Title: Alive [Chapter Twelve]
Summary: Sage Alvi’s whole world turned upside-down when she lost her mother to cancer. Now forced to live with a father she never knew, she’s trying to navigate her way through a new home, city and school. To make things worse, her half-siblings hate her and she’s being bullied by the cool crowd. They say high school is hard, but this is just ridiculous.
I know that some of my readers are observing Ramadan during this month. This chapter has some sexually explicit material so please be aware of that if you choose to click the link.
Later that week Sage knocked on the door before entering her father’s private den. Considering he spent most of his time actively avoiding her, she was curious to know why he had summoned her for a meeting. “You wanted to see me?”
Thomas greeted her with a polite smile. “I did. Have a seat.”
Sitting across from him, she watched as he shifted in his chair. He appeared restless, which was not unusual for him.
“How’s your hand?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Okay.”
“I hope you haven’t been too bored sitting at home.”
“Don’t worry about me. I know how to keep busy.”
Clearing his throat, he grabbed the bottle of scotch that sat on one corner of his desk and poured himself a drink. “I wanted to discuss something with you.”
He took a sip of the liquid before pulling out a stack of brochures from one of the drawers below. At first glance, they seemed to be booklets for vacation resorts. Upon closer inspection, however, she realised they were pamphlets of boarding schools.
“I know you haven’t had an easy time at Belleville.”
The reason for this meeting finally sank in. “You want to send me away.”
“You make it sound like I’m forcing you to go to prison.”
He picked up one of the brochures and flipped through the pages. “Have you seen some of these places? Take this one, for example. It’s in Hawaii. Excellent location, great academic program, and they offer amazing extracurricular activities. Here. Take a look.”
She didn’t take the pamphlet he offered, instead glaring at him. “Why did you even bring me here? If you were planning to ship me off to a boarding school anyway, I could have just stayed home in Chicago. Why put me through all this?”
“I swore to Layal I would take care of you, and I believed you could be happy here. But it didn’t exactly work out the way I hoped.” His blue eyes bore into her. “I want things to be easier for you.”
The genuine emotion on his face surprised her as she was used to Thomas being distant.
“A fresh start might be exactly what you need.”
“It’s not that easy.”
It was a while before Thomas broke the ensuing silence. “I thought you would be pleased to leave Belleville.”
How was she supposed to explain her reasons when she had a hard time believing them herself? Loneliness had taken over her life after Layal’s death, making her feel alone and isolated in this strange new place, until Aidan forced his way into her heart, forging a connection so intimate it left her reeling.
Although Aidan could be frustrating at times, often deliberately provoking her just to get a rise out of her, and possessed a dark side which was both intriguing and worrisome, there was also a sweetness to him that made her heart ache. He was unlike anyone she had known before, strong but vulnerable, funny, loyal, and rivetingly beautiful in a way that had nothing to do with his looks. Her friends often lamented about how hot Aidan was, but on account of his vicious treatment of her earlier she hadn’t been attracted to him. After getting to know him, however, she wanted him with an intensity that was almost terrifying. Just the thought of him made her stomach flutter, set her heart racing. He left her breathless with excitement, filled her with hope, and when she was with him the loss of her mother didn’t hurt as much – a fact she still felt guilty about.
“Will you at least think about it?”
Thomas’s voice brought her out of her reverie. “I will.” She was about to leave when her father reached into the inside pocket of his suit and pulled out a tiny jewelry box.
“This is for you.”
Hesitation surged through her about accepting a gift from him, it seemed too intimate a gesture, but seeing the unexpected gleam of excitement in his eyes, she was reluctant to disappoint him. She opened the box. Lying inside was a replica of her mother’s stolen necklace.
“I hope you like it,” Thomas said.
Sage glanced up at him. “How did you know to get the same one?”
“I’m not sure what you mean.”
“I never wore it after I moved here. You couldn’t have known what it looked like.”
“You described it to me at the hospital. Besides, it’s an infinity symbol. They all look the same.”
“No, they don’t. They might be similar but there are differences. But this one is exactly like mom’s.” Although Layal never revealed who had given her the necklace, Sage had always known it was very special to her mom. Often a soft smile would cross Layal’s face when she played with it, reminiscing about happier moments. Until now Sage had assumed it was probably a keepsake from her grandparents, but now a sinking realisation set in. “Was it you? Were you the one who gave her the necklace?”
When Thomas finally answered, his voice was cold once again. “Yes.”
Her face crumbled. “I can’t believe this. You knew I wasn’t lying, but you still accused me of imagining things. When I begged you for help, you did nothing!” Her tone quivered as she stood up to confront him. “How could you do that? How could you be so pathetic?”
“Do not speak to me like that. I am your father, Sage.”
“No, you’re not!” She threw the box back at him. “You’re nothing to me.”
Tears streaming down her face, she ran out of his office.
Sage grabbed a backpack from her closet and started filling it with clothes, not even bothering to look at the items as she stuffed them in the bag. There was a lump stuck in her throat but she refused to give into the tears lest they slowed her down.
Disgust washed over her when she thought back to her conversation with Thomas. All this time she had been desperate to believe she was the product of a casual fling between Layal and Thomas, a lie that was much easier to accept than the realisation her mom had genuinely loved a weak, unworthy man incapable of fighting for anything he believed in. Layal had held onto that necklace even after Thomas had abandoned her, even after loving him had cost Layal her whole family. She raised Sage alone, with no support from her family or Thomas while he had simply moved on with his life. Like her mom hadn’t mattered at all. Even if she had, Sage mused bitterly, he wouldn’t have done anything about it.
Sage couldn’t stay here, not anymore. She couldn’t bear to look at the pathetic man who had destroyed her mother’s life.
Moving at a fast speed, she was almost done packing when the phone rang. Glancing at the screen, she froze. It was Aidan calling. Aidan. Fuck. He was at the school dance right now, same one she wasn’t allowed to attend thanks to her suspension from Belleville. He was supposed to come over after the dance but in her haste to get the hell out of here, she’d forgotten all about him.
As the phone continued to ring, she sat back on her bed, clutching the cell to her chest. How was she supposed to tell him she was getting ready to leave, leave this place, this city, leave him? And could she really do that, now that some of the angry fog had lifted and she had a chance to think about it? But no, she had to. She had to, because staying here would be a betrayal to her mom.
After a few minutes, she sent him a text:
“On my way to the airport. Will text you once I get there. Meet me in an hour?”
As expected, he started calling her after receiving the message but she didn’t pick up. Grabbing her bag, she turned off the lights and left the pool house.
It was a little after midnight and the airport was practically deserted. The flight to Chicago wasn’t scheduled until tomorrow; Sage figured she could stay here till then. Aidan would be here in half an hour, the thought of which filled her with dread, but she resolved to stay strong. It had to be done. There was no other choice. Besides, she needed to give him the car keys or Thomas and his family would assume she had stolen one of their cars.
She was staring off into space several minutes later when Aidan sat down next to her. At first there was silence between them, with her gaze deliberately focused on the floor and his boring into her. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, he spoke.
“What are you doing here?”
“Leaving,” he repeated the word. “Why?”
“Because I realized how much of an asshole Thomas is tonight, and I just can’t stay here anymore.”
She expected him to yell, scream, maybe even blow up at her. He did nothing. When she finally turned to look at him he had leaned forward and was staring straight ahead, still dressed in the suit he wore to the dance.
“You’re all that I think about,” he said after a while. “What you’re doing, how you’re feeling, if you’re okay, if you’re thinking about me too. You’re in my head every minute that I’m awake and I can’t get you out. I’ve tried, but I just can’t.”
She reached out to hold his hand but he waved it away, still refusing to look at her.
“I’ve never felt like this before and I hate it. I hate it. But I can’t help it.”
“I tried to fight it, you know. Told myself I just wanted to fuck you, nothing more, that it was a stupid crush, that you were a bitch, that the only reason I was even interested was to get back at Cat. Every reason I could think of, I used it to not feel anything for you… but it didn’t matter. I couldn’t stop.”
“This isn’t about you. I wish I could stay-”
“Here I am, a fucking idiot, chasing after you, making plans on what we’re going to do after high school, all this time believing you felt the same way about me. But I was deluding myself, wasn’t I?”
He finally met her gaze and her chest tightened in response. His eyes were red, brimming with unshed tears, filled with anguish and hostility. “You’re the most important person in my life but I mean so little to you that you couldn’t even bother to talk to me about this?”
“It’s not like that. I do care about you!” she insisted, grabbing his arm.
“Just not enough to stay.” His lips twisted into a cruel sneer. “You want to run? Fine. Go. Fuck off. But I hope you’re fucking miserable for the rest of your life.”
He stood up. Before she could stop him, he started walking away. Grabbing her backpack, she hurried after him as he strode out of the airport and towards the parking lot. “Aidan, wait!”
He refused to slow down his pace.
“Aidan, stop! Please. Let me explain.”
Almost at his car, Sage had to fling her backpack at him to finally get his attention. He stopped moving, giving her just enough time to catch up to him, only to have him circle around in one quick motion and catch her off-balance. “What?” he demanded angrily, clutching her arms. “What do you want from me? You wanted to leave, so go! Why are you torturing me now?”
He towered over her, furious, angrier than she had ever seen him before. She desperately wanted to comfort him, explain to him that he was wrong and did matter to her, but she knew he wasn’t in the mood to listen. Not right now.
“What? What the hell do you want?” he gritted through clenched teeth.
Curling her fingers around his head so he can’t escape, she closed her mouth over his, determined to show him how much she cared. Her lips moved over his, possessive and demanding, kissing him with a depth of passion that surprised her.
One minute she was the one in control, the next Aidan had her trapped against the side of his car, his mouth roving over hers. A guttural moan escaped his lips, echoing her own frustrations.
She wanted to touch him, feel him, press her hands on his bare body and taste every inch of his skin. He was hers, the one who mattered more than anyone else, and maybe he didn’t believe it but she would convince him of it until there was no doubt left in his mind.
His body was hard against hers, his breath labored as he traced his lips along her jawline, nipping her skin, his one hand slipping between her legs while the other clutched her hair. Just as frantically, she pulled apart his jacket. Some of the buttons dropped to the ground, making a soft thud noise. Suddenly snapping out of his daze, Aidan took a step back, his arms still on either side of her as he panted for air, his eyes piercing into her.
“Don’t,” she whispered, trying to pull him closer. “Don’t stop.”
“You’re trying to fuck with my head again. I’m not going to let you do that to me.”
“That’s not what I’m doing!”
“Then what is this?” he bit out, his hazel eyes filled with hatred. “’Thanks for being a sucker, guess I’ll let you pop my cherry? Or is this more of a goodbye thing?”
“Stop it!” she screamed, her temper finally getting the best of her. “I should have talked to you, I know, but I can’t stay at that house, not after knowing that bastard ruined my mother’s life.” Tears gathered in her eyes as the words slipped out in a mad rush. “My grandparents kicked her out, they were Muslim and she had shamed them by getting pregnant. She was alone, she had no one to turn to, because of him! But she was still in love with Thomas! In love with him! He was the one who gave her that damn necklace and she held onto it like it was the most precious thing in the world. He was a guy who fucked her, dumped her, and then went back to his regular life and she still pined after him. How the hell am I supposed to live with him knowing that? Tell me!”
The angry expression on Aidan’s face softened.
“He hurt my mom so much,” she cried. “I can’t stay with him.”
“Sage, you don’t what happened between them. You’re just filling in the blanks the way you think things went down. For all you know, she dumped him.”
“You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
“Neither do you! None of us do, because whatever happened was between them. The only thing that matters is that she wanted you to live with him in the end. That was what she wanted. So why are you fighting her last wishes?”
“Because I…” Her voice crumbled. “I feel like I’m betraying her.”
“Why?” He cradled her face. “Because you’re alive? Because you’re moving on with your life? Don’t you think she would have wanted that for you?”
“I guess. Maybe.”
“She’s gone, Sage. But you’re still here. Stop choosing her, choose yourself.” He pressed his forehead against hers, his voice dropping to a tender whisper. “Choose me. Choose us. Please.”
Tears streamed down her face. He kissed them away, kissed her until she was a quivering mess, clinging to him.
Soon her brain was screaming for oxygen while her body desperately wanted more, but the reality of their current location – the frickin’ parking lot – sank in, drawing her out of the moment. “Aidan, stop.”
He didn’t say anything, tracing his mouth along her skin before his lips settled on the corner of where her neck and shoulders met. As he suckled the very sensitive spot, every nerve in her body came alive, her senses now heightened and tingling with delicious anticipation over what was to come next.
“Stop?” he murmured, peppering wet kisses up to her ear. His voice was a hoarse whisper, consumed with need, lust, yet also cockiness – the very qualities in him she found both attractive and frustrating. “Is that what you really want?”
“Someone might see us.”
“In that case.” His hand smoothed around the nape of her neck, his lips roving over hers with a feather-light touch, while the other unzipped her jeans. She shuddered against him, groaning into his mouth, as he delved beneath her panties, teasing her until he discovered the taut nub and rubbed his fingers over her clitoris with just the right amount of pressure to drive her crazy with desire. “Let’s give them a real show.”
The cool, balmy air did nothing to ease the sudden rush of heat that spread through her like wildfire. She writhed under his touch, aching for more as he caressed her, soon slipping his fingers into her wetness, thrusting them inside her, all the while whispering in her ear how much he wanted to taste her, fuck her. He said things that made her toes curl, did things that caused her knees to buckle, and she clung to him tighter. The feel of his warm skin under her touch was the only thing that kept her anchored to reality, and she didn’t ease her grip -couldn’t, really – because, without him, she would be lost.
He brought her to the brink of ecstasy, but before she could give into the sensation fully, his fingers paused, taunting her with the promise of heaven that was so tantalisingly within reach. Her eyes flew open, heady with desire, staring up at him with confusion.
“Swear you won’t leave me again.”
The vulnerability in his eyes gave her pause, evoking feelings of guilt, but then coherency sank in, bringing with it the realisation he was trying to manipulate her at a tender moment. “You’re an asshole, you know that?”
“Guess that’s a no?”
“I can’t believe you-” His fingers grazed over her clit again, stroking her ever so delicately, and the angry response died on her lips, instead turning into a guttural moan. “Aidan!”
He teased and taunted her, never quiet, always whispering, his voice as much of a turn-on as his hands, promising to do things to her that excited her and also made her blush – if she swore never to leave him again. Soon there was a subtle shift in his tone as he breathed she would never have to suck him off, or do anything to return the favour, that it would always be about getting her off and never about himself, that he would blow her mind in ways she couldn’t even imagine, but only if she never left him.
Although caught up in a haze of erotic pleasure, the insecurity laced in his words was a knife that cut through the fog, dragging her back to reality. “Aidan, stop. Please.”
He pulled his hand away. “What’s wrong?”
It took a few seconds for her to catch her breath before she was able to speak, and even then she had no idea how to voice her concerns. “Do you think I’m only with you because you’re good at… this?”
“At what?” A sexy smirk crossed his face. “Getting you off?”
She blushed. “Yeah.”
“Hey, it’s a god-given talent. Don’t over-think it, just enjoy it.”
Forcing herself to pull away – not an easy thing to do when he was nuzzling her neck – she stared into his eyes. “Come on. I’m trying to talk to you here.”
His jaw clenched in frustration. “As long as you’re with me, I don’t fucking care about why.”
“Really? It wouldn’t bother you if it’s only because of sex?”
“No, it wouldn’t.”
“Oh okay. Thank God you said that because I have to tell you I can’t stand you most of the time. You annoy the fuck out of me, and I think you’re a fucking pussy.” She faked a bright smile at him. “But I don’t have to fake giving a shit about you anymore now that I know you’ll get me off whenever I want. I can just close my eyes and pretend you’re someone else.”
His eyes filled with venom and hurt, he stepped closer, trapping her against the car. “Fuck you!”
“See? You do care. You should care.” She placed her hand on his chest, over the spot where his heart resided. “Yeah you get me hot, and I’m dying to sleep with you, but that’s not enough for me, Aidan.”
“Then what the hell do you want?”
“You. I want you, but not because you’re a human vibrator. I want you because you’re sweet when I don’t expect you to be, you’re helpful when I don’t deserve it, and you make me laugh when everything in my life is falling apart. Even when I’m pissed off and hell-bent on making things worse, you don’t give up on me.”
“I never will.” A shadow of a smile flirted across his face. “Tell me more about how awesome I am.”
“Oh, great. That ego of yours is going to be massive now.”
“Can you blame me? According to you, I’m pretty fucking perfect.”
“Not even close. Did I mention you can be a real asshole sometimes? And a stubborn jackass?”
He smirked “You’re only saying that because I don’t let you walk all over me. If I did you would have been bored as fuck and probably dumped me by now already.”
“Whatever.” She rolled her eyes. “I should have just kept my mouth shut and not said anything.”
“Come on, don’t be a suck. Tell me more about why you want to be with me.”
“Nope, not going to say anything else.”
“Please,” he cajoled her with an eager smile. “Just one more reason, that’s it. And I won’t bring it up again.”
“Yeah, yeah, I swear.”
Unable to resist his charming smile, she reached up to cup his face and pressed a gentle kiss on his lips. “After my mom died I felt so alone, but then you came along and everything changed. You’re my best friend and I think… I think I’m falling in love with you.”
He stilled in her arms, shocked, stunned by her words as much as she was. Up until this moment she hadn’t even realised that was how she felt, but now the truth was out there and there was no denying it.
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A/N – Thank you to all those reading, especially those wonderful people who have taken the time to share their feedback. Whether it’s through comments here or via Facebook messages, I truly appreciate the wonderful support you guys have given me.