Coercion Part 5

Announcements: thank you for all your concerns about me discontinuing this series! I WILL be finishing it; it is a proper goal of mine this year. This part is rather short for my liking, but it's alright because I enjoyed writing it and delving into the mystery of Brother Jerimiah. Thank you again, and expect an update hopefully soon!

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Created by: Dannica

Are you ready for...
Our "When Will I Die" Quiz?

  1. I found myself in my room directly after the interrogation, curled up on the bed, hugging a pillow while staring vacantly at the TV. It was five-thirty, last time I checked. The sun had just been beginning to set. I’d drifted through the Lobby and down the stairs like a ghost, not wanting myself to be seen. Brother Jerimiah’s questions were brutal. He’d definitely, purposely led me into a trap on the balcony, with the determination to strip my mind and bare my soul. He literally had asked me everything, from my favorite color to the names of my relatives. I’d felt pressured to answer as promptly and as perfectly specific as I could, as if I were being interviewed for Harvard. By the time the meeting had adjourned, the plate of cheese was half-way done with, and my tea was nearly drained. But it wasn’t being put on the spot that bothered me. Nor did I mind Brother Jerimiah not escorting me out. It was the questions—and not the ones about my home, and life in Maine, and my short experience in James Dawn. Hell, not even describing the mental hospital put me on edge. It was when Brother Jerimiah had taken a book from behind him. A book that I hadn’t noticed before. It had been bound in a deep red leather, and looked decades old, judging from the yellow—almost brown—tinted pages, and the harsh stretch marks on the thick spine. A silver cross was the only thing that’d been displayed on the cover. It had been called the Book of Tranquility—or Book of Tranquil. The book that Saviors had to swear on for them to officially graduate and get their Purpose. Brother Jerimiah had laid it out of me, and flipped through the pages. He had stopped a quarter through, and then leaned back into his chair to ask another question. The page had been open for my eyes, and there’d been nothing else to subject myself to, so I read it. The page had been talking about the taboo of a Savior being in a relationship with his or her Purpose. The sin of it. The punishment of it. I remembered Brother Jerimiah’s knowing eyes on me once I’d finally brought myself to look away from the Book. As if he’d known about my conflicted feelings. As if he’d known something I didn’t.
  2. It was obvious that he’d shown me the page on purpose, but why? If he had assumptions that I was trying to gain Rave’s affections, then he was definitely wrong. If anything, I was trying my hardest to swerve them away. And Rave didn’t have feelings for me. At least, none he’s ever really shown and expanded on. Rave was Rave. Rave was just caring and protective. Perhaps Brother Jerimiah misinterpreted our strong bond, and wanted to warn me about what would happen if Rave and I pursued a relationship. But dammit, why couldn’t he just tell me up straight, instead of locking me on a balcony for an hour and a half? I turned off the TV and sighed to myself. Whatever. Brother Jerimiah just wanted to warn me. I guess that was his way of showing compassion towards Rave. He didn’t want Rave to lose his powers, and neither did I. Warning taken, then. All the more motivation to stop feeling tingly whenever he was around. A knock on the door made me groan. The bed let out a tiny squeak as I slid off; I didn’t try to hide my surprise when I saw Web standing there, arms crossed, leaning against the doorframe. “Carrot stick,” he greeted, his usual smirk lingering on his lips. “You’re alive.” My eyebrows pinched together. “Why, are people looking for me?” Web shrugged lazily. “Rave, Flame, and I went to grab a snack thinking that you were still with that Brother Jerimiah dude, but we saw him walking out from a gate and he said that you were in your room resting. Rave and Flame didn’t want to bother you.” “Yet here you are.” “Yeah, you’re welcome. Now let’s go.” He uncrossed his arms and offered up his hand. “Where?” I asked incredulously, glancing back to look for the time. “It’s like, eleven!” Web took my hand and guided me out of the room, closing the door in the process. “It’s only nine. And calm down, you nerd. I’ll have you in by twelve.” Web led me down the halls and up the glass staircase in a matter of moments, and soon I found myself in the descending elevator. “Where are we going?” I asked for the umpteenth time. “Is this allowed? Do people know we’re going down here?” Web shook his head. “Have you ever considered vowing to a life of silence?” “What, like a monk?” “Or a mime. Mimes are cuter. And you can keep all your hair.”
  3. The elevator stopped, and Web took my hand again. We were in a cave. I wasn’t so sure on whether it not it was the same cave we’d first entered from, but it was still wonderful to look at all the same. The crystals shined so brilliantly against the strange green lights, and the stillness of the water of the tiny pools soothed my insides. Before I knew it we were out in the open, outside the Basin. I caught Web’s grin in the moonlight, every time he turned to gauge my confused reactions, which must have been amusing to him. We cantered through the forest, careful not to trip on any of the big roots jutting out from the soil, or anything else that could be laying around. I didn’t see the obstacle course, which meant that wherever we were going, I was blinded my the route. A roar of water filled my ears, but then got tinier and tinier away as we continued walking for a few more minutes. I smelled the fire before I could even see the intense glare of it against the palette of dark blue. We were in the barracks, I guessed from the medium-sized, condo-looking buildings that made up most of the perimeter of the clearing. A huge bonfire was ablaze in the center, with teenagers sitting on logs around it, flirting, talking, and laughing. Red cups were in the hands of many, and I saw a two trash cans; one had a mountain of empty bottles while another held the remnants of snack wrappers like chips and candy. Music hummed hauntingly in the air, meshing with the croaks of frogs and the buzz of the crickets that accompanied being in the forest. Web let go of my hand and gestured to the social gathering. “Well?” I stared at the bottle of beer in his hand. How the hell did he get his hands on one so quickly? “How did you know about this?” I asked instead. “Were you even invited?” “Of course I was invited,” Web scoffed. “Why wouldn’t I be?” He motioned with his neck at a pretty brunette girl sitting next to Eliza. “That’s Cheyenne. She can bend light. Which is hot.” I felt a smirk of my own on my lips. “She is totally out of your league.” We began walking towards the fire. Web said, after a chug of his drink, “That is not true. I don’t need to bend light in order to he hot. Do you want a drink?” He nodded at a big rectangular cooler sitting off to the side, basking in the moonlight. “Um. Maybe later.” Web laughed. “Yeah, maybe when I’m not around, huh? Because we both remember last time you got a little tipsy and…” “Shut up,” I muttered, just as we approached Eliza and Cheyenne. Introductions were made between Cheyenne and me, courtesy of Eliza herself, who was drinking a Snapple. I guess I was staring at her drink too long, because she justified herself by saying she didn’t drink alcohol. Small conversation bloomed among the four of us, just about what had happened during the False. It was clear that Web wanted to be alone with Cheyenne, so I decided to be a team player and asked Eliza if she wanted to go get a snack with me. She eagerly agreed, practically skipping through the grass, twirling her glass bottle of lemonade and tea in the air, and then leaping up to catch it. Jesus.
  4. I picked out a bag of sour gummy worms from a brown bag at random, and then tore the wrapping apart while Eliza munched on banana chips. “Is this the party for Rave?” I asked, watching Web cuddle up to Cheyenne. The bonfire was huge, I realized now. I could feel the heat even from here. “Yeah,” Eliza replied enthusiastically. “I don’t know where he is, though. He kind of disappeared through the middle. Maybe he went to go find you.” The words weren’t exactly menacing, but the way she said it made me feel uncomfortable. “I was just in my room, really. I forgot that there was going to be a party tonight.” “Oh, no, I’m not blaming you,” Eliza giggled. “Just that, I wanted to spend time with him. Before he leaves again.” I rubbed my fingers together, sprinkling the powder from the gummy worms onto the grass. Eliza liked him. Really liked him. It was obvious. “I could will my marks so he could come here, if you want.” I felt empathetic. Who knew how much longer we were staying here? Eliza was also getting her Purpose soon. She was most likely never going to see Rave again. They both deserved some fun tonight. I attempted to will my marks before she even answered. There was a prickle on my neck, and Rave appeared in between Eliza and me. “What’s wrong?” was the first thing that came out of his mouth. He took in the surroundings, and his shoulders relaxed. “Willing your marks—” “Is only for emergencies,” I finished. “But you were missing your own party.” I tilted my chin, and he turned to Eliza, who was patiently waiting, looking eager and anxious. He greeted her with a warm voice, and even in the darkness of the night with only the faint glimmer of the fire dancing across her face, I could see she was blushing. My stomach dropped a little, but I sucked it up. Brother Jerimiah’s voice echoed through my head, quoting the Book of Tranquil. ”If a Savior fails to implement these injunctions, He may reign from the Heavens above and, by His hand, strip the powers that He Himself thrust upon this redeemer of sin…” “I’m going to leave you two alone,” I said politely. “To get caught up and stuff. I’ll, uh, stick with Web and Flame.” Rave looked as if he wanted to say something, but I brushed passed him before he could attempt. Have fun, I told him. Relax. I closed off my mind and then fast-walked towards a Cheyenne-less Web. When I asked where she went he only shrugged, and welcomed my company. I watched as he took another drink of beer, and then offered my gummy worms. He took one and said, “Flame isn’t here, if you were wondering.” I cocked my head to the side. “What do you mean he’s not here? He doesn’t seem like one to pass up a party.” “Oh he’s not, believe me. But I mean, he’s not here. At the Basin.” Alarm flooded through me. “What do you mean he’s not here? Where did he go?” “He said he needed to do something. Since he’s in Chicago and whatnot.” “And the security, the Brotherhood, you? You just let him go?” My voice was starting to rise. Flame was alone. We were on the run, dammit, people were looking for us! “Don’t worry. He said he wasn’t going to be out long. Flame can handle himself.” “He doesn’t know how to get back,” I said through clenched teeth. “How is he going to get back in? He didn’t even say where he was going?” “Oh, Alum Sansa offered him a ride back. He went out with him to do some errands, so I’m guessing they’re just going to meet up or something. And I’ve no idea where he’s going.” Alum Sansa was there. I breathed a little. Good. No way was he going to let Flame get into trouble. But what was he even wanting to do in the first place? Flame certainly wasn’t outrageous enough to risk visiting his parents, and he definitely wasn’t trying to ditch us. Web nudged my arm. “He’ll be fine. Go have a beer or something. It’s about damn time we did something normal around here.” I sighed. Web was right. And a drink couldn’t hurt. Miraculously, he already had a can in his hand, offering it up. I took it with an easy grin, and popped it open. The liquid was cold, but burned down my throat. The taste was still a little gross to me, considering this was only my second time, but I was able to stomach it halfway through. Every now and then I would scour the area for Rave, just to see his happy and smiling face amongst his friends. Eliza was touching him almost every time, and I didn’t mind, because she looked happy too. I wondered what it was like for Rave when he still attended here. He spoke of it before as if it was just all training and rules, but maybe he was just saying that to me because he knew I would feel sympathetic. Rave had a great life here.
  5. I was later on my third can of beer, and my fifth bag of Peanut M&Ms. Web and I were talking a walk through the forest to cool down from the urging warmth of the fire. Cheyenne had shown up once or twice again, but Web didn’t seem too interested anymore, so eventually she joined Eliza. Web had only taken three drinks so far during the party, which impressed me by far. I actually expected him to be stagger-streaking through the woods by now. I said that thought to him, which earned me a hearty laugh. “I don’t drink that much,” he said, lacking the usual brutal amusement in his voice. “Anymore, anyways. You’re about ready to surpass me, oh holy goddess of Coors Light.” “Wow, thanks. I think that’s the greatest thing you’ve ever said to me.” Web lifted a branch out of my way. “And what happened to your arm, anyways? I thought it was, like, broken.” “Well obviously it healed.” “It took a hell of a short time.” “Whoa there, sugar plum. Alcohol surely brings out the feistier side of you, doesn’t it?” I chuckled under my breath. “And how did you even get Will’s car anyways? Did you magically just steal his keys when he wasn’t looking?” “Funny story, actually,” Web began. “You see, one time, before you even attended James Dawn, during a Christmas party, there was this game going on which required putting keys in a jar, so I took a dude’s keys because I needed a ride, and then made a copy just in case I needed another lift someplace.” I shook my head. “You are a bad person.” “Chain me in Hell,” Web mused. “And if I may recall, me being a bad person totally saved your ass.” “You are such great company.” I sucked the chocolate from my M&M in my mouth, before biting into the peanut. “But, since we’re on the matter. Thanks again. For everything. Especially that little speech during the Inaugural Dance. I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to tell you, but it means a lot to me that you did that.” Web’s eyes glinted in the dark, and he put an arm around my shoulder, in a brotherly-type way. “Anytime, spinach dip. Anytime.”
  6. Web and I walked on for about twenty minutes more, until we got cold again and went back to the party. A slow, soft song filled the atmosphere when we returned, and I saw couples slow dancing and kissing, while others were roasting s’mores and telling slurred stories. I didn’t know where Rave and his friends were. Flame wasn’t back around, either, but I told myself not to worry. He was probably tired, and was in his room, fast asleep. I would question him tomorrow. Web and I took seats at the end of a log, where we were immediately offered up marshmallows on a stick. We each took one, and joined in on the festivity. It was nice, being in the company of people my age, where I wasn’t set as an outcast, and I wasn’t in the limelight of gossip and rumors. I didn’t have to be forced to take pills that made me drowsy and created headaches. I didn’t have to continuously defend myself about my sanity. It was fantastic. This was fantastic. I realized my marshmallow was on fire, so I cast it away from the flames and blew it out, laughing at myself and the black clump at the end of my stick. I took another marshmallow and toasted it up for less time, and then created my s’more, just as a girl volunteered to tell a true story. Her black hair was pulled at the top of her head in a big bun, and a tattoo of something in Chinese—I think—snaked down her right cheek. “It’s about Brother Jerimiah,” she said, urging the others around the fire to lean in closely. I joined in, my ears attentive as I bit down into my snack. “My brother, Jon, graduated from here three years ago as a Savior—may he rest in peace.” She took a moment of silence, and then started up once more. “He told me, before he left to meet his Purpose, a story that he heard. About Brother Jerimiah’s past. Jon’s best friend here, Aaron, was the nephew of Brother Caine—Alum Caine now, if you may. My brother told me that Aaron would eavesdrop on his uncle and Brother Jerimiah at night, after the Brotherhood had their meetings in the astronomy tower. One night, Aaron snuck out of his room after a meeting, and went up to the tower to listen in on the aftermath. It was only Brother Jerimiah and Brother Caine left, and they were talking briefly about the situation of the meeting. Bear in mind, Brother Jerimiah was fairly new, so of course the Brotherhood was curious about his past. Turns out that he was a death dancer.” Some gasps joined the crackle of the fire. I was a little shocked myself. I tried to picture Brother Jerimiah, leading somebody to Heaven, wielding an understanding and patient face. Yep, I couldn’t do it. “What do you mean ‘was a death dancer’?” somebody asked. “He’s not one now?” The narrator of the story shook her head. “He didn’t want the power anymore. He gave it up.” More gasps this time, in which I participated in. You could give up your powers? “After he fulfilled his purpose, of course. But he did it anyways. He offered himself to the Angel of Death. He wished for the Angel to take his powers away.” “But why?” I heard myself ask, my voice tiny. Nobody glanced in my direction, but the girl shrugged. “There’s an old rumor. But I’ll get to that later. Anyways, the Angel of Death heard Brother Jerimiah’s pleas, and actually descended from his kingdom. For you first years here, the Angel of Death created death dancers and Sixth Sentiments by his own hand—gave them a part of himself in order to give them life. So of course he was angered that Brother Jerimiah didn’t want it anymore.” She paused for dramatic effect; I was so close to the edge of my seat I was afraid I was going to fall. “So the Angel took it. He took all his powers and was about to drain his soul when Michael came down. That’s right. Archangel Michael. Michael came down from the order of God himself, to spare Brother Jerimiah. For Brother Jerimiah was sacrificing himself, such as He. Now, the Angel of Death and God aren’t the best of friends. They are independent people, but respect one another, so the history books here say. The Angel did not want to fight Michael, and willfully agreed to spare his creation. It was in agreement just like that, and Michael and the Angel were gone, leaving Brother Jerimiah—a human—alive. He returned to the Basin, to his Savior, and retold his story. He was a walking miracle. That’s why he’s the only human in the Brotherhood today.”
  7. The girl finished her story, looking pleased with the faces of aghast and admiration displayed on everybody’s faces. “Wait,” I said, putting the moment on pause. “You still didn’t answer my question. Why? Why did he not want the power anymore?” “Oh, yeah,” the girl said, a dreamy look crossing her face. “He didn’t want the power anymore because it prevented him from l—” “I think that’s enough,” a hard voice interrupted. In sync, everybody’s heads turned to a pissed-looking Rave, with an equally pissed Eliza clinging to his shoulder. Was Brother Jerimiah her trainer as well? Rave fixed his gaze on the narrator. “You have no right to tell of somebody else’s past, Mei. Especially if you know the whole story.” The girl with the tattoo, Mei, widened her eyes in trepidation. “I-I’m sorry. I didn’t know….” Rave’s expression softened up almost immediately. “It’s okay,” he said. “Just don’t tell anybody else, alright?” She nodded quickly, while Rave addressed everybody else with steely eyes. “If any of you have any questions then ask Brother Jerimiah himself. Understand?” Nods everywhere, accompanied by frightened eyes. Christ, did Rave some authority around here. I felt his eyes on me, burning through my skin, but I refused to look him in the eye. I swallowed the last bite of my s’more and took another swig of Coors, just as I heard Eliza calling Rave back to wherever they were before they came to interrupt Mei’s story. Web had the remains of my candy in his hand for us to share. I took one absently and said, “Do you think it’s true? The story, I mean. That you could give up your powers after you fulfill your purpose?” Web gave me a pointed look. “It very well could be. But, I know you’re not thinking about it, but why would you give up your life for that? For a power to help people?” “Of course I’m not thinking about that,” I said incredulously. “And I am just as curious as you are. I mean, she’s saying that God sent Michael to save him. Because he was sacrificing himself as well.” “You shouldn’t be analyzing this too much,” Web warned in a very un-Web like way. “That Mei girl heard that story from her brother, who heard that story from his friend. Not very smart to put too much trust into this.” He was right. But I was still hung up. There was a certain truth I felt about the story, even if the source was a bit dodgy. Although I had learned some new things. Like how the Angel of Death—who’s apart of my family, I guess—created Sixth Sentiments and death dancers on his own. And that he would murder one, his child, out of wrath. Brother Jerimiah was lucky. Blessed by God. “I think I’m going to go to my room now,” I said. “Go get some rest.” Web pulled took the alcohol from my grasp and set it down. “Do you need me to escort you there?” I shook my head no, and embraced him a goodnight. I didn’t bother looking for Rave. On my way to enter the forest, I ran into Mei. At some point her bun must have gotten messed up, because now it was lopsided with hairs sticking out. Assuming she already knew this, I asked what her tattoo meant. She smiled and pointed out what each Chinese—I was right—symbol meant. I walked back to the Basin feeling elated, Mei’s tattoo burned into my brain. It was so great. So brilliant. 我火。观看我烧。I am fire. Watch me burn.
  8. The lobby was nearly empty around this time of night, save for some of the Brotherhood lurking about. I passed the glass staircase and went inside the elevator, jabbing at the eighth button. The infirmary still glowed green, and the hallway was still empty. I found myself wondering what that green light was. I managed to sprint to the door towards the end of the hall, and urged myself through, a grin displayed on my face the whole time. I surprised myself. After all that beer I’d basically inhaled, I though I was acting pretty damn coherent. I pranced through the corridor, feeling nothing but peace, and prepared what I was going to say to Birch or the nurse or whomever was there with— Flame. Flame was there with Levi. My grin wavered until my lips formed a line. I don’t know why I hid against the strip of wall beside the big window. I could tell something was wrong. Why was Flame here? Did he simply just wish to visit Levi? And hold him in his arms? Rock him to sleep? I peeked out my head out for ten seconds, just watching. Observing. Flame had Levi cradled in his arms, and was muttering some stuff under his breath. Levi appeared actually to be listening. I looked at Flame longer, now unable to pull away. His eyes were puffy, and red-rimmed. He looked paler than usual. Had he been crying? I felt myself form puzzlement on my face. I couldn’t urge myself to go inside. It felt wrong, as if I were to interrupt something. Flame kissed Levi’s hand. I stumbled away from the infirmary, now feeling the effect of the alcohol hitting me. I ran to my room, most likely causing a raucous on the way, and heaved into the toilet. Yeah, maybe drinking four cans of beer wasn’t a great idea. And neither was visiting Levi. Even with Flame not in the picture, what the hell was I going to do there? Carry the baby in my arms and prance around like a freaking ballerina? Thank God somebody was there. I might have dropped him. I wretched some more, the sound ringing painfully in my ears, my throat becoming raw. I needed two tubes of toothpaste and maybe three bars of soap. My fingers were now curled at the edges of the toilet seat, my knuckles white. My head began to ache, and I needed to sleep. I was so exhausted. Flushing the toilet, I wiped my mouth sloppily with the back of my hand and forced myself to a standing position. Throwing myself at the sink, refusing to look at my reflection, I scrubbed my hands until they were pink, and nearly drowned myself in toothpaste. Note to self: just because you are going to learn how to fight does not mean you have evolved into a complete badass. Juice is kinder. In a blur of movements, I somehow managed to change into my pajamas, leaving a dirty stack of clothes on the bathroom floor. I honestly didn’t care. Staggering to the bed, I flopped on and latched my head onto the nearest pillow. I didn’t bother with the lights. My body shut down immediately.
  9. Strong arms were wrapped around my stomach. Panic flooded my veins as I tried to open my crusty eyes. I was still in my bed, I knew that for sure, but who the hell was holding me? Slowly, I tried to sit up, but a monstrous headache began banging its way into my skull, causing me to shove my face into my palms with a groan. The bed shifted, and I heard a yawn. I smelled Rave. I allowed my head to turn sideways, where he was sitting up, the blanket wrapped around his waist. Christ, did I really have to have a hangover right now? “Why are you here?” I grunted, rubbing at my temples. My stomach churned. Oh God. Before Rave could do or say anything I sprinted to the bathroom and vomited. When I appeared to be finished I collapsed on the bathroom floor, spewing out curses. I was definitely never drinking that much again. “Do you need me to come in?” Rave’s groggy voice said through the door. I wobbled to the sink and repeated the routine last night, brushing and tying up my hair afterwards. “No, your assistance is not necessary. You do not need to see me like this.” A faint chuckle, and then, “I’ve seen you throw up before. A little vomit won’t get rid of me that easily.” I found myself smiling as I finished cleaning up. Rave was waiting for me outside with a glass of water and some aspirin tablets. I took it hungrily. “Thanks,” I murmured, once the pain in my skull receded. “But why did you, um, sleep with me again?” My hangover must have had me hallucinating, because I swear I think I saw a blush creep up Rave’s cheeks. “You willed your Marks,” he explained, his eyes down. “I came as soon as possible, and saw you thrashing in your sleep. When I came closer I saw that you were scratching at your arms, so I took your hands and you stopped. When I tried leaving, you started thrashing around again. So I stayed. Sorry.” I almost laughed. “Don’t be sorry, Rave. Thank you. I wasn’t even having a bad dream, so I don’t even know why I was doing that in the first place. But thanks anyways, for coming. I hope it didn’t interrupt your party.” “Eh, I was going to leave anyways. Did you have fun?” I clutched at the side of my head, urging the ache to leave. “At the time, yes, I did. I kind of regret not meeting anybody new, though. I stuck with Web the whole time.” Rave’s brow creased. “Where was Flame?” Oh, crap. “Um, Web told me he…left for a little bit. But he got back safely. I saw him with Levi before I crashed here.” “He left the Basin? To do what?” “I honestly have no clue. Web didn’t even know.” “Well, stuff like that needs to be said.” “I think it was personal,” I defended. “Him being from Chicago and all. Maybe he went to church or something. He came from a very religious family. I’ll talk to him later, just let me— Oh crap! What time is it? I have to get to training with—” “Don’t worry, he came by an hour ago to pick you up, but I told him what happened. He said he’d train you at night. And we can skip the lessons today, since you’re not feeling up for it.” I shook my head vigorously. “No, I’m fine. I can instruct today.” “But you have a hangover. Aspirin isn’t going to make it go away.” “I know, but I can make it. Don’t worry, I want to do it.” Rave sighed, knowing I wasn’t going to change my mind. “Fine. You can get ready in thirty minutes, and then we’ll leave. But for now, I want you to lay down and try and get more rest.” A smile tugged at my lips. “Yes, sir.”
  10. I felt immediately better once my head found the softness of the pillow once more. I felt Rave beside me, and I faced him. My heart was banging against my chest so hard at the sudden realization. He was here. He’d actually held me through the night. So close. …the Jury holds the power to expel those whom break the code into exile… I couldn’t. I couldn’t feel this way, for Rave’s sake. “Do you need me to hold you again or are you feeling pretty confident?” he joked. Dammit. “I’m pretty sure I’m not going back to sleep, so I think I’m safe.” I retorted, an involuntary shaky laugh coming from my mouth. I wrapped myself in the blanket while Rave watched me with those intense stormy gray eyes of his that seemed to always make me feel exposed—nude. Dammit. “Do you want breakfast?” he asked, dropping his gaze almost shyly. “I’m actually not the hungry,” I admit. “But you can go ahead and grab something. I’ll be fine here, and I’m sure somebody is looking for you anyways.” He frowned. “You’re trying to avoid me. I can feel it.” Crap. “Are you in my head again?” “No. We’re bound together, ______. I’m pretty sure I’d at least have the idea that you’re trying to push me away. Which I do.” “Well, I’m not.” “You’re lying.” “Was that an accusation, Mr. Kingsley?” “Yes, it was. What did Brother Jerimiah tell you when he talked to you yesterday?” I forced myself to keep staring into his eyes. If I looked down at all then it could give me away. “Nothing too important. And nothing that he wanted you to know about, if I may recall.” Frustration clouded in his eyes, and I fought within myself not to just burst out the truth. Oh, he pretty much acted like a parent and told me to stay away from you and to not get any romantic feelings whatsoever or else God could come down from Heaven and rip your soul apart. Nothing too important. As if. “I’m not avoiding you,” I sighed, putting my hand on his knee for emphasis. “I just wanted you to catch up with your friends, that’s all. Eliza is totally into you, by the way. Like it wasn’t obvious. The girl would follow you to the depths of Hell.” The frustration went away, and was replaced by amusement. “She has a crush. That’s all there is to it. But it is cute, isn’t it. I should really tell her though that I’m content with our friendship.” “No!” I grappled with his arm, causing another burst agony to ripple through my head—which I ignored. “Don’t say anything to her! She knows you can’t stay, and she just wants to make the best out of it. Flat out friend-zoning her would break her Barbie heart.” Whoa. Wasn’t I complaining before about how much she caused me discomfort? I took in Rave’s surprised expression said, “That conversation never happened. If she found out that I was the one that made you not friend-zone her then you better pray for my welfare. Girls have a weird, twisted way of looking out for each other, so don’t ask any questions. Just have fun with her. She knows you guys will most likely never see each other again after she gets her own Purpose and such.” Rave nodded after doing one of his airy laughs. “I guess you’re right. So should I take her out to a candlelit dinner later on, complete with a serenade under the moonlight, a dip in the lake, and a sweet and tender kiss to top it all off?” “No,” I said automatically, an annoying prickle of jealousy poking at my insides. “I said have fun, not lead her to think you were about to propose.” “Oh, well that, I can manage.” Rave got up from the bed and ruffled his hair. I just noticed how cute he looked in his cat-printed pajama bottoms. He must have changed quickly some time last night. “I’m going to get breakfast,” he informed, using that professional Savior voice of his. “Are you sure you don’t want anything? Other than the parfait, toast, and eggs I’m going to get you anyways?” I grinned. “Thanks, Rave.” He did that two-fingered salute of his before heading out the door. “The things you make me do.”

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