Authors: C. L. Stone
abriel backed off an inch. I wasn’t thinking about it, but then felt his hand on the small of my back, sliding down and touching the hem of my underwear.
I blushed again, looking back at him, confused. Did he want me to move?
His eyes were on my butt. I understood then. I was wearing the heart underwear he had commented on earlier. Now my cheeks were really too hot. I hadn’t expected him to see that.
His fingers traced the edge of the panties. “Hidden heart...” His eyes drifted up, until the deep crystal blue pools caught mine and I found myself unable to reply.
His eyes drifted down again, stopping at my mouth. The shirt he’d pulled from the dresser dropped to the floor.
I twisted, until my back was against the door. “Gabriel?”
He breathed out slowly, his hands catching my wrists until they were pinned to the door. His head lowered, his eyes closed.
His lips found mine.
The Ghost Bird Series
The Other Side
Written by C. L. Stone
Copyright © 2015 C. L. Stone
Published by Arcato Publishing
All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
Books by C. L. Stone
From The Academy
The Ghost Bird Series
Friends vs. Family
Forgiveness and Permission
Drop of Doubt
Push and Shove
House of Korba
The Other Side of Envy
The Healing Power of Sugar (October 2015)
The Scarab Beetle Series
Accessory (Summer 2015)
Other Books by C. L. Stone
A PEEK INSIDE THE ACADEMY
was spending the night at Silas’s house when he got a call that there was a job, and they wanted me to go along. The sun wasn’t yet up over the tree line as we left his apartment. As we got in the car and drove, he filled me in on some of the details. “But I need you to promise if you’re coming with me, you’re not to ask any questions. Just listen and watch.”
“Okay,” I said. I yawned, and stretched. After homecoming and Halloween, the boys and I had been on a slower schedule: school work and the diner only. We also had Gabriel’s birthday coming up, and while I had wanted to go with Victor and Luke to the store to pick something out for him, a job cropped up this morning and we had to go. “But where are we going?”
He pursed his lips and then changed lanes to get onto the highway, heading toward downtown Charleston. “We’re meeting Kota, Victor and Nathan. I think there might be more, but I’m not sure.”
“Where are they?”
“There’s a run-down building where a bunch of kids are hiding out. They think they’re runaways but it’s hard to tell.”
“Why do they need you?”
“Because they’re Mexican,” he said. “I sort of look the part.”
“Oh,” I said quietly and slid a look at him as he focused on driving.
His black hair, olive complexion and perhaps some of his features made him a passable Mexican descendant. He was tall, though, and very broad in the shoulders. He towered over me and other kids at school. He was even starting to fill in his faux school uniform jacket to the point that Gabriel had to order a new set for him. Silas was as dangerous as a stuffed animal, but thinking back to when I first met him, I’d been intimidated by his size. He was handsome, yes, and sweet, but anyone looking at him for the first time might be nervous.
Still, if Mr. Blackbourne thought it was okay, perhaps I needed to listen. I sank back, looking out the window. “Mr. Blackbourne wants me to go along?”
“He thinks since you look nice they may be more responsive to you if they won’t talk to me.”
I wasn’t sure how to take the compliment. I was shy and wasn’t sure what help I could be with a group of runaways. I reached back to fix my sandy blonde hair, the color was what Gabriel often call chameleon because it looked different under different lighting. I twisted it back up into my hairclip. It was starting to grow out, allowing me to pull back most of it away from my face like I used to be able to do before Gabriel cut it. “Was this the job you were called back for?”
“Is this what you do?” I asked. “I mean, what you’ve done when you’ve gone out on missions? Talk to runaway kids?”
“No. I do other things, too.”
I stared at him for a while as he focused on driving. I wasn’t sure if he was allowed to say what it was, so I left it alone. “It’s hard sometimes,” I said. “I mean, I know I can’t ask too much...”
“I’d tell you more,” he said, glancing at me before returning his eyes to the road, “but to be honest, I’m not sure how much I can say.”
“Because you have to keep it a secret,” I said. “I understand.”
“I don’t really know where you are with us,” he said. He turned his face to me, looking at my eyes. “Mr. Blackbourne wants you in. Kota wants you out. Not out of the family, but you know. Kota’s protective. It’s because he’s the male with two women he looks after. He wants to keep them out of danger. He’s reluctant to put you in the same danger he puts himself in.”
“Shouldn’t I make the decision?”
“Yes, but we’d have to vouch for you. If we’re divided on it, we’ll…” He pursed his lips and shook his head. “See, I can’t say it.”
There were some complicated rules. “So Kota has to agree before I’m allowed in?”
“We all do,” he said. “Your home team, I guess you’d call it. We’d be responsible, so we all have to be in agreement. Kota’s not the only one to think we shouldn’t let you in, either. I think Nathan’s hesitant on it, too. Maybe North. It’s hard to tell with him. One day he says it’d be okay and the next he’s saying it’s not a good idea.”
“So I have to convince all of them I could?”
Silas focused on the road and remained quiet for a long time. “You don’t have to,” he said in a deeper tone. “You don’t need us all to agree to be accepted into the Academy, just that we think you’d be good material, which you are. I’d prefer, though, if you waited. If you’d wait for all of us to agree fully that you should be included.”
I understood there must be something more to the rules, something I wasn’t seeing, to get into the Academy. However, I agreed with him about wanting the others to be okay with it.
“If you want in,” he said.
“I think I want to.”
“You should be sure.”
“It’s hard for me to tell if I want in because
in there or because I want to be part of it, but I’m pretty sure it’s both. I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to say it was partially because of you all.”
“It can be both,” he said. “Did they tell you the first rule of the Academy?”
He nodded. “What’s a better reason than if you feel connected to us, and share our causes? The whole group is centered around family. Why not join for family?”
I curled up tighter in the seat, looking out the window. Silence fell between us. It was a lot to think about.
And yet, it wasn’t. I
. I felt it inside of me. Knowing about the Academy now, about the things they did, and how they felt so strongly about what they did was enough for me. It was also in every time I participated in a job with them, and felt exhilarated after. I did want into the Academy. What else would I do with my life? Could I keep a normal job later and ignore the thought of the Academy out there somewhere aspiring to some better purpose?
But that meant I had to convince the others to let me in. Kota, Nathan and North. Silas hadn’t mentioned the others. I thought Victor was on my side. What about Gabriel and Luke? What about Dr. Green? How did they feel?
It meant I had to spend more time with each of them. I needed to figure out which ones were happy with the idea, and if they weren’t, find a way to convince them I should join.
Mr. Blackbourne had said the same thing. My heart started to beat harder in my chest, as I realized that he had been right, and that I’d need his help to fix this. I had to trust someone who could help me do it right, and since Kota wasn’t keen on the idea of me joining... I needed Mr. Blackbourne’s help to figure out what to do to convince the others.
As Silas drove, I slipped my phone out of my pocket and typed a quick message.
Sang: Mr. Blackbourne, I know you’re busy, but sometime this weekend, could we talk?
His reply was instantaneous.
Mr. Blackbourne: Always. Is there something you need now? Are you okay?
The response rattled through me like a shiver. I was excited and relieved he didn’t think I was silly or call me out for disturbing him now when we were on our way to a mission.
Only I couldn’t talk about what I was thinking over the text message. We’d been told to limit Academy information going out over text messages or phone calls.
Sang: I’m fine. Just wanted to talk.
Mr. Blackbourne: On my way.
My eyes widened and I couldn’t think of a response other than to thank him. I didn’t know where he was and hadn’t meant to disrupt whatever it was he was doing. For some reason, I assumed he’d be where we were going. Now it felt like he was involved with something else and he was going to come and get me.
I squirmed in my seat, folding my arms over my stomach and staring out the window. He was going to show up in the middle of the job we were on and pull me out. Maybe he thought I was nervous about participating so he was going to step in.
My nerves worked into a frenzy. Talking to Mr. Blackbourne was the right decision, but doing so made me anxious.
Eventually Silas took an exit into North Charleston. He wound his way through a business district, where storefronts were either in severe disrepair or boarded up.
He checked his phone and tapped at the map on the screen. He drove on for a little longer, slowing in front of an old brick storefront. The faded signs said it used to be a hardware store. Cardboard and newspaper covered the front window. Part of the covered windows were painted over with graffiti.
Silas drove past the building and parked a couple of blocks away against the curb. He and I were unlatching our seatbelts when my door was flung open without me touching it. A person bent in, reaching for me.
Silas instantly grabbed my arm, tugging me toward him protectively.
Dr. Green popped his head in on my side, looking at me and then he smiled. “Good morning beautiful,” he said. His eyes were wide awake, playful. He must have gotten some good sleep recently. He usually looked tired.
“You shouldn’t sneak up on us,” Silas said, slowly releasing me. “I almost punched you.”
“You should look before you punch,” Dr. Green said. He winked at me and then held his hand out. “Come on, Sang. I only just heard you were coming along.”
“I didn’t know you were here,” I said and took his hand, stepping out onto the sidewalk beside him.
“If we can convince these kids to trust us, I should take them over to the hospital for physicals.” Dr. Green wore jeans and a yellow polo shirt, looking younger to me since he was dressed down. His sandy blond hair was windblown in the back. He closed the car door behind me and Silas joined us on the sidewalk. Dr. Green motioned to an alleyway. “Come on, we’re hiding over here. I just got here, too.”
I walked beside them. We turned a corner, and found Kota, Victor and Nathan waiting. They crouched on top of some old crates, heads huddled together as they talked.
Nathan was in jeans and a tank shirt with a light, red jacket, and wore a headset. Kota was in jeans and a long sleeve T-shirt, and had his phone out in his hand. Victor looked stylish but out of place in his Armani shirt and black slacks. He had his laptop on a crate in front of him, and wore a headset identical to Nathan’s.
Kota looked up and I could tell from that one glance he wasn’t completely comfortable with me being there, but he changed his expression quickly to a pleasant smile. “Good morning,” he said.