Fake:The Scarab Beetle Series #3 (The Academy)

By: C. L Stone

STOLEN





It’s been two weeks since I’ve seen Wil.

I spent time during the days after returning from Florida helping Corey, Brandon and Marc clearing out the inside of a house in downtown Charleston, making it habitable for a family to move in. From dawn until well after dark, I stripped wood and removed tiles to replace it with carpet, and then spent the rest of my days in a blur, doing whatever they told me to do.

At night, I was so tired, I fell into bed.

Staying focused on work was how I didn’t feel like a failure of an older sister.

I was now in Corey’s room; it had become my retreat.

We’d been waiting for Mr. Blackbourne’s team at the school to find my brother, to make contact, so we could start to follow him. He said we should follow him, because if he was involved with Mr. Hendricks, there could be something Wil was involved in and we needed to know what it was before we jumped in.

Word had it though that Wil had been spotted in the hallways by other students. That was good. At least he was still alive.

I rolled over as I forced out my worries, feeling my sore arms tense and strain before I relaxed.

Sometime in the night, a body materialized next to me. When my eyes opened partially, the outline seemed to be Corey, with his broad shoulders sticking out from under the blanket. How long had he been up at the computer? What was he working on? Lately, he stayed up super late, and often got up before I woke. I’d find him at the computer then, too.

I made room for him at first. But the apartment was freezing; the sheet and thin blanket weren’t enough.

When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I rolled over close, pressing my front up against his back. He wasn’t wearing a shirt. His skin was smooth, warm to the touch. I tried not to be too weird, but I was too out of it and too cold to be overly concerned with personal space.

He turned over, slightly, twisting to talk over his shoulder. “Cold?” The whisper was a little hoarse. I’d woken him.

“Yeah.”

He moaned, throaty and deep. He flipped over and wrapped an arm around me, pulling me in until I could curl up tight to his bare chest. My cheek mashed up against his skin, right over his heart, cushioned by his muscles, but I could still feel his heartbeat.

“This going to be enough?” he asked in the same tone. “Or do we need another blanket?”

“Mmm,” I said. Body heat would work. I was mildly amused. For a gay guy, he really was adorable and sweet. It was just like a cozy hug.

He didn’t respond. His breathing slowed, settling again. I readjusted my face, and my eyelashes swept across his skin as I was staring blankly at nothing at all.

Some of the guilt had already faded, and I welcomed the numbness in the moment. No one complained about me being here. In fact, they all seemed relieved. It was strange to me to feel like I was wanted somewhere.

But now what was I going to do? I couldn’t just mooch off of them forever. I couldn’t go back to stealing wallets. I needed a real job. I kept telling myself I’d find one as soon as I found Wil, though I’d assumed we’d find Wil sooner than this. Now that it looked like it would take a while, I thought I should perhaps try again.

I tried formulating plans in my head. In the morning I would go here or there and ask about work. If I could earn something, I could pay for my own apartment instead of working for them to earn my keep. It seemed important to do that.

Corey’s heavy breathing became my focus. His slow heartbeat thudded against my face.

There was a click from deeper in the apartment. I held my breath, listening. It was pretty late for one of the boys to still be up. I assumed it was Brandon.

He’d kept his space the last two weeks. All the boys had, for which I was grateful and also sorry for.

I listened as close as I could, but over my breathing and Corey’s heartbeat, it became hard to focus and I started to drift back asleep again.

Until a sudden jolt woke me right up.

I’d once stuck my fingers into the back of an open stereo while it was still plugged into the wall. The shock of it had left my fingertip blackened for a year, I’d been timid around electrical devices for a long time after.

This was a hundred times worse. Wide awake, feeling every volt coursing through me, at the same time unable to move and unsure what had happened. My brain had a disconnect. My body went completely rigid.

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