Home > Defy (Sinners of Saint 0.5)(15)

Defy (Sinners of Saint 0.5)(15)
Author: L.J. Shen

I locked the door. Twice. Took inventory: keys, phone, and purse.

They were all there.

I sighed in relief and dragged my body down, my back against the door.

Safe. For now.

But then it occurred to me that I didn’t care about my safety. Not as much as I cared about his.

I wasn’t supposed to know where he was that night, but I couldn’t help but text him, just to check that he’s okay.

Me:

Are you guys having fun?

Jaime:

You bet we are. But I can’t stop thinking about you.

Me:

Is that why you left without explaining?

Jaime:

Yes, Mel. That’s exactly why I left without explaining. Because I think about you before I think about myself. Always remember that, Little Ballerina. Always.

“MS. GREENE. MY OFFICE. NOW.”

Principal Followhill’s face was thunder about to crack, and I knew she’d be unleashing a shit-storm on me the minute I stepped into her office. It didn’t matter. It was only yesterday that I’d witnessed her son—my boyfriend—committing a serious crime. This was the last week of school, and I’d already started applying for positions at nearby schools for next year. She had no power over me anymore.

Or so I thought.

I walked into her office and closed the door, silently taking a seat.

“Straight to the point?” She leaned over her table, legs crossed. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t call the cops and have you arrested right here on the premises.”

My heart stopped, just like that. What?

“Excuse me?” My eyebrows shot up. My pulse vibrated between my ears.

Followhill tapped her shiny fingernail on her desk and shot me an insincere smile. “Let me refresh your memory—big fire. Burnt yacht. A devastated family. All happened yesterday. Now, again, Ms. Greene…” She leaned closer to me, whispering, “Give me one good reason not to call our beloved police chief?”

I took a deep breath, closing my eyes to gain strength. “Reason number one? Because I didn’t do shit.”

“Mr. Rowland and his son, Toby, don’t seem to think so. They say you set fire to La Belle last night. Wanting to get back at the school’s staff before you leave here. The family’s restaurant is ruined.” She cocked her head sideways, a smug smile spreading on her face.

Panic exploded in my veins, and my head became a jumbled mess of incoherent thoughts. I had so much to say and nothing at all to utter, all at the same time, so I settled for, “Huh?”

“I was skeptical, too, at first. I said why would she? But then there was evidence.” She slid her drawer open, producing a necklace. My necklace. Shit. That’s what I dropped when I ran away last night. The silver anchor glittered between her fingers.

She tossed it to me, shaking her head. “And a motive, too. I suppose you’ve heard Coach Rowland’s sister, Chelsea, is going to take your position next year.”

Actually, I had no idea, and I can’t say I cared much, either. At this point, I wouldn’t have stayed in the job even if she’d offered me a seven-digit salary.

“Is that all you got?” I murmured, folding my arms over my chest. “People are still allowed to take a stroll in your town’s precious marina. Doesn’t make them guilty of burning down random yachts.”

“Toby gave it to me this morning. He swears he saw you doing it.”

I’d had it. I bolted up out of my chair and stared her down. “You know exactly who did it.” Rage consumed every inch of my body, and I banged my fist against her desk. “And I get the feeling you know why, too. This is blackmail.” My lips twitched. “Twice in one semester,” I added.

Principal Followhill stood up slowly, staring me in the eye. “You think I don’t know you’re sleeping with my son? Eyeing his fortune, his money, his future?” Her tone was low, and her intent was clear. “You’re delusional if you think I’m letting you anywhere near my house and my money. Let him go to college, you little slut. Set him free.”

Our chests were so close I could hear her breaths. The room was warm, but I was cold. Nothing felt right. Nothing.

“He is free,” I sneered, shaking my head. “He chose me.”

“Then don’t give him the option,” she gritted, fury making the muscles on her face tic.

“Why? Because you said so?” Our faces were almost touching, too close for my liking, but I didn’t back down. Our chests brushed, and I hated the scent of her Chanel No. 5 and expensive cosmetics in my nostrils.

“Because I have a lot of power in this town. Because what you’re doing is wrong,” she bit out, finishing on a whisper, “because no one can know this ever happened. Not to a family like the Followhills.”

I was tempted to say she should remind herself of their reputation next time she jumped into bed with one of her staff, but that was Jaime’s secret to tell, not mine. I would never out what he knew.

“Not scared of you or of getting kicked out of town,” I retorted, only half doing it to push back at her. “Jaime was eighteen. This wasn’t illegal.”

“But it’s still forbidden,” she yelled, throwing her hands in the air. I turned and moved for the door. She jerked me by the arm, making me slam to a halt. “Your teaching career will be over, and I’ll make certain the La Belle arson sticks to you.”

Her hand wrapped around my elbow. “My deal is off the table the minute you step out of this office. I’ll call the police, Melody, and we all know who they work for.”

Yes. The Spencers, who would stop at nothing to cover their son’s ass. Just like Principal Followhill.

“You do that.” I shook her away, fake smile and bravado plastered on my face. “See how it turns out.”

I pivoted again, bolting to the door, but Jaime’s mom—my boyfriend’s mom—yanked me back into her office and shut it with a bang I was sure it was audible to everyone in the hallway.

“Christ, what the hell is wrong with you? I’m giving you a way out. Just leave my son alone, and I’ll take care of the La Belle mess.”

“I don’t care what you do about that boat,” I hissed into her face. My lips were trembling and my nose stung. There was nothing I wanted more than to scream and tear her office apart. I had to stay collected for Jaime’s sake and the future of my career outside of All Saints High. “It’s not my mess. Jaime courted me. Hell, Jaime manipulated me. Maybe he does have a bit of his mom in him after all. But the bottom line is we’re together, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Those were the last words I told her before I managed to free myself from her grasp and get the hell out of there.

And those words would bite me in the ass later that day.

“FUCK,” JAIME MUTTERED, HIS ARM extended above my shoulder, propped on the wall I was leaning against. He ran his other hand through his hair, frustrated.

I nodded, trying to regulate my breaths. He didn’t have time to be mad, and he knew it. Rubbing his face and shaking his head, his gaze moved between me and the school building. We were tucked behind the concession stand at the footfall field, near the student parking lot.

“What the fuck, man? You followed me?”

“Hey, you knew where I lived, worked out, what I eat for breakfast, and my insurance carrier, all before we even kissed.” I arched an eyebrow, reminding him that we were as bad as each other. At least when it came to one another. “She’s got my necklace, and Toby says it was me.”

“Of course he does.” Jaime jerked me to him, squeezing me into a painful hug. “He’d never rat us out. The ball-less little dick. Your necklace was convenient. If he knew what you meant to me, he would’ve found another sorry-ass to blame.”

“Your mother doesn’t make idle threats. She’s got connections everywhere. And the Rowlands are powerful, too. I’m a no one.”

“Not true. You’re my someone.” He brushed his knuckles against my temple.

“I’m not going to jail,” I stressed.

He shook his head. “Over my dead body, Little Ballerina. Let me talk to my mom.”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”

“I’m not sure I fucking care.”

He left me, heading to his mother’s office. At first, I stayed rooted in place, watching his broad back disappear behind the double doors of the school building. My fingers travelled to my naked collarbone, looking for my anchor, but it wasn’t there.

Jaime was my anchor now. I had no one to trust but him.

A few minutes after he left, I walked to the teacher’s lot and waited by my car, chewing on my nails. I was supposed to teach a class but had been excused for the rest of the day. I hated waiting for the verdict, for Jaime to try and persuade his mom not to frame me for something we all knew I didn’t do.

Ten minutes after he walked into her office, my cell phone buzzed.

“Join us,” he commanded, in a tone I couldn’t decode.

I did.

My knees wobbled and my breath sputtered as I walked the hallways of All Saints for what I had a feeling would be the last time. I knocked on Followhill’s door and marched in.

“Come.” Jaime patted a spot on the burgundy leather sofa beside him, his eyes hard on his mom. He was sitting in front of her, and it looked like her desk was the only thing keeping them from pouncing at each other. The air was thick with revulsion.

Jaime’s expression was frustratingly blank. When I tried to read his mother’s face, I didn’t see love or compassion, either. Just disappointment…and urgency. Urgency to keep a legacy, to protect her family name. To keep the pride, money, and a lot of other tasteless shit in order.

My insides lurched, and for the first time, I realized I wasn’t the only one who’d suffered destiny’s wounds.

Just because Jaime didn’t act like he’d been ripped to shreds didn’t mean he was any happier than I was. No. We were both defective, chipped, and programmed to fight back. Sculpted by our fate. Scarred by who we were.

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