M E G A N
I scratched at the crack running through the middle of my phone screen. It distorted my screen, curving words and pictures.
The sound of a door slamming made me look up.
Caleb ducked into my car, his hood up. His black hair poked out from underneath the hood, dripping into his eyes.
“Damn weather,” he growled, yanking his hoodie zip up.
“Some say the weather reflects emotions,” I said, absent-mindedly. Refocusing my eyes, I turned to look at him. “Pretty accurate if the weather’s reading you.”
He scowled back at me sourly. “Shut up.”
He shook his head—droplets of water landed on my sleeve. “Just drive.”
Students milled out around the car as I left the car park. Most clutched at each other, laughing, kissing, ducking away from the rain—for them, it was just another lunch time. Just another school day.
For us, it was so much more.
I sped up once we hit the main roads. They were surprisingly empty for a Friday afternoon.
“Aren’t you worried about how much trouble we’ll get in for leaving halfway through the day?” He mused, glancing out the window.
I laughed, but the sound was tense. “Worrying is pointless. They’ll call my house, my parents will scream at me, and I’ll get grounded for a couple weeks. It won’t kill me.”
Caleb’s lips twitched. “I have to say, I admire your carelessness. It’s very becoming.”
I grinned. The silences that fell between us weren’t uncomfortable. I kept one hand on the steering wheel and let the other fall into my lap. Not for any particular reason. Not at all.
Reaching over, Caleb gently slid his fingers into my open hand. I tried to ignore how soft his palm was, how roughed his fingers were from plucking guitar strings. The warmth of his skin sent shivers running up my arm.
“You okay?” He asked, quietly. “We can still turn back if you want—“
“No. I want to help you do this,” I replied, trying to keep my voice from shaking. “This involves me now, I guess, so I owe it to you to at least come with you.”
“You don’t owe me anything, Megan,” he said.
Focus on the road, focus on the road...
I smiled. “So, what are we looking for? I’ve never been to this Registered HQ before.”
Caleb let out a content sigh, and squeezed my hand. “It’s big, glass and ugly.”
“Take out ‘glass’ and it could be you,” I grinned, risking a glance at him. He rolled his eyes.
I would’ve found the headquarters even if I hadn’t asked him—the tower was the biggest building in the whole inner city. It was made from pure glass, and narrowed as it reached the top. The international logo of a silver band was projected onto the glass from the inside.
He was right. It was horrific.
I parked haphazardly on yellow lines and hopped from the car. Doubtfully, Caleb climbed out after me and glanced at the painted lines on the concrete.
“Really? It would’ve taken us like two minutes to find a legal space.”
“This is legal,” I argued, not looking away from the towering glass building. “If no one sees I’ve parked there, its legal.”
“Jesus, Megs,” Caleb grumbled. He pressed a hand to my lower back and we started towards the Registered HQ tower.
People in fancy suits and tight skirts looked us over as we passed. I regretted wearing my tight, faded jeans; I looked insanely out of place. Beside me, Caleb swallowed and shifted in his hoodie. I guessed he felt the same.
The front door of the building demanded a scan of our bands. I held my wrist up to the blue light outside the glass doors. A small monitor flickered over the bracelet and something beeped.
The doors slid open. I grabbed Caleb’s hand and tugged him inside.
Grinning, he pressed his hand to my back again and, ducking, whispered, “You’re cute when you’re grumpy.”
I tossed his hand away in disgust, and he laughed.
The receptionist looked up from her desk. She was the perfect model employee; smoothed back hair in an up-do, designer glasses perched on her nose, an unwrinkled suit hugging her body. One perfect eyebrow rose as we neared the desk.
“Can I help you?”
Knowing how bad I looked, I quickly smoothed down my hair and said, “We’re looking for someone who we could talk to about the Claiming process? We have a...dilemma on our hands.”
Her tiny nose wrinkled in distaste. “I’m sorry, do you have an appointment?”
“Uh, no, we d—“
“My older brother works here,” Caleb interrupted. “He invited us.”
I looked at him in surprise. Even in a hoodie and tight black jeans, he still looked like a smart, self-assured student.
The receptionist, however, was not easily fooled. “Oh, really? And what exactly is your brother’s name?”
“Steven Dwight,” he replied, smoothly.
I was in awe—he was acting like he did this every day.
The receptionist flushed and she hurriedly stood up. “I had no idea, Mr Dwight. I will take you to him straight away.”
As she led us toward a staff-only elevator, I stabbed Caleb in the ribs with my elbow.
“What the hell was all that about?”
Innocently, his eyes met mine. “What?”
“The whole brother story?”
He looked away and stepped into the elevator. “I do have a brother here,” he whispered in my ear. “He just won’t be very happy to see me.”
"You couldn't have just told me that before? It would've made this whole thing easier, I hope you know."
Caleb's eyes darkened and he wrapped his arm around my waist. "He's the only real family I have. I found him after years of searching and my adoptive parents fell in love with him. He's one of the family, now." He snorted. "I avoid him, usually. He's nothing like I expected, nothing at all. He's not the brother I wanted."
He pressed his lips to my temple and whispered, "But he has his uses. Like now."