Vanished: A Bad Boy Second Chance Romance

BOOK: Vanished: A Bad Boy Second Chance Romance
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VANISHED

 

By Autumn Avery

 

Chapter 1

 

Ten Years Ago

 

Mia, age 16

 

              “Oh God, Mia. He’s looking at you again,” I hear Cassidy say from beside me as I grab my Algebra book from my locker. I know who she’s talking about already; I don’t even have to look. But I do. I turn to find Joey Mason eyeing me from across the hall. He’s been doing this for weeks now, but hasn’t said more than two words to me.

              “What is his problem?” Merrell chimes in. “Total stalker vibe.”

              He doesn’t even try to look away when I catch him staring. Joey isn’t one of the popular kids at Stonehill High, but there’s still something so arrogant about him, like he couldn’t care less about anyone here, like somehow we could all just disappear from the world and his life would keep on going unchanged. I don’t think he even has a single friend.

              I, on the other hand, have plenty. I’m one of the “popular girls,” part of the group of highly coveted sophomore girls that all the senior boys want to date. It’s okay. I like having an active social life, but the rest of the girls aren’t really that…deep. I’m always trying hard not to look bored when the conversation turns to celebrity gossip, rumors about boys, and whatever reality T.V. show is hot right now.               I’d much rather be at home curled up on the couch with a good book or working on one of my paintings. Or travelling the world, but that’s a dream that seems so far off right now.

              “What is his deal?” Cassidy says, sounding more and more annoyed.

              “I feel like he’s gonna like…kidnap you, Mia,” Merrell says. I laugh softly.

              “That could be fun. He
is
hot,” Cassidy says.

              “Yeah, like serial killer hot.” Merrell just isn’t having it. She doesn’t want to admit he’s cute. I mean, he
is
cute. He’s thin, tall for his age, with strong features that almost make him look dangerous. His eyes are intense, almost unsettling, but as I look at him, I am wondering why he hasn’t asked me out yet. It’s obvious he likes me. I mean…what else could it be?

              I burst into laughter, and just as I’m about to turn away, Joey makes a face like he’s disgusted by something. I stop in my tracks and frown at him. He notices, and grins at me as he turns away.

              “What…” I mutter to myself.

              Before I even know what I’m doing, I’m striding across the hall toward him.

              “Mia, wait!” Merrell snaps at me. But I don’t slow down. I march right up to him and tap him on his shoulder.

              “Excuse me?” I say in my bitchiest tone, crossing my arms across my chest as he turns around. I’d expected him to look surprised, or guilty, or caught out, but when I see his face, he looks…amused.

              “Yes?” he says, just as casual as ever.

              “What was that?”

              “What was what?” He’s playing dumb.

              “That! That right there! You gave me a look.”

              “What look?”

              “Don’t be an idiot. You gave me a look!”

              “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he says, turning back to his locker. I stare at his back as he packs his bag with books, all second hand and falling apart. I can’t believe he’s ignoring me like this; after standing there staring at me for five minutes, he’s just going to pretend like nothing’s going on? This has been going on for weeks, and I’ve had enough.

              “Look, do you—do you like me?”

              He stops and turns, still smiling, that cocky grin on his face. I suddenly feel like the dumbest girl in the world for even asking.

              “Do I what?”

              “Nothing—“ I say, turning to leave. But he calls after me.

              “Do I
like
you?”

              I stop in my tracks. That tone. As though it could be impossible. I whirl around and stride back to him, getting right in his face.             

              “What? Why is that so crazy? All you do is stare at me. I saw you staring at me now, you’ve been doing it for weeks!”

              He roars with laughter, and I feel myself blushing. It’s all I can do not to run away, but I know Cassidy and Merrell are watching me, and I don’t want this to turn into any more of a scene than it already is.

              “What’s so funny?!” I ask him, fists clenched at my sides.

              “You’re a Fleecer,” he says, naming me as one of the popular girls, so named because we like to wear fleece jackets a lot. “I don’t
like
Fleecers.” And with that, he slams his locker shut and walks away from me, leaving me standing there like an idiot. I’m stunned, and don’t know what to do for a moment, but I finally turn around and walk back to the girls.

              “What did he say?!”

              “What happened?!”

              “Nothing,” I say, rolling my eyes, trying to play it off. “He’s just a jerk.”

              “What did he
say
, Mia?!” Cassidy says, never able to let something go.

              “It doesn’t matter,” I say, turning to look down the hall as he vanishes around the corner.

              “But he likes you?” Merrell says, more of a statement than a question.

              “Well duh!” I say. The girls giggle and gossip, but I can’t. I can’t believe him! Yeah, so he’s cute and mysterious. But so what?

              He’s a jerk.

 

***

 

Two weeks later

 

              I’m sitting at my table in art working on my latest painting, a red cardinal atop a golden cage. I’ve been trying to finish it up for the last two weeks, but I just haven’t been able to concentrate, not with
him
in my class.

              Joey sits two tables away from me, just in my eye line when I work. He’s sketching something, and has been acting like I don’t exist since our confrontation in the hall. He hasn’t even been looking at me, and it doesn’t even seem like he’s doing it on purpose. It’s like he’s just completely forgotten about me, and I realize I’ve been missing the attention.

             
Don’t be stupid, he doesn’t even like you!
I find myself thinking as I dip my brush in some fresh paint and add some color to the sky.
What do you care if he’s looking at you or not?

              I look down at my painting and realize I’ve been staring at him while my brush works across my canvas, and I’ve completely ruined the cloud I’ve been working on. I sigh and set my brush aside and run my hands through my hair. I should have finished this piece by now, and the fact that Joey, a guy who doesn’t even like me but I can’t get out of my head, is the reason why, is just driving me crazy.

              I want to ball the whole thing up, throw it in the trash and start again. But that would be impulsive and stupid, and I pride myself on not being those things. Just as I’m about to get back to work, I hear the bell ring.

              “Okay, everyone,” Mr. Klein announces. “Pack up your things, anyone who has something left to dry go ahead and set it on the tables in the back.”

              I grumble and pick up my supplies and tuck them into my box. I lift my unfinished piece by the edges and carry it carefully to the back table. Brian sets his piece down, a painting of George Bush as a wizard, and I set mine beside his. I turn around and bump into something hard and unmovable. It’s Joey.

              My heart skips a beat as I look up into those dangerous, mysterious eyes of his. I’m frozen for what feels like an eternity before he speaks.

              “Not bad,” he says. I blink, stunned.

              “What?”

              “Not bad,” he says, sounding annoyed at having to repeat himself. “Your painting. I didn’t realize Fleecers had any talent beyond dating douchebags.”

              I don’t even know what to say. It’s like the most backhanded compliment ever; you’re a good artist, but you’re also a shallow bitch. I don’t even know what to say.

              “Wha—what—what do you care?”

              That wasn’t an ideal response. He smiles that smile of his, and even though I hate to admit it, the butterflies go crazy in my stomach. He simply shrugs, and as he turns away, he says, “I don’t.”

              I want to scream. I twist my lips into a scowl that makes my face hurt. My cheeks burn as I watch him walk away from me, something I’m now getting used to. My heart beats in my chest. I don’t know what this means. Why is he talking to me if he thinks I’m just some shallow bitch? He’s never dated a single girl from Stonehill, but walks around like he’s just obviously too good for any of us.

              On his way out, I see him toss something in the trash that looks like a crumpled up piece of canvas. As soon as he’s out the door, I rush over to it and snatch it up and smooth it out. When I see what he’s been drawing, I gasp.

              It’s me…he’s been sketching me. And it’s good. It’s really good. I’m frozen. My body won’t even move until I hear Shane’s voice behind me.

              “Let’s go, Mia.”

              “Sorry!” I say, almost jumping out of my skin as I move aside to let the rest of the class out.

              My thoughts are racing. Why has he been ignoring me, and why would he come and talk to me like that if he doesn’t like me? Why is he drawing me?! And how did I not know he was so artistic? I peek out the door and see him heading out the front doors.

              He’s a jerk. But why am I so intrigued?

 

***

 

One week later…

 

              He’s looking at me again. I feel like I’m getting whiplash trying to get used to his mood swings. I’m standing at my locker, twisting my lips, contemplating going over and chewing him out, when Cassidy and Merrell come over.

              “Look who’s back,” I say, nodding in Joey’s direction. He doesn’t turn away, but simply grins as the girls follow my eyes to him.

              “Stalker mode,” Merrell says.

              “Come on, he’s not that bad.” I surprise myself. All of a sudden, I feel very protective of him. I’m defending him, and I don’t even know why. It just felt natural.

              “Not that bad?” Cassidy chimes in. “What are you in love with him?”

              “No!” I say, instantly self-conscious. Of course I don’t
love
him.

              “Good. Because guess what?!” She has that tone in her voice like she’s about to tell me something really important, but is going to make me guess.

              “What?” I say.

              “Guess!” And there it is.

              “Come on, Cass, just tell me. I don’t want to guess.”

              “Brad is going to ask you out!” Merrell blurts out, clearly unable to contain herself.

              “Brad? Brad Meyers?”

              They both nod, unable to contain their excitement. But I understand why. Brad Meyers is the holy grail of guys at our school. He’s tall, he’s blonde, he’s the captain of the hockey team, and every girl in school has been fighting for his attention since he broke up with his ex-girlfriend Morgan last month. No one knows why, but rumor has it she cheated on him.

              “You’re joking,” I say. “No way.”

              “Way!” They’re both jumping up and down, and I look nervously over at Joey, who is leaning casually against his locker, smiling. I just know he’s thinking how stupid we all look, and I just wish they’d calm down.

              “Okay, okay, relax,” I tell them, grabbing them each by the arm. “How do you know this?”

              “Devon told Aaron who told Seth, and I was standing right behind him and I heard him say it—“

              “Oh, God!” Cassidy yelps, putting a hand over her mouth. “Here he comes, act cool.”

              Completely in sync, they both pull out the phones and pretend to be checking a really important text. I look out of the corner of my eye and can see Brad sauntering toward us. He’s actually wearing his varsity jacket, as though we need a reminder of his status as team captain. I’ve never really been into jocks, but at Stonehill, the cool guys are jocks, and if you’re a cool girl, you date a jock. I really wish I could be into him. That way I wouldn’t have to pretend.

              This should be a thrilling moment for me. I should be nervous to speak to him. I should be primping and stressing about my make up and hair, but I’m not. All I can think about is what Joey is thinking right now as he watches me from across the hall.

              “Sup, Mia?” I hear Brad say as he steps up beside me. I turn and pretend I didn’t know he was coming.

BOOK: Vanished: A Bad Boy Second Chance Romance
12.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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