paige snapped herself out of her reverie and hurried over to her, whispering for Cal to grab her hand. Together they managed to get the blonde inside, Paige taking her in a desperate hug. She felt Cal clinging to her, her need just as profound. Finally Cal pulled away, looking into blue eyes.
“Where have you been? You weren’t at school.”
Paige swallowed her sob, closing the window and taking Cal by the hand, leading her to her bed. “I’m leaving Sunday morning, Cal. They’re sending me away now.”
“Shh! My dad will kill you if he finds you here.”
Cal gave her a repentant look. “What do you mean, they’re sending you away now? What about school?”
“I don’t know. He pulled strings, or whatever, and I’m done.” Paige lowered her head, a tear falling to her shorts-clad leg. “Claire told them everything.”
“Oh, baby,” Cal whispered, her heart leaping up into her throat. “I almost beat the shit out of her today, trying to find out where you were.”
Paige’s head raised. “Really?”
Cal grinned, nodding. “Really wish I would’ve, too.”
“No. Won’t do any good, but would just get you in trouble, too.”
“Yeah, like that’s new.”
Paige smiled, taking the blonde in another hug, so relieved to see her. “God, I missed you,” she breathed into soft, blonde hair. She didn’t wait for Cal to answer as she took her into a deep kiss that left both of them breathless.
“I missed you, too,” Cal whispered, forehead resting against the brunette’s. “Come away with me, Paige,” she said, looking into Paige’s face. “Ty came for me, baby, he found me!” She almost started crying again, just to be able to say his name and know he was sleeping on the couch of April and Carl’s house.
“What?” Paige was confused. “I don’t understand…”
“He was looking for me, Paige! Can you believe it? He managed to find Cheryl, my caseworker and then she, April and Max helped him come here. Baby, he’s asked me to go with him, to California. Come with us. We can start over! Me and you!”
“Oh, Cal,” Paige murmured, taking the blonde in a painfully tight hug. “I’m so happy for you. Oh god, I’m so happy.” She noticed a light in Cal’s eyes that she’d never seen before, and knew it was Ty who had put it there. Her beloved long-lost brother. “How wonderful.”
“come with us,” Cal said again, pulling out of the hug. “Ty would let you. Baby, he’s got a wife and a little boy! He wants me, can you believe it? Oh, Paige, he wants me.” Cal was struck anew at the strange feeling. It had been too long. Too damn long.
“Of course he does, Cal. He loved you so much when you were little, why wouldn’t he now?”
Cal cupped Paige’s face, pulling her in for a long, deep kiss, both of their bodies igniting at the contact. Paige found herself being pushed down onto the mattress, Cal atop her. She returned her kisses, feeling as though she’d drown if she didn’t get to feel Cal one last time.
“Come with me,” Cal said again, nibbling all along Paige’s jaw and neck. “I can’t let them take you away from me, too, Paige. Not now, I finally found you.”
“Oh, Cal,” Paige whimpered, gasping when a searching hand found her breast through the thin material of her t-shirt. She helped the blonde take it off, removing Cal’s in the same movement. She buried her hands in Cal’s hair as the kissed, the blonde working steadily on the brunette’s shorts and panties, throwing them off into the darkness. “You, too, baby,” she whispered, working feverishly at Cal’s jeans. “Off.”
Cal nodded, rolling onto her back and shoving at the denim, Paige on top of her like a tiger, attacking her breasts and throat before she could kick the pants off her feet. She managed to get them gone, then her boots, Paige nearly ravishing her in the process. Suddenly she stopped, listening. Paige continued to torture her left breast.
“Wait,” she panted, putting a hand on the brunette’s shoulder.
“What?” Paige lifted her head from her prize.
Paige stared off into the darkness of her room, trying to shut everything out. Then she heard it. Down below, voices. “Shit.” She rolled off the large bed, hurrying over to the window and listening.
“… here, I swear it.”
“Where did she go?”
“I don’t know. Okay. I’m going to wake up Mr. Harris.”
“Oh fuck!” Paige almost flew to the bed, tossing Cal’s clothes at her. “Get dressed! Oh shit, Cal, hurry.”
The blonde didn’t waste a minute, stuffing her underwear in the inside pocket of her jacket as Paige knelt down, quickly tying her boots.
“God, we’ve got to get you out of here.”
Cal was trying to desperately to retrace her steps, remembering what was outside, and the best places to hide. A thought occurred to her. “Oh, fuck,” she breathed. “I hope they didn’t find my car.”
“Don’t even say that,” finishing with the boots, Paige got to her feet, hurrying to the window again and looking down. The two security guards were gone. She beckoned Cal over. “Please be careful, please.”
The blonde nodded, slowly, carefully sliding the window open, trying to make as little noise as possible. She looked down, swallowing at the huge thirty foot drop before her, then turned back to Paige. They embraced, holding on for long moments until finally Cal had to go. She climbed out, the brunette acting as lookout. They both almost cried out in surprise when loud knocking sounded on the other side of Paige’s bedroom door.
“Go!” Paige hissed, dropping a quick kiss to Cal’s lips, then hurrying toward the door. Cal knew she had from the time Paige reached the door to get out on that limb and safely to the ground. Taking a deep breath, she didn’t look down again as she made a jump for it, almost peeling off three of her fingernails in the process. Cursing under her breath, she scurried down the tree with speeds that would impress a cat, and ran off into the darkness.
The brunette tried to get her breathing under control, then realized she was naked. “Shit! Hang on! Putting something!” she called out snatching her bathrobe and wrapping it around her body. Her father and one of the security men stood on the other side of the door.
“What took you so long?” Douglas asked, stepped past his daughter. The guard had the courtesy to stay out in the hall. Paige followed her father into her room.
“I was asleep. It’s almost midnight. What’s going on?” She was impressed with just how convincing she sounded.
“Tim thought he spied someone suspicious roaming the grounds. He last saw them here,” he pointed down at the floor, “near your windows and the stand of trees.” He looked at her with demanding eyes. He continued, voice lowered. “If that girl was here, Paige, I swear, I’ll get my gun right now.”
“She’s obviously not here, Father. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to get back to sl-“ Paige cried out as her head pounded from the backhand.
“Don’t talk to me that way, girl. You’re a guest here. This is my house. You got me?”
Paige nodded, tasting the coppery taste of blood in her mouth. She squeezed her eyes shut as Doug left the room, slamming the door shut behind him.
“God, that was close,” she whispered. “Please, please make it, Cal.”
Cal’s heart pounded as she made her way through town, still glancing in her rearview mirror, making sure she wasn’t followed. “Jesus, what kind of fucking prison does she live in?”
The house was still quite, no one the wiser that she was gone, except Ty, who opened his eyes when Cal snuck in. Lifting his head, he whispers her name. Cal nearly jumped out of her skin in surprise.
“Hey, little sis, where did you go?”
Cal plopped down on the couch next to him. She could feel the connection between them so strong, as if twelve years hadn’t passed at all. Resting her head on his shoulder, she sighed.
“I don’t know if I can tell you,” she whispered, looking into his face- all grown up. He was no longer the gawky teenager.
“Cal, you can tell me anything. That hasn’t changed.” He laid back down, taking his sister with him. She snuggled in, not wanting to talk, instead just sleep in his comforting arms again. But, she knew she owed him an explanation. Besides, maybe he could help in some way.
“Unfortunately I’ve wiggled my way into an after school special. Me, the proverbial kid from the wrong side of the tracks, has fallen in love with the rich girl, and most popular girl in school. She loves me, too, I think, and her father hates me, has pulled her out of school, and is sending her off to England day after tomorrow. Well, I guess tomorrow, now,” she said, glancing at the clock.
Ty laid there for a moment, trying to absorb everything he’d been told. “Okay, let me dissect this one part at a time. You’re gay?”
“As the day is long.”
“Okay. Moving on, you’ve fallen in love with a rich popular girl at your school.”
“Head over heels.”
“Okay. And now, because of this, she’s being shipped off across the big pond?”
“That just about covers it.”
“Wow. Maybe I should have come sooner.”
Cal chuckled, snuggling in deeper “I love her, Ty. I can’t leave her with that monster that is her father.”
Ty sighed, eyes slipping closed at the feel of his only living family, and his beloved sister. He’d dreamed for so many years of finding her. Now that he had, it was almost too good to be true. And, the fact that she’d agreed to go back home with him! His wife, Tracy, couldn’t wait to finally meet the girl he’d talked about for so long.
“Why don’t you take her with us?” he asked finally, gently stroking the blonde hair under his chin.
“I asked her. We… got interrupted.”
“Uh. Oh.” It was so hard for Ty to think of his sister as the woman she had become. In his mind, he saw the adorable little 5 year old he had seen last. Right before they were torn apart.
“I had to split.”
He shrugged off his thoughts, instead focusing on Cal’s situation. “You know, Cal, one thing in life I’ve learned is that happiness if fleeting, so when you find it, you grab on with both hands, and never let go.”
Cal raised her head, looking at her brother. “What are you saying?” she asked slowly.
“I’m saying, let’s go get her. Give her a chance to find happiness, too, with you.”
The blonde grinned, a twinkle entering her eyes. She nodded. “Yeah. Let’s go get her.”
Paige chewed on her bottom lip, glancing over at her mother as the Harris women sat in the library, one pretending to read a book, the other knitting. Finally the brunette garnered her courage. Clearing her throat, she spoke.
“Mother, why are you allowing this to happen? Is there no other way?”
Bernie sighed. She had been bothered by her husband’s actions in no small way. She felt it was too drastic, and cruel. Their daughter was not a prisoner. Even still, she had very little choice. Meeting her daughter’s eyes, Bernie tried to hide any expression in her own. “Your father only wants you to have a chance at a good future, Paige. Cavorting with that trash isn’t the path toward that.”
“She’s not trash, Mother. I care very deeply about Cal. You guys have to understand this. I’m an adult, old enough to make my own decisions.”
“You’re an adult, Paige, but you are not old enough to make your own, reasonable decisions. You’ve shown that over the past few days. Sadly, you’ve shown us that we can’t trust you to your own devices.”
Paige set her book aside, hurrying over to her mother’s chair, kneeling beside it and looking up into her mother’s eyes. “Mother, please don’t let him do this. It’s a mistake, and I think you know it. Mother, look into my eyes,” Bernie finally met her gaze, her own deeply troubled. “Don’t let him do this. Love isn’t wrong.”
Bernie stood, stiffening. She didn’t have love in her marriage, Paige didn’t need it, either. She set her knitting down in her abandoned chair and walked out of the room., leaving her devastated daughter in her wake. Paige felt the hot sting of tears behind her eyes Rising to her feet, she put her book away and headed upstairs to her room.
They sky was overcast as a summer storm blew in. Appropriate for the way she was feeling, and she figured she should get used to it, as that’s how it would be in London. She had never enjoyed being in London, and now she would be stuck there for at least four years.
The brunette sat heavily on her bed, once again feeling as though she were stuck in some sick fairytale. Her father had kept an even closer watch on her that morning. She knew that deep down he felt their intruder the night before had everything to do with Cal. His men were instructed to keep a stiff watch, and shoot anything that moves. After all, they were trespassing.
She glanced over to the corner of her room where everything she owned practically, was stacked up in steamer trunks and her luggage set she’d gotten for Christmas. The tears began to run faster and hotter, her chest heavy, body lethargic. She wiped her eyes, looking at the bedroom door when a knock sounded. Taking several deep breaths, she didn’t’ want to give either of her parents the satisfaction of seeing just how much they were tearing her apart.
Stepping over to the door, she pulled it open, words leaving her as she looked into Cal’s grinning face. “Cal,” she breathed, looking out into the hall, shocked. “What are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to rescue you. Come on. We don’t have much time.” Cal hurried into the room past her, looking around for anything that was absolutely essential. She began to toss things onto the bed- brush, toothbrush, etc.
“How did you get in here?” Paige asked, catching on and helping.
“Some lady just opened the door and stepped aside. She didn’t say anything, but somehow I don’t think we’ve got a lot of time.”
“My mother? I don’t understand-“
“Less talk, Paige, more packing. Come on! Ty is waiting outside.”
It hit Paige just what was happening, and she felt her heart beginning to hammer in her chest. She grabbed a bag out of her closet, shoving everything into it, then zipped it up with finality. Cal grabbed it, shrugging it onto her shoulder. She took Paige’s hand, kissing the knuckles. “Ready?”
“Paige nodded, smiling through her tears. Together, they walked out of Paige’s bedroom.
The end… or is it? Maybe, maybe not.Return to the Academy