Empty Bargains [Jason McCann]

"I have nothing else to offer you," Markus barked through gritted teeth, his fists clenched hard at his sides.

Jason shook his head, chuckling. "I only want one thing, and it's in this room," he sneered.

My brother took a step closer to me, trying to push me toward the door. Jason's eyes flashed over and caught mine, a glint in his eye while a shiver went down my spine.

"What do you want?" Markus asked, impatient.

Jason's head nodded in my direction. I froze and the room fell deafeningly silent.

"I want her."


19. ~10.17~


    Xander and Blondie managed to get Carter to his room, where I heard the shower turn on a few minutes later.  I could hear enraged, sad sobs from the kitchen, where Jason and I still stood.  Leo had disappeared into his room, and the other two boys sat talking quietly in the living room.


    Jason was mumbling angrily to himself, his back tense as he gripped the edge of the island with both hands.  He was facing away from me, but I could picture the crease in his forehead from agitation.  I’d seen it enough times.  I crept up and rested my fingers just above the elbow of his right arm, hoping to break through his brooding.  I was distraught and angry at Grant too, but Carter and Jason had taken care of it.  Granted, Jason’s pride was probably hurt from being lied to for that long, but I didn’t want him to dwell on it too much.  Grant was out of their lives now — Jason had made that perfectly clear.


    “Jason,” I said quietly, moving closer when he didn’t object to my touch.  “Let’s go upstairs.”


    I didn’t want to talk to him in the discomfort of the kitchen, where everything had just happened.  When he didn’t answer, I moved around him and cleaned up a majority of the glass dishes that’d broken with Carter’s fury.  After dumping the shards into the trash, I straightened the chairs and approached Jason again.  He didn’t say anything to me, but complied when I took his hand into my own.  Our fingers seemed to fit perfectly as I squeezed his hand lightly, and I tugged him through the living room — ignoring the glances of Xander and Blondie — and up the staircase.


    I did my best to tune out Carter as we entered Jason’s room, and I closed the door behind us.  Jason automatically shucked his shirt off, tossing it across the room and striding into the bathroom.  The door closed with a deafening sound and I stood for a long second before hearing his shower turn on.  I bit my lip and walked over to the bed, grabbing sweatpants and a t-shirt from my duffel beside it.  After changing, I tossed my clothes into the laundry bag Jason had given me and nestled into the sheets, waiting for him.


    It was ten minutes before I heard the water shut off, and five more before the door opened and Jason and a cloud of steam rolled out.  Only a towel was slung around his hips and I blushed as I admired the curves of his muscles.  He didn’t seem to notice my blatant staring as he strolled into his closet, silent as he shrugged on clothing.  Jason reappeared a few seconds later with black sweatpants and a fitted white tee, drying his hair with the towel he’d been wearing.


    I watched as he dropped the towel into a laundry basket of his own and shuffled to his bed, sliding in next to me.  My arm wrapped around his middle and I hooked my leg in his as I rested my head on his shoulder.  His hand found my hair and he played with the ends, something he’d started doing about a week ago.  I loved the feel of slight tugging on my hair; most nights it put me to sleep.


    “Is there anything you can do?” I said quietly, my eyes trained on the curtained window.


    “About what?” he asked.  His tone had calmed down, and would almost pass for normal if I could have ignored the slightly vacant hint to it.


    “About Tally,” I replied.  “I think that’s her name…  She didn’t know what she signed up for.”


    There was a long pause, the silence only filled by the sound of our breathing.  I noticed Carter’s noises of pain had died off, leaving the rest of the house in a sort of eerie quiet, considering the weight of what’d just happened.  I wondered if everyone beside Jason had known Grant had continued his sex trafficking, even after Jason had told him to get out of it.  If that were the case, there were bound to be consequences for all of them.


    “Pieces of shit like Grant cover their tracks well,” Jason told me.  “One minute you’ve got a lead, the next they’ve set up shop somewhere completely different.  Almost impossible to follow.”


    I sighed.  “You can’t do anything?”


    Jason waited a long time to reply, no doubt trying to choose his words to best fit the seriousness of the conversation.


    “I wish I could.  That kind of thing is disgusting and degrading, and I’m ashamed to think someone like Grant was under my roof all this time and continuing without my noticing.  But even if I could track the chain, it would be nearly impossible to pinpoint one girl out of all the women sold into it.  Even more, the people who run it are powerful.”


    I bit the inside of my cheek.  My stomach was beginning to churn for Carter and Tally.  The whole situation was terrible.  “You’re powerful.”


    He gave a short laugh.  “I don’t have the means to tear the chain apart like that.  If I did, I would.  I’ve had friends sold into the trade, and the stories you hear from people are horrifying.”


    I let out a deep breath.  “I grew up thinking you could do anything you wished,” I said before I could stop myself.  “My brother was convinced you got whatever you wanted, and I guess he more or less convinced me too.”


    “Wouldn’t that be nice,” he chuckled.


    I pulled myself tighter against him.  “You did the right thing, dumping Grant on his ass.”


    “I should’ve done it the first time I found out about it,” Jason said, still tugging the ends of my hair.  “I was too consumed with the fact he owed me money to care much about anything else at that point.”


    “How did Grant end up here?” I asked slowly.  I was curious as to why Grant owed him five-hundred grand, and how he could’ve gotten that far over his head.


    “You say that like this is a bad place,” he replied, the hint of a smile on his features.


    I shook my head and looked away.  “I know he owes you a lot of money; why?”


    He waited before giving me an answer.  “He had borrowed a lot from about ten different people when I met him, and the amount totaled up to more than he could pay off in at least a few years.  A few of them teamed up one night and jumped him at a bar, and I was impressed by the way he’d defended himself.  I saw potential, and I reached for it.  I paid them all off, and Grant showed up at my place that night.”


    “Just like that?” I asked curiously.  “He didn’t do anything beside fight off a few guys.”


    I felt Jason shrug.  “In my mind, I’d just won myself a good fighter.  I liked to think he was loyal, since he took everything I gave him — including my trust — and used it wisely.  He’d even been set on paying me back, and I agreed until I noticed how big the sums of money were when they came in.  I dug a little deeper, and found out he was linked to the sex trade going on around here.  Then I blew my top.”


    There was a long break where neither of us said anything.  Grant must have been making an insane amount of money.  It was crazy just how it could effect some people.


    “Does he still owe you anything?”


    “He was about one-hundred grand away from paying it off, but I count it all as loss now.  Money gained through selling people is tainted.  I felt sick handling it the last time I found Grant out, and this time is no different.”


    “I wonder what that means for him now,” I said aloud, more to myself than to Jason.


    “Knowing Grant, he’ll be back against his better judgement, hoping to put a bullet in each of our heads,” Jason told me solemnly.  “He knows every way in and out of this house.  It’s not worth changing the alarm system and locks on the warehouse if he knows how each of us fight and can be in and out in under five minutes.  It’s not smart to stay around here.”


    My forehead pulled together.  “What are  you planning to do?”


    “I have another house in Oakland,” Jason said.  “The only one here who knows for sure where it is, is me, and now you.”  He ran a hand over his hair.  “Tomorrow, we’ll have to head up there with a majority of our things.  The guys know me well enough that they’re probably already packing their things together.  We’ll do the same in the morning, and be out of here by eigth.”


    “He’ll think you’re running scared,” I told Jason.  Truthfully, I thought he was running scared.  Grant was one person.  Jason had himself and four other guys, not to mention a whole stockpile of guns.


    “He’ll think I’m an idiot if I don’t,” he snorted, though I felt his fist clench as it rested against my back.  “What he’s gotten himself into has earned him a lot of allies, and even without what Grant’s bound to tell them, I’ve got a target on my back.  Anyone who’s got a problem with me will jump at the chance to get inside here.”


    I knew — probably better than anyone — that people would leap for the opportunity to take a shot at Jason.  If Grant were going to provide it, then he was right; we needed to leave.


    I blinked.  We needed to leave?  When had I started grouping Jason’s group and I together?  I was a separate person, the categorization not supposed to touch me.  Had I been here so long that it felt like I was actually included?  A month and a half didn’t seem that long, but to me I’d been here forever.


    “Will you be ready to leave if you have a little bit of time to throw your things together tomorrow?” Jason asked, bringing me out of my thoughts.  “Or do you need to start now?”


    I chewed the inside of my cheek, thinking of all the bags of clothing Jason had bought for me.  I only had one duffel, already full with my own.  Sure, I could have it packed, but in what?


    “I’ll need a few bags,” I told him.




    With that, he rolled out of our embrace and knelt down beside the bed.  I felt the cold air hit me from his absence, and clutched the sheets tighter to my body.  As his hands dug around under the bed, I heard the scrapes of fabric against wood.  Soon Jason had pulled out three new duffels, all the same size as my own.  He stood and set them on the bed where he’d previously been lying.


    “Here,” he said, patting the stack before walking toward his closet.  Jason didn’t speak again, and I figured he wouldn’t when I began to hear hangers sliding against racks and the thump of clothing against the floor.


    I decided I should probably start packing too, since the last thing I wanted was to rush in the morning.  As I slid down from Jason’s bed I pulled the new duffels with me and dragged them to where I’d started stacking the new clothes, a few feet from the bathroom door.  Two at a time, I pushed shirts and jeans into one bag.  When it was full I did the same for the other two, and several minutes later I had everything away.  I left one set of clothes out for tomorrow morning, knowing I’d want to shower before leaving.


    Slowly I made my way back to the bed.  I sat back against the headboard, waiting for Jason to come back as well.  A few minutes later he did, tossing his bags to where mine were, near the door leading to the hallway.  His feet took him to the edge of the bed, tugging on the duvet as he kneeled onto the mattress.  A smile tugged at my mouth as he came to hang above me, face hovering over mine with his knees resting on either side of my hips.


    “You left a change of clothes out,” he stated, his lips brushing mine.


    Something pulled at my stomach, a combination of breathlessness and nerves.  I smiled softly.  “I don’t want to wear the same clothes tomorrow as I did the night before.”


    His teeth snagged my bottom lip and I kissed him.  Too soon he pulled away, resting his forehead on mine.  I could see his eyes, but I knew they followed his hands, tracing from my neck to the hem of my shirt.  He fumbled with it, then coaxed it upward with his thumbs.


    “You won’t need them,” he said, his voice several tones lower.


    I was hit with a burning desire, pushing me to wrap my arms around his neck.  Our lips met and he rolled us over so I was lying on top of him, my legs falling to straddle his waist.  My shirt was pulled over my head, and Jason’s was too, joining mine on the floor.  His hands found my back, pushing my chest flush to his.


    “We’ve got to get a full night’s sleep at one point,” I mumbled, hardly breaking our kiss.


    “You’ve got the whole day to sleep tomorrow,” he told me, rolling over and coming to rest above me.  My stomach filled with butterflies and I tugged at the hair growing at his nape with his next words.  “You’re going to need it.”



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    We’d barely been asleep an hour before I heard the garage door rumble open.  I groaned and rolled over, facing away from Jason.  Shivering with the absence of my shirt, my torso covered only by my bra, I reached for the duvet and tugged it over me.  Jason’s movement made me jump, lips pressing to my shoulder before throwing the sheets off of me.


    I scrambled to collect them, glaring at Jason as he chuckled.  He was already dressed, dark jeans and a faded t-shirt covering his form.  I spotted my clothes on the floor and reached for them, pulling on the shirt and sweatpants I’d been wearing the night before.  My cheeks heated, as they always did, thinking of Jason.  How had he brought me out of my shell so far?


    My feet lead me to the set of clothes I’d set out for this morning and I snagged them before heading into the bathroom.


    “You put clothes on to shower?” Jason questioned sarcastically.


    I snuck a look over my shoulder.  “Didn’t think you’d like the view.”


    “You don’t know me at all, then,” he said lowly, a rasp forming in his voice like the way it had the night before.


    I smirked.  “Maybe I’ll have to get to know you better… Later.”


    With that, I shut myself in the bathroom and flipped on the shower.  It took me about ten minutes to wash myself and bask in the warmth of the water.  When a knock on the door sounded and Jason warned that I only had ten minutes before we left, I hurriedly dried off and pulled the new outfit on.  Leggings adorned my lower half and a long shirt cover my top, and my wet hair was pulled into a bun on top of my head.


    I wiped the steam off the bathroom mirror with my towel, taking in my reflection.  I looked as tired as I felt, clearly not getting the kind of rest I needed.  To make myself feel better, I padded out into Jason’s room to get a tube of concealer out of my duffel, and applied it less than sparingly under my eyes.  Mascara found its way to my lashes before I tucked my makeup away and shoved my feet into my combat boots.


    Jason’s bags and three of mine were gone, leaving me to carry the last one down.  I could hear the faint start of a car even two stories above and assumed one of the other guys was already heading for the new place.  A frown suddenly appeared on my features.


    Oakland, California.  I’d heard Markus and my brother talk about the city before, marveling at the kind of things that went on there.  Drug deals for sure, so they would make a living around there.  But it was also seven hours away from where we lived, and not worth uprooting everyone for a little extra money.


    I let out a long breath.  Seven hours.  Jason was taking me seven hours to a new place, pulling me away from my family.  No matter how much they hadn’t been trying to get me back, the realization that moving with Jason would put me that far away from them hit me like a moving train.  What did going with Jason even mean?  That I was still his prisoner?  I mentally shook my head; Jason didn’t treat me like one, and never really had.  In all honesty, I didn’t really know what Jason and I were.  I was a little afraid of asking, worried the answer might hurt me — when I had started caring what Jason said to me, I didn’t know either.


    But no matter what reasoning I threw at myself, I always found a pull to go with him.  I wanted to go to Oakland; I wanted to leave my brother,Tyler, all those who’d seemingly abandoned me; I wanted to start a new life up there.


    With the realization, I smiled.  Away from them, and everyone here, I could start a new life where no one beside Jason and his guys knew me.  No one would know anything about my brother and Jason’s previous conflicts, or about why I was in Jason’s house.  No one.


    I shrugged the duffel over my shoulder and cast a glance back at Jason’s bed, still sitting unmade.  The curtains were open beyond it, and I could see Jason talking to Carter in the driveway.  Even from above, I could see the bags under his eyes.  He probably hadn’t gotten any sleep, and a found myself feeling bad for him.  It had to do things to him, having his girlfriend selling herself into prostitution to escape debt, even after he’d gotten her out of jail and tried to gamble enough money to save her.


    Sighing, I made my way downstairs.  Before I could stop myself, I snagged a banana and an apple from the fridge for a quick breakfast.  I carried the fruit in one hand and adjusted my duffel with the other, then jogged downstairs.  As I approached the door leading to the garage and noticed the key pad under the knob, I slowed.  I didn’t know the code to get out, and would look stupid jiggling the handle until someone answered or standing inside until the door was opened from the outside.  I bit my lip, but was saved by Xander coming in.


    I said nothing to him as I caught the door with my foot, but didn’t receive the usual glare he threw my way.  Xander and I were still no where near friends, but over the past few weeks we’d talked a bit and I realized he wasn’t half the bad person I’d thought he was.  I hoped he saw me the same way, since he remained to be the only one in the house who had an actual problem with me.  Hating someone you saw almost twenty-four hours a day wasn’t especially great.


    As I took the few steps down into the garage, I noticed one of the six cars gone.  The large door was already open, and a car was being driven into the back of a semi trailer.  Blondie swung out of the cab of the truck, moving around to inspect where the car had just disappeared inside.  Leo was stuffing a bag into the back of a new navy Cadillac with his back to me, and Jason was throwing a duffel into the backseat of a black GMC Canyon.  I'd never pegged Jason for a pickup truck driver, but as he swung into the driver’s seat and ignited the engine, I decided it was incredibly hot.


    None of them had noticed me yet as I made my way to Jason’s truck.  Sunlight lit up the street, allowing me to see features of the place around the house I’d never seen in the daytime.  Shops lined streets to the right of the house, and a few other large houses were in a row across from the shops.  The warehouse, I knew, was on the opposite side of Jason’s place from where we stood.  I wondered how they’d be able to transport everything from within it in one day.


    I must’ve caught Jason’s eye, because he hopped out of the driver’s side and kissed me before taking the duffel.  He tossed it in the back seat as Xander came back into the garage and walked over to us.  Blondie stuck his head out of the trailer and shot me a look, and I realized Xander was giving me the same one — they thought I was going to run.  It would’ve been so easy to take off now, duck into a shop and tell someone I’d been kidnapped.  But I wouldn’t.


    I nearly scoffed and swung into the passenger’s seat of the truck and cracked my window slightly before peeling the banana.  Jason slammed the door he had open and turned to Xander.


    “I told you,” Jason hissed under his breath.


    “Don’t let her screw with you, Jason,” Xander said in the same tone.  I tried not to give a reaction.  They didn’t know I was listening.  “Don’t let her be another–“


    “Shut the hell up,” Jason snapped, stalking around to the driver’s side.  “Tyson!” he shouted at regular volume.  A guy I hadn’t seen before poked his head out of the trailer.  “I’m pulling around to the warehouse.  Be there in five with the truck.”


    With that, Jason slid into the pickup and threw it in reverse, pulling into the street before adjusting his rear-view mirror.  He took us to the first intersection, not saying anything while he stopped and then turned right.


    What had Jason told Xander?  That I wouldn’t make a break for it?  After everything that’d happened between me and Jason, how could his guys think I’d still run?  I couldn’t fake what I felt with Jason even if I wanted to.  At least he knew that, since he’d told Xander.  But what had Xander been about to say before Jason stopped him?  What was Jason letting me be?  I didn’t get to finish my thought before he spoke.


    “We just have to pick up a few things from the warehouse, and we’ll be on the way.”


    I nodded, crossing my legs and leaning into the seat.  When my brother and I used to go on long car rides, I always sat with my feet kicked up on the dash and my phone in my hand the whole time.  I played games while he subtly complained about the feet marks on the inside of the windshield, but he always ended up leaving me alone after about an hour.  I didn’t know Jason well enough outside his house to be able to tell if I could be like that with him, and I didn’t have my phone.  I’d have to make it seven hours in a completely different way.


    Jason pulled into a small driveway at the warehouse I hadn’t seen before, a garage door meant for a semi trailer carved into the side of the building.  The care bumped as he drove off the pavement and into the grass beside the drive, probably leaving room for the truck to back in.  He put the pickup in park and slid out of it, jogging to the door and digging a key out of his pocket the unlock it.  After stuffing the key back in his jeans he threw open the metal door and began directing the truck in when it appeared at the curb.  Soon Jason disappeared into the warehouse, and I saw heavy items being thrown in, wrapped in black plastic.  They were no doubt the stacks of pot I’d seen my first trip here, and I wondered how he’d be able to get it all into a truck where there were already two cars.  My question was answered several minutes later when the truck pulled into the street, trailer door closed and disappearing down the street.


    Jason hopped down from the raised platform, then dragged two large bags down and jogged over.  After tossing them in the bed of the pickup, he tapped on my window.  I rolled it down, giving him a smile as he kissed me quickly.


    “Can you back the pickup so I can just push these down into it?” he asked, gesturing toward the warehouse.


    I nodded.  “Sure, just give me a sec.”


    I slid out of the passenger’s seat and giggled as Jason shut the door, then pushed me up against the truck.  His hips ground into mine and I fisted his shirt as I sucked on his bottom lip.


    “Thanks,” he mumbled lowly, then placed a kiss under my jaw before heading back over to the platform.  I made my way around to the driver’s side and swung in, throwing it into gear and doing what Jason asked.  I poked my head out of the window as I felt loads being dropped onto the bed.


    “Do you want help?” I called up.  Jason was poised to push another stack with his foot.


    “This is the last of it,” he told me.  “All I need to do is cover it, and we’ll be gone.”


    I nodded and sat back, closing both windows and climbing back into my seat before Jason closed the metal door and hopped in the truck.  He pulled out into the street, and soon his tires hit the interstate.


    “Feel free to fall asleep,” Jason smirked.  “We had a long night.”


    My cheeks flushed and I thumped his shoulder.  “Aren’t you tired?”


    “Not in the least,” he said, flicking on the radio.  Soft music began to play, an alternative song I hadn’t heard before.  “Seriously, lean your seat back.  I’ll wake you up when we get there.”


    I hadn’t realized how tired I was until Jason mentioned sleeping.  A yawn came over me, and did as he said.  Leaning the seat back about three notches, I propped my hand up so I could rest my head in it and closed my eyes.  I had the faintest thought that maybe Jason had purposely gotten me tired, just so I couldn’t see the area we were moving to.  If I didn’t know my way around, how could I have any hope of finding my way back…



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    “Phoebe,” Jason’s voice prodded, and I felt a hand on my shoulder.  “Phoebe, we’re here.”


    I opened my eyes slightly, trying to find Jason.  He was sat beside me in the pickup, fiddling with the radio before turning back and trying to coax me awake again.  I eventually complied, sitting up my seat and rubbing my temples.  Jason’s door opened and he swung out, jogging around to my door and opening it for me.  I slid out and kissed him lazily, holding onto his arm for support in my recently-awoken state.  If I would’ve been any more tired, I might not have been able to take in the large house sprawled out in front of me.


    It was symmetrical, the midpoint being a wood door set back into the stone walls, pillars framing the small front porch.  Above was a balcony with double doors, no doubt leading to a master bedroom.  To either side were windows on both the first and second levels, and beyond that were two more wings of house and large panes showing a bit of interior.  The stone was a light tan, cutting off at the brown-shingled roof.


    We were parked out at the street, staring at the front as a car pulled up behind the pickup.  Leo jumped out and breathed a wow.  I’d almost forgotten that Jason was the only one who’d seen the place.  It was a lot more attractive than the last house, which hadn’t even had much of a yard.  But I didn’t see a warehouse nearby — the only thing close was another house, about fifty feet to the side wall of the other.


    Carter appeared in the doorway of the house, dangling a set of keys in his hand.  Jason, Leo, and I all walked across the expanse of the lawn, meeting him at the door.  Jason took the ring from Carter and pulled a key off of it for Leo.  I wasn’t surprised when he merely stuffed the rest in his pocket, not intending to give me one.


    “Xander, Lucas, and Tyson all went to the new warehouse,” Jason said.  “They’ll be here in about half an hour for the rest of the load in my truck.  Let’s get everything moved in before they get back so we’re not all moving at once.”  They nodded and we began to walk back toward the cars, but Jason grabbed my hand.  “Why don’t you go check out the place,” he told me.


    I smiled and nodded, giving his hand a squeeze before ducking into the doorway.  The door thudded closed behind me and I was encased in warm air, a comforting difference from the cooler air of northern California.  As I took in the entry way, I realized the house was a lot bigger than the exterior let on.  There was a large light fixture that hung down from a fourteen-foot ceiling, and to either side of it were miniatures of the same kind.  To my left was what looked like a small study, glass double doors opening to a gray-carpeted floor and navy walls.  I looked down, my shoes on the finished mahogany flooring.  Thinking better of walking through the new house with my boots, I kicked them off and continued to my right.


    Obviously a dining area, the same wood floors and cream walls complemented another light fixture, fit for the height of the ceiling.  I peeked around the corner, seeing that a kitchen was strategically attached to the room with an open archway.  Before I gave into the temptation to continue there first, I backtracked and went straight back into the house.  A large, open area with tan walls lead all the way back to the end of the house, glass sliding doors leading to the back yard.  I stepped into the expanse, looking closer into the yard.  A short deck jutted out from the house, stairs leading down into a tiled area surrounding a pool.  A pool.  I’d never had one before, and to have one right outside would be incredibly nice.  I wondered if the temperature could be set for colder weather.


    I heard a garage door rumble open to my left and my vision found the door that lead to it, set back in the far corner.  The key pad was already in place, but probably not programmed to lock the door yet.  The rest of the wall remained empty, spare for two staircases — one leading up, the other down — yielding a tan carpet.  I looked right and found the open kitchen, larger than the last.  An island rested in the middle here too, and held numerous amounts of drawers.  Along the outside was a stainless-steal dishwasher, a french-doored refrigerator with a freezer below, and a stove-oven.  Each was separated from each other by a four foot section of marble counter, and a sink rested in the corner of the room.


    Before Jason had a chance to come in with Carter and Leo, I made my way up the stairs.  Halfway up, the staircase made a sharp turn, making a five foot square landing.  A door was set into the wall there, and my hand twisted the knob.  Inside was a fairly good sized room, lit by a window about six feet across and covered by thin curtains on the opposite wall.  A closet was on the same wall as the door, where I stood.  There was an open door to the left, leading into a full bathroom.


    I backed out and continued up the rest of the stairs, surprised to see five more doors staggered along the hallway, dark without windows.  My hand found a light switch and I flicked it on as I hear the guys bustle in on the main level.  They were speaking about the house’s lack of a basement as I turned the knob of the first room, a door directly to my right.  This room was almost exactly like the first, but the bathroom was on the opposite side.  The same was for the next I looked in, the first door in the hall to my left.  I stepped up to the middle door on the right wall and opened it slowly.


    Directly across from where I stood was the glass door leading to the balcony I’d seen from outside.  Light beamed in from there, illuminating the room so I didn’t have to find a switch.  This was, without a doubt, the master, since the area was almost two times the size of the previous rooms I’d been in.  Three doors rested along the left wall — two walk-in closets and a full bathroom.  The amount of space in this house compared to the last had already begun to amaze me.


    I continued me search of the house, finishing with the last two rooms along the main upper-level hall.  As I came out of the last, I noticed that a small group of stairs lead only to another door.  It seemed like an odd place for a room, but that’s exactly what it was when I went inside.


    Convinced I’d seen all the house had to offer, I made my way back downstairs.  I found several duffel bags dumped on the floor at the foot of the staircase.  Jason and Carter stood on the back deck talking while Leo banged around in the kitchen.


    “Already eating?” I laughed, making my way to him.


    “Thank God Carter already stocked this,” he said, pulling out a cup of yogurt from the fridge.  “I haven’t had anything since last night, and I’m starving.”


    I smiled.  “Depending on what’s in there, I’ll make a big dinner tonight.  Do you think we’ll have any furniture by then?”


    He shrugged.  “None of us are making the trip back any time soon.  I think all Xander and Lucas managed to shove in the trailer were the bean bags and two small fold-up card tables.”


    I sighed, relieved.  “I was going to miss those bean bags.”


    Leo finally returned my grin.  “Me too.”


    The back door opened and Jason entered, gesturing for me to follow him.  I complied, meeting him at the foot of the stairs.  He gestured up and I led him to the top floor, waiting for him to point where he wanted to go.


    “The end of the hall,” he said.  When I stepped down the small staircase leading to the last room, he followed close behind.  “Open it,” he nodded his head at the door.


    I did as he said and stopped just inside, waiting for him to say something as he wrapped his arms around my waist from behind.  We stood there for a long moment, the light dissipating and reappearing with passing clouds.


    “Why are we here?” I asked eventually.


    He rested his chin on my shoulder.  “Technically, your month is up.”


    My forehead pulled together.  “What?”


    “One of your first nights, you lost a bet that entailed you had to spend a whole month’s worth of nights in my room,” Jason told me.


    My mouth formed an ‘O’, though he couldn’t see it.  “That didn’t really answer my question, though.”


    “This house has an extra room,” he explained.  “I thought I’d offer it to you before assuming you’d want to be in mine.”


    I turned in his arms so I could face him.  His expression didn’t let anything on, so I couldn’t tell how he was feeling about the idea.  I gave him a questioning look.


    “You honestly think I’d want to skip out on a night with you?” I asked, roping my arms around his neck.


    Jason smirked.  “It was worth asking, to hear that answer.”


    I rolled my eyes.  “Don’t flatter yourself too much.”


    “I don’t have to.  I have you.”


    He kissed me, his lips moving from my mouth to just underneath my jaw before I stopped him.


    “We don’t have a mattress,” I stated, realizing that Leo had said the only furniture they’d brought were the bean bags.


    “I’ve heard the floor is better,” Jason mumbled into my neck, beginning to suck on a soft spot I didn’t know was there.


    A chill ran up my spine and I leaned away, laughing lightly.  “The last time I slept on the floor, I had an ache in my back so bad it affected me for days.”


    He chuckled deeply, pulling back to look me in the eyes with his brown ones.  “Then we’ll go look for one.  Right now.”


    I smiled and pecked his cheek.  “It better be like the last one.  If you come home with a bad one, I’ll make you take it right back.”


    He shook his head.  “We’ll get the right one the first time, obviously.”


    I rose an eyebrow.  “Oh?  And how are you planning on doing that.”


    “Didn’t you hear me?” he said, acting like I was missing something.  I shrugged.  “I said we.”


    I shrugged.  “And?”


    He laughed.  “Catch up, Phoebe.  You’re not staying here.  You’re coming with me."












        I apologize for any typos...  Anyway, long update in honor of the holiday weekend.  Hope you all enjoyed.  Next update expected maybe two weeks from now?  We'll see. Xx

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