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What the Heart Wants

Chapter Text

The hallways of Neptune High School were filled with the usual chatter of the morning crowd.  While some students were already seated in their homeroom, other students hung around their lockers, killing time until the first bell rang.  In the case of Kaylie Pearce, she was waiting for a certain blue-eyed blonde with who she had matters to discuss with. 

Kaylie flipped her cellphone open just as it buzzed for a text message.

“Lover boy?” Madison asked as she passed boy.  Kaylie only smiled.  “See you in homeroom?”

“Yeah, I’ll be there in a minute,” Kaylie replied.  Turning back to her phone, Kaylie read the message from her boyfriend.

Good morning babe!

Kaylie typed a reply.  Good morning.

After sending, she closed her phone and turned her attention back to the entrance of the school.  The five-minute warning bell sounded through the halls.  She sighed impatiently.  If she didn’t catch Veronica anytime soon, then she’d have to wait until second period.  It wouldn’t be the end of the world if she did, but curiosity was getting the better of her.

Buzz. Buzz.

Kaylie flipped her phone open again.

San Diego this weekend?  Ill pick u up on my way down.

You know I can’t.

Kaylie sighed again, this time in frustration.  After his visit the past weekend, Kaylie let her boyfriend know that her parents practically forbade her from visiting San Diego again.  Damien questioned her why, but she couldn’t give an answer.  All her mom said was that she didn’t like her driving the whole one hour and half by herself and how much gas she would just be wasting.  However, Kaylie suspected another reason and it had something to do with the internship she was offered for the past summer.  Actually, after more reflecting, Kaylie suspected it had something to do with who she would have had to work for.  Kaylie had never seen her mom so unnerved when she found out.

Buzz. Buzz.

Just tell ur mom ur staying at a friends.

Knowing an argument would just ensue, Kaylie finally conceded. 

Thanks babe. Means a lot to me. I love you.

Love you too

Kaylie tossed her phone in her bag as she saw Veronica turn the corner.  She made a move to meet Veronica halfway when she saw none other than Eli Navarro walking beside her.  Kaylie groaned.  What she had to discuss with Veronica was something she didn’t want or need anyone else to hear. 

She leaned against her locker and waited, glancing at the odd couple.  Technically, they weren’t really a couple.  What Veronica and Eli’s relationship was, Kaylie didn’t know.  All she knew was that Eli Navarro was the leader of the PCH motorcycle gang.  Her first encounter with him occurred only a couple weeks ago at Logan’s back to school beach party.  Her younger sister Mandy wanted to go as a way to make an in with the popular 09er crowd.  Kaylie didn’t like the thought of her fifteen year old sister drinking with a bunch of strangers, so she finally decided to tag along.  The party didn’t last long, seeing that the Eli led his the PCHers in crashing the party that was held on “their beach.”  Kaylie didn’t stick around long enough to see the outcome.  She dragged her drunken sister away from the party and sped off.

The slamming of a locker brought Kaylie back to the hallways of Neptune.  She pushed herself off as she saw Veronica finally on her own, leaving Eli Navarro at his locker.

“Hey, you’re Veronica right?” Kaylie said as the blonde haired girl was within speaking distance.

“Depends, who’s asking?” she replied, eyeing Kaylie suspiciously.  “You’re the new girl, right?”

“Yeah, that’s me,” Kaylie laughed.  “But I prefer to be called Kaylie.”

“Well, Kaylie, fair warning, I may not be the best person to talk to if you want to maintain your 09er status.”

“Okay, got it,” Kaylie said, a hint of sarcasm in her voice.  “Anyway, I heard that you have a thing for helping people out.” 

 

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it a thing.  It’s more like an extracurricular activity.  My anti-drug, if you will.” 

 

Kaylie laughed.  Veronica turned out to be more pleasant than her new friends made her out to be. 

 

“Right, well, I need some information on someone.” 

 

“Oh?” Veronica asked.  “Who is it?  A stalker?  An admirer?  Potential love interest?” 

 

“Um, I don’t think it’s anything exciting like that,” Kaylie admitted.  Veronica put on a look of disappointment.  “But I just need whatever information you can dig up.”

 

Kaylie dug into her backpack envelope. 

 

“’Bella Vita Planning’?  You want me to dig up information on an event planning business?”

 

“No, I want you to dig up information on Jenny Marcelino, the owner of the event planning business.  As well as her husband, Vincent Marcelino.  I think he’s some kind of an attorney or something.”

 

“They’re based in San Diego,” Veronica said.

 

“Yeah-“  The hallway filled with the melodic ringing.  “Shit.  Uh, I can fill you in some more at PE?”

 

“Don’t worry, I got all I need.  This’ll be easy peezy!  I’ll have it done by the end of school!”

 

“Great!  Thanks!” Kaylie called as she quickly walked towards her homeroom. 

~*~*~*~*~

“Psst!”  Kaylie looked up from her place at the lunch table.  She saw Veronica sitting a few tables away.  She waved at Kaylie then nodded her to come over.

“What are you doing, Kay?” Her sister, Mandy, asked.

“I asked her to help me with something,” Kaylie replied as she stood up.  She dumped the remainder of her lunch into the trash can and proceeded to Veronica’s table.

“This has got to be my fastest case, yet.”

“You got something?”

Veronica turned her laptop towards Kaylie.

“Meet the Marcelino family.”  Kaylie looked at the picture the good looking couple and a teenager who looked as equally attractive.  “Vincent Marcelino, a high profile attorney.  Jenny Marcelino, former supermodel who dabbled in clothing lines, perfume lines, and makeup lines before opening up her current business Bella Vita Planning.  And of course, their handsome son, TJ Marcelino.  Recent graduate of San Diego Academy where he was on the honor roll and the quarterback, and now is enrolled in UCSD to follow in the footsteps of his father.”

“Wow, that’s pretty good.”

“Pretty good? ‘Pretty good’ doesn’t really mean ‘pretty good; especially with your tone and lack of umpf!”

“Sorry,” Kaylie said.  “It’s just…I could have easily Googled all this up myself.”

“I’m guessing you want more?  What exactly are you looking for?”

“Honestly, I don’t know.”  Veronica gave her a look.  “Look, last year at my old school, I was offered a position as Jenny Marcelino’s office assistant for over summer break.  When I told my parents, they were excited for me, until they found out who I was going to be working for.”

“Not a fan of Mrs. Marcelino, then?”  Kaylie shook her head.        

“I think the Marcelinos in general.”

“Hmm,” Veronica said, thoughtfully tapping her finger on her chin. 

“My mom suddenly had all these excuses on why I shouldn’t work for Jenny Marcelino.  So I told my teacher I couldn’t take the position.  That same day, I met Michael Marcelino.”  Kaylie paused as Veronica began typing away on her laptop.

“Younger brother of Vincent Marcelino.  Uh, not much on here about him except he co-owns a nightclub in San Diego.”

“Yeah, DeJa Vu.  The other co-owner is my teacher.  That’s how I met him Michael Marcelino.  He was in town.”

“So, you want me looking into the Marcelinos because?”

“Because I think they’re the reason why my parents decided to move us from San Diego to Neptune.”

“This is a lot more complicated than I thought. Yet intriguing.”

“So you’ll still look into it?”

“Well, I mean, I can.  But I might have better results if I actually go to San Diego-“

“Look, I’ll pay whatever your rate is plus any expense you incur during your investigation. Gas, food. I’ll even pay for your hotel if you do end up staying in San Diego for a day or two.”

“I do need a vacation…”

Kaylie gave her a look.

“I’m totally kidding,” Veronica laughed.  “Is there a deadline for this?”

“Not really, I just want to know what the connection is.”

“Consider me all over this!” 

“Thanks! Uh, here’s my number,” Kaylie grabbed a pen out from her backpack and scribbled her number on Veronica’s napkin.  “Just call or text if you need anything!”

Kaylie walked back to her lunch table.

“What could you possible want with Veronica Mars?” Madison asked.

“She’s just helping me out with something,” Kaylie replied.

“You really need to learn how to choose who you’re seen with more carefully.”

“Thanks, but I think I can manage on my own,” Kaylie replied, disliking Madison’s tone.  “I’ll see you guys later.”

Kaylie quickly dismissed Madison’s mean girl comment and focused on finally being one step closer to answering the question that had been bugging her the whole summer: why was her mom so afraid of the Marcelinos?

Chapter Text

Students emerged from their last period class as soon as the dismissing bell sounded through the hallways.  Kaylie’s head felt heavy as she walked to her locker.  The last three classes of her day consisted of physics, AP history and AP English.  She wondered who in the office would be so cruel to present her with that kind of torturous schedule. 

 Opening her locker, Kaylie zoned out as the numerous assignments that needed to be completed filled her head.  She thought up her to-do list for the remainder of the week.  She only came to when she heard another back-and-forth between Eli Navarro and Logan Echolls.  She glanced as Eli, though a few inches shorter than Logan, stepped close to the 09er and spat out a threat.  Logan proceeded to push Eli back a few steps.  Eli rushed at Logan just as Mr. Clemmons pulled Logan out of Eli’s path.  Eli ran into one of the campus security guards. 

 “Enough, gentlemen!” 

 Logan shrugged himself off of Mr. Clemmons’ grasped and pointed his finger at Eli threateningly. 

 “Ooh, I’m scared now!” Eli hollered out. 

 “Mr. Navarro, I said enough!” 

 Kaylie rolled her eyes. 

 “I’m so over high school,” she muttered. 

 “Me, too!”  Kaylie jumped as Veronica swiftly leaned against the locker next to Kaylie. 

 “God, Veronica!” 

 “Sorry,” she said.  “But if it makes you feel better, there are only 241 days left until graduation.” 

 “Still too long to countdown from,” Kaylie said.  She began to organize what books she needed to bring home. 

 “Okay, let me take another crack at this making you feel better things.  I have come bearing news about what you wanted me to look into.”

 “What do you got?”  “

 “Do you want the good news or do you want the better news?” 

 “Uh…”

 “The good news is really the bad news and the better news is the good news,” Veronica whispered. 

 “Give me the good news,” Kaylie said, playing along. 

 “Good news is that the Marcelinos, despite being a ridiculously good looking family, have their fair share of upper-class scandals.” 

 “Surprise, surprise.  Wait, do any of those scandals involve either of my parents?” 

 “On to the better news!” Veronica said.  “None of those scandals involve either of your parents.  In fact, there is no connection between the Marcelinos or the Pearces whatsoever.” 

 “Then why the hell was my mom freaking out for?” Kaylie asked.

 “My opinion?  After spending my Saturday on multiple gossip sites uncovering the scandalous side of the Marcelinos, I have come to the conclusion that your mother wanted you to have nothing to do with them because she cared.” 

 Kaylie gave her an unimpressed look. 

 “Kaylie, the worst I got on these people was that Jenny Marcelino got a bit too drunk at a Hollywood party and tripped on her way to their car.  Her husband?  He’s an attorney who’s had some pretty sketchy clients, but that’s nothing new.  Their son was rumored to have impregnated a girl and made her get an abortion.  While Michael Marcelino, the younger brother, just fails to live up to anything his older brother does.  He’s actually had a few run-ins with the law, all of which big brother was always able to get dismissed or pled down.” 

 Kaylie sighed. 

 “Now that is disappointing.” 

 “I can try one last time.  Maybe a trip to-“ 

 “No, Veronica, it’s okay.  Maybe I’m just looking way too much into it.  And you’re right; my mom’s never been a fan of the Hollywood elites and such.  Thanks for what you did find, though.” 

 Kaylie brought out her wallet and paid Veronica her dues.  After gathering the rest of her needed school books, Kaylie reached for her cellphone.  Once it was on, Kaylie was bombarded with notifications of missed calls, text messages, and voicemails.  She had a sinking feeling in her chest when she saw that they were all from Damien, which was no surprise. 

The past weekend, Kaylie had snuck off to San Diego to spend time with him.  Kaylie hoped that it would be a good time for them to reconnect after their break over the summer.  Now that Damien was a freshman at college, Kaylie felt pressure to compete with the college girls she knew Damien was probably meeting.  Things, however, did not go as Kaylie wanted.  She shouldn’t have been surprised.  It didn’t take long for Damien to start nitpicking about something.  They were in a full blown argument in the middle of the restaurant and were asked to leave.  A couple of hours later, Kaylie was in bed with him.  It was all a part of their ongoing cycle of fighting and then making up with sex.  She left that Sunday morning after another fight started and had been ignoring him since.

 Her phone rang.  Figuring a day and half was enough time for Damien to have cooled off, Kaylie answered.

 “Hello?”

 “So now you answer?” Damien asked.  Nope, she was wrong.

 “I was in school, Damien!” Kaylie cried.

 “What, you don’t get a lunch break?  Can’t even sneak a fucking text?” 

 “Okay, I’m not doing this,” Kaylie said.  “Call me when you’re done being an asshole.” 

 Kaylie continued her walk to the car.  Frustration and anger bubbled up inside her.  It frustrated her that she was in love with a guy like Damien.  She was angry that she was still with him.  A small voice inside told her, “You don’t really love him.”  Her phone rang again and she rejected the call.  Within seconds, his number glowed on the screen.  Reject.  By the third time, Kaylie was pushed over the edge.

 “Are you fucking serious?” she said to herself.  She finally flipped her phone open.  “What the hell do you want, Damien?”

 Kaylie heard a chorus of “Ooh” and “damn.”  It was then she realized she was nearing the PCHers’ corner.  Glancing over, she saw that their fearless leader was looking her way.  She met his eyes.  He broke the eye contact and scanned her face and then her body.  She turned away and crossed her arms, uncomfortable with how he stared. 

 “You don’t fucking hang up on me!” Damien’s voice shouted through the phone. 

 Fearing how loud he was, Kaylie clicked on the end call button.  Within seconds her phone rang again.  Taking a deep breath, Kaylie rejected the call and proceeded switched her phone off again.  She knew it was going more harm than good, but she wasn’t in the mood to deal with him.  In fact, she didn’t want to deal with him at all.  Kaylie threw her phone in her bag and proceeded to her car. 

 “What took you so long?” her sister asked.  “Maybe I should just start riding with Logan-“ 

 “Don’t be ridiculous,” Kaylie snapped. 

 “What the hell’s wrong with you?”

 Kaylie took a deep breath and caught her reflection in the rearview mirror.  She pitied herself.

 “Nothing,” Kaylie finally said.  She gave her sister a smile.  “I’m sorry.  I’m fine.”

 

.-~*~-.

 Another day down at Neptune High School.  Another fight broke out, this time it was between two of the 09er guys. 

 ‘240 days left,’ she told herself.  As she exited the school, she saw a small crowd forming near the parking lot.  She wondered if it was the part two of the fight from lunch.

 As she approached, she felt someone fall into step beside her.

 “Isn’t that your boyfriend?” Madison asked.  Kaylie felt her whole body chill to the bone. 

 “Wh-what?”  Kaylie looked up.  Through the thinning crowd, she saw a flash of red, the color of Damien’s car.  Kaylie took her time with reaching the parking lot.  Once the rest of the crowd dispersed, Kaylie saw Damien, leaning against the hood of his red Dodge Viper.  A bouquet of roses laid on the hood.

 “You lucky girl,” Veronica teased.  Kaylie gave a small smile.  “Either he really loves you or he really messed up.” 

 “I’m sure it was cause he messed up,” Mandy said, joining the two.

 Kaylie chose not to reply.  Instead, she turned to her sister who was already grinning from ear to ear.  Kaylie sighed and handed her car keys to her sister. 

 “One scratch on my car, I will end your life,” Kaylie warned. 

 “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Mandy replied grabbing the keys from her. 

 “Cover for me?” 

 “You’ll be studying at Veronica’s.” 

 Kaylie gave her thanks and bid them bye. 

 “I wish I had a sister who let me drive her Lexus and who covered my ass,” Veronica said, giving a sigh. 

 She watched as Kaylie approached Damien who immediately brought her into his arms then placed a passionate kiss on Kaylie’s lips.  Several whoops and whistles were heard. 

 “Maybe a boyfriend would be good, too.” 

 Mandy let out a scoff. 

 “Give it time, Veronica.  You’ll soon grow tired of their on-again-off-again relationship.” 

 With that, Mandy walked off to claim her sister’s car.  Seeing that she now was standing alone, Veronica also began to walk to her car, all while watching Damien and Kaylie’s interactions.  As she passed the PCHers’ territory, she realized she wasn’t the only one admiring the couple. 

 “Like what you see, vato?” she called out as she approached Weevil, who was situated on his motorcycle. 

 Her question fell on deaf ears as Weevil was too busy noticing little details about the couple he was sure no one else saw.  While Damien’s flashy entrance with his bright red Viper caught everyone’s attention, it was Kaylie’s initial reaction that caught Weevil’s eye.  The expression on her face was one of surprise, with an underlying hint of fear.  As the other girls of Neptune looked on enviously as Damien showered Kaylie with affection, Weevil saw the hesitancy on Kaylie’s part.  Her arms stayed limp beside her, only wrapping her arms when Damien moved them himself.  Even while Damien kissed her, Kaylie seemed to pull back a little.

 “Hey!” Veronica cried, clapping her hand in front of him. 

 “Yo!  That’s one way to get knocked out!” 

 “Don’t tease me with a good time.” 

 Weevil didn’t respond as he glanced back to the couple who were now heading towards the red Viper. 

 “There you go again, spacing out,” he barely heard Veronica say. 

 Weevil’s eyes drifted down to Damien’s hand which was gripped tightly around Kaylie’s wrist.  A small fire ignited inside Weevil as memories from his childhood flashed through his mind.  The Viper roared to life. 

 “Aye, I’ll meet up with you guys later!” Weevil cried. 

 Veronica took a step back as Weevil put his helmet on.  His motorcycle roared to life and took off from the parking lot.  Veronica watched as Weevil turned onto the road, following the red Viper onto the highway.

 

.-~*~-.

 Kaylie was alone in the empty hallway, taking her time gathering her books.  After a late night out with Damien, Kaylie allowed herself to sleep in.  She looked up as she heard footsteps.  Eli Navarro turned the corner and stopped.  Kaylie looked back down as Eli continued to stare at her.  Eventually, Eli resumed to his locker. 

 “Did it hurt?” Eli’s voice boomed down the empty hall.  Kaylie looked up and saw that he was looking at her.

 “What?” Kaylie asked confused.

 “When you ran into the door.” 

 Kaylie said nothing. 

 “Yeah, it’s what my ma always told me.  One day it was a black eye from the door.  The next day, bruises on the arm from bumping into the wall.  Can you believe that?  A fucking wall.” 

 With each word that he spoke, Kaylie felt panicked.  She quickly grabbed her books and shut her locker close. 

 “You know, you’re as clumsy as my mom was,” Eli said, stepping in front of Kaylie. 

 “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”  She stepped around him and continued down the hall. 

 “The shiner of yours looks like its healing; looks a lot better compared to Monday.”  Kaylie froze.  “Maybe you need better make up, or something.”

 Kaylie turned to face him. 

 “Maybe you need to mind your own damn business,” Kaylie retorted.  He only smirked.  “You don’t even know me-“ 

 “Kaylie, right?” Eli said, walking towards her.  Kaylie regretted ever engaging with him.  “Pearce?  You’re the new girl from San Diego.  Your sister hangs out with the 09ers.  You did, too, until a couple of weeks ago.” 

 “Are you stalking me?” 

 “Come on, Kay.”

 “Don’t call me that.”

 “People talk,” Eli continued.  “Especially about the new girls.  By the way, if you didn’t know already, the name’s Weevil.” 

 “Okay, Weevil, I would like to say it was nice meeting you, but it wasn’t.  You may know my name, but you still don’t know me.  And whatever you’re suggesting-“ 

 “What I’m suggesting is that your boyfriend uses you as his own personal punching bag.”  Kaylie was surprised at his bluntness.  “He doesn’t respect you.  He’s always checking up on you.” 

 “You have no right going around accusing people-“ 

 “So you’re saying your boyfriend has never touched a single hair on that pretty, perfect head of yours?” 

 “No,” Kaylie immediately replied. 

 “You’re sure quick to answer.  A little defensive maybe?” 

 “Go to hell, Weevil, and stay the fuck away from me.”

 Weevil watched as Kaylie walked away.  He shook his head as he replayed her words.  It was similar to what his mother told him after he tried defending her from her then boyfriend.  Weevil felt the old pain of his mother choosing her boyfriend over him.  All throughout the day, Weevil was in a depressed mood.  Even after Logan purposely bumped into him, Weevil didn’t take the bait.  He merely sent Logan a glare and continued on his way. 

 Once the dismissal bell freed him from school, Weevil headed straight to his motorcycle.  A loud revving caught his attention.  He cursed under his breath as the bright red Viper pulled into the parking lot.  He hopped on his motorcycle and his other friends followed suit.  He took a second to look over at where the Viper parked.  Kaylie’s boyfriend was leaning against the hood again, pushing himself off only when Kaylie came into view.  Her reaction still lacked the excitement that other girls usually had when seeing their boyfriend.  But once she caught sight of him looking, Kaylie initiated a kiss with her boyfriend.  Weevil laughed bitterly to himself. 

 ‘Not everyone wants to be saved.’  That’s what he was told by his grandma the day his mom left them for her boyfriend.  Weevil heard the revving of the guys’ motorcycles.  He placed his helmet on and took off behind his gang.

 

.-~*~-.

Kaylie remained silent as Damien and his friends joked around.  After picking her up from school, they headed to the boardwalk to meet up with his three new friends he met from college.  All through their early dinner, Kaylie didn’t have much to contribute.  The conversation centered on their new college life; something that was unfamiliar to Kaylie.  She looked out the window, watching the sun slowly set over the waves. 

 “You ready, babe?” Damien asked, interrupting her serene moment.  She only nodded her response.

 “You alright?” Tommy asked Kaylie.  “You were pretty quiet.”

 “That’s because you dummies kept talking,” Rochelle said.  Kaylie gave a small laugh. 

 “She gets like that from time to time,” Damien said.  Kaylie gave him a look.  “What?  You do!  But you know what they say about the quiet ones, though, right?”

 The group all laughed.  Kaylie did the same, yet she felt her face burn. 

 “Yo, I’ll play you!” Randall cried to Tommy, pointing to the basketball game.  Rochelle followed the two, leaving Damien and Kaylie alone.

 “You ready to head out?”

 “Yeah, I still got homework to do still.”

 “You can do that later, right?”  Damien said, as he got close and pulled her closer.  Kaylie’s body stiffened.  Damien narrowed his eyes at her and she slowly relaxed into his hold.  He placed a kiss on her lips then slowly trailed down to her jaw then neck.  Kaylie closed her eyes and tried to remember back to the time when she actually enjoyed when he kissed her like that.  Damien pulled her body against his.  Kaylie gently pushed him away.

 “Damien, stop, we’re in public.” 

 “I can fix that,” he said as he tugged for her to follow him.  “Tommy, you got your keys?”

 “Yeah, why-“

 “I’ll trade you,” Damien said, throwing his keys to Tommy.

 “Aye, you better not mess up my car!”

 Kaylie’s heart dropped as she realized where Damien was taking her.  Tommy’s shiny, black Escalade was parked towards the end of the lot, away from all the other cars.

 “Damien, I am not having sex in that guy’s car,” Kaylie said, letting go of his hand.

 “Come on, babe, just real quick.”

 “Damien-“

 Damien ignored his girlfriend’s protests and grabbed her hand and pulled her along.  He helped her into the back seat and closed the door.

 

.-~*~-.

Kaylie straightened up her shirt before hopping out of the SUV.  Using the tinted windows as her mirror, she ran her fingers through her hair.  Damien soon got out, still buttoning up his shirt.  Kaylie ignored the feeling in her stomach.  Damien placed a hand on her back and she focused on not flinching.  He placed a kiss on her cheek.

 “Uh, can you bring me home?” Kaylie asked.  “My parents are probably wondering where I’m at.”

 “Yeah.”  Damien took her hand in his and they walked in silence back to the board walk.  Kaylie stopped abruptly as she saw Weevil and his crew hanging out on the beach.  She noticed the motorcycles spread out over four parking spaces.  Weevil made direct eye contact.  Kaylie wondered how long they had been there for.

 “What’s wrong babe?” Damien asked.  He noticed the group of guys loitering near the beach.  Damien pulled her closer and threw an arm around her shoulders.  Kaylie noticed Weevil chuckle.  She looked away and held on to Damien a little tighter.

 

.-~*~-.

Sleep.  It was the only thing Kaylie wanted.  Due to her being out with Damien yet again, she had to pull an all-nighter just to get her homework finished. 

 “Someone looks-“

 “If you can’t say something nice, Wallace,” Kaylie warned.

 “Here,” he said, handing her a packet of papers.

 “What’s this?”

 “I copied my notes from today for you.  I saw you nodding off-“ Kaylie hugged him.

 “You are a life saver.  I thought I was going to have to read the chapter-“

 “Hey! Get off my best friend!” Veronica yelled. 

 “Well, your best friend really is the best.  He saved me maybe two hours of reading tonight,” Kaylie explained.

 “Two extra hours to spend with your lover?” Veronica teased.

 Kaylie felt her chest tighten.

 “Or not,” Wallace said, noting her reaction.

 “Trouble in paradise, again?” Veronica asked, remembering what Mandy had told her.

 “No, no,” Kaylie replied.  “It’s just he’s been coming by a lot, which is nice, it’s great, really.  But he just doesn’t seem to remember what high school is like.  Or the fact that I’m taking two AP classes and need more study time than normal.”

 “Why don’t you just tell him?”  Wallace asked.  Kaylie laughed.

 “Yeah, I should, huh?” Kaylie said, laughing even more.

 Her two friends looked at one another.

 “I declare you, delirious,” Veronica said.  The three walked out of the school together.

 “I’ll see you ladies later,” Wallace said.

 “Bye, Wallace,” Kaylie and Veronica said in unison.

 As the two girls continued to walk, Kaylie scanned the parking lot.  No sign of the red Viper everyone now associated with her.  Kaylie felt the tightness around her chest loosen.

 “Lookin’ a little relieved that your boyfriend of yours ain’t here today,” Weevil said.  Kaylie narrowed her eyes at him.  She realized that his gang seemed interested in their conversation.  It made her wonder if they knew about her and Damien’s relationship, too.

 “Dude, what happened to your face?” Veronica asked, mimicking one of the 09er guys. 

 “You should see the other guy,” Weevil replied with a smirk.  His posse all snickered in the background. 

 “I’ll see you tomorrow, Veronica,” Kaylie said, not wanting to be around the PCHers another second. 

 “What about me?” Weevil asked, throwing out his arms. 

 “Ugh,” Kaylie groaned as she rolled her eyes. 

 “You really know how to charm all the girls,” Veronica teased as she, too, walked away.

 

.-~*~-.

 Kaylie got in her car and turned on the engine.  She adjusted the AC and flipped open her phone.  Kaylie sighed as she saw that there were three new messages awaiting her, all from Damien. 

 ‘What’s he going to bitch about now?’ Kaylie wondered. 

 It hadn’t been that long since she last checked her phone, but the amount of text from him filled her with dread. 

 Call me when u can.  Only sent half an hour ago. 

 Im in the hospital.  Kaylie hesitated on the message.  She wasn’t sure if it was just a ploy to have her react right away or if he was actually serious.  

 Im getting discharged this afternoon. I want to see u before I leave. 

 Kaylie hit Damien’s speed dial just as Mandy jumped in the passenger’s seat. 

 “What’s-“  Kaylie put her finger to her lips. 

 “Babe-“ 

 “Are you really in the hospital?” 

 “Yes! Why would I lie about that?” Damien said, sounding annoyed. 

 “Which hospital?” 

 “There’s only on in Neptune,” Damien cried.  “Pay attention, Kaylie!” 

 Kaylie glanced over at her sister who was too busy on her cellphone to have heard Damien’s response. 

 “Okay, I’ll be there.” 

 After dropping her sister off at home, Kaylie arrived at the hospital 45 minutes later.  Damien was sitting in a wheelchair when Kaylie entered the room. 

 “About damn time,” he said once she was in.  Upon entering the room she saw that Randall and Tommy were there, too. 

 “I had to drop off-“ 

 “It’s fine,” Damien said, in a dismissive tone. 

 “Hey, you guys should get the car around,” Rochelle said, entering the room.  “Oh, hey, Kaylie.”

 “Hi.”

 “Alright,” Tommy said.  “Who’s driving the Viper?”

 Damien groaned.  Kaylie knew he didn’t like anyone else driving his car.

 “You shouldn’t be driving,” Rochelle reminded him.

 “Fine, Tommy-“

 “What?” Randall cried.

 “Dude, we’ll split the trip,” Tommy suggested.  With that, the two passed by Kaylie without a single word. 

 “So, what happened?” 

 “I got fucking jumped,” Damien exclaimed. 

 “What?  By who?”  Kaylie asked, concerned. 

 “Sorry, I didn’t have time to ask for their names.”  Rochelle looked shocked at Damien’s reaction. 

 “Uh, Rochelle, can you give us a minute?” Kaylie asked.  Rochelle slowly nodded her head and excused herself.  Kaylie sighed.  “I’m sorry I was late.  I had to drop Mandy off at home.” 

 Damien didn’t reply.  Kaylie walked over to him and squatted in front of him.  She took his hand in his.

 “Are you okay?  What did the doctors say?” 

 “That I just took a hell of a beating,” Damien said. 

 Kaylie noted the blackened left eye as well as the split lip. 

 “Bruised ribs,” Damien continued as he slowly lifted his shirt.  Kaylie eyed the bruising around his torso.  “Hurts like a bitch.” 

 Kaylie bit back the urged to say “I know.” 

 “Did you file a police report?” 

 “No, I don’t have time to deal with the fucking stupid ass Sheriff.  I’ll handle this shit on my own,” Damien said. 

 “What do you mean?” 

 “Those fucking bikers won’t know what’s coming to them.” 

 “Bikers?” Kaylie asked, her interested piqued.  “They were the ones who jumped you?” 

 “Yeah, fucking low lives.  Probably saw my car and tailed me.  Three of them cut me off and then the rest surrounded me.” 

 “Did you get a good look at them?” Kaylie asked. 

 “Fucking pussies kept their helmets on.”  Kaylie nodded. 

 “Do you think it was the same bikers from the beach?”

 “No doubt, that’s probably where they first eyed me.”

 “What are you planning on doing?” 

 “I don’t know yet, but I’ll make sure they regret ever messing with me.” 

 Kaylie felt chills run down her spine.  She saw the look in Damien’s eyes.  It was the same look he had when he was blinded with rage.  Nothing good ever came whenever Damien had the look. 

 

.-~*~-.

“You’re seriously skipping today?” Mandy asked, Kaylie pulled up in front of the school.

 “Yeah.”

 “I hope you know that you owe me, like a lot.”

 “I know,” Kaylie groaned.  She didn’t want to think about what her sister would ask in return.  She would probably ask to drive her car.

 “Wait, how am I gonna get home?”

 “Well, I guess now you have a reason to ask Logan for a ride,” Kaylie suggested.  “Just, you know, be careful with him, okay?”

 Kaylie sat in the driver’s seat as Mandy got out.  She waited until Mandy was in the school before cutting the engine.  She walked towards the PCHers’ corner.  Weevil straightened up once he saw her walking his way. 

  “Hey, uh, Weevil!  Can I talk to you for a second?”  Kaylie asked, avoiding eye contact with him and the rest of the PCHers.

 Kaylie ignored the comments from the other PCHers.  Weevil moved away from his motorcycle and Kaylie motioned him to follow her.  She walked a good distance away from the PCHers who were trying to eavesdrop on the conversation. 

 “What can I do for you, miss?”  Weevil asked when they finally stopped. 

 “What the hell did you do?  Are you out of your mind?”  Kaylie cried.  Her tone was serious, but she made sure to keep her voice low.

 “Wait, wait, back up.  What is it that you think that I did?” 

 “You jumped Damien.” 

 “Damien?” Weevil asked, offering a confused look.

 “My boyfriend?  You and that gang of yours jumped him and sent him to the hospital!” 

 “Okay, first of all, we are not a gang.  And second, I cannot confirm or deny these allegations that are being made against me and my friends.” 

 “I know it was you!  He specifically said a gang of bikers clad in black leather jackets.” 

 “We are not the only ones-“  Kaylie gave him a look.  “Okay, maybe my boys and I did jump someone.  Whether or not it was your boyfriend, I wouldn’t know.” 

 Kaylie scoffed. 

 “I mean, come on,” he continued.  “All these white boys look the same.  Driving around in their-” 

 “Okay, look,” Kaylie interrupted.  She wasn’t there to argue about what he did.  “You can deny it all you want, but we both know that it was you and your friends.  Now, I’m only going to say this once: Damien’s not going to let this go.  He will find a way to get back at you.” 

“Wait, are you threatening me for your boyfriend?” Weevil asked incredulously. 

“No, I’m giving you a heads up.”  Weevil looked surprised with her revelation.  “With your obvious dislike for rich, privileged, white boys, I’m sure you know that people like them can do a lot of damage to people who cause them problems.  Trust me when I saw that Damien is certainly no different.” 

“For someone who’s dating a rich privileged, white boy, you sure seem to dislike people like him.” 

“I don’t-“

“Are you speaking from experience, hm?  Is that how he’s been keeping you around?  Is that why you keep staying with him even though-” 

Kaylie looked away. 

“And all this time I thought you were just too stupid to walk away,” he said, his usual hard tone of voice softened. 

Kaylie finally looked back at him. 

“Just be careful, Weevil.” 

Weevil watched Kaylie walked away.  He couldn’t believe that she, of all people, was telling him to be careful.  Having been in and out of juvie since he was 12, Weevil was used to trouble.  He also certainly wasn’t scared of fighting back.  Kaylie, on the other hand…  Weevil wondered how long she’d been putting up with the abuse.  He wondered what the asshole had on Kaylie to make her stay.  He wondered what it would take to make it stop. 

“Hey, Weevil!”  Thumper called.  “You coming in or are you just going to stand there and look at that fine ass walk away?” 

Weevil smirked and glanced back at Kaylie who got back in her car.  His eyebrow rose in question as she drove out of the school parking lot.

“Where the hell is she going?” he muttered to himself.

“Weevil!”

“I’ll catch up,” he replied as he saw the familiar black Le Baron convertible.

Veronica made eye contact with him and he gave his little nod.  He practically saw her groan.

“It’s too early for this,” Veronica told him.    

“Yeah,” Weevil said seriousness off the bat.  “Uh, so, going through this little back and forth we got going, I realized that it’s your turn to owe me a favor.” 

“No, Weevil, I will not shine that tiny bald head of yours.” 

“Come on, V, if I told you once, I told you twice.  This bald head of mine is nothing but tiny.” 

“Walked right into that one,” Veronica sighed.  “What do you want?” 

“I need you to look into someone for me.  Find out as much as you can.” 

“Do you want to know if he has a tiny bald head too?”  Veronica cracked.

“Funny.” 

“Who’s the subject?” 

“Uh, Damien.” 

“Damien?” 

“I didn’t exactly catch his last name.” 

Veronica gave him a look.

“Well, is he a student here?  Maybe-” 

“No.  He’s a college boy.” 

“Do you at least know how he looks?”  Veronica asked, trying to glean as much information to help her.

“Uh, tall, white, rich?” Veronica groaned.  “He drives a red Viper.” 

“Oh?” Veronica asked.  Her eyes widened and lit up with interest.  She gave him a smile.  “Now we’re getting somewhere.  You want me to look into Kaylie’s boyfriend.  And why-“ 

“I’m not paying you to ask questions,” Weevil snapped. 

“You’re not paying me at all.  This is a favor remember?” 

“Just see what you can find, alright?  The sooner the better.” 

“For someone who needs a favor, you sure are very rude and bossy.” 

“Look,” he began.  “It’s important, alright, V?”

 Seeing the seriousness on his face, Veronica nodded. 

“Okay, yeah, I’ll see what I can dig up.” 

Weevil nodded his head in thanks and walked ahead of Veronica into Neptune High School.

Chapter Text

“I need to go, Damien!” Kaylie cried. “I have school tomorrow and-“

“Just ditch it!” Damien replied, still focusing on his video game. Kaylie groaned.

“Damien! Can you listen to me for a second?”

“Damn it!” Damien cried. He chucked the controller across the room. “What?”

“Can I please have my keys and my phone?”

“No!” Damien stood up and made his way to the kitchen. “It’s one day, babe.”

“I’m taking two AP classes, so one day is too much for me to miss!”

Damien laughed.

“You’re cute babe. You know that you don’t need all that AP bullshit. One call is all it takes and my dad can get you accepted into USD for next fall.”

Kaylie rolled her eyes.

“I’d rather work for my acceptance.”

“Yeah, but you don’t have to.” Damien made his way over and wrapped an arm around her waist. He tilted her chin up so she would look at him. “One day won’t hurt.”

He placed his lips on her to keep her from arguing. Kaylie gently tried to push him away, but he only held onto her tighter. She pulled away.

“Damien-“ He pressed his lips on her again as he walked them towards his bedroom.

.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.

“Hey, Mandy,” Weevil said, as the younger Pearce walked by.

Weevil glared at the back of her head as she only continued to ignore him and walk away. Weevil slammed his locker and caught up with her.

“Where’s your sister at?” Weevil asked.

Mandy gave him a dirty look and headed into the girls’ bathroom.

“Don’t even think about it, Weevil,” came Veronica’s voice.

Weevil turned around to see the petite blonde feigning a disapproving look at him.

“I was just-“

“You got a second?” She held up a folder. “I got the goods you asked for.”

Weevil reached out for the folder, but Veronica snatched it away.

“Let’s walk, hombre.”

Weevil rolled his eyes at her dramatics, but followed her nonetheless. The two made their way down the halls, towards the courtyard where students had their lunch. They settled on an empty table, a good distance away from prying ears.

“What you got, V?”

“Subject is Damien Jacobson, the apple of Kaylie Pearce’s eye-“

“Can we move on? I ain’t got all day.”

“Hmm, interesting,” Veronica said, tapping her chin as she looked at Weevil.

“Wha-“

“Okay, he is the only child of Daniel and Shari Jacobson. The Jacobsons are a very influential family hailing from San Diego, or to be more specific, the affluent neighborhood of Coronado Island.”

Weevil tapped at the table impatiently.

“Okay, onto the juicy part, I guess. Damien is a freshman at USD. He was on the varsity football team as well as baseball team. He was also on the Honor Society and has been a straight A student all throughout his high school career. He has no criminal record whatsoever-“ Veronica looked at a Weevil who scoffed. “However, I did see that he was recently admitted to Neptune General last week. Wednesday night to be exact.”

Veronica glanced over at Weevil who was conveniently glancing over at another table.

“He was supposedly beaten, but did not say by whom.”

Still no reaction.

“Wait a second,” Veronica said. She slapped her hand on Weevil’s shoulder, drawing his attention back to her. “Didn’t you have a pretty little black eye and torn up knuckles last week?”

“So?”

“Maybe you two got attacked by the same assailant!”

Weevil gave her a look which Veronica mirrored.

“So was it you?” she finally asked.

Weevil opened his mouth to argue, but shut it again once he saw Mandy. Weevil sighed.

“Look, V,” Weevil started. “I think I’m gonna need your help again.” Before Veronica could respond, Weevil added,” I’ll pay you for your services this time.”

“What is it Weevil?”

“I had you look up that Damien guy because I think he’s hurting Kaylie.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think he takes his anger out on her. Physically.”

“That’s a serious accusation,“ Veronica said. “Do you have any proof?”

“I saw my mom go through the same thing,” he said. This only earned a look from Veronica. “Veronica, that asshole has something on Kaylie that’s making her stay with him! She practically told me!”

“You talked to her about this?”

“Yeah, last Friday she talked to me and warned me that Damien was going to retaliate against me and the boys for jumping him.”

“And she just came out right and said that she’s only with him because he’s blackmailing her with something?”

Weevil scoffed.

“You know what, nevermind. I can handle that piece of shit myself.”

Weevil got up from the table and made his to the tables claimed by the PCHers. Veronica looked down at the background check she did on Damien.

“Straight A’s, honor roll, varsity football and baseball,” Veronica read out loud. “No criminal record.” Reading the information again, a nagging thought entered Veronica’s mind. “A little too clean.”

She glanced up as the bell rang. The 09ers all passed by her table. Veronica stood up as Mandy neared her table.

“Hi!” Veronica greeted, walking beside her. “You have a minute to talk?”

“Not to you,” Mandy replied.

“Okay then,” Veronica said. She stepped in front of Mandy, causing her to stop walking.

“Hey!”

“What’s your problem Veronica?” Madison asked.

“I just need to talk to her for one minute.” Mandy tried to side step Veronica.

“It’s about your sister.”

Mandy sighed and crossed her arms.

“One minute.”

“Okay, so,” Veronica began. She stopped when she noticed Madison still waiting nearby. “Can you go? This is personal and I only have a minute.”

“It’s okay,” Mandy told them. Madison rolled her eyes and led her little posse away.

“Where is your sister?”

“San Diego visiting her boyfriend.”

“Have you heard from her? When’s she coming back?”

“She was supposed to be back last night and her phone went straight to voicemail when I called her over a dozen times last night.”

“And you haven’t gotten a hold of her yet?”

Mandy shrugged.

“She’s a big girl, okay? I figured Damien convinced her to stay longer. Time’s up.”

Mandy tried to walk away but Veronica stopped her one more time.

“Aren’t you the least bit worried about her?”

Mandy sighed.

“It’s not like her to stay longer than the weekend. And if she did decide to stay, she would’ve told me.”

“You think something happened?” Veronica asked.

Mandy shrugged.

“Look, she’s with Damien. She’ll be fine. He never lets her out of his sight when they’re together.”

“Last question,” Veronica said. Mandy sighed impatiently. “You mentioned before that Kaylie and Damien were on-again-off-again thing.”

“Yeah?”

“Have they always been like that?”

Mandy shrugged.

“How long have they been together exactly?”

“A couple of years, give or take.”

“What-“

“Okay, I’m done! If you want to know about her relationship so much, why don’t you ask her yourself?” Mandy pushed past Veronica.

“Has Damien ever hit Kaylie?” Mandy stopped in her tracks.

“What?” she asked, spinning around.

“Have you ever seen any signs of…abuse?”

“No,” Mandy said, still shocked by Veronica’s question. She hesitated then walked back to Veronica. “But there was one time when I heard them arguing. He was going off about some guy checking out Kaylie; he was always insanely jealous at times. But he started saying some things to her and Kaylie tried walking away. He grabbed her and… You think he’s been abusing her?”

Veronica slowly nodded her head.

“I…” Mandy began. She shook her head. “Are you sure?”

Veronica noticed Weevil hanging by the water fountain, most likely eavesdropping.

“I’m pretty sure.”

“So you have proof?” Mandy asked.

“Are you fucking serious?” Weevil asked. He approached the two girls.

“Weevil,” Veronica warned.

“She’s your damn sister! You live with her!” he cried. “Have you ever really paid attention to Kaylie? The make-up she wears? The fact that, despite the weather being sunny and nearing the high 80s, she wears long sleeves which she never rolls up.”

Veronica was quite surprised at the details Weevil was laying out.

“Have you really looked at how she reacts whenever Damien is around? Most girls I know would be over the moon seeing their prince roll up in their shiny little Viper to scoop them up. Your sister? She looked scared.”

“He is your proof?” Mandy asked Veronica. “You’re taking his word?”

Weevil scoffed.

“No wonder that asshole has gotten away with that shit for this long. Just like everyone else, you’re blinded by the popularity, the money.”

“Weevil, that’s enough!”

“Veronica, you see this shit, right?” Weevil asked. “Her own sister don’t give a damn!”

“Weevil!”

“Look, V, I don’t care if white boy wants to come after me. I can handle whatever shit he’s gonna bring. My boys will back me up on that. But Kaylie? Who does she got? Who backs her up whenever that fucker puts his hands on her?” Weevil glared at Mandy. “Not her.”

Mandy’s demeanor wavered after Weevil’s rant. Tears filled her eyes.

“Mandy,” Veronica said in a soft voice. “Your sister needs our help.”

.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.

“I’m getting hungry,” Kaylie said. “Why don’t we go out for dinner?”

“I don’t really feel like going out. Let’s just order in,” Damien said, not taking his eyes off the movie playing on the TV.

“Come on, let’s go to that nice seafood restaurant by the bay.”

“I said I don’t feel like going out!” Kaylie sighed. The phone rang and the caller ID popped up on the TV. Kaylie saw that it was her sister calling. Damien hit the reject button.

“Damien!”

“What? She can cover for you one more night.” Kaylie fought back the tears. She stood up and Damien’s hand instantly went around her wrist. “Where are you going?”

“To the bathroom,” Kaylie replied coldly. Damien gave her look then let her go. She walked across the living and headed down the long way to the guest bathroom. Once alone, Kaylie let her tears spill. Looking at her reflection, she wondered how she got into the situation she was in. Like any other relationship, it started out good. They met and Damien asked her out on a date. After only four dates, they made things official between them. They met each other’s friends and family. They supported one another whenever they had games or events at school. Kaylie was in love. She was so in love she broke her vow of abstinence until she got married. It was then that things changed. Damien became more jealous and possessive of Kaylie. Yet, she stayed, because she was in love and because she was ashamed of breaking her vow. It was then that she started losing herself. Not long after, the abuse came. First it was just verbal, belittling her. Eventually she lost her friends since Damien demanded all of her time. Then after she tried to break it off, they argued and he hit her. Being she had no one else, Kaylie kept it to herself. And a few weeks later, Damien showed how sorry he was and promised it would never happen again, so she took him back.

Kaylie covered her mouth as a sob escaped. She should never have taken him back. From there, things just got worse. While he kept his promise of never putting his hand on her again, he still found other ways to keep her around. He threatened to have her mom fired from his dad’s company. When her mom quit and started her own real estate company, he found another thing to hang over Kaylie’s head: scandalous pictures of her sister that somehow ended up in Damien’s possession.

“Babe, what’s taking so long?” Damien shouted. Kaylie quickly washed her face and fixed her hair. She took another look in the mirror before leaving the bathroom. Walking back up the long hallway, she found Damien in the kitchen. “What do you want to eat?”

Kaylie looked through all the take out menus spread out.

“Sushi?” Damien gave her a look. “You pick.”

Damien nodded and dialed for pizza. Kaylie picked up the take out menus and went to put them by the charging base of the telephone. She eyed Damien’s cellphone that was plugged in nearby. She slowly made her way to it. She held her breath, trying to hear if Damien was nearby. Her heart was hammering against her chest, she wasn’t sure if he was near. She quickly flipped the phone open. Kaylie’s heart stopped hammering and sank; his phone was password protected.

“Pizza will be here in half an hour,” Damien called. Kaylie quickly flipped his phone closed and moved back towards the island. “I got you the breadsticks and the cookie pizza shit that you like.”

Kaylie felt a small flutter in her heart. There were rare moments where she saw the sweet guy that she initially fell for.

“Wanna hit the jacuzzi while we wait?” Damien asked. Kaylie steadied herself as he approached.

“I don’t have a bathing suit,” she said.

“You won’t need one,” he told her as he closed the gap between them. Kaylie closed her eyes as Damien’s lips met hers.

Ding-dong.

Kaylie let out a small sigh of relief as Damien pulled away.

“Stay here,” he told her. Kaylie only nodded and watched Damien head towards the front door.

“What the hell are you doing here?” she heard Damien say.

“Where is she?” Kaylie crept over to the hall and peaked around the corner. It was Kevin, Damien’s former best friend.

“Get the fuck off my property,” Damien cried.

“Not until Kaylie comes with me,” Kevin shouted. He tried to push past Damien, but Damien shoved him back.

“Damien!” Kaylie shouted, making Damien turn to look at her.

“I told you to stay in the kitchen, Kaylie!”

She watched as Kevin regained his balanced and tackled Damien to the ground. She was frozen, watching the two wrestling around. She was at loss as to what to do. Kaylie realized that the front door was wide open; she could make a run for it. The sound of breaking glass caught her attention as the two wrestled against the glass wall that separated the foyer and the living area.

Kaylie screamed and she ran down the steps that led to the living room. The two were still fighting, with Kevin landing a blow to Damien’s face. Damien was able to retaliate by ramming Kevin into the wall. Kaylie covered her eyes as Damien landed punches left and right on Kevin. Tears filled her eyes as blood started to pour out of Kevin’s nose. Kaylie looked around and grabbed the golden pineapple centerpiece that was on the coffee table. She hurried over to Damien and brought down the ceramic pineapple with as much force she could muster onto Damien’s head. He fell forward then to the side as Kevin pushed him away.

Kaylie stared at Damien’s unmoving body in shock.

“Kay…Kaylie,” Kevin called out as he slid down to the ground.

“I-I…killed him.”

“No,” Kevin said. “He’s still breathing. He’s just unconscious.” Kevin groaned and clutched at his right side.

“Kevin,” Kaylie said as she carefully avoided Damien’s body and made her way to him. “Oh, my God…”

“You okay?” he asked.

“What the hell, Kevin?”

“Your sister called me,” he explained in between breaths.

“Mandy?”

“She was worried about you.” Kaylie felt more tears come down.

“And she called you?” Kevin nodded.

“She found out from your friends how Damien treated you.” Kaylie wondered which friends he was talking about.

“Who-“ Kevin coughed and blood flew out of his mouth, landing on her shirt. “We need to get you to the hospital.”

Kevin shook his head.

“I’ll manage. I just need to catch my breath. You get out of here. I’ll take care of all this.”

“What are you gonna-“

“Don’t worry about it, Kaylie. Just get yourself far, far away from this motherfucker.”

Kaylie nodded and slowly stood up.

“Wait, I-he took my keys and my cellphone. I don’t know where he put them.”

Kevin laughed.

“Son of a bitch.” He kicked at Damien’s body. His laughs soon turned into sobs. “I-I’m sorry Kaylie. I should’ve done something before.”

Kaylie kneeled back down and shook her head.

“Don’t say it’s okay,” Kevin told her. “All that shit he put you through, no one deserves that. Well, maybe expect for him.”

Kevin kicked Damien again.

“Kevin, let’s go,” Kaylie said as she put her arm under his. She struggled to pulled him up, but he was soon eventually standing.

“There’s a floor safe in the gym,” Kevin told her. “It’s hidden under his weight set. Your keys and phone might be there.”

“Okay,” Kaylie said as she helped Kevin walk across the living room.

“I’ll wait here,” Kevin told her as he sat down on the steps. “I need…I need to rest. You go get the stuff, I’ll make sure he doesn’t wake up.”

Kaylie paled at what he said.

“No, I’m not leaving you here then! What if he does wake up-“

“Just hurry,” Kevin told her.

“Wait, what’s the code?”

“8265.”

Kaylie turned and ran towards where the small gym was in the Jacobson residence. She straight to the weight set.

“Damn it,” she cursed, realizing she needed to move the weight set. Not even making it budge, she quickly removed the weights one by one. She paused for a second to see if she could hear any movement or scuffle. Once satisfied that Kevin was still safe from the unconscious Damien, she moved the weight set away. After pulling the gym mat back, she saw the floor safe. Kaylie punched in the code and a couple of beeps emitted from the device. The door opened and Kaylie saw her cell phone and keys. She snatched them up and her eyes widened at the other contents of the safe. There were stacks of cash, all hundred dollar bills, as well as little plastic baggies. Kaylie knew they were drugs. Kaylie was ready to shut the door closed when another object caught her eye. It was a black thumb drive. Kaylie scooped it up as well and put it in her pocket. She closed the door to the safe and let the gym mat fall back on top. She ran back down to Kevin.

“Kevin?”

“I’m here,” he replied. He managed to walked from the steps of the living to the ones leading to the front door.

“I got it,” Kaylie said. “Let’s go!”

“No, I’m staying,” Kevin told.

“What? No, Kevin, we need to get you to the hospital!”

“No, I need to make things right,” Kevin said.

“What do you mean?”

“Kaylie, you do know that if we leave him there, he’s going to realize that you were the one who knocked him out. He’s just going to keep coming after you, Kaylie. He’s not going to stop.”

“Kevin-“

“You need to leave and go back to Neptune. I’ll take care of Damien,” Kevin told her. Kaylie was ready to argue, but Kevin shook his head. “Go!”

Kaylie looked over at Damien’s body. Then she gave Kevin a hug. He let out a grunt.

“Sorry,” she said, with a small laugh. “And thank you.”

“It’s the least I could do after not helping you,” he only said. Then he gently nudged her towards the door.

.-~*~-. .-~*~-. .-~*~-. .-~*~-. .-~*~-.

Kaylie didn’t bother to look up as someone knocked on her door before opening it. Mandy made her way around Kaylie’s bed and sat down.

“Hey,” Mandy said after Kaylie didn’t say anything.

“Hey,” Kaylie replied softly. She look at her little sister’s worried face and gave her a smile. It was all it took to make Mandy dissolve in tears. Kaylie sat up and took her sister into her arms. “It’s okay, Mandy. I’m okay. Everything’s going to be okay now.”

After a few more sobs, Mandy pulled away. Wiping her tears away, she sniffled and asked Kaylie what happened. Kaylie only shrugged.

“No, Kaylie! From now on, you will tell me everything that’s going on!” Mandy cried.

“Okay, shh!” Kaylie said, not wanting their parents to question all the shouting and crying. She sighed. “I wanted to go home Saturday night and Damien wanted me to stay longer, so he took my keys and cellphone and hid them. He practically watched my every move to make sure I had no way to call…anyone.”

Mandy let out a string of curses and wished that Damien would rot in hell. Kaylie nodded in agreement.

“If you hadn’t called Kevin-“

“What’d he do?” Mandy asked. “I tried calling him and he didn’t pick up.”

“He showed up and demanded that Damien let me leave.” Kaylie, knowing that Mandy still had a soft spot for Kevin, didn’t want to worry her further. “Let’s just say he succeeded in helping me escape.”

“And Damien? He’s going to stay away from you now?”

Kaylie nodded.

“Really? What’d Kevin say-“

“Mandy, let’s just leave it at this: the less you know, the better.” Mandy first looked at Kaylie confused. Then her mouth dropped open.

“Wha-wait, do you mean that-“

“The less you know, the better,” Kaylie repeated. Mandy still looked shocked. “I don’t have to worry about Damien anymore, okay?”

Mandy finally nodded in and leaned in to hug her sister.

“I’m sorry, I never noticed,” she said in a small voice.

“Only because I hid it well,” Kaylie joked, sadly.

Mandy gave a small chuckle.

“Not well enough if Weevil of all people noticed.”

“Wait, you know about that?” Kaylie asked.

“Veronica approached me and asked me about you. I guess I wasn’t saying the right things and she flat out asked me about Damien hitting you. I asked her proof and Weevil came barging in between our conversation. He made it clear that he knew and wanted someone to do something about it. And you don’t look as surprised as I was.”

“He asked me about it, about Damien,” Kaylie admitted. “I tried denying and obviously he didn’t buy it. I guess he tried teaching Damien a lesson because the PCHers were the ones who jumped Damien.”

“Huh,” Mandy said. “Now, I’m even more surprised.”

Kaylie laughed. “Yeah, people are surprising.”

“He should’ve just…ended him,” Mandy said. Kaylie gave her sister a look.

“Mandy, it’s okay. We don’t have to worry about Damien.”

“Is that why you’re staying home?”

Kaylie sighed.

“Well, I just need to rest after what happened… Don’t ask me. Remember, the less you know-“

“The better,” Mandy finished. She fingered a loose thread on Kaylie’s comforter. “So…since you’re staying home…and I’m sure Logan has probably left for school...”

“You may drive my car as long as your drive straight to school and come straight home after school,” Kaylie said. Mandy let out a whoop and hugged Kaylie one last time.

“You’re the best sister, ever!”
.-~*~-. -~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.
“I see I’m not the only one anxious for someone’s arrival,” Veronica called out as she approached Weevil. He was the only PCHer left in their usual parking lot corner. Before Weevil could retort, a shiny black Lexus entered the parking lot. The two watched as it screeched to a halt into a parking spot.

“I’m guessing Mandy is behind the wheel,” Veronica said. Weevil laughed. They waited for her to hopped out of the driver seat. Even then, they held their breath to see if Kaylie was with her. Mandy was already halfway down the parking lot when she locked the car.

“Did she not come home?” Weevil asked.

“Hey, Mandy!” Veronica called. Mandy actually offered a small rather than the usual eyeroll.

“Where’s your sister?” Weevil immediately asked. Veronica shot him a look.

“Is Kaylie okay?”

Mandy nodded.

“She’s home safe. She got home last night and she just wanted to rest today,” Mandy told them.

“So your friend was able to get her out?”

“Yeah, Kaylie wouldn’t say much except that,” Mandy looked around to make sure no one else was close enough to hear. Then she leaned in closer and lowered her voice, ”Kevin took care of Damien.”

Veronica and Weevil looked at one another.

“She kept insisting that the less I knew, the better. And I’m sure she’ll tell you two the same if you try to question her.”

“If that asshole is put down, then I’m good knowing that,” Weevil said. He nudged Veronica. “I don’t know about this curious little kitty.”

He let out a laugh as Veronica pouted.

“It was nice working with you ladies. Another spoiled rich boy down, it’s already a good day.”

“Okay, he sounds a little too happy about that,” Mandy said as Weevil walked away.

“So…Kaylie really didn’t offer anything else?”

.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.

The Pearce women were sitting at the dining table, enjoying their dinner and recounting their days. The sisters were in the midst of laughing at one of their mother’s funny customer stories when Christopher Pearce announced that he was home.

“In the dining room,” Dianna Pearce called out. She rose from her spot to get her husband a plate. “Long day at the office?”

Christopher entered the dining room, looking distraught.

“What’s wrong, Dad?” Mandy asked. Dianna backtracked from the kitchen to look at her husband.

“Are you alright, sweetheart?” She approached him and gave him a hug. He squeezed her tightly and placed a kiss on her head.

“Yeah, uh, I was heading home when I got a call,” Christopher said. “I had to pull over and sort of digest the information.”

“Dad, what’s wrong?” Kaylie asked. Christopher covered his face, not knowing where to start.

“Uh, well someone set fire to the Jacobson’s home last night.” Mandy glanced at Kaylie who produced a look of surprise.

“What?” Despite Kevin letting her know that he’d take care of Damien, she was surprised that he resorted to setting their house on fire.

“Don’t worry, sweetheart,” Christopher told Kaylie. “Damien is fine.”

.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.

Kaylie sat in her car, waiting for Mandy to come out of the house. After hearing the news about Damien, they were also told that Kevin was in the hospital, too. Kaylie felt sick to her stomach as her dad recounted the story he heard. Apparently, someone tried to rob the Jacobson house while Damien and Kevin were inside. They both fought the assailant, however, somewhere during the scuffle a fire broke out. Damien was busy trying to save the unconscious Kevin and the assailant was able to get away.

Kaylie shouldn’t have been surprised that Damien was able to manipulate last night’s events to explain everything away. What scared her the most was that there was no mention of her being at his house, not even during the weekend. She took a deep breath to ease the weight on her chest. She knew that Damien was going to show up in Neptune any day now.

Kaylie looked up as the passenger door opened. Mandy sported her fancy Chanel sunglasses, no doubt trying to hide all the crying she did last night. Kaylie knew her little sister blamed herself for sending Kevin into the lion’s den. Kaylie felt even more guilty for getting Kevin tangled up in her crazy relationship with Damien.

“You need to tell me what really happened,” Mandy said, her voice was calm and even, yet Kaylie could feel the anger radiating off of her.

“Kevin showed up-“

“What happened after he showed up? The truth, Kaylie!”

“They fought,” Kaylie said. “I heard them fighting so I went to see what was going on and Damien told me to go back in the living room. Kevin took that distraction as a chance to tackle Damien to the ground. They were just fighting and…the broke through the glass wall and ended up in the living room.”

“Oh, God!”

“I tried to stop them. It looked like Kevin was getting the upper hand, but Damien just rammed him against the wall and just kept…punching him and… There was so much blood. I picked up the first thing I could find and I…”

Mandy looked over at Kaylie.

“What did you do?”

“I hit Damien. I thought I killed him, but Kevin said he was just unconscious. He told me about Damien’s safe where he kept my stuff-“ Kaylie stopped and remembered about the thumb drive that she had yet to check out. She made a mental note to look at it afterschool.

“Then what?”

“Kevin said he’d take care of things and urged me to go. Damien was unconscious and… Kevin told me he’d be fine! I’m sorry, Mandy!”

She shook her head.

“Just drive!”

Kaylie did as her sister asked. Their drive was uncomfortable and quiet, with Mandy spending most of it trying to keep from crying. The second Kaylie parked into a spot, Mandy jumped out of the car. Kaylie groaned but eventually followed suit.

Mandy immediately eyed the biker gang and made her way towards them. She ignored the catcalls once again and focused on Weevil.

“You need to deal with Damien,” Mandy said. Weevil was caught off guard.

“What?”

“You need to do something about him!”

“What’s going on Weevil?” Thumper asked.

Weevil looked at Mandy then saw Kaylie walking over with Veronica. She looked worried.

“I’ll deal with this,” Weevil told them. He nodded his head towards the school and his friends all headed inside. Once they were out of earshot he started talking. “What do you mean I need to deal with him? I thought he was already dealt with!”

“Mandy what the hell are you doing?” Kaylie asked once she approached the two. Weevil looked from the two sisters then at Veronica who only shrugged.

“Damien hasn’t been dealt with,” Mandy told Weevil and Veronica.

“What do you mean?” Veronica asked.

“For some reason, Damien is like the villain who just keeps coming back!” Mandy cried. “He somehow managed to set his house on fire and land himself and Kevin in the hospital.”

“What?” Weevil asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” Kaylie told them. “Because you guys aren’t going to do anything!”

“What are you talking about?” Mandy shouted at her sister. “Damien is alive! He may be hospitalized right now, but you know damn well that the second he can, he’ll be heading here! Kaylie, he knows that you were the only other one who could’ve hit him!”

Veronica and Weevil looked at Kaylie.

“She knocked him unconscious,” Mandy informed them. Kaylie shot her sister a look. So much for the idea of having them not know too much.

“Kaylie, your sister is right,” Weevil told her. “You say he wants to get back at me for jumping him, then what do you think he has plans for you for knocking him out and then leaving?”

“What am I supposed to do?”

“Not keep letting him get to you!”

“Look, Kaylie, you just need to lay low-“ Veronica started.

“I can’t miss any more school-“

“Who cares?” Mandy exclaimed. “If Damien gets to you, then you won’t be around to have to go to school.”

“Okay, so…should I go to the sheriff?”

Veronica and Weevil both scoffed and groaned.

“Lamb ain’t gonna do shit!”

“Then what do I do?” Kaylie asked. She covered her face as she felt the tears of frustration come. “Guys, I have been dealing with him for the last two years! No one can help me! I mean, look at Kevin! He was going to “take care” of it and look where he ended up!”

“What hospital is in?”

“San Diego Memorial,” Mandy said.

“Both of them?” Mandy shrugged. “I’m just gonna assume yes. Okay, look, I’m gonna make a few calls and find out about Damien’s status. I’m sure they’ll still be keeping him today.”

“And once they discharge him?” Mandy asks.

“Well, that’s why I have today to work something out. See you two later,” Veronica said as she pulled Weevil away. She watched as the two sisters looked at her questioningly before retreating into the school.

“What’s the plan, V?” he automatically asked.

“Plan is, I’m going to San Diego,” Veronica said.

“You need a ride?”

“No, what I need is for you to stay here and watch Kaylie, just in case Damien somehow does come here.”

Weevil nodded his understanding and Veronica headed to her car.

.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.

Veronica entered the lobby of the hospital. She spent the drive from Neptune to San Diego figuring out how she could sneak in to talk to Kevin. She was surprised when the nurses at the nurses’ station pointed her towards Kevin’s room without any questions. Veronica knocked at the door before entering the room.

A guy with brown hair and dark green eyes was laying down on the bed. He turned his head at the sound of her knocking. He looked at her in question.

“Hi,” she greeted with a wave. “Um, I’m Veronica. I’m a friend of Kaylie’s….and an acquaintance of sorts with Mandy.”

Kevin nodded.

“So you’re the one who tipped off Mandy about Damien?” he asked.

“Well, yeah, only after I was tipped off by another friend of mine.”

“How’s Kaylie?”

“The better question is how are you? Mandy is really worried about you.”

Kevin nodded again.

“I’m guessing you two were more than just friends?”

Kevin laughed.

“Yeah, we, uh, we went out.”

“Listen, I came here because I wanted to know more about Damien. Kaylie’s convinced that he’s untouchable-“

“He is,” Kevin sighed.

“Well, if there’s anything you can tell me that can help. You’re his best friend right?”

“I was,” Kevin replied. “I was only with Mandy a few months when I first realized what Damien did to Kaylie. I confronted Damien about it. We fought and then he blackmailed me.”

“With what?”

“Asshole somehow got ahold of certain pictures that Mandy sent to me. Told me he wouldn’t hesitate to post it all over if I didn’t back off.”

Veronica shook her head.

“I love Mandy, alright? And she’s not like other girls. Yeah, she cares about all that popularity bullshit, but she’s smart. She’s got her eye on the Ivy League schools. Pictures like that would just ruin her. I figured that if I broke up with her, Damien would back off his threat and just leave her alone.”

“Do you know what he has over Kaylie?”

Kevin shrugged. Then he pounded on the bed.

“I should’ve done more for her,” Kevin cried angrily.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Veronica said.

“No it’s not!”

“You’re right, it’s not, but at least you tried to do something.”

Kevin scoffed.

“Couldn’t even burn that asshole the right way.”

“Wait, so you set the house on fire?”

“I was planning to,” Kevin said. “Just have him burn like he was in hell. Plus burn whatever evidence there’d be of me and Kaylie being there.”

“So what happened then?”

“I was pouring the gasoline. Didn’t realize that motherfucker regained consciousness. Snuck up on me and next thing I knew, I woke up in here.”

“Did you know that the fire started anyway and that Damien is in the hospital too?”

“I heard. Nice little story he made up, huh? I should’ve just shot him.” Kevin looked at Veronica. “Is he still in here? How hurt is he? You gotta make sure he doesn’t make it back to Kaylie!”

“I know, that’s why I’m here. I heard they want to keep him until Thursday, but in the off chance that he tries to leave earlier, I have provided Kaylie with her own security detail,” Veronica said.

“Hope it’s no one Damien can buy off to get to her.”

“No, trust me, Weevil would be the last to take many from that asshole.”

“Weevil?”

“He’s the leader of this biker gang. Coincidentally, he was also the one who jumped Damien after noticing Kaylie’s situation.”

Kevin nodded, realizing that Weevil was the one who probably tipped off Veronica.

“Well, you gotta thank this Weevil guy for doing a lot more than I was able to for Kaylie.”

“You can still help,” veronica said. “What do I need to know to put him away for good?”

“You can’t,” Kevin said again. “His family is well connected, Veronica. How do you think his record is so clean? His family has money, enough to buy off the right people. If you want to put him away for good, trying putting him six feet under. It’s the only way he’ll stop.”

.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.-~*~-.

Veronica left the hospital feeling dejected. Her conversation with Kevin left her with nothing but the realization that Damien Jacobson may be untouchable, after all. She felt disappointed in her trip down to San Diego. Not only did she miss a full day’s of class, she knew she had to answer to her dad. Eventually he would find out where she was. Veronica was ready to merge onto the freeway that would lead her back to Neptune, when a billboard caught her eye. It was a simple, white billboard. The words “Bella Vita Planning” were scrawled in simple script across.

Veronica took mental note of the address and exited the next ramp. Once she was pulled over, Veronica set her GPS to navigate her. It took her only another ten minutes to the west to find the elegant white building boasting the words Bella Vita Planning. As Veronica parked, she took a second to admire the beachfront that the building had as its backyard. She slipped off her sweater and placed a pair of fake glasses on her face. She tied her hair into a low, simple bun and picked up her black portfolio which housed her math homework. Upon entering the building, Veronica straightened up and held her head up high.

“Welcome to Bella Vita Planning, how can I help you this afternoon?” a woman with platinum blonde hair automatically said once Veronica reached her desk.

“Yes, my name is Donna and I work for Lilly’s Events Planning Services, and I was just wondering if Mrs. Marcelino had a moment for me. We are looking to hire some interns and I was told that she has a great working relationship with Central High School in regards to hiring students. I was hoping that she would discuss suitable candidates for us.”

The woman only stared at Veronica then put a hand on her earpiece. “Please hold.”

After pressing a couple of buttons, she clasped her hands and gave Veronica a cold smile. “Welcome to Bella Vita Planning, how can I help you?”

Veronica only smiled again.

“Okay, I would like to see Mrs. Marcelino, please.”

“Do you have an appointment?”

“No-“

“Then you can’t see her,” the woman told Veronica before turning her back to her. Veronica remained at the desk. She glanced down the hall and saw that it was practically empty. Looking at the receptionist whose back was still turned, Veronica hurried down the hallway. Her quick steps faltered as she heard voices from around the corner.

“Ms. Jenny? Your husband is on line one.”

“Thanks!” Veronica stayed rooted in her spot, trying to see if Ms. Jenny was in fact the person she was looking for. “Hi, baby. Yes, I can meet you for an early dinner. Of course Michael wants to tag along. Tell him we can meet him for drinks afterwards. It’s his club, he can treat us.”

Veronica made her way around the corner after deciding that she must be Mrs. Marcelino.

“Good afternoon!” Veronica said enthusiastically as she entered Jenny’s office. Jenny shrieked at Veronica’s sudden entrance. “Oh, I do apologize! Oh, shoot, first I come in late and then I just scare the jeepers out of you!”

“Sweetheart, I’ll call you back,” Jenny said into the phone. After hanging up, she gave Veronica a smile. “I’m sorry, who are you?”

“Donna from Lilly’s Events Planning Services. Your employee at the front desk said that I can go ahead and see you.”

“I’m sorry, did we have an appointment?”

“Not exactly, but I did call a couple of times in regards to a potential employee putting you down as her reference. After the third call, I was told that I was more than welcome to come in and speak with you personally.”

Jenny looked surprised.

“Uh, well, if we can make it quick I can help you with that right now. Who is this potential employee?”

“Kaylie Pearce.” Veronica studied Jenny’s reaction.

“I’m sorry, that name does not sound familiar.” Jenny leaned forward and started typing on her keyboard. “I don’t think we had her as an intern.”

“From her application here,” Veronica said, pretending to read off what was actually her homework. “It states that she was recommended by her economics teacher.”

Jenny’s face expressed a sign of realization.

“She must’ve been one of Kyle’s students,” she said. She started typing once again. “Kyle Decker is a family friend and we agreed to hire a few of his students as interns. There were only three of them, and none of them were named Kaylie Pearce.”

“Oh,” Veronica replied, feigning confusion. She was trying to figure out a way to prolong the conversation so she could do a bit more digging.

“You know, I do remember that he mentioned it would be four students, but one ended up moving away or something to that effect. But you would have to talk to Kyle if you want more information. He’d probably be a better reference. Would you like his contact information?”

Veronica smiled and gave a sigh of relief. “Yes, please.”

.-~*~-. .-~*~-. .-~*~- .-~*~-. .-~*~-.
Veronica pulled into the parking lot of her third stop of the day. She made her way into the school and wasted no time in asking a student for Mr. Decker. She made her way to his classroom all the while ignoring the stares from all the other students.

“Hey, are you new?” she heard someone ask.

“Can I show you around?’ Veronica rolled her eyes. She celebrated internally when she saw the room she was looking for her. She reached for the doorknob to open the door and found that it was locked.

“You just missed him.” Veronica turned around and came face to face with a tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed guy. Immediately she thought of Logan Echolls, for some reason. “It’s his free period and he usually heads over to his club to check on things.”

“Uh, thanks,” Veronica said.

“If you hurry you might just catch him at the office.”

Veronica gave an appreciative smile and headed back down the hallways. She was moving against the wave of students and she was sure she would miss him. The bell sounded and the students all seemed to scatter more quickly. Veronica groaned as someone’s backpack hit her square across the chest. Eventually, Veronica made it to the office with no other injuries.

“Hi, I’m looking for Mr. Decker,” Veronica said, giving a smile to the red-headed girl behind the desk. From how she dressed, Veronica could tell she was the student aide.

“You just missed him.” Veronica groaned. “He’ll be back in about an hour.”

“I’m actually on a schedule.”

“What is this regarding?”

“I work with Lilly’s Event Planning Services,” Veronica said for the third time. “I was-“

“Hey, Katie, sorry, but can you make 32 copies of this packet for me?”

Veronica turned at the sound of the voice.

“Sure, thing Mr. Decker,” Katie the red-head said. “You have someone looking for you.”

Mr. Decker stopped and looked up from his cellphone. Veronica was surprised at how good-looking the teacher was. He was tall with brown hair and bright brown eyes. He gave her a smile, showing perfectly placed dimples on his cheeks, and Veronica felt her heart skip a beat.

“Hi, what can I help you with?” he asked approaching Veronica.

“I-I,” Veronica stammered.

“She’s with a planning company,” Katie offered. It wasn’t the first time she witnessed someone get tongue tied after seeing Mr. Decker for the first time.

“Uh yes! I am. My name’s Veronica,” Veronica said. She shook her head realizing her mistake of using her real name. She needed to get herself to focus. “I was following up on a reference given to me. It was for Mrs. Marcelino, but she told me it was best to speak with you.”

Mr. Decker frowned as his cellphone dinged.

“I can help you with that,” he said as he closed his phone. “But I really need to go. You think you can walk and talk?”

Veronica nodded.

“So who gave you the reference?” Mr. Decker asked as he made his way out of the office. Veronica hurried to his side.

“Kaylie Pearce.”

“Ah, Kaylie! Yes, one of my best students!” he exclaimed as they walked through the front doors of the school and ended up outside.

“Yes, we are quite impressed with her academic record,” Veronica fibbed. “However, it’s concerning that she would put Mrs. Marcelino down despite not actually interning for her-“

“Well, she did for a day. However, as it turned out, her family was moving so she wasn’t really able to continue with the internship.”

Veronica noted that they were nearing the parking lot and knew she had to work fast before she lost her chance to ask more questions.

“Interesting. I was under the impression that her mother had something to do with it.” Veronica stopped abruptly since Mr. Decker did the same. He turned to look at her. Veronica flashed a smile as he seemed to look her over. Veronica made sure not to squirm or to lose her cool, but she had a feeling Mr. Decker was starting to get suspicious.

Finally he said, “What do you mean?” He resumed his walking, this time Veronica noticed it was at a faster pace.

“Uh, well, Mrs. Pearce seemed to have concerns about Kaylie working with Mrs. Marcelinos.”

“Mrs. Pearce told you this?”

“No, Kaylie did. Actually, some of her comments made it seem that way at least.”

“So you already knew that Kaylie didn’t work for Mrs. Marcelino, yet you still came down to ask her about it?”

Veronica shrugged, even though he wasn’t facing her. “Just trying to clear up any confusion.”

“Alright well, all I can say is that I don’t think the Pearces even know the Mrs. Marcelino personally and vice versa.”

“How do you know Mrs. Marcelino? Out of all the FBLA clubs, it’s quite fortunate that Mrs. Marcelino agreed to work with your students.”

“I know her. I went to college with her brother-in-law. We co-own a nightclub, which where I need to get to.” Veronica realized that they already reached his car, an Audi A5. “Why do you need to know how I know Mrs. Marcelino?”

“Just being thorough,” Veronica said. Mr. Decker looked at her again, as if trying to figure her out.

“What company did you work for again?” he asked.

“Lilly’s Events Planning,” she replied.

“You have a card?”

“A card? Yeah! Sure, of course!” Veronica opened her purse just as her phone rang. ‘Thank you Dad!’ “Oh, excuse me, it’s my boss.”

Veronica moved a few steps and answered her phone. “Hello, sir!”

“Where the hell are you? And you better not say school!”

“Yes, sir, I was just finishing up here.”

“What are you doing? Are you working a case?”

“Yes, sir, exactly! I will get to it right away!” Veronica gave Mr. Decker a wave and pointed to her phone. She mouthed that she had to go and took the opportunity to run off before he could stop her.

Kyle Decker watched as the petite blonde scampered away. He couldn’t help but laugh to himself. He got into his car and whipped out his phone just as his phone rang.

“Where you at man?” his friend Michael Marcelino asked.

“On my way, I got held up.”

“My brother and Jenny are here for lunch.”

“Perfect, I have a few questions to ask Jenny. By the way, you think you can get Jase to look up something for me?”

“What do you need?”

“Look up Lilly’s Events Planning. See if they have an employee by the name of Veronica. Petite, blonde, blue eyes.”

“Trying to get her number?” Michael joked.

“Something like that. I’ll see you in a bit.”