Listen to the Trembling playlist by clicking here
"O! Beware, my lord, of jealousy,
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on."
-William Shakespeare, Othello
michaela666 (01:34:22): Is it done?
aird92 (01:35:01): yep. success. it's all good.
michaela666 (1:35:24): And it went well? No snags? No interference from Jason?
aird92 (01:36:12): dude's damned clueless, r u kidding? went perfect.
michaela666 (01:36:54): You're sure? They shouldn't be underestimated, you know. The two of them together are quite powerful.
aird92 (01:37:17): i know this, ok? stop worrying. everything's fine.
My brain felt like it had exploded while I was sleeping and the pieces of brain matter were straining against my temples, trying to get out. My head hurt.
I squeezed my eyes shut against the bright Florida sun that was streaming through the window. Damn it, but my head hurt. Really, really bad.
Tentatively, I opened one eye. The room was blazingly bright. I closed my eye again. Maybe it was better to keep my eyes closed.
I opened my eyes again.
Where was I?
Jason's room? Jason's bed? Why was I in Jason's bed?
How had I gotten here?
Damn it. I didn't remember going to sleep. I must have been really drunk when I went to sleep. Blackout drunk. I didn't think I'd ever been blackout drunk before. What did I remember from the night before?
A loud voice sliced into my temple. "I don't how many times I've told you that you two are not supposed to sleep in the same bed!"
That was why I had woken up. Hallam was yelling at Jason. Ugh. I pulled a pillow over my head, but I could still hear them.
"Jesus, Hallam, I carried her to her own bed, but she crawled in here with me," Jason was saying. "I couldn't get her to go back. Nothing happened. She was way too drunk."
I was? I didn't remember any of that at all.
Jason was my boyfriend. He and I lived with Hallam, who was our legal guardian. Hallam was pretty cool most of the time. He didn't have any problem with my going out and getting wasted or coming home at four in the morning. But he was insistent that Jason and I did not sleep in the same bed. He said he didn't want us to conceive our firstborn on his watch. But that was silly, because when Jason and I actually did get to have sex (which was rarely), we were careful. Really, Hallam was just a prude, and that was all there was to it.
"I don't want to hear excuses, Jason," Hallam said. "You two know the rules. You both agreed to them."
It was amazing how, in just a few short months, Hallam had begun to sound remarkably like a parent. He was only twenty-two, just five years older than Jason and me. But he sounded fifty.
"You're blatantly disobeying," Hallam went on.
"What was I supposed to do?" Jason demanded. "She could barely stand, she was so wasted."
Really? That wasn't good. Okay, okay. What had I done last night?
Um, I'd gone to a party on the beach with Jude and some of the other guys from work. I worked at a movie theater here in Bradenton, Florida. I remembered that I'd been drinking a lot of shots. I'd been talking to some guys around a bonfire. For a long time. And then . . . I'd lost Jude. I couldn't find him anywhere. And I was so drunk. . . So . . . I called Jason, because I couldn't find Jude, and I was freaked out. Being alone like that. And drunk. And then . . .
And then, nothing.
That was terrifying.
"She's been drunk a lot lately, hasn't she?" asked Hallam.
"She's seventeen," Jason said. "It's what young people do!"
Jason was seventeen too, but when he said that, it sounded like he was so much older than me. In some ways, maybe Jason was. He'd been through a lot in his young life. Jason had spent his childhood on the run from men with guns, who were trying to kill him. He'd held his mentor Anton in his arms while Anton bled to death. Jason had shot five men in the head point blank to save me from getting killed. It made sense that Jason would seem older than me.
"You're seventeen too," Hallam pointed out. "You're not getting fall-down drunk."
Why was Jason so much more responsible than I was? After all, while it was true that Jason had been through a lot, the last six months of my life had been no picnic either. I'd found out that my entire town was controlled by a Satanist coven who wanted me to kill Jason. Then I'd seen my parents and my aunt all shot dead in front of me. Yeah. Things weren't easy for me either. Most days, I felt older than seventeen.
"Well, someone's got to stay sober," Jason muttered.
Great. He didn't sound happy. But I guess I couldn't blame him. It didn't sound like I'd been much fun last night. I really shouldn't have gotten so drunk.
"Just keep her out of your bed," said Hallam. "I don't care how drunk she is."
I heard the door to Jason's bedroom slam as Hallam stormed out.
Sheepishly, I pulled the pillow off my head and looked at Jason. "Hey," I said.
"Good morning," said Jason, but he didn't sound at all happy about it.
Jason was probably one of the most beautiful human beings I'd ever seen. He had dusky skin, perfect and unmarred, huge dark eyes, and a shock of dark hair that tended to fall into his eyes. Looking at him, no matter where I was or what I was doing, nearly always took my breath away, made me tremble inside.
"I'm sorry?" I said. I hoped he wasn't going to be too mad.
Jason sighed. He sat down on the edge of the bed, next to me. "What are you sorry about?"
"Sorry I got so drunk," I said.
Jason shook his head. "It's not your fault," he said. He reached for me. Stroked my cheek with the back of his hand. "It's Jude's fault."
"Jude?" I asked. For some reason, Jason did not like Jude very much.
"He got you all messed up and then he just abandoned you," said Jason.
It was true that Jude had disappeared last night. But I wanted Jason to like Jude. Jude was probably my best friend. "We were at a party," I said. "I'm sure he just got . . . distracted."
"Don't defend him," said Jason.
"He's my friend." I had to defend him. If I didn't, Jason would never start liking him. Ever.
Jason rolled his eyes. "I don't know why you spend so much time with that jerk, anyway."
"He's fun!" I said.
"Right," said Jason. He looked down at his hands. "Unlike me, right?"
"Jason!" I rolled over in bed, frustrated. My head pounded angrily at the sudden movement. "There is no reason to compare the two of you. You're Jason. He's Jude. You're both fun, just in different ways."
"I just feel like I never see you anymore. You're always hanging out with him. You're never hanging out with me."
"You sound jealous."
"Jesus, he's gay!" I exclaimed. "He's like a girl."
"Except he's not a girl," said Jason.
"Oh my God," I muttered. I sat up in bed, carefully this time, so as not to upset my throbbing head. I crawled over to Jason. Hugged him from behind. "Don't be jealous of Jude," I murmured, kissing Jason's neck. "You shouldn't be jealous of anyone, ever. No one could ever be to me what you are. You're . . . Jason."
Jason turned his head and his lips met mine. "I know that," he whispered in a husky voice. It always made me swoon. It was the voice meant only for me. He didn't talk to anyone else in that voice.
I caressed his face. Ran my finger over the line of his jaw. He winced.
I leaned forward. "Are you hurt?"
"It's nothing," Jason said, standing up.
I flopped back on the bed. "What did you do?" I demanded. "Did you get in another fight?"
"I . . ." Jason trailed off.
"I'm sorry," he said. "But you should have heard this guy. He had it coming. That bastard."
"What happened?" I asked.
"I couldn't find you when I got to the party," said Jason. "But I found that jerk, Jude, and he said he put you in a tent. And you were fine." Jason glowered into space.
"A tent?" I had no memory of being in a tent.
"Yeah," said Jason. "That dickwad just dumped you there and ran off."
"At least he put me in a tent," I said. Wow. How drunk had I been? A thought suddenly occurred to me. "Oh God. You didn't beat up Jude, did you?"
Jason shook his head. "No."
"Good," I said. Because if my boyfriend had beaten up my best friend, it probably would have meant I didn't have a best friend anymore. And the thought of Jason punching skinny, prissy Jude was almost too much to handle. He would have destroyed Jude.
"Jude never could have gotten a punch on me," said Jason.
Of course not. I snorted.
"So I found the tent, and this guy was standing outside. I looked inside. You were in there, passed out. And you were only wearing your bikini."
"What?!" I demanded. I had gone to that party clothed, dammit. "Where were my clothes?"
"In the tent," said Jason.
So how did they get off? I didn't ask that question out loud. Concerned, I wiggled my pelvis. It felt . . . fine. "What happened?" I repeated.
Jason didn't look at me. "The guy outside the tent said that he wouldn't say anything if I . . ." Jason trailed off. He whipped his head around and looked straight in my eyes. "He said to save him seconds."
I covered my mouth with my hand. "Oh my God."
"Yeah," said Jason. "And Jude just left you there. With people like that around."
"So you beat up the guy outside the tent?"
"I did. I wasn't going to, because it wasn't like he did anything. I just told him to shut up, because you were my girlfriend. And he said, 'Your girlfriend looks like a drunken slut.' That's when I beat him up."
"Oh," I said. I was quiet. "How bad?" I finally asked.
Jason shrugged. "I don't know."
"Did they have to call an ambulance again?" I asked.
"I don't know. I took you and left."
I didn't say anything.
"He was bleeding a lot, I guess," said Jason. "Maybe I broke his nose. I don't know."
"Oh God, you shouldn't have done that."
"Can you blame me? He was clearly a total bastard."
"I just don't think it's a good idea for you to do things that might attract attention to us," I said.
Jason sat back down on the bed. "Azazel, we're safe," he said.
"I know," I said. "But I don't trust the Sons. And I just feel like every time you do something like that, it sends out a beacon to them screaming, 'Here we are!'"
"They probably know where we are, anyway," said Jason. "They're a huge, powerful organization. I'm sure they haven't just forgotten about me."
"Maybe they did," I said. "Maybe they did." I wished I could believe that. I wished I wasn't worried nearly every second of every day that the Sons of the Rising Sun were going to burst into our house, guns blazing, kill me, and take Jason. We were blackmailing them with information we had, and so far it seemed to be working. But every day, I worried that it wouldn't work anymore. They'd find some way around our deal. They'd come for us.
Jason lay down next me on the bed. He gathered me in his arms. I buried my head in his chest.
"We're safe," he whispered into my hair. "I swear we're safe. I swear I'll keep you safe."
And I wanted to believe him. I did.
"All I want to do is keep you safe," he said. "You know that, right?"
I lifted my head to look at him. He was so heartbreakingly beautiful. "I know."
"That's why I hit that guy," said Jason. "When it comes to you, Azazel, I just . . . I can't think straight. If anyone ever hurt you, I'd go absolutely insane. You're so important to me."
I kissed him. "I love you," I said.
"I love you," he said.
We kissed again, Jason's hands stroking my back. I moaned softly.
And Hallam stormed into the bedroom. "Out!" he thundered. "Azazel, get out of this bed!"
I got out of the bed, folding my arms over my chest and glaring at Hallam. "We were just kissing," I said.
"Sure," said Hallam. "It's all just kissing until someone gets pregnant."
I rolled my eyes. But I went to my own room anyway. I needed to find some ibuprofen.
It was nearly eleven-thirty, and I had to be at work at noon. I worked at the Regal Cinemas on Cortez, a ten-minute drive from our apartment if the traffic wasn't bad. Which it always was. Jude said that in the summer, there was no traffic in Bradenton at all. Once all the "snowbirds" left, no one was left in Florida except the people who lived there full time. Snowbirds were rich, old people who came to Florida during the winter to escape the snow up north. Since Jason, Hallam, and I had only lived in Bradenton since November, I had never witnessed a summer in Bradenton.
Bradenton was a very, very big town compared to Bramford, West Virginia, where I grew up. However, according to most people, it was a relatively small place. It was located about forty-five minutes south of Tampa and twenty minutes north of Sarasota, on the west coast of Florida. The rent there was a little cheaper than what you'd pay in Sarasota, which was why we'd decided to live in Bradenton. At the time, I wasn't in touch with my grandmother, who was insanely rich and lived in New Jersey, so we didn't think we'd have enough money to live in Sarasota.
When we first moved to Florida, we didn't really have much money. Hallam had a little bit of cash which he'd squirreled away. Jason and I had a fraudulent credit card. We were barely able to get enough money to move into a three-bedroom apartment. We got jobs as quickly as we could. Hallam insisted that both Jason and I finish high school, so we had to get jobs that wouldn't interfere with our studies. I started working at the movie theater, and Jason got a job waiting tables. Hallam, who was highly educated and British, somehow managed to swindle himself into a job as a professor at New College, the honors college of Sarasota. Both Hallam and I still had our original jobs. Jason, however, had been fired four times. He kept getting in fights. Currently, he had a job working at another restaurant, but he was in the kitchen, so he didn't have to deal with the public.
We had a very hard time at first, because we didn't have a car, so we had to rely on buses and on favors from co-workers. Sometimes it worked out, sometimes it didn't. Finally, Jason suggested that I should get in touch with my grandmother. She was my only living relative, besides my three adopted brothers.
I didn't want to contact Grandma Hoyt at first. I was worried that the Sons could use her to get to me, or that she might be in danger. After all, it was the Sons who had shot my parents. They didn't seem to have qualms about killing whoever got in their way. Jason and Hallam were sure that the Sons were out of the picture, so eventually I did.
Grandma Hoyt bought me a car, and started sending me a pretty decent allowance every month. It helped make our situation more comfortable, but I still worked, because I liked having the extra cash. Besides, with Jason working as well, if I stayed home, I'd be alone most of the time. I really didn't like being alone anymore. I got really freaked out when I was by myself in our apartment. I didn't know if I was really worried about the Sons busting in and shooting me or not. But I did know that I got very, very frightened, and I couldn't handle it.
So I worked. That afternoon, I was so hung over and miserable that I really wished that I didn't. But I dragged myself into the shower, got dressed, ate something, and went to work. The night before, I'd left directly from work and gone to the party, and I'd accidentally left my uniform in the staff workroom. When I arrived, Jude was waiting for me, holding my uniform.
"Girl!" he exclaimed. "I cannot believe you are standing!"
"Oh my God, Jude! How drunk did I get last night?"
Jude shook his head in awe. "You were wasted," he said. He handed me my uniform. "Better get changed. We've got to start slinging popcorn in two minutes."
"Ugh," I muttered, taking the uniform from him.
Jude was tall and very skinny. He was a quarter Cherokee, so he had dusky skin and dark eyes. (Like Jason, in fact, who was also a quarter Native American, but Muscogee.) Jude liked to wear heavy eyeliner, but at work, it was against the dress code, so Jude only wore a little bit. He also had three holes in each of his ears, plus a nose piercing. He had to take out all his piercings for work too. The theater couldn't do much about his hair, however, which he dyed various unnatural shades. Currently, his hair was electric blue. Last week, however, it had been bright orange. I'd seen it green, purple, and fire-engine red. Jude also made it a point to paint his nails. At the moment, they were purple and sparkly.
"Come into the bathroom with me while I change," I said. "I want to know everything about what happened last night."
"While you change?" Jude said.
"Yeah," I said. I took him by the arm and pulled him into the staff bathroom with me.
The staff bathroom didn't have stalls. It just had one toilet and a sink. It was for either men or women. Once inside, I locked the door, and pulled my shirt over my head.
"So where did you go?" I asked, folding my shirt and searching for my uniform polo.
Jude wasn't looking at me. He was staring at the floor, like he was embarrassed.
"I'm sorry," I said. "Does it make you uncomfortable that I'm taking off my clothes? I just thought . . ."
Jude looked at me, grinning. "No, girl, you're fine," he said.
"Okay," I said.
Jude took a deep breath. "I wouldn't have left you if I thought you were so drunk," he said.
"I didn't mean to get that drunk," I said.
"You weren't when I left," he said.
"I didn't leave the party," Jude said. "I just started chasing this yummy boy with long blonde hair."
I unbuttoned my jeans and wriggled out of them. "And?"
"Oh, he turned out to be straight."
Jude shrugged. "Whatev." He glanced at me and then looked away. I was making him uncomfortable. I needed to try to remember that being gay did not make Jude a girl. Maybe I was being rude. "So, what do you remember?"
"Not much. I remember looking for you, not being able to find you, and calling Jason."
"Oh yeah," said Jude, "your boyfriend's intense, isn't he?"
Intense? That was one way to put it. "How do you mean?"
"He hospitalized that guy. I've never seen anyone fight like that. He was like a machine."
Damn it. Why was Jason always getting in fights? "He had to go to hospital, huh?"
"Yeah. Broken ribs."
Ribs? "Dammit," I said, shaking my head. I thrust my leg into my uniform khakis. Jason had to stop this.
"You remember the fight?" Jude asked.
"No. Jason told me about it."
Jude nodded. "You don't remember anything, then?"
I shook my head. "Not really."
"Is that weird?" he asked. "I've never blacked out before."
"Neither have I," I said. I remembered drinking, but I really didn't think I'd had that much to drink. The whole thing was weird. I buttoned my khakis thoughtfully. "Jason said something about that guy outside the tent. Like he said something about me."
Jude raised his eyebrows. "What did he say?"
I was probably being paranoid. "Jude, you don't think I was like roofied or something, do you?"
Now that I was fully dressed, Jude was looking right at me. "Why would you think that?"
"Jason said that when he found me I was only wearing my bikini. And the guy told him to save him seconds."
Jude made a horrified face. "Eew."
"Well, are you okay? I mean, do you think . . .?"
"Oh, no. I'm fine. I mean, I don't think that happened. But maybe someone was trying?"
Jude crossed to me and hugged me tightly. "Omigod," he said. "I am so sorry. I will never leave you alone at a party again."
Work would have been torturous without Jude. He kept me laughing, whispering jokes about what the customers were wearing or saying when no one was looking. I really liked Jude. He was one of my favorite things about living in Florida. I'd always wanted to live someplace like this. Someplace warm. Near a beach. And being able to be close to Jason was a definite plus. Jason was my soul mate. Nothing could be too bad whenever he was around. But in all honesty, my life was far from perfect anymore.
Six months ago, my biggest problem had been that I thought I was the oldest virgin on earth. I wasn't a virgin anymore, but sometimes, I almost wished I could go back to my life before. Then, my parents were alive, and I loved them. I lived in a busy, crowded home full of teenage foster boys, but I didn't realize how great it was to feel loved like that. I didn't realize how great it was to trust people implicitly. Now, I didn't trust anyone. I had nightmares a lot. I dreamed about my parents getting shot. I'd see it over and over again, in slow motion. The surprised look on their faces. The blood. The way their bodies had crumpled. In the worst dreams, the ones that always made me sit up straight in bed, screaming, I'd see Jason's face when he was shooting the members of the Sons who'd killed my parents. He looked determined and dangerous. Frenzied. Angry.
After that nightmare, Jason would rush into my room, and he'd be so sweet and comforting that I'd wonder how I could ever feel frightened of him. He was perfect. He was wonderful. He was mine. He wasn't scary.
But other times, when the dream didn't go that far, I wouldn't wake up without screaming, just seeing the image of my dead parents engraved on the back of my eyelids. And I'd think about other things. I'd think about Michaela Weem, Jason's crazy mother, who had screamed at me that together Jason and I would destroy things. She had told me that Jason was destined for violence on a grand scale. She had wanted me to kill Jason. Michaela Weem had believed that Jason was too dangerous to live. And she'd been able to convince a lot of people that she was right. I tried to tell myself she wasn't. I loved Jason more than life. I would die for him. I would kill for him. He was all that I had.
But Michaela had been right about one thing. Once. She'd told us that together Jason and I would "drive men mad." And we had. When we kissed, a whole group of the Sons had stopped shooting and completely lost their minds. If she'd been right about that, maybe she was right about . . . But no. No. Jason was not going to enslave the world. I didn't think that. I refused to think that.
Between freaking out about the Sons trying to kill me, reliving the trauma of my murdered parents, and worrying that my boyfriend was actually the anti-christ (instead of the messiah, which was what the Sons thought), my life was not exactly a cakewalk. I longed for the days when I worried about my history exam or whether girls at school were gossiping about me. All of that just seemed ridiculous and childish now. Sometimes, I felt very old. Jude was right. Jason was intense. Ever since he'd appeared in my life, everything had been intense.
That was why I liked Jude so much. He made me feel normal, like a regular teenage girl again. One who thought about parties and boys and make-up. I used to think that kind of stuff was shallow, but now I wished like hell it was all I thought about. I missed it. I felt like my innocence had been stolen or something.
Thanks to Jude, the six hours of my shift went by pretty quickly. Afterwards, we sat outside of the theater, drinking huge sodas (one of the perks of working at movie theater). I was waiting for Jason to pick me up. We only had one car, and I hadn't wanted to monopolize it. Jude was just hanging out with me.
"You wanna go to that party at Rachel Kline's next weekend?" he asked.
"God," I said. "I'm not sure if I ever want to drink again."
Jude laughed. "I've heard that before."
"Hey!" I said. "I don't drink that much."
"You can hold your own, girl," said Jude, with a touch of admiration.
I rolled my eyes. "I just like to have fun. Is that so wrong?"
"You are fun," said Jude. "That's why I like you so much."
I'd always been such a goody-goody back in West Virginia. Now that I was free, I was able to make my own decisions. Hallam thought I was a teenage alcoholic, but then, Hallam didn't have a very high opinion of me. I was over-sexed. I drank too much. I didn't study enough. He was like the father I never wanted. Sometimes, I thought about packing up and moving to New Jersey to live with my grandmother. She had custody of my younger brother, Chance. But I didn't really think that Jason would be welcome, and there was no way I'd go anywhere without Jason. So I put up with Hallam, because I had to.
"Well, Jude," I said, "you're kind of fun, yourself."
"Kind of?" he said. "I am a blast, and you love it."
I laughed. Jude was a blast.
"So, party, then?" he asked.
"Maybe," I said. "I'll ask Jason if he wants to come. He might have to work, though."
Jude raised his eyebrows.
"Jason can come, right?"
"Keep him on a leash. He can't beat anybody else up."
I sighed. "I can't believe he did that."
"He was protecting you," said Jude. "It's sweet and all, and I understand, but didn't he get in a fight at school last week?"
"Yeah," I said, inwardly groaning. Jason had anger issues. "Speaking of Jason, where the hell is he?" He was at least ten minutes late.
"Call him," said Jude.
"I'll give him another minute or two," I said. "You don't have to wait if you don't want."
"Are you kidding? Of course I'm going to wait with you. I wouldn't let you sit outside the theater by yourself."
"Thanks," I said. But I remembered that earlier that day Jason had called Jude a jerk, and I wondered if it was a good idea for Jude to be there when Jason pulled up.
I scolded myself. It wasn't like Jason just started punching people for no reason. He had to be provoked. The guy he'd beat up last week at school for instance, had been threatening some poor freshman girl and being really vulgar. To Jason's credit, he hadn't started the fight. He'd asked the guy to cut it out. The guy had started swinging. It was just really stupid to try to fight Jason. Jason was too good at beating people up.
"Maybe I will call him," I said to Jude. I got my phone out of my purse and selected Jason's name out of my recently dialed log. Holding the phone up to my ear, I waited while it rang.
Jason picked up. "Azazel," he said.
"Hey," I said. "Are you coming to pick me up?"
"Crap," he said. "What time is it?"
I told him.
"I'm sorry," he said. "We've got a little situation here."
My heart started to race. A situation? It was the Sons, wasn't it? What had happened? "What?" I said, serious now.
"It's Lilith," he said.
Copyright (c) 2009 Valerie Chambers