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."


11. ~9.15~

    I woke up quickly when I realized I wasn’t in the air mattress anymore.  I sat bolt upright, my eyes searching the room for any detail or hint as to where I was.  On my right was the fully-windowed wall of Jason’s room, covered in dark curtains that let only a small strip of sunlight in.  On my left was the expanse of the other half of Jason’s room, nearly empty except for the bed I was lying on.  And at the foot of Jason’s bed — was Jason.


    My fists clenched as I realized I hadn’t been having a dream last night.  Jason had carried me to his bed and taken my place on the air mattress.  He was trying to play the moral high ground game again.  It was getting incredibly irritating to be shown up by a guy who’s shot more people than I could ever dream of, especially when he’d taken me hostage and away from my group.


    I ground my teeth, holding back the urge to smother him with a pillow.  He was vulnerable asleep, but trying to suffocate him would definitely wake him up.  Jason was a lot stronger than me, whether I liked to face the fact or not.  And even if I managed to at least knock him out for a while, I would still have five more guys to deal with on my way out.


    Why was Jason trying to screw with me?  I kept asking myself the same question every time he did something like this, but still came up with no answer.  He already had me here; what more could he want?  Why did he want me here in the first place?


    I sighed and threw myself back onto the pillows, trying not to notice how well I fell into the spot Jason had worn into the mattress from sleeping in the same place.  I bit my lip and closed my eyes, brooding over Jason’s actions.


    He thought he was winning — he knew he was.  I couldn’t let him, not if I was going to establish my place in this house as a force to be reckoned with.  I had to do something, and I knew what it was.  My thoughts diverted to other methods, none as effective as the first, but I still scrambled for another option.


    But there wasn’t another option.  I had to beat Jason at his own game — play the nice girl for a while.  It made me feel sick to even think about being kind to Jason, but I was sure it had the same effect on him.  But being kind wasn’t enough, not to beat him.  I had to make him think I was being genuine, but even more than that…  I just didn’t know what.


    I sat up, fought the strong pull to chuck a pillow at him, and climbed out of the bed.  I snagged my duffel on the way to the bathroom and shut the door, double checking that the lock was in place.  After that, I showered quickly and began to pull on a pair of my dark jeans, but stopped with one leg in.


    The clothes Jason had bought me were still sitting next to his bed, untouched.  I winced at the thought of accepting something he’d bought for me, but playing the game meant playing the part — however repulsive.


    I pulled my leg out of my jeans and wrapped the towel I’d used around my body instead.  Slowly, I unlocked the bathroom door and peeked into the room.  Jason was still asleep on the air mattress, at least as far as I could tell.  The four bags were sitting along the wall, almost overflowing with clothes.  I sighed, then quickly padded over to them.  As quietly as I could, I grabbed two in each hand while attempting to hold my towel up, then strode back into the bathroom.  I closed the door with my hip and dropped the bags, then relocked the door.  Drawing in a deep breath, I reached for the nearest heap of clothes.


    The first thing I pulled out was a pale purple tank with golden swirls along the bottom.  It was a nice top, but didn’t fit my taste.  I tossed it to the side, then came up with a brown-and-white crop top.  Aside from the fact it ended above my navel, I actually found myself liking the top.  I rolled my eyes as myself and tugged it on over my head.  It fit perfectly.  I found a pair of light blue high waisted jeans in the middle of the bag and pulled them on; they sat perfectly on my legs as well, and were exceptionally comfortable.


    I looked at myself in the mirror above the sink and immediately wrinkled my nose.  My body was covered in things that belonged to Jason, and I hated it.  I tossed my wet hair over my shoulder and rubbed my eyes, trying to calm myself.  At the moment, I was too worked up to act the way I needed to.  Honestly, I didn’t think I’d ever be calm enough around Jason to play the party completely.


    I bent down and shoved the clothes I’d dragged out back into the bags, then pushed all four against the wall.  Kicking my duffel next to them, I unlocked the door and took one more breath before turning the nob and pushing out into the room.


    Jason was up, sitting on the edge of the air mattress with his head in his hands.  His chest was bare, and his bottom half was covered by a pair of loose sweatpants.  His biceps tensed as he rubbed his eyes, and I saw his abdominal muscles contract before he looked up at me.  He gave me a twice-over, his eyes lingering around my waist, then met my eyes.


    “You’re wearing what I bought you,” he said, a hint of a question in his tone.


    I shrugged, putting on a fake half-smile.  “They fit nicely.”  I clasped my hands in front of me and shifted my weight from foot to foot.


    Jason rose an eyebrow.  I ignored it.


    “I’m in the mood for french toast,” I said absently, turning on my toes and shuffling toward the door.  “What about you?”


    I reached for the door handle and pulled it open, then looked over my shoulder at him.  He was given me a calculating look, obviously skeptical of my lack of hostility.  I rolled my eyes.


    “Aren’t you sick of take out and left overs?” I asked innocently.  “I know I am.  I’ll make extra.”


    With that, I slid out the door and made my way to the kitchen.  The clock on the wall told me it was around eleven, and Leo was just coming up from downstairs.  He yawned loudly, then looked at me.


    “I thought you freaked out when Jason got you clothes,” he said.  “He must have hid your others.”


    I shrugged.  “I like them,” I answered.


    Leo knew I was lying as soon as I’d said it — I could tell by the look he gave me.  But I knew that if I didn’t act the same way toward everyone, Jason would figure out soon enough I was trying to play his game instead of making a turn around.


    “I’m making breakfast,” I said, brushing past him and to the fridge.


    I pulled out a carton of eggs, then moved to the pantry to grab a loaf of bread.  The guys had apparently restocked the fridge and pantry overnight when they figured out I could cook, because I found cinnamon in the cupboard above the stove.  They didn’t usually have things like that around here, especially when they ate carry out ninety-nine percent of the time.


    “What is it?” Leo asked, coming to stand beside me at the stove.


    “French toast,” I told him as I tossed a slice of butter into a pan.  I reached across Leo’s vision to grab a bowl, then set it on the counter.  “Do me a favor and crack three eggs in there.”


    Leo did as I asked while I got out a carton of milk, then mixed the eggs and milk together.  I dipped slices of bread into the mix, then slapped them onto the pan to cook for a few minutes.  Ten minutes later I had a plate full of french toast on the island, and was sprinkling cinnamon onto them when Grant came from upstairs.


    Leo picked a couple slices and dug right in while Grant grabbed a paper plate.  “Since when did you start cooking extra for us?”

    I shrugged.  “Since I decided carry out every night wasn’t healthy.”


    He paused and I almost smacked myself.  “Since when have you cared about our health?”


    I tried to play it off as a joke.  “Notice how the fridge got filled when I started cooking.  I didn’t want to eat your left overs, and if cooking means I get to eat what I want…”  I trailed off, gauging his reaction.  I had to play my part, and I had to play it well.


    When Grant just shrugged and started eating, I sighed quietly.  What I’d said hadn’t entirely been a lie, so it probably hadn’t shown in my face.  I sat back against the counter and watched the two of them, not feeling hungry just yet.  They both absent-mindedly moved toward the table as they finished their meals, leaving their plates in front of them as they sat down.


    “You didn’t come down pissed at Jason today,” Leo said, directed at me.


    I saw this as my chance to actually start truly playing my part.


    “I don’t see a point in being angry all the time,” I answered with a shrug.  “Not anymore, at least.  I’m stuck here until Jason’s say-so; why spend however long that will be mad every waking hour?”


    Leo’s expression was dumbfounded, and Grant actually turned around in his chair to look at me in disbelief.  I cursed inwardly — maybe that was a little much for the first day.  They both cocked an eyebrow, waiting for me to say something, probably along the lines of “Just kidding!”.


    I turned away to hide a look exasperation, and moved to grab a paper plate for myself.  “Close your mouths,” I said.  “You’ll look smarter.”


    “That sounds just a little bit more like you,” Grant spoke.  I turned after grabbing a plate in time to see his skeptical look fade a little.  “I was about to ask if you felt okay.”


    My temper spiked a little at his words.  He didn’t know me; no one in this house knew me, and never would.  But I held my neutral look and put a slice of french toast on the plate for myself, then leaned back against the counter.  Grant and Leo gave me one last glance before turning and talking loudly about some kind of weapon.


    Five minutes later, Jason strode into the kitchen.


    I looked at him, careful to hold a calm expression.  I’d gotten so used to glaring at him whenever he came within thirty feet of me that I had to force myself to remember.  He was wearing dark jeans and a gray-and-white baseball tee.  His eyes glanced at my face, giving me the same calculating look I’d received not twenty minutes before.


    Jason spotted the breakfast I’d made on the counter.  He looked at it for a long moment, long enough that I thought he wasn’t going to grab any.


    “I didn’t poison it,” I said nonchalantly.  “Leo and Grant ate it, and they’re not dead.”


    Jason narrowed his eyes slightly, then turned to Grant and Leo.  “Don’t you two have something better to do than just sit there?” he spoke sharply.


    Leo opened his mouth to say something but Grant shot him a look and stood.  He grabbed Leo’s are and pulled him out of the kitchen and downstairs.  A few seconds later I heard the garage door open and close, and Jason and I were alone in silence.


    I glanced at him, then brushed past to get the two paper plates they’d left behind and threw them away.  Doing my best to act oblivious to Jason’s scrutinizing glare, I strode toward the sink to wash my hands.  But half way there, Jason’s arm shot out and grabbed my forearm.  I covered my jump of surprise by bouncing on the balls of my feet.


    “Can I help you?” I asked, shifting my weight from foot to foot.  I looked up at his face, hard and mistrusting.  His brow pulled together, a sign of him thinking hard.


    “What are you playing at?” he asked.


    I shrugged.  “I’m not playing,” I answered.  “In fact, I—“


    “Don’t bullshit me, Phoebe,” he nearly growled.


    I didn’t have to feign surprise at this response.  He was getting worked about me being kind for once?  Granted, I was bullshitting my way through this, and my goal was to win his game…  But wouldn’t the change of character pull him into thinking it was nice at first?  I hadn’t expected him to react this way so soon; I was already winning the game, judging by this encounter.


    “I’ve had a change of heart,” I told him.  I smiled.  “Why be angry all the time when I can’t change that a douche bag took me hostage and won’t let me leave?”


    I kicked myself for letting that comment slip when the corner of Jason’s mouth tugged upward.  After that, he definitely knew I was playing his game.  But even so, I was still set on winning; but there was still something more I needed, I just couldn’t put a finger on it.


    “I’m looking forward to seeing how long this will last,” Jason sneered.  There wasn’t a trace of the kind Jason I’d seen the past few days, obviously because he’d been putting on a face.  “I won’t bet an hour — hell, I won’t bet ten minutes.”


    I put on my best smile and blinked heavily at him.  Then I got on my tiptoes, so I was almost nose to nose with Jason.  I inwardly cringed, but didn’t show it in my face.  “Enjoy it while it lasts, McCann.”


    Something changed in his face as I remained the same distance from his face.  His breath became ragged and I recognized the look right away.  I turned away, making my way out of the kitchen as quickly as I could without jogging.  He didn’t say anything as I collapsed into my usual bean bag, and I didn’t hear him for the next hour until a paper plate dropped into the waste bin and the garage door opened and closed.


    Jason had gone, but the look had stayed in my mind all the while.  That look he gave me…  It was the one he’d given me right before he’d kissed me.  The expression had left him devoid of all emotion except one…


    I held in a scoff when I realized I knew what it meant.  It was the same kind of look Tyler had given me before we started dating — desire, need…  But what did that mean for Jason?  How could he look at me like that?  Was that just acting, too?


    I shook my head.  No, it couldn’t be.  The look was too genuine to be acting.  I bit my lip and thought harder, trying to fill in the missing piece.  If Jason looked at me so real like that — with want, with desire — that meant something was going on inside him that I hadn’t picked up.  I was repulsed at the thought of him having feelings for me, would never have wished for it.  But if that were the case…


    Suddenly, I snapped my fingers and sat straight up.  I knew what the missing piece of my puzzle was.


    I didn’t have to tear Jason down from the start.  The higher up he was, the more painful the fall off his pedestal would be.  I would build him up, make him think about things that weren’t real.  I would do it so well, he wouldn’t know he was getting knocked off his high-horse until he’d already hit the ground.  I shivered at the thought of a broken Jason McCann.


    My body settled back into the bean bag and I resumed watching the ceiling fan, already writing out scenarios in my head.  This would probably work; but if it didn’t, no harm done at all.  But deep down, I knew I’d hit the jackpot with my idea, no matter how far I had to go.  If Jason broke, I could find a way out while he was vulnerable.  Yes, it was perfect!


    I was going to make Jason fall for me.

If you're looking for something to read in between updates, I've just published a Zayn Malik AU that will have longer chapters, but only every 2-4 weeks because of this story and everything else I've got going on.
        Thank you all for reading and enjoying Xx

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