“Then who?” Dean snarled. He wasn’t sure if Aiden was telling the truth or not, but he sounded sincere. He sounded, well, upset. It seemed to really bother Aiden that he was being blamed for what had happened to Shelby. “Somebody needs to be held responsible for what happened to Shelby!”
Aiden coughed again, the pressure on his neck beginning to seriously bother him, “Trust me. I know.”
Dean let up some, keeping his arm on Aiden’s neck but no longer leaning into it. Aiden exhaled, grateful for the breathing room. Dean’s urge to harm Aiden was starting to diminish, and it was because of something he recognized in Aiden’s voice. He sounded almost as angry as Dean felt about whatever had happened to Shelby. He sounded like he wanted justice, too.
After a few minutes of silence, Aiden licked his lips and spoke, “Listen, Dean. You want to talk? Let’s talk. But you need to get off of me, first.”
Aiden hesitated, and then he leaned forward, sliding his calloused fingertips down Shelby’s cheek. His hand slipped behind her neck, his thumb caressing her face, and he pulled her towards him. His lips pressed up against hers, gentle and soft.
Shelby’s breath caught in her throat, and she instinctively slid her hands up his back, pulling her towards him. His hand slipped around her shoulders, practically dipping her backwards as the kiss intensified. She wanted more. She wanted the kiss to go on for hours.
But then, Aiden pulled away, ending the kiss just as gently as he had begun it. Shelby was left feeling dizzy, trying desperately to hold on to the way his kiss made her feel. It was so soft and tender, a more intimate kiss than she had ever experienced. It contrasted everything about Aiden’s rough exterior.
“Andover?” A voice came from behind Shelby, interrupting her and Aiden’s embrace.
The two released each other, Shelby turning towards the voice to see a somewhat familiar face from earlier, “Oh! Um, Brett, wasn’t it?”
“You got it!” The cheery former hospital patient said with a grin. “Small world, huh? I had no idea you were going to be here tonight, or that you’d be sucking face with my pal Aiden.”
Aiden looked between them, “How do you two know each other?”
Brett smirked, “Andover—” He snapped his fingers, looking back at Shelby, “Sorry, I’ve forgotten your first name.”
“Right!” Brett turned his attention back to Aiden. “Shelby was visiting her friend in the hospital a little before I got discharged. Coincidentally, her friend happens to be my new friend. Patients, together in arms!”
Aiden nodded slowly, glancing at Shelby, “Your brother’s friend? The guy who wrecked his leg? I didn’t know you were going to visit him.”
Shelby shrugged, averting her gaze, “I thought someone should.”
“Wow,” Shelby breathed out, only managing to find that one word as her head cleared.
Aiden smiled back at her, his hand running down her arm as he stepped away. He stopped at her hand, intertwining his fingers with hers, “I take it that was a good wow.”
Shelby ran her tongue over her bottom lip, nodding, “Definitely a good wow. That was… wow…. You’re good.”
Aiden laughed, his eyes dropping to their connected hands, “Thanks for the compliment?” He paused, biting his lip, “I really like you, Shelby. I like the way you fight back, how smart you are… And I really like the way you make me feel when you’re around. I legitimately like you, and I want you to stick around tonight.”
Shelby’s stomach did a flip, “What about Babylon?”
“Landon can handle her,” Aiden shrugged. “And Landon won’t let her mess with you if I tell him not to. She might be a bitch sometimes, but she isn’t going to want to piss him off.”
Shelby hesitated, not exactly thrilled to be spending more time with Landon, either. But she did really want to hang out with Kailynn and Aiden some more.
Finally, she nodded, “Okay, Aiden. I’ll stick around.”
“What exactly am I supposed to do about it?” Aiden said, throwing his hands up in frustration. “What’s done is done. There’s no way to fix it.”
Dean’s blood was boiling again, “And what exactly is ‘done’?” He couldn’t stand this. His suspicions had been confirmed. Whatever harm had come to Shelby, it didn’t seem that Aiden was the culprit. But he knew what had happened, and even who was responsible. He knew, and he hadn’t done anything about it.
Aiden blinked, “You don’t know?”
“Shelby hasn’t exactly been very chatty over the last couple of years.”
Not taking his gaze off of Dean, Aiden ran a hand over his neck, massaging where Dean’s arm had previously been. He observed Dean thoughtfully, thinking hard about what to say. Finally, he moistened his lips again and sighed, “If Shelby doesn’t want to talk about it then–”
“Oh please!” Dean interrupted, anger shooting through his body. “You’re taking the high road, now? What, you want to respect Shelby’s wishes? Be her knight in shining armor? Just tell me what happened to my sister, Aiden!”
Aiden shook his head, “I’m sorry, Dean, but it’s not my place.”
“A large part of this project is going to require him to be conscious,” Ronan remarked sarcastically, bringing a smile to Shelby’s face.
Shelby’s eyes fell to the sleeping Aiden Grimes as well. She really wanted to get a good look at him, but all she could really see was his neck. His dark, smooth neck. Shelby bit her lip, admiring the curve of his jawline. She’d seen him conscious on various occasions, of course, and he was really quite handsome. She was almost excited to have an excuse to look at him now.
That is, if he ever woke up.
Kailynn moistened her lips, smoothing out her skirt, “Don’t worry about it… Roy? He’ll be up. Last night was just… rough.” She followed this statement with a small laugh, her eyes twinkling.
“It’s Ronan,” Ronan corrected, his face serious.
“That’s a weird name.”
Ronan rose an eyebrow, “And Kailynn is normal?”
Another small laugh, “Oh, I’m far from normal, sweet cheeks.”
Shelby couldn’t stop the steady stream of tears as Aiden left the room. In the living room, she heard Reed’s angry voice, followed shortly by the slam of the front door. He came to the bedroom door shortly after, his voice filled with concern.
She couldn’t hold it together. With a strained gasp, she collapsed on his bed again.
She stayed there, crying until she fell asleep an hour later.
Aiden wobbled on his feet the moment he tried to take a step, and Babylon was at his side, supporting his weight. She wrapped his arm around her shoulders, observing him with joy, “I sincerely doubt that you can make it a few steps without falling in your condition.”
“But she’s been gone way too long,” Aiden stammered, following it with a small giggle.
Babylon nodded, “Yeah, you’re right. How about this? Let’s find you a bed to lay down in, and then I’ll go check on Shelby. I’ll send her your way as soon as I find her.”
Aiden leaned against Babylon with a dazed smile, laughing, “Okay, that actually sounds pretty nice. You’re a good friend, Babylon.”
Aiden frowned. He took another long drag, remaining in silence. He exhaled, and then ran his tongue over his lips before finally speaking, “I don’t do school functions.” He didn’t continue. Shelby had really been hoping that he would follow that with a ‘but’.
“I… I know,” Shelby stammered. “But I… I don’t know. I really wanted to go, but I just don’t want to go by myself. And… we could have a lot of fun, right? I don’t think it would be that bad.”
Aiden was silent again. The paper was burning his fingers and lips, so he finally flicked the joint into the water. He sighed, “What do you want me to do? Rent a tux? Get a limo? All that shit?”
Shelby chewed on the inside of her cheek, “No. I don’t need all that. I just wanted you there with me.”
“Take someone else,” Aiden shrugged.
Shelby hesitated, her stomach dropping, “What, like another guy?”
“We aren’t exclusive, Princess. Do what you want.”
Aiden chuckled, shaking his head, “Yes, Princess. Please don’t turn me in!”
Shelby’s face turned pink, looking towards the water. She had been hanging out with Aiden and his people for a month, yes, but she still wasn’t accustomed to their way of life. Sneaking out, breaking rules, doing drugs. They were all used to it. They’d been living this life for some time now, but they were easing Shelby into it. Not drugs, of course. Shelby was still steering clear of that, and they respected it. They always offered, yes, but they never pushed it.
“Sorry,” Shelby mumbled under her breath.
Putting the joint in his mouth and letting it dangle there, Aiden leaned forward and grabbed Shelby’s face with both hands, turning her back to look at him. He smirked, “Don’t ever apologize for being adorable, baby. I like how you are. I like that you give me that judgmental look every time I break a rule. I like that you’re surprised every time me and my friends cross the line. If I wanted a bad girl, I’d date a bad girl. You are perfect how you are.”
Recognizing Aiden’s voice behind her, Shelby froze, confusion clouding her mind. She had marched away, knowing that only Kailynn would be sad to see her go. Aiden was not the person she imagined chasing after her. Yes, Kailynn had told her that he liked her, but Shelby was sure those feelings didn’t run very deep.
Without turning around, Shelby sighed, “What do you want, Aiden?”
There was silence behind her, but Shelby could hear him fidgeting based on the way his keys kept jingling in his pocket. Finally, Aiden spoke, “I… I don’t want you to run off.”
“How come?” Shelby asked, intrigued.
Aiden groaned, “Come on, Princess. Don’t make me say it.”
As Revelations played on, Shelby realized that she couldn’t take her eyes away from Aiden.
She had always been attracted to Aiden. He was hot, let’s face it. Even with his sour personality, it would be stupid to deny his good looks. But there was something about him up there with that guitar. He was so… happy. He looked like he was right where he was meant to be, and loving every second of it. That excitement, that passion… Well, he had never looked more handsome than he did right now.
At one point during a song, Aiden’s eyes found hers and it made Shelby’s stomach flutter. He flashed her his breathtaking smile, the one she had rarely seen that was genuine, and then he winked. When he took his eyes off of hers, she thought her legs might collapse beneath her.
Come on, Shelby, She thought to herself. Get a hold of yourself.
After a few moment’s hesitation, Dean finally released his hold on Aiden. He took a step backwards, watching as Aiden caught his breath, still leaning against the fence. Finally, Aiden stood straight, and Dean wasn’t sure if he should have released him. Aiden had at least a half of a foot over Dean, and he made the athletic boy feel like a wimp. Still, Dean held his ground. If Aiden decided to retaliate, Dean was fairly confident that he could hold his own.
But Aiden didn’t make a move towards Dean. He stayed where he was and crossed his arms over his chest, still menacing but he didn’t seem to pose a real threat. Aiden wasn’t angry at the way that Dean had come at him. He seemed to understand. “I can see that you’re out for blood,” Aiden began, his breath still heavy. “But it would be in your best interest to stand down.”
“What?” Dean asked, frustrated and confused. “I suppose this is what I get for trusting you even an inch. You agreed that someone needed to be held responsible, but I guess you were just trying to save your own skin.”
Aiden shook his head, “Don’t. Don’t even start. Do you honestly think I like seeing Shelby hurt?”
“Seems that way to me,” Dean growled. “Because I haven’t seen you do anything to help.”