Home > Backdraft (The Secret Life of Trystan Scott #2)(8)

Backdraft (The Secret Life of Trystan Scott #2)(8)
Author: H.M. Ward


My hands hovered over the keyboard. I hesitated to post it. Trystan would know it was me. There was no way he wouldn’t, and since he didn’t answer anyone, what was the point? But I wanted to know. Maybe his way of dealing with life was better. Maybe a random hookup didn’t leave everyone feeling hollow inside. Maybe that was just me and I could get over it.

My pointer finger smacked the enter button hard. The key clicked and the message posted.



By the time Trystan was safe in his room, it was late. Out of habit, he grabbed the old laptop and turned it on. The machine made a hissing noise, followed by something that sounded like Cookie Monster munching gravel. It came from inside his hard drive, and Trystan knew the laptop wouldn’t last much longer, but the machine finally turned on. The screen flared to life and he checked his Facebook page, stopping by Mari’s page to look at her picture for a second, and then moving onto the Day Jones’ YouTube page. Although he vowed to stay away from it, he couldn’t. It was too insane how quickly it’d grown, how many people liked the song.

He didn’t read every post. Instead he read a handful of new comments. One post that was in bold type caught his eye. The rest of the comments were of the same vein, but this one was different. His heart clenched when he read it. It had to be Mari. It had to be. There was no way to know for certain, but he could feel it tugging on his gut like a guitar string. The girl who wanted every kiss to have profound meaning was asking for pointers on sleeping around? That didn’t make sense. It pained him, cutting through his core, like he’d been cleaved in half. Trystan’s breath was ragged, as he stared at the screen.

Answer her.

Trystan’s fingers twitched, dying to respond. He wasn’t sure if she was scolding him or asking him how to get started. A sick feeling crept up from his gut and lodged itself in his throat. He swallowed hard, trying to force it down, but it wouldn’t go away. Every part of him said that this was Mari, this was her question.

Trystan’s fingers tapped out a response on the keyboard. Carefully constructing his reply, he crafted each word so she’d know. His answer was plain and simple. There were no excuses or pleas, just the nak*d truth. Trystan’s finger hovered above the button. He wanted to click, he wanted to post the reply, but it was so risky. There were ways to track things back to him. He knew that, and with the number of people trying to find him, Trystan couldn’t click.

He deleted his post and closed the laptop, knowing that he had to wait until tomorrow. He’d ask her when he showed her what he was working on. The thought made him feel better. Lying back on his bed, Trystan pictured her face as he sang. The memory was burned into his brain and he loved it. Closing his eyes, he could see her face, her brown eyes filled with curious flecks of gold surrounded by a cascade of curls that were soft as silk.

Trystan closed his eyes and for once, fell asleep with a smile on his lips.


Trystan heard his dad moving around when he was finishing up in the shower. Damn it. He’d taken too long. Toweling off fast, Trystan pulled on a pair of tattered jeans and a tee shirt. His clothing had seen better days. He hid it by layering his shirts with a flannel or button down shirt. He let the front hang open, which still gave him that neatly messy look.

Before he could reach the door, his father’s voice rang in his ears, “I’ve got tickets to the hockey game this weekend. I thought me and you could go.” His voice sounded softer than usual. Trystan turned slowly, carefully, and looked his old man over. “It’d be like old times.”

“What old times were those?” he asked, knowing he shouldn’t.

Trystan’s dad looked down and sighed. He was wearing a gray suit with a jewel-toned blue tie. It brought out his eyes. Damn, they looked alike. It made Trystan’s skin crawl to think he was turning into his dad. He wanted nothing to do with him. Starting a new life somewhere else was a dream. He thought about it day and night. The only think holding him here was Mari. How many times had Trystan wanted to run? How many times did he nearly walk away and leave everything? Too many, he thought bitterly.

“Don’t be like that. I do the best I can. This was something I could do. Give me another chance, kid. I promise you—”

“Your promises don’t mean much. Not anymore. I’m not the little kid who used to wait for your approval. I gave up on you a long time ago. There’s no point in pretending... not anymore. As soon as I graduate, I’m gone and I’m never coming back.”

“Trystan... ,” Dad said, stepping toward him. It was hard to look his father over, hard to see how normal he seemed in the light of day. Wearing that suit, smiling that smile, he could be any nice guy, but Trystan knew better. He was the jaded drunk who’d hit him faster than he could blink.

“It’s okay, Dad. There’s no need to pretend anymore.”

His father look genuinely confused, “Pretend what?”

Trystan was so disgusted that he couldn’t even say it. Pretend you care about me—pretend you love me. Instead, he closed his eyes and shook his head. Trystan turned on his heel and left without another word.

By the time Trystan got to school, he was late. He sat down in homeroom, but Tucker didn’t say anything. No commentary on his tardy, no threat to dock his grade.

When the bell rang at the end of class, Tucker stopped him, “Mr. Scott.”

Trystan stopped. He stared straight ahead, not wanting to look at the man. It was like Tucker had radar for screwed-up students, and he was sniffing out what was wrong with Trystan. The thought made his skin grow cold and clammy. No one could know that part of his life. Ever. And Tucker was getting way too close to the truth.

Tucker waited for the other students to pass, “Want to tell me why you were late today?”

Trystan shrugged, “Had better things to do.”

Tucker hmmmfed, but didn’t say anything else about it. Instead, he said, “I’ll check on you and Mari later today. You’re a good kid, Scott, but you need to be careful. You’re walking the line and it’s too damn thin—too easy to fall on the wrong side.”

Trystan’s gaze lifted and met Tucker’s. He wanted to say, You don’t know what you’re talking about—you haven’t lived my life, but he was silent. Trystan nodded once and walked out, leaving Tucker watching his back as the room filled with the next class.

Trystan sat through his classes, not paying attention to anything. The lump in his throat didn’t abate last night. It didn’t fade while he slept. His concern over Mari’s question twisted into worry. What if she was really asking? What if she intended to sleep with someone she didn’t care about? What could he do about it?

Nothing, he thought, gripping his pencil so hard that it snapped. The crack was audible. Trystan ignored the looks of his classmates, including Seth who sat shaking his head next to him.

After the bell rang, Seth walked out next to him, “Thought you would have hit that last night, but obviously you didn’t. What happened to promising to stay away from her?” he said referring to Mari. “Do your promises mean nothing?” there was a joking quality to his voice, but it hit way too close to home for Trystan.

Trystan rounded on his friend, shoving Seth’s shoulders hard. Surprised by the sudden hostility, Seth flew back into the lockers, tripping several students in the process. When his back slammed against the metal doors, Seth’s face pinched with anger, “What the fuck, man?” Seth stood and walked back toward Trystan, shoving him back. Trystan tried to keep walking, but Seth wouldn’t shut up, “She’s nothing but a bitch,” he enunciated the word, spitting it at his friend’s back, “a tease,” he said it slowly, but Trystan still didn’t turn. Seth’s anger got the best of him and he added, “A little cun—” but before Seth could finish speaking, Trystan was on him.

The word made him snap. No one could call Mari that. Trystan threw his books to the floor and charged Seth, ramming his shoulder into Seth’s stomach. The two slammed into a group of lockers. Trystan’s fists punched into Seth’s sides, one after the other. Seth screamed at him, returning every punch, but Trystan was a better fighter. After years of beatings, he knew how to take a hit. His body moved, taking Seth’s shots in less vulnerable places or moving out of the way, so Seth’s fists missed Trystan entirely.

It didn’t take long for a group of kids to circle around them. They chanted fight, fight, fight.

Trystan thought that was stupid, standing around them in a circle and cheering them on to fight. What do they think we were doing? Dancing? Just as the thought entered his mind, Seth’s fist connected with his stomach. Trystan folded in half and rammed Seth with his shoulder. Neither of them could breathe. Blood dripped down Trystan’s lip and he wondered if it was his.

Before anything else could happen, Tucker stepped between them, yanking them apart. “Get to class!” Tucker yelled at the crowd. The kids groaned, slowly walking away when they realized there was nothing else to see. Tucker glanced at Trystan with a look of exasperation on his face, “Get to where you’re going, Scott. Seth, my room. Now.”

“You’re just gonna let Trystan walk?” Seth argued, following after Tucker but looking over at Trystan with malice. His broad shoulders were tense, the muscles in his arms still taut and ready to punch something. This wasn’t over. That much Trystan knew.

Tucker didn’t look back. He walked at a pace that was fast for him, forcing Seth to keep up and release some that anger burning in his body. He snapped over his shoulder, “Scott’s already taken care of; you on the other hand need some guidance. Not another word or I hand this mess over to the principle and you both get suspended. Rumor has it that one more suspension gets you expelled.” Seth groaned dramatically and trailed behind Tucker and out of sight.

Trystan headed straight for the stage, rage still flowing through his muscles. He couldn’t control himself. He’d never hit Seth like that before. They’d rough-housed, wrestled and that kind of thing, but this was a fight. Trystan threw punches not caring where they landed, as long as they did some harm. He couldn’t process what was happening. Up until then, Seth had been his best friend. The guy always had his back, but this was insane. It was like he was forbidding Trystan to be with Mari, like Seth would make him choose between them.

What kind of friend would do that? Maybe he missed something. Maybe it wasn’t what it looked like, because it looked an awful lot like jealousy—but that didn’t make any sense. Seth didn’t like Mari. Trystan’s arms were still tense. His fingers clenched over and over again trying to work it out, as he bounded up the stage stairs and walked behind the wing. It was dark, as usual. He made his way to the basement door and pulled it open.

Descending swiftly, Trystan stopped at the bottom to see Mari with her legs hanging over the end of the couch and her dark hair fanned around her beautiful face. The little white tee shirt she wore clung to her body. He watched her chest rise slowly, as she drew in a breath. Mari’s eyes were closed like she was daydreaming, thinking about something wonderful. The way her pink lips pulled up slightly at the corners gave her a ghost of a smile. Her foot swung and he was treated to a full smile, though he didn’t know the cause.

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