Authors: Melissa Giorgio
He sighed deeply. “You’re very mean. I hope you know that.”
“I do. And I’m proud of it, too!”
“Okay, as long as you know,” Evan replied. “See you tomorrow, you big meanie.”
“Tomorrow,” I echoed. Gripping the phone tighter, I whispered, “Thank you, Evan.”
Even though he didn’t answer, I knew he’d heard me.
The next morning I woke early, my stomach already clenching with nerves. For a moment, I forgot
I was so nervous about, but then it all came back to me.
Rafe. We were going to try to help Rafe.
For a moment I lay there, my eyes squeezed shut as I sent a silent prayer out to whoever may be listening.
Please let this work; please let us help Rafe feel better. And please let us get through this day without anyone killing anyone else.
My phone started buzzing, and I reached over to grab it. “Hey, Phil, what’s up?”
“Just making sure we’re still on for today?”
“Yep. Everyone, surprisingly, agreed to come over. Even Alex. Although you might want to steer clear of her.” When we’d spoken last night, Alexandra hadn’t been thrilled when I said I was inviting Evan over, and she was even more upset when I mentioned Philip’s name. I knew there was bad history between them because of what had happened with her brother, Sam, but that made no difference to me. Philip was one of my closest friends now, and it was my damn house, so if I wanted him over, he was coming over. Alexandra had paused at that before laughing, telling me she could foresee me and her becoming good friends. When Rafe had smiled fondly, I
I was doing the right thing by having everyone over.
“Don’t worry, I always make a point to avoid her,” Philip replied. In the background I could hear Kain asking him a question, and Philip told him, “Alex.” He paused. “No, I don’t think you flirting with her will help the situation. She’ll probably just kick you in the balls and toss you outside.” Another pause. “
, she would. I don’t care how good-looking you are—I mean, how good-looking you
you are—No, I didn’t just say that—Will you shut up?”
I rolled my eyes. “Um, I have better things to do than listen to you and your boyfriend flirt, so I’m going to go, okay?”
“Bye, Phil.” I disconnected the call, sent Rafe a quick text telling him to stop by whenever he felt like it (the others were coming around noon), grabbed some clean clothes, and headed into the bathroom to take a shower.
By the time I made it downstairs for breakfast, Dad had already left for work. There was a folded piece of paper sitting by my empty glass. I flipped it open to see, “NO ORGIES” written in all caps and underlined thirty times.
Give me a break, Dad!
Shaking my head in amusement, I tossed the paper back on the table and fixed myself some cereal for breakfast.
I’d just finished eating when the bell rang. Rafe stood on the porch, his hands stuffed in the pockets of his jacket. I let him in, kissing him softly on the lips before pulling away to assess him. He looked a little nervous, which was expected, but the dark shadows under his eyes that had been present since I’d told him about his parents had faded somewhat. Had he slept well for once? Maybe talking about it had helped take some of the weight off his shoulders.
Rafe slipped out of his coat and hung it on the rack by the stairs before slipping an arm around my waist and pulling me in for another kiss. Right before our lips met, he paused and asked, “Your dad isn’t here, right? I didn’t see his car, but you never know with him. He could pop up at any moment.”
Laughing, I said, “Nope, he’s not here. Neither is Chloe. We can talk about anything without worrying about them overhearing stuff they shouldn’t be hearing.”
“Right now, I’m not interested in talking.” He closed the distance between us and I melted into his embrace, wrapping my arms around his neck.
“Maybe,” I said, talking between his kisses, “we should tell the others to forget it and just spend the day doing this…”
At the mention of the others, the light died in Rafe’s eyes, and he pulled away. Exhaling loudly, he shook his head. “No. This was a good idea. We should all talk…”
I rested my hand on his chest, feeling his heart racing beneath the fabric of his shirt. “It’s going to be okay, Rafe. They’re our friends. They care about you. All of them.” I didn’t say his name, but I knew Rafe knew I was referring to Evan. “I don’t want you dealing with this stuff by yourself, because you’re not alone. Maybe you think you’re bothering us with your problems, but you’re not. This is what friends do. We help each other.” I tugged him closer to me. “But because I’m your girlfriend, I get to do other things to help you.”
Rafe smiled. “Oh, yeah? Like what?”
“Hmm, I think I need to show you—” The doorbell rang, and I frowned. It wasn’t even eleven yet! After detangling myself from Rafe, I opened the door to see—
Evan halfway down my walkway, heading for his car.
I fumed, ripping open the front door and stepping onto the porch. “
are you going?”
Evan froze. He was hunched over, his head down, as he slowly turned around to face me. He winced when Rafe joined me on the porch, draping his jacket around my shoulders. I shoved my hands into the sleeves gratefully; it was freezing out, and standing around yelling at this moron while I turned into a block of ice wasn’t high on my list of things to do today.
“Oh, hey,” Evan said, lifting his hand in a weak attempt at a wave. “I realized I was early, so I was going to leave and come back lat—”
“Evan Underwood, I swear if you don’t march your butt back up these stairs and into my house, I will
you!” Without waiting to see if he actually listened to me, I turned around and went back into my toasty house. Rafe followed, and I swore he was chuckling, but when I looked at him, his face was blank. I shrugged out of Rafe’s jacket and handed it back to him, crossing my arms over my chest and tapping my foot against the floor as I waited for Evan to haul his ass inside.
He came. Slowly, and with a pained look on his face, but he opened the door and stepped into the front room, so there was that, at least. I left the door unlocked, knowing Philip and Kain would show up soon.
I studied him. While I’d expected Evan to be a hot mess, much like the night he’d betrayed us, with wild hair and bloodshot eyes, it actually seemed as if he’d made an effort to be presentable. His golden hair was pulled back into a neat ponytail, there were no rips on his jeans that I could see, and his black shirt was even tucked into his pants. Whoa. Who was this person and what had he done with the real Evan?
Unless… I fought against the urge to grin. Was he trying to impress Alexandra? No, it couldn’t be.
Holy crap, I had to bite down hard on the inside of my cheeks to stop myself from laughing.
This is serious, Gabi! Pull yourself together!
Okay, deep breaths.
After I’d successfully managed to control myself, I turned my attention back to the two boys. Rafe had become fascinated with a magazine on the table and was thumbing through the pages.
Evan, meanwhile, stared at a spot on the wall. “So,” he said.
“Actually, it’s good that you’re early,” I told him.
Evan blinked. “It is?”
“Yes, because now it gives you and Rafe a chance to talk.” I guided Rafe to the couch. “Sit.” Frowning, he sat. I fixed Evan with a look. “
After a moment’s hesitation, he sat in the recliner adjacent to the couch. As I joined Rafe on the couch, I noticed that they still weren’t looking at one another.
Or speaking. God, must I do
“How have you been, Evan?” I asked. Rafe let out a snort and I glared at him. “
“Are we really doing this?” He returned my glare with a cool gaze of his own. “We’re just going to sit around and make small talk?”
“I should have brought a platter of cheeses for us to snack on.” Evan looked like he regretted the words the moment they left his mouth, especially when Rafe started to rise.
“Rafe—” I began.
Rafe gestured toward Evan. “Clearly this is a joke to him, so why should I sit here and pretend like nothing’s wrong—”
“It’s not,” Evan said quickly, standing as well. He held his hands out in front of him, motioning for Rafe to sit. When he didn’t, Evan added, “It’s not a joke. You’re right. I don’t know why I said that. Probably because I’m nervous as hell.”
Much to my relief, Rafe slowly sat back down next to me on the couch. “Why are you nervous?” he asked.
“Because I came here expecting you to run me through with your sword,” Evan said. He went to comb a hand through his hair but jerked it away, as if he suddenly remembered he’d actually, you know, brushed it before coming here. “And you know what? I wouldn’t blame you if you did. I screwed everything up, and I deserve your anger.
“But not,” he continued in a quiet voice, “your silence.”
Rafe’s hands curled into fists. “I’m not going to scream at you, Evan.”
“That’s not what I meant. I want you to
to me. I haven’t seen you in two months—”
“And whose fault is that?” Rafe demanded. “I came home from the hospital to find your stuff missing. Where are you staying, anyway?” I was glad he asked because I’d been wondering the same thing myself.
Scratching the back of his neck, Evan looked wildly uncomfortable. “I have a place.”
“Oh my god,” I said, watching as Evan fidgeted. Dread began pooling in my stomach. “You’re staying with a hooker, aren’t you?”
Evan almost fell off the recliner. “No—of course I’m not! What the hell, Gabs? Why would you even
I traded glances with Rafe, who seemed mildly amused at Evan’s reaction. “Um, because it’s
, Evan. Nothing you do would surprise me anymore.”
He buried his face in his hands and groaned. “I’m staying at the Chens’ apartment, okay?”
There was dead silence for a beat, and then Rafe and I started speaking at the same time.
the Chens?” Rafe’s eyebrows rose high up on his forehead.
“You’ve been in touch with Alex? I thought she wasn’t talking to you!” I exclaimed.
“Guys, guys!” Evan held his hands up again. “Shut up and let me talk. God, you two.” He rolled his eyes. “I didn’t say I was staying
them, I said I was staying at their apartment. It’s the one they used here when they came to visit Alex on weekends. They decided to loan it to me after I helped bring Alex back.” Slumping back in the recliner, Evan raised his eyes to the ceiling. “I refused at first, but I really didn’t have a place to stay. That sorta happens when everyone hates you, you know? Sure, I could have stayed with my uncle, but he’s two hours away and I didn’t want to be far away in case…” Evan spread his hands in front of him. “So I agreed and have been crashing there. I’m not proud of myself, but I didn’t have a choice.” He gazed at each of us in turn. “There? You happy you asked now?”
I chewed on my lip. “It’s better than a hooker, I guess.”
?” Evan shook his head. “Anyway, I answered your question, Rafe. Now how about you start talking to me?”
“I have nothing to say to you—”
“Really? That’s how you’re going to do it?” Evan asked. “This is just like the bullshit you pulled five years ago, when they died. You pushed me away, refusing to let me help—”
Rafe launched himself to his feet again. “Do
talk about them—” He cut off midsentence, grabbing his side and wincing.
I went ice-cold with fear. “Rafe!” Gently, I helped him sit down and rested my hand over his. Rafe shut his eyes and concentrated on breathing steadily. My heart hammered as he struggled, clearly in pain, and I wished I could do something, anything, to help him through this.
Stupid useless hands! What’s the point in having this power if I can’t even use it when I need to?
Evan pressed his lips together tightly. “The spell is still hurting you.” He didn’t voice that as a question, but as a statement.
Rafe’s eyes snapped open. “That’s none of your business.”
“Rafe, come on,” I said. “He deserves to know.”
“Because I’m your best friend, you ass,” Evan snarled, furious. He joined us on the couch; Rafe made a face, but didn’t move away. “I bet you haven’t gone to the doctor since then, right? You’re just going to tough this out, like you do with everything else. Like with your parents. Like with me.”
Rafe’s green eyes narrowed to slits. I couldn’t tell if it was because he was in pain, or because he was two seconds away from slamming his fist into Evan’s face. “You want to know what I think about you, Evan? I think you’re a selfish asshole. You didn’t listen to a word I said about Gabi, because all you cared about was using her powers to save Alex. You never saw Gabi as a person, just as a means to get what you wanted, and I will never, ever forgive you for that. I don’t even care about me—she got hurt because of you. What if we weren’t there? What if Nina had killed her?” He shifted closer to me, almost unconsciously, because he was staring at Evan the entire time he spoke. “You almost made me lose the person I care about most in this world. After what happened with my parents, how could you do that to me? How could you do that and still call yourself my best friend?”
I was blinking really fast to keep my tears in check. Rafe probably didn’t realize the impact his words had on me, probably forgot I was sitting next to him, listening to everything he said, but I knew I would never, ever forget it. Especially when I’d come just as close to losing him, too.
“I’m not going to make excuses for what I did,” Evan said quietly. He sat hunched over, his arms resting on his knees, his eyes trained on the floor. “It was wrong, plain and simple. I woke up after she healed me and I suddenly had a chance to save Alex, so I took it. I told you I was going to check the building for other demons, but instead I called Charles. I regretted it the moment I hung up the phone—no, I regretted it as I was talking to him, but by then, it was too late. I couldn’t take it back. I desperately wanted to take it back, but I couldn’t.”
“And then you pretended nothing was wrong.” Rafe stopped clutching his side to entwine our fingers. He was holding me tighter than he normally would, but I didn’t dare pull away. I understood why he was gripping me so firmly. “For almost two months, you kept your dirty deed a secret. You hung out with us. You talked with Gabi. You knew you had sentenced her to a terrible fate, and you pretended like nothing was wrong!”
Evan nodded. “You’re right. I did do that. I kept pretending that maybe Charles hadn’t believed me, that maybe he thought I was being an ass and playing a trick on him, but then, right before Christmas, I’m told the Chens are moving Alex to HQ in preparation for the Soul Healer’s visit.” His blue eyes were glassy as he locked gazes with me. “And suddenly everything went to hell.”
“But you continued with the plan,” Rafe pointed out. “You abducted her—”
“I know! I know what I did! Do you think there’s been a moment during these past two months where I haven’t thought about the shit I put her through? Put you
through,” Evan corrected himself. “I betrayed my best friend and nearly got him killed in the process. And for what?” He laughed humorlessly. “Everyone hates me now.”
“I don’t,” I said quietly. Rafe frowned, but I ignored him.
And, in a way, I understood why he’d done what he did. I still wish he’d asked me to heal Alexandra, rather than going behind my back, but if I were in his place and found someone who could help Rafe heal the wound in his side, wouldn’t I do whatever it took to fix him?
Wouldn’t Rafe do the same thing for me?
“I get that you hate me,” Evan said. “But I’m an idiot, right? That’s what you’re always telling me. And since I’m such a dumbass, I refuse to believe this is it for us, Rafe. I’m not giving up on this friendship, and I don’t care if you think you are. I am going to make you like me again.”
My mouth dropped open. “I don’t think that’s how it works—”
“You are an absolute moron,” Rafe said. “We could be ninety and living in the same retirement home and I would still hate you.”
Not to my surprise, Evan grinned. “No, I don’t think so. No one can resist my superpower: Evan Charm.”
is ‘Evan Charm’?” Rafe made a face when Evan started laughing.
“See, it’s already working! No one can resist it. No one!”
Rafe turned to me, a pained look on his face. “Why did you do this to me?”
“Because,” I said, “you needed this. You need him, Rafe. You can’t keep doing this alone.”
“I’m not alone. I have you.”
I patted his arm. “As sweet as that is, we both know you’re wrong. You need Evan in your life.”
“What does that say about me, if I need this idiot around?” He hooked a thumb toward the blond.
“Don’t you know?” I asked. “Having him around just makes you look even smarter!”
“You guys, I’m sitting right here and can hear every word you say. Why do you always do this? Say mean things about me when I’m still in earshot?”
“Because we’re hoping one day you’ll get a clue and change,” Rafe replied.
Evan arched a brow. “Me? Change? Where would the fun in that be?”
“And you wonder why I hate you.” Rafe groaned when he saw the huge, stupid grin I was wearing. “What is with that look?”
“Nothing. I’m just really happy for you.”
“Why? Nothing’s changed—”
“Keep telling yourself that,” Evan said. “I’ll move back in today, okay?”
“No, it’s not okay! I don’t want you back!” Rafe protested feebly. When Evan and I kept grinning, he gave up, burying his face in his hands. “This doesn’t mean things are back to normal. You did a horrible thing, Evan—”
“And I’ve been working on fixing it ever since,” Evan said. “Starting with saving your girl from being impaled by a giant spike.”
My boyfriend, still covering his face with his hands, began shaking his head. “You threw her into a wall!” His words came out muffled. “You gave her a concussion!”
Evan winced. “I don’t think I ever apologized for that, did I, Gabi?”
“Maybe?” I shrugged. “I had a concussion, so everything from that moment is a little bit fuzzy.”
“You’re doing this on purpose,” Evan complained. “Making me feel bad.”
“Is it working?” Rafe asked, almost eagerly.
“You wish. And don’t forget,” Evan said, pointing a finger at Rafe, “I saved your ass from that spell Nina stabbed you with.
“Actually, you helped
save him,” a new voice said. The three of us turned our heads in unison to see Kain, with Philip right behind him, standing in the doorway wearing a smug smile.