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by Kelly Favor
WRONG. 2013, all rights reserved.
Caelyn tried to understand was Elijah had just said to her. His lips had moved, hed spoken words,
but she couldnt seem to make sense of them.
What? she said, and her voice sounded far away, as if coming from somewhere else.
You need to get out of here, Elijah told her, as he closed the door behind him and immediately
began stripping off his bloody clothing.
Caelyn was still standing beside the kitchen table. In fact, she was still holding her cup of coffee, as if
Elijah might decide to sit down and join her at the table for a morning chat. She watched as he
stepped out of his pants. He was now wearing only his boxer shorts, standing just inside the doorway
of the apartment.
His legs were muscular and powerful, like a sprinter. His torso and shoulders were perfectly
sculpted. Everything about him was like a statuethe body of a god
come to life.
Except for the blood. Splotches of blood were still visible on his forearms, his hands, even his neck,
and there was a smear of red on one cheek.
It suddenly occurred to Caelyn that hed gone out and murdered someone, and thats why he was
bloody and ordering her to leave the apartment. Hed killed a man
maybe more than one man.
Or perhaps Elijah was hurt. She didnt see any wounds, but all of that blood
The thought of him being injured jolted her out of her strangely unreactive state.
She sprang into motion, putting her cup down and running towards him. What happened? she asked.
Are you hurt?
Elijah shook his head. No. He held out a hand for her to stop. I dont want you getting any blood
on you.
She stopped and looked at him. Tell me whats going on.
I need you to get me a garbage bag from under the sink, and some paper towels,
was all he said. His expression was neutral, his voice firm and calm.

Caelyn felt confused. What happened, Elijah?

Just get me what I asked for.
She turned and went back to the kitchen, returning to the entrance of the apartment, where Elijah was
standing beside the pile of bloody clothes. When she got within a couple of feet, he reached out and
took the garbage bag and paper towels from her.
Then he knelt down and scooped the clothes into the trash bag in one quick motion. After that, he
cleaned the worst of the blood from his hands and arms using the paper towels.
Standing up, Elijah finally turned his attention to her once more. I know youre scared and I get that
you want to know what happened. But theres no point in telling you any of it. You need to get out of
here, Caelyn.
Im not leaving you, she said, and only as the words left her mouth did she realize how much she
meant them.
Elijah smiled a little at that. I wish it was as simple as us wanting to be together, he told her.
It is that simple.
No, he said, shaking his head, its really not.
Tell me why youre kicking me out. She felt the tears starting to burn her eyes and blinked rapidly,
frustrated at her own weakness. But she was even more frustrated with Elijahs heartlessness.
Im not kicking you out. He picked up the trash bag and tied it.
Look at me, Elijah.
He looked at her and his eyes were pained, but his expression was determined.
This is what needs to happen. If there was any other way
Of course theres another way. Her voice was choked.
If you stay here with me, something bad will happen to you. And Im not going to let anything bad
happen to you.
Then we can leave together, go to a motel, somewhere far away from here.
He shook his head slowly. Its time for you to go now.
Will I see you again?
He turned away from her then, walking to the bedroom as she followed behind him, desperate for

answers, clinging to the slim hope that she could convince him to change his mind.
Elijah put on a fresh pair of jeans and a new t-shirt.
Cant you at least stop for one second and tell me whats going on? she asked.
When he was dressed, he ran a hand through his hair. Somehow he managed to look perfect once
more, as if hed spent the morning lounging around the apartment instead of engaged in whatever
violent acts hed been doing while he was away.
I dont want to incriminate you, he said. And then he began moving again.
She followed him back into the hallway, where he picked up the trash bag and opened the door to the
apartment. Im going to throw this in the dumpster behind the building. Get your purse and anything
else you needand then go. I cant drive you anywhere, but there are plenty of cabs on Mass Ave.
Ill give you some money.
Caelyn shook her head as a silent sob wracked her body. She held it back, resolute that she wouldnt
let Elijah see her cry and freak out. He didnt deserve to see her true emotions anymore. He was
rejecting hersending her away after everything theyd been through together.
All of the betrayal and rage she felt suddenly coalesced into an icy calm that flowed through her veins
like a drug. In seconds, she became strangely composed and unaffected. Okay, Ill get my things.
He turned to her once more, his face a mask of barely concealed agony. I need to tell you something
before you go. The truth is, I
Dont bother, she replied, cutting him off intentionally, wanting to hurt him.
She saw that shed been successful, as he flinched as though shed slapped him.
He blinked at her. Caelyn, you have no idea how much you mean to me.
She almost laughed at that, but contained her laughter into a tiny smirk of disbelief. Is this how he
treated someone that meant a lot to him? Id really hate to see how you treat someone you dont care
about, she said.
I guess I deserve that.
You should probably just go and throw away the evidence, Caelyn said, pointing at the trash bag,
instead of wasting time talking to me.
Elijah looked down at it as if hed forgotten he was holding it. Caelyn, he sighed. I dont want it to
be like this. But I cant allow you to be hurt by my actions and my life. You understand, dont you?
She nodded curtly. Sure.

Okay, Im going to dump this stuff.

I wont be here when you come back.
His jaw tensed and she saw his throat working. I know, he said, after a moment.
Bye, Elijah.
He started to say goodbye to her in return, but then his voice choked a little and he simply turned and
left. As he turned his back to her, Caelyn couldnt believe the pain she felt throughout her entire body.
It was as if someone were pulling her apart from the inside.
Caelyn didnt take a cab. She took a bus and then the red line across the Charles River, getting off in
Harvard Square and then walking half a mile to Cambridge University.
When she finally opened the door to her college suite, Nellie was standing in the middle of the dorm
room. Her mouth dropped open when Caelyn walked inside, waving halfheartedly.
Hey, Caelyn said softly.
Hey, Nellie replied. Youre the last person I expected to see. Alicia said you werent ever coming
back to school.
Im still not sure what Im doingbut I have no place else to go.
Caelyn and Nellie hadnt ever gotten quite as close as Caelyn and Alicia had become during the time
that theyd been rooming together. Caelyn had always suspected that Nellie felt somewhat excluded
as her two other roommates had grown to be better and better friends.
Well sit down, Nellie said, gesturing to the chair nearby. Tell me whats going on. You look
completely drained.
Caelyn shrugged, but did as she was told. She sat down in the swivel chair and Nellie sat nearby on
the small couch. Nellie watched her expectantly. When Caelyn didnt say anything at first, Nellie
leaned forward and grabbed her hand. Its okay. I wont be mad.
And that simple, kind gesture caused Caelyn to burst into tears. She sobbed like she hadnt sobbed in
her whole lifebig, heaving cries as if someone had died.
She put a hand over her face and cried, unable to even say an intelligible word or stop the flood of
Ill get you some tissues. Nellie went to the bathroom and came back with a box of tissues and
handed it to Caelyn, who was finally starting to get control of herself.

She wiped her eyes, laughing with embarrassment. Sorry, I dont even know what came over me.
Nellie looked at her with big, serious brown eyes that seemed to know more than they should. You
dont have to apologize for anything.
I feel like I should be apologizing for everything.
Well whoever made you feel that way is an asshole.
Caelyn laughed, blew her nose, crumpled the tissue and threw it in the trash nearby. She sighed
deeply. I cant understand how everything that I thought was my life could just change so fast.
Nellie leaned towards her again. Sometimes life just turns us upside down.
Did that ever happen to you?
She nodded once. Yes.
Caelyn could see that her roommate didnt want to tell her exactly what had turned her life upside
down. But something told Caelyn that the other girl understood perfectly how she felt right at that
moment. Im really confused right now, Caelyn groaned.
Its okay to be confused. Youll figure this out.
I will?
Caelyn nodded gratefully. Thank you so much, Nellie. You know, Im really sorry if me and Alicia
ever made you feel
Just then the door opened. I heard my name, Alicia said, striding into the room with color high in
her cheeks. She saw Caelyn and didnt bat an eyelash. Were you saying something? Alicia
continued, staring right at Caelyn.
Caelyn had wanted to apologize to Nellie for not including her, for allowing Alicia to become the
center of attention, but Caelyn knew that Alicia was already angry and would use any excuse to start a
Caelyn shook her head. I was justwhining.
What a surprise. Alicia folded her arms and raised an eyebrow. You look like something the cat
dragged in.
Alicia! Nellie cried. Thats not nice.
Im not always nice, but at least Im honest.

Sometimes its better to keep your opinions to yourself, Nellie replied.

Not my style. Alicia walked over to the bookcase and started searching. I couldve sworn I still
had my old statistics textbook here somewhere. I had the best notes and Ben was saying hed love to
use them.
Nellie looked at Caelyn and mouthed a silent apology as Alicia continued to browse through the
nearby bookcase. She seemed to suck up all the air in the room, Caelyn thought.
Caelyn finished blowing her nose and wiping her eyes. Thanks, Nellie.
I didnt even do anything.
You did though, she replied.
Alicia pulled a book from the bookcase and stood up, spinning to face them.
What did Nellie do?
She just listened, Caelyn said. And she didnt get mad at me.
Alicia pursed her thin, red lips. I know you dont want anybody to be mad at you, Caelyn. But you
havent exactly made it easy for anyone to understand why youre acting this way.
I know I havent made things easy.
Alicia glared at her with annoyance. So what is it? You dont trust me now?
Caelyn sighed deeply. Of course I trust you.
Doesnt seem like it. Alicia was clutching her textbook so hard that her knuckles had turned white.
It feels like you suddenly decided that Im not worth keeping in your life anymore. And I really
thought we were friends. LikeI considered you my best friend, practically. I imagined us years from
now, still meeting for coffee and laughing about the crazy college days.
Nothings changed on my part, Caelyn told her.
Nothings changed? Alicia shook her head. How can you seriously say that after the way youve
acted? And now it seems like you think you can just come here and pretend everythings back to
Caelyn felt her blood starting to boil. You have no idea what I think.
Thats right, I dont. Because you refuse to tell me anything. Alicias voice was shaking a little bit.
Alicia, this isnt about you. This was something that happened to me, and I needed to deal with it
myself. Caelyn met her roommates gaze and held it firmly.

Alicia looked away. Whatever. Im going to bring this book to Ben. Maybe Ill see you later if you
havent decided to disappear again, Caelyn. And then she turned and left, the door closing with a
loud bang behind her.
Not long after Alicia left the room, Nellie had to go to class.
Caelyn finally got the suite to herself, which was kind of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, she
desperately needed sleep, and time to herself. On the other hand, the time alone brought her face-toface with just how much she missed Elijah already.
She imagined him standing there in her dorm room near the mini fridge, that mischievous gleam in his
eye, the next witty remark poised on his lips. Somehow he always knew just what to say to disarm
her, to confuse her, to make her want him more.
Elijah was someone that she knew could only bring trouble to her life and her world. And yet, he also
seemed to be the only person who could heal her, soothe her, make it all okay again.
Was such a thing possible? Was she simply going crazy?
Most would say yes, she supposed.
But as she lay in her old bed, curling up with her familiar blankets, looking around at the same
furnishings and dcor that shed moved into at the beginning of the school yearshe couldnt help but
feel that she wasnt supposed to be there.
Im supposed to be with him. Thats my home.
But he didnt feel the same, which was why hed kicked her out, refused to explain any of it to her,
and decided that their relationship was no longer worth fighting for. How could Elijah be anything
safe, how could she have a home with him when he didnt want to have that with her?
Soon the tears came again, predictable and somehow stale and used up. The tears didnt last very
long. She was spent. Shed already cried so much about Jayson and then her family, and now she was
mostly cried out.
Eventually she just lay in bed, staring as if in a catatonic state. The thoughts had mostly ceased. There
was just a big black hole and she seemed to be falling into it, falling and falling and there wasnt
much left to think about.
Just falling.
And then she fell asleep. She slept a long time.
When Caelyn woke up, the light had changed in the room. From the angle of the sun outside the
window, she thought it must be afternoon, and her glance at the clock showed her that shed slept for

Caelyns bedroom door was open enough to see Alicia sitting on the recliner in the middle of the
suite, typing away on her laptop.
Yawning, Caelyn got up out of bed feeling groggy but somewhat refreshed, and her mood wasnt quite
as dark as it had been before her nap. She padded out into the common area of the suite.
Alicia had her earbuds in and was writing a paper or something.
Caelyn tapped her lightly on the shoulder.
Alicia started, pulled one earbud out and glanced up at her. You scared me.
She shrugged. Something wrong?
I just wanted to say that I should have told you more about what was happening to me. Youre my
best friend here and I shouldve trusted you.
Alicia frowned. I just dont understand. Did I ever do something to make you think that I wouldnt be
on your side?
But you have now, she thought. Youve shown your true colors.
Still, Caelyn didnt want to have any awkwardness with her roommates. If she was moving back to
the dorms for good, she needed to get along with Alicia. Even if, in reality, she didnt trust her quite
as much as she once had.
So why dont you tell me what happened? Im still completely lost as to why you left school.
I didnt leave, it turns out, Caelyn grinned. Im still here.
You still dont feel like telling me what happened, Alicia said, nodding as if it all made sense now.
Before Caelyn could respond to her statement, Alicia spoke again, her expression softening. You
must be hungry. Want to grab a bite at the caf?
Caelyn took a deep breath. Part of her still felt too raw and fragile to go someplace so public, where
she might be forced to interact with other students, maybe even teachers, answer questions about her
But then again, she didnt want to reject Alicias offer of support, so she smiled in return. Yeah. Im
kind of famished.

You look it. Get dressed, run a brush through your hair, and well be off.
Run a brush through my hair?
Caelyns belly tightened but she held onto her smile. Now was not the time to call Alicia on her mean
remarks. It was just a minor comment and they were finally starting to be friendly to one another
Sounds good, Caelyn smiled. Ill be ready in a sec.
She got up and went to the bathroom, applying enough makeup to hopefully hide just how emotionally
wrecked she felt. She especially needed to cover up the dark circles and puffiness around her eyes.
But she didnt run a brush through her hair, even though it might have benefited her to do so.
A few minutes later, they were in the quad and headed to the building across the way. Other students
were walking inside, most of them people she didnt know personallybut a few that she recognized.
Alicia kept up a steady patter of conversation as they walked, most of it petty gossip or silly
observations about students and teachers they both knew. It occurred to Caelyn that either Alicia had
completely changed into a mean girl in the few days since Caelyn had been gone from school, or
Alicia was the same as always and it was really Caelyn who had changed.
They went inside the building and down the stairs to the basement, where the cafeteria was packed
full of students.
At first, she felt a strong urge to turn and run out of the place. Maybe if she hadnt been with Alicia,
she would have run. But there was just enough fear of looking foolish in front of her roommate, of not
wanting to rock the boat anymore than she already had, so she somehow forced her feet to keep
If only Elijah were here with me, I wouldnt be so scared.
But then an opposing voice spoke up.
You shouldnt need Elijah to do something as simple as go to the cafeteria.
Whats wrong with you? Maybe the two of you really werent good together.
grab a salad. Okay? Alicia said, her eyes narrowing. Hello, earth to Caelyn. Are you even
listening to a word Im saying? she asked, snapping her fingers in front of Caelyns face.
Sorry, I was just thinking about how Im going to need to talk to my teachers.
Yeah, of course you are. Do you have any idea how much work youve missed?
Caelyn shrugged. I have an idea. I missed a big test and Im late on a paper in my philosophy class.

Im way behind on reading with some other tests coming up soon in my other classes. But I can get
back on track.
Anyway, Alicia said, Ill meet you after I make my salad. If you see a table, grab it, okay?
Okay. Caelyn felt like she was taking orders from a superior officer or something.
Shed only been back at school for a few hours and she was already sick of it, and sick of Alicias
attitude. But she smiled and faked enthusiasm, not knowing what else to do.
Caelyn knew she had to make it work here, because she was out of options.
Elijah had kicked her out and she certainly wasnt going home to her parents anytime in the near
She went to the pasta station and got herself a plate of rigatoni and red sauce, some Italian bread with
a couple of pads of butter, and a sugar free vanilla pudding.
Then she went to the cashier and swiped her card.
She was on a meal plan that her parents had paid for and so didnt have to pay cash. The money was
debited from her account on the card.
Caelyn spotted a small table opening up and grabbed it just as the three people were leaving it.
Her shoulders relaxed a little as she sat with her back to the wall and began eating, watching the other
students socialize and laugh and eat, feeling invisible as she observed the simple rituals of college
They no longer felt like rituals that applied to her own existencethe girls tossing their hair, giggling,
talking and flirting with the boys who postured and joked and tried to impress. All of them looked so
young, so nave to the realities of the world, the harshness of what lay outside the Ivy League halls
that they so comfortably inhabited.
Youre doing it again, Alicia said, startling Caelyn out of her reverie. Alicia sat down at the table,
watching Caelyn warily.
Doing what?
Staring off into space. Are you on drugs?
Caelyn giggled so hard that she snorted and had to hold a napkin over her mouth and nose
Whats so funny? Alicia asked.
Nothing, Caelyn said.

Well you obviously found it hysterical. Alicia speared a leaf of lettuce aggressively, then brought it
to her mouth and chewed mechanically.
Its just the way you said it.
Well are you on drugs or not?
No, of course not.
Plenty of people do drugs and youre acting like someone whos doing them.
Well Im not.
For the first time, Alicias face showed real concern. But youd tell me if you were?
Yes, Id tell you. But Im not. Maybe I should start.
Dont even. Alicia went back to her salad.
For the next few minutes, things almost felt normal again. Caelyn started eating her pasta, finding
herself suddenly hungry. Alicia was talking again, snarking on the other girls at nearby tables,
critiquing their hairstyles, their shoes, their outfits. Then she was bemoaning the fact that Ben had
been less attentive to her lately, had maybe even blown her off the past weekend.
For the first time, Caelyn felt a pang of real sympathy for her roommate. It sucks when guys change
on a dime.
Alicia looked slightly alarmed. Do you really think his feelings have changed?
No, Caelyn said, trying to recover. I was probably thinking of my own situation.
You mean Jayson?
Just saying his name sent a bolt of terror through Caelyns heart.
Caelyn swallowed hard, shaking her head. Lets not go there right now.
Well, you might have to go there, sweetheart, Alicia said, because Jayson just came down the
Caelyn froze momentarily. She could actually feel the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.
Please tell me youre joking, she whispered through a choked throat.
No, Im serious. Why? Alicia asked. Did something happen between you guys? Is that why you left
But now Caelyn had turned and seen him, and he had seen her. Jayson was with a couple of his

buddies from the rowing team, but he said something to them, and split off as they continued towards
the food stations.
Jayson was heading Caelyns way, and she could hardly breathe.
Alicia seemed to notice that Caelyn was freaking out. When Jayson approached, Alicia stood up and
squealed happily. Oh my God, Jayson! What are you doing here?
Jayson looked surprised. Just eating. Like everyone else.
I havent seen you in, like, forever.
Jaysons eyes flitted to Caelyn, filling her stomach with dread. But then he looked back at Alicia, who
continued babbling. Finally, after shed chatted at him for a couple of minutes straight, he took the
opportunity to turn his attention to Caelyn.
Howdy, he said.
Hey, she replied, her mouth dry.
Mind if I pull up a chair?
Alicia saw Caelyns face and shook her head. Sorry, Jayson. We were actually just about to go. I
have to run to meet Ben and Caelyn promised shed come with me.
Caelyn took the cue to stand up, her legs like rubber. She smiled artificially as Jayson met her gaze
with his cold, dead stare. Thats a shame, he said. I thought maybe Id get the chance to hang with
you guys for a bit. Maybe next time.
Oh, definitely, Alicia said. Tomorrow.
Sure, Jayson said.
Caelyn grabbed her purse, as Alicia started for the exit.
Come on, we better hurry, Alicia called out. Ben is pissed, Im already late.
Youre not even going to clear your trays? Jayson said.
Cant. Gotta go. Alicia sped up.
So did Caelyn, but then she felt Jayson hand lock around her wrist in a tight, uncompromising grip.
Wait a second. Wait a second.
She spun to face him, instinctively trying to pull free from his grip. But he didnt let go, although his
face was relaxed and he appeared to be smiling in a friendly way.

Anyone watching wouldnt think he was hurting her or anything of the sort.
Let go of me, Jayson.
Just hold on a second, Caelyn. He stepped closer to her. His eyes were deadly still. Somehow, he
still smelled vaguely of pizza, as if all ever did was eat the same old greasy pizza that shed shared
with him the night he raped her.
I need to go, were meeting Ben.
Yeah, I know. He smiled again, but his eyes were getting somehow meaner.
But the thing is, you promised we were going to talk. You promised we were going to give this
another try, and then you disappeared and I never heard from you. So whats the deal? Was that just
some line of bullshit to get me to do what you wanted me to do?
Caelyn licked her lips. Let. Go. She gave a hard tug and Jayson let go at the same time.
The force of her own effort propelled her backwards, and she stumbled against a group of guys
walking into the cafeteria. They laughed as she apologized for her clumsiness.
Jayson folded his arms, smirking, as Caelyn tried to regain her composure.
Were going to talk again, one way or another, he said. Because this isnt over.
It is over, Jayson. Leave me alone.
His grin widened. Whatever you say, Caelyn.
Thats right. Maybe you should try listening for once in your life, she told him, then turned and
headed clumsily up the stairs. The adrenaline was flowing through her veins and she was full of
pounding fear and terror and her limbs trembled with it as she found Alicia waiting at the top.
Are you okay? Alicia said.
Yeah, just need some air.
When they got outside, Alicia didnt say anything for a while. They walked together for a time, and
then finally she turned and looked into Caelyns eyes.
Something bad happened between the two of you, she said.
Caelyn nodded but didnt say anything.
Like, really bad, Alicia continued.
Caelyn nodded again, her jaw trembling.

Will you tell me?

I cant. I cant. Not now. Not here
Okay. Its okay, Alicia soothed. Her voice was surprisingly compassionate.
She reached out and took Caelyns hand in hers. Come on, lets go home.
Some hours later, Caelyn was finishing telling Alicia the story that began with Jayson raping her in
his apartment and ended with Elijah breaking up with her and sending her away.
Caelyn had finally spilled her guts, and it had been a relief to just say it all, to tell the truth and not
hold back for once. Somehow, even though she knew Alicia couldnt fully be trusted, it had been
impossible not to tell her everything.
It was like shed been ready to burst and Alicia had stuck the pin in and pierced the balloon that was
holding it all inside.
Alicia had hardly asked a single question, but had seemed to hang on every word just the same.
When it was over, and Caelyn had cried a little, Alicia patted her shoulder.
Thanks for trusting me, Caelyn. It means a lot that you told me all of that.
Caelyn sighed, wiping her eyes. She was sitting on her bed and Alicia was next to her.
I needed to tell somebody. It was killing me, all of thatjust sitting inside me.
She pushed a hand against her own stomach, pressing hard. It was like a lead ball, growing and
growing, expanding until I couldnt take it anymore.
Its out now, Alicia said. I wish youd told me about Jayson when it happened. He should be in
jail right now.
I know. But I was scared. And then everything got out of control with Elijah and... she trailed off,
not knowing what else to say.
Alicia got off the bed and paced a little bit. Im glad you got away from Elijah, too.
Hearing those words hurt.
Caelyn felt it like a punch to the gut. I dont know. Being away from Elijah is hard. I just want to
hear his voice. Thats all.
But you know that hes bad news, right?

I meanI know hes got a lot of issues.

Issues? The guy is way beyond just having issues. Hes a criminal. He did you a favor when he
broke up with you this morning.
I know that he sounds bad, but if you knew him
Oh come on, Alicia scoffed. Now you sound like every other battered woman who keeps looking
to find the next man who can victimize her all over again.
Elijah never hurt me.
Didnt he? Didnt he put you in danger when he lied to a police officer right in front of you, and
carried a gun, and assaulted his neighbor, and beat up Jayson, and all the other crazy things you told
me about?
Caelyn nodded sheepishly. I guess so.
I know so. Alicia pointed down at Caelyn. And now youre back where you belong, at school,
with your friends who care about you. Thats a good thing.
Yeah, I know, Caelyn sniffed.
And Im not going to let Jayson or Elijah get within ten feet of you again. You need to get back to
looking after yourself and building up your self esteem so no creepy guys think they can prey on you
ever again.
Caelyn nodded, but inside she resisted the notion that Elijah and Jayson could ever be mentioned in
the same breath. Still, she understood why Alicia believed that, and she knew that Alicia wouldnt
understand the difference even if Caelyn could somehow explain how wonderful and caring Elijah
had been throughout their time together.
Besides, it didnt matter. Elijah had sent her away and so it was probably better to write him off. If
she glamorized him, if she continued to tell herself that shed lost her chance at the love of her life,
than she would only feel worse.
Instead, she would try to put Elijah in the past and not think of him.
Eventually, the pain would fade. The memory of him would fade.
Someday you wont even be able to remember what Elijah looked like, Alicia said, as if shed
been reading Caelyns mind. Someday youll just look back on him and wonder what the hell you
were thinking. Youll be a mom, and youll have some amazing husband and kids, and youll just
thank God that you werent dumb enough to get knocked up by that loser.
Hes not a loser, Caelyn said.

Dont defend him. Dont defend either of them.

Hes not a loser, Alicia. Caelyn met her friends gaze unwaveringly.
Finally, Alicia relented. Fine. Hes not a loser. The point is, you need to move on.
I agree. I get it, I really do. Can we just stop talking about it now? Or do you just want to see me cry
again? I dont think I have any tears left.
Alicia laughed. Come here. Let me hug you, silly.
And then they hugged.
Thanks, Caelyn told her.
No worries, Alicia replied.
No worries, Caelyn thought. Wouldnt that be nice? Would there ever come a day when she could be
worry free again? Or was this to be her new lifefull of pain and loss and friends who she wanted to
trust, but couldnt be certain of. Everyone seemed to have agendas and plans and none of those
agendas took into account what Caelyn wanted or needed.
Only Elijah had ever seemed to care about her and her alone.
But hes gone. Hes gone, and thats that.
Professor Tull was a tall, thin man with a receding hairline and a birdlike nose.
His eyes were light blue and impossibly smart. He was her philosophy teacher, and hed always liked
her a great deal.
Shed come to find him during office hours the next morning to see about retaking the test shed
missed the previous week.
So you werent ill, then? Professor Tull said, putting on his glasses and sitting up straighter in his
No, I wasnt ill. I hada kind of freak out, I guess.
A freak out? he asked, cocking his head. Around him, stacks of books and papers leaned lazily to
and fro. His desk looked exactly like what youd picture the desk of an intellectual professor with
little regard for the mundane tasks of daily life to look like. Please do explain this freak out, Caelyn.
Because, you seeIve had this happen before, where a student begins to miss class without giving
any notice or providing any compelling evidence for said absences. And in the past, Ive made the
mistake of being too lenient with such students. I find that leniency doesnt help them or me.

Im not looking for leniency, she said, surprised that Professor Tull wasnt just accepting her
explanation and telling her how she could make up the work.
Arent you, though? His blue eyes pierced hers. You missed a major test and failed to hand in a
two-page essay. You dont have a doctors note or any other strong reason for your absences.
I know, but I was hoping that based upon my previous work in your class
Your work was excellent, but Im concerned that by allowing you to simply make up the test and
essay you missed, youll possibly fail to learn an important lesson.
Ive learned a lot of lessons lately, Professor Tull, Caelyn said, gripping her purse strap tightly as
she sat in the creaky leather chair across from him. I really hope you dont force me to learn another
oneespecially when its one I already know. I know that I cant miss any more work. I know that
Im dangerously close to failing your class.
Professor Tull sat back, took off his glasses and wiped them with a white handkerchief. Please tell
me more about this existential crisis you had. Why did you leave school?
I sort of ran away, Caelyn said. Something happenedsomething I cant really discuss. And this
thing that happened upset me to where I didnt think I could continue with school here.
And what brought you back?
She thought about whether to lie or tell the truth. The lie sounded better, but she liked Professor Tull
and wanted to show him the respect of the truth.
What brought me back was that I realized I had nowhere else to go.
He put his glasses on again and fixed her with his bright blue eyes. His long nose twitched a little.
So essentially youre here because you have no better ideas.
Im here because I can do the work, and I want to do it. I want to prove that I can succeed here.
Miss Murphy, I think youll find that as you get older, one thing keeps getting clearer.
Whats that?
The one thing that keeps getting clearer is that the biggest failure you can have is failure of
imagination. It disturbs me that you had no better ideas than to simply come back to school here, if
you truly would rather be somewhere else. He sighed. That being said, youre a talented mind and I
cant bring myself to fail you. So lets figure out when to retake the test, and Ill allow you to turn in
your essay late.
Relief flooded through Caelyns body. Thank you so, so much, Professor.
I will be docking you a full letter grade on both the test and the essay, Miss Murphy.

Thats fine.
No, its really not. But it will have to do, just the same.
After thanking Professor Tull and scurrying out before he changed his mind and flunked her anyway,
she went to her other teachers and had similar (but easier) conversations. All of them agreed to allow
her to make up for the missed work.
They tended to give her the benefit of the doubt that something pretty awful had happened to her.
Maybe they could see the truth of it in her face.
A few suggested counseling through the schools health program. Her psych professor had said that
perhaps she needed to take a semester off to go backpacking in Europe.
Caelyn had assured all of them, whatever their concerns, that she was going to get her act together and
was doing all the right things to make strides in that direction.
But the truth was something else altogether.
Maybe she did need therapy, but Caelyn wasnt getting any. Instead, she threw herself into her
schoolwork. And she tried her best not to think about Elijah.
Unfortunately, her heart wasnt so cooperative.
It seemed like every few seconds she would be compelled to check her cell phone, hoping against
hope for a missed call from him, a text, anything. Anything.
Sometimes, when she was walking in the quad or on the streets of Cambridge, she would think she
saw him. It was as if he was a ghost.
But all of the men who seemed to be him at first glance, turned out to be nothing like him. They were
just temporary figments of her imagination.
So mostly she was either at class, or in the library, or in her dorm room, working, trying her best to
Shed just finished up her essay for Professor Tull, and was tucking it away in her backpack to bring
to class the next morning, when Nellie and Alicia knocked on her bedroom door.
She opened it to find both of them laughing in the common area of the suite, as if they were in on some
giant conspiracy. What? she said suspiciously.
Nellie and Alicia didnt usually get along this well.
Come on, Caelyn, Alicia said, walking past her into the bedroom and making a beeline for her
closet. We need to find you a nice little outfit.

Because, Nellie said, were taking you on a girls night out.
I dont think so. Im tired and I just finished writing this essay. Ive got a headache.
After a few drinks, itll go away, Alicia told her. Then she threw a pair of jeans and a top onto the
bed. Thatll do.
Caelyn looked to Nellie for help. Come on. You know Im not up for this.
Nellie shook her head. You need to go and have some fun. You were away for so long and then
youve been holed up in your cave ever since you got back. I think its time for a change, Caelyn.
Caelyns shoulders slumped as she realized they wouldnt be talked out of their decision. So she
shrugged. Do I have time for a shower, at least?
Youve got fifteen minutes, Alicia said, checking her phone.
Why? Are we meeting someone?
No, but the longer you take, the better the chance that youll get cold feet and try and back out. So get
Caelyn laughed, a little bit pleased that her roommates cared enough about her to try and help her this
She took a quick shower.
I wonder what Elijahs doing right now, she thought for the millionth time that day.
She got out of the tub, changed into her outfit, put her hair back, and was soon ready as she would
ever be.
Where are we even going? she asked, when she was done and the others had remarked on how nice
she looked in her outfit.
Someplace where alcohol is served.
But not a Cambridge hangout, right?
Alicia sensed her concern about seeing Jayson and shook her head no. Of course not. Were going
into Boston.
Nellie looked at them. Something wrong with Cambridge?
No, Alicia said. Its just fun to see new places and new people. Cambridge is too small. Same

old, same old.

But Nellies expression told Caelyn that she knew shed been shut out again.
One cab ride and two beers later, and Caelyn was actually glad that shed let them force her into
going out.
For the first time in days, she actually felt a little bit human again. Sure, she was still thinking about
Elijah, but it hadnt stopped her from having some fun.
Maybe, just maybe, I wont always feel this horrible, Caelyn told herself.
Ready for shots? Alicia said.
Oh, I dont know about that, Nellie said. We dont want to make her throw up.
Why would I be the one to throw up? Caelyn replied, offended. Look, I just had a bad few days, I
didnt turn into a total basket case.
Couldve fooled me, Alicia giggled.
Okay, youre on, she said. Caelyn raised her hand to get the bartenders attention. The bartender
glanced over at Caelyn while pouring a beer for another customer.
What do you need?
Three Alabama Slammers, please, Caelyn told him.
The bartender turned and started preparing the shots, while Alicia and Nellie continued cracking
jokes about Caelyns new hard drinking attitude.
Caelyn was starting to almost feel good again. The bar was getting progressively crowded, but the
music was good and not too loud, the people friendly. She was experiencing that pleasant mixture of
warmth and fuzziness that she normally experienced when she first started getting a little buzzed.
Her friends were here with her, and for a brief moment, Caelyn thought that it was almost as if the last
dark chapter of her life had never happened.
Jayson and the assault felt like something of a dream, as did the trip to Florida with Elijah. But the
second she thought of Elijah again, the warm beer buzz immediately receded and she was cold all
over again.
The emptiness in her stomach was suddenly a huge, aching void, and she could barely keep herself
from crying, where just a few seconds ago shed been smiling and happy.

Three Alabama Slammers, the bartender called out, pushing the three shot glasses toward Caelyn.
She paid for the drinks above the protests of her roommates, and then they each picked up a glass and
held it.
Heres to new beginnings and strong friendships, Alicia said, raising her glass.
Strong friendships, Nellie echoed.
Caelyn nodded, and they clinked glasses and then drank their shots.
The alcohol soared down her throat, burning as it went. Caelyn closed her eyes for a moment, while
the burning slowly faded.
Easy does it, kid, a familiar voice whispered in her ear.
It couldnt be. It was impossible. Caelyn opened her eyes and turned to find Elijah standing next to
her at the bar, his impossibly handsome face somehow even more gorgeous than she remembered.
His eyes were soft and kind, but concerned.
Whatwhat are you doing here? she said, her voice fluttering as she tried to sound composed.
Alicia was watching them closely. Hey, were just having a girls night out, she said to Elijah.
Sorry, not trying to be rude or anything. Its just not that kind of night.
Elijah grinned his lopsided grin at Alicia. Oh, yeah? What kind of night do you think I was hoping
Alicia rolled her eyes. Listen, youre cute and all, but were not interested.
I didnt realize I was talking to you all. Last I checked, he said, his voice showing that he found the
whole conversation entertaining, I was only talking to one person here. And she can decide if she
wants to have that kind of night or not.
Alicia grabbed Caelyns hand and started to tug her away from Elijah. Lets get out of here. Hes
super cute but definitely not marriage material.
Hold on, Caelyn said, resisting. I cant just leave.
Why not? Alicia said. I get it, Caelyn. Hes hot and all. But you dont need to jump into some one
night stand after everything else youve been through.
I know him.
You know him?

Thats Elijah.
Alicias eyes widened. She looked at Elijah again, and her eyes narrowed. So youre the mystery
man that Caelyns told me so much about?
Elijahs smile faded. He glanced at Caelyn as if trying to evaluate the truth of what Alicia was saying.
She talked about me?
Of course she did. Girls talk to their friends.
Alicia, Caelyn said. Dont.
Dont what? Alicia asked, feigning innocence. Im just talking to him.
Dont be mean to him, okay?
Elijah was watching Alicia with a new expressionhe was suddenly less friendly.
Look, I dont know what Caelyn told you about me
Enough to know that you should leave her alone. I dont know what youre doing here, Alicia said.
Stalking her or something.
Elijah laughed harshly. I just got here. This is a place that me and my friends come to all the time.
Not my fault you decided to show up here for your girls night out.
Well, either way, I think we should go or you should go.
I think Caelyn can decide for herself, Elijah replied. What are you, her chaperone?
Im someone who actually cares about her.
Finally, Caelyn had had enough. She turned to Alicia and put her hand on Alicias arm. Okay, thats
enough. I need to talk to Elijah alone for a minute.
Caelyn, dont let him sweet talk you. Hes just going to try and charm you, make you think hes
changed, but guys like him never do.
Its okay, Alicia. Really, I can take care of myself.
All evidence to the contrary, Alicia muttered.
Caelyn felt her stomach tighten. Dont talk to me like that.
Whatever, Alicia said. Nellie, want to get out of here?
Nellie shook her head. Why dont we stick around for a few?

God, Im so sick of hanging out with weak willed little girls. She stomped away from them and into
the crowd.
Ill go check on her, Nellie told Caelyn. You okay to be alone?
Yeah, Im fine, Caelyn told her.
Nellie gave a comforting smile and then went after Alicia.
Caelyn turned back to Elijah, who stepped closer to her at the bar. He was wearing a tight black tshirt and jeans, and she could already see other girls nearby were watching him with furtive, intrigued
But Elijah was only looking at her. His eyes were intense and dark and hungry.
Didnt mean to piss off your friend, he said, but his voice told her that he wasnt all that sorry.
Shes just overprotective, Caelyn sighed.
I know how she feels.
Caelyn looked to see him smiling a little. She smiled back. So, what are you doing here, Elijah?
I came out to celebrate. He held up a beer that was a little more than half full.
He took a sip and licked his lips. Youll be glad to know that Im still a free man.
What do you mean she started to ask, and then she realized that he must have had his court
hearing about his parole violations. You dont have to go back to jail?
she said, her heart soaring for him.
Nope, the board was lenient because my parole officer said that Im a nice guy whos been making
strides to improve my position in life.
Oh my God, Elijah, thats so amazing. Caelyn couldnt help herself, and she threw her arms around
him without stopping to think if that was such a good idea.
The moment their bodies connected, she found herself bathed in his protective heat, and it was as
though shed truly come home. He put his arms around her in return, squeezing her close to him. His
chest was strong and hard and his shoulders were like a knights, with armor that could never be
Ill never be hurt again if he just holds me like this forever.
Elijah looked down at her. I havent stopped thinking about you. Not for a single second.

Elijah she started, but his lips were so close to hers, she could hardly think straight.
I prayed to God to find a way to make things right, to make it so that you and I could be together.
Dont joke like that, she told him.
But his expression was sincere. Im not joking. Ive never prayed, not even when I was facing hard
time. But I prayed about you and me. I asked for a sign. And then here I am, going to some random
Boston bar, and who do I see?
Me. She looked into his eyes and it was as though she was falling into them somehow.
You. He leaned down and kissed the corner of her lips. Its always going to be you, Caelyn. And I
think Im finally getting that simple fact.
But what about the other morning? You said I wasnt safe with you. You said I had to leave and
never come back.
It was complicated.
Its not complicated anymore? Her hands wandered across his strong, broad back, as she pressed
herself even closer to his body.
No, its still just as complicated, he grinned.
Then whats changed?
Elijah hesitated. He looked away, but then his eyes returned to hers once more.
Ive changed. OrI guess the truth is that you changed me.
But we still have all the same problems.
Yeah, but problems are made to be solved.
Thats not what you said before.
Forget what I said before.
She laughed. Elijah, this is crazy.
When hasnt it been crazy with you and me?
And then they laughed together, because something really had changed. Caelyn didnt know what it
was, didnt understand what it was that kept bringing Elijah back into her life again and again. All she
knew was that being with him, being close to him, felt right.
It felt right even when it was wrong.

Lets get out of here, she whispered in his ear, her hand against the back of his neck. She could feel
the strong cords of muscles as she caressed his hot skin.
Are you sure? he asked. What about your friends?
Theyll be fine. Ill text them.
Okay. He grabbed her hand and started for the exit. Come on, he said.
She knew that this was dangerous, and that leaving with him went against everything she should have
done. She knew that being with Elijah would throw her whole world into disarray again, when shed
only just started putting the broken pieces back together these last few days.
But Caelyn couldnt help herself. She was free, and she was wildly excited and Elijah was everything
shed ever wanted.
She didnt care what it would cost her to be with him again. She was willing to pay any price.
Elijah threw open the door to his apartment and began kissing Caelyn passionately as they walked
His lips were somehow more seductive, more sensual than theyd been the last time shed felt them.
He was probing, wanting, needing, and as his tongue slid into her mouth, she moaned softly.
The first and only time theyd made love, it had been sweet and beautiful and amazing.
But somehow, this time, Caelyn was ready for a more intense experience. Maybe it was the alcohol
flowing through her blood stream, maybe it was the time theyd spent apart making her more
desperate for his touch. Whatever it was, all Caelyn knew was that she wanted him inside her, wanted
to feel Elijahs naked body pressing down on her with the fullness of who he was.
She wanted to be enveloped by him, taken by him, she wanted to give herself over without any
After all, she reasoned, this might be their last night together. Everything with Elijah was
unpredictable, anything could happen. She didnt want to waste a single second of their time with one
They were still kissing with the apartment door open. Elijah broke off and took a breath. Jesus,
youre gonna kill me, Caelyn.
She leaned against the wall, watching him. What do you mean? she asked him innocently.
I mean, youre going to kill me. I cant take it. He shut the door and ran a hand through his hair.

Well dont worry. I think Im the one whos going to have to take it, she said, grinning.
He looked at her, and his eyes blazed again. Are you sure?
Ive never felt more sure of anything in my life, Elijah.
And then he was coming to her, only this time there was more certainty, more knowing in his
expression. Caelyn could see that Elijah could hardly contain himself.
This time, when they kissed, it was like an explosion inside her. She nearly convulsed with the
pleasure, the heat, the intensity of everything that her body was experiencing.
It almost seemed as though she could die from how much she needed him.
As his hands moved to her hips, then slid down to her buttocks, as his lips continued to tease her lips,
as his tongue played with her tongue.
She moaned louder this time.
Elijahs hands were in her hair now. He was kissing down her neck.
He was kissing her breasts.
Pulling off her shirt.
Once her shirt was off, she pulled his shirt off too, and again she was shocked by the power and raw
excitement that his muscular torso made her feel. She ran her hands over his chiseled stomach and
over his chest.
He unsnapped her bra and it fell to the ground with a gentle whisper of cloth.
Now she was exposed, but she didnt mind. She didnt mind at all.
Before long, they were both on the floor of his living room, kissing, their bodies intertwined, writhing
against one another, grinding into each other.
Elijahs body was slick with sweat from the heat that was being generated as the two of them
continued to kiss and run their hands all over one anothers bodies.
His skin was hot to the touch, his muscles firm. She could sense his strength even though he was
relaxed and gentle with her. At times, he grew slightly more aggressive as his need for her seemed to
grow and become more intense.
She almost thought she heard a low growl, or perhaps it was a groan, coming from deep within his
throat as he kissed her breasts and then slowly moved down her stomach.
She closed her eyes as Elijah began unbuttoning her jeans. He licked along her lower belly and then

kissed along the top edge of her panties.

Elijah, she whispered. She couldnt take it.
He slid her pants down her legs and then he pushed her legs apart and moved between them.
I need you, he said, hovering above her and then leaning down to kiss her.
I need you more, she replied, grabbing him by one of his belt loops and pulling them further toward
her. She unzipped his jeans with her free hand, as Elijah looked down at her with his burning gaze.
Are you still sure its okay?
Yes. Yes.
Now his pants were off too. She was still in her panties, Elijah in his boxers, as he slowly lowered
himself on top of her.
They kissed again, and the passion had grown, because now they were almost completely undressed.
She could feel all of him and she wanted all of him this very second. She was moaning, her muscles
quivering to his touch, everything was so sensitive that she wanted to cry out.
Gently, he took her panties off and then removed his boxers. He was on top of her again, and now
there was nothing between them.
Nothing at all.
When Elijah thrust into her, Caelyn cried out, but it was with pleasure. There was no pain, only the
exquisite sensation of Elijah molding against her in total perfection, a perfect fit.
She trusted him completely. There was no fear, no regret, no thoughts of the past.
They looked in one anothers eyes, both of them knowing that this was what each wanted, and as
Elijah gazed at her, she wanted to cry.
Emotion welled up inside of her.
He loves me.
And then he was moving, slowly at first, but then faster, and eventually she saw that he couldnt stop
He was a force of nature, and he was hers.
When it was over, they went to the bedroom and lay together, still naked. Their bodies were soft and

warm, but there was none of that restless, anxious energy that had been present earlier in the night.
I dont think Ive ever felt this relaxed in all my life, Caelyn said, as she drowsily ran her fingers
across his chest.
Elijah stroked her hair softly. Me either. I guess maybe I didnt even know thats what it meant to
feel relaxed. Its totally new to me. He chuckled.
Whats so funny?
I never even thought something like this was possible. I never thought Id meet someone like you.
Why not?
Its just not how things are around here. I didnt grow up with romance and puppy dogs and ice
cream. Everything was dirty and grimy and rough. I always had to fight for every single thing that I
needed in life. But somehow, with us, its totally different. Like I opened a door and it let me into
some new world. A world that looks the same as the old one, but its totally different.
Maybe we each fell into each others universe by accident.
Or maybe it was fate, Elijah said.
I dont care what it was. I just care that were together now.
And tomorrow? he asked.
She sighed, listening to his heartbeat as she laid her head against him.
Tomorrow is already here. And were still together, Elijah.
Thats why you go to that good school, he laughed. Youre so damn smart.
She looked up at him. I think sometimes youre just waiting for the next bad thing to happen.
Yeah, that sounds about right.
But maybe nothing bad is going to happen, this time.
Something bad always happens.
She lifted her head up and drew closer to his face. You really believe that?
He nodded slowly. Ive got a lifetime of experience that backs it up.
This is the new world, now, Elijah. What happened in the past doesnt matter.
Its what we do next that matters.

He caressed her cheek softly, and his expression changed from serious to sweet.
Thats what I love about you, kid. Youre innocent.
She sat up, making a face. Im not that innocent.
Okay, whatever you say, Miss Spears.
Shut up. She playfully slapped his arm.
Come back here. I want you to stay in my arms all night.
So Caelyn laid back down, her head on his chest. And she did lay like that the rest of the night,
sleeping so soundly that she didnt wake up again until the sun was well up in the sky the next day.
Elijah was already out of bed and in the bathroom as she opened her eyes and tried to remember how
the heck shed gotten there.
And then it all flooded back to herthe bar, the drinks, the ride home, the amazing sex, everything.
She thought of Alicia and Nellieshed texted them quickly on the ride home, just to reassure them
she was okay. But theyd probably texted her back.
She got out of bed and walked to the living room, where she found her discarded purse, phone inside.
It said she had six new texts.
When Caelyn looked at them, only one was from Nellie. All it said was: Have

fun but be safe.

Then there were four texts from Alicia. The first text said, Are you serious????
A minute later, another one: This is a bad idea, Caelyn.
So you r just going to leave us hanging?
And then the final text, a few minutes later. I should have known u would go
back to him. I never should have believed anything u said.
The last couple of texts really stung, but Caelyn tried not to let it get to her. After all, Alicia had been
drinking and was probably just hurt at the time. She likely didnt feel as strongly now as she had then.
But it was the sixth text that really made her stomach curdle.
The sixth text was from Jayson.
Im going to hold you to your promise.
Thats all hed written. It had been sent at three in the morning, which was creepy in and of itself. But
the idea that he was still thinking of her and trying to hold her to their agreement, even after shed told
him she had no intention of honoring it, made her want to jump out of her skin.
Couldnt Jayson understand that she had no interest in ever seeing him in person again, let alone
somehow trying to revisit their relationship? Of course he couldnt, because Jayson was insane.
Jayson was a rapist.
Maybe Elijahs right , she thought. Maybe bad things are going to keep happening. Maybe life
really is like that.
Elijah appeared in the hallway as she was putting her phone back in her purse.
Hey, he said, smiling a little uncertainly. Everything okay?
She felt guilty for some reason, even though shed done nothing wrong. Yeah, everythings fine.
Howd you sleep?
He continued to look at her for a long moment, as if he knew she was trying to change the subject.
Elijah was shirtless, wearing only boxers, and he looked magnificent as always. A Calvin Klein
underwear model had nothing on him.
I slept great, he said. Woke up feeling like king of the universe.
What are you doing today?

Hanging with you. He grinned.

Seriously, Elijah.
I want you to stay here with me again, he told her.
Every night.
She nearly dropped her purse in shock. Elijah
Im serious. He came towards her, his grin twitching into an even bigger smile.
Dont tell me you havent thought about it.
Of course I have. But you kicked me out, remember?
He took her in his arms, and immediately she melted into him.
I was an idiot. I thought we already figured that out last night.
You cant do this to me.
Do what? he said, kissing her neck softly, sending chills up her spine.
Mess with my mind. First you tell me to stay, then you tell me to leave, and now you want me back
again. Its crazy, Elijah. Youre all over the place.
Correction. I was all over the place. He leaned down and kissed the top of her breasts now,
causing goose bumps to break out across her shoulders, chest, and arms.
Elijah! she squealed.
Now I know what I want and Im not going to let anything or anybody stand in the way.
What about school? she asked him.
What about it?
How will I go to class? Im back in school now and just starting to get caught up.
Ill drive you. You can take the train once in a while. Well get you a car soon enough, and then you
can drive yourself. Its this new thing called commuting.
I dont know. Youre really serious?
Yeah, I am.

And the dangers gone?

He licked his lips and his smile went away momentarily. The dangers not exactly gone. Its just
different now.
How so?
Now Im the dangerous one, he told her.
Caelyn decided that she needed to go back to the dorms and grab stuff (again), and Elijah told her he
would come with her.
Despite her protests, he refused to let her take the train and go alone. He said he wanted to be with
her when she went to her dorm room, as if he was afraid that somebody would convince her to change
her plans.
On the ride into Cambridge, Elijah was buoyantly happy, talking away like she hadnt heard him do
since first meeting him. He was drinking coffee and telling her about his parole violation hearing,
making fun of the different board members, doing impressions, mimicking their body language and the
way theyd talked down to him.
Caelyn was content to simply be in his presence and to know that he was happy and enjoying himself.
Of course, she was worried, a little bit. She wondered what he was going to do for work now, but
was afraid to ask, especially after his comment about being the dangerous one now.
The thing was, she had to trust him. It was either trust him or break things off completely, and Caelyn
wasnt willing or ready to break things off with Elijah.
So she enjoyed the ride, sipping her coffee slowly out of a plastic cup, watching the passing scenery,
listening to Elijah make his jokes about the craziness that was his life.
Eventually, he finished his story and stopped talking for a minute or two, and the car was silent but
for the hum of the engine.
Somehow, a question popped into her head, as if from nowhere.
Why were you covered in blood the other morning? she asked.
He didnt look at her, didnt even react at first. The other morning?
Yeah. When you came home totally covered in blood.
His knuckles tightened against the steering wheel. You dont want to know. Its not going to change

It might.
How so?
Well, if you did something really bad, Id want to know.
Why, so you can turn me in?
No, Elijah, she sighed. I just dont want there to be secrets between us. I want to start things off
the right way if were really going to do this. I want to make it work.
He glanced at her, then back to the road. Okay, fine. I was covered in blood because one of the guys
I was with got stabbed and I was trying to apply pressure to the wound. Obviously, I didnt do a very
good job of it.
She felt relief flood through her body. So you didnt hurt anyone, then.
I never said that.
She looked at him closely. So what happened? Did you get your money back from that rival gang?
He shook his head and made a grunting sound. There was no money to get back.
At least, not from them.
I dont understand.
Thats because the whole thing is ridiculous.
So they never had your money?
Elijahs jaw twitched. It was a setup. My brother and his crewmy old crew
robbed my apartment to make it look like Haleys new boyfriend and his crew hit us.
But why? she asked, shocked. Why would your own brother do that to you?
Elijah half-grinned, half grimaced. Because, Jake knew that if he could get me heated and fighting,
Id be back involved in the life again. He wanted me to owe him
Jake wanted me to think hed done me a favor. Unfortunately for him, I figured out the truth.
Caelyn was still reeling from what hed told her. The whole thing sounded like something out of a bad
movie. Certainly not a movie she wanted to star in. How did you figure it out?
We went to jack Haleys friend and his crew at their apartment. We got in, took them by surprise,
cracked a couple of people upside the head, but nothing too rough.

They werent prepared for us. We thought we were getting in and getting out easy, but then as we
were leaving, one of our guys got stabbed.
How bad was it?
You saw the blood on me. It was pretty bad. Got him right in his shoulder. A few inches the other
way and it wouldve hit his carotid artery and hed be dead right now.
Elijah, that couldve been you. Caelyn was starting to shake from just the thought of it.
Yeah, but it wasnt me. We didnt stick around after that, just kept goinggot out of there with some
drugs, a few pieces of jewelry. But no cash.
Drugs? she asked, disgusted. And what will you do with them?
Thats Jakes area. I dont ask, Elijah replied.
She shook her head. Its bad. Worse than bad.
You wanted to know. I never said it was right, Caelyn.
She sighed, feeling sick to her stomach. I still dont understand how you found out the truth.
While I was applying pressure to his wound, my so-called friend apologized to me. I guess he
thought he was dying or something. He said sorry, and I told him he had no reason to apologize to me.
And then he said that if he died, I should know that hed never wanted to set me up like that.
And your brother heard him telling you that?
Elijah shrugged. Yeah, he heard the whole thing. We were sitting in the back of Jakes car getting
blood all over the place while he drove to the hospital.
Caelyn didnt even know what to say. Im sorry, I guess, she told him.
Why are you sorry?
Sorry I asked, and sorry that your brother did that to you.
Elijah grunted. Paybacks a bitch, was all he said.
And then they stopped talking until they reached Cambridge University.
When they parked and got out of the car, it hit Caelyn that this was real. The two of them were
actually going to go and pick up her things from the room. If Alicia or Nellie were in the room, it
might get very awkward. Caelyn didnt want to think about that.
Nellie, she could handle, but Aliciathat was a different story. Alicia and Elijah had hated one

another on sight.
They walked onto the quad, where students were milling about, heading to and from classes and
Elijah was watching everything around him with a strange look on his face.
Caelyn couldnt decide if he was scornful or just amused by these privileged kids who seemed to
think they owned the world, rather than the other way around.
Passing by the building where the cafeteria was, Caelyn just happened to see a familiar face from the
corner of her eye. She froze in her tracks, and Elijah followed her gaze over to the entrance of the
Jayson and a couple of his friends disappeared into the entrance of the building just as Elijah looked
Whats he doing here? Elijah whispered, the vein in his forehead pulsing.
Elijah, he goes to school here. And hes probably going down to the cafeteria to eat. Its not a
Hes committing a crime just by breathing, as far as Im concerned.
Come on, she said, grabbing his arm. We should go to get my stuff.
Elijah looked at her, not budging from where he was standing. Has he tried to contact you?
She looked away from his penetrating stare. Elijah
Tell me the truth, Caelyn.
This isnt the time. Were not here for that.
Maybe we should be.
Just answer the question. Its a simple question. Has he tried to contact you?
He texted me, she sighed. And then she thought about the other day when he grabbed her wrist and
how shed tried to pull away, but Jayson had continued to grab her.
Elijahs stare had intensified. He texted you?
Please, dont get mad.
Im not mad. Im just hungry.
And then he was walking at a fast pace towards the building where Jayson and his friends had just

Caelyn followed after him, trying to convince him not to go in there. He was moving so quickly that
she could hardly keep up without running.
Elijah, please.
Im just going to grab a quick bite.
Dont make a scene. Youre still on parole.
Me? Make a scene? he laughed as if she was crazy for even suggesting such a thing.
They got inside the building and he hesitated, watching where the other students were going. They
filtered downstairs into the cafeteria, and Elijah made his move, blending into the throng. Caelyn
went with him, not knowing what else to do.
When they got to the cafeteria, Elijah scanned the room quickly.
Caelyn spotted Jayson almost at the same moment Elijah did, only Elijah was heading towards him so
fast that she was again caught off guard.
Jayson was in line, waiting for food behind a few other students. One of his friends was next to him,
and they were chatting to one another, oblivious to what was going on around them.
Elijah moved right behind them in line, while Caelyn hung back a few steps, her hands twisting
nervously together as sweat broke out on her forehead.
Elijah tapped Jayson on the shoulder, and Jayson turned to see who it was. He was probably
expecting to see his other friend, but when he realized it was Elijah, Jaysons expression changed
He was simultaneously shocked, but also angry. He had his friend with him, and maybe that made him
bolder. What do you want? Jayson said.
Just saying hi.
Shouldnt you be in prison or something?
Elijah grinned at him. No. Im off for good behavior. But that could change any second now.
Jaysons friend glanced at Elijah uneasily, then back at Jayson. Who is this dude? he said softly.
Jayson didnt look away from Elijah as he answered. Hes some loser ex-con thats bothering
Caelyn met Jaysons gaze with her own, stepping forward. She wasnt going to make Jayson think he

could like about Elijah. Hes not bothering me, Jayson. You are.
Thats right, Jayson, Elijah said, folding his arms. Youre bothering my girl.
Jaysons cheeks flamed red. How about I call the cops and get you hauled off campus right now, you
fucking loser?
His friend fidgeted nervously. Take it easy, Jay.
Yeah, take it easy Jay, Elijah said, stepping forward and uncrossing his arms.
His shoulders seemed to expand. Even though he was smaller than Jayson, he somehow appeared
bigger. It was like an optical illusion.
Jayson was studying Elijah as if he was a foreign speciesan alien. Jayson couldnt seem to
understand who this guy was that dared stand up to him. You have no idea who youre fucking with,
pal, Jayson said softly. You dont know me.
Maybe not, Elijah said. But heres the difference between you and me. Ive already been to jail,
and I dont mind going back.
And you will go back, Jayson said. Youll always be a loser, buddy, and Ill always be a winner.
Elijah took yet another step toward him, and now the tension in the air was so charged that Caelyn
could literally feel it. Something was about to happensomething bad.
You stay away from Caelyn, Elijah said, his voice deep and low, like a threatening thunder rumble
in the sky.
Jaysons Adams apple bobbed and his lips twitched. Yeah?
Yeah. Now turn the fuck back around and pretend you never saw me, bitch.
They continued staring, like two pit bulls ready to spring at one another. Jaysons friend grabbed
Jaysons arm. Come on, Jay, it isnt worth it. This clown wants to get in trouble.
Finally, Jaysons gaze wavered and he looked down at the floor, his shoulders sagging. He glanced
once at Caelyn, his expression baleful and wounded, before he turned away from them.
Some of the other students had been watching, and Caelyn was worried that things were going to
continue to spiral if she didnt get Elijah the heck out of there.
Come on, we have to go, she said, taking his hand and pulling him toward the stairs.
I should have crushed him, Elijah said, following her regretfully.
They went up the stairs and back outside. Elijah, you cant handle things this way. You need to stop

trying to solve every problem with violence.

I dont solve every problem with violence.
Are you sure about that?
When my toilet breaks I dont beat it up, I fix it. He grinned at her, suddenly back to his old self. He
seemed to have let go of the anger, at least momentarily.
Youre crazy.
But you love it.
I do, she thought. God help me, I do love it.
When they got to her suite, nobody was there. Caelyn let out a deep sigh of relief, because she had no
interest in dealing with more drama after what had already happened in the cafeteria.
Quickly, she grabbed a bag and started filling it with all her clothes and necessities.
Elijah wandered around the common area, checking out the pictures, books, and various knickknacks
that were placed around the dorm room.
Then he wandered into Caelyns room, leaning against the doorway with a relaxed smile, watching
her pack.
Dont forget to pack your jammies, he chuckled.
I didnt have them last night and you seemed okay with it, she replied.
Good point.
Just as Caelyn was about to finish up and leave, the doorknob rattled and opened, and Alicia came
into the suite. The moment she saw Elijah, her eyes narrowed. What are you doing here?
He nodded casually toward Caelyn. Im with her.
Alicia looked over to Caelyn, her lips tightening into a disapproving line. You shouldnt have
brought him to the dorms. Hes making me uncomfortable. She brushed past Elijah and confronted
Caelyn from a closer distance. And what was with you just taking off last night?
I didnt just take off. I texted you.
Suddenly, Alicias gaze dropped to the bag on the bed that Caelyn was packing.
Whats that for? Are you leaving school again?

Im really not going to fight with you about my choices, Alicia. Caelyn zipped the bag up, although
she thought it was going to burst. Finally it closed.
You cant just come and go like this, Alicia told her. Its not fair to us. Im going to report you and
ask for a roommate transfer.
Do whatever you need to do, Alicia. She tried to heft the bag on her shoulder, but it was so heavy
she nearly dropped it.
In a flash, Elijah had scooped the bag away from her and put the strap over his own shoulder.
Ready? he said.
Caelyn, dont bother contacting me ever again, Alicia said. Her voice was shrill with anger. And
youre not welcome back in this room, either. Ill be letting the school know.
If thats what you need to do, Caelyn shrugged. And then she and Elijah were leaving.
Hes going to hurt you again! Alicia cried out as they left. Hes no good!
Everybody but you can see that, Caelyn!
Alicias voice echoed through the dorm hallway as Elijah and Caelyn walked down the steps. They
didnt talk for a minute or two, as they left the dorms and walked through the quad.
Im so sick of everyone thinking they know how to run my life, Caelyn said, finally. Why does
Alicia think she can treat me like that? Do I have a target on my back or something?
Shes just bitter, Elijah said. Ive met plenty of girls like her. She hates her own life and doesnt
like people who might have something she doesnt.
And what do I have? Caelyn said.
Me, he said, and when she glanced at him, he wasnt joking. He meant it.
She smiled. Then its all worth it.
He held onto the bag with one arm and threw his other arm across her shoulders, pulling her against
him. What we have is worth fighting for, Caelyn. Dont ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
They got back to the apartment and Caelyn unpacked her things, then took a shower.
When she came out, Elijah was cooking in the kitchen.
He glanced at her and gave a low whistle. You clean up good.

She blushed a little. Im not dressed up or anything. She was, in fact, wearing yoga pants and a tshirt.
I didnt say you were dressed up. I dont care if youre wearing a t-shirt or some fancy dress, kid.
Okay, wellthanks. She sniffed at the air. Whatever it is youre making smells really good.
Chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy.
He was moving around the stove with ease, all of his actions composed, not rushing anything. And the
food really did smell delicious.
I should help, she told him.
No, he said, shaking his head as he stirred the potatoes. You go sit and relax in front of the TV. I
want to celebrate that youre here, and I dont want you to even lift a finger.
Caelyn sighed, but inside she was more than happy. She watched him as he worked for another
moment or two, then went and sat down on the couch. She turned on the television and started
watching Friends reruns on cable.
Between the mouth-watering aromas drifting out of the kitchen and the warmth and contentment she
felt at knowing that she was back with Elijah again, Caelyn thought shed never been happier in her
entire life.
Soon, Elijah called out that the food was ready, as he began serving her at the kitchen table.
He sat across from her and they both started eating.
How is it? he asked, watching her take the first bites.
Ive never had chicken fried steak before, she said. Its amazing.
And good for you too, he winked.
Of course, it wasnt good for her, she knew that. The gravy alone was probably a thousand calories.
But it was comfort food, and it seemed right, because thats exactly what Elijah was making her feel
right then. Comfort.
They ate and Caelyn told Elijah about her philosophy professor, Mister Tull, whod given her such a
hard time about making up work in his class. Elijah told her about a time in junior high when hed had
to do an entire semesters homework in a week so that he wasnt held back.
It was nice, Caelyn decided, to just eat and talk like normal people. She liked being normal with
Elijah. It wasnt boring either. Every second spent in his presence was amazing, somehow.
As she was almost finishing her food, there came a buzz from the intercom.

Elijahs expression darkened, as he slid his chair back and stood, throwing his napkin down on his
plate and moving toward the door.
Who is it? she heard him call into the intercom.
There was a muffled sound and then a voice cutting through static: Its Dad, Elijah.
Shit, she heard Elijah mutter, and then the distinct sound of Elijah pressing the buzzer to let him in.
Dad? Caelyn thought, her heart immediately speeding up, and she instinctively began straightening her
clothes, running a hand over her hair, hoping she didnt look too disheveled.
Elijah hadnt talked about his father, not ever. It was as though he didnt even have parents, she
thought. And yet, here his father was, coming up the stairs and into the apartment like it was nothing.
Clearly, Elijah wasnt happy that his father was coming, but he didnt seem all that surprised either.
Caelyn joined him by the front door.
Is there anything I should know? she asked him.
He glanced at her briefly, his face stony and unreadable. Like what?
I dont know, she said, jittery and anxious now. Like, does he even know I exist?
He will now.
Oh. Great.
Elijah looked at her. Dont be like that. My Dads not really that kind of Dad.
Youll see.
And a few seconds later, she did see, because there was a knock at the door and then Elijah was
opening it. In stepped a man about the same height as Elijah, but the resemblance stopped there.
Elijahs father was bald, wore glasses, and had a graying goatee. He wore a beaten up leather jacket,
and underneath that, a lime green button down shirt. His stomach bulged out and hung slightly over the
top of his jeans. He had on cowboy boots, which Caelyn found somehow humorous.
He shook Elijahs hand in what struck her as an official sort of gesture, and then he turned to Caelyn.
Hello, Im Gabe.
Hi, Im Caelyn.
He stepped forward and shook her hand too. His eyes behind his glasses were green, and very sharp.
He seemed to be analyzing her like a scientist putting a bug under a microscope, although she knew
that it was impossible to tell what his attitude was upon just meeting him.

So, why are you here, Dad? Elijah asked, folding his arms. His mischievous smile was nowhere to
be found.
Quite the greeting. No how are you, hows things?
Elijah shrugged almost imperceptibly. Hows things?
Not bad, his father said, glancing around the apartment. Business is good.
Orit wasuntil recently. Things got a little bit complicated. He turned back to Elijah and the two
of them stared at one another.
Elijahs posture stiffened. Thats what I figured you were here for. Im not interested in discussing
any of that.
Maybe if we had some privacy. Gabe looked at Caelyn.
Oh, I can go in the other room, or leave for awhile she started.
No, Elijah said sharply, raising his hand to halt her. You dont have to leave.
He looked at his father with a cold expression. She knows everything.
She knows enough.
Enough. Gabe looked at Caelyn and smiled, but it wasnt a pleasant smile.
You know what that means, right?
Caelyn shook her head, confused about what was even going on. No, I dont.
That means hes told you just the right amount to make you see it his way.
Elijahs good at making people see things his way.
Thats because Im honest. People can trust what I say.
So tell me, then, his father said, looking at him again. Honestly, Elijah. Are you planning on
hurting Jake?
Elijah licked his lips and slowly scratched his chin. Right now Im only planning on spending some
nice alone time with my girl. And youre sort of ruining that.
Gabe stuffed his hands in his jeans pockets. Nice place. Havent been here in a long time, have I?
You never asked to come.

And you never invited me.

Oh, well. Elijah shrugged again.
Caelyn didnt know what to do. She stood in between them, wondering what this was all about. Her
hands were twisting against each other as she tried to think of something to say, some way to ease the
tension. But this obviously went way back, and she didnt know their history.
His father smirked. You know, I doubt you could have afforded this place, and the fancy TV and all
that good stuff, unless youd been working with Jake.
And by extension, you, Elijah replied.
Thats right. You work for me, son. Gabe turned to face him again, and Caelyn could see that his
expression had gotten very intense.
I dont think I do, Elijah said, his arms still folded, but his shoulders tight, his neck stiff. I think
that ended when Jake set me up.
He did what he thought he needed to do for your own good.
So you agree with what he did? Elijah said.
I didnt say I agreed with it, only that he thought he was helping you.
Elijah barked a humorless laugh. Jake thought he was trapping me. But it didnt work out, because he
fucked it upas usual.
Gabe stepped closer toward his son. You might think youre a real tough guy because you made a
few bucks, did a little time, and this girl here believes youre king shit.
Elijah laughed louder. Okay, thats it.
Yeah, Gabe said, moving closer still. His presence had transformed from a goofy looking hillbilly
to something more like a dangerous predator. You might think youre hard, boy, but you dont know
what hard is.
Elijah gave him a sidelong glance, seemingly bored, unmoving. But his jaw twitched with barely
restrained rage. And youre going to show me what hard is?
I dont want to, but if you force my hand
Well dont let me stop you. Do what you came here to do. Elijah still looked relaxed, leaning
against the wall with his arms folded. But Caelyn sensed that he was ready to act, as was his father.

I came here to try and talk some sense to you. Dont let this thingthis misunderstandingget out of
control. Do whats right and sit down with Jake, work it out.
Im not sitting down with him.
Im warning you, Elijah, Gabe said. If you try and retaliate, therell be hell to pay with me. And
you know I dont make idle threats, boy.
I heard you already.
For a brief second, Caelyn was certain something awful was going to happen. His dad was going to
pull a gun, a knife, or maybe just throw a punch.
But just when it seemed inevitable that the situation would explode into violence, Gabes shoulders
lowered and he sighed, looking defeated. He turned to Caelyn. I know we dont know each other,
which is a shame. But maybe you could talk sense to him. He obviously cares for you
Leave her out of it, Elijah said.
Gabes eyes met hers and lingered, and Caelyn nodded once. Ill talk to him.
Thank you. Then he turned on his heel, and left without looking back. The door slammed behind him
as he went.
Elijah quickly locked it again, and then he breathed a relieved sigh.
What was that? Caelyn asked. That was really your Dad?
Yeah, thats Dad all right. Kind of weird, huh? Elijah smiled at her, a bit sadly.
I told you I didnt have a normal childhood, Caelyn.
Yes, but thats something else completely. You work for him? Hes ayou knowhes a criminal
Elijah ran a hand through his hair. I dont like talking about it, or even thinking about it, really. But
Dads the one who got us into the life, taught us the ropes, and hes a big part of why I thought I had to
leave the state to get out from under it all.
I understand a lot more now, Caelyn said. And you think he knew what your brother was planning
to do?
In all honesty, Dad probably was the one who came up with the idea and told Jake to carry it out.
Jakes always been his little pet, the one who thinks Dad can do no wrong. Jake always worshipped
him, always wanted to make him proud. I guess he finally got his wish.
Caelyn was totally shocked at the relationship that shed seen between Elijah and his father. They

were more like friends, or maybe enemies, competing on some primal level that just didnt seem
right. No father shed ever seen, acted and talked that way to his son.
But what about those threats he made at the end? Caelyn said. Would he hurt ever you?
Elijahs expression grew hard, and the vein in his forehead started pulsing. If he does try to hurt me,
hell get a nasty surprise at what comes back at him.
She reached out and touched his forearm softly. Please dont get into trouble again, Elijah. Youre
on parole, you cant afford to have any more problems like that.
Elijahs body relaxed as he watched her. Its amazing, but Ive known you for less time than just
about anyone else in my life. And yet you care more about me than all the rest put together.
She smiled, her body warming as he reached out and took her by the arm, gently bringing her against
his rock hard body. And then he pulled her in for a long, slow burning kiss.
His lips were like fire, and as she closed her eyes, she had a vision of beach being burned by the sun.
A white beach, of powdered sand, and the yellow sun high in the sky was throwing fire down on
everything around it. The sea was bright blue, like a gem, sparkling beneath it.
Yes, she whispered, as Elijah stopped kissing her momentarily.
Yes, what?
Yes, youre right. I do care that much. She opened her eyes and gazed into Elijahs eyes.
His hands moved slowly down to her hips as his lopsided grin returned. I dont know. Maybe this is
all just a scam because youre interested in my connections.
Yeah, Im a real big player around these parts. I mean, if you want to eat at the best table at Johnnys
Road House or you want to know where to get a stolen iPhone 5, Im your man. And you know if you
get close to me, thats all going to be yours for the taking.
Caelyn laughed. You figured it out, Elijah. Im after your connections.
But its okay, he said, running a hand up behind her back, to her neck, and then pushing his fingers
into her hair and pulling he toward him again. I wont judge you for it, if you dont judge me.
Id never judge you. Her smile faded. I dont judge you.
I know. He kissed her, and this time it was soft, but then slowly it got stronger and stronger. Before
Caelyn knew it, he was taking her by the hand and slowly leading her to the bedroom.
He kissed her for a long time, his lips lingering, seeming to take her in, drinking her in.

And then they were undressing each other.

She couldnt stop putting her hands on him, she was completely and totally in awe of his incredible
Cool skin, cast in shadow, with just enough light filtering in from the window to see Elijahs muscles
working as he climbed on top of her.
And then everything was dark, light, shadow, and she was closing her eyes again.
Behind her eyes, the sun was burning ever hotter. It was scorching, the heat setting fire to the sand,
and she was crying out, because it felt amazing, as the water exploded against the beach, the waves
tossing and breaking on the shore.
Elijah was laughing a little bit as he watched Caelyn pack up her backpack with books for school the
next day.
Whats so funny? she asked, as she stuffed the last textbook inside the pack, zipped it up and threw
it over her shoulder.
Ive just never seen you getting ready for school before. Its weird, Elijah replied. He was eating
some roasted peanuts, tossing them into his mouth one at a time, and chewing.
You seemhappy or something, Caelyn told him. Now thats weird.
He winked at her. I got reason to be, kid.
Stop calling me kid, Elijah.
Come on, he said, we need to get you to class on time before your professor freaks out.
Yeah, Caelyn said, glancing at the time on her phone. And actually, I need to get there a little early
because I need to buy a new book for my psych class.
Okay, well Im not stopping you. Im waiting.
And Im ready to go. Caelyn brushed past him but he grabbed her backpack and pulled her towards
Hey! she cried. Let go!
No, he said, not until I get a kiss.
She pretended to fight, but she wasnt fighting very hard. The truth was, she wanted Elijahs hands
and lips on her constantly. Especially now, when she wouldnt be seeing him until later in the day.

He teased her for a moment, his eyes mischievous as he leaned in to kiss her, then backed off, then
leaned in again. Finally he did it, and the heat that his lips generated all throughout her body was
enough to get her sweating.
But before Caelyn knew it, the kiss was over and they were quickly heading out of the apartment and
down the stairs of the building.
The car ride over was mostly uneventful. As they crossed the bridge over into Cambridge, she looked
at him for awhile.
The sun was glinting off his sunglasses as he drove, and he looked like someone straight out of a
movie poster. What? he said, glancing at her.
Nothing, just checking you out.
Checking me out? What am I, just a piece of meat to you? he laughed.
So, she said, watching him still, what are you going to do after you drop me at school?
His smile faded a little, and his jaw flexed. I dont know. Probably nothing much.
Elijah, dont lie to me. I know youre going to do something.
He looked at her again. Dont ask me stuff like that, Caelyn. I dont think you want to hear the
But I do. Especially if its something that could get you sent to jailor worse.
Whats worse than prison?
You know whats worse. She had that pit in her stomach again. It was like a recurring nightmare,
this sense that Elijah was determined to continue his life of crime until something irreversible
Elijah sighed. I got a message from Dad. Hes trying to get me to have a sit down with Jake today.
Are you going to do it?
I havent decided yet. Do you think I should?
She considered it. The truth was, she didnt like either option. If he made up with his brother, in all
likelihood hed go back to doing the criminal activity his brother was still involved in. But if he kept
the feud going, then it was pretty clear that something bad was going to happen between Elijah and his
I dont think anything I say could help you.

But you have an opinion?

I think you should stay away from anything or anyone that could get your hurt, killed, or thrown in
jail. Thats my honest opinion.
Elijah grinned. So basically, stay away from everyone I knew before you came along.
She smiled back at him. If thats what it takes, then yes.
They finally pulled up to the curb near to campus and she got out, but not before giving him another
Even as he drove off, she felt his lips on hers, like an imprint in sand, slowly fading as the tide
washed it away.
Caelyn was happy. Sure, everything was still completely bizarre and screwed up, and Elijah hadnt
made a decision yet to give up his old ways, but she was with him. In the end, she wanted to be with
Elijah more than just about anything else.
And she truly believed, she had faith, that someday soon he was going to make things right. He was
going to walk away from his old lifestyle for good and never look back.
She walked to the campus bookstore and had to wait a few minutes while they checked in the
stockroom to see if there were any copies of the book she needed.
The store clerk came back with the book in hand. Last copy, he said, smiling at her.
I guess my lucks finally turned around, she said.
He raised his eyebrows. I dont believe in luck, he said.
You dont believe in good omens? Caelyn said.
He shook his head as he rang it up at the register. Superstition is for the weak minded.
Geez, thanks, she laughed, not really bothered by his opinion. There were a lot of people like him
at Cambridge University.
Cash or credit?
Oh, Im putting it on my student account. She took out her ID and handed it to him and he swiped it
After waiting a moment, he handed it back to her. Sorry, it says insufficient funds.
Oh, Caelyn said, her brow furrowing. Could you please try it again? Thats a mistake. I happen to
know I have a lot left in my account.

He gave Caelyn a quick look as another person got in line behind her.
It already said insufficient funds.
Please. Could you try again? Its a mistake.
Reluctantly he swiped the card again and waited. Then he handed it back once more, shaking his
head. Told you, its not working. Would you like to use another card or cash?
No, she said, gritting her teeth. Can you hold it for me?
He put the book behind the counter. Only until the end of day, he said.
Great, she sighed. Ill be back.
He nodded disinterestedly. So much for luck, I guess, he muttered, as she walked out the door
headed towards the Bursars office to figure out what the issue was with her card.
Shed just used it for the meal plan the other day without a problem, so it must have been a mistake on
their end, or maybe she needed a replacement card. Maybe the strip had gotten worn out or something.
Caelyn crossed the quad and went into the Bursars office, knowing now that she was going to be late
for her class. But she had to go and get this figured outsomething in her gut told her she needed to
do it now, not later.
When she arrived in the Bursars office, she had to sit and wait while another student spoke with the
older woman who was working the desk there. The student eventually left, and then Caelyn
The older woman had a head of fine, nearly white hair, and wore a very old-fashioned suit with a
flower patterned blouse and pearl necklace. She smelled a little musty and her face, when she smiled,
revealed the fine powder of overly applied foundation. May I help you? the woman asked.
Caelyn looked and saw that she wore a nametag that read Laura Westerfeld.
Hi, Miss Westerfeld. Im a student here, and Im having an issue with the account linked to my
student ID. When I tried to purchase a book at the school bookstore, I was told I had insufficient
funds. Im quite sure thats incorrect.
May I see your ID, please? Miss Westerfeld asked.
Yes. She handed it over.
Miss Westerfeld examined it for a long moment, as if it had top-secret markings on it that only she
could see. She flipped it over and back again, then began typing on her computer. Apparently, she
saw something interesting on the screen, because her eyes widened briefly.

Then she turned her attention to Caelyn. The bookstore was correct. You have nothing in your
account at this time.
Thats not possible. I just used my card the other day at the cafeteria without a problem. And I
checked online not long ago and I had hundreds of dollars in there.
Im afraid thats no longer the case, Miss Westerfeld stated. She typed something else and stared
intently at the screen. And I might add that you have an even more important issue, which is that we
still havent received the payment for next semester.
Caelyn swallowed, the pit in her stomach returning with a vengeance. And when is that payment
Two days from now. After that, youll be overdue. Registering for classes next semester will
become an issue, because, as you know, the process can be quite competitive. Early registration is
rewarded and late registration is penalized. So I urge you to find out why that payment hasnt been
made yet.
Caelyn backed away from the desk. Yes, she muttered, feeling dizzy and a little nauseous. Thanks
for your help.
Do you need to be referred to the Financial Aid office, young lady?
No, thank you. Caelyn pulled out her cell phone and immediately called her mothers cell phone,
even though it was the last thing she wanted to do at that moment.
It rang and then went to voicemail. Mom, this is Caelyn. I know you dont want to speak to me but
theres some important things we need to discuss. Please call me back as soon as you can.
Then she tried her father and got voicemail there, too. She left a nearly identical message with him.
She needed to go to class, but her nerves were jumpy, her stomach acidic, and she was sweating,
feeling faint from anxiety.
I cant do this. I cant go to class right now.
She was already anticipating what was going to happenthe conversation with her mother or father
would be explosive.
Had they really decided to stop paying for college? In the recent past, theyd been insistent on
wanting to cover everything, not wanting her to take out even a single college loan. But nownow
things were different.
Still, they could have told me if they were going to stop helping.
Maybe it was all some big misunderstanding.

She could hardly stand still, so there was no way shed be sitting in class like this.
She texted Elijah and asked if he could come and pick her up as soon as he was able.
He texted her and said: Back in Boston. Can return now if u need me.
Its nothing, she texted in reply. I can wait.
Do you need me? Tell me and Im there, he said.
After thinking for a moment, she decided to be honest. I need you, she wrote him.
Im on my way.
Caelyn could tell something was wrong as soon as Elijah picked her up. She got in the car and sensed
he was distracted, tense.
Sorry I made you come all the way back here, Elijah.
No problem, he said, typing something into his phone. He looked up at her.
You okay?
She nodded, tears at the corner of her eyes, feeling like a baby. Yeah, now that youre here.
He reached out and caressed her cheek softly. Tell me whats up, kid.
So she told him about the card not working and then what the woman at the Bursars office had said.
Elijah pulled out into traffic and started driving, swerving between cars, clearly trying to get
somewhere fast. So whats up? Elijah asked. Is it your folks? They cut you off?
She nodded. I think so. I called but got voicemail.
He sighed. Well work it out, Caelyn. How much is tuition per semester?
A lot. More than you or I can afford.
But there are loans
I dont know. Im not sure. Her anxiety started to rise again as the overwhelming thoughts started to
pile up. Did she even want to continue with school?
Did she want her parents to keep paying even if they wanted to?
Elijah answered his phone suddenly. Yeah. He listened. Jakes there now? Is my Dad with him?

He paused again. Okay. Keep an eye on it. Tell me if they leave.

Theyll probably wait at least a few minutes. I should be able to get back in time.
He hung up the phone and sped even faster through traffic.
Elijah, whats going on? she asked. Youre having the sit-down with Jake?
Something like that.
But not that?
He ignored her question. I need to drop you off at the apartment and then Ill take care of a few
Elijah she began, knowing she had to talk him out of whatever crazy thing he was planning.
But then her own cell phone started vibrating, and she pulled it out. Her heart was speeding up in
anticipation of who it might be.
The caller ID said MOM.
Shit, she whispered. Moms calling me back. Her stomach rolled and flipped, and she
swallowed drily.
Its okay, Elijah told her. Dont let her push your buttons.
Right. Caelyn answered. Hi, Mom, thanks for getting back to me.
Elijah, meanwhile, seemed hyper focused on swerving in and out of traffic like a stuntman on a movie
Caelyn, her mother said coldly. I received your message. Whats going on?
Theres a problem with my account at school. The Bursars office said my accounts at zero, so I
cant buy books or even eat on my meal plan. And then they also said that Im about to be late for next
semesters payment.
There was a long, long silence that seemed to draw out forever. Yes, that sounds correct to me, her
mother finally replied.
So you and Dad decided to cut me off.
I think you know why.
Couldnt you have at least told me? Caelyn said, as white-hot rage ignited in her chest. Are you
trying to hurt me?

Her mother laughed. Thats ridiculous, and if you keep talking like that, Im hanging up this phone.
Mom, you and Dad wanted me to go back to school. Youve been the ones pushing and pushing for
me to go to the best college, get a degree without any student loans hanging over my head
That was before.
Caelyn grit her teeth. Before I was raped?
I will not listen to this, Caelyn. Your father and I made a difficult decision. As long as youre seeing
that horrible young man, and as long as you continue to openly defy uswe will not contribute
anything toward your self-destruction.
Thats your choice, Caelyn replied, her teeth still clenched. I just wish youd have let me know in
Well, we did it the way we thought best.
There was another silence. Now Elijah got back on the phone as well. What?
he said. Now? Right now? He swerved. Okay, you stay on them and Ill call back when Im
closer. Stay on them, dont fucking lose sight of Jake.
Caelyns mother must have heard his voice. It sounds like youre very busy doing whatever things
you do nowadays, she said drily.
Mom, Caelyn said.
She wanted to swear at her, tell her how horrible she was being, cry, scream
anything to break her mother out of the strange icy demeanor shed decided to put on recently. But
Caelyn knew that there was absolutely nothing she could say that would make a bit of difference, and
if she carried on, her mother would use it as evidence that she was right about her daughters
demented mental state.
So Caelyn simply took a calming breath. Take care of yourself, Mom, was all she said.
After the stunned silence, Caelyn hung up the phone.
Elijah glanced at her. You all right?
Id be a lot better if you slowed down, she told him. Youre starting to really scare me, Elijah.
Ive got something important to take care of. I dont have time to drop you off at the apartment

Whats going on?

I cant really get into it right now, he said, staring at the road ahead as he maneuvered the car deftly
through city traffic.
Is it dangerous?
Not for you.
I dont want you putting yourself in danger. Do it for me, Elijah. Stop this.
Listen, he said, pulling the car over to the side of the road. You need to get out here. Theres a
Starbucks nearby. Go sit and waitIll swing back when Im done.
I am not getting out of this car. She crossed her arms and lifted her chin, defiantly staring at him.
Caelyn, Im dead serious. Ive got business to take care of. You wont want to be around when I do
Then dont do it.
He laughed and shook his head. It doesnt work that way.
Why not?
I dont have time to argue with you. You need to get out of the car. Right now.
No. She didnt budge.
He glared at her for a long while. So be it, he said, and then pulled into traffic once more. His
phone rang a second later and he answered it.
Yeah, he said. And then he sat up straighter. Okay, okay. Good. Im almost there myself. Good
He turned down a side street, and they sped down the empty road, between buildings on either side.
And then he turned down an alleyway and continued speeding, running over bits of trash, the buildings
blurring as they passed by them.
Finally, he stopped just behind a dumpster, as if to camouflage their location. He turned the car off
and put the keys in his pocket. He looked at her. You sit tight, he told her.
She watched him, took in his body language, the way his jaw was tense and his eyes so white.
Something was wrong. She felt it in her bones.
Dont do this. I have a terrible feeling, she said.

He smiled tightly. No going back, kid. Im doing it.

Please. You cant keep testing your luck. Eventually something terrible will happenand next time,
itll be permanent. She reached out and grabbed his hand.
Please, listen to me. I just want you and me to be together, and to be okay. I dont care if were poor,
or if we live in a motel, or anything. Just dont leave me again.
Im not leaving you, he said softly. Ill be in and out.
Does it have to do with Jake? Are you retaliating for what he did to you?
She could see by the look in Elijahs eyes that she was right in her guess.
I have to go. He reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a gun. It was a different gun
then what shed seen previouslylarger, metallic and shiny.
Please, she gasped, and her voice hitched as the sob came unbidden from her throat.
Sit tight. Ill be back before you know it. And then he smiled and caressed her cheek one more time
before throwing his door open and getting out.
The car ticked quietly in the near silence.
Caelyn sat in the passenger seat, trembling.
She wondered what he could be doing. Nothing good, that much was certain.
Was he going to kill someone? Or was he just bringing the gun along as a threat, a way to get what he
needed or wanted?
Either way, it was bad. The whole thing was rotten to the core, and if and when he got back to the car,
Caelyn was going to really put her foot down.
It was time for an ultimatum. Either he stopped this nonsense or she would have to leave. She
couldnt sit by and watch him commit these acts, whatever they were. She couldnt allow him to keep
putting his life and freedom at risk for such stupidity.
As she was fantasizing about the conversation to come, a loud shot rang out.
Even with the windows closed, it was so loud that she jumped in her seat.
Quickly following the first shot, three more shots rang out.
Caelyn shrieked each time, putting a hand to her mouth. She felt like she was truly going to be sick

this time. Her stomach rose up, bile in the back of her throat.
Someone had been shot.
Someone was probably dead.
Please God, she thought , just dont let it be him. I love him too much. Please make everything
okay, God. Just make it so that nothing bads happening.
Maybe they were warning shots.
She didnt believe that for a second.
The time ticked by, each minute feeling like a month.
And then, just as she was losing hope, she saw Elijah running around the dumpster, and he was
carrying a black satchel. He opened the door and threw it in the back seat, then got in the drivers
He was out of breath as he took out his car keys and shoved them in the ignition, starting the car.
I heard shots, she said. What happened?
He looked at her just for a second. I got the money.
What money?
The money he stole from me.
Elijah she began, but he was opening the glove compartment and putting the gun in it. And then
hed backed out and started driving down the alleyway.
Something was wrong, but she couldnt tell what it was.
His face was pale and sweat beads stood out on his forehead. His one hand gripped the steering
wheel tightly while the other lay in his lap. He grit his teeth. That stupid son of a bitch, he muttered,
shaking his head. I shouldve killed him while I had the chance.
Did you shoot someone, Elijah? Please tell me you didnt.
I didnt, he said, his voice strained. He licked his lips.
Where are we going?
The hospital.
Why? she nearly screamed.

And then she saw that his hand wasnt in his lap, it was actually protecting his stomach, holding it.
And there was a dark stain spreading through his shirt. He glanced over and saw that shed seen it.
Im going to be fine, he said through still clenched teeth.
Elijah, she said. Youre shot!
Its all right. Ill be fine. Just have to get to the hospital is all.
She felt faint, truly faint. Spots appeared before her eyes, and the world was spinning.
Hes going to die. Hes going to die.
She looked over and he was green, and deadly pale.
Elijah, you have to let me drive!
He looked at her, and his eyes were enormous, his pupils dilated, big as black marbles. What? he
said, his lips not working quite right. Did you
And then she turned to see the telephone pole coming towards them. She shouted a warning but it was
too late.
They hit the pole and she actually saw the windshield fold inwards, felt the glass shards hitting her
face, tasted the metallic taste of blood.
She felt an enormous jarring impact on her head, and she heard the screeching sound of iron and the
smelled the scent of oil and gasoline, and smoke in her nostrils.
But she was floating now, floating into the darkness, as sirens cascaded in her ears, fading, fading.
Her last thought was only of him.
Elijah, her mind whispered. Elijah.
But her lips never moved.
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